Sunday, December 30, 2012

Further Adventures With Peppermint Extract

Here's something kind of fun that I made today - no reason, I just had nothing better to do and wanted to use up my peppermint extract from the previous post. They're pretty easy to make and look quite cute and impressive. Naturally, I didn't have any shortening in the house (duuuuh) so I substituted coconut oil, which seems to have done the trick. I also put a little corn syrup in the melted chocolate to make it nice n' shiny. I would make these again but next time I'd put in more peppermint extract, and not just because I'm trying to get rid of it - the peppermint flavor is not that strong. I might also try putting the peppermint extract in the chocolate. This is a yummy, simple, wintry treat, excellent for a cold day like today. You can find the recipe here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Make It Out of Peppermint Barky Barky

Hanukkah is over – time for the real holidays to begin! (Worst Jew ever, right here.) Time to turn off the Maccabeats and whatever the hell this is and turn on Elf. Yes, it’s true, I love cultural Christmas, in no small part because of the food, and I love the food in no small part because of peppermint bark. Over the last couple of years it’s become a tradition of mine to make peppermint bark, which is beautiful, festive, delicious, and simple to make. Well, the making part is simple; it’s the cutting that’s tricky. Every year, the pieces splinter apart when I cut them, or the white chocolate separates from the dark. No good!

This year at the family Hanukkah party (I knew that holiday was good for something!), my Aunt Nancy gave my cousin a little tin of yummy homemade peppermint bark. I asked her how she was able to cut it into such neat squares, and she divulged two secrets. One, add some cream to the dark chocolate. Two, don’t wait until it’s completely hardened to cut it. Now they weren’t that secret, as far as secrets go. I had seen some recipes that included the cream, and common sense told me to cut the bark when it was still a bit soft. Nevertheless, every recipe I’ve seen specifically instructs the baker to wait until the chocolate is totally hardened before cutting it. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to go with Aunt Nancy’s method. And I was so pleased with the results! At first I was concerned about the dark chocolate, because when I added the cream it became very thick and ganache-like, and it’s true that it didn’t spread as much as it should have, but it firmed up okay, and provided a much firmer base for the bark than just pure chocolate. I put the bark in the fridge for about 20 minutes, cut it, and then put it back for further hardening, and it turned out great. I put the pieces in glass jars, tied ‘em up with pretty ribbons, and gave them to current and former coworkers as holiday gifts. (For Kaitlyn, last seen being a vegan on this blog here, I made vegan peppermint bark, which is literally just dark chocolate studded with pieces of candy cane. I did look for vegan white chocolate but it was impossible to find – there was one place that sold it 3.5 ounces for $17, but that seemed excessive. And it turns out Kaitlyn doesn’t even like white chocolate so I’m glad I didn’t waste my money.) Anyway, it was a big success. To thank Aunt Nancy for the awesome tips, you should check out her Web site, it's pretty cool!: 

Aunt Nancy’s Peppermint Bark

One pound of dark chocolate
One pound of white chocolate
Half a cup of cream
Peppermint extract
Candy canes or peppermint candies, in pieces (I put them in a bag and crushed them repeatedly with the bottom of the tea kettle. You may find a more elegant method, but probably not one as satisfying.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Melt dark chocolate and cream in a double boiler; mix until the chocolate thickens. Add peppermint extract to taste. Spread the dark chocolate mixture on the aluminum foil and refrigerate until mostly firm.
Melt white chocolate in a double boiler; add peppermint extract to taste. Pour on top of dark chocolate sheet and sprinkle on peppermint pieces. Refrigerate until mostly firm. Remove from fridge and cut into pieces, then return to fridge until completely firm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peace on Earth

Right now, the world could use a little extra peace.  If these cookies help us get there, all the better.  If these delicious salty, sweet chocolate cookies help spur us to action to make the world a better place, to bridge the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be, then these cookies will have really earned their keep.

These world peace cookies, from Dorie Greenspan, were my favorite cookies that she made in her shop.  It is awesome that they can be made at home and turn out just as well.  The dough is a little crumbly, but if you can get past that, they are tender and deeply chocolatly with a hit of salt that puts them over the top.  These are some of the best cookies I have ever made or eaten and I hope they bring the world one step closer to the peace it so desperately needs.  You can find the recipe here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spicy Hanukkah Cookies

Hanukkah is here!  The holiday of all things fried in oil.  You might expect some traditional jelly donuts or other fried treats, but sometimes after a huge meal with latkes (fried potato pancakes), you just want something not too heavy or sweet to cut all that oil.

When I got this month's Bon Appetit, and I saw that these cookies were on the cover, I thought they would be the perfect accompaniment to a Hanukkah meal.  It was even better when I saw that they were Dorie Greenspan cookies, since Dorie's recipes have never failed me.  Dorie calls these Speculoos Cookie Buttons, which is an adorable name for a delicious cookie.  They are slightly crisp but tender, with a little crunch from the sugar (which I did blue and white for Hanukkah) and a sweet and spicy kick.  Dorie puts a glaze on them, which I skipped because I ran out of time, but I am sure would be delicious.

You can find the recipe for the cookies here.  I hope you add them to your Hanukkah recipe file or make them all year round.  Happy Hanukkah!  I hope you and your family have lots of light in this dark time of year.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review: Dorie Time!

Happy Thanksgiving, hooray hooray hooray! The Baking Sisters had a wonderful Thanksgiving, because, for the first time since Rebecca’s son Leo was born, we are all together! Hooray hooray hooray, again! Usually when Rebecca is in New York we are prevented from eating delicious things because of time constraints, or Passover, or whatever. But as true Dorie Greenspan fans, we took this as our opportunity to go to her new store Beurre & Sel. 

The store itself is a wee little booth in the Essex Street Market. After a scrumptious lunch of grilled cheese from Saxelby Cheesemongers, we commenced the real reason for our visit to the Lower East Side. There were four notoriously un-tough taste-testers: Rebecca, Sarah, Rebecca’s son Simon (age 4) and Rebecca’s husband Adam (age 34, not a fan of chocolate). At Beurre & Sel, there were six choices of cookie, plus tubes of cookies sticking out of the wall. If you are having trouble visualizing that, here is a picture:

The cookie choices were a rose macaroon, a sable, a World Peace Cookie, a blueberry jammer, a pumpkin cookie, and some blondie thing with coconut or some crap. The coconut one was obviously out, and usually the pumpkin one would be too, but since Adam doesn’t like chocolate and wouldn’t try the World Peace cookie, we bought him the pumpkin one. (Simon isn’t picky so he would try all of them.) Here are our thoughts:

The jammer was a very pleasant surprise. It’s the sort of thing we probably wouldn’t have bought if our options had been more abundant, but it was in fact a highly tasty cookie. It was a cross between a thick linzer cookie and a coffee cake, with a slightly salty aftertaste and a delicious blueberry jam filling.

We’ve made sables a number of times, but they’ve never come out as well as these ones. They were much bigger than your average sable from Baking From My Home to Yours and tasted pretty similar, but the texture was so much better; tender without the usual crumbly action that accompanies our sables. This was Sarah’s favorite cookie at Beurre & Sel.

At last – the famous World Peace cookie! Once again, it was a lot bigger than the ones we make, but hey, more for us! It featured the well-known and well-loved mixture of sweet and salty. Considering what has been going on in the Middle East, we feel that these cookies may be more relevant than ever. This was Rebecca and Simon’s favorite cookie, and we also bought a tube of them, which were the familiar size. We also bought tubes of espresso chocolate chip, which was good but nothing to write home about (though we have sentimental attachment to them because they were the first thing we ever posted on the blog), and mint chocolate chip, which Rachel loved.

We didn’t try the pumpkin but Adam seemed to enjoy it.

So there you have it. A wonderful week of Baking Sisters fun in New York. And although we didn’t get to see Dorie, we would like to give her a shoutout for being the best! Dorie, if you are reading this, we love you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cranberry Bread: A Thanksgiving Morning Treat

One of the reasons that the baking sisters started this blog was to stay connected when I moved across the country.  However far I get away from NYC, my heart is always there and I am heart broken to watch what is going on in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Please consider making a donation to the Red Cross, Bend the Arc or the Educational Alliance (they do lots of fabulous work on the lower east side, both to address immediate needs and find long term solutions to poverty). 

One of the best things about New York City is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and one of our family Thanksgiving traditions is to go to the parade (outside, not watching on TV or in someone's apartment like wimps) and then go home, frozen, and eat hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.  As we got older, we were less interested in going to the parade, but the hot chocolate and cookie tradition remained.  This year, we are taking my son to the parade for the first time, and we will undoubtably need that hot chocolate and cookies afterwards.

However, if you are not as wedded to this particular tradition, this cake would make an excellent Thanksgiving morning treat.  The tart cranberries are seasonally appropriate, and they offset the sweetness of the cake nicely.  You can make it ahead and it freezes nicely, so you don't have to add it to your list of things to make on Thanksgiving day.  Also, this is technically called "bread" so you can eat it for breakfast.  You can find the recipe here on the Baking Bites blog.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What's Black and Orange and Sweet All Over?

Hi all! I'm happy to report for all those concerned (none of you) that Rachel and I are safe and sound. Those of us on the Upper West Side were fortunate not to suffer any damage from the hurricane, and now we're doing our best to help those who did. If you feel so moved, please donate to the Red Cross before reading today's post.

There were many sad things about the hurricane, one of which was that it coincided with Halloween. Luckily, Chris Christie is on it; he has, by executive order, officially proclaimed Halloween in New Jersey to be next Monday, the 5th. Here in New York, however, it was still on October 31st, which meant the slutty pumpkins were out in full force, the kids were trick-or-treating at stores along Amsterdam Avenue, and some doodoohead in our apartment building stole the entire bowl of candy we left out when none of us were home. It also meant it was time for a special Halloween edition of Baked Goods Friday at the Oxford University Press office! After many successful years of Halloween cupcakes, brownies, and Oreo cheesecakes, I knew that I needed something thematic. I had been wanting to try my hand at black-and-white cookies anyway, so I thought, AHA! What if I adapted them to make and ORANGE cookies? For black and orange are the traditional Halloween colors.

So I made a batch of the black and white cookies from Baked Explorations, but those are best not discussed (let's just say that I ran out of flour and had to substitute 1 cup of semolina for a cup of all-purpose. And that was one of the less unfortunate things I had to do. I never even bothered frosting them, though they tasted rather good, kind of like cornbread. Who knew.) Then I turned to good ole King Arthur Flour, mostly because I had all the ingredients onhand that I needed for their icing. Very scientific. Apparently black and white cookies are sometimes called half-moon cookies, which for some reason seems unbelievably goyische. Anyway, it was pretty straightforward. The cookies came out nice and cakey, which as everyone knows is the main criteria by which a good black and white cookie must be judged. The frosting never really hardened; I don't know that it was supposed to but that's really one of my favorite parts of your typical New York deli black-and-white. Also, the white (I mean orange) frosting didn't taste that good. Maybe it was the dyes from the frosting - Wilton burgundy mixed with Wilton yellow - but it had a bit of chemical aftertaste. Oh well, I guess that's what you get when you choose a frosting based on the ingredients that are already in your cabinet. The chocolate, however, was delicious, and they were both very easy to spread. Of course they came apart in between Amsterdam Avenue and the office, as cookies tend to do, but they were still a big hit at the office. You can find the recipe here.

P.S. If you were looking for an answer to the riddle in the title of this post, it was Halloween. Yes. Halloween. AahOOOOOOOH! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Red Velvet Cookies

Are you on Pintrest?  At first, I didn't really get it, but in the last few months I have really gotten into it.  It is actually so much easier to find things after I pin the picture than organizing them into bookmarks on my browser toolbar.  Plus, you get to see things like these delectable cookies -- red velvet cookies with white chocolate chips.  After seeing these pinned somewhere, I knew I had to make them.  I enjoy a good red velvet treat every now and then and these looked so pretty and delicious.

These cookies were pretty standard to put together.  The only strange step was to pour some white vinegar over the creamed butter and sugar.  It smelled pretty bad and I was wondering how the cookies would taste.  Luckily you could neither taste nor smell the vinegar in the final product, so don't worry.  I love the way these look.  They are such a beautiful color and I love the red and white contrast.  You can find the recipe here (I used regular flour since that is what I had).  I hope you enjoy these cookies and don't forget to pin them!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: I'm Back!

Life is slowly returning to the new normal -- life with two kids and a traveling husband -- so I have finally been able to return to Baked Sunday Mornings.  The group is actually now baking from two books: Baked Explorations and the new book, Baked Elements.  These are from the latter book.  I have been following along, but the last few recipes have been more complicated than I could do at the time.  However, when I saw these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip scones, I thought they would be the perfect thing to mark my return.

These were a snap to put together and full of delicious ingredients.  Sometimes, scones can be dry, but I think the addition of the peanut butter and the chewiness of the oats keep them nice and moist.  I actually thought mine were a little underdone when I looked at them, but it turns out that that is just how they look.  I really enjoyed this combination.  The peanut butter is not overwhelming and you can really taste each of the ingredients.  The only thing I would change is that the scones were huge!  I would cut them into smaller pieces, because I'm not sure anyone can finish one in one sitting.  You can find the recipe here and be sure to check back to see what other bakers have done.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ethnic Flavor: Aaaaples and Crisco for Rosh Hashanah

So the chagim (the many Jewish holidays that come one after the other in September and October) are finally over. Every year, it seems like they’ll never end, and then they do, and you’re like, huh, a small part of me misses them. But it’s a pretty small part.

One of the more fun parts about the chagim is the eating. Well, not on Yom Kippur. But whether you’re sitting at the dining room table or in a hut, there are plenty of festive holiday meals. This year, Rosh Hashanah was made doubly special by the fact that it fell on our dad’s birthday, and our mom requested that I make him a special holiday/birthday cake. (It was also a co-cake for our Uncle Joel, whose birthday had been the previous week.) I thought about it for a good long while and then – eureka! – remembered a tasty cake that my friend Nathan once shared with me when we came back to college after Rosh Hashanah senior year. Obviously it was a very delicious cake, to have stuck with me for the last two years. It was an apple cake, which is traditional for Rosh Hashanah. (We eat apples and honey for a sweet new year, get it?) So I e-mailed him and he kindly sent me the recipe. I knew it would be delicious but I wanted to add a little spruce to it, it being a double-birthday cake and all. Caramel glaze or frosting seemed the natural thing, but because we were having meat, I was concerned that it wouldn’t work out, as caramel is rather dependent on cream and butter. Luckily, I was able to dig up a surprisingly delicious recipe for vegan caramel frosting. It used the dreaded Crisco, for which I normally would substitute margarine, but I figured that one probably shouldn’t screw around with vegan recipes, which are already dicey at best. And then it was lucky that I had made the frosting, because we pretty much had to glue the cake back together when it came out of the pan, and it looked much nicer frosted.

The most fun part about this recipe was getting to use my dad’s apple peeler-corer-slicer, the latest in apple peeling-coring-slicing technology. It took me an embarrassingly long time and the help of my heroic father to learn how to use it, but once I did, it was so fun! I highly recommend using one if you are going to make a recipe with a lot of apples, like this one.

Me, coring/peeling/slicing apples


The cake, despite being in pieces, came out just as yummy as I had remembered it being in the fall of 2010. There were a lot of desserts at that festive holiday meal, but this cake was by far the most popular! Serve it at your next apple-related event! (Perhaps a Steve Jobs memorial service? Haw haw haw.)

Ruth Margolin's Apple Cake

5 apples (tart, like Granny Smith)
2 t cinnamon
5 T sugar

3 C flour
3 t baking powder
2 C sugar
2-½ t vanilla
1 C oil
1 t salt
4 eggs
¼ C orange juice

Peel the apples, and cut into slices.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon and the 5 T sugar, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the remaining ingredients together until smooth.

Grease a large tube pan.  (Either use a Baker’s Joy type spray that includes flour, or grease the pan and then dust it with sugar.)

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.  Place half the apple mixture on top.  Pour on remaining batter, spreading to cover apples.  Top with remaining apples.  (There will be some sweetened juice in the apple bowl; you can drizzle it over the apples.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 1-¼ hours.  Let stand 15 minutes and then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

You can find the frosting recipe here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chocolate Swirls of Deliciousness

So, my maternity leave is fast coming to an end.  Faster than I would really like.  I don't think I am cut out to be a full time stay at home mom, but I did really enjoy being home with the baby these past few months.  It was sad to drop him off at daycare this morning, even though I know he will be well cared for and even though it was only for a couple of hours (today).

For all the nice things about maternity leave, one thing I really didn't have a lot of time to do was bake.  Almost everything I posted these last few months, I made before the baby came.  However, since I will be going back to work next week, I decided it was time to go back to baking.  Also, there is nothing like a little (or a lot) of chocolate to take the sting out.

I have had my eye on these chocolate swirl biscuits from Bakerella for a while.  Please check out the photos of this recipe on her site.  You will want to eat them off the screen!  Since we were out of eggs, and this recipe only calls for one yolk in the glaze, which is also optional, it seemed like a good time to try them.  

I am one of those people who can be intimidated by working with dough, especially rolling it out and then rolling it into a jelly roll shape.  However, I found this dough to be easy to work with and these biscuits are very forgiving.  Part of their charm is that they don't have to look perfect!  It was fairly straightforward to roll out the dough (which I did on wax paper to help with the next step), spread on the filling, roll them up jelly roll style and slice.  Then it was just a matter of waiting until they were cool enough to eat!

These were delicious.  The dough is not very sweet, and so it balances nicely with the chocolate and sugar in the filling.  I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate, because that is what I had and I thought they were fantastic.  They are soft like a biscuit, with chocolate deliciousness in every bite.  Next time, I might put in some cinnamon just to spice things up.  And yes, there will be a next time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Final Baked Goods Friday (For Some)

Big news in Baking Sisters land - I started a new job at Oxford University Press this week. It's going well so far, with one exception. My reputation as a baker had apparently preceded me, which is great, but when I brought in Dorie's classic molasses cookies for Baked Goods Friday, no one was eating them! I was confused and dismayed, until my cubiclemate said to me, "It's so funny that you put it out right when you got here. Usually, people wait until after lunch." I, of course, replied, "Don't worry - I will train you to eat cheesecake at 9 a.m." Luckily, all the cookies were gone by 12:30, but it was a little touch-and-go for a while there. 

It was made especially galling by the fact that a number of my friends back at Basic were contacting me all day and telling me how sad they were not to have their weekly sweet fix. Now there's an office that really knows how to appreciate its 9 a.m. cheesecake. I knew that I had to make a special treat for my last day of work, and I settled on a cake recipe from Amy's Bread that had gotten rave reviews when I made for Rachel's graduation party. I don't usually make cakes for Baked Goods Friday because they're hard to transport, but I figured that this was worth it.

Here's the trick about this cake (or rather, this cake's frosting) - it's made with poured fondant, so you must remember to make that at least 24 hours before you want to make the frosting. The cake itself is pretty straightforward and quite delicious. It's got a moist density that reminded Rachel and me of the Entenmann's chocolate cupcakes we used to have on our half-birthdays. (Appropriately enough, my last day at Basic, the 28th, was also my half-birthday.) Those cupcakes were especially fun because of the stiff, thick layer of icing on top that you could peel off and eat separately. Ostensibly, the poured fondant is supposed to make the icing on this cake hard as well (although not as creepily, artificially hard as the Entenmann's kind), but it mostly tasted like regular frosting to me. I didn't make it pink, because what's the point? 

As you'll see from the photograph, I also tried to make the very dignified and classy-looking Basic logo out of Betty Crocker's finest electric blue frosting-in-a-tube, which I had bought at Morton Williams at 7:30 a.m. that morning. It didn't go that well, but whatever, it's the sentiment that counts. Oxford University Press, get ready to get fat!

You can find the cake recipe here and the frosting recipe here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Roasted Peach Plum Frozen Yogurt

I'm having a love affair with my ice cream maker lately.  Don't get me wrong, I always love it, but in the past week, I have made four different kinds of frozen yogurt and sorbet and there is one more ice cream flavor on my list.  Most of these frozen treats were made out of necessity (of course) since we often buy much more fruit than we can reasonably eat at the farmer's market.  I can't help it.  The berries and stone fruit look so delicious and I can't help feeling like they might be gone at any moment (except that they are there the next week).  Fruit starts to get over ripe and out comes the ice cream maker!

This frozen yogurt is a result of a massive number of peaches and plums that were sitting on the counter waiting a bit too long to be eaten.  I did a bunch of googling and was inspired by a Roasted Peach and Plum frozen yogurt that I found.  However, it had a bunch of steps, so I just used it as a jumping off point.  This frozen yogurt was so, so delicious.  Roasting the fruit really brought out the flavor and the sweetness of the fruit was offset by the tang of the Greek yogurt.  If you have some peaches and plum sitting around, make this!  Even if they are not the greatest farmer's market fruit, the roasting should make them taste delicious.

Roasted Peach Plum Frozen Yogurt
Sliced peaches and plums, enough to cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup of sugar (adjusted for the sweetness of the fruit)
1 cup Greek Yogurt

Put the sliced peaches and plums in a pan, cover with brown sugar and roast at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until soft.

Cool the fruit to room temperature.  Put the fruit, sugar and yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth.

Chill in the fridge and then freeze in your ice cream maker.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Last Days of Summer Fruit Tart

So, there has been quite a lot going on here.  In July, we welcomed our second son, who decided to arrive 4 weeks early.  Life with a toddler and a new born is quite hectic, leaving little time for baking.  In addition, our wonderful friends and family have been feeding us practically every night and I haven't been in the kitchen in weeks.  I think it will be a little more time before I go back to baking, but I thought I would share this tart with you before summer fruit is completely done.

I made this tart in back in June.  It is a great combination of slightly sweet tart shell, creamy pastry cream and sweet/tart berries and fruit.  One of the great things about this tart is that you can pretty much use any fruit you want.  I chose peaches, strawberries and raspberries since I love that combination and this tart was enjoyed by all.  I made the glaze with strawberry jam (homemade, recipe to come).

This is a Dorie Greenspan special -- the Classic Berry Tart.  You can find the recipe in Baking from My Home to Yours or here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Passover Surprise (The Good Kind)

Okay, we admit it, August has been a pretty weak month for the Baking Sisters. Rebecca has an infant and a toddler so she gets a pass; Rachel has been in Los Angeles helping take care of the aforementioned infant and toddler, so she also gets a pass. Basically, I have been unacceptably lame when it comes to posting. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been unacceptably lame when it comes to baking, no no no! So I’ll do my best to catch y’all up with my exciting baking adventures this week.

You know what’s the best? When you try a delicious baked good, exclaim over its baked goodness, look up the recipe, and then discover that it is, of all things, kosher for Passover. This is what happened recently in my office. Our office recently moved, and while we are now far away from most of the delicious food in the Murray Hill/Flatiron area, we are a mere block away from the delicious Francois Payard Bakery. One of my coworkers bought a fudgy chocolate cookie with nuts from FPB, and was nice enough to share it. It was so good – a little chewy, a lot fudgy. Another coworker managed to find the recipe on New York Magazine, and – behold! – it was flourless! It’s seriously awesome when that happens. So it became immediately apparent what I would be bringing in for Baked Goods Friday that week.

These cookies are seriously easy, like simple arithmetic or a loose woman. The only thing that isn’t totally straightforward is the amount of egg whites, as I learned from reading the many helpful comments on the recipe. I started out with two and, when the dough still seemed too dry, added a third. This is obviously less than the recipe calls for, but even so my cookies had a chewier, more meringue-like consistency than the ones from FPB. But I don’t think it made them taste worse, just different. Also, I know that the Baking Sisters are as a rule opposed to including nuts in baked goods, but honestly these cookies have so few ingredients that there’s barely anything in them without the nuts. I felt the nuts made it a little more substantial. (Oh, did I mention that without the nuts, there's no fat? God these cookies just keep getting better and better.) But if you’re a purist, do whatever you want, I don’t care. Just be sure to enjoy these cookies next time Passover rolls around, or even before then!

Fran├žois Payard’s Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
2 3/4 cups walnut halves
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant.
(1) Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them. Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320. Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
(2) In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen).
(3) Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Time to Go Bananas

As you all know, dear loyal readers, Sarah has instituted Baked Goods Fridays at her office, to celebrate the end of each week, show off her baking prowess, and (let's be honest) in the beginning to make people like her. However, I appreciate the impulse behind celebrating the end of each week. So this summer, when I was teaching in Drisha's five week July Institute, I decided that I would do Baked Goods Fridays for my students, as a way to motivate them and to reward them for their hard work all week.

Over the course of the summer, I made some classics (like this one, this one and this one) but this was the new recipe I was most excited about. I love banana bread, when it's done well, and I made three batches of this one-- one for a friend who had a baby, one for a friend I visited in Boston, and one for my students. All three were delicious!

I got this recipe from my dear friend Gila, who used to be my co-teacher until she up and left me to move to Israel. (I highly recommend her blog, which is not about baking but is still very entertaining and can be found here.) I like the chocolate chips, which cuts the sweetness of the banana bread, and the way the top is a little crunchy when it comes out of the oven. The one annoying thing about banana bread is that because it's so dense, it has to bake for a long time, but in my opinion, it is well worth the wait. You can fine the recipe below.

2 very ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup plus 1 TB orange juice
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

You can also add chocolate chips (which I did) and walnuts (which I did not.) I also recommend cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 20 minutes (if you're using a loaf pan - I use bake in something flatter so it's shorter cooking time.) Let cool before slicing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Berries for Baby!

Hi from California! What is Sarah doing in California? Well, the Baking Sisters have some very exciting news - Rebecca had a baby boy last week! He was a month early but the little dude just couldn't wait to see the world and all the sweet things it has to offer. Today, in what my brother-in-law refers to as "catered surgery," he had his bris, or circumcision, which inducts him into the covenant of the Jewish people. Not much fun for the little guy, or really for anyone who doesn't want to watch an old Jew take a scalpel to an eight-day-old's genitals. But you gotta do what you gotta do, and now he is healing nicely. Plus, he got a name! His English name is Leo Evan, and his Hebrew name is Leor Chaim. And he is super-cute! 

Since a bris is a Jewish event, of course there has to be a lot of eating. And since this is California, said eating should involve fruit (especially since Adam doesn't like chocolate)! And since this is the Baking Sisters, that fruit should be in pie form! Newly minted big brother Simon and I went through Rebecca's cookbooks and picked out some recipes with enticing-looking pictures, and we settled on a berry pie from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert. Yesterday Simon and his relatives went to the Culver City Farmers' Market, and we bought the most delicious berries imaginable. It seemed almost a waste to put them in a pie, but into a pie they would go. 

And they definitely paid off! The pie went so fast, and it was not even runny, which is often a peril with fruit pies. It was so simple to throw together, plus it not too sweet, which was good for a 9 a.m. event. You can put in whatever kind of fruit you fancy (I substituted one cup of raspberries for blackberries, though that was mostly because these were the best blackberries I've ever eaten and I wanted to eat them raw.) The fruit was bright and amazingly flavorful; I really think it made a big difference! 

Mixed Berry Pie
from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz (pg. 80)

Pie dough (recipe can be found here)

2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca flour or cornstarch 
1 tablespoon lemon juice or kirsch

1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon whole milk or cream
1 tablespoon coarse crystal or granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll out one disk of dough into a 14-inch circle. Drape it into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim away the excess dough, leaving a slight overhang. 

In a large bowl, gently mix the berries with the 1/2 cup of sugar, tapioca flour or cornstarch, and lemon juice or kirsch. Transfer the berry mixture to the dough-lined plate and distribute in an even layer.

Roll out the second dough disk into a 14-inch circle. Moisten the exposed edges of the dough in the pie plate with water, then drape the second dough circle over the top. Working all the way around the pie, tuck the upper edges under the lower dough edges and crimp to seal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk or cream. Brush the top crust generously with the egg wash and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Pierce the top crust with a paring knife in six places.

Bake until the top crust is browned and the filling juices are thick and bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, loosely drap a sheet of aluminum foil over the top during baking.

Let the pie cool for about 1 hour before serving.
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