Monday, October 7, 2013

Smoothies Galore

This off-colored "smoothie" is why I have not been baking (and sub-sequentially blogging) much lately. My mom and I are on a NutriBullet kick - or at least I am. Every morning for breakfast I enjoy choke down one of these yellowish-greenish drinks in an attempt to get more fruits and veggies in my diet. So you can see why, after making it through one of these, it would seem a bit counterproductive to bake.

 This particular smoothie contained a handful of baby spinach, one (peeled) blood orange, a plum (also peeled), a banana, 8 almonds, 1 tbsp goji berries and 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds. All this (along with some crushed ice and water) goes into my handy-dandy NutriBullet blender and gets blended into a frothy (and borderline chunky) drink.

Look at all that healthful goodness.

Yum? I'm kidding.. being totally dramatic. The drinks really aren't so bad. You can't taste the spinach at all - even though it is the culprit for the drink's unappetizing color - and I'm drinking more fruits and nuts than I would ever eat throughout the day. So for now, this is all I've been whipping up in the kitchen. But don't worry dear readers (ahem, dad), for pumpkin season is upon us and it is only a matter of time before I make pumpkin bread and pumpkin doughnuts and pumpkin crepes that I could use instead of regular crepes in my crepe cake. Now that's YUM.

Also, in case you're having a rough day, here's a cute picture of my sad cone-headed pup. He got his you-know-whats snipped.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fresh-picked Blueberry Almond Spongecake

This was the first cake I've ever made that was entirely devoured in the first night.

Well, almost entirely. There was a small piece left that I'm pretty sure was eaten the following morning. Basically, this cake is bomb. Not only does it taste like the happiest marriage of blueberry, almond and cream, but there is NO added fat (to the cake part.. the mascarpone blueberry filling and topping are certainly fat-full).

This is actually one 9-inch round cake, baked in a spring-form pan so it's taller than usual. Then I sliced it in half, layered it with tons of fresh-picked blueberries mixed with mascarpone and confectioners' sugar (they were actually fresh-picked, my boyfriend and I went to a pick-your-own farm earlier that day and got lots of fresh berries).

I only frosted the top because I wanted to be able to see the blueberry filling and the spongy texture of the cake. And because I was trying to make it somewhat of a healthier dessert. Though let me tell you, that is not easy. I just love chocolate and butter too much. But this cake satisfied my sweets craving enough and I didn't get the usual after-dessert-guilt.

I followed this recipe, which was fairly simple. The only thing that I wasn't used to was whipping the egg whites and yolks separately, which makes for an airier cake. As for the filling and topping, I mixed together a 17.5 oz container of mascarpone with Cool Whip and confectioners' sugar (to taste). For the filling, I mixed 1 pint of blueberries with 1/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a saucepan until it was thickened. I let this cool before mixing it into the mascarpone cream, et voila. Blueberry cream filling! Delicious and sort of nutritious.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fruit and Mascarpone Tart

So this is my fourth of July post... it's only a few days late.

My main reason for posting late (besides the fact that I made this the day of and couldn't blog on the 4th) is that you can (and should!) make this tart for any occasion. Personally, I'd like it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I wouldn't suggest doing that. Though it does have fruit, and mascarpone isn't entirely unhealthy...

Since I didn't have a chance to take a picture of the inside of the tart after it was cut into (the dessert scavengers at the party swooped in too quickly), I figured I'd create a layer-by-layer shot so you could see the inside. Just to give the tart an extra oomph, I added a thin layer of ganache to the bottom. This, paired with the creamy and lightly sweet mascarpone and the tangy fruit, was OOC (which, for my non-Rachel-Zoe-watching readers, stands for Out Of Control).

Fruit and Mascarpone Tart
1 17.5 oz container of mascarpone cheese
3/4 c. confectioners' sugar
strawberries and blueberries for decorating (I used around 7 strawberries)
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. heavy cream

For shortbread crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk

For the shortbread crust, follow the instructions at the bottom of this recipe and bake in a greased 9 inch spring form pan. To fully bake the crust, bake in a 375 degree F oven for around 30-35 minutes. Let cool fully before adding fillings.

To make ganache, place chocolate chips in a medium sized bowl. Boil heavy cream in a medium sauce pan. Once slowly boiling, pour cream over chocolate chips and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir in slowly widening circles until chocolate and cream are incorporated.

Spoon a thin layer of chocolate over the cooled crust (can use as much or as little ganache as you want). Put the crust in the refrigerator to harden the ganache.

In a medium bowl, mix the mascarpone cheese and confectioners' sugar until fully combined. Spread cheese mixture over the ganache in the crust. Top with desired fruit and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

So healthy is used loosely here... just go with it.

As I've admitted in this blog many times, I'm a sugar addict. I'm usually only content with oatmeal cookies of any kind if they're loaded with chocolate chips and other sugary delights. These cookies were baked for my father, who has an odd affinity for oatmeal raisin cookies sans chocolate chips. I must say, however, that I enjoyed these more than I thought I would. The cookies were plump and chewy, with deliciously crispy edges. And, since the recipe calls for whole wheat flour along with regular flour, these are practically dietetic.

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(makes around 14 medium-sized cookies)
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. butter, melted (around 5 1/3 tbsp)
2/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and baking powder. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture, and stir just to combine. Mix in the oats and raisins.

Spoon dough onto baking sheet and bake for 15 to 17 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cookies are done when they look crisp around the edges and golden brown and puffy in the center.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Dough Bars

This past weekend my boyfriend came to visit me at school for my final sorority formal (how depressing is that?!) and as with each visit, I reward his 6-hours of driving with something decadent and delicious. This weekend, it was peanut butter cup cookie dough crumble bars from Averie Cooks.

I've never met someone who loves the peanut butter-chocolate combination as much as this boy does. For Valentine's Day, I sent him a 1-pound peanut butter cup, and when the company failed to deliver it by the holiday they sent him another one for free. He hadn't even opened the second one, so we chopped it up and used it in these bars.

Just as Averie describes in her post, this recipe is super easy. The cookie dough base and the "crumble" on top are made from the same batter, and the filling is just chopped pb cups and sweetened condensed milk, which makes them melt-in-your-mouth gooey. Also, as per her instructions, make sure to let these bars sit for at least three hours after baking. While it's tempting to dig right in, the soft center needs to set before cutting.

If your significant other/friends are anything like mine, these will be gone within the day. This recipe only made around 16 bars (which seems like a lot but really isn't when they're being eaten by six people) so I would suggest doubling it and baking them in a 9x13 inch pan.

My favorite helper, trying (unsuccessfully) to talk and chew. You can find this recipe in the link at the top of the post!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Strawberry Cake

I'm really excited about this cake. Here's why:

So first of all, it's super pretty. But more importantly, it's also really good. Like moist (sorry, I hate that word too, but I don't want to say "it has a nice wet to dry ratio with a good crumb" because I think that just essentially means "moist" and why would I waste so many words?) and light with a hint of strawberry flavor. It also can be played around with to make a bunch of combinations! I could use blueberries or blackberries in place of the strawberries, and then the cake would be blue! Definitely trying that next.

I had to include a shot of the cake without any of its adornments, since it baked up so nicely. I did a single layer cake because it was approximately 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night and I didn't feel like assembling a layer cake. I was even tempted to leave it sans frosting, but the pudding/dream whip topping was too good to leave off.

I adapted this recipe from The Law Student's Wife, though only because I was without certain ingredients. Either way, I would highly recommend this recipe. She suggests making it for an anniversary (so cute!) but I'll be using this recipe for any and all warm-weather festivities.

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Whipped Frosting
(makes two 6-inch rounds or one 9-inch round)
2/3 c. fresh or frozen whole strawberries (thawed)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. 2% milk (or whole milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature

For the frosting:
1 packet instant whipped topping, like Dream Whip
1 package instant french vanilla pudding mix (the smaller box)
1 1/2 c. 2% milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the cake pans.

Food process or smash strawberries with a fork (I did the latter, no such luxury as a food processor in my college apartment) until they are liquidy.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and strawberries. Set aside.

In a stand mixer (or in a medium sized bowl by hand) cream the butter until it is light in color and fluffy. Slowly add sugar and continue to beat. Slowly add the egg and egg whites, mix until just combined.

Slowly add half the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mixing until incorporated. Add the milk mixture; mix. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix!)

Pour batter into pans and bake around 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To prepare the frosting:
In a stand mixer (or by hand), whisk together the instant whipped topping and instant pudding mix. Add milk and mix until blended. Increase mixer speed to high and beat 4 to 6 minutes until stiff peaks form. Frost cooled cake and top with whatever your sweet tooth desires.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chocolate Babka

If I had more blogging self-control, I would just post this picture with the link to the recipe and say no more, because this picture says it all. But obviously I can't not talk about chocolate babka.

Look at those chocolatey-cinnamoney swirls. And a streusel topping! My parents call me their "dealer" (because sugar is their drug) and when I'm home they refer to my baking delights as "getting their fix."

Unfortunately I halved the recipe so this fix went reallyy quickly. Obviously I followed this recipe from The Smitten Kitchen, since who else would I trust when making a jewish/chocolate dessert?

I almost don't want to tell you this because then you may never experience the joys of making babka yourself, but it took me about four hours from when I started with heaping amounts of ingredients to when I was sitting on the couch, butter-slathered piece of warm babka in my hand (because naturally, using two and a half sticks of butter in a recipe isn't enough for me!) Though that time commitment definitely sounds daunting, there's a lot of rising time for the dough. Which means more time for you to do other important things, like watch a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills marathon, or paint your toes.

I don't love the lighting of this pic (I'm still working on my photography skills, the Nikon is a lot different than my baby Sony Cybershot), but I had to post it because you can see all the doughy crevices and the texture of the crumbly topping. This recipe really turned out perfectly. Like if I had to change a thing I would double the recipe and freeze some of the loaves for holidays or give some of them as gifts. Because really, who wouldn't want a loaf of glorified brioche stuffed with chocolate swirls topped with buttery streusel?

P.S. I promise that the next post (or maybe the one after that, I still have one more waiting in the wings) will include a recipe that I develop, enough of this linking-to-other-peoples-blogs four times in a row.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake

If you haven't heard of a crepe cake, or a mille crepe cake (made famous by the Lady M bakery in Manhattan), then you're in for a treat.

As you can see, it's layers of crepes stacked together with cream in between each layer. What you can't see is that the crepes are brown-buttery and light-as-air, and the cream filling is a hazelnut pastry cream.  All topped with a semi-sweet chocolate ganache. Yeah. It's serious stuff.

It took a while for my hazelnuts to turn into the clumpy powder that they needed to be for the pastry cream, but besides that it was fairly simple to make.

My baking style is a bit haphazard, so sorry for all of the things in this picture. Once you make the crepes (I ended up with around 18 after eating two that had "broken") it's time to stack them up with the pastry cream.

Ta da! How pretty is that?? And no baking required! This cake isn't super sweet, so if you have a major sweet tooth (like me), then you'll find yourself wishing that it was filled with alternating layers of nutella and marshmallow fluff. But hey, that's just me. You can find this wonderful recipe in the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. If you haven't heard of The Smitten Kitchen, then I'm doing you a favor. Go click on over and soak up all the perfectly-crafted recipes that Deb (it's creator) has to offer.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Samoas Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I feel bad doing this.

Dropping such a decadent dessert in your lap so early in the week, when you're likely still trying to stick to some healthy eating plan. Desserts like this should really be eaten on Friday nights, after making it through a long week of salads and diet ice cream bars. But I've never been good at waiting.

I'm sure that you, like me, have been bombarded by the adorable little diet-ruiners (aka Girl Scouts) selling their wares outside of every. single. supermarket. When I'm home, I go to the supermarket at least every other day (I don't always make lists and tend to forget pretty crucial ingredients. Like flour, or butter). Every time I leave the store, there are hoards of little girls in green vests trying to get me to buy a box (or 12) of cookies. I usually try to avoid eye contact and keep my head down, which has worked for me this year. Unfortunately, my mom got suckered into buying a couple of boxes (from my adorably cute cousin, I should add) and so this ice cream was born.

Because what goes better with caramel-chocolate-coconut cookies than a salted caramel custard? This ice cream is hands-down the most rich and creamy ice cream that I've ever eaten. I followed this recipe, except next time I would double the salt and leave out the last 1/4 cup of sugar. It's plenty sweet, especially when you add chewy chunks of cookies (I added 7 cookies, chopped up). Also, a word of advice, if you've never made caramel before, don't worry. It's really easy, you just need to watch it like a hawk because the caramel can go from a delicious perfect amber to burnt sugar in a second. And no one wants burnt sugar flavored ice cream.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stuffed Cheesy Pepperoni Bread

I need to tell you all something. It's cheesy and buttery and herby and too good to be true.

This stuffed cheesy bread is crisp and toasty on top and buttery and and gooey in the middle. It's every carboholic's dream (or every Atkins-follower's nightmare - but who does Atkins anymore anyway?) The ingredient list can be a bit overwhelming (I do NOT want to know the amount of fat grams in this loaf) but just pretend that butter and cheese are healthy for a sec and indulge yourself.

Look. At. It. If that's not food porn then I don't know what is.

Another photo, ya know, just in case you weren't convinced. If you're still not convinced, I can't help you. You're a bread-and-cheese-loathing human. And I'm sad for you. The recipe my friends and I followed was adapted from Food Wanderings in Asia. We subtracted the dijon mustard, poppy seeds, parsley and added sliced pepperoni and scallions. Next time I'm thinking of using brie as the cheese and caramelized onions as the accoutrements, or maybe I'll melt the butter with an apricot jam and let that soak up in all the nooks and crannies. SO many possibilities. Guess I'll just have to make it again this weekend!

The loaf took four people six minutes to finish, which I'm not sure if that's impressive or repulsive. You can decide for yourself when you make it (I'm thinking it's impressive..)


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Donuts with a Marshmallow Glaze

So the glaze isn't as photogenic as I would have hoped. But it tastes like the most delicious marshmallowey-rice-crispy-treat-glue, so I got over it.

You may have guessed, by looking at these here donuts, that I bought a donut pan! So many other bloggers were raving about cakey baked donuts and how easy it is and blah blah and I was jealous. So I placed my order and 5 quick days later I was testing it out.

Except that my first try (see above) at a vanilla cake donut did not turn out as expected. Before I try out any recipe I peruse through the food blogosphere to see if others have tried it, how it turned out, etc. Anyway, this recipe seemed to be the go-to recipe for vanilla donuts. So maybe I messed something up? I don't know. The recipe called for only 2 tbsp of butter for about 12 donuts and that seemed wrong but I didn't question it. And guess what? They were super dry. Like needed to be dunked into milk for at least 15 seconds in order to be able to swallow.

But they were pretty, and fun to make glazes for. The chocolate one is a standard ganache with some added cocoa powder, and the other one is a maple cinnamon glaze (aka confectioner sugar mixed with maple syrup, some milk and cinnamon). But back to the chocolate donuts. They're deeply chocolatey with pockets of melted chocolate chips, and they stay good for at least two days. Not that they'll last that long..

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Donuts with a Marshmallow Glaze
adapted from Mama's Gotta Bake
(makes around 15 donuts)
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. vinegar, white or apple cider
1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter, melted
1 c. mini marshmallows
2 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the donut pan, set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and vinegar. Slowly add the dry ingredients, along with the melted butter, to the wet. Mix to combine, but don't over-mix.

You can either spoon the batter into the pan, or put it into a ziplock bag, cut off the tip and pipe it in (this was easier for me, though since the batter is thick it's not much of a problem either way.) Fill each donut well around 3/4 of the way full.

Bake the donuts for around 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Flip pan over and allow donuts to cool on a wire rack.

To make the marshmallow glaze, put marshmallows and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until marshmallows have melted and are a thick, liquid consistency. Spoon/drizzle over donuts. The glaze will become slightly tacky when cool, so plan on eating right away or wait to glaze the donuts until just before serving.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce

Homemade pasta.

It's a lot easier than you think. I didn't even have a pasta machine. Or a rolling pin (we'll get to that later).

 What I did have was some fancy Italian flour from Fairway that my mother sent to me via my boyfriend, who came to visit just in time for Valentine's Day and homemade pasta. He's a lucky guy.

The first time I made pasta was almost exactly a year ago. Last Valentine's Day, while I was in Rome, I took a cooking class and we made tagliolini all'amatriciana. I haven't attempted to recreate the dish since then, so I figured it was time to try my hand at pasta-making without a very skilled Italian chef leading the way.

Except that I wanted pappardelle bolognese, like what I had when I was in Tuscany. Since I had never made pappardelle before, I followed Michael Chiarello's recipe. I halved it, since I was only cooking for my boyfriend and me, but I almost instantly regretted that because now I don't have a ready-to-shape ball of pasta dough in my freezer waiting for me. I would suggest making the full recipe.

This meal is super easy and doesn't nearly warrant as much praise as it receives. The bolognese is simple and hearty and can be made far in advance or just before (I made mine a couple of hours before serving so that the flavors had plenty of time to meld together).

Remember that rolling pin I told you I didn't have? Right. So I used a can of Pam Spray (except it's not even the brand name kind, that's too much of a splurge for a college budget). As per expected, this method of rolling pasta didn't yield quite as thin a sheet as I would have liked, but it was no less delicious.

I could have gotten all fancy and measured out the width of each individual noodle, but I chose to cut them freeform instead. Some were thinner and some were definitely thicker, but who cares when they're smothered in sauce and cheese?

Classic Bolognese
(makes 4 servings)
1 lb meatloaf mix ground meat (trio of ground veal, pork, and beef)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced (you can add more, I don't love celery)
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. red wine
1 28 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced vegetables and cook until tender. Add meat and begin to brown, making sure to break up the larger pieces.

Add chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off. Add wine and simmer until liquid has cooked off.

Add crushed tomatoes and let simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened up. Add herbs, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Let sauce simmer for another 20 minutes. At this point it is ready to serve, though it'll only get better the longer it sits. I usually cover it and leave it on the stove, that way it's ready to warm up once the pasta is done.

*A quick note about Chiarello's pasta recipe: you cook the pasta for around 4 minutes, though taste it as it's cooking to make sure. I'm not sure why he doesn't include cooking instructions, since cooking fresh pasta is timed differently than dry pasta.

** Another note about these pictures! As you can see, my hands are elbow deep in pasta dough in most of them, which means that I was not the sole photographer. My best friend/very talented photograhpher Rachel took pictures 2, 3, and 4. My wonderfully helpful boyfriend Chris took pictures 5 and 6, and I photographed the rest.