By Marlo Gertz
As a child, I was an avid baker but more often than not, I made a mess in the kitchen instead of something delicious. It was really when my mother and grandmother both took me under their wings and taught me to make the recipes that were special to them that I started to hone my baking chops and learn the skills that would nourish my hobby—now, my career at Marlo's Bakeshop—for years to come.
Growing up, my grandmother had a secret cookie recipe that our family was obsessed with. She didn’t share it with anyone for decades until she graciously decided to pass it down to me when I was 18 years old. She'd been mixing batches of these special cookies by hand for too many years and her arthritis was now making it painful and challenging to continue to do so; so the torch was passed on to me!
Below are a couple of my favorite recipes that I made with my family when I was little, and that are perfect to make with kids. Don’t worry if at first they just make a mess. Trust me, it’s all part of the journey towards a love of baking!
Mini Pumpkin Pie Spiced Cheesecakes
You could always make this in one large spring form pan like a traditional cheesecake, but baking the batter in muffin tins creates individual servings that are perfectly portable and fun to eat. Note: we used Marlo’s Bakeshop’s Midnight Soft-Baked Biscotti for our cookie crust but you can substitute graham cracker crumbs or gingersnap cookies.
1-1/2 cups Midnight cookie crumbs (see note above)
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature
15 ounces pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon flour
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Cookie crumbles for garnish
1. Pre-heat the oven to 325* F and line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.
2. Combine all crust ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Scoop heaping tablespoons of crust into each wrapper-lined cup. Use the back of a spoon to press crust down into the bottom of the cup.
3. Place tins in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on wire rack.
4. Prepare the filling: in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the sugar, salt, pumpkin and and mix until combined. Add the flour and spices and mix until combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, only adding the next when the prior egg is fully incorporated. Using an ice cream scoop, pour about 1/2 cup of batter into each muffin tin. Wipe off any errant batter drops or dribbles on the pans with a wet cloth to avoid them burning in the oven.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cheesecakes look mostly firm but still retain the slightest jiggle. Cool completely on a wire rack then chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Before serving, bring cheesecakes to room temperature and garnish with some additional cookie crumbles.
Apple “Weekend Cake”
Makes 1 loaf; adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan
I love recipes that take advantage of a particular season’s produce bounty. They give you an excuse to over-purchase when they’re in abundance and then, whoops, you need to experiment with cakes and pies to make use of the excess! This apple “weekend cake” is fabulous to make after a fall trip to the orchards for apple picking. I usually get a hodgepodge of varietals and figure that if it tastes good to eat, it will taste good when baked; however, if you are a bit more fastidious about using apples that are deemed best for baking, Dorie Greenspan recommends a Mutsu, Fuji, or Gala.
This moist and just-sweet loaf cake is less fussy to make than an apple pie and I daresay more delicious. My mom and I used to make it in a tube pan for holidays but this loaf pan version is smaller, so you don’t need an upcoming dinner party as an excuse to make it—just a crisp, fall weekend in which you look forward to relaxing afternoons with a cuppa your favorite beverage.
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Calvados
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 tablespoons cinnamon sugar mixture (4-to-1 sugar-to-cinnamon proportions)
3 small apples, cored, peeled & cut into small chunks
1. Preheat the oven to 325* F. Butter an 8-1/2" x 4-1/2” loaf pan, dust with flour and tap out excess.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.
3. In an electric stand mixture with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add both sugars and cream the ingredients together until slightly fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition to ensure it’s fully incorporated. Use a flexible spatula to wipe down the sides of the bowl periodically so that all ingredients mix evenly. Add the calvados and vanilla.
4. Reduce the mixture to low speed and add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing until just combined with each addition. The batter will now be thick.
5. Using a flexible spatula, fold in the apples. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and distribute evenly. Sprinkle the top generously with the cinnamon sugar mixture and bake for 65 minutes or until golden brown, with a slightly cracked top.
6. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan onto the cooling rack, turn it right side up, and let cool completely. Enjoy immediately or wrap for storage and nibble at it over the course of the weekend!