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Tag Archive for Baking

::little luxuries:: French Macarons

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Thankfully, most of my family doesn’t even pay attention to this site. Because of this, I can admit to the following. Now that I have started working again and I am getting back into the swing of things, I am totally going to take advantage of having babysitters that are here after work twice a week to get some posting done. It might be a while before I get into crazy recipes again. Finding the time to take photos while cooking is a whole new challenge. Luckily, I have a backlog of quite a few recipes to write up. Who know, maybe this will give me an opportunity to tweak and perfect some recipes too.

In the meantime… One of my maternity leave goals (pre-baby) was to learn how to make French Macarons. It was successful! Have you had one? It is a delightful little almond flour meringue cookie sandwiched with a bit of whatever filling you can dream of. You can flavor the cookies or not. They have the perfect combination of soft & chewy and crispy & crunchy. A bit of magic in your mouth.

For Valentine’s Day I gave my husband a dozen roses  :0) I am a super cheeseball. We are suckers for flower flavors. I have a thing for lavender and he likes rose. So, my first batch of macarons was a pink cookie with either lavender or rose buttercream filling. Recipe will come soon eventually. For now, what other flavors should I try once I find the time to spend on these delightful little bites?

::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.

::kitschy kitchen:: Not Just Plain Vanilla

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Last week I finally made the lavender cupcakes I have been dying to try. I don’t know why I was so excited about the idea of cooking with lavender. I had never thought of it as something edible, but it just sounded perfect. I found the Silver Cloud Estates Lavender Extract and I was on my way. Their extract is amazing. The flavor does not cook off or freeze away. This makes it perfect for baked treats or frozen delights (I can’t wait to have an ice cream maker!) Just opening the bottle is like filling your kitchen with a little bit of heaven. My favorite part of the cupcakes was that they were a huge hit, but no one knew quite what is what that they liked about them. Since it was such a different flavor, they couldn’t pick it out. The best was that it wasn’t overly obvious either. PTB was convinced the floral flavoring was from the purple icing. My sister-in-law thought the same thing, and thought the green ones tasted different 🙂

Anyway, enough about those cupcakes! Have I said enough to make you want to try them yet?

Today, I returned to Village Spices and sought out more fun extracts. I narrowed down the choices to almond, coconut, and rosewater (the company sells cardamom extract too! but the store did not have any). Eventually I will have them all of course 🙂 I just wish I could test them more easily. These 4 oz. bottles will last forever!

So today I bought the rosewater extract. I am envisioning a summer of Rosewater Lemonades and a variety of other new experiments. I am excited to make some cookies using the rosewater extract and some cardamom (PTB’s favorite spice). Rosewater is popular in Middle-Eastern cooking and in Europe for flavoring marzipan. I’m not sure why it isn’t a huge hit here. We seem addicted to vanilla extract. I’ll admit, I use vanilla in almost all my baking, but with my discovery of Silver Cloud Estates, that may be changing. For a simple recipe, just substitute the vanilla extract with any extract you like. Be creative, be daring, and share what you come up with.

If you have used rosewater extract before, and have suggestions, I am completely open to it. I can’t wait to get started! I just need to buy some lemons first 🙂

::sweet treat:: Lavender Cupcakes

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A few weeks ago I finally had the chance to go into a little shop in Manayunk called Village Spices. I have always wanted to stop in, but it is in a spot that we only really pass walking by at night with an ice cream cone.  I never think about it when we are there during the day.  Usually a daytime trip to Manayunk means I have a mission. And usually that mission involves food. On the other end of Main Street. Can you see how excited I am about having finally stopped in?

I was like a kid in a candy store in this place. I finally found smoked paprika! An ingredient I could not find anywhere! And let me just tell you, TOTALLY different than paprika. But I am going off topic. In this tiny little shop, there was a shelf I was fascinated with. Any extract you could dream of. The lavender immediately caught my eye. I had wanted to make Lavender cupcakes since I bought the book Cupcake Heaven and learned lavender could be a flavor not just a scent. When the lavender was blooming outside, however, I completely didn’t think about it. Lavendar extract though!  Think of the possibilities! And the year round use!

These cupcakes would be perfect for a baby or bridal shower. Something very girly. I might add lavender extract to my petit fours next time I make them. The best part of these cupcakes is that the recipe is quite basic, but produces perfect results. I didn’t realize until I was putting everything together that it is almost identical to the base of the Cherry Almond Cupcakes (coming soon!).  So if you don’t like lavender, use vanilla. But if you haven’t tried lavender, you don’t know that you don’t like it 😉

What You Need
Step One

1 stick of butter (room temp)
1/2 cup sugar
Step Two
2 eggs (room temp)
1 Tbsp Lavender Extract
Step Three
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
Step Four
2 Tbsp coconut milk (or regular milk)

Preheat  oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix sugar and butter with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time and then stir in lavender extract. Sift in all step three ingredients (dry ingredients) and stir until combined.  Lastly add the milk.

Spoon batter into cupcake holders. Should fill 12 about halfway. Bake for ~18 minutes, remove from pan and cool on rack.

Once cooled, get your icing ready to making them officially “lavendairy”.

Icing
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 egg white
1 drop purple food gel

Mix the sugar and egg white until combined  Stir in desired color.  Use a spoon to spread on tops of cupcakes. Allow to set before serving.

Yields: 1 dozen cupcakes