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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cream cheese sugar cookies -- two ways!

The holidays are rapidly approaching (or at least it seems that way), and with Channukkah and Christmas falling at the exact same time this year (remember Thanksgivukkah, when Channukkah fell on Thanksgiving?  Just to jog your memory...), I have double baking duty: Channukkah treats for my family, and Christmas treats for my doormen and favorite baristas.


So I started early this year.  I was thinking of making my butter cookies or even cut-out sugar cookies, but then I came across this recipe for cream cheese sugar cookies, and I thought that they just sounded perfect (and they were).  But here's the thing -- this recipe makes a TON of dough.  So much so that I ended up freezing half of it and still got an insane amount of cookies.  Like, I shouldn't have been surprised -- the recipe called for over 5 cups of flour!


Knowing my antsy and unable-to-delay-gratification self, and not wanting to wait at least 2 hours for the dough to chill. I went ahead and used the soft, fresh dough to make spritz cookies - i just added a few nonpareils on top before baking.  They held their shape and they were delicious.  I packaged them up (after a little sample for each of us) for B to bring to work, since I knew I'd be making more of the dough later in the form of cut-out cookies.  After (not so) patiently waiting for the dough to chill (and baking another kind of cookie....don't worry, they'll be up soon), I went ahead and made adorable little cut-out cookies in hearts and stars.  These cookies would really be awesome decorated with royal icing, but I was pressed for time, so I drizzled these with white chocolate and then sprinkled a few more nonpareils on top.  But remember that dough that I froze for later?  Yeah, those'll be decorated with royal icing.

Those other cookies, you must be wondering...what are those?
Well, my friends, those will be up shortly.... :-)

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
From Cookies & Cups

Ingredients:

1 8oz brick of cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups of butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/4 cups flour

Nonpareils for decorating
White chocolate, for drizzling

Directions:

If making spritz cookies, preheat oven to 350F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Scrape sides as necessary.

Add sugar and beat for an additional 3 minutes.
Mixture should be fluffy and pale in color.
Turn mixer to medium-low.
Add in egg yolks, vanilla, and salt.
Mix until combined.

Turn mixer to low.
Slowly add in flour.
Mix just until all flour is incorporated.

If making cut out cookies, wrap dough in disks in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Continue below at the *.

If making spritz cookies, transfer dough to a cookie press or a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip.
Pipe dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
Sprinkle with nonpareils or sprinkles. 
Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

* If making cut-out cookies, remove dough from fridge.
In portions, roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness on a floured surface.
Using cookie cutters, cut the dough.
Place cut cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.  If making smaller cookies, like I did, start checking them at 7 minutes.  My mini cookies took 8 minutes to bake.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If icing cookies, wait until completely cooled before icing cookies.
I'll post my royal icing recipe when I post the decorated cut out cookies later.  
Drizzle with white chocolate and sprinkle with nonpareils.  
NOTE: Cookies can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Rosemary, pecan, and parmesan cookies

I can see you. Through the computer. With that quizzical look. Rosemary + Parmesan, in a cookie?  She's for sure lost it this time.


But I haven't.  Nor has the creator of this cookie, Dorie Greenspan. (She's kinda like THE cookie goddess, if you don't know who she is.)  Nor has the person who recommended them to me, and told me that despite all the Thanksgiving baking I still had left to do, these cookies definitely needed to be made. 


These cookies are savory -- a savory shortbread, almost closer to a cracker, with a fine crumb (they're so crumbly, but in the best way possible) and just the teensiest hint of sweetness.  So much so that they're called -- get this -- cocktail cookies!  Not in the sense that there's booze in them (how can we make that happen?!), but in the sense that you eat them with booze.  White wine was mentioned somewhere, so was some champagne.  I could definitely get on board with that!

So yeah, these cookies.  It's probably too late for you to make them for this Thanksgiving, but Christmas is right around the corner....so is New Year's...or just any random Friday (or Tuesday) night!

A few thoughts about these cookies:

- They come together super easily!  Like all in the bowl of a food processor. No warming of the butter to room temperature.  Literally a few whirls in the food processor. That's it, people!
- Please, freshly grate your Parmesan. Don't use the stuff from the container from the grocery store.  I just feel like the freshly grated stuff is worlds better when it comes to baking.
- I'm toying with the idea of adding a few grinds of fresh black pepper next time.  I might also up the cheese just a little bit. 
- Lastly, don't be lazy like yours truly. Not wanting to take out your food processor because it's in the back of the cabinet behind a lot of other stuff is a pathetic reason to half the recipe so that you can use your mini-prep (which is way more accessible), yielding half as many delicious cookies, and just necessitating that you make another batch sooner.

Rosemary-Parmesan Shortbread Cookies
These were recommended to me by a friend, who has Dorie's new cookbook.  She even sent me pictures of the recipe from the book, but the flash got in the way, so a not-so-quick, very specific internet search yielded me the recipe linked above.

For a more crumbly texture, Dorie recommends not grating your cheese too fine.

Yields about 60 cookies

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp granualted sugar
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated and lightly packed
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

Special tools:
1.5" round cookie cutter

Instructions:

Season the sugar:
Working in a small bowl, run the sugar and rosemary together with your fingertips until the sugar turns moist, aromatic, and maybe even tinged green (mine was not green, and my fingers killed from all the mixing, so I left mine aromatic and moist, but still white)

Toast the pecans:
I did mine in a toasted at 400F.  
Watch closely, mine took about 5 minutes.  
Do not let them burn 

Prepare the dough:

Combine the flour, pecans, Parmesan, salt, and rosemary sugar in a food processor.
Pulse to blend.
Add in the pieces of cold butter.
Pulse until the mixture turns crumbly.
Slowly and gradually pulse in the beaten egg yolk.
Then continue to pulse the mixture until it turns to a moist dough that forms clumps and curds.

Roll the dough:

Turn the dough out and divide it in half.
Pat each half into a disk.
Working with one disk at a time, place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper.
Roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness.
Repeat with the other half.
Without removing the parchment paper, slide both disks onto a baking sheet -- you can stack them -- and freeze for at least 1 hour.  (Freeze?  Haha.  My freezer is FULL TO THE MAX.  Literally.  I could not fit a baking sheet into it if I tried.  So I refrigerated mine overnight.)

Position your oven rack to the center of your oven.
Preheat to 350F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Have your cookie cutter on hand.

Cut the cookies:
Working with one slab of dough at a time, peel away the top sheet of parchment paper.
Use the cookie cutter to cut out as many circles as you can.
Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.
Leave about 1 inch between cookies.
Combine the scraps from both portions of dough.
Re-roll the dough.
Freeze and repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Always make sure that you start with a cool baking sheet.

Bake the cookies, for about 15 minutes, or once they turn golden and have set.
Rotate your baking sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time.
Once done, let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 3 minutes and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
Bake the remaining cookies.

To store:
If wrapped well, the rolled out dough can be frozen and stored for up to 2 months.
Simply cut out the dough and bake directly from the freezer.
Baked cookies can be kept in a covered container for up to 1 week at room temperature.

Serve with a crisp glass of white wine or champagne.  (or the whole bottle....this is a no judgement zone!)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pumpkin spice candied nuts

At my grandfather's 90th birthday (!!) celebration last night, my aunt (who hosts Thanksgiving) asked me if I was baking anything for Thanksgiving.  Of course, the answer was yes!  I asked her what she wants, and I heard the most beautiful words ever: "you have free reign."  As in I can bake whatever I want!  And what's even more, my cousin (whom I love dearly, and we will all miss at Thanksgiving dinner) with the nut allergy won't be there, I can really bake anything!


Like these nuts.

OK, OK, they don't technically fall under "baking," however they do go in the oven, so they are technically baked.

I had been toying with the idea of making some pumpkin spice candied nuts for a while.  But as you probably know, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin spice.  And when I came home and got ready to bake them, the pumpkin spice mix I thought I had at home was nowhere to be seen.  So with that little snafu (combined with the fact that my Trader Joe's was out of pumpkin spice, too!) as my disdain for pumpkin spice flavors, I made these candied nuts with a combination of spices found in pumpkin spice, but not all of them.  Which is fine for me, since the missing spices are actually the spices I don't like in pumpkin spice flavored foods and drinks.

I chose to package these nuts in a clear cube box (meant for cupcakes).  With a nice bow and cute hanging tag, they'd be a perfect holiday hostess gift...or gift for the pumpkin spice lover in your life!

Pumpkin Spice Candied Nuts
Adapted from these candied cinnamon sugar nuts

Ingredients:

6 cups of nuts (I used mixed nuts.  I wanted to make sure to have some pecans in it, since I think pumpkin pie and pecan pie are synonymous with Thanksgiving.  After devouring half the recipe, B and I decided that the pecans were the best part.  No one would fault you if you went ALL pecans or half pecans and half other nuts.)
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp salt

Optional (if you want to really make them "pumpkin spice"-y):

pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300F.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Spray with non-stick spray (if using parchment paper).
Set aside.

Mix nuts in a large bowl.
Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and water on medium-high speed until still peaks form, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
Stir until well combined.

Pour sugar mixture over nuts.
Stir to coat completely.
Spread nuts over the baking sheets.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely.
Enjoy.

Store nuts at room temperature, covered.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Chocolate skulls

These chocolate skulls are spooky and beautiful and totally awesome.  And, they're super easy to make.  Yup, you read that right!  Super easy!!  But most importantly, they're perfect for Halloween!  I love that you can see their spooky facial details!


These would be adorable served alone on a platter, or even popped on top of a cupcake.  The option to add Halloween sprinkles to the cupcakes is a totally legitimate one, too (I'm loving the Sweetapolita Costumes & Cocktails Twinkle Sprinkle Medley sprinkles that are under the chocolates in the pic above with these golden skulls!  I added a few candy eyeballs and bone sprinkles for an even spookier touch).  Or, they could've been filled with any number of delicious treats -- caramel, peanut butter, or Nutella (my original intent).  You could even add them into a Halloween snack mix!

Also, you could mix up the color on the skulls.  I went with gold, but silver, copper, or even pearlescent would work.  I guess it just depends on your Halloween party theme!

Golden Chocolate Skulls

Ingredients:

Chocolate wafers for melting (I used Mercken's, Wilton candy melts would also work), in your choice of color; I used white
Luster dust, in your choice of color; I used African gold

Tools:

Skull chocolate mold
Disposable piping bag
Clean small paintbrush

Directions:

Melt the chocolate wafers in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, making sure not to burn the chocolate.

Allow the chocolate to cool a little.
Spoon chocolate into the piping bag.
Cut a small hole in the tip so that you can carefully pipe the chocolate

Carefully pipe the chocolate into the cavities in the mold, rather than spooning it in.
Make sure to get the chocolate into all of the crevices, since the skulls are very detailed (eye sockets!  teeth!).
Bang the mold on the counter a few times.
Pop any air bubbles that rise to the top.
Bang the mold on the counter a few more times.
Pop any new air bubbles.
Really make sure that the chocolate gets into every small detail in the mold.

I pop the mold into the fridge for about an hour to ensure that the chocolate hardened.
Remove the chocolates from the mold.
Place them face up (no pun intended!) on a papertowel or sheet of wax paper.

Carefully paint the luster dust onto the chocolate, making sure to get the sides and all the aspects of the face.
Set aside and continue until all skeleton faces are golden (or whatever color you choose).

If you're feeling crazy, you can use a second color of luster dust to detail the chocolates, but that was a little more than I was willing to do at 11 p.m. the night before Halloween.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yellow cupcakes with strawberry buttercream, and a ghoulish surprise

Do you ever have those times, when you go to the store to buy ingredients you always see there, and that one time that you actually need it, it's not there?  Such was the case for me with freeze dried strawberries.  Had I had the extra time, I would've gone to Trader Joe's, but I digress...Eventually, I got my hands on some just in time for these cupcakes!



But then in honor of Halloween, I went one step further, making a strawberry syrup to drizzle on top. I thought it would look spookily like blood!  You can skip the syrup entirely, and top them instead with a fresh or freeze dried strawberry slice for the other 11 months of the year.


Ghoulish Strawberry Halloween Cupcakes

I started these cupcakes with a half batch of the best yellow cupcakes ever.

Strawberry Buttercream
From Sally's Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

1 cup freeze dried strawberries
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Salt, to taste (I didn't feel that it was needed, so I skipped it)

Directions:

Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a fine powder.
You should have about a 1/2 cup.
Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
With the mixer on low, add the confectioner's sugar, strawberry powder, cream, and vanilla.
Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes.
If it's too runny or thin, add an additional 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, and if too thick add 1 more Tbsp of cream.
Add a pinch of salt if the frosting is too sweet.
Frost cupcakes as desired.

Top with strawberry sauce (below) and bone sprinkles, if desired.

Strawberry Sauce
From The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

2 pounds of strawberries, hulled (I used frozen, unsweetened strawberries, since it's October, and they're super expensive right now)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 lemon, juiced (I didn't have lemon, so I used 1/4 cup water)
A couple drops of red food coloring (optional) -- I used it, since I wanted mine to look "bloody" for these cupcakes

Directions:

Place all of the ingredients (except the food coloring, if using) in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat.
Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly.
Allow the strawberries to cook for a good 5 minutes, or until the strawberries are very soft (FYI, frozen strawberries take longer than 5 minutes).
Turn off the heat ans use a potato masher to completely smush them to a pureed consistency (I used an immersion blender -- super easy!).

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl.
Use a spoon to stir the mixture so the liquid is forced through.
Continue until most of the liquid is in the bowl.
Set aside the pulp, in case you want to add some back into the finished sauce (I skipped this part, since I wanted mine to be super thin for these cupcakes, but would add it in in the future for, say, an ice cream topping).

Skim as much foam off of the sauce as you can.
Pour the skimmed sauce back into the same saucepan and boil again for 3 minutes over medium-high heat.
This is where I added the food coloring.
Skim any more foam that has formed on the surface.
Allow the sauce to cool slightly before pouring it into a pitcher or jar.
Add back a little of the pulp into the sauce if you like the texture, or just leave it plain.

Serve warm over vanilla ice cream, or refrigerate it to thicken and serve it cold.  You can also reheat the sauce after refrigerating.

Or drizzle over strawberry cupcakes for a ghoulish looking treat!

Assemble the cupcakes

Allow the cupcakes to cool.

Pipe the strawberry icing onto the cupcakes.  I used a star-like tip (Ateco 885), since I wanted grooves for the sauce to run through.

Using a piping bag or squeeze bottle, apply the strawberry sauce to the tops of the cupcakes and allow it to run down the grooves in the icing.
Top with small bone sprinkles, if desired.

Additionally, if not Halloween, you can skip the bone sprinkles or the strawberry sauce (but really, why would you?  It's soooo goood!), and instead use a wedge or slice of fresh strawberry, a small strawberry, or a slice of freeze dried strawberry.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Party popcorn

I'm off from work today, and as is true to form, it's raining.  I could be doing laundry, or cleaning for that matter, but I find myself in the kitchen.  The laundry and cleaning, I keep telling myself (and B!), will get done, eventually.  Yes, definitely in the near future...


But I digress.  See, after a quick trip to barre class and a Target run (they opened one in my neighborhood!), I came home and decided to start playing around with some ideas I had been saving.  Part of my Target trip was for Halloween candy because, well, they have such a good variety!  And while I had my eye on some yummy looking snack mix, I decided to start with something else.

Party popcorn.  Or Halloween party popcorn, as I'm calling this.

Here's the thing.  There are three ingredients.  Five, in my recipe, but frankly that's just because I used a combination of three different sprinkles.  Yes, I know.  Issues.  But still....three ingredients.  It comes together in seconds, and then you have the hard part -- waiting for the chocolate to set up.


And while I waited, I made a (half) second batch.  I swapped in orange candy melts for the white CandiQuik in the previous batch.  I thought about making a bunch of different colors, but I stopped at that, since I black candy melts on hand, as well as bright green.  Maybe later, but I thought the black candy melts could get a little messy.


And then?  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I went a little crazy!  I mixed the two batches together.  Yup, you read that right...And ended up with a perfect Halloween Party Popcorn Mix!

Enjoy!

Halloween Party Popcorn
From She Wears Many Hats

Ingredients:

6-7 ounces (by weight) white candy melts, melted (or sub in your favorite color, or chocolate) -- I used vanilla CandiQuik
8-9 cups popped popcorn, lightly salted
Sprinkles or nonpareils in your favorite color (I used Halloween colored nonpareils - I used a black/orange/white premix, a yellow/orange premix, and some additional white ones)

Directions:

In a large bowl or on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, gently mix the melted chocolate with the popcorn.
Don't be afraid to use your hands -- it worked the best for me!

Sprinkle the sprinkles on before the chocolate hardens.
Gently mix again -- don't be afraid to use those hands!! -- before the chocolate hardens.

I went a little crazy and added some more sprinkles and then remixed.  Because sprinkles make everything better, so more sprinkles make everything even better! :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Brownies with milk chocolate chips

I have a favorite brownie recipe.  I found it online.  It's super easy to make and the result is a super fudgy brownie (in my opinion, fudgy brownies are far superior to cakey brownies).  I make them pretty often.


I've also made variations of this brownie. My go-to is to use Dutch process cocoa powder, but it's hard to come by sometimes.  I usually buy it and save it up, so that I always have some on hand for these particular brownie-craving times.  Then I made a coffee/espresso version.  I'm pretty sure there's a peanut butter version floating around out there, too.  Recently I made them for B and his coworkers, but instead of my go-to, I used special dark cocoa powder.  Those were midnight dark and super fudgy (and will be up soon...I know, I know, I'm a little out of order wit my posts)!  

And then for Yom Kippur breakfast, I decided to make some more brownies. A lack of Dutch press cocoa powder and a now-empty container of dark cocoa powder (and none on the shelves when I went to the store) in the kitchen, I turned to boring old regular cocoa powder. I mixed it up a bit with the chips (mostly because I'm a fool and forgot to buy them for this recipe), using 1 cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of milk chocolate chips.  

Despite what I can only call their pale color (the other two versions yield a way darker brownie), their flavor was still spot on!  Feel free to mix up the combination of chips -- who knows...maybe there will be an all-milk chocolate version up one of these days...

Brownies with Milk Chocolate Chips
Original recipe from Yammie's Noshery

Ingredients:

2 sticks of butter
2 1/4 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups of regular cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups of flour
2 cups chocolate chips (for these, I used 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips)

Directions:

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.  I lined mine with parchment paper and then sprayed it with Pam.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the butter and sugar in a microwave safe bowl.
Heat in the microwave, stirring about every 30 seconds, until the mixture is bubbly and smooth (mine was smooth, but not so bubbly).  You can also do this on the stove.

Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Mix together the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and flour.  I just sifted it into the butter mixture, in about 3 additions.
Add to the butter mixture, mixing until smooth.
Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 28 minutes.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Halloween nonpareils

I had so much fun making my rainbow nonpareils recently!  So when I decided to start working on some Halloween treats, I decided that Halloween colored nonpareils would be just the thing to get me into the holiday spirit!


You could have so much fun with these!  Mix up the colors of the sprinkles (I had wanted to use a combination of orange, yellow, and white nonpareils but had these instead...so, in true JulieBakes fashion, stay tuned for those soon!), or the chocolates themselves.   Why not try white chocolate or dark chocolate?  Have some leftover candy melts?  Black or orange would work!  And of course, you can always make different sizes, too!


The amounts listed below are rough estimates -- half it, double it, use a bigger tray -- but should just help guide you through the process of making them!

Halloween Nonpariels

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Halloween colored nonpareil sprinkles (mine were black, white, and orange.  Yellow, orange, and white would work nicely, too)
1/2 cup milk chocolate melting wafers

Directions:

Line an 8x8" or 9x9" pan with wax paper.
Gently pour the nonpareil sprinkles into a thin layer at the bottom of the pan.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each.
Make sure not to burn the chocolate.
Let the chocolate cool a little so it is not HOT to the touch.

Spoon half of the chocolate into a piping bag.
Cut a small hole at the opening.

Moving quickly but carefully -- be careful to not hit the pan and move the sprinkles -- pipe little (or larger, your call) dots of chocolate onto the sprinkles, leaving a small space between them.

When the entire layer or sprinkles is covered with chocolate dots, carefully place the tray into the fridge.
Let the chocolate harden.

In the mean time, remove all the chocolate from the piping back and place it back into the bowl.

Once the candies are hard, remove them from the sprinkles and place into a ziplock bag or airtight plastic container.
Redistribute the sprinkles into a thin layer, adding more if you need (the sprinkles go a looong way, and I always end up having extras without ever adding any).

Melt the chocolate again
Repeat the steps above until all the chocolate is used up (or, frankly, you get bored...).

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fresh apple cake with honey glaze

Every Rosh Hashana, I debate for a second or two about making a non-apple dessert.  But, alas, I always end up with an apple centered dessert.  Four years ago I made an apple pizza, something I remember distinctly, since it was right after B and I met. But I digress...


This apple cake appealed to me for two reasons.  First off, it has a honey glaze.  Honey.  The other big sweet food for Rosh Hashana.  Apples and honey are used to symbolize the beginning of a sweet new year (choruses of the kids Rosh Hashana song are ringing in my head now...."dip the apples in the honey...have a happy sweet new year"). Secondly, it's a bundt cake.  Bundt cakes are, in my opinion, way easier to transport than a beautiful layer cake. And considering that my apple cake is going from downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn (via a 2.5 mile walk) and then back up to midtown Manhattan, before a train ride to Westchester, I figured a dessert that was less likely to be demolished en route was a nice option. 

The one change I made to the cake was that I cut the oil down and replaced it with some apple sauce.  Given the fact that we'll be eating a super huge meal (my mom's brisket....OMG I'm drooling just thinking about it!), plus the added apple flavor from the apple sauce, I thought that it would be a nice addition!

Paula Deen's Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake
From Food Newtork

Ingredients:

For the Honey Glaze:

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp milk

For the Apple Cake:

3 cups diced peeled Granny Smith apples, about 2 apples (I needed 2.5 apples)
1 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (I used 3/4 cups apple sauce and 1/2 cup canola oil)
3 eggs

Directions:

Make the glaze:

Add all the glaze ingredients to a small bowl and stir until smooth.
Set the bowl aside.

Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325F.
Lightly grease a bundt or tube pan.  I debated flouring it afterwards but decided against it since the recipe didn't say.  My cake got stuck when I tried taking it out and actually broke.  So I instantly regretted not flouring the pan.  I recommend you do so.

Toast the walnuts.
Let cool.

In a bowl, mix together the apples, walnuts, vanilla, and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, oil, apple sauce, and eggs in a large bowl.
Add in the dry ingredients.
Beat until completely combined.
Fold in the apple mixture.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Mine was done after about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I'd say start watching after an hour.

Allow the cake to fully cool in the pan, about 1 hour.
Turn the cake out onto a plate.

Drizzle the cake with some honey glaze before serving.

The cake can be wrapped tightly and stored in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Nonpareils

I had the day off.  The usual activities for me on my day off are an early morning (OK, 9 a.m., but still, it's my day off....) barre class followed by errands and a walk, and then some baking.  Today I made some hand-piped milk chocolate nonpareils.  Because, really, why not?  I was just playing around in the kitchen, so I don't have exact measurements for you, but I do promise the next time I make them, I'll be sure to give measurements.  I promise!


The thing I like about these is that you can make them in different sizes; large, small, mini (like the ones I made).  And also different colors!  How cute would pale pink and white be for a baby shower for a little girl?  Orange, black, and yellow for Halloween?  Pink, red, and white for Valentine's Day?  Green and gold for St. Patty's Day?  The list could go on....and on....and on!  Or, you could play around with the chocolates you use.  I went with milk this time.  White and dark would also be tasty.  Or what about a trio?  I'm thinking those would be super cute favors for said baby shower...Or even different colored "chocolates."


Rainbow Nonpareils

Ingredients:

Chocolate, either chocolate chips or wafers such as Mercken's or Wilton Candy Melts
Rainbow nonpareil sprinkles.

Directions:

Line an 8x8" or 9x9" pan with wax paper.
Put a thin layer of nonpareils on the bottom of the pan.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each.
Make sure not to burn the chocolate.
Let the chocolate cool a little so it is not HOT to the touch.

Spoon the chocolate into a piping bag.
Cut a small hole at the opening.

Moving quickly but carefully -- be careful not to hit the pan and move the nonpareils -- pipe little (or larger, your call) dots of chocolate onto the sprinkles, leaving a small space between them.  I made them about the size of chocolate chips.

When the entire layer of nonpareils is covered with chocolate dots, carefully place it into the fridge.
Let the chocolate harden.

In the mean time, remove all the chocolate from the piping bag and place it bag into the bowl.

Once the candies are hard, remove them from the sprinkles and place into a ziplock bag or airtight plastic container.
Redistribute the sprinkles into a thin layer.
Melt the chocolate again.

Repeat the steps above until all the chocolate is used up.
Add more sprinkles as needed.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tiki party mix

For B's birthday, I decided I'd throw together a little impromptu tiki party on our roof deck.  Although it wasn't really that impromptu -- I had put A LOT of thought into almost every detail.  Pineapples, palm trees, and flamingos adorned most everything, and the color theme was mainly pink, yellow, and green to reflect those things. Matching sprinkles.  Pineapple and shark ceramic glasses (but no actual tiki glasses...go figure!).  Ok, so maybe more casual than impromptu. Poor word choice, Julie!


I let my creative juices flow in terms of decor (floating flamingo drink holders, leis, and mini beach balls) and desserts/baking (pina colada marshmallows, pineapple and palm tree chocolate lollipops), and let my trusty friend Trader Joe do most of the catering (I went with tropical/Polynesian themed foods -- coconut shrimp, scallion pancakes, mini meatballs, chicken lemongrass spring rolls, edamame, shrimp toasts -- but ended up serving only about half of those things). B, my resident bartender extraordinaire, mixed up his signature pineapple and mezcal cocktail, among others!  One more place I let my creativity shine through?  This tropical themed snack mix!

I have to say, sometimes I impress myself!  I went with traditional tropical and Polynesian flavors - coconut, mango, pineapple, macadamia, and banana (I was thinking about adding in some sesame sticks for a salty component, but decided to leave them out). Talk about addictive!  I'm so glad I made a huge batch!!


Tiki Snack Mix
A JulieBakes Original!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup roasted coconut chips
1/2 cup banana chips
1 cup dried baby sweet pineapple (unsweetened), cut into 1/4s (larger rings cut into 1/6s)
1/4 cup lightly sweetened coconut strips, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup dried unsweetened mango, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup roasted macadamia nuts (I used unsalted, but salted would be good, too.).

Directions:

Cut dried fruit into the sizes mentioned above.
Add them all to a gallon sized zip lock bag.
Shake up until well mixed.

Add to the serving bowl of your choice (I used a plastic coconut drink holder to keep with the theme).
Extra snack mix (if there should even be any), can be stored in the ziplock bag.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Birthday chocolate lollipops

Festive treats are always fun, especially for birthdays.  And sprinkles?  They're definitely festive!


So, while scrolling through my (wayyyyyy too many) photos on my phone earlier today, I came across a screenshot from just over a year ago (I tend to take a screenshot when I see something interesting that I want to make or go back to at a later date).  It was for a chocolate and sprinkle lollipop that I just thought was adorable.  So when I had leftover chocolate and lollipop sticks in the apartment later on, I knew I had to test these out!  



I had so much fun making these.  I used about six different sprinkles (mostly sprinkle mixtures I had bought, plus some rainbow regular and nonpareil sprinkles). And when I had made them in milk chocolate but was having too much fun to stop there, I went on and made them in white chocolate, too!


These would be really fun to make for different holidays, using specific colors or themed sprinkles....looks like I may have my work cut out for me!

Chocolate and Sprinkle Lollipops
Adapted from a photo I saw from SugarHero

Ingredients:

Chocolate wafers, such as Wilton or Mercken's
A variety of sprinkles

Other tools needed:

Wax paper
Lollipop sticks
Piping bags

Directions:

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 30 second increments, mixing between each.
Make sure not to burn the chocolate.
Let the chocolate cool slightly so it's not too hot to the touch.

Place wax paper onto a flat baking sheet with a lip.
Lay lollipop sticks on the wax paper about 4 inches apart.

Spoon the chocolate in to a piping bag.
Snip off the end so that only a very small hole is there.

Working quickly, start piping chocolate over the end of the lollipop stick.
Start making circles going away from the end of the stick, but making sure that when completing the circles you make it touch the chocolate you piped at the beginning.
Once you're done piping the lollipop, immediately sprinkle the sprinkles over the wet chocolate, before it cools.

Then, move on to the next lollipop.
Repeat the stages above before making the next lollipop.

Once all the lollipops are made, place the tray into the fridge and allow the chocolate to harden.

S'mores graham cracker toffee

I'm a big fan of the saying "man plans, and g-d laughs."  It's very much the story of my life.  Like take for instance B's work schedule.  Turns out he has to travel for work this week -- and he has to leave NYC the evening of my birthday.  No worries though - we'll celebrate a day or two later when he's back and well-rested!


But I digress...back to my birthday. With a pretty stressful past week and a half, my birthday really snuck up on me this year!!  Which means I've been pretty delinquent on the "birthday treats."  But fret not - while B was busy prepping for work this weekend, I got busy in the kitchen!


I started with an easy but super tasty looking treat -- S'mores "Crack" Graham Cracker Toffee.  It's a riff on the saltine "crack" that people make (and I've been dying to make, but haven't gotten around to it yet), and very similar to the matzah candy that my mom and I make for Passover every year.  Except these have graham crackers and mini marshmallows!


I made sure to cut these into small (about one inch) squares because they're super rich answer...but in the best way possible!!

S'mores Graham Cracker Toffee
From Something Swanky

Ingredients:

Approximately 1 sleeve graham crackers (I used closer to 1.5 sleeves), enough to cover the pan in one layer
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (I used light)
2 cups milk chocolate candy bar pieces, chopped (I used good-quality milk chocolate chips)
1 cup marshmallow bits for topping
Graham crackers crumbs, for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Prepare a 10.5" by 15.5" jelly roll pan by lining it with parchment paper.
Be sure to crease the edges so that it lays flat.
Place the graham crackers on top on one layer, don't worry if there are any gaps between them.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high hear.
Mix in the brown sugar.
Bring to a boil (it should definitely be bubbling around the edge, you should not have to wonder if it's boiling).
Set a timer for 3 minutes.
Allow to boil without stirring.
After 3 minutes, remove it from the heat immediately.

Pour the mixture over the crackers.
Use a spatula to gently spread the toffee over the crackers (it's OK if they get displaced a little, but try to keep them as flat as possible).

Bake for 6 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
Sprinkle the chocolate pieces on top.
Return to the oven for 1 minute.

Spread the melted chocolate evenly across the toffee with a spatula (my mini offset spatula was the best for this).
Sprinkle marshmallow bits and graham cracker crumbs on top.
Let the pan cool to room temperature for a few minutes before placing it in the fridge.
Chill for about 30 minutes, until hardened.

Break apart to serve (I used a sharp knife to cut it into squares).
Store chilled for best taste and texture.

Tip from Something Swanky: "for easier cutting/breaking, remove toffee from the refrigerator after 10 minutes (it should be partially cooled -- the chocolate should be hardened enough that it won't be disturbed by cutting, and soft enough that it's easy to cut) and cut the toffee into small squares.  Return to the refrigerator to finish cooling and harden completely."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

S'mores muddy buddy snack mix

With today's high of 90 degrees in New York City, the idea of turning on my oven in my small kitchen was just not that appealing.  It was too hot.  Like, it-took-forever-to-cool-off-after-I-walked-in,-and-I-didn't-want-to-upset-the-temperature-balance-inside hot in NYC. So I went no-bake.


The secret is, I had bought all of the ingredients for this treat a few days ago. I was just waiting for the right time to make it, and today was that time!

I know I've told you before, but I was late to the muddy buddy craze. Like really late. My first foray into muddy buddies was the (insanely delicious) red velvet cookies and cream muddy buddies I made a few months ago. Being that yesterday marked the first day of summer, I figured a summery themed muddy buddy flavor would be great. And then I thought...muddy buddy snack mix!!  Sometimes I even surprise myself!


And thus, my S'mores muddy buddy snack mix was born!

The secret to these is the seasonal S'mores Oreo.  These muddy buddies started with milk chocolate and crushed S'mores Oreos. You could stop there. Honestly, no one would blame you. But then I went ahead and added milk chocolate chips, teensy marshmallows, broken up graham crackers, and a few cut up Hershey's bars to the already delicious S'mores muddy buddies, and voila, you have an addictively good summer treat!  And all without even turning on your oven!

** so here's the thing....I made the muddy buddies, and we devoured them.  I made sure to save some to make this snack mix.  So even though you get many cups of muddy buddies with this recipe, I made the snack mix using 4 cups of the muddy buddies.  If you can hold out and not continuously munch on them, you can double the snack mix recipe.  But if you're like me, make sure you save 4 cups of muddy buddies before you go to town on them ;-) **

S'mores Muddy Buddies
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

6 cups Chex cereal (I used corn)
12 oz milk chocolate almond bark (I used CandiQuik)
20 S'mores Oreos
1/2 cup powdered sugar (I ended up using a little more)

Directions:

Put Chex in a large bowl.

Process the Oreos in a food processor until fine.
Set aside.

Melt CandiQuik (or almond bark) in it's tray (or a microwave safe bowl) and microwave in 30 second intervals.
Stir.
Continue microwaving and stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.

Pour melted chocolate over cereal.
Stir carefully to coat it.

Immediately add the ground Oreos.
Toss/stir to coat.
Next, toss on the powdered sugar.
Mix until coated.

I placed mine on a wax paper lined baking sheet so that the CandiQuick could dry.  
I felt mine needed a little more powdered sugar, so I added 1 Tbsp at a time until all of the muddy buddies were coated in powdered sugar.

Allow to dry completely before making snack mix.  

**Try not to eat all of the muddy buddies during this waiting period!!**

S'mores Muddy Buddy Snack Mix

Ingredients:

4 cups s'mores muddy buddies (see recipe above)
1/2 cup jet puffed mallow bits
2 graham crackers, cut/broken into small pieces
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips (I used the large baking ones from Ghirardelli)
1 Hershey's bar, cut into small rectangles

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a bowl or large ziplock bag.
Mix.

If not eating in all one sitting, or if gifting, a mason jar makes a cute gift!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Momofuku Milk Bar's blueberries and cream cookies

A long time ago, before I had eaten at a Momofuku restaurant (hard to believe, right?!), I had seen these cookies via a foodie website that I followed.  I saved the recipe immediately, as I often do, and then it sat in a cyber folder on my computer.  I've since become obsessed with certain Momofuku restaurants and in particular that they serve a rotating variety of Momofuku Milk Bar cookies at one restaurant.  B and I loved these blueberries and cream cookies when we had them (our latest Momofuku Noodle Bar trip -- yesterday! -- wound up with a different but also delicious confetti cookie for dessert), and that started the wheels turning in my head.  We needed some blueberries and cream cookies STAT (and by "we," I mean I needed to send them to work with B).

Just an FYI, these cookies involve 2 steps -- 3 if you include the difficult-to-delay-gratification waiting time of 1 hour to SEVEN days-- but they are SO worth it!  The original recipe says it makes 12-17 cookies, but I got 20 (with just a little extra to make a mini tasting cookie ;-)).



Blueberry & Cream Cookies
Momofuku Milk Bar (you have to click on the link up top for the cookies...there's no direct link)

Ingredients:

For the milk crumbs:

1/2 cup milk powder
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I crust it between my fingers when I add it to the recipe)
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup milk powder
3 oz white chocolate, melted

For the cookies:

16 Tbsp butter, at room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup glucose (I didn't have any....I used light corn syrup and they were great!)
2 eggs
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp kosher salt (I like to crush it between my fingers as I add it in)
1/2 recipe milk crumbs
3/4 cup dried blueberries

Directions:

Make the milk crumbs:

Preheat the oven to 250F.

Combine the 1/2 cup milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
Toss with your hands to mix.
Add the melted butter and toss, using a spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment- or silpat-lined sheet pan.
Bake for 20 minutes.
The crumbs should be sandy at that point, and the kitchen should smell like buttery heaven.
Cool the crumbs completely.

Crumble any crumbs that are bigger than 1/2 inch in diameter.
Put the crumbs in a medium bowl.
Add the 1/4 cup of milk powder.
Toss together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until the clusters are enrobed.
The continue to toss them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky.
Try not to eat them all.

[The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.]

Make the cookies:

Combine the butter, sugars, and glucose/corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
Cream on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the eggs.
Beat for 7-8 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute.
Scrap down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

While still on low speed, add the milk crumbs and mix until they're incorporated, no more than 30 seconds.
Chase the milk crumbs with the dried blueberries, mixing them in for 30 seconds.

Using a 2 3/4 oz ice cream scoop (or a 1/3 cup measure), portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.
Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat.
Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Arrange chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on a parchment- or silpat-lined sheet pans.
Bake for 18 minutes (mine were ready after 15-16 minutes....watch them carefully).
The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread.
After 18 minutes they should be very faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center.

Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring them to a plate or to an airtight container for storage.
At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for up to 1 month.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tahini chocolate chunk cookies

You know when something on the surface sounds weird, but it just calls to you?  That's totally the case with these cookies!  Tahini to me, at least in my mind, has always been associated with savory foods.  In fact, I had tahini in the apartment from when I made hummus (which I need to make again REALLY soon!).  But something about this cookie just called to me.  I can't explain it to you, but it did.  And it was sad, but it sat on the back burner through all of Passover, and then another two weeks after.


Today, however, I rectified that.  B thought I was a little crazy (I'm sure he's not the only one, like I said, I get that they sound a little weird, at best), but just one bite and he was convinced.  These cookies are goooood!  The tahini gives them a nuttiness that is more muted and subtle than peanut butter or almond butter.  And the little bit of cinnamon?  It just rounds out the deliciousness!

Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies
From The Little Epicurean

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (I had planned to use light brown sugar but mine was dried out and hard, so I used dark instead)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup tahini
10 oz (2 cups) dark chocolate chunks (I only had 6 oz so supplemented with some extra dark chocolate chips)
White sesame seeds, to top dough as needed

Directions:

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Set aside.

Cream butter.
Add sugars.
Mix until smooth.
Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing.
Add eggs and mix until incorporated.
Add in tahini and mix until combined.

Add flour mixture.
Mix until there are no longer any dry streaks of flour.
Fold in chocolate chunks until evenly distributed.

Cover cookie dough with plastic wrap and place in fridge.
Allow dough to chill for an hour (until it is slightly cool to the touch) -- I went out for a long walk and dinner, so I let mine warm up a little before baking them.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Use a #24 cookie scoop to portion out the dough.
Place dough on a parchment-lined tray at least 2 inches apart from each other.
Sprinkle sesame seeds over the dough.
Bake for 14-18 minutes, until the edges are crisp and the middle is still a bit soft.
Allow to cool on pan until cookies are firm enough to move to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Flourless blueberry almond muffins (Kosher for Passover)

Passover is here!  While some people I know (whose names will not be mentioned, but they know who they are) lament over the lack of food options during Passover.  Some might even say they *whine* about it.  But I digress.  Bottom line is: food options are limited.  However, one can at least attempt to make lemons out of lemonade, as I have tried.


First off, in a #juliebakesgoessavory endeavor, I made almond crusted chicken fingers for dinner the other night (check it out on my instagram feed).  Then I saw a recipe for Kosher for Passover Almond-Bluberry Muffins, and thought that (a) they sounded delicious, (b) B would love them, and (c) I already had almond meal on hand from the chicken fingers!


I made a few adjustments given what I had at home (Turbinado sugar instead of demerara, sweetened (cinnamon) applesauce instead of unsweetened, and slivered almonds instead of sliced), but they turned out absolutely delicious.  Just a heads up -- I followed the directions and ended up filling the 12 muffin tins and still had enough leftover batter to make 4 more muffins!

And an added bonus?  They're totally gluten-free (or at least can be made that way).  I don't do much gluten-free baking, but between the almond meal and coconut flour I picked up recently, I'm sure I could get int it a little more...

Hope everyone has a wonderful Passover!

Flourless Almond-Blueberry Muffins
(Kosher for Passover, and can be made gluten-free!)
From Epicurious

Ingredients:

2.5 cups almond meal
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt (crushed between your fingers as you add it)
1/2 pint (about 1 1/3 cups)
Sliced almonds (for sprinkling)
Demerara or raw sugar (for sprinkling)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (keep a few extra liners around, in case you have extra batter).
Whisk almond meal and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg yolks, granulated sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and doubled in size, about 3 minutes.
Add almond meal mixture and apple sauce.
Stir just to combine.

In another bowl: use an electric mixer on high speed to beat the egg whites and salt (crushing it between your fingers as you add it to the egg whites) until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
Add half of the egg white mixture to the almond meal mixture.
Fold to combine.
Then add remaining egg white mixture.
Fold to combine.
Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide the batter among muffin cups (I filled mine full and then had enough batter to make 4 more muffins).
Top with almonds and demerara sugar.

Bake muffins until tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes (mine took 25 minutes).
Transfer to a wire rack.
Let cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*They can be made 3 days ahead.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bolognese sauce

I know, I know.  This is clearly not baked nor is it something sweet (most of the things on Julie Bakes are at least 1 if not both of those things), but seeing as I baked two things yesterday, and have another on the agenda for today, I needed to mix things up a little.  Plus, B and I have been bringing in a lot lately (busy schedules, little time to cook), and I wanted to make a home cooked meal for us.  So I had the day off today, I got my exercise in this morning, and B was at work all day, so I set out to make something tasty.


One of the things we tend to pick up is the fusilli Bolognese from a local restaurant -- at the recommendation of one of B's friends -- and it's delicious.  So I googled Bolognese recipes and the first one that came up was Marcella Hazan's recipe.  I've seen her recipes featured on a lot of the foodie sites that I look at, and so I went right with that one, because if people rave about her recipes...well, you get it.  Her tomato sauce (which I haven't made yet), it supposed to be amazing!

This recipe is time intensive, but in the best way possible.  Cooking down the milk before adding in the wine, and cooking that down as well, and finally adding the tomatoes makes the sauce rich and delicious.  The final cooking time -- a minimum of 3 hours! -- makes the sauce tasty and full of flavor.

In the future I'd probably adjust things a little (less wine, more tomatoes), but this sauce is a keeper!  It would probably be great for a dinner party, since the last 3 hours of cooking are mostly watching and don't involve a lot of hands-on time.

Marcella Hazan's Bolognese Sauce
Found on the NY Times website

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil, since we didn't have vegetable oil)
3 Tbsp butter, plus 1 Tbsp for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork (1/4 pound) to 2 parts beef (1/2 pound)).  I used generic ground beef'
Salt
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill (we don't have a pepper mill -- something to register for, perhaps?! -- so I used regular ground pepper)
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg (I used already ground nutmeg, which B and I don't particularly love, so I used about 1/16 tsp)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italia plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmigiana-reggiano cheese, at the table

Directions:

Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in the pot.
Turn the heat on to medium.
Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent.
Add the celery and carrot.
Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper.
Crumble the meat with a fork.
Stir well and cook until the beef has lots it's raw, red color.

Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely.
Add a tiny grating -- about 1/8 tsp (I used half of that) -- of nutmeg.
Stir.

Add the wine.
Let it simmer until it has evaporated.
I added a pinch of salt and some pepper here to taste.
Add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well.
When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface.

Cook, uncovered, for 3 hour or more, stirring from time to time.
While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to see that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat.
To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary (I added 1/4 cup water after about 40 minutes).
At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce.
Taste and correct for salt.

Toss the sauce with the cooked, drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese on the side.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Unicorn bars

Sometimes a recipe just calls to me, and I feel compelled to make it, even if I don't have a reason/event to make it for. I saw these "unicorn bars" a while ago and wanted to make them.  Time got away from me, and the other day I received a shipment of sprinkles (gorgeous, stunning sprinkles that I ordered from the amazing sweetapolita!) and realized they'd look stunning on these bars!


So I set out to make them.  I realized that my new sprinkles (given their varying sizes, textures, and make-up (some have sixlets (chocolate-filled candies) in them) probably wouldn't mix into the bars well, so I used rainbow sprinkles for the bars themselves, and topped them with the fancy sprinkles.  (And I had fun playing around with my macro lens for my iPhone and took these close-ups of the sprinkles!)


Basically, they're a glorified funfetti cookie base covered in vanilla buttercream (in fun colors!!) and then topped generously with beautiful sprinkles (I used a combination of 4 different kinds of sprinkles -- some regular rainbow sprinkles and 3 different pretty sprinkles mixes that I had bought [in even amounts, because I'm OCD], minus the few sixlets that I picked out and ate while I was making the icing.....but shhhh, no one else needs to know that!). 


These really are gorgeous bars, and super tasty, too!  I made sure to package up a bunch for B to bring to work this weekend, and some others for drinks I have dinner plans with for tomorrow evening.

Unicorn Bars
from Cookies & Cups

Ingredients:

For the bars:

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I recommend crushing it between your fingers as you add it)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sprinkles

For the frosting:

1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp milk
Blue food coloring
Pink/red food coloring (I ended up using some pink and then a drop of purple to get a richer purple)
Sprinkles for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a 9 x 13" pan with foil, and coat the foil with nonstick spray
Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar.
Add in the vanilla, eggs, and salt.
Whisk until smooth.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour until just combined.
Finally, stir in the sprinkles.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are set. 
The bars might seem underdone, but allow them to cool completely.

Make the frosting.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until it's smooth.
Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar.
Next, add in 2 tablespoons of milk.
Mix on medium speed until it's creamy, scraping the sides as necessary.
If the frosting is too stiff, add in 1 more tablespoon of milk until the desired consistency is reached.
Finally, add in 1-2 drops of blue food coloring.
Mix until a pale blue color is reached and evenly mixed.
Remove half of the frosting and place in a piping bag.  I chose not to use a piping tip on it, but you can use any tip that you'd like.
To the remaining frosting in the bowl, add 1-2 drops of pink/red food coloring or purple (if you have) and mix again until a pale purple/lavender color is reached and evenly mixed.
Add purple frosting to another piping bag.

Pipe or spread the frosting on top of the bars.
The original blogger piped rich swirls of frosting on the bars before cutting them  I was afraid that it would get too messy, so I cut them and then piped a little dallop of either the blue or purple frosting on top.

Garnish with more sprinkles, if desiredDefinitely, definitely liberally apply sprinkles!

Note: If you pipe the frosting on the uncut bars, with glorious swirls as the original blogger did, you will need to double the amount of frosting.  If you pipe it as I did, half the frosting recipe should be enough, but I'd make a full batch of frosting depending on how big you cut the bars (mine were quite small, about 1 x 1").

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bouchon Bakery chocolate chip and chunk cookies

The past few weeks have been a bit hectic in our apartment.  In summary: 2 people with the flu, one medication adverse effect, four pots of chicken soup, gallons of Gatorade, and a delicious cookie from a bakery.  


See, I had to run some errands and while doing so, in an attempt to kill time before a meeting, went into Bouchon Bakery in Rockefeller Center.  There I bought a chocolate chip cookie that was mind-blowingly amazing.  So amazing, in fact, that when I went back two days later to pick up something I had dropped off on my last trip there, I picked up one for B.


The first day I had that cookie, I googled the recipe when I got to work. I found a few versions online.  I thought I was so smart!  Until I got home and remembered that I actually had the Bouchon Bakery cookbook...and the recipe was in it!


So at the tail end (I hope!!) of the week plus of illness, I set out to make these cookies. It was kinda my way of telling the germs that I was celebrating their demise, intimidating them into leaving our home for good!  Good riddance, germs!  And welcome, delicious cookies!!

The recipe for these cookies said it made 6 giant cookies.  I ended up making 3 giant cookies, and in realizing just how giant they were, made the next two batches smaller.  I sent them to work with B, and they were met with lots of "oohs" and "aaahs" -- the same exact response that we gave them here in the apartment!

Bouchon Bakery Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies
From the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups + 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 3/4 tsp unsulfured blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup 3/8" chocolate 70-72% chocolate
Scant 1/2 cup chocolate chips
5.9 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp + 2 1/2 tsp eggs

Directions:

Place flour in a medium bowl.
Sift in the baking soda.
Add the salt (I recommend crushing it between your fingers when you add it).
Whisk together.

Place the dark brown sugar in a bowl.
Add the molasses and granulated sugar.
Mix well, breaking up any lumps.
The mixture will not be smooth.

Place the chocolate chunks in a strainer and tap the side to remove any powdered chocolate (it would cloud the cookies).
Mix with the chocolate chips.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Turn to medium-low speed and cream the butter, warming the bowl if needed, until it is the consistence of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted.
Add the molasses mixture.
Mix for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the eggs and mix on low speed for 15-30 seconds, until just combined.
Scrape the bowl again.
The mixture may look broken, but that's fine.

Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds after each, or until just combined.
Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there.
Add the chocolates and pulse on low speed about 10 times to combine.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Line two sheet pans with silpats or parchment paper.

Using an ice cream scoop (recommended: 2 1/2 inch ice cream scoop), divide the dough into 6 equal portions (150 grams each).  I made some large ones and then made the rest of the dough into smaller ones (see pictures above).
Roll each into a ball between the palms of your hands (you can shape the dough in advance).

The cookies are very large; only bake 3 per sheet.
Stagger the cookies on the pan.
Allow the dough to warm up to room temperature before baking.

Bake until golden brown, 14-16 minutes in a convection oven, 18-20 minutes in a standard oven.
Reverse the positions of then pans halfway through baking.
Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.
The cookies are best the day they are baked, but can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days.