Tuesday, March 29, 2011

doughnut plant

My idea for my baking blog was NOT to share my "food experiences", but since I happened to pass the doughnut plant in the Chelsea Hotel I just had to stop in to pick up a couple of these famously fried treats.

I introduce you to the peanut butter doughnut filled with blackberry jam & the salty peanut cake doughnut.

We have been eating these doughnuts for YEARS!!! Their original location is on the LES (the Lower East Side for all you non-NYers) and just blocks away from my husband's dentist. How convenient. Get your teeth cleaned and grab a doughnut. :) Seriously, I WILL travel to eat one of these, and I have! I drag every family member or friend who visits us down there just to taste and try as many flavors as we can. And WE DO because these are not just doughnuts. These are THE BEST doughnuts!!! I could talk for days about these things, but if you live in any of the 5 Boroughs, I highly recommend you grab your Metro Card and head towards the LES or Chelsea. And if you're heading to NYC, get this on your list of "places to eat" because you don't want to miss these.....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

german chocolate cupcakes

Who makes German chocolate cake or cupcakes??? Anyone??? I searched the internet trying to find a food or baker blogger that had a good read on this old fashion cake recipe. I found a couple, but their postings weren't convincing enough. So I looked to Martha Stewart and her book devoted entirely to Cupcakes and found what I was looking for. This is my first attempt EVER making German chocolate anything but I'm bringing someone a surprise tomorrow and it's their favorite. 

German Chocolate Cupcakes
courtesy of Martha Stewart from her book titled Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter @ room temp, plus more for tins
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted, plus more for tins
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs @ room temp
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Preheat oven to 350˚. Brush standard muffin tins with butter; dust with cake flour, tapping out excess. ***I didn't do this, but I lined my tins with cupcake paper cups*** Whisk together cake flour, baking soda and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in chocolate until combined.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling each three-quarters full. ***I used a scoop, 2-inch diameter or 2 ounces*** Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes. ***If you decided to bake in paper cups, remove from tins and cool completely*** Run a small offset spatula or knife around edges to loosen; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight containers.

***I did not do this next step*** To finish, use a serrated knife (and a gentle sawing motion) to split cupcakes horizontally. Spread a heaping tablespoon of frosting on top of each bottom half; replace top halves. Spread more frosting on top of each cupcake. Serve immediately. ***Of course I didn't follow the directions to a tee, mainly because I am going to transport these babies and want to pass them out easily*** 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

oatmeal raisin cookie biscotti

Cantuccini or biscotti. Whatever you want to call these twice-baked biscuits, this non-traditional flavor combination for the Italian dunking cookie is all good in my book. 

I just LOVE biscotti!!! It's never too sweet and it's the perfect cookie to have around especially if you're looking for one with a longer shelf-life. I have made many flavor combinations, both traditional and non-traditional combos, but this spin on the American classic cookie is right up there with my all time faves.

It's super crunchy and studded with oats and raisins. I'm happy it's raining and a bit snowy today because I'm gonna grab a cup of "hot something" and start dunking......

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Biscotti 
thanks to the blog Baking Bites for posting this recipe nearly six years ago

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick oats - plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
3 eggs @ room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins 

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set one sheet aside.
Whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat eggs, adding sugar gradually, at medium speed (stand with paddle attachment or hand held mixer) until thick and pale, 1 - 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture and raisins.

Drop spoonfuls of batter into a line onto parchment lined baking sheet and with well floured hands, ***I dampened mine with water instead*** and form into logs about 1/2 high. Length and width are your choice. Sprinkle a few oats on top for decoration. Bake for 20 minutes. ***I baked mine for almost 35 minutes. The logs should look semi-baked and not doughy***

Place on wire rack and cool for 15 - 20 minutes. Lower your oven to 300˚. Slice logs into 1/3 - 1/2 inch thick slices and lay on their sides on another parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and then flip them over for another 15. If cookies are not firm, turn again and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

coconut quick bread

I am a HUGE fan of the coconut!!!! And I just love it when I come across a recipe that has coconut in it. This coconut quick bread is just that.....quick. And I forgot to mention.....easy. It's so quick to make and easy to eat anytime of the day. It won't last long. Especially if you make it nice and toasty. Yum!!!

My Mama would have loved this bread. She was also a fan of anything coconut. I'll be sure to send the recipe up to heaven so that the chefs there can make it for her. So in honor of my Mama, I dedicate this blog post to her. I miss you Mama!!!!

Coconut Quick Bread
courtesy of the lovely blog honey & jam by the way of seven spoons

Makes 2 loaves (8"x 3 3/4" x 2 3/8")  or 4 mini loaves (5 5/8" x 3 5/16" x 1 7/8") ***These measurement come from the aluminum foil pans that you can get at the grocery store.

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk ***UPDATE 10/16/11 - today I substituted coconut milk....so far so good***
Seeds scraped from half of a vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon ***This is from the original recipe, but not needed***
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup superfine sugar ***Superfine sugar is not a household staple but can be found at the grocery store. However, if you pulse regular sugar in your food processor for 10 seconds or so, you can have superfine sugar anytime you need it*** 
5 ounces (around 1 1/2 cups) flaked sweetened coconut - plus more for sprinkling (optional, but definitely do)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter - melted and cooled ***UPDATE 10/16/11 - forget the butter and use coconut oil!!!***

butter and flour for pans

Preheat oven to 375˚.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla seeds/extract. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in melted butter, being careful not to overmix.

Butter and flour a 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. Pour in the batter. ***Sprinkle with more coconut. This is my personal touch to the original recipe. The coconut gets toasty in the oven plus it showcases the loaf with the main ingredient*** Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a cake tester or screwer inserted in the middle comes out clean, around 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in it's pan for 5 minutes, then turn it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The bread is so delicious toasted and I really don't think it needs anything. But if you want to be decadent, a little pat of butter, or a smear of Nutella or raspberry jam sound pretty much heavenly!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

homemade girl scout cookies.....samoas

Oh March, how I love thee!!! The winter season is slowly saying it's good-bye, we sprung forward, there's still light out when I get off of work and most importantly it's Girl Scout Cookie season!
So there are some things you just have to leave for others to make and that's the Girl Scout Samoa cookie. I made these over the weekend and then broke the sad news to my husband that this was probably a one time deal. Laborious. That's all I've got to say.....
I'm blogging about these because they are probably my most favorite GS cookie and I thought it would actually be fun. Fun? Yeah, right.
With the numerous steps in this recipe, I should have stopped right there. Instead I gathered up what ingredients I had at home, gave my husband a short list of what I still needed and then dreamed of eating Samoas whenever I wanted any time of the year.
After making several "things" this weekend plus multigrain breadI went ahead and added these to my list. So enough said.....

This recipe is straight from the blog Baking Bites and I pretty much followed everything down to a tee. Except I cheated when it came to a few techniques. ***See notes throughout the recipe***
Homemade Samoas

1 cup butter, soft ***I used unsalted butter***
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
up to 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350˚. ***I did this later in the recipe***
In a large mixing bowl, either on a stand mixer or with a handheld, cream butter and sugar followed by the vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at low speed. Add milk as needed to make the dough come together without being too sticky (it's possible that you may not need to add milk at all). ***I added 2 tablespoons*** The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky. ***Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour***

Cut dough into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter cut out rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, 1 inch apart. They do not spread. With a plastic straw or an Arteco #806 tip, make a small hole in the middle of cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough. When finished cutting "donuts", refrigerate for 15 minutes. ***Now is when I started to preheat my oven, 350˚***

Bake cookies for 10 -12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Turn your oven down to 300˚.

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) ***I used unsweetened to cut down the sugar***
12 ounces good-quality chewy caramels ***I used Werther's chewy caramels***
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons milk
8 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate - chopped fine (chips are OK)

Spread coconut evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden brown and fragrant. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally with a spatula. ***I toasted my coconut in a cast iron skillet over a medium heat, stirring/turning constantly for even browning*** Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3 -4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut.***I dumped everything in a small pot and slowly melted over a medium-low flame/heat, stirring constantly. I then added my toasted coconut***

Using a small offset spatula or knife, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2 - 3 teaspoons per cookie. Reheat coconutty-caramel as needed if it gets too firm to work with. While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the bottoms of each cookie into the melted chocolate and place on a clean parchment lined baking sheet. ***Dipping seemed messy so I just used a small offset spatula to spread chocolate on the bottoms*** Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a little bit more if needed) into a piping bag or ziplock bag and cut of a bit of the corner. Drizzle finished cookies with chocolate. Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. ***I placed mine in the fridge to speed up the "setting" process. I also stored mine in the fridge because I prefer them a little chilly***
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Note from Baking Bites blog: These cookies are fairly time consuming to make, (trust me, they were!!!!) but if you take your time and have fun with them, the results will be worth it. That said, if you want something a little bit less challenging, try baking a batch of Samoa Bars instead, which require no rolling and cutting of the dough!

After ALL that.....I do think eating these is your reward.

Monday, March 14, 2011

peanut butter & jelly macarons from bouchon bakery

I wish I made them.
I only ate them.

This French favorite with an American twist was just way too delicious not to blog about. New Yorkers I want you to drop everything and head to BOUCHON BAKERY as fast as you can!!! These cookies are dang good!!!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

raspberry zinger cupcakes

Hey there!!! I've updated this blog post!!! For a white vanilla cake recipe and step-by-step tutorial on how I make Raspberry Zinger Cupcakes, follow the link by clicking here.  

Raspberry Zingers......Do you remember eating these as a kid???

I don't have an early childhood memory of eating these at home maybe because things like Raspberry Zingers were not something my parents bought us for treats or snacks. Although I do have a memory of walking home from St. Pius X and stopping into the neighborhood 7-Eleven after school to snag up a 4-packet of these coconut sprinkled gems. Yes, I went to a Catholic school, wore a plaid uniform and I would have easily gone into 7-Eleven before school to add these to my bagged lunch but that was a no-no back in the day. You were spotted for miles in your plaid skirts and white shirts that store owners and concerned neighbors happily squealed on you. 

Whenever I bake cupcakes for an order, there are somehow at least a half a dozen or more than I actually need. And since my husband isn't a fan of "cupcakes" I think of different ways to dress them so that we both can enjoy them. Because let's face it.....I design cakes and cupcakes and of course I EAT THEM!!! 

This blog post will not have a real recipe attached to it, but steps on how you can relive this tasty treat.
for Raspberry Zinger Cupcakes
- vanilla cupcakes (from scratch or not)
- raspberry jam (seeded)
- vanilla buttercream or marshmallow fluff
- dried, unsweetened coconut

Once your vanilla cupcakes are completely cooled, cut out the center and set it aside. I use a 1-inch round cookie cutter but if you've got some good knife skillz, you can cut it out with a paring knife. I then fill it with my desired buttercream or fluff and place the piece of cake on top. Remove the seeds from the raspberry jam by smooshing it through strainer. Spoon a little on top of each cupcake and spread it smoothly. Sprinkle the entire top with the dried coconut and voila!

Raspberry Zinger Cupcakes!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

carrot cake whoopie pies

Do you love carrot cake with cream cheese frosting??? 
Wanna have it smooshed into a whoopie pie??? 
Hell, yeah!!! 

I know a couple of lovers of this tasty creation and if you answered "yes" (or hell, yeah!) then you better head into your kitchen and bake up a batch of these monster-sized sandwich cookies.

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
this recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Carrot Cake Cookies
makes 18 small sandwich cookies or 6 - 8 large ones  

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup packed, brown sugar, light or dark
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup rolled oats ***toasted in 1 tablespoon of butter*** 
3/4 cup packed, finely grated carrots
1/3 cup dried currants (or raisins)
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

2 ounces cream cheese @ room temperature
2 ounces (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Make fillingWith an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugar and lemon juice; beat until combined. Cover; chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Make cookies: In a medium-sized cast iron pan or skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium low heat. Add the 1 cup of rolled oats and stir to coat. Toast until the oats are fragrant and slightly browned, 3 - 5 minutes. Spread out onto one of your baking pans to cool. 

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, spices and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture to butter & sugar mixture. Mix to combine. Do not over mix. Fold in toasted oats, carrots and currants. ***If you want to add raisins here you can. Chop into small-like pieces***

Using a tablespoon, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. ***I use a 1 1/2 inch diameter cookie scoop for this step*** Dampen your hand with water and flatten slightly with your fingers/palm of hand. Sprinkle the tops of cookies with chopped walnuts. ***No need to pre-toast them because they will toast up in the oven while the cookies are baking***

Bake until edges are crisp, rotating sheets halfway through baking, 15 - 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Turn half of the cookies over, bottom side up. Dollop each with about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on the size of cookie you made) of chilled cream-cheese filling. Top with remaining cookies, pressing gently to spread filling to edges. Serve immediately or chill for 15 minutes in fridge.

***I would like to give a shout out and a huge THANK YOU to Betsy & Jeff McCue of La Vida Creations Photography for capturing every delicious morsel of these hand-held carrot cakes. These creative geniuses are my website photogs and most importantly my friends. BTW.....They photograph people too!!!***

Sunday, March 6, 2011

chocolate pudding

This isn't your instant-out-of-the-box chocolate pudding, but better!!! Tastier!!! And if you dare to switch it up.....Vegan! Just substituting soy milk for the heavy cream and whole milk and omitting the butter at the end, you can turn this guilty pleasure into something somewhat healthy. But let's stick to the full-fat, whole goodness of dairy and don't cut any corners on this one. You're eating homemade chocolate pudding! And why not gild the lily and top it off with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.......
Go on.....don't be shy.....
Chocolate Pudding
makes 6 - 8 servings

6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder ***Use any quality of cocoa powder. I sometimes use ValrhonaHersheysDroste, or whatever cocoa powder I have in my pantry***
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup heavy cream ***or soy milk if you're going vegan here***
1 1/4 cup whole milk ***again more soy for vegan***
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces dark chocolate (chopped or chips) ***I use bittersweet 60% or more chocolate. Use dark chocolate if you want to keep it vegan. Do not use semi-sweet chocolate. Milk chocolate is OK***
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 cup of cream - whipped to soft peaks
chocolate candy bar - shaved for garnish ***Use a potato peeler to shave mini curls of chocolate***

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt, 1 1/4 cup cream and 1 1/4 cup milk. Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until it comes to a boil, 4 - 5 minutes. 

Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted. Add butter and whisk in. Pudding should be smooth and shiny. ***If you've got a few lumps, pour through a strainer***

Divide evenly into the vessels of your choice. Serve immediately or if you like your pudding cold, place plastic wrap directly onto pudding and place them into your refrigerator. 

Garnish with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

***I have a fond memory from my early childhood days @ "I" Corner Pre-School in Chula Vista, CA where we once used chocolate pudding as finger paint. How fun is that??? Although I wouldn't recommend using this chocolate pudding as finger paint, but I would not be opposed to using your finger to wipe out every last bit from your bowl***

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

perfect chocolate chip cookies

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. They're just that.....perfect! Crispy on the outside and chewy in the inside. Well, that's the way we like them. 

I'm a huge fan of mixing things by hand and if I don't have to bust out my Kitchen Aid, I just know I'm gonna love this recipe. Again, so easy!!! This chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for beurre noisette,  a.k.a. browned butter. The nutty ambered butter adds chewiness and gives these cookies a toffee-butterscotch like flavor. LOVE!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the blog The Way The Cookie Crumbles via Cook's Illustrated
makes 16 cookies

1 3/4 cup (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cup chocolate (chips or chunks)
3/4 cup toasted nuts (optional and your choice)

Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375˚. Line two sheets with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, whisk flour and baking soda together.

Heat 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter over MEDIUM-HIGH HEAT until melted, 2 minutes. Continue cooking until butter is dark golden brown with a nutty aroma, 1 - 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 4 tablespoons of COLD butter. Whisk to melt completely. 

Pour browned butter into a large bowl. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla extract and whisk for 30 seconds. Mixture should be smooth with no lumps. Add the whole egg and yolk and whisk for 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for another 30 seconds. Repeat the process 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth and super shiny. Fold in flour until combined. Stir in chocolate and nuts. ***I love to add 3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts and 3/4 cup of dried sweetened coconut to mine***

Scoop or spoon into 16 cookies. ***I use a cookie scoop***
Bake for 10 - 14 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Cool on wire rack.

The cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to a week. That's if they last that long......