Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Festive New Years/Shabbat Treat

Are you looking for something delicious and festive, but not too heavy, to serve after Shabbat dinner this week in honor of New Year's Eve?  Look no further because this icy, apple treat is for you.  It is crisp and light, and can be made parve if you are kosher and having a meat dinner.

I am a big fan of Matinelli's sparkling cider.  I don't drink it that much but I saw it in the grocery store on sale, 2 for $5 and it seemed like a good time to make David Lebovitz's Green Apple and Sparkling Cider Sorbet, which I have had my eye on since I got the book.  

This sorbet was a snap to put together, as most sorbets are.  You boil the cider, sugar and some water together, then dump in some apples and let it all sit until the apples are soft.  The only hard part was pushing the apple mixture through a strainer, so that you got all the flavor and none of the lumps.  Then you are good to churn.    

The sparkling cider adds nice flavor to the sorbet, but that bubbly feeling is lost. Since the bubbles are half the fun, Sarah and I decided to put the sorbet in a glass with a splash of cider over it.  That way, you get the bubbles and the flavor and a festive, New Year's Look.

Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom!  May 2011 bring you and your family many blessings.

Here is the recipe, from The Perfect Scoop:
Sparking Cinder and Green Apple Sorbet
4 Granny Smith or green pippin apples (2 pounds), preferably unsprayed
2 cups sparkling dry apple cider, with or without alcohol
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste

Quarter the apples and remove the cores and seeds. Cut the unpeeled apples into 1-inch chunks.
Combine the cider, sugar and water, and bring to a boil in a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Add the apples, reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer the apple chunks for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the apples steep until the mixture is room temperature.
Pass the apples and their liquid through a food mill fitted with a fine disk, or use a coarse-mesh strainer and press firmly on the apples to extract their pulp and all the liquid into a container. Discard the apple peels — they've given up their flavor at this point. Add the lemon juice. Taste and add more if you wish, since sparkling apple ciders can vary in sweetness.
Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacture's instructions.
Makes about 3 cups.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Seasonal Update on Parve Chocolate Cake

It has come to our attention that this parve chocolate cake is a big hit on our blog, but we posted it in our early days when we didn't include recipes. Anyway, we've updated the original post to include the recipe, woo hoo! We also made the cake for Shabbat dinner on Friday, with a little twist in honor of Christmas Eve - half a teaspoon of mint extract added to the frosting! Yummy! Don't use any more, especially if you're going to let it sit for a bit before serving, because the mint flavor intensifies as time goes on. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: Cupcakes of L.A.

Hello from Los Angeles, where the Baking Sisters have once again reunited for a brief time, during which we have been baking (and eating) up a storm! One of our long-simmering plans for this vacation was to try out different kosher cupcake eateries in LA and see how they stacked up against one another. We picked the famous Sprinkles Cupcakes and the slightly less famous Famous Cupcakes, as well as our New York favorite Crumbs, and picked out one or two special flavors from each. Here are our impressions.

Sprinkles Cupcakes can be summed up in one word: overrated. We got a Chocolate Peppermint cupcake (a chocolate cupcake with chocolate peppermint frosting and peppermint bits sprinkled on top), which I assume is a seasonal flavor but looked like one of the most interesting that they offered. Our first impression was that cake tastes like nothing. The texture was fine, nothing special, but it was overwhelmed by the lack of taste. The frosting had a good sugar-to-butter ratio with pleasing amounts of peppermint but it couldn't disguise the fundamental weakness in the cake. Sprinkles may be the first known bakery to specialize in cupcakes, but we can't understand the lines out the door, and frankly, everything in the store from the $2.50 dog cupcakes to the sign on the door asking customers to keep it closed because it "preserves the freshness" of the cupcakes gives off an air of pretentiousness that no one needs in a cupcake shop. I'd say give Sprinkles a miss.

Crumbs is an Upper West Side transplant that is one of our favorites (shhh, don't tell our parents, they think Crumbs is evil because of the customer service, but I found the LA Crumbs people to be helpful and friendly). We got a German Chocolate cupcake, which was Sarah's mistake. She didn't remember the many many times we apparently made German chocolate cake for our dad (this is Sarah writing on Rachel's account in case you didn't get that) and didn't realize that German chocolate cake has coconut in it! Oh no! Anyway, this cupcake should probably be automatically disqualified for having coconut in it, but despite this glaring defect, Crumbs' frosting is always quality and their cake is very fluffy. At $3.75, the Crumbs cupcake costs 50 cents more than the others and is very large, so be sure to share it with friends or sisters.

Famous Cupcakes definitely has the chic cupcake shop look downpat, plus they had a bathroom when Sarah really really needed to pee, so major points for them. However, they are also owned by the vile Kardashians, whose faces are all over the shop, so those points get cancelled out. Guess we'll have to rely on old-fashioned metrics like flavor. Famous had lots of interesting choices and so we got two: the "Good Morning" cupcake (vanilla with brown sugar, cinnamon and graham cracker topping) and "Hot Chocolate" (chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting). The former was light and delicious, more like a muffin or a coffee cake (maybe that's why it's called Good Morning?), and it had a super-yummy cream cheese swirl on top, although said swirl and the accompanying raspberry were not interested in staying on the cupcake and kept sliding down the side The latter had the best flavor of any of the cupcakes we tried but the frosting was disappointingly buttery. Next time, I would get a cupcake with cream cheese frosting because the bit that we had was so tasty.

So in conclusion, we will not be weeping because Sprinkles and Famous are not in New York. (Menchie's frozen yogurt, on the other hand...) We had a lot of fun sampling them, though. If you have tried them, or any other local cupcake eatery, and you have your own opinions, let us know! What's the best cupcake that you've had recently?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Doing My Part to Help Pass the Bar: Part 1

You may remember my friend Brooke.  She has been mentioned a few times around this blog, most notably as the source of my mandelbrot recipe.  Brooke is studying for the bar for a second time, since she moved since she first took it. Those of you who are lawyers or who know lawyers know that studying for the bar is no fun, especially if you are also working full time, as Brooke is.

Last time Brooke was studying for the bar, we were living near each other and I was able to go and give her little pep talks in person.  This time, we live across the country from each other, and telling her to study via gchat doesn't always work.

So, I decided to motivate her to study by bribing her with cookies.  If she is very good, and does her studying like she is supposed to, instead of watching West Wing, she will get cookies.  If not, well...we won't go there.

Brooke's first care package contained two kinds of yummy treats.  First, since Brooke loves brownies and dark chocolate, I choose Dorie Greenspan's Bittersweet brownies.  These are chock full of dark chocolate and have a great, rich, fudgy texture.  I highly recommend these if you like dark chocolate.  The recipe is here, which I made without the raspberries. 

The second cookie was created because I found mint truffle filled hershey kisses.  Brooke loves mint and dark chocolate, so I knew I had to incorporate them somehow.  I had seen peanut butter cookies with kisses pushed into them, so I thought I would do something like that.  In the end, I decided on mint chocolate crinkle cookies with mint chocolate kisses.  These were delicious -- minty and fudgy, with good chocolate flavor.  The recipe called for them to be rolled in confectioners sugar and green sugar, which I did, but you can't see the green very well.  Either way, I highly recommend these cookies.  They were easy to make (my 2.5 year old helped out) and very, very yummy.  You can find the recipe here.

Brooke -- if you take a break from studying (a short one), let us know what you thought and if they got to you in one piece.  Good luck on the bar (leave her some love to help motivate her if the cookies don't work)!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Golden Lemon Cake for Nikhita

I find myself staring into the maw of my second semester of senior year, and you know what that means - time to find a job. If you were going to ask me very politely what I'm thinking about doing, you may very politely shut your mouth. It's not a nice question to ask a senior in college. I went to a career fair in October and it was the most dispiriting hour of my life. I even invented a drinking game. Take a shot every time someone asks you if you're a software engineer and then his face falls when you say you aren't. By the end of it, you'll be drunk enough to go the career fair and not come out of it believing that you're never, never going to be employed. Apparently, at the February career fair there's more variety, but only companies with massive hiring needs know that they have the funding to recruit at places like Brown at the beginning of the year, so the only people there are Web- or tech-related companies like Amazon or Facebook, do-gooders like Teach for America or the Peace Corp, and financial sector firms.

Which brings us to cake. I mean duh. My friend Nikhita recently received a job offer from not one but two financial firms, and in the end she picked the Big Bad Goldman Sachs. Exciting stuff! I promised that we would bake a congratulatory cake in exchange for my being her trophy wife and lounging around her apartment baking all day, since she'll never be in said apartment when she's working 27-hour days. Her parameters were that it not be chocolate and not be too complicated. Nikhita is a fantastic cook, inventive and intuitive, but she has no confidence in her baking ability. We decided on a simple Martha Stewart lemon cake recipe with whipped frosting, which I had originally picked out because it was golden, like the vast amounts of money Nikhita will soon be making.

I don't think we could have made a more perfect choice. This cake was a dream in every way. It was so easy to make, not to mention forgiving - I accidentally added an additional egg yolk and it didn't mess things up at all! It baked to a perfect even hue and not only came out of the pan whole, but remained whole when I placed one layer on top of the other. As avid readers of this blog know, that NEVER happens to me, so major points for the cake. The whipped frosting looked lovely, although I'm more of a buttercream kind of gal. But most importantly, a) it tasted amazing, fluffy and delicately flavored and b) it gave Nikhita the confidence to believe that she too can bake delicious treats. She said that she would try this recipe, which was always one of her favorites when we were in Cambridge together. We'll let you know how it goes!

The proud baker with her creation

You can find the recipe here. (We didn't make the candied lemons.) This is definitely going to become one of my go-to cakes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ethnic Flavor: It's A Menorah! It's A Chanukiah! It's...Cupcakes!

Time for a nerdy true confession: I've been dying to make this cupcake menorah ever since I saw it last December on the King Arthur Flour blog. Christmas has so many treats - peppermint bark, gingerbread men, nasty-ass fruitcakes - so why couldn't we have one too? This was the perfect solution: religiously relevant AND tasty, which is more than you can say for the Christmas food! Anyway, I prepared assiduously, buying special blue and white cupcake wrappers at Zabar's and exorbitantly expensive blue sugar at East Side Marketplace.

I used the recommended recipe, a KAF guarantee (although being a poor college student who had just shelled out five dollars for blue sugar, I was not using KA Flour). I'm not wild about their method, which involves beating butter into the dry ingredients instead of the usual butter-sugar-eggs-dry ingredients steps. That's not maligning the finished product, though; my complaint is more that flour gets everywhere when you're working with a hand mixer. But the finished cake was delightful, dense and moist. Also, I have to put in a plug for these cupcake wrappers. They're the kind where you don't even need a cupcake tin, you just stick 'em on a cookie sheet and bam, you're done. I was skeptical that something so magical could exist but let me tell you, these were the most evenly baked cupcakes I've ever made. The wrappers are as sturdy as they are pretty. They really get the job done!

But enough plugging. I made a simple buttercream - two sticks of butter, a bunch of confectioner's sugar, a dash of vanilla - and piped it on. With the blue sugar sprinkled on top, it ended up being almost overpoweringly sweet, so I was glad that the cupcakes themselves were more delicately flavored. All in all it was really adorable and fun and I think it will make a great holiday tradition!

Here is the link to the original KAF post about the cupcake menorah, and here's the recipe. I halved it and it was perfect for eight regular-sized and one jumbo cupcake. Have a great last night of Hanukkah!

Golden Vanilla Cake from the King Arthur Flour Blog


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round cake pans, three 8" round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins (24 muffin cups). You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.

1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

2) Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.

3) Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

4) Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

6) Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.

7) After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.

8) Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice. For layers, divide the batter among the pans. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a tablespoon.

For cupcakes, scoop by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tins.

9) Bake for 40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 27 minutes for 9" layers; 24 minutes for 8" layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes.

10. The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

11) Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Shabbos Kallah Part 4: New Jersey Cake Cookies

When you've known a family for as long as the Rosenthal have known the Palmer-Shermans, some traditions are bound to accumulate, whether it's the yearly trip to the Big Apple Circus or just Shabbat dinner. Going to their house is always one of the most comforting and enjoyable experiences I have when I go home, in large part because of the routine. There's always a delicious fluffy challah, some meat that's so red it's practically still alive (only the Palmer-Shermans like their meat redder than we do), and some New Jersey cake. You may know it as checkerboard cake but since it comes from a kosher bakery in New Jersey, we've given it its own special name. Checkerboard cake often seems magical. How do they do that? we wonder as we examine the perfectly even alternating layers of black and white. Well, I'd tell you...but then I'd have to kill you. The next-best thing is making these cookies. And when I was thinking about what to make for the Shabbos Kallah, I realized that nothing could be more appropriate than these.

However, let me tell you that they are an enormous pain in my ass to make. When they make the New Jersey cake they have special pans that make just the right sized layers for stacking. (Okay, I told you.) But you have to do it by hand. And they must be as precise as possible or they will end up looking all wonky like the ones in the picture above. While it's somewhat satisfying to watch the tower go up, and while the finished product looked very impressive on a plate, I just don't think it was worth it. And that's really the bottom line. The dough is easy to make and they tasted like buttery, yummy shortbread cookies, but you could make buttery, yummy shortbread cookies that take a lot less time and effort - there were no particularly interesting flavors in here. So if you're trying to wow people with your baking skillz, or if you happen to be picking a recipe for a party that is in honor of someone who makes you think of checkerboard cookies, I would say save yourself the aggravation and make something else. This is extra-true if you've been baking for the last eight hours nonstop and this was the last thing you made, as was the case with me, so maybe I'm biased. With all those caveats, the recipe is here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ethnic Flavor: Sufganiyot (aka jelly donuts)

It's Hanukkah, Christmas' less sexy Jewish cousin! They've got the decorated trees, the beautiful music, the mass cultural dominance. Luckily, we have a couple of things going in our favor as well: the pretty candles, the best song ever written, and lots and lots of fried food! I'm actually amazed that we haven't achieved more mass cultural dominance, considering our mass culture's love of fried food. Chief among these are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). I was invited to a Hanukkah dinner featuring a lot of really heavy Ashkenazic-type food, including of course latkes, and as resident baker I got commissioned to make sufganiyot! I just picked a recipe at random off the Internet and only later realized that it was by Joan Nathan, something of a doyenne in the world of Jewish cooking. I was glad it had that extra credibility because I'd never made donuts before and I was kind of nervous.

It didn't start out well. I'm almost as afraid of yeast as I am of dropping things in hot hot oil and having it spatter everywhere, so I knew donuts were going to be a challenge. I didn't really let the milk get sufficiently lukewarm before I yeasted it up, and I think I killed the yeast. So I dumped in another packet and let that bubble. By this point it was already 12:30 a.m., way past my bedtime (I'm a lame college student, I know). The rest of it went fine - really sticky dough before the butter was added, but that's to be expected - and I stuck it in the fridge.

The next morning I took it out and let it rise on the counter for a couple of hours, and I was glad that I did because it hadn't risen much in the fridge. I felt it was the yeast getting its revenge on me for killing its pals. The dough was very easy to roll out and cut, although I found that you only need one egg white to seal the donuts, so if you're using a fresh egg as I was instead of the whites left over from the yolks, keep that in mind. I let them rise for closer to 45 minutes but that's mostly because I got caught up in watching 30 Rock.

Then came The Frying. This was extremely scary for me - I still have little burns up and down my arms from when I deep-fried banana fritters when I was eighteen. I was very apprehensive about getting the right temperature, since I don't have a thermometer. I had to eyeball it, but I was helped along mightily by our smoke detector, which beeped its hellish beep as it informed me in its calm voice, "Fire. There is a fire." (This was the second time this had happened in 24 hours. The night before, I was simultaneously cooking rice and beans without the vent on, using a blowtorch for creme brulee - more on that later - and burning my Hanukkah candles. The smoke detector was not amused.) Anyway, I had to keep Ole Smokey happy so I didn't let the oil get too hot and I'm glad. The first two donuts I made were very dark, not burnt beyond repair but not donut color either. The rest were more successful. The tip I would offer those who are making these with a spatula is to flip the donuts over onto the spatula before you drop them in the oil, so that the flatter side is facing up. That way, when you flip them back into the oil the flatter side will be facing down, and it will be easier to pick it up with your spatula and turn it to the other side.

And how did my first foray into donut making actually taste? Well, not exactly like donuts. I'm pretty sure that the yeast continued to exact its yeasty revenge on me by not rising enough so it was denser than I would have liked but hey, c'est la vie. It still tasted very good, like a big solid funnel cake with raspberry jam inside! I don't think that I would make donuts just for a random occasion because I found them sort of stressful, but I'd definitely make them for Hanukkah next year, smoke detectors be damned.

Sufganiyot Recipe, adapted from Joan Nathan's The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen

  • 1 scant tablespoon (1 package) dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk or warm water*
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter or pareve margarine, softened*
  • Apricot or strawberry preserves
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • *Use butter and milk if serving at a milk meal, and water and pareve margarine for a meat meal

  • Mix together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the milk. Let sit to make sure it bubbles.

    Sift the flour and mix it with the remaining sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg yolks, and the yeast mixture.

    Knead the dough until it forms a ball. Add the butter or margarine. Knead some more, until the butter is well absorbed. Cover with a towel and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.

    Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch.

    Cut out the dough into 24 rounds with a juice glass, or any object about 2 inches in diameter. Take 1/2 teaspoon of preserves and place in center of 12 rounds. Top with the other 12. Press down at edges, sealing with egg whites. Crimping with the thumb and second finger is best. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

    Heat 2 inches of oil to about 375°. Drop the doughnuts into the hot oil, about 5 at a time. Turn to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Roll the doughnuts in sugar.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Things I Thought I Could Never Make

    There are some baked goods that I never really thought I could make.  Bagels are one of those things.  Although I have made a few good attempts, they never really come out like the ones you buy in a store.  I thought that Black and White cookies fell in that category.  Somehow they seem really complicated to me.  Maybe it is the double frosting thing.

    However, as I recently learned, black and white cookies are not only more delicious when you make them at home, but they are a snap to make.  The cookie batter comes together easily and the frosting is very quick.  You make the vanilla first and then take some of that frosting and mix cocoa powder into it.  

    These cookies taste like what you hope a black and white cookie will taste like when you buy one in a deli in New York City.  Somehow, those cookies are often disappointing.  These are not.  They are just the right combination of cake and cookie and the frosting is divine.  I got 7 cookies from the recipe, but it is so easy you could double it and put some in the freezer.  Or make minis.  These would also be great for Hanukkah -- instead of chocolate frosting, you could dye one side blue and do blue and white cookies.  The possibilities are endless.

    Thanks to Anna over at cookie madness for doing a comparison and coming up with this great black and white cookie.  You can find the recipe and the comparison here.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Ginger(bread) Cookies

    I went hiking with a friend on Sunday to enjoy the spring-like weather in mid-November. On the way back, we drove by a Dunkin' Donuts which was advertising its new line of gingerbread products. Suddenly, an idea was in my mind-- I knew I needed to make gingerbread cookies. We stopped in Barnes and Noble on the way home and I found myself drawn to the cookbooks, hunting for the perfect recipe.

    However, I wasn't sure I was interested in the whole cookie cutter endeavor, although I may try that at a later date. Instead, I wanted the gingerbread flavor in a softer cookie that was slightly lower maintenance. I found these cookies here and chose them because they looked soft yet delicious. I love the consistency of these cookies, but I think I would add more ginger next time because they didn't quite have the kick I was looking for.

    Also, the recipe called for the cookies to be rolled in sugar before they were baked, but I had seen a recipe for a lemon glaze for gingerbread in the book store and I found that I really liked that idea, so I went hunting again and came up with this icing recipe. I really like the lemon and ginger combination. The only issue was that the icing was pretty runny, so I think I would either add less liquid or more sugar next time. Overall, though, I definitely recommend these cookies, and this comdo.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Viriginal Cookies for a Bachelorette

    Our friend Kerrith is getting married on Sunday (mazal tov Kerrith and Derek!), so last Saturday night, two of her friends threw her a belly dancing bachelorette party. (I know what you're thinking. Rachel, don't you do anything other than go to wedding-related events? The answer to that question is no, I do not do anything else.) Anyway, the party was a potluck, and the instructions were for us to make something with a Middle Eastern theme.

    Being a Baking Sister, obviously I chose to make dessert. However, I have no idea what makes a dessert Middle Eastern. So I did some research through my good friend Google and came up with these ghoraibi.

    As it turns out, I had hit the jackpot, because not only are these cookies Lebanese, but they are also traditionally served at weddings, apparently. That is because they are totally white, like the bride, who is meant to be clean and pure. And additionally, if you like almonds, they are also delicious.

    These cookies are super easy to make, and I really liked their almond flavor. Since butter is basically the only wet ingredient, though, they are very rich, so I recommend making them pretty small. I also think they're very pretty, and overall, suited the occasion very nicely. You can find the recipe here.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Sweet and Sticky Cinnamon Buns

    A few weeks ago, for some reason, I was struck by a craving for cinnamon buns. I've never endeavored to make them before, but most of the ones that you can buy on the street and seem delicious aren't kosher, so I had to take matters into my own hands. I did some reading around compared reviews, and settled on these ones from the food network.

    These cinnamon buns were super intense-- delicious, but also very rich. As I told somebody who asked me, it's basically butter, sugar, sugar and more butter. I enjoyed them, but I was glad that I made them on the smaller side because otherwise, I would not have been able to finish them. (As it was, I served them at two Shabbat meals, left six of them at my friend's house, and still had more to bring to school.) I also found the dough to be a little too dense and crumbly, so if I made them again, I would probably use more milk and a little less flour. Finally, I found the butter icing to be a little too sweet. I think using a cream cheese glaze would make these a delicious dessert or breakfast-- as long as you're not concerned about your cholesterol.

    You can find the recipe here.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    MSC November: Marshmallow Turkey Cupcakes

    Double post day!  It is Martha Stewart Cupcake posting day for November and National Bundt Day, and I am posting in support of Mary the Food Librarian and her quest to make 30 bundts in 30 days.  You can see that post here.  But on to the cupcakes...

    When I saw that these cupcakes were the selection for November, I groaned inwardly.  You see, these cupcakes combine many elements that I am not that interested in... coconut, gummy fish and marshmallows (which are fine, but hard to find kosher).  As readers of this blog know, coconut is up there with foods that I really do not enjoy, so when I read that these cupcakes were covered in coconut and involved coconut covered marshmallows (hard to find kosher when its not Passover), I debated not making them.

    But, now I have to thank Rachel at Simple Girl, because these cupcakes were really fun to make.  I joined this club because I love cupcakes, but I also enjoy learning new decorating techniques and it was a fun activity to make the turkeys.  I'm not sure how much they actually look like a turkey, but I think they are kind of cute anyway.

    I made a few changes to this recipe.  First, I made 1/4 of the One Bowl Chocolate cupcake recipe and got 4 cupcakes, which was prefect because I had no where to bring these.  Second, I could not find coconut covered marshmallows, so I just used orange ones.  I did not use sprinkles for the eyes and instead I used dots of black food coloring.  Finally, 10 minutes was way to long to toast the coconut (burned the first batch and almost burned this one too).  I think I would do a much shorter amount of time, maybe 4 minutes.

    You can find the recipe here.

    Happy National Bundt Day x2!

    Double post day!  It is Martha Stewart Cupcake posting day for November and National Bundt Day!  The cupcake post will be up soon.

    Mary, the woman behind The Food Librarian, one of the blogs I read regularly, is celebrating National Bundt Day by making 30 Bundts in 30 Days. Today is National Bundt Day and I want to help her celebrate! Mary has an exceptional dedication to the bundt. This is actually the second time she has made 30 bundts in 30 days and hers are always so beautiful. Her photography is wonderful too. We have never met, but she seems like such a sweet, kind person from the way she writes. You should check out her blog.

    Instead of 30 bundts, I made 2. One is actually one that I got from Mary's blog -- The Blueberry Lemon Bundt. This cake was amazing. Other than adding a glaze of powdered sugar and lemon juice, I left it as written and it got rave reviews. I made it for my first education committee meeting this year and I think it helped the meeting run really smoothly. I always know I can turn to Mary, the queen of bundts, when I need something fantastic. The recipe can be found here.

    The other bundt I made is from the always fabulous Dorie Greenspan. So glad that two fabulous women could provide me with recipes for two fantastic bundts. This cake doesn't look like much, but it is delicious! It is the Brown Sugar Bundt Cake from Baking from My Home to Yours. Inside the cake there are pears and raisins (which I skipped). I used farmer's market pears and their flavor really complimented the brown sugar and gave something special to the cake. Dorie says this cake is best the day after it is made, so I made it on Thursday night for Shabbat dinner on Friday. I also made it parve, and it was still delicious which, in my mind, is the sign of a great cake. You can find the recipe here.

    Happy National Bundt Day and Congratulations to Mary!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    A Delicious Any Occasion Cake

    The other day, I was going through my blog reader and this cake jumped out at me.  Nicole, who writes the blog Baking Bites, described this as a good any occasion cake.  Normally, I am not the biggest fan of yellow cakes. First, if I am going to eat cake, it might as well be chocolate, and second, yellow cakes often seem to be lacking in flavor, making them only a vehicle for the frosting (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

    This yellow cake was amazing.  It had a lot of good flavor and was very light and moist, possibly from using cake flour and buttermilk, both of which I have found add lots of yumminess to cake.

    The frosting on this cake -- chocolate cream cheese -- was also delicious.  I added more cream cheese than the recipe called for because I really like that tang in my cream cheese frosting.  I also used low fat cream cheese, since that is what I had around and it worked out fine.  

    The only trouble I had with this cake is that I forgot to put parchment in the bottom of the pan (or I was just lazy -- I won't tell you which) and it stuck big time, even when the pan was buttered and floured.  I think I lost about a half an inch, which was ok, because this cake rises high.  The moral of the story -- parchment paper your pans before baking!  

    I took this cake to a meeting, where it was a big hit.  I think it would also be great as the base to any kind of birthday cake.  But Nicole is right -- this is a great any occasion cake, even when you just want a slice of cake after dinner.

    You can find the recipe here, on Nicole's website.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    The Shabbos Kallah, Part 3: Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

    When I ask Miriam what she wanted for her Shabbos Kallah, the only thing that she said was "chocolate." The cake that I made was pretty much all chocolate (except the marshmallow frosting), so I wanted to do some more interesting variations. Voila, in comes Martha Stewart with these bee-youtiful cupcakes. Of course, they look nicer on her Web site - they always do - but they've still got the wow factor because of the chocolate-covered mint leaves. Said leaves appeared to be everyone's favorite part of the cupcake, or at least what pushed them over the top; no one could stop talking about the intensity of flavor or prettiness of presentation.

    The leaves were kind of a pain to make but in the end they were worth it. You can either dip one side in chocolate and paint the other side (you can't really dip both sides, it ends up making the leaf too limp) or paint both sides, which means you're more likely to get the pattern of veins on the leaf but also takes a long time and leaves you exposed to unsightly green patches. Your choice.

    Also, I don't know why - maybe I just didn't heat the whites hot enough or beat the meringue long enough - but this frosting absolutely did not work for me. I ended up having to shovel spoonfuls of confectioners' sugar into the mixer just to get it to achieve the correct consistency, but I think it spoiled the "fresh mint flavor" she was talking about, so then I had to add a lot more peppermint extract. Anyway, it ended up tasting good but I could have just made a simple buttercream and it would have tasted the same with a lot less effort. So let that (whatever "that" is) be a lesson to you all.

    You can find the recipe here. Also, the pretty cupcake wrappers I used for both these and the maple cupcakes were bought at Zabar's, on 80th and Broadway.

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    I Cook Like Betty Crocker and I Look Like Donna Reed

    We interrupt our regularly scheduled Shabbos Kallah programming to bring you this breaking update: it's Halloween! Kids dress like monsters, girls dress like sluts and we all get diabetes. Huzzah!

    Since I am in college, the party's pretty much been going on all weekend. Last night I dressed up as Donna Reed, the quintessential 1950s housewife (as any Gilmore Girls fan knows), which meant that I wore a poofy-skirted dress, an apron, heels, and a slightly manic look. And of course I had to have baked goods, because surely Donna would never go to a party without them!

    And since it was Halloween they had to be thematic. Inspired by the King Arthur Flour blog, I tried to make my brownies look like a spiderweb but they ended up looking more like a pretty floral design. I had a lot of trouble piping the cream cheese mixture; I guess I got overconfident about my piping skills after my last two highly successful endeavors. As my roommate Abi pointed out, it's okay - sometimes, scientists give spiders crystal meth in order to show kids the effect of drugs on brain and behavior, and their webs come out looking a bit wonky too. I think I just didn't make the spokes sufficiently even but it was hard to drag the knife through the viscous brownie batter. Oh well, it still tasted deliciously fudgy, as this recipe always does! (I didn't put in the optional mint extract so the cream cheese didn't really change the taste or texture at all.) Also, I left out the chocolate chips, which I think was a wise move, since they just would have gotten in the way of the knife. Also also, if unlike me you can find black licorice within five miles of your home, I would definitely recommend making the little cookie spider they have on the Web site to go along with the brownies so that if yours also doesn't turn out looking very weblike, people will have a hint. Even if I'll never truly be a perfect housewife, the brownies were better than that horrid-looking Jell-O concoction Rory made for Dean on their Donna Reed night. So there.

    You can find the recipe here. Happy Halloween!

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    The Shabbos Kallah, Part 2: Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

    As Sarah mentioned, my best friend recently got married and we had a lovely celebration in her honor here the day before the wedding. (The basic idea is to focus on the bride before the wedding. As if everyone doesn't do that at the wedding as well. Oh well.) As Sarah also mentioned, we made a truly ridiculous amount of dessert. Although I would have to say that I was fairly impressed by how much of it got eaten. Nothing like a room full of women eating half of a half to get the table cleared.

    Anyway, I had actually made three out of the four things before (see here and here, plus the back of the Nestle Tollhouse cookie package), but I wanted to try something different. Being in the midst of wedding land, I didn't have a huge amount of time and I also wanted something that was easily eaten with one's fingers. I actually love oatmeal cookies when they're good, but I've found that often, if a recipe isn't done well, the oatmeal stays kind of dry and chewy, which is rather unappealing. I had bought some oatmeal at Target, so I decided to use the recipe on the back of the can, choosing the cinnamon option, and in my opinion, they were delicious. I thought the cinnamon added a nice kick to make the cookies more interesting, and the oats cooked through wonderfully. Just watch them to make sure they don't burn!

    Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies
    1 stick butter, softened
    1/4 cup milk
    1 1/4 cups brown sugar
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    2 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    3 cups old fashioned oats
    1 cup raisins

    Preheat the oven to 350
    Blend sugar, butter, vanilla, milk and eggs until light and fluffy.
    Add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Blend.
    Mix in oats and raisins.

    Place 2 inch balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Guest Blogger: More on the Wedding

    As the Baking Sisters’ dad, I obviously wasn’t invited to the Shabbos Kallah (see the Shabbos Kallah post). I did get to participate in – and bake for – another wonderful Jewish wedding custom: sheva brachot (seven blessings). These blessings are first recited as part of the wedding ceremony and then are repeated as part of grace after meals at celebrations in honor of the bride and groom for the following seven days. We hosted two dozen guests one evening in honor of Miriam and Dave. I won’t go into the full menu, just the desserts.

    Four desserts seemed to offer enough variety, so I went with two chocolate and two non-chocolate recipes. Since the meal was a stand-up reception, everything was finger food, including the desserts: two kinds of cookies and two bar-type desserts (which I cut in half to make bite-size servings and served in mini-cupcake wrappers). All the recipes came from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. And if I don’t say so myself, everything was delicious!

    I chose two classic cookie recipes. My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies are exactly what the name says. They’re Toll House cookies, but turbocharged. Buy a block of the best bittersweet chocolate you can find (or afford) and chop it into chunks, chips, slivers, whatever. I even included the shavings that the chopping produced; they made for great color in the finished product. You’ll find the recipe below.

    The other classic cookies were Linzer Sablés, a wonderful sandwich cookie with an almond-based dough and a raspberry jam filling. Dusted with powdered sugar, they are both elegant and delicious, and not too sweet. The recipe is below.

    The Bittersweet Brownies were almost like eating fudge – only better. They, too, call for the best chocolate you can get. Here is a link to the recipe.

    I wanted something fruit-based for the fourth dessert, so I chose Applesauce Spice Bars. They have a wonderful combination of flavors and textures – spices and rum, applesauce and chopped apple, raisins and nuts – and are topped with a creamy glaze. Here is a link to the recipe.

    My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp salt
    3/4 tsp baking soda
    2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    2 tsp pure vanilla extract

    2 large eggs
    12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks and chips
    1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking
    sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

    Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

    Working with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in
    a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.
    Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in
    the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in.
    Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing
    only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a rubber
    spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts.

    Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving
    about 2 inches between spoonfuls (the cookies really spread as they bake!).

    Bake the cookies – one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point –
    for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center
    (they may still be a little soft in the middle). Pull the sheet from the oven and allow
    the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer
    them to racks to cool to room temperature.

    Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

    Linzer Sablés
    1-1/2 cups finely ground almonds
    1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp salt
    Scant 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    1 large egg
    2 tsp water
    1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup raspberry jam plus 1 tsp water
    Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

    Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Using a fork, stir

    the egg and water together in a small bowl.

    Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer
    in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth,
    about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat
    for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing
    only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour
    is incorporated. If the dough comes together but some dry crumbs remain in the
    bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber
    spatula or your hands.

    Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between
    a sheet of waxed paper and plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten the dough into
    a disk, then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
    Leave the dough between the waxed paper and plastic wrap and repeat with the
    second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting
    board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze until it is very firm (about 2 hours in
    the refrigerator or about 45 minutes in the freezer). The rolled-out dough can be
    wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer
    for up to 2 months –thaw just enough to cut out the cookies.

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking
    sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

    Peel off the plastic wrap from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round or
    scalloped cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want a peek-a-
    boo cutout to see the jam filling, using the end of a piping tip to cut a small circle
    from the centers of half the cookies. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets,
    leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside.

    Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies
    are lightly golden, dry and just firm to the touch. NOTE: If the cookies are not of
    uniform thickness, the thinner ones will bake much faster, so keep a close eye on

    Repeat with the second disk of dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets
    between batches. Gather the scraps of dough from both batches, press them into
    a disk, roll them between a sheetsof waxed paper and plastic wrap and refrigerate
    them as before, then cut and bake.

    Place the jam in a small saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl and stir in 1 tsp of
    water. Bring to a boil over low heat or in the microwave. Let the jam cool slightly,
    then turn the cookies without the cutout flat side up and place about 1/2 tsp of the

    jam in the center of each cookie; sandwich with the remaining cookies.

    Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature, or
    freeze without the sugar dusting (dust the cookies before serving).

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    For Fall: Pumpkin Muffins

    Fall is here! There's a chill in the air, the leaves are changing, and the time is ripe for bringing back pumpkin. Unlike my sister, I love pumpkin, but I always feel like there's something vaguely off about eating it in the summer when it's such a fall food. But as soon as I broke out my jacket, I knew it was time to bring the pumpkin muffins back.

    This recipe comes from Susie Fishbein's Kosher By Design: Short on Time. I've been making it for a number of years, and it's always a hit. They make a great breakfast muffin or a dessert. Some people serve them as a side dish, but that always felt a little funny to me. The recipe calls for cranberries and I've found that chocolate chips also work great. However, my favorite way to eat them is plain, or, as I recently discovered, with cream cheese frosting. I used frosting from the can (I was short on time), but I think the one Rebecca makes would be even better. The recipe follows:

    Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

    Kosher by Design Short on Time by Susie Fishbein

    These muffins are moist and delicious. They are also quick and easy to bake.

    3 cups bread flour or all purpose flour

    3 cups sugar

    1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon

    1/2 tsp baking powder

    1 tsp baking soda

    1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

    1 cup canola oil

    3 large eggs

    1/2 cup sweetened cranberries such as Craisins (optional)

    shelled pumpkin seeds (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 3 (6-cup) muffin tins with muffin liners on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Set aside.

    In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.

    Add the pumpkin, oil, eggs and cranberries. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

    Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Each cup should be filled two-thirds of the way. Top each muffin with a few pumpkin seeds.

    Bake, uncovered 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out dry. Serve hot or at room temperature.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    The Shabbos Kallah, Part 1: Maple Cupcakes

    Two weeks ago, on 10/10/10, was the wedding of our dear friend/almost sister, Miriam Palmer-Sherman. She married a wonderful man named Dave and the whole thing was very, very beautiful. But let's get to the part that everyone cares about - the baked goods.

    As Miriam's best friend, it fell to Rachel to host a Shabbos Kallah, which is basically this extremely tame Jewish bachelorette party where, instead of strippers and tequila, everyone sits around on Saturday afternoon and eats and talks about how awesome the bride is. It's all women so there's a lot of crying and chocolate and whatnot. I'm poking fun, but it's actually quite a lovely tradition, in my opinion. Plus, it was an excuse for some truly epic baking.

    Perhaps too epic.

    Rachel and I got our signals crossed. When she asked me to bake for the Shabbos Kallah I thought that meant I would be the only one baking, where as she thought it meant I would make an extra dish or two. Long story short, we each made four desserts. Whoops.

    I knew that Miriam really likes chocolate so everything I made involved chocolate except these (you have to accommodate those crazy chocolate-haters somehow). These are nice and fall-y and pretty simple to put together. They weren't too sweet, which was important because they had a lot of syrup in them. However, I feel that you could reduce the amount of syrup and not suffer. The bottoms were, as Maida Heatter warned, soggy, and when I left them out overnight the syrup seeped through and formed little pools in the cupcake carrier.

    For whatever reason, the cupcake recipe didn't come with frosting, so I just pulled one off the Internet at random. It was simple and tasty and easy to pipe, and when I sprinkled a couple of slivered almonds on top, I was proud of how pretty the cupcakes looked!

    The cupcake recipe can be found here. The frosting recipe (which also comes with its own cupcake recipe, for which I cannot vouch) can be found here.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Honey Ginger Snaps for a Sweet (and Spicy!) New Year

    I confess that I have been remiss in blogging. Between the Jewish holidays, getting back into a regular school and work schedule, and my best friend's wedding (the event, not the movie-- more on that later), things have been totally nuts. However, I have returned and hope to avoid such lengthy absences in the future.

    So, to go back in time a month or so, one of my friends invited me for lunch on Rosh Hashanah and asked me to bring dessert. I wanted to make something with a traditional feel for the holiday-- read honey, apples, etc.-- without making something too ordinary. After scouring the internet and my cookbooks for a while, I found just what I was looking for-- honey gingersnaps.

    I'm actually glad I took time before I blogged about these cookies because I wasn't so happy with how they turned out the first time. I don't like to cook with shortening, but a little bit of research told me that margarine works as a substitution, so I decided to try it. I felt like the final product was way too greasy. So when I tried again a few weeks later, I only used half a cup of butter, instead of the recommended 3/4 cup, and I liked them much better.

    One thing to know about these cookies is that they grow dramatically in the oven, so make sure you leave lots of space on your baking sheet. They got rave reviews, especially the second time I made them, so give them a try and enjoy! The recipe can be found here.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    What's Black and White and Red Velvet All Over?

    So, here's a story for all of you.  The other day, I really wanted a red velvet cupcake.  I'm not sure why, since I can generally take or leave red velvet, but I really wanted one.  However, there was no good time to go get a red velvet cupcake, so I decided the only thing to do was to make one.  However, what was I going to do with 2 dozen red velvet cupcakes?  Even I can't eat that many cupcakes!

    Then I realized...I had a staff meeting yesterday!  The teachers would eat them!    My religious school teachers are amazing in many ways, including in their ability to consume large quantities of food.  Since I was making them stay until after 8pm at a meeting, I thought these cupcakes might buy me some good will.

    It took me a long time to figure out which red velvet recipe to use.  Many on the internet are very similar and I could not quite figure out what the differences was between different recipes.  However, in the end I decided to go with the recipe from Baked, because I have liked other things I made from the cookbook and it didn't have a neon-red color like some of the recipes I saw online.  In fact, the Baked recipe specifically says that it is not designed to turn anyone's mouth red.

    This was a fairly simple recipe, although it requires a number of special ingredients including cake flour (which, thanks to Simple Girl, I now know is in a box and was easily found in the grocery store), red gel food coloring (not the liquid kind) and distilled white vinegar.  I died some part of my kitchen red while making these cupcakes, but I was able to get it out pretty quickly.  This recipe made such beautiful batter -- very pretty red color and shiny -- and baked up in about 25 minutes.

    I frosted it with Martha Stewart's cream cheese frosting, although I used less butter and a little more cream cheese than she calls for.  Delicious!

    The cake recipe can be found here.
    The frosting is here.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    MSC October: Snickerdoodle Cupcakes or Yay for Cinnamon

    I love cinnamon, so I was super excited to make these snickerdoodle cupcakes.  Katie from Katiecakes picked these cupcakes for October for the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club.  I really liked these cupcakes.  The only issue I had with them is that I had no cake flour, so I had to make a substitution, which made the cupcakes slightly gummy, but they still had good flavor.

    I served these cupcakes two different times (I intended to make half the recipe, but forgot when I went to cream the butter).  One time, I used Martha's fluffy white frosting, sprinkled with cinnamon.  I served them on Sukkot and they were a hit with everyone in our very first sukkah.

    Then, I put unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer, figuring I would deal with them before the October 15th posting date.  And then, we went to New York for an amazing wedding -- the bride is like our 4th sister -- and when I got back on Monday, I realized it was time for single-mommydom, which is not great for baking.  However, the other day I was finally able to whip up a new frosting.  This time, I decided to make cinnamon, to compliment the cinnamon flavor in the cupcakes. I'm sure there is a recipe out there somewhere, but I just made the fluffy white frosting and tossed in a bunch of cinnamon until it tasted right.  I really liked the way the cinnamon frosting tasted.  I also experimented with piping.  I haven't gotten it exactly right yet, but I'm working on it.

    We took the cupcakes to our friends Mike and Kim's house, since they just had a new baby.  We had a yummy (but meat) dinner, so I didn't get to taste the cupcakes, but hopefully everyone there enjoyed them.

    You can find the cupcake recipe here, on Martha's website.

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