Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Locked and Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies

Like everyone else out there, I've been on the hunt for "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" since birth (or thereabouts). One cookie will have a trait I love, but lack something in a different department, and another cookie will have that very thing but lack some other crucial trait. What's a girl to do?

Frankenstein her own recipe, of course.

Naturally, there is no one universal "perfect cookie". Maybe you like yours thin and crisp, while your best friend likes hers fat and chewy. I like mine loaded with chocolate chips, while others are more conservative with the chips.

These cookies lean more toward the soft, chewy side, and certainly aren't shy with the chocolate. I also add what I consider to be the game-stopper: cinnamon. Just enough to give it a spicy mystery, but not so much that it screams "Hey, there's cinnamon here!". Because cookies can do that.

The Scone Gunman's Locked and Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 4 dozen)

1 c butter (softened)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
1 heaping tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 c (about 1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 (f). Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes with a hand mixer). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Sift in flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by the tablespoonful onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit on the sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Raspberry Crumb Cake

It's nearing grocery shopping time again, which means it's nearing time to clean out the fridge and freezer. I have a few too many packages of frozen fruit, so whatever I was going to make next would need to make good use of at least some of those.  Being particularly fond of raspberries, they were the obvious choice. And seeing as how I don't make cake nearly often enough, that was obvious choice the second.

And can I just say that this is, hands down, the best cake I've ever made? Of course I can, it's my blog.

It's absolutely brilliant topped with freshly-whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, although smart money has me shoveling this into my gob straight from the pan without ceremony.

Raspberry Crumb Cake
(Makes one 9" round cake adapted from lululu)

3 c flour plus 2 Tbsp for coating raspberries (if frozen)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c buttermilk*
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c unsalted butter (cold and cubed)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
2 c frozen raspberries (fresh can be used, but leave out the 2 Tbsp extra flour)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f) and grease a 9" round cake pan (I used a springform).

Mix together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla, then set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the first four ingredients for a few seconds until combined. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Remove one cup of this mixture and set aside for the topping.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Toss the raspberries in the 2 Tbsp flour and carefully fold into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Add the 2 Tbsp melted butter to the 1 cup of reserved flour mixture and stir with a fork until nice and crumbly. Sprinkle over the batter and then bake in the oven for 60-70 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (make sure you're not hitting a raspberry). Tent the pan if the top browns too fast.

Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

*As always, if you don't have buttermilk on hand (as I never do) you can make your own by pouring 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar (I much prefer lemon juice for this) in a 1 c measuring cup, and then fill it to the top with regular milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then use as you need it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chocolate-Glazed Baked Chocolate Doughnuts

I could tell you that I made baked doughnuts because they're easier, or healthier. But I would be a liar. The truth is that I'm am a terrible frier-of-things. Ok, so maybe fritters don't hate me, and my French fries came out pretty good, but my track record isn't even as good as 50/50, so when I even think of heating oil I get the cold sweats. And if I were really being truthful (hey, why not?), I'd tell you that my real problem is in not owning a thermometer, which invariably leaves me with smoking oil or oil that isn't hot enough.

You'd think I'd invest in a thermometer by now.

But back to the sweet at hand. Doughnuts! Baked doughnuts. Not as good as fried, I'll admit, but I wouldn't kick them out of bed for being crumby. And not just any baked doughnut, but chocolate doughnuts covered in a chocolate glaze.

And who could have a problem with that?

Baked Chocolate Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze
(Makes 18)

3 c all purpose flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 c buttermilk*
2 Tbsp milk
1 stick unsalted butter (melted)
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f). Sift together the first four ingredients. Add the eggs, buttermilk, milk, and butter. Stir well, but don't over-mix. Add the cocoa powder. Spoon batter into a lightly greased doughnut pan, filling them just barely halfway (they'll rise a decent amount). Cook for 11-13 minutes, until a fork inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove immediately to cool on a wire rack.

* If you don't have buttermilk on hand (and I never do), make your own by pouring 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup, and then filling to the top with milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then use as needed.

For the chocolate glaze:
3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (cubed)
2 Tbsp milk

Heat all of the ingredients in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Dip the tops of your doughnuts into the glaze and enjoy!

The Postman Only Rings Once

 A tiny adorable pink rolling pin and a Kaiser black steel springform pan? Yes, please.

My great-grandmother (we'll call her Granny Gunman) has lived most of her life in the kitchen. When I was growing up, I never ate macaroni and cheese from a box, or pre-made anything. If I wanted mac & cheese, she would break out the elbow macaroni and start grating cheese (of course, I couldn't appreciate that then. I wanted neon orange powdered cheese in a package!). She's the kind of person who will wake the rooster clanging pots and pans around in the kitchen, and she never visits anyone empty handed.

Cooking and baking is an integral part of who she is.

Sadly, several years ago she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Her vision got worse and worse until, now, she's nearly blind. This would hit anyone hard, but moreso Granny Gunman because she has always been a fiercely self-sufficient person. One of the harshest consequences of losing her vision was the increasing inability to cook.

Which brings me to today's post.

The mailman (that's not very PC, is it? Mail carrier? Postal technician? Screw it) brought me a couple large boxes today from Granny Gunman. And what was in them?

Doughnut pans, muffin top pans, muffin pan, springform pans, tart and tartlette pans, loaf pans, copper molds, rolling pins, bundt pans, cookie cutters, measuring cups and spoons, pastry wheels, turnover/empanada press, Pyrex loaf pan, square cake pan, huge loaf pan, cooling racks, and a lot more.

It's Granny Gunman's arsenal, and she passed it on to me.

To say that I was excited when I saw all the goods would be an understatement. A billion recipes I didn't have the equipment for flashed through my mind. Tartlettes? Baked doughnuts? A baked cheesecake?

Just you wait to see what I have in store for you. And I have Granny Gunman to thank for it all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In Bloom

After this morning's breakfast of perfectly amazingly splendiferous fluffy pancakes with strawberry-lime jam, me and my better half (no, not my left side, although it is awfully lovely today) decided to take our youngest son out and head down to the local nursery. Although I don't have much room (3 bedroom townhouse with just a teeny tiny spot calling itself a porch) I felt the need for more flora.

Earlier this week we bought a tomato plant, begonias, and a bitty cute one whose name I can't remember (situated right in front of the geraniums). This time I grabbed a jalapeno and bell pepper plant, verbena, geraniums, and coleus.

Ah, and this mind-blowingly gorgeous fuchsia...

And we'll be heading back to the nursery again soon, because they have some beautiful, large indoor tropical plants for a great price. Now, if I only had a backyard.

Perfect Fluffy Pancakes with Strawberry Lime Jam

It's pretty cocky to call something you made yourself "perfect", isn't it? Tough, because these are amazing. Just as I was thinking it, my husband commented that these were the best pancakes he had ever eaten. I really couldn't agree more.

And what could make these pancakes...perfecter...more perfect? Fresh jam! Did you see that one coming? I must admit that I have never made jam before. It's kind of embarrassing and ridiculous, given that I eat jam every single day and that (as I've already confessed in an earlier post) my pantry is chock full of store-bought jams. How could I possibly not make it? Truthfully, it seemed a little intimidating. I'll bake the hell out of something, but once I'm confronted by the dreaded stove top, I freeze up.

Me and my stove's top are not BFFs.

But then I happened across a post on dandysugar for strawberry-lime quick jam, immediately became irrationally driven, and promptly called my husband in order to change his shopping list to nix jam and add strawberries. 

I could not believe how easy it was. I couldn't believe I had put off for so long what would wind up being love at first bite. 

Perfect Fluffy Pancakes
(makes 8, adapted from this)

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
1 1/4 c milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp butter (melted)
Preheat a lightly greased pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, sift together the first four ingredients. Add the last three and mix by hand with a whisk or fork until smooth (if you over-mix, they will cease to be light and fluffy and perfect). Drop by 1/4 cups (I used an ice cream scoop) into the pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Strawberry-Lime Quick Jam 
(makes about 1 1/2 cups, adapted from dandysugar, adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 quart hulled strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
In a food processor, process strawberries until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large skillet and stir in sugar and lime juice. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until jam is thickened and bubbles completely cover surface, 9 to 10 minutes (mine actually took more like 20 minutes). Transfer jam to a jar and let cool to room temperature. (To store, seal jar and refrigerate, up to 5 days).

Now that you have pancakes and jam, break out the powdered sugar, butter, syrup, strawberries, or whatever you like on your pancakes, and maybe whip up some bacon to accompany.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches

You see those? They're better than they look. No, really. They're the sort of thing that you'd steal from the plate of your small child when she isn't looking.

Not that I did that.

Oats, chocolate, peanut butter. If there were a key lime pie shoved in there somewhere I'd be in heaven.

Chocolate-covered oatmeal peanut butter sandwich cookies
(makes about 2 dozen sandwiches, adapted from this)

1 1/2 c. AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c butter (2 sticks, softened)
1 c peanut butter (I used creamy, but crunchy would work)
1 c white sugar
1 c  brown sugar (light or dark, packed)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c  quick cooking oats

6 Tbsp butter (softened)
2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (crunchy here might affect the end result)
5 Tbsp heavy cream

12oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (typically one whole bag. I like Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips)
3 Tbsp shortening (like Crisco. I really hate using it, but it's important for the chocolate to set. Butter won't work, unfortunately).

Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (sifting insures they're fully mixed together). In a separate bowl cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each one thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat. Add the oats and mix thoroughly. Drop by the tablespoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten to about 1/4"with a spatula (make sure to flatten, otherwise they won't make very good sandwich bases).

Cook for about 10 minutes (they may not look done, but take them out). Let them sit on the sheet for about 5 minutes (they will finish cooking by sitting on the hot sheet) and then transfer them to a wire cooling rack (no cooling rack= soggy bottoms).

Make the filling: Beat all the ingredients together. That's all. Neat, right?

Make the chocolate:
Using a double boiler to melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring well. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Assembling your cookies:
Make sure your cookies are completely cooled, or your filing will just melt.

Use a tablespoon to put a glob of the filling in the center of a cookie (remember, the bottoms of the cookies should face the inside). Place a cookie on top and gently smoosh down. This will distribute the filling more evenly than spreading the filling will. You could also use a pastry bag.

Use a pastry bag (or a Ziploc with a small snip of corner cut off) to pipe the chocolate on top. Alternately, you could just dip one half of the cookie or the entire top in the chocolate.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strawberry Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

There's a lot of talk come Spring about what everyone loves this time of year, be it strawberries, or just lighter, fruitier fare in general (and I'm guilty of it). What's lost in the shuffle are those things that are perfectly fantastic any time of year. Like chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake, blueberry muffins.

Or shortbread.

Shortbread is brilliant because, if done right, it's rich and still has the ability to melt in your mouth. It's also incredibly versatile. Extracts can be added (orange and lemon are favorites of mine), as can cocoa powder to satisfy the chocolate lovers. Shortbread also makes the perfect vehicle for jam, in the form of thumbprint cookies.

At any given time my pantry is packed with a variety of jams and preserves that are waiting go be marched to their, glories, inside one baked good or another. I used three different flavors in this most recent batch: strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry. Any jam/preserve will work. In fact, I've got an imported quince jam that's practically begging for consumption.

Just you wait, quince.

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies
(makes 5 dozen cookies)

2 c unsalted butter (softened)
1 c confectioner's sugar
4 c flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Jam (or jams) of your choice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f).

Use your handheld mixer to cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add the vanilla extract and salt. Switch to a whisk, and slowly add the flour by hand (if you over-mix it, the shortbread will be tough).

Roll the dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your thumb (hence, the name) to make an impression in each ball. Spoon your jam into the wells, and then bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are just slightly golden and the jam bubbles.

Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to sit on the sheet for 3-5 minutes before removing them to cool on a wire rack.

Tip: don't eat these before they've cooled completely, or you'll burn the holy hell out of your mouth. I hear.

5 dozen cookies may sound like a lot, but these aren't big, and they're so light it feels like you haven't eaten anything. They go very quickly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Chimera

(me and this thing had words when it came time to plate)

AKA the Spinal Tap. Because it's cranked up to 11. Let's just jump right in with a layer-by-layer breakdown, starting form the ground up:

Layer 1: Chocolate chip cookie crust
Layer 2: Chocolate cheesecake
Layer 3: Chocolate ganache
Layer 4: Chocolate mousse

Garnished with chocolate shavings.

Truthfully, this thing is ridiculous. It's all of my favorite desserts crammed into one dish. It's too much chocolate. Who needs this much chocolate? I think I saw a tear in my husband's eye when he tasted this.

I'm not going to tell you that this is an easy or practical dessert (although the cheesecake layer is no bake). It's definitely a special occasion treat, and you're essentially making four different desserts. But if you pull it off, I swear people will build golden shrines in your honor.

The Chimera
(Serves a lot)

First, you're going to need a deep dish pie plate. This won't work in a wimpy everyday pie plate. It weighs as much as my firstborn as it is.

For the cookie crust:
3 c chocolate chip cookie crumbs (you can buy the cookies, but if you're going to do this, you might as well go all out and make some)
3 Tbsp butter (melted)

For the chocolate cheesecake:
2 1/2 packages of cream cheese (softened)
2/3 c sugar
1 c heavy whipping cream (whipped)
1 c cocoa powder

For the ganache:
2/3 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c heavy cream

For the mousse:
Slightly more than 2/3 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c water (divided)
3 eggs yolks
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 c heavy whipping cream (whipped

Make the cookie crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (f). Mix the cookie crumbs and melted butter well. Press into the bottom and sides of the pie plate and bake 5 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder until light and smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour over the cooled cookie crust and smooth it out (you want a level base for the next layer).

Make the ganache:
Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it boils, remove immediately and pour over chocolate chips. Stir until blended well and smooth. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then pour over cheesecake layer. At this point, you'll need to keep the pie/monstrosity in the fridge when it's not being assembled.

Make the mousse:
Heat the chocolate, butter, and 1/4 cup of water in a double boiler until everything is melted and smooth. allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes. While that's cooling, whisk egg yolks, 1/4 cup of water, and sugar briskly over low heat for about a minute and a half, until the mixture reaches about 165 degrees. Whisk it in to the chocolate mixture and set in the fridge to cool for about 10 minutes (you want ti to be roughly room temperature). Carefully fold in the whipped cream, then pour over the ganache layer of the dessert, smoothing it out.

You can reserve some of the mousse (as I did) to pipe some decorations around the edges. You can also dust the top with cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar, or shave chocolate on top. You can also top with fresh berries. There's a lot you can do with this.

Let it set in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

As large and absurd as this dessert is, it does not last long. Eat it while you can.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From One Batch of Dough: Sandwich Bread and Raspberry Cinnamon Rolls

As I was making my usual loaf of sandwich bread the other day, it occurred to me that the recipe I was using could be working a lot harder for me. I'm a devotee of Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible. Her White Mountain bread is my go-to loaf for delicious, everyday sandwich bread. It's a moist, springy loaf enriched with honey, butter, and milk.

And I believed it could damn well be a fantastic cinnamon roll dough.

The recipe makes two loaves, meaning that instead of having a loaf leftover a day or two later (which, while still terrific, will inevitably begin drying out and losing its glamour), I could be using that extra dough as dessert, cutting my day's efforts in half. Win.

I prepared everything as usual, keeping the ingredients the same as always, letting the dough go through its first rise. However, when it came time to cut the dough in twain, while dough #1 was prepared as usual and put in a loaf pan to rise, dough #2 was rolled out and dolled up as one typically dandies up a cinnamon roll.

I make my dough slightly different than the book calls for, so the recipe you're seeing is a slightly modified one.

White Sandwich Bread and Raspberry Cinnamon Rolls from One Batch of Dough
(Makes one loaf of bread and 12 cinnamon rolls)

For the doughs:
3/4 c warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp butter (melted)
1 c milk (warmed to about 110 degrees)
6-6/12 c all purpose flour* (divided)

For the cinnamon roll filling:
3/4 c packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 c butter (softened)
2 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

For the cinnamon roll icing:
1 (8oz) package of cream cheese (softened)
3/4 c raspberry preserves
1/3 c confectioner's sugar

I typically use bread flour for this dough, but either can be used so I opted for all purpose here as I feel it's the better flour for cinnamon rolls.

Make the master dough:
Put yeast and sugar in the warm water, swirl gently with your finger, and let proof for 10 minutes (it should get nice and foamy in that time). While that's proofing...

Mix together the honey, salt, butter, milk. Add 1 cup of the flout and mix until it's smooth and creamy. Add the yeast mixture and stir well.

Add the remaining flour until it's all incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (this takes me about 10-12 minutes, but I'm exceptionally weak of body. If you're anyone stronger than a 3 year-old girl, you'll probably only need 5-7 minutes).

Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray (canola has no flavor, which is what I use), place your dough in it, give the top of the dough a light spray, then loosely cover it with plastic wrap (you don't want air to get in and dry it out, but you also want air to be able to escape). Allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours (dough rises slower in cold temperatures).

Test your dough to see if it's ready: gently poke your finger into the dough. If the indentation stays put, it's ready. If it springs back quickly, it needs more time to rise.

Once your dough has risen, turn it out onto your work surface and cut it 60/40 (so one piece is slightly larger than the other). Put the smaller piece aside. We're going to work the loaf first.

Gently pat the dough out until it a rectangle roughly 16" by 6". Be very careful, you don't want to tear it or pop the air bubbles in it. You'll have a brick of bread otherwise. Bring both the left and right ends into the center (the long way), then roll it up tightly jelly roll style. Pinch the seam and ends together to close, then place the dough in a greased 9"x5" loaf pan. Again, loosely cover with plastic wrap.

Now we'll work the cinnamon rolls.

Take the half of the dough you set aside and roll it out to a roughly 16" by 10" rectangle. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together well. Coat the dough with the softened butter, leaving an inch along one long side clean (to seal), and then sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture on top. Roll it up jelly roll style, cut it in half, then cut each half in half, and then each piece in thirds (you can make fewer cuts to get bigger rolls). Make sure you use a sharp serrated knife, as you don't want to have to use a lot of pressure, which will make the filling ooze out. Put the rolls in a lightly greased 9" square or round baking dish and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Wait 20-30 minutes, then preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Let both the bread loaf and the rolls sit until almost doubled. Put the loaf and the rolls in the oven.

The rolls will cook 15-25 minutes, until golden brown.
The bread will cook for 45 minutes.

Tip: If the crust of your loaf or rolls starts getting too brown and it's not yet close to being done, tent it with foil (loosely place a sheet of foil over the top).

Tip: If you experience an issue with the filling oozing out of your rolls, when they're finished cooking allow them to cool for 5 minutes, then flip the pan over onto a piece of foil laid on your counter or table. The filling with drip back into them.

Take the rolls out and set them (pan and all) on a wire cooling rack (so the air can circulate all around it, otherwise the bottom will stay very hot, possibly causing them to overcook). When the bread is done, turn it out of the loaf pan and lay it on it's side on a wire cooling rack right away. Resist the urge to cut into the loaf until it's completely cooled (cutting into it before then can toughen the crumb).

While the rolls are cooling, make the icing: Beat together all of the ingredients, then slather over the rolls while they're still warm, but not hot.

Serve the rolls warm, and if they last keep them in the fridge and reheat in a warm oven as needed.

Store the bread in either a cloth or plastic bread bag. It will keep for 3-7 days, depending on the humidity level of your home. You can also freeze the cooked loaves.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Raspberry Lemonade Scones

 I make a lot of desserts. Typically, I make something every day. However, I only eat about half of those because I'm a bit picky. I'm honestly only a half-assed chocolate lover, but the rest of my family (like everyone else in the world) adores chocolate. So I make a lot of chocolate desserts. And as much as I love the heavy, spicy desserts that Fall and Winter bring, the light and fruity treats that are abundant this time of year are my personal favorite. What could be better than a cold glass of raspberry lemonade when the weather turns hot?

You knew the answer would be raspberry lemonade scones, didn't you? You're sharp.

These took all of 10 minutes to put together. I made them in between making my breakfast and kneading today's bread. These are sweet and tangy and full of scone-y deliciousness. There's lemon juice and whole raspberries in the scone, which are then topped off with a tart lemon glaze. I use unsalted butter here to give them a slightly lighter, softer crumb, and use just a small amount of lemon extract for a bit of edge. I really want the flavors here to come from the fresh ingredients.

Raspberry Lemonade Drop Scones
(Makes 12 scones)

1 c sour cream or plain yogurt, minus 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 c all purpose flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 c unsalted butter (chilled and cubed)
1 egg
 1 1/2 c raspberries (if using frozen don't thaw first)

3/4 c confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl mix the sour cream (or yogurt, whichever you're using) with the baking soda and set aside. Make sure you do this first so the baking soda has time to act on the sour cream/yogurt (it will change the consistency, making it fluffier). Next, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the chilled butter, then add the sour cream mixture, egg, lemon juice and lemon extract. Mix until just combined. Finally, fold in the raspberries (take the dough out of your food processor first if you're using one).

Use an ice cream scoop (or a 1/4 c measuring cup) to drop the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. When they're done, transfer them to a wire cooling rack.

To make the glaze: combine the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice over medium-low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool and thicken slightly before drizzling or brushing over cooled scones.

What The Hell-o Kitty?

Finished this Hello Kitty embroidery for my daughter last night. It was super quick, but I ran into more than one problem while doing it. The fabric was just too thin and had a bit too much give for as many strands as I was working with (all 6).

Nonetheless my daughter loves it, which is what counts.

I admit to getting lazy and copping out on the eyes. Instead of doing satin stitch on them, as I had originally planned, I used some buttons. Unfortunately, the buttons you see are the smallest I had, making poor HK a bit demented looking.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookies

Don't mind if I do.

Earlier this morning I was working on my latest recipe (which I'm hoping is going to rock harder than Hendrix), one that has a ganache layer (yes, layers.Mmm...). I had some leftover ganache, and I just happened to notice that I had some chocolate chip cookies leftover from the day before yesterday.

A light bulb went off. A big, wide-assed light bulb. I had to combine their powers. Wonder Twin powers, activate!

Thus, these chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies were born into my loving arms. I promptly ate them.

I have about a million and one chocolate chip cookie recipes. It's one of those things that, I swear, there is no one holy grail recipe for. One day I want a fat, chewy cookie, and the next I was something wafer-thin and crisp. My most recent favorite recipe for these is Melanie's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies, which you can find at The Sisters Cafe blog.

But there really is no wrong cookie for a chocolate bath. You can use whatever recipe tickles your biscuit. However, I am particular about my ganache, so I'm including my recipe, which I've tweaked to my pleasure over time.

Fantastico Chocolate Ganache
(coats a hell of a lot of cookies)

Slightly more than 3/4 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli for this)
1 c heavy cream
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt (table salt will be too salty)

Make it: Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just boils (if you let it keep boiling and it will boil over quickly. Don't leave it). Immediately pour it over the chocolate chips in the bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Let it cool for a bit, until it's just somewhat warmer than room temperature.

Now you're free to drown your cookies, which haven't done anything to you, you cruel bastard. You can pop the cookies into the freezer for 10-15 minutes so they'll set up quickly. I like to keep mine in the fridge after this to keep the ganache nice and firm.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Curried Devild Eggs with Parmesan Frico

I love eggs. Honest to Cthulhu, I love eggs. I am the Bubba Gump of eggs. I love scrambled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs, eggs get the picture.

But I especially love deviled eggs.

Not only are they delicious, not only are they fantastically customizable, they are also criminally easy. Nonetheless, many people have run afoul (ha, fowl) of these appetizing concoctions. They get hard, rubbery whites. Grey or green sulfur-stenched yolks. All too common problems that are easily avoided by not doing the one thing that is the ruin of all hard-boiled eggs: over cooking.

The recipe below includes the fool-proof method of egg boiling known by all egg-boiling champs. The frico is optional, or you could opt to use a different cheese. I just have an unhealthy obsession with fresh parmesan.

Curried Deviled Eggs with Frico
(makes 12 deviled egg halves)

For the eggs:
6 eggs
1/2 c mayo (not Miracle Whip or "salad dressing")
4 Tbsp dijon mustard
4 Tbsp chopped dill pickles
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp red curry powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
6 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (for the frico)

Make the eggs: Put eggs in a medium sized saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to a boil on the stove and then remove from the heat immediately. Cover the pot and let the eggs sit for 12-15 minutes. Cool and peel. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Seth those aside.

Make the filling: Combine the mayo, mustard, pickles, onion and garlic powder, paprika, curry powder, black pepper, parmesan cheese, and eggs yolks in a bowl and mix very well. Spoon this mixture into your waiting egg vessels.

Make the frico: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment lined baking sheet drop the parmesan cheese by the tablespoonful, making sure each one is spread nice and thin (otherwise it won't get crisp). Cook for 3-5 minutes, but watch it carefully! Frico goes from perfect to burned in the blink of an eye.

Remove the frico from the sheet while still on the parchment, but be very careful that it doesn't break. Cool on a wire rack (still on the parchment). Once they're cool, remove them from the parchment and cut each round in half. Place a half on each deviled egg.

At this point, you could share them, or maybe serve them to guests. I prefer to eat them all myself while huddled in the corner of my kitchen. But whatever works for you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Viennese Strawberry Cake and Freshly Whipped Cream

Last week my grocer started carrying some of the best looking strawberries I've seen in a while (ok, it's been a while since I've seen fresh strawberries). I love strawberries and eagerly await that time of year when they're fresh and abundant. So when I saw them in the store, I knew I had to make something with them. A lot of something's with them.

I saw a recipe for Viennese plum cake in Taste of Home's comfort food issue and knew right away I wanted to make it, but decided I would use strawberries instead.

It is so good, the sweet embodiment of the coming of Summer. Yes, it's that good.

You could use frozen strawberries for this, but I think the better option would be to simply substitute a fresh seasonal fruit. This cake will work with just about anything, and is really so simple to make. I topped mine with some freshly whipped cream (recipe included) and sliced strawberries.

Viennese Strawberry Cake
(Adapted from Taste of Home's Viennese Plum Cake)
(Serves 8)

For the Cake:
1/2 c butter (softened)
1/2 c plus 2 Tbsp sugar (divided)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt (table salt will be too salty, so if you use it only use 1/4 tsp)
3 c sliced fresh strawberries
1 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c very cold butter (cubed)

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy whipping cream
Scant 1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Prep: let the eggs sit at room temperature for about a half an hour before you begin. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9"x9" baking dish (glass works best here, if you've got it)

Make the cake:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then sift once more. In another bowl, cream the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat until light and fluffy 4-5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Pour into the baking dish. Top with the sliced strawberries, then sprinkle the 2 Tbsp of sugar and the cinnamon over the top.

Make the topping.
Sift together the flour and the sugar, then cut in the very cold butter until it looks like coarse crumbs (it doesn't have to look very pretty or completely uniform).

Sprinkle over the top of the unbaked cake, then put it in the oven to cook for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown (as with anything else, if your top is getting too brown before your cake is finished, loosely cover the dish with a piece of foil).

Once finished, transfer your cake (in the dish, don't try to take it out) to a wire cooling rack.

Make the whipped cream:
With the whisk attachment on a hand or stand mixer (or just a regular whisk powered by you), whip the cream until nearly stiff. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue whisking until stiff.

Put it all together: Slice off squares of your cake and top with the whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Watch how fast it goes and wish you'd made more.

Baking Isn't For...NSFW Cross Stitch

It's a truth spelled out in lovingly stitched "X"s, and evidenced by the burn scars peppering my prematurely gnarled hands (it's true, the hands in my pics are not the hands of Baba Yaga herownself). And it's just as much an encouragement to my culinary-minded son (12 year old boys love this kind of stuff, obviously) as it is a reminder to me to run my hands under some cold water and soldier on.

Baking thug life!

Cream-Filled Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? It is pretty good. However, I spent quite a bit of time trying to perfect this recipe, getting my ratios and flavors where I thought I wanted them. And even though they are quite good (all 2 dozen were gone in a little over a day), the taste wasn't on par with the level of elevation achieved in my own mind.

Until the second day.

You see, like so many baked goods, the flavors didn't really develop until they had a chance to sit back, relax, and do their flavor-y thing. Where on baking day the cherry flavor was almost indistinguishable, day 2 brought just the right amount of cherry to the shindig. The cake was moister. The cream filling had really set up shop.

Day 2 is where these cupcakes are at.

Cream-Filled Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
(Makes 2 dozen)

For the cake:
 2 cups sugar
 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
 3/4 cup  Cocoa powder
 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
 1 teaspoon salt
 2 eggs
 1 cup milk
 1/2 cup vegetable oil
 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 jar maraschino cherries
1/4 c boiling water

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your cupcake tins with cupcake/muffin liners (alternately, you could grease and flour the tins).

First, drain the juice from the jar of cherries, but reserve 3/4 c of it. Finely chop the cherries in a food processor or blender. Set the cherries and juice aside (separately).

Sift all of the dry ingredients together, and mix well. Add all of the wet ingredients (including the mashed cherries), minus the reserved cherry juice, and beat well. Add the boiling and cherry juice, mixing well.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (26 minutes is the exact right time for my oven. Yes, I've made these once or twice). Transfer them to wire cooling racks.

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the filling: Cream butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy (this is important). Gradually add the milk and vanilla.

For the frosting:
1 cup Milk
1/2-1 c cocoa powder (depending on how rich you want it. Just keep in mind that it's going on a cupcake that's already pretty decadent. Too much cocoa could be overkill)
5 Tablespoons Flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Butter (softened)
1 cup white sugar

Whisk milk and flour over med-medium/high heat in a small saucepan and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature (I put it in the freezer and stir periodically, so it typically cools in 5 minutes). Once cooled, stir in the vanilla.

Next, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy (3-5 minutes with a hand mixer on medium).  Add the cocoa powder, then the milk/flour mixture and beat until smooth and creamy.

Put it all together: Make sure your cupcakes are cool, otherwise your filling and frosting will just melt.

Now, there's a couple different ways to go about filing the cupcakes. Use whatever method works for you.

Method 1 (The Pastry Bag Poke): Fill a pastry bag with the filling and poke the tip through the bottom or top of the cupcake. Squeeze some filling in. The frosting will hide the hole you created if you poked it through the top.

Method 2 (the Scoop and Shovel): Use a knife (or even a small melon baller) to scoop out a chunk from the center of the muffin (going through the top, not the bottom). Save the cake plug. Use a spoon to shovel in some filling (or use a pastry bag), then replace the plug. The frosting will hide it.

Now that your cupcakes are filled, it's time to frost them. You can do this however you want, but I really prefer piping the frosting on with a pastry bag, because it's easier, quicker, less messy, and looks great. Pastry bags aren't expensive, and have a ton of uses in the kitchen (like making some super simple chocolate eclairs).

Next step: Enjoy, take pictures, and impress your friends with your crazy cupcake prowess.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake

So I'm a bit of a liar. This isn't exactly, completely no-bake. The crust is baked for 6 minutes. However, you could skip baking it if you want. I bake it only because I like a bit of crunch to it to contrast the creaminess of everything else, and because it holds up a little better (meaning it doesn't crumble away the second you stick a fork in it).

This takes about 30 minutes to make, but looks like it took a lot longer. I love that .

So some of you may be wondering why I put juice into the crust. It's because adding more than 1/2 c of juice to the filling throws off the ratio, making it too runny. However, you really want that extra juice for flavor (a good key lime pie is a tangy one). So I decided I'd compensate what I had to leave out of the filling by adding it to the crust. That in turn meant I had to use less butter than I normally would have (6 Tbsp). In the end, it all worked out perfectly.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I imagine I'll be making this a lot more.

No-Bake Key Lime Cheesecake
(Makes 1 9" cheesecake)

For the crust:
1 c finely ground graham crackers (about 1 package. A food processor makes this simple)
4 Tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)
2 Tbsp key lime or lime juice

For the filling:
12oz cream cheese (about a package and a half, softened)
1/2 c key lime or lime juice
1/2 c heavy whipping cream (whipped)
1/3 c white sugar (I actually used slightly less, so as not to negate the tanginess of the lime)
Lime wedges (optional, for garnish)

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy whipping cream
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Make the crust: Preheat your oven to 350. Mix the graham crumbs and sugar, then slowly add the butter and juice (again, a food processor is great for this, but a whisk works just as well). Dump the mix into the middle of a standard pie plate (or pie tin, just not deep dish, unless you change the ingredient amounts accordingly). Make sure to get the crust as far up the sides as you can. Bakes for 6 minutes. Cool completely.

Make the filling: First, whip the cream (put the cream into a smaller mixing bowl and beat it on medium speed until it's stiff. Be careful not to over-beat, or it will break down). Set the bowl aside. In a larger mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, sugar, and lime juice until smooth and creamy. Carefully fold in the whipped cream.

Make the whipped cream topping: Beat the cream on medium until it's almost stiff. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue until stiff.

Put it all together:  Spoon the filling into the cooled pie crust and spread it out evenly. Use a pastry bag (or a Ziploc with a small snip of corner cut off) to pipe whipped cream on in the design of your choice. Put the pie in the freezer for 30 minutes (to do a quick-set), then cover with foil or a pie lid and put it in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Garnish with the lime wedges if you want (just do it after the freezer stage).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Airy Chocolate Mousse Pie

Alright, so the word "airy" is in the title. However, you should not take this to mean that this little charmer of a dessert is easy on the thighs. I can attest that it is not.

It's airy because most of the components are whipped into a delicate, delicious frenzy. I love that this looks like you labored over it most of the day, infusing every morsel with love. When in fact you threw it together quickly because, well, it's damn good.

The filling here is a rich chocolate mousse over a chocolate chip cookie crust, topped with freshly-whipped cream. Sounds like a pain, right?

Well, it's not, but you don't have to tell anyone else that.

For the crust, I used chocolate chip cookies I had made the previous day (yes, I actually have cookie leftovers because I make several dozen at a time). You could use store-bought cookies, or even substitute a graham cracker crust.

Airy Deep-Dish Chocolate Mousse Pie
(8-10 servings)

For the crust:
12 chocolate chip cookies
4 Tbsp butter (melted)

Use a food processor to turn your cookies into coarse crumbs (you could do fine crumbs, but I like to keep them coarse for the texture). Slowly add the melted butter until it's fully incorporated. Press this mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a deep-dish pie plate.

For the mousse:
3/4 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp butter  (not margarine)
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

In a small bowl, whip the cream and set aside.

Heat the chocolate, butter, and half of the water in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.

While it's cooling, whisk the egg yolks, the other half of the water, and the sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, until it reaches 165 degrees. Take off of the heat and whisk in the chocolate mixture.

Allow it to cool to room temperature and then fold in the whipped cream with a large rubber spatula.

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy whipping cream
Scant 1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using a whisk, or the whisk attachment on an electric mixer, whip the cream until it's nearly stiff. Add the sugar and vanilla and then continue whipping until stiff.

Put it all together:
Spread the mousse over the pie crust and top with whipped cream.

Finishing touches (optional): sift cocoa powder over the top (which I did), add chocolate shavings, and ring with fresh berries. Actually, there's a ton of options here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Knitting- Diagonal Eyelet Fingerless Glove Love

 Yeah, rockin' a Fullmetal Alchemist shirt

So, I found this awesome pattern on CreativeYarn and knew right away that I had to make them. And make them I did. And they were beautiful. The color, the design. Love, I tell you.

Except that they're too big for my hands (they're pinned in the picture so you can see their full magnificence, but they're not fully magnificent because they're too big).

This is where crushing disappointment would normally come in. Except that these knit up so darned fast (2-3 hours, I suppose) that I know whipping up another pair will be a breeze. I'll use smaller needles this time (the pattern calls for 6, I'll use 4s) so that I don't have to attempt to alter the pattern, which I'm not nearly adept enough to pull off anyhow.

For the time being, however, my crafting dance card is completely filled by the things I'm making my mother for Mother's Day. Which is the Lion Brand Rib Sampler Scarf (free and awesome!) and a cross-stitched version of the Twilight book cover (yeah, totally original, I know).

Hopefully I'll get some progress shots of those soon. Eh, it's more likely you'll see it when they're done.


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