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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Go-To 5 A.M. Muffins

The other day I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for no reason and couldn't go back to sleep. This is not unprecedented. At Cambridge, there was an entire week in March where I saw the sunrise every morning, and not because I was going to sleep super-early. Sometimes, it just happens. And when it does, there's usually nothing to be done for it, except to make muffins.

I don't know why these have become my go-to 5 a.m. muffins. I guess it's because they contain ingredients that I'm likely to have lying around in the kitchen and thus I don't need to make any fruitless 5 a.m. trips to the supermarket. Like most muffins, they don't require a lot of thought, which is lucky since I usually don't have thought in spades before the sun rises. So next time you need something simple, quick and tasty for an early morning, you too can go to these muffins.

Allspice Crumb Muffins

From "Baking From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan

For the Streusel:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

For the Muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

To Make the Streusel: Put the flour, brown sugar and allspice in a small bowl and sift them through your fingers to blend. Add the bits of cold butter and toss to get irregularly shaped crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator for the moment. (You can make the crumbs up to 3 days ahead and keep them covered in the refrigerator.)

To Make the Muffins: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough--the batter will be lumpy, and that is just the way it should be. Stir in the lemon zest, if you're using it.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle some streusel over each muffin, then use your fingertips to gently press the crumbs into the batter.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Adventures with the Ice Cream Maker: Flavors of Fall

One of the best recipes we have ever made from Dorie is Applesauce Spice Bars, which are unbelievable and perfect for fall. You know what else is perfect for fall? Ice cream. But no, Sarah, you insist, ice cream is perfect for summer. To which I reply, Shut up, ice cream is for all seasons, you fascist.

I got an ice cream maker this month. Great excitement, except that it has not really been functioning as expected. The problem is that it doesn't churn the ice cream, which I guess defeats the purpose of having an ice cream maker. I'm going to try one more time, since I promised my friend Emily some coffee ice cream, and then I'm going to send it back to the manufacturer if it doesn't work. But enough griping, on to the recipe.

What would go well with applesauce spice bars? I wondered. Perhaps something that brings out the subtle caramel-y flavors in the bars. Burnt sugar ice cream! Leave it Dorie to improve on perfection. Even though the ice cream didn't churn to my satisfaction (at all) and it ended up with a more sorbet-like texture, it was amazing. Dorie describes the flavor as "intense," which is precisely the right adjective, and though she recommends pairing it with something bland for that reason, I found that it went beautifully with the bars. My one note for the recipe: when she says not to worry about the caramel sticking to the bottom of the pot, listen to her! I spent so much time trying to scrape it off the bottom with my spoon as I mixed and ended up splashing custard all over the kitchen! Oh no! Trust me, once you taste this ice cream, you'll want to have as much custard as possible.

Rebecca also made this ice cream and you can check out her post here.

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream
From "Baking From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Stir the sugar and water together in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil, without stirring, until the syrup turns a deep amber color--from time to time, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and swirl the pan. (Depending on the size of your pan and the intensity of the heat, it could take about 8 minutes for the caramel to color properly.)

Stand back--things can get a little wild--lower the heat and add the milk and cream. Don't be concerned when everything bubbles and seethes and the caramel hardens; it will calm down and smooth out as you heat and stir. Continue to heat and stir and when the mixture is smooth, remove the pan from the heat.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks and salt together until blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid--this will temper, or warm, the yolks. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon; if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track. the custard should reach at least 170 degrees F, but no more than 180 degrees F, on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard into a 2-quart liquid measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. Stir in vanilla extract.

Refrigerate the custard until chilled before churning it into ice cream.

Scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pack the ice cream into a container and freeze it for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.

Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

Serving: If the ice cream is very firm, allow it to sit on the counter for a few minutes before scooping or warm it in a microwave oven using 5-second spurts of heat.

Storing: Packed tightly in a covered container, the ice cream will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
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