Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A note on dough.

So I have to say, I'm feeling pretty bad-ass.

I followed the recipe for sweet tart dough laid out for me in my glorious book Paris Sweets, which just happens to be dough for 3 tarts.

This is the way to do it!

I feel so domestic goddess-esque knowing that I can just pop my frozen disc of homeade delicious almond-accented dough onto the counter, and have a tart in the oven in less than an hour. Never again will I not have dough on hand, for whenever inspiration or creativity or gluttony strikes.

I advise you to do that same.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Simple Apple Cake

Tell me this doesn't look like a perfect breakfast.

This is such an easy and versatile recipe. I've made it both for family holidays, or just to have around to snack on (like this morning for breakfast). I love apples in all sorts of forms, and while I love an apple tart, I think it's fun, and just so gosh darn easy to throw them in this quick cake from Heidi Swanson.

Tonight I made it to serve to a few friends over for dinner (after dinner- I know I talk about dessert as a meal quite often...). It looks unpresuming, and is simple tasting, but so solidly good. I like it kind of cold from chilling out in the fridge, dense and moist. I whip some cream to go along with it, even though when I follow this version, I usually prefer mine plain. (Everyone else always likes the cream.)

But tonight I made this with allspice instead of cinnamon (I was all out and hadn't realized it), which was still good (more savory), but I thought benefited from the whipped cream. I whipped heavy whipping cream with a couple spoonfuls of sugar, and a couple splashes of amaretto, which was delish!!

I've realized that I have a penchant for my bottle of Disarrono, and am feeling compelled lately to splash it into a lot of recipes. I think perhaps I might go have a splash or ten on the rocks. I leave you with...

Simple Apple Cake
serves 12

2 cups chopped apples, cut into 1/4 inch cubes with the peel on (this is about 2 apples)
2 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon (or allspice if you dare)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit
more sugar for top, I use about 8 tsp for a nice even coating

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter and line a 9 inch square pan.

Place the chopped apples in a bowl of water and juice of one lemon. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined- don't over-mix. Now drain the apples and fold into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, pushing it out toward the edes. Sprinkle all over with sugar, a nice even coat. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Serve warm or cold or room temperature.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This makes me laugh.

I love to bake.
My dogs (ok, one in particular) loves to eat.

I spend hours looking at cookbooks, mixing up batter.
He spends hours plotting how to get to it, food, food, any beloved food.

Now I have a very small kitchen. And I'm doing some holiday baking. I need somewhere to store things until they can be wrapped up nicely.

So in the cupboards they go. On top of the fridge. Sometimes baking racks can be a bit dicey to keep even as I try not to scrape the top of my treats. But somehow I prevail, and deliciousness makes it out of the danger zone into our mouths or into the car to take to someone else.

Here we feature (beneath many layers of plastic wrap) peppermint double chocolate chip cookies bundled up on the left, and cranberry banana bread on the right. The recipe for cranberry banana bread soon to follow!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

I'm making gifts of baking for the first time this year, and biscotti seemed like a perfect thing to fill a part of my tins! It's much easier to make than I'd realized, and it keeps for a long time. I'd never been that much of a fan of the crunchy cookie until I started dipping it into some delicious hot drink, like you're meant to, and then I loved it.

I modified a recipe from Tartine which modified a recipe from Chez Panisse. :)

I decided to add white chocolate to half of them, which I have to admit, didn't turn out as pretty as I would have liked. I just used a zip lock bag with the tip cut out, and half of my chocolate got a bit over-microwaved and thick to come out easily, and the tip I cut out too big, I think... But enough excuses, here it is- you can do a prettier job of it, hopefully!

Cranberry Almond Biscotti
makes about 25 pieces, some long, some short

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 tsp Dissarono, or another almond flavored liqueur
2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 additional egg for egg wash (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast for 3 minutes. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Cream the butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the Disaronno. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts, then the cranberries.

On a floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into a log about the length of your prepared baking sheet and about 2 inches in diameter. Set the logs on the baking sheet (be careful, this can be tricky), spacing them about 2 inches apart. If you want to glaze the biscotti, whisk the egg and brush it over the logs.

Bake the logs until they are lightly browned on top, about 25 minutes. Let the logs cool on a rack for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and cut on the diagonal into slices. Return the slices cut side down to the baking sheet. Bake the cookies until the edges are slightly toasted, about 5-10 minutes longer. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack. If you like, dip them in or swirl on some chocolate. They will keep in a tightly covered container at room temperature for several weeks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peppermint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies from Joy the Baker taste like homeade and chewy versions of Girl Scout Thin Mints. (And thus so much better!)

I just made these yesterday and they are my husband's favorite cookie I've made so far- he thinks they're wonderful! They're flat and chewy, my favorite cookie texture. And they are super chocolatey. I think they'll be perfect for holiday gift boxes. :)

Peppermint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 27 bigish cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp pure peppermint extract
2 large eggs
12 oz chocolate chips (I used half milk chocolate and half semisweet)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another couple minutes, until well blended. Beat in the peppermint. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. On a lower speed, add the the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. By hand, mix in the chocolate pieces.

Spoon the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 11-12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to a rack to cool fully. (Use a spatula to remove from sheets!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cozy comfort. And Lemon Bars!

Cozy comfort. It's something I've been quite fond of my whole life.

I think the reason I immediately fell in love with baking the very night I rushed out to buy my first cupcake mix and cheap muffin tin- at the ripe old age of 25- was because of the comfort factor. I love the tradition. I love making things that are sweet and pretty. I love being able to give away these cute confections that I put myself into, in the hopes that they will make someone special to me feel taken care of.

I think cozy comfort is anything that nourishes us, inside or out. Anything reminding us of family, love, joy, happy peace, connecting, the wonder of the world around us and how lucky we are for all we have. Beauty. Anything delicious.

For me~
BBC murder mysteries.
The library.
My mom's house.
Picking out Christmas cards at the book store.
Knowing that all is well-- perhaps lovely, even?-- and more goodness is on the way.

And lemon bars!

These were my first baking from scratch, something that used to seem so impressive and daunting, and now, not really hard at all, just the enjoyable and right way to do it! :)

This recipe, adapted oh so slightly from JoyOfBaking.com, is so good, so dangerous...

I love and love lemon in sweets. The way the sour tang tempers the sweetness..... mm, it just makes these bars all the more binge-able, which is a delight and alas, not ideal. But we must strive to continually grow, and each time I make a batch of these, I offer myself the opportunity to practice restraint! And as I am a work in progress................

These are one of my favorite things to bring to my parents and grandparents. They love them, and it gets them away from my powdered sugar-stained fingers that don't seem to stop until the pan is empty.

Of course, I invariably regret it the next day when I don't have my breakfast, lunch, and dinner of choice available anymore. But I work through the pain, or soon make some more.I give you~

Lovely Lemon Bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
2 eggs
1 tbs grated lemon zest (just get all you can from the 2 lemons)
Wash and zest the lemons first. Then, juice the lemons, either with a handy kitchen utensil made just for doing this sort of thing, or using a strainer and just squeezing really hard.
2 tbs all-purpose flour

More confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in center. Butter or spray an 8x8 baking pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I use a hand mixer for this. Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough just comes together. Press into the bottom of your greased pan and bake for about 18 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.

Beat the sugar and eggs until nice and smooth. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to combine. Fold in the flour. Pour the filling over the shortbread crust and bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

That's it!

Enjoy- they are so gosh darn good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cutie Stuffed Peppers with Mashers

Have I ever posted this recipe? I don't think I have. It's ever so slightly (and lazily) modified from Veganomicon and it's quite tasty. The peppers look super cute done length-wise instead of standing up, I think. :) Zach told me last night that he thinks it might be his favorite thing I've made so far, so there's a lovely endorsement for ya, too. :)

The mashed potatoes are quite easy. You peel them, cut them up, boil them for about 20 minutes, drain them, mash them up with about a half stick of butter and some milk. I'll tell you how I time it with the peppers below.

Then here's for the peppers:

Cutie Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4-8 (or 2 with lovely leftovers!)

4 large bell peppers (any color, but red seem to be nicer sizes to fill, sometimes, although a mix of colors is attractive!)
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
2 jalepenos, cut in half, seeded (or not, if you want it super hot), and chopped
1 cup finely diced carrots
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
5 tsp Italian herb mix (or some oregano, basil, thyme separately)
1 tsp salt
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup uncooked brown rice (or 2 cups cooked)

Start preparing the rice, if uncooked.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Get the potatoes ready for the pot, then set aside (if making). Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 in baking dish with a little olive oil.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, trying to leave the stem intact on one side, because it's pretty! Remove the seeds and membranes, preparing a nice home for the filling to come. Submerge the peppers in the boiling water and cover. Let them boil for 5 minutes, then remove them with tongs and rinse immediately with cold water to cool them down.

Then use the same pot of hot water for your potatoes. (Put the potatoes in the pot, and boil for about 20 minutes. Drain, mash, add butter, milk, whatever you like.)

So after taking out the peppers, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onions, jalepenos, and carrots for about 10 minutes. You want the veggies to brown, especially the carrots. Add the garlic about 5 minutes into the cooking process. Add the herbs and salt, then saute for 1 more minute. When the mix is nice and browned, add the tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and cooked rice. Stir and cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Arrange the peppers in the dish, and fill them with the mixture. Bake for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fun fun fun things

Cutie flats, all eccentric girled up with some socks for wintertime!

I love Advent calendars! The chocolate is so tasty too. :)

I love fog with Christmas (or any) lights!

And I love muffins- so easy to make, it's like DG lite.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I write~

This is breakfast, yum! Please don't punish me, Type 2 Diabetes.

Today was the first day I wrote in my journal since we've moved- I just found it in a box the other day. I was browsing back through a few pages, and I found this list I'd made of why I write, and it was good to see again. The perfect note to start re-immersing myself in Clara von Silversweet and the Spinning of a Spell.

I write-
I write to thoughtfully crystallize my relationship with the world.
I write to try and surprise myself with my elucidation and literariness!
I write to make a living of a passion.
I write to influence others.
I write to feel more like myself.
I write to give my thoughts permanence.
I write because I enjoy it.
I write because I love creating fantasy.
I write because I read.
I write because I know that it's essential to my happiness.
I write because I love the romanticism of being a writer.
I write to communicate.
I write to connect.
I write because I like the flow of a pen on paper and the clack of my fingers on keys.
I write because it is perfect for me!

So now you'd think I'd be off to write, right? Actually, no. :) Today I'm dedicating myself to reading Three Cups of Tea, at least until I go be Volunteer Librarian Robin, a la this~

I am determined to have a book group book finished on time this month, for the first time! And of course I still didn't start the book until three days before, so I've got to spend some quality time with it today. But I will write later tonight. And now on to my book!