Tahini Vanilla Bean Blondies

I've been getting that old desire to blog again.  And bake!  I've mostly been doing a lot of cooking recently, with inspiration from Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine.  I just love the flavor of sesame so, so much.  I'm a big fan of seed pastes/butters, especially tahini  Also, I had these lovely vanilla beans that my mom gave me for my birthday (Christmas??) one year and needed to use them.  Voila, there's the inspiration behind my Tahini Vanilla Bean Blondies.

The vanilla beans are infused with browned butter, then the mixture is whipped with eggs, tahini and dark brown sugar.After folding in some baking soda, salt, flour and white chocolate chips, the mixture is spread into a pan and sprinkled with sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.  Give these a try!  I think you'll really love the salty, nutty, caramel flavor.  Also, I think these would still be fabulous if you left out the white chocolate chips or just used vanilla extract.

Hope y'all have a great Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day!

Tahini Vanilla Bean Blondies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split, seeded
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
Pinch of coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with foil; coat foil with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook and whisk until butter starts to turn golden and foam - about 3-5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and whisk in vanilla beans.  Cool 5 minutes.

Pour butter in a large bowl and add brown sugar; beat together using a mixer on medium speed until combined.  Beat in eggs and tahini until well combined - about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in salt and baking soda until well combined.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour until just combined.  Stir in white chocolate chips until combined.

Spread mixture into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt.  Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into blondies comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 blondies 

Lemon Crackle Cookies


Hello again and happy fall, y'all! I feel like the year has flown by.  Here we are almost all of the way through October.  Soon it'll be Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But here I am, still thinking it's summer time, running around in sundresses and baking lemon cookies instead of pumpkin bread.  I'm in total disbelief that it's Autumn.  Here in Raleigh we're only starting to see a few signs of the changing season; cool, crisp air in the evenings and a few crunchy leaves under our feet.  If I didn't go to the store and see bags of candy lining the aisles, I would have no idea Halloween was a little over a week away.

The past few months have been incredibly busy, sometimes I feel like I don't get to stop and relax.  But when I do get a little break, I usually can't stand it and have to keep busy.  So any extra downtime I have had lately has been devoted towards baking - mostly classic desserts and treats given away to new friends.

 My sweet tooth isn't raging anymore like it was for the past... well forever.  Maybe as I've gotten older my little taste buds have evolved and are going in a different direction.  Instead of a piece of cake I'd probably choose a steak.  The other day I had a few lemons left over from a pasta dish I made and used them towards a nice light, lemony crackle cookie.

Quite the beauties, aren't they?  They're pretty photogenic, but then again what cookies aren't?  Hello.  I took these pictures using my iPhone, which is good enough for me these days.  I actually sold my DSLR a few months ago (gotta pay those bills) so I don't have a camera anymore.
 Lemon Crackle Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + zest of one lemon
1 large egg
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined.  Beat in lemon juice and lemon zest until combined.  Beat in egg until well combined.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll 1 inch balls of dough into confectioners' sugar and place on cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2-inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden in color. Side note-feel free to add a few drops of yellow food coloring into the dough.

Allow cookies to cool 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks.  Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Atlantic Beach Pie

Hello there! How is everyone?  I'm still here, just a little more quiet than in the past.  I hope everyone is having a great summer!  It's been a busy one for me.  I moved to North Carolina few months ago and I'm really enjoying it.  The area is beautiful, the people are nice, and the food is good!  I've always been a big fan of Southern food.  I've been instagraming a lot of the food I've been trying, so feel free to follow along at Wanderlustpig.  

I thought it would be suiting to bake a pie native to North Carolina for the blog.  I baked Atlantic Beach Pie using this recipe from Food52.  The recipe is from Bill Smith, a chef at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill.  I haven't been to Crook's Corner yet, but I really want to.  

The pie was soo easy to make, which is exactly what I want during these lazy days of summer.  The crust is made up of crushed saltines, softened butter and sugar.  I was unsure if the crust would taste good, but it does!  The filling is simple as well: just egg yolks, fresh lemon or lime juice and sweetened condensed milk.  I topped the pie with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

The filling set up beautifully and tasted like key lime pie.  It's definitely not the prettiest pie you'll ever see, but it's refreshing and easy to make.