Ever since I saw an episode of Chuck Day's Off on the Cooking Channel on donuts, I've been wanting to make donuts.

I promptly borrowed my neighbor's deep fat fryer (portable)and set up my limited counter space so I had a kind of assembly line going. The key to frying and not burning your apartment or house down is to have something like this set up so there's no question on the order in which things should proceed.

But what about the dough? Using this Chuck fellow's recipe, I was able to have wonderfully yeasty, but not overwhelmingly so, munchkin-sized donuts:

What's the recipe? Well you can google it, or I can just list it here:

Donut Extravaganza (courtesy of FoodNetwork Canada)

1 teaspoon active dry yeast (5 ml)
2 cups warm milk (approx. 105C) (500 ml)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (125 ml)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 ml)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 ml)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1,25 L)
1/2 cup butter
Oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar for garnish


In a food processor sprinkle yeast over the warm milk; stir to dissolve and let stand for 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, beaten eggs and vanilla. Blend thoroughly. Add flour and then using a stand mixer with a dough hook, beat until smooth. You can also kneed the dough by hand for about 5 minutes. Add butter and blend until thick. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut the dough into 1 inch-round doughnuts using a circular cookie cutter (or alternately, a can). Cover with a plastic wrap and let rest for an hour in a warm place. Deep fry at 360F (185C) for 1 to 1 and a half minutes until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

I made the chocolate caramel and lemon creme filling that the recipe came with, and when shared it was unanimous that the lemon creme was the favorite among the eaters.

There is nothing like warm, fresh donuts bursting with creme filling. It's actually a little obscene, come to think of it. Obscenely good that is!


It was a birthday surprise.

As I settle into my new workplace, the debate on whether to be the "baker girl" or just someone who quietly bakes outside of work has raised itself in my mind. Yes, I have debates with myself on a regular basis. I decided I wouldn't be "baker girl," but if asked nicely, I would bake for my colleagues. Why not? It's a way to keep the chops...chopping?

Well, the baking chops were called upon for an impromptu surprise party for my boss and chocolate cupcakes were the ask. And there's nothing like a birthday than chocolate cake of some sort with a lovely, rich butter cream frosting. I mean, it's quintessential birthday fare, right?

As I knew that my previous dalliances with Chocolate Stout Cake were pleasant ones, I turned to SmittenKitchen for her modified Chocolate Stout Cake recipe. The amount of batter equals to two dozen regular cupcakes, or 48 mini-cupcakes. I used a regular cupcake tin.

As for the butter cream - here's my take on boozy butter cream:

Whiskey-Bailey's Buttercream


1 cup (2 sticks), room temperature unsalted butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey
1 tablespoon Bailey's


In a large bowl, cream the butter until it's light and fluffy. Add the confectioner's sugar gradually, beating the sugar into the butter. Add the whiskey and Bailey's. Continue to beat until the ingredients are well incorporated and the butter/sugar/alcohol mixture is double in volume. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

I have to admit, my boss was really happy with the cupcakes. As were my colleagues - only crumbs remained.


I killed my baby.

My baby sourdough starter that is. This is what it looks like now:

You can see the dark liquid sitting on top of the slurry-like flour and yeast mixture, and it just looks bad. I opened the jar and confirmed death. It's actually rather embarrassing because I purport to be this amateur expert of a baker, but it seems the amateur is coming out in this case.

There's something about bread-making that scares me a little. Maybe it's because there's less precision than in cake-baking or cookie making - it's a lot more about the senses. You smell the yeast, handle the dough, massage it into a form that you want - it doesn't have to be pretty, but it has to be something you are attracted to. There's also a lot more patience involved than in regular baking. Humidity, ambient temperature, the amount you beat your dough or let it rest - all foibles affecting the rise, taste and texture.

Bread-making is an inexact science that I am willing to try out, nay, determined to master.

So, I'm trying to make my own starter:

I am crossing my fingers something bubbles soon!

Turkey Stuffing Pie with Cranberries

So the pie I submitted for the 2nd Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off Benefit was a labor of love and, I think, some thought. I mean, it wasn’t something out of a recipe book and I wasn’t sure how well it would come out. But there’s nothing like a challenge to keep things interesting – I mean, why else do they have all those Top Chef shows?

First, I roasted a turkey breast. Sure I could have found some pre-roasted turkey meat, but I wanted to control the flavor profile in my pie and there’s no better way in doing that by roasting your own turkey breast. I used a butter rub and added some sage and rosemary, salt and pepper and roasted till the skin was a lovely golden brown. Once it was done, I let it rest and then pulled off all the breast meat and did a rough chop and set it aside.

In the interim I made the stuffing crust and the cranberry sauce.

The stuffing recipe was incredibly simple:

Ingredients (for 2 stuffing crusts)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery (I used locally grown, wild celery)
6 cups dry bread cubes (I used potato bread cubes from the supermarket)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 eggs, beaten

In a skillet, melt butter and sauté onion until tender. Add celery, sage and rosemary and sauté until the celery is softened. Cool slightly. In a bowl, add the bread cubes, celery mixture, salt and pepper to taste and chicken broth. Taste the seasoning before adding the beaten eggs and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Press the mixture into 2 9-inch pie plates and set aside until ready to fill.

Cranberry Sauce

1 lb of fresh cranberries (from some farm upstate)
1 cup sugar
Zest of half a tangerine (or orange if you have that on hand)
1 stick of cinnamon

Boil all the ingredients together until all the cranberry pods pop. Then let cool for about an hour so the sauce has time to gel.

Assembling the pie

What I did was mix about 1 cup of the cranberry sauce with the chopped turkey breast. I added some more sage and rosemary and then as a binder – eggs, cream, stock and a little flour.

I filled the pie crusts with the turkey-cranberry mixture, poured on the binder mixture and dotted the top with some more cranberry sauce.

This went into a 375 degree oven for 45-50 mins, until the binder was set and the crust was golden brown.

The pie needs to rest until almost completely cool so that all the ingredients set and you can cut a clean piece of pie.

It was declared by my brothers and friends – a huge success.


She's my cherry pie!

This past August, after five years of working at the same company and going nowhere fast, I left for greener pastures. It was exhilarating and also incredibly sad because while I didn’t like my job all that much – I grew very fond of my colleagues there and I would miss them.

One of them was a baker like me and we’d talk about different pie crusts, weird gadgets that we want but don’t see any practical use for and why some people prefer tart lemon bars and others sweet. It was great conversation and I still miss it. As a parting gift, she gave me one of the I-want-it-but-what-else-can-I-do-with-it? gadgets – a cherry pitter. I’ve always wanted a cherry pitter. Thanks, D. :)
So, when I saw a giant bag of dark, sweet cherries – I bought them and decided to make fresh Cherry Pie.

I wanted to try out a whole wheat pie crust, and it was a good call because the nuttiness of the whole wheat worked really well with the dark sweet and sour of the cherries. Waxing poetic here a bit, yes I am.

Pie crust


2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups butter-flavored shortening
1/4 cup ice-cold water


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Add pinch or two of salt to flour and mix. Add shortening and cut into the flour until the mixture resembles large crumbs. Add the cold water bit by bit until a dough ball forms. The dough shouldn’t be sticky, just soft and should hold well together. Separate into two pieces and roll out to fit into your pie dish. This should make two crusts.



2 lbs of fresh, pitted cherries
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
Zest of half a lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, pour into rolled out pie shell. Top with remaining rolled out pie dough, crimp edges, slash vents in top and bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for an hour – this is important because you want the filling to set properly so it cuts properly.

I eat this with sweetened whipped cream. Because there’s nothing like warm cherry pie and cool whipped cream – yum!


Sometimes, I like to hang out with friends. Maybe on a nice late summer afternoon, in a beer “garden” of sorts, drinking beer and shooting the breeze.

One of those lazy Sunday afternoons took me to Brooklyn, where my friend and I moseyed on over to Franklin Park a bar in Prospect Heights and partook in the open bar sponsored by Yelp and Fire Island Beer.

Being in a chatty mood, I found myself chatting with one of the brewers from Fire Island Beer and got on the topic of pizza dough. Now, I love making pizza at home and I hate using the stuff from your friendly grocery freezer aisle. But I’ve always ended up with either a tough or yeasty or a not that tempting product.

This brewer fellow said that I’d have a great thin crust pizza pie if I followed this recipe:


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon good olive oil
Sea Salt

Pour water into a bowl and add yeast. Let rest for 10 minutes. Add all the other ingredients and knead for 5-10 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1.5-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Makes about 3 pizzas. Enjoy!

(Note: when when you are separating out your risen down for the pies, make sure you punch down all the air and then lightly knead the dough again with some additional all-purpose flour to remove any residual stickiness. You want a nice, smooth, stretchy dough. And you can bake the pies right away or let them rise again for about 20 mins while you're prepping your toppings.)

So, I did all of the above, made my oven as hot as it could possibly go (most standard ovens go up to 550 degrees F – crank yours up to its max if you want a nice crisp crust). I don’t have a pizza stone – yet, but I do have pizza pans and I stretched the lovely dough on to them and added my homemade tomato-basil sauce and toppings galore. And you know what, those pie crusts were the best homemade pie crusts I’ve ever made. Thanks beer guy!

My take on a Blueberry Cobbler

Back in the summer when blueberries were in season, I went little nuts and bought a lot of them. It was the fault of my local green grocer for stocking large quantities of fresh, plump blueberries for ridiculous prices.

Putting blame aside, I did enjoy my delicious purchases, and made pancakes, ate them with ice-cream, yogurt, in smoothies, just fresh with some honey and lemon zest – the possibilities were limitless. But one thing blueberries scream to me is cobbler. But I wanted to make something small and portable, so I opted for a simple muffin batter recipe instead of cobbler batter (which is crumbly) and added it to the blueberries that I places in a large muffin tin.

My Take on a Blueberry Cobbler


1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 small or medium sized egg
1/2 cup of milk, more if needed
1 cup of fresh blueberries, washed and dried


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin, or whatever large muffin/cupcake tin you have.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk and butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Using a large spoon or spatula, combine the ingredients until just moistened – don’t over mix, you want a lumpy batter here.

Evenly portion out the blueberries in the greased muffin tins. Top with equal portions of the muffin batter. Pour water into the empty cups, if any are left empty.
Bake 20-30 minutes or until muffins are nicely browned on top. Remove from oven, let cool for about 5-7 minutes and serve warm.

I made some strawberry sauce from some soon-to-be-moldy strawberries I had in my fridge (it’s what you see in the picture), but sweetened whipped cream, ice-cream or plain works just fine.


2nd Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off!

My good friend Deborah excitedly insisted in participating in the 2nd Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off Benefit – an event where pie and charity go hand in hand.

Since I didn’t want to go all traditional, and the looming cooking marathon that is Thanksgiving was just around the corner – I decided to make a “deconstructed Thanksgiving meal.” This amounted to a Turkey Stuffing Pie with Cranberries.

I didn’t win, but the event was well attended.

I even got my brothers to come out.

They held it at Spacecraft in Williamsburg, a small space for the amount of people there, but still the haphazard quality had some charm to it.

There was a lot of pie, and while I didn’t get to try too many kinds – everyone seemed to be really enthusiastic about the depth and breadth of the pies.

It wasn’t too bad of a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Grapefruit Lavender Cupcakes

This was my sweet submission...well, for my bake-off that is! I actually have to credit a brainstorming session with my brother to this particular flavor combination. I knew that it would taste good because Elderflower Syrup does, and that is a tart floral flavor combination!

So, without further ado, here's the recipe!

Grapefruit Lavender Cupcakes (modified from my Grapefruit Yogurt Cake recipe)


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)
½ tsp of ground dried lavender flowers
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tsp of lavender flowers (unground)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a mini-cupcake pan with cupcake liners. You can use a regular 12-cupcake pan if you’d like.

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, lavender 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 15-20 min, or until a cake tester (or toothpick for us amateurs) placed in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.

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

When the cupcakes are done, allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. While they are still warm, brush on the grapefruit-sugar mixture over the cupcakes several times to let the syrup soak in. I did it about a total of 6 times. If some of the syrup is left, that’s OK – you can use it for a cocktail base. (that’s what I did!)

For the Grapefruit Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed grapefruit juce and 1 tbsp of grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lavender flowers

Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat till well combined. Add the grapefruit juice, zest and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minute or until creamy.

Frost the cupcakes when completely cooled and soaked with the syrup. Sprinkle with lavender flowers.

And that’s how you make a Lavender Grapefruit Cupcake. :)

A Lotta Leeks

While I was preparing for my bake-off, I was also thinking about how I can’t just do a cookie or a cake or a cupcake. It was done, it will be done and I needed to break from the mold. So I decided to turn to my source of culinary inspiration…my green grocer.

I had been eyeing their pile of leeks for weeks. I like leeks braised, grilled and in vichysoisse. I used to make this lovely soup so often that I was asked to stop. Literally, every week there’d be a pot of it bubbling away. The rationale was that if they were growing in my backyard, I should use them!

Since I no longer have leeks growing in my backyard, I fall back on eyeing them at my green grocers. And when the opportunity came to use them in a savory recipe, I jumped at the chance. And I also jumped onto the internet to find a recipe. Luckily, I knew that I could turn to smittenkitchen.com instead of just trolling the internet, and I found a lovely Leek Bread Pudding recipe. While I liked the version that was on the site, I decided to change it a little.

Leek Bread Pudding (modified from the SmittenKitchen recipe)


2 cup leeks in 1/2-inch thick slices, white and light green parts only, cleaned and rinsed*
Kosher or coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups 1-inch-cubed brioche loaf (I like to leave the crusts on)
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup of heavy cream
2 cups of milk (I used my 2%, but you can use what you have)
Freshly grated nutmeg (or in a container if you have that)
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and set aside.

Place a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, drain excess water from leeks, and add to pan. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very soft, about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the leeks are cooking, spread the brioche cubes on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl. Keep the oven at 350 degs.

Add leeks, chives and oregano to the bowl of bread; toss well. In another large bowl, lightly whisk the egg and egg yolks, then whisk in milk and cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a generous pinch of nutmeg.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons shredded cheese in bottom of the buttered loaf pan. Spread 1/2 of bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.

Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 55 to 65 minutes. Serve hot or cold…both temperatures are equally delicious. Enjoy!


Second Annual Bake-Off (on the rooftop) - Success!

Well, it turned out that yesterday was destined to be the most perfect day for a roof-top bake-off. The sky was blue, the sun shining, the breeze only mildly out of hand - perfect.

With close to 60 guests, 25 sweet and savory submissions and lots of good will, I was able to raise $315.00 for Share Our Strength and also name several deserving bakers as winners of the contest. The categories being judged were Sweet and Savory. There also was a "Most Popular" category, which was voted by the people, for the people.

I was lucky enough to have two celebrity judges - Andy Yang from Rhong-Tiam and Marlo Scott from Sweet Revenge, who not only took on the daunting task of eating through 25 sweet and savory treats, but were lucid enough after the sugar rush to name winners from the Sweet and Savory categories.

From the Savory Category, Yelper Madhuri I. won with her fantastic Pastry Puff Bites.

And from the Sweet Category, Nafeesa S. won with her Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/ Pecan Frosting.

And the winner of the most popular baked good was, well, yours truly for my twist on a favorite recipe of mine, Grapefruit Lavender Cupcakes.

There was sun, sweets and some pretty fantastic sangria - tie that in with celebrity, charity and good ol' fashioned fun - I think it was a pretty successful event.

I did submit something in the savory category, but you'll have to wait for the recipe to see it!



I am holding my 2nd Annual Bake-Off (on a rooftop this time) tomorrow, May 15, 2010.

It's both an exercise in ego and philanthropy as I am going to use this as a venue to promote the Great American Bake Sale, an annual event run by ShareOurStrength.org.

If anyone wants to donate, they can do so at my participant page here.

I am excited that a) the weather is going to be gorgeous b) I have close to 25 committed bakers c) I have three judges, two of which are professional and finally - that I get to try my hand at baking something savory as opposed to my usual cookies/cake/cupcake fare.



You Put the Lime in the Coconut...

There's something about spring that makes me think of citrus. And sunny skies and balmy weather.

So what better way to celebrate all of these wonderful occurences in a confectionary form? I was trolling on Twitter the other day and a post on my feed referenced lemon as an ingredient in cupcakes. Since I had bought some pretty awesome coconut flakes and went a little nuts with the citrus purchases at the local greengrocer, I figured...why not make some lime and coconut cupcakes?

Thanks to the internet, I found a recipe...and then promptly decided to change it a bit.

Lime Coconut Cupcake

Cupcake Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of one lime


Preheat the oven to 350.

Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners (this recipe makes 12).

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl, cream together the butter, zest and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. I like to use my handheld mixer for this, because it's no joke creaming butter and sugar by hand.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the juice and orange blossom water. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Fill each baking cup two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Icing Recipe

1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
zest of one lime

Combine together confectioner's sugar, coconut milk, lime juice and zest. Whisk well. Then add butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, whisking well until fully incorporated. Frost cooled cupcakes with icing and top with either sweetened grated coconut, or (like I did) unsweetened coconut flakes.

Now if that ain't a pretty sight, I don't know what is. Enjoy!


Cheese!!! (cake)

My youngest brother had a plan, one that I was unaware of. It was for me to make a chocolate cheesecake. Of course, he didn’t actually apprise me of his plan until all the ingredients (literally) were in place. “Oh, I bought a six-pack of cream cheese from the store because it was on sale…I also bought this giant bag of chocolate chips! Wait, do we have graham crackers?”

You get the idea.

I had never made a chocolate cheesecake before, usually sticking to being a purist in the cheesecake realm by making a New York-style cheesecake once a year (mainly because I don’t want my hips to start getting the form of a cheesecake).

But a chocolate cheesecake always intrigued me. So keeping in cookbook theme, my trusty New York Times Cookbook was pulled out, because I knew Craig Claiborne had a recipe in there.

Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe (adapted from The New York Times Cookbook recipe)


1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of shredded wheat crumbs/flakes/leavings
5 TBSP melted butter
3/4 (minus 2 TBSP) sugar
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 1/2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Another reason why I don’t like making cheesecake is because of the time consuming process when you have to make one from scratch. The whipping, the folding, the long baking time at a low temp, the resting period, the chilling period, etc. If you’ve seen the other recipes I’ve posted here, you might have noticed that I’m a fan of the quick and tasty. And there is nothing fast about a cheesecake.


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Mix the graham cracker and shredded wheat "crumbs" with the butter. Press the mixture into the greased springform pan until a 1 to 1 1/2 inch crust is formed around the sides of the pan and the bottom is evenly coated. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate on the top of a double-boiler, remove from heat and let cool.

Beat together the cream cheese, salt, vanilla and half of the sugar until creamy and smooth. Beat in the egg yolks one by one until well incorporated and you have a nice smooth batter. Fold in the melted chocolate until well incorporated. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until they hold stiff peaks. Remember to add the sugar a little at a time while beating the eggs so that they actually incorporate completely.

Whip the heavy cream until stiff.

Add the egg whites and whipped cream to the chocolate cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle flour on top. Fold all these components together and make sure every item is well incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan and bake for 1 1/4 hours. Do not open the oven door for one hour. Turn off the heat and let the cake sit in the oven for another 3 to 4 hours before removing. Once out of the oven, place in your refrigerator to chill.

And voila a good 4-5 hours later, a chocolate cheesecake is born.

The texture was decidedly creamier and lighter than a New York-style cheesecake. I spread some strawberry jam on top (which was "melted").It made me feel less self conscious about scarfing down a slice every other day until it disappeared. Dangerous.



Birthday Cake

Because apparently I’m a decent enough baker in the eyes of my friends and family, I was commanded to bake a birthday cake for one of my father’s friends. I wasn’t sure what to do, mainly because the majority of the people attending were from West Africa and I was afraid that if I didn’t do something familiar, it’ll go down in flames. This is not an unfounded fear – when I lived abroad in a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, most of my “American as Apple Pie” creations were dubbed as interesting, but when I made a “tarte banane” or something that was culturally local, the reviews were more of the rave variety.

Well thank jeebus I was told they like chocolate. (because even on my tiny island, they liked chocolate.)

I of course hunted online for recipes, but then realized that I had perfectly good falling apart cookbooks to turn to for a simple chocolate cake, filling and frosting. The actual cake had the following components: Basic Chocolate Cake, Dark chocolate ganache, Mocha Buttercream Frosting.

The recipes for the cake and the buttercream I modified from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts, which has really nice standard recipes for cakes and frostings.

Basic Chocolate Cake (adapted from from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts recipe)


3/4 cup Valhorna cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
2 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease parchment paper; dust pans with extra cocoa powder.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Next, in your mixer cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl in intervals to incorporate the ingredients. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Alternately add the dry ingredients with the milk to the egg/shortening mixture. I like to add it in thirds of each. Remember to scrape down the sides of your bowl so that all the ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. You might need a spatula to spread the batter if it's a little thick. To remove air bubbles, tap the pans on the counter a few times. This also lets the batter settle more evenly in the pan for a uniform rise.

Bake for 30 to 35 mins until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake.

Let cool completely before frosting or decorating.

The frosting I used was a simple Mocha Buttercream, and what made it extra special I think was using my leftover French-pressed coffee from the morning’s brew. Now, I am sure any kind of coffee would work, but I think brewed versus instant will work better flavor-wise.

Recipe for Mocha Frosting (adapted from from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts recipe)

1 16 ounce package of confectioner's sugar
6 TBSP butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Valhorna here as well)
1/3 cup cold, fresh brewed coffee
1 tsp vanilla


In your mixer bowl, on medium speed, mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and butter until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and coffee until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

I like to beat the frosting for a few extra minutes to make it fluffier. My brothers claim that it tastes like the filling from the Dunkin Donuts® Chocolate Cream Filled Donut.

As for the ganache filling, I used a regular recipe that called for a 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of just boiling heavy cream poured on it, followed with a teaspoon of vanilla. All whisked until smooth and then set aside to cool.

Maybe because this cake was for a festive occasion, I tried my hand at decorating…and ended up with this.

It’s not Ben Israel, but my cake-eaters loved it.


Kid in a Candy Store

It’s been months since I’ve wanted to check out the New York Cakes & Baking Supply store here in the city. This cavern of confections was first mentioned to me by a very regular baker in my office and he was pretty impressed by its offerings. Judging from his baked goods (brought into work every now and again), I could safely say that he knew what he was talking about.

I usually kept my baking contraption purchases limited to Bed, Bath & Beyond or Zabar’s, the latter for the more obscure utensils and ingredients. So when I came in here and saw all that this store had to offer – I think I might be visiting more and more in the future.

My wallet might need to be put on lockdown.

You can read a proper review of this fine establishment here.

I know this isn’t a post about a baked item, but it’s baking related so it counts!

(photo courtesy of Yelp.com)


Haman has got nothing on Hamentashen

I know that my mother has been trying to get me to make this particular cookie treat for a while now. She remembers them from her days in Winnipeg, where she, an "island princess", was exposed to Jewish cookery by her landlord. Not only does she now exclaim "oy vey iz mir" whenever she gets irritated with us children, she also has a predilection for hamentashen, rugelach and chocolate babka (although the latter was probably more due to Zabar's than Winnipeg).

So when my friend Susan told me she was making some Hamentashen for Purim, she also told me I should give it a go.

So, of course I turned to my favorite baking blog - SmittenKitchen for the recipe.

Of course, instead of adding orange zest (which is what her recipe calls for) I added lemon zest because it's what I had on hand. Citrus is citrus and lemon works just as well a orange in this case.

Well, I was able to get the dough to the right consistency and I used a 3-inch cookie cutter instead of her suggested 2-inch, mainly because I wanted a bigger cookie and in the SmittenKitchen blog, she mentioned that one needed to pinch the walls really tight in order to create a proper seal. So, I thought more dough would mean less leakage.

How wrong I was. Even with my careful filling of the preserves (I used apricot, strawberry and blackberry preserves) and my solid pinching...

I still ended up with little random shaped oblong cookies with preserves all over the place.

Moral of the story of Hamentashen, lots of dough doesn't mean that your filling wont leak. I think maybe next time, I'll do a half shortening half butter dough and maybe use an egg wash to seal those pesky corners!

Still, they tasted good with tea!


Wheat vs. White

Wheat. White. Wheat. White. Wheat...OK, I've been thinking about how to make my cookies and other baked items healthier so I bought a two pound bag of whole wheat flour.

And it's been sitting in my cupboard for about three weeks now with nary a use to be found. Or rather I have yet to feel inspired enough to use my whole wheat flour (not to mention a lot of the recipes I've researched, breads aside, have not been inspiring). Then I got to thinking - maybe it wasn't lack of inspiration, but rather a fear of the unknown. I admit, I am a fan of simple tried and true recipes and my recent foray into the realm of french pastry had me more than a little frustrated. But this year I am going to be adventurous with my baking! So whole wheat flour will be used in the very near future!

With the help of the inter webs, I have reassured myself that substituting whole wheat for white flour shouldn't be a problem.

According to a neat How-To on eHow.com:

1) Each flour can be substituted for the other, part per part. I.e. 1 cup of whole wheat can be used for 1 cup of white.

2) One must sift whole wheat flour so as to avoid a denser than normal product. Aeration is good.

3) In order to avoid a dryer product (because it'll happen apparently), you need to slightly increase your wet ingredients or shorten your baking time by a few minutes.

4) Fold instead of mix - you want your liquid to just absorb, not become a gluey mess.

I think that's simple enough, right? Well, let's see if the cookies I make tonight are proof positive that 4-steps to substitution works.

Stay tuned...


Longest Post Ever!

If there is one thing you need as a baker (amateur or otherwise) it's patience. Although I tend to steer towards one-bowl, under an hour recipes, I do like to challenge myself sometimes.

Personally, I think the epitome of baking lies in the realm of the French. Especially when it comes to pastries. And nothing else spells French pastry like a croissant. So of course, after a conversation with a friend and baker where it was discussed that challenging oneself was important - I decided to embark upon making croissants.

The recipe I used I found online and it was from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Small Breads.

Let's just say after reading it through, I realized that this was not simply a recipe - it was an undertaking. A 2-day undertaking. But I was game and not a little motivated to try something so outside my comfort zone. Allons-y!

I used a lot of flour and butter for this thing. In fact, your butter component is a mixture of flour and butter pressed into a block and then chilled until firm.

After placing my butter square to chill, I made the dough. It needs to rise for a couple of hours until doubled in bulk. Then the rolling and folding commences. About three different maneuvers with several hours of proofing in between. Patience is something one learns when one attempts making croissants.

The final roll had me using rulers and rollers to cut out perfect triangles. This is precision work people!

And...apparently this is what a raw croissant looks like?

Alas, I forgot the final rising of the croissant once the dough was cut into little 5-inch triangles. So I ended up with lovely...dinner rolls.

However, due to my small work surface - I ended up cutting my batter in half. All was not lost when I realized that I ended up goofing on the first batch - and the second batch was proofed properly before being fed to the oven. They ended up as Pain Au Chocolat.

Would I make these again? I am not sure. While I was excited to be doing something so involved, I find that I like to bang out my baked goodies. But, if I need to be challenged again...maybe puff pastry?