5.12.09

Oldie, but goodie.

There's a cookbook I turn to time and again when I run out of inspiration on the Internet. It's a cookbook that thousands of cooks (both serious and aspiring) have, or should have, on their kitchen shelf.

Mine has been to the other side of the planet and back, attacked by mold and humidity of the tropics and questionable storage in the North East of the US. But even though the cover and binding is falling apart, and my edition is a rather older one, it still serves its purpose - a solid cook book with recipes even the most timid of chefs can attempt. This, of course, is Craig Claibourne's New York Times Cookbook.



There's a recipe in there that I have been using for years, a simple basic roll recipe that I modified into making Cinnamon Buns.



The recipe is the Basic Rolls recipe from the cookbook where I just make my own filling and roll it out Cinnamon Roll style.

Basic Rolls
Ingredients

2 cups milk
1/4 cup of vegetable shortening or butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 packages (or 2 TBSP) yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
Melted shortening or butter

Filling

1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Bring milk to a boil. Then add shortening or butter, sugar and salt and cool to lukewarm.

Soften yeast in lukewarm water in a separate bowl. Once softened, add to cooled milk mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, add half the flour to the milk mixture and beat well. Then add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured board and let rest for 10 minutes. Then knead (adding flour as the dough gets sticky) for about 10 minutes until smooth.

Place dough into greased bowl and let rise until double in bulk (about 30-45 mins).

Make filling: Mix together all filling ingredients until well-combined. Set aside.

Once dough has risen, punch down to remove some of the air and turn out onto a floured board. Knead with a little flour until smooth (about 5 mins). Roll out dough in a rectangular shape (approx 10 in x 13 in). Brush on some melted butter or shortening and sprinkle on filling evenly, until entire surface is covered. Roll the dough tightly as if for a jelly roll and pinch down seam firmly.

Cut 1-inch sections of roll and place cut side up in greased baking dish. Cover and let rise for about 30-45 minutes in a warm place. Once dough has risen, brush with remaining butter or shortening and bake for about 30 mins.


Let cool and serve plain or with a simple vanilla icing. Eaten warm is the best - and a bonus is that your home will smell like heaven for a while.

Enjoy!

27.11.09

Thanksgiving

So, this year for Thanksgiving me and my family decided to forgo tradition and infiltrate a friend's Thanksgiving celebrations. This meant less cooking, less arguing (yes, arguing - you cannot believe the level of discussion that goes on between my brothers regarding the amount of sides and the correct way to prepare a turkey) and a generally stress-free dinner.

We did bring a Turkey and two sides (simple vegetables) and I baked. Because I bake.

This time, I made not only an Apple Pie, but a Pumpkin Pie with Walnut Streusel topping. I've never made a Pumpkin Pie before and surprisingly enough - everyone loved it over the Apple Pie (I liked the latter better).



The recipe I found here on epicurious.com, but I added less sugar because I don't think that something with a streusel topping needs more sugar.

Personally, I thought the pie was too sweet, but the texture was velvety and rich while still being light.

I wish I had another picture to put up, one preferably of a slice, but the pie was devoured without much more than grunting noises from the pleased partakers. A success!

8.11.09

Let's Make Whoopie Tonight - Pumpkin Style


As kinky as the title sounds, making whoopie...pies is pretty straightforward. No kinks to be found.

Since I had leftover pumpkin puree from my Pumpkin Swirl Brownie recipe I figured why not find a simple recipe that really shows off the combination of pumpkin and spice. Enter whoopie pies.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cups dark brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 ounces pumpkin puree

Vanilla Filling

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup light corn syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease two cookie sheets.

Mix all dry ingredients, minus sugar, in a bowl. In another bowl, beat together butter and dark brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add ginger, vanilla and pumpkin puree and beat well. Add flour mixture, and yes, beat well.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter on to the greased cookie sheets and flatten out a little.

Bake for 12-14 mins or until the tops of the "cakes" are springy to the touch.

Let cool completely and in the meanwhile, make the filling!

Beat the shortening and butter until soft and creamy. With the mixer on its lowest speed, gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar. Increase the speed to high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on low speed, beat in the vanilla extract and slowly drizzle in the corn syrup. Continue to beat until the filling looks like soft mayonnaise.

Assembly

When cakes are completely cooled, place a heaping tablespoon of the filling on one cake (flat side) and top with another.

And that's how you make whoopie...pie. Pumpkin Style.


Pumpkins Are a Girls Best Friend!

Well, they are when said girl needs a break from writing her god-awful thesis. Tis the season for all things orange-y, so when I was doing my food shopping the other day, I decided to pick up a can of pureed pumpkin. I know I could have bought one fresh, roasted it and made some homemade puree, but pumpkin from a can is easier. And if my favorite cooking blogger smittenkitchen uses it, then why the heck can't I?

That being said, I remember seeing on her blog a lovely marbled pumpkin and chocolate brownie recipe. So, off I went in between writing bibliographies and found the recipe (which was incidentally modified from Martha Stewart's - don't you love baking? It's all about the mods).

I decided to go with my own modifications and ended up with these.



They taste as good as they look.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies (adapted from smittenkitchen.com adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar (the original recipe calls for the larger amount; I think it could be dialed down a bit)
3 extra large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of allspice
dash of mace

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8" brownie pan.

Melt butter and chocolate over a double boiler. Let cool.

Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture and mix well.

Separate the batter into two halves (approx 1.5 cups of batter each). Add chocolate mixture to one half and mix well. To the remaining batter, add vegetable oil, pumpkin puree, and spices and beat well.

Into your greased brownie pan, pour the majority of the chocolate mixture and spread evenly with a spatula. Top that with the pumpkin mixture and spread evenly. Add the last bit of chocolate batter and swirl the mixtures together to create that lovely marbled effect.

Bake for 45-50 mins (I know!) until toothpick comes clean when inserted into the brownies.

Let cool before cutting and serving. And let me tell ya, they taste as good as they look!

7.11.09

Festival of Light


No, it's not Hannukah, it's Diwali the Indian festival of light. The origins of the festival are nested in myth, but the meaning remains the same - the triumph of good over evil, signified by the lighting of small oil lamps called diyas to chase the darkness out of our lives and the baking of many traditional sweets to sweeten the mouths of friends and family.

It's a pretty cool festival all in all.

Being not as traditional as the usual celebrators, I decided to fiddle with a traditional recipe and make it a little more modern. There is a version of a butter cookie that is made throughout India called nankhatai. It is essentially butter, flour, semolina, spices and sugar. Sometimes you add nuts to the dough, like pistachio or almonds.

I decided to forgo the semolina and make a simple butter cookie with some added, err, pizazz.


Orange-Cardamom Butter Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets.

Using a hand beater or your stand mixer, beat together the butter and confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and cardamom. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter/sugar mixture and beat together on low speed until well incorporated. Add zest and orange blossom water and mix well.

Using a small spoon, scoop out spoonfuls of the dough and form into a flattened ball and place on cookie sheet. (Mine were oblong) Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden in color.

Make glaze by melting together the butter, chocolate, and syrup in a double boiler. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave, and then blend in the other ingredients.

Let cookies cool completely before dipping half the cookie in the cooled glaze. Let cookies rest before devouring.


Happy Belated Diwali Everyone!

10.10.09

Sugar Shock, part 2

Not only did I buy a bag of Butterfinger ® mini's, I also was, err, enlightened to buy a bag of peanut M&M's ®. And enlightened I was because it spurred me to use them in yet another baked treat!

This time, I visited the M&M's ® website and decided to fiddle around with their Chocolate Marbled Blondie recipe.



The difference is that I used dark brown sugar instead of light brown, I added a 1/4 tsp of salt and instead of fat-free cream cheese, I used Neufch√Ętel. And those honkers on top of the blondies? Well, they are peanut M&Ms ®. I like them better than the regular.

Why? Because these are what I had in my pantry and salt always makes a baked good better. It balances out the flavor and enhances it as well. So always remember to add a bit of salt to your baked goodies to make it all that much better!



Enjoy!

Sugar Shock, part 1


There something about the duality of Halloween that is really cool. On the one hand, it's the night before All Soul's Day when the dead walk and "scare" the living. On the other hand, it's a night where children (and adults) can go nuts over candy.

I luckily live on a block where there are tons of wee ones in costume that I can make light up with handfuls of sugary goodness. And I don't skimp on the good stuff - Reese's Peanut Butter ® cups, M&M ® Peanut (and regular because allergies to abound), Butterfingers (r), Hershey's ® Miniatures.

No candy corn, dried fruit or pennies. I had too many encounters with those "treats" when I was a costumed fiend and still remember not being too happy about it.

Anyways, I was thinking that since candy is so cheap and plentiful this time of year, I would score a few bags pre-Halloween and make me some goodies.

I remembered making Butterfingers ® cookies once, and decided to make them again!



Butterfinger ® Cookies

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped NESTLE BUTTERFINGER® Candy Bars

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla next. Then, gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in Butterfinger pieces. Drop by slightly rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.



The best part about these cookies is that they don't stick to your teeth, unlike the candy that's in them. And they go really well with a nice cold glass of 2% milk. So...healthier?

Happy Halloween!

4.10.09

Bananas!

It's been a while since I've posted, but I blame school. And life. And, for some reason, a hectic social schedule.

But of course, I couldn't go for too long without baking, so when I saw this awesome pile of slowly browning bananas on my kitchen table, I knew I had to do something.


So I found this recipe and decided to use the brownest of my bananas and whip up a batch of muffins for Sunday breakfast. And you know what, I am always amazed when recipes come out quick and tasty after the first try.

Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel Topping

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp good vanilla
for the streusel:
3 tsp dark brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin pan if you are not using muffin liners.

Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix together bananas, sugar, egg, oil and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Spoon batter into muffin cups.

In another bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle amply on top of the muffin batter.

Bake muffins from 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.



And voila - quick, easy morning muffins. The whole house was smelling like warm bananas and cinnamon - what a great way to start the morning! Well, it was for me. The whole process took about 40 minutes, which is more than enough time to surprise family, friends or a "special friend" with tasty in the morning. I say if you have some bananas that you don't know what to do with, make this!

5.9.09

Low-Fat?


Well, due to a serious health scare in my family, I've decided to include "low-fat" as part of my baking vocabulary.

Now, I know that I might have mentioned before that using substitution to make a cookie, cake or other baked goodie "healthier" ends up making the baked good taste a little less authentic. Who am I kidding, they end up tasting "fake".

An essential ingredient in most baked items is butter. Good, golden, creamy, fattening butter. According to the International Food Information Council,

In baked goods such as cakes, fats help produce a high, fine texture. When "creaming" fats and sugar—the first step in mixing many cake batters—fats trap tiny air bubbles that help the batter to rise. Fats also help keep dough and batter from separating and falling. And fats coat the proteins in flour to make a tender or flaky product.

So when there is little or no fat in a baked good, you end up with a drier product, or worse - a flavorless one.

But the topic of this post is "low-fat" and so I decided to try my hand at a low-fat brownie. What ended up happening was me creating a low-fat, richly satisfying treat that even my sugar-crazed brothers could love. The secret? Low-fat, plain yogurt and a little baking powder.

Yogurt Cocoa Brownies

Ingredients
1 cup of granulated sugar
6 TBSP cocoa powder (any kind will do)
10 TBSP low-fat yogurt
2 large eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup + 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 x 8 in. baking dish (I use non-stick spray).

Mix together sugar, cocoa and yogurt until well blended. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated fully. Add vanilla and salt and mix well. Stir in flour and baking powder until it doesn't show and batter is creamy. Do not over mix.

Fold in dried cranberries and chocolate chips. (optional)

Bake for 28-32 minutes (when a toothpick is inserted, it should come out with a little of the brownie sticking to it).


Cool and cut into squares. Serve warm or room temperature with a nice cold glass of low-fat milk. Enjoy!

9.8.09

Blueberries!

With blueberries being $0.99 a pint at my local green grocer (well more like Chinese Superstore extravaganza - they sell everything there) I figured I'd buy a half-dozen and see what I could make with them.


Blueberries are technically not really blue, but purple. But it doesn't matter, the color is still so wonderfully rich and inviting, it would be a crime not to bake with them.



Of course, with the trusty internet on hand, I scoured Epicurious.com for a quick and easy recipe. And yes, the site delivered in the form of a Blueberry Crumb Cake.

And what I got was a light, fluffy, richly blueberry cake with just the right amount of crunch/texture on top for the crumble.

A perfect way to celebrate the blueberry in my opinion. Well, other than eating them fresh with some vanilla ice-cream.

Yum.

2.8.09

Irish Car Bomb?

Ever since I saw the recipe while perusing through smittenkitchen.com, I came across a recipe that I've been wanting to try out ever since I bought a six-pack of Guinness Extra Stout for a BBQ recipe. The BBQ sauce was a hit, and I finally got around to making these Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes yesterday.

What exactly is an Irish Car Bomb? Well, according to Wikipedia (my go to source for instant laymen knowledge)

An Irish Car Bomb is a beer cocktail which is a variation of the boilermaker. It is made with stout (e.g., Guinness), Irish Cream (e.g., Baileys), and Irish whiskey (e.g., Jameson).
The name refers the drinks Irish ingredients and to the car bombings notoriously used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) during the Troubles. The Jameson whiskey is floated on top of the Baileys in a shot glass, and the shot glass is then dropped into the stout. Once mixed, the drink must be consumed quickly because it will curdle.


The cake recipe itself was really easy to make, and it almost felt like the additional carbonation from the Guinness made for a seductively moist cake. Not to mention the maltiness of the Guinness melded perfectly with the organic cocoa I used.



The whiskey ganache was also relatively simple to make, but I think I erred in this case by not using a higher cocoa-content bitter chocolate. Next time, I think 65% or higher would work better. Read on and I'll tell you why.



The reason is because the frosting is so goddamn sweet! It's all butter, sugar and then Bailey's Irish Cream. With a higher cocoa-content in the ganache, I feel that the frosting will be balanced out. However, my brother's liked them - but my brother's liking my baked goods is subjective - they eat anything with sugar in it!



In the end, the cupcakes were a success and one of my brother's friends said that they would pay me for a batch. Pay me with gratitude.

The jury is out on whether I would like to be paid in "gratitude". Baking is hard work!

29.7.09

Bake-Off!

The bake-off idea was one I had been contemplating for over a year, based on a previous unfulfilled attempted from another yelper (Yelp.com is where yelper's hang out). With NYC being as diverse as it is and as a result having more restaurants than one could possibly know what to do with - people would like food. And possibly like to cook, and maybe even like to bake. In the summer.

On July 18, 2009 the weather was perfect. I had confirmation from the powers that be (a.k.a. Parks Department) that my event could be held and people said they would show up.

And some of them did and we had a good ol' time with my special "lemonade", gorgeous weather and lots of sugary confections. There were categories to be judged on and the ever popular, err, popular vote.




I made my Chocolate Chocolate Cookies and Orange Carrot Cake Cupcakes:













And here were some submissions from our other intrepid bakers:


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


Chocolate Caramel Brownies


Sm ores Cookies


Once again, food = love, and baked goodies = big love.

Can't wait to do this again next year!

*photos courtesy of Nina C.

Stay Tuned

This is a temporary post that will force me to elucidate on my fantastically flawed bake-off, which happened on a sunny Saturday in early July.

to be continued...

22.6.09

Rain, Rain, Go Away!


In an effort to spread my love of baking among the Yelp community, which I am very vocal member of, I decided to host a bake-off.

The gist of the event was that people interested in baking would participate by bringing their homemade baked items to a pre-determined location in, oh say Central Park, and we would all compete for "prizes."

I was very excited because the turnout for the event exceeded my wildest expectations. And then it rained all week.

And on the day of the bake-off.

So I was naturally incredibly angry at the weather (futile, but necessary) and also at a loss as to what to do with my pre-baked goods. I made two batches of my Grapefruit Yogurt Cake in mini-cupcake format.

Luckily I have brothers. And neighbors. And co-workers.

What I am hoping is that my next attempt will actually be more than just an attempt.

Stay tuned!

14.6.09

Frozen, not stirred.


Lame James Bond pun aside, making ice-cream is just as labor intensive, if not more so, than baking a cake.

The recipe is simpler, but the process requires a lot more patience. So when I finally decided to use natures bounty of berries (strawberries) to make some ice-cream, planning went into this endeavor.


A day in advance, I had to freeze the ice-cream attachment for my KitchenAid and make sure that it was properly covered so that there is no contamination from other items in the freezer. Next, I had to make sure to find a simple enough custard based ice-cream recipe. And what do you know? Epicurious had one, which of course I modified. Modification in the sense that I used lemon extract instead of lemon rind and I didn't add the chilled macerated strawberries to the semi-frozen custard mixture, but rather some fresh frozen strawberries I'd been saving for a while.

The addition of the frozen strawberries actually helped the custard mixture set-up better, because in previous ice-cream making experiments it had turned to mush after adding stuff to the custard base.

And here's what else I learned - custard based (or French-style) ice-cream is moons and stars better tasting than American-style. It's also a lot fattier, so eat in moderation.

Enjoy!

17.5.09

Orange you glad I made it?

So, more oranges. This time, not because they tempted me while carelessly arranged on the greengrocer's aisles, but rather because a family friend dumped a sackful on my mother's table and she wasn't sure what to do with them.

Well, where there's a fruit, there's a recipe.


Actually, all I did was modify my Grapefruit Yogurt Cake recipe to make it an Orange Mini-Cake with Chocolate Drizzle recipe.

How? Simple, substitute orange zest for grapefruit zest. Use orange extract instead of vanilla, but instead of 1/2 teaspoon, use only 1/4 teaspoon. I also baked the cakes in a mini-muffin pan for 30 mins, as opposed to a loaf pan for 50 mins. Came out fine.

As for the syrup, it is the following:

Ingredients
1 cup of fresh orange juice
2 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of orange blossom water (optional)

Directions
Mix together all ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until the mixture is slightly syrupy. Cool before use.

To assemble, just place the mini-cakes in a shallow baking dish and brush on the cooled syrup until all the syrup is gone. Let the cakes stand for about 30 mins to absorb the remaining syrup and completely cool.

As for the chocolate drizzle, well whatever you like to use is fine, but a good simple recipe is simply melting 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips in your microwave and mix until smooth. I like to add a little vegetable oil to make it glossy and not coagulate too quickly.

I used three oranges in this recipe - nine more to go!

10.5.09

Mother's Day!

So, today is Mother's Day and I decided that I would rouse myself early and make my mother brunch instead of going nuts about booking a reservation at a restaurant.

Like with most brunches, I like to combine sweet and savory dishes because it's not technically breakfast (sweet) or lunch (savory), so why not have both together? My menu was:

Eat
Scrambled Eggs with Sun dried Tomatoes
Chicken Sausage
Cherry Tomato and Feta Salad (with walnuts)
Marble Pound Cake with two sauces on the side (chocolate sauce and strawberry sauce)
Crudites with a Greek Yogurt dip
French Toast Pudding
Drink
Blood Orange Spritzer (non-alcoholic)
Vegetable Juice (with herbs and spices)
Tea
Coffee

Pretty nice spread, right? Well since this is a baking blog, I must tell you that of course I baked something. But it wasn't the Pound Cake - that I bought from the store and jazzed it up with the sauces. I made the French Toast Pudding because I wanted to make French Toast, but didn't want to deal with all the battering and frying. This was an easy way to get all that French Toast goodness without a lot of work.



I found the recipe on Epicurious.com, but I modified it as follows:


Ingredients

12 (1-inch-thick) baguette slices (cut on a long diagonal)
3 tablespoons fresh espresso
3 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
dash of Cinnamon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 cup of dried cherries
Cinnamon for dusting

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle and generously butter a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan (3-quart; preferably glass or ceramic).

Arrange bread in 1 layer in baking dish and sprinkle the dried cherries evenly over the bread. Whisk together espresso, milk, eggs, vanilla, dash of cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth.

Pour custard over bread, then turn slices over several times so they soak up as much custard as possible. Sprinkle top with remaining 1 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until puffed and set, 25 minutes. Cool in dish on a rack 10 minutes, then dust with cinnamon.

This was the perfect accompaniment for the brunch and it was really quick and easy to make - it looked fabulous in the dish and it tasted like a good piece of French Toast. Allowing it to cool for that last 10 minutes allows the remaining custard to set properly, so you don't get a pudding but a really nice piece of "French Toast."



And my momma loved it, so there's all the endorsement you need to go and make a batch for your next brunch!

7.5.09

Choc Choc Chocolate!


I was discussing tattoos and addiction with a friend earlier and we were arguing about the nature of addictions. At one point, I mentioned that by her definition, I should be a chocolate addict. And then I realized, hey you know? I probably am!

I crave it when it's not around. I try to deny myself it, only to find that the next time I have a piece it's that much better. So why deny the addiction?

In the spirit of addiction, I decided to pull out an old recipe that I saved from my internet browsing for a chocolate cookie recipe.

I ended up wanting to make it even chocolaty-er (not a word, but you know what I mean) and modified it to the following:

Fudgey Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine (salted is fine)

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

1 extra-large egg

1 1/2 tsp of strong coffee

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder (I used Nestle here, but you can be fancier)

1 tsp teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt*

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy . Add the egg and coffee and beat until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt* and mix until well incorporated. The mixture should have the consistency of a thick frosting. Fold in chocolate chips until fully incorporated.

Using two teaspoons, measure out spoonfuls of the batter onto the lined baking sheets.

Bake for approximately 14 minutes or until the the cookies are still soft in the center but are firm around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen pieces of chocolaty goodness!

*Only add salt if you're not using salted margarine. You can also use butter, but it'll be a different cookie.

3.5.09

More Orange!

Yes. I admit. I am in love with all things orange in baked goods. I am at this moment dreaming of an orange custard, kissed with Grand Marnier in little Angel Foods Cake cups. With a drizzle of chocolate. Dark Chocolate.

*drool*

But since it was the evening, and I wasn't too keen on whipping egg whites till "just so" - I decided to hop on Epicurious and see what I could find with Orange + Cookie + Chocolate. There's something about the brightness of citrus and the dark, sultry flavor of semi-sweet chocolate that works in such a wonderful way.

So armed with my zester, chocolate chips and this recipe - I decided to make me some Orange Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips.


I decided to use the zest of an entire small orange for this recipe, because I find that I like the intense flavor of orange in cookies, and the 3/4 tsp recommended by the recipe didn't seem to cut it.



I also used some of my secret ingredient in the recipe. I can't tell you what it is, because it's a secret. But then, what's the point of me posting the recipe and telling you that I modified it without telling you what the mods were, right? It's like souping up a car for a friend and not giving them the specs afterwards. Not a good idea.

So my secret ingredient is *drum roll* - Moroccan Orange Blossom water. My brother brought back a liter of it from when he was last in Marrakesh and I've been using drips and drops of it in a lot of my citrus-based baked goodies. Just a half-a-teaspoon in this recipe, but it adds so much to the cookie.



And they are so easy to make! Just two bowls, some elbow grease and literally 30 mins and voila - some tasty cookies. And you don't need the fancy flower water to make the cookie any better than it already is - I just like to be fancy sometimes.

Enjoy!

8.4.09

Shortbread

One of my closest friends, a tall Jewish red-head, has come back down to the motherland (Brooklyn) to celebrate Passover with her family.

We were discussing various dietary restrictions and how to make nontraditional meals without breaking the rules of keeping kosher. Somehow, this made me start thinking about my various dietary restrictions (no beef, no pork and no salt & meats on Thursday).

Then I got to thinking about her fiance, who is lactose-intolerant, a friend of my brother who cannot eat anything with wheat in it.

Now, tomorrow is Thursday, which means I don't eat anything with salt (until after 6 pm) or meat for the entire day. However, I also am going to a classmates home and I feel bad not bringing anything.

Enter shortbread.

It's a really simple basic recipe that is versatile enough to add stuff to without affecting the integrity of the cookie too much.

I made two kinds, an Orange Shortbread Cookie and a Chocolate Shortbread Cookie. The former is a recipe I found off the Internet, and I modified by substituting butter-flavored shortening for butter and added a whole lot more orange zest. The granulated sugar, was actually turbinado in this case and it added an richer sweetness to the cookie (in my opinion).



Now, the Chocolate Shortbread, well that was a work in progress. Not so much progress, as I didn't like the recipe I found and I thought I could do better. I take liberties with my baking now and again.

Here's the recipe I came up with:

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
3/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter-flavored shortening, sugar and coffee powder until light and fluffy.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend until a soft dough forms. Add vanilla and mix well.

Using a teaspoon, measure out spoonfuls of dough onto the cookie sheet and pat down to resemble a flattened round cookie. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the middle rack of your oven until the cookies are slightly puffed.

Remove from oven and cool completely before removing from the baking sheet. Store in a cool place or eat them right away with some espresso or just a good old fashioned glass of milk.

I like shortbread cookies because they are easy to make, and they taste good and in this case, my lactose-intolerant friends can have them too.

The kosher for passover stuff will be coming this weekend. ;)

24.3.09

Bake, Bake, Bake that Cake

I made a birthday cake.

I figured if I was going to get back into the baking process, I might as well go big. And what is bigger than a birthday cake? Well a wedding cake, but my baking prowess only goes so far.

My friend Linda was turning 28 and I didn't know what to get her, so I made her this:



It was a Chocolate Chocolate Cake, and I got the recipe at my favorite blog. The only modifications were reducing the amount of sugar needed from 3 cups (yes, 3 cups) to 2 1/2 cups and using different chocolate from what was suggested in the recipe. By different chocolate, I mean brand. It was a half and half mixture of generic semi-sweet chocolate and artisanal chocolate.

I also frosted and filled the cake entirely with ganache, which made it into a chocolate explosion - a very, very good thing.

Next cake - something with lemon.

16.3.09

I'm back baby!


My oven has finally been fixed and I could not be happier! I didn't realize how much baking meant to me until I was without the key to my baking.

Sure I had the toaster oven, but it was a sad substitute to my oven, where I could bake my mini-cupcakes, cookies, cakes and other goodies. I currently have a stash of recipes I've been collecting for the past two months and I cannot wait to try them out.

Yesterday I made my Orange Carrot Cupcakes and my Grapefruit Loaf. The latter I miniaturized and used my mini-muffin tin to make it. The baking time is reduced to 30 minutes and the icing needs to be thicker, but I brought them into work today and they have disappeared.

I'm as happy as a clam that just escaped the cooking pot!

24.1.09

Grapefruit?

I think that during the winter, especially a horribly cold and frostbiting one like this winter, people like to stock up on citrus. Seriously, I notice lots of lemons on sale and oranges and other citrus fruits.

I, thinking of summer, bought a huge bag of grapefruits. Ruby, to be exact. I was planning on eating them for breakfast as a way to battle the winter blues and to combat winter weight. However, they ended up sitting on my kitchen table and slowly began the process of dessication. So to salvage the grapefruits and to not waste food (this is a very bad economy), I decided to do something with them.

My original thought was Grapefruit Bars, a twist on my favorite Lemon Bars recipe. But I trolled the Internet instead and found a great recipe for a Grapefruit Yogurt Cake. It sounded so healthy, that I had to try it.

I ended up with this:



It's not very sexy, but it tastes so wonderful. The yogurt in the batter adds a subtle tang in the cake, while the fresh grapefruit syrup adds this wonderful aroma and of course the lovely citrus flavor that I love with this fruit.

And without further ado, the recipe (modified from the modified recipe off SmittenKitchen.com - my new favorite blog)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt (you can use whatever you have on hand)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs
3 teaspoons grated grapefruit zest (approximately one large grapefruit)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

For the glaze:
1/3 cup of confectioner's sugar
enough fresh grapefruit juice to mix into a runny icing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester (or toothpick for us amateurs) placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1 cup grapefruit juice and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Let cool for later.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the grapefruit-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and grapefruit juice and pour over the cake.

18.1.09

Babka!


Since I live in NYC, my oven is often used as an extra storage compartment. This means that if I want to bake something, I'll not only have to unload the oven, but I'll also need to find temporary storage around my kitchen and other rooms. It's a hassle.

Enter the toaster oven, an urban baker's trusty sidekick. I invested in a Krups Convection Toaster Oven, which has served me well over the years. Whether I need to bake up a quick batch of Lemon Bars, my Jam Crumb Cake or any other "small dessert," I've been able to do it...sometimes they come out better than if I did bake it in my regular oven.

So, with my oven on the lam and me with a three-day weekend, I decided to bake Babka. Yes, Babka- that quintessential Jewish sweet treat that I buy in bulk when I go to Zabar's. Since I love the Chocolate Babka they sell there, I was able to find a great recipe on Epicurious.com and thus attempt to recreate one of my favorite treats. My only addition was the powdered sugar and melted semi-sweet chocolate drizzle on top. I also added cinnamon to the filling, because cinnamon and chocolate complement each other well flavor-wise.

It was a long and arduous process, and I was afraid many a time of falling flat (lame dough rising joke here), but everything turned out more or less OK. Not exactly as airy as the delectable Babka I get at Zabar's, but still pretty darn good for an amateur attempt and a toaster oven.

Let's just say that everything is better with Babka.

17.1.09

I'm Smitten!

So with my oven on the fritz and me dithering about whether to call a repairman or fix the damn thing myself...I haven't been baking!

I know, and with a three-day weekend, I can only think about all the things I want to make and can't. So instead I've been trolling the Internet for recipes and blogs so I can greedily soak in recipes and ideas for when my oven does get fixed.

My toaster oven works fine, but the limited capacity puts a hamper on my plans for cookies and cakes. So I've been looking for simple loaf and bar recipes.

A site I have recently come across that has me wishing I was a better photographer (and writer) is Smitten Kitchen - a beautifully laid out blog about cooking. It's not at all pretentious, the blogging is easy to read and the recipes are given like the way you'd give your recipe to a good friend. I've bookmarked it, added it to my RSS feed and am using it as an aspirational prototype for the way my blog should be.

I don't think I'm ever going to go the professional route with my baking (although you never know), but as with all things, the will to learn and better oneself in the pursuit of knowledge is always worthwhile.

So thanks Smitten Kitchen for making my oven-less days a little brighter!

13.1.09

Catastrophe!

My oven has decided to give up on me.

I was in a state of (almost comical) shock for an hour or so on Sunday trying to figure out what happened. I ascertained that the broiler and burners worked, but the oven - well it stayed at a cool 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes without budging one degree higher.

The tragedy of the situation was that I had some freshly prepared Carrot Cake Cupcake batter sitting in my mini-muffin pan. They were ready to go and then this happened. I was in a dither because I needed to bring these treats to my friend's place where I was graciously invited to dinner.

In the end, I baked the cupcakes at her domicile to the adulation of her and her husband (the latter gobbled so many of them I was afraid he's fall into a sugar coma).

So now, I have ideas aplenty and a Daring Baker's Challenge to complete and no oven.

I'm almost afraid to see what the cost will be.

7.1.09

Ginger


I've become obsessed with ginger this winter. Mainly because drinking it in tea format seems to clear my body of aches and pains and other seasonal maladies. It is also refreshing and a wonderful addition to cookies and cakes.

I prefer to add my ginger in the raw versus powdered because the pure "gingery" flavor seems to work better, or rather come through more in the cookie or cake.

An online friend of mine shared with me a fabulous recipe for gingersnaps that I made using fresh ginger and parceled out to my friends and family for holiday gifts. Out of all the other cookies, this was the one that hit the highest note.

Recipe to follow.