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Friday, August 31, 2012

Experimenting in the kitchen...

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone! Hope you're all about to relax for a few days. I'm going to be baking a few test batches of cupcakes for an order for next week...stay tuned for stories and pictures!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick morning treat

Hello fellow bakers! This morning I decided to make fresh blueberry muffins (the produce on vacation is delightful), but I was missing a few ingredients. Well if you've been reading my blog for awhile now, you know that I like a challenge. My recipe called for milk (of which I only had skim, so I made my own buttermilk) and light brown sugar (I had dark). The end result was a deliciously moist, rich muffin and a recipe I want to share with my readers. Make sure you toss the blueberries in a little bit of flour, which keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin (chef's secret)!

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins
Gourmet, July 2006 (Lillian Chou)


  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (7 1/2 oz)
  • Special equipment: a muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups; 12 foil or paper muffin liners
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Put liners in muffin cups.
  2. Whisk together butter, brown sugar, milk, and egg in a bowl until combined well. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries gently.
  3. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Happy baking!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The "new" cherry on top

In an upcoming cupcake order, I have been asked to do some kind of lemon combo for one of the cupcakes (the other will be German chocolate). The chocolate should be a cinch, but I've been mulling over what to do for the lemon...I still haven't decided. What I have decided is that I want to do something decorative on top - like a candied lemon peel. In any recipe, the concept is always the same: simmer peels in sugar water mixture, drain and dry on a cooling rack, and sprinkle with sugar. This can easily be done with any fruit! Give it a try with this easy recipe.

Candied Lemon Peel
Bon Appetit, December 2009


  • 3 large lemons
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  1. Place rack on rimmed baking sheet. Cut 1/4 inch off top and bottom of each lemon. Score each lemon lengthwise in quarters, cutting just through peel (not into flesh). Carefully pull off each peel quarter in 1 piece. Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Cook peel in large saucepan of boiling water 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain peel; rinse well and drain again.
  2. Bring 4 cups water and 4 cups sugar to boil in heavy large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Add drained lemon peel to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lemon peel is very soft and looks translucent, about 40 minutes.
  3. Using fork, transfer lemon peel, 2 or 3 strips at a time, to prepared rack. Separate strips and arrange crosswise on rack. Let peel drain 15 minutes. Sprinkle peel generously with additional sugar. Turn strips over and sprinkle second side generously with sugar. Let dry uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Candied lemon peel can be made up to 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
Happy baking!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

As the saying goes, add everything but the kitchen sink!

Hello everyone, welcome to mid-week! Even though I'm on vacation with my family, I'm still being put to work! I was asked to make pancakes tomorrow morning and it got me thinking, what do you do when you want to bake on vacation? Better yet, what do you do when you've got tons of ingredients in the cabinet but nothing to make? This is the best time to mix it all together and see what it makes, thus the creation of kitchen sink cookies. Now let me just say, I can't take credit for this was created long before I came along! However it's a fabulous idea and I want to honor it by giving you three different versions to try. But remember, fear not if you don't have an ingredient - they're kitchen sink cookies for a reason. Just add whatever you've got (but not the sink).

Martha Stewart's Kitchen Sink Cookies
Makes approx. 4 dozen


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sweetened flake coconut
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture until well blended. Add oats, chips, coconut, raisins, and walnuts, and stir until well blended.
  4. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons or with a 1 ounce ice-cream scoop onto silpat about 2 inches apart. Press tops down with the bottom of a glass to flatten cookies evenly. Bake until golden, about 16 to 18 minutes. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and finish cooling completely on wire rack.

Ellie Krieger's Kitchen Sink Cookies
Makes 18-20 cookies

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine butter, oil and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down bowl, until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add applesauce, egg white and vanilla and mix to combine. Add flour, oatmeal, salt and cinnamon and mix just until just combined. Add cherries, apricots, walnuts and chocolate and mix to combine.
  3. Spray 1 baking sheet with cooking spray. Using 1 tablespoon cookie dough at a time, roll into balls and place 2-inches apart on baking sheet. Press cookies down with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly, as cookies will not spread as much as cookies with more butter. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned but still soft. Remove from oven and cool on racks.
Paula Deen's Meemaw's Kitchen Sink Cookies
Makes 60 cookies

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup rolled old-fashioned oats
  • 1 (8-ounce) package toffee bits
  • White chocolate, for dipping
  • 15 peppermint hard candies, crushed, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Scrape the sides of the mixer bowl and beat in the oil, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 small additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each one. Slowly beat in the rice cereal, coconut, and oats. Fold in the toffee bits and refrigerate the dough, covered, for 1 hour.
  4. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on 2 cookie sheets, leaving at least 1-inch of space around each drop. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
  5. Using a double boiler, melt the white chocolate. Dip the cookies into the white chocolate and sprinkle crushed peppermint to decorate. Allow to cool or serve warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Happy baking!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A dedication to Napa

Good evening everyone! I'm on vacation for the next few weeks, but I didn't want to leave you without a few posts! I was looking at recipes tonight and I came across a great recipe from one of my favorite restaurants in Napa, Oenotri. Though I've only been to Napa once, I'm dying to go back again and again! I will definitely  go back to this fabulous restaurant for dinner when I go because (and I will admit to being a food snob) I loooooved the food! It didn't disappoint. Here's a recipe from Oenotri pastry chef, Jennifer Archer, for a delicious budino (a chocolate pudding).

Warm Chocolate Budino
Food & Wine, April 2012
Serves 8


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Hot water
  • Salted roasted almonds and vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and baking powder. Chop the chocolate and, in a large microwave-safe bowl, heat it with the butter at high power in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the dry ingredients until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
  3. Set the cake pan in a small roasting pan. Transfer the roasting pan to the center of the oven. Carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach one-third of the way up the side of the cake pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the budino is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the cake pan to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Run a knife around the budino and invert it onto a plate. Peel off the paper and invert the budino again. Cut into wedges and serve with roasted almonds and vanilla ice cream drizzled with olive oil.
Happy baking!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Groom's cake!

Surprise! I'm here on a Saturday! I wanted to send out a quick hello and show you the final picture of my recent cake order - a surprise groom's cake, New Jersey Italian-style! For a couple clearly meant to be, the quote on top says, "Together Forever."

Friday, August 17, 2012

My newest cake

Happy Friday! I finally finished my client's cake and today is the delivery day! I have pictures, but I can't show you until after the event (ooooh, the suspense!). Keep your eyes peeled for an update tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fondant dying made easy!

Happy Wednesday! How are you all doing on this gloomy day in Manhattan? Since the weather isn't the best, here's a great excuse to play in the kitchen! I'm going to talk to you about dying fondant. For an upcoming order, I've been asked to dye fondant a few different colors. I'm going to lay out my process for you:
First I measure the amount of fondant I will need for the size of my cake. One of my most valuable kitchen tools is my scale. I've had it since culinary school and it weighs perfectly every time!

Next up, you need to make sure you keep moving. Fondant tends to dry out if left in the air too long. If you're only dying some of your fondant and keeping the rest for later, be sure to wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap (double layers are good!) and maybe even in a plastic bag! Back to the fondant: remember you can always add more color, but you can't exactly take color away once it's in. Adding little by little, knead the fondant with the dye (similar to a bread dough) until it's completely mixed in. Be prepared to have messy hands! Dye washes out over time, though I've gotten about 85% of it off my hands using shampoo (the cure for everything!). If the color is too light, add more color and knead again. I do my dying on a special fondant mat, something in which you might want to invest if you plan on dying a lot of fondant. If the fondant starts too get to sticky, sprinkle the mat with confectioners' sugar or cornstarch and keep going.
End Results
Once you've got the color you were looking for, wrap up your fondant twice in plastic wrap and zip it tight in a ziplock (remove all the excess air) unless using immediately.

Good luck and happy baking!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flatbread Finale

Hello everyone! Did you survive Monday? I wanted to update you on my flatbread fiesta! I cooked off my delicious flatbreads on a grill pan and they turned out beautifully! We topped them with local mozzarella, spicy tomato sauce, homemade pesto, pureed black beans, tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes...yum! I hope you try the recipe (see previous posts). It's easy, and well worth the wait!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fire up the grill

Happy Friday dear readers! Since the weather this morning has been crummy, I've been spending the day dying fondant for my upcoming cake order, and making flatbread. If you've read some of my other blog posts, you'll know that I looooove doughs, all doughs, including pizza! So flatbread is right up my alley. It takes all day to make and rise, but the end result will be delish (I will give you the update next week). Here is the fabulous flatbread recipe, and a few pics to get you motivated:

Grilled Flatbread
Bon Appetit, July 2012
Serves 8



  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Vegetable oil (for brushing)

Topping Suggestions

  •  Ancho Chile OilGreen Charmoula, and grated Cotija or Parmesan cheese
  •  Puréed black beans, sliced avocado, radishes, and pico de gallo
  •  Sliced plum tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and crema (or sour cream)


  1.  Dissolve yeast in 3 cups warm water in a large bowl. Add all-purpose and whole wheat flours; mix with your fingertips until a shaggy dough forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Dough after step 1
    Sprinkle salt over dough, then add sour cream; knead until well incorporated and dough pulls away from sides of bowl and holds together in a loose, wet ball, about 5 minutes (dough will be very soft and wet; lightly moisten your hands to prevent sticking if needed). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Dough after step 2
    Knead dough an additional 4–5 times to deflate. Cover and chill for up to 2 days. (Dough will develop in flavor and continue to rise slowly in refrigerator.) Alternatively, let dough stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, 3–4 hours (the warmer and more humid your kitchen is, the faster it will rise). Chill for 1 hour before grilling to make it easier to handle.
  4. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Generously flour a work surface. Working with 1 or 2 portions at a time (depending on how many flatbreads will fit on your grill), roll out dough or press with your hands into a 1/4-inch-thick shape. (It doesn't have to be perfectly round.)
  5. Brush grill rack with oil. Grill flatbreads until lightly charred on one side and no longer sticking to grill, 2–3 minutes. Using tongs, turn flatbreads and grill until cooked through, 1–2 minutes longer. Add desired toppings and serve warm.

    Happy baking!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cake success!

Happy Hump Day! How's your Wednesday going so far? I wanted to give you the final chapter to the deep, dark, richly chocolate cake saga. My husband and I tried the test cake last night and we both agreed it was surprisingly perfect for my upcoming cake order! The filling gets fudgier as it sits in the cake and the cake is fairly dense and brownie-like. I used a devil's food recipe and added updates to make it extreme. If you remember, I am not a chocolate girl (I am so vanilla), but this is really great! I did a quick cream cheese frosting and chocolate shavings, just to finish the cake since I will be using fondant on the real one (and probably buttercream as well). Yum yum.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bitter tears of caramel

Surprise! It's Tuesday and I'm here! I figured I'd give you an update on the chocolate wonder-cake. Unfortunately, the first frosting idea - a chocolate salted caramel - did not go as planned. This is what happens when your recipes are incorrect. Really look at your recipes before you start and ask yourself, does this seem like other recipes I've seen? because if not, it'll be a disaster. Even chefs make mistakes, and I let my caramel get too dark, and I had to piece together the steps of the recipe myself, as I didn't notice that the one I had wasn't actually complete! SIGH. Oh well. Onto recipe number 2: chocolate sour cream frosting...yum yum! Currently I have my chocolate melting in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water (remember the double boiler technique?). I'll let you know how it goes! Happy baking!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Test, test, 1, 2.

Happy Monday! Today I decided to test a chocolate recipe for an upcoming cake order. The woman asked for a very rich chocolate cake, and I am trying to find the best. Now of course I have the perfect go-to chocolate recipe, but I wanted to see if I could get a recipe richer. I substituted cocoa powder for all-purpose flour, added coffee for added richness, and flavored with vanilla extract. The cakes are fresh from the oven, and even though it's just a test, I like to bring my cakes to completion. So while the cakes cool, I've been working on a chocolate caramel ganache frosting. The recipe is not well written, so I've been trying to piece it together...and perhaps failing miserably! The recipe requires adding caramel to a ganache, cool down, and add butter to fluff it up. Not so simple. Currently my frosting is waiting in the fridge, as it got too soft to use! That's a great little secret - you can usually thicken and harden up a frosting by putting it in the refrigerator for awhile! I'll let you know the results once the cake is cooled, cut, and frosted!

Happy baking!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bake worms rejoice!

Happy Friday my wonderful readers! Are you happy the week is over? For those of you interested in the how's, why's, and what's of the baking process, I have a book recommendation for you! Let me just preface this by saying that I have never been very science-y, if you will, but I love knowing why different ingredients are important while baking. I would highly recommend the book Bakewise by Shirley O. Corriher, which details very valuable information in a way that's understandable to anyone. She tells you how and why things work, then gives you recipes that demonstrate what you've learned. It's truly a fabulous book!

Happy baking and happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Steeping: Not just for tea!

Hello everyone! I wanted to discuss steeping today. I'm sure you all know how to steep, probably with a cup of tea. When you leave the tea bag in the hot water, it releases the delicious flavors of the tea leaves. Did you know that you can steep in ice cream bases as well? The first step of most ice cream recipes will tell you to add the cream and milk to a pot and bring to a boil. During this time, you can add vanilla seeds and pods, herbs (such as thyme, basil, rosemary, etc.), cinnamon sticks, etc. Once you bring the mixture to a boil, turn off the pot and let sit for half an hour to an hour. The flavors will begin to meld into the milk at this time and give off the perfect flavor.

At the end of the ice cream recipe, you will usually pour the liquid into a bowl using a sieve (basically a small-holed colander). The sieve will catch all the stems, leaves, pods, etc. that you used to steep in the milk, and will leave your ice cream base smooth and creamy. Easy and delish!

Happy baking!