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.
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