Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bring Your Cookie to Work Day

Hello, long lost friends. I apologize for my lengthy absence-- unfortunately, going to school full time, working a job 20 hours a week, and doing other miscellaneous jobs is not so conducive to baking very much. However, school is now over, so I only have to go to all of the jobs, which means I'm back in the kitchen!

In honor of my newfound free time (kind of) and of the lovely people who work with me, I decided that I would bring them some cookies in honor of my first full week at work-- peanut butter m&m cookies, to be exact. Who doesn't love a good cookie, after all, and who doesn't love peanut butter m&ms? I was a little nervous, though, having never baked for this group before, that they would not like my offering.

As it turned out, I needn't have worried. The cookies were demolished, and despite some complaints about ruining people's diets because they were so good (I work with a lot of women), they were received and consumed with much enthusiasm.

I was a little concerned about the cookie to candy ratio because peanut butter m&ms are so much bigger than the regular ones, but these worked out great. I just made the cookies a little bigger than usual and watched them carefully in the oven. Delicious!

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 medium (11.4 oz) bag of peanut butter M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 375.

Blend the butter, vanilla, both types of sugar, and eggs until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Once the ingredients have formed a smooth dough, add the M&Ms. Mix by hand until the candy is evenly distributed throughout the dough.

On an ungreased cookie sheet, lay out tablespoon-sized balls. Make sure to leave space in between, as the cookies will grow.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Baking with a little help from our friend Evan Williams

My friend Pam and I made a momentous discovery the other day. Really, we felt that this discovery put us on the level of a Christopher Columbus or an Isaac Newton. Get this: when you mix butter and scotch*, it makes a butterscotch. Isn't that unbelievable? Thank God we got something out of four years of horrendously expensive Ivy League education.

It all started when Pam called me up to discuss our impending baking date. We knew that whatever we made should involve chocolate, and if I have to explain why, then you are probably a hopeless case like my brother-in-law. But Pam also had an open bottle of bourbon left over from a recent social engagement and, looking to put it to good use, we decided to incorporate it into our baking. We scoured the cookbooks for a good bourbon-involving recipe but, alas, we could not find one with the ingredients we had on hand. At last we decided to just make a regular chocolate cake and pour on some bourbon-y glaze.

We picked Dorie Greenspan's Almost-Fudge Gateau for our cake and found our glaze on the Internet. Dorie had recently come to Brown and given a wonderful lecture on the research she did for her book Paris Sweets. Sadly, she did not remember me from our epic meeting in November of 2009, but I'm sure she meets a zillion fans a year and she was extremely sweet and gracious as always, even as I acted like a huge embarrassing dork. However, I don't think that the gateau was all that special. Part of it may have been the way it looked - rather homely, especially after we punctured it all over with chopsticks. Part of it may have been that we didn't include Dorie's glaze. But I think I would have found it to be a little dense and dry if we hadn't added our own glaze and hence made our magical discovery.

As I said, we searched "bourbon cake glaze" pulled a random recipe off of the Internet, but it was a great success! We halved the recipe and had more than enough, which was lucky because couldn't stop eating the glaze out of the pot! It was deliriously yummy, and it soaked the cake all the way through the chopstick holes and made it moist and flavorful. We would recommend leaving the cake in the springform pan while you pour on the glaze so that it doesn't all run off the sides, and then leave it in the fridge for around five to ten minutes so that it solidifies somewhat but doesn't harden so much that you can't cut the cake out of the pan. Also, this is best served the day after, the flavor is much richer after it's had time to sit and soak for a bit. Sometimes, the best discoveries happen by accident!

*And a whole bunch of other crap.

Almost-Fudge Gateau
From Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Blogger's note: I've included her glaze, in case you want to try the gateau with that
  • 5 large eggs
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons coffee or water
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt


  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour, and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

3. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and add the chocolate, sugar, butter and coffee. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted. Transfer the bowl to the counter, and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.

4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks, one by one, then fold in the flour.

5. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan, and jiggle the pan from side to side to even the batter.

6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges, and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes, and the center will puff, too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake, and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack, and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack, and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

8. For the Glaze: First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack, so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

9. Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or over a pan of simmering water.

10. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

11. Pour the glaze over the cake, and smooth the top with an icing spatula. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, or slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.

Butterscotch Glaze from Bon Appetit

  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Stir 2 teaspoons water and baking soda in small bowl to dissolve baking soda. Bring sugar, buttermilk, butter, and corn syrup to boil in heavy 6-quart saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and melt butter. Reduce heat to medium-high. Stir in baking soda mixture (glaze will bubble). Boil until sauce is golden and slightly thickened, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon and vanilla. Pour on cake.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Adventures with the Ice Cream Maker: Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

    It's spring in Providence! What does that mean? It means that we get occasional sunny days to break up the monotony of the rain. It means that the day I made this, it was gorgeous out until a massive thundercrack was heard, sending all the students out on the Main Green scurrying inside as a dark cloud rolled in from the west. Then it poured for about an hour, then cleared up, then poured again, then the rain turned into hail (although all of this business was emanating from one cloud - beyond it, you could still see the sunny sky, and it was still 65 degrees), then back into rain, then it cleared up again and all was fresh and lovely until that evening, when it drizzled. So yeah, spring in Providence. Time for ice cream!

    This was the easiest ice cream I have ever made, bar none. I'm not wild about the chocolate/raspberry combination but I had a bunch of frozen raspberries left from my Thesis Cake and I wanted to use them up. Nevertheless, overall, I was quite pleased. The ice cream was very creamy and satisfying, with a good balance between the chocolate and raspberry flavors; I suppose this is one of those recipes where the quality of the cocoa powder you use makes all the difference. I also added chocolate chunks because, you know, that's how I do. If you are looking for a quick, easy, yummy ice cream that doesn't require a lot of ingredients or fuss, this is a great choice.

    Chocolate-Raspberry Ice Cream
    From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz


    1 1/2 Cup (375 ml) Heavy Cream
    5 Tbsp (40 g) Unsweetened Dutch-process Cocoa Powder
    2/3 Cup (130 g) Sugar
    2 Cups (240 g) Raspberries, fresh or frozen


    Whisk together the cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, rolling boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from the heat and add the raspberries. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

    Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. If you wish, press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

    Allow the mixture to chill thoroughly, then freeze it in an ice cream maker.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    MSC Club May: Tiramisu Cupcakes

    I'm back with the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club.  After taking the last few months off (there was a lot going on around the 15th of March and April, with Jewish holidays), I'm back and I'm really glad it is for tiramisu cupcakes.  I love, love, love tiramisu.  Whenever I am in a good Italian restaurant, I will usually order it for dessert.  I have never actually made tiramisu at home, although I have heard it is not so hard, but I have made Dorie's Tiramisu Cake (amazing -- you should totally try it!) and now these cupcakes.

    The recipe for these looks really complicated, but they were much easier to put together than it would seem from reading the recipe.  I made 1/3 of the recipe and got 5 cupcakes. I made the frosting and the coffe syrup (minus the marsala wine) this morning.  As you can see in the cupcake cross section, I didn't let the syrup sink in enough.  As a result, the coffee flavor was really concentrated in the top of cake.  The frosting was delicious -- very light, with a little something extra from the mascarpone cheese.  Theses tasted a lot like tiramisu, and I think they would have been even better if I let the syrup sink into the cupcakes.  I may try one in a few hours and see if it made any difference.  Thanks to Jen at The Rookie Baker for the great pick!

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Adventures with the Ice Cream Maker: Seasonal Strawberry Ice Cream

    I told you this was my own personal strawberry week!  There are lots and lots of strawberries all over Los Angeles now, so I have to keep thinking up things to make with them.  Last weekend, we went to the farmer's market and, of course, bought strawberries.  Then, we sat down to listen to some Cinco De Mayo music, and my son fell off his chair (he was very into the music) and right into the strawberries.  So the question is -- what can you do with crushed strawberries?  The answer -- ice cream!

    I looked in The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, to find a strawberry ice cream recipe, but there wasn't one.  I could not believe it!   He has many strawberry recipes, but nothing for straight strawberry ice cream, which is what I wanted.  However, after poking around on various blogs, I found a good recipe.  I don't normally go for strawberry ice cream, but this was really good.  It tasted really fresh -- like strawberries and cream.  I would recommend adjusting the sugar and lemon juice to your taste, so you get the right balance of tart and sweet.

    Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
    1 pound strawberries, washed and stemmed
    1 cup sugar, divided
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    2 cups heavy cream
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 vanilla bean pod (or 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract)
    4 egg yolks
    1. In a medium bowl, lightly mash strawberries with 1/4 cup sugar and the tablespoon of lemon juice.  Toss to combine and set aside.
    2. In a saucepan, stir together cream, remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt.  With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise and using the tip of the knife, scrape the seeds into the pot of cream (if using extract instead of vanilla bean, you will stir it in later); add the pod halves to the pot, too.  Bring the cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then turn the temperature all the way down to low.
    3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.  Slowly add a ladleful of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking continuously.  Slowly pour the yolk mixture back into the pot of cream and whisk until incorporated.  Bring the liquid back to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 – 6 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Strain the mixture through a sieve into a medium bowl.
    4. Puree the strawberry mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth [Note -- I left some chunks, because I thought it would be good, which it was].  Stir the strawberry puree into the cream mixture until completely incorporated.  If using vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean, stir extract in now.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming while cooling.  Place bowl in the refrigerator and allow the mixture to cool completely – at least two hours.  After it is well chilled, freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Strawberry Season is Here: Strawberry Shortcakes

    When you were little, did you ever play the jumprope game that went, "strawberry shortcake, cream on top, tell me the name of your sweetheart."  Then, you would say each letter of the alphabet and on whichever letter you messed up on, that was the letter of the first name of the person you were going to marry.  Every time I hear Strawberry Shortcake, I think of that rhyme.  

    Anyway, it is currently strawberry season here in LA and there are delicious strawberries everywhere!  I have made a bunch of different strawberry recipes that will make an appearance on this blog over the next few weeks.  I hope you will find some inspiration for your own strawberry season.

    These strawberry shortcakes were amazing, but what would you expect from Dorie Greenspan?  They were super easy to put together (I promise!) and then all you do is toss some strawberries (or any other fruits you like) with sugar and make some lightly sweetened whipped cream.  The one thing to remember is not to overwork the shortcake dough. It is better to have some lumps and dry places in the dough then the work it too much. 

    Here's the recipe, from Dorie's Baking from my Home to Yours, with great step by step photos.
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