I used to always believe that when it comes to baking, bigger = better. If I’m taking the time to bake something, I want a lot of it. That way I can share it with friends, take it into work, feed a party, etc. While that line of thinking has its place (and I live by it often), a new book has changed my mind on the subject.
Sweet & Simple is the latest book by the queen of small batch baking, Christina Lane from Dessert for Two. It’s filled with a whole bunch of small batch desserts that will make you want to run to the kitchen to whip up an afternoon snack. I had the pleasure of meeting Christina in Chicago a couple years ago at a blogging conference. Since then she has become a great blogging friend and a fierce supporter of my slightly unorthodox “slow blogging” technique. She’s encouraged me to follow my own path and I can’t tell you how much that means to me, especially coming from a “big time blogger” with multiple cookbooks. (Thanks, Christina!) Her daughter is also the cutest little thing and one of my favorite humans to watch on Instagram stories.
I have had so much FUN with her new book. The thing about small batch baking, especially the way Christina does it, is that it can take you way less time to get a dessert in the oven. A lot of her recipes come together with one or two bowls and a whisk or a spoon. This efficiency is definitely real because I have made a LOT from this book so far. It’s so easy to decide on a whim that you need some cookies in your life and then make them and eat them in almost no time at all. Perfect example: her chocolate hazelnut (aka Nutella) cookies require just 5 ingredients, and from start to cookie-eating time you’re looking at about twenty minutes tops. DANGEROUS! Those cookie-needing moments happen to me pretty often … and the nice thing about these small batch recipes is you can make the cookies, enjoy them, and then they’re gone. You’re not left with 2 dozen cookies sitting on the counter tempting you to eat ten of them (been there), or telling yourself to eat more before they go bad. Nope! Just make some cookies, eat them and enjoy them fully, and then go on with your life.
The recipe I was most excited about from the book (and which I made almost immediately) was for her gooey butter cake. My family gets butter cake every year when we’re at the beach in Ocean City, NJ, and it’s one of my favorite things in the whole world. My dad and I can easily polish off a whole butter cake by lunchtime when we’re on vacation. Christina’s book has a simplified version of this recipe made in an 8×8 pan. (The book does have some larger scale recipes like this one, but still small in the grand scheme of things. Also, trust me – you’re going to want an 8×8 pan of this butter cake.) Her recipe got the super approval from my parents and we ate it with butter pecan ice cream on it, which kind of took it to the next level. OMMGGGG. I need to make that again ASAP. She also has a small batch recipe for butter cake cookies, which I made and loved as well. (So many treasures in this book!)
It was hard for me to choose a recipe to share with you, but I ended up going with this coffee version of her crème brûlée. I’ve been searching for a good two-serving crème brûlée recipe to have in my back pocket for the occasional special dinner at home with Robert. And you know what? Crème brûlée is surprisingly easy to make! It takes a little planning ahead, but the actual active time is super easy. This also forced me to finally face my fears and try out my kitchen blow torch (a gift from my father in law), which it turns out is really easy to use as well. I’ll be putting that to work a lot more often from now on. Christina’s book even has a recipe for making crème brûlée in your slow cooker, but you can also find that on her site because she’s nice like that.
This coffee version is an easy adaptation of her recipe by mixing instant espresso powder with the cream. You could leave that out for a traditional crème brûlée, although I would probably add some vanilla bean and a small splash of vanilla extract. These coffee ones are extremely caffeine-heavy, though – so if you’re sensitive I would beware or maybe cut the espresso powder in half. This could actually be a perfect brunch dessert if you’re looking for that pick-me-up.
Many of Christina’s small batch recipes call for just an egg yolk or egg white. One of my favorite features of this cookbook is the page near the back where she lists a bunch of recipes to help you use up the other part of an egg. I plan on using that all the time when I have random egg bits leftover after a recipe. While testing this crème brûlée I made her sprinkle cake with my leftover egg whites and it was seriously good (and nostalgic). That’s another dangerous recipe to have in my back pocket … I think my 6″ cake pan is going to start getting a lot more use.
Sweet & Simple is a pure delight. I’d highly suggest checking it out if you’re a baking lover but don’t want to end up with 3 dozen cookies when you’re done. Also be sure to check out her blog for tons of other small batch recipes.
Congrats, Christina! I hope to work my way through sooooo many of these recipes and then share them with NO ONE. (Just kidding ….)
Illustration at top created with Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (along with other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 Shop.
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 3 egg yolks
- ¼ cup + 2 tsp granulated sugar
- Heat the oven to 300°F.
- Whisk together the heavy cream, espresso powder, egg yolks and ¼ cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl.
- Divide evenly between two 4-ounce ramekins.
- Place the ramekins in an 8 or 9 inch square glass baking dish. Pour 2 cups of very hot water into the dish (around the ramekins, being careful not to splash any water into them). The water should come to about ½ inch up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 25-40 minutes until only the middle is a little wiggly. (Depends on depth of ramekin - I use the wider, shallower ones so there's more surface area for the caramelized sugar.)
- Let the custards cool in the water bath before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
- Caramelize the tops right before serving: Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar over each custard. Either melt the sugar with a kitchen torch or broil in the oven until browned and crispy.
- Serve immediately.