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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Crisp and chewy chocolate chip cookies

Today I met friends for brunch. Then, I decided I had to come home and bake.  Its the first time in a while I've had more than one day off in a row.  Did I use my free time to catch up on sleep?  No.  Get a massage?  No (though that would've been a smart idea, in retrospect).  Get a much-needed manicure?  Nope.  I baked cookies.  Huge, giant-chocolate-chip-studded, crispy edged, chewy-centered cookies!

Here's the thing you need to know about me (in case you didn't already): when I'm stressed, I bake.  I find it relaxing. Therapeutic, even.  So the fact that I added 25 hours to my schedule last month and another 26 hours this month means I have significantly less free time, yet I've been baking more. B has also been working a ton (as have his colleagues).  So I found the best outlet for my stress-relief/baked goods -- I ship them off to work with B!

I have to say, I was super-impressed with these cookies.  I added them to my "bakery list": the list of things I'd serve in my bakery, if I ever opened one.  These made the list.  They're huge, with the most perfect chewy-crisp edge and a yummy chewy center.  And I used these super huge chocolate chips in them, which just took them over the top!

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
By none other than Ms. Martha Stewart


2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2.5 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I strongly recommend these, by Guittard)


Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Beat butter and both sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Beat in eggs, 1 at a time.
Add vanilla.
Reduce speed to low.
Add flour mixture.
Beat until combined.

Mix in chocolate chips.  Because I used the large chips, I folded them in with a spatula instead of using the mixer, since I didn't want them to break up in pieces.

Using a 2 1/4" ice cream scoop (about 3 Tbsp -- I don't know how many inches mine was, but I used a standard issue ice cream scooper), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Bake until golden around the edges but soft in the middle, about 15 minutes (mine took 14 minutes).
Let cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack.
Let cool completely.

**Dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days -- but I doubt they'll last that long, anyway!**

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Salted vanilla caramels

A few weeks ago, while cleaning the apartment, I came across (translate: had misplaced earlier, but found) an Amazon gift card that I received as a gift.  I knew I had to spend it or risk misplacing it again, so I ended up shopping and spending more than the amount on the gift card...But I gained four candy and baking cookbooks.  Four!

The first night I got them I read one from cover to cover, and placed little ripped up pieces of paper to mark the recipes I wanted to try (spoiler: there were a lot!).  One book was late to arrive, and came the other day.  This one was called "Artisan Caramels" (I'll write a different post about this book another time), and it had tons of different caramels in it.  Ones with crusts, ones with toppings, and some interesting flavored ones, too.

With Halloween right around the corner, I had a bunch of candies and candy-related things I wanted to make now.  Some caramels, I figured, would be perfect for a Halloween get together that B and I might attend.  So I started with the salted vanilla caramels, the most basic of flavors in the cookbook.

These caramels were so tasty that I ended up eating the caramel off of the spoon while I was sitting at the computer doing work.  I would've gone back for more but I had already start soaking the pot (damn!).  Clearly, I have no shame.

And with B out of town this week, and Halloween right around the corner, my goal is to make one new flavor of caramels each day this week...wish me luck, since I'm on the schedule at work for 44.5 hours this week and making caramels is quite time intensive... 

Salted Vanilla Caramels
From "Artisan Caramels"


4 cups heavy cream
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups light corn syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt 


Spray a jelly roll pan (17.5" x 12.5") pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, making sure you get the sides as well as the bottom of the pan. 
Using a clean, dry paper towel, wipe off the excess. 
Trim a piece of parchment paper so that it covers the bottom of the pan, leaving a 2" overhand over either the handles or the sides.  
Spray the parchment paper again with a light layer of cooking spray and wipe the excess off. 
Set aside. 

Combine the cream, sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a 8-quart stock pot. 
Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Be careful -- it can bubble over very quickly if you aren't paying attention. 

Cook over medium-high heat, and continue to stir until a candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees.  This takes about 45 minutes.  

Remove from the heat and very quickly stir in the vanilla and sea salt. 

Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. 
Let it cool completely before cutting.  This takes about 8 hours. 

Remove caramel from the pan. 
Remove parchment paper.  
Cut into squares. 
Top with sea salt.

Wrap caramels in either cello wrappers or parchment squares.  Wrapped caramels have a shelf life of about 3 weeks; those wrapped in parchment tend to get stale faster.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bucatini pie

I've had a long past 2 weeks, and so has B.  We're both working a ton, which is great, but with me leaving really early for work and him getting home from work as late as 11:15 p.m. (!!), I sometimes don't get to see him as often as I'd like (at least during wakeful hours).  Last night we both managed to be home by 9 p.m. and we even ate dinner together.  Turns out that today is my early day at work and he doesn't expect to work late, and I felt like that was cause for a (mini) celebration...or at least a home cooked dinner that was more than a protein and salad (our mainstay).  Honestly, I was probably only looking for an excuse to make this recipe, but heck, maybe I'll throw in a glass of wine and we can have a little party.

This recipe, much like the hummus I made before, is a savory one.  But unlike the hummus, it is baked and it does have the word "pie" in the title.  I've done a few savory things in the past (there was this garlic parmesan pull-apart bread and this killer mac and cheese) that also required baking, so I felt that this was an OK thing to post on this baking blog (which, by the way, turns 4 years old in 2 days!).

We usually make our own pasta sauce, which we call marinara sauce, for our meatballs and pasta.  I decided that, since I was going all out with this homemade bucatini pie, I might as well make some homemade sauce as well.  So I did just that!  We don't have a recipe, per se, but since I'm on this "savory kick," I've added a link to it here and below. 

Just one note about the pasta shape: I love bucatini but have found it difficult to find in the past.  Not all stores carry it.  Much to my dismay, there was no bucatini at either of the two grocery stores or two other bodegas that I checked out.  I used spaghetti instead and it came out really well!

Bucatini Pie
From Food and Wine


4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 large eggs, beaten
1 pound bucatini, broken in half (Bucatini is a long pasta with a hole in the center so that it is actually a tube, also known as Perciatelli)
1.5 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (4 oz)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (no, that is not a typo!)
2 tsp kosher salt

Warm marinara sauce, for serving


Preheat the oven to 375F.
Lightly grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet (our cast iron skillet is technically a grill pan, with grooves on the bottom, so I baked this in a regular 9" round metal cake pain, adjusting a little for time since it was a bit thicker).

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.
Add the bucatini and cook until al dente (the pasta will continue to cook a little while baking)
Drain the pasta.
Run under cold water to stop the cooking.
Drain well.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, cheese, cream, parsley, olive oil, garlic, pepper, and salt.
Add the pasta and toss to coat.
Scrape into the prepared skillet.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set..
Remove from the oven.

Preheat the broiler.
Broil the bucatini pie 6 inches from the heat until golden, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

The pie can be kept at room temperature for 4-6 hours before serving.

Blueberry coffee crumb cake cookies

Over two years ago, I baked a New York Style Crumb Cake with blueberry jam that my youngest sister absolutely fell in love with!  My self-proclaimed lover-of-savory-foods and hater-of-almost-all-sweet-things sister.  The one that shocked me when she asked me when I was going to bake this for her again.

Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, and after we polished off the cake, I told myself I'd make it for her again.  But then, well, that just never happened.  She's been asking for it a lot again lately, namely for our non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year (can anyone say lamb?  That's the proposed protein for the meal....but I digress).

So when I made these Coffee Crumb Cake Cookies for break fast this year, I had the brilliant idea to add blueberry jam to them for my sister.  Because cookies are so much easier to transport than a cake, and plus, the cookies were met with such rave reviews, that I just had to try them with the addition of blueberry jam.  They came out deliciously!

P.S. Don't fret....my sister will still get her coffee cake soon!

Blueberry Coffee Crumb Cake Cookies
Adapted from Cookies & Cups


For the crumb topping:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup flour

For the cookie:

10 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 1/3 cup flour

Blueberry jam, about 1/2 cup


powdered sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon liner.
Set aside.

Make the crumb topping.
Mix all the crumb ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Cut together with a pastry cutter or a fork until evenly mixed.
Refrigerate while making the dough.

Make the cookies.
Mix together the butter, shortening, and both sugars for 1-2 minutes on medium speed, until combined and smooth.
Add in cinnamon, eggs, and vanilla.
Continue mixing until evenly combined.
Turn mixer to low and mix in baking powder, salt, and flour.
Mix until dough comes together evenly.

Scoop cookies out using a cookie scoop or spoon (about 3 Tbsp) and place on lined cookie sheets.  If using a spoon, roll dough into balls.
Make an indentation in the center of the cookie dough.
Place about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of jam into the indentation.
Scoop at least 1 Tbsp of the crumb topping into the center of the dough, pressing lightly to stick.  Don't be afraid to cram it in!
Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes, or until edges start to get golden.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes on cookie sheet.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar, if you'd like.

Homemade pasta sauce

B and I love to cook together!  I've even been known to type #thecouplethatcookstogethereatstogether with photos of the meals that we make (and eat) together.  And while he does leave the baking to me, he is a great cook!  One of our favorites to make is meatballs (one day I'll post those for you) and homemade sauce.  Today, I'm writing to you about this sauce.

The thing about homemade sauce is that it is really easy to make.  It just involves some chopping, and time and patience, but not much else.  (Confession: I am not Italian, and if you have an Italian grandma, she'll probably tell you that this isn't real sauce, but B and I love it and I can't get enough!)  Again, I know this isn't really baked, but it goes so nicely with a savory dish that I'm having for dinner tonight, so I thought that instead of telling you to serve that with store-bought sauce, I'd let you in our little secret :-)  Sorry, I know I'm jumping around, but it'll all make sense soon.

Anyway, back to this sauce.  There is no actual recipe, no actual amounts of measurements, but I will do the best to approximate everything for you.  Feel free to adjust it to your taste: less garlic, more hot pepper, different kinds of tomatoes, etc.

Homemade Pasta Sauce
B's and my recipe


1/3 cup olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 medium-to-large yellow onion, diced about 1/3"
1 box (750 mL) San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 box (750 mL) San Marzono diced tomatoes
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Crushed red chili peppers, dried
Pinch of sugar
8-10 large fresh basil leaves (or more, if leaves are small), chiffonaded


Put olive oil in large sauce pan or dutch oven, making sure that it covers the bottom of your pan.
Warm over medium flame until oil is hot.
Add diced onions.
Sautee until almost translucent.
Add in garlic slices.
Continue cooking until garlic is soft and pale.
Add both boxes of tomatoes, being careful because they can splatter.
Add a sugar, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Mix well.

Keep the sauce on a medium flame and stir occasionally so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Taste, and add more salt, pepper, and chili flakes to your liking.
At this point, you can lower the heat to medium-low.
Continue cooking until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 1 hour.
Stir in fresh basil, and allow to cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Serve with anything -- pasta, meatballs, or this bucatini pie!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Salted caramel popcorn

I can't be the only one who has had one of these moments in the kitchen.  You're following a recipe to a T and then all of a sudden you have an 'oh crap' (I usually use a different four-letter word) moment.  Where you fear something has gone terribly wrong (and it usually has)?  Like the burning caramel in the bottom of the pot.  Well in this case, it was what I thought was burnt caramel and actually wasn't (or maybe it was?  As compared to the popcorn in the original post, my caramel is way darker).  But I ended up pouring some of what I thought was burnt caramel out, and my popcorn didn't get totally and completely covered in delicious salted caramel. Which is actually ok.  But I was more impressed with my disaster-averted.

But let me get back to this salted caramel popcorn.  Because first, it's the best combination of salty and sweet.  And secondly, it's really easy (as long as you don't burn the caramel)!

I ended up seeing mimi popcorn kernels on the shelf at the supermarket and I decided that they would probably be the best for caramel popcorn since their surface area to popcorn ratio was high -- meaning more caramel per kernel for a better bite. B thought that I had overthought the popcorn size, but I guess that's the science nerd in me coming out.  Plus, he got a tastier popcorn so I really don't think anyone lost out on this deal!

Salted Caramel Popcorn
From Cookies & Cups


1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (about 16 cups popped corn)
1 cup salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1.5-2 tsp kosher or sea salt, divided
2 cups of nuts, optional


Preheat oven to 300F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Set aside.

Pop popcorn kernels using air popper into a large bowl (I don't have an air popper, and popping it the old fashioned way in a pan with a little bit of oil worked nicely...just move it to a bowl before proceeding).
If using nuts, add them here.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and 1 tsp of salt together of medium heat.
Bring to a boil.
Boil for 4 minutes without stirring.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn.
Stir to coat evenly.

Pour popcorn onto lined pan.
Sprinkle remaining salt on top (I skipped this part).
Place pan in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Allow popcorn to cool on a parchment lined counter.

Scotcheroo bites

As someone who has been blogging about my baking for nearly four years (JulieBakes' birthday is 10/16!!), I've read a lot of other food blogs to find the best recipes to make for you guys. Lately, there have been lots of Scotcheroo recipes. Which is funny because I had never really heard of tem before, but once I started reading them, I realized they were the same as the 'peanut chews' we get as gifts at work sometimes (and which I cannot, for the life of me, stop eating, no matter how diet unfriendly they are).  So I knew I kinda had to make them.  It was only a matter of time...

Scotcheroos are usually made into bars, like Rice Krispie treats, and are topped with a milk chocolate or a milk chocolate-butterscotch topping.  Then I saw this recipe for what they called Scotcheroo Millionaire Nuggets. Or basically a Scotcheroo truffle - the peanut butter-Rice Krispie mixture is shaped into balls and allowed to harden before being dipped in the same chocolately topping as is used on the bars.  And I even made some like that.  But because I don't love butterscotch and because I found a caramel flavored milk chocolate, I used a mixture of regular and caramel milk chocolate, but it ended up being too soft and started melting the minute B held one to take a bite.  So instead I drizzled some of the bites with the chocolate mixture to add some delicious flavor but to also make them less messy to eat!  But honestly, it's because I personally prefer them sans chocolate (which is weird for me, a self-proclaimed chocoholic!).

I have to say that these are so tasty that I was snacking on them all day while I baked some other treats for you!

Scotcheroo Millionaire Nuggets
From Oh, Sweet Basil


1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
4 cups Rice Krispies cereal (Mine were a bit runny, so I added an extra 1/2 cup of cereal)
6 oz milk chocolate (or 12 oz if not using butterscotch, see below)
6 oz butterscotch chips


In a sauce pan over medium heat, pour in the corn syrup and sugar.
Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until clear and the sugar is totally dissolved.
Add the peanut butter and stir until smooth.

In a large bowl, add the cereal and pour the peanut butter mixture in.
Gently fold to combine.
Set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool (or a bit longer, hot sticky peanut butter syrup stuck on your hands is not pleasant....trust me!).

Lay wax paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Begin rolling the cereal-peanut butter mixture into balls.
Set aside on cookie sheet to cool entirely.

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring up or bowl, melt the chocolate and butterscotch (if using) until smooth.

One at a time, drop the balls into the chocolate mixture.
Using a fork, roll it around to coat it and then lift it out, tapping the sides gently to allow excess chocolate to drip off.
Place on cookie sheet.
Repeat until all are coated in chocolate.
Store in a cool place to allow the chocolate to harden.

Store in airtight containers (if they last that long!!!).