Tuesday, February 20, 2024

My Simple Best Homemade Pound Cake


This homemade pound cake comes together in a few minutes and tastes superior to any grocery store frozen product. It is by and far one of the simplest cakes to make. Yet, it is my most craved dessert! Why? Because it's that simple taste of home. 

Here are a few things to know about ingredients and procedures to ensure your cake turns out awesome. 

It is made with nine simple ingredients:

  • Unsalted Butter: Higher quality butter is the key to a tender pound cake.
  • Granulated Sugar: Sugar will keep your pound cake sweet and contributes to a moist crumb. We prefer to use granulated sugar. A lower-sugar pound cake can be made using half sugar and half granulated stevia or erythritol.
  • Eggs: Most height and structure come from beating the eggs into the batter. They are seamlessly incorporated into the batter by ensuring the eggs are at room temperature.
  • Vanilla Bean Paste: This vanilla extract incorporates the inner specs of the vanilla bean and bourbon into the extract. The flavor is pronounced and very clean.
  • Sour Cream: Sour cream adds a slight tanginess to the loaf, perfectly complementing the sweetness. One can substitute low-fat plain yogurt for the sour cream if desired.
  • Milk: The milk will lighten the pound cake so it’s not too dense.
  • All-Purpose Flour: Panhandle Milling All-purpose flour will give your pound cake a soft, tender crumb. We prefer to weigh this ingredient to ensure it is appropriately measured.
  • Baking Powder: We use a half teaspoon of baking powder in the cake. It will give your cake the perfect rise without creating too many air bubbles.
  • Salt: We use salt to offset the sweetness and enhance the flavor of this pound.

Steps are important

Familiarizing yourself with the steps for making the cake is helpful. Pound cake is a very simple recipe, but we’ll break it down step by step to take out any guesswork for you! You can make this pound cake with a hand mixer or stand mixer or by hand with a whisk if you’re up for an arm workout!

Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Step 2: Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Step 3: Scrape down the bowl and add half of the dry ingredients to the mixture. Fold together until just mixed.

Step 4: Mix the sour cream and milk until just combined.

Step 5: Add the rest of the dry ingredients and fold until combined and no flour streaks remain. It’s important not to overmix the pound cake batter once you’ve added the flour. Once the flour has been added, gluten bonds will start forming, and if you mix the batter too much, your cake will become tough and dense!

Step 6: Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out mostly clean!

Simple Best Homemade Pound Cake

1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups (267g) granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 ½ tsp. Vanilla bean paste

2 cups (250g) All-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup (58g) sour cream or plain yogurt

1/4 cup (59ml) milk


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter a standard-size loaf pan on all sides.
  • Combine the softened butter and granulated sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extract and mix well.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine.
  • Add about half of the flour mixture to the bowl of the mixer and mix until just combined. Add the sour cream and milk and mix until just combined. Add the remaining flour and mix until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Refrain from over-mixing.
  • Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and spread it into an even layer using a silicone spatula.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes back primarily clean and the loaf is golden brown.


Add 1 Tbsp. lime zest and 1 tsp. coconut extract to the cake for a delicious coconut lime pound cake.

There you go, darlings! Make some awesome pound cake.

Always My Very Best,

Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, February 9, 2024

Best Ever Sticky Toffee Pudding an English Classic


To know it is to love it! Once you know how to make sticky toffee pudding, your dessert game will change. You will dream about variations. This classic British dessert will strike a chord of warmth and rich tradition. According to legend, it was created in a pub in northwest England. It is popular throughout Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It has at its core a moist, tender sponge cake sweetened with brown sugar and finely chopped or pureed dates. I use puree. The cake gets sandwiched between layers of creamy toffee sauce before it's returned to the oven, then generously topped with more on the plate. The baked pudding is served with custard, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream to complement the rich sauce.

Here, I used a super simple method to ensure the sauce is easy to make. The sauce uses dark corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk to ensure the rich caramel stays smooth and deepens the toffee flavor.  We enliven the cake’s flavor with a bit of almond extract.  We suggest serving the puddings with a generous amount of lightly sweetened whipped cream for contrast.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Active Time: 1 hr. 30 mins Total Time: 2 hrs. 20 mins Yield: 6 servings

Toffee Sauce

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)

1 cup dark corn syrup

1 cup granulated sugar


¾ cup pitted dates (about 7-10 dates)

¾ cup water

1 ½ cup  All Purpose Flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing ramekins

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. almond extract

Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving


  • Gather the ingredients.
  • Make the Toffee Sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk with the butter, corn syrup, and sugar; bring to a boil.
  • Cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 30 minutes. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl.
  • In a small saucepan, simmer the dates in ¾ cup water over moderately low heat until the water is nearly absorbed and the dates are soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer the dates and any liquid to a food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter six 4-ounce ramekins. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the date puree.
  • At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients.
  • Spoon the batter into the ramekins and smooth the tops.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean. Remove cakes and let cool slightly. Leave the oven on.
  • Using a small, serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes level with the rims of the ramekins.
  • Unmold the cakes and invert them onto a wire rack. Slice each cake in half horizontally.
  • Wipe out the ramekins and spoon 1 tablespoon of the toffee sauce into each. Return the bottom layers of the cakes to the ramekins, cut side up.
  • Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce into the ramekins and top with the remaining cake layers.
  • Spoon another tablespoon of the toffee sauce over the cakes and spread evenly. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the toffee bubbles around the edges.
  • Let the puddings cool for 5 minutes, then run a thin-bladed knife around the insides of the ramekins; invert each pudding onto a dessert plate. Rewarm the remaining toffee sauce and spoon some around the puddings. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
There you go! Try it!!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, February 2, 2024

Best Ultimate Moist Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Get ready, people.  This cake is Grandma's comfort dessert. This is the one. The epitome of an ideal banana cake that is tender and flavorful.  It is one of life's simple pleasures, covered with decadent cream cheese frosting. My bakery-quality recipe for old-school banana cake is extra-rich and moist, made most exquisite in taste using the ripest bananas. Don't omit the instant pudding mix (it must be instant). This ingredient adds stability to the incredible sponge texture of the cake

Yields: one 8" three-layer cake

SERVINGS: 16 slices
PREP TIME: 30 minutes mins
Bake TIME: 26 minutes mins

Moist Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 

Dry Ingredients

  • 400 grams (3 cups) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt
  • 1/3 cup Vanilla Instant Pudding
  • 400 grams (2 cups) Sugar

Wet Ingredients

  • 6 small Overly-ripe Fresh Mashed Bananas 260 grams (1 ¼ cup)
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup Buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 sticks (s) (8 ounces) of Salted Butter, melted

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 7 cups confectioners’ sugar (2 lb. or 907g)
  • 16 ounces Cream Cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
  • ¾ cup Hot Water
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Toasted finely chopped nuts and/or toasted coconut for garnish


  • Mash the bananas until a fine puree without any chunks. A wire pastry blender works best when mashing them in a bowl. One could also use a fork and mash them on a plate. Measure out 260 g (around 1 ¼ cup) banana puree.

Make Banana Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 3 8-inch by 2-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Combine water, banana puree, eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and melted butter in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and well-blended.
  • Sift the Dry Ingredients into a separate large bowl using a sifter or fine-mesh strainer. Whisk until well blended.
  • Pour the Wet Ingredients into the Dry Ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
  • Divide the banana cake batter evenly between the three prepared pans and smooth the batter until even.
  • Bake in the middle or top rack (avoid the bottom rack) of a preheated 325°F oven for 22-26 minutes. The internal temperature should be over 210°F for optimal baking. Check the cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean when quickly stuck in the cake.
  • The delicate cake will be easiest to layer from cold or frozen- allow it to cool for at least an hour before removing it from the pan. Wrap and freeze the cake on cake circles for at least two hours (up to 2 weeks ahead of time) before decorating. 

For the frosting:

  • With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  • Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in water, vanilla, and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use if it feels too soft.
  • Reserve the nuts for decorating.

Layer, Decorate, and Serve:

  • We have found that the simplest way to layer the cake is to layer and decorate it from frozen the day before it is served. If serving the cake on the same layering day, use refrigerated cake layers instead of frozen.
  • Fill each cake layer with prepared Cream Cheese Frosting. An offset icing spatula helps with this.
  • We recommend frosting a thin crumb coat of buttercream on the outside of the cake, which will catch all the crumby edges, then allowing it to set up in the freezer for about 10 minutes until the frosting is firm.
  • Spread a final layer of Cream Cheese Frosting over your set-up crumbed cake and decorate as desired. We used a small offset icing spatula to make a homestyle texture, then topped the cake with toasted nut pieces or coconut.
  • We recommend letting the cake set up in the fridge, being sure to come to room temperature before serving. This cake has the best texture at room temperature. Enjoy!

 There you go! Make some banana cake, love!

Always My Very Best,

Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Best Homemade Fresh Lemonade Cake with Lemonade Buttercream Frosting

 This Fresh Lemonade Cake is the season's best and most requested. I wanted a moist cake with a tender crumb tart with lemonade flavor that was still sweet.

The frosting had to be made with butter to capture a good mouthfeel, unlike the grease of a shortening frosting. Do not substitute margarine here, or the flavor and texture will not be the same. I also wanted the frosting to have a good lemonade flavor without tasting "fake," as is often the case with a lot of lemon extract; thus, the lemonade concentrate was used in the frosting. My family and neighbors agree this is the best-tasting lemon buttercream imaginable!

Baker's Tip:

This recipe uses almost 12 oz can of frozen lemonade concentrate (thawed) between the cake and the frosting. It also uses nearly a full pound of butter softened to room temperature between the cake and the frosting. It is helpful to plan on these ingredients.

Fresh Lemonade Cake

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 ¼ cup (11 oz)  All-Purpose flour, sifted

1 small box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

4 large eggs

3/4 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

1/2 cup milk at room temperature

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Pink or red food coloring (optional)

Lemonade Buttercream Frosting 

1 cup salted butter (2 sticks) softened at room temperature

2 lbs. powdered sugar

3/4 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

1 tsp vanilla

yellow food coloring (optional)

Optional: lemon slices to decorate the cake.


For the cake:

  • Wash and sanitize hands, tools, and all work surfaces. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 3- 9-inch cake pans lined with parchment.
  • Combine the flour, pudding mix, sugar, baking powder, and salt in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the softened butter a few Tablespoons at a time until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  • Whisk together the eggs, lemonade, milk, lemon extract, and vanilla extract in a separate medium bowl.
  • Add the egg mixture and mix for 1 minute with the mixer still on low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure the mixture is fully incorporated. Mix 2 minutes more. If desired, stir in a few drops of pink or red food coloring to create a light pink color.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
  • Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes clean. Wash and sanitize all work surfaces, and do not eat raw batter. Cool in the pan on a wire rack after the cake is out of the oven. The cake must be cooled completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

  • Combine the butter, powdered sugar, lemonade concentrate, and vanilla extract in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Start on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high-speed whipping until it is fluffy. Add food coloring if desired.
  • Once the cake is thoroughly cool, ice it with the frosting and decorate it with lemon slices, if desired.

 There you go! Make a lemonade cake, darlings!

Always My Very Best,

Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, January 19, 2024

The Best Fast and Easy 4-Ingredient Bread Bowls

Looking for a quick and easy recipe for dinner tonight?

These fast and easy Bread Bowls use only flour, yeast, water, and salt. They can be filled with soup or any of your favorite hot or cold dips for entertaining! They come together from start to finish within less than two hours, making them a great choice. We've included the volume and weight measurements for the ease of any home baker. Give them a try.

Fast and Easy 4-Ingredient Bread Bowls

Yield: 8 Bowls 


8 cups King Arthur Bread Flour (34 oz, 960g)

2 packages Red Star instant or rapid-rise yeast (1 ½ Tbsp, ½ oz, 14g)

1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt

3 cups warm water (not hot water, about 110°F)


  • Wash and sanitize all tools and work surfaces. 
  • Whisk the flour, instant yeast, and salt in a stand mixer bowl. Add the warm water to the bowl and stir with a dough hook until kneading 5 minutes on medium speed. 
  • Remove from the dough hook and mixing bowl. Form into a ball. Wipe out the mixing bowl and place the dough ball back in the mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Rest for 20 minutes. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface lightly dusted with flour. Cut into eight equal pieces. 
  • Shape the dough into bowls by rolling it into a ball, then pulling it down on the edges to seal the seam on the bottom. Place the shaped bowls on two sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic to rise for 1 hour. 
  • Wash and sanitize the work surface used to shape the dough. 
  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Lightly dust the top of the bowls with flour and use a sharp knife to slash the top of the bowls with an X pattern. 
  • Bake at 450°F for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crusty, with an internal temperature of 190°F. 
  • Let the bread cool slightly before cutting into the tops. Cut a circle from the top with a small serrated or paring knife. Scoop out the extra bread on the inside of the bowl, allowing room for soup or dip, and reserve the removed bread for dipping in soup. 
  • Unused bowls can be cooled completely, wrapped in plastic, and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Rewarm in a 350°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes. 
There you go! Make some amazing bread bowls this season!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Best Ever Homemade Caramel Candy

Soft caramels are my most requested holiday treat. They are tender buttery, with just the right texture when made correctly. I roll them up yearly and put them in the kid's stockings or a string around the tree. For a few years now, I've ordered them from a friend due to health issues, but I can make them again this year, and I'm thrilled! If you've been searching for an old-fashioned caramel recipe that works without fail, this is the one. 

My youngest son, Luke, is home from his missionary service this year. He will be here for a few months and then off to college.  My older son Samuel started his mission in August. He is serving locally, and we're blessed to have him home. I know these last two precious years are going to go by quickly! It seems like I started this blog only yesterday. The days are long, but the years are short. As we gather together in the kitchen, there is joy! I have never felt more blessed as a mother. 

So yes. We're making the caramels. It has to happen. 

Chef’s note:

  • Temperature matters. The most important part of making homemade caramels is ensuring they reach the right temperature. For soft caramels, 238°F is the perfect temperature. I like to use a candy thermometer while stirring/cooking the caramels, and then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, I double-check the temperature with an instant thermometer. Be sure to check the temperature in the middle of the caramel mixture! The temperature won't be correct if the thermometer touches the pan's bottom.
  • Use a stainless-steel pot if possible! These caramels turn out so much better when made in a stainless-steel pot (as opposed to an enameled Dutch Oven).

Prep Time15minutes minutes

Cook Time1hour hour

Best Ever Homemade Caramel Candy

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
4 cups sugar
2 cups dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 12 oz. cans evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla


  • Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Melt the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt together in a large, heavy-bottomed stainless-steel pot over medium heat.
  • Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the evaporated milk a little at a time, taking 10 minutes per can and stirring constantly.
  •  Once all the milk is added, bring the mixture to 238-240°F. Temperature is pivotal.  Use a candy thermometer, not any hotter! Even a few degrees hotter will make the caramels really chewy instead of tender and soft. This will take another 15-20 minutes. Double-check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Be sure to check the caramel mixture in the middle without touching the pan's bottom.
  •  Immediately pour into the prepared pan and cool completely. Once the caramels are cool, it is recommended to refrigerate them for a few hours to get the caramel solid enough to slice. Cut and wrap in individual pieces of wax paper.


Store them in an airtight container or in a candy jar. One can also store them in the fridge. They will last several weeks!

There you go! Make some amazing caramels and enjoy this Christmas with those you love. I know I am! 

Always My Very Best, 
Your Friend Chef Tess

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Natural Whoopie Pies and Updated Natural Homemade Chocolate Cake Mix

Oh I love exploding myths and making convenience foods from scratch. Why is it? Why do I love it? Well...perhaps it's the sweet stream of email flowing to my heart thanking me for saving family budgets around the world. Literally. It's so highly motivating to get a thank you note. It warms the coggles of my heart.

How many recipes call for a box of cake mix? Well, in America anyway, I've seen whole books written on the subject. They're books that doctor a cake mix into a lot of other stuff. However...what if the person making the cake or doctored mix had some crazy stipulations? I do. I want the mix being made with all natural ingredients, from scratch and things most people have access to. I want it made to taste wonderful without adding a lot of chemicals to my diet. Yikes...did I just say "diet" in blog entry about chocolate cake? Oh the irony of my existence is sometimes scary.

You will need some very high quality vanilla. It will still make a very impressive cake. If this recipe looks familiar, It is in fact an adaptation of the Chocolate Toffee Buttermilk Cake Mix. A simple form of that cake with some subtle changes. The texture is still perfect.

Chef Tess' Natural Chocolate Cake Mix

yield 16 cups mix (4 mixes total)

1 cup (8 oz) Avocado oil
6 cups (1 lb 11 oz)  Organic grains sprouted  white wheat flour here
3 cups (11.5 oz) baking cocoa
1 cup ( 4.5 oz) non-fat milk powder or soy milk powder
2 1/2 cups coconut sugar or  Pyure Organic Stevia Sweetener
4 tsp salt
1/3 cup baking powder (2 oz)
1T double strength vanilla bean paste
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cayenne pepper

To prepare mix: In a large 3 gallon or larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, dry milk
sugar, baking powder and salt very well. You may use an electric mixer if you have one with a large enough bowl. With a wire whisk, ease the avocado oil into the dry ingredients in a steady stream until the mixture resembles sand. Take the mix and a couple of cup fulls at a time, run through a flour sifter. I use a hand flour sifter that works very well to help the mix become smooth and homogeneous. ( Need a picture tutorial on the mix making process? See: My Yellow Homemade Cake Mix) Divide into quart size bags. 20 oz of mix equals one  conventional cake mix. This is almost exactly 4 cups of measured mix.

To bake:
Combine with 3 eggs
1/3 cup Avocado oil
1 cup water
200 strokes by hand or 3 minutes medium speed.

Bake time 350 degrees:
Pan size: 2 8 inch 33-35 minutes
2 9 inch 28-31 minutes
13 by 9 inch 32-35 minutes
bunt 38-43 minutes
24 cupcakes 18-21 minutes
High altitude: stir 1/4 cup all purpose flour into mix. Mix as directed.

Whoopie Pies from Cake Mix

4 cups cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup Avocado oil
Mix to combine. Scoop by rounded Tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheet, allowing 1 inch between cookies for spreading. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes until cake springs back. Remove from oven and cool completely. Sandwich with cream cheese white chocolate frosting (below).  

Cream Cheese and White Chocolate Orange Frosting
3 ½ c powdered sugar
 ½ c butter, softened 
8 oz cream cheese, softened 
6 oz white chocolate*, melted and cooled 
½ t orange extract 
1 T orange zest

Chop the white chocolate and melt in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds then stir and microwave in 10 second increments until nearly melted. Stir until remaining small chunks melt entirely. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth, with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar and orange extract and beat until smooth. Gently fold in the white chocolate and the orange zest. Do not over beat the filling, or it will lose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator. Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.) *Please use real white chocolate. White“confection,” “dipping chocolate,” “bark,” or “morsels” will not work. You know it’s white chocolate if in the ingredient list you see cocoa butter. If you can’t find white chocolate, it’s better to leave it out than to use the fake stuff.

There you go darlings! Something wickedly delicious and somewhat healthy for a crazy day.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Best Easy Pumpkin Pie Pecan Sticky Buns

I don't know about your house, but at my place, the Pumpkin pie and pecan pie are always the top picks for dessert at the Thanksgiving table. What if those pies' flavors could be captured in a fantastic swirl of spiced flavor-like frenzy embodied in a fluffy roll for your dining enjoyment? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, snack options, and a dessert buffet would be fair game for these babies!

Behold, these glory rolls are about to become your family’s most requested “yummy thing” that must always be made for Thanksgiving and every holiday close to it. 

This recipe features a method of yeast bread called Tangzhong.

Tangzhong is a yeast bread technique with origins in Japan and Asia. It involves cooking some of a bread recipe’s flour in liquid before adding it to the remaining dough ingredients. Milk is the most popular liquid used in this method. Bringing the temperature of the flour and liquid temperature to 65°C (149°F) pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, making them more able to retain liquid, thus enhancing the resulting bread’s softness and shelf life.

When used for sweet rolls, the result is a soft, pillowy texture and velvety crumb. You need this method in your life. Please don’t skip it. Please don’t change the recipe. Just accept that this is part of the magic.

Best Easy Pumpkin Pie Spice Pecan Sticky Buns


  • 1/2 cup (113g) whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp. (23g) Bread Flour


  • 2/3 cup (151g) organic hazelnut creamer (or whole milk)
  • 2 1/2 cups (300g) Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp. (6g) salt
  • ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. Red Star instant yeast
  • ¼ cup (57g) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup wheat germ


  • ½ cup (107g) dark brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup (113g) Libby’s solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp. (8g to 10g) pumpkin pie spice

Caramel Nut Topping

  • 1 jar, 11.5 oz. Smucker’s Simple Delight® Salted Caramel Topping OR caramel-flavored Spoon-able ice cream topping. Up to 12.5 oz.
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted and chopped


To make the tangzhong:

  • Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until no lumps remain.
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened, paste-like, and the spoon or spatula leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. This step should take 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.

To make the dough:

  • Weigh your flour or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup and sweeping off any excess. Add the creamer, the flour, and the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed; the heat from the tangzhong will help warm the creamer.
  • Mix on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Increase the speed by 8-10 minutes.
  • Shape the dough into a ball in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover.
  • Let the dough rise until about doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes in a warm kitchen.

To make the filling:

  • Combine all ingredients for the filling in a small bowl until smooth.

To assemble the rolls:

  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface and roll the dough into a 10″ x 12″ rectangle about 1/2″ thick.
  • Spread the filling over the dough, covering all but a 1/2″ strip along one long side.
  • Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log.
  • Score the dough lightly into eight equal 1 1/2″ to 2″ pieces, making large, saucer-sized cinnamon rolls. Cut the dough at the score marks. We use unflavored dental floss for the cleanest cut: pull off a long piece of floss, loop it underneath the log at the score mark, and pull the ends in opposite directions to cut the dough. Repeat until you’ve cut all of the rolls. Note a bench knife or sharp knife will work; be sure it is sharp and serrated is preferred.
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  • Place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing at least 2″ apart and 2″ away from the edges of the pan. Tuck the ends of the spiral underneath the rolls to prevent unraveling during the rise and bake.
  • Lightly coat the top of the rolls with melted butter or oil, cover them with plastic wrap or a reusable cover, and let them rise for 45-60 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). They should be very puffy.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F 20 minutes before you bake, and position a rack in the top third of the oven.
  • Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one roll reads 190°F. Bake for less time for extra-soft rolls and extended time for rolls with a bit more color and slightly firmer texture.
  • Remove the rolls from the oven, place the pan on a rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 ½ Tbsp. (21g) of the melted butter.

To make the caramel topping:

  • Combine the sauce with the toasted chopped pecans.
  • Scoop several Tbsp. Of the nut mixture over each roll, allow the caramel to drizzle down the sides. Serve warm.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Easy Homemade Banana Bread Granola


Hello, my darlings! Welcome back to my homemade everything series. I swear I've made everything from Homemade cottage cheese to homemade veggie dogs. Those who have been on this journey with me for the past 15 years of blogging saw a ton of the homemade stuff when I started. Back then, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom with two small children. They are both fully grown adults, and I am happy that we often still make homemade Breakfast cereal.
 My two sons are now full-time missionaries (for missionary and college student cooking; see  posts). It has been one of my favorite experiences in my life having this happen! 

Back to breakfast cereal. It's a food group among college kids...well, any kids. My guys will eat a couple batches a month. I like mixing it with cornflakes or bran flakes for added staying power.

If you’ve been paying attention to baking trends, you might have noticed the advent in popularity of the spice blend known as Speculaas. Speculaas Spice Mix is often used in the Netherlands and Dutch cuisine during Autumn and Winter. Holiday baking and cold weather bring a full spectrum of delicious recipes calling for Speculaas spice blend. Though most often associated with the Netherlands, it is also a blend of spices used throughout Europe, though known by other names in different countries. In Germany and Austria it’s called Spekulatius, and in Belgium and France, it’s called Speculoos. It is similar to the American Pumpkin Pie Spice mix but is a lot more complex in flavor. Generally, all Speculaas include cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, aniseed, white pepper, and coriander. Next to that, people add ginger, cardamom, and sometimes mace. I have included the recipe for speculaas below, in case you'd like to try to make it from scratch. 

In its origin, Speculoos spiced baked goods in the shapes of animals were offered to the gods as a supplication for good harvests. As Christianity rose in popularity, the cookies and baked goods took on the shape of beloved patron saints like the bishop of Myra AKA Saint Nicholas. This tradition continues even in our age as Speculaas spiced goods are still served on Saint Nicholas Day. Traditionally, every baker had their own unique blend of Speculaas. At one point, there was even a custom of giving a male or female-shaped baked good to a suitor or lover as a token of your affection. We love it in our baked goods no matter what they are intended to represent, as long as they are delicious!

This whole-grain granola is just such a treat. Adding this complex spice gives it a unique and divine flavor, and will surely become one of your favorites.

Banana Bread Speculaas Granola


¼ cup Coconut Oil or olive oil
½ cup Coconut Sugar or Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp. Vanilla, pure extract
2 Medium ripe Bananas, mashed
4 cups  Rolled Oats
¾ cup Whole Almonds, raw, chopped
¼ cup Teff, Chia Seeds, or Flax seeds
1 Tbsp. Dutch Speculaas spice or Cinnamon
½ tsp salt


    • Wash and sanitize all work surfaces and tools.
    • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
    • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
    • Combine coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, and mashed bananas in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
    • Bake the granola by dividing it between the two baking sheets. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through baking. Remove from oven and cool completely. Yield 20 1/4 cup servings.

Estimated Nutritional Information: 144 cal, 7 g fat, 18 carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein.

Speculaas Spice blend

3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
Directions: Combine all the spices well. Transfer to an airtight spice jar. Yield approx 1/4 cup.
There you go, darlings! Make some homemade granola!

Always My Very Best,
Chef Tess