Posts tagged baking
Thursday, December 16, 2010

lemon butter cookies

lemon butter cookies

Alas, we have arrived to the season of the cookie, perhaps the most inspired of all seasons because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good cookie? It’s cold outside (and if you’ve been living on the East Coast, ooooh-weee did it get cold, or did it get cold?), you’ve got a cup of tea by your side, and you can’t be expected to have your tea solo, now can you? No, your tea deserves a companion, a partner in crime (if eating cookies is indeed a crime), and nothing accompanies a hot tea better than a simple, humble butter cookie. Also, few things make a better homemade gift around this time of year. Certainly, from the looks of it the butter cookie might come across as too unambitious a player in the Christmas cookie assortment, but it is precisely because it’s so unassuming and straight-forward, that it is the most versatile. Add a bit of lemon zest to it, and I’m a goner.

zesty bright yellow yolks

I should probably confess first that the butter cookie, the sablé, is my favorite type of cookie in the world. Throw a macaron in my direction and I’ll gladly, and gratefully, eat it. But give me a butter cookie, a tender, melt-in-your-mouth rich morsel of the perfect marriage of butter, sugar, and eggs, and I will be yours forever. It’s that easy. And no, while Andrew didn’t woo me with sablés, he sure appreciates a good cookie when he sees one. And this cookie that I got for you today is that cookie. It is perfection embodied and it comes in such a delightfully small size, that you could have a couple and not feel like you’ve just made a mess of things. One bite and the cookie melts in your mouth.

Continue reading lemon butter cookies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

concord grape muffins

concord grape rosemary muffins

Before I officially kick off some seasonal cookie recipes in the next few days, I want to share these muffins with you. You probably have already figured out from the title – Concord grapes are long gone and won’t be back until next fall. I’m sorry, it’s not fair for me to tease you like this, but I can’t allow this recipe to languish in the dark corners of my computer for nearly a year. I want you to tuck this recipe away somewhere, where you can easily find it. Also, I want you to mark your calendars for mid-September of next year. Pick a day and over it write “Concord Grape Muffins”. You won’t forget to make them, and trust me, you’ll thank me for the reminder.

last of season concord grapes

Concord grapes and I go way back. As in “back in Russia” way back where we called them Isabella grapes, purchased them for eating (as opposed to juicing), and ate them spitting out the pits (it’s not pretty, trust me). I hadn’t tasted a single seedless grape until I arrived to America. Grapes without pits – now that’s the ticket! Those grapes were yet another thing to make me tumble into love with my new homeland even more. Already, it offered some irresistible things in the way of food: pizza, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, Thanksgiving, peanut butter and chocolate together. But nothing – and I mean nothing – tastes like a Concord grape, unless you want to throw grape juice into the mix. And while I suspect, not many crave a tart grape with gelatinous flesh, I continue to pop them like candy, so much so that while I bought a few bunches intending to make this, I remembered my original intention only after I’d eaten the last grape of the bunch.

Continue reading concord grape muffins.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

sourdough, pear and chestnut stuffing

sourdough, pear, and chestnut stuffing

I got so excited to make this stuffing, I forgot to take pictures. I mean, I took two here for you, but by the time this stuffing was ready and coming out of the oven, I was so excited to just eat it, I was all, camera what? And that’s how you, my darlings, got the shaft. Two measly pictures that are mediocre at best. This is what I’ve got for you. Sometimes I’m a selfish lady who thinks only of herself. And you know what’s even worse? This is the fourth year in a row that I made it and forgotten to take pictures. Oh Thanksgiving, you are such a distraction!

Stuffing is near and dear to my heart. I didn’t grow up with it, but perhaps it is precisely because I had a stuffing-less childhood that I am particularly attached to it. I get really upset when someone tells me they don’t like stuffing. I take it personally and feel a challenge coming on – the kind when I hear someone denouncing Brussels sprouts, except I’m pretty sure that more people will say they like stuffing than Brussels sprouts. And I’ve all but made it my personal duty in the cold fall and winter months to spread the Brussels sprouts love around. I’ve made a few converts so far.

Continue reading sourdough, pear and chestnut stuffing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

apple upside-down cornmeal cakes

apple upside-down cornmeal cakes

Thanksgiving is two weeks away and I am all aflutter. My favorite holiday, my favorite time of year, my favorite foods. This year, for the first time in eight years, I’m hanging up my hosting hat and donning on a supporting one. It’s not easy – I’m so entrenched in Thanksgiving that to think I’ll only be cooking two dishes instead of a dozen is an adjustment. But it’s a good adjustment – this Thanksgiving is as cozy and comforting as it gets. This year we’re in Vermont, Andrew and I, celebrating with his family in a small, quiet, New England town. There will be fleece trousers, flannel pajamas, and, I hope, endless amounts of hot mulled cider. There will be naps. There will be a thousand piece puzzle. There will be bananagrams, I am told, longish trail runs, Andrew’s mother’s amazing sour cream cake, and book started and finished. I am bringing my camera and my only regret is that I don’t yet own a wide angle lens. I might even shoot some film too.

honeycrisps

It is because of Robert Frost that I will forever link together Vermont and apple-picking. His New England is the New England I ache for, the New England that has a firm, tight grip on my heart and has made me a New Englander forever. It is home, simple and true. It is at once rustic and elegant, austere and welcoming. It is home to messy apple cobblers, autumn apple pie, creamy clam chowder, and the best lobster in the country. New England was made for a holiday like Thanksgiving – or maybe it’s my foolish heart, heavy with love for the region.

Continue reading apple upside-down cornmeal cakes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

brown butter maple pumpkin bread

brown butter pumpkin bread

I am in dire need of a weekend morning butler. Specifically for the duties of coffee and coffee cake. It would greatly improve my mornings. Andrew, I hope you’re reading this, in case, um, you need Hannukah gift ideas, a morning butler would be amazing!

A typical weekend morning in our household goes a little like this. Around seven o’clock, my body decides that it no longer wants to be asleep. Nevermind that I very much want to be asleep and my brain is quite content being in close contact with a pillow. But my body, well, it has other plans. My body decides that it wants to be up and about, getting ahead with the day, going to the farmer’s market, picking up groceries, figuring out the Sunday supper menu.

pumpkin puree

But what my body doesn’t realize fully is that until it ingests about 2 cups of coffee, it, along with my brain, is amazingly, utterly useless. The tricky part is actually making coffee before you’ve fully woken up. This rather simple task of measuring out water, coffee, pouring the water into the machine, and pressing the “brew” button – is challenging for my uncaffeinated brain. I should do like Andrew does and just force myself to sleep a little longer, but I just wind up tossing and turning. And so I get up early and run errands before Andrew wakes up.

Continue reading brown butter maple pumpkin bread.

Monday, September 20, 2010

project wedding cupcakes – one-bowl chocolate cupcakes

dark (and brooding)

Let me not beat around the bush and just be out with it – I’m making a hundred cupcakes for a friend’s wedding. One. Hundred. Cupcakes. Deep breaths. I’m clearly trying to challenge the notion that only home-scale baking can come out of a home-scale kitchen. We’ll just see about that. Deb has already successfully tackled a wedding cake, and she’s proof that you can create a large-scale, beautiful cake in a tiny New York kitchen. This is a test of will, patience, and excellent math skills. We’ll see how well I can multiply.

i keep my eggs in a bowl now

In case any of you are wondering how I managed to get involved in this project (because a demanding job in finance and maintaining this blog clearly aren’t keeping me busy enough), let me give you a brief history. Tight budgets are something that are familiar to most of us, especially, those of us living in New York, and particularly in light of the recession. Never mind that the second you mention the word “wedding” to anyone providing a service, they automatically charge you at least twice the regular amount. Want to get a hundred cupcakes from a bakery? That amount alone will probably spike up the price as you’re putting an additional constraint on a bakery that operates to capacity in what is most likely to be a tiny kitchen. Flower arrangements are pricey enough, but wedding flower arrangements are in a pricing category of their own. It’s hardly fair, I think, given how expensive weddings can run. In short, when I found out that my friend India was looking to do a wedding on a shoestring budget, I decided to make these cupcakes for her as a gift.

whisk the dry ingredients...

The advantage of cupcakes over cake is that because there is no cake to cut, guests (that means you, potentially) get their dessert faster. And given my views on dessert, I’m always in favor of eating cake sooner, always looking forward to the cake portion of the meal, in hopes that it will blow me away, and make me believe that really great tasting wedding cake is out there, somewhere. But so far, nothing has stood out, and perhaps that is because most weddings cakes are draped in loathsome fondant (seriously, am I alone in hating the stuff?), offering little besides cloying sweetness. Cupcake, on the other hand, don’t have any fondant (imagine having to drape a teeny cupcake in it) – and thus automatically, the problem falls away.

So, in the next few weeks, you’ll see the project unfold before your eyes. I’ll tell you of my butter-cream woes, and how I learned to “tame the beast”. If nothing else, at the end of this, I will emerge a better baker, and India will get her hundred cupcakes. Hopefully, they’ll be pretty, though my last buttercream adventure has left me nervous freaking out. Practice should, in theory, make perfect.

one. bowl. no. gimmick.

I had to, first, decide on what kind of cupcakes I was going to make – that was the easy part. Almost immediately I decided upon dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting. I ran the idea past India and she loved it. The next step was to decide which chocolate cupcake recipe was goingt o win out in the end? I started to look for recipes for testing, making calculations of what ingredients I might need to have enough for recipe testing.

And just as I was ready to start playing around with recipes, I received a tweet from a lovely friend who generously offered to send me some Scharffenberger chocolate so I could test my chocolate cupcakes to my heart’s delight. An amazing coincidence, as I was going to be using Scharffenberger anyway!! Every week, I buy a few dark chocolate Scharffenberger bars at Whole Foods, and Andrew and I devour them. We’re nothing if not fiercely loyal to the brand. I love eating it and cooking with it. And I certainly didn’t expect to get a windfall of the very product on which I’m very happy to spend my own money. A few days later fifteen (fifteen, people!) pounds of chocolate showed up at my apartment. I expected a few chocolate bars, maybe a can of cocoa, but fifteen pounds!!

chocolate one-bowl cupcakes - wedding

I tested a few batches, from various recipes, adding and subtracting some ingredients, and finally settled on Martha Stewart’s “one bowl” recipe, which I have to say, is downright perfect. Martha really got this recipe down. Outside of scaling down a bit of sugar, you should change nothing here. And it’s got some serious dark-chocolate taste. Oh and the one-bowl part? One bowl cake recipes are New York apartment bakers’ wet dream. Don’t own a mixer? It’s okay – the one bowl cupcakes are mixed by hand with a spatula! Don’t have any counter space? No problem – you just sequentially add ingredients one by one into a, you guessed it, one, single bowl. Can I get an amen?

salted caramel buttercream experiment

And really, the one-bowl thing left with only fewer dishes to wash, for which I am endlessly grateful. If that’s not a thing of beauty, I don’t know what is. And the best part – when the time comes to make nine batches of these babies, I’ll be grateful I have fewer dishes to wash.

Stay tuned for adventures in frosting mishaps. And if any of you have any practical frosting advice to give, please do! I’ll share whatever I learn from my mistakes, but if you have any pointers, I’m all ears!

cooling

Oh, and I’m sorry for making you look at washed out, crappy pictures! The original ones have vanished, somehow, and all I got stuck with were rejects! To make matters worse, Picnik totally broke this morning, and I couldn’t even edit the baddies. Forgive me, it won’t happen again.

Continue reading project wedding cupcakes – one-bowl chocolate cupcakes.