Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cheese Danish

I've been under a bit of a food curse lately...I haven't made anything I'm really that proud of over this break. I've also made a few things that were downright inedible. My first batch of whoopie pies were both burnt and flavorless, my challah got charred, my macarons were undercooked...frustration. Making something fantastic has become kind of a necessity, even if only to boost my ego.

Not sure what spurred it, but my mom suggested I make danishes last night. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to break my curse. I'm getting less afraid of making laminated dough like this, ever since making croissants in the summer. The first time I tried to make puff pastry was kind of a mess, but that's another story. 

Oh my goodness they are so delicious. I think something may have gone slightly wrong in the process, since they were oozing butter in the oven, but they still turned out with tons of flaky, beautiful layers. My brother said they tasted like toaster strudels, which I think is a good thing, coming from him. I'll try and give directions the best I can here, but it is a long, multistep process. I'm going to heavily rely on Joe Pastry's tutorials for guidance. Let me know if I can clear anything up for you guys. 

Cheese Danish
from Joe Pastry

Dough (feel free to double, triple, whatever the recipe, cause this is a lot of work and you might want some in the freezer for another time)

For the dough:
5.5 ounces (2/3 cup) milk
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sugar
1 ½ teaspoons (6 grams) instant yeast
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose (AP) flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg

For the butter slab:
8 ounces butter
2 tablespoons flour

Combine all the dough ingredients (not the butter slab!) in a mixer and, using the dough hook, mix about five minutes until the dough is smooth and uniform (it will be somewhat sticky…this is what you want). Turn it out into a dough rising container and let it ferment for half an hour at room temperature, then put it in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, or overnight. 

While that is hanging out, you can make your butter block. Put your butter on a double layered piece of plastic wrap, and sprinkle the flour on top of the butter. Cover with another double layer of plastic. Now, with a BIG rolling pin, beat the crap out of it. Seriously. Here is what Joe Pastry has to say:

"What you’re shooting for here is a butter consistency rather like play dough. Not too firm, since you want it to spread as you roll the dough out. But then not too soft either, since if the butter actually melts it’ll soak into the dough and ruin the layering effect. What you’re after is a plastic texture that isn’t at all greasy looking or feeling. If the butter starts to shine, it’s too warm. Put it back in the fridge for half an hour and start over with the tension release"
When it has reached the proper consistency, shape it into a square and set aside. 

Roll out your dough into a square slightly larger than your butter block. Position your butter block on top of the square at a 45 degree angle, so it looks like a diamond on the square. Like this  Bring the corners of the dough into the center as tight as possible, so the butter is covered. Close all the openings, using a little water if necessary. You should now have a square filled with butter! 

Time for more beating. Whack the dough across, making an X, then vertically across, turning it until the butter is evenly distributed inside. You want butter within a half inch of every edge. Now, roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 longer than it is wide. Now fold it like you fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Repeat the rolling and folding process two more times, letting the dough rest 20 minutes between each one. I might stick it in the fridge during this resting period. 

Okay! Finally ready to rock & roll. If you're not into cheese danishes (you monster! Just kidding. Sort of.) there are tons of other variations to try. And prettier shapes. But I'm gonna go with this one. 

Cheese Filling

8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients a bowl and beat until fluffy and uniform. 

As for the pastry portion, begin by rolling about three quarters of a pound of pastry dough into a rectangle about a quarter inch thick (exact dimensions are not important). Then simply cut it into squares with pizza cutter. I made 12. They were sort of big. Spoon about tablespoon of filling into the middle of the square, then fold in the the first two corners. Bring in the third corner and using your finger, dab a little bit of the cheese filling on it as a sealing compound. Fold in the last corner and you’re done! Brush with an egg wash.  Preheat the oven to 375 and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how big they are.  Cook until golden brown. You're done!! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Daring Bakers! Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering - the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose... What else is there to say but "Whoopie!"

 I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by loved ones. We had a simple Christmas here, but that's okay. Sometimes simple is best. This house is small, which kind of forces all of us to be together. I have the tendency to want to run off and be by myself, so I'm still trying to find "hiding places", if you will. A kitchen can be a hiding space, but this kitchen is...quite small, like, difficult for more than one person to be in small. Spacewise, it reminds me of a dorm kitchen, but much, much nicer looking. Here, decide for yourself. 

Okay. Realtalk. After this point, when I was writing this post at 10:45 am, something crashed and I lost the rest of what I was writing. It was cutesy, and talked about the origin of whoopie pies, and how Maine holds the record for the world's largest whoopie pie at over 1000 pounds. I have no idea how you would even bake that. Maybe it had lead filling. 

Yeah, yeah, so the challenge was whoopie pies, which was good considering my limited space situation, but I was kind of hoping for something a little more difficult over my winter break, when I generally have access to more resources. C'est la vie. Of course these were tasty, you can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter (unless you have a nut allergy, then things could go terribly wrong), but they turned out a little thick for my liking. I prefer this variation. I filled them with a peanut butter frosting I've used in past blog posts, but I'll write it down again here, cause I know how annoying it is to have to flip tabs back and forth. You're welcome. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Whoopie Pies 

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened  
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
1 egg 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix on low speed. When dry ingredients are almost incorporated, stop the mixer and add the buttermilk. Continue to mix on low speed until all ingredients are almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix on low until just combined. Spoon heaping tablespoons of batter onto sheets and flatten a little.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when touched. Cool completely before filling. To assemble pies spread filling on one cake and sandwich with another cake. 
Peanut Butter Frosting 
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup heavy cream

butter and sugar until combined, then add the rest of the ingredients. Beat until frosting has a smooth, fluffy consistency.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Avocado Fries

It hasn't been an incredibly restful break up to this point. My mom has been driving back and forth from Rochester to be with my dad/try and hold the fort down at home, so I've been trying my best to pick up the slack and keep things under control. Last night my siblings and I were urged to leave home and drive down to Rochester a day early so we could beat the oncoming snowstorm. Though stressful, I'm glad we did...cause it snowed seven inches at home last night.

Yeah, yeah, I know avocados aren't in season. But they're something I can eat at home and definitely not at school. Maybe at a magical college somewhere they have fresh, perfect avocado slices available at every meal. dice. So I'm going to eat a while avocado for lunch and no one can stop me.

Festive boooowls

As much as I love guacamole, I wanted to try something different. A recipe for avocado fries looked especially intriguing. Slices of avocado coated in a panko crust, then baked and served with aioli. Crunchy, creamy, and really fresh tasting. Definitely ate them all in one sitting.

Avocado Fries with Lemon Garlic Aioli
from Ginger Bear Kitchen

1 ripe avocado (not overripe)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ tablespoon salted butter, melted
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
black pepper
Lemon Garlic Aioli
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on the cookie sheet.
Slice avocado lengthwise. I ended up with 12 slices for one avocado.
In a medium bowl mix flour with a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper. In a second medium bowl lightly beat the egg. In a third medium bowl mix the melted butter with the panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Cover each avocado slice in flour, then dip in the beaten egg and finally coat with breadcrumbs before placing each on the wire rack.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. While the fries bake, stir together all the ingredients for the dipping sauce and save in the refrigerator until the fries are finished baking. Allow the avocado fries to cool before serving with the dipping sauce.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Japanese Cheesecake

Hey everyone! I'm in the middle of finals week right now, which I always find to be a surprising calming time of the semester. There's no homework, extracurriculars have ended, so all that's left to do is study for four tests scattered over the course of a week. And if you've been going to class and paying attention, they're really not that bad. But that's just my opinion, feel free to disagree with me. 

Unfortunately, going home for break means I have to defrost my fridge. Always a pain. Since I don't want to throw anything away, I have to figure out how to use the odd ingredients hanging around. I'll probably end up making a bunch of pancakes later to finish off the milk and eggs. 

I'd been holding on to a block of cream cheese for quite some time, waiting and never coming across the right recipe. But now, it's crunch time! I decided to make a Japanese cheesecake. This is probably not like the cheesecake you are used to–it's closer to a cake called Castella. Though Castella (Kasutera/カステラ is now a special of Nagasaki, the cake was originally introduced to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. I'm not sure if the terms Castella and Japanese cheesecake are interchangeable, but if you do, let me know! Anyway, this cheesecake is really simple, super light and fluffy, and gluten free! Give it a try :) 

Japanese Cheesecake 

7 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I used normal granulated, it was fine)
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup cornstarch (DON'T use flour)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch cake tin with cooking spray. I used 3, 3" heart springform pans. I recommend a springform pan if you have one.

Make sure your beaters and bowl are really clean for this. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining sugar and cream of tartar, beating on high speed until soft peaks form, about 8-10 minutes.
 In another bowl, beat cream cheese with milk to soften. Add half of the sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch and lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Gradually fold beaten egg whites into the cream cheese mixture, stirring gently.

Pour into cake pan and smooth the surface. Place cake pan into a larger roasting pan and place in lower rack of oven. Pour enough water into the roasting pan to come half way up the side of the cake pan. Bake 35-40 minutes, until a pick inserted in the middle of the center comes out clean.

If the surface becomes too dark while baking cover with a piece of tin foil, but be careful not to open the oven door until it has been in the oven for at least 20 minutes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What happened on Thanksgiving.

So I was all prepared to write a cutesy, heartwarming post about Thanksgiving and how even though we would be spending it in the hospital, we'd be together. I was going to talk about how stuffing is the superior Thanksgiving food and maybe even share a recipe. My mom was bringing a ton of food and we were going to feed all the young and hungry nurses and people waiting for heart transplants delicious, low salt food. OXO, my favorite company in the entire universe (yup, universe. I travel a lot) even sent me a ton of amazing cleaning supplies to clean up the inevitable, massive mess we were going to make in the hospital's patient lounge. Seriously though, I adore this thing and use it everyday. Go buy one. 

The call came at 3 am, Thanksgiving Day. After five long months, it was finally coming. The heart we had all been waiting for.  We hastily packed our bags and all the food we had prepared to make the four hour drive out to the Mayo Clinic. At 10 am, the nurses wheeled my him down to surgery, making an arch out of their arms for him to pass through, as I walked behind, Chariots of Fire blaring out of my phone. That image about sums up my father. 

It's been a long and stressful journey, but we can finally move on to the stages of recovery. And I can't think of a more appropriate time for this to happen than Thanksgiving. Thank you to all of you who have been so supportive through this whole process. We couldn't have done it without you. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Daring Bakers! Sfogliatelle Frolle

 Sandie of the lovely blog, Crumbs of Love, was our November hostess. Sandie challenged us to make a traditional Italian dessert, along with its American version – Sfogliatelle (or better known in the US – lobster tails!) The flakey, 1000 layers of super thin dough, shaped into a horn and filled with a scrumptious filling. Così buono!

I'm gonna keep this one short and sweet because I am really tired and I have a lot to do tomorrow. Thanksgiving! That will come in another post. This month's DB challenge was to make something that has been on my baking bucket list forever – say it with me (if you can) – sfogliatelle. I could never get motivated because they are sooooo much work. But I kind of found a shortcut. 

Kind of looks like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors

So if you've had sfogliatelle, you might be like, "Rebecca, imposter, that's a hand pie, not the flaky, beautiful pastry I love". To that I say...shush. There are two types of sfogliatelle – ricci and frolle. Ricci is the beautiful kind with a million layers, and the one I did not make. I make frolle, which is much easier and more like piecrust. The filling is comprised of homemade ricotta and a sweetened semolina paste. Someday, when I have more time and resources, I'll tackle the ricci. But for now...I'll just amuse myself by saying sfogliatelle over and over again. 

Sfogliatelle Frolle

Ricotta Cheese Recipe

8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (or goats milk)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream (about 35%)
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice

1. Line a large colander or strainer with 2 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth over a large glass; set aside.
2. Pour the whole milk, heavy cream and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir/whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. The mixture will curdle, which is exactly what you want it to do. Pour this into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for about 1 hour or until it comes to room temperature. At this point you can scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
3. You will be left with a crap-ton of whey. Apparently it makes an excellent soup stock ingredient and liquid replacement for water or milk in bread. Here is an excellent article on the wonders of whey!

Semolina-Ricotta Filling
 (This recipe made way more filling than I needed. Prolly could have halved it).

1 cup (250 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) fine semolina
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (13-1/4 oz) (375 gm) whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of one pod and 1 teaspoon of extract)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) candied orange peel (I hate candied fruit, so I left it out.)

Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and slowly add the semolina (or cream of wheat), whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch (15 mm), to cool. When cool, break into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor), and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the candied orange peel. Scrape into a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 3 days).

Frolle Dough

2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (11-1/2 oz) (325 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz)(75 gm) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt
8 tablespoons (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs, beaten

Egg Wash
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
pinch salt

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Remove the butter from the fridge and pound it a few times with a rolling pin to make it pliable. Add it to the flour and start rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingertips, working from the bottom of the bowl upwards. Work quickly so the butter doesn't get warm from your hands. This only takes a minute or two to complete. Add the eggs and stir into the dough with a fork until it starts to hold together. Empty it out onto your workspace and knead it a few times. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm. The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Prepare the filling and chill it. Whisk the egg yolk, egg and salt together for the egg wash.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 5 inch (12-1/2 cm) rectangle . Place a hefty tablespoon amount of filling on the lower half of the dough and pull the top half over this. Use your hands to press down around the filling and seal the edges together (like making ravioli). Use a 3 inch (75 mm) round cookie cutter (or glass) and cut away any excess dough. 

Place the formed frolle on a prepared baking sheet and chill for 2 hours
Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5
 Brush the frolle with the egg wash and bake approximately 20 minutes, just until the frolle are baked through.
 Cool briefly on a rack.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Honey Beer Bread

Thanksgiving break cannot come soon enough. I haven't been home since the summer, and I am feeling myself slowly lose energy. The fading light doesn't help, since I can't say I'm very productive at night. So what have I been up to since I last posted...well, I acquired a bread machine (it is very bizarre and I'm kind of afraid of it), had a taiko drumming concert (like this guy, except less hardcore awesome), and it was my 22nd birthday! Oh man, so old. Twenty two somehow seems more important than 21. Like I've passed all those young adult milestone ages (16, 18, 21) and now...just uncharted territory. 

That's a beer. I hate beer. I've never found the appeal, and when people talk about the nutty or sweet notes (beer isn't sweet, who are you kidding), I get nothing. I suppose is a little embarrassing. I'm supposed to be this food connoisseur (apparently). But it all tastes like bilge water to me. Except for this peach beer I had in Belgium, which tasted nothing like beer at all. Probably why I enjoyed it. Perhaps you are asking why I have a beer then? Actually, it's unlikely you're asking that, since this is a cooking blog. Obviously I'm going to make something with it!

And that something is beer bread. Oh baby. I had never had beer bread until this summer, and let me tell you, it is magical. The top does this funky, lumpy thing while the inside stays soft and tender. And it is so, sooooo easy. It takes like five seconds to mix everything together. I like it with an inordinate amount of butter and honey spread on top. And my sister, who is gluten intolerant, ate it and said it was worth the extreme gastrointestinal discomfort, if that convinces you at all. 

Honey Beer Bread
from Cookie Monster Cooking

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
1 bottle (12 ounce) your favorite beer. Or any beer, if you hate it all and have no favorite, haha. 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together both kinds of flour, the sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in the honey and beer and mix until just combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Evenly pour the melted butter over the top of the batter.
Transfer the pan to the oven and place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any butter that may drip from the pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean and the top is golden brown.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I know, I know, muffins again. And another apple recipe. Maybe you're like, "Rebecca, stahp with all the apples". I'd like to hold onto fall as long as I can, okay? Last week I was talking about how much I was enjoying the crisp autumn weather and this week it snowed. Gah. Thanks, Minnesota. Point is, the apples will stay as long as I am provided with them. Then I will give in to winter.

I let the batter sit around while I cleaned up and put away laundry and got distracted. So the finished muffins were kind of tall and huge. This has happened to me before and it's weird, but research was inconclusive. Lemme know if you have a clear answer, as I am curious. I wonder if non yeasted baked goods can go through a kind of proofing process also? 

Anyway, the verdict on these muffins...well, I gave one to a stranger I bumped into in the hallway and she called me a saint, haha. People walking by stared longingly at the oven as they baked, and I heard one guy say it smelled like Cinnabon. Oh, but word of warning. If you're wearing chapstick or anything like that, the cinnamon sugar will get friendly with your face. It might be the one and only time I deem it appropriate to call someone sugarlips.'s still weird. 

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
from Add a Pinch

2 cups all-purpose flour (+ 2 teaspoons for coating apples)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (+ ½ teaspoon for coating apples)
2 cups diced apples
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup milk
For the Topping:
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375º F. Spray muffin tins with bakers spray or coat well with shortening or butter and flour, making sure to discard any excess flour from the tins after coating.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Toss together diced apples and 2 teaspoons of flour to coat apples in a separate bowl. Set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar until lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Add an egg, one at a time, taking care to fully incorporate before adding the other. Mix in vanilla.
Gently fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk. Stir until just combined. Fold in diced apples and scoop mixture into prepared muffin tins, filling about ⅔ to ¾ full. Bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Prepare topping for muffins while the muffins are baking by melting the butter and allowing to cool slightly. Pour butter into a separate bowl sized easy for dipping tops of muffins. Mix together granulated sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside.
Once muffins have baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly in the muffin tin. Then, remove each muffin and dip first into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place onto a plate to finish cooling.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Who wants to write about nihilism when the sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, and it's a Saturday! Pick me, pick me! Just kidding. But you know what, if that sounds like a perfect weekend activity to you, that's cool I guess. I'm not a very good nihilist. Too many meanings in the world, and not just ones I created. Nietzsche would shake his head at me. I don't mind. 

Say hello to my little friend.

This day could only get more glorious if I had one of those giant outdoor ovens. Y'know, like this. If you have a ton of money just sitting around, feel free to finance my extravagant dreams, haha. Anyway. If I had an outdoor oven,  I would make a loaf of bread right here in this patch of grass and eat it when it was still way too hot. I'd burn my mouth and it would be so worth it. 

Instead, I'll just have to eat one of these pumpkin muffins I made last night. They're a pretty good consolation prize, y'know, when you can't have bread fresh out of a brick oven. No, they're excellent just as they are! I like them because they use a whole can of pumpkin (so many recipes use an awkward amount and I end up wasting the rest!). Also, they have a crumbly top. I'll eat anything if you put crumb topping on it. 

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins 
adapted ever so slightly from Gimme Some Oven

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Cinnamon Streusel Topping
2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. cinnamon 

To Make The Cinnamon Streusel Topping:
Use a fork or your fingers to mix together all of the ingredients until they are evenly combined and crumbly. 

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 16-18 baking cups with liners, or mist with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger) until blended.
In a different large bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients (pumpkin, butter, eggs, vanilla) until well combined. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.
Fill the baking cups with the batter until they are each 2/3 full. Top with a tablespoon or so of the crumbled streusel topping. Then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cinnamon Chip Apple Cake

Fall is in full swing over here and I'm loving it. Have I ever mentioned that it's my favorite season? For a multitude of reasons. I consider myself to be a very sensory person. When I go on walks, my fingers drift over leaves, flower petals, tree trunks. Autumn overwhelms my senses, but in a marvelous way. The sound of leaves crunching underfoot, the smell of woodsmoke mingling with the crisp fall air, the taste of cinnamon lingering on my tongue...I love it all so much. 

You can tell I was baking at night when I use crappy instagram photos on my posts, haha

And fall has the most wonderful traditions associated with it. Trick or treating, pumpkin carving, apple picking...but it's all so fleeting. Before I know it, all the leaves have blown away, and it's always sooner than I'd like. So ephemeral. I'm trying to enjoy as many activities as I can, especially since this is my senior year and I have no idea where I'll be this time 12 months from now. Scary! Breathe. Focus on the now. 

I've been stockpiling as many local apples as I can, since I know they'll be gone soon and I'd rather eat a sponge than the red delicious apples they have in the dining hall the rest of the year. I decided to use a few to make this very simple cake, studded with apple chunks and cinnamon chips. Like the season, this cake disappeared far too quickly, and I'm already thinking about its inevitable return. 

Cinnamon Chip Apple Cake 
adapted from Sugar Plum Blog 

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups diced peeled apple
1 cup cinnamon chips

Heat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 pan with foil (enough to hang over the sides) and then grease the foil.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.. In a large mixing bowl,  beat together oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined, pale, and kind of fluffy. I did it by hand. Beat in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in apple and cinnamon chips until combined.
Spread cake batter into prepared baking dish.  Bake 30ish minutes or until well risen, golden brown, and a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scenes from my Life - Senior Year Edition

Haven't been around much lately, I'm sorry. I made some killer pumpkin pie dip and a peanut butter and honey crumb cake, but didn't post was too dark for pictures, and people just wanted to get the idea. Sometimes life doesn't want to be a blog post. I was all ready to post about baked apples, but I didn't like how they turned out, and I didn't want to pretend they had. Not blogworthy. So I thought I'd do another scenes from my life post. Is that okay? Let's go!

 My school is pretty. I love how much this spot can change depending on the season or even the time of day.

Jesse James Days. He was caught here, so they have bank robbery reenactments every year in the beginning of September. Small town quirks.

Pastry chefs at school got bored and made a Minecraft brownie castle I guess? 

 Oh hey, Brooklyn! I went on some lovely fall break adventures. Despite having visited NYC many times, I had never actually been to Brooklyn. I already can't wait to go back.

Aw yiss, fighting dinosaurs. I had never been to the Museum of Natural History before. There is so much to explore!

 Sigh. Nothing like a good, real bagel.

Another strange small town quirk. M&Ms are made in Hackettstown, New Jersey!

 Richmond, Virginia! The weather was unusually cold and wet, but we made the most of it.

Pizza. Pizza bigger than my face. Pizza too big to fit on one plate. I have been waiting for you for so long!

Regular blog posts will return soon. Hope you enjoyed this interlude!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Daring Bakers! Coconut Tres Leches Cake

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy... just plain delish!

I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive about the Daring Bakers challenge this month. Not because of the recipe, but just because of all the oven fails I've been having lately. I decided to minimize risk and take my baking elsewhere. A large number of my female friends live in an honor house dedicated to sustainable food, and informed me I was welcome to use their oven anytime. So I packed up all my supplies and trucked it down to the house. It was nice to have a large enough space for me to bake and socialize at the same time. 

I slid the cake into the oven nervously, praying that it would not burn or collapse. Thirty five minutes later I pulled it out and hurrah! It had baked up into a fluffy, golden sponge. 
"That smells really good!" someone called from the dining room, and I did a small victory dance (mostly an internal victory dance). Finally, a success. 

Obviously I wasn't done there, but the tricky part was over. You can't have a tres leches cake without the milks! I've made the traditional recipe before, so I wanted to try something new. I was delighted to find that The Pastry Affair had a coconut tres leches cake on her site. The sponge is soaked in a mixture of sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and coconut rum (side note, purchasing this was my first time actually buying something from a liquor store. I was a little nervous that there would be some rule I had overlooked preventing me from purchasing alcohol and I would be unceremoniously booted from the store. Thankfully that did not happen). Finish it off with a thick layer of coconut rum spiked whipped cream and toasted coconut and you've got yourself...a pretty irresistible cake.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake 
from The Pastry Affair

5 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 13-inch cake pan.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar until the yolks are a pale yellow. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, mixing until just combined (over-beating will result in a denser, flatter cake—not what we want!). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan until cake reaches room temperature. Pierce top of cake with a fork a couple dozen times to allow glaze to soak into the cake.

1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup coconut rum

In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut rum. Pour evenly over cooled, hole-ridden cake, making sure to get the edges and corners as well as the center. Now here's the hard part: refrigerate the cake overnight so the cake can fully absorb the glaze.

1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon coconut rum
Flaked coconut, toasted (garnish)

In a large bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream, sugar, and coconut rum together until topping is thick and spreadable.
Spread topping evenly over coconut cake, sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

I finally got an oven to work for me! But that's a story for later in the week ^__^  Okay, so you know how there are double stuffed oreos (which, apparently, are only 1.86th stuffed. The nerve!)? Now there are MEGA STUFFED OREOS. Is that too much filling for you? I'm kind of feeling yes. How do you eat oreos? I usually either spread peanut butter on them or pull one of these

Whoa, black and white, what is this madness? 

I don't usually buy cookies for myself, but I came into possession of some mega stuffed oreos through my father, who had received them from someone else. He can't eat oreos though, too much sodium, bad for the heart. So they became mine! And as much as I wanted to, I knew I probably shouldn't eat the whole package by myself. 

Messy....sorry, I was in a hurry >_ >

Soooo...I found a recipe for oreo cheesecake cookies. Not surprisingly, given my track record so far, they were a mega fail. All the fat oozed out the bottom without cooking the rest of the cookie. I slammed the rejects into the garbage and pondered my next course of action. I was due to meet up with some friends soon and I was not about to walk over there empty handed. So I rolled the remaining dough (eggless, hooray!) into balls, dipped them in chocolate, and popped them in the freezer. Cheesecake truffles! They were such a huge hit, I made them again a few days later. 

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 sleeve oreos
1 bag chocolate chips

Crush oreos into crumbs. It's okay to have some bigger chunks in there. Set aside. 
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and well-combined. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until the ingredients are well-combined. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Stir in crushed oreos. Roll into balls (about walnut sized). If your dough is getting too soft, pop it in the freezer until it firms up. Melt chocolate chips and dip each ball into chocolate until completely covered. Freeze until solid.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


I recall sampling slices of Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious apples and noting their different qualities as a class activity about the five senses in kindergarten. Was the apple sweet, red, crunchy? Since then, I have expanded my apple palate, but it’s hard to know what you’re missing when you’ve never had anything better. I used to be satisfied with Red Delicious apples. Apples are apples, right? Wrong. To the present version of myself, Red Delicious apples taste like old sponges with tough, inedible skin. 

I am incredibly lucky to have an apple orchard so close to my school. And I like having to work for my I make an effort to go apple picking each fall. There’s just something special about pulling fruit right from a tree and eating it in the same place where it was grown. 

Apples are one of my favorite fruits to cook and bake with because they’re so versatile and there are so many different varieties with different flavor profiles.  The school cafeteria brings in apples from the local orchard, so if I can keep myself from eating them instantly, I can stockpile enough to whip up some applesauce.
Making your own applesauce is a breeze, and it tastes far better than anything purchased in the store. Even if you have never touched a stove, I am confident that you cannot ruin this recipe. 

Chunky Homemade Applesauce
Peel and slice 4-5 apples. Feel free to eat some of your slices, I always do. If you have a food processor or blender, peeling is optional. It'll give your sauce more fiber and turn it a pretty pink color. But I prefer chunky applesauce more than smooth. Throw the apple slices into a pot, put a lid on it, and cook over medium heat. If you want to add a little water, that’s fine, but it’s usually not necessary. The apples will release their juices and soften pretty quickly. When you can mash the apples up with a fork, your sauce is done! Add as much cinnamon and sugar as you want, and serve hot or cold.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Senior Year + Banana Soft Serve

Sorry it has taken so long to post. Moving in and adjusting to school takes time, you understand. I'm still kind of denying the fact that I'm a senior in college. Most of the time I still have no idea what I'm doing (or it least it feels that way). I've come to the realization that maybe...there's no defining moment when a person transitions into adulthood. Maybe you never really feel like a "grown-up". Just gotta fake it til you make it. I'm okay with a life of continuously learning. 

This is my room, or at least some of it. It's cozy and quiet, down two flights of stairs and tucked into an alcove. To get this space of my own, I had to sacrifice other things...namely, being near my friends. It can get isolated down here, but it's good for me to make an effort to go out. 

This little number is my kitchen. The dorm is so spread out that there are actually 4 or 5 of these. The oven probably has been there since the 80's when it was installed, and the numbers have more or less rubbed off the dials. A few days ago I attempted to make a peanut butter cake that I was all excited to blog about. It cooked to what appeared to be a beautiful golden brown. Deception! The entire top half of the cake cooked while the bottom remained a goo. I was enraged! Not really, but definitely discouraged. I'll have to figure out how to cook things evenly. It's too hot for cake anyway, so I made that trendy banana "ice cream". Those are not unnecessary quotation marks, it's really more of a sorbet. Easy, refreshing, though in my opinion, not a substitute for ice cream. Hopefully I'll get this oven problem solved soon. 

Banana Soft Serve/Sorbet

Cut two bananas into slices, put them in a ziploc bag, and freeze them until they are rock hard (it will probably take at least 8 hours). All you really need to do now is throw the banana slices into a food processor (or magic bullet dealio, which is what I used) until smooth and creamy. For extra goodness, add a spoonful of peanut butter and a splash of vanilla extract. Enjoy immediately!