Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Rugelach That Won France Over

I have a 5 year old son and while we have never had the food battles that some of my friends have had with their children he definitely has his food preference. He would rather eat a bowl of egg noodles with butter than chow on a plate of calamari. He would eat grill cheese almost any night of the week but will pass on anything that dares to have spinach near it. He has a handful of vegetables that he likes to eat, with celery not being on that list. But I do not worry because I know that when he grows up that will all change. After my Mom tells me that when she was younger she lived on a steady supply of grilled cheese and applesauce but today she happy to eat Indian curry or something from a Thai restaurant (although there is a place deep within her heart that is reserved for loving grilled cheese).

I am the same way. I grew up and so did the list of "favorite foods" but while I do not remember the first time tikka masala, green curry or calamari I do remember the first time I tried rugelach. I wish I could say that it was on a trip through Eastern Europe but it was fact the first time I tried rugelach was at Starbucks in Northern Virginia (which is NOTHING like Eastern Europe).

I was 19 years old and working as a barista at our local Starbucks. This was about 25 years ago and Starbucks were still a novelty and being a barista there gave me instant cool status (or at least I thought it did). It seemed that to be a barista you had to be worldly, aloof, and writing a screen play...or at least critiquing movies as were writing a screenwriter. We really did think that we were badass. We spent our day making tiny cups of coffee (this was when grande was as big as it got and there was actually a size coffee smaller than a tall) and discussing novels. We were living our own version of the movie Reality Bites.

And it was in this world that I met rugelach for the first time. It was the perfect cookie for a pretentious barista. It was not a mere sugar cookie, it was not your childhood chocolate chip. It was exotic...unique...European! It was also love at first bite so I was excited that we were baking it this month.

I liked the fact that the dough was made it the food processor...because every time I it I feel as if I am justifying buying it! And it was also super easy to pulse it up.

Once it the dough is at the "curd" stage you smoosh it into a ball and put it in the fridge. 

The filling called for chocolate, dried cherries, pecans and coconut but I omitted the coconut since it ranks up there celery on the list of things my little guy does not like to eat.

And yes that is a measuring tape. What can I say my OCD heart likes to make sure that if a recipe calls for a 12x12 square that then I make a 12x12 square...and I cut exactly 1 inch slices. I try not to fight my OCD makes the voices in my head that much louder.

 These little bites of flaky, chocolatey, buttery goodness are delicious. I want to take one of these and go back in time...walk into that Starbucks....go behind the counter and stick it in my younger-self's mouth. She would love it.

The small print:
The Rugelach That Won Over France on p. 301

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberry Crackle

4pm Saturday: "Mike, help...get the bandaids and Neosporin! I have hurt myself".

DUN DUN <~~~~ Law and Order type music

Flashback to earlier in the day

11:00am: Meagan is in her kitchen getting ready to make the cranberry crackle tart. She has all her ingredients gathered around her including a canister of all purpose flour (having learned from the last recipe that white whole wheat flour is not the same).

exhibit A: all purpose flour 

11:10am: Meagan starts making the crust. She pulls out her fancy new food processor (thank you William Sonoma for having discounts on top of discounts) and blends up the dough. She says out loud, even though there is no one else in the room, that "adding 1 lightly mixed egg yolk to a food processor a small amount at a time seems like the most ridiculous thing I have ever been asked to do and I have been asked to do a lot of ridiculous things". 


11:30am: Meagan finishes the dough by hand as the recipe suggests. She then rolls it out and fits it to the pie pan before sliding it into the oven to bake.

exhibit B: dough in pie pan waiting to be trimmed and baked.

Noon (because it always confuses the writer if noon is 12am or 12pm): crust is finished baking and is sitting on a rack to cool. Meagan is a little worried because the crust is already really "golden" and it still has to bake for another hour but she decides to put it aside to cool and start on dinner. She says out loud, again to herself because no one is around, that it "seems like the perfect day to make a beef stew". She starts chopping the vegetables but her mind is still on the pie. Is the crust overcooked? How can you add 1 egg yolk a little bit at time when there is only a little bit to start with? Will she be able to stop herself from eating the entire thing in one sitting? Should she have just made brownies instead?


2:00pm: The stew is on the stove stewing away (and moody stews often do) and the crust is cool so Meagan starts on the filing. She spoons some chunky cherry jam into the bottom of the crust.

exhibit C: jam
She pulls out Betty her trusty hand mixer and starts to whip up a meringue. She feels pretty proud of herself because for once the recipe is coming together as it should. If only she knew how the day would end in disaster.  But unaware of what is to come she happily folds the cranberries into the meringue and then tries to resist the temptation to lick the meringue bowl. 

exhibit D: cranberry meringue goodness
The meringue cranberry goodness goes on top of the jam and the entire thing goes in the oven to bake for an hour. 


3:30pm: Meagan pulls the pan out of the oven and the Cranberry Crackle looks amazeballs (even though she is too old to keep using the term amazeballs). She looks around and since no one else is in the kitchen she decides to forgo letting it cool and instead risks a burnt mouth by quickly cutting and gobbling up a piece. So tart, so sweet, so amazing. 

exhibit E: the yumminess


3:55pm: A feeling of utter happiness falls over Meagan's body. There is stew (still stewing) on the stove, there are cranberries and sugar floating in her tummy, there is the rest of the cranberry crackle still waiting to be eaten. Life is good. With her head filled with dreamy cranberry dreams Meagan reaches for the plastic wrap to cover the the pan with.


4:00pm: "Mike, help...get the bandaids and Neosporin! I have hurt myself". Mike rushes into the kitchen. He has prepared himself for a gory sight and he is ready to dial 911 to get immediate help. He finds Meagan, with her finger wrapped in a towel. She is panicked. Mike convinces her to remove the towel so he can take a look and there he sees....a little cut on her finger that she got while tearing off a piece of plastic wrap.


4:03pm: Mike sits the bandaids down on the counter and heads back to do whatever it was that he was doing, leaving behind Meagan to tend to her own baking wounds and mutter out loud (to herself since one again no one is in the kitchen with her) that "it really does hurt, it is much bigger than it looks, I did it on the sharp metal is not just a paper cut.....". 

exhibit F: the ugly side of baking

Cranberry Crackle Tart pp 135-137 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Palets de Dames

I wish I could say that I finally finished Baking With Julia but in fact I missed more recipes (a lot more) than I actually made and instead the cookbook usually sat on my counter. Glaring at me. With judgment. Daring me to open it and bake something. But nothing makes you feel better about not finishing a project than starting a new one and so it was with great happiness that the group started a new book: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. So now I can tell myself " is not that you never finished Baking with would have...but what can you do...the group moved you must move on with the group".

And so I am moving on to Palet de Dames. Little pucks of sugary goodness.

When I opened my new cookbook and saw this recipe I thought it was going to be the recipe that finally caused me to break down and buy a stand mixer (or at least it was going to be the excuse I gave for buying the stand mixer that I have wanted for so long) but sadly the recipe said that you could use a hand out came Betty the trusted hand mixer that I have carried from state to state and country to country.

The batter is super easy to make. A few simple ingredients mixed together.

Now this is where I made my first mistake substitution. In my everyday cooking I use white whole wheat flour and so I do not have all purpose white flour in the house. Nor do I have room in my itty bitty doll house sized kitchen to have an extra container of flour that is only used once in a rare while. Luckily Whole Foods sells all purpose flour in their bulk section so I had planned to buy enough for this recipe...but I forgot. So I decided to go with the flour I had in the house. Note to self...find room in the kitchen cupboards for a jar of all purpose flour because it really does make a difference in cookies. 

After mixing the cookie ingredients together you need to chill your batter for at least an hour. I personally love cookies that you can make in stages. I call them Nap Time cookie since you can make the batter one day while your shortie takes a nap and bake them the next day while your shortie takes a nap. 

Then the cookies are scooped onto a tray and baked. And since I talked myself into a new stand mixer...only to talk myself out of a new stand mixer...I figured I could at least buy a cookie scoop as a small consolation prize. I am not really a gadget girl, well I am a gadget girl but with my doll sized kitchen I am not able to live out my gadget girl life but I figured a cookie scoop was small. And these little french cutie cookies really begged to be of uniform size and I bought one. And while scooping out my first cookie the scoop broke. 


I think because I did not have a scoop and instead used a spoon I ended up making them smaller than was suggested. I need a tshirt that says "The Only Thing Small About Me is My Cookies"...or maybe I do not need one. 

But I let them cool and then mixed up the icing (again super simple ingredients mixed with a fork because that is how we roll here in Cali). I dipped one in, not realizing until later that the flat side is suppose to be iced and the round sized left bare, and stuck it right into my mouth. Then I dipped the rest and left them on the counter to dry. I saw other baker's blogs where their children had helped by adding sprinkles to the tops and all I can say is "God Bless those Gentle and Creative Mothers" because the thought of handing my 5 year old a container of sprinkles and letting him go at a cookie causes me to break out in sweat. Because I love him (and I was raised in the art of Catholic guilt) I do let him make "memories" by decorating cookies. Twice a year. Halloween and Christmas. That is it. No more. My OCD heart can not take it. 

Overall they are an OK cookie. A "meh" sort of cookie. The idea is great: a vanilla cake cookie coated in a power sugar glaze but in the end they lack any real flavor. And the flour I used gives them a nuttiness that probably should not be found in a french cookie. However that will not stop me from eating a second one (and most likely a third one too). 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

I had lots of buttermilk left over from the little plum(ish) cakes that I made last week and after a quick Google search I found a recipe for this raspberry buttermilk cake.

Hello cakey goodness!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Itty Bitty Cakes

A while ago I decided to skip a month of Tuesdays With Dorie....and 2 years later I am back. What can I say I do not do anything in small measures. But I am back and I feel like it was meant to be since the first thing I get to bake are tiny cakes.  Oh how I love tiny cakes. Tiny oven roasted plum cakes.

So first things this morning I got right down to making these tiny cakes (after getting A off to school..after a walk...after a stop at the coffee shop...and a visit to the beach to drink my morning coffee...but you get the idea). Out came the recipe book and as I read through it I could tell that it was going to be my kind of recipe. I (heart) a recipe that tells me exactly what to do so when I saw the words beat for 30 second, add second egg and beat for 30 more seconds I knew I had met the bossy recipe of my dreams.

Next up preparing the fruit for the itty bitty plum cakes. But do you remember back in 2006 when Pluto was suddenly out of a job? It seemed that the powers that be decided that we had enough plants and Pluto did not make the cut. What is a big ball of space rock to do when it no longer has a job....well I thought I had found the answer! I thought Pluto had reinvented itself into stone fruit only to realize that in fact I was baking with Pluots not Plutos (oh dslyexia why must you rear your ugly head at the most embarassing times?). So anyways I substituted pluots for plum in the itty bitty cakes. What is a Pluots you ask? Well according to Wikipedia is the the offspring of a plum parent and an apricot parent, and yes the website does use the term parent.

Pluots prepared and ready to go (although feeling slightly down to realize that they are the offspring of a plum and an apricot and not a hunk of rock formally know as Pluto but they will get over it).

In go the ingredients.

They get mixed the EXACT PRECISE amount of time because I do not mess with a bossy recipe.

I did not have 12 ramekins and since our new cottage is the size of a child's doll house I could not imagine storing 12 ramekins in my limited space so instead I used these round panettone paper baking wraps and they worked pretty well.

And the paper wrappers made them easy to unmold since I just had to peel off the paper (and of course grab a fork and dig right in).

Maybe it was the fact that I used pluots instead of plums or maybe it was because I used panettone wrappers instead of ramekins but I have to say that despite my overwhelming o.b.s.e.s.s.i.o.n. with tiny cakes I did not adore these. I liked the cake that surrounded the pluot but the slimy fruit in the middle was not that lovely to eat. But despite the yummy cake with a slimy fruit surprise ending I am glad to be back Baking With Julia.

And now the small print:
Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes, p. 255-256
You can check out other people's journey into itty bitty plum cakes here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where Did I Go

Our little family recently moved. Not a move to a new house in the same neighborhood. Not a move in a new city in the same state. Not to a town in a neighboring state. Nope our little family picked up our entire lives and moved from the edge of the East Coast to the edge of the West Coast. Baltimore Maryland to Carmel California.

It was a long journey that started even before we walked out of our old home for the last time. Between getting the house ready, packing, and parenting solo style while my hubby was out of town for 5 months, baking was just not no my to-do list. 

But I have missed baking. There is something cathartic about measuring, pouring and mixing. There is satisfaction knowing that I made something. So yesterday while I was talking to my Mom about my little man's horrible separation anxiety she said that is normal that under times of stress for us to go back to where we feel safe...and that got me thinking about where I feel safe. I am horribly homesick. I miss my friends, my family, my house, my city. I need to go to my "safe place" and for me that is a place where I feel creative, where I make things. So today I went back into the kitchen. 

Not to say I have not been in the kitchen since the whole "epic move" started. I have. I make dinner almost every night. I make my shortie breakfast and lunch most days. But I have not been in the kitchen just to bake something for pleasure in a while. Until today. 

My canisters had been sitting empty since moving in to our new cottage so today I went to the store and bought flour, brown sugar and other baking supplies to fill them back up. It turns out that happiness can be found in full canisters!

Then I melted butter, crushed up graham crackers, added flour, sugar and spices before popping it in the oven. While my graham crumbles baked I whipped up some cream with brown sugar, and then I sliced up strawberries. 

Strawberries with brown sugar whipped cream and graham crumbles. (Smitten Kitchen). I looks like I am back in the kitchen again.