Category Archives: Recipes

Time Travel and Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette

As much as I enjoy a good night out, it’s not uncommon for me to spend a Friday night at home by myself – usually by choice. I enjoy a good solo Netflix and wine night, and I’m often so tired from my week that I wouldn’t make it out very late anyway.  On one of these nights last winter, I found myself at home alone again, and was taking full advantage. I had changed into my pajamas at 6 p.m., ordered a pizza, and cracked open a bottle of wine. My face was covered in some sort of rejuvenating mud mask to try to combat my most recent breakout, and although I was keeping myself busy by binge watching The Good Wife and painting my nails, I still found myself glancing at my phone every couple of minutes just to see if the guy I was sort-of-I-think-but-I-don’t-really-know-for-sure dating had miraculously texted me to tell me how perfect I was and why in the world was I spending Friday night alone instead of with him? Oddly enough, I never got that text.

Somewhere around the third fifth glass of wine and second fourth piece of pizza, it occurred to me that if time travel were possible and the 16-year-old version of myself from 1999 was all of a sudden transported into this exact moment, she’d be… appalled. I mean, sure, there would be a couple of minutes of exclaiming about how cool the future is and staring in disbelief at my phone, but once she calmed down and fully processed the sad situation in front of her, I can only imagine how extremely disappointed she would be to see that when it comes to the important stuff, absolutely NOTHING had changed in the last 16 years. She’d see that the bad skin never went away (even though I was told repeatedly that it would as soon as I turned 18). She’d stare in dismay at my pajamas and the  pizza box and wine bottle (and then take a swig from it of course), and then, she would see me staring longingly at my phone and (because she’s me) she’d know that I was waiting to hear from a boy. And at that realization, I can’t help but think that she would burst into tears because she would know that after 16 years of relationships and dating, it’s still the same old bullshit.

Since that night I’ve been using this as a kind of test for everything I do. When I get dressed for a date, I think “Would 16-year-old Ellen be impressed or sad with my outfit and more importantly, with my date?” As I leave work every night I think, “What would 16-year-old Ellen think about my job? Would she think it was cool or wonder why the hell I haven’t moved on yet?”  Here is what I’ve decided she thinks:

On my wardrobe: Love it! The jean size has gone up a lot more than I would have thought (seriously, lay off the pizza), and I would strongly suggest investing in a few more flannels, but who cares – look at all these clothes! And shoes! We wear dresses now! We’re so grown up and adult and fab.

On my apartment: Holy shit, we finally got our own place. There’s a couch! And a bed! Do you have boys over?! This is so cool – there’s even a balcony. Wait, why is the ceiling falling down? How come nothing in here works? Is this seriously all we can afford? What kind of job do you even have?!

On my job: Weren’t we supposed to write a book by now? Or be in the Olympics? At the very least you could have tried out for American Gladiators.

On living in Cleveland: What’s Cleveland?

On my diminished metabolism and other signs of aging: Seriously? This is what happens when you get old? Gross.

On my still being single: First of all, online dating is freaking awesome. This is a million times better than an AOL chat room! And you can chat from your phone?! What is this trickery?! I can’t believe how many guys we’ve been on dates with! And made out with! We clean up kind of nice, huh? But seriously what happened? What happened to Justin? Weren’t we in love? Didn’t we meet anyone in college? How are you STILL dating after 16 years?!

On my Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette:  We bake now?! Can I get the recipe?

No matter what 16 year-old-me might think about my eating habits or dating life, one thing I am 100% confident about is that she would be extremely impressed with my baking skills, and especially with this ridiculously awesome pie-cheesecake-danish thing. So, per her request, here’s the recipe.

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Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pastry
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. very cold butter (unsalted), cut into pieces
1/4 c.  plain Greek yogurt
3 to 4 Tbsp. ice water

Filling
1 c. fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white (save the yolk)
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Finishing Touches
1 egg yolk beaten
1/2 tsp. water
1-2 tsp. regular, turbinado or coarse sugar for sprinkling
1-2 Tbsp sliced almonds

For the pastry: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl. Drop in the butter pieces and then use a pastry blender, two forks or your hands (I always use my hands) to work it into the flour. Work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Spoon the yogurt over the mixture and continue to use your hands to combine. Add the cold water 1 Tbsp. at a time, only adding more if the mixture seems too dry. It will start to form large clumps which you can then form into a ball. Transfer the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Wrap it up and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the filling: Combine the cherries, 1 Tbsp of sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir together and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the cream cheese, egg, and egg white until light and fluffy. Beat in the 7 Tbsp remaining sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Putting it all together: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan 9 (you can also use a cake pan or tart pan) with baking spray and set it on a baking sheet.

On a floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle. Drape the dough into the prepared pan, and don’t worry about it hanging over the edges (that’s what we want.) Pour in the cream cheese mixture and then spoon in the cherry mixture and swirl it around. Gently lift the dough that’s hanging over the edge and pinch it into creases. Lay the creases down over the filling.

Lastly, combine the egg yolk and water in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the crust. Sprinkle crust with the sugar, and sprinkle all of it with sliced almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Then move it to the fridge and let chill until fully cold.

Serves 8

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Biscuits, please: Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Over the weekend, I got the chance to catch up with my best friend from high school and her parents. While we were talking with some of her parents’ friends, someone mentioned my blog. Like a good friend, Amy started talking me up. She heaped praise on my recipes and my writing, and I was starting to feel pretty good about myself. Then, also like a good friend, she called me out for not posting enough.

She’s right. I have about 20 drafts saved, but nothing has made it out of the brainstorming stage.  Last fall and winter, I was in a blissful state of ignorance which seemed to hamper my ability to write with my normal self-deprecating wit. Then, I had the opposite problem. Everything I wrote was way too self-reflective and depressing and nobody wants to read 80 pages about how shitty I let some guy make me feel.

It’s taken some time, but things have finally returned to normal, and I’ve found myself back in a familiar state of mild malcontent.

I’ve been keeping busy binge watching Orange is the New Black, eating my feelings, vacationing in Mexico, running a half marathon, and awkwardly trying to date. Sometimes, when I have to carry a 40 lb bag of dog food up 3 flights of stairs by myself, I feel like crying. But most of the time, I’m too busy to cry or worry too much. Distraction can be a powerful tool. Another good distraction is strawberry shortcake. Sweet biscuits. Cream. Strawberries.

It’s not a bad life, friends.

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OLD-FASHIONED STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
from the kitchn

Sweet Biscuits (shortcake)

4 cups flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted, cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp Turbinado sugar (white or brown sugar will also work)

Strawberries

4 cups strawberries, chopped
2 tsp sugar  (or to taste)

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or forks or your hands, cut in the butter cubes to the flour mixture until bean size chunks remain. Add the cream and vanilla and continue working the mixture until a shaggy dough has formed. Place the dough on a dry, floured work surface, and form all the bits into a ball. The dough will be sticky and may not hold together very well, this is ok.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is about 1 inch thick. Then, cut the biscuits using a biscuit cutter, a jar or a glass, or whatever you have around that will work. Place biscuits on your lined baking sheets and then brush with a little bit of heavy cream and sprinkle the Turbinado sugar on top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until barely golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.

While the biscuits are baking, prepare your strawberry mixture and whipped cream. You’ll want to let your strawberries sit in the sugar for about 10 minutes to bring out the juices. To make the whipped cream, whip the cream in a stand mixer  (or a hand mixer will work as well) and add the sugar and vanilla. Whip  until stiff peaks form.

To assemble, slice the biscuits in half. Place a spoonful of strawberries and whipped cream on one half, and put the other biscuit half on top – like a sandwich. (I like to put even more strawberries and whipped cream on top of that, but follow your heart.)  These can be served right out of the oven, at room temperature or cold.

serves 10.

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Writing About It: Baking, Break ups, and all of the things.

I’ve been a bad blogger.

This is not new. I’m bad at a lot of things, but I do them anyway. Except for math. I don’t do math.

I haven’t been blogging because this blog has historically been a way for me to get out some frustrations while baking delicious food. However, the last few months have been mostly frustration free. I didn’t have any disastrous dates or long, lonely weekends, or nights spent eating pounds of Chinese food with my dog. Instead, they were full of new plans and hope and all of the great things that go along with a new, promising relationship. I was happy and excited, and then, just as suddenly as it began, it ended.

I didn’t see it coming, and I still don’t really know what happened. I could sit here and analyze it to pieces, but when it comes down to it, it wasn’t right, and there’s nothing I can do about it. You’d think that break ups would get easier as you get older, and in some ways they do. When I was younger – in high school – I remember how devastating a break up was. I was lacking the experience to put it in perspective, and the boy I liked not liking me back seemed like the end of the world. As I got older, I gained some perspective, and a break ups were a little easier to handle. I knew it would suck for a while but that it was just something everyone went through, and I’d find the right person eventually.

But now, at 32, it’s starting to feel like the end of the world again. It’s not specific to this most recent relationship — I’d feel this way no matter who it was, I think — it’s specific to this time in my life.  Going from being alone, to not being alone, and then back to being alone, seems like just too much to take. I’ve been dating and breaking up and dating for 16 years now, and I’m tired. I certainly didn’t expect to be single at 32, and the thought of starting over yet again, just is too much. It feels like long division. Scary and complicated and impossible.

Right now, I’m writing about it because putting some of these scattered and crazy thoughts on the internet for everyone to see for some stupid reason feels like it might help. And then, later, I’ll bake about it. After that, I’ll eat about it. I will definitely drink about it, and at some point when I don’t even realize what’s happening, I’ll forget about it.

I’ve had too many feelings to bake lately (don’t worry, this week/weekend will be full of deliciousness), but in the meantime, I’ve compiled a few of my favorites for you below.

Talking and laughing about it with Stella Louise:

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I’m never dating again and other myths | Chocolate Baked Doughnuts

Do you know how many times I’ve declared that I’ll never drink again? 73.* Do you know how many times I’ve actually given up drinking? 0.

Sometimes, I decide to eat healthy. Then, I eat some carrots and feel good about myself, and I reward myself with beer and fried food.

Other times, I pretend to be a functional adult who takes showers every day and wears “business casual” clothes to work and packs her own lunch and pays her bills on time. Then, I get tired of that and put on sweat pants and order Chinese and buy things I don’t need on Amazon instead of paying my electric bill.

Recently, I was talking with some friends about a date I went on (which was fine, but didn’t turn into anything) and one of my friends said, “Well, at least you got a couple good dates out of it.” I sighed and made yet another declaration, “I don’t want to go on another date ever again. I don’t care if it is good or bad, I can’t handle any more dates! I’m never dating again.”

Then I went on two more dates the next week.

Dating is exhausting. Drinking too much costs money and makes me tired and gives me a headache. Eating healthy is hard and not delicious. Being an adult requires me to be responsible and organized, and I don’t know how to be those things.

But sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.

So, I’m putting on my big girl pants, sucking it up, and going on more dates. I also might try eating an apple and only having one glass of wine. We all have to make sacrifices.

First, I’ll have a doughnut.

Chocolate Baked Doughnuts

 

Chocolate Baked Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze
From Joy the Baker
(Makes about 6-10 doughnuts depending on the pan)

I’ve discovered baked doughnuts. They’re awesome. Not as much work as a fried doughnut (and not quite as delicious since we all know fried is better) but still SO GOOD. The first thing you need is a doughnut pan. I, of course, decided to make these at the last minute and couldn’t find a doughnut pan at my local craft score, so I ended up buying this instead. Worked like a charm!

These are pretty versatile. Once you make the actual doughnut, you can go crazy with different kinds of glazes or icings and of course sprinkles!

Doughnuts:

1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 light brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter, melted and browned
1 teaspoon vanilla

Glaze:

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2-4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
spinkles!

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F and spray your doughnut pan with non-stick baking spray.

Melt the butter on medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool.

In a medium bowl, place your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Whisk until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla until combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and fold together with a plastic spatula. Don’t over mix, but do make sure to fold until all dry flour bits are gone.  Use a spoon to portion the mixture into your doughnut pan.  Don’t fill them all the way up – about 1/2 to 2/3 full.  Bake doughnuts for 11-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let them rest for a few minutes (about 5) and then flip onto a wire rack to let cool completely.

While the doughnuts are baking/cooling, make the glaze.  In a small to medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the milk. Whisk until combined, and add more milk until the desired consistency is reached.  Once the doughnuts are cool, dip them into the chocolate glaze and return to the wire rack.  Add sprinkles!

The glaze will harden after a few minutes. Keep them in air tight container, but they’re best served within a day or so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m so Happy, I’m so Happy, I’m so Lonely

It’s wedding season! Every summer it happens, and I get so excited. In just under a month, one of my best friends will be marrying a wonderful guy, and I’m so happy for them. The past couple weeks I’ve been busy planning her bachelorette party (or lady shenanigans night as we’ve been calling it), and I’ve kept myself busy. I put on my craft pants and got to work – personalized drinking glasses for everyone, homemade gift bags, banners, and of course… COOKIES!

scrabble tile sugar cookies

 

I’m really happy for them. I love my friends, and I think it is awesome that they are getting married, but at the end of last night, after baking all day, planning, carrying things around in the heat, and just generally being exhausted, I couldn’t help but think, “When the hell is it going to be my turn?!”

And then I feel selfish. I feel so stupid and selfish and dumb, because I don’t want to be that bitter, old girl who resents everyone else’s happiness. But mostly, mostly I just feel lonely.

It’s not all the time. I have the best friends in the world, I have the best family, and I have a dog who is always there to cuddle with me and lick away my tears. But sometimes, I just want someone to come home to. I want a guy to miss while I’m at work, and watch a stupid movie with me when I’m too tired to go anywhere. I want someone to tell me I’m being an idiot when I get too down on myself, or to eat my cookies when I bake in the middle of the night just for the heck of it. Really, I just want someone to be there.

Lately, I’ve had guys show interest. I’ve gone on dates, and for a few nights I’ve felt really special and attractive, but these haven’t worked out.  I’m not entirely sure why — either I lose interest, or most recently they just seem to change their mind. It’s easy, during times like this weekend, to feel like dating is hopeless. To feel like I’m somehow getting left out of something, and to wonder what it is I did wrong.  Why does it seem like everyone else gets to find happiness?

Luckily, it usually only takes about one night of wallowing on the couch with a bucket of fried chicken to remember that I’m being over dramatic, and that I’m not the only one with issues. Having a boyfriend or husband won’t necessarily make me happy, and there are people out there dealing with issues a lot bigger than a guy not returning their text messages. I know all of this, I really do.

So, I give myself a reality check and focus on my next project or craft and psych myself up for the next engagement, wedding, or baby announcement. Because I’m happy. I really, really am happy. But I’m also really lonely. And for now, that’ll just have to do.

 

SCRABBLE TILE SUGAR COOKIES

I’m new to the whole royal icing decorating cookie thing (in case you can’t tell by the picture, my hand is just a wee bit unsteady!) so I didn’t actually modify the recipes I used at all. Usually, I change things up a bit and give you my version, but since I went very step by step on these, I’ll just send you to one of favorite blogs where I got the inspiration.

For the sugar cookies, I used this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker: Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

The decorating is pretty complicated, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but she explains it all very well here: How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing

Tips from my kitchen:

If you want to make the scrabble tile cookies specifically, here’s what I did:

First, good luck trying to find a square cookie cutter. I ended buying a small plastic square container that was meant for favors at a baby shower, I think? My cookies were a little bigger than an inch tall and wide – larger than an actual scrabble tile. I would just use whatever you can find to cut the cookies into a square shape.

To outline and fill the cookies, I used ivory colored icing and a #2 tip

To do the letters, I used black colored icing and a #2 tip

To to the points in the corner, I used black colored icing and a #1 tip

I also procrastinated and got these done in the last couple hours before the party. I highly recommend not doing that, and giving yourself plenty of time. Don’t be like me – make the cookies the night before! Trust me, it will really help.

 

scrabble themed bachelorette party

 

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Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Cookies with Marshmallow

I have something seriously embarrassing to admit.

I thought marshmallow was spelled marshmellow.  Seriously, up until just now when spell check told me I was wrong.

I am 31 years old, and I have no idea how to spell marshmallow.

I’m also now questioning my pronunciation.

 

In other news, I do know how to spell embarrassing (and Mississippi) because I memorized them both in 3rd grade.

I also made these cookies the other day, and they are seriously adorable.

These cookies are the cutest cookies I’ve ever made. I clapped my hands and giggled when I finished them.

They are cute, delicious, and they don’t judge me for not being able to spell.

Make these cookies, take a picture of their cuteness, and then eat them.

peanut butter graham cracker cookies with marshmellow

 

 

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Cookies with Marshmallow

(Barely) Adapted from Bakergirl’s Fluffernutter Chocolate Gobs

Ingredients:

Cookies:
1 2/4 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. molasses
mini marshmallows
Teddy grahams or pieces of graham cracker

Chocolate Glaze:
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl – whisk and set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter, and both sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg, vanilla, and molasses and beat for another minute.

Gradually add in the flour mixture and mix on the lowest speed.  Chill dough for at least 15 minutes.

Roll into quarter inch balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Bake for about 7 minutes until just very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and lightly flatten with a spatula. Then place 3 mini marshmallows in the center of each cookie and bake for 2-3 more minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While your cookies are cooling, go ahead and make the glaze. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, whisking continuously. Add in the milk as needed to get the desired consistency.

Drizzle glaze over the cookies (it will harden as it cools). Garnish with a teddy graham or a piece of graham cracker.

graham cracker cookies with marshmallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cynicism, Sarcasm, Desperation and Blueberry Cookies

Full disclosure: I am writing this from my bed while drinking a beer.

I realize I have not been the most consistent blogger.  I’m not sure if it’s laziness or writer’s block or a combination of both. Or, maybe it was that I had no recipes to share as I’ve been baking the same chocolate chip cookies over and over again.

Well, I’m back. The laziness problem has been solved by doing this from my bed, the writers block cured with some alcohol, and now that summer is finally here I’ve been inspired to make something other than chocolate chip cookies.

Speaking of summer… it’s finally here! After 8 months of Cleveland winter, it’s finally warm (ish) out! This means it’s time for flip flops, margaritas, evenings on my balcony, long walks to the beach, and the hope that comes with the beginning of summer that my life will turn into a romantic comedy and I will find love. Hope springs eternal (well, let’s be honest – hope curls up and dies in the winter, but right now I remain optimistic.)

So, this past weekend, I joined two other vaguely optimistic single girl friends, sundressed up, and we hit the town.

We hit our first roadblock pretty quickly when we realized we had no idea where to go. We knew where all the 21 year-old sequined tube top wearing girls would be, but there’s no way we could begin to compete with that at 31.  So we set off to find where the chubby, funny, slightly desperate older guys hang out.

Although we had a lot of fun, ladies nights aren’t exactly what they once were back in our 20s. Youthful exuberance has been replaced with a lethal mixture of cynicism, sarcasm, and desperation.

The night started out hopeful with this gem from one of my friends:

“Sorry I’m late, I had to clean up the empty wine bottles and underwear lying around my apartment just in case I fall in love tonight and he ends up at my place.”

Then, it turned a little bitter with this quote from the same friend, “I swear, if another one of my friends in their 20s gets engaged, I’m blowing up a Jared’s.”

There was a middle period where things looked hopeful. We had a fun guy and his friends join us for dinner, there was witty banter, flirting, and the exchanging of numbers. At the second bar, I beat a guy in darts and got his number (win, win!). But by the end of the night, we somehow found ourselves at our neighborhood bar, with our married friends, playing pinball. It actually was a nice ending to a fun night, and I called it quits at about midnight.

Then, around 3am, I got a text from my friend that said: “I took him home, but told him we weren’t hooking up. He fell asleep on my couch, and is now puking in my bathroom. Do I know how to pick them or what?!”

Well. At least she didn’t have any empty wine bottles or underwear lying around.

Also perfect for summer?

These Blueberry Lemon cookies with Almonds and White Chocolate

(Loosely adapted from The Spiced Life)

Blueberry Lemon cookies with Almonds and White Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups All-Purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. unsalted butter
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. dried blueberries
1/4 c. white chocolate
1/4 c. chopped almonds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda and powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place your butter in a large mixing bowl and add half of the zest. Mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and creamy. Take the remaining zest and rub it into the granulated sugar. Add the sugar/zest mixture to your butter mixture and mix for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the brown sugar. Beat another minute and scrape down the sides again. Add the egg, vanilla and lemon juice and beat another minute.

Add the flour mixture all at once, and stir at the lowest speed possible until just barely combined. Stir in both kinds of blueberries, the white chocolate and almonds until combined.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop the dough in tablespoon sized balls.  Bake for 10-14 minutes. The cookies should barely be browned on the outside (golden really) and still soft in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet 3-5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.

 

 

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Weird Advice and Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes

During my sophomore year of college, I decided to change my major from Communications to Writing. I met with my adviser to discuss the change, and the conversation didn’t exactly go as planned. My adviser, while brilliant and kind, was also a little off beat and spoke with a very thick accent.

After telling him that I’d like to pursue a major in writing, he got a very concerned look on his face and said very gently,

“Ellen. I am worried. I am worried for you that you will never get married.”

Obviously, this prompted a very confused look from me. I was also worried about this, but not sure what it had to do with my major. He continued,

“Finding work as a writer is very hard. You will not make much money. I am worried that you will not have husband and then you will not be able to find job writing and you will have to be a cook.”

huh?!

“I suggest you study English Education. Teacher is more practical career.”

At the time, I was appalled.  I got back to my dorm room and called my mom crying and babbling about being single and broke for the rest of my life.  It sounds bad, I know, but my adviser really did mean well. I’m fairly certain all he meant was that if I planned on supporting myself by being a writer, I should be aware that it would be very hard to make any money. Good point. However, the delivery obviously needed a little work. I ended up meeting with the head of the English department later that week who told me that if I had no desire to be a teacher than I really shouldn’t be one and that I should continue with my plans to switch my major to Writing. He didn’t make any promises about my matrimonial future, but I did feel a lot better after that meeting.

What’s even funnier (I think) is that I ended up taking a Creative Writing class from that same adviser a semester or so later and somehow or other our conversation about how I was never getting married came up in class (we talked about a lot of weird things in that class.) He had no recollection of course of telling me this and was dutifully horrified. He then told me that if any of his sons were not already married, he would be more than happy to have me marry any of them.

Well, it’s been a little over 10 years, and it turns out that he was partly right. I am not married, and I do have to support myself. However, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it, and parents and children across the US can all rest easy that I am thankfully not a teacher.

I’m never going to write the next great American novel, and I might never get married. Neither of these means my world is ending. What I can do is continue with my awesome job, write about my ridiculous feelings, and bake delicious treats. Take that, college adviser.

Chocolate Cupcakes with a Graham Cracker Crust and RumChata Frosting:

Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart and b.u.i.cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. special dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 c. whole milk (2% will also work)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water

Start with the crust:

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 c. of the white sugar and melted butter in a medium sized bowl. Stir until combined.

Place 1 Tbsp of the graham cracker mixture in each muffin cup. Use the bottom of your 1/4 measuring cup to press down the crust in each cup. Reserve some of the crumbs to sprinkle on top of your cupcakes once finished.

Place 2 tsp of the chopped chocolate in each cup on top of the crust. Bake in oven for about 5 minutes until golden brown.

For the batter:

Mix remaining sugar (2 cups plus 2 Tbsp), flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of your electric mixture. Use your paddle attachment and mix the dry ingredients together on a very low speed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add all at once to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and continue to beat on medium for 2 more minutes. Add the boiling water and stir it in.  The batter will be pretty thin.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle each one with the rest of the chocolate. Bake 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

RumChata Frosting:

1 c. unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3-4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
4 Tbsp. RumChata

Cream butter at medium speed for 2-3 minutes.  Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Add Almond extract, salt, and 2 Tbsp of the RumChata.  Mix on high for 3 minutes, adding some more sugar and RumChata depending on your tastes.

Frost cupcakes and top with remaining graham cracker crumbs.

 

 

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Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie

 

Pecan pie is one of my favorite things to make.

Chocolate is one of my favorite things to eat.

Bourbon is one of my favorite things to drink.

Obviously, I needed to put them all together into one sweet, boozy pastry.

My philosophy when it comes to baking with booze is that if you can’t taste it, there’s no point.  This is the first thing I’ve made that was truly polarizing.   The consensus among my coworkers (my usual test subjects for new creations) was either that it was bourbony goodness, or way too much of a bourbon taste to handle.  The flavors work well together, regardless of your affinity for booze so I would suggest making this anyway. The recipe below lists a smaller amount of bourbon than I used, but I would just follow your heart when it comes to how bourbony you want your pie.

Also, in case you were wondering, there’s something very therapeutic about rolling out a pie crust.  It’s not therapeutic of course when the crust sticks and falls apart, but luckily this crust recipe worked like a charm.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Adapted from Taste of Home

Crust
1 c. flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter – cold
2-4 Tbsp cold water

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut in the butter, piece by piece. You can do this with two knives, a pastry cutter, or just use your hands. Do this until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Add the water, a little at a time, and continue to mix slowly until it starts to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a large disk – large enough to fit your pie pan.  Flute the edges and prick the crust with a fork. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once heated, cover the pie crust with foil and weigh it down with pie weights or something else like dried beans or uncooked rice. After 10 minutes, remove the foil and weights and let it cook for another 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Filling

3 eggs
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. dark corn syrup
1/4 c. bourbon (1/8 c for less of a bourbon taste, a 1/3 c for a very strong bourbon taste.)
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. pecan halves, divided
3/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Coarsely chop 1 cup of the pecans and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrups, bourbon, butter, and salt.   Mix in the cup of chopped pecans and the chocolate chips. Sprinkle with the remaining pecan halves.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

 

 

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Snowed in With Cookies – Brown Butter Chocolate Chip

There’s approximately 800 feet of snow outside right now. It’s also somewhere around -49 degrees.

I had to park 9 miles (more or less) away from my apartment because there was a parking ban on the street I live on due to the snow.*

Normally, this would bother me.  But the snow and cold have passed so far beyond the point of annoyance that I feel i have no other choice but to embrace it.  You want to mess with me snow? I have 3 blankets on my bed (one of them made out of llama wool!), Netflix streaming on my tv, a dog to cuddle with, and a full bottle of wine. Bring it on.

This afternoon, I ordered Chinese food for dinner. I ordered two appetizers and two full entrees. Just for me.

After stuffing myself, reading my fortune cookie (ok, fine, fortune cookies – the restaurant apparently thought my meal was meant for 3 people), and watching two episodes of Dexter on Netflix (season 4 finale – I don’t even have words…), I decided it was time to go to bed.  Then, as I was changing into my pjs, I realized it was 7:30 pm.

It’s been a fantastic weekend.

Oh, and did I mention that I had cookies for breakfast? Don’t judge me. You would too if you had these hanging around:

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

* While the figures at the beginning of this post might be moderately exaggerated, my comments regarding the amount of Chinese food I ordered/ate are unfortunately entirely accurate. 

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Joy the Baker

Ingredients:

2 1/4 c. Flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter – at room temperature
1 c. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. molasses
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c. bittersweet chocolate discs

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside

In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt 1 stick plus 1 Tbsp butter until browned. Just let it melt over medium heat stirring occasionally until it begins to turn an amber-brown color and brown bits begin to form. It will also start to smell rich and nutty. Transfer to a glass bowl and let cool.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the other stick of butter and the white sugar on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and the molasses until just combined. Once the brown butter has cooled, combine with the other butter mixture and mix for another 2 minutes.  Add the egg and the egg yolk and beat for another minute.

Add the flour mixture – all at once and beat on low until just combined. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the chocolate pieces.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes or until just lightly browned around the edges.  Let cool for 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

 

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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