Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Admitting defeat...the pie crust challenge

The Pie Crust Challenge!

For months I tried out different pie crusts, some all butter, some with frozen butter, some with shortening, some mixed, some using a food processor, some you just pat into the pan. All in all they kind of all turned out the same. Good flavor, nice flake! They all shrunk in the pans, but I think I have learned to cut no closer than 1 inch from the lip of the pan and that has eliminated some of the shrinking. They were all basically equally difficult to roll out and transfer.

So, begrudgingly, I decided to tackle my mom's favorite go-to pie crust recipe. When I was little my parents owned their own company and as a result I spent a good amount of time at the "office." At the office, every day, the radio was on - but there were no tunes coming out of it unless you count the little jingles for the talk radio stations.

I don't remember what time or what day but I do remember regularly listening to this cooking show hosted by Jackie Olden. She was a guru of sorts, she had published a number of cookbooks and would walk through recipes on the air. I am not sure if my mom got the recipe from the radio show first and then bought the book but the below is the never fail pie crust from Jackie Olden's cookbook "Crowd Pleasers" (if you can get your hands on a copy, there are a number of recipe gems to be found between the covers).

This crust has worked for me a number of times since my first attempt and I am finally admitting that for once my mother knew best ;) (okay maybe it's not the first thing she has been right about).

Jackie Olden's

Never-fail Pie Crust

4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 egg
1/2 c. water

Cut the shortening into the flour, sugar and salt.
Beat egg, vinegar and water in separate bowl.
Add egg mixture to flour mixture.
Make into 1 large dough ball. Cut dough ball into 4 equal size pieces. Round and flatten each dough ball and then wrap each in plastic wrap.

Chill for at least 15 minutes. Dough can also be frozen - a frozen, flat disk will take about 30 minutes to thaw.

Dust board with flour and roll. (I prefer to use a pastry cloth with flour and my Silpin rolling pin)

Place in pie pan and trim no closer than 1 inch from the outside edge of the pan if you are going to make a crimped edge. Trim right to the edge if you are going to flute the crust edge with a fork.

Makes 4 single crusts

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I am the bread baker's apprentice! at least today..

My friend Oscar is leaving for Spain in a few short days. For the past two years I have promised and promised and promised again to bake the man buttermilk biscuits. I have yet to perfect my buttermilk biscuits but maybe when he gets back from Spain I will make him some.

The other day Oscar confessed that there was one thing that would top buttermilk biscuits on his list of wants...Cinnamon Rolls.

I have never made cinnamon rolls but it sounded like the kind of challenge I was up for. Did I know they would take all day? I knew they would take a good amount of time and effort.
Did I know they would be gorgeous and taste like sin itself? No!

The recipe came from the Break Baker's Apprentice - a book by Peter Reinhart. It was a gift from someone many years ago and until today I had not attempted a single recipe, though I have read and re-read dozens.

The recipe made 8 giant cinnamon rolls

Oscar's Cinnamon Rolls

6 1/2 T. granulated sugar
1 t. salt
5 1/2 T. room temp. salted butter
1 large egg (room temp)
1 t. lemon extract
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour (you will likely need a little more to add in)
2 t. instant yeast
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 c. milk (room temp)
6 1/2 T. granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 T. ground cinnamon (for the inside mixture)

Cream sugar, salt, butter on medium speed using paddle attachment. Ass in egg and lemon extract until smooth. Then add flour, yeast and milk. Mix on low until the dough forms a ball (I had to add more flour to even get to a sort of ball, and it was still a little tacky not exactly a ball).
Switch to the dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes (still adding more flour as necessary - just a tablespoon or so at a time).
Dough should be silk and supple, tacky but not sticky.

Spray a bowl with spray oil. Turn the dough into the bowl and roll around the sides. Cover and let rise for 2 hours in a warm place. (I took this time to turn the oven to 350 and kick out a batch of chocolate chip cookies)

Spray the counter with oil and roll the raised dough onto the counter. Roll out dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle 14" wide by 12" long (about 2/3 inch thick) Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture and roll up. Seem side down cut in half, half again and half one more time (that will give you 8 rolls) you can make them smaller if you want.

Place in a greased 9x13 pan and let rise for another 75 to 90 minutes

Preheat over to 350 (you see, I didn't have to do this, I let the heat from the oven rise the dough and bake my cookies, then it was ready to go when I wanted to pop the rolls into the oven)

Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Mix together 4 c. powdered sugar with 1/2 c. warm milk and 1 tsp. lemon extract.

Drizzle mixed over semi-cooled rolls (about 10 minutes out of the oven) - it ends up being a ton of glaze but trust me you want it all. Let it sit for a couple of minutes them remove the rolls from the baking pan and place on a cooling rack. Scoop up the rest of the glaze from the pan and redrizzle over the rolls.

Let cool about 20 minutes and then serve.

It is without question a great deal of work but the finished product is so worth it.

(If you are gonna go for a roll you might as well go all out and put butter on the finished product when eating)

Eat up!

Now Oscar can depart to Spain knowing he is loved (having witnessed the work and time these rolls took).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Everyone has one.. here is mine

No picture this time, because to be honest I was in a mad dash to make it happen. Everyone raves about them, they are very delish but they turn out a little different every time. What is the mystery treat? Chocolate Chip Cookies of course! Mine are a slight variation of the Toll House brand cookie but then what recipe isn't a slight variation on this classic concoction?

Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2 sticks cold butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 6oz chocolate chips (or chopped high quality dark chocolate..my fave)
  • you decide if you want to be nutty or not but no more than a half cup chopped (I would pick pecans over walnuts any day)

Put the butter in your kitchen aid and let it blend with the paddle until soft (you can skip this and use soften butter but this does change the texture). Once soft, cream in the sugars. Once combined add the eggs (one at a time) and vanilla.

Sometimes I sift my dry ingredients together but most of the time I don't. I just add the salt and baking soda to the mixture and then add the flour (don't over mix once the flour is in or you will get tough cookies). Then I stir in the chocolate chips.

Almost always yields exactly 3 dozen cookies. I use a cookie scooper that I think is 2 tbsp.

Bake 350 for 11-14 minutes - depending on your oven.

I always line my pans, sometimes with parchment sometimes with aluminum foil. You will find you get a slightly different result from each material. Aluminum tends to let the edges get more crispy and oddly enough can sometimes take longer to cook on.


Monday, May 31, 2010

A girl on a chocolate mission...

Baking to celebrate seems logical, right? A girl at my office recently was hired permanently after years on the books as a temp. I promised her that in celebration of her hiring I would make her cupcakes. Her request? Chocolate with cream cheese frosting, easy enough! Except, wait, hold up! I don't have a good chocolate cake recipe, could it be?
It could be and it is! I spent my morning combing the web for a good recipe with the perfect balance of easy and tasty. I trust Ina Garten and tried her "chocolate syrup" cupcakes..they were a little disappointing. (Ina's are the short cupcakes, they have an odd texture and a really sticky crown)

I don't know where I found the recipe I ended up using, it was a combination of a few different recipes really. And it's pretty darn tasty (I haven't even frosted them yet), the recipes yields exactly 1 dozen cupcakes.
It is so good it might be my new favorite recipe - plus it's super easy!
Are you ready?

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 t. vinegar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt

Mix the wet together with a beater and then add the dry ingredients, mix until blended. use cupcake liners and fill about half way. You should get exactly 12.
Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes (mine were done at 20) don't over bake!
These are delicious and not dry at all.

Now all I need to do is frost.. maybe I'll post frosted pictures but you've all seen a frosted cupcake before.

The downside! I started a new diet so while I tasted both cupcakes I need to leave it at that and stay away. Time to clean the kitchen!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Luck O'the Irish?

I'm not Irish, or at least I don't think I am, but this year for St. Patty's I've decided to embark on a new frontier...Baking with Beer! I love beer, I love brown beer, I love dark ales, I love stouts, so why not bake with them?
They won't be frosted until tomorrow but the cake is delish! Very moist with a nice crumb. I am by no means a master cup cake baker, or cake baker for that matter. This batter proved no different. It was easy enough to throw together and it smelled heavenly in the oven. I knew I was going to be pleasantly surprised when I tasted the batter and found it scrumptious.
This is not a chocolaty cake, and I wouldn't really say that it tastes like Guinness, I might try making it again without the cinnamon so that I can get more beer flavor. The plan is to frost with a simple cream cheese frosting (you know the one, 8oz cream cheese, 4tbsp butter, a tsp vanilla, 5 cups or so of powdered sugar..just beat the crap out of it until it is the right consistency).

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

4 eggs
1 cup plain thick yogurt (greek style) or sour cream - they taste different in the batter but its a preference thing
12 oz guinness at room temp (or other dark stout)
4tsp vanilla
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
12 tbsp melted and cooled butter

Heat oven to 350
Prepare your vessels (I used cupcake liners this time but sometimes I use paper souffle, also called nut, cups) you don't need to butter or flour these but if you want to make a cake with this batter, grease your pan then line with parchment paper and grease the top of the parchment then dust the pan with cocoa powder (since this is a chocolate cake)
Melt butter in the microwave (don't go crazy here..just melt it)
Whisk together the eggs and yogurt (or sour cream), add guinness and vanilla.
Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and cinnamon
Add dry to wet (1/3 at a time) either with a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment
Once all the dry is completely mixed into the wet slowly pour the melted butter in while still blending
I like to use a 1/4 cup scoop (cookie scoop, ice cream scoop whatever you call it, it has a sweeper to get all the batter out) to fill my cups, if I am using souffle cups they get a little more than this but this is the perfect size for cupcakes.
Bake 20-25 minutes - follow your nose, when you smell baked good fairly strongly they are probably done and ready to be checked. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with some crumbs.
Cool on a wire rack and frost as desired.

If you are baking a cake I would say you probably should start with 30 minutes but again, follow your nose!

That was my fun little st. patty's day tribute for the year. I might still bust out some corned beef and cabbage.
It's been a while since I have posted. I had a fun little adventure teaching a co-worker to make spice cake from scratch but blogging wasn't part of the equation. Hopefully life will situate itself so that blogging becomes a little easier.

Eat up!

(update the next night.. frosted little beauties! One day I will learn how to frost and decorate..maybe...it takes more patience than I have)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The last chocolate standing

This weekend was my last hurrah before really hunkering down and focusing on getting my body back under control. The final straw has been this stint with breathlessness. I truly feel like my body is strangling me and I have never felt this way before. Very scary stuff and completely unnecessary. I am young, I am single, I am available to do things to fix this mess that I am.
As mentioned in a previous post, last week was my birthday week and was feted with all kinds of ridiculousness. It was raining and cold out today so I decided to bake a chocolate cake (my biggest weakness and pleasure). I have not have much luck in the past with cakes from scratch but this one turned out fabulously. I used the Swans Cake Flour Easy Chocolate Cake recipe. I nixed the frosting because this whole mess is just going in the trash first thing in the morning anyway.
Absolutely delicious! Now I need to focus on finding people with a penchant for sweet treats so I can bake and get things out of my house.
Everyone at work has decided to focus on their health as well, so that is probably not going to be the winning locale.
After searching the web over I did not find this recipe, so I am posting it here. It was a light cake, very sweet - I would probably lower the brown sugar if I were to make this again. It was a tender cake for sure!

Swans Down Cake Flour Easy Chocolate Cake
1 stick butter
1/2 c. light brown sugar (i told you it's alot)
3/4 c. sugar (i amended the original blog post when I baked this cake again with white sugar instead of all brown sugar..which resulted in a much better cake)
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 ounces melted dark chocolate (cooled)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 c cake flour
1 c. sour cream
1 c. boiling water

Blend butter until smooth, add brown sugar and then eggs 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla and cooled chocolate. Then add baking soda and salt. Alternately add the cake clour and sour cream beating until smooth.
Add boiling water and stir with a spoon until completely mixed.
Bake 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I did mine in a 9x13 pan (greased and floured) because I am lazy and just wanted cake. It would easily make 2, 8 or 9 inch rounds.
There was a frosting recipe but as mentioned previously, I did not frost this bad boy (besides, I prefer my chocolate cake with a cream cheese frosting).


PS. the bowling party was a hit, the hangover the next day could have been skipped but the night was great. Next year will be the big 35 and I need to do something BIG BIG BIG for that one.. any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christmas is over..but the baking has just begun!

Every Christmas I embark on a journey to bake treats, package them attractively, and present them as gifts (mostly to the guys in my world.) This year was no exception, but with the new job afoot I had to limit the offering to 10 items instead of the overwhelming 20 that graced the gift boxes last year.
Timing is never a good thing for me, I start out with the best of intentions, planning to order my packaging supplies well in advance of the holiday season and getting as much dough making done in ahead of time...never happens! I am always the mad scrambler trying to find good packaging at the last minute and spending an entire weekend baking.
This year the hits were:

Swedish Ginger Thins


December 1998

This is one of our favorite takes on ginger cookies; cinnamon and cloves underline their deep spiciness, while a toasted almond on top adds a different kind of crunch.

This is just one of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941-2008. Although we’ve retested the recipes, in the interest of authenticity we’ve left them unchanged: The instructions below are still exactly as they were originally printed. Learn how to roll out thin cookie dough—with no mess and no extra flour.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup

· Garnish:

sliced almonds

  • Into a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and spices. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks. In another large bowl beat butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy and on low speed beat in corn syrup and whipped cream, beating until cream is just combined. Add flour mixture and beat until combined well. Form dough into a disk. Chill disk, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Cut dough into quarters and work with 1 quarter at a time, keeping remaining dough covered and chilled. Using a rolling pin with cover dusted with flour, roll out dough into a round on a floured pastry cloth, rolling dough as thin as possible (less than 1/8 inch thick and about 14 inches in diameter) and with assorted 2- to 3-inch cutters cut out cookies. Carefully transfer cookies as cut to ungreased baking sheets with a metal spatula, arranging them about 1/2 inch apart, and top each with an almond slice. Reroll scraps and cut out more cookies in same manner.
  • Bake cookies in batches in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies puff and then collapse slightly, about 6 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute and transfer with metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough in same manner. Cookies keep in airtight containers at room temperature 1 week. Makes about 150 cookies.

Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies

It’s not unusual to see holiday cookies topped with a colorful bit of maraschino cherry. But in this crisp, light, very buttery cookie, a goodly quantity of cherries are pureed and incorporated into the dough, which gives the cookies a pink hue and lovely almond flavor.

2 1/4 cups King Arthur’s unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries (20 cherries)
1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups fresh unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 sticks)
1 tablespoon maraschino cherry syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold water, approximately

luster or fine sanding sugar, optional

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Reserve.
  2. In a processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the cherries and sugar until the cherries are pureed.
  3. Add the butter, cherry syrup and almond extract. Puree until creamy, under 1 minute.
  4. Add the flour mixture and pulse very briefly, just until a dough forms.
  5. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion to a 1/2-inch thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
  6. On a lightly floured pastry cloth, using a covered and floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ?-inch thickness. Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
  7. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies.
  8. Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange cookies slightly apart on the cookie sheets.
  9. Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for 12-14 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning. (If you have a convection oven or setting on your regular oven, by all means use it. Your cookies will be more evenly browned.)
  10. When the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
  11. To stencil a design on top of each cookie, first practice your stenciling technique on a sheet of parchment paper. Lay the stencil on the paper, scoop a small amount of icing onto the stencil with a small offset spatula, and with the same spatula, firmly drag the icing across the stencil. Carefully lift the stencil and check your design. If the impression is crisp, your icing is the right consistency. If the impression is blurred, your icing is likely too thin. If your impression is blotchy, your icing is likely too thick. Adjust the consistency of the icing and try again. Don’t begin to stencil the cookies until you have perfected your icing and technique.
  12. Sprinkle icing with luster if desired and set cookies on a wire rack to allow the icing to set.
  13. When icing is set, store airtight in a cookie tint, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.

Strawberry Tart Cookies

December 1993

Like tiny strawberry pies with sugar cookie crusts, these are a bite of summer that’s very welcome this time of year.

This is just one of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941-2008. Although we’ve retested the recipes, in the interest of authenticity we’ve left them unchanged: The instructions below are still exactly as they were originally printed.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup strained strawberry jam
a large bowl whisk together the flour, the sugar, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg yolks, blend the mixture until it forms a dough, and chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Let the dough soften slightly, roll level teaspoons of it into balls, and arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball, being careful not to crack the dough around the edges. (If the dough cracks, reroll it and try again.) Fill each indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon of the jam and bake the cookies in batches in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are pale golden. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, transfer them to racks, and let them cool completely. The cookies may be made 1 month in advance and kept frozen in airtight containers. Makes about 100 cookies.
    These were the new editions this year and all were hits. There were a couple misses, namely some god aweful thing that sounded good but was gross "Eggnog Sparkle Cookies" and a delicious but too moist to package persimmon cookie. It was a shame, but they were sent off with the boyfriend to his work (under cloak of anonymity) and left in a break room. All were consumed, so at best they were edible.

    Yesterday was my birthday, January 12..it rolls around every year without much warning and generally with a great deal of self promoted fan fare. I got the party started with the Spring Celebration Cake that I made back in June. Much to my delight, it turned out as delicious as remembered and was immensely well received.
    The evening was rounded out by a great dinner hosted by friends from work and a few rounds of Guitar Hero.
    This Friday will be the finale! Bowling, drinking, karaoke! Shinanigans and no baking.
    Well - I just ventured to the kitchen and it appears I have some bananas that need to be converted into banana bread..I have an amazing recipe..that will be the next post!