Tag Archives: baking

New Baking Cookbooks for Me!

IMG_1386Harriet gave me not one but two new baking cookbooks for Mothers Day – and both are fantastic.

First off: Baking At Home with The Culinary Institute of America: Essential Techniques and Recipes for Creating Great Breads and Desserts. This hefty, beautiful book is full of great step-by-step techniques, illustrations and tempting photos. When I unwrapped it, I opened it to a recipe for Smoked Provolone and Thyme Muffins. They’re in my very near future. Same goes for Eclairs, which I think would  be a hit with the Bake Sale crowd — come to think of it, there’s a bake sale Saturday…

This book is beautiful, worthy of coffee table status, well on my coffee table, anyway. There are SO many new things to try.  And if something goes awry, there’s a “What went wrong?” appendix of common baking problems. (Hmm, I don’t see “didn’t follow the directions” as a common problem; clearly the CIA Chefs aren’t familiar with the root of my problems!)

Next up: The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, who I’ve used before when she contributed a bread baking primer to Epicurious. This book is also full of great illustrations, photos and recipes for every kind of bread you could want to bake – from quickbreads and crumpets to sourdough and stud muffins. (Yes, stud muffins, which I’m going to have to bake just so I can say, “Oh, my weekend was great, I had some superb stud muffins!” )

So thanks again, Harriet, for the absolutely perfect presents.

A belated Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, wanna be mothers and mothers in spirit.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_1382My daughter and I eat oatmeal every morning for  breakfast — out of these blue striped bowls, which seem just perfect for porridge but might not be up to snuff when it comes to holding these delish Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I should at least have to go to the work of lifting a lid, if not unlocking a padlock, to continue to treat myself. But it is Mother’s Day… The bowl stays.

File Oatmeal Cookies under things I could have been eating for years but for some reason thought I didn’t like. I’ll tell you what I don’t like — raisins. Sadly, many bakers introduce raisins (or, as I called them years ago, “dead flies”), to their Oatmeal Cookies and I’m done. But I said “See ‘ya Dead Flies, Hello Chocolate Chips,” and all was good. My daughter — to whom I inadvertently passed along my raisin issues, agrees. We’ve been munching on these things like we’ve got a bus to catch.

My guess is the cookies aren’t as healthy as our morning bowls of oatmeal, to which we add a sprinkle of brown sugar, along with some fruit or nuts or cinnamon. Perhaps it’s the two sticks of butter and two cups of brown and white sugar (that’s more sugar than Oatmeal, come to think of it).

The recipe is from my Baking Illustrated cookbook, which has never let me down. The original recipe calls for, yes, dead flies, (KIDDING – raisins), but instructions are given for a chocolate chip variation. There’s also a recipe for Ginger Oatmeal Cookies. Um, Yum?

I got two more baking cookbooks for Mothers Day and I’ll post about them soon. First I need to eat some Oatmeal Cookies.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Snickerdoodle Edition

img_7812In honor of the 40th anniversary of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I baked a Snickerdoodle Caterpillar.

OK, that’s complete fiction — the Snickerdoodle dough must have been a tiny bit too crowded on the cookie sheet going into the oven. But we are big fans of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, even years after it crawled out of our nightly reading list. Certainly we’re not alone, that book link above will take you to the 40th anniversary site, which includes a list of celebrations all over the world. Party Central is Amherst, Mass., home of the The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. I could go on and on about the exhibits and programs there, but if you’re not within driving distance you’ll just be jealous. If you are in New England, click on the link and plan a trip. You do not need a kid to go – although an appreciation of art, graphics, type and the like would be in order. If you are a textile junkie who loves printed fabric you might want to go soon. Turns out that Virginia Lee Burton’s talents went far beyond Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel.

Back to Snickerdoodles! Most of the cookies emerged from the oven solo (there was also a tall, slim snowman). I’ve always seen the name on cookies at bakeries and had no idea they were chewy sugar cookies with cinnamon on top. How many Snickerdoodles have I missed? This particular recipe came from Baking Illustrated and was, as usual, spot on. The only reason I cooked a caterpillar was because I wasn’t paying attention and started following the end of the sugar cookie recipe next door in the cookbook. (How many times do I have to tell you… blah blah blah. I’m beginning to know what my daughter feels like.)

I don’t need a reason to eat cookies, but Eric Carle turns 80 this year. Time to toast him and his caterpillar with a cup of hot tea, or a glass of cold milk, and a Snickerdoodle.

Devil’s Food Twilight Cake

img_7806No, this isn’t the Twilight Cake.

But, as anyone who has a daughter of a certain age probably knows, the Twilight DVD was released this weekend. That was cause for much celebration in my house, so I baked a little Devil’s Food Cake and put a “t” on it.

I turned to my mom’s old Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, where I found not one, but three Devil’s Food recipes. I went for the darkest, which seemed appropriate. (And before any Twilight fanatics jump all over me, I know the Cullens are not Devils. But I’ve never heard of a Vampire Food Cake, so chillax.)

img_7804A few Devil’s Food Cake notes: I frosted it with Buttercream, colored black. Much tastier than the fondant for the real Twilight Cake, even though the fondant was good. Also, at Betty Crocker’s suggestion, instead of flouring the pan, I “cocoaed” the pan after buttering it so the cake would remain dark. Worked like a charm.

Speaking of the Twilight DVD, my own little Twilight fan watched the movie three times Saturday. I watched it once. It wasn’t half bad. It was better than Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The actors spent most of the movie speaking in near monotones, which I assume had some dramatic purpose but nearly put me to sleep. (OK, I think it did put me to sleep, but I was really tired from baking the cake.)

phot1Today we still had leftover Cake, and I introduced the girl to the delicious practice of mixing Devil’s Food Cake and vanilla ice cream on your fork. She approved. Speaking of cultural icons that will outlast all the Twilight vampires – you can see Betty and Archie in the background. Betty and Veronica are still best friends battling it out for Archie’s affections (why? I did not understand Archie’s appeal 30 years ago and I still don’t), but now they have cell phones.  Harriet and I have a fish named Betty and a dog named Veronica, not that we’re fans. Naturally, she has an aquarium in her room with fish named after every major character in Twilight.

Lest anyone think we had a couch potato weekend of cake, comic books and repeated viewings of Twilight, my girl used the first decent weekend in months to repeatedly hit the road on her new bicycle. So only one of us was a couch potato.

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate-Cherry Cupcakes

I don’t like – and I mean really do not like chocolate and cherry together, but I will probably bake Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes from cookstr.com.

Why? They look relatively do-able and Nigella reports they were a hit at a school bake sale. So I don’t have to like them to give them to a bake sale. Besides, I trust Nigella. And the cupcakes are awfully cute with the cherry on top.

This was my first visit to cookstr.com, which looks like it has a bunch of good recipes and chef profiles. Today I learned that Nigella Lawson and I have something in common. I also have more than 100 cookie cutters. I’m guessing Nigella has actually used hers.

Amended to add: also, Nigella and I are both freelance journalists and domestic godesses. Hee.

Gingerbread v2

img_6949We love Gingerbread, so a new recipe — this one featuring sauteed fresh ginger, bittersweet chocolate and ground pepper — was enough to send me running to the oven.

This delish Chocolate Gingerbread recipe was in Better Homes and Gardens and also features simmered oranges, which sounds great. I left that part out this time (no oranges). Like the recipe-writer, I baked mine in a 12-inch cast iron skillet after I used the skillet to saute the slivered ginger. One key difference: My skillet has two spouts. The skillet pictured with the recipe has none. This created a minor problem. I smelled burning when the Gingerbread should not have been anywhere near done, much less burnt. That’s when I discovered Gingerbread batter dripping out of both spouts onto my oven floor. I scraped up the mess that I could and put an old cookie pan on the lower rack. I’ll definitely be doing a little more oven cleaning.

However, this particular Gingerbread was worth cleaning the oven for. (And if you knew me, you’d know that must mean it is very, very good.) It’s not just the freshly ground black pepper; it’s not just the ginger sauteed in butter; it’s not just the bittersweet chocolate. It’s all of them mixing together to make this Gingerbread something to, well, blog about.

(Incidentally, my guess is the recipe writer’s Gingerbread looked better than mine – in the magazine it’s covered with oranges. But taste over beauty when we are going to dig into it very soon. Have I mentioned that Gingerbread is one of my favorite breakfasts?)

From now on, I think I’ll add a few twists of black pepper to all my Gingerbread. Oh, my.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

img_6933Do you like Earl Grey Tea? Me too, so when I saw this recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cookies over on Apartment Therapy’s thekitchn.com blog, I had to give it a try.

They’re easy as pie. (Actually, they are a lot easier than pie. Where on Earth did that saying come from?) And the recipe for 2 dozen cookies uses one tablespoon of Earl Gray Tea. The blogger recommended using tea bag leaves and not the larger loose leaves. Worked for me — I had a cannister of Earl Gray bags, and two of them equaled one tablespoon. I whirred the tea leaves in my food processor with the flour and other dry ingredients. The whole recipe happens in the food processor.

These cookies were great — there was a little citrus taste from the Earl Gray. And they were pretty. Definitely company’s coming for tea cookies.