Monday, December 31, 2012
This is not a top posts/recipes/photos/food/12 of 2012 post. Instead, I have for you the best soft molasses cookies. I made these cookies on a lazy afternoon in Texas while everyone was out. As they baked, the cookies filled the kitchen with the sweetest of smells. They were pretty much the perfect ending to my holiday cookie making.
I have no hesitation in making this claim to the best soft molasses cookie. These cookies are sweet and spiced, fat and puffy with the prefect chew. And the demerara sugar adds a pleasant crunch.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
I'm sorry this is not a peppermint recipe. So many gorgeous peppermint desserts have popped up over the past month or so--these cupcakes, these sandwich cookies, this cake--all sporting the loveliest swirls and specks of red/pink/white. So pretty and likely so delicious to all the peppermint lovers out there. But, it's just that, well, I just really don't like peppermint.
So, I'm sorry. Instead, I have orange infused, nutty, brown butter cookies with hefty swirls of chocolate. A holiday cookie dream, I'd say.
Cute, round, chubby little roasted hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts get peeled (rather easily thanks to this how-to), roasted, and chopped. Butter gets browned, toasty, and nutty. Chocolate stays whole--we want big swirls of chocolate. This is a time of giving and generosity, hence, no skimping on the chocolate. Seriously.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Sometimes I just need to get away, need a break from the usual, a change of scenery, some new views, that sort of thing. So I am very happy to be in Texas for a couple of weeks. I've had leisurely mornings and wine infused evenings. I've made cranberry jam and buttermilk cake and learned how to use Dad's new smoker.
Looking out and seeing pasture and horses and trees and little else relieves me. I love being able to sit on the porch or walk around outside and hear no cars or other city sounds. Or head to Denton square and wander around with a friend. And plan a slew of cookies to bake. Dale arrives on Sunday. And thank goodness because I am in dire need of good coffee. Plus, he's pretty good company.
Before I left Atlanta, I was determined to bake some tartlets and a chocolate cake. The cake will come later. For now, I have these tartlets for you. They came out of an urging for apple pie. I do love apple pie--warm and comforting and fulfilling.
Sometimes though, I want a little crumble in place of the pie crust. Since I'd made speculoos a day or two earlier, I decided to incorporate them via a cookie tartlet crust. Because how could that be bad?
Monday, December 17, 2012
Well. That was crazy. Thanksgiving happened and then the end of the semester, with all its papering and examining and such, came in quick succession. I spent weeks sitting in front of my computer. I forgot what I looked like with makeup on. I ran out of lazy clothes. I made mustache-shaped sugar cookie pops. I drank too much coffee and ate Biscoff spread from a jar. It was highly attractive. Mildly insane. Hopefully successful. But mostly, I'm glad it's over. Back to real things. Cookie things. We like these things.
Speculoos (or Biscoff cookies) are delightfully crisp, slightly spiced, and super buttery. You can enjoy them in both cookie and spread form (the aforementioned addictive spread is also known as cookie butteromggg). They are simple and straightforward delicious. Awesome on their own or sandwiching peanut butter or vanilla butter cream or, dare I say, cookie butter!? That'd be a cookie on cookie on cookie situation. My kind of situation. And plus, they'd be totes adorbs in a festive bag, tied up with a little bow, and tucked in a stocking.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
So I know the Thanksgiving meal is probably set in stone at this point, but we need to talk. This is about more than Thanksgiving. It's about cranberry sauce.
I feel bad for cranberry sauce. It's like the ugly stepchild of Thanksgiving foods, shoved into a can then plopped into a bowl at the holidays only to be neglected in favor of gravy and butter.
It's just that it doesn't have to be this way. Fresh cranberry sauce is a thing of beauty!
Part of what I love about the holidays is that everyone has self-designated specialties. Dad handles most meat cookings and sauces. Mom handles stuffing and taters. Dale's got the brussels. Over the years, mine has become dessert (surprise, surprise). And at Thanksgiving, that means pumpkin pie and pecan pie and, well, pie. But what that also means, I've decided, is homemade cranberry sauce. Mainly because I just freaking love it. On every part of the holiday meal. It gives everything the perfect tang and sweetness, which, let's be honest, is often missing from things like turkey and stuffing.
This cranberry sauce is sorta something to call home about. There's a whole dang vanilla bean in there y'all! And fresh orange juice! And a heaping spoonful of cardamom! (Cardamom is never a bad thing. Never.) This cranberry sauce is deserving of year-round praise. Although it is especially appropriate at these times what with the season and all.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Last week, Dale was in Nicaragua doing super cool coffee things. Because he's cool and talented and interesting like that. While he was gone, I remembered a few things that I'd forgotten since having Dale around all the time:
1. Sometimes, I forget to eat dinner.
2. I'm pretty sure that my cat loves laying next to me on the couch more than anything in the entire world.
3. I need someone around to talk to at home, otherwise, I descend into nonsensical one-sided conversations with my cat. It's pretty normal.
4. I get really cold at night. Like really.
So, while Dale was off doing adventurous, awesome things, I was here working on a paper, which I presented at a conference on Saturday, and I was working on a contract. Totally thrilling, right? Then, I roasted a butternut squash, stirred in some sugar and spices and things, sprinkled with streusel, and ate these muffins.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
It's crazy how motivated I get to do anything but study when I have nothing but studying that needs to be done. Nothing gets me in a cleaning, purging, organizing mode quite like having a million pages to write/read/cryover.
Thus, in the past two weeks, I have done some updating, reorganizing, and contemplating. I got a new TV stand (it's mint green, tall, and dashing). New soap dispensers (because it's the little things that make a difference, right?) and the European sham of my dreams. Dale got some geeky things--a vintage Chemex and baby blue coffee mugs. And I have been scouring the webs and stores and places for seating, preferably sofa-sectional-chaise style. That will be a bit of investment however, so these are only cushioned daydreams currently.
I guess this began with a mission to revamp my spaces. Space makes such a difference in mood and motivation and other such things. It's about light and situation. It's about wishing I could paint things and frame them and hang them and love them. It's about bookmarking DIYs. It's about plans of furniture building, starting with a rustic coffee table, ending hopefully with a substantial dining table (which I currently lack, even in insubstantial form).
Thursday, November 1, 2012
So now that fall is in full swing, how have you been spending it? Watching leaves changing? Buying new boots (yes!)? Yearning for food-filled holidays?
Or have you been drowning in pumpkin? I have seen so much pumpkin out there on the webs. Too much pumpkin I think. Don't get me wrong. I like pumpkin, especially in pie form. It's just that I'm feeling a bit overloaded with pumpkin recipes. Plus, there are some places that pumpkin (or its flavor counterparts) is not meant to be, such as in coffee. No more homemade pumpkin spice lattes please. Just stop. Please. I'm begging you.
Besides, there are so many other delicious, warm, beautiful fall flavors! Like pear and apple, which I've clearly been obsessed with recently. And spice!
Yes, I rang in fall with spices tossed in buttermilk cake. Mini bundt ones of course, because that's how I do. There's just something about allspice, clove, nutmeg, and the like that make everything feel and smell and taste like fall.
Friday, October 26, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having lunch at Star Provisions with Aida Mollenkamp and some lovely Atlanta food ladies (some of whom I had previously only known virtually) to celebrate Aida's fabulous new cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen.
Not only is Keys to the Kitchen filled with beautiful pictures and recipes, it's pretty much the ultimate kitchen resource. It teaches you tons of basics like how to brown butter, how to make stock, how to properly store your produce, what tools you should have in your kitchen, different cuts of meat, and types of herbs. Dale actually used the cookbook as a guide when breaking down a whole chicken for the first time. Pretty awesome.
As part of her cookbook release, Aida came up with the great idea of having a virtual dinner party made up of recipes from her cookbook! I obviously chose dessert, because, you know, I'm into sweets. Dale has a major love for bread pudding, and I've never made it for him before. So when I saw the Apple Turnover Bread Pudding with Maple Cream Sauce, I knew it was the one.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Did you know that you can split, scrape, and chop up a vanilla bean, throw it in a saucepan, place it over medium heat, toast it for a few minutes, then grind it up with a mortal and pestel and have this amazingly delicious vanilla powder stuff to mix with sugar? How did I not know this before coming across it last week on the lovely blog Top with Cinnamon? Never again will I simply bury scraped vanilla beans in my sugar. Never again. OhmygahI'msoobsessedwithit! For real.
Speaking of obsessed, last weekend at the farmer's market, Dale and I got some Mercier Orchards apple cider. And holy moly, it's good! I've decided that warm, spiced apple cider poured over bourbon is my official go-to fall drink. Mmm yes.
So naturally, I began thinking about spiced cider and dessert. Something warm and smooth and comforting.
This caramel is it. Creamy, sweet, thick, delicious, magical.
Monday, October 8, 2012
So how did you kick off the first days of fall? Pulling sweaters and jeans (except those evil skinny ones) out of the back of the closet in anticipation? Instagramming pictures of the changing leaves? Skipping in joy through cool morning air? Digging up dead basil from your herb garden? (or did that last one only happen to me?)
It seems many people celebrated the start of fall with pumpkin in their bellies with all the delicious looking pumpkin treats I've seen floating around the food blogosphere. And while I do love pumpkin, it's not really something I'm chomping at the bit to dive into at the first sign of fall. My pumpkin desires don't really kick in until November, ya know, with that whole Thanksgiving thing. My pecan pie desires, however, are in full force.
But just to be sure I wasn't getting too predictably Thanksgiving-ish about it, I made pecan pie in bar form with cinnamon shortbread crust and cinnamon pecan filling. Because that totally changes everything...
Monday, October 1, 2012
Mornings are cooler, evenings mild yet brisk and drinkable. Summer is officially over, and fall is upon us. Sunday was living proof of this with its sixty degree temperatures, cloudy skies, and rainy afternoon. Rather perfect actually. The farmers market saw fewer tomatoes, no peaches, more squash and pumpkins, apples aplenty.
While parts of me live for the cool comfort of fall, other parts want to cling to the sweet morsels of summer.
These overnight oats give me the best of both worlds (in breakfast form anyway)--cool bursts of berries with warm flavors of maple and oats. And it's ready for grabbing right out of the fridge, making it all the more appealing for my typical rushing-around-running-late-forgetting-things-every-morning ways.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
I know what you're thinking. I'll just go ahead and say it: These are incredibly silly.
Although you have to admit, adorably silly. Fun, awesome, delicious silly. I'm-pretty-sure-you're-a-child silly. It's cool. I feel you, and I agree.
It's just that I really like to make silly things sometimes. And I kind of have a thing for homemade versions of pre-packaged goods.
Actually, a few weeks ago I made desserts for a party at a children's bookstore. There were mini rice crispy squares, two kinds of bite-size brownies (sprinkles and caramel), two kinds of tiny whoopie pies (chocolate and lemon), and two kinds of fruit hand pies (blueberry and apple). There were copycat Hostess cupcakes (you know the ones--cream filling, cute squiggly on top). And Twinkies! Of all the desserts I made (300 in total), I was, for some reason, most concerned about the Twinkies.
They're such an iconic sweet snack, I really wanted to get them right. So I made homemade marshmallow fluff to make the marshmallow filling and a light spongy yellow cake.
And I must say, they were pretty much Twinkie perfection.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
I have this thing where I impulsively buy food items, usually fruit, thinking, "Oh, I'll totally have time to bake something amazing with these this week." So I make a point to not eat said food items as part of my normal daily sustenance.
Days later, said food items are in a less than delicious looking state, certainly in no shape to be eaten as is.
And a few days after that, they're shriveled to the point of no return, unable of saving even by baking.
This happens more often than I'd like to admit, especially during the school months. It happened last week, this time with figs. And this time I got two containers of them, knowing I would bake something amaaaazing with them. Thus, I refrained from munching on them straight out of the fridge or on yogurt or oats or salad. Ya know, because I have plans for them.
A few days later, the figs are beginning to look sad and super soft. Damn. I was determined to not let these figs go to waste though, so, fig jam!
After sitting and thinking with sugar and lemon and sherry, the figs cook up into mounds of thick, figgy goodness. A million times more amazing than fig newton insides. (Although I do love a fig newton every now and again.)
Thursday, September 13, 2012
A few weeks ago, the amazing Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar was the featured chef at Baton, a supper series in Atlanta, and Dale and I got in at the last minute!
After ordering my champagne in a can, dessert was first with pancake cake--layers of pancake, fruit, and maple topped with peppery butter--and cinnamon bun pie. In quick succession came pastrami sandwich croissants, macaroni and cheese pancakes, uni grits, and steak and eggs. It was pretty epic. They also did a bake sale where we scored slices of crack pie and a variety of awesome cookies.
I purchased the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook awhile ago but had yet to bake anything out of it, mainly because I couldn't make up my freaking mind. But after tasting what I assure you was one of the best cookies I've ever had, I knew I would be making some version of the cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip cookies.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Just a quick, short post today. I've just been trying to get back in the swing of things with school. And to be honest, I have not been doing a very good job. At the end of every day, I sit and wonder where the day has gone. It's a vicious cycle.
It's sort of like baking with herbs, minus the viciousness. I bake one dessert with herbs and then, BAM, it seems like every dessert I make has herbs in it. Ugh, it's so hard to stop with so many flourishing fresh herbs at my disposal!
When I saw a version of these bars over on Smitten Kitchen, I immediately knew I needed them in my life. I mean, they're friggin pink y'all. And they sounded just like summer! Lucky for me, they taste just like summer too.
Friday, August 17, 2012
I sort of disconnected myself from the internets the past week and half or so in an attempt to savor the remnants of summer. Especially since the weather has been perfect post-torrential-downpours. So I've been spending time with my kitten, rediscovering my exercise routine, clearing out my kitchen and closet, and getting my act together, so to speak. I like to start a new (and final!) school year with a clean house and clear mind.
Last weekend, my mom visited and brought with her the Texas sunshine, minus the Texas heat. We hit all the high points food-wise, including my favorite farmers market, and did a little shopping, a bit of Olympics watching, and lots of balcony wine drinking and gossiping. It was pretty much perfect, although far too short.
Ah, summer, how I wish I could dip my toes in thee forever.
After making scones with champagne grapes, I still had quite a few left and wanted so badly to bake with them again. I began making a lavender dough with the idea of a grape galette but then decided that the grapes might not fare well when it came to slicing the finished product. Thus, something mini seemed to be in order.
Monday, August 6, 2012
I've realized over the past couple of years that I am sort of a girly girl. And because I thought it'd be fun, and because I for some reason felt I needed to prove it, I was going to tell you about some of the girly things that I like. Then I started to list some of those things, and I had some realizations.
1. I like a lot of the same things that children like. I have, more than once, said to a friend's child: "I have a dress just like that!" [Note to self: owning a dress that is virtually identical to a dress owned by a child is, in most cases, not a good thing.]
2. I am, in fact, not a child. Hey self, you're 25. A year away from being a full on lawyer. From having a real life job thing. From having to pay back those loans. #nonchildthings For real.
3. I probably need to grow up, just a touch. Maybe it's time for more high heels and fewer Keds, more serious outfits and fewer flowery dresses. To trade in the straight across bangs for "grown-up" hair. I'm working on it. I just, ya know, like my Keds and my flowery dresses and my bangs. And, I mean, I'm responsible. I take care of my child (i.e., kitten). I complete all my work, pay all my bills on time, etc. And I own two suits!! Plus, I enjoy bourbon and coffee, which obviously helps my case... right? Let's go with yes.
Anyway, back to girly things like fluffy scones on flowery plates.
I got some champagne grapes at the store a couple of days ago. They are lovely little things. Delightful bursts of flavor. I originally wanted to put them on top of a mound of pastry cream in the middle of a tartlet shell, but I thought I better chill out on the tartlet front.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Did y'all do anything for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics last Friday? Any themed festivities? Or are y'all not as cheesy as I am?
Well, I had a few people over for some English themed noshing and beering. We had a ploughman's, complete with pickled onions, Stilton, Sweet Red Onion Chutney, and Colman's mustard. I got some English beers. One brewed in North Yorkshire where my mom is from. For dinner, my boyfriend fried up some fish and I baked up some potato wedges until crispy for fish and chips. And for dessert I made a traditional English trifle, using Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry pursuant to my mom's instructions. It was awesome and festive, and I loved it.
I've sort of come to terms with my cheese ball tendencies, especially when they result in epic themed meals and an excuse to drink leftover sweet sherry for dessert.
My boyfriend's mom was also in town. And she brought with her a bunch of peppers and potatoes and two huge bags of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes of all sizes from her garden in Virginia. Such a nice mom!
We used the potatoes for the chips in the fish and chips, and a bunch of her tomatoes were quickly gobbled up off the ploughman's.
Needless to say, I've been eating tons of tomatoes. Sprinkled with leftover Stilton. Some with a bit of balsamic. And some just popped in my mouth for a walking-through-the-kitchen snack. I also made gazpacho and pasta sauce and these tartlets! [As I said, I have a thing for themes...]
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
This weekend, I said my goodbyes to this season's Pearson peaches. They were seriously gorgeous and juicy this season, all season! I ate them constantly and had to restrain myself from putting them in all my baked goods. My boyfriend and I celebrated Saturday night with a delicious peach crisp topped with vanilla ice cream.
We maaay have eaten the entire thing between the two of us. I can't say for sure.
Except that I can, and we did.
We maaay have eaten the entire thing between the two of us. I can't say for sure.
Except that I can, and we did.
It's ok though. It was totally summer. Totally acceptable.
Luckily, summer is yielding other beautiful fruits. Figs have been bountiful at the farmer's markets, along with watermelon (ps: have you ever had a yellow watermelon? super duper crunchy awesome). And Whole Foods has been bursting at the seams with gorgeous plums and plumcots and pluots and some sort of velvet something plums. They also have sweet cherries. Look how lovely:
This summer has also brought mad heat and crazy downpours. Neither of which I'm a huge fan of. Sweat and frizz. Not attractive.
The heat has definitely put my balcony-housed herbs through the ringer. The downpours, however, have been so good to them, have made them big and vibrant and flourishing! Especially the basil and rosemary. It makes me happy.
Do you ever have those moments where you envision something that you know will prove to be pure genius? Me neither. (I'm a worried baker. Rarely certain.) Mostly, I just surprise myself after the fact.
I knew this combination would happen--sweet cherries, pistachio, rosemary--but I was a tad wary whether it would be as good in reality as it was in my head.
But let me tell you something. It's even better.
But let me tell you something. It's even better.
Friday, July 13, 2012
I dub these weekend brownies. Or Friday brownies. Same diff. These are not your every day brownies though. They're way too awesome for that. They're a treat. A delight. A special thing. Deserving of their own tiny plate. Of being individually wrapped.
These brownies are soft and chewy and moist. (The only way brownies should be, I say.) They have a thin, crisp, shiny top crust. They're damn near perfect.
Not to mention they're chocolate thrice! Incredible.
Over the past couple of years, it feels like I've been on a never-ending search for these brownies. I've had hard edges, dry crumbs, grainy texture, unpleasantly thick and dense. I've tried adding marshmallows, pretzels, cream cheese, peanut butter, all to no avail. These were trying times indeed.