Brooke Siem

Chef Brooke Siem shares recipes for sweets from some of the most seasoned hands in the kitchen.
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Orange lovers rejoice! This cake—one of the traditional yellow-hued sweets of Lisbon—is packed with sunny flavor thanks to loads of zest plus it's drenched with orange syrup after coming out of the oven. Tightly wrap any leftovers with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. We added a touch of whole-wheat flour to help balance the sweetness. This recipe is part of Brooke Siem's Grandmother Project. Learn more about this recipe and other recipes Siem learned to make in the article How Cooking Connected One Chef with Grandmothers Across the World.
Khanom Tom (Coconut Balls)
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This recipe for traditional Thai coconut balls is all about the coconut. First, skip the preshredded stuff (the filling won't hold together with it) and get yourself to the produce department for a fresh one. Look for a coconut with a brown husk (rather than one with a white fibrous exterior, often labeled "young Thai" coconut). Brown-husked coconuts have firmer flesh that's easier to shred. Editor's note: Brooke Siem learned to make these coconut balls from a woman named Ratachanee on the Thai island of  Koh Phangan. Learn more about this recipe and other recipes Siem learned to make as part of her Grandmother Project in the article How Cooking Connected One Chef with Grandmothers Across the World.
Budin de Pan (Bread Pudding)
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Brooke Siem baked with grandmothers around the world for her Grandmother Project, including with Sofy in Buenos Aires, where she learned this Argentinian take on bread pudding. It tastes like a magical mashup of French toast, cheesecake and flan. The caramel is made directly in the pan you bake the pudding in (one less dish to wash!), so you'll need a metal cake pan or pie plate. Sofy uses Wonder Bread, but any soft white sandwich bread will produce luscious results. Learn more about this recipe and other recipes Siem learned as part of her project in the article How Cooking Connected One Chef with Grandmothers Across the World.
Czech Poppy Seed Koláče
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The Grandmother Project took Brooke Siem across nine countries on four continents. She baked these traditional pastries with Liba in the small town of Týnec, Czech Republic. To create the signature, even indentation in each koláče (pronounced "ko-la-chay"), Liba uses a 100-gram weight, about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Anything round and just a touch smaller than the balls of dough works, like the bottom of a glass spice jar. Dust it with flour before using to prevent sticking. We adapted the recipe with half whole-wheat flour. Learn more about this recipe and other recipes Siem learned as part of her project in the article How Cooking Connected One Chef with Grandmothers Across the World.
Castagnaccio (Chestnut Cake)
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Sweets not your thing? This cake, a specialty of northern Italy, is almost savory, flavored with rosemary and pine nuts, and gets just a touch of sweetness from plumped raisins, with no added sugar. Chestnut flour tends to clump together, so for the best texture don't skip the sifting step. This recipe is part of Brooke Siem's Grandmother Project. Learn more about this recipe and other recipes Siem learned to make in the article How Cooking Connected One Chef with Grandmothers Across the World.
I traveled the world for a year, cooking with grandmothers along the way.
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A blitz torte—or "lightning cake," roughly translated—is a German-American layer cake. This cake has buttery, almost cookie-like cake layers, creamy orange curd filling and a crisp meringue decorated with crunchy almonds. Though it looks impressive, the cake is relatively cheap to make with only a handful of ingredients: Egg whites are used in the meringue, while the yolks go in the cake; both the zest and juice from a single orange flavor the curd. The rest is just flour, sugar, salted (regular) butter and a splash of vanilla. Serve this beautiful cake for any special occasion. Read more about this cake.
Learn to make the notorious and delicious " blitz torte" that wove four generations of women together in my family.
I traveled the world for a year, cooking with grandmothers along the way.
A blitz torte—or "lightning cake," roughly translated—is a German-American layer cake. This cake has buttery, almost cookie-like cake layers, creamy orange curd filling and a crisp meringue decorated with crunchy almonds. Though it looks impressive, the cake is relatively cheap to make with only a handful of ingredients: Egg whites are used in the meringue, while the yolks go in the cake; both the zest and juice from a single orange flavor the curd. The rest is just flour, sugar, salted (regular) butter and a splash of vanilla. Serve this beautiful cake for any special occasion. Read more about this cake.
Learn to make the notorious and delicious " blitz torte" that wove four generations of women together in my family.