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Archive for Baking

::fall favorites:: Quinoa Pumpkin Cookies

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I’m trying not to bake as much as I did in the past year. I’m nearly back to pre-baby weight, and a batch of cookies a day is not going to help that. But when you have a craving for something sweet…you just do. Trying to avoid just making a batch of chocolate cup cookies, I decided I could healthy up these cookies a bit by using the Butternut Squash on my counter. Then I decided I wanted more instant satisfaction, so I used a can of pumpkin in the pantry. I’m sure fresh would turn out even better. Adding to the attempted healthiness, I ground up some quinoa in my coffee grinder (which has yet to be used for coffee), and replaced almost half of the flour I would need.

These were amazing. So amazing that I couldn’t take any pictures. I grabbed a photo of the last 4 or 5 before gobbling them up. Oh…the recipe made 5 dozen…and no..I did not share. They bake to the consistency of cupcakes. They were so moist that I couldn’t put them in a container. You know how an uniced cupcake gets when you trap it in a container? Yeah, like that.

What You Need
Step One
1 stick of butter (softened)
2 eggs
Step Two
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
15oz can pumpkin puree or ~1.5 cups pureed  cooked pumpkin
Step Three
1 cup quinoa flour (put one cup of quinoa in a coffee grinder)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
Optional
1 cup chopped walnuts
12oz bag of chocolate chips

Start with taking out your step one ingredients and letting them come to room temp. Then sift together all step three ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, whip butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and then pumpkin. Once all your wet ingredients are combined, slowly add the sifted together dry ingredients. Lastly, add in walnuts and chips.

Drop cookies only parchment lined sheets and bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes. Enjoy.

::buy this:: Ciao Bella Cakes

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This past week was craziness. Packing, cleaning, anticipating…all while trying to live our normal lives too. Monday we had our anatomy scan. This is the doctors appointment where they do an ultrasound to make sure little Bean is growing properly and doing well. If you want, they’ll also tell you when you will be having a little girl bean or boy bean. I knew I wanted to know. I NEEDED to know. PTB could have gone either  way. We didn’t have a preference, so it would be exciting either way. There wasn’t any room for disappointment.

Inspired by the internet, we decided the way to tell our families was to have a party. Since we are moving soon, it was a good excuse to have one last hurrah at our apartment before moving to the suburbs and “settling down”. I wanted to bake the color into a cupcake so it would be a secret from our guests until they bit in. Then PTB decided that’s how he wanted to find out too. I knew I couldn’t keep it from him for an entire week. And then, did I really want to try and clean up the mess of food colored cake batter before he came home one night?

This is when I needed to find a professional. I called quite a few bakeries in the area and only one seemed to really understand what I wanted. I’m not an icing fiend. I wanted batter piped into the cupcake, not icing after the fact. Stefanie Kitchner, the founder of Ciao Bella Cakes, not only understood, she seemed excited about it! This was exactly who I needed to be working with. So on Monday afternoon we went to the doctor. They put the answer in an envelope and I delivered it to Stefanie first thing Tuesday morning. I had to get it out of my hands!

Finally Saturday morning arrived. We went to pick up the cupcakes. Four dozen of them. We decided to open the little box and put them on a cupcake stand so that we could have some out while we explained to our guests what the plan was. I let Stefanie do her thing in terms of decorating, just letting her know I wasn’t crazy about a ton of icing. When i opened the first box I was a little panicked. All I saw were pink foils! We quickly realized there were also blue and gold, but mostly in the other box. Phew. The icing looked perfect, and the random sprinkles just made us smile.

Since we weren’t finding out yet, I can’t tell you about the cakes yet… So I will start with the icing. Oh my, that icing was amazing. When I had told Stefanie that I wasn’t crazy about icing her response was for white icing she usually does “vanilla buttercream. It’s super yummy! Not too sweet. Nice and light and fluffy. And lots of butter!”. I really could not describe this icing better. I got so many compliments throughout the day about the icing.

There were plenty of compliments on the cupcakes as well. And after eating at least 4 of them so far (thank goodness we ended up with extras), I can definitely stand my the moist perfection of the cake. YUM! Oh, and the big reveal that you’ve been waiting for? It’s a…..

BLUE!

I mean BOY! We are officially halfway through to our little boy bean.

Stefanie was amazing to work with. Incredibly easy going and she is very creative when it comes to wedding cakes, etc. She makes everything from scratch using high quality ingredients. No mixes, bases, or fake stuff. My kind of baker 🙂

If you are in the Philadelphia area and need a custom baked good large or small, I highly recommend Ciao Bella Cakes. Be sure to check out Stefanie’s website and be a fan of the bakery on Facebook! She can be reached at 267•229•0829

::cooking for two:: Apple Tartlets

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What was I saying about Fall? How it is awesome? Here’s my problem. Autumn makes me want to make apple pie. There are two of us. Now, normally if I bake a pie, I will try and get another couple to come hang out with us (It is really hard when you are offering homemade pie). But who am I kidding, that is still only half the pie eaten. I recognize that my sharing abilities are lacking as my appetite (belly) is growing. Maybe a whole pie isn’t the way to go right now. A tartlet however… Ok so it is still probably as much butter as I would have consumed eating half the pie, but think of all the sugar I am saving. And far less flour. Give yourself some extra planning time for this recipe as you need to chill the dough for an hour.

What You Need
Dough
Step One

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Step Two
5 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter (cut into 1/4″ pieces)
2-3 Tbsp ice water
Filling
Step Three

1 tart apple (I used a Granny Smith)
1 sweet apple (I used a Fuji)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
pinches cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Step Four
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp unsalted butter (cut into 1/4″ pieces)

In a small food processor combine the flour and salt. Sprinkle the cut up butter pieces on top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Continue to pulse as you slowly add the water until the dough comes together.

Divide the dough into two and flatten each into a 3″ disc on plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and leave in the fridge for an hour.

I started the apples while the dough was in the fridge, but I like to let them sit in the seasoning for a while, so maybe it is just me. You’ll need the oven preheated to 400F, and mine takes FOREVER, so by the time I am done slicing apples, I need to set that as well.

Slice the apples into 1/4″ slices. Combine all step three ingredients in a bowl.

Before rolling out the dough, let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes. Roll onto parchment paper to about 7″ in diameter. TIP: Rolling between two sheets of parchment makes things a bit easier. Stack the apples in the center of the dough (about 1.5″ from the edge) building an apple tower. Fill the centers with extra apple pieces.

Fold the outer 1″ of dough up around the apples, pleating about every inch or so (see image). Brush the dough with egg white and dot the tops with butter.

Bake (on the parchment paper) for about 35-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

I would highly recommend some home made whipped cream to go on top. Not too sweet, and it will be a perfect dessert for two. One more evening helped out by America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking for Two Annual.

::kitschy kitchen:: Star Wars Sugar Cookies

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We go to the mall almost every Wednesday. This week we’ll go today because of the holiday. PTB buys his comics on that day. I get a treat at Starbucks and a chance to browse Williams Sonoma. It’s silly, and really the only thing we manage to do consistently, but we always have fun with our mini-trip.

I really enjoy it when, not only do I manage to drag him into Williams Sonoma with me but, he buys me something! Well, I guess this doesn’t totally count as being exclusively for me. I have never ever managed to even stay awake through an entire Star Wars movie. So yeah. But the part that is for me was the cookie recipe and my first set of cookie cutters. Although, these are more of cookie presses I guess.

I’ve never been let down by the recipes that come with my Williams Sonoma toys and these cookies were no different. The cookie cutters were incredibly easy to use, so if you have a Star Wars fan buy them now before they are gone!! As long as you kept the dough chilled and didn’t let it start to melt while you were cutting, the dough doesn’t get stuck in even the tiniest of details. And since they are presses, it makes every bit of dough turn into the perfect cookie. Just shove the last bits into a mold, press, and perfect cookie!

What You Need
Step One

1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 egg
Step Two
1 cup sugar
Step Three
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Step Four
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Seriously. Take your butter and egg out ahead of time. Don’t fake room temp butter. Leaving it out ahead of time DOES make a difference!

In an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until creamy. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly add the sugar. Beating for approx. 2 minutes.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 1 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl once.

In a small bowl, sift together step four ingredients. Add half the mixture to the wet ingredients and beat on low until no longer dry. Add the remaining flour and continue on low until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough onto a clean work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a disc and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. This is my favorite part because I only make half the cookies at a time. That way, two days later, we have a fresh batch of cookies with very little work!

Once you are ready to make the cookies preheat the oven to 350F and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/4″ thick.

Don’t be afraid to push on the cutters! They will only go so far. For me, the dough would lift up with the cookie cutter and then I would just drop it onto the parchment lined cookies sheet.

Space the cookies on the sheet about 1″ apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

Let cool on the sheets on racks for 5 minutes and then transfer the cookies to the rack cool completely.

Enjoy your buttery sugary goodness!

You can make royal icing to decorate. Or you can buy the prefect colors from Williams Sonoma for decorating. I think the advantage to the press is not having to decorate them. And really, they don’t need any extra sugar. They are perfect on their own. But then again…I have never been one for icing.

::sweet treat:: Cherry Almond Cupcakes

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Ahhh!  It is almost the holiday weekend! Just a little while longer! I am completely un-excited about this weekend except the idea of spending a few uninterrupted days with PTB. I apparently have a cold! Who gets a cold in the Summer? It started with some sneezing Monday, and now has gotten progressively worse to the point that today I am full-on sick. It has killed my cooking-mojo since I am dizzy when I am standing up. But I realized that I had perfect posts to share for the holiday weekend, so I am here writing this up. It is the least I can do 🙂

I know everyone else is still going to have a great weekend, so I thought some ideas for picnics would be good. I was thinking about all the “patriotic” posts that have been everywhere this week. I was thinking how cheesy food is kind of obnoxious sometimes. And by cheesy I mean red cupcakes with bright blue icing and white candy stars on the icing. We are still part of the no kids group. I don’t need bright blue icing to enjoy a cupcake. I really don’t even need it to involve red, white and blue to eat it at a picnic for a national holiday. There will be flags hanging. I don’t need to eat one too.

But cherries. Cherries are one of those things that scream summer to me. And they are red. So patriotic! So this is why I thought, if you wanted to take a patriotic dessert with you this weekend, these cupcakes would be perfect. Oh! And there isn’t any icing – so they will be fine sitting on a picnic table!

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. I hand-mixed the batter with a wooden spoon.

What You Need
Step One

2 cups blanched almonds, divided
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Step Two
1 stick of butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Step Three
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Step Four
~2 1/2 cups halved sweet cherries (~1 lb fresh)
Step Five
2 Tbsp brown sugar

In a small food processor, chop half the almonds to coarse chunks and set aside. Chop the second half coarsely and remove 1/4 cup setting aside separately from the first cup. Ad flour, baking powder, and salt to the food processor and grind to a flour consistency. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, mixing in one at a time, and then stir in vanilla extract.

Slowly stir in almond-flour mixture.

Fold in the cherries and the 1/4 cup of chopped almonds.

Stir 2 Tbsp brown sugar into the remaining cup of almonds.

Divide batter between 18 cupcake papers (~2/3 full). Top each with almond-sugar mixture.

Bake for ~20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes on cooling rack, then allow to cool completely out of muffin pan.

Yields: ~18 cupcakes