Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What I've Been Doing

So, despite my absence from the blogging world I've been keeping up with my passion for baking and cooking. Part of my apparent issue with consistent updates is my frustration with my very basic digital camera, and my inability to make it take good pictures regularly.
One of the cool challenges I had recently (that was not photographed) was to make a vegan dessert for a very belated Christmas party in February. I had never before attempted making a vegan dessert, and was definitely not a fan of them. The lack of butter, cream, or anything that really adds moisture to a delicious dessert, is not allowed and therefore not on my agenda. So, this was a real challenge.

After trying a recipe of Angela's at Oh She Glows, I found that my previous judgement still stood and I revamped the recipe to make it easier to consume for both vegans and animal eaters alike.

Something I found very intriguing was the avocado base of Angela's Chilled Double Chocolate Torte, and so I kept that and rather than making the chocolate vegan cake again (which came out extremely dry) I processed some vegan chocolate ginger cookies into small crumbs, combined them with some almond milk, and pressed a crust into the bottom of the cake pan, and in between two layers of the torte filling (think ice cream cake). I also added another ounce of melted chocolate to the filling to make the avocado taste less conspicuous. I was extremely happy with this attempt, and it made the cut for the party. No one could even tell it was vegan!

Anyway, though I didn't take any pictures of my vegan challenge, here is a photo journal of the past few months:


It's apples and oranges.

"I'm sorry"

Parmesan Cauliflower Cake

A reinvention of Ina's pesto fish dish


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip. These are dangerous.

Salted Peanut Caramel Cups

Peanut butter cookies filled with salted peanut caramel and drizzled with chocolate. After these babies my office literally demanded more treats.

Candied ginger. Time consuming, but a great Christmas gift and snack to munch on. Also a great addition to apple pie.

About to cook down the cherries for winter storage.

Snickerdoodles always warm my heart.

I think peanut brittle is the hardest thing I've ever made, but homemade peanut brittle is SO much better than store bought.

I'm not as good as making and thinking up lovely things to say for Valentine's Day, so I just made a giant heart out of cupcakes.
If you're interested in any of these recipes let me know and I will post them!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Panna Cotta and Florentines

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I was actually dreading the process of making Panna Cotta. Not for any good reason because I love eating creamy desserts like Creme Brulee, but I think I previously had a severe mental block about making them myself.

But I do have to say that this dessert was incredible, and a definate option for dinner parties.

Panna Cotta with Coffee Gelee
serves 4-6 depending on dish size


1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon/1 packet unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Mise en place: Place medium pot or saucepan (preferably heavy bottomed) in fridge to cool. Measure out and prep all ingredients.

1. Pour milk into chilled pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly* over surface. Let stand for about 5 minutes to allow gelatin to soften.

2. Place milk (in pot) over medium heat until the mixture is hot without boiling (this will take around 5-7 minutes).

3. Whisk in cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Continue to heat mixture without boiling until sugar and honey melts, stir occasionally.

4. Remove from heat and cool mixture for a few minutes. Pour into ramekin or glass and refigerate for at least 6 hours.**

Coffee Gelee


2 cups brewed coffee of your choice
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Mix hot water and sugar in saucepan over heat. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.

2. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold water and let it sit for 2 minutes.*

3. Stir the coffee, sugar water, and vanilla into small bowl. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature before adding to panna cotta (or it will melt).

Add additional toppings if desired.

Makes about 20 assembled cookies

These are different from the almond Florentines I usually make, but these are very very yummy and a bit more traditional.


2/3 cup/5.3 oz unsalted butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 dark corn syrup
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4-5 oz chocolate of your choice (I used Ghiradelli's 60% dark)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Melt butter in medium saucepan, don't move away from stove or butter might burn.

3. Add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix until combined.

4. Drop an even tablespoon of dough, 3 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. I found that anything that measured more than a tablespoon ended up being too big.

5. Bake in pre-heated oven 6-10 minutes until cookies are golden brown. This will depend on your oven. Cool cookies for about 15 minutes on pan, then remove to rack to cool completely.

6. While cookies are cooling, melt your chosen chocolate in a double boiler. Match cookies up according to size and spread melted chocolate to flat side of one cookie. Sandwich it, and let it set!

These are seriously addicting.

*If gelatin is not sprinkled evenly, it may result in clumping in the finished product
**If you wish to layer panna cotta and gelee, you do have to refrigerate 6 hours after each layer is added

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bourbon Balls

Or Reindeer balls as Tyrone festively calls them. These are no bake, and a Christmas classic dating back to the 30's (I think). They will definitely be a tradition in the Baker-Barnett household in the future!

Reason to always sift your confectioners' sugar
Also, this recipe makes me realize how much of an appliance crush I have on my food processor. Without it, I would have spent an hour or more crushing vanilla wafers for this recipe.

The original recipe stated that you could simply roll the mixture into balls, but I found that pinching it together to make it stick, then shaping into balls was more effective.

Gimme some sugar!

These were so good...Tyrone and I had to test a few of them. ;)

Bourbon Balls
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
25-50 balls depending on size


1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup bourbon or dark rum
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Also needed: fluted candy cups measuring 1-1.25 inches

1) Sift 1 cup confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl.

2) Mix together bourbon and corn syrup with a wooden spoon, and mix gradually in sugar mix.

3) Combine vanilla wafer crumbs and pecans crumbs and stir into cocoa mixture with wooden spoon.

4) Pinch mixture together to get it to stick, then roll into balls. Roll in sugar(1/2 cup confectioners') and place in fluted candy cup.

Store in between layers of wax paper, keeps for 3 weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Salted Butter Caramels

So, this is the start of a candy makin' journey. I decided to make candy for gifts this year, rather than buy gifts. It's cheaper, and less agonizing.

Salted butter caramels are incredible on their own, but even better when they are made by you and given to your friends and family! And really, it's not that hard. It just takes patience, some time, and the ability to stay in the room and watch the caramel cook. This caramel gets very very hot (I have some burns to prove it) so it must be watched at all times.

 I would also like to give a shout out to my friend Kirsten, who assisted in letting me know wax paper works very well for wrappers. Cellophane wrap is IMPOSSIBLE to find in NYC.

Salted Butter Caramels
Adapted, barely, from David Lebovitz
30-40 pieces depending on desired size

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter, cubed and at room temperature

candy thermometer
wax paper

1. Line a 9 inch loaf pan with tin foil, making the inside as smooth as possible. This will provide the shape for the caramels, and you don't want creases all over them! Spray the foil with cooking spray, or lightly grease with butter.

2. Mix cream, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt in a small saucepan, and heat until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and keep warm during caramel process by covering.

3. Over medium heat, combine sugar and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stirring gently to insure the sugar dissolves. Fit saucepan with a candy thermometer and cook until the syrup reaches 310 degrees. To get an accurate reading of the syrup, the bulb of the thermometer must be fully submerged in the syrup so tilt the pan if necessary.

4. Once the syrup reaches 310 degrees, turn off the heat and whisk in the heated cream mixture until smooth. It will bubble and froth at first, so be careful and gentle.

5. Turn the heat back on and cook mixture to 260 degrees.

6. Remove pan from heat and mix in cubed butter, until all the chunks are mixed in and smooth. Pour mixture into prepared pan and let cool for 10 minutes.

7. After 10 minutes, sprinkle the remaining sea salt (1/4 teaspoon) over the top of the caramel and cool completely.

8. Once cool, lift out caramel from pan and peel away tin foil. Slice into desired sized pieces with a long, sharp knife. I found the easiest way to do this was to wet the knife with warm water between each cut. Candies can be individually wrapped with wax paper and cellophane, or stored in layers seperated by wax paper. I do recommend individually wrapping them because they tend to stick together. These will keep for 3-4 weeks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'm back! Happy Holidays!!

GOSH it's been busy. New York during the holidays can be cheery, but also a vicious, vicious place. The one really awesome piece of news is that our new neighborhood plays Christmas music in the street all day. Seriously, cool.

So, I am totally broke this year and have decided to spend hours slaving over a hot stove making candy for gifts, rather than buying gifts. It has been quite a blast so far, so stay tuned for upcoming posts on so many delicious treats. Ones that I would recommend you make!

But first, to start off my slew of holiday cheer-filled blog posts, I will start with a picture of

My very first Christmas tree! And yes, my boyfriend decided to put a stuffed monkey as the tree topper. We are classy, yep. Also, I spent hours stringing all that popcorn and those cranberries. So, I think it is a mighty fine tree.

So, with all the baking and candy making that goes on around the holidays, I thought it might be nice to show you a little trick that I like to use.

Don't you hate it when you reach into the cupboard only to discover that you're beloved brown sugar is completely hard? I detest this so much that I make my own brown sugar when I need it!

Brown Sugar

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses

Mix it with a fork. It will seem like it will never come together. But it will. And now you have nice, fluffy, delicious brown sugar! If you want darker brown sugar, just add more molasses 1 tsp. at a time until you reach the desired coloring.

If you want to make a bunch at once to store, place a piece of bread in the container with the brown sugar.