Monday, December 28, 2009

a VERY white christmas


Since I've been home I have not done any baking. Well, I take that back. I actually made one batch of molasses-ginger cookies, but those are about the easiest thing in the world to make and took a total of 20 minutes (including baking time). Other than that, I have pretty much sat in front of my computer or in my bed the whole time, wishing I was in Florida or some other equally warm climate. If you don't keep up with the news (like myself) it snowed here on Christmas. Rather, it blizzarded here for THREE DAYS STRAIGHT. Beginning Christmas Eve we were stuck in our house and we weren't able to get out again until December 27 because the snow as too deep. Let me tell you, that is one fine way to spend four days (please note the depths of sarcasm in that sentence). You might say, Elizabeth, why didn't you bake all kinds of things since you were stuck in the house? And I would tell you that after a while being stuck in the house makes you just lose your resolve to do anything! Have no fear, this week I will at least be baking a cake because we will be celebrating my mother's birthday (it was on December 15 and I wasn't here to celebrate). This is a good thing, because there has been a noticeable absence of cake in my life since i returned home.

Instead of baking, I have watched a lot of television on the internet, worked a bit on my thesis, and read a ton of NY Times online, making up for my lack of news-reading during the semester. Today we are leaving the house and going to have Christmas (three days late) with my grandmother. so I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Here is something else happy in my world...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chocolate Babka



Now that I have my fancy, schmancy new mixer I've been able to try recipes that really require a heavy duty stand mixer for success. A few months ago I encountered a recipe for chocolate babka, but a)its relatively time consuming and b) it needs a stand mixer (at least, in order to be made in any semblance of a realistic time-frame). So, I bookmarked it and figured I'd try it someday or when I was at my mom's house.

I finally decided to break out the recipe this past Thursday because I wanted to give my professors a holiday gift to thank them for the semester. The recipe makes three large loaves, but I decided to make two large and three small (in order to give the small ones away as gifts). Let me just begin with a small disclaimer: DO NOT read the recipe if you have a fear of butter, chocolate, butter + chocolate or calories. It could ruin babka for you forever. If you feel you can continue, then the recipe is listed below.

Chocolate Babka
from smittenkitchen.com

1 1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
2 (1/4 ounce each) packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups plus a pinch of sugar
3 whole large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
2 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Streusel topping (below)

- Pour warm milk into a small bowl and pour yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
-In a bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
-Combine flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer (using the paddle attachment).
-Add the egg mixture and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated.
-Change to the dough hook and add two sticks of butter. Beat (with the dough hook) until the flour and butter mix is a smooth dough, about ten minutes.
-Put dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times. Butter a large bowl and put the dough in it, covered by plastic wrap. Set aside until doubled (about an hour).
-Put chopped chocolate, remaining cup of sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir. Use a pastry cutter to cut the remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter into the chocolate mix.
-Butter three large loaf pans (or two large, three small) and line with parchment paper.
-Beat remaining egg with cream and set aside.
-Punch back the dough and put on clean surface to rest for five minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces, keeping two covered with plastic wrap while you work with one.
-On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 16-inch square (or so...) until its about 1/8 inch thick.
-brush the edges with egg wash and crumble 1/3 of the chocolate filling on the dough. Roll it up tightly and pinch the edges to seal.
-Twist 5 or 6 turns and brush the top of the roll with egg wash. Crumble some of the chocolate filling on top of the left half of the roll and fold the right half on top. pinch together the edges and twist two more times.
-Put it into the prepared pan and repeat with the remaining dough.
-Brush the loaves with the egg wash and crumble the streusel topping on top. Loosely cover each with plastic wrap and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
-Heat oven to 350 degree and bake for about 55 minutes, rotating halfway through. Lower temp to 325 degree and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Streusel topping

1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and use a fork to stir together.

**Note: I didn't use all of the chocolate filling because it was nearly impossible to fit it all in!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies, Cookies....



A couple of weeks ago a professor in the department asked if I sold my cookies. I replied "yes" (even though I haven't sold any before, but I'd sure like to!). He then ordered three dozen, we agreed on a price and a date of delivery. Since then, I've made three dozen iced sugar cookies (two dozen Christmas and one dozen Hanukkah) and I'm pretty cookied out for this season.



I really enjoy making these cookies because you can decorate them all kinds of ways, but they take quite a while (five different steps). I'm really happy with the results, however, and if art history doesn't pan out, I can always have a backup career in cookie decorating...




Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Tis the Season




The season of holidays!!!! Once Thanksgiving rolls around every year it signals the beginning of the holiday season. I know this is the case for most people, but for my family this is even more true. We have my mom's birthday in early December, my birthday (on December 27 in case you were wondering, although this year I'm thinking of skipping it since I'm turning 25...err 24), Christmas, New Year's, my brother's birthday in late January and we really don't end the party until Valentine's day. Add eight days of Hanukkah into the mix and its basically a constant celebration from late November until early February. This is especially true since my brother and I celebrate Christmas with both families and our birthdays with both families--every holiday in replay. 


To start the season right, Aaron and I decided to invite a few friends over for a Christmas/Hanukkah gathering (or what we like to call the Jesus and Judah party). We got a miniature Christmas tree, but its a bit sparse on the ornaments at this point. I also bought a really pretty poinsettia from one of my professor's daughters as a fundraiser for her school orchestra. We baked some gingerbread men, which you can see featured above as well as some mint cupcakes and other assorted treats. 



Sunday, December 6, 2009

A couple favorites




When I was recently in NJ, Aaron's mom mentioned that she was looking for a standard yellow cake recipe. I totally understand that because I like to have some standby recipes that I know are delicious and reliable, especially when it comes to cake because I like to change it up with filling and icing. I have several standby chocolate cake and cupcake recipes, but it took me a while to find a yellow cake that I really like. I know that everyone loooooves chocolate (and I do too), but I really love yellow cake because its so buttery and moist. 


In the end, I finally found these two recipes that I'm pretty happy with. I think its easier to overcook and dry-out these cakes than many chocolate ones (such as devil's food), but with careful baking they're both really good. Plus, if you make them you can typically get reactions like the one seen below: (I love Meg's face in this picture)



The first recipe (pictured at the top) is a Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
from smittenkitchen.com



3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract



1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper, butter the parchment paper and dust with flour.
2. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Mix on low  for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low just until blended and raise the speed to medium beating until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding after each addition. Pour 1/3 of batter in each pan.
4. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes. 
5.Turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.


Cake #2 (second picture)
from smittenkitchen.com



4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken



Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, butter and dust with flour.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy and then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until combined after each addition.  Beat in buttermilk at low speed until just combined. Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing after each addition just until incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in two cake pans, Bake until golden 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Arrival!!!



My new mixer is here!!!!!! It was delivered last night, to my doorstep in a gigantic box and now it is sitting on my kitchen counter, all shiny and new and just waiting to be used. In case you are out of the loop (or living under a rock) my mom bought me this mixer for Christmas/birthday.

I am so excited and cannot wait to make something, unfortunately it will have to wait a few days at least until I get finished with a few school things.



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Cookies




Yesterday, I was sitting in the graduate student office at school and one of the professors came in and asked me if I sell my cookies. He wants to buy some of my iced sugar cookies (pictured above) to give to his family for the holidays! I brought some of them to the department last spring and I guess he remembered them. So, I have to think of how much to charge him since they're really not that difficult to make and don't cost that much--it is really just an excuse for me to make Christmas cookies. Once my mixer arrives (rumor has it TOMORROW!!!!!) baked goods will be flying out of my kitchen--at least after the middle of next week when I turn my papers in. After that, I have to grade finals, but baking can be a break from the monotony.



In other news, Aaron and I went to NJ for Thanksgiving and had a great time filled with too much food (like every Thanksgiving, of course). For the most important part of the meal--dessert, people--his mom made a pumpkin pie and an apple pie and his aunt brought a chocolate cake shaped like a turkey(yes!). I was especially happy about the addition of the cake because although I like a good pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving as much as the next person I have always been partial to cake. This may have to do to my upbringing (yes mother, i am pointing to you) and the fact that cake was considered an acceptable breakfast food, but whatever the case I don't have a problem with it.



I also heard, via my family, that Thanksgiving in Omaha had four--count them FOUR--pies for a total  of ten people as well as an apple streudel! I can't believe I missed all of that dessert. I was also sad that I missed my Aunt Judy's trademark chocolate pie that she makes at holidays. Its basically like eating fudge with a crust and whipped cream and in recent years she's started making a chocolate cookie crust instead of a traditional pie crust (are you drooling yet?). Unfortunately, I don't have a picture on hand, but I want to include the recipe here. It is actually pretty simple and I think could be made into individual sizes pretty nicely as well.


Aunt Judy's Chocolate Pie


3 cups milk
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 t. vanilla extract


Combine milk and chocolate in medium saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking frequently until chocolate is melted. Separately, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and whisk. Add chocolate slowly while whisking. Add the egg yolks and whisk. Cook over moderate heat, whisking almost constantly for 6-8 minutes until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Reduce to a boil for about 2 minutes. Whisk constantly. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stir until smooth. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface and cool for 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and stir in vanilla. Pour the pudding into the pie shell and cool for at least three hours.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks Mom!


That's right, I am (or will be, in 5-7 days, standard shipping) the proud owner of a new kitchenaid mixer!!!! wooohoooo! This is an early Christmas/birthday gift from my mom. My birthday is right after Christmas and normally I complain about getting joint presents, but this year I am more than happy about the situation. It turns out, my mother has been secretly communicating with Aaron (this is a topic that I will not address in this here post) even before my mixer died a few days ago to see what kind I wanted and if he thought it was something I would like. He of course said "UM YEAH" when she asked and then agreed to do some shopping since its pretty hard to carry-on a stand mixer when flying from Omaha to DC.

So, we purchased the mixer this morning and it will be shipped to VA! I'm so excited I'm already imagining all the wonderful things I will be making....as soon as my papers are turned in, that is.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Pre-Thanksgiving Feast




Because Thanksgiving break is only five days (with two of those being the busiest travel days of the year) and only a week before all of my semester work is due I always stay here rather than go home to be with my family. It is too long of a trip for such a short time, plus I just need to do work and I go home just a few weeks later for Christmas. Don't feel too bad for me though :) I will be going to NJ with Aaron so I'll be surrounded by delicious food nonetheless. The bad part is that I don't get to eat all the foods that I'm used to having from my normal Thanksgivings with my family (Thanksgiving is, after all, my mom's favorite holiday).

(this is a photo of my friend Mike carving this turkey, which is ironic since he's vegan. He also used to work at a butcher shop before he was vegan and the rest of us had NO idea how to begin carving a turkey so he swooped in to save the day!)

To remedy this situation I decided to host a small, pre-Thanksgiving dinner with my friends. We all like to eat, many of my friends aren't going home either and turkeys were on sale at the grocery store a few weeks ago so it all came together perfectly! Ever since we received the November issue of Bon Appetit, Aaron has been hankering to make a recipe for cranberry relish and a pumpkin pie so I assigned those two dishes to him and I took on the turkey, stuffing, green beans, rolls and mashed potatoes. Since Thanksgiving food isn't really that hard to make (its more a matter of managing the high-demand oven) everything turned out great!



Here is the lineup:
Sage Butter Roasted Turkey with Cider Gravy
Sourdough Stuffing with Apples and Golden Raisins
Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrette
Mashed Potatoes (a la my mom...lots of butter and milk)
Buttered Rosemary Rolls
Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream


(Elizabeth was late to dinner and we had already run out of chairs so...she had to sit on the pilates ball--that's what happens when you're late.)

Like I said, everything was deeeelicious! The links above lead to the recipes at their original sites, but here is the recipe for the pumpkin pie that Aaron made, because a) this is technically a blog that writes about dessert and b) it was a great pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Pie
from Not Without Salt

Use any pie crust recipe, we didn't use the one from this recipe.

Pie Filling:
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 dried bay leaf
1 vanilla bean
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1.4 t. nutmeg

Combine the pumpkin, spices, cream and sugar in a medium sized pot on low heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture and then put the pod in too. Cook this mixture for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about an hour. (or do this the day ahead and put it in the fridge) Re-warm the filling and add the eggs, but be sure not to cook the eggs. Bake at 350 for about 35-45 minutes.

For cream just add 1-2 T. maple syrup to 2 cups whipping cream.


 And because everyone loves a picture of Joe, here he is doing something...probably trying to escape.

Friday, November 20, 2009

RIP Mixer

This morning I have some sad news to share. My dear little mixer died last night. It bit the dust just as I was mixing up a batch of brioche dinner rolls for a dinner I'm having tonight. (Suffice it to say, those rolls are no more.) It was very sad--I cried actually. I was sort of anticipating it since I use it at least twice a week, normally more like four times and its been getting progressively slower and hasn't been able to hit "high" power for a few months now. Normally, this would be very bad because I bake CONSTANTLY and you can't bake cakes without a mixer--perhaps my cake baking career will temporarily turn into a ice cream-making career. Today, however, its especially bad because I have mashed potatoes on the menu. I know, i know you can theoretically make mashed potatoes by hand, but I want to make them with a mixer because that's how my mom makes them and they are extra creamy that way. Plus, I love mashed potatoes.

So, this post is devoted to my dearly departed mixer and the creamy mashed potatoes that could have been.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Better than Baking



The only thing better than baking cookies for yourself is having someone else bake them for you. The past two weeks have been crazy, to say the least. This past week I gave the lecture to 130 undergrads in the class I TA for--it was on Buddhist architecture, which is certainly not my specialty so I did a lot of practicing (Aaron is practically an expert on Buddhist architecture now, he's heard the lecture 3+times). I've also been writing like a crazy person: I recently finished up a draft of part of my thesis as well as a draft of one of my papers and this weekend (later this evening hopefully) I will be finishing up a draft of a second paper. I practically wake up typing my thoughts and think in terms of footnotes.


Needless to say, I've been pretty worthless around here considering I've basically been sitting in the same chair for the past ten days aside from the times I go to sleep and go to class. Luckily, Aaron knew that I NEED cookies in times like this and made these chocolate chip cookies the other day. They were very delicious (I've already finished them) and he used really nice dark chocolate.

Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
from smittenkitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar.
3. Beat the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy into the melted butter mixture. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Spoon cookie dough onto the cookie sheets (Use 1/4 cup for large cookies and tablespoons for regular sized cookies)
5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted.

Also, Joe is doing well--he seems to be making progress with the house training (knock on wood...).
Here is a picture (a bit blurry, but you get the gist).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall Cookies!



I don't know if everyone did this as a child, but when I was younger we made cut-out sugar cookies for every holiday. We had a set of special cookie-cutters for every major holiday: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter. We would make these sugar cookies that my dad really liked and then decorate them with colored sugars and icing, although what sticks out most in my mind is sneaking pieces of dough after my mom rolled it out on the countertop.


Since it was such a tradition when I was a kid, it still seems like something I should do for every holiday as if the holiday cannot be complete unless it has appropriately decorated cookies! Normally, I really only get to do this for Christmas because its the only time I am at home and not bogged down with work, but this year I decided I could set aside an evening and make some for Halloween too. Aaron and I had a baking extravaganza, a wild and crazy Saturday night! The recipe is from Martha Stewart and we used some royal icing to pipe and then flood the cookies.




Sugar Cookies
from Martha Stewart

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium; add eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture gradually, beating until incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Roll out onto a floured surface and use cookie cutters to shape. Place cookies on sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Decorate as desired.

Royal Icing
from Martha Stewart 

1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter

mix two ingredients together in a bowl until combined. slowly add up to 1/2 cup water until desired consistency. Use thicker icing to pipe edges of cookies and slowly dilute icing with more water to "flood" cookies with thinner, colored icing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Introducing....



...our new puppy, Joseph Shmuley Biden--we call him Joe for short (we really call him Joe all the time, we just liked the rest of the names too so decided to tag them on for fun). We got him on Saturday at a rescue house in Stephens City, VA which is about two hours from our house. Right now, he weighs less than ten pounds and is about eleven weeks old. He was the runt of the litter and his brothers and sisters were picking on him so he's extra sweet.



So far he's been a very good puppy, except we can't get him to go to the bathroom--at all. We take him outside every hour and he looks at us and so we take him back inside and go through the whole thing an hour later. He had one accident in the house, which I can only surmise was a result of his bladder just being unable to hold it in for so long! Other than that, nothing has come out since we brought him home yesterday afternoon! I think this problem will resolve itself as soon as he gets used to our house, though, I'm not too worried (famous last words?). For more pics see my flickr.

Halloween!!!


The end of October signals several things: an extra hour of sleep, the beginning of November and only five more weeks until my papers are due (!), and most importantly-- HALLOWEEN! Its a pretty big deal around UVA as far as parties go, I try to steer clear of campus because the frat parties are in full swing this weekend. While graduate students generally hole ourselves up in the library, reading until our eyes are sore, we do go out sometimes and Halloween is one of those nights that we tear ourselves away from our books long enough to attend some sort of social event. Last night, (actually Halloween eve) there was a party for all graduate students at a local restaurant. It was a really great time and I've included some pictures below of myself and friends. I dressed as Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn's character in Breakfast At Tiffany's). I don't have brown hair, but I had the rest of the stuff and it was a pretty straightforward costume. Aaron was Vampire Bill from True Blood, but his fangs kept falling out so he really ended up looking like a normal guy. My other friends (below) dressed as a Queen bee, Sisyphus, and Medusa. For more pictures see my flickr site.


Do not fear, I also had a chance to bake some special Halloween goodies. This time, one of my colleagues and I collaborated for our archaeology class, bringing snacks (the class is from 3:30-6pm so we are all pretty tired and hungry by that point). I made "whoopie pies" (also known as "gobs" if you're from Pennsylvania, apparently).  Basically, they are sandwiches of mini cakes with icing in the middle. I made chocolate whoopie pies with white icing in the middle and they were very moist. I added some orange sprinkles (at the recommendation of Martha Stewart) to add some festivity.







Whoopie Pies
from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar
 
Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and applesauce, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix just until smooth (do not overmix).

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean, 10 to 14 minutes. With a thin metal spatula, immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating until smooth.

Spread bottom of half the cookies with 1 tablespoon filling each; sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently so filling oozes out slightly. Sprinkle exposed filling with nonpareils. Let rest 15 minutes to set. (To store cookies, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.)

NOTE: I spooned the batter onto the cookie sheets, but next time I'm going to use a big piping tip in order to make them all a consistent size. I think this will also allow me to make smaller pies, which makes them more bite-size and perfect for parties. I think I might also try a Swiss Meringue Buttercream next time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Special Birthday Tribute



October 24 is my best friend Rachel's birthday. She used to have this really strict daily diet that she adhered to like nothing I've ever seen. It basically consisted of eating only super healthy food every day of the year except her birthday. I'm talking serious, no exceptions or cheating. This girl was good. When her birthday rolled around every year, it meant a day of serious eating and since it was such a celebration I would generally take part too :) It was pretty hard to keep up (since I did eat junk food other days of the year) and I usually wimped out by lunch, but we would make quite a dent in a well-stocked supply of specially purchased birthday junk food eating everything from pretzels to candy corn to pasta. We did things other than eat on Rachel's birthday (like watch wonderful movies) and the day was so fun that I began to look forward to it more than my own!

Another awesome thing about my friend Rachel was her dog, Snicker Doodle (two words, very important!) who was "the best dog in the whole world." Snicker Doodle was an amazing dog and so loved by Rachel that these Snicker Doodle cookies always remind me of her (and Snicker Doodle, of course). If you've never had a Snicker Doodle cookie then you must make them immediately! Some people swear that Snicker Doodles are just sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon and sugar, but I beg to differ. They have a distinct flavor of their own and the coating of cinnamon and sugar makes them utterly delightful. I prefer to make them into pretty large cookies so that the center remains soft while the edges get nice and golden, providing a variety of textures in one cookie.

For the highest level of enjoyment, these cookies should be devoured in the company of a best friend, possibly while watching (and singing along badly with) The Sound of Music.

Snicker Doodle Cookies
recipe from smittenkitchen.com

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
16 T.  unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 T ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients, and beat to combine. Smitten Kitchen recommends chilling the dough at the point (which I did because I had something else in the oven), but I did not find it necessary in order to handle the dough.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Form small balls of dough (about 1 1/2 inches) and roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack, but are still soft in the center, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack.

Also, I wanted to mention a contest going on at Love and Olive Oil (a blog that I cook from a lot). Its a contest for some local chocolate and its super easy to enter, so anyone who reads this blog (the few of you) should definitely enter! If you read my recent post on chocolate cookies, I'm sure this local chocolate would be perfect!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lentil Soup



With the cooler weather that's recently hit the area, we've begun to accept the fact that fall is here to stay and winter is not too far off. I recently broke out a couple of scarves and last weekend even wore my gloves! Its also fun to watch all of the undergrads break out their brand new fall wardrobes that you can tell they've been just itching to wear. Last week when it was a "chilly" sixty degrees I witnessed a girl all dolled up with a wool jacket, fedora (tilted just so on her head) and red leather gloves that went halfway up her forearms--she looked as if she had stepped out of a magazine, except she also seemed to be overheating in her getup.

This change in weather and wardrobe also means a change in food--we want warm and comforting food that also really easy to prepare, and most importantly quick. Soup is the natural thing to turn to, but canned soup always leaves something to be desired. Homemade soup is really easy to make and it can be frozen for later.

We've begun bookmarking soup recipes right and left to make and freeze and we tried a delicious new, super-easy lentil soup this week. It took almost no time and consisted of easy ingredients that we almost always have on-hand. The really great thing is that its very filling and full of flavor despite the small ingredient list so it can easily be a full meal.

Red Lentil Soup
from 101 Cookbooks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
6 cups good-tasting vegetable stock (or water), preferably low sodium
1 1/3 cup red lentils,  rinsed (and checked for stones)
1/2 cup brown rice,  rinsed
salt to taste (preferably sea salt)

In a large pot, combine the olive oil, onion, shallots and red pepper flakes. Stir occasionally over medium head until brown and slightly caramelized. 
Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and rice. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the rice is very tender.  At this point the lentils should be thick. You may need to add more water/broth, but do so in small increments (splashes) until the soup thins out.
As long as you used a low sodium broth, you should salt to taste with sea salt or kosher salt.
 Serve each bowl topped with feta and a drizzle of olive oil.

NOTE: We topped our soup with feta and olive oil, but on 101cookbooks she suggests almonds and olives as well. Feel free to try other combinations! This soup freezes wonderfully.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food as Comfort



Whenever something bad happens people bring food. On Wednesday my friend Victoria's cat died and she was very upset so, I did what people do and brought food. I know that food doesn't actually make you feel better when you're upset, but at least if you feel bad your stomach can be full of something delicious.

I hadn't planned on baking that night so I was a little bit low on ingredients and limited in my choice of recipes. Luckily, I always have a jar full of chocolate chips on hand and I recently bought a couple of bags of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips too (you can never have enough chocolate chips). Since I was basically rolling in chocolate, I decided a super chocolately recipe was key, plus who doesn't like chocolate?

This recipe for double chocolate cookies comes from Ghirardelli and is almost entirely chocolate! Its almost a flourless cookie with a melted chocolate base and added chocolate chips making it ultra gooey and especially perfect while warm (and preferably with milk). I liked these cookies better than other double chocolate cookies because it didn't use cocoa powder, which in my experience has made more cakey and drier cookies.



Ultimate Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe adapted from Bake or Break

11.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon slices
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts (my addition: toasted)

Melt bittersweet chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler or microwave, stirring until smooth.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick on medium speed. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder and stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips and pecans.
Refrigerate dough until slightly firm, about 40 minutes-one hour.
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line baking sheets and set aside.
Roll into 1-1/2 sized balls and place on baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes or until shiny crust forms on top but interior is still soft. Cool on baking sheets.

NOTE: I ended up having about a cup of toasted pecans on hand that I had toasted for another recipe a couple of days ago so I threw those in and it worked out great even though the original recipe does not call for the nuts to be toasted. Also, while I used Ghirardelli chocolate for the base (ie: the 11.5 oz. of bittersweet) I used other, cheaper, store-brand chocolate for the added chips because, let's face it, I'm a graduate student and as much as I would love to use Scharffen Berger, Green and Blacks, or even Ghirardelli every time I bake, its just not budget-conscious for my lifestyle (considering the amount I bake). So, I felt like this combination worked out well and didn't sacrifice taste!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin, Round One



My mom's favorite season is fall and she has this somewhat strange obsession with driving around to look at leaves. We're really different so I don't really understand what she sees in it, but she enjoys it and often takes long drives on Sunday afternoons during the fall. Whenever my mom talks about getting old she makes my brother and me swear that we will come visit her in the nursing home and take her for drives to look at leaves, to which we respond "you won't be able to see the leaves you'll be so old" (jokingly, of course) or we say that we'll put a cardboard cutout of a fall scene in her window so that she'll think its fall all year round! Of course, this is all in gest--I'm sure we'll take her for at least one or two drives in her old age....

Because my mom loves fall we did lots of fall activities growing up like going to the pumpkin patch, picking gourds, decorating our house and baking cookies (not to mention all of the Halloween activities, but those are a whole different story). It is a bit difficult to accomplish all of those things now with my grad student schedule, but I figured I could make at least one appropriately pumpkin-based food.

I have made this pumpkin bread before, many times, and its a great recipe. It is originally from Cooking Light so its slightly more healthy than other quick breads, which is not saying much. The original recipe makes two loaves, but I wanted to take it to one of my graduate classes for a mid-morning snack so I made one of the loaves into muffins and topped with pecans, which worked perfectly.


Pecan Topped Pumpkin Bread
Source: Cooking Light

3 1/3  cups  all-purpose flour (about 15 ounces)
1  tablespoon  baking powder
2  teaspoons  baking soda
1  teaspoon  salt
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1/2  teaspoon  ground allspice
2  cups  granulated sugar
1/2  cup  egg substitute (my sub: 2 eggs)
1/2  cup  canola oil
1/2  cup  low-fat buttermilk
2  large eggs
2/3  cup  water
1  (15-ounce) can pumpkin
Cooking spray
1/3  cup  chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a bowl.
Place sugar, egg substitute, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add 2/3 cup water and pumpkin, beating at low speed until blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pecans evenly over batter. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

For muffins, follow the same procedure to prepare the batter and just pour in muffins cups and top with chopped pecans. One loaf's worth of batter should make 18 muffins.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for egg substitute, which I do not use so instead I used two eggs (making the total number of eggs 4). I also didn't have any allspice on hand, but the bread turned out fine anyway!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No more rice!


Winter is practically here, which means many things. Number one: (and by far the worst) cold weather. I HATE cold weather. Once it gets below eighty degrees I can never be warm again and I have this constant chill, especially in my feet and hands so I am preparing myself for five months of cold. Number two: my papers are due soon!!! aaaaaah!!! this means i have to get cracking (and should probably not be writing this right now). Number two leads naturally two Number three: I do not have time to cook anymore. This means my meals generally consist of things like pasta, hummus and carrots, lean cuisine, canned soup, pasta again, salad, you get the picture. One other common dish is rice because I can put it in the rice cooker and with the cool timer it will be done eight hours later and ready for me to eat!

I get a little sick of rice though...It seems like any time I want a side dish, rice is the old standby. I always have some in the cupboard and its so easy to make, but after a while it gets pretty old. Lately I've been eating quinoia and couscous more (which can also be made in the rice maker), but recently I found some Lebanese couscous at the grocery store, which is extra cool because its HUGE!

Its also really easy to make, not quite as easy as rice, but still quick and tasty. I could have made it in the ricemaker, but this recipe adds some extra flavor. Here is the basic rundown:

Lebanese Couscous:

2 chopped shallots
olive oil
1 cup couscous
1 bay leaf
 1 1/4 cup water

Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Cook the shallots until translucent. Add the couscous as well as 1 bay leaf and let it brown slightly, coating in olive oil. Add 1 1/4 cups water, cover and cook for about five minutes. Lower heat to low and simmer for about ten minutes. Add more water if couscous soaks up all water, but is not cooked.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Definition of Health Food



This might be a shocker to some of you, but sometimes I eat cookies for breakfast. When I don't have cookies sometimes I'll substitute cake, brownies, a couple of spoonfuls of ice cream or, when I'm really desperate, a handful of chocolate chips--a breakfast of champions you might say. I know what you're thinking--does this girl have any nutrients in her diet? I assure you I do have a balanced diet (see brussels sprouts post), and most days I actually eat real food for breakfast like bran flakes and orange juice and apples, but I don't hesitate to mix things up. I mean, where is written that brownies can ONLY be eaten as an after dinner dessert? With that being said, I decided to make healthy cookies so that at least I can feel a little less guilty about eating a sugary, chocolatey concoction before 8am. "Healthy cookies" is sort of an oxymoron I guess, but let's just say I decided to make them a little healthier....

Mainly, I wanted to use whole wheat flour because I'm always trying to get more whole grains in my diet and this seemed like a pretty easy way. I also wanted to try using the white, whole wheat flour so I thought this could be a good way. This recipe is for whole wheat chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and its really pretty simple.  I think it could probably be altered even more to eliminate half of the butter, but that will have to wait for another try. I prefer to under-cook my cookies just a tad so that they remain gooey and soft with swirls of melted chocolate, perfect for dunking in milk or eating plain (for breakfast or dessert). Rolling these cookies into 2 inch balls allows them to bake into a perfect consistency that's soft and gooey in the center while slightly crispy at the edge. I am not a fan of cake-like cookies myself so these really struck my fancy.

This was also a dry-run for next week when I am going to make cookies for one of my classes. Today my professor mentioned how she used to have a tea and cookies breaks when she was in graduate school and suggested that we consider reviving this tradition. I immediately started thinking of recipes that would be perfect for a mid-morning class, perhaps something not too sweet and a little more wholesome, more like a granola bar? Stay tuned for that.


Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 c. peanut butter
2 1/2 c. white, whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips

Cream butter, white and brown sugar in a bowl until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, blend until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and peanut butter, mix to combine. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt and baking soda. Mix the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Cool dough in refrigerator until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on cookie sheet two inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Note:
I used commercial peanut butter, but substituting natural peanut butter and adding toasted peanuts would definitely add more peanut-ey flavor. Additionally, sprinkling some salt on top before baking would really bring out the flavor.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Brussels Sprouts?!

Now that it is officially the second half of the semester (or at least that's what the calendar is telling me, I keep denying it, but I think its true) I have to buckle down and really get this mountain of work done. In order to do that, I have to really stop cooking and baking so much, but its hard because there are always recipes that I want to try and occasions that deserve delicious food. Last week, I made some mini-chai cupcakes to take to school since everyone has been sort of dragging lately and snacks are always a good pick-me-up.


This weekend I was pretty busy working on my research so instead of doing a lot of baking we did some cooking on Sunday night. When I was at the store last week my impulse buy was brussels sprouts (exciting, right?). I've never been much for brussels sprouts, probably because my mom never really made them when I was younger. She made lots of other green vegetables, but perhaps since my brother was such a picky eater brussels sprouts never really made the cut. Plus, brussels sprouts kind of get a bad rap and aren't that popular on restaurant menus. When I saw them at the store, they looked really nice and green so I decided to give them a try.


To cook them, we basically just sauteed them in a pan. The "recipe" (if you can call it a recipe) is below, but its pretty standard. They turned out really well, but after trying a few I decided that: I do not like brussels sprouts. Unfortunately for me, Aaron "really likes" brussels sprouts, which means one of us is going to be unhappy in the future....

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

12-24 brussels sprouts
olive oil
salt
pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Trim off outer leaves of brussels sprouts and cut each in half
Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat
Toss the brussels sprouts in a bowl with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and some salt
Put the brussels sprouts in the heated pan, flat sides down and allow them to brown, about five minutes. Cover if needed.
Once they are tender, move around with a spatula so that the round sides are able to brown slightly.
Serve immediately, with freshly grated parmesan on top.



Aside from the cooking going on around here, I have been busy with work. On Thursday and Friday we got to dog-sit for one of my friend's dog-a tiny little dachshund named Gertrude! She is very cute and well-behaved and it was fun playing with her for a day or so. Aaron particularly enjoyed Gertrude and since she left on Friday (two days ago) he has continually mourned her departure.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Whirlwind weekend, and no baking!

This weekend was officially "reading days" at UVA, which is a more academic way of saying Fall Break. Its basically the time around midterms for undergrads meaning that most of them take a break and have fun, but our professors tell us  (in a kind way) that it means we should consider the extra days as concentrated work time. To be honest, its actually really nice because normally its hard to get my own work done in between class and teaching and grading and the normal little things that come up so these sorts of reading days really are times when I typically just work entirely on my own research. Last Thursday, I also turned in a draft on the first chapter of my thesis, so I was pretty excited and decided to take a little break from working on that.

Plus, Aaron and I had a wedding reception to attend in Pennsylvania on Sunday so we drove up to NJ and stayed there for two days because it was nearby. The wedding was nice and they had some delicious desserts, but with all the driving I did not have a chance to bake anything myself! oh well, its probably for the better after all of the eating we've been doing lately. This is a picture of us at the wedding.


And here is a photo of the bride and groom at their table, below. The groom is in Aaron's program and his family is Indian so they wore traditional Indian attire, it was really pretty.
 

After the excitement of this weekend, I have to get back into my normal regime of studying, studying, studying! I managed to grade all of the midterm exams for the class I TA, which means next week I get to hand them back. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Halfway up the hill...



This week is Aaron's 25th birthday, as in halfway to fifty, quarter of a life gone just like that. To celebrate this momentous occasion we decided to have a party (although in our terms party is more like, have a few people over, serve them some diet coke, kick them out at 10:00pm when we get tired). I figured I could do a little better than that for this birthday or at least serve some delicious food since I heard somewhere that your tastebuds decay with age so its only a matter of time before Aaron won't be able to taste anything at all...

I rounded up a menu of soups, cornbread and desserts and invited some friends and we had a wonderful gathering of friends to celebrate the end of Aaron's youth. Some of his med school friends even dressed up in suits for the occasion.

Here is the dinner lineup:

Carrot Ginger Soup
Matzo Ball Soup
Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili
Cornbread (x3!)



For dessert, I may have gone just a tiny bit overboard. There may have been a few moments last week when I thought to myself, is three kinds of cake too much? but then rationalized in my head why every 25th birthday party needs  AT LEAST three kinds of cake (I mean, what if someone doesn't like one kind of cake and also doesn't like one of the icings on another cake, they need a third option). Plus, I have all these recipes I've been wanting to try and as the semester wears on I have less and less time to bake. I also wanted to recreate my gingersnap ice cream from a few weeks ago because it was a huge success the first time around.

Here is the dessert lineup:
Lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing (Aaron's request)
Carrot cake cupcakes with maple cream cheese icing
Yellow cake with chocolate icing
Gingersnap ice cream


To compensate for the fact that my eyes were clearly bigger than my stomach, I decided to make mini cupcakes and abbreviate the cake recipe to fit 6-inch pans rather than 9-inch pans. As a result, I had about 24 mini carrot cake cupcakes, 24 mini lemon cupcakes and a three-tier 6-inch yellow cake. (Plus two batches of ginger ice cream, but who is counting?). Personally, I was really happy with the mini cupcakes because they are bite-size and great for a party.


All in all, it was a gigantic success. There were some things that turned out better than others (the cornbread was not my favorite recipe ever) and people seemed to like some things better than others (the carrot cake cupcakes went FAST), but nothing was a total disaster.


Of the recipes, I think my favorite were the carrot cake and the carrot ginger soup (theme, anyone?) so I will share those here. The carrot ginger soup is an old recipe that I cut out of the Omaha World Herald a couple of years ago so I don't even have an attribution, but the carrot cake is from good ol' smittenkitchen (it never steers me wrong). Any of the recipes online recipes have hyperlinks above.

Carrot Ginger Soup

8 servings
1 leek
2 T. unsalted butter
2 pounds carrots
1 sweet potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 T. ginger root, grated
½ t. curry powder or nutmeg
5 cups vegetable stock or chicken
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup soy milk

Cook rice first. In small saucepan bring 1 ¼ c. water to boil. Add ½ c. of dry, white rice. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until graints are tenfder and water is mostly brown. Trim off the tough green end of the leek, then slice leek lengthwise and rinse out. Slice leek halves into ¼ inch slices. Trim carrots, wash, and slice diagonally. Peely sweet potato and cut in 1 inch cubes. Melt butter in the soup pot and sauté the leek until translucent, but not brown. Add carrots and sweet potatos and toss for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, stock, and rice. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Puree the soup in a food processors or with a hand held whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add soy milk or cream when serving.


Carrot Cake Mini Cupcakes
smittenkitchen.com

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sugar
  2/3 cups canola oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated peeled carrots
1/2 cups well chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350F
Line 24 mini cupcake pans with liners.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in a separate large bowl until mixed. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until well blended. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in carrots and walnuts if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.
Bake cupcakes 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool in the pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.


Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Add more maple syrup if needed, to taste. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

If only the new year wasn't only once a year....


Oh man did we have a delicious dinner! If Rosh Hashanah means eating this well then I wish it was every day (except maybe with Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter too, I like the food on those holidays too, oh and my birthday-i do love cake!). Even though we started preparations for the meal on Wednesday (baking a challah and making honey ice cream) we still did not eat until 9:00pm on Friday night because the brisket took so long! But Augustus, Atia, and Apollo was it ever worth it!

Here is a lineup of the menu:
Challah
Brisket braised in porter with carrots and mushrooms
German style fried potatoes
Sauteed Kale
Apple Tart
Honey Ice cream


I made the challah on Wednesday and was planning to use my mom's recipe, but realized at the last minute that I didn't have enough yeast! So, I had to use a backup recipe from smittenkitchen.com. After I had braided one normal loaf Aaron told me that it should be a round loaf for Rosh Hashanah so I braided one into a circle only to find out that it wasn't supposed to be braided just a circle, but oh well, too little too late. The bread turned out okay, but slightly disappointing. I prefer my mom's recipe so I think I will stick with that one--since I make bread so often :).


The tart and ice cream I made on Thursday since the ice cream needs to harden over night and the tart just takes a while to bake. I've included the recipes for both of these below (since this blog is primarily devoted to baking and desserts) but let me just say that this ice cream was AMAZING! I think it may have been my favorite so far. It uses honey rather than sugar for sweetener, which makes it rich, but not too rich and super creamy. Its also really easy, if you have an ice cream maker I suggest you make it as soon as possible.



Everything else we saved for Friday, which in hindsight may not have been the smartest plan, but oh well! The brisket took several hours to finish with various steps of braising and browning and roasting, but the potatoes and kale were super quick and easy. All three recipes came from the October issue of Bon Appetit (follow the links above for recipes). This was my first time making a brisket other than my mom's recipe and it was slightly more involved than what I am used to (it required me to brown and braise and all other sorts of things), but in the end it was really good and moist. The kale was also a surprise since I had pretty low expectations, I mean, who thinks "kale, delicious!"? It was an incredibly easy recipe with only four or so ingredients and a good way to use kale. As far as the potatoes go, are potatoes ever bad? This was a delicious meal and we are lucky to have leftovers for the next few days. After this cooking marathon, I will probably be taking a break for a while. Luckily, we stockpiled frozen veggie burgers in our freezer when they were on sale a few weeks ago. Stay tuned for next weekend though, its Aaron's birthday so there is sure to be at least some cake on the horizon....

Honey Ice Creamadapted from 101Cookbooks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
Combine the vanilla, cream, milk and honey in a large saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the honey and heat over moderate heat, stirring occasionally just until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let steep, covered, for 1 hour.
Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze according to ice cream maker's instructions.

Apple Tart
from smittenkitchen

Dough:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water
Filling:
2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons sugar
Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar

For the crust: Combine flour, sugar and salt in large bowl. Add 2 T of butter blending with a mixer until only small lumps remains. Add the rest of the butter and mix until small lumps remain. Slowly add some of the water and stir, adding more water until the dough begins to hold together. Continue this process until you are able to roll the dough without dry or sticky patches. Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Remove the cooled crust from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14 inch circle and place this into a lightly greased 9 inch tart pan. At this point, heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For Filling: place peeled and sliced apples in a double ring inside the prepared crust. Fold any of the excess dough back onto itself and crimp the edges. Brush melted butter over the crust and the apples and sprinkle 2 Tablespoons sugar over the entire tart. Bake the tart on a flat baking sheet in the oven for about 45 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes. The crust will be a rich brown and the center filling will bubble.

For the glaze: Put the peels and cores in a large saucepan and add the sugar. Cover with water and simmer on medium heat for 25 minutes. Strain through a mesh strainer. Remove the tart from the oven and cool for fifteen minutes. Brush the glaze over the tart and serve.