Sunday, September 23, 2007

Snickerdoodles are my FAVORITE

Out of all the cookies there are, snickerdoodles are my absolute favorite. That's why I decided on them the other day when I wanted a quick, familiar treat. Maybe I shouldn't have; I sat down and ate half the batch without blinking an eye. ack. So good.

One thing I will note that I adjusted during the recipe was the size of the cookies themselves. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of dough to be rolled into a ball but once baked, they spread way too much into thin discs. Now, they tasted fine (and chewy so, yay!) but if you want something a little more presentable and traditional-sized, I'd cut the cookie size in about half and watch the baking time (unless you like crunchy cookies which snickerdoodles traditionally are not). (BTW, pictured above are the smaller, normal-sized ones.)

I've had better snickerdoodles but in a pinch, these are pretty good.

Source: The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling cookies
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for rolling cookies

1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Either by hand or electric mixer, cream butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until combined, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes with electric mixer set at medium speed. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

4. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.

5. Mix remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with cinnamon in shallow bowl. Working with scant 2 tablespoons of dough each time, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar and place on cookie sheet, spacing them 2 to 2 1/2 inches apart.

6. Bake, reversing position in oven halfway through baking time (from top rack to bottom and front to back), until edges of cookies are beginning to set and centers are soft and puffy, 9 to 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to cooling rack with wide spatula.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bread Pudding for Fall

Okay, so I proclaimed it fall about a month ago when it got chilly one day mostly as wishful thinking. Autumn is my favorite season. Not only for the holidays (yay Halloween!) but the comfy, warm foods it inspires. Bread pudding has always been one of those enigmas I'd hear about but never tried. With this new baking thing I got going, I took the plunge and made it.

Now, here's the problem: I've never had bread pudding before so I don't know if this tastes like "typical" bread pudding. I only know it was pretty-really-quite good. It was the perfect combination of a pudding bottom with a lightly toasted top of cinnamon sugar. The whipped cream is a must and the fresh dollop by it's side was the perfect compliment.

I used an 8x8 pan (and halved the recipe) so I had to adjust the baking time to a little longer (15 minutes) since it was deeper than the 13x9 would have been. But everything else I did by the book, complete with the bit of bourbon. Again, I don't know how this compares with other bread puddings but it was definitely a success. I'm eager to try a chocolate bread pudding now (but it's going to be hard-to-damn-near-impossible to beat the one from Pappasito's).


Source: The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated

A firm, white American-style bakery loaf gives the best texture to this pudding. In a pinch, however, use Pepperidge Farm Hearty White Bread. Avoid chewy, crusty European-style breads because they do not soften properly in the custard. If desired, serve this pudding with softly whipped cream.


2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


4 large eggs, plus 1 large yolk
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces (about 1/2 loaf) good quality American-style white bread, sliced 3/8 inch thick and cut into 1 1/2-inch-square pieces (about 8 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing pan

1. FOR THE CINNAMON SUGAR: Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside.

2. FOR THE PUDDING: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

3. Whisk eggs, yolk, and sugar in large bowl to blend well. Whisk in milk, cream, bourbon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in 6 cups bread cubes; mix thoroughly to moisten. Let stand 20 minutes.

4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Scatter remaining 2 cups bread pieces on top, pushing down gently to partially submerge. Brush exposed bread with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until pudding is deep golden brown, is beginning to rise up sides of baking dish, and jiggles very slightly at the center when shaken, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool until set but still warm, about 45 minutes. Serve.

Vanilla Cupcakes cure EVERYTHING

I've been having a weird couple of weeks where I didn't want to do anything, including baking. Felt a little burned out. Got some good news this week and was off and running again. And what best to start back on than good ol' cupcakes?

Source: Ina Garten

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Fill the cupcake liners to the top with batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, mix the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, mixing just until smooth. Spread the frosting generously on top of each cupcake.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Chocolate like volcanoes!

A recipe came along that perplexed me. A "cake" with gooey center that is supposedly as rich as it is messy. So... just unbaked batter, then? Well, kind of. More of a flourless chocolate cake/pudding, this dessert works because, let's face it: it's mostly just chocolate.

My first attempt was from a terribly misguided recipe that tried to make a cross between a pudding and a soufflé. There were beaten egg whites folded in and bubbles and it was just wrong wrong wrong. Spongy and airy, it wasn't what I wanted at all (and, to top it off, I must've cooked too long because it was done all the way through!) This, of course, was the one I made to test out on my friend. She said it was good but c'mon; I have taste buds too. She's a very very good friend.

SO. Cut my losses and tried a different recipe. I went out on a limb and made the one from Nigella Lawson's baking cookbook which was, to be fair, my inspiration to make them in the first place. I was a little gun shy the first go after that last one done all the way through (defeating the very name of the dish) so I undercooked this one. Recognized my mistake but it didn't matter; they TASTED completely different. Rich, SO chocolatey and Mmmm. Tried one last time just to get it right and voila! Used full cooking time (do not be afraid to let these babies go the entire 12 or 13 minutes; they're so thick, they're not going to cook too quickly like some airy concoction. They came out absolutely perfect: gooey and so full of flavor! I served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream but the recipe suggests anything from a crème fraîche to whipped cream. It certainly needs it. VERY very chocolatey. But it's definitely on my keeper list. Woo!


From How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson

1/4 cup soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
12 ounces best bittersweet chocolate (OR semisweet which I used)
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 individual 6-ounce custard cups, buttered
baking parchment

1. Unless you are making these up in advance, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, putting in a baking sheet at the same time. Lay 3 of the custard cups on a sheet of doubled baking parchment. Draw round them, remove, and then cut out the discs as marked. Press them all into the base of the cups.

2. Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly. Cream together the butter and sugar, and gradually beat in the eggs and salt then the vanilla. (Don't mind if it looks curdled at this point; it'll smooth out later.) Now add the flour, and when all is smoothly combined scrape in the cooled chocolate, blending it to a smooth batter.

3. Divide the batter between the 6 custard cups, quickly whip the baking sheet out of the oven, arrange the cups on it and replace in the oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes (the extra 2 minutes will be needed if the puddings are refrigerator-cold when you start) and as soon as you take them out of the oven, tip out these luscious babycakes onto small plates or shallow bowls. Serve these with whipped cream, the same unwhipped in a pitcher, crème fraîche, custard or ice cream.

Serves 6.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Double Double Your Chocolate

I've had these chocolate cravings for about a week now and, specifically, chocolate cookies were on my mind. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart's Living as one of the Cookies of the Month. As a rule, I generally don't like milk chocolate too much (which the original recipe called for) so I simply replaced it with semi-sweet for a darker flavor. They came out a tad crunchier than I'd like (I'm a chewy cookie person) so I'd take a minute or two off of the cooking time if you are as well.

The batter was also a little warm for my liking (what with the melted chocolate and all), so I threw it in the refrigerator for 2-3 minutes to let it firm up so it was easier to scoop. If the batter is too warm, the cookies will spread too much (which they already do so watch how close you put them).

All in all, a pretty good, easy chocolate fix!

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Living

These rich cookies should seem a bit soft when you take them out of the oven. They firm up as they cool, so be careful not to overbake them.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate (4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter in heatproof bowl in microwave, watching closely and stirring every 30 or so seconds until smooth (or melt in double boiler, in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water).

2. Transfer chocolate mixture to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks.

3. Scoop batter using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop; place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces begin to crack, about 15 minutes. Transfer on parchment to wire racks. Let cool 5 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.