Sunday, November 27, 2011

Orange Pecan Cranberry Bread



Hey Chickadees,


Have I ever told you how quick breads and I aren't the best of friends? They just don't like me much. But I like them, so I keep trying to make them. Last winter I made a cranberry bread that was okay, but not great. This year I was determined to make a different, better bread. I found a recipe I liked, made it once at home, and was excited to make it again when I went to California for Thanksgiving.


The cranberry bread, on the other hand, had other plans.




I share with you now how NOT to make Orange Pecan Cranberry Bread over your Thanksgiving break:


Day One:
Begin to think about making the bread. On pre-Thanksgiving last-minute trip to store, pick up extra bag of cranberries, yogurt, oranges, and orange oil. Let your mom pay for all of it. When you get home, let your sister talk you out of making the bread - there's too much other Thanksgiving food.


Day Two:
Eat all that other Thanksgiving food.


Day Three:
Consider making this bread. Realize that the oranges you have will not yield enough orange juice. Call Mama B and ask her to pick up some OJ on her way home (we'll just pretend it's fresh squeezed). Lay down on the couch while waiting for her to come home. When she arrives, thank her from the couch for getting the juice. Fall asleep on couch. Zombie-walk up to bed some time later.




Day Four:
Decide it's time to make this bread once and for all. Begin to gather ingredients. Begin to zest oranges. Realize that the zesting is causing you to sweat. Investigate this. Conclude that the cheese grater you are using to zest the orange is the same cheese grater you've been using since...um...your whole life.  Say, "That's it! Zesting an orange should not be this difficult! I'm going to Target for a proper zester!"


Go to Target. Walk directly to the kitchen section. Do not, under any circumstances, take a detour through the clothes section - the bread will certainly never get made if that happens. Purchase zester. Go home and successfully zest oranges.


Begin to mix dry ingredients. Go to the pantry for flour. Scream.


Yes, scream.


Because, Chickadees, there is no flour in the pantry.


Assure all other family members and dogs in the house who came running when you screamed that you are not seriously injured. Take some deep breaths. Double-check the rest of the ingredient list. Thank goodness - everything else besides flour is accounted for.


Drive to the local market. On your way, kidnap your sister who went out for a run and make her come to the market with you - you are in need of moral support. Purchase flour, ideally not at the register where the kid you once cheated on a spelling test with in first grade is the checker. Drive home.


Finally, finally, finish making this bread. Fend off family members from eating it until you've photographed it. Then eat half the loaf yourself. After everything you went through to get this far, you deserve it.



Seriously, Chickadees, making this bread doesn't have to take four days and multiple trips to the store to make. Yes, there is a bit more prep involved than some other quick breads, but with a food processor and a proper zester, it's not that bad. To save more time, buy pre-chopped nuts, high-quality orange juice, and don't bother chopping the cranberries.


And remember - if you do get to the pantry and have no flour, it's okay to scream.


Happy zesting,
Katie





Orange Pecan Cranberry Bread
Adapted from Luna Cafe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup plain nonfat yogurt
¾ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, cool room temperature
½ teaspoon orange oil or 1 teaspoon orange extract
finely grated zest of 1 large orange (2-3 tablespoons)
1 cup fresh cranberries, each cut in half
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven with plenty of room above it and preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan or spray with flour baking spray (or 3 mini loaf pans).
3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt and orange juice. Set aside.
5. Cream butter and sugar until pale and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
6. Add eggs gradually, beating continuously to incorporate. Then add orange oil and zest and mix briefly to incorporate.
7. Using the slowest speed of the mixer, add flour mixture in three increments, alternating with the addition of 2 increments of the yogurt-orange juice mixture. The last addition should be the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients by folding together with a large spatula.
8. While folding, add the reserved cranberries and pecans, and incorporate gently and quickly. The batter should be well combined, but do not over mix or the bread will not be tender.
9. Spoon the batter immediately into the prepared pan, filling no more than three fourths full (if there’s extra batter, make a mini loaf or muffins), level the top with a flexible spatula. Bake for about 55-65 minutes. (Smaller loaves require about 40-45 minutes of baking.) The internal temperature of the loaf when tested at the center with a thin instant-read thermometer should read 180° when done. The traditional wooden skewer probe recommended so often as a test for doneness will still be a bit sticky at this point. Over baking this bread makes it dry.
10. Remove from the oven, let settle in the pan for 10 minutes, and then gently turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Do Ahead If well-wrapped to prevent moisture loss, this bread will keep at room temperature for a day or two; or longer in the freezer. It actually improves in texture and taste after a day or so of proper storage.

Katie’s note: This recipe seems to make more batter than fits in 1 9x5 loaf pan. I doubled this recipe and divided the batter between 3 9x5 loaf pans. The bread does rise in the oven, so make sure to fill your pans no more than ¾ full.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Pudding


Hey Readers! Remember a few months ago when I was reduced to a spoon food only diet? Well, the spoon is once again my best friend.

This time it's not because I want to eat only spoon food, but because I must; I had gum surgery last week.

(Aw...thanks. Yeah, I am feeling better--it's so sweet of you to ask! No, it doesn't hurt a ton, especially not with the painkillers. Yeah, I've been eating lots of ice cream and applesauce and pudding...)

Right! Pudding! That's what I'm here to talk about.

So, here I am at home all by myself with three orders from the doctor: 1) eat spoon foods, 2) the less talking the better, and 3) no smiling or laughing.



After watching as many mediocre mid-90's movies on Netflix as I can find (mediorcre = less chance of laughing, though the mid-90's thing may cancel that out), I head to the fridge for some spoon food, and discover some leftover pumpkin.

Hmmmm, what to make with that pumpkin? I ask myself (silently of course, since I'm not talking. Not that I talk to myself out loud usually anyway...okay, I talk to myself out loud all the time, so this whole talking less thing is actually kind of difficult. Like Twitter for my mouth.)

I don't know, answers myself.

You could make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, myself says.

But then I couldn't eat them--spoon stuff only, remember?, myself replies.

Oh, right, myself grumbles.


So, no pumpkin chocolate chip cookies because no spoon, and white chocolate pumpkin fudge is out for the same reason. Pumpkin donut muffins? Nope. Pumpkin pancakes? Er...with enough syrup I could use a spoon...NO! Spoon foods only! myself insists.

Okay then, myself scoffs. No need to get snippy.

And then, as I reach for yet another Jello chocolate pudding, it dawns on me.

Pumpkin pudding! myself exclaims!

YES! Pumpkin pudding! myself agrees.

And I'm so happy at the thought of pumpkin pudding, that I break into a big gri--

Ah. That's why I'm not supposed to smile. It hurts.

But I eventually (ok, basically immediately) recover and make the pudding, and it's just what the doctor ordered.



With ingredients you probably already have on hand, this pumpkin pudding would be an easy week-before-Thanksgiving treat. Or, if you have a pie-crust phobia but don't want to deny your Thanksgiving guests the pumpkin pie experience, this pudding could be just what you need.

Lest I leave you feeling sorry for me and my spoon-only, no-smiling, less-talking state, I'll share that four days of having to choose what I eat, say, and smile at does have it's rewards. I've tried new foods, like this pudding, that I never would have tried otherwise. I've examined what's really important in my everyday chatter. And I've realized how blessed I am to have so much laughter in my life, even if I can't partake in it for a while.

Spoon-fed, silent, and smile-less, life is still good, I think to myself.


So true, myself replies. So true.


Best,
Katie


Pumpkin Pudding
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
Makes four servings



  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (I used molasses, but next time will substitute with maple syrup...I don't care for the slight molasses taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1. Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add half-and-half, egg yolks, molasses, and salt; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to thicken. 

2. Add the water in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Stir in pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice; cook until very thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly.  Serve warm. For thicker, cold pudding, place pudding in bowl or small serving cups, cover with plastic wrap (to avoid a skin), and chill for at least one hour.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies



Happy Halloween, everyone!

Ok, so, last year for this haunted holiday, Katie and I decided to go scary, gross, and delicious with these oh-so-icky yet oh-so-yummy Oreo Cookie Eyeball Truffles. Fun, yes. Horrific? Definitely. I think our inclination to go bloody had something to do with the whole vampire-zombie-werewolf trend...

This year, we decided to bake up a treat from the other end of the Halloween spectrum. These little bitty cookies are the baking equivalent of a baby dressed up as a lady bug, or a doggie in a pumpkin suit, or anyone decked out as Winnie the Pooh. In short, they're super cute!

They're also just as addicting as the candy they're modeled after, so I'm warning you now: practice self-control. You will thank me later. Your waistline will, too. And your dentist.



They ARE rather tiny cookies, though. So, you know, don't torture yourself. You can have more than one. Five would be ok. Or six, or seven, or ten.

Actually, it's probably best to just make a double batch.

Vampires, this isn't for you! It's orange gel food coloring!
This recipe comes from the ladies at Our Best Bites. The step-by-step photos they've posted are excellent, so rather than re-creating them, Kate and I decided that you all could exercise your fingers and click your way on over!

So if you're feeling this Halloween like you'd rather hear some "Oohh, how cute!" than some "Oohhh, how gross!", bake up some adorableness candy-corn style.

Happy treating!

-Becky





Candy Corn Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Our Best Bites

Ingredients:
1 batch sugar cookie dough (like this one*)
Yellow and orange food coloring
*For these cookies though, I replace the lemon extract with almond extract

Optional:
Sanding sugar, coarse raw sugar, or sprinkles
Almond bark or white chocolate, melted

Instructions:

  1. Divide prepared sugar cookie dough into three equal portions. Set aside one portion as the white part of the candy corn. Color one portion with yellow food coloring, the other with orange. Gel food coloring gives you the brightest color, but liquid food coloring will work as well. Be sure to add food coloring in small bits until you are satisfied with the color. Also, unless you want to wash your beaters, do the yellow first!
  2. Line a standard loaf pan with plastic wrap. Gently press the uncolored dough into the bottom of pan and smooth flat, keeping it at least 1/2-3/4 inches high (you don’t have to use the whole pan if you have a small batch of dough). The taller the layer of dough, the larger your cookies will be. Layer orange dough on top of previous layer and gently smooth flat. Finally, layer yellow dough and gently smooth top. Wrap plastic over dough and chill until firm, 30-60 minutes in freezer or 1-2 hours in fridge. Or, store the dough in the fridge for 2-3 days before baking.
  3. When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap, lift dough out of the loaf pan onto a cutting board, and slice loaf into 1/4-inch slices. So the dough remains chilled, it is best to work with just a few slices at a time, placing the remaining dough back into the loaf pan and the fridge.
  4. Trim the top of each slice to make a straight line. Then, cut each slice into triangle shapes and dip top side in sugar if desired. Bake according to sugar cookie directions, noting that these small cookies may bake more quickly than the recipe indicates. Cool 1-2 minutes on pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  5. If desired, dip ends in almond bark or white chocolate and decorate with sprinkles. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Introducing EATS & SWEETS - a new cookbook!


Hellloooooo Readers!  Happy Sunday!

Today I am very excited to show you something Becky and I have been working on for the better part of the year...it's a cookbook!!!!

EATS & SWEETS is a collection of over 25 appetizer and dessert recipes that were served at the Ignatian Young Adults (IYA) socials at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in NYC during the 2010-2011 year.

Becky and I are on the IYA committee, and when it was suggested that we do a cookbook as a fundraiser for the group, we said we'd put it together. (They think we were being generous, but it's always been a dream of ours to publish a cookbook. Isn't it great when everybody wins?)

The cookbook has an EATS section (appetizers), with recipes like...


...and a SWEETS section (desserts), with many recipes you already know, like Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars, Berry Cornmeal Crumble Bars, and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, plus some new recipes, like Raspberry Oatmeal Bars.


Beck and I were determined to reinvent the church cookbook - no spiral bound, endless expanse of B&W typewritten recipes for us. It's the 21st century, people!

We thought it would be a piece of cake. We already had several recipes and photographs on hand thanks to this blog, after all.

Boy were we wrong.

It's one thing to post recipes and photographs on a (semi-)weekly basis one at a time, as you please, with the option to go back and change things later as you like. It's a whole other beast to put together a physical book. There was a recipe style guide to consider, photo dpi's to be checked, recipes to be made and re-photographed, budget numbers to be balanced, and deadlines to torture us keep us on track.


I don't know why the hard work came as a surprise to me...I make books for a living, after all. I suppose I didn't realize that while as an editor I am only responsible for one part of the publishing process, here I played all roles - author, editor, designer, copyeditor, proofreader, production manager, marketer, publicist, sales person, and bookseller. There were even some nights I dreamed of cookbooks.

But man, when that first finished copy arrived, it was like all the Christmas mornings of my lifetime put together. I understood just a little bit more how my authors at work feel when they see their finished books for the first time.

Of course, the best part of all this is that proceeds go right back to support IYA programming.

Check out the fancy-schmancy book preview below and if you like what you see, feel free to click through to the Blurb bookstore and order a copy for yourself, or for yourself and your 50 closest friends :-)

-Katie

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Donut Muffins


Hey chickadees,

Let's play a game. Touch your nose with your right hand if you remember the Mini Donut Muffins Beck and I made last year. Need a reminder?

Heck, even if you don't remember the Mini Donut Muffins and are too lazy to click through the link above, touch your nose anyway. Everyone can play this game.

Go on. Right hand to nose.

Very good.

Now, keeping your right hand where it is, touch your right ear with your left hand if you like pumpkin.

Now, extend your right arm out in front of you if you think the combination of Mini Donut Muffins plus pumpkin would be superb.

Yes. I know this particular move is a bit harder. Channel your inner pretzel. You can do it. Right arm out in front of you.

Very good.

Now wave your right arm up and down and make a noise like an elephant.


What?!

No, of course I wasn't trying to make you look like a fool! I was only trying to make you look like an elephant :-)  Please don't blame me--these Pumpkin Donut Muffins I made on my vacation make me do strange things.

Things like playing Twister on my parents' new multi-colored rug, eating oddly-flavored jelly beans, painting farm animals on tiny ceramic bowls, and measuring dry ingredients for baked goods very late at night after everyone else has gone to bed...

...and apparently making other people act like circus animals. I really have no idea where that whole elephant thing came from.  But really, these are bite-sized donuts, plus pumpkin, coated in butter and cinnamon and sugar. Does it get any better than that?

It's enough to make anyone go a little elephant.

Enjoy!
- Katie


Pumpkin Donut Muffins
Adapted from Blue Eyed Bakers
Makes 24 mini muffins


For Donuts:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk



For Coating:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon



1. Preheat oven 350 F.  Spray 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray and set aside.


2. In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices together and set aside.


3. In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture and stir until just combined, careful not to over mix.


4. Fill each muffin cup with the batter. Muffin wells will be pretty full but not overflowing. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until muffins spring back when gently pressed. Let muffins cool in pans for one minute, then tip on their sides so the bottoms don't steam. After a few minutes, transfer muffins to wire racks.


5. While the muffins are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another. When donuts are still hot (but not too hot to touch), dip tops in melted butter, then in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve immediately.


*Note: If you're not going to serve the muffins immediately, you can bake them up to a day in advance and store them in an airtight container. Do not coat them in the butter/cinnamon-sugar mixture until just before serving or they may get soggy. Or, use a pastry brush to brush on butter instead of dipping muffins in butter in order to use less butter. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Muffins



Hey Readers!

It's October, which means Becky and I are in California for our little annual family reunion. And by "Becky and I," I mean "just me".  Becky got stuck in NY this year :-(

But distance can't keep this baking team apart. When Becky heard I was making the Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake for the Cali guests (which has disappeared in the time it has taken me to write this post!), she decided to participate from afar. Of course, Beck doesn't have a houseful of guests to bake for; her coffee cake needed to be portable so she could distribute it to friends in NY. Thus, Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Muffins were born.


To make muffins, simply mix up the coffee cake batter, divide it into 12-14 muffin cups, add a dollop of cream cheese and a dollop of jam, and bake for 20 minutes. Add icing if desired.

Easy-peasy raspberry cream cheesy muffins!

We miss you in Cali, Beck...though I think in your absence, I'm entitled to eat your slice of coffee cake :-)

-Katie


Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Muffins
Makes 12-14 muffins


Coffee Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces and chilled
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces raspberry jam
Note: To use a baking mix such as Bisquick, replace first five ingredients with 2 cups baking mix, adding a tablespoon of sugar.
*we've also used baking soda in a pinch

Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12-14 muffin wells with paper liners.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt (or 2 cups baking mix plus 1 tbsp sugar) in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, cut in the butter until dough resembles course crumbs.

3. Add milk and stir until evenly moistened. Dough will be quite sticky.

4. Place dough in muffin cups. Dollop a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese on top of each muffin, then a heaping teaspoon of jam.

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes.

6. If icing is desired, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, and one teaspoon milk. Continue to add milk until glaze reaches drizzling consistency. Drizzle glaze over muffins.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Coca-Cola Cupcakes





About a month ago, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, friend Katie and I went on a Katie Date to Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Red Hook is well known among New Yorkers because it is home to the water-taxi accessible IKEA. But it wasn't IKEA that motivated us to take the two hour, one-way trip there that day (not that we didn't take advantage of our vicinity and stop in for some Swedish meatballs. Obviously.)

It was the Baked bakery that called to us, which I had first heard about years ago on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Some celebrity chef said that Baked's Sweet & Salty Brownie was the best brownie they'd ever had.


Naturally, the Sweet & Salty Brownie was the first thing I ordered. But Katie and I didn't stop there. Oh no. We had traveled by subway and bus to get there, after all. This trip was gonna be worth it.

Here's what we ordered:

Now, mind you, this photo doesn't do the size of these baked goods justice. That grasshopper bar is about the size of my palm (and probably contains half a pound of powdered sugar), and that slice of cake is as big as one of those giant blue IKEA bags. Seriously. (Okay, not seriously, but it was at least as big as the pile of meatballs I ate, and you know how I feel about meatballs).

So it's no surprise we didn't finish everything. But there was one thing we finished faster than I get lost in IKEA.

Can you guess what it was?

...

Hint #1: This is not a trick question.

...

Hint #2: Did you read the title of this post?

...

Hint #3: Really? You need a third hint?

...

Time's up! Did you guess the...



...Coca-Cola Cake?

Wow! You're so smart! Almost as smart as whoever invented Swedish meatballs! And this cake!

Man, was that Coca-Cola Cake GOOD. Mouth watering dark chocolate cake with frosting half an inch thick...

It was so good that I ran home and made a cupcake version for my co-worker's birthday the very next day.


I adapted the recipe from the first cookbook by Baked's creators, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, which has a recipe for Root Beer Bundt Cake. I simply substituted Coca-Cola for the Root Beer. (I've made the Root Beer version before too - also very good.) You can't really taste the cola, but it does give the cake a certain "what is that flavor?" quality.

Also: this frosting is TO DIE FOR. If I had to choose between eating a tub of this frosting and eating a heaping pile of meatballs, I would toil over that decision, but in the end, I'd definitely choose this frosting. It's become a staple in our house - we use it on cupcakes, Chocolate Fudge Cake, and empty spoons.



Just the last week, the other Katie told me she couldn't stop thinking about the Coca-Cola Cake we ate at Baked. That makes two of us. If you're in the NYC area, head on over to Red Hook (via subway, bus, water taxi, or all three) and make sure to try it (either before or after your Swedish meatballs--we won't tell if you eat dessert first. We did). If you're not in the NYC area, I can't help with the meatballs, but the recipe for the cake is below.

Enjoy!
-Katie (and Katie)


Coca-Cola Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking via Baked Perfection
Makes approximately 22 cupcakes.

For the cupcakes
2 cups Coca-Cola (do not use Diet Coke)
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs



For the Coca-cola Fudge Frosting
2 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup Coca-cola
2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar


Make the cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 22 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners.


2. In a small saucepan, heat Coca-Cola, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.


3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together.


4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold flour mixture into cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy—do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough.


5. Use an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the batter into prepared baking pans. Bake cupcakes for 25 minutes or until a small knife (or toothpick) comes out clean.


6. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack. Let cool for 3 minutes, then gently flip cupcakes on their sides in muffin tins so they don't get soggy. 


Make the frosting
1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth. (Note: If you don't have a food processor, a hand mixer works just fine.)


2. Use a knife or offset spatula to spread the fudge frosting on the cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Let frosting set before serving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

World Peace Cookies


I'm not sure when I heard about these cookies for the first time, but they've been on my to-bake list for a while. It was the name that first caught my attention.

"What could possibly be in those cookies?" I wondered. "Good listening skills? Understanding? Courage? Not just mere tolerance of people and cultures different from our own, but arms and hearts that embrace and celebrate our many differences?"

That would be one complicated cookie.

As it turns out, these cookies are not complicated at all. They are simple (albeit unorthodox) sables--shortbread cookies with a chocoately, salty twist.


While the story behind their name comes from Dorie Greenspan's neighbor who was convinced that a daily dose of these cookies would ensure peace the world round, I think the name is appropriate based on flavor alone.

With a little sweetness and a little saltiness, these cookies remind us that peace is all about balance. It's about taking something someone says (and in this case, the cookies we eat), with a grain of salt. It's about standing up for what we believe in...in this case, chocolate. And it's a reminder that sometimes in order to achieve peace, we must have courage to take something we're comfortable with (shortbread cookies), and turn it on its head (Sea salt? In my cookies?!).


As I sit here in New York amid remembrances of 9/11, I'm not entirely convinced that a daily dose of these cookies would achieve world peace.

But they would be a start.

My thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones on 9/11. May your hearts find peace. To all our readers--may each of us find ways--cookie baking or otherwise--to be daily instruments of peace for our families, our communities, and our world.

Best,
Katie



World Peace Cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons total) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Prepping the dough:
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer. 

3. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours (I froze for 2 hours). (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.
Do ahead: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a couple minutes to the baking time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

Hey Readers! How are ya?

Are you holed up in your apartment waiting out Hurricane Irene, like I am? Are you using the hurricane as an excuse to watch old episodes of Mission Impossible, like I am? Are you also using it as an excuse to make Banana Bread Pudding, like I am?

No?

Oh. Why not?

Because you're at the beach today?


WHY?! ARE YOU CRAZY?! GO HOME! ON YOUR WAY, STOP AT THE SUPERMARKET AND WAIT IN LINE FOR AN INSANE AMOUNT OF TIME TO BUY WATER AND SOUP AND TOILET PAPER! WHILE WALKING HOME, CALL YOUR MOTHER TO ASSURE HER YOU ARE OKAY! AND CALL GRANDPA, TOO! WHEN YOU GET HOME, BOARD UP YOUR WINDOWS! FILL YOUR BATHTUB! LOCATE YOUR FLASHLIGHT! BE PREPARED, DEAR READERS!

What's that you say? You're not even on the east coast?

Oh.

Sorry. Please excuse my shouting. I fear that being holed up in my apartment has caused me to eat quite a bit of sugar recently.


The beach huh? That must be nice. I was at the beach once. Only seven days ago, in fact. And I brought these Lemon Cornmeal Cookies.

Reasons these cookies are great for the beach:

1) They're sturdy enough to withstand the schlep to the beach.

2) They do not melt in the sun.

3) The cornmeal gives them a sandy texture, which means you can eat 'em with sandy fingers and never know the difference.

4) They remind me of sand dollars.

5) And the sun.

6) And frisbees.

7) In fact, if you got desperate for beach sports equipment, you could probably use these as frisbees.

8) You could probably also use them to shield your eyes from the sun while you sunbathed. But then a seagull might swoop down to steal a cookie and poke your eyes out in the process...

...which would be worse: being on a beach during a hurricane, or getting your eyes poked out by seagulls?

What's that?


Oh. Yes. You're absolutely right. I should lay off the sugar before I go completely loopy.

Here's the bottom line: Stay safe during this hurricane, and if you're not on the east coast and are enjoying the beach, take these Lemon Cornmeal Cookies. But stay away from seagulls.

Best,
Katie




Lemon Cornmeal Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light, via Me, Myself & Pie
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment.


2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt, and ground ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.


3. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl occasionally. Add egg; beat well. Beat in lemon zest.


4. Add flour mixture in two batches, beating well until incorporated.


5. Use a cookie scoop or teaspoon to scoop 1 1/2 teaspoons of dough. Roll dough between palms to make a ball. Place dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. 


6. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned and almost firm, rotating pans halfway through. Cool cookies on pans for 2 minutes or until firm. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Note: I made these once on a very hot day and the cookies spread a lot more, so if it's very hot in your kitchen, you may want to consider chilling the dough first, and in between batches.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Butterscotch Pudding


I'm just gonna say it: I've had a tough week. So tough, in fact, that I've come down with spoon-food syndrome.

Spoon-food syndrome (SFS): The state of only wanting to eat comfort foods consumed with a spoon.

Things such as:

Cereal. Pudding. Soup. More pudding. More cereal. Spaghetti.

Wait. You don't eat spaghetti with a spoon?

Well I do, or at least I did this week. Even when the lady sitting across the lunch table looked at me funny over her super expensive sunglasses and schmancy mineral water. 

I don't care what you think, Manhattan Lady! I need my spoon this week, okay?!

Geez.

Point is, I've gone through a lot of spoons this week. And, up until I made this pudding, all those spoons were shoveling food into my mouth that I hadn't made myself. Because if I'm suffering from SFS, I'm definitely not up for making said SF myself.

But then something happened.

I ran out of spoons.

If I wanted more spoon food, I was going to have to wash the dishes.


I thought it over, and decided that washing the dishes was less overwhelming than switching to forks (the horror!), so I got out the Dawn and a sponge and went to work.

But then something else happened while I stood there scrubbing spoons. I decided that if was going to the trouble to wash all those spoons, I might as well also go to the trouble of making something truly deserving of a shiny spoon. Something better than stale cereal, tomato soup, or takeout pasta.


This butterscotch pudding is what I chose. I don't really know why I chose it, frankly. I don't like butterscotch much, never have. Maybe it was the simplicity that was appealing; I already had the ingredients on hand.

This is the first time I've made pudding from scratch, and honestly, I don't think I'll ever go back to the instant stuff again. If I, impaired by SFS as I was, can handle pudding from scratch, anyone can. I even found the constant whisking to be comforting. I began to see a day when I'd pick up a fork again.


There's something else healing about this recipe: because it makes more pudding than one person can eat - no matter how many spoons she washes - one has to seek out friends to share it with. And friends, dear readers, are the foolproof cure for SFS.

Happy whisking,
-Katie



Butterscotch Pudding
Adapted from David Liebovitz via JoytheBaker
Makes 4-6 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add dark brown sugar and salt, then stir until sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in eggs.

3. Gradually pour heavy cream and remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.

4. Return pan to medium low heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop, until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.

5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, blend in a food processor or blender (or just whisk the heck out of it).

6. Pour pudding into a bowl or 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and cover with plastic wrap, directly on top of pudding (unless you like pudding skin, in which case, plastic wrap doesn't need to touch top of pudding). Allow to cool and thicken in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zesty Lemon Ice Cream


It was time, ladies and gentlemen.
Time for some homemade, melt-y, refreshing, creamy goodness.

How had August arrived without Katie and I making ANY ice cream this summer?!

This wrong had to be righted. Pronto. Was there time to venture out of our air-conditioned apartment to the grocery store for ingredients? No sir! Could we afford to wait for a silly custard-based ice cream to cook and chill? Of course not!


David Lebovitz, ice cream extraordinaire, to the rescue! This recipe for zesty lemon ice cream uses ingredients we already had on hand and involves almost no waiting. (I say almost because all ice cream-making requires at least a little bit of waiting. I think it's the universe's way of keeping people like me from becoming ice cream-making maniacs.)

 

Churned from a custard-less base (just cream, no eggs), this treat is light, refreshing, and well, zesty! Just perfect for a lazy summer afternoon pick-me up.

If you prefer your treats more sweet than tart, do like Kate and me and add a bit of hot fudge. Divine.

It's August, ladies and gentlemen. We've made our ice cream, and eaten it, too. All is right in the K&B kitchen.

-Becky


Zesty Lemon Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop
Makes approximately 1 quart

2 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
2 cups half-and-half
Pinch of salt

  1. Zest the lemons directly into a food processor or blender. Make sure to zest only the very top (yellow) layer of the skin; the white underlayer is bitter.
  2. Add the sugar and blend until the lemon zest is fully incorporated and very fine.
  3. Add the lemon juice and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Blend in the half-and-half and salt and process until smooth.
  5. Chill mixture for one hour, then churn with an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Once churned, place in freezer until frozen (about 2 hours).