ambitious recipes collage ambitious recipes collage A heaping teaspoon of ambition and a dash of skill are all you need to craft these gorgeous dishes. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz, Michael Persico, Graham Blackall)

8 recipes for the DIY daredevil in you

Roll up your sleeves and do some heavy-duty kitchen crafting with these phenomenal and ambitious recipes.

There are those times when you fancy yourself the next Michael Solomonov. So you're OK with a little extra prep time and several steps. You feel like testing out a new (or old) technique or some new fancy tools. You've got some specialty ingredients to use. Or, maybe you just need an excuse to flex your cooking muscles.

Let's face it: All those recipes you've got stored in the old noggin inevitably need a refresher now and then, don't they? We found a handful of our prized recipes to share with readers who never shy away from a challenge – and can't wait to eat the results.

Caramelized tree cake

tree cake (baumkuchen)This cake is full of layers, yet is still light and pleasant. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

If you took one look at that photo and thought, "That's a whole lotta layers!" but kept reading, this one's for you. It's called a tree cake because its layers are supposed to resemble the layers inside a tree. So you know it's time to roll up your sleeves and do some hardcore baking.

But elbow grease aside, this cake is super cool. The wow factor is revealed as soon as you slice into it, and the first bite just proves that this cake is worth every minute of the long prep time. So lengthy directions notwithstanding, go for it!

Here's our recipe.


Halloumi cheese with dates

crispy haloumi cheeseCrispy haloumi is a favorite on the menu at Zahav, a popular Philadelphia restaurant owned by Michael Solomonov. (Photo: Michael Persico)

Many Europeans brought foods from the old country with them when they moved to Israel in the 1940s. Halloumi is one of those foods. Now, it's one of the most sought-after dishes at Zahav, the acclaimed Philadelphia restaurant owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov.

In preparing this dish, Solomonov says there is no substitute for halloumi; it has a high melting point, which makes it great for frying, searing or grilling. So if you can find it, get it – and use it.

Here's the recipe, straight from Solomonov himself.


Lemon glazed croissants

lemon glazed croissantsYou'll find fresh lemon flavor in every component of these sunny croissants. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Normally, making croissants is quite simple. Make the dough, roll it out, slice it up, shape into crescents, bake. But when it's gourmet-style – natural lemon flavor incorporated into every component of this recipe – you've got a little work to do. But what you get is a warm, fluffy, lemon-scented pastry that screams "HOMEMADE," and what's better than that on a cool, cozy fall morning?

Here's our recipe.


Basil vermicelli with julienned vegetables

basil vermicelliBasil cubes imported from Israel are used to create the perfect basil flavor. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

This one's a great excuse to dust off those kitchen tools, and try your hand at some fancy garnish. Chopping vegetables can be a bit time-consuming and messy, and as with any kitchen gadget, there will be plenty of dishwashing and cleaning involved at the end. So set aside the appropriate time for that, and get slicing!

Here's our recipe.


Persian rice from Shaya

Persian rice recipeAlon Shaya's Persian rice recipe is a favorite at his award-winning New Orleans restaurant. (Photo: Graham Blackall)

"Man, I wish I knew how to make this at home."

Chances are you've said those words at least once in your life, while dining at a highly acclaimed (or just personal favorite) restaurant. Well, thanks to Alon Shaya – the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef in the South – you don't have to. Shaya's charming pairings of Mediterranean classics like hummus, tabbouleh and shakshouka with Deep South staples like Louisiana shrimp, gumbo and jambalaya have earned the Israeli-born chef a whirlwind of accolades in a very short time.

Making this gorgeous Persian rice dish, we admit, is not for the kitchen novice; this recipe is challenging, with a few ingredients that may not already be in your spice rack (or zip code). But why "Shaya" away from a challenge?

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Shaya.


Lemon pie with walnut crust

lemon pieSummer is not complete without lemon pie. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Sometimes, the best recipes come from a few trials and errors. Or trials and successes, like this one. When Sarah Berkowitz was asked to make lemon pie for a friend who can't eat salt, this presented quite the challenge, as most recipes of this nature call for salt in both the dough and the filling. So she played around with a few versions, tweaked, adjusted and came up with the following. For our purposes, she added the salt back into the crust, but if you’d rather, you can leave it out and it will come out just fine.

Here's our recipe.


Mango rose pastries

mango rose pastryThis pastry presents itself like a delicate flower, but is a divine dessert. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

When it comes to creating edible flowers, many people think it's just not in their wheelhouse. They're not artistic enough; they don't have the skill, the training, the patience. But this is one of those recipes that's really good for breaking out those preconceived notions about your own abilities.

These pastries are a lot of fun to make, serve and of course, to eat. Ice cream and a mint leaf make the perfect garnish and accompaniment for these roses, but they’re wonderful enough to serve on their own.

Here's our recipe.


Black and white cookies

black and white cookiesYou'll find black and white cookies in many delis on the East Coast. And now, you can make them at home. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Some call it a half-and-half cookie. In Germany it's called an "Amerikaner." And it's said that President Obama once dubbed it the "Unity Cookie" while visiting a deli in south Florida.

No matter what you call it, this uber-popular dessert known most commonly as the black and white cookie is a sweet sensation that makes everyone happy – the die-hard vanilla purists and the chocolate addicts.

Go ahead and give this sweet recipe a try – the cookies are melt-in-your-mouth soft, and you can get creative with the glazes to produce your own home-baked masterpieces.

Here's our recipe.

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