Archive for August, 2009

August 31, 2009

One recipe, two awesome muffins

I’ve gone from having no time or particular reason to bake to have a million excuses to whip up some sweet treats.  These muffins were inspired by my brother and his girlfriend visiting from NYC.  He was getting in at 4am and I wanted them to wake up to something tasty, so I asked my little brother if he wanted to get up and bake with me.  When I suggested whole wheat, he demanded chocolate chunk.  Thus, version one of these muffins were born.

Next, I had a brunch to go to with the cast of Rent at the Hangar Theatre to celebrate our closing weekend.  I decided to make these muffins again with a few alterations – I used only 3/4 whole wheat flour and added peaches and pecans.  They were kind of really amazing – especially warm from the oven.

The only real changes I made to the original base recipe was to use buttermilk instead of milk to help with moisture with the whole wheat. (thanks Grandma Snow for the tip!) I also used 100% whole wheat flour instead of white whole wheat flour.

Whole Wheat Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:
•    1/2 cup butter
•    1 cup granulated sugar
•    2 teaspoons baking powder
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•    1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional – I used for the peach muffins only)
•    2 large eggs
•    1/2 cup buttermilk
•    2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (can use part all-purpose flour if preferred)
•    2 cups chocolate chunks (I chopped up 3 Hershey’s bars)
OR
•    2 cups sliced and diced peaches and 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with muffin cups, and grease the muffin cups) a standard-size muffin pan.
1) Beat together the butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon (if you’re using it) until fluffy.
2) Beat in the eggs, then stir in the buttermilk.
3) Mix in the flour, then the chocolate chips/peaches and pecans.
4) Spoon the batter into the muffin cups; they’ll be quite full.
5) Optional: Top peach/pecan muffins each with one whole pecan for decoration or sprinkle sugar flakes on chocolate chip muffins
6) Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out without crumbs clinging to it

Thanks to the big brother for the chocolate chunk muffin pictures!

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August 29, 2009

You ask? I bake.

I have been meaning to make these cookies for quite a while.  My friend Jordan posted this on my facebook wall: “Try to make some shortbread orange flavored cookie with chocolate icing on top. MMM”  So that had been in the back of my mind for a while.  Then I wanted to do something fun for my cast mates for the closing of Rent at the Hangar Theatre here in Ithaca, so I thought I’d bake some contrasting cookies using Jordan’s idea for inspiration.

Little did I know how much of a pain these cookies would be.  I decided to make two sets: orange shortbread with dark chocolate and chocolate coconut shortbread with white chocolate.  I was going to adapt this recipe I found for coconut butter thins and then the disasters started.  First I didn’t leave myself enough time for the various steps.  Then, I didn’t have a plastic zip loc bag to roll out the dough, which was incredible sticky and gooey before refrigeration.  The chocolate dough was fine, since it was much stiffer due to the cocoa power I added. I had a whole big fiasco trying to get the dough in some sort of square shape and got extremely frustrated.

In the end it all worked out and I got the cookies baked.  The orange shortbread cookies spread out a lot and lost their square shape, which was too bad. The chocolate ones looked a lot nicer.  They both tasted pretty darn yummy. Then I got home from a performance at about 11pm and tried to dip them in the chocolate.  Besides some minor hand burns from grabbing hot bowls out of the microwave and plastering most of my kitchen in dark chocolate, those cookies went just fine.  For some reason though, none of the white chocolate in my house would melt. I think it was because no one could even remember how old the chips were… It just burned and got all clumpy.  Multiple times.  So I gave up and didn’t dip the chocolate cookies and went to bed and gave them to the cast the next day and all was well!

Orange Shortbread Cookies with Dark Chocolate
Adapted from Baking:  From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan via The Barefoot Kitchen Witch

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2ish teaspoons orange extract (I didn’t measure exactly, just kept tasting the dough…)

Note: for chocolate shortbread cookies, I added 1/4 cocoa powder and 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut, substituted vanilla extract for the orange extract, and used no zest

Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
If you want to get a little more flavor out of the orange zest, put the sugar and zest in the mixer bowl and, using your fingertips, work the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and the mixture fragrant.
Beat the butter, sugar and zest on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.  Note: add coconut and cocoa powder here for chocolate cookies
Transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock bag.  Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9-x-10 1/2-inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick.  As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases.  When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.
GETTING READY TO BAKE:  Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open.  Turn the dough out onto the board (discard the bag), and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut it into 32 squares, each roughly 1 1/2 inches on a side.  Transfer the squares to the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them, and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies to the sheet.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and fromt to back at the midway point.  The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color.  Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, feel free to dip in melted chocolate of your choice – I used dark chocolate for the orange flavored cookies.
Makes 32 Cookies

Thanks to the big brother for the great pictures!

August 27, 2009

Longest cookie name in history

Crisp Salted Butterscotch Macadamia Nut Oatmeal Cookies.

Hmm.  Well, I guess I don’t need to say much more about what is in them. . Only that these were some of the best cookies I think I’ve made.  Salty and sweet and flat and crispy yet not too crunchy.  I made them a few weeks ago and I’m drooling just thinking back about them… The original cookies were called Crisp Salted White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, so I kind of just substituted what I put in and the name is kind of unwieldy I suppose. But impressive to say to people.

As seems to be the theme in my baking lately, I think these were born out of a desire to use up some various baking things I had in the cupboard – butterscotch chips and macadamia nuts.  I would highly suggest making these and eating them while still slightly warm.  Yummmm. In fact, I have to quote the writer over at Smitten Kitchen, where I found the original recipe – these were “scandalously good.”

Crisp Salted Butterscotch Macadamia Nut Oatmeal Cookies.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated via Smitten Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1/2 teapoon flaky sea salt (for sprinkling on top)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

3. Roll dough into balls about 2 tbs each, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about 3/4-inch thickness.

4. Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on each cookie

5. Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

August 21, 2009

Snickerdoodles!

Yikes… where has the summer gone!  It has been far too long since I hve had some quality time with my apron and spatula.  So the other day, I finally found some time to get down to business.  Yes, it so happened that I chose pretty much the hottest day of the summer to bake but I was so happy to be back in the kitchen that I didn’t even care!

Snickerdoodles are nothing fancy, but are a bit of a specialty for me.  They are my go-to recipe when I have a large group to bake for.  Often I use them to supplement other, smaller batches of baked goods since it is easy to scale up the recipe.  I was baking for the cast of Footloose, a show I have been working on as assistant choreographer.  It was put on by an amazing group of high school and middle school kids through Running to Places, a local youth theater company. I wanted to do something special for them on opening night, so I baked them lots of goodies. For a cast of over 60 hungry teenagers. Time to pull out the trusty Snickerdoodles!

This is my all-time go-to snickerdoodle recipe and I have yet to find another that I like as much.  My double batch made about 50-60 cookies. It is the perfect mix between chewy and crispy, flat and thick… yum!

Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Popularcookierecipes.com

• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
• 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended.  Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, and stir in remaining flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Combine the 4 tablespoons sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Place balls of dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden.

August 1, 2009

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

I’m going to admit a few things up front. One: I was not wowed by these cookies.  They were good, particularly warm from the oven, but toughened up a bit too much for my liking once they started to cool.  Maybe I just don’t dig the whole wheat in cookies, but the texture was a little rough and they were not very pretty. Definitely not at all like the photos on Prudence Pennywise where I got the recipe. The dough was hard to work with – very dry and crumbly and hard to shape balls.  The cookies themselves weren’t exactly dry, just very whole-wheaty.  My family gave them great reviews by the way, but I’m starting the think they aren’t the most critical audience – they seem to gobble up just about anything.

Second confession.  I dropped about half of these cookies on the floor, and then picked them up and packaged them off to send on a family vacation with my parents. (Well, I ate the ones that were just TOO broken).  Actually, I dropped them twice. See, I was baking a TON of things at once to send on this vacation, since I couldn’t go with them: chocolate cookies, pretzel sugar cookies, and caramel chocolate shortbread bars.  I was in the midst of mixing the chocolate cookies when these peanut butter cookies came out of the oven, and I after putting them on some aluminum foil to cool, I tried to transfer them quickly to another surfaces and dropped them all.  Then when they were cool, I placed them on a glass plate to photograph and managed to have them all slide off and drop on the floor again.  Oops… Don’t tell, okay?

I used chocolate/peanut butter swirl chips instead of Reese’s pieces, which I think would have been yummy as well.  I recently went on a chocolate chip splurge, in case you’ve noticed that 3 out of the past 4 recipes have used some sort of swirled chip… I just think they are so fun!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Adapted from The Joy of Cookie via Prudence Pennywise
1 and 1/2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup miniature Reese’s Pieces Baking Bits (I used chocolate/peanut butter swirl chips)

Preheat oven to 375. In a small bowl, combine flour and soda. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg, peanut butter, and vanilla, stirring until well combined. Mix in the flour mixture. Add the Reese’s pieces/chips. Form into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes.