Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gingerbread, part 2: Gingerbread Blondies

For our next gingerbread recipe.... gingerbread blondies! I discovered this recipe last year, and it was the first baking I did after our little gingerbread man was born. The recipe is from the blog of one of my grad school classmates, and I can't even count how many times I've made this recipe in the past year- that's how good it is! I made one batch with milk chocolate chips instead of white chocolate, but I prefer white chocolate (I'd already started making them before noticing I had no white chocolate chips). I've also made them without molasses (complete accident) and although they were less flavorful, they were still good and the friends I shared them with enjoyed them thoroughly.

Blondies are tasty little treats with the added benefit of being baked in a single baking dish, which is much easier than dropping spoonful after spoonful of dough on a cookie sheet. These blondies are also finished with a white chocolate glaze, which is a nice touch, but it can be skipped if you're in a hurry (do add the glaze though, if you can!)

Gingerbread Blondies
recipe from Liz of The Floating Kitchen

20T (2.5 sticks) butter, softened
1 and 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2T (aka 5/8 cup) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1t vanilla
1/3 cup molasses
2 and 3/4 cup plus 1T flour (2 and 13/16 if you wanna get technical)
1.25t baking soda
3/4t salt (original recipe used 1.25t)
1.25t cinnamon
1t ginger
1/2t cloves (original recipe used 1/4t)
1 and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips or chunks (I open a 12oz bag, remove 1/3 cup for the glaze, and use the remaining chips for the dough)

For the glaze:
1/3cup white chocolate chips/chunks
1t vegetable oil

Prepare a 9x13 baking dish by spraying with nonstick cooking spray, lining with parchment paper so that there is an inch or 2 of paper hanging over the edges of the dish and spraying the parchment lightly. Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream the butter and sugars, beat til light, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, vanilla and molasses. Whisk together the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Press the dough into the baking dish. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes (so says the original recipe- my oven takes 50 minutes but it tends to take longer on all recipes.) Use the parchment overhang to remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Once the blondies are completely cool, make the glaze:
heat the white chocolate and oil together in a double boiler until melted, then drizzle over the blondies (with a spoon or a piping bag. I'm a drizzler, it's easier but not as pretty). Depending on how you cut these, you can get up to 4 dozen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gingerbread, part 1: Gingerbread Kiss Cookies

This month I'm hosting What's Baking, and from among my 3 choices, my fellow bloggers choose gingerbread to be our theme! (which is what I hoped they'd choose). Our little gingerbread man had a birthday this month, and his gingerbread party will be in a few weeks, so I'm hoping I'll find some good gingerbready treats to make for the party.

I really wanted to bake gingerbread springerle, recipe from the most recent King Arthur Flour catalogue, but I need to borrow my mom's springerle pin and she's misplaced it. I haven't given up hope, but I've come up with other options for my own post.

The first one is gingerbread kiss cookies- inspired by the classic peanut butter kiss cookie, only gingerbread instead of peanut butter. These were quite good. We all know the method (I admit, I didn't know you were supposed to add the chocolate after baking until 2007, and could never understand why my chocolate kisses always got weird and crumbly), we all know the look. I will say, however, that because we're so used to the peanut butter version, it's sometimes a surprise to take a bite and not have peanut butter flavor. I also really liked how they weren't super sweet. One could roll these in sugar before baking and it still wouldn't be overly sweet. And it's always nice to have something that's not sugar overload at the cookie swap.

Little gingerbread man tried these as his very first cookie, and REALLY liked it. He finally got the "more" sign after trying it, so eager was he to have another bite.

I can't speak to how long they'll last in tupperware, I think after 3 days we'd eaten them all. I need to make more.

Also, the original recipe calls for hugs, not kisses. I had kisses, but I think hugs would be better- I prefer white chocolate with gingerbread over milk chocolate.

Gingerbread Kiss Cookies
recipe from McCormick Spices

3/4 cups butter (1.5 sticks), room temperature
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1t vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2t ginger
1t cinnamon
1/4t nutmeg
1t baking soda
1/4t salt
60 (approx) Hershey's Kisses

Cream the butter and brown sugar, beat til light. Beat in molasses, egg and vanilla, and beat til fluffy (2-3 minutes). Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and salt, and fold into the butter mixture. Roll 1T balls and place on a cookie sheet (roll in some sugar first, if desired).

Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have just barely started to brown. Meanwhile, unwrap the kisses. Remove cookies from oven and immediately press a kiss into the center of each cookie. Cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oops! Cookies

You guys. I screwed up this recipe. BUT! It turned out better than the original. Yes!!

My son is eating egg yolks for breakfast. He loooooves egg yolks. Babies aren't supposed to have egg whites until 12 months, so I separate his eggs and have all these whites. I figured I'll make coconut macaroons or something, but then I realized I have very little unsweetened coconut, and there's really only one store around here that sells it, and I had *just* been there the day before and had forgotten to get some. Oops! So I had to hunt for another recipe.

A couple Christmases ago I made a chocolate cookie using only egg whites, very meringuey and tasty. I don't know where the recipe is, I don't think I blogged about it (but also, it was too much of an effort to search for it). I consulted the Google and it was helpful. So I set out, but baking these cookies was a race against time because there was a babyman who was starting to get hungry. Rush rush rush, I'm almost done with the batter. The recipe noted: "the dough will be very stiff". I wish I'd taken a picture, because my dough was runny like cake batter. Possibly runnier. What did I do?!?

"1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided"

Oh, I missed that "divided" part. 1/2 cup was supposed to be left alone, to just fold in and make these chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

I pondered. These definitely weren't going to be rolled in balls and dipped in sugar. But oh wait, this recipe is very similar to my new favorite brownie recipe. Hmmmmmmmm. So I added some flour, got them to a more-or-less cookie dough consistency, and popped 'em in the oven.

Cue angel singing: delicious!! Best mistake I've ever made in the kitchen.

Oops! cookies, or Brownie Cookies

1.5 cups chocolate chips
3 egg whites
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1T cornstarch
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate (microwave or stove top), set aside.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks in your mixer, then add 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat til it's marshmallow fluff consistency (not quite hard peak- medium peak? Nice and glossy). Whisk together the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, flour, cornstarch and salt, and fold into the whites mixture. Fold in the chocolate.

Drop tablespoonfuls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes at 400F. They're delicious if still a little soft in the middle, nice and fudgy like brownies! I'm adding chopped walnuts or maybe sliced almonds next time.

Enjoy! And you're welcome.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What's Baking? August: Heritage Dish

This month's What's Baking? theme was chosen by Ali of Sparks from the Kitchen. Go check out the other goodies!

I admit, this one's a stretch for a heritage dish. I don't have much heritage in my cookbook. I have a lot of my great-grandmother's recipes (and many of her sisters'), but they're not like a special lasagna or a delicious baklava: they're things like vanilla cake, baked beans, banana bread. We're from Connecticut, way way back, we cook pretty standard New England fare.

So, let's go with that! I browsed my family recipe book and chose Aunt Blanche's banana bread, giving it my own personal spin (shh, don't tell my mom!). Plus I had a ton of bananas past their prime.

Banana Walnut Ginger Muffins
(don't tell my mom because she haaaaaaates nuts)

3 bananas (the spottier, the better!)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2T chopped crystallized ginger
1t vanilla
1.5 cup flour
1t baking powder
1/2t salt
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted
1.5 cups walnuts, roughly chopped (or other nuts you prefer, or skip altogether if you're like my mom and despise nuts)

Mash up the bananas, or if you're using a stand mixer, just put the bananas in and turn it on (peeled, of course). Mix in the sugar, then the eggs and vanilla, and finally the ginger. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and fold that in. Fold in the melted butter, then the walnuts. Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Not only are these tasty (walnuts!) but they're very quick and easy. I baked these while my 8 month old was being a fussy-pants, which I think is a good way to gauge easiness.

ps. I actually doubled the batch and took out some of the batter before adding the walnuts to give my mom.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What's Baking?: Summer Produce

What's baking in my kitchen? Muffins that I baked in August and immediately froze (instead of making and freezing meals before baby arrived, I made baked goods. It was too confusing to decide on meals to make!

In the 6 months since I became a mother, I have actually baked a bit. I've made several batches of lactation cookies, many batches of the best brownies ever (which I'll share here, I promise), sugar cut-out cookies (a multi-night endeavor), chocolate chip cookies, and even gingerbread blondies (twice!), another recipe I need to share. But that's it. Forget baking on a schedule! I went to a pot-luck last week and I had to go to Big Y to buy two pounds of edamame salad. ME! I bought something for a pot-luck. It's so out of character.

But I've been sorry to miss out on the What's Baking? themes. Twice I did bake something within the theme, but I just didn't manage to blog about it before the deadline. So now that dear FC is 6 months old and eating his own food (steamed, not baked), it's a bit easier to share the baby duties with my husband.

The June theme is summer produce, chosen by Yudith at Blissfully Delicious. Normally I'd bake with freshly picked strawberries- not this year! I fortunately froze several pounds of freshly picked strawberries last year, so I had some all ready in the freezer.

And serendipitously, Joy the Baker has partnered with King Arthur Flour and together they've introduced a baking bootcamp on instagram. Everyone makes the same recipe and posts photos on instagram with #bakingbootcamp and will be entered to win a year's supply of King Arthur flour! (that's like 120lbs, right?) The baking bootcamp recipe is triple berry braided bread. Which includes strawberries.

Hooray, 2 birds, one stone! Perfect for this new mom.

I haven't baked anything with yeast since.... October, maybe? Whereas I used to bake bread nearly every week. This was pretty exciting. As yeast breads go, this recipe is rather straightforward, but the assembly is interesting. Mine was not perfect, but it was delicious and I plan to try again. Also, another participant instagrammed her 2nd attempt, which was a parmesan rosemary version- I definitely need to try that version!

Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread
by Joy the Baker

For the bread:
2.25t active dry yeast
1T sugar
3/4 warm milk (around 100-105oC)
1 egg yolk
2T unsalted butter, melted
2.25 cups King Arthur Flour AP flour
1/2t salt

Whisk together the milk, sugar and yeast, and set aside for 5-10 minutes, til it gets frothy. Stir in the egg yolk and melted butter, then place the flour and salt in the bowl of your mixer and add the yeast mixture. Stir/knead. [Joy suggests kneading by hand for 10 minutes, but I had a crying baby so I just let the mixer take care of it] Place in a greased bowl, covered, and let rise for 1-1.5hrs, til it's doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling.

For the filling:
1/4 cup (half stick) of butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3T cinnamon
2cups of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries would be nice)

NOTE: don't use frozen strawberries, use fresh. They are very wet and your bread will be in a puddle and very difficult to shape. Or, if you must use frozen strawberries, have a full roll of paper towel on hand. I blame the frozen strawberries for my less-than-perfect bread!

To make the filling, mix together the butter, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. Prep the berries (wash, hull, whatever they need), set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

To assemble the bread: this is the tricky part!

Knead the dough on a floured board a couple times. Roll out to a 12x18in rectangle,

then spread the butter/cinnamon/sugar filling in an even layer over the top, leaving an inch-thick bare spot along one long edge. Sprinkle/evenly place the berries over the filling.

 Then start to roll up the dough, ending at the filling-less edge.

 Now you have a snake of dough. Cut this snake in half, leaving one end with a couple inches uncut so the two halves are still connected at that end.
 Flip the halves so the cut sides are up. This is where wet, defrosted strawberries cause a problem: my dough would not stick together and kept flopping open.
 Now, cross the halves over each other in a helix- again, this can be tricky and the dough may threaten to fall apart and all the berries will spill out. Just shove them back in at random.

 Then roll the helix into a circle and place into either a greased iron skillet or a greased springform pan. Brush with an egg wash made of one beaten egg, and sprinkle with powdered sugar (which I neglected to do).

Pop in the oven for 40-45 minutes and go clean up the defrosted strawberry puddle.


 I love springform pans.

The bread isn't very sweet, so it takes well to the cinnamon sugar filling. I ended up sprinkling powdered sugar over slices as I ate them. The dough is a good bread dough, the filling is classic cinnamon sugar, and it's a nice way to use up berries if you need something to do with them. This recipe would work well for a variety of fillings (like the IGer with her parm-rosemary version). It was fun to attempt a fancier bread shape than I've ever done before, and while it didn't work great and was a little stressful (don't use frozen strawberries!!), I want to make another and try again. Also, it didn't take all that long to make!

If you have kids, I don't recommend making this when your husband's at work. Wait til Saturday when you have someone else in the house!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Beef Stew

wamozart12 had a baby! The wamozart12 family has relied on the kindness of other people to stay fed for the past 4 weeks. wamozart12 enjoys speaking in the 3rd person.

Last night I made dinner for the first time since FC was born. I started the dinner, then FC needed to eat, so Clint finished the dinner, and we cheated and had Pillsbury Grands biscuits instead of homemade biscuits (but boy are those Grands tasty!)

Beef Stew, adapted from a Pioneer Woman recipe

2lbs stew beef
1T olive oil
1T butter
2 onions, chopped into medium-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic (which I skipped, no garlic here)
1t Penzey's northwoods seasoning (supposed to be paprika, we're all out)
1t sugar
1t salt
2T Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle stout (or other dark beer)
2oz tomato paste
4 cups water (beef broth is ideal, I had none)
2 parsnips, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 sweet potato, cut into chunks (we left it unpeeled)
mushrooms (we didn't add, but I wish we'd had some to add)

heat up the butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven, then add the beef and brown a few minutes. Remove the beef and set aside, and saute the onions and garlic for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the spice mix, sugar, salt, Worcestershire and tomato paste and saute for a minute, then add the beef, stout and water (or broth). Bring to a boil and reduce to very low to simmer for 2-2.5hours. Add more broth/water periodically if the liquid boils off too much.

Then add all the veggies and cook for 30-45 min more.

Optional: if you'd like it thicker, place 2-3 ladlefulls of the stew liquid in a small boil and add 2-3T flour. Whisk thoroughly and then add this paste back to the stew, stir and cook for about 15 minutes more. (you can also add the flour directly to the stew pot, but then you're more likely to get lumps.)

Serve with the store-bought biscuits or some crusty bread, or if you don't have a newborn in the living room, get ambitious and make your own biscuits!