Monday, August 30, 2010

This happens to everyone....right?

You know when you can't find your brain? You're just wandering around aimlessly, hoping your brain will find you, or wishing you had one of those car beep things to help locate it. Everyone has those days, right?

On one of those days, just don't bake. Don't do it. You will think you are being marvelous by trying a new recipe with no brain, and that it will make you feel smarter.  
I promise you, it will not.

Always use parchment paper.

And if you for some reason decide that it is okay to forgo parchment paper, please please please listen to the timer when it starts yelling at you to take out your cake.

I did neither, and look where I am. Cake less. *GASP*

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rough week? Eat Cake.

So, as soon as Tyrone and I got back from week 1 of vacation (week 2 starts Sunday), we were bombarded with work, work, and more work. Granted, it would only be 2.5 weeks until week 2 of vacation, but we were totally stressed and exhausted and needed some comforting.

Can you really think of anything more comforting than a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and a glass of milk? Now, we're talking crazy busy rainy New York City here. The kind of crazy busy rainy city that makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and hide. Or just curl up with a movie and eat some cake.

So, I did just that. Only temporary relief, but totally rejuvenating through the whole process. I will admit though, I'm still counting the days until vacation...

Beatty's Chocolate Cake
adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder (you can use either dutch-processed or natural, but use a good one)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk (be sure to shake the bottle before pouring)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 round 8-inch cake pans, both bottom and sides, then line bottom with circles of parchment paper to keep from sticking.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together until combined.

3. In a small bowl (I just used a 2-cup measuring cup), combine buttermilk, oil, eggs lightly beaten, and vanilla.

4. With handheld or stand mixer, start mixing dry ingredients on low speed and incorporate wet ingredients gradually, then add hot coffee mixing until just combined. Scrape bottom of bowl with rubber spatula to make sure nothing is sticking.

5. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. I would suggest rotating half way through bake time to ensure they bake evenly. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.

6. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes, then cool completely out of pan on rack.

7. To ice the cake (recipe below): I usually like to trim the tops with a serrated knife to make sure the layers sit more evenly. With a knife or frosting spatula, drop about 1/2 cup frosting in center on top of first layer, and spread gently outward to all sides. Place second layer on top, rounded side up, and place about one cup of frosting in center, spreading along top and sides of cake. The nice thing about an old-fashioned cake like this is the icing is not supposed to be perfect.

Chocolate Frosting:

6 oz. good semi- or bitter- sweet chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger bittersweet)
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

1. Chop up chocolate and put in double boiler. Stir until just melted and set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter for about 4 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for about 3 minutes.

3. Gradually add confectioner's sugar while mixing at low speed, scrape down sides of bowl, then mix at medium speed until smooth and creamy.

4. Dissolve the coffee powder in very hot water in a small bowl.

5. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to batter and mix until just blended. Do not over mix! Spread immediately on cooled cake.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paprika Cheddar Drop Biscuits

So, I just want you all you know that everything (so far) that I've put on this blog has been my first try at the recipe. This fact in itself should give you the confidence to at least try them ALL, right? Right?

The hardest part in baking something you've never made before, is getting the kahunas to do it. This is my first biscuit I have ever made. They were delicious and I want to make them every morning, to serve with my coffee and eggs. I was a little nervous about making them because I do not own a pastry blender, so I just cut the butter into the flour with my fingers. It was so much fun, and came out great! I'm sure it took a little longer than with a blender, but it was so tactile! Make sure to wear your aprons!

Paprika Cheddar Drop Biscuits
adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 8-12 biscuits

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika, plus more for dusting
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and paprika. Whisk together to be sure it's mixed.

3. Cut butter into flour mix with your fingers or a pastry blender until it resembles a coarse meal with a few lumps. Stir in grated cheddar cheese with a fork until well mixed.

4. Add milk and sour cream using a spatula, stirring until the dough just comes together; don't over mix. Depending on what size you want your biscuits to be, you can use measuring cups from 1/4 to 1 cup. I used 1/3 and 1/4, but preferred the 1/4 cup sized biscuits. Take what size you want and  scoop out dough. Drop onto pan, keeping each biscuit about 1 inch apart. Lightly dust with paprika.

5. Bake about 15-20 minutes, but rotate the sheet halfway through baking. They will be a pale golden brown when they're ready. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then enjoy them warm, or cool completely on rack.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who wants compost in their cookies? I do! I do!

So I've been totally in a snack mood lately, if you can't tell from my recent posts. Anything you can grab and go to run off into the sunshine. When I heard about Momofuku's Compost Cookies, I NEEDED to make them. Throw anything snack like in a baked good? I'm there.

The fact that I've never been to Momofuku probably makes me a bad New Yorker (a bad NY Baker to be exact), but I figured trying my hand at them would be an even better experience.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie
Recipe adapted from pastry chef Christina Tosi

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks, softened)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup (I actually left this out because I didn't have it, but my cookies came out fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups your favorite baking ingredients (chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies)
1 1/2 cups your favorite snack foods, crushed (chips, pretzels, etc.)

Note: I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, crushed pretzels and crushed potato chips

1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachement, or handheld mixer and a large bowl, cream softened butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high until fluffy and pale yellow. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula.

3. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix at low speed until fully incorporated.

4. Set the timer or watch the clock for 10 minutes. Increase mixing speed to medium high, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl 2-3 times during this ten minute mixing session. This will help the sugar granules to dissolve, and the mixture will almost double in size.

5. After 10 minutes, mix in dry ingredients on low speed in two parts. Scrape down sides of bowl after each part. Mix just until you can no longer see any remnants of dry ingredients; be very careful not to overmix.

6. Fold in baking ingredients, then fold in snack ingredients. I gave them a quick 15 second mix afterwards just to make sure they're all fully incorporated.

(I think there is a law that requires you to taste this cookie dough.)

7. Using a medium sized ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan.

8. Wrap scooped cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (This can be refrigerated for up to a week, but if you're doing it for more than one day I would gather the dough together and wrap it in plastic wrap in the fridge.)

DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

9. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Take plastic wrap off cookies and bake 9-11 minutes. I would suggest rotating the pan halfway during baking to ensure they bake evenly. While in the oven the cookies will puff, then crackle and spread. When done, the cookies will have brown edges and golden centers. If the centers still look pale and doughy, keep them in the oven for a few more minutes.

10. Cool the cookies for 20 minutes in pan on rack, then transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely before storing. I personally ate them as soon as they would not burn my mouth.

Keep in an airtight container for storage. These will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Just a reminder about Cereal Treats.

So. No matter how many delicious things I make, including Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies, Tyrone ALWAYS asks me to make this classic and easy snack. It's great to grab and go, and satisfies a sweet tooth without being too sugary or high in fat.



Often named Rice Krispie Treats, but you can use any rice cereal to make these, no need for brand favoritism here. These can also be used to help design cakes (like those big, fancy ones you see on Cake Boss) when modeling chocolate or fondant isn't sturdy enough. And the best thing? It's super easy, and results in happy children (usually, and if you have any).

Cereal Treats
adapted from the side of a Rice Krispie Cereal Box

You can use any rice cereal and marshmallow brand for these.


3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 package (10 oz.) marshmellows
6 cups rice cereal

1. In the largest saucepan you have, melt butter over low heat. Add all your marshmallows and constantly stir until completely melted. Don't let them burn!

2. Turn down heat as low as possible. Add cereal one cup at a time, incorporating fully each time. It will seem as if there isn't enough marshmallow to coat them all around 4 or 5 cups, but believe me, there's always enough marshmallow. Stir this until the cereal is completely coated.

3. Coat a 13x9 pan with cooking spray or a flavorless oil and evenly press cereal mixture into pan with a buttered spatula or wax paper. I always use a glass baking dish because I find it comes away better once the mixture has cooled.

4. Let cool completely, then cut into squares...or circles would be cool too.

These are best same day, but they do keep in an airtight container for about 3 days.

NOTE: If stove access is limited or non-accessible, marshmallows and butter may be heated on high in microwave for 3 minutes before stirring in cereal.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies--best I've ever had.

Tyrone and I are leaving tomorrow for a whole week on his family's farm in Maine, and I was completely agonizing over what to bring. I mean, his family grows their own vegetables, raises chickens and lambs, and eat basically all organic, so I wanted it to be something special and something that needs natural ingredients.
So after reading David Lebovitz's post about Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies, I suddenly got the hankering to know what mesquite flour smelled like. I literally couldn't find it anywhere. I ordered it online (impatiently waited) and took a big whiff and just HAD to make these cookies.

I used Callebaut chocolate chips, which just melted perfectly and has a great flavor. I think you can use regular granulated sugar, but the light brown turbinated sugar really makes a chewy, soft cookie, so I would recommend following these perfect ingredients.

This makes a ton of batter, so I ended up freezing about half of it. It's easiest if you form them into mounds for freezing so you can just pop them in the oven later.

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup  mesquite flour
1 teaspoon  baking powder (you can buy aluminum-free if you want to be really conscience)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups natural cane sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
2. In a medium-large bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk it all together to make sure it gets really well mixed. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the room temperature butter with a mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl as you go.
4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each into mix after adding. Add vanilla.
5. Add flour mix in 3 batches, mixing in after each. Around the last batch of the flour mixture, the batter starts to get really stiff. I switched over to a wooden mixing spoon, then switched to my bare (clean) hands to add the chocolate chips and rolled oats.
6. Add chocolate chips and rolled oats, and make sure to mix these in really well. Every individual cookie will depend on it!
7. Drop 2 tablespoon sized mounds evenly spaced onto prepared baking sheets.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until they just begin to set. They will not look like they are done, but they are. Take them out! No overbaking allowed!
David gave a really great tip, which I think can be applied to all chocolate chip cookies. When you pull the cookies out of the oven, tap them very lightly with the back of a flat, metal utensil (big spoon/spatula) to get rid of any peaks. This will help to keep them moist.
Let them cool completely on pan. And then just put them right in your mouth, you won't regret it. And thank god for the huge amount of batter, or there's no way I would share these.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Special Surprise Dinner

Have you ever loved someone so much that you will make your day painfully (almost) impossible just to make them a special surprise dinner? Well I have, and I did, and my feet hurt from standing all day.

I am totally one of those crazy list people. Grabbing scraps of paper here and there to write down random lists. Groceries, recipes I just need to make, things I have to do that day, things I have to do someday. sigh. Anyway, it even gets to the point where I make a schedule for myself, especially on crazy days. Here's an example of today:

9:15 Go to gym
10:30 shower
12pm laundry
1pm grocery shopping
1:30 set ingredients out to warm
2:00 pick up laundry
2:15 fold laundry and make bed
3pm make banana bread
4pm make cookies
6pm start dinner
8pm Tyrone home and eat

Yes, I am crazy. The funny part is, I never follow the schedule. Today Tyrone called me at 5 to let me know he'd be home in 45 minutes, and I swear I was electrocuted by my own wave of panic. As if he was gonna care, seriously. Gosh.

So, here is the special dinner I made. It was both very yummy and very appreciated (I'm so lucky). AND, Tyrone cleaned up my kitchen mess! YAY!

Pasta Carbonara
adapted from Pioneer Woman
serves 4-6, depending on how hungry you are :)

So this recipe ended up being a little bit more hectic than I anticipated. I would suggest prepping everything in advance, especially if you're lacking in great knife skills, like moi. Also, I used bacon mainly because I didn't want to buy pancetta, but I'm betting this is even more delicious with pancetta.

1 pound linguine pasta
4 eggs
1 pound bacon or pancetta (I used bacon)
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
8-12 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or substitute another cup of stock)
1/2 stick of butter
1 handful of parsley
1-2 tablespoons black pepper

1. Fry bacon in large skillet (use the largest one you have), and set bacon aside to cool on paper towel to degrease a bit. Leave bacon grease in skillet.

2. Cook linguine in salted water. I would suggest cooking al dente, but I accidentally overcooked my pasta because I was frazzled and had too much to do. The egg addition later on ending up moistening it a bit, so don't freak if you leave it on too long.

3. Add your chopped onion to the bacon grease and let it cook down on medium high heat for a few minutes.

4. After a few minutes, throw in your garlic. Cooking the onions first prevents the garlic from burning.
Leave it for a few minutes, mixing everything together with a wooden spoon every now and then. Remove onions and garlic from skillet and place in small bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard excess bacon grease.

5. Replace skillet back on high heat until it starts to smoke slightly. Add wine (be careful!) and whisk around gently until all the brown bits from the bacon have come off the bottom of the pan. Add one cup of chicken stock and return onions and garlic to skillet. Let this simmer over medium heat.

6. While that's simmering, crack 4 large eggs into a large bowl. Add about 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, and the parsley roughly chopped (I actually used dried parsley because I live in NYC, and where the heck would I find fresh parsley. If someone knows this, please tell me). Mix well with a fork.

7. Add the hot cooked pasta to the egg mixture, then add all that to the onion mixture in the skillet. Cut up half stick of butter and stir in, as well as the cooked bacon (I tore it up into pieces with my bare hands). Mix it all together very well and add pepper to taste. Garnish with rest of parmesan and parsley. EAT.

I also added some last minute garlic bread. Take whatever sliced bread you have (I used whole wheat), slather with butter, sprinkle with garlic powder, and toast. It was a great addition to help scoop up the yummy liquidy sauce when all the pasta was gone.

We ate too much carbonara. It was so yummy it knocked him over backwards.

And that's not even the end. Not even the best part. You just wait.

Very Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes about 25 little cookies

So, once again, something like this where chocolate is the highlight, it's pretty important to use a good chocolate. I used Valrhona cocoa powder, and Scharffen Berger semi-sweet chocolate. Chocolate extract is also another really nice incorporation which will help if you do not have access to good chocolate.

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped in chip-sized chunks
¼ cup cocoa nibs
½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla and/or chocolate extract
optional sea salt topping

1. In a double boiler (a heat proof bowl set over a pan of boiling water) melt half of the chocolate (2.5 oz). Cut up the rest to the size of chips and mix with cocoa nibs in small bowl. Put in fridge so it doesn't melt. Let melted chocolate cool to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and and line baking sheet with parchment paper. I sprayed some Pam on the pan before laying down the parchment just to help it stay.

3. In a small bowl sift both flours, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

4. Beat the butter until creamy. This should happen almost immediately if you've brought the butter to room temperature beforehand. Beat in sugar, sea salt, vanilla, and/or chocolate extract (I used both).

5. By hand, stir in melted chocolate fully, cocoa-flour mixture, then cocoa nibs and chopped chocolate.

6. Scoop the dough using round teaspoons, and evenly space them on prepared pan. You can sprinkle with sea salt, which is very yummy. Bake them 10-12 minutes until there is a dry sheen on top of cookies. To the touch they will feel soft and airy, but don't fret, they harden a bit as they cool.

7. Let cool on sheet on rack for ten minutes, then remove to rack. Cool completely.

8. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk.