Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Marshmallow mania
Though they're delightful sandwiched between graham crackers with a bit of melting chocolate or bobbing in a mug of rich cocoa, handmade marshmallows should be eaten straight to be appreciated at their sticky-fingered finest. Making the pillowy confections is easier than you might think.

Get the recipe: Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallows
Ann Taylor Coat

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Spread it on thick
Creamy versus crunchy is only the beginning. The abundance of new and inventive nut butters means choosing a favorite stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth salty-sweet spread has never been more delicious. These six will help you get your fix.

Artisana Organic Raw Cashew Butter is superrich and naturally sweet. Try piping it into Medjool dates for an hors d'oeuvre, or thin a few spoonfuls with coconut milk and a pinch of cayenne pepper for an easy stir-fry sauce.

Bits of pretzel swirled into honey peanut butter makes Wild Squirrel Nut Butter Pretzel Pizazz an enticingly crunchy addition to banana bread—just bake it into the batter.

Stir Saratoga Peanut Butter Company Adirondack Jack—a 50-50 blend of peanuts and almonds, mixed with sunflower seeds, cranberries, flaxseeds, cinnamon, and honey—into oatmeal for a silkier texture.

Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter has a short, all-natural ingredient list and a strikingly nutty flavor. Perfect for smearing between chocolate wafers for a semi-homemade cookie sandwich.

Proof that almond butter doesn't have to be gritty: Barney Butter is as creamy as your childhood peanut butter and a natural pairing with anything crisp, like sliced pears or celery sticks.

You can spread the ultrasmooth Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter on still-warm-from-the-oven brownies for an instant icing. Or you can have at the jar with nothing but a spoon and a craving.
Lulus Purse

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Goat's-milk caramel
You can't throw a fork without hitting a salted-caramel-something-or-other these days. But what if we told you there's a third ingredient that takes this sweet to a whole new level? Michael Winnike uses goat's milk in his Happy Goat Milk & Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce ($14 for a ten-ounce jar; because "its subtle tanginess helps the salt contrast with the sugar." The result is a luxuriously thick ice cream topper with serious depth of flavor—which Winnike also serves with cheese platters or spreads on a baguette for a sweet breakfast.

Easy Upgrade: Give a cupcake a molten caramel sauce center.

Get the recipe: Caramel Sauce Cupcakes
Kate Spade Watch

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Cream of the crop
Lush, spreadable Brie (or its cousin, triple crème) is often the first cheese to disappear at a party. Liz Thorpe of Murray's Cheese (which has recently opened ministores in select Kroger supermarkets around the country) shares three less-expected alternatives to the classic, plus the best ways to store and serve them.

Top: This may look like a standard triple crème, but a filtration process that removes excess water results in an extra-buttery texture.

Middle: Thorpe calls this unique Portuguese sheep's-milk wheel a "cream bomb." It's also an hors d'oeuvres centerpiece: Slice off the top rind, then scoop into the delicately flavored, pudding-like interior.

Bottom: This tangy, aromatic cow's-milk wedge is like a cross between Brie and Gorgonzola, making it the perfect starter cheese for the blue-shy.

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Upgrade Your Cheesecake
Three TV food stars reveal their favorite way to transform any cheesecake recipe from simple to spectacular.

"Substitute soft goat cheese for half the cream cheese in your recipe to add a fresh tanginess." —Anne Burrell, host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef

"I mix a teaspoon of rose water and half a teaspoon of ground cardamom into the batter, then garnish with a generous sprinkle of chopped pistachios. It tastes so delicate and lovely!" —Aarti Sequeira, host of Aarti Party

"I love substituting a gingersnap crust for the usual graham cracker. Just pulse gingersnap cookies into crumbs in a food processor. Mix with melted butter, then press the mixture down in the bottom of your cheesecake pan and bake for ten minutes." —Gina Neely, cohost of Down Home with the Neelys

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Baked Risotto with Bacon and Peas
Most risotto recipes require standing at the stove and stirring the pot continuously; this simpler version lets the oven do all the work.

Get the recipe: Baked Risotto with Bacon and Peas

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Dill pickle chips
When 4 P.M. hunger pangs hit, there isn't a potato chip we don't love. But that's what makes a truly noteworthy chip even more, well, noteworthy. With the tangy bite of salt and vinegar and a slight herbal brightness reminiscent of sour cream and onion, Route 11's Dill Pickle Potato Chips combine some of our favorite chip flavors into one perfect bite—and yes, somehow manage to taste exactly, deliciously like a dill pickle. (

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Salt of the Earth
It's a time-honored truth that salt is a cook's best tool, but not all varieties are created equal—a lucky few provide crackly final touches to everything from broiled fish to fresh fruit. We asked Mark Bitterman, author of Salted, to walk us through three of his favorite finishing salts.

Black Diamond
This Mediterranean large-crystal salt gets its dramatic color from activated charcoal. Its faintly earthy, tannic flavor lends itself to acidic foods like asparagus or goat cheese. "I also use it instead of caviar on a potato pancake topped with sour cream," Bitterman says.

Kauai Guava Smoked
Harvested in Hawaii, this salt is hand-smoked over guava wood. "It's balsamic-y, bacon-y, and really rustic," Bitterman says. Sprinkle it on broiled fish like halibut or sole, and you could swear you'd cooked it over a campfire.

Molokai Red
Hawaiian Alaea clay gives this salt its color, along with a dose of iron and a minerally tang. Its bold flavor complements Mexican dishes like chiles rellenos and tamales. Or "try it with fruits like melon or pear, or on the rim of a Bloody Mary," says Bitterman.

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Fit to be fried
Sizzling veggie fries can be yours at home, baked in the oven—no deep fryer required.

From left to right:
Get the recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

Get the recipe: Chipotle Cornmeal Green Bean Fries

Get the recipe: Carrot Fries

Get the recipe: Parmesan Zucchini Fries

Get the recipe: Oven-Baked Steak Fries

Plus: 4 Absolutely Irresistible Dipping Sauces

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

An honestly good, good-for-you doughnut
We never thought anyone could improve upon the fluffy, frosted, fresh-made delight that is the doughnut—until we encountered Los Angeles eatery Fonuts. There, owners Waylynn Lucas and Nancy Truman are serving up delicious baked versions of the traditionally deep-fried treat. "Your average doughnut leaves a film in your mouth," says Lucas. "But because we're not plunging them into a scorching bath of hot oil, the flavors really come alive." And how: Sourced from the city's nearby farmers' markets, fresh citrus lends zing to the gluten-free lemon fonuts, tart berries turn the strawberry-buttermilk ones bright pink, and the classic glazed is as cakey and airy as can be (

Get the recipe: Strawberry-Buttermilk Baked Doughnuts

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Yes, you can live on bread alone
If you've been skipping the breadbasket to save room for the main course, you're missing out. Chefs are now as creative with dough as with the rest of the menu. A sampler:

Clockwise starting at top:

Carta Di Musica
Lincoln Ristorante in New York City often begins meals with this delicate Italian flatbread gilded with sesame seeds, parsley, and oregano.

Eggy, airy popovers—typically a morning treat— are served piping hot all day at Wayfare Tavern, Food Network star Tyler Florence's San Francisco flagship restaurant.

Beer Pretzel Roll
In step with its 500-plus beer offerings, Birch & Barley in Washington, D.C., bakes a pretzel roll that gets its rich, slightly malty quality from porter and oatmeal stout.

Bacon Brioche
At Volt, in Frederick, Maryland, Top Chef star Bryan Voltaggio smokes his own bacon, then mixes the crispy bits into the buttery dough.

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Croissant 2.0
Crackling yet moist, sweet yet salty, the only thing kouign amann doesn't have going for it is an easy-to-say name (koo-ween ah-mahn). Celtic for "butter cake," kouign amann is a Breton pastry similar to the croissant but folds in more butter, sugar, and salt. Two sources: Les Madeleines ($27 for four; and Williams-Sonoma ($40 for eight;

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Love at first bite: Fried pizza
Attention pizza lovers (and who isn't one?): For the first time the dough is as indulgent as the toppings. Based on a Naples style called Montanara, the fried pie is showing up at places like New York City's Forcella. There, chef Giulio Adriani tosses a round of dough in a deep fryer, then tops the golden crust with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil and slides it into a wood-fired oven for a hint of char. The result: one part state fair naughty, one part trattoria nice, and wholly scrumptious.

Get the recipe: Pan-Fried Pizza