Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Strawberry Thumbprint Cookie Squares

Making thumbprint cookies has always been on my to do list. Along with cleaning my apartment, learning another language and finding that jacket I lost four months ago. It's no big shock that I got to the cookies first.But - aha! - I cheated. My old standby, bar cookies, came through here. Instead of forming and shaping the cookies individually I pressed the dough in to a pan, scored the squares and placed a thumbprint in each one. Brilliant, right?!

Really time saving. After they're baked, you recut the lines, and have yourself 28 cookies!
And of course, they don't need the additional drizzle of chocolate, but it really can't hurt.
I really loved the idea of these cookies, and the flavor of all the ingredients combined, but I think the cookie itself was too crumbly. In fact, I took these to the office, and was able to deduce who had eaten them by the crumb trail from the cookies to their desks.

Tip of the Day: Once your recipe is in the oven, you still want to double check to see if there are any instructions on cooling - when to remove from the pan and how long to wait.

Recipe: (adapted from Bars and Squares)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup icing sugar
1 cups (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2/3 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Combine the flour, sugar, butter, vanilla and egg until well mixed.
Knead the dough until smooth.
Press the dough evenly in to a greased 9x13" pan. Score the dough in to 28 squares.
Make a well in the center of each square with your thumb or the handle of a wooden spoon.
Fill each indentation with jam.
Bake on 400 F for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.
Let cool, then drizzle melted chocolate on top.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chocolate Bread Pudding

A few weeks ago, I was confronted with an entire spare loaf of challah one Sunday. I could have frozen it, of course, but I already had a challah in the freezer, and, if you saw the size of my freezer, you would know I certainly couldn't get another one in. So instead I thought aha! Bread Pudding! I've never actually made bread pudding before, but since I knew it started with a loaf of bread, how hard could it be? Turns out...not hard.
Start out, like I did, with a loaf of challah bread (or another similar bread). I cut it in to sort of cubes.
Then, in a sort of baked french toast way, you make the liquid it soaks in. This one has melted butter, eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar. Sounds healthy, right? And that's before the chocolate is added.
So after layering the challah and chocolate chips, I pour the mixture on top and let it sit to absorb before I bake it, about ten minutes.

Then I stick it in the oven, but tightly covered with foil. My guess for that reason is because everything is already cooked - i.e. the challah - we don't want it to burn before the egg mixture bakes.
We let it bake uncovered for the last ten minutes to get a little brown, and then let it cool.

All that's left after that is the chocolate ganache drizzle. I couldn't possibly give you my recipe for that, because I just mix the chocolate and cream (except I used soy milk instead of cream and it was delicious)

Overall, my first foray in to bread pudding was good, except I wouldn't really call this dessert. Minus the copious amounts of chocolate in this recipe, it's more of a breakfast/brunch food than dessert. I wouldn't really want this after a big meal - it's dense and eggy and bready - and while I'm not sure if those last two are real words, I think you know what I mean. Right?

Tip of the Day: Every dish will cool down quicker on a metal cooling rack. If you don't have tht, find something that will raise the dish off the counter so air can circulate underneath.

Recipe: (adapted from

4 cups milk, warmed (I used soy, any will do)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar

6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 loaf challah bread, cubed
1 cup chocolate chips
chocolate ganache

Mix the milk, melted butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together.
In a 9x13" dish lay 2/3 of the challah cubes down and sprinkle with half the chocolate chips. Top with remaining challah and chocolate chips.
Carefully pour the egg mixture over the challah, covering evenly.
Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, until most of the mixture is absorbed.
Wrap the dish tightly with foil and baked on 325 F for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until browned. Remove and let cool.
Drizzle with chocolate ganache - I made mine out of soy milk and semi-sweet chocolate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bundt Cake Collapse

Before our short Chanukah interlude, I was discussing bundts, and how they often have some difficulty dropping out of the pan. Well, that was nothing compared to this cake. Though perhaps, this was my fault.

I set out to make a chocolate peanut butter bundt cake. But, as I am super human (duh), I decided not to follow a specific recipe, but to mix and match several recipes and create my own, supercalafragilisticexpialidocious chocolate peanut butter cake.

That didn't go so well.

I made the chocolate batter, and made the peanut butter filling. After putting about half the batter in, I piped the peanut butter filling and covered it with the rest of the batter.
I assumed it would sink a little, but I didn't know it would make it all the way through and stick to the bottom of my pan.
So I was nervous from the start about it coming out, despite the fact that I greased it well.
I tried my best to loosen it with a knife, running it around the edge. I then flipped it over, holding my breath, hoping for the best.
The best did not happen. This is the bottom half of the cake.

And never the twain shall meet.

Well...not on my watch.
So after I managed to reassemble the Frankenstein cake, I still knew I couldn't serve it like this.

But, with a little frosting....
Ok a lot of frosting...
...I had a masterpiece! Ok, well, a somewhat presentable cake. That still tasted delicious.

Now, I'm definitely not going to give you the recipe I followed, here are some you can try yourself if this gives you a hankering for a chocolate peanut butter cake:

Culinary in the Desert
Smitten Kitchen
Smells Like Home

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baked Jelly Doughnut Muffins

While I'm all for having a deep-fried jelly doughnut every night of Chanukah (unfortunately I missed Sunday and today), I understand that it's probably not the healthiest option.

Instead, I present you with baked doughnut muffins! Of course, you may think without the deep frying, these lose their significance for Chanukah, but there is oil in the batter - and Chanukah is about oil, not frying!
Now, I'm not going to pretend that if you close your eyes, that this tastes like a jelly doughnut, but they are sweet, delicious, and slightly healthier. My jelly sank a little, probably because I didn't have quite enough flour in the batter. Measuring isn't my strong point. Eating is.
Whatever resemblance these do have to doughnuts, comes from the quick bath they take in granulated sugar while still warm. I gave them about a minute after I pulled them out of the oven to cool down, but they're still pretty hot when you do it, so you'll need strong fingers.
If you're not a jelly fan (which I am, and obviously used raspberry), you could always leave that out. Tip of the Day: After 24 hours, the sugar coating on this begins to crust a little, so you'd better eat them all up quickly!

3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup jelly
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Beat together the sugar and egg until pale yellow.
Add in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir to combine.
Pour in the oil, milk and vanilla, and mix until combined
Fill 12 muffin cups halfway full (don't use paper liners!), and place a teaspoon of jelly on top.
Top with remaining batter.
Bake on 350F for 15 to 18 minutes, until done.
After removing from oven, roll each muffin in sugar and place on wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Things That Are Hotter Than Fries

I've never deep-fried anything before. But in the spirit of the third day of Chanukah, let me share with you my first attempt. I made doughnuts!
One of the most important things you need when deep frying is the right pot. (You can also get a deep fryer for relatively cheap if you think you'll be doing this a lot). It needs to be both wide and deep - wide because you can only fry one layer at a time, and deep because you need enough room for a few inches of oil and a couple inches headspace at the top to allow for splashing.

You also need a deep-fry/candy thermometer - I got a new one after the demise of my first.
The one I got had conveniently labeled temperatures for stages of candy and deep frying.
My recipe said 365 F for the drop doughnut, which made them slightly hotter than the 350F that was labeled fries. Doughnuts are way hotter than fries. I knew it.

This recipe is really simple. No yeast, no waiting around to rise, no kneading. So with laziness, also comes some sacrifice. This isn't a traditional doughnut, it's more of a cake doughnut. But rolled in glaze, it's just as delicious!

Once I dropped them in by teaspoonful (they will expand), the frying began. At first I was worried I would splash hot oil on myself, and even went to change in to long sleeves before beginning, but my fears were unfounded. I just used a spoon to lower the doughnuts into the oil instead of dropping them in. I also had help from my trusty assistants Mom and Shira. [Hi!]
And I watched as they turned a beautiful golden brown. Some of them needed a little help staying below the surface, and I was happy to assist.
I probably did about ten at a time, plopping them in one by one and waiting for them to get just the right shade of golden brown. Then I pulled them out and let them cool on a paper towel. My assistants and I tried one. Just right.
Next, of course, I wanted a glaze. I could have just rolled them (still warm) in powdered or granulated sugar, but that just wasn't going to cut it for me. So I mixed up a glaze of confectioner's sugar and milk, adding more liquid or more sugar until I got the consistency I wanted. Then I rolled the cooled doughnuts around, and let them set.
Doughnuts! But, the deep-fried treats aren't exactly recommended for snacking eight days a week, so if you're looking for a (slightly) healthier alternative, come back on Wednesday for another Chanukah treat.

Tip of the Day: If you're buying a new thermometer, make sure you get one that clips on to the edge of the pot so you don't have to worry about holding it up. And invest in a good slotted spoon to remove the doughnuts from the pot when they're done!

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
3 tbsps oil

powdered sugar
cinnamon sugar

Fill a large pot with oil, leaving about a two inch headspace at the top. Oils that are good for deep-frying include canola, sunflower, peanut and safflower. Heat over a medium flame.
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center and add in the egg, milk and oil, mixing until smooth.
Before beginning frying, the oil should reach about 365 F. If it is too cold, the doughnuts will absorb a lot of the oil, and if it is too hot, they will burn on the outside while still being raw on the inside.
Carefully lower by teaspoonful the batter into the oil. You can do several at a time as long as they are not crowded. Leave them to brown on each side, turning if necessary. (They may bob around by themselves). When golden brown all around, remove from oil and place on paper towel to drain.
If rolling in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, do when hot.
If coating in a glaze, then wait til cool, and cover.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Bundt Cake

Everything's better in a bundt. Right? No decoration needed, one pan, done. The only bad thing about bundts? They have to come out. Of the pan. That doesn't always work too well. And in that respect, bundts have not been my friends lately.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I"ll begin.

This is a simple, rustic recipe for apple cake. It begins with, as all good apple cakes should, fresh, cored, peeled, chopped apples. Four to be exact.
There used to be more apple, but I had to try a few pieces to make sure it was good. A piece from each apple of course. Turns out, I probably should have tried more.
Because once I'd mixed up everything else - eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon (say that in one breath) - it became apparent that there was a very large amount of apple for not much batter.
But, rather than attempt to rectify the situation, I forged on instead. And was rewarded with a beautiful smelling kitchen. And a cake that did not appear to want to leave it's cozy home.
After a brief argument [ahem, disagreement] with my mother over the best time to "decant" - while it's hot or while it's cold, I ran a knife around the edge of the cake and flipped it over, holding my breath.
After some slight coaxing and tapping there was a plop, and out popped my cake, with a few dents and bruises that remain cleverly hidden in this photo. Why I bothered to cleverly hide what I then openly shared is a question for another time. I'm complicated.

Tip of the Day: After consulting numerous internet references, the war wages on: remove a bundt when hot or cold? Experts urge both, I remain confused, Mom still thinks she won. Anyone care to weigh in?

(adapted from The Food Librarian)

4 large green apples [I would recommend cutting 4 large apples and then eating 1]
2 eggs
3/4 c oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda

Peel, core and dice the apples.
Beat the eggs and oil together until foamy.
Stir in the sugar and vanilla.
Add in the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
Mix until just combined, then stir in the apples.
Pour into a well-greased bundt pan, and bake on 350F for 40 to 50 minutes, or until tests done.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snickerdoodle Pie

I've made snickerdoodles twice, and I've made snickerdoodle blondies, so why not try out snickerdoodle pie?
This recipe starts by coating the (store-bought!) pie crust with a cinnamon sugar mixture - to mimic the cinnamon sugar coating of a traditional snickerdoodle cookie.
Then comes the filling, a little bit like a giant sugar cookie...
And then you pour on the sticky, caramel topping!
Once it's baked up, it's a golden brown, delicious looking cookie pie. It reminds me a little of my chocolate chip pie - only because it's turned a classic cookie into a pie!And like the chocolate chip pie, it's really best served warm. And with a scoop of ice cream. Now I'm hungry.
Unfortunately despite my best attempts, I couldn't get a slice out without the crust falling off, but somehow my guests seemed not to mind!

Tip of the Day: If you don't have a pastry brush to spread the melted butter on the pie crust, the next best thing is just to use your (clean!) fingers.

Recipe: (from Baking Bites)

1 9-inch pie crust (if frozen, thawed)
2 tsp butter or margarine, melted
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups flour

Brush the inside of the pie crust with the melted butter. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and use to cover the entire inside of the crust.

Combine the brown sugar, butter, water, corn syrup and cinnamon, and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Cream together the butter, sugar and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Beat in egg and vanilla, followed by the milk. Stir in the flour, mixing until just combined.

Pour the cookie mixture in to the crust, and carefully pour the syrup on top. Place into a 350 F oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until browned.

Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chocolate Dipped Oatmeal Shortbread Sticks

I made chocolate dipped oatmeal shortbread bars. I think I like the idea of dipping things in chocolate.
The recipe for these came from one of my new cookbooks, Bars and Squares. If you've been around here more than a week, you know how much I love bars. And squares.
So these bars are baked up in one 9x13" pan, and then cut into bars as soon as they come out of the oven, so they're easier to cut when cool.Though this recipe didn't actually call to be dipped in chocolate, another one on the same page did, and I figured it was a pretty good idea.
Originally, I had this grand idea to make long sticks and dip both ends in chocolate. But that was just too heavy to sustain, so a lot of them broke, and I decided it was better to make them all short and cute. Plus I got to eat some broken pieces along the way.
Did I mention that these were really easy? Five ingredients. One bowl. And with oats and brown sugar, they had a really great flavor and texture. They're just fine without being dipped in chocolate, or you could even make them chocolate chip!

Tip of the Day: Melting chocolate for dipping or decorating with a touch of vegetable oil ensures that it will dry nicely, and mimic "tempering" of chocolate.

(from Bars and Squares by Jill Snider)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups rolled oats

Optional: melted chocolate with a pinch of vegetable oil mixed in.

Beat the sugar and butter together until light and creamy.
Stir in the flour, cinnamon and oats, mixing well.
Use your hands to make sure the dough comes together cohesively.
Press the dough in to an ungreased 9x13" pan. Bake on 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes.
Score in to bars or squares as soon as it comes out of the oven, then let cool.

If dipping in chocolate, melt some semi-sweet chocolate with a touch of vegetable oil together.
Dip bars in chocolate and then place on wax paper. Refrigerate until set.