Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tartine's Buche De Noel

Merry Christmas everyone!!  We had a great Christmas Eve with loads of gifts for all, and my dear sis is currently working on our Christmas dinner in the kitchen.  After I got the Tartine cookbook a few months ago, I decided I simply  had to make a Buche De Noel for Christmas.  I didn't expect mine to turn out as lovely as Tartine's, but their instructions are very detailed so I figured how hard can it be?

This is probably the longest recipe I have ever attempted, and it take quite a bit of time.  I made the actual log the day before, and the decorations on Christmas Day.  But nothing about it is terribly difficult, although I should mention we skipped the meringe mushrooms since I didn't have the right tip size for piping and obviously nothing is open today.  C'est la vie, I used a cute chocolate Santa as well as some white nonpareils instead.

The log ends up being really long so we made two buche de noels since I didn't have a serving platter that was long enough.  I didn't really understand the whole bough thing, so I just made it into a simple log.  When looking for the recipe online afterwards I found a picture of what it as supposed to look like, and I'm glad I just stuck with the log.

At this point we haven't tried it yet, just the ends that were cut off before decorating.  The cake is light and spongy with a hint of lemony flavour.  The butter cream is oh so good.  Sweet and satiny smooth and probably way more calories than I would like to know about.

Basic Chiffon Cake  for Buche de Noel


1 C + 2tbsp or 5 1/2 oz All-purpose flour
3/4 C or 5 1/4 oz Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 C or 2 oz Vegetable Oil
3 Large Egg Yolks
1/3 C + 1 tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 tsp Lemon Zest
5 Egg Whites, at room temp
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar

Directions:Preheat oven to 325, line the bottom of a 12x17 jelly roll pan with parchment paper to fit exactly, do not grease the sides of the pan.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in all but 3 tbsp of the sugar and all of the salt into the flour mixture.  In a small bowl whisk the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest together.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture into it, whisk quickly for 1 min, set aside
Pour the egg whites into a stand mixer bowl.  Using the whisk attachment beat on med-high speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at the same speed until the whites hold soft peaks.  Slowly add the 3 tbsp of sugar and beat at the same speed until whites hold stiff shiny peaks.

Gently fold in about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten. Then gently fold in the rest of the whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake 20-30 min or until cake is just set to the touch. Set aside to cool in the pan. Once cool run a small knife along the edge to loosen, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack, peel off the parchment and set aside.

1 1/4 C or 10 oz Unsalted Butter, at room temp
1 C + 2 tbsp or 8 oz Sugar
1/2 C or 4 oz Egg Whites
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 C or 2 oz Coffee, brewed double strength

Cut the butter into tbsp increments.

Fill a sauce pan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Combine sugar, egg whites and salt in a stainless steal bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk together to combine. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Whisk over the water until the mixture is hot to the touch (120 degrees), about 5 min.

Remove the bowl from the heat and place in the bowl into the stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Mix on high speed until the the mixture is thick, glossy and holds very stiff peaks, about 5-7 min.  Mixture should be cool by this point

Reduce the speed to med-high and add the butter to the mixture 1 tbsp at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the coffee at a low speed, than increase to med to fully incorporate, set aside.  The buttercream was soupy and starting to separate when I added the coffee so I just beat it on high and it re-incorporated itself

Meringue Mushrooms

1/2C + 2tbsp or 2 1/2 ounces Confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Flour
2  large Egg Whites
pinch Cream of Tartar
1/3 C or 2 1/2 ounces Granulated Sugar

Preheat oven 175 degrees.  Sift confectioners sugar and flour together into a small bowl.  Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Using the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat egg whites on med speed until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar, beat until stiff shiny peaks form.  Using a spatula gently fold in the confectioner sugar/flour mixture until just incorporated.

Piping Mushrooms:
Pipe immediately.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag. Place the bag in a tall cup, 1/2 inch tip already inserted, and fold the ends over the cup.  Pipe the mushroom caps first: hold the pastry bag horizontal to the sheet and squeeze the bag until you reach your desired size and lift away quickly. Smooth any tails away with a wet finger.  Next pipe the stems by making kiss shaped meringues: start by piping a small dot of meringue then release the pressure and slowly lift the bag to create a tail. 

Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 4 hours keeping the door slightly ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon.  The meringues should be very dry but should not color.  If you see that they are coloring reduce oven temp by 25 degrees.  When mushrooms are ready remove from the oven and let cool completely.  They may feel a little soft when they come right out of the oven, but they will firm up as they cool. 

Coffee Syrup

1/2 C or 4 oz Coffee, brewed double strength
1/3 C or 2 1/2 oz Sugar

In a small sauce pan, combine the coffee and sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let it cool, the fridge will speed up this process.

Pistachio Moss:

1/4 C or 1 1/4 oz Pistachio nuts

In a blender or food processor process the pistachios into a powder.

Almond Ganache Bark

1 C or 3 1/2 oz Sliced Almonds
6 oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
3/4 C or 6 oz Heavy Cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake for 5 min or until toasted. Stir halfway through to ensure even toasting. Transfer to a small plate to cool.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan bring the heavy cream to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 min, then stir the mixture until it is melted, smooth and shiny.

Add the cooled almonds and mix gently. Place the mixture in the fridge for 15 min or until it has thickened and is a good spreading consistency.  If the ganache becomes too hard for spreading you can place the heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until it softens to the right consistency.

Assembling the buche:

Place the cooled cake on parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Using a pastry brush, moisten the entire cake with the cooled coffee syrup.  Transfer all the buttercream to the cake and spread evenly with a spatula leaving a 1 inch strip on each long side of the cake void of buttercream.  Starting from the longest side nearest you, begin rolling the cake tightly, using the plastic wrap to help you. Don't worry about the state of the ends, they will both be cut off anyways. Refrigerate the rolled cake for at least 2 hours.

Using a sharp knife, cut a thick slice off each end at the diagonal . Set the cleanest best looking end aside. To frost the cake, use an offset spatula to spread the ganache bark evenly over the cake leaving the faces of the two ends exposed. Make sure you reserve enough ganache to frost the "bough" which is your reserved end piece.

Place the diagonal slice, the bough, on top of the frosted cake towards one of the cakes ends. Make sure the diagonal end is facing up. Next frost the sides of the bough leaving the top face exposed.  Transfer the cake to your serving dish. To assemble each mushroom use the tip of a small paring knife to whittle a hole on the underside of the cap where the stem will fit.  Using some of the ganache as glue, attach the stem to the caps.  Finish decorating the buche with the mushrooms, moss, and other decorations.  Finish with dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hawaiian Snowballs

Probably the last Christmas cookie I'm going to make this year are Martha Stewart's Hawaiian Snowballs.  These yummy little treats are basically little sugar cookie balls filled with macadamia nuts and pineapple dusted with powdered sugar.  Perfect if you're dreaming about spending Christmas someplace warm but you're stuck in the rain or snow. 

This recipe is super simple, but the dough does need to be chilled so make these ahead if you need to.  The pineapple wasn't exactly finely chopped, it was actually pretty annoying since it kept getting stuck to the knife.  Next time I'll give it a try in my food processor.  My snowballs ended up a little malformed so I would probably spend a bit more time rolling them next time.  Also, keep in mind this recipe makes a boat load of cookies so if you're not planning on serving them for a party or giving them away I would half the recipe.  I got this recipe out of Martha's Holiday Cookie Magazine, it was definitely worth the $6!


(Makes about 8 dozen)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups salted, roasted macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups finely chopped dried pineapple
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, for dusting

1. Beat butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on med-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to med, and add egg, vanilla, and salt.  Mix until combined.  Reduce speed to low and add flour in 2 batches, mixing until just incorporated.  Mix in nuts and dried pineapple.  Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic.  Chill 2 hours or up to 1 day.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place on parchment lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through until edges are barely golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Dust evenly with confectioner's sugar and dust again just before serving.  Cookies can be stored in airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Martha's Toffee Millionaires

Oh lordy are these good.  These bars are a buttery golden shortbread, topped with smooth chocolate toffee, and finished with coarsely chopped chocolate covered toffee bars.  Yuuuuum.  Another one out of Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookie magazine, these are seriously amazing.  I don't even want to think about how many calories are in one little square, so I won't.  It is the holiday season after all.

The recipe is very simple, just a bit time consuming.  Melting the toffee chocolate pieces took about 20 minutes, I seriously thought they were never going to melt.  Next time I make these I'll be sure to chop them up much finer than I did.  I used Heath bars for melting and Trader Joe's toffee almond bars for the topping.


Makes 16 squares
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars plus 1/2 cup coarsely chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars (about 10 ounces total)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with rack in upper third. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk to combine flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add brown sugar; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Using plastic wrap, press dough into prepared pan. With plastic on dough, chill 45 minutes.
  3. Pierce dough all over with a wooden skewer. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown and center is firm, about 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat finely chopped toffee bars and cream in a saucepan, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour over shortbread in pan; sprinkle with coarsely chopped toffee. Let cool slightly. Cut into squares. Let cool completely.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cream Wafers

Christmas = cream wafers.  I loooove these cookies, my Mom has been making them as long as I can remember so not only are they delectable, but very nostalgic for me as well.  I don't know why these are considered holiday cookies, but in my house they are only made once a year during the holidays.  Well, maybe twice.  I think they would be perfect for a baby shower or some other event that calls for dainty sweet things.

This recipe is from my Mom's Betty Crocker cookbook from the 60s.  These delicate cookies consist of a melt-in-your-mouth cookie and a creamy vanilla filling.  My Mom gave me the recipe years ago but I never made them until last year, I get nervous around recipes that aren't drop cookies.  But these are really easy to make, and the result is a cute, delicious treat.  And yet for some reason they never do taste quite as good as when my Mom makes them.

A couple notes about the recipe: I used vanilla for the creamy filling and doubled the recipe.  I like icing and there is no way what they recommend would cut it.  I also find these cookies taste best when slightly chilled so I keep them in the fridge until about 1/2 hour before serving.  Enjoy!

2 C all purpose flour
1 C butter
1/3 C whipping cream
Creamy Filling (to follow)

Mix flour, butter & whipping cream. Cover & refrigerate at least
1 hour.

Heat oven to 375 deg. F. Roll about 1/3 of the dough at a time
1/8 in. thick on floured cloth-covered borad (keep reamining
dough refrigerated until ready to roll). Cut into 1 1/2 in. rounds.

Transfer round with metal spatula to piece of waxed paper that is
heavily coated with sugar; turn to coat each round. Place about
1 in. apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Prick each round with a
fork about 4 times. Bake just until set but not brown, 7 - 9 min.
Cool. Just before serving put cookies together in pairs w/creamy
filling. About 5 doz. cookies

Creamy Filling

Beat 1/4 C. margarine or butter, softened, 3/4 C. powdered sugar
& 1 tsp. vanilla until smooth & fluffy. Tint with few (1 to 2)
drops food color, if desired. (You want a pastel color). Beat
in a few drops water, if necessary, until of spreading consistency.
Just before serving, spread about 1 tsp. of tinted filling between
2 cookies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Torta Alla Gianduia (Chocolate Hazelnut Cake)

A dear friend was coming over last weekend for an early birthday dinner, and when asked what type of dessert she would like her reply was chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.  No problem!

I found this recipe in Nigella's How To Be a Domestic Goddess and it sounded perfect.  Not only does it have two full bars of bittersweet chocolate in it, but it has Nutella in it as well.  Nutella has to be one of my favorite things in the world.  I could (and have) eat it directly out of the jar with a spoon.  There are also ground hazelnuts in the cake and whole toasted hazelnuts on top.  So yeah, not exactly good for the waistline.

This cake, while easy to make, did take some time, but it was worth it since the birthday girl loved every bite. We also made up some Frangelico-spiked whipped cream which in my opinion is a necessity for this dense rich cake.  In all honesty though, this isn't something I would make again.  Mike likened it to a truffle in cake form, and while I like truffles this was a bit much.  I generally don't care for flourless cakes, and I felt a bit like I had a rock in my stomach after eating it, which isn't really what anyone is looking for from a dessert.  It's pretty though isn't it?

for the cake:
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces nutella
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico or rum or water (we used Frangelico, of course)
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts, scant
  • 4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted

for the icing:

  • 4 ounces hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico or rum or water (Frangelico)
  • 4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Prepare a 9-inch springform pan: grease and line with parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and nutella, then add Frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a dollop of egg white before gently folding in the rest of the egg whites a third at a time. Pour into the prepared pan and cook for 40 minutes or until the sides come away from the pan and then cool on the rack.
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan until the aroma wafts up and they begin to brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add the cream, liquer or water, and chopped chocolate and heat gently. Once the chocolate is melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency for icing just the top of the cake.
Ice the top of the cake and then dot heavily with roasted hazelnuts.

Pumpkin Bread

I love pumpkin bread.  I love the way my house smells while it's baking, it totally reminds me of fall and it is perfect for a cold blustery day.  A couple years ago I discovered Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread mix.  It's divine.  Moist, flavourful, and super easy to make.  I prefer to bake from scratch when I can, so this year, I went in search of a recipe that would compare.  I tried a few (including Martha's pumpkin bread recipe which while very tasty, wasn't quite what I was looking for), and this recipe from hit it bang on.

I used half white whole wheat flour and would probably use just that next time.  I made these into muffins and the whole family loved them.  I also halved the recipe just in case they sucked, which they most certainly did not!  You could easily add pecans or walnuts, or even chocolate chips. Mmmmmm.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread


  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Pumpkin Tea Cake

I wanted to make something a little different for Thanksgiving dessert (yes fellow Canadians, we celebrate Thanksgiving in November now).  I like pumpkin pie but it isn't my favourite, and I wanted to stick with the pumpkin theme.  I found this recipe for pumpkin tea cake in my Tartine book, and it looked simple enough so I thought I would give it a try.  The recipe looks like a simple loaf cake, but oh, it is so much more.  The picture below doesn't even begin to do it justice. 

First of all, I will now be putting sugar on the top of all my loaf cakes.  The top was sweet, crunchy and oh so good.  And check out how much spice is in this cake.  I have never added that much cinnamon to a recipe that small before, but it was perfect.  Super spicy, moist, and great pumpkin flavour.  We had some plain (yummy) and also heated up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (divine!).  Mike had a great idea to make this recipe in a whoopie pie pan to maximize the crunchy top.  Off to Sur La Table!

Pumpkin Tea Cake

1 2/3 cup of flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree
1 cup of vegetable oil (sunflower, canola or safflower)
1 1/3 cup of sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.

This recipe is easily mixed by a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or by hand with a whisk. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed or by hand until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until incorporated before adding the next egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds to make a smooth batter. The batter should have the consistency of a thick purée.

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert onto the rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. Serve the cake at room temperature. It will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Lemon Wreath Cookies

I am so behind on my posts, but I wanted to start blogging my holiday baking before the holidays are over.  Other than my Mom's creme wafers (recipe coming soon!) I wanted to try some new recipes this year.  I bought Martha's Holiday Cookie recipe magazine and it has loads of delicious sounding recipes, we had a really hard time narrowing down which ones to make.

The first ones I wanted to try were the lemon wreath cookies.  I love lemon in baking and these cookies don't disappoint.  They are buttery and lemony and just taste like Christmas.  They are fairly easy to make and I think they're super cute.  I would definitely make these again.


Makes 6 dozen
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 7 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white nonpareils, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pulse sugar and zest in a food processor until combined, about 2 minutes.
  2. Beat sugar-zest mixture and butter in a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined.
  3. Scoop 1 tablespoon dough (or use a 11/8-inch ice cream scoop), and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer rings to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart, as you work. Bake until pale golden on the bottoms and around the edges, about 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.
  4. Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the top side of each cookie into glaze, letting excess drip off. Return cookies to wire racks, glaze side up, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let dry completely.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

Well, first off let me admit that Mike pretty much made this one on his own.  It was gorgeous and delicious though so I had to post it.  I've only ever made one cheesecake and it was a bit of a let down (pumpkin cheesecake which while tasty was too pumpkin and not enough rich cheesiness).  I got this cheesecake recipe from the Magnolia cookbook, and we made their caramel sauce as well.  I love cheesecake but this is definitely something that must be eaten when there are guests over, Liam doesn't like cheesecake and while I'm sure Mike and I could eat an entire cheesecake in a few days we probably shouldn't.

Cheesecake isn't terribly hard to make, we followed the recipe but substituted light cream cheese.  We used Nilla wafers for the crust (yum!) and made Magnolia's caramel sauce which is super easy and delicious.  We have quite a bit left over which I think I'll serve drizzled over brownies later this week.  The cheesecake did need to bake for quite a bit longer than the recipe suggested, in fact about 25 minutes longer.  We didn't use any of the tricks recommended for preventing cracking, but it was covered in caramel sauce so it looked lovely nonetheless.

The final product was so good, the cake itself was not terribly sweet and the super sugary caramel sauce balanced it out nicely.  Yum!

Magnolia Bakery Caramel Sauce: 
1 C. cold water
3 C. sugar
2 C. heavy cream, room temperature

In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over med-low heart, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves... about 3 minutes. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring for 15 minutes, or until the sauce becomes a dark amber color. To prevent sugar crystals from sticking to the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to brush down any sugar crystals. Swirl the pan occasionally for even browning. 
Once the syrup turns deep amber, immediately remove from heat. Slowly and carefully add in the cream (the mixture will bubble vigorously), whisking constantly until all of the cream is added.
Return the pan to med-low heat and stir until the sauce is smooth, about 1 minute. 
Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temp before refrigerating. The caramel can be stored for up to one month in the refrigerator. 

Magnolia Bakery Caramel Pecan Pie:
1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 C. vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 C. finely chopped pecans

4 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C. sugar
5 large eggs, room temp.
2 T. heavy cream
1 T. vanilla extract

1 C. cold caramel sauce (recipe above)
1 C. chopped toasted pecans (15 minutes on a cookie sheet at 325*)

Preheat the oven to 325*. To make the crust: In a small bowl, combine butter and vanilla wafer crumbs and pecans. Press into the bottom of a buttered 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, on the low speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until very smooth. Gradually add in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. To ensure that the batter has no lumps and that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer several times and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
Pour the batter in to the prepared pan and set the pan on a baking sheet. Bake until edges are set and center moves only slightly when the pan is shaken, about 1 hour. At the end of the baking time, turn off the heat, and using a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, cool cake in the oven for 1 hour before removing. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours. 
Spoon cold caramel evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with pecans. Return cake to refrigerator. Remove cake from refrigerator at least 15-30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nigella's Autumnal Birthday Cake

Mike's parents were in town this week so I had time to clean the house and do some baking of course.  I love cake but it seems a bit indulgent and riduclous to make one when it's just the four of us since I don't want Liam eating too many sweets (unlike his mother), Ellis doesn't eat solids, and Mike and I can realistically only eat an entire cake in 3-4 days by which time it's usually a bit stale.  So when we have guests, it's the perfect excuse to bake a cake.

I made this cake which Nigella adapted from Magnolia a few months ago when we had dinner guests and it was delicious so I thought I would make it again.  The cake is beautiful and very impressive if I do say so myself.  And it's easy peasy.  I don't know why but I used to think baking cakes was a difficult thing to do, when in fact cakes are, well, a piece of cake.  I had that thing happen where the butter and egg separated from each other despite continuous and rigorous beating, but I continued on and the cake turned out well.  The cake itself isn't too sweet, and the icing is over-the-top sweet so it ends up being just about perfect.

The only thing I did differently was her method of 7 minute frosting.  I LOVE 7 minute frosting.  It's tasty and looks beautiful, and so easy to make!  What I did was dissolve the sugar in the syrup over low heat, meanwhile beating the rest of the ingredients together.  Once stiff peaks had formed in the egg white mixture I poured the syrup/sugar in slowly and then beat for another 7 minutes.

A note on the self-rising flour: can you even get that here?  For every cup of flour I removed 2 teaspoons and add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, so for this recipe I removed 6 teaspoons flour and added 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.  I'm sure I should have removed a bit more for the 1/3 cup flour but whatever, it turned out fine.


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 1/3 cup self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 8-inch round cake pans, buttered and lined (I just lined with parchment)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 7 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple extract, optional
  • 1/2 cup pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in well after each addition, then gradually add the maple syrup to make a smooth mixture. Finally, spoon in the flour alternately with the hot water, beating gently until smooth again. Divide the batter between the two tins, and cook for 40 minutes. A cake-tester, inserted, should come out clean when they're cooked. Let the cakes cool in their tins on a rack for 10 minutes before unmoulding them, then leave them to get cold before you get on with the icing.
  3. Put everything except the pecans and extracts into a glass or metal bowl that fits over a saucepan to form a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to come just below - but not touching - the bowl when it sits on top. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl on top and, using an electric hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. It should stand up in peaks like a meringue mixture. Take the bowl off the saucepan, away from the heat, and add the extracts, beating them in for another minute.
  4. Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment and use to line the cake plate. Using your dreamy, ivory-coloured meringue, ice the middle, sides and top of the cake. Give the icing a swirly effect rather than smooth, letting the top have small peaks.
  5. Chop most of the pecans finely, leaving some pieces larger. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, and throw at the sides. This cake is best eaten the day it's cooked.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Snow Witch White Chocolate Brownie

O. M. G.  If you like blondies, you must must MUST make this recipe.  If you have never had a blondie before, they are basically white brownies, some recipes use white chocolate and some don't.  I had an insane craving for a blondie the other day, and I like blondies the way I like my brownies: dense and chewy.  I made a blondie recipe from my Magnolia cookbook earlier in the week and it didn't fit the bill.  It had a nice flavour but was quite light and cakey.

Mike and I had been to Fat Witch Bakery when we went to NYC a few years ago.  We sampled a few different varieties and they were all totally decadent and delicious.  So when I was craving the perfect blondie I went hunting online for one of Fat Witch's recipes.  What I found was a recipe for the "snow witch" blondie, which is made with white chocolate.  And it is perfect.  Golden, chewy, dense, with a buttery and subtle vanilla flavour.

The recipe itself is very easy to make, I used Guittard Vanilla Milk Chips.  These are so tasty and worth the couple extra bucks.  They're not that easy to find though, if you have a Cost Plus World Market in your area they sell them, and I would imagine Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table would sell them as well.  The only problem I had with the recipe was the melting of chocolate and butter.  All as going well melting-wise, and all of a sudden the chocolate and butter separated, leaving a sticky gooey oily mess.  I don't bake with melted chocolate that often, but I have never had that happen.  A quick search gave several different methods to remedy the separation but nothing worked.  I got annoyed and added it to the batter anyways, and it still turned out lovely.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, Fat Witch does have it's own cookbook for purchase!

Snow Witches (White Chocolate Brownies)
6 ounces coarsely chopped white chocolate or 3/4 cup high-quality white chocolate chips
5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Grease a 9-inch x 9 baking pan with butter.  Dust with flour and tap out the excess.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Melt the white chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn't burn.  Remove from the heat before it is completely melted and continue stirring until it is completely smooth.  Set aside to cool.
3.  Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together in a large bowl until smooth.  Add the white chocolate mixture and mix until well combined.
4.  Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt and sift together directly into the batter.  Mix until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains.  Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan with a spatula.
5.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is light brown and cracked.  Turn off the oven, leaving the pan inside for 8 more minutes.  After that time, a toothpick inserted in the center should come our clean or with only crumbs, not batter, on it.
6.  Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 1 hour.  Cut just before serving.

Yield:  12 to 18 bars

Friday, November 5, 2010

White Chocolate Pecan Drop Cookies

What do you do on a rainy weekend when one of your wee ones isn't feeling well and you can't leave the house?  You bake.  Well, at least that's what I do.  This recipe is the first of several that I tried a few weekends ago.  It's from my Magnolia cookbook and is super easy and positively scrumptious. 

The only thing I did differently with this recipe was I used white chocolate chips instead of a bar.  A bar probably would have been better, and the chips I used weren't very high quality but the cookies were still tasty so I can only imagine with proper white chocolate they would be divine.  Mike said he would prefer them with milk chocolate chips, but he doesn't care for white chocolate in the first place.   I am admittedly a bit of a chocolate snob, and I really feel that using cheap chocolate for baking is a bit of a sin.  Good chocolate is so much more rich and flavorful, it really makes all the difference.

The pecans were the perfect addition to this cookie.  I didn't follow the recipe's instructions for toasting since Trader Joe's sells toasted pecan pieces.  The final cookie is chewy with a nice subtle crunch thanks to the pecans.  I'll definitely make this one again.

White Chocolate Pecan Drop Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
2/3 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate (I used white chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
In a large bowl (I used my mixer), cream butter with sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat well.  Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Stir in pecans and chocolate.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.
Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pineapple Mango Upside Down Cake

Oh this is so good.  I haven't had a pineapple upside down cake in years.  I just got my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook the other day, and this is one of the first recipes that really caught my eye.  I loooove pineapple, and this recipe incorporates mango which added a nice tart contrast to the super sweet pineapple and brown sugar syrup.
The recipe is fairly easy to make, just a bit time consuming.  Mine didn't look nearly as lovely as Martha's but that's to be expected, Martha is perfect after all! (hah).  I don't have the right round cookie cutters she uses to make her mango slices fit perfectly into the pineapple rings, I just cut it out so it looked kind of sloppy, but when something tastes this good who cares right?  I served it up with some vanilla ice cream, and it was a delightfully tropical dessert on this miserable rainy day.

If you are tempted to skip the parchment paper, don't.  I never used to bake with parchment paper but it makes getting your cakes out of the pan an absolute dream.  No worries about bits of cake getting stuck, I highly recommend it.

Makes one 8-inch cake
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 medium ripe pineapple (about 3 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium ripe mango (about 3/4 pound), peeled
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch cake pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds from centers of four of the pineapple slices. Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out the centers of each of the four rounds, and discard; set rings aside. Finely chop enough of the remaining pineapple to yield 1 cup (reserve remainder for another use). Place chopped fruit in a fine sieve set over a bowl to drain.
  2. Cut the mango lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Using the 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out four rounds from mango slices; set aside. Finely chop enough of the remaining mango to yield 1/2 cup; add to the pineapple in the sieve.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 2 tablespoons butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a small offset spatula, evenly spread butter mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan; set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside. Place a reserved pineapple ring in each corner of the prepared pan. Place a reserved mango round in the center of each ring.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat remaining stick of butter with granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.
  6. Transfer the chopped pineapple-mango mixture to cake pan; discard juice. Using a small offset spatula, carefully spread fruit in an even layer on top of cut-out fruit, making sure to fill all the empty spaces, including any gaps in the corners. Using the offset spatula, spread batter evenly over fruit.
  7. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate; peel off the parchment paper. Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh yum.  The icing alone makes these bars totally worth it.  I ordered The Complete Magnolia Bakery cookbook a few weeks ago and have been anxious to try one of their many delicious sounding recipes.  Most of the recipes look super easy and seem like something your mom would make, total comfort food.  Mike and I hit up Magnolia Bakery in NYC several times when we were there, and I fell in love with their cupcakes, so I had to add their cookbook to my collection, well one of them at least (I think they have three). 

So the pumpkin bars.  We were expecting something a little more bar-like, a little more dense.  The bars are in the same chapter as brownies so I didn't expect them to be so cake-like.  Not that there's anything at all wrong with that, but you should know what to expect.  Actually my one complaint about the cookbook is lack of pictures.  I love being able to see what the finished product should look like.  You could easily use whole wheat flour in this recipe, and some plump juicy raisins would work nicely as well.  I enjoyed that the cake wasn't that sweet, it was a nice balance with the super sweet and decadent icing.

These bars are so easy to make, they took almost no time at all.  I think they would totally work as cupcakes and might go that route next time.  As I type this we've eaten them all and I can't wait to make another batch.  And the icing, oh the icing.  Have I mentioned I love icing?  This was probably one of the best cream cheese icings I have ever had.  I must admit that we didn't wait the two hours you're supposed to chill it though, I think we made it about 45 minutes until I couldn't handle the temptation and just iced the bars anyways.  Twas divine.


For the bars:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil (preferably Canola)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see note)
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces
3 Tbs unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
3/4 tsps vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see Note)

NOTE: To toast the pecans, place on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and lightly flour a 13 X 9 inch baking pan.
To make the bars: in a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the pumpkin, sugar, oil and eggs until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Make icing:
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate icing 2 to 3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using.
Ice the top of the cooled cake with the cream cheese icing. Garnish with pecans and desired.

Linked to Seasonal Sunday

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apple Syrup Upside-Down Pie

I haven't made a pie before, so I thought I might start with this easy recipe from Nigella's How To Be a Domestic Goddess.  I love this cookbook.  Some of the recipes are super easy, and some take a bit of skill, so there is something in it for everyone.  I followed this recipe exactly, and it turned out quite lovely.  It was really fast to make and looked beautiful, would be perfect for unexpected company.

My only complaint was there was a bit too much dough for my liking, I think next time I'll flatten it out more so there is more of a crust around the edges rather than all thick in the middle.  Mike really enjoyed it though.  It is definitely best right out of the oven, and I served it with some whipped cream.  We tried the leftovers the next day, and it was indeed "stodgy" as Nigella puts it.  I would only make this if there was at least four people there to eat it.  Liam was only interested in the whipped cream so it was a lot of pie for both Mike and I.

Nigella's Apple Syrup Upside Down Pie

for the fruit:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Granny smith or other eating apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
4 ounces walnut (or pecan) halves
8 tablespoons light corn (or maple) syrup, plus extra for serving (I used maple syrup)
8 inch shallow pie plate, buttered

for the scone dough:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
scant 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 scant teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk

 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, putitng in a baking sheet.  

Melt butter in a pan, gently fry the apples, curved side down, for about 10 minutes.  Put the walnut halves in a pie dish flat side up.  Pour over syrup, and then arrange fried apples curved side down. 

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl.  Cut butter into cubes and rub into flour mixture until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Make a well in the center, pour in milk and egg all at once.  And mix to a soft dough.  Using your hands press dough into a cricle roughly the size of the pie dish and then place it over the fruit, taking care to seal the edges well against the edges of the dish.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for another 10 minutes, by which time the top should be crusty and golden.  

Let sit out for a minute or so, and then place large plate with outer rim or lip over the top of the pie.  With once swift action turn it out onto the plate.  Best to do this over the sink since the syrup will be hot and runny.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons of syrup over the pie.  Serve with pitcher of warm syrup and well as light cream.  This sort of pastry becomes stodgy on cooling so time it to be ready no more than 10 minutes before you'll be wanting to eat it.  

Serves 6-8.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Banana Tarte Tatin

Well, this was a bit of a mess.  I bought puff pastry a few weeks back for some BBQ recipe that I'll never make, so Mike suggested a dessert instead.  And who am I to turn down a request for dessert.  I had just been looking through the dessert chapter in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook and saw a yummy looking recipe for Banana Tarte Tatin which looks ridiculously easy.  So where did I go wrong?

Have I mentioned that I like to play fast and loose with measurements?  Well I also do with ingredients.  I'm still working on getting my well-stocked pantry together, and I simply don't have any "superfine" sugar.  Okay, I didn't even know what it was until this recipe went awry and I looked it up.  Anyways, I also used organic sugar which is (at least from Trader Joe's) very coarse.  So I melted my butter and added the sugar.  There was nothing to really cook since it was a thick paste.  Not much caramelizing going on here.  So I added more butter.  A lot more.  Another 1/4 cups worth more.  Now we've got something to cook, so I cooked it.  And cooked it.  And cooked it.  And the sugar just didn't want to dissolve.

Okay.  Mike suggested just to go ahead with the recipe since plenty of time in the oven would certainly result in dissolved sugar.  It also took considerably longer, um, almost an hour for the puff pastry to bake through.  It came out nicely (I left the turning out bit up to Mike), but it wasn't the somewhat healthy confection I had hoped for.  I added some whipped cream (probably totally unnecessary by this point), and hoo boy was it sweet.  My teeth hurt just thinking about it.   Liam loved it, and then was bouncing off the walls for the next hour.  Perhaps not wise to serve 15 minutes before bedtime.  It was fairly tasty, but not enough so considering how many calories it was, what with the extra butter I added. 

I'm going to try this recipe again (I have another sheet of puff pastry in the freezer), but with pears and will use different sugar, at the very least just regular granulated sugar, as well as cutting the sugar and butter a bit rather than adding more.  Ah well, they can't all be winners.

Jamie Oliver's Banana Tarte Tatin

1/4 cup unsalted butter

 3/4 cup superfine sugar
4 large bananas
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 orange
plain flour, for dusting
1 sheet puff pastry
optional: crème fraîche
optional: vanilla ice cream and a few tablespoons of desiccated coconut

To make your caramel bananas
• Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4
• Cut your butter into cubes and put into a sturdy deep-sided baking tray approximately 19 x 30cm
• Place the tray on a low heat, let the butter melt, then add the sugar and stir constantly until completely combined
• Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until the sugar has all dissolved and the mixture is golden and caramelized. By the time this happens the mixture will be roasting hot so be very careful and whatever you do, DON’T be tempted to put your fingers in the mixture as you’ll give yourself a nasty burn
• Meanwhile, peel the bananas, halve them lengthways, and lay them carefully on top of the golden caramel
• Remove from the heat, then sprinkle over the cinnamon and finely grate over the zest of half your orange

To make your pastry topping
• Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour
• Rather than putting your pastry down flat and rolling it out, place it on its side (see the picture opposite) and roll it from there, as this will give you a lighter, crisper texture
• Roll it out until you have a rectangle shape about the same size as your tray and about
0.5cm thick
• Drape your pastry over your rolling pin and carefully lay it on the baking tray, gently tucking it around the bananas to make sure they’re well covered, with no gaps
• Using a knife or fork, prick the pastry a few times
• Place the tray at the top of the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden

To serve your tarte tatin
• When your tarte tatin is ready you must turn it out at once or it will end up sticking to the baking tray. Again, you want to be very careful and make sure you don’t burn yourself on that hot caramel mixture
• To turn the tarte out, cover your hand with a folded tea towel, carefully hold the tray with a serving plate or board on top and gently turn it over
• Using the tip of a knife, pull a corner of the pastry up to check if it’s all cooked underneath (if not, pop it back into the oven for another couple of minutes), then ease the whole thing out of the tray
• If using crème fraîche, put it into a bowl, grate over the rest of your orange zest and stir well
• If using vanilla ice cream, sprinkle a few tablespoons of desiccated coconut on a plate and quickly roll a scoop of ice cream in it until coated
• Serve your tarte tatin with a dollop of crème fraîche or coated ice cream and eat immediately!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Citrus Cookies

I keep saying I'm not crispy cookie fan, but here I am making them again.  Mike bought me Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook for Christmas last year, and it is easily one of my favourite cookbooks.  The meals are simple, fast, and nothing is too precise which I love since nothing about my cooking is precise.

During the summer I tried out Jamie's basic refrigerator cookie recipe with a good quality dark chocolate bar.  Like I said, they're crispier than I would normally enjoy, but these are simple and delicious, and perfect with a nice cup of coffee.

This week I decided to try the citrus variation, and they are simply delightful!  Very easy to make, and perfect for a little sweet treat in the afternoon (or morning, or evening, or anytime really).  I do prefer the chocolate variation, but these were very tasty and I will definitely make them again.  I don't know that I've ever baked anything with orange zest in it, but I quite liked it.

The only thing I changed in the recipe was to use white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose.  Oh, and I used regular sugar instead of superfine which worked fine in these cookies.  

Jamie Oliver's Cookies

Servings: Makes about 15 cookies
Basic Cookie Dough:
  • 9 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 large egg , preferably free-range or organic
  • Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick cook oatmeal (not instant)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Citrus Cookies:
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
Double Chocolate Cookies:
  • 2 ounces white chocolate or 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate or 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
To make basic cookie dough: Take your butter out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before you start so it has time to soften a bit first. If you've got a food processor, simply put your soft butter into it with the rest of the basic ingredients and whiz until smooth. Or you can put it into a mixing bowl with the sugar and mix with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, creamy consistency. Crack your egg into another bowl and beat it with a fork, then add it to the butter and sugar and mix well. Sift your flour into the bowl to remove any lumps, add the oats, baking powder and salt and mix until lovely and smooth.

To flavor cookie dough: Either finely grate your orange and lemon zest or roughly chop your chocolate. Stir the zest or chocolate into the cookie dough and mix together well. Spoon on to a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a sausage shape with a roughly 2 1/2-inch diameter. Pop the dough into the freezer for 30 minutes.

To bake cookies: Preheat the oven to 375°. Get your chilled dough out of the freezer and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place these on two nonstick cookie sheets, making sure you leave a good bit of space between the slices because they'll spread while cooking. If you can't fit all your slices on the cookie sheets, just cook one batch after another. Place the cookie sheets in the middle of your preheated oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Let them cool down slightly before transferring to a wire rack to let cool completely and crisp up. Delicious with a glass of cold milk.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Highbrow Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am not a boxed cookie girl.  Okay, except for Girl Guide cookies, but I can't get those here.  Boxed cookies for the most part suck.  They're dry, too sweet, and have way too many ingredients for something that should be so simple.

That being said, Trader Joe's is always the exception.  For some reason I bought their Highbrow Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I'm usually not particularly into crispy cookies, but these looked and sounded delightful.  And they were.  Crunchy, buttery, rich, and the chocolate chips were clearly not of the Hershey's variety (in case you didn't know I loathe Hershey's).  They were positively delightful.

So tonight when I decided to try out a new chocolate chip cookie recipe I thought I might like to try and replicate the TJ's Highbrow.  What I found (via was Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chunk Cookies.  They are everything the TJ's highbrow cookie is and then some.  Crispy around the edges, and chewy on the inside.  Perfection.  I literally swooned when I bit into one of these lovely cookies, and Mike agreed, commenting "they make TJs highbrows taste like dirt".  Okay, I wouldn't go that far but these are some damn good cookies.

I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, but instead of semisweet chocolate chunks I used Guittard milk chocolate chips.  If you're making chocolate chip cookies, don't cheap out and use crappy chips, a couple extra dollars spent of good quality chips will make your cookies extraordinary.  I actually think a good quality dark chocolate bar cut up into chunks would be better in this recipe, but Mike isn't a huge dark chocolate fan so milk it is (this time).  I also skipped the whole parchment bit.  I have yet to bake with parchment, and since this recipe was chosen on a whim I didnt' have any around.  I just lightly greased my baking sheet, left them on for a few minutes to harden before transferring to a wire rack and all as well.  

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes About 3 Dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large whole egg, plus 1 large egg white
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chunks (about 2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 375F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the vanilla, whole egg, and egg white. Beat on low speed until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture in two batches; mix until just combined. Mix in chocolate.
Shape 2 heaping tablespoons of dough at a time into balls and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden brown, about 18 minutes. Transfer parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Since most of my baking is eaten by my 2.5 year old, I'm always looking for recipes that are tasty and somewhat healthy as well.  I was going to make some oatmeal raisin cookies from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook, and then remembered I had made them before and they were rather crunchy.  I'm more of a chewy cookie kind of gal, so I searched for a recipe that uses zucchini since I had already bought some and probably won't use it for anything else.

I found a recipe from that sounded promising.  My number one chocolate chip cookie recipe comes from so I'm always willing to give their recipes a try.  I halved the recipe since it seems rather large, and I don't need that many cookies in the house since my sweet tooth tends to peak at 2pm.  I didn't make any changes to the recipe, I usually follow a recipe precisely the first time and experiment from there.  If I made these again I would probably use whole wheat flour and cut a bit of the sugar out.  I find any recipe that contains either raisins or chocolate chips can stand to have the sugar reduced or they end up way too sweet.

The final verdict?  They're kind of ugly.  And a bit too cakey for my liking, but Mike really enjoyed them.  You may think I'm rather vain to take a cookie's looks into account, but I find eating (especially sweets) to be a experience for all the senses.  As you can see in the picture, they have an undercooked look to them, which despite my love of cookie dough isn't that appealing.  And they're not undercooked, just the parts around the zucchini ended up rather mushy, had I baked them for longer they would have ended up dry, and there is nothing worse than a dry cookie.  Flavour-wise, they're good.  Cinnamon and raisins are a match made in heaven, and this recipe has plenty of both.  But next time I think I'll leave the zucchini for muffins.

ZUCCHINI OATMEAL COOKIES,191,137189-233200,00.html

1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. zucchini, grated
3 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. raisins, optional
1 c. nuts, optional

Beat butter and sugar together well. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and add creamed mixture. Stir in zucchini, oatmeal, raisins and nuts. Drop onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes

Pancakes are becoming a bit of a weekend tradition at our house.  Someone is bound to be in the mood for pancakes and I'm always happy to indulge.  For years when I made pancakes they came out of a box.  And they never really tasted right.  There is something about pancake mixes that just doesn't cut it, they have a weird taste I can't put my finger on, maybe it's too much baking soda or something like that.  At any rate, after making pancakes from scratch a couple years ago I have never gone back.  I can't understand why pancake mixes have become so popular, most require you to add the wet ingredients anyways so you may as well spend the extra three minutes to prepare the dry and get pancakes 100X more delicious.

Anyways.  My favourite pancake recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  Yes, I know I have mocked Martha for many years, but her recipes are the bomb.  I can't think of one recipe I have yet to make from her website that hasn't turned out delicious.  Back to the pancake recipe.  I have adapted it a little, for instance I never use buttermilk, just add a few splashes of lemon or lime juice to regular milk and let it sit for a few minutes, and I usually use white whole wheat flour.  There are plenty of add-ins for pancakes: chocolate chips, diced apples, blueberries, etc.  Be creative, pancakes are hard to screw up.  

If you like your pancakes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside like I do, add lots of butter to your griddle before every batch, and flip them fast (shortly after you see bubbles form on top).  If your batter seems too runny you can add more flour, or just go with it.  The pancakes end up being quite spongy rather than cakey.  Top with maple syrup, strawberries, and whipped cream and you've got a completely delicious breakfast.  This recipe makes a lot more than nine pancakes as it claims, if you have leftovers enjoy them cold with a bit of jam . 

Best Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes nine 6-inch pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk on hand just reduce by a couple teaspoons and add lemon or lime juice)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle 
    1. Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps.
    2. Heat oven to 175 degrees. Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter or reserved bacon fat onto griddle. Wipe off excess.
    3. Using a 4-ounce ladle, about 1/2 cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.
    4. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.
    Enjoy!  You'll never go back to a pancake mix again!

    Indulge Yourself

    I love to bake.  It has become my favourite hobby, and while life with two small kids doesn't allow for a lot of time baking, I do it whenever I can.  I think my favourite thing about baking is that I constantly amaze myself that I can make something so beautiful and tasty.  I used to be absolutely terrible in the kitchen.  I remember making my first batch of banana bread from my mom's recipe which I had erroneously written down, and it not occurring to me that something must be wrong with adding only 3/4 cup flour.  My banana bread was a soupy mess. 

    Since that ill-fated banana bread I have improved considerably, making gorgeous cupcakes, tantalizing cookies, and scrumptious scones.  Things don't always work out (I like to play fast and loose with measurements) but most of the time the recipes are a success, much to the delight of my husband and child who can eat solids. 

    And of course much to the delight of my own sweet tooth, which is a formidable force.  For years I agonized over every tasty treat I allowed myself, feeling guilty for hours after.  But in the past few years, I am slowly learning to say "F#@! it".  Indulge yourself, life is short.
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