Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's Baking? February: Baked with Love

Dunne is hosting our February What's Baking? challenge, and she chose a theme of "baked with love": bake something appropriate to serve on Valentine's Day.

Well, in our house, Valentine's Day coincided with both of us jump-starting our workouts and trying to eat a little healthier. Fortunately, I had recently seen a gluten-free, low-fat chocolate cookie on the Martha Stewart Show (warning: this link takes you to the video, which will start playing automatically), and I just had to try it!

I omitted the chocolate chunks. The cookies are chocolatey enough, and with the goal of a healthy/er cookie, there's no need for extra chocolate (and ok, yes, I know there's fat in the nuts, but that's healthy fat, and you can use fewer nuts. No comment on the amount of sugar, it's still a cookie, after all). Any nut you have on hand would be great in these. I also had a kind of funny mishap- the second time I made these, I made them from memory and accidentally used one less egg white. You know what? The cookies were totally fine (Clint said better). So don't sweat it if you only have 3 egg whites, go for it.
Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart

3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa (or you can use regular baking cocoa, but these really are chocolatey-er and better with Dutch process)
dash of salt
1-1/2 cups hazelnuts (or nuts of your choice)
4 (or 3) egg whites (3 makes a crisper cookie, 4 makes them nice and chewy. I prefer 4, Clint prefers 3)

Preheat oven to 325F. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Cool them slightly, then chop roughly.

Sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa and salt. (I rarely sift, but I recommend it with cocoa, which tends to stay in chunks (like the movie Dune is in your chocolately drink.), although once baked, you won't notice them very much). Stir in the egg whites and chopped nuts.

Drop by tablespoonful onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes, until the cookie tops look dry and are cracked.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gotta bake... a coffee cake

I had this crazy idea that once I was unemployed, I'd have all sorts of free time for cooking, organizing, blogging, crafting.... instead, I had an identity crisis. Well, not exactly, but I just don't really know how to structure my day and include everything I should be doing. I've been knitting a lot, and emptying out all the stuff I've had stored on the DVR for months. But cleaning? Organizing? Even cooking? With the exception of some very failed granola bars (sigh), nothing. A full week of being a lazy bum. I did, however, exercise daily (go me!), so it wasn't a complete loss.

Yesterday I snapped out of it... a little. Today was better. But yesterday I decided I required cookies. I browsed, I perused, I found things I'd like but Clint wouldn't, I found things Clint would eat but I wasn't thrilled with... then I found a coffee cake. Not a cookie, but tasty.

And today I've gotten off my lazy butt (finally) and begun to work on the seminar I'll give at a job interview next week. I'm off to a rough start, but hopefully once I settle back in to seminar-preparing it'll be smooth going.

Note: I've never made a coffee cake. Crazy, right? No one in my family has ever made one (that I've tasted, at least). I used to get so excited when someone brought in a slice of a plain vanilla cake with a cinnamony, sugary walnut swirl in the middle, it was such a rare treat. There's no reason I can't make one myself! I'm glad to have fixed that little problem.

Maple Coffee Cake

taken from Miss in the Kitchen

(part of the reason this caught my eye on tastespotting, aside from that beautiful nutty swirl, is because Miss has photographed her coffee cake slice on my mother's every day china. Have you ever seen that china before? No? Me either. I love little coincidences like this!)

Cinnamony Sugary Walnuty Swirl
1/2 cup flour
2T butter, softened
1t cinnamon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 and 1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, butter and cinnamon until it's crumbly. Stir in the nuts and syrup, and set aside.

2 cups flour
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1t vanilla
1 cup nonfat yogurt or sour cream (I used half greek yogurt and half sour cream; the original recipe suggested vanilla yogurt, which I think would be interesting (in a good way))

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar, add in the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla and beat until well-combined and a little fluffy (a few minutes). Add in half the flour, then the yogurt, then the rest of the flour. The batter will be pretty thick.

Grease a bundt pan. Pour in half the batter, spread in an even layer. On top of that, spread the maple walnut mixture in an even layer, and top with the remaining batter. Spreading everything evenly is kind of a pain, just to warn you.

Bake in a 350F oven for 35-40 min. Cool about 10 min before removing from the pan.

This cake has a lovely texture, it's not super soft like other coffee cakes, but has a hearty yet fluffy texture. The cake itself isn't super sweet, so it might be nice with a simple sugar/milk glaze if the maple walnut filling isn't enough.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is a very exciting day for me. Not only is it Valentine's Day (which means wearing lots of red, my heart socks, going out to dinner), but today is the day I am laid off.

That's right, I'm unemployed. This is the big life change I've been alluding to for a while.

I have decided to call my unemployment "extended vacation." I am taking time for myself, to rest, to recuperate, to regain my confidence and feelings of self-worth that have been destroyed by my job. I have tried to keep it secret and only tell my very closest friends and my parents, but dear god, I hated my job.

And the economic mess our country is in actually turned things in my favor and caused my lab to lose funding, forcing me out.

Now that I'm to be unemployed, our finances will be tricky, but I think I'll be happy. We've agreed that scrimping and saving is worth getting me out of my misery. I expect to cook more budget meals over the next few months. I also stocked up on yarn while I still had a paycheck, to tide me over the next few months. :)

To celebrate such an exciting and long-awaited day (I've been counting down the days since before Christmas), I wanted to make a dessert. Of course, there are so many lovely recipes floating around in the ether, so I made Clint tell me what he wanted. We're going out to dinner, so I wanted something simple but tasty, to snack on over the next few days. He said either nutella blondies or something with berries.

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes
(you'll hear about those chocolate cookies later this week)
These cupcakes are more of an assembly/flavor combination suggestion than a new recipe. I've mentioned the frosting and cake recipes before, and I continue to use them often because they're so good!

Vanilla Cupcakes,
Magnolia Bakery's recipe, via Martha Stewart

2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1t vanilla
1cup milk
2-3/4 cups AP flour
2-1/4t baking powder
1/4t salt

Cream the butter and sugar (beat a few minutes), add eggs and beat after each, until it's well-combined. Whisk the dry ingredients together and then add about 1/3 of that to the mixture, then about half the milk. Add more flour, the rest of the milk, the rest of the flour. After each addition, beat only until just barely combined, don't overbeat.

Preheat oven to 350F, and fill cupcake tins with liners or mini cupcake tins with liners about 2/3 full with batter (minis get about 1T). Bake about 20 min for regular cupcakes, 15 min for minis.

Makes 1 dozen regular + 3 dozen mini cupcakes.

Raspberry Filling

Some frozen raspberries (3/4 cup or so)

In a small saucepan, cook the raspberries for a few minutes, until they're saucy. Cool. (I didn't bother straining, but if the seeds bother you, strain).

Boiled Lemon Frosting
from coconut&lime

I recommend making a half batch. I only wish I could remember that before I start!

For a full batch:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
4 egg whites
pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, lemon juice and zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches soft ball stage (about 230F).

Meanwhile, starting beating the egg whites and salt in a stand mixer on high. Beat until soft peaks form.

Pour the hot sugar in a steady stream into the egg whites while the mixer is on low. Once the sugar is all in, turn it up to medium-high and beat for 5-6 minutes. Frost cool cupcakes (I used an offset spatula, not a piping bag or anything)

Normally when I fill cupcakes, I use a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip and inject the cupcakes. With a fruit filling, I thought that might not work, so I went with the other method, cutting out a cone of cupcakes and replacing it. This method is tedious and annoying and I do not prefer it. However, it worked well with the raspberry filling.

Once the cupcakes are cool, cut a cone out of the top of the cupcake with a sharp knife, so there's a well- don't get rid of the cone, though. Spoon about 1t raspberry filling into the well, and place the cone back on top. Don't add so much filling that it squirts out everywhere when you push the cupcake cone back in. Then frost as normal- the frosting will hide the ugly gash in the cupcake.

It just adds an extra step, compared to the injection method, but it works well for this.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy Nutella Day!

Yay it's Nutella Day! Don't you love it? Go open your jar of nutella and scoop of a big spoonful for a big nutella toast with me!

Or, you know, make something with it.
First, visit the World Nutella Day website for a round-up of all this year nutella recipe entries. I have plenty of nutella leftover, so I'm very eager for some inspiration. Also visit Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso for additional nutella-related excitement.

I'd go on and on about how much I love nutella, and how tasty it is, but I'm too eager to get to my recipe. I will say, though, that my grandmother is a recent nutella convert, which is great. She'd never heard of it before (I feel terrible I never baked her anything with nutella), but she currently has an Estonian caretaker who lives on nutella, so now the whole household is crazy over it. Rightly so, of course.

This year on World Nutella Day, I'm enjoying Nutella Rice Pudding. I was inspired by a mocha rice pudding I saw on taste spotting, and while I didn't want to put coffee in mine on that particular day (a snowy day, when the roads were so bad I'd already decided to leave work asap), I liked the idea of chocolate... and I had two and a half jars of nutella at home.

Nutella Rice Pudding
a wamozart12 original

1.5 cups of milk (I used skim)
1 cup fat free 1/2&1/2 (or you can use 2.5 cups of whatever dairy product you prefer, this produced a very thick and creamy pudding)
2T sugar
1/3 cup arborio rice
1t vanilla
1T cocoa powder
1/4 cup nutella

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, 1/2&1/2, sugar, rice and vanilla. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes, until it has thickened and the rice is soft. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and nutella. Cool.

Enjoy hot, warm, cold, plain or with a dollop of just barely sweetened whipped cream, or just eat it straight from the saucepan. I can't decide the best temperature: it's such a comfort food when warm, but the nutella flavor definitely deepens when it's chilled. It has a wonderfully thick texture, not runny at all. I love it. This is now my go-to rice pudding recipe- I'm sure I'll be enjoying it much more often! (fortunately, Clint doesn't like rice pudding, so I don't have to share :-D )

Here's a round up of this year's nutella recipes:
Nutella Banana Swirl Bread
Nutella Brownies

and I never blogged about these, but they're good (omg especially dunked in coffee): Nutella Cookies
I wasn't as well-organized as last year.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nutella Banana Bread

Ah, nutella day. It’s such an exciting time of the year!

[Note: pictures coming soon!]

Today’s nutella installment is more of a good idea than a new recipe. It’s a nice way to jazz up your favorite banana bread recipe.

My mom makes banana bread pretty often, because it’s a great way to use up old bananas. I used to have bananas on hand much more often (now I only have bananas in winter, to try to avoid a fruit fly infestation in the warmer months) and I, too, made banana bread practically every other week. But when you make something so often like that, you tend to get sick of it. Maybe that’s just me. But these days I usually give away all my banana bread. I’ll eat it fresh from the oven, but then I can’t wait to get rid of it!

Adding a swirl of nutella will help with that, I think. I already know that bananas and nutella are a wonderful combination. Here, the banana bread isn’t all that sweet, so once you get to the bite of nutella swirl, its super-sweetness is more satisfying than cloying.

Note: this isn’t my standard banana bread recipe, but I liked that it used 1/3 cup of yogurt- I have a giant container of nonfat plain greek yogurt that I’ve been struggling to use up, so I was very glad to have another use for it. You don’t have to use this recipe, you can use your own favorite. This one’s good, too.

Banana Bread with Nutella Swirl

adapted from The Family Kitchen

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened

1/2-3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2, if you want it sweeter, use 3/4)

3 brown/spotty bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1t vanilla

1/3 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream or buttermilk)

1 cup AP flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1t baking soda

1/2t salt

1/3-1/2 cup nutella, slightly softened

Cream the butter and sugar until it’s sandy (it won't get too fluffy). Beat in the bananas, eggs, vanilla and yogurt.

Sift together the flours, soda and salt, and stir into the wet mixture.

Grease a loaf pan and fill with about half the batter. Spread the nutella over the batter, then add the remaining batter.

Bake at 350F for 1hr 10min.

It smells delicious, starting about 20 minutes into baking :)

Next time I make this, instead of spreading the nutella in a single layer just before baking, I’d rather fold it into the bowl of the batter to get more of a distribution. I wouldn’t mix so that it’s fully incorporated, but just so that it’s found more throughout the dough than in the single layer. Or perhaps there should be 3 layers of batter and 2 layers of nutella.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


A few posts down there's a picture of our house after a big snowstorm.
This picture, actually.

Well, that's nothing.

Here's Clint trying to get our paper (why did our papergirl throw it in the yard? That was mean.) You can't see the paper, it's been covered with snow.

Clint after our attempt to remove the 4x4x6ft pile of snow in our driveway (the plows have nasty senses of humor)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nutella Cravings...

Good news, friends: World Nutella Day is Saturday, February 5th! So of course I've been preparing.

Clint bought me 2 jars of nutella last week, and I already had plans for them by the time they arrived in my kitchen. My plans were a little ambitious, but I'm sure I'll still use up most of that nutella.

I'm not giving these in order of when I made them, but first I want to share this recipe that had me awestruck.

Nutella Brownie Bites

Well, that sounds nice, right? Read the recipe:

1/2 cup nutella
1 egg
5T flour

That's it!! So I thought, well, these can't be that good, they're far too easy. I'm glad to say I was wrong. They took about 2 seconds to get in the oven, 10 minutes to bake, and they're amazing. (If I had no willpower, they would have taken about 2 minutes to devour.)

Beat 1/2 cup nutella (I softened it slightly in the microwave, about 15sec) with the egg until they're well combined and creamy. Beat in the flour.

Fill a mini muffin tin with 1T dough per well. Bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes.

Mine were baked for exactly 10 minutes, and they came out slightly fudgy on top and had a nice cakey brownie base. They were maybe slightly underdone, but I prefer them this way.

Makes about a dozen brownies/mini muffins

I'm saving up my newest nutella recipe, of which I am quite proud (because it's a wamozart12 original, and really delicious) for the actual Nutella Day, but until then I have hopefully 2 other recipes to share. I'm not as well-organized as last year!