Friday, December 23, 2011

Apple Pie Rugelach

Although I have decidedly taken a vacation from holiday baking this year (sacrilege, I know) at least my mom is here to pick up the slack.  While elbow deep in Buckeye cookies, chocolate-dipped meringues, dark chocolate cherry fudge and gingerbread, she somehow found the time to write up the exploits of her first attempt at rugelach--Enjoy!

To help celebrate my first year of retirement I decided to attempt something that I had never before had the time to do...Holiday Baking!  I figured that Hilary must have gotten the baking gene from me, right? Wrong!  While I could handle the simple cut-outs from pre-made Pillsbury gingerbread cookie dough and Chocolate-Almond Meringues, Apple Pie Rugelach was more challenging for a beginning baker.

I confess that I had never even heard of rugelach until I saw the recipe in the December issue of Good Housekeeping and then saw some on display at Whole Foods.  After scanning the ingredients and making sure there was nothing that would be hard to find I decided to tackle this treat [note from Hilary: we scoured THREE stores looking for dried apples. Just saying].  After some trial and error (duh, cutting the dough incorrectly) and advice from Hilary the final batch looked pretty good and even the rejects were tasty.

Here are some pointers I would have liked to have seen included with the recipe:

1) Parchment paper is a MUST as the jelly oozes out of the sides. I even decreased the jelly by 1 tablespoon for the last 3 batches.  2) Immediately remove the rugelach from the jelly puddles or they will cool attached to your cookie.  3) I reduced the baking time to 23 minutes, this depends on how well-done you like your rugelach.

Bring on the next challenge!  But maybe not until next year.

Apple Pie Rugelach
     from Good Housekeeping, makes 64 cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 package (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) dried apples, finely chopped 
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped 
1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
3/4 cup apple jelly
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Cinnamon Sugar:
1 cup granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

Trial and error.  Even the rejects were tasty.
1.  Prepare dough: In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until creamy, scraping bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in flour and salt just until blended, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll. 

2.  Meanwhile, prepare filling: In medium bowl, combine apples, walnuts, and brown sugar. 

3.  Prepare Spice Sugar: In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

5.  Sprinkle work surface with 2 tablespoons Spice Sugar. Place 1 disk dough on top of sugar; turn over to coat both sides. Roll dough into 10-inch round, turning round over a few times and sprinkling dough with 2 more tablespoons Spice Sugar to coat both sides.

6.  Spread top of round with 3 tablespoons jelly, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup filling, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. With knife, cut dough into 16 equal wedges. Starting at wide end, roll up each wedge jelly-roll fashion. Place rugelach, 1 inch apart, on prepared cookie sheet, point side down.

7.  Bake rugelach 30 to 33 minutes or until dough is browned and cooked through. Immediately transfer to wire rack to cool.

8.  Repeat with remaining dough, Spice Sugar, jelly, and filling. Store cookies in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week or in freezer up to 3 months. Dust with confectioners' sugar to serve.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie

Whereas in my last post I went out on a limb to try Eggnog Scones, a treat that brought together a couple of the flavors that I usually dislike, this recipe incorporates two of the ingredients that I've gone completely nuts for in the past year: cardamom and sweet potatoes.  When I saw this recipe from Baking Bites last month I couldn't wait to try it--two of my favorite flavors combined in one dessert! It's like she knows me!--and, honestly, I can't believe I didn't think of it myself since I'm pretty much a cardamom fanatic at this point and add it to anything and everything possible.

I was actually completely unaware of cardamom until relatively recently when I ate at one of my now-favorite DC restaurants, Rasika.  The delicious gulab jamun I had for dessert there were unlike anything I'd tasted and I HAD to know what spice was at work in the dish. And the rest is cardamom-scented history :)

If you haven't worked with cardamom before, it's very aromatic and has a slight citrusy taste that you'll probably recognize if you've ever had chai.  It can be purchased as whole pods (often crushed and used for infusing flavor before being removed) as well as ground, which looks like a cross between cinnamon and nutmeg.  If you're a big cardamom fan like me, you might also want to check out this recipe for Cardamom Panna Cotta, which showcases the flavor beautifully.

Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, this would also be a great alternative for next year's pumpkin pie if you're not a pumpkin fan, or just looking for something different--although sweet potatoes have more calories from sugar than pumpkin, they are significantly higher in fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron.  So go ahead and have a second slice ; )

*A Few Notes: I've included the Martha Stewart graham cracker crust recipe I used but, if you don't feel like making the crust from scratch you honestly don't lose anything to taste in the recipe by buying a pre-made crust.  If you do make the crust, you should be more adventurous than I was and try it using cinnamon or gingerbread graham crackers (but in that case you might want to omit the added 3 Tbs sugar).  You can also cut sugar by skipping the caramelized brown sugar layer added to the crust before pouring in the filling.

Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie
     from Baking Bites
1 9 or 10-inch graham cracker pie crust, prebaked or store bought
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1 1/4 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato or canned
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp all purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Place graham cracker crust onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the crust. Bake sugar-lined crust for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.

3. Press sweet potato puree through a wire strainer to make it as smooth as possible, adding a tablespoon or two of water if you are working with leftover potatoes to make them a bit more pliable.

4. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a food processor), whisk together all ingredients except the flour. Whisk until very smooth. Sift flour over the sweet potato mixture, and whisk until fully incorporated.

5. Slide brown sugar-filled crust out of the oven and pour filling into pie crust (do not overfill crust if your pie is slightly shallow, just discard excess filling), then return pie to oven.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until pie is set and jiggles only slightly when the pan is bumped.

7. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, before serving.

Graham Cracker Crust
     makes 1 9-inch crust
12 graham crackers finely ground
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbs sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pulse graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a food processor until combined.

2.  Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish.  Bake until edges are golden, 12-14 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Spiced Eggnog Scones

I have a love-hate relationship with scones. Mostly in that I want to love them, but I always hate them.  I think the problem is texture.  Because you can spice up a scone with any manner of chocolate-chunk-dried-fruit-frosting-drizzled goodness, but if it's still rock hard then I'm not interested. Is it mandatory for scones to be rock hard or something?

Enter Sticky Fingers Bakeries scone mixes.

After traveling for several months, I have to admit that it's taking me awhile to get back into the swing of baking again.  So far I've made gingersnaps from a Betty Crocker mix and made a brave attempt at red velvet cakepops, but we all saw how those came out.  While perusing the aisles of World Market, one of my favorite stores, I came across a display of scone mixes from Sticky Fingers Bakeries and thought they might be another good chance to ease back into baking, and also to see what a decent scone might taste like if all the mixing and measuring were already done for me.  Sticky Fingers offers a ridiculously wide variety of mixes from the standard blueberry and lemon, to raspberry and apple cinnamon, as well as seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice and peppermint chocolate chip.

This experiment was a double whammy for me because, not only do I have an adversarial relationship with scones...but I also hate eggnog. I want to enjoy it so badly--I love cream! I love nutmeg!--but I just can't do it.  I usually make up for this by pouting in front of store windows whenever I see signs for eggnog lattes or ice cream.  So I bought the eggnog scone mix, obviously. : )

And, believe it or not, I thought they were awesome.  Probably because they tasted more like "spiced" and not so much like "eggnog".  But the texture! Soft, chewy, fluffy! Amazing.  They still baked up a nice crunchy shell that you'd expect in a scone but were also soft enough inside to be enjoyable without being cake-like. Love them.  Just don't expect to see me dipping one into a mug of eggnog anytime soon. *pout*

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Red Velvet Cakepop Fail

Obviously I'm a little bit behind the times.  First it took me 12 months to make it to PAUL Bakery's new Penn Quarter location, and now, finally, at long last, I'm getting around to making...cakepops.  Just as the name implies, cakepops are hybrid cupcake-lollipops combining the perfect bite of candy coated cake perched adorably on a lollipop stick. Genius. What started as a humble treat from baking bloggess extraordinaire Bakerella exploded into trendiness, becoming arguably "the next cupcake" and is now a ubiquitous treat on dessert spreads everywhere. 

I think I kept from taking the cakepop plunge because they seemed deceivingly simple and I never seemed to have the supplies on hand.  And, it's true, cakepops do require a bit of a start up cost, but a trip to your local craft store will keep you in cakepop supplies for months.  In addition to the cake supplies themselves, you'll also need lollipop sticks, candy coating chips and a piece of styrofoam to place the pops in while they dry (I also bought pre-cut foil candy wrappers to make the cakepops easier for gifting).

I'll just tell you this up front: I was right about the "deceivingly simple" part.
These were two of the best looking ones. Seriously.
My personal favorite: the Runny Nose Cakepop
Don't get me wrong, these cakepops tasted AMAZING. They just looked a little...special.  The concept is simple in theory: Bake a cake from a boxed mix, crumble it into a bowl, mix it together with a can of purchased frosting, roll into balls, insert sticks and freeze, dip in melted candy coating, and voilá...ridiculously adorable Bakerella-worthy cakepops.  In reality, not so much.

Meatballs, anyone?
First I would stress that when she says to crumble the cake into a bowl, REALLY crumble it.  I even cut off the tougher edges from my cake first and my cake balls were still lumpy.  Secondly, she says to use only 3/4 of the can of frosting but I would use all of it--again to help with the lumpiness.  Thirdly, after inserting the lollipop sticks, be sure to freeze them for long enough--several of mine broke off of the sticks and fell apart in the candy coating.  Finally, you need to have WAY more patience than I did to get the candy coating to dry evenly--a second coat may have helped with the overall look but would have made the flavor much too sweet.

Crumble like you've never crumbled before

These wusses couldn't hack it
Overall, I think the taste and novelty factor (plus 100 leftover lollipop sticks...) are enough to inspire me to try these again, but let's just say I won't be mastering masterpieces like these anytime soon:
Bakerella cakepops for the new Muppets movie

Basic Cakepop Recipe
     makes 45-50
1 box cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can frosting (16 oz.)
Wax paper
Candy Melts (1lb)
Lollipop sticks
  1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
  2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (I use the back of a large spoon, but it may be easier to use fingers to mix together. But, be warned, it will get messy. Also, you may not need the entire can of frosting, so start out by using almost the entire can and add more if you need to.)
  3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50)
  4. Melt chocolate in the microwave per directions on package. (30 sec intervals, stirring in between.)
  5. Dip the tip of your lollipop stick in a little of the melted candy coating and insert into the cake balls. (Insert a little less than halfway.)
  6. Place them in the freezer for a little while to firm up.
  7. Once firm, carefully insert the cake ball into the candy coating by holding the lollipop stick and rotating until covered. Once covered remove and softly tap and rotate until the excess chocolate falls off. Don’t tap too hard or the cake ball will fall off, too.
  8. Place in a styrofoam block to dry.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that an embarrassingly large portion of my time is devoted to seeking out bakeries and pastry shops in the States rivaling those I enjoyed every day when I lived in Paris.  Ok, just kidding, I'm not actually ashamed at all :) When you live in a city where it's practically impossible to walk down the street without tripping over gateaux and baguettes, let alone making it to your Métro stop and having any memory of how that Berthillon ice cream cone ended up in your hand...You tend to take for granted that impeccable desserts and baked goods are everywhere to be had.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that a Paul location was opening up right here in Washington, DC.  Not a bakery in the French style, but an actual, honest-to-goodness French chain with over 120 years of history.  Unfortunately, as is the story of my life, Paul opened while I was traveling overseas, so I would have to wait several more patisserie-free months before indulging in tartes and macarons.  Luckily, I finally got a chance to sample Paul's offerings this summer during one of the free Navy band concerts offered at the Navy Memorial.  Paul's location adjacent to the memorial makes it a perfect stop for a pre or post-concert snack, and I took advantage of their concert picnic special--a baguette sandwich, pastry and drink for $11.95.  Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until next summer for this awesome deal--C'est la vie.

That's right. Macarons as big as your hand. *drool*

As soon as I stepped through the glass doors of Paul's, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.  Brass bistro finishings, cafe tables and simple, classically French presentation brought back memories as I ordered my usual sandwich--jambon camembert, obviously.  And--what you really want to hear about--the pastries didn't disappoint either.  Enormous macarons, individual tartes, and crisp, flaky Napoleons abound.  Other than the excellent baguette for my sandwich, I didn't get to sample any other breads, but you can be sure I will be back for a boule or two.

Perfect vanilla napoleon (aka mille-feuille)

If you're looking for a taste of Parisian baking in DC, it doesn't get any better than Paul's.  And even though I was a little late to the Paul party, you're just in time to catch the opening of their newest location in Georgetown--after a soft opening this week, Paul Georgetown should be slinging sweets in no time.

If you go
PAUL Penn Quarter
801 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC
Metro Blue/Yellow: Archives-Navy Memorial

PAUL Georgetown
1078 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Washington, DC

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Boys of Baking Volume III: Pan de Muerto

Please welcome Cupcake Avenger guest blogging all star Matt Sullivan, who graciously agreed to take the plunge for another episode of The Boys of Baking! I'm thrilled to bring you his super impressive attempt at a spooky Pan de Muerto just in time for my favorite holiday--Halloween! 
The dough version of this looked amazing! It was a skull and cross bones with large eyes. Very manly thing to bake if you ask me. The baked product ripped on me and made the skull askew and the eyes got way too big! It still tasted amazing though.
Pan de Muerto is fittingly... mueurto :(

Hello all once again. I am currently on travel to Arizona (read Northern Mexico) and with Halloween rapidly approaching I decided to take my baking south of the border.  I was born and raised in Phoenix, so I have had a lot of exposure to the Mexican culture. So when Hilary asked me to do this again, Pan de Muerto was the obvious choice. Pan de Muerto simply means the bread of the dead. It is traditionally eaten on November 2nd (Dia del los Muertos) at the grave sites of deceased family members. Creepy? Sure. But delicious none the less. Pan de Muerto can best be described as anise bread with an orange glaze. Trust me, it works. 

If you already skipped ahead and looked at the photo, you will see my masterpiece didn't turn out so well aesthetically, so I will make like Tarantino in this blog post tell you up front: I failed, but I had fun doing it. I also learned a lesson baking bread for the first time: just because you make bread dough into a shape doesn't mean it will look like that after it cooks.  

Word of warning for those attempting this: be prepared to have a whole day set aside to tackle this project. This was my first time really baking break, so it was an eye opener for me. I will try this recipe again one day, as I won't let one failed attempt stop me.

If you want to make your own, here is the recipe:
Pan de Muerto
    makes 2 loaves
7 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra flour for your work surface
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 pkgs active dry yeast, dissolved in 5 Tbs warm milk
12 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tsp anise seed
2 Tbs grated orange zest

1.  Put sifted flour and granulated sugar in a large bowl; mix lightly to incorporate.

2.  Cut in the butter using your hands until it is well-incorporated (you may have little pebble-sized nuggets form; this is ok)

3.  Form a little well in the center of the mixture and pour in the yeast and milk mixture, cinnamon, anise seed, salt, and vanilla.  Add the eggs 2 or 3 at a time, mixing by hand or with an electric mixer after each addition.  Once all of the ingredients have been added, work the dough with your hands until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  If it is too sticky, add a little bit more of the flour until the dough is easily handled.  Shape the dough into a ball, and lightly grease the surface; place it back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.  Once it has doubled in size, put the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or even overnight).

4.  Form the dough into the shape you want your Pan de Muerto to be.  I chose a skull and cross bones, you can try anything you want.

5.  Place your masterpieces on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets and let them sit for about an hour--they will probably rise a little bit more.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden on top.

6.  While your loaves are cooling, make the glaze by bringing orange juice, orange or lemon zest and sugar to a boil for about 2 to 3 minutes or until it has started to thicken and reduce a bit.  Apply directly to the still-warm bread with a pastry brush.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Argentinian Alfajores

Please welcome back my friend, guest blogger, world traveler, macaron-making partner in crime and soon-to-be American expat in Buenos Aires, Tanya Brothen, as she brings us one of the delicacies of her adopted new country! 

Red wine and red meat. These are two of the things that come to mind when I think about Argentina, and according to my highly scientific Wikipedia research, they are exactly what I can expect to find when I move there at the end of the year.

But in addition to the clichés steak and vino, I’ve been delighted to discover lots of other (non-red) edible and drinkable Argentine specialties. There’s the communal experience of mate tea, the creamy gelato brought to the Argentina by way of Italian immigration, and dulche de leche-filled cookies known as alfajores. Unable to resist the lure of dulche de leche, and wanting to see if alfajores will be to me in Buenos Aires what pain au chocolat is to me in Paris (less of an indulgence and more of a main food group), I decided to try my hand at baking alfajores.

The experiment began with making dulche de leche. And really, I could have just stopped there. Homemade dulche de leche pairs well with any number of other items you have in your kitchen. Vanilla ice cream, crêpes, brownies ,or simply a spoon. Better yet, it’s incredibly easy to make; all you need is a can of condensed milk. Pour the milk into a small pan, cover it tightly with tinfoil, place the small pan inside a larger pan, fill the larger pan halfway with boiling water, and stick the whole thing in the oven at 425 Fahrenheit for roughly an hour, maybe a little bit more depending on your oven, remove, beat until smooth, chill in the fridge. It should come out thick, caramel-colored, and delicious.

For the cookies I used a recipe from, but I found many options online, each with slight variations, such as this one and this one. I had to start the recipe over after mixing the sugar with the flour when I should have mixed it with the butter, but other than that there weren’t any major hiccups in the process.

Unfortunately, when it came time to fill the cookies with the dulche de leche and roll them in coconut…well…let’s just say it took many tries and highly rushed camera work to get photos of the alfajores looking normal. For some reason the cookies would not stay filled. They looked good at first, and then slowly all of the dulche de leche would seep out. Hmm. Did I not let the filling thicken enough in the oven? Possibly, but at least they were delicious, albeit un-servable to anyone other than myself. And I was sort of ok with that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lemon Lime Bars

Hi everyone, please welcome my friend, philologist, bassoon player, fellow baker and latest Cupcake Avenger guest blogger Molly Miller and her lemon lime bars!

I felt the urge to bake something summery for a get-together I was having later that night, to help me on my quest to convince my brain that my summer isn't quite over yet.  I originally intended to make some coconut lime sugar cookies, but I realized at the last minute that I didn't want to spend my entire day in the kitchen.  It was 100 degrees outside on the day I was baking, and my kitchen is far far away from my questionable AC unit, so I began to consider other options.  I wanted to toss some stuff in a pan and bake it instead of having to shape dough into balls, make multiple batches, and hang out by the oven all afternoon.  It may have been September, but the temperature told me I should be doing the minimum amount of work possible to make something delicious, and then relax and have a cold drink.

So, I decided to make theseI had more limes than I knew what to do with, and I was excited to try a new type of recipe, having never attempted lemon squares before.  I did not follow instructions, so I will go ahead and rewrite them to show my process.  Feel free to follow the original recipe without my commentary to distract you.

Get a 13x9 inch pan and line it with something.  I was told to use foil, but I somehow ended up with 3 boxes of parchment paper in my drawer, so I decided to use some of it up and they came out of the pan just fine.  Sometimes, it seems like people are using foil and parchment paper because they just want to reduce the amount of cleanup or be extra careful, but I think you do need to line the pan here if you want to remove the bars without cracking the crust.  Do it.

Crust ingredients:
2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour, and it was delicious.)
Zest of 1 large lemon (or three small limes, if that's what you have.)

Cream together the butter and the sugar and the zest, and then add the flour.  It will end up crumbly, so you can smash it into your pan for your crust.  I've never tried to do that before, so my crust wasn't as pretty as it could have been, but it held together nicely. 

"Bake 20 minutes at 350, or until center is set."  (I overbaked mine.  20 minutes seems insane.  Remember that the crust will get baked AGAIN, and you don't want your edges to get too dark like mine did.)

At first I was a little annoyed that I would have to make a crust AND a filling, but then I realized that there was absolutely no reason to wash my mixing bowl and beaters between the crust and the filling.  Yay less work! 

My recipe told me to hang out and wait while the crust is baking, but really, you should get started on zesting and juicing those lemons and limes.  I did not have any lemons, so these are going to mainly be lime bars.  Instead of a quarter cup of lemon juice and a quarter cup of lime juice, I juiced between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of lime juice and filled the rest of the 1/2 cup with bottled lemon juice from my fridge and a splash of lemon extract for good measure.  I zested a bunch of limes until it looked like I had at least a teaspoon (there's a picture of how much I used) and ignored the bit about the lemon zest.  My bars taste like lime and are delicious, but if you like lemon too, go ahead and adjust lemon/lime proportions as you like.

Filling ingredients:
6 large eggs
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat.)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup lime juice (or some combination thereof)
zest of 1 large lemon (unless you don't have any)
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

My recipe encouraged me to add a drop or two of food coloring to make them pretty, but I just plain forgot.  I'm content with the color I ended up with, but go ahead and throw some extra coloring in if you want them to look a little more cheerful.

(Side note: Cooking with The Spatula of Love will make your food delicious and give you the right to brag that you put so much love into your baking that you had to use a special spatula to control it.)

After 20 minutes, the filling had a crust over the top, but the contents were still sloshing around beneath it.  I realized my oven thermometer was reading 300 instead of 350, so I adjusted things and popped them back in.  After 5 minutes, I didn't exactly know how to tell whether they were done or not.  Is the center set?  Well, my toothpick came out clean and nothing was sloshy, so it might be done, right?  But, I hate cutting into something after it has cooled only to realize that I have undercooked it, so I turned off the oven and stuck it in for a few more minutes.  After letting them cool a bit on the counter, you should cover them and let them chill in the fridge for 2 hours.  Then, sprinkle with powdered sugar (and more zest, if you're not sick of zesting yet.  I was.)

At some point, I scooped a bit of something weird looking (undermixed egg?) off the top of the bars and left a small hole behind, as you can see in the pictures.  The powdered sugar covered it, so no worries.  I've included a picture of the uglier edge pieces as a warning against making the crust climb too high and then baking it for longer than you might need to.

I stored my leftovers in the fridge and they were still delicious a week later, though you might have to refresh the powdered sugar if you want them to look pretty after sitting in the fridge for a few days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Billy's Bakery NYC

On my last trip to the Big Apple, I was somewhat overwhelmed as I only had a few hours to check out what the city had to offer in terms of cupcakes.  No simple task in the town that can largely be credited with starting the cupcake craze for the entire East Coast.  After much deliberation I settled on kingpin Magnolia Bakery as well as the quirky Kyotofu and had really hoped to squeeze in one more shop but didn't have time on my short daytrip. 

As soon as I got back to DC, everyone wanted to know if I'd made it to a bakery called Billy's.  Even the next time I went back to Ohio I ran into a former Billy's employee at Columbus' Bakery Gingham.  Clearly this was a sign.

This time around I made a beeline for Billy's Bakery and instantly saw what all the fuss was about.  In addition to some awesome baked goods, this place has atmosphere for days.  An old-timey respite in the middle of the big city, it was nice to walk in and feel like you'd taken a step back in time, where life was a little bit slower, and you could just have a slice of pie and watch the world go by.  I sampled the banana and carrot cupcakes, as well as the key lime cheesecake and they were all delicious.
I think my parents had this same table when I was little
Key Lime Cheesecake

Billy's is definitely a must try next time you're in the city and they also offer ridiculously gorgeous layer cakes as well as bars, cookies and pies. 

If you go
My attempt at an old-timey looking Billy's pic
Billy's Bakery Tibeca
75 Franklin St
Between Broadway and Church

Billy's Nolita
268 Elizabeth St
Between Prince and Houston Streets

Billy's Chelsea
184 9th Avenue
Between 21st and 22nd Streets

Monday, August 29, 2011

Put the Mango in the Coconut Bread

This time of year I always find myself thinking about zucchini bread (and, subsequently, looking up how to spell "zucchini," seriously, I can't be the only one...right?) but once I'm elbow-deep in shredded squash I always think there must be something more exciting to be making.  Banana bread?  Meh.  This time around I actually did my homework to see what fruits are in season, as I'm usually pretty bad about just following my baking whims and making whatever I'm in the mood for, regardless of availability.  That's when I hit upon mangoes!  I may have missed sour cherry season, but I'm not too late for mangoes.  And coconut, let's throw some coconut in there for good measure.

I've actually just started liking mango recently, I think because whenever I get it in restaurants it's usually under-ripe and, as a result, kind of tastes like eating a pine cone or something.  But slightly soft, deliciously ripe mango is awesome and my new favorite snack when I need a little taste of the tropics here on the East Coast.

If you've ever worked with mangoes before, you've probably looked up one of those helpful online guides that show you how to score the flesh into a grid pattern so the fruit just POPS right off, magically, from the skin.  Well, as you can see, mine wasn't quite so magical, but I did manage to figure it out after some trial and error.

I also added mango nectar and coconut water to this recipe to try to bring out the flavors a little bit more (and also because I've just been really curious to check out the coconut water fad to see what all the fuss is about--it's delicious!) so you could definitely omit those if they're not carried at your local supermarket.  If you do decide to use them, I recommend hanging onto the leftovers for the most delicious cocktail or smoothie you'll ever make.  Seriously. 

Mango Coconut Bread
  makes 2 loaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3/4 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup mango nectar
1/4 cup coconut water
2 1/2 cups mangoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 if using ceramic, glass, or dark metal pans). Grease two 8x4 inch loaf pans.

2.  Combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, coconut, sugar) in a medium bowl. 

3.  In a small bowl, beat eggs lightly with oil, mango nectar and coconut water. Add to flour mixture and stir just until combined. 

4.  Add mangoes and lemon juice.  Stir just until incorporated.

5.  Pour into pans, bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.                                   

Monday, August 15, 2011

Martha Monday: Blueberry Shortcakes

Summer is here and, with it, the arrival of shortcakes.  Recently I had the urge to bake but didn't really know what to make (pretty standard for me) but luckily Martha was there with her latest issue of Living, profiling summer desserts.  On their own, there's nothing really exciting about shortcakes.  I mean, let's be honest, they're like the biscuit's lazy cousin.  But where shortcakes really shine is with the addition of fruit.  Or specifically for this recipe, fruit compote. 

The word "compote" is somewhat of an inside joke in my family, ever since my father once tried to order pancakes at a Bob Evans restaurant and made the mistake of asking the waitress if they could put any "fruit compote" on top.  I've honestly never seen a more confused look come across a person's face while she stared at my father blankly until he finally said something like, "You know? Fruit sauce??" I guess you had to be there :)


I know these might seem somewhat sacrilegious too if you've only ever had the standard strawberry shortcake.  A cook out standby from my childhood, I have to admit that I was skeptical that blueberry could beat out strawberry in this fruit fight, but honestly I will never go back.  "Compote" may sound complicated, but I promise it's super simple and you'll probably be making this sauce for all kinds of toppings.  Martha's recipe also calls for a side of Sweet Corn Ice Cream...yeah, I know...but I have yet to try out my ice cream maker (a topic for another post) so I'd love to hear how it tastes if anyone else gives it a try. 

So what do you think? Are you on team strawberry or blueberry?

I call it: Shortcakes in the City :)

Sweet Corn Ice Cream Shortcakes with Blueberry Compote
     Ice Cream
4 ears corn, shucked
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Black Spiced Rum
2 teaspoons black sugar (see instructions)
1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
¼ teaspoon pink peppercorns
9 large egg yolks

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cups low-fat butter milk
½ cup whole milk
Heavy cream for brushing
Course sugar, for sprinkling

     Blueberry Compote
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1.  Make the ice cream: Carefully cut kernels from cobs, transfer to a saucepan. Break cobs in half; add to saucepan. Stir in milk, cream, ½ cup granulated sugar, rum, black sugar, pink salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Let cool; discard cobs.

2.  Place corn mixture in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.

3.  Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath. Whisk together egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar in a small bowl. Whisk 1 cup corn mixture into yolks, then return entire mixture to saucepan, whisking constantly, until custard thickens and can easily coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.
Strain custard through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing down solids; discard solids. Transfer bowl to ice-water bath, and refrigerate for an hour.

4.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

5.  Meanwhile, make the shortcakes: Preheat oven to 400°. Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, and 1 ¼ teaspoons salt twice into a bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Make a well in the center, and pour in buttermilk. Mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

6.  Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, spoon in batter until about ¾ way full. Place in the oven and cook for about 16 minutes. Brush tops of the shortcakes with heavy creak and sprinkle with course sugar. Finish baking for two to four minutes, until cakes are golden brown.

7.  Make the blueberry compote: Bring 1 cup of blueberries, the granulated sugar, water, and lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries burst and liquid thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining blueberries. Let cool.

8.  Split shortcakes in half, top each with a scoop of ice cream and a spoonful of blueberry compote, then sandwich with shortcake tops.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fluffernutter Cupcakes

So, I've never actually had the joy of eating a fluffernutter sandwich.  A what? Exactly. Fluffernutter.  Apparently a childhood staple particularly in the Northeastern U.S., a "fluffernutter" is a gooey mashup of peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwiched between two slices of bread has been around for decades.  The sandwich is even a registered trademark of the Marshmallow Fluff company, complete with a website and theme song sung by The Flufferettes. Obviously.

While I have to admit that this combo doesn't sound particularly appealing to me as a sandwich, I knew it would be a home run cupcake and couldn't wait to try out this recipe from The Novice Chef.  Pairing peanut butter cupcakes with marshmallow frosting and a surprise Nutella center even seemed like a modern twist on the s'mores concept and, let's be honest, I never pass up an opportunity to eat Nutella.

If you tend not to like cupcakes because you find them too sweet (then we can't be friends.  Just kidding. But seriously) then these are definitely not the cakes for you.  I think the marshmallow frosting alone is definitely enough to make your dentist cringe, and the addition of peanut butter will certainly leave you looking for a glass of milk to wash it all down.  So, all in all, I loved them :) Honestly, as over the top as it sounds, I probably would have added more Nutella as well.  This time I decided to try out my bismarck filling tip to try to save time instead of cutting wells in each of the cupcakes like usual, but it just didn't provide enough filling in each cake.  Or maybe I just need to work on my technique.

Either way this is not a cupcake for the faint of heart, but I definitely recommend it for all you fluffernuts out there

I call it: Cupcakes in the City :)

Fluffernutter Cupcakes
     makes 24
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 pinch salt

Marshmallow Frosting
4 large egg whites
1 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1.  Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oil and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.

2.  Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir dry mixture into the batter alternately with the milk. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.

3.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Nutella Filling
Using a piping bag and a Wilton 230 tip, slowly insert tip into top of cooled cupcake. Squeeze in Nutella and carefully withdraw.

1.  Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.

2.  Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Frost as desired

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pattycake, Pattycake

On my last trip home to visit family, I knew visiting one hometown cupcakery just wouldn't enough and, after stopping off at Blue Frost, mom and I immediately made a bee-line for another cupcake stop getting a lot of buzz around town.  As Columbus, OH's first vegan bakery, Pattycake Bakery has somewhat of a cult following, and for good reason.

In addition to their commitment to providing the most delicious vegan sweets imaginable, the folks at Pattycake are true business role models of global responsibility: from 100% biodegradable packaging (they even use vegan glue!), to working with local producers, recycling or composting nearly everything they produce and reducing their carbon footprint through making deliveries by bicycle, Pattycake Bakery is lading the way as a pillar of the community. 

Delivery bike!

But now, on to the sweets :)  Not having a lot of experience with vegan baking or cuisine, mom and I were a little unsure how our trip to Pattycake would go, but all our fears were quickly assuaged by the amazingly friendly staff and, of course, the incredible cupcakes.  Our favorites were the pineapple and raspberry cakes and they were incredibly sweet and moist, and I loved the use of real, fresh fruit.

If you want to indulge your vegan sweet tooth but can't make it to Columbus, never fear--Pattycake has an online shop, too!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blue Frost Cupcake

Before my last trip home to Columbus, OH, my dad had given me the heads-up that there was a new cupcakery in town called Blue Frost and I couldn't wait to check it out.  Admittedly, I was extra excited because it is in the adorably historic Old Worthington part of town and conveniently located across from my favorite coffee shop, my favorite wine store and my favorite nail salon.  Shucks. 

Scoping out their website beforehand, I was super impressed by the story of owners Melissa and Briana, who transitioned from careers in nursing to follow their passion for baking.  I'm always in awe of people who have the courage to take the plunge and follow their hearts--especially when cupcakes are involved :)  In this case, that passion translates into artisan cupcakes that use quality ingredients like Madagascar bourbon vanilla and Saigon cinnamon. 

In addition to the standard chocolate, vanilla and red velvet, I was also excited to try out their quirky signature flavor--the Blue Velvet.  I'm pretty sure if a cupcake flavor could be qualified as "hipster," Blue Velvet would be it.  While the BV doesn't taste much different than the red velvet, I'm always on the lookout for new and different cupcakes, and I really appreciated this unique twist.

Blue Frost features a menu of 10 daily cupcakes as well as two weekly specialty flavors such as Key Lime Coconut, Caramel Apple Spice and, of course, Buckeye--and spare me the Ohio State jokes ;)

If you go
Blue Frost Cupcake
657 High Street
Worthington, Ohio 43085