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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


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'
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


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.

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


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


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


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


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.