August 2, 2009

Moving Day

I've started a new blog to chronicle our trip to adopt You Er. It's by invitation only, so if you'd like to follow along, please send an email to me at: and I will invite you to read it. I apologize if this seems like a bit of an inconvenience, but we would prefer to keep our daughter's photos and history private. I need your email address in order to put you on the "guest list."

If you came here via Rumor Queen, I'm happy to include you - just let me know your screenname over there as well as your email.

If you don't have a google account, you'll need to create one to see our blog - you can do it easily when you accept the invitation.

June 7, 2009

Time Out

To anyone who might still possibly be clicking on this page occasionally...I'm taking a time out from baking & blogging for a short while. Right now, I've got my work cut out for me with preparing for a trip to China this summer and becoming a first-time parent. I barely have time for any baking, let alone photographing and writing about it. I've baked a few things (I even made the Cinnamon Squares for TWD) but then I never seem to get around to shooting it or writing a post.

I'll be back...someday. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of our little cupcake, due to come home sometime this summer or early fall:

(Photo deleted for privacy reasons - sorry but I had an icky comment here)

Happy baking to all my baking buddies -- and for those of you who came here via RQ, stay tuned for a travel blog at some point.


March 22, 2009

Blueberry & Sour Cherry Crumb Cake (TWD)

One of my favorite things in our house is the full-size freezer we have in the basement. I love freezing, especially flash-freezing local fruit and vegetables from the farmer's market so that I can pull them out in the depths of winter and get a taste of last summer or last fall. Of course, it helps if I remember that I have stuff in there. And it helps even more if I both remember it and then cook with it.

When I saw that this week's selection for Tuesdays with Dorie was the Blueberry Crumb Cake, light bulb!, I remembered that I still had both blueberries and sour cherries in the freezer from last summer. Yup, that's 8 months ago, but trust me, freezing fruit that long is fine. It hasn't killed us yet. And I was so glad to not be stuck buying tasteless, overpriced berries at the Stop & Shop. Happily, I pulled out New York State blueberries and sour cherries from Summer 2008.

I've made this cake twice before. My friend Hestia had it at a brunch the first time I made it and when her 40th birthday rolled around last year, she asked me to make it as her birthday cake. Crumb cake for a birthday? Well, okay...who can deny a birthday girl? (Not me). We all gorged that night on this cake, along with a lemon almond layer cake (because I had to make a proper birthday cake too).

This time, I used half white whole wheat flour, just to make it a little different. It adds a nice earthiness that goes well with the berries and cherries. I also used almonds instead of walnuts in the topping, and added a touch of almond extract to the cake.

I loved the sour cherries in it, especially in contrast to the sweet blueberries. So once again, my freezer came through for me in the dead of winter, bringing last summer's sweetness to life again on a chilly winter's day.

You can find the recipe for this delicious crumb cake on Sihan's blog.

As for me, I'm going back down to the freezer to see what else might be hiding in there!

March 16, 2009

What I'm Not Showing You (TWD)

This is a first for me in my short life as a blogger with TWD. I'm going photo-less for a post. Yup, I made the lemon yogurt cake. But no, I didn't like it. I didn't even like it enough to take its picture! Isn't that terrible? Am I a bad, bad baker girl now? Go on, you can tell me the truth.

Baked creations are not like children or pets, people. You don't have to love them just because they're yours. Or because they took up some of your time, your money and space in the kitchen. It's okay to say "feh". So there, my response to French lemon yogurt cake: feh. I mean no disrespect, really. And I know I am officially now a blogger hypocrite because I don't like it when other food bloggers totally dis a whole category of foods or one particular ingredient. The whole "if you can't say anything nice" thing and all that. But, so be it. I decided that in this case, a negative post was better than none. It's good to break your own rules once in a while.

My homely lemon yogurt loaf cake looked so sad, with its sunken top and its overly browned sides. Ugly is okay if it tastes good. But ugly combined with a rubbery, bland texture just isn't getting its picture taken.

Determined to triumph despite the little flop, I tried another version. I just finished reading "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. Oh, you must read it! It's terrific. I cried, I laughed, I couldn't wait to read more and I was sorry when it was over. Molly also has a recipe for French Lemon Yogurt Cake. It's very close to Dorie's, almost identical in fact, except she uses one more egg, bakes it in a 9" round pan and makes two simple icings to coat it. I don't know if it was the extra egg, or a lighter touch with my folding, or the shape of the pan, but this second cake was much better than the first. And possibly even worthy of photography. But it's late now and the light is gone and I just don't have the get-up-and-go to shoot it, because a cake like this would still require some food styling to give it any photo-worthiness. And, I still don't love it. I don't know - maybe I need butter in my cakes. Or maybe I should have tried harder to find full-fat Greek yogurt instead of 2%. Or maybe I should admit I don't like lemon desserts all that much. Who knows but I daresay that's my last French yogurt cake. I gave it a good shot, I baked two in two days and I tried really, really hard to like both of them. Honest, I did.

Just because I didn't love this cake shouldn't stop you from trying it. For you, it might be just perfect. You can find recipe on Liliana's blog, My Cookbook Addiction. And you can check out the other TWD bakers' reports by heading over to the blogroll.

March 14, 2009

Dark Chocolate Rosemary Tart for Pi Day

Dark chocolate and rosemary. Rosemary and dark chocolate. Thinking about it, you just can't imagine how utterly transcendent the two are together. At least, I couldn't. Until I dipped a finger into the tart base and just KNEW I was onto something big. Really big. As in, baking-life-changing, big.

For this month's "You Want Pies with That" challenge, we blogger-bakers were invited by Elizabeth of Cake or Death to make a pie with herbs or spices. I knew immediately that I wanted to combine an herb with chocolate. My first idea was chocolate and basil, which I've seen done a few places. But when I mentioned the pie challenge to my good friend Marie, who is a terrific pastry chef-turned-bookkeeper, she suggested chocolate and rosemary together. At first, I wasn't sure about it but when I realized that I already had rosemary in the house and that it's not really basil season anyway, I decided to try it.

All I can say is: you simply must try this combination. The sum of chocolate and rosemary is so much more than either of the parts. I never could have guessed just how much they would complement each other. The rosemary adds a depth to the chocolate and the chocolate brings out a new side of the rosemary. I just could not get enough of it, and I wish I could serve you a taste of it right now through the screen. Because then you would know. You would know this discovery is as big as finding the formula for pi. At least, in my world it is. (Sorry, Archimedes)

As soon as ice cream season hits my kitchen, I am going to attempt a chocolate & rosemary ice cream, based on my favorite chocolate ice cream recipe. And I'd like to try a chocolate & rosemary ganache on top of chocolate cupcakes. But honestly, I could just keep making this same tart over and over again.

The tart is based on the cover recipe from Lori Longbotham's glorious book, Luscious Chocolate Desserts. If you don't own a copy, then I can tell you right now that the dark chocolate tart and the chocolate cheesecake are worth the price of two copies of the book. Lori's book is like a slice of this chocolate rosemary tart: sleek, simple and irresistible.

I got very lucky with the amount of rosemary I used in this. As I was winging it without a recipe, I just guessed that two sprigs would do it. I was almost tempted to add more as I like bold flavors and then I was worried that perhaps I should add less or the herb would be overpowering. In the end, the two sprigs were just perfect.

This is my first entry for "You Want Pies With That" after signing up so many months ago. I'm excited to start off with such a marvelous tart. If not for the challenge, I would never have discovered the combination of chocolate and rosemary -- a flavor that is going to haunt me (in a good way) for the rest of my baking life! See below for the recipe.

Oh yeah, I also made a savory rosemary ham & egg tart, using a recipe from Nick Malgieri's new book, The Modern Baker. As lovely as it was, especially with Framani's rosemary ham, it just couldn't touch the chocolate-rosemary tart. I'm only mentioning it because I'm partial to these photos:

Perfectly Simple Dark Chocolate & Rosemary Tart
Adapted from Lori Longbotham

To infuse the cream (best if done 24 hours in advance):
Place 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 3-4" sprigs of fresh rosemary in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn heat down to low and let cook for a few minutes, then remove to a bowl and cool to room temp. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to proceed with tart, no less than 6 hours later, preferably at least overnight.

For the crust:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, cooled
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, cut into small pieces

Process the sugar and walnuts in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Add the flour, cocoa and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse just enough until mixture begins to come together when small amount is pressed between your fingers. Do not overprocess. Press dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a lightly butter 10 or 11 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Bake for 15-18 mins in a 350 oven until crust begins to pull away from sides of the pan. Let cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.
(Alternatively, you could buy a premade tart shell or make one with chocolate cookie crumbs).

For the filling:
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tbs sweet butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
Good pinch of sea salt, fleur de sel or kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
Rosemary-infused cream from above

Remove the rosemary sprigs from the cream.

Melt the chocolate with the cream and butter in a heatproof bowl over saucepan with 1.5 inches of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the eggs, sugar and salt until well blended. Add vanilla. Transfer the filling to the warm crust.

Bake in a 350 oven for about 12-18 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center (this actually took about 25 minutes in my oven but it always run slow). It's okay if the top of the tart blisters slightly (mine didn't). Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Before serving dust with cocoa if you like. Serve with whipped cream (also infused with rosemary would be a nice idea!) or creme fraiche.

Update: I have to say I'm tickled that my chocolate-rosemary tart won the challenge for this month on You Want Pies with That. I never win anything! Really, I don't. Okay, I won a Heineken beer sign once at a bar in college but someone stole it from my dorm room later and I won $20 once on a scratch-off lottery ticket. But really, I just don't win stuff. So I guess I was due. I'm glad y'all liked it, blush blush.

February 24, 2009

Caramel Crunch Buttons

This week's challenge for Tuesdays with Dorie is Caramel Crunch Bars. I mini-sized mine as buttons made in mini muffin cups and they came out pretty darn cute. Not much to report on these, to be honest. They have a buttery shortbread crust scented with a bit of espresso, studded with dark of chocolate and topped with dark chocolate and toffee bits. Mmm mmm good. I think that says it all.

If you'd like to try your hand at these as either buttons or bars, you can find the recipe on Whitney's blog, What's Left on the Table.

February 16, 2009

Tuesday with Rose, Nick & Molly

I did a bunch of baking this weekend, but had to cheat on Dorie & TWD. As much as I love chocolate layer cakes, it just wasn't in the cards for us as I was more tempted by other treats.

First, I started out with some scones from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible. Rose's recipes always intimidate me when I first look at them - the complicated chart of ingredients by 3 different measures must be what does it. But once you start following the instructions, she is so clear & precise that I feel comforted and certain it's going to work. Which is why I found myself rolling out and folding scone dough five times, rather than just patting it together once like I usually do.

It wasn't as hard as I thought and WOW! Look how high these things rose up in the oven. These scones have more of a biscuit texture than that of flatter, crumblier ones. They were light as air. I threw in chopped dried cranberries as well as currants, in a nod to the red theme of the weekend.

Next I moved onto a new brownie recipe from Nick Malgieri's new book, The Modern Baker. These are so scrumptious and get a little crunch from cocoa nibs. I can't wait to try more of Nick's bar recipes - they are calling out to me from the photos. Right now I just have a copy from the library but I think I may have to buy the book. So far the brownies alone are worth the price of ownership. I made these brownies in heart shapes and handed them out to some friends for Valentine's gifts, packaged in pink Chinese take-out boxes.

Finally, for my sweetheart of a husband I made Molly of Orangette's apple cake-tart. He loved this so much the first time I baked it that I thought I would enchant him again. It was our dessert on Feb 14th and the following two nights as well (did I mention there were also brownies in the house - well it was a holiday weekend after all!).

The apple cake-tart (or apple cart as one Orangette commenter dubbed it) is really easy and if you're someone who doesn't think you can bake or doesn't like to, this might be the apple dessert for you. It's a tart that involves no rolling pin and a cake that involves no folding, frosting or layering. I made a few adjustments to Molly's original (albeit recycled) recipe. I added a touch of almond extract and reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup.What I love most about this apple cake/tart/cart/thing is that the edges of the crust get nicely caramelized and crunchy, which contrasts nicely with the soft cake interior and apples. It's a keeper in our house, for sure.

I'm going to be checking out how the other TWD bakers did with this week's chocolate cake, and you can too by going to the blogroll, or find the recipe by visiting Stephanie's blog, Confessions of a City Eater.

The Recipes:

Rose's Scones

2 sticks (8 oz) sweet butter, cold
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 liquid cups heavy cream
1 cup currants and/or dried cranberries or other fruit

Cut the butter into one-inch cubes and chill for 30 minutes, minimum.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and with your fingertips or a pastry blender, press the cubes into large flakes (you could also do this in food processor if you have a large one).
Mix in the cream and toss with rubber spatula just until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to come together in large clumps. Add in the currants.
Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until it just holds together, then turn out onto a lightly floured board.
Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll out into a rectangle that is 1inch thick, and about 8x12 inches. Use a bench scraper to keep the edges even.
Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter. Lightly flour the board and rotate the dough so the smooth sides face to the left. Roll out again to same size rectangle and fold again. Do this for a total of 4 "turns". Refrigerate the dough if it starts to get too warm between turns.
Preheat oven to 400, with rack in middle.
Now, roll out the dough one more time and trim the edges so it's all nicely squared off (the scrapes can be re-rolled).
Cut lengthwise so you have two pieces, about 4x12. Cut each piece of dough into triangles (I got 6 from each piece but the scones turned out very large - you might try to get 7 instead).
Chill the scones on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet until ready to bake.
Bake 15-20 mins until nicely browned on bottom and golden on the tops and sides (but not too dark).
If you want to be fancy, you could brush the tops with heavy cream or beaten egg before baking but I don't think they need it.

Store airtight at room temp up to 2-3 days (re-heat in toaster oven) or freeze up to 3 months. I like to freeze half the batch unbaked, flash freezing first and then wrapping in saran.

Nick's Cocoa Nib Brownies

8 oz sweet butter, cut into 12 pieces
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1-1/4 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa nibs (optional)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir a few times, and let bubble for 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate and set aside for a few minutes to let it melt. Use small whisk to mix smooth.

Put brown sugar in bowl of electric mixer. Beat in 1 egg at a time on the lowest speed.
Add salt, sugar and vanilla and beat smooth.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the chocolate-butter mixture with rubber spatula.
Mix in the flour, followed by 1/4 cup cocoa nibs if using.

Line a 9x13 baking pan with buttered foil (you may need 2 pieces - let it overhang the sides).

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and scatter rest of nibs on top.
Bake in a 350 oven until firm but still very moist in center, about 30 mins (toothpick will still have some moist crumbs clinging to it - don't let it go until dry).

Cool brownies in pan on rack, then refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Let come to room temp, then invert, peel off foil and invert again.

You could use nuts or dried cherries in place of the nibs but the nibs are nice addition - adding crunch and bitterness.

February 2, 2009

World Peace Cookies (TWD)

Oh, Dorie, if only we could bring about world peace through cookies! Our little TWD group would be the biggest peacemakers of all.

Yes, this week, my fellow bakers and I are blogging about Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies. I won't tell the story behind the name as I know many of the other bloggers will do so and it's in the book (buy the book! you won't regret it!). But if you believe sharing good food can great good will, then you get the idea.

This was my third batch of World Peace Cookies. The previous two times, I was frustrated by the dough's crumbly-ness and ended up cursing a lot as I tried to slice the logs into neat circles. So this time, I tweaked. I added an extra tablespoon of butter and subtracted two tablespoons of flour. Yes, the dough was easier to form into logs and to slice. But, I also learned why it's hard to mess around with baking recipes. While not a flop by any means, the cookies seemed a bit too buttery, almost verging on, dare I say it, greasy. They also spread more than the original version and were therefore thinner and crisper. And I didn't like them much more than the previous attempts, when I was less-than-enamored of their sandy texture. Don't get me wrong, I can still easily pack in a handful or so because, after all, they are made with lots of chocolate. But I generally prefer my cookies on the chewy or cakey side or more like shortbread. Thin and crisp is not my thing. But if YOU like thin & crisp cookies, then these will work great for you.

These cookies incorporate a healthy dose of fleur de sel, which I love. I even sprinkled more fleur de sel on top before baking. Mmm...salty and sweet good. I am such a fan of adding a good amount of salt to your sweets.

I also decided to make another change - mostly for visual purposes - and use white chocolate instead of dark chocolate chips. It worked nicely, though they did come out a bit sweeter.

If you'd like to try your own hand at encouraging world peace one cookie at a time, head over to Jessica's blog and check out the recipe.

Peace out, fellow bakers. :)

January 26, 2009

Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread (with pears)

This week's selection for Tuesdays with Dorie is a dark, chocolately gingerbread. Many gingerbread recipes rely simply on powdered ginger and molasses for their spiciness, but this one calls for a handful of chopped fresh ginger as well. Dorie recommends adding some stem ginger in syrup or candied ginger but I decided to add some poached pear chunks instead, just for something different. I had saved the poaching liquid from the French Pear Tart, which quickly sweetened and softened a couple of pears.

Dorie's gingerbread incorporates chocolate in two forms - melted and chunked. I loved the chunks - ginger and chocolate are such a great combination. I skipped the chocolate frosting that she also recommends, as it just didn't seem necessary to me (and I was being lazy).

As for the cake itself, I found mine to be almost too molasses-y - it verged on a licorice flavor that was just a bit too strong for me, even though I like licorice. Mine also looks darker than Dorie's and some other bloggers'. I wonder if my organic molasses was too dark, perhaps. But nevertheless, I liked it and it was a hit with my taste-testers.

I made Dorie's ginger-infused whipped cream as well -it was fantastic! You just steep some fresh ginger into heavy cream, let it cool, then whip with some sugar. I have added maple syrup, vanilla beans and other flavors to whipped cream before but the ginger was so good. I can't wait to try it with pumpkin pie. I really think gingerbread calls for whipped cream - the cream provides a nice contrast to the spices and makes the whole experience much more divine than just a piece of spicy cake.

Thank you to Sherry of Sherry Trifle for choosing this week's recipe and reminding me how much I love gingerbread, especially when it's "mitt schlag." You can find the recipe on Sherry's blog.

I'd like to leave you with a recent picture of one of my kitties, Go Go Boots. I just love this picture (and its subject, too!).

January 13, 2009

Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins (TWD)

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake chose Dorie's Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins. I have talked about my love for all things corn before, so I was really happy to try a new corn muffin. These are yummm-eeeee. They are studded with corn, cilantro, jalapeno & red pepper which adds such a great kick and tons of flavor. The crumb is tender and they are really buttery.

A lot has been written about the Southern/Northern debate over sweet vs unsweetened cornbread. Personally, I like it both ways, according to the menu and my mood. I love it baked in cast iron so it gets a nice crust and I generally like to add a bit of honey or maple syrup, but I sometimes prefer it unsweetened too -- despite my Northeastern origins.

In these muffins, I think the small amount of sugar works, because they have a lot of spiciness from the hot peppers and it balances out. I love how colorful they are and that they're a nice change from straight-up cornbread. We had them one night with chili and another night with an orange-chipotle pork stew -- they were great with both, or on their own in the morning.

If you'd like to see the recipe, go to Rebecca's blog. You can also see what all the other TWD bakers thought by checking out the blogroll.