When it comes to dessert you have no shortage of options—cupcakes, brownies, pies, and more—but for a celebration you just can’t beat a cake. A towering layer cake like our devil’s food or coconut varieties will always impress, but that’s just the start. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, a holiday, or just want an extra-special dessert, keep reading to find the perfect cake for any occasion.
If you’ve never made a layer cake before, this butter cake flavored with vanilla extract and toasted sugar is a good place to start. Here we decorated the cake simply with vanilla buttercream and Valrhona pearls, but feel free to get as creative as you’d like.
More of a chocolate fan? This intense cake is made with plenty of chopped dark chocolate and Dutch process cocoa powder, plus lots of coffee to bring out the chocolate’s bitter side. This is another great cake for beginners because the batter comes together in a single pot.
When I was growing up I asked for the same thing every birthday: my mom’s coconut cake. Her cake was made with chocolate, but I wouldn’t have said no to this version either. The basic technique is the same as our butter cake, but we replace the butter, all-purpose flour, and milk with virgin coconut oil, coconut flour, and coconut milk. Finishing with coconut frosting and toasted coconut flakes really makes it a quintuple coconut cake, but who’s counting?
Carrot cake is a little more polarizing than chocolate or vanilla, but fans of it will love our triple-layered version. We highlight the flavor of the carrots and pecans with brown butter and whole wheat flour, which also keeps the cake light and fluffy. Tangy cream cheese frosting provides some balance to the earthy cake and candied carrot “roses” make the cake extra festive.
Chocolate isn’t just sweet—it’s full of complex flavors. I’m particularly fond of its fruitier side, which this cake emphasizes with the addition of tart cherry juice. The cherry flavor goes beyond the cake itself, though—we top it with whipped cream flavored with freeze-dried berries.
Our butter cake batter is already perfectly hydrated, so adding a moisture-rich blackberry purée requires cutting out the normal wet ingredients. That’s not a problem, though, because the berries are acidic enough to tenderize the cake, and they also happen to give it a gorgeous color too. To ensure the color comes out right, make the batter with only egg whites—yellow yolks will mix with the purée and turn the cake an unappetizing green color.
Strawberries do not work as well in a cake batter as blackberries do. They are significantly less acidic, so using enough strawberry purée to get the pH down would add too much moisture to the batter. Our solution is to add pulverized freeze-dried strawberries to the mix, which gives the batter plenty of acidity and boosts the strawberry flavor and color as well.
This elegant dessert pairs thin chocolate cakes with crisp meringue, airy whipped cream, and an intense raspberry sauce. Adding a little instant coffee to the cake batter amplifies the flavor of the chocolate, and plenty of sugar keeps the cake moist. Don’t worry if you’ve never tackled meringue before—the French meringue we use here is the easiest type to make.
This massive sheet cake is the way to go if you’ve got a big party to feed. The classic Texas sheet cake technique sounds strange but works perfectly—rather than creaming the butter and sugar you melt the butter, bring it to a boil with the water and cocoa, and then mix in the dry ingredients. We like to bake the cake in a large, shallow jelly roll pan so that the layer of slightly tangy chocolate icing ends up being almost as thick as the cake itself.
Not every cake has to be as rich and sweet as our previous recipes. This one is practically healthy (and totally gluten-free) thanks to the protein-rich almond flour. Keeping the cake light is all about properly beating the egg whites—start them at room temperature, use impeccably clean equipment, and beat only until they form soft peaks.
Another gluten-free option, this chocolate torte is flavored with a nutty chestnut purée. The chestnuts are pretty mild and easy to overwhelm, so we cut down on the amount of chocolate and add a dash of bourbon to enhance their flavor. For even more chestnut flavor and a prettier presentation we top the cake with more chestnut purée.
If you think cheesecake has to be heavy, think again. This Japanese version is made by folding airy meringue into the batter, which makes for a cake that is almost unbelievably light. Don’t worry—adding sour cream and lemon juice to the batter ensures it has that classic cheesecake tang.
Looking for a more traditional Western-style cheesecake? This incredibly quick no-bake recipe is the way to go. We love no-bake cheesecakes not just because they are so easy, but because cutting out the eggs really lets the flavor of the dairy (heavy cream and lots of cream cheese) shine. Graham crackers are the obvious choice for the crust, but nutty Biscoff cookies are even better.
This no-bake cheesecake has a double-dose of chocolate—we mix melted bittersweet chocolate into the cream cheese and sugar filling and use chocolate cookie wafers for the crust. Like our standard no-bake cheesecake this only takes 15 minutes of active time, plus 4 hours in the fridge to set. Give the cake about half an hour at room temperature before serving.
Korean food always seems to be on the verge of having its moment in the press. It seems like every couple of years, some publication somewhere will identify it as the next up-and-coming cuisine, even though Maangchi is a household name and bottles of probiotic kimchi “gut shots” stand on supermarket shelves alongside Guy Fieri’s Korean BBQ Wing Sauce. At my local K-town grocery store, I sometimes see more non-Koreans than Koreans, and a whole lot of people in the United States appear to already know that there’s more to Korean cuisine than just kimchi and barbecue. But eating Korean food is one thing, and knowing how to stock your pantry to cook it is another.
I grew up in a Korean-American household, and our dinner table frequently featured rice and banchan, those small, savory side dishes, like pickles, blanched bean sprouts, and sautéed anchovies. Kimchi was always a side with our Thanksgiving turkey. But it wasn’t until I took a cooking class with Seoyoung Jung in Seoul that I started to reassess what I knew about Korean cuisine and reflect on the fundamentals of Korean ingredients.
Jung has worked to broaden the world’s conception of Korean cuisine ever since she started cooking professionally in the US. Her background is in classic French cuisine—she studied at The Culinary Institute of America and went on to work in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park, Gordon Ramsay at The London, and Oceana—but she moved back to Seoul in 2011 and started working as a research and development chef in the Korean fermented-foods industry. In her free time, Jung earned a certification from the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine, where recipes and techniques used to prepare food in the royal kitchens of the Joseon Dynasty are preserved and passed on.
After we met, she invited me to join her on a yearlong blog project, traveling around the countryside to farms and fishing villages, to explore the country’s full range of seasonal ingredients. One year turned into three years, and I learned that even though Korean cuisine varies by region—for example, it tends to be spicier and saltier in the warmer southern areas, since capsaicin and salt function as natural preservatives—nearly all Korean kitchens have a set of core ingredients in common. Naturally, to compile this list of essential pantry items, I sought out Jung’s expertise.
One of the first points she emphasizes: “Chilies and garlic are important, but I really wish people knew that not all Korean food is spicy!” There’s a lot more to Korean cuisine: earthy bean-paste soups, mild rice porridges, icy buckwheat noodles, lightly seasoned vegetable banchan, and an abundance of savory dumplings with no chili pepper heat at all. “There are even white kimchis made without chili powder,” Jung says. She also points to often-overlooked Korean culinary traditions like royal cuisine, which is rarely spicy because heat masks the natural flavors of the high-quality ingredients brought to the royal kitchens, and temple food, which eschews spices and alliums because they are said to excite the senses and distract from spiritual contemplation.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Korean pantry is a living one. “Fermentation is essential to Korean cooking,” Jung says. With Korea’s hot, humid summers and freezing-cold winters, preserved foods naturally became a cornerstone of the cuisine. Though kimchi is probably Korea’s most famous fermented product, fermented soy and fermented seafood are just as important.
So without further ado, here’s everything you’ll need to dive into Korean cooking.
“To understand Korean cuisine, you have to understand jang,” says Jung. “Koreans use jang to season almost everything!” Jang are sauces made from fermented soy blocks, or meju, which are pressed from boiled soybeans and inoculated with wild molds like Aspergillus oryzae or the bacteria Bacillus subtilis (or both) using rice straw. There are many kinds of jang, but you’ll find three in every Korean kitchen: ganjang (soy sauce), doenjang (soybean paste), and gochujang (chili paste). Traditionally, ganjang and doenjang were made together in one earthenware jar at the beginning of winter—Jung calls them “twins from one mother.” The meju are soaked in brine and release flavorful amino acids as the mold and bacteria break down the soy proteins over the cold winter months. When the solids are strained out, they’re fermented separately as doenjang, while the dark and flavorful brine ferments to become ganjang. Gochujang is made in a separate process by mixing crushed meju powder with a grain porridge, rice syrup, salt, and chili powder.
Most large Korean grocery stores carry a dizzying array of soy sauces, but to simplify things, Jung suggests looking for three basic varieties: Joseon ganjang, yangjo ganjang, and jin ganjang. Joseon ganjang (also called guk-ganjang, or soup soy sauce), is made with just soybeans, salt, and water and typically ferments for about a year. Its flavor tends to be more assertive than the other ganjang, with more funky, meaty notes, especially in artisanal products. Jung likes using Joseon ganjang anywhere soy sauce is required as a seasoning—soups, banchan, et cetera. She suggests using it to season food a little at a time while you get used to its flavor profile. Sempio’s Joseon ganjang is a mild, easy-to-find brew, and Mac makes a Joseon ganjang that you’ll find in larger Korean markets. Yangjo ganjang is made in the same way as Joseon ganjang and ferments for about six months, but the fermented mixture also includes wheat, a holdover from Japanese colonization. “The wheat makes yangjo ganjang sweeter, so keep that in mind when cooking,” Jung advises. Yangjo ganjang is good for meat marinades and dipping sauces, and makes an acceptable substitute for Joseon ganjang if you’re not a fan of the latter’s stronger flavors. Look for Chung Jung One’s organic yangjo ganjang. Finally, jin ganjang is a sauce made with soy proteins that are quickly and thoroughly broken down with chemical enzymes, resulting in an ultra-savory, one-note seasoning—pretty much equivalent to your garden-variety bottom-shelf soy sauce. “The name ‘jin ganjang’ used to refer to soy sauce that was aged for three to five years, but today it’s used for this cheap, mass-produced product,” Jung explains. “Still, if you’re cooking in bulk, like making soy pickles, jin ganjang can be useful.”
Like other fermented soybean pastes, doenjang is savory and full of umami. It tends to be darker and funkier than miso, but it doesn’t have quite the pungency of black bean paste. Doenjang traditionally ages for two years, though industrial processes are much shorter—and just as with ganjang, some doenjang is now made with wheat, resulting in a sweeter product, so Jung advises looking at ingredient labels before buying. These days, she says, most Korean young people have grown up with and prefer the sweeter doenjang. It’s more difficult to find doenjang without wheat in the US, but if you can get your hands on some, give it a try for a deeper, more rustic flavor profile. Jung likes Sempio’s togul doenjang, a naturally fermented product that uses non-GMO beans and is aged in a cave. Jookjangyeon, an artisanal producer that ages its jang in earthenware jars, has recently started exporting its products to the US, and you can find its doenjang at some large Korean grocery stores.
Doenjang can be used in marinades and dipping sauces, and is a very common stew and soup base. “It goes really well with aged cheese!” Jung says. It’s also a key ingredient in ssamjang, a dipping sauce for barbecue and lettuce wraps. Jung’s recipe for ssamjang calls for mixing one part doenjang and one part gochujang (“or more, if you want it spicier”) with crushed roasted sesame seeds, minced garlic, and a little sesame oil. Doenjang is similar in some ways to miso, though, if you plan to substitute it in recipes that call for miso, keep in mind that it is funkier and much saltier, and adjust accordingly.
Gochujang is a relative newcomer in Korea, as chilies weren’t widely used on the peninsula until the 1600s. It’s made from a usually rice-based grain porridge, gochugaru (more on this below), meju powder, and salt, and carries a natural sweetness from the fermenting grains. This sweetness, along with its addictive, fruity fire, has made gochujang one of Korea’s most popular fermented exports. Jung cautions against buying gochujang that contains corn syrup, which is more intensely sweet than the jocheong, or rice syrup, that’s traditionally used; you can always add more sweetness later if you need it. Chung Jung One’s sunchang gochujang is made with Korean rice syrup and no additives, and you can find Mac’s sweet rice gochujang, a small-batch product, in some large Korean grocery stores. Gochujang is great for marinades, dipping sauces, and seasoning banchan. Try a generous dab with some sesame oil on your bibimbap, or mix it with vinegar for sashimi.
“Every Korean mom has their own blend of seasonings they put into their gajeun yangnyeom,” says Jung. This “everything seasoning” is one of those essential, ambiguous ingredients used to flavor banchan or marinades: A typical Korean-mom recipe, Jung explains, will tell you to season your banchan (especially blanched vegetables) as you go along using your gajeun yangnyeom, which includes something salty, like jang, and, often but not always, something sweet, like sugar or plum syrup. The baseline version is a mix of jang, gochugaru, crushed garlic, minced daepa (Welsh onion), and crushed toasted sesame seeds.
Gochugaru, or chili powder, has a different flavor profile from the chili powder you typically find on Western supermarket shelves. “It’s not sharp and fiery, but it has more of a continuous, long-lasting heat with more fruity tones,” Jung says. One exception is cheongyang gochugaru, a variety that kicks up the heat several notches (and is fairly hard to find in the US). In general, you’ll encounter two different grinds of gochugaru: The coarse grind is the general go-to product—in coffee terms, it’s close to a coarse, French-press grind. Goun gochugaru, more akin to an espresso grind, is a finer powder used for making gochujang and coloring the brine in water kimchi.
Koreans are picky about their chili powder—many will grow and sun-dry their own chilies in the early fall, then bring them to the local mill for grinding, or buy dried chilies at the mill and have them ground on the spot. If you can’t hop on a plane to pick up freshly ground gochugaru from Korea yourself, Jung suggests you look for bright red chili powder that’s made in Korea: “Sun-dried chilies, or taeyangcho, have a brighter color and a more natural aroma, but darker gochugaru was most likely heat-dried, which changes the flavor.” She recommends storing your gochugaru in the freezer for optimal freshness year-round.
Korean cooking calls for frequent and prodigious use of garlic, so it’s common to crush a whole bunch in one go and store it in the fridge or freezer. Jung soaks the cloves in room-temperature water for a few minutes to make them easier to peel. “Our grandmothers’ generation would pound the garlic with a mortar and pestle, which creates more juice and develops the character of the garlic,” Jung says, “but a food processor also works just fine.” She also likes to press the finely crushed or minced garlic flat in a plastic zipper-lock bag and use the back of a knife to score it before freezing, so it’s easy to break off as much frozen garlic as she needs later. The next time you’re at the Korean market, keep an eye out for a Korean cooking knife: Their handles often have a flat metal base for pounding garlic right on your cutting board.
Daepa, or Welsh onion, is basically a giant scallion—“but don’t confuse it with a leek!” laughs Jung. Leeks are tougher and get quite sweet when cooked, she explains, while daepa has more garlicky spice and is typically used alongside garlic. Koreans use the firm white and pale-green base for seasoning, and the floppy, darker-green section for soup stock. “The green part is usually stickier and spicier, while the white part is sweeter,” Jung says. She prefers freshly minced daepa, but says if you want to freeze a bunch, make sure they’re completely dry first to avoid mushiness. You can substitute scallions for daepa in a pinch. This video demonstrates a quick way to mince daepa.
Crushed toasted sesame seeds are called ggaesogeum. Jung buys her sesame seeds whole and untoasted and stores them in the freezer. Later, she toasts small batches at a time, starting by rinsing and draining the seeds. “Rinsing makes a huge difference and keeps the seeds plump,” she says. Gently toast them in a dry pan over medium-low heat “until you start to hear a crackling dadak! dadak! sound.” You should also see the seeds turn a light golden brown, and smell a gently toasted sesame aroma rising from the pan. Jung keeps her roasted sesame seeds in a jar and gently grinds them with a mortar and pestle right before use. (If you’re feeling lazy, you can also crush a spoonful between your palms.)
Maesil cheong, or plum syrup, rose in popularity as an alternative to sugar in the last 30 or so years, due in part to the alleged health benefits of green plums aged in sugar. “In any case, maesil adds a really nice touch, similar to finishing with vinegar,” Jung says. “It brightens up your food.”
If you can find green plums in spring, she suggests making your own: Mix equal parts pitted plums and sugar in a jar (or use up to 1.2 parts sugar, if you live in a warm place prone to mold), and let the syrup form naturally over a few months. “Or try making a cheong with fresh cranberries, apples, or onions.”
Freshly pressed sesame oil, or chamgireum, has an amazing aroma, but it can be hard to find in the States.* Your next-best option is to look at the sell-by date for the freshest oil available and store it in the fridge after buying. Jung also likes deulgireum, or perilla seed oil, a milder cousin to chamgireum. Since both have low smoke points, she sometimes mixes them with another cooking oil, like grapeseed, when using them for cooking, but says that they’re usually best used as finishing oils. (You can also include them in your everything seasoning.)
* Chong’s Grocery in Los Angeles does sell and ship fresh-pressed sesame oil ($13 for 16 ounces) and perilla oil ($19 for 16 ounces). It’s easiest to have a Korean speaker call and receive the text message with ordering instructions.
It’s always good to have a little vinegar on hand. Vinegar, says Jung, pairs well with both ganjang and gochujang in banchan seasonings, and cho-gochujang, a vinegared version, is a popular dipping sauce for raw fish and lightly blanched vegetables. She recommends makgeolli shikcho, which is brewed from rice alcohol, but it can be difficult to find in the US; hyunmi shikcho (brown rice vinegar) is a good second choice.
Koreans use cooking alcohol to reduce strong odors from meat and fish. “We are not a fan of blood flavor—for dishes like galbi [grilled short ribs], we even soak the meat overnight in cold water to remove blood!” Jung explains. Her first choice for cooking alcohol is cheongju, a mid-range-ABV brew similar to sake (try Kooksoondang’s Yedam). Absent that, you can substitute soju or even vodka.
Jeot, Korea’s salted, fermented seafood condiments, give an extra savory, umami boost to your cooking—and there are over 160 varieties, including salt-cured clams, squid, and fish innards. They’re an essential element in most kimchi recipes, too. “If you use salt, you only get saltiness, but if you use jeot, you get way more depth of flavor,” says Jung. Jeot is sold in both strained, liquid form and paste-like solid form. Two popular types of liquid jeot are myeolchi jeot (anchovy sauce) and gganari aekjeot (sandlance sauce, made from a small fish that burrows into sand). “If you’re a huge fan of fishy flavors, go for the anchovy jeot, which is stronger than sandlance jeot,” Jung advises. Liquid jeot can be mixed with soy sauce or can even replace it entirely, especially in seafood-based soups, like miyeok-guk (seaweed soup), though be warned that the result will be pretty fishy. Korean fish sauce, Jung says, has more sharp and clear flavors than Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, but you can use those in place of Korean fish sauce if you need to—just be sure to taste as you go along.
If you’re stocking up on jeot, you can’t go wrong with saewoo jeot, fermented shrimp paste. Hundreds of tiny pink shrimp are packed into each jar, which will keep in your fridge for years. “Saewoo jeot is the mildest of the three, and also the sweetest because of the shrimp,” says Jung. If you’re new to fish sauce, she recommends starting with this versatile jeot: Use it in kimchi, steamed egg dishes, and sautéed squash—or even try throwing some into your next pasta sauce. “It’s funky, salty, and sweet all at once.”
There are all kinds of soup stocks in Korea, but one of the most common is an anchovy-based broth. Simmering these ingredients together is the first step in most soup and stew recipes.
You’ll find a range of dried-anchovy sizes, but for soup stock, Jung recommends going with larger fish, about the size of your little finger or larger (the smaller anchovies are for banchan). Look for plump fish with unbroken, silvery skin. If you’re truly dedicated, pluck out the guts and heads to remove bitter flavors. Here’s a video showing how it’s done.
Dasima is also known by its Japanese name, kombu. You can buy this glutamate-rich dried kelp in flat sheets or precut into small squares or long strips. Before using, Jung wipes any residual white powder off with a damp cloth. “It’s all natural, nothing to worry about, but I like to make sure there aren’t any impurities or dust on my dasima,” she explains. Wiping is better, she says, because rinsing your dasima can render it slimy. Jung’s secret dasima tip: “Always make dasima broth with some kind of protein, like anchovies, never just kelp alone,” she says. “The glutamates in the kelp plus the protein molecules give you umami synergy, which really amplifies the umami flavor!”
If you’re feeling ambitious (or if you happen to have any of these odds and ends lying around the kitchen), throw in some dried pyogo (shiitake) mushrooms, white radish, green daepa leaves, dried pollack heads, or onion to add complexity to your stock. But ultimately, Jung says, all you need for a good stock is anchovies and kelp. For the lazy among us, check out her recipe for an easy, make-ahead refrigerator soup stock here.
Another year; another Academy Awards ceremony on the horizon; another pun-filled menu for your Oscars party, courtesy of the guy who’s contractually obligated to produce one fun Oscar-pun menu post per annum. So gather ’round, friends, pull up a chair, pop a squat right here on a spare scrap of rug; it’s party-planning time! We’ve got a bread, a few apps, and several ideas for the main event that accommodate a range of dietary preferences—and all of these options lend themselves to witty plays on some of this year’s most promising nominees. If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of making a whole custom Oscars menu—frankly, if I were planning a viewing party and unrestrained by the tyranny of the pun, I’d probably whip up a vat of pressure cooker chile verde, set it out next to a cube or two of Bud Heavies, and be done with it—you can always concentrate your efforts on just one or two of the dishes here. It’ll free you up to relax and enjoy watching as Get Out sweeps the ceremony, as we all know in our hearts it will, and should.
Word to the wise: If you haven’t seen Get Out and you’re afraid of spoilers, don’t read on (but, for what it’s worth, it’s really too good for spoilers to ruin, so don’t worry about it). And to those who feel the urge to complain about the quality of these puns, just be thankful I nipped “Morel Streep” in the bud.
The Bread: Timothée Challah-met
GQ has hailed him as a “once-in-a-generation talent,” Cosmo says he’s “basically the greatest human ever,” and Serious Eats wants you to understand that his last name reminds us of a bread—golden, fluffy-inside, glossy-brown-outside bread. While Timothée deserves all the plaudits he can get after his terrible treatment in the time-bendingly boring Interstellar, the only accolade he’s walking away from this year’s Oscars ceremony with is “nominee.” Because there can be only one Best Actor, and that title belongs to Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya.
The Cheese: Three Cheese Boards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Initially, we thought we’d promote “Three Cheese Balls Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” in part because cheese balls are delicious, and in part because the word balls is funny in any and every context. But, admittedly, “cheese boards” better matched the original title, so we went with it instead. You don’t need a recipe for this one—just consult our handy guide below to learn how to put out a fine cheese board for your fine party guests, without breaking the bank.
You know what else is funny, though? Get Out! Get Out was really funny, even as it was also super creepy and scary and deadly serious. That’s the kind of range a Best Picture winner needs to have, right? Balls to anyone who says otherwise!
A Dip: Guaca-Molly’s Game
I include this recipe for several reasons. Reason the first: Guacamole is always good to eat. Reason B: Our guacamole recipe is really good (especially when made the old-fashioned way, with a mortar and pestle!). Penultimate reason: The pun is strong. Reason the fourth: as a shout-out to Michael Albert, the Serious Eats reader who single-handedly reminded me and the rest of the staff of my contractual obligation to pen this post. Thanks, Michael! I stole your pun! Get Out is the best movie of the year!
A Plated Appetizer: Willem Da-Foie Gras
This is for all you fancy-pants people holding fancy-pants Oscars dinner parties. While foie gras is like Willem Dafoe in that it’s best enjoyed in large portions, even a supporting-role-sized serving is good (as the Oscar nom attests) if that’s all you can provide. With Kenji’s recipe, there’s no need to worry about messing up your pricey foie—just be as confident as our guy Willem, who’s sure to win since Bradley Whitford, inexplicably, didn’t make it onto the nominee list.
For Pescatarians: Calamari by Your Name
If you’re aiming for a pescatarian-friendly menu, this elegant braised-squid dish solves a bunch of problems at once: It’s quick and easy to make, it’s perfectly scalable, it’s cheap, and it takes on a delicious complexity from the harissa and lemon juice stirred in at the last moment. Speaking of complexity, one overlooked element of Get Out‘s success is the casting. Is there a better representative of progressive smug than Bradley Whitford, the guy who played a glorified Rahm Emanuel on The West Wing?
For Vegetarians: Guillermo del Tortas
Catering to vegetarians and vegans doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it mean you have to skimp on flavor. These vegan sandwiches will work just as well for omnivores, since they get a lot of heft from refried beans and mushrooms, plus variety and depth of flavor from the plethora of peppers. Speaking of solid ingredient choices, another example of the genius casting in Get Out is Allison Williams. Even in the face of mounting evidence, you trust her character almost all the way through to the end!
For Meat-Eaters: Lady Bird (It’s Just a Dang Chicken)
I suppose we could get dinged for lack of inspiration on this pun. Okay, fine, there is no pun. But the choice itself is above reproach, since roast chicken is always welcome on my plate, particularly if it’s spatchcocked and not overcooked. The key to properly cooking a chicken, as with most meats, is using a good instant-read thermometer, which allows you to exercise the kind of control Jordan Peele displayed in Get Out, which is, if you can believe it, his directorial debut.
Snacky Candy: The Barkest Hour
If you’re having an informal Oscars get-together, you could do far worse than setting out a few bowls of this potato chip– and smoked salt–infused chocolate bark for your guests as a casual dessert. It’s super simple, and you can make it far in advance, too. If you wanted to make a different tasty dessert that’s a bit more labor-intensive and also references a heavy war movie that received an inevitable Oscar nod this year, you could always try your hand at Hot Cross Bunkirks. What can we say? We’ve truly got a winning recipe for every need, much as Get Out‘s success builds on a winning formula of horror, comedy, and thoughtful social commentary that can satisfy any viewer.
A Plated Dessert: Daniel Kaluuya-Chocolate Pie
Daniel Kaluuya was the best male actor in a leading role of 2017, so make this simple no-bake pie in his honor. Or don’t make it: Daniel Kaluuya was still the best male actor in a leading role of 2017. If Daniel Kaluuya does not win the Best Actor Oscar, it doesn’t matter; Daniel Kaluuya was the best actor in a leading role of 2017. (Also, Daniel Day-Lewis.)
Few things are more frustrating than trying to limp through a recipe without the right equipment—just ask anyone who’s tried to whip a Swiss meringue by hand. In the realm of casual, everyday American desserts like cupcakes and pie, there’s something to be said for making do with what you’ve got. Go ahead, let that wine bottle double as a rolling pin! But when it comes to a specialty dessert as specific as cannoli, it pays to arm yourself for the task at hand.
After more than six months of testing, I’m beyond excited about sharing my recipe for cannoli, but there’s no pretending it’s something anyone can tackle on a whim. Throw yourself at the task empty handed, and you’ll need the experience, wisdom, and patience of an Italian grandma to pull it off. Shy of that, having the proper tools will bridge that gap in skill, so anyone can make, fry, and fill the most gorgeous crisp and blistered cannoli shells at home. Happily, most of these tools are major workhorses in the pastry kitchen, so investing in a few key pieces will help you to conquer many other classic desserts.
Cannoli need lots of water in the dough to blister as they fry, and tons of gluten development to keep the shells sturdy and cracker-crisp, which makes for an obnoxiously sticky dough that will take eons to knead by hand. Mercifully, you can knock the whole thing out in about 90 seconds with a food processor. For a more in-depth look at your options, check out our article on the best food processors on the market. Our favorite is the Magimix, but this classic from Cuisinart is just as capable.
For beautifully blistered cannoli shells, the dough needs to be rolled down to 1/16th of an inch, so don’t try to sneak by with a bottle of wine or a janky pin that feels awkward in your hands. I’m fond of the maneuverability of French pins, but so long as it’s comfortable in your hands, it doesn’t matter whether you opt for a straight pin or Shaker style.
Unless you’re making minis, cannoli should be cut in rounds no smaller than 3 1/2 inches to ensure they make a tube large enough to hold plenty of creamy ricotta filling. The largest ring in Ateco’s graduated set is slightly larger than that and perfect for the task, while the smaller cutters will get plenty of use in other baking projects, whether making buttermilk biscuits or tender alfajores.
Arguably the most essential piece of gear for making cannoli at home, these hollow forms give cannoli their iconic shape. While it’s technically possible to fry simple rounds of dough for nacho-style cannoli, there’s no denying it’s a desperate bastardization of a style that’s classic for a reason.
I tested my way through a ton of different cannoli forms, from aluminum to non-stick, and these tapered, carbon steel forms were far and away the best. Their subtle taper makes the cannoli easy to release, without giving the shells an overly conical form. They’re the perfect size and shape for cannoli, but large enough to double as a mold for cream horns too, making them more versatile than smaller forms. Unlike many bargain brands, these carbon steel forms won’t collapse or warp under pressure (say, when squeezed by a pair of tongs), and they’re even dishwasher safe—a major bonus when it comes to cleaning up oily forms.
Deep frying can be a stressful endeavor when you can only guess (or spot check) the temperature of the oil. With a clip-on digital thermometer, the oil’s temperature can be monitored in real-time, so you can make adjustments as needed along the way. With this style of thermometer, you can also make use of the alarm feature, which can be set to alert you should the temperature ever climb too high. I love Polder’s In-Oven thermometer, but I’ve been using the ChefAlarm a lot too. Either way, this style is my go-to recommendation for candy-making (which is a crap shoot with pocket thermometers) as well as bread-baking, as well as savory applications like roast chicken.
Okay, technically this is more of an ingredient than a piece of equipment, but if you’re picking up any other gear online go ahead and throw some refined coconut oil in your cart—buying in bulk online drops the price down to about fifteen cents an ounce (exponentially cheaper than those tiny jars at the supermarket). It’s a big tub to be sure, but refined coconut oil is extremely resilient against rancidity and it will last for years. Plus, refined coconut oil is something I use in tons of recipes, both in my cookbook and here on Serious Eats, and it’s great for any project from fried chicken to tempura.
Like lard or shortening, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and liquid when warm. That’s great for deep frying, because it gives fried foods a shell that’s crisp, but never greasy. Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it has a waterproofing effect on the shells, making them less permeable so they don’t absorb as much moisture from the filling. In turn, this extends their shelf life so they stay crisp for up to 6 hours after filling. Best of all, refined coconut oil produces no odor at high heat, sparing your kitchen that funky, fried-food smell.
Without a secure grip, fishing a slippery cannoli form from the hot oil can be a dangerous task. I love how securely longer, heavier tweezers can grab the ultra thin forms, plus there are fewer nooks and crannies to collect hot oil; if using tongs, I recommend these minimalist 12-inch tongs from Cuisipro, which are a little more nimble than their silicone-coated cousins. If you don’t already have this kitchen basic, check out our article on the best kitchen tongs or learn more about why we love jumbo kitchen tweezers.
A large, disposable pastry bag fitted with a plain, 1/2-inch round tip makes filling cannoli a snap, and gives each one a polished, professional look. Plus, the pastry bags and tip are indispensable for countless other projects, whether you’re filling cream puffs or homemade Oreos.
Having the right gear on hand will free you up to enjoy yourself in the kitchen rather than devise MacGyver-esque hacks. That peace of mind will, in turn, allow you to focus on the more important cannoli question—whether to serve them plain, with chocolate shavings, or toasted pistachios.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone about chocolate chip cookies, which is one of my favorite subjects. The French like them, too. They just call them les cookies, as if they didn’t need further clarification. But every time I make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, I have zero trouble handing them off to people. Who can resist a chocolate chip cookie, especially when it’s warm, with oozing chunks of melted chocolate surrounded by chewy oatmeal, and soft, butter-rich dough?
I’ve got a number of chocolate chip cookie recipes on my site; salted butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip-tahini cookies, buckwheat chocolate chip cookies, and (of course) chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, with a double…I mean, triple dose of chocolate. But one I just revisited was this one made with mesquite flour. And let me tell you, you’ll want to revisit it, too, once you make them.
The recipe is from Super Natural Cooking my friend Heidi Swanson and uses mesquite flour which is not something you come across every day. At the time (which was back in 2007), I found a small bag of it when I was on book tour in Texas and stashed it in my suitcase until I got home. Thankfully mesquite flour seems to be more widely available now, perhaps due to the interest in whole-grain cooking, or gluten-free baking. Either way, it’s easy to get and worth stocking in your pantry, if just to make these cookies. And for what it’s worth, in addition to making chocolate chip cookies, it also gave me a chance to engage in one of my other favorite activities: chop up some chocolate.
Mixing up the dough, and scooping it into rounds, I snatched a few samples as I went. Like the pages of Proust, I was flooded with memories of why I loved these cookies so much.
It’s been eleven years, so I made a few updates to the recipe. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all go back eleven years and change a few things?) But they’re still every bit as good, if not, even better.
|Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies||
|About 50 cookies|
2 1/2 cups (330g) all-purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup (100g) mesquite flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 ounces (1 cup, 225g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 cup (180g) packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (230g) rolled oats (not instant)
2 cups (360g) coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
1. Prepare two baking sheets covered with parchment paper or lined with silicone baking mats.
2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
3. In a bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a large bowl (and a strong arm!), beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until creamy. If using a mixer, stop it once or twice and scrape down the sides.
5. Add the eggs one at a time until completely incorporated, then the vanilla.
6. Add the flour mixture in three batches, incorporating it as you go.
7. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips. The dough is quite stiff at this point and if you’re not using a powerful standing electric mixer, you may wish to roll up your sleeves and use your hands, like I did.
8. Set mounds, each a generous two tablespoons (about the size of an unshelled walnut) of dough, evenly-spaced onto the baking sheet. Use your hand to slightly flatten the tops of the rounds of cookie dough.
9. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until just beginning to set. A few minutes before they’d done, open the oven door and use a pancake turner or metal spatula to lightly tap the tops of the cookies down, so the tops are flat. This helps keeps the cookies moist, once baked. (These cookies are better underdone than overdone, so keep an eye on them closely near the end of the suggested baking time.)
Note: The original recipe calls for ‘natural cane sugar’, which are unrefined sugar crystals. I’ve made this with both granulated white sugar and light brown sugar crystals and they both came out fine. For a softer, chewier cookie, I suggest using light brown sugar crystals, if you can find them.
Links & Resources:
Mesquite flour on Amazon
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Few people love whimsical, clever food packaging more than me, and the design for Good Hair Day Pasta by Nikita Konkin is a real day brightener. Especially the fettuccine box, where voluminous swirls of billowy fettuccini stand in for epic hair. The natural color of the pasta is set off by a sea of white combined with simple lettering. So good.
Nikita has received numerous awards for his design, and it looks like the pasta has gone into production. Available here (if you have access to Amazon.it). It is a 100% durum wheat pasta from Italian grains and produced in the Abruzzo region. The pasta is extruded through brass dies, and dried at low temperature to preserve the fragrance and flavor of the grain.
The Cuisinart Hurricane excels at demolishing ice chunks, puréeing creamy soups, and churning out the most delectable smoothies. Its all-around excellent performance is why it earned top place in our review of the best blenders under $200. It’s normally priced at $139, but today, Amazon’s offering a 20%-off coupon that brings the cost down to just $111.
Once you bring your blender home, why not make Daniel’s Italian salsa rossa to top tender meat or Kenji’s asparagus velouté? Then, look to our vast menu of frozen drinks for a frosty take on happy hour.
Want to learn more about how we tested and ranked many of the blenders you see on the market? Click here to read our full equipment review.
There are many nights when I want a meal that tastes like someone’s been slaving away for it, but I’d rather that person not be me. This dish is made for those nights. The long roast time in the oven does all the hard work, breaking down the tough collagen in the lamb shoulder into a sticky and succulent braise. This bone-in cut is extra forgiving, almost impossible to overcook, and I ask the butcher to leave it un-trimmed so it’s equipped with a self-basting fat-cap that slowly renders from the gentle heat.
For the average weekend meal, I prefer the affordability of lamb shoulder over lamb leg, which, with its hefty price tag, is better suited to special occasions. Lamb shoulder can be seasoned in myriad ways, but I want the highest flavor-to-work ratio on these especially lazy days, so I turn to bold ingredients for some help. This Mexican-inspired version depends on dried guajillo and morita chilies to bring heat, smoke, and fruit into play, while tomatillos add lively zip and syrupy dates mellow everything out.
I start by snipping the dried chilies into half-inch strips with kitchen shears and discard any seeds or stems. I toast them in a dry pan until their bright red matures to a mahogany hue and pungent chili vapors perfume the kitchen. Once toasted, I add the chilies to a blender and toast cumin and coriander seeds in the same dry pan. After the seeds become aromatic and begin to pop, they join the chilies in the blender as well.
Next it’s time for the blender to take care of the heavy lifting. The dried chilies and spices are blended together with halved tomatillos, pitted dates, salt, and a splash of water to get things moving. At this point the paste will taste overly tannic from the dried chilies and tomatillos, but trust that as it roasts it will develop dark fruity notes of raisin and prune to complement the lamb.
Whenever I use dried chilies, I’ve found that they can seem muddy when combined with the browned flavor of seared meat and black pepper. Also, with the long low-and-slow cook time in the oven, you get more than enough surface browning even without searing the meat. Instead, I simply prep the lamb shoulder by deeply scoring the fat-cap and seasoning well with kosher salt. Resist the urge to trim off the thick layer of fat because it protects and bastes the meat while cooking, yielding a tender and juicy braise. If you make the lamb a day ahead, you can chill it in the refrigerator overnight, and the rendered fat will solidify, making it easy to remove. Even if you don’t cook the dish in advance, you can still skim off the majority of the fat from the juices at the bottom of the pan with a ladle after it comes out of the oven.
I prefer to braise the lamb shoulder in a Dutch oven so it can heat evenly from all sides, but a roasting pan covered in foil can also get the job done. I place the seasoned lamb into the Dutch oven before smearing the chili paste over the top, rubbing well into the etched fat. I don’t even bother to rub the entire shoulder in paste because all the flavors will get to know each other in the pot. Because this recipe doesn’t contain any stock or other liquid, it may not sound like a braise at all. But by cooking it all while covered, I’m able to trap the moisture and allow that lamb to braise in its own liquid.
Over the next five hours, the oven does all the hard work for me. While I binge watch old episodes of The Office and spoil my appetite with bagna cauda popcorn, the heat of the oven is tirelessly uncoiling the meat’s proteins, breaking down collagen, and reconfiguring sugars and amino acids into deeper, richer flavors. I know the oven has finished making magic when I remove the lid to find that the meat has fallen off the bone and the once astringent chili paste has become dark, sweet, and complex.
To serve, I prefer to snag a seat directly in front of the Dutch oven and tear off chunks of meat for a taco—this a meal that requires no plates. But if I want to round it out, sliced cucumbers, radishes, and crumbled cotija cheese make this an impressive spread, and no one will know I barely did a thing.
I’m not going to tell you that these are the world’s best oatmeal cookies. I won’t tell you that this is the only recipe you’ll ever need until the end of time. I’m not going to tell you that I’m omg obsessed or anything like that.
I will tell you that I was trying to re-frame cookies into my everyday life. What’s the cookie that I want to eat everyday, any time of day, with hot coffee or cold milk? What’s the cookie that might give me a little second-cup-of-coffee-mid-morning-treat energy? What’s the cookie that I could offer someone that drops by? What’s the cookie that’s hearty enough, and chocolate-y enough to satisfy a craving in one cookie, not a cookie binge?
Well… I didn’t tell you all this because I failed. We’ve arrived. This is the cookie – hearty but chewy, sweet with a bite of salt, loaded with nuts and chocolate. It hits all the spots and we’re in it for the everyday.
We’re making cookies!! You could totally add this to your meal prep situation, don’t you think? Here’s what we’ll need. It’s just enough to be a whole lotta good:
• Oats – I like the heartiness of old-fashion oats but if you want a softer cookie, go for quick oats.
• Brown Sugar and Butter – queens.
• Egg for binding.
• All kinds of fruit and nuts: dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and roasted and salted pepitas.
• Spiced, too! Warming winter spices.
• Chocolate, OF COURSE.
Into the bowl with softened butter and brown sugar. I used a set of electric hand beaters and whipped the two together.
We’ll need an egg for binding though you could certainly make a flax or chia seed egg for these cookies. The seeds would blend in well with the rest of the heartiness.
I went extra spicy for these cookies. Cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, of course. But why not add a side of ground ginger and allspice for warmth? You could, you should.
The dry ingredients are lightly whisked further and added to the creamed butter, sugar, and eggs.
You know how cookies go – this is just like that!
Lots of those oats.
And lots of everything else your flavor-brain wants: dried cranberries or dried blueberries, roasted salted pepitas (they’re pumpkin seeds!), roasted pecans, and lots of chocolate chips – YES!
Get it all together.
It’s understandable if there’s spillage or a few oats go flying. We’re done with the hand beaters though, just go in with a spatula here.
It’s also totally understandable to nip a few tastes of cookie dough out of the bowl. It’s living on the edge because wait… we’re not supposed to eat raw flour now, or eggs, and sometimes spinach, and we’re not supposed to hold our phones to our heads or our ovaries, and definitely don’t stare at the sun or swim in a dark lake… listen it’s hard to keep track of everything, let’s just do our best.
I dolloped the dough right onto a parchment lined baking sheet just after the dough came together. It didn’t need to rest in the refrigerator because there’s really so much in this dough.
Scoop generous dough balls onto parchment lined baking sheets and flatten the cookie slightly, giving it a little spread before it hits the oven. After a cozy 12 minutes in the oven the cookies will be lightly golden around their edges.
Salty and sweet and chocolate studded and just everything I want to eat. And – these cookies keep their chewy bite for days! I keep them around, wrapped and ready and I humble suggest you do too.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup roasted and salted pepitas
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- In a large bowl, combine softened butter and brown sugar. Beat together using an electric hand beater until slightly more pale and fluffy. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add egg and beat until thoroughly combined.. Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.
- In a small bowl whisk together flour baking soda, spices, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture slowly beating on low speed until just incorporated.
- Stir in the oats, cranberries, pecans, pipits, and chocolate chips.
- Place racks in the middle and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until they’ve reached your desired doneness. I like mine a little underdone and cook them for 10 to 11 minutes. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Or you could just eat them warm. That’s probably the best idea. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 days, if they last that long.
Some people buy fridge magnets. Others get floppy hats. When I was a kid, we collected snow globes. But these days, I take my travel souvenirs like I take my psychological coping mechanisms: edible. And my go-to edible souvenir is sugar.
I don’t mean plain, newfangled refined white sugar, though. I’m talking about the raw stuff. Gula melaka from Malaysia, jaggery from India, piloncillo from Guatemala, and panela from Mexico. Often pressed into dense bricks or cones as part of the drying process, these burnished reductions of cane or palm juice are rife with impurities that grant them a remarkable depth of flavor. Depending on the plant, place of origin, and production method, raw sugar tastes in turns smoky, bitter, caramelized to the brink of burnt, deeply fruity, and redolent with tropical sweetness.
Pound for pound, raw sugar is less sweet than the processed stuff, and it’s equally at home in desserts and savory applications. But more importantly, raw sugar intimately captures the concentrated essence of a place and its people’s food—in an easily portable, essentially immortal form.
That last part’s why I love it as a souvenir. Lots of people collect honey when they travel, but if you hate checking luggage for that one bottle of liquid, raw sugar fulfills a similar niche, no checking hassle required.
In my pantry right now, I have a smoky, savory sugar puck from Guatemala; a flaky, grass- and molasses-tinged ball of jaggery from India; crystals of cane sugar from Taiwan that recall candied winter melon; and a raisin-y, twangy brick of sugar from China that’s so precious to me I treat it like finishing salt. Each has its own use in my kitchen, and, unlike spices or bottles of olive oil, these sugars don’t degrade much with time. (They do, technically—moist bricks will dry out, and some volatile compounds inevitably vaporize and oxidize—but far less so than other pantry goods.)
We’ve covered the great wide world of sugar before, but here’s a quick primer on the most commonly available raw sugars on the market. Note the absence of brown sugar, which isn’t actually raw—it’s just refined sugar with a little molasses mixed back in!
- Panela (a.k.a. piloncillo): From Central and South America; made from sugarcane; ranges from toffee to dark-roux coloring.
- Jaggery (a.k.a. gur): From India; usually made from sugarcane but sometimes made from date palms; ranges from tan to chocolate coloring.
- Gula jawa (a.k.a. gula melaka): From Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively; made from coconut palm; typically dark brown.
- Palm sugar: When labeled as such, usually a product of Thailand and cut with white sugar for a more uniform khaki color and greater sweetness.
- Muscovado: Granulated; not pressed into a mold; produced in India, the West Indies, and other sugar-growing regions the British meddled with. A high natural molasses content means it’s usually among the darkest of raw sugars.
- Turbinado (a.k.a. “sugar in the raw”): The most standardized of the raw sugars; produced all over. It comes in coarse crystals and is light caramel in color.
I’m hesitant to give tasting notes or any more specific identifiers, since there are more differences within the above categories than between them. But generally speaking, the darker the sugar, the less sweet, and the more bitter and savory, it tastes. That said, darker doesn’t mean better or more complex; color is just a property of how the sap is cooked down, not an indicator of quality or range of flavor. Some super-dark sugars are just one-note chocolaty, and others might be too high in acids for certain dishes, such as those with dairy, in which an acidic sugar can curdle the milk. The only way to truly know what a raw sugar tastes like, and what it’s good for, is to snap off a piece and try it.
As for how to actually use it: If you’re dealing with a dense brick of sugar, a couple seconds in the microwave will help soften it. Then you can chop it just like chocolate: with a bread knife. Or, for smaller amounts of fine shavings, a Microplane works wonders.
Now here’s what to cook with it.
Dozens of Latin American desserts get their rich depth of flavor from raw sugar, be it a simple rice pudding or cinnamon-spiced syrup over crisp, anise-scented fritters. Piloncillo and panela’s caramel vibe partners well with cinnamon, orange, anise, and vanilla, all big-deal baking spices in the region. Across the Indian subcontinent, jaggery sometimes takes the lead in flavoring sweets, most notably chikki, a roasted-nut brittle set with lava flows of molten jaggery.
When baking, I often turn to turbinado and muscovado sugars if I want to lend a subdued sweetness to roasted fruit, sweet spices, and butter. Plus, both types of sugar are granulated, making them easier to cream and/or substitute for white or brown sugar. Note that I said easier, which isn’t the same as “do whatever the hell you want”—chemically leavened sweets like cakes and cookies require a precise balance of acidity and alkalinity in order to rise, and if you go changing ingredients and ratios, I refuse to be held responsible for your oven disasters. Instead, seek out recipes specifically formulated for those sugars, such as the butterscotch sauce in this millionaire’s shortbread recipe, or the muscovado’s pairing with wood smoke in this smoked ice cream.
Don’t forget the garnish: Turbinado’s coarse crystals make it an ideal crunchy topping for other baked goods, and I think it works especially well with fall and winter fruits, like apples, pears, and plums.
Here is where quality raw sugars really shine: Their complexity can be used in small doses, like a spice, to bring out the best flavors from savory ingredients. Italians may want to cover their eyes now, but a pinch of sugar really can rescue a subpar tomato sauce. The same goes for several Indian dishes and some Southern Thai curries; in the latter, the fire and funk of chilies and fish sauce can achieve remarkable balance with a pinch of palm sugar. And, when making a pot of chili, I like to enhance the smoky sweetness of chipotle chilies with a bit of panela—it adds a subtle richness, similar to the dash of chocolate in a mole.
That Chinese raw sugar I love so much? The one that tastes like raisins and dates, and that I sometimes snack on plain? In its production region of Yunnan province, it’s dissolved into hot water and drunk to boost low blood sugar—often the result of drinking too much tea. The simple beverage is wonderfully restorative, and I’ve taken to making a modified version whenever I have a sore throat.
In Mexico, panela plays a similarly comforting role in champurrado, a corn-thickened, spiced hot chocolate. See also: chai, which is great with jaggery, and Thai tea with condensed milk, where palm sugar fits right in.
Come warmer weather, limeade is superb when sweetened with raw sugar, and it’s very much A Thing in both Latin America and Southeast Asia, where sweltering heat has me reaching for a fresh bag of calamansi juice every 15 minutes.
Oh, and one more suggestion: As good as that limeade is on its own, it’s even better when dosed with some rhum agricole. Because one quality sugar product deserves another.