Thursday, December 29, 2011

A LBD for New Year's Eve

I may not have found a dress for NYE yet but I did find the dessert equivalent of the perfect “LBD”. It is rich and decadent, doesn’t require much effort to make, and you can accessorize it a myriad of ways. I made mine with vanilla extract and plain whipped cream but you can use swap out the vanilla extract in the cake for espresso powder or orange zest (and replace the vanilla in your whipped cream with Kahlua or Grand Marnier). 
The “Little Black Dress” Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Rozanne Gold’s recipe
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 large eggs
16 ounces Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and generously butter sides of pan. 
Using a stand mixer, beat eggs and pinch of salt on medium-high speed for 8 minutes. Melt the chocolate and butter slowly over low heat in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Using a flexible rubber spatula, fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 16-18 minutes (you want to remove the cake from the oven when the center is still soft). Cool on a rack for 30 minutes.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Not-So-Secret Mission

When it comes to food, I'm spoiled. I blame all the wonderful meals I've had at the various restaurants I've worked at. I've been indoctrinated to believe great food must be made from scratch. My family, however, does not share my passion for cooking and can’t understand why I don’t eat my green bean casserole or Stove Top stuffing at Christmas dinner.
I’ve made it my (now not-so-secret) mission to turn my family into foodies. This is the first year of my endeavor so I’m starting off slowly by replacing the canned cranberry sauce this with a simple, easy to make Port cranberry sauce. I like to make this the day before I plan on serving it because it thickens up in the refrigerator.   
Port Cranberry Sauce
3/4 cup ruby Port (I use Dow’s Ruby Port)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1/3 cup water* (see note)
1/2 cup sugar
Bring the Port, water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and add cranberries, stirring often until cranberry sauce thickens and berries break, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 12 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks and transfer sauce to bowl to cool. 
*If I have oranges I use the juice from one orange in lieu of the water.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Tis the Season for Cookies

Every year, some friends and I kick off the holiday season with a trip to Napa to go wine tasting and do a little Christmas shopping in downtown St. Helena. Thankfully, the Trinchero family is generous enough to put us up at the Sutter Home Inn and one of the highlights of our trip is sitting by their Christmas tree, drinking tea, and eating their inn keeper’s gingersnaps before bed.
I’m not usually a fan of crisp cookies but I love these; they are crisp on the edges with a slightly chewy center. They actually get chewier on the second day and have just enough ginger and spice without being overwhelming. (Pat, the inn keeper, uses light molasses but I used dark because I haven’t been able to find an organic light molasses but they taste great either way.) If you like a little extra ginger flavor, add 1/4 cup of crystalized ginger chips.
Pat’s Gingersnaps
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
Turbinado sugar to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, and molasses and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Shape into 1 inch balls (I used a medium cookie scoop), place onto the prepared baking sheets, two inches apart, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 10-12 minutes and transfer to rack to cool.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Boozy Birthday Cake

I wouldn't normally post a recipe without having baked it myself. However, this year my friend Emma made me a very special Kahlua birthday cake and I wanted to share the recipe with you. It was moist and dense with rich chocolate and coffee flavors. I would have never guessed she made it with cake mix if she hadn’t given me her recipe!
Kahlua Bundt Cake
1 package Devil’s Food Cake
1 (4 ounce) package chocolate pudding mix
1 1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 vegetable oil
1/2 cup Kahlua
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat for 3 minutes then bake in a bundt pan for 45-55 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Friends-tastic Muffin

During my college years, my friend Valerie and I would get together every Thursday night for a sushi dinner and to watch Friends and ER. Inevitably we’d become hungry sometime between the two shows and, more often than not, would make banana chocolate chip muffins to tide us over during our favorite ‘90s television lineup. 
Over the years I’ve made dozens of variations of those muffins. Last year, after adding some espresso powder to the mix, I finally feel the recipe is perfect-neither too sweet nor too dense and the espresso adds a subtle touch of complexity.  
Banana Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins
Yield: 12 standard size muffins
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup chocolate chips
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line or grease a standard size muffin tin.
In a small bowl or ramekin, dissolve the espresso powder in the milk and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. 
In a medium bowl, mix the mashed bananas, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg, melted butter, and espresso mixture. Add the banana mixture and chocolate chips to flour mixture and mix together until just combined. The batter will be stiff. 
Fill muffin liners about 2/3 full. Bake for 23-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (I also check the crack in the muffin top to make sure it isn’t undercooked).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas

I love finding the perfect gifts for family and friends. Below are a few culinary-themed gifts just in case you need some inspiration as you shop:
Stocking Suffers: Napa Soap Company makes luxurious bar soaps that are hand-made with grapeseed oil and wine. My favorites are the Clean-O-Noir and Soap-ignon Blanc.  
For the Coffee Enthusiast: I fell in love with Stumptown Coffee Roasters when I went wine tasting in Oregon this past Spring. They have a wide variety of organic, fair-trade coffees and you may order a monthly subscription for yourself or loved one. Their French Roast is rich and robust with flavors of cocoa and brown sugar; this is the coffee that jump starts my morning on a daily basis.
For the Aspiring Chef: My favorite cookbook, “Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease: 325 Inspiring Recipes” by Rozanne Gold is full of easy, straight-forward yet impressive recipes. If you'd like, pair it with a vintage Griswold cast iron skillet (easily found on eBay).
For the Baker: Why not buy the baker in your life a whimsical Stump de Noël Bundt pan? Much easier than the making a traditional Bûche de Noël but just as much fun to decorate.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fresh from the Farm

My friend and former co-worker, Heidi, comes from a family of farmers. I knew when she brought in an olallieberry crisp for breakfast on her first day of work that we would be fast friends. Heidi was kind enough to share her family recipe for the crisp, which can be used for all sorts of fruits. I love making it with mixed berries during the summer but I’ve also used it for peaches and apricots.

This is my adaptation of her recipe. I used a two pound mix of Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and sliced.
Farmer's Crisp
Crisp Topping
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
5-6 cups fruit
1/2 cup sugar* (see note below)
2 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Topping: Put flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in medium mixing bowl and stir together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add beaten egg and stir in mixture with a fork. Mixture should be crumbly.
Filling: Put the fruit in a large bowl. Stir in the flour and sugar; add the fruit and lightly toss the fruit to coat. Spoon coated fruit into an 8 by 8-inch baking dish and sprinkle the crisp mixture on top. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the crisp mixture. Bake approximately 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.
*If you are using very tart fruit, like blackberries or olallieberries, increase the sugar in the fruit filling to 3/4 cup.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday Pecan Bars

This year I have a lot to be thankful for, including spending Thanksgiving at my friends’ house. However, I didn’t want to miss out on leftovers so I skipped the Black Friday madness to stay home and make a post-Thanksgiving dinner, complete with pecan bars for dessert. These bars are delicious and taste very similar to a pecan pie, except they are a little less sweet because the filling is sweetened with honey instead of lots of sugar.

Pecan Bars
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pecan Bar recipe
For the Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, 
   room temperature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
For the Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 ounces) pecan halves
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Make crust: Put butter and brown sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in salt. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. Continue mixing until dough begins to come together in large clumps.
Press dough about 1/4 inch thick into a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Pierce the dough with fork. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, while waiting for dough to chill, preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
Once crust is almost completely cool, begin to make the filling: Place butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, and heavy cream in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, stirring constantly until mixture coats back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; stir in salt, nuts, and vanilla. Pour filling onto the cooled crust.
Bake until filling bubbles, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1 by 3-inch bars. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week (I think they taste best the day after they are baked.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turkey Day Wine

I've spent almost a decade in the wine business, both on the restaurant side and as a wine salesperson where I'd sell wine to fine dining restaurants in the Bay Area and teach their staff about wine. It never fails that the day before Thanksgiving I have at least two friends text me from the grocery store or wine store asking what to serve for Thanksgiving.

I always suggest serving whatever wines you enjoy, it doesn't have to be the "perfect pair" with your meal. That said, here are a few readily available wines at different price points that would go well with your holiday dinner:

Maybe it’s because I worked at a French restaurant for nine years but I believe Champagne goes with everything. My go-to bottle is Henriot “Souverain” Brut Champagne ($34.99). I also like Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut ($18.99).  

A good Riesling is very versatile. I prefer a Kabinett style; Dr. Loosen “Blue Slate” Estate Kabinett ($19.99) is always a crowd pleaser.

Pinot Noir
As a general rule, I like more Burgundian style Pinots with my turkey. I’m a devotee of Joseph Drouhin wines, and the Gevrey-Chambertin ($49.99) is wonderful. I also like Domaine Serene “Evenstad Reserve” Willamette Valley Pinot ($46.99).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

If you recall, this was the first year I went to the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. My best friend and I did our due diligence tasting as much food as possible before concluding that the “World Famous Pumpkin Roll” was our favorite pumpkin treat. 

No need to wait until the 2012 Pumpkin Festival (or sit in hours of traffic) to indulge in these rolls. They were selling the recipe for $1, by far one of the best purchases I made all year! I made a couple of modifications- I cut the ginger in half and replaced it with ground cloves as well as reduced the amount of chopped walnuts.
This roll is so good I think it may replace the traditional pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table this year. 
Pumpkin Roll
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375º. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 jelly roll pan or baking sheet with wax paper. Grease and flour paper.  
Beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes; gradually beat in granulated sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, and salt. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread in prepared pan. Top with finely chopped walnuts.   
While the cake is baking, sprinkle powdered sugar onto a thin, cotton dish cloth (I use a flour sack). Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately turn the cake out onto cloth and remove the wax paper. Starting at narrow end, roll towel and cake together into a spiral form. Let roll cool on a wire rack, unroll, and fill.
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter
6 oz. cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Carefully unroll cake and remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Re-roll cake, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or you may freeze up to one month. I find that freezing the cake makes cutting it much easier.  
Don’t worry of the cake doesn’t look that pretty when you first put it in the refrigerator or freezer. The cracks in the cake will not be noticeable and the powdered sugar on the outside of the cake will absorb into the cake. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

DIY Cake Flour

If you’re like me and short on cabinet space, you can easily make your own cake flour out of two items already in your cabinet: all-purpose flour and cornstarch. 

For every one cup of cake flour needed, measure one cup of all-purpose flour and subtract two tablespoons of flour; replace with two tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift two or three times and, voilà, cake flour!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Most Expensive Cookie Ever

My niece’s birthday is coming up and I wanted to bake her some cookies to add to the care package I’m sending her.  Taylor, like her aunt, has expensive taste so I thought she might like the $250 Nieman-Marcus cookies. 
If you're not familiar with the story, legend has it that a women had lunch at Nieman-Marcus and loved the cookie so much she asked to buy the recipe. When she received her monthly statement she had been charged a whopping $250 for the recipe. The woman was so upset about the exorbitant cost she decided to send the recipe to everybody she knew. 

The $250 Cookie
Adapted Maida Heatter’s version of this infamous cookie
Yield: About 48 cookies
 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned (not instant) oatmeal
4 ounces milk chocolate 
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 packed cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) walnuts, in medium-pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Chop the milk chocolate into medium-sized pieces and place, along with the oatmeal, into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for about 25 seconds, until the oatmeal and chocolate are almost powdered. Set aside.
In a large bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add both the sugars and the vanilla and beat until mixed. Beat in the eggs. Then add the sifted ingredients and the oatmeal mixture on low speed, scraping the bowl as necessary and beating only until mixed.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (it will be a stiff mixture.)
Using a medium sized cookie scoop, place dough about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets (the dough will stay together better if you pack it tightly into the scoop).
Bake two sheets at a time for about 14 minutes, reversing the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning.
When the cookies are lightly colored and are just firm to the touch, remove the sheets from oven. Let the cookies stand on sheets about one minute before transferring them to a rack to cool.

And, in case you're wondering, I'm not sure if the recipe was worth $250 but they are pretty darn good. (I managed to eat four of them before I even finished my morning coffee.) If you like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, you will love these. They aren’t too sweet and are crispy on the outside with a soft, moist center.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Girls' Night In

Last night a friend and I had a girls' night in, complete with a chick flick, cake, and red wine.  I’m a chocolate girl, she likes vanilla but everybody loves cookies and cream.
I normally decorate this cake with Oreo cookies but I wanted to show you how cute my gum paste flowers were.

This cake is super easy to make and reminds me of the cakes I enjoyed as a child. If you prefer to make cupcakes, this recipe makes about 24 cupcakes. Fill your cups 2/3 full, bake, rotating pans once, for about 20 minutes. Top cupcakes with chopped Oreo cookies.
Cookies & Cream Cake
Adapted from a recipe for One-Bowl Chocolate Cake I tore out of  a Martha Stewart magazine years ago
Unsalted butter, softened, for pans
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
3/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*Oreo cookies, chopped (optional, see note)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (if you’re using non-stick pans, preheat oven to 325 degrees).  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep); dust with cocoa. Sift cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add sugar. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Divide batter between pans. Bake until set ad toothpick inserted into the centers of the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, faceup, to wire racks. Let cool completely.
Spread about 1 1/2 cups frosting onto top of 1 cool layer. Do a crumb coat over entire cake and refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes. Use the remaining frosting to frost sides first, dipping your spatula in warm water and wiping with a damp, clean towel before each stroke. Finish by frosting the top of the cake and decorating as desired.
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
From Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes Book
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
Add vanilla and beat until frosting is smooth. 
*Note: You can chop about 8 Oreo cookies and put on top of the frosting in the middle of the cake and use additional whole cookies to decorate the top of the cake. However, this cake is delicious even without the cookies. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Press & Petals

Two items of note today. The first is an awesome mention on CakeSpy's website about my blog. The second is I finally got a chance to try my hand at making gum paste decorations.

I'll be baking a cake this weekend so you can see how the decorations look.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Malt Ball Madness

Growing up, my sister and I loved Whopper Malt Balls. Sometimes our dad would buy us a carton and tell us we’d have to share.  We intended to ration it out so the carton would last all weekend but would inevitably eat so much the first day the roofs of our mouth were so sore we couldn’t eat any the following day. You’d think we’d lose our love of the malt ball (or learn not to eat so many at one time) but never did. 
I loved the idea of making cupcakes inspired by the malt balls we loved so much as kids-even better, these won’t scratch up the roof of your mouth so feel free to eat as many as you’d like!
Malt Ball Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked’s Milk Chocolate Mall Ball Cake Recipe 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
2 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup Carnation malted milk powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups ice cold water
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (if using non-stick pans, preheat oven to 300 degrees). Line muffin pan with cupcake liners. 
Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Whisk in the malted milk powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the ice water, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Do not over-beat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Fill the muffin liners no more than 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center of cupcake comes out clean. Transfer pans to cooling rack, let cool for about 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
Yield: Enough to frost 15-20 regular cupcakes  
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon 2% reduced fat milk, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until it has completely melted and is quite smooth. Leave to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth-this can take several minutes with and electric hand mixer (I mixed mine in my standing mixer with a paddle attachment). Add the melted chocolate and beat again until thick and creamy. If it looks too runny, simply keep beating-this will thicken the frosting and improve its consistency. 
Frost and decorate your cupcakes. I loved the ones decorated with chopped up malt balls, they had just the right amount of crunch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And the Winner Is...

This year I tested four new pumpkin loaf/cake recipes (one from a trendy bakery cookbook; one from a celebrity chef; a friend’s family recipe; and the last from my tried-and-true Tartine cookbook). I should have known that Tartine’s recipe would be the best but I mistakenly had the pre-conceived notion that a tea cake would be too heavy. Instead, it was similar in density to a carrot cake with a soft, springy crumb with a slightly spicy flavor. This cake was delicious but I wish I had thought to try it with Bourbon whipped cream before I finished the last slice!

Adapted from Tartine’s recipe for Pumpkin Tea Cake.  I prefer to  mix this recipe by hand.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup + 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
Cinnamon Sugar topping: 1 tablespoon sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, mixed together.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5 loaf pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a mixing bowl and set aside.
In another mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil, sugar, and salt until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition before adding the next egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and whisk for about 5 to 10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The batter should have the consistency of a thick puree.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for about 4 days.
While I haven’t made Bourbon whipped cream before, I’m guessing my starting point will be about 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, and 1 teaspoon Bourbon and adjust to taste.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Where's the Tupperware?"

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t going to bake this week.  I fell in love with the cake decorations in the cookbook “Organic and Chic” and was planning to teach myself how to make gum paste flowers in my free time. 
However, my friends at work start getting anxious when Wednesday rolls around and I haven’t baked. I’ve even had a couple of friends take to Facebook to beg for sweet treats and a couple of days ago when I walked into the office my boss stopped what he was doing to swivel his chair around to ask where my (now famous) big red Tupperware container was.     
So, due to popular demand, I baked a quick batch of Snickerdoodles, one of my favorite cookies. Thanks to a Google search about a year ago, I found "How Sweet It Is" recipe for Fat Fluffy Snickerdoodles, which are so good I've never tried another Snickerdoodle recipe.  I love these cookies-they definitely live up to their name, they are super soft and very flavorful.    

Fat Fluffy Snickerdoodles
Makes 16-20 cookies
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon for dipping
Preheat oven to 375.
Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combine, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix until dough comes together. Add in milk. If dough is still crumbly, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In a bowl combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Remove dough from fridge and roll into big 1 1/2 inch balls. Dip in cinnamon sugar mixture and place on baking sheet. Lightly press down on dough to flatten it. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Anticipation of Pumpkin Fest

I've been so excited about Half Moon Bay's Art and Pumpkin Festival, I've been baking all sorts of pumpkin treats. It took a couple of tries but I came up with a recipe for pumpkin pancakes that, if you top with Williams-Sonoma Pecan Pumpkin Butter and a little maple syrup, taste just like pumpkin pie.  I made them for friends yesterday and got rave reviews. 
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups buttermilk 
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla in medium bowl to blend well. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients; mix just until smooth (batter will be thick).
Spray large nonstick skillet with non-stick spray; heat over medium heat. Working in batches, pour a ladleful of batter into skillet. Cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining batter, spraying pan as needed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Love, Love, Love

Love yogurt, love Nutella, love cake! 
I was looking for an alternative to a traditional coffee cake when I saw this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, “Radically Simple”, and knew it was going to be perfect. I served it plain with coffee in the morning but it would be great for dessert with fresh whipped cream.  
French Yogurt Cake with Nutella
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 extra large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Nutella
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan. Melt butter in a saucepan; set aside to cool. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and a large pinch of salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until thick, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture, yogurt, and melted butter; mix until smooth.
Pour two-thirds of the batter into the pan. Add the Nutella to the remaining batter and beat until smooth. Pour atop the plain batter. Run a rubber spatula through the batter to make a marbled pattern. Bake 40-45 minutes, until just firm. Cool on a rack. Release the side of pan and serve. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Secret's in the Corn Flakes

Growing up, my father would make the most amazing chocolate chip cookies using crushed up corn flakes. I had forgotten how much I loved his cookies until I bit into a chocolate chip cookie from Cafe Borrone and the subtle crunch brought me back to my childhood.
After a month and several attempts, I came up with a recipe that was the perfect combination of the texture of my father’s cookies and the flavors of Borrone’s cookies*. It’s also a very versatile cookie recipe: I often substitute half the semi-sweet chocolate chips with either milk chocolate or butterscotch chips, and sometimes add 1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts.  In a pinch, I’ve even substituted Rice Krispies for corn flakes.  
I refrigerate the dough for 24 hours before baking so they are extra soft and fluffy. Because the recipe makes about 40 cookies, I usually bake half the dough and then pre-scoop and freeze the other half in a tupperware container with wax paper in between each layer of dough.  
1 egg 
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3 teaspoons baking soda 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla, and oil and set aside. 
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking soda.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.  
Add half the flour mixture and half the egg mixture to the butter and beat for about 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour and egg mixtures and beat until just combined.  Using a silicone or wooden spoon, fold in the cornflakes, oatmeal, coconut, and chocolate chips.
Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Scoop with a medium-sized cookie scoop and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on a cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes then transfer to rack to cool.  

*For a cookie that taste like Cafe Borrone's, use half milk chocolate chips, half semi-sweet chocolate chips and add 1 cup of chopped pecans.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jude Law's Cupcakes

“I defy anyone to find a better cupcake”-Jude Law
While Jude Law doesn’t look like he eats many cupcakes from Primrose Bakery, I decided to check out their cookbook from my local library. Last night I made their coffee cupcakes and coffee buttercream frosting (with a few small changes) for my friend’s birthday. Hopefully she doesn’t read my blog until after I surprise her tonight!  

Coffee Cupcakes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin pan or three 12-cup mini muffin pans with cupcake liners.
In a large mixing bowl, use a handheld mixer to cream the butter and sugars until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a couple of minutes after each addition.
In a separate bowl, sift the flours together.  In a third bowl, whisk the vanilla extract, espresso powder, and milk.  Add one-third of the flour to the sugar mixture and beat well.  Pour in one-third of the milk and beat again. Repeat until all the flour and milk have been added.  
Use a large ice cream scoop to fill the cups 2/3 full.  Bake standard size cupcakes for 22-25 minutes or mini-cupcakes for about 15 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.  
Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes before placing on wire rack to finish cooling.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost with coffee buttercream and decorate with sprinkles or chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Coffee Buttercream Frosting
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in a small  
   amount of hot water, cooled
2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, espresso mixture, and half the confectioners’ sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes using a handheld mixer. Gradually add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth and creamy.