Friday, May 28, 2010

Marbled Peanut Butter + Chocolate Cookies

There is a cookie company out of Highland Park, IL called Carol's Cookies. If you haven't had the pleasure of enjoying one of their massive 1/2 lb cookies yet don't waste any time running to your nearest whole foods. I had a really delicious peanut butter chocolate combo cookie the other day, it was rich with peanut butter taste and had chocolate swirls throughout. I wanted to try and recreate this cookie so I decided to use my go-to peanut butter cookie with the additio of oatmeal. I then planned to marble in a chocolate cookie dough. It definitely was not like Carol's (I can't figure out her secret) but they were good. Next time I think I will try to marble in some sweet ground chocolate instead of a chocolate cookie dough... I will report back.

Here is the recipe I used for the chocolate cookie part. Click here for my peanut butter cookie recipe. To marble the cookies, throw in pieces of the chocolate dough into the peanut butter. Lightly combine the doughs using a mixer. Do not over combine.

Cocoa Cookies:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bown. Beat butter, sugars and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, beat well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Brioche

I had my first foray into bread-making this week when I made these mini Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Brioche. While they aren't bread proper, the brioche definitely required me to be patient while baking them. I had to let the little guys sit and rise not once, but twice before I could place them into the oven.

If you know me, you know that I am always on the go, so this "waiting" concept proved a bit challenging. But patience is a virtue- and thanks to the act of making little treats, I think I am slowly beginning to embody this virtue. Well, sort of.

Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Brioche
adapted from 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly

1/2 tbp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 eggs
1/4 cup superfine sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 beaten egg

Combine the yeast, water and teaspoon of sugar in a large, warmed bowl. Stir well and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Beat the eggs and add them to the yeast mixture. Add the sugar and salt. Stir in the remaining flour and the cinnamon, and mix until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Leave in a warm place (covered with plastic wrap) for about 45 minutes or until the batter has doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 mini brioche or muffin molds. Beat in butter and chocolate chips. Fill the molds halfway. Leave in a warm place to rise for about 20 minutes, or until the dough has risen to fill about 2/3 of each mold.

Brush each brioche with a little of the beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes. Cool in the molds for five minutes, remove and cool on a rack.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Fun Day

What a great day, Sunday fun day. I baked for most of the day, then went to the boys' house for dinner. Pete whipped up his famous pizzas, and I provided dessert. My only direction was that it include chocolate, so I did a little digging on Smitten Kitchen. These cookies looked delicious and easy, and they were! Everyone loved them.

Photo credits go to Mr. Ryan Anderson, who has been trying to help me take better pictures to post on the blog. He even sent me an article with tips on how to take pictures of food. Hopefully these turned out better than the usual!

Pete Zambri, "the cookie monster"

Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
6 ounces chocolate chips or any diced chocolate of your choosing
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, try toasting them first

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar and vanilla and beat until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar, gradually, beating the batter until stiff. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spoon batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (Note: the batter doesn't spread while cooking, so you can play around with the size of your batter to increase or decrease the yield.) Bake for 25 minutes. Underside of cookie should be golden or lightly tanned. Yields approximately two dozen.

Birthday Cakes

Any sort of family gathering is not complete without some kind of injury, crying, yelling + lots of eating. Last Thursday we celebrated Potchie’s (our grandpa) 89th birthday and I was in charge of making the cake. He was very specific about what he wanted; yellow cake, fresh strawberry filling and whipped cream frosting. However, in order to please the rest of the family we had to have a buttercream frosted cake as well. I left work early on Thursday to go home and whip up 2 cakes in about 2 hours.

Potchie’s cake came out beautifully, moist yellow cake layers, lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream and ripe red strawberries. After I frosted the cake I shaved white chocolate chips (also accidentally shaving the tips of my fingers) and dusted it over the top.

I also made a mini white cake with buttercream frosting. I colored some of the frosting blue so I could attempt to pipe a birthday message on the top. After practicing for too long the frosting became really warm and mushy and started shooting out all over the cake. The final product resembled something a 3 year old would have been capable of, woops. Regardless of its aesthetic, the cake was delicious and was quickly eaten.

No new recipes to post just pictures to share, but click here for the vanilla whipped cream recipe + here for buttercream + yellow cake.

We sang, we ate, we laughed.

We sustained injuries.

Happy Birthday Potchie!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

For Mother's Day in Chicago, Katie flew in from NYC to spend the weekend with our Momma. We planned a light brunch to celebrate the lovely ladies in our lives. We made banana bread waffles + plain waffles served with peach or blueberry compote and fresh vanilla whipped cream. We also had scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, blueberry scones, Intelligentsia coffee + mimosas. For dessert (because we can never miss an opportunity to eat dessert) we enjoyed a yellow layer cake with raspberry frosting. This frosting is delicious and is especially great on chocolate cake. My Aunt Judy once told me that doilies can make anything look good, so... I displayed my cake on top of my new reusable doilies from Ikea.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there! I'm lucky to have such amazing women in my life!

Raspberry Frosting:
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2- 4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tbsp milk or cream
1-2 tbsp raspberry preserves

Whip all the ingredients together, adding the raspberry preserves in last. Add as much or as little of the preserves as you would like until it reaches the taste and color you desire.

Shout out to Julia for her superb waffle iron skills!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cranberry Orange Scones

Spring is not necessarily my favorite time of year for baking. It might be directly related to the fact that my apartment does not have air conditioning, and therefore the apartment's temperature rises significantly with every treat that is baked in my tiny kitchen's oven. While the sweet aromas of a baked good may be enough to win some people over, I find that not being sweaty takes priority over a homemade cookie at times.

This Saturday was different, though. Although the temperature in NYC rose to a boiling 90 degrees, I still decided to bake some scones to bring along to my day in the park. Yes, the apartment was heated to 100 degrees, but it was worth every bite of these tasty little treats. Hope my roommates agreed. ;)

Cranberry Orange Scones
adapted from here

2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp orange zest
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest and set aside. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles course meal (I used my hands) and then stir in the cranberries.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and egg yolk, then stir in the cream. Slowly add into the flour mixture and mix it until it's just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it into a 1 inch thick square about 8 inches in diameter. Cut out 15 to 20 triangles with a sharp knife and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet with an inch of space between them. Be sure to line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes before enjoying.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Supernatural Brownies - the search begins.

Brownies are a classic American dessert; they can be fudgy or cakey, served plain, with nuts, frosting or powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped cream. The possibilities for making and enjoying a brownie are endless. I've decided that I need to find the BEST brownie recipe, one that is perfectly fudgy, glossy on top, with a bit of crunch and loaded with chocolate flavor.

Starting this endeavour I've realized quite quickly that there a million + 1 brownie recipes; some use melted chocolate others use cocoa powder, some include brown sugar others do not. Sifting through the various recipes I chose Nick Malgieri's "Supernatural brownies" as the first recipe.

These brownies were very good, definitely dense and fudgy. The top had a glossy look that aesthetically makes a brownie. However, I thought they lacked the perfect deep chocolate flavor that I'm looking for. Many recipes to try, the search will continue.

Lastly a little brownie history: rumor has it that the brownie originated at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago in 1893. Bertha Palmer requested that the chef create a dessert that was smaller than a piece of cake and easily eaten from a boxed lunch. The Palmer House brownie contained walnuts and was topped with an apricot glaze. An interesting combination and supposedly this brownie is still on their menu today.

Supernatural Brownies
adapted from Nick Malgieri via David Lebovitz

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

Butter and line a 13x9x2 inch pan, set aside.
1. Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl and set over pan of water. Stir occasionally until melted.
3. Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in the salt, sugars and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the flour.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on a rack. Wrap pan in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or refrigerated until the next day.
5. Cut away edges and cut into 2 inch squares.