Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lemon Pistachio Shortbread

It seems as if, somehow, I blinked and it became December. November went by like a blur. I did one quick blog post at the beginning of the month and became so consumed with prepping to make pies for thanksgiving and packing to move, and then the actually making of the 1001 pies (yes, really), attending multiple thanksgiving dinners, and actually moving 2 days later that it seems I was far too busy to blog about anything, let alone get a good night's rest.

Now that thanksgiving is over and there is a bit of a lull before the Christmas rush . . . now that I am settled into my new apartment (yay!) . . . now that I FINALLY have my regular Tuesday off . . . I have a bit of time to rest. Resting for me involves sitting on my couch for some quiet time. Nothing goes better with quiet time than a cup of coffee or tea. And nothing goes better with coffee or tea than these delightful little shortbread cookies, flavored with lemon to kick-off citrus season.

I'm going to go keep the promise to myself to go rest up! And make a new promise to you guys to not wait an entire other month for another post :) In the meantime, enjoy these light little cookies. They are delightful.

Lemon Pistachio Shortbread

makes about 4 dozen small cookies

1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (containing xanthan gum)
1/4 cup ground pistchios (you will need a bit more chopped pistachios for the top)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
juice and zest from 1/2 small lemon

1/4 cup white chocolate pieces
chopped pistachio pieces, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients and mix just until the dough comes together. 

Remove from mixer and place dough on a lightly floured (I generally use white rice flour) surface. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out shapes with a small cookie cutter. 

Place cut-outs 1/2 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes, just until cookies start to become golden around the edges.

 Remove cookies from sheet and cool completely on a wire rack.

To finish, melt chocolate in the microwave in a plastic bag at 20 second intervals, kneading the bag gently in between. Cut a small corner off of the bag and drizzle chocolate across the cooled cookies. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Allow chocolate to set before serving.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Last of Fall: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

I feel like I've beaten a dead horse when I talk about how much I love fall, so I'll keep this short. Yesterday, Salt Lake was 70 degrees and sunny and looked something like this:

Today was the first snow of the season that stuck. I had to brush my car off several times, I wore leggings under my jeans, and busted out the tiny dog sweater that Lola hates so much. Usually I greet winter begrudgingly, feeling myself well up with anger when I see expensively decorated fake Christmas trees in the lobby at work and screaming "NOOOO!" at the radio when I hear Christmas songs before Thanksgiving. But this year's Fall was so gloriously wonderful and longer than normal, I think, that I will choose to accept the snow.

So, I send fall off with this recipe for soft and chewy pumpkin snickerdoodles, which taste like fall and happiness and all things wonderful. And even if the snow doesn't melt for a long while, there are glorious things in the word such as canned pumpkin so that you can have fall flavors long into the winter.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
makes about 3 dozen
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/4 cup sugar + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream together butter and sugar. Scrape down bowl. Add pumpkin puree. Stir together remaining ingredients (except the cinnamon sugar) and add to mixing bowl. Mix until combined. Refrigerate 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll into a ball. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake about 12 minutes, until cookies are set but still soft. Cool completely before removing from the baking sheet.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Orange Honey Butter

I certainly hope you guys don't think I'm insulting your intelligence. I'm sure you loyal readers are super savvy. I stress this because I know you guys can probably figure out how to mix together honey and butter to make, well, honey butter. I mostly just wanted to post this so I could tell you guys about this flavor combination and tell you to make these super delicious ginger cakes from Roost. The little spiced cakes are perfect for this colder weather and are perfectly paired with the sweet/salty/citrus-y honey butter.

Orange Honey Butter
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup salted butter, at room temperature (do yourself a favor and use Irish butter)
1/4 cup honey (I used orange blossom honey)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest

Place all ingredients in a bowl and blend with an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment) until everything is completely blended together. Spoon into jars and keep in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies with Nutella Cream

When you have a blog, there is a lot of pressure to be clever, or thoughtful, or have a super interesting story as to how you came up with your awesome recipe. And you know what? Sometimes I DO have really interesting and clever things to say . . . about life, and not about cookies. But, you guys don't get to hear those things, because this is a recipe blog. And sometimes, I just get inspiration to make boring pumpkin chocolate chip cookies way more interesting with Nutella. And that's all there is to the story. Perhaps I'll have a more interesting one next time, but, in the meantime, I'll be making more deliciously fall-ish cookies :)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies
makes about 30 sandwiches

For the cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (containing xanthan gum)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used semisweet)

For the filling:
1 cup Nutella (or other hazelnut-chocolate spread)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a mixer, cream together butter, both sugars, and vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir together both flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Add to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Scoop by heaping tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes, until cookies are set but still soft. Remove from oven and wait several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, mix together all ingredients with an electric mixer until fully combined. Spread about 1 tablespoon of filling onto a cookie and cover with another.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mini Apple Cider Donuts

I'm sure I've talked about it many times before but I LOVE fall. I love everything about it. Here are 5 things I'm loving about this month:

1. Taking walks at ANY time of the day, not just when it gets dark because that's the only time you can go outside without melting.
2. LEAVES! The leaves are just starting to change down here in Salt Lake but if you drive up any canyon, the leaves are all sorts of Fall colors! And in just a couple of weeks, I'll be heading "home" to upstate New York where the leaves are practically legendary. Seriously, Utah wins weather-wise for every other season, but it's got nothing on New York in the fall.
3. Fall weather fashion: tights, boots, sweaters (which means I can eat more cake like this because I'm wearing sweaters like this).

4. A lot of wonderful things happen in October. This year (today, actually), my parents' 29th wedding anniversary (awww), Halloween--which I've always loved--and, my birthday. Which I don't love due to the whole getting older thing, but usually get to spend with my wonderful friends, and that is something to be thankful for.
5. Fall flavors. As much as I'm going to miss all of the fresh berries and other produce of summer, there's something about the crispness of the air that makes me crave all things spiced. Which brings me to this recipe for mini apple cider donuts:

These donuts have all of the wonderful flavors of fall (try to find fresh apple cider if you can get it locally!) in a tiny and adorable little bite. Bonus: they're easy peasy to make and can be made vegan super easily. So welcome Fall, with a handful of the sticky and sweet little donuts.

Mini Apple Cider Donuts
makes about 4 dozen mini donuts or 1 dozen standard donuts

1/3 cup butter, melted (or coconut oil if you want them to be vegan)
1 cup sugar
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup almond meal/flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/4 cup apple cider

1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 48 mini muffin molds or 12 standard ones.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all donut ingredients until fully combined. Portion batter into prepared donut pans (this is most easily done by piping it through a bag), filling each mold about 2/3 full. Bake about 10-12 minutes (or about 20 for larger donuts), until the donuts spring back when poked. Remove from oven, waiting about 5 minutes before glazing.

For the glaze, bring apple cider to a boil over high heat in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and cook until cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. Allow it to cool before glazing the donuts.

To glaze the donuts, place donuts on a cooling rack over a pan and pour glaze over them, coating them well. Allow glaze to set before serving.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

'Tis the Season for Weddings and Disasters

When you get to be a certain age, it seems Summer brings a wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, etc. every other week. And sometimes weddings 2 weekends in a row. And, if you're me, you have awesome friends who have way more faith in your cake-transporting abilities than they should.

A few weeks ago, my friends Cat and Levi got married on a lovely day in Salt Lake City, surrounded by friends, family, and community. And as well-loved as Cat and Levi are, many people close to them made food for the reception. In addition to a lot of bread and even more macaroni and cheese (so SO much macaroni and cheese), I was honored enough to make the cakes. 

As glamorous as it may seem to make the cake for the most important day in 2 people's lives, making and transporting items as delicate as cake is not as easy as one would think. I should have known. Because cakes are so delicate, it is best to put boards between each layer, put pillars in the tiers, and stack the tiers when you get to the location. I only did about 1/3 of these things. And about halfway through the drive to the location, the shit, as they say, hit the fan. The main cake had crumbled to pieces. And I fought to keep it together.
Instagram photo taken the day of and then the day after, after it fell apart and then was demolished by hungry guests
As soon as I went and told the bride what happened, she was so wrapped up in wedding day joy, it didn't even matter. Some wonderful guests came to the rescue and went to the store to get a few sheet cakes to supplement, and there were still a few smaller cakes to cut for the ceremony.

photo of the cakes that stayed together by the very talented and generous Amy Beckler
The rest of the photos can be seen on Amy's blog
So, all was well. Cat and Levi were married and I had learned a thing or two about cake transportation . . . . and this awesome lemon cake with this buttercream frosting didn't completely go to waste: about 10 or so wedding guests scooped the crumbled pieces out of the back of my car to enjoy. God bless them.

Thankfully, the next weekend when Charlie and Liz got married, I was smarter and the cake turned out well. And even better, they also chose lemon cake (people LOVE lemon!) and, as a special addition, I made this fantastic lemon curd to go between the layers. It also makes a wonderful pie filling, is delicious sandwiched between a couple of butter cookies or can be eaten guiltily alone by the spoonful. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd 
Makes about 4 cups

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
the peel from 1 lemon
2/3 cup lemon juice
10 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter

In a medium saucepan, place 2/3 cup water, lemon juice, and lemon peel and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove peel.

Stir together cornstarch and sugar in a separate bowl and then stir into the water-lemon mixture. Stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly.

Whisk the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. Remove half of the lemon mixture from the pan and quickly whisk into the egg yolks. Return to the lemon mixture and whisk over medium heat until mixture boils. Cook and stir two minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Remove curd to a separate bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cool in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Scones

I spent the first 23 years of my life hating scones. To me, scones were just a less moist version of muffins and a less buttery version of a biscuit. But in an attempt to like all well-loved baked goods in the Universe, I worked hard to create a scone that I'd actually enjoy.

My first attempt was . . . well . . . gross. I wanted them to be moist but they turned out mushy and soggy. And they turned a weird color because I used mixed berries. So, this time, I decided to tweak these wonderful biscuits to be more muffin-like, and added the extra dazzle of the lemon-poppyseed flavor combination. And you know what? Now I like scones.

Lemon Poppyseed Scones
Makes about 15

2 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (containing xanthan gum)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons poppyseeds
6 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
juice from one large lemon
zest from 1/2 lemon
lemon glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir together first 5 ingredients. Cut butter into small cubes and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers. Work in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk, lemon juice, and zest by hand.

Dust clean surface with rice flour and pat dough into a rectangle that's about 4 inches by 12 inches. Sprinkle with a bit more flour. Cut into about 15 triangles and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes, until scones are puffed in the middle and can be picked up without bending or breaking. Cool slightly.

To make the glaze, whisk together 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and zest from 1/2 lemon. Dip the the scones upside down into the glaze and allow to set before eating. Consume within 2 days.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Brass Ring: Gluten-Free Biscuits

Some days, I want nothing more than to make something comfortable, something I've made 1,000 times before that turns out perfectly. And then there are some days when I feel like kicking some gluten-free baked good ass. These biscuits are a result of one of those days.

I woke up one morning recently thinking about biscuits. And then I realized that biscuits may not be a possibility, which made me angry. I tend to stay away from anything that is so intensely flour-based and have few other ingredients to rely on (puff pastry, croissants, etc.). But this day I was feeling determined. 

I did a lot of research on biscuits, both gluten-free and not, and found that every gluten-free recipe contained eggs as a binder. I wanted to stay away from eggs because of a friend with the allergy. So, I decided to pull out my favorite Martha Stewart Cookbook, and high-quality gluten-free flour (I used Cup4Cup) and got mixing, hoping for the best. Instead of using buttermilk, I used a thicker kefir, which gave both great flavor and enough moisture to keep them together.

When I pulled them out of the oven and saw the perfectly fluffy layers, I knew that I had obtained the brass ring, achieved a master feat: I had made lovely and delicious gluten-free biscuits. And I was thrilled.

Gluten-Free Biscuits
adapted from Martha's American Food
makes about 12

2 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (Cup4Cup works best here!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold salted butter + 2 tablespoons melted butter to use after baking
1 cup kefir (You can also use buttermilk or greek yogurt whisked with a small amount of water)
rice flour, for rolling out dough

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet or lay a piece of parchment on it.

Stir together the dry ingredients. Cut butter into small cubes and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter (seriously, use a pastry cutter. You don't want the butter to get too warm). Work in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in kefir or buttermilk by hand.

Dust clean surface with rice flour (you can also use GF AP flour but rice flour is cheaper). Roll out dough into a disk that is about 3/4 in thick. Cut out dough with a 2-in round cookie/biscuit cutter and place rounds on prepared baking sheet.

Bake biscuits about 12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter. Serve warm (preferably with a bit of jam or honey).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Honey + Orange Madeleines

Sometimes foods can take you to another place. There are the foods that bring you to places you remember from your childhoods, and then there are the foods that bring you to places you have only imagined. For me, these perfect little French cookie/cakes have me dreaming of sitting on the Champs-Élysées while Proust writes on the next bench over. I love that about food, it's ability to take you someplace else. These little madeleines have the perfect citrus-sweet flavor balance, and will hopefully take you away, too :)

Honey and Orange Madeleines
makes 24
adapted from Martha Stewart: Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely grated orange peel
orange glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt butter on low heat. Once melted, let sit over heat one minute more. Remove from heat. Remove 1/4 cup of the butter from the pan and use it to brush a 24-mold madeleine pan. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Whisk eggs until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the honey and vanilla. Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup melted butter. Fold mixture into flour mixture. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.

Divide batter evenly between prepared madeleine pans, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake until the cakes are crisp and golden around the edges, 8-9 minutes.

Allow to cool and remove from the pan. Cover with glaze.

For the glaze, whisk together 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, 1 teaspoon orange zest, 1 tablespoon warm honey, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract). Brush over madeleines. These madeleines are best eaten the same day they are made.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bake Break Over

Today was the first day back that I was "allowed" to bake. It was also my day off. I wanted to make sure that I didn't do what I'd usually be so inclined to do: set my alarm for exactly 8 hours after I went to bed and start baking as soon as I was up. Aside from waking up before my alarm, I made time for a peaceful morning: a morning filled with a walk, solo breakfast at my favorite place, accompanied by a quiet time and some reading for book club. And you know what? It was lovely. So lovely, in fact, that by the time I finished picking up everything I needed to make cookies, I was still okay with the fact that I hadn't yet baked.

After a bit more time, of course, I got to baking--not because I felt like I needed to make it for someone, not because I needed a distraction, and not because I felt bad about not being productive enough today; I baked because I was in the mood for some cookies with figs (I'm obsessed with figs right now). It was quite the relaxing experience.

I'm sure that in a short time, I will show love to others with baked goods again. And I'm sure there will be days when I run around the kitchen like a crazy person, trying to get baked goods done for 3 different events. But for today, I baked for myself. And rested a lot. I will go ahead and call that progress.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bake Break, Days 9+10: Showing Myself Some Grace

The last two days have been the most difficult of my Bake Break for the following reasons:

1. Yesterday was the first "no baking" day I had off so
 I couldn't even get my baking fix at work.
It is rare (very VERY rare) that I go one day without working with my hands in some way.

2. I've had too much free time
I didn't make any plans after work today. I puttered around the house for a bit before taking a long nap and then watching an entire movie without interruptions (yay!)

3. It has been way too long I haven't baked and the oven is just sitting there, looking at me like a sad puppy that hasn't been walked all week (which reminds me, I should probably walk my dog . . .) Yes, I give feelings to inanimate objects. I often say that my KitchenAid Mixer is tired as I pat it sympathetically.

4.  I am over capacity with having to show up places with out bringing baked goods. 
I keep planning things where I show up to see people, and can't use baked goods as an ice breaker or excuse for showing up somewhere (see days 7+8). I knew this one would be the least comfortable and most challenging.

All of that being said, I am having trouble feeling like I'm doing enough with my free time. I think this is one of those things that feels like an assignment, something at which you aren't necessarily enjoying but you know will be good for you--a discipline, of sorts. And, if you are disciplined long enough, the daily assignment can become your natural posture, and perhaps something that you actually enjoy (I would compare this to training for a run but I really hate running so you guys can just make up your own example).

Most importantly, in the midst of all of this discipline (yes, I realize it sounds completely ridiculous to be disciplined in not baking and instead watching movies or just sitting or something), it is also important to show yourself some grace--grace both in not getting everything on your "to-do" list done, and grace when it is your goal to rest more and you decide to work instead. Now, I realize these examples are applicable specifically to me, but whatever it is that you have trouble letting go of, remember to show yourself some grace. We'll both be better off.

I plan to get back to baking on my day off tomorrow, while also getting some other stuff done and trying to relax. And as much as I have the perfect plan for how to spend my day, I will try to show myself grace as my day is bound not to happen as perfectly as I had planned it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bake Break, Days 7+8: Showing Up Empty-Handed

Days 7 and 8 have included a lot of events . . . events to which I normally would have brought dessert. It's become a habit of mine, you see, to show up to dinners, meetings, etc. baring some sort of baked confection. This little habit of mine is one that I developed when I moved to Utah.

When a new church starts, there are a lot of potlucks and small gatherings. And when you tell people you bake all day long, it is kind of expected that the thing you'll bring is dessert. When the potlucks stopped, the baking increased. As my love and passion for creating recipes grew, so did this idea I'd created that people expected dessert whenever I showed up some place, even if it was just to someone's house for a chat or to have dinner.

This habit of mine developed into an obsession to never show up anywhere that I'd be getting something out of my interaction without holding some sort of baked good. But, as I have learned, people are probably willing to talk through something with you or have you over for dinner simply because they enjoy spending time with you, and not because they expect you to have brought them cookies. I'm not saying that you can't ever bring cookies to your neighbors again, just that there is a balance between serving others and allowing them to serve you . . . a balance I am myself just working out.

Not being able to bake for the past week has not stopped the dinners, parties, and get-togethers. So, in that time, I have had to try to be okay with allowing others to serve me by inviting me into their homes, with out the presence of a cake box in hand. And, even though the Bake Break will be over in a couple of days, I have a feeling that the discipline of showing up empty-handed will be one that extends far further than the confines of these 10 days.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bake Break, Days 5+6 : Rest With Your Mind

It's the end of day 6 and today was the first day I felt an overwhelming need to bake something. I feel like baking almost every day, but after 5 o'clock today I hadn't made any plans. I don't do well when I don't have plans. I am one of the worst people at resting that I know. I stay up later than I should, I can't sit still for long periods of time (I don't remember the last time I watched an entire movie without doing something else), I run errands constantly, and I bake after I get home from work.

In a recent talk with my pastor/friend, after asking if I rested well (to which I laughed), he shared some sage advice: If you work with your hands, you need to rest with your mind, and if you work with your mind, you need to rest with your hands. My daily activities and iron-man-sized hand muscles tell me that I'm the former, meaning that I should be resting with my mind more. This is something I attempt about 10 minutes before bed and maybe for a few hours one night a month. This bake break should be my perfect opportunity to take more time for resting with my mind. But I had plans throughout the first half of the week and when I had free time today . . . I totally blew it by running errands. 

So, over the next four days, I plan to be more disciplined--to make less time for distractions and more time for quiet time, journaling, reading the ginormous stack of books through which I'm about 1/4 of the way through, and watching at least one movie in its entirety without doing anything productive. And at the end of it, I hope to lose the nervous-shaky-restless-thing that my leg does when I'm forced to sit and do nothing. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bake Break, Day 4: Bake Break Break

Today, I took a break from my bake break. Before you all freak out, you should know that this was not a moment of weakness or boredom, but it was something I have had on the schedule for weeks--sticking to commitments is important, people!

There is a big difference to me between baking by myself and baking with a friend. Baking alone can be "me" time, a distraction, an obligation, a form of therapy, a chore, and so many other things. Baking with a friend is all about the relationship--the time that is shared over a bowl of cake batter.

"Food is, of course, a social thing, one of the most positive,
 primal ways of spending time with people . . . " 
-A Homemade Life

On days when I am so tired after working for 10 hours and I think I'll scream if I even have to look at another sugar cookie, I remember a baking date that I have scheduled later in the week with a new friend and I become thankful. I become thankful for a way much more interesting than sitting across from a person holding a coffee mug to get to know someone better. I'm Thankful that I can teach that person a bit more about baking and they can teach me a bit more about themselves.

So, even if I didn't abide by my "no baking" rule today, I got to spend 4 hours making petit fours for the birthday party of a sweet little girl with a friend who is always good to catch up with. And it was totally worth it.

 The next time you bake, consider inviting a friend, because the community aspect of preparing food together is bound to be more rewarding than the delicious treat you made.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bake Break, Days 2+3: Leaving the KitchenAid Behind

Here we are, at the end of the third day of my "bake break" and I'm realizing that the constant presence of my boysenberry KitchenAid mixer makes my task all the more difficult.

Saturday afternoon I went up into the mountains with a big group from church for our third annual camping trip. Being far away from the city and sleeping on the ground doesn't allow for items as excessive as KitchenAid mixers. Thankfully, the expectation of baked goods could be met by the homemade graham crackers my friend, Joy, and I made before I unplugged the KitchenAid. And, unlike my family, who rarely gets to experience the fruits of my labor and insisted upon a real dessert made while camping, I was blown away by the support, and even excitement that met me as I explained to my community that I wouldn't be baking for the next 10 days. But, I knew that the lack of electricity and forced relaxation could only last until Sunday, and so I had to take more extreme measures.

Anyone who has known me for any small piece of time knows that I have a minor obsession with my purple KitchenAid mixer. I went the first 23 years of my life without one and, let me tell you, those were the dark days. Since finally receiving one for my 23rd birthday, the poor thing has not had a break and now looks, um, well-loved. So, as I prepare to housesit for the next 10 days or so, I have also decided to leave my KitchenAid at home. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but for someone who has such an emotional attachment to an appliance, leaving it behind feels significant. I think the time apart will be good for the both of us (yes, me and the mixer).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bake Break: Day 1

I realize that this is an odd title for a baking blog. A bake break connotes that I will be taking a break from baking (obviously), which is exactly what I'll be doing . . . for the next 10 days. So, if you're only in this for the recipes (which is totally understandable), check back in 10 days. In the meantime, I'll be blogging through the process of not baking for the next week and a half. Let me explain . . .

A few weeks back, I had a realization--the realization that almost my entire identity is wrapped up in baking. I'm constantly referred to as "the girl who bakes" and answer the question of "what do you like to do after work?" (my work being at a bakery) with "bake." I bake constantly. And if I was asked to give it up, my identity as a baker I mean, I honestly don't know if I could. And though I am so thankful for the passion I have for baking, and for the way it has allowed me to connect with and serve others, the passion has turned to obsession and all of my thoughts are wrapped up in baking, and cookbooks, ingredient shopping and blog reading, and such.

So, after consulting with possibly my wisest friend, I have decided to take a 10-day-long break from baking. A time for reflection, rest (ugh), and not allowing myself to be distracted from the things I should be thinking about and doing by baking. And hopefully I will come out on the other side, with my sanity intact and some other ideas about how to fill my free time. In the meantime, I'll be updating the blog every so often in order to keep me accountable to not baking and to log my thoughts throughout the process. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vanilla Coconut Syrup and How to Cold-Brew Iced Coffee

There is something very therapeutic about preparing coffee in the morning. For the most part, I wake up close to right before I absolutely have to be out the door, clinging to the last few minutes of shut eye I can manage before greeting the dark hours of early morning. I do just about everything I can the night before so that I have very little to do in the morning. But there's something about that quiet time when you're up before everyone else, something that makes you want to slow down a bit and take in the quiet. In these moments, between putting on about 2.5 minutes worth of makeup and driving 30 minutes to work, I take the time for coffee. 

Now, in a Salt Lake City summer I think about 2 percent of people can manage drinking something so hot. I had a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago about cold brewing coffee. I hadn't ever thought of trying it, and then my wonderful Bon Appetit Magazine had instructions on how to make it. Now I'm in love and I have a new morning routine of mixing the coffee concentrate with some lovely homemade vanilla coconut syrup and almond milk. It makes for a happy little accompaniment to a morning devotional. 

So, whatever your morning routine looks like, subbing out your usual french press or coffee-maker coffee for this cold-brewed iced coffee will be a great addition :)

Vanilla Coconut Syrup
makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1 vanilla bean

In a small saucepan, stir together sugar and water and bring to a boil. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and place in a bowl with the coconut. Pour sugar water over the mixture. Cover and let sit 6-8 hours. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into mixture. Strain. Return to saucepan and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and pour into a jar or container.

Cold-Brew Iced Coffee Concentrate
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine July 2012
Makes 3 cups concentrate

8 oz ground coffee beans

Place ground coffee in a large jar. Slowly add 4 cup of cold water, making sure all of the grounds are moistened. Cover with a layer of cheesecloth. Let stand at room temperature 15-20 hours.

Remove cheesecloth and use it to line a fine mesh sieve. Hold it over a pitcher and slowly pour coffee concentrate through. Discard cheesecloth with solids and rinse jar.

Line same sieve with a new piece of cheesecloth and set over the clean jar. Strain coffee through sieve into the jar. Cover and chill up to 2 weeks.

To serve, fill a glass with ice, pour in equal parts coffee concentrate and either water or milk (I like a combination of almond milk and water). If desired, serve with a few tablespoons of vanilla coconut syrup.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rocky Road Cake

Summer has arrived and that means, to most people, that it is ice cream season. But, to me, every season is cake season. I'm the type of person that has a craving for some ice cream, buys a carton, eats it once, and then sticks it in the freezer, only to be found months later, completely inedible and laden with freezer burn.

When I do eat ice cream, however, I LOVE rocky road. So, instead of wasting perfectly good rocky road ice cream, I made something that I knew would not be wasted: rocky road cake.

When planning for this recipe, only one frosting idea came to mind: swiss meringue. It has the exact flavor of marshmallows with out the weirdness of gelatin. It is pillowed atop a simple chocolate cake (I used a mix-get over it) and sprinkled with hearty bits of roasted almonds and dark chocolate. It's everything you've ever wanted rocky road to be . . . without the freezer burn!

Rocky Road Cake
Makes one 1-layer 9" cake

one 9" chocolate cake (I used Betty Crocker GF Cake Mix, or you can use 1/2 this recipe)
one recipe swiss meringue (recipe follows)
1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds
1/3 cup chopped/shaved dark chocolate

Swiss Meringue:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup liquid egg whites

Set a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water (about an inch worth-make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water).

Pour the sugar and egg whites, into the bowl and whisk constantly. Check the temperature every few minutes, while whisking, until it reaches 160 degrees F.

Pour hot sugar-mixture into a bowl of a mixture fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form and the mixture is cool.

Spoon the meringue onto the cooled chocolate cake and use your spatula to make small peaks. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and chocolate.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Graham Crackers Don't Grow On Trees

"So, did you bake us anything?" The conversation began. 
"I just took the red eye into town this morning," I replied. "I did make homemade graham crackers, though." Long pause. 
"Hmm, I didn't really know you could make graham crackers. I always thought of them as more of an ingredient." 
"There aren't, like, graham cracker trees," I replied. 
"But, you don't make homemade crackers." 
"I do, actually." I blew the minds of a couple of my cousins with that conversation. And now, if you didn't already know, there are no such thing as graham cracker trees.

Last week I made my way home to New York to join my large family for the 20th annual Memorial Day camping trip--a trip I had yet to attend since my move to Utah 2 years ago. 

Because we were camping, I had to consider a gluten-free graham cracker option for the s'more situation. I could have easily picked some up at the store (or picked some off of a tree?) but homemade is SO much better! So, I got in to New York after a long red eye flight and began baking. The result was a delicious, crisp, perfectly sweet vegan graham cracker.

Cinnamon Graham Crackers
Adapted from Babycakes Covers the Classics
Makes about 30 (3"x3") crackers

4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup melted coconut oil, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cold water
cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Line 2 standard baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

In a large bowl stir together flour, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Add 3/4 cup coconut oil and vanilla and stir until combined. Add the cold water and stir until dough comes together (if the dough is still too dry you can add a bit more water. 

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured (I used white rice flour) work surface and sprinkle a bit more flour on top. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out to desired size (mine were about 3"x3"). 

Carefully transferring graham crackers to the lined sheets by sliding a thin spatula underneath. Space them about an inch apart. Brush the tops with remaining 1/4 cup coconut oil and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar. Bake 10 minutes. Rotate pans. Bake 5-10 minutes more (this will vary depending on size), until crackers are crisp and golden brown.

Allow crackers to cool completely before removing from baking sheets. They are lovely on their own but are even lovelier used to sandwich a perfectly golden marshmallow and 2 pieces of chocolate while sitting around a campfire.

Camping with almost the entire family!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb//Strawberry Lemon Donuts

The warm weather and entering into strawberry season has me craving certain flavors. I'm always looking for good flavor pairings and when I think of strawberries, I think of the classic pairing of strawberry and rhubarb. And though I grew up eating strawberry rhubarb pie, I thought I'd modernize it by incorporating this classic flavor combination into a donut--and a sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan one at that!

As soon as I pulled the strawberry donuts out of the oven, I knew I would love them. But when I made the strawberry rhubarb glaze, I realized my tastes had changed. I've decided that rhubarb is a little too sour-bitter for me these days, but at least they were gobbled up by the friends to whom I gave them. Wanting to enjoy the donuts myself, I made a lemon glaze (this one contains sugar), which I enjoyed much better.

So, if you love rhubarb like some of my friends do and like I once did, you'll love the strawberry donuts with strawberry rhubarb glaze. And if not, the lemon is a perfectly lovely choice as well. Or just make both!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pistachio & Raspberry Macarons (Or, If at First you Don't Succeed . . .)

Is there ever a recipe that you want so badly to make but never have any success with it? For me, it was   french macarons.

The first time I tried to make macarons, I wasn't careful with how I folded in the egg whites (not surprising since I'm always in a rush). The macarons spread out all over the baking sheet and were completely unusable. The second time, I was a bit more careful. It was in vain: the same thing happened. I blamed the recipe and threw in the towel . . . for about a week.

I couldn't get those stubborn little cookies out of my head. I tried a new recipe and the dainty cookies were lovely when baked. I decided to fill them the next day and kept them in the oven so I didn't have to mess with them until then. Well, I decided to make a cake with a friend the next day and preheated the oven. In about 10 minutes, a smell overwhelmingly like burnt popcorn filled my kitchen. I glared at the oven, dreading what I'd find when I opened the oven. I found dark and crispy little macarons, burnt to a crisp awaiting me. And then that thing happened where you start laughing but you're actually crying, trying to keep it together because I wasn't alone. That was the end of my macaron baking . . . for the time being.

About a month after that, my friend, Becky, emailed me, asking if I'd ever made macarons. I regaled her with the tales of my failed macaron-making, but decided I would try one last time. I don't like to pass up a chance to bake with Becky.

So, we got together, and after a whole lot of recipe tweaking, measurement conversions (a good chance to practice the math you learned in elementary school and probably never use), and a quick trip to get a baking sheet we were lacking, Becky and I had made ourselves a beautiful and delicious batch of perfect pistachio macarons. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

So, the next time you just can't get a recipe right, keep on trying, preferably with a friend, until you're successful. Just remember that old saying: If at first you don't succeed, try, try, (try) again.

Pistachio and Raspberry Macarons
makes about 30-35 sandwich cookies

4 egg whites, aged overnight
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
a few drops green food coloring
1 cup fine granulated sugar (caster sugar)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almonds/almond flour
1/2 cup finely ground pistachios
1/2 recipe perfect buttercream frosting (or other frosting that is actually dairy-free)
6 oz fresh raspberries, lightly mashed

Photo by Becky Rosenthal of The Vintage Mixer

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats (preferable) or parchment paper laid over guides for sizing the cookies (you can find these online, I'm sure).

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat aged egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peals form. Slowly incorporate the sugar. Quickly mix in a few drops of green food coloring and mix until still peaks form.

In a separate bowl, stir together ground almonds, pistachios, and powdered sugar. Carefully fold in egg white mixture.

Place the mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip. Following the guide (see photo above), pipe circles onto the silicone mat or parchment paper laid over the guide. Let rest about 30 minutes, until the top of the macaron is dry. Remove guide before placing pans in the oven.

Bake macarons for about 15 minutes, until the macarons are set and have some nice feet on them. Cool before CAREFULLY removing from the baking sheet.

Make the buttercream frosting. Fold in slightly crushed raspberries. Spoon a bit of the frosting onto half of the cookies. Place the other half of the cookie on top. Then do a little happy dance because you've just made the most beautiful and delicious macarons you've ever had :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cucumber Margaritas

Deciding to go to culinary school across the country from where you lived you whole life is stressful. Especially when you figure out how much you're about to be paying for that education of yours. So when you come across this situation, you need to get yourself a margarita. 

During my initial trip to find an apartment and visit the school, my mom and I went to just about every recommended mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City. And after all of the meetings, lease-signings, and snow storms, I needed a margarita STAT. One mexican recipe passed with no alcohol served (this is Utah, after all), I kept it together ok. But after the second, I nearly lost it. So when we finally arrived at Red Iguana, I couldn't have needed a margarita more. And the cucumber margarita I found on the menu was just the thing. That drink was enough to relax me and convince me to move to Utah in spite of a trip that was not so fantastic (ok, there were a few other things)

And now every time I go back to Red Iguana for the delicious mole sauces, the cucumber margarita is still the drink I choose. I've done my best job to here to re-create it. And, to pat myself on he back real quick, I think I hit a home run. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cucumber Margaritas
Makes 3 large or 6 small servings

1 cup silver tequila
1/2 cup light agave nectar
Juice from 4 large limes
2 cups ice
1/3 medium cucumber
coarse salt for garnish, if desired

In a pitcher or cocktail shaker, stir together tequila, agave, and lime juice until fully combined. Stir in ice.

Chop most of the cucumber into small cubes and place about 1/2 dozen into each glass. Slice the rest of the cucumber into small slices with which to garnish the glasses. Muddle the cubed cucumber in the bottom of each glass (I used the back of a fork for this).

Run a leftover lime around the rim of each glass. Pour some coarse salt into a shallow dish and dip the glass into the salt to lightly coat the rim. Pour margaritas over cucumbers into glass. Garnish with sliced cucumbers, if desired.

About Me

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Salt Lake City, Utah
As a pastry chef by trade and by hobby, being diagnosed with Celiac Disease has not been easy. But through some experimental baking and a whole lot of faith, I'm living a full(er) life.