Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lazy Day Cookies

I love to bake but sometimes I’m too lazy to make a complicated recipe or take a trip to the grocery store. Here's a really simple peanut butter cookie recipe using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon. baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until blended.
Using a spoon, stir in the peanut butter and blend thoroughly. Stir in the dry ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.  
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll into balls (or, even easier, use a medium sized cookie scoop). Place the balls on parchment lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart and press flat with a fork that has been dipped in water, making a crisscross pattern.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly colored.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.    

These cookies hold up well if you'd like to pre-scoop them and freeze so you can bake a few at a time whenever you get a sudden sugar craving.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mo' Better

I’ve been baking since I was a child and spent years working in restaurants. Over the years I’ve learned three easy tips for making better cookies:

1. Use dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar for a richer taste;
2. Add a little (1/4 cup or so) extra flour than most recipes call for; and
3. Always refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 8 hours (or more) to keep cookies from baking down. I know people that refrigerate their cookie dough for 24-36 hours (although I must admit I don't have much willpower when it comes to cookie dough in my fridge!). This also allows the gluten to settle and allows the dry ingredients to have a chance to absorb the moist ingredients, which results in better flavors.

Chocolate Chip Cornflake Cookies

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Even after all these years, every time I write the word “bananas” on my shopping list I hear Gwen Stefani singing in the back of my head. Anyway, I digress.
Two of my favorite ingredients to bake with are bananas and honey so when I saw a recipe in Oprah’s Cookbook for Banana Pecan Honey Bread I knew I had to try it. 

This is hands down the best banana bread recipe I’ve ever tried; it’s dense, moist, and the honey is just sweet enough to cut through the acidity of my very large cup of French Roast coffee in the morning. Yum! 

1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas , mashed (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 stick butter , softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper. Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a small bowl, combine bananas, milk, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Reduce speed to low and alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat just until blended. In a small bowl, combine nuts with remaining one tablespoon flour and mix well; add to batter. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of bread comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes.

Run a knife around inside rim of pan to remove bread, peel off paper from bottom, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spoiler Alert: I'm a Perfectionist

Who’s the brunette version of Goldilocks? I’m on my third rendition of an olallieberry pie; the first one was too tart, the second one was too sweet, but this one is just right!
I started off with Martha Stewart’s pate brisee recipe (cut in half for one crust because I prefer a streusel topping).  
Pie Filling:
5 cups olallieberries, rinsed and well drained
1/3 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Put berries in a medium bowl and cover with flour and sugar; stir gently to coat. Let filling sit for about 20 minutes to allow berries to release juice, stirring occasionally. While berries are sitting, prepare crumble topping. When berries are ready, pour into uncooked pie shell and top with crumble mix.
Streusel Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes then cover edges of pie with foil.  Lower heat to 375 degrees and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Carb Loading for Sunday Funday

The weekend doesn't feel complete without a leisurely brunch and a mimosa or two.  I'm addicted to pancakes and have tried at least a dozen variations before I finally came up with a recipe that is brunch-worthy.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pint fresh blueberries
Sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt and set aside.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the buttermilk and whisk together. Add the vanilla and the oil and whisk together. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and quickly whisk together (a few lumps are OK). Drop by ladlefuls and put about a dozen blueberries in each pancake.  Cook until bubbles begin to break through, about 2 minutes on medium heat. Turn and cook until the other side is nicely browned, about 1 minute. Serve with butter, maple syrup, and a few extra blueberries to garnish. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer is Berry Pickin' Time

Nothing brings back happy childhood memories like the smell of a pie baking in the oven.  
I must have been feeling nostalgic because I recently made the trek to Pescadero to visit Phipps Country Farm to pick fresh olallieberries.   
Phipps is one of my favorite places to visit on a warm summer day (and very kid-friendly, too)!  In addition to row after row of juicy berries, they also have peacocks, chickens, and other farm animals for the kiddos to see.  
You can pick either strawberries or olallieberries during the summer months.  There is a nominal entrance fee ($3 per adult) and the berries are delicious and inexpensive (olallieberries were $3 per pound).  

I’ll let you know once I perfect my recipe...

For more information about Phipps, check them out at