Archive for the ‘Baked Goods’ Category

Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies

August 6, 2010

Hello readers! After a long absence (which has included some great travel on both coasts), I am back in my tiny apartment and back to writing. Thanks to family and friends for egging me on about why I haven’t posted anything in forever–your enthusiasm has been a great antidote to my laziness.

This summer has totally flown by, but that doesn’t mean that great things haven’t happened in the kitchen. Perhaps my biggest project of the summer was the six dozen cookies I baked for my sister’s bridal shower. My mother and I threw a big party at my parents’ house earlier in the summer to celebrate my sister’s impending nuptials. The theme of the day was something along the lines of “Laid Back Garden Party”–we had sandwiches and grilled vegetables catered, we made a bunch of salads and side dishes, and we poured glass after glass of homemade lemonade and sangria. For dessert, we had a beautiful Sachertorte from Marjolaine Pastry Shop in New Haven. To round things out and balance out the chocolate, I made a bunch of these lovely cornmeal cookies.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Mocha Icing

November 14, 2009

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What you see here is not just a Bundt cake; it is a birthday Bundt. How did this come to be, exactly?

It all started with a Bundt pan lying around unused in my cabinet. I bought it because I overestimated the number of cakes I’d be baking, I suppose. I justified the purchase by convincing myself it wasn’t a unitasker, so it would be good for more than just cakes (word has it that Bundts are handy for roasting racks of lamb–not that I ever make lamb, but you know it’s good to have just in case).

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly thrifty person to begin with, but I am especially frugal on a nonprofit salary. So when I saw this recipe for a Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake in the September issue of Bon Appetit as I was looking for a recipe for Jason’s birthday cake, I noticed two things: 1) it claims to make use of ingredients that are probably in one’s pantry anyway, and 2) it gave me an excuse to use my bundt pan.

I just wanted to clear it with him first–Bundts aren’t exactly birthdayish; after all, there’s a lot of surface area missing for writing “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!” in icing. Nevertheless, my heart was set on trying this particular recipe.

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Minor Disasters: Gingerbread

October 28, 2009

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How could something that seems so simple–so easy–so, so, so…elementary turn out so disastrously?

I bring you my newest kind of post: “Whoopsies.” Here, a baking whoopsie: I bring you gingerbread.

My excuse: okay, I grew up in a household that didn’t do cakey gingerbread. Instead, twice a year, we baked (and we still bake) gingerbread cookies: turkey-shaped cookies for Thanksgiving, and bears for Christmas.  Everyone has a role: my mom expertly pipes the icing, and my sister and I get sprinkles/sugar/red hots duty. You should see the way Mom crafts it. You have never seen more realistic-looking suspenders-wearing bears.

Even though I’ve never made gingerbread in its true loafy sense, I didn’t think that it was going to be hard. And maybe it isn’t hard. Maybe Sunday just wasn’t my day.

How did this ever begin? Well, I should take a second to mention that I live within walking distance of one of New York’s best-kept secrets: Two Little Red Hens bakery.  When I was writing my Master’s thesis, I used to go on long, procrastinatory walk down along the East River, and on my way back I’d stop in for some kind of treat. “You can eat this (cupcake/cookie/key lime tart) when you finish writing a page,” I’d tell myself, but I’d always end up polishing off half of my purchase before I made it to my building. It became such a habit that the counterstaff remembered not only my name but my previous orders. “How was the apple cake yesterday?” the girl behind the counter would say as she handed me a slice of peach pie. For some reason, though, I tended to shy away from the gingerbread because it was one of the only items that was consistently available. Maybe I felt the same way about this gingerbread that pretty girls tend to feel about nice boys: it was too available, too easy to get. It would always be there when I needed it. Until one day, disenchanted by the promises of cheesecake and eclairs, I realized maybe what was in front of me was what I really wanted all along.  So I got the gingerbread. I raved. I swooned. I wanted to make it myself.

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Olive Oil Cake

August 26, 2009

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To my great delight, the heat in New York has given it a rest (knock on wood) for the time being. Of course, the first thing I did was to heat up my kitchen–first by making a lasagna, and then by whipping up this little delight. I’ve been hankering after an olive oil cake since I watched Top Chef: Masters (don’t judge) last week, when Michael Chiarello made one as a dessert for his three-course meal. Or was it his buffet? I don’t remember.  His didn’t come out that well–it was judged too soggy. I was kind of glad because in the long run it helped to lead my man Rick Bayless to victory, but nevertheless I thought the recipe itself was a good idea that I hadn’t tried before.

Anyway, this past weekend I was headed downtown on the second avenue bus to meet Jason for dinner, forgetting, of course, that the second avenue bus takes forever to go eighty blocks. Luckily, I was in possession of the September Issue…of Bon Appetit, that is. One of the first recipes to catch my eye was this little number, straight from the pages of the RSVP section (basically the mad libs section of BA: “I ate ___(food)____ at __(restaurant)____ in ___(city)___and it was __(adjective)_______.  How do you make it?”)  And what did I find there, but a reader’s request for the recipe for olive oil cake from Abraco coffee shop here in Manhattan!

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Claire’s Blueberry Buckle

July 10, 2009

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Well, this was originally going to be my Fourth of July entry with some sort of groan-inducing name like “Red White and Blueberry Buckle,” but I made this right before going to a party on the Fourth and fell asleep almost as soon as I returned home.  So we’ll just have to keep the spirit of the Fourth with us all through the year, or at least through the week, so I can write about it almost a week later!

I’ve really been craving blueberry-infused baked goods of late, and have perused dozens of recipes from tarts to pierogies to good ol’ fashioned pies. But then I was flipping through my copy of the Clarie’s Corner Copia Cookbook, which I bought on Amazon for two dollars when I first moved to New York and was feeling a bit homesick for one of my favorite hometown and college-town haunts. My best friend Sharon and I used to go there all the time, particularly during summers and college breaks, and sit at the round table in the front window, eating desserts and catching up over coffee, so I felt particularly compelled to try this one out (many more of Claire’s recipes will follow this one–hers is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks).

To tell the truth, I had never really tried or even heard of a blueberry buckle before I tried out this recipe, but I was really pleased by the results. The cake is dense without being dry, and the topping filled my apartment with the really comforting, lingering aroma of the mingling of brown sugar and cinnamon.

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Whatever-You’ve-Got Brownies

July 6, 2009

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I will tell you right now that it is a fact–not my affection-clouded opinion, but a completely indisputable truth–that my mother makes the best brownies in the world, ever. I had friends in college who said that their moms made the best brownies, and I would argue with them about it. And then they would try my mom’s brownies and shut up and perhaps cry themselves to sleep.

This, unfortunately, is not my mom’s brownie recipe.

No, the brownies whose recipe I am about to disclose parade on Epicurious.com under the name “Best Cocoa Brownies,” but in my heart and in my stomach they are still not quite Mom’s. But they are pretty damn good anyway.

How did I come to the point of settling for another recipe, you may ask?

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