Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries

And so begins my second (perhaps annual...check back next year) post on Brussels sprouts, please fine "Cheesy, Chewy, Crunchy, Yummy (I promise!) Brussels Sprouts here http://bit.ly/uINiIC.  Why the continued fascination with mini cabbages?  Because they're so cute and crunchy and grow on the most amazing stalks.  Photos after the jump are a must see (as are the ones of my dog eating a fallen Brussel).  Last year I found the stalks at a specialty market, but this year they were at Safeway!  And the cashier thought they were some sort of artistic Christmas tree...but then I thought, well aren't they?  But the moment did give me the motivation to continue my crusade to popularize this ill reputed vegetable.  It really is delicious.  

This time I played on some classic seasonal flavors and added cranberries and walnuts.  I really loved the combination and have been eating them cold out of the fridge as a snack...which I'm not going to recommend unless you are as sprout supportive as I am.   But warm and fresh this recipe will be a crowd pleaser.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Little Cookie Shop...and a Few BIG Cupcakes

Back to the bakery bucket list...when birthdays roll around I tend to make a request for something sweet from one of the bakeries I've been waiting to try.  With the annual celebration of life comes the equally indulgent celebration of baked goods.  I had to post about these two bakeries because they are absolutely amazing.  The first you will likely have heard of: Crumbs Bake Shop of NYC fame. 

I've dabbled in my fair share of cupcake shops (Sprinkles in LA still reigning supreme), but Crumbs really ramps it up a notch to impress.  Most notably in the shear size of the things.  The little mini cakes are also equally impressive because they highlight so many delicious flavors.  I was very thankful this year for getting to celebrate my birthday with these.

Next up, Bundles of Cookies...hailing from Bethesda (near Washington, DC) sits this little shop of absolute stunningly detailed cookie confections.  To dispel initial fears...they taste so so so good.  There is a delicious almond flavor to them and they are so thick and moist.  What's really so impressive about these cookies is the details of the decorations...and they can do ANYTHING.  You just send in a photo and pop it's a cookie confection.  The ones below were a few of the ones chosen for my boyfriend's 25th birthday party centerpieces (the little puppy in the corner is of course the baked image of our dog Rocky...complete with Rocket Ship name tag and happy pink tongue).  Here is their website...definitely worth a glance: http://www.bundlesofcookies.com.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Honey Cake

Honey cake is a traditional fall recipe that my family usually bakes for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, but I think it's perfect for Thanksgiving and all the holidays that follow this time of year.  It's warm and sweet but flavored by all sorts of exotic spices that make it feel special and seasonal.

If you don't have this funny shaped bundt pan, don't worry, the cake looks just as lovely in a loaf pan.  These also freeze well and last for days after you bake them because they're so moist.

It's also amazing how this little cake goes from be a goopy mess of a batter and rises to the beauty you see below.  Don't be put off by the ingredient list, most of the items are things you'll likely have at home (coffee, orange juice etc.).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Candied Chocolate Bark

I've set myself a candy-corn per diem for the month of October.  I have self control issues around these cute little triangular puffs of sugar.  So I've stuck them into chocolate to remind myself that they are in fact part of the dessert family and not to be consumed in extreme excess.  This semi backfired, because adding them to chocolate bark made them taste EVEN BETTER.

At this point, I consider myself a chocolate barker.  I make all types of bark: white chocolate with dried fruit and nuts, dark chocolate with orange slices, milk chocolate, marshmellows and graham crackers...you get the idea.  

There really aren't many rules to barking, you just melt chocolate, spread it out over a piece of foil, and decorate it with whatever edible treats you like.  Then you let it set and cool, break it up into pieces and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spooky Spider Cake, Happy Halloween!

The week of Halloween baking continues with this Spooky Spider marble cake.  This cake's recipe is based off of my ultimate go-to Quick & Delicious cake from South Africa's fabled Myran Rosen.  This time I actually used a part of the original recipe which I usually leave out, I marbled the cake with part vanilla and part chocolate cake.  Fancy.  Baking can get a bit expensive, so I like to choose recipes like this which call for simple ingredients that are easy to find and easy to stock up on.

Learning to make this spider design is mandatory for a large portion of Halloween inspired decorations.  I had never done it before but I found it to be simple enough.   

Now, I'm not that into the gory side of Halloween when it comes to what I'm eating, but a cute little arachnid doesn't bother me too much.  Word of advice though; there's a fine line between themed Halloween food and unappetizing food...tread carefully.  Then again, I'm all for keeping it spooky.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Sugar Cookies

As a self-proclaimed candy connoisseur, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  Pumpkin picking and cooler weather; it’s a sign of Fall and the avalanche of gastro-centered holidays to come.  The parade of delicious pleasures that begins October 31st each year and doesn’t stop until January 1st, or more likely February 14th, deserves a grand kick-off.  So I’ve decided to do a week’s worth of recipes of easy sweet Halloween treats, starting off with this cute and classic sugar cookie. 

I found this recipe years ago on allrecipes.com and with (literally) 136,781 people who have saved it when I last checked this weekend, it’s a fair assumption to say I’m not the only one who has found success with it.  The trick to this treat is to bake the cookies for 6 minutes maximum.  This way they keep their chewy texture and don’t burn or discolor. 

Even though my trick or treating days are sadly behind me, and the college Halloween party days are regrettably over…I like to decorate the apartment with some cute little pumpkins and spend a lazy afternoon baking Halloween sugar cookies.  Oh, and of course forcing the dog to try on costumes…

This guy was thrilled to be a fish for his first Halloween.   


*This sugar cookie dough must be refrigerated for an hour before you can roll it out and cut out the cookies, so make sure to account for that time constraint.  Side note: I remember scouring through my Mom’s collection of old recipe books when I was little to find a sugar cookie recipe that did not require refrigerating the dough first, because I absolutely did not want to waste time with that.  I have yet to find one, but if you do, please send it along!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apple Pie: A Sweet and Simple Reminder that Autumn has Arrived!

From a Smitten Kitchen inspiration, which is aptly named “Simplest Apple Tart” came my best Fall recipe to date.  For the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah it is traditional to serve apples, honey, apples dipped in honey, and all sorts of sweet desserts inspired by these two main ingredients.  Although the feeling of flour dusted countertops and fingers can occasionally make me cringe…a simple pie like this is worth the small amount of effort involved.  I am a huge fan of flat pies: no pans, no drama.  They are rustic and elegant and showcase their main ingredients, rather than hide them away under a crust or a mousse which leaves them to mystery and interpretation.  This pie really has two basic ingredients – a crust and apples.  It’s sprinkled with sugar and brushed with melted butter for effect, but what really shine are the bare essentials of the recipe.

This Rosh Hashanah I was lucky enough to be home with my family and wanted to be sure to bake something delicious.  But with a very health conscience guest list and lots of little children, I didn’t want to go over the top in fat or sugar content.  Not to deny the fact that this is still a dessert, and should be treated as such, it is still a much healthier alternative to some other tempting options.  I also left the peel on the apples because it is SO much easier, a notch better for you and an added flavor bonus (in my opinion). 
I’d love to know what apple recipes are your favorite, so please share!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Cake Bites

In something as routine and universal as food, it can feel like nothing is ever new.  But if you follow along closely, you’ll notice that trends pop up all the time.  Mostly I’m not one to be tempted by cooking with nitrogen รก la Richard Blaze of Top Chef fame, and I have yet to infuse, puree and reduce every ingredient in a recipe.  But there is one hot topic in the baking world that I couldn’t help but take note of, cake balls.  Inspired by anything on a stick or bite sized, these satisfied all my discerning criteria in a recipe: simple and delicious.  You can get as creative as you want with these, and with the Fall holidays quickly approaching, I’d love to see any ideas you have.
The most gorgeous examples of inspiration from Bakerella:
Halloween style from The Pioneer Woman:
Absolutely stunning wedding themed from my friend Hannah of Inspired Living Interiors:
And of course, Cakeballs.com:

I made these little bites for my housewarming party and they worked out really well.  Because each bite is covered in chocolate, it has a little protection from the elements, so I baked them ahead of time and kept them refrigerated.  They were a delightful surprise for my guests because it was something new, and little did they know, the next big thing to hit the baking world.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate Covered Coco Dusted Frozen Grapes

The other night I was salivating in front of the TV as a Washington, D.C. local news team did a special on famed chef Michel Richard.  His restaurant, Citronelle, is known as one of the best in the city.  He is this cute pudgy famous French chef who instantly captivates you and melts your heart when you hear him talk about food in his wonderful accent and loud expressions and mannerisms.  He shared this recipe for a petit chocolate candy delight: light, French inspired, candy little jewels to place in cute bowls at a party of serve for dessert at a fancy dinner.  They are fun, and so easy to make.  When you bite into them, they burst with the bright and ice cold fruit flavor in the most wonderful way.  You can experiment with how to decorate them; I used white and milk chocolate with icing sugar and coco.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Deeply Delicious Chocolate Cake

Certain events demand certain desserts, and there are times in life when a fruit salad just won’t do.  To honor those occasions you’ll need a recipe that can hold up to the emotional weight of a true celebration.  This deeply, delicious, chocolate cake will do just right.

For a very special Shabbat dinner last week I wanted to make a beautiful cake for dessert.  I chose to halve this famous recipe (originally found here) and use a square baking pan.  This helped the cake come out a little more elegant and thin, rather than a traditional high standing layered cake, which I think is better suited for a birthday.  The hint of coffee in the batter helps enrich the depth of chocolate flavor in the cake.  And though the recipe isn’t difficult, it does require some loving measuring and specific ingredients. 

The Jewish celebration of Shabbat always falls on Friday nights, and after a full week of work, it can be a dreaded task to prepare the holiday meal.  But I find that staying home and sharing wine and good food with family and friends can be the best way to end the week.  I decided to make this cake two days in advance because it keeps very well, and after all, it’s easier to be lazy when you’re well prepared.

2 cups sugar
¾ cups cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup coffee
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¾ cups lour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line with parchment paper, butter and dust with flour two 9 in. round baking pans. (I halved this recipe and used one 8 in. square pan, so do as you please!)

In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, vanilla, and oil.  Add this wet mixture into the dry one slowly, mix until incorporated and then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  The batter will be very watery.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake @ 350F for 35 to 40 minutes (until a tooth picked when inserted into the cake comes out clean).  Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then lift out the parchment paper and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nutella Cookies: 3 Ingredients. 5 Minutes. Dessert Done.

Sugar + Flour + Egg.  That's it...and Nutella of course.  The simplest recipe I may have ever made with the most indulgent chewy delicious results.  These took less than 5 minutes to make (including time spent finding a misplaced measuring cup) and exactly 8 minutes to bake.  Which makes me wonder what kind of super food Nutella really is...

What's ironic about this batch of cookies is that I wasn't even trying to find an extreme example of effortless baking.  I was really just trying to accomplish two things: use up a giant jar of Nutella I had inherited without sufficient cabinet space to house, and make some cookies I could send to my best friend back home.  So I Googled "Nutella Cookies" and lo and behold this diamond in the rough of approx. 2.1 million related sites was revealed.  Find the original inspiration here.

And a last little note about who these very special cookies were sent to.  My BFF and I have been baking since we could hold a spoon, and our kitchen adventures are as numerous as the years gone by.  But there's one that perfectly sums up all the others.  It was the holiday of Passover and we were baking special cookies that don't use flour because of the strict dietary rules that define the holiday.  Since the recipe was so specialized we tried our best to follow it exactly.  Until we popped the cookies into the oven and realized we had forgotten to add in the cup or so of orange juice that the recipe called for.  Not ones to hesitate, we just took the carton of OJ out of the fridge, opened the oven door and poured juice over all the baking cookies and the entire baking sheet.  And even though I distinctly remember a gigantic mess in the kitchen, I don't remember them tasting so bad.  I love you Elizabeth! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Susie's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

July is a bit of an anti-oven month for most of us.  Certainly my puppy was unhappy about the extra heat in the kitchen when I turned the oven on to make these; and he headed straight to the cool tile of the bathroom floor to escape.  But if your home is willing to take on the additional degrees you should at least be baking something worth the heat.

This week my boyfriend was off on a very special trip and I wanted to bake him something to remind him of home and the people who love him.  This recipe is his Mom’s famous (or infamous if you’re counting calories) chocolate chip cookies.  Susie is known for her legendary baking, and I’ve heard and witnessed numerous people on numerous occasions beg her to bake them a personal supply of these.  If you come to her home late at night and don’t want the ones stocked in the freezer you could quite easily convince her to make you a fresh batch right then and there (as I've heard my boyfriend’s friends used to do in high-school on occasion).  This recipe is special to me because I was convinced it was a family secret I wouldn’t be let in on, but along with a batch of the cookies that were delivered last week, there it was.

There was a special request to include Snickers in this version, but it’s completely unnecessary, just a little something extra.  Feel free to experiment with different chocolate pieces but I would start out with the original.  These cookies are extremely chewy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious due to the low flour content and low baking temperature.  If you have any chocolate chip recipes you think will top it, I can’t wait to try them out…but good luck!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies: Easy, Healthy, Simple & Sweet

So this recipe is somewhat of a storied baking legend for me.  I found it online years ago and have zero idea how I came across it (I think I probably Googled “chewy oatmeal raisin cookie”…cause I like my cookies chewy).  Although, sometimes I think I might have photocopied it from a friend.  To add to its lure I also think I made this recipe once and accidently left half the butter in the microwave where I had put it to soften and the cookies still came out fantastic.  So now, almost like my Grandmother’s ultimate secret chocolate cake recipe, this Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is gaining traction in my repertoire as somewhat of a legendary piece.  No one can say for sure how it got here and somehow even if you make a drastic alteration (like leaving out butter) it still magically turns out well.  (But please don’t try to halve the butter in this recipe, I can’t promise similar results).  Do you have any similar legendary baking stories/recipes?  Please share!

A few weeks ago, when my sister was pregnant with my now adorable baby niece, I wanted to send her some cookies.  I needed something that was good for her and the baby but still sweet and delicious.  I thought of this recipe right away and sent over a batch.
This is a picture of what’s left of the actual recipe…

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy 4th of July! (the MOST American) Chocolate Chip Cookies

'Tis the season...for summer desserts.  I have always loved the 4th of July because my family used to go to the beach in Santa Barbara to watch fireworks off the pier.  We never really barbecued at home, but at the beach my best food memories involved grilled sweet yellow ears of corn and spicy kebabs.  I first saw a Martha Stewart "American Flag Cake" recipe in the 9th grade and my successful attempt at it was a major milestone in my baking career. Since then I've played around with the classic use of strawberries and blueberries to celebrate the season.  This year I thought...if the most American dessert is chocolate chip cookies, how can I decorate them in honor of our upcoming Independence Day celebrations?  And this idea was born.  This is not my actual most beloved chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I chose it because i holds up exceptionally well to being covered in cool whip or icing and topped with fruit.  And it's of course super easy.  This weekend I'm off to the beach in Ocean City on the Atlantic coast to relax and celebrate and I can't wait...

Here are a few past favorites from the 4th!

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