Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Morning Breakfast

I love breakfast. At what other meal do people not only approve of eating sweets but actually insist you eat cake slathered in syrup/jam/fruit etc? Bliss, definitely my favorite meal. I haven't made pancakes in forever and was craving them so I whipped up a batch this morning.

My favorite pancake recipe is from The Joy of Cooking but of course I forgot to get that book from storage. I randomly stumbled upon an oatmeal pancake recipe which looked tasty and appealed to my obsession with brown sugar oatmeal. I modified the recipe some and it came out fine.

Oatmeal Brown Sugar and Raisin Pancakes


  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water


  1. Place all ingredients except rasins in a medium bowl and blend with a hand blender until smooth. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Fold in raisins.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
I thought the recipe was pretty good, I think I prefer my normal go to pancake recipe. Though that didn't stop me from eating half the batch. I served mine with maple syrup, jam, and homemade applesauce.

In sort of related news, Joe and I pet sat for some friends over Thanksgiving weekend. They brought over their two cats who promptly made themselves comfortable in our apartment and proceeded to show their appreciation by eating our plants, shredding the toilet paper and stealthily attacking our feet.

They weren't really nighmarish, actually. Or at least they were really cute, which somehow negates all other qualities.

See the one on the top? He was absolutely shameless in his pursuit of food. If we left out ANY dishes he would immediately waltz over and lick it clean, even if it was just a measuring cup with remnants of plain canned pumpkin (yum?).

So it shouldn't have been a surprise when I put the last of the pancakes on my plate this morning, went to the kitchen to get some water and then looked over to see the cat carrying a pancake in his mouth before making a run for it. He sprinted into the living room where Joe and I ran after him. BJ got a loving wake up call of Joe screaming, "BAD KITTY!" and me yelling, "What cat does that?!"

Apparently the pancakes get a kitty stamp of approval as well, he managed to eat a chunk before we got it away from him.

But he's so cute.

I have two finals this week but still have lots of baked goods planned. Or maybe that's why I have lots of baked goods planned. Must keep myself sane, after all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time for a Sugar Coma

Here is the dramatic unveiling of my first Daring Bakers Challenge: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. Ta da!

I did not want this cake in the house, as the amount of butter in it is obscene and I really like caramel. I originally was going to cut the recipe in half and make cupcakes but I decided to take the cake to Thanksgiving dinner instead. It seemed like a good compromise, since that way I could bring a nice hostess gift and pawn off- I mean share- the near cup and half of buttery goodness with others. Cake travels better than cupcakes and since Joe and I were commuting about an hour to his family's house, cake it was. I apologize, no cupcakes after all this month. I'll have to make two cupcake recipes in December to make up for it. Twist my arm, I'll do it.

There are three components to the cake: the frosting, the cake, and the caramel syrup. Let's talk about the caramel syrup first since you'll have to make that first to use in the cake and the frosting. I started making this cake the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, mostly because I was going in to shadow a nurse anesthetist Wednesday morning and I was super excited about it. I love surgery and was giddy at the prospect at spending a whole day in the OR, I was like a kid on Christmas eve. So I made brown butter and caramel syrup to calm my nerves. What, you don't do that when you're stressed?

The caramel syrup recipe is very basic: you heat sugar and water in a pan and let it bubble away til it turns a dark amber, and then you stop the caramelization process by dumping in water. Then the mixture will spatter, covering everything within a 10 mile radius with caramel and if you're lucky, that 5 miles won't include any vital body parts.

No, it's not that scary. My oven is always filthy so while it did splatter, it wasn't awful and was an easy clean up. And I only burned my wrist a little! A big improvement from the pear-caramel incident.

A lot of the Daring Bakers were having trouble with the caramel but I've made caramel enough times to be pretty confident in making it. The trick is: don't mess with it. Stir the water and sugar together and after that don't touch it, you'll just mess it up and it will become a big crystallized mess. Check it constantly for color though, you need to watch caramel. Here's what mine looked like:

See this? Your caramel will hang out in that stage for seems like forever. Patience, friend. Leave it alone.

The second picture shows when the caramel begins to color around the edges: here's when you want to start watching it really closely. Stages 2-4 happen in a matter of minutes and if you're not careful, you'll scorch the caramel.

This is getting pretty dark: almost there, get your water ready!

This is what I judged 'dark amber' to look like. Here's where you dump in the water and hope that you survive.

If you do survive, here's what your caramel syrup will look like:

Pretty! Here's the official recipe:



2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)


In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

See? I warned you. Caramel is serious stuff. I have scars on my toes to prove it from the pear incident. Joe made me wear shoes this time around. Apparently he should of had me wear mittens too since I burned my wrist. C'est la vie, I should just wear a full body suit when baking.

Now you can move onto the cake and frosting. Here's the cake recipe:



10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


I took issue with this recipe. It's vague, for one. And the proportions just aren't right. There's way too much sugar, the granulated sugar and the caramel syrup, and 1/2 tsp of leavener in an entire cake is a ludicrously small amount. You put more leavener in pancakes, for goodness sake. Technically I'm not supposed to deviate from the assigned recipe but um, hypothetically I would cut down on the sugar by at least a 1/4 cup and would add 2 tsp baking powder instead of a measly 1/2 tsp.

I also browned the butter the night before and chilled it to add that delightful toffee taste to the cake. Just brown the amount of butter called for, chill until set and then use as directed.

Next up: frosting!



12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste


Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

I cheated on this one as well. I had leftover buttercream frozen from the casatta cake and since it had all the components of the frosting ingredients, I dumped a bunch of it into a pan, browned it, and then whipped it with some powdered sugar and caramel syrup. Since I don't like American buttercream, mine was more of a caramel glaze than buttercream: I didn't add very much powdered sugar. But that suited me just fine.

To assemble, I cut the cake in half, drizzled caramel syrup over each layer, poured the glaze on top and then drizzled with more caramel syrup.I had left over maple cookie dough frozen so I made the rest of those for garnish (and snacking!). I was going to use royal icing to decorate the cookies but my powdered sugar supply was ravaged by this point. So I just glazed them with yet more caramel syrup to make them shiny and pretty and then stuck them on top.

Sugar coma much? I actually craved vegetables by the time I was finished making this.

The cake went over pretty well at Thanksgiving dinner. It was good but a small piece went a long way: this stuff is sweet. I would maybe make it for a caramel lovers birthday or something but other than that, it's too labor intensive and sweet to make very often. I did enjoy the first challenge though, bring on December's!

Here's the standard blurb I have to post about who 'hosted' this months event: Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, who came up with the recipe (, Dolores ( , Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, and Jenny of Foray into Food ( Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( for gluten free tips.

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (, as published on Bay Area Bites ( Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe ( … he-recipe/)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Or closed in a Closed Oven.

I've never had a roasted chestnut before. Not intentionally, anyway. But I was watching a Food Network Thanksgiving special the other day, in which Tyler Florence roasted chestnuts to put in stuffing. Actually, he called it 'dressing' for reasons that are beyond me, maybe because he baked it separately and didn't stuff the turkey with it?

Anyways, I don't know why he called it dressing but I do know I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming urge to roast and eat chestnuts. I mentioned this offhand to Joe and today he surprised me with some raw chestnuts from Whole Foods. Success!

Since I wasn't really paying attention to how Tyler roasted the chestnuts (he is quite the dreamboat, it's a distraction) I googled how to prepare and roast chestnuts and went on my merry way. Here's what I did:

Turned oven to 425. My oven is ancient and most of the dial is worn off and there is no indicator to when it's preheated, you kind of just wait around for awhile and then decide it's probably at 425 by now. Then I dumped the chestnuts on a cutting board.

Next you score an 'x' on top of each chestnut with a knife. I read if you don't do this the chestnuts will explode, which is an exciting prospect but my ancient oven doesn't have self-cleaning capacity either.

Here they are all scored. You can see a couple of them I accidentally sliced nearly all the way through them. Don't do as I do, since I clearly don't know what I'm doing most the time.

Then you pop these guys onto a cookie sheet and into your (presumably) preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, until the casing starts peeling back.

Here they are all popped open. They resemble small, pointy torture devices.

While they're still warm, peel off the rest of the skin.

They look kind of like brains when they're all naked, not very festive. Maybe for Halloween.

They are delicious piping hot though. Totally different than any other nut I've had before, they actually reminded me of butternut squash more than anything else. Which was good, just not what I was expecting. I suspect you can salt them too but I liked them just plain.

Off to go study... maybe.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spicy Apple Oat Cookies Galore

Apparently the ginger-st gingerbread were too intense for Brian because the muffins have been moving slowly. Moving slowly in this house is lasting more than 36 hours though so I'm not too disappointed, Joe and I liked them. Regardless, I had to wait a while to justify making more baked goods but today I finally broke down and made some cookies. I repent.

I've been kind of obsessed with brown sugar and raisin oatmeal since the weather cooled down, I think I've eaten a bowl everyday the last few weeks. So when I stumbled on a recipe for a spiced applesauce oatmeal cookie, studded with raisins, I did one of these:

Totally up my alley. Plus, I finally got a cookie jar so I can stop storing the dozens of cookies I make in a giant tupperware. So I played around and made a version of the applesauce oatmeal cookies.

Spiced Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies


* 1 3/4 cups quick cooking oats
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 egg
* 3/4 cup applesauce
* 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1 cup raisins


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, stir together the quick oats, flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla and applesauce. Stir the oatmeal mixture into the batter until well blended then fold in the chocolate chips and raisins. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


My batter came out a bit thin for cookie dough but I baked a test cookie and it came out fine so I didn't add any more flour. Making up recipes and making batches of test cookies is a great way to kill time when you have to take an online test you really don't want to take while still feeling productive. I love baking. Plus, the test was on nutrition so I was actively... baking... and... making something.... with questionable nutritional content. Actually, these are pretty harmless for cookies, not that much butter and I threw in some whole wheat flour. Whole grains! They're practically health food.

Sorta. Not really.

Anyways, I really liked these, they're delicately apple-y, lightly sweet and soft. Nice and oat-ey and packed with spicy goodness. If you're not into cinnamon and nutmeg, you'll probably have to cut that down. Next time, I'll leave out the chocolate chips, I think they muddled up the spicy flavor. I think I'll also add a chopped apple. If you like nuts, they probably would be good in here too, but I prefer my cookies nut-less. I'm sure there's a good pun that could be inserted here, suggest away.

Strange fact: I have total self control over most things and can ignore the cookies, muffins, and cupcakes I make and eat a reasonable amount of them. But I am unstoppable when it comes to dried fruit, put a container of raisins (or dried cherries, oh my god, I love dried cherries) in front of me and I black out for an hour and wake up an hour later with an empty box and an intense stomach ache. What's up with that? I had to measure out the raisins and then shove them to the back of the cupboard so I wouldn't eat them all. I guess I could have worse problems, raisin-binging is probably low on the list of unhealthy disorders.

In school news, it's nearing finals time, I don't know when that happened. I would warn you that I would be cutting down on my baking but let's be honest, it's not going to happen. I think since the blog is titled The Cupcake Life, I should bake cupcakes minimum once a month. It would almost be dishonest not to, right? Let's find ways to justify my baking habit. So cupcakes are coming this month, plus probably a few more batches cookies, we'll see what I'm in the mood for.

And Christmas! I am so pumped for Christmas. There are Christmas ringtones on my iPhone, Christmas presents ordered, I am READY. And I am planning on making some awesome things over break for friends and family which will probably kill me. But if they don't, they will be AMAZING. It's a surprise though. That way, if I totally screw it up I can pretend it never happened.

Ta ta for now!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Ginger-iest Gingerbread Muffins

You know the best way to start a Friday morning? By discovering you have pinkeye! It's really attractive and feels great.

So after discovering I had pinkeye, I called off of work and made a doctors appointment. Since I had ample amounts of time, I decided to bake. I thought briefly about not baking something until my eye cleared up and then I thought it through and decided that I probably wouldn't make anybody sick unless I first rubbed the butter straight into my eye before adding it to the recipe. Or cried contaminated tears into the batter. Neither of which I planned on doing, so I decided it was safe.

Anyways, I'm taking a short break from cookies, I'm a bit cookied out. Since I've been making all these delicately spiced cookies, I wanted a really strong, spicy dessert, so gingerbread jumped to mind right away. I looked over some recipes and settled on a gingerbread recipe from Martha Stewart because it used fresh grated ginger.

The recipe makes a pan of gingerbread but I distrust full sized desserts so I made them into muffins. I'm 5'0, it's in my nature to make mini-sized things.

Gingerbread Snacking Cake

Serves 12


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch cake pan; set aside. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light. Beat in brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in molasses and grated ginger, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in eggs.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares; dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Changes I made: I subbed half the butter for my homemade applesauce to make a bit healthier. I figured it would work fine since gingerbread is supposed to be fairly light and fluffy, not rich and buttery, and it indeed worked fine. I also used fresh nutmeg since that's all we had and prepared them muffin style, beating all the liquids together and barely mixing in the dry mixture. I ended up baking them about 18 minutes and came out with 18 muffins. And oh, I chopped up some crystallized ginger and sprinkled it on top of some of the muffins since we happened to have some.

Oh, don't do as I did and try to grate the ginger over the bowl. I dropped the ginger into the batter and had to fish around for awhile trying to find it. I found it, then I grated my knuckle on the microplane. It's a comedy hour every time I bake. Recently I was getting something from the fridge when the freezer door above me came open for no reason, so when I stood up I slammed my head against the freezer door.

These things don't happen to normal people, I don't think.

But look at how dark these suckers are! They look like chocolate cake, no? They're really good, light and super gingery. Not for the faint of heart. Definitely satisfied my craving for spicy fall flavors, I'll keep this recipe around.

Funny story about the doctor's office: the nurse who came in to explain my prescription was the same nurse who nearly killed me last time when she drew my blood. She said, "I recognize you, have you come in recently? Oh, I know! I drew your blood!" Ah, perhaps you remember me because the room looked like a scene from CSI when you were finished with me. I'd remember that too.

I have a statistics quiz on Tuesday, my last one of the semester, so I have to go spend some quality time with my calculator. With pinkeye. Fabulous.

Monday, November 10, 2008

2 Down, 99 to Go: Shortbread Cookies

How is it, dear readers, that roll out cookies are my least favorite cookies to make and yet I keep making them? Case and point: I just made shortbread. I must have some self-hatred issues.

The shortbread weren't too bad though, honestly. You have to roll them out, yes, but the dough is super soft and easy to work with, unlike my cookie foes that you have to chill first and then break off your limbs trying to roll it out properly. It's why I hate making pie crust with a fiery, burning passion.

Geez, what happened there? Let's move on.

I'm indecisive, to the point where I don't like going to Subway because there are too many options. This is rather frightening, since I'm a vegetarian and there is only one option: the veggie sub. The only choice is the type of veggies. I would probably have constant panic attacks if I ate meat. So instead of choosing what I should bake next, I rolled off a list of things to Joe that were on my "To Bake" list and he chose shortbread. And shortbread it was.

The cookie magazine I'm determined to bake through (only 99 more recipes!) had a few different varieties of shortbread but Joe wanted just plain ol' shortbread, which is probably a good thing since I don't think I've made shortbread. After tasting these little gems though, I'm excited to try the other versions. I am not, however, excited to gain the 10 lbs that will cost me. Mm, light, flaky, buttery goodness. What will I do when I graduate and can't pawn this stuff off on drunk college boys?

The recipe is pretty easy, though the baking directions suck, instructing you to bake sometime between 30 minutes and an hour. I mean, that's kind of a big difference. I ended up baking my cookies about 15 minutes a batch because I made my cookies a lot smaller than they did, I guess.

Shortbread Cookies


* 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon table salt
* 10 ounces all-purpose flour


1. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
2. Combine the butter, sugar, and salt in a stand mixer bowl (use the paddle attachment) or a large mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until the butter combines with the sugar but isn’t perfectly smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add the flour, mix on low speed, scraping the bowl frequently, until the dough has just about pulled together, about 3 minutes; don't overmix.
4. Add the flour, ground hazelnuts, and zest; mix on low speed, scraping the bowl frequently, until the dough has just about pulled together, about 3 minutes; don't overmix.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Aim for a uniform thickness to ensure even baking.
6. Cut the dough into bars or squares with a sharp knife or, using cookie cutters, cut out shapes as close to one another as possible. Press the scraps together, roll them out, and cut out more cookies. If the dough becomes sticky, refrigerate it briefly.
7. Arrange the cookies on two parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate until chilled, at least 20 minutes.
8. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F Bake the cookies until golden on the bottom and edges and pale to golden on top, 30 minutes to 1 hour. (After 15 minutes, swap the position of the baking sheets and rotate them 180 degrees for even baking.) If the cookies are done before 30 min., reduce the oven temperature to 275°F for the remaining batches; if they take longer than 1 hour, increase the temperature to 325°F.

The only change I made was adding a dash of vanilla, I don't trust cookies without vanilla.

Like I said, I don't know what it is with me and cookies but I always make cookies way smaller and end up getting tons more than the recipe is supposed to yield. In this recipe, for example, the recipe is supposed to make about 4 dozen cookies-- 48 cookies. I got a little over 80 cookies. Nice, I could feed a small army. I used a small cordial drinking glass to cut the cookies out since I don't actually have cookie cutters so my options were either the classy drinking glasses or the plastic shot glass that lights up when you touch it. Ah, college boys are so classy.

I also cut out some squares, poked a few holes in the top with a fork (since shortbread usually has that little design on the top... I think) to vary the shapes a bit but that was more labor intensive so I quickly got sick of that. And then I didn't want to write a paper that's due tomorrow so I made a few jam sandwiches with the circles and decorated them with powdered sugar. Yay, procrastination!

I really should go finish that paper though. Grumble.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Clean Kitchens and Cinnamon Applesauce

No baked goods today, as I currently still am trying to feed banana cookies, fig cookies and breakfast bars to anybody who comes within 50 feet of the apartment. Brian is catching on to the fact that he eats the majority of my baked goods and started to complain that I'm going to make him fat. I'm such a terrible roommate, always forcing gourmet baked goods on him and obsessively cleaning the kitchen. *tiny violin*

Yes, I've recently become obsessed with cleaning the kitchen, which perhaps proves that I am my father's daughter after all. My dad is a typical virgo and maintains a pretty spotless environment. Despite being born on the same day as my dad, I've always been the messy child. My sister loves to insist that I would hoard egg shells and onion skins in my room as a child but since I don't remember doing this (or um, selectively blocked those memories out), in Sophie-land this never happened. I'm told that when my uncle house sat for our family once, he was convinced we had been robbed because obviously my room had been looted. Slightly embarrassing.

It's not that I like being messy. I really prefer when things are clean, I just can't be bothered to keep them that way. If I had my way, I would move into a new room every week or so, leaving the old one torn apart and then moving on to a nice, fresh one. Either that or hire a live in house cleaner, that may actually be cheaper.

But since I spend a lot, a LOT, of time in the kitchen, I find that it just makes me less anxious if it's clean all the time since I can't actually conjure up a nice new kitchen whenever I want. Brian is actually quite the clean freak but he won't step near the kitchen, as it's usually so dirty that it gives him panic attacks. With Joe gone all the time at Sweeney Todd rehearsals (the show is now over though, hoorah!), I've been left with the disaster zone that is the kitchen. And I was sick of it. So I've just started cleaning it whenever I have a spare moment and lo and behold it's not disgusting 24-7 anymore. Ah, relief.

However, the cookies are still moving fast (BJ can't resist my cookies, bwa hahaha) and here's what's on my to make list:
- maple meringues from my one true love The Sweet Life
- shortbread from the cookie magazine
- apple galette
- pumpkin muffins. or pumpkin something, hmm.
- apple pie
- banana biscotti
- cornmeal biscotti
- candy cane biscotti. I'm craving biscotti lately.
- My very first Daring Baker's challenge! Each month, a recipe is given to the Daring Bakers community, usually some sort of semi-difficult baking recipe. Everybody posts what they've made on the last day of the month, so it's top secret until then! It's going to be delicious though, stay tuned.

And although I'm not baking something today, I did stew something. The local market I so adored shut down for the winter and I had to get produce at Whole Foods so I got a big bag of local apples for a good price last time I was there, only to discover that 95% of them were bruised and inedible when I got home. *shakes fist at Whole Foods* I didn't want to waste them though, so I made cinnamon applesauce tonight since that kind of hides all apple sins.

This isn't really a recipe since you just throw a bunch of apples in a pot and add what you think needs to be added but none the less:

Cinnamon Applesauce


- a couple lbs apples (I used about seven small)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Pinch salt
- Brown sugar/granulated sugar, optional (I added a little less than a Tbsp this time, it depends how sweet the apples are)


Core the apples, throw them in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon, salt and sugar, if using. Cover and let stew, stirring occasionally, until the apples break down, about 25 minutes. Remove the skins, if you want (I left them on this time, it makes the applesauce a pretty color and, if you blend it enough, doesn't change the texture) and then whiz up the apples either with a hand blender or a food processor. I also added a dash ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Chill.

Pretty ridiculously easy. And tasty. I'd do it more often if I happened to have tons of extra lbs of apples sitting around but I usually just eat them as is. I need an apple tree.

The fig cookies continue to be tasty, I sent my mom some as a surprise as she approved of them too, see the comments for details. I baked more of the remaining log yesterday, baking them for the full 15 minutes this time because Joe liked them better crispy. So good both ways, depending on your cookie preference. Yum!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Birthday and Election Treats of Supreme Deliciosity

Whew, busy night! I asked what my mom wanted for her birthday and one of her requests was that I bake and blog something for her, since I can't be there to make her anything in person. I thought and thought about something she would like, flipping through my favorite cookbooks and recipe websites. Nothing grabbed my eye immediately so I decided to think of my mom's favorite foods. Some sort of pot de creme came to mind, or maybe something with nuts? My mom does eat more cashews than anybody I know. And she recently ran a triathalon so they must be doing something for her. But nothing cashew-y grabbed me and said, "Hey, I'll be ultra delicious. Make me!" But perhaps that's because I didn't take hallucinogenic drugs, we'll never know.

I eventually decided on something with figs, since I know my mom fancies figs, fig jam and other... fig related items. But what fig dessert to make? There are some strange looking fig recipes out there and I wanted some that looked and tasted good. I eventually settled on fig pinwheels from Martha Stewart's website. Kind of a dressed up, inside out fig newton. Plus, they're pretty! Or would be in theory, I've never made a rolled cookie like this.

But if I do say so myself, they did turn out pretty. I probably would've killed myself had they not because they took forever and a day to make. They were exactly hard, just labor intensive. Make the dough. Chill. Roll dough out. Chill again. Make filling. Chill. Puree filling. Spread filling on rolled dough. Guess what you do next? Chill again. Painstakingly roll filling/dough. CHILL. Cut cookies ever so carefully, of course CHILLING, ALWAYS CHILLING between baking. Brian saw the picture on the recipe I printed out and then looked at my fist batch, which was all the left over dough and end pieces of the cookie logs. He just looked at me and went, "...Um, are those supposed to be pinwheels?" and I told him to look away, those cookies didn't count. And they didn't, the uglies don't get a place on the blog.

But all the work was worth it, 'cause it's for my mommy. :) Also, they're reeeeeeeeeally good. Joe said they're one of his favorite cookies I've ever baked. And you can only imagine how many cookies he's endured in the almost 5 years we've been dating. Quite a lot, I'd say, and I wasn't so good when I first started baking. Bless him.

I'd say I would make these again because the filling is divine and the cookie dough is delicious but I just spent like 5 hours baking these so ask me again in a few days, alright? The recipe makes a HUGE amount of cookies and I have nearly an entire log in the freezer left over, even after making about 5 dozen of these bad boys. That's insane! I will probably have to make them for my mom in person some time and these would make an excellent holiday gift. So I'll probably make them again when I have five hours to fill.

So happy birthday, mama! I believe you're turning, what, 35? :) I wish I could be there but lots of interwebz/blog directed towards Alaska.

Recipe from Martha Stewart:


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups dried figs, stemmed (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup golden raisins (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 cup orange juice


  1. Make dough: Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl, set aside. Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Transfer one of the dough halves to a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll out to a 10-by-12-inch rectangle, trim edges with a knife. Repeat with remaining dough half. Transfer each rectangle on parchment to a baking sheet. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Make filling: Bring figs, raisins, and juices to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until fruit has softened and only a few tablespoons of liquid remain, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Transfer fig mixture to a food processor, and puree until smooth.
  4. Spread half the filling over each rectangle. Starting with a long side, roll dough into a log. Wrap each log in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices using a sharp knife, transferring to baking sheets lined with parchment paper (and reshaping into rounds, if needed) as you work. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges turn golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.
  6. How to roll fig pinwheels: After spreading fig filling over chilled dough, gently but tightly roll the dough, starting with a long side, into a log. Wrap in plastic; chill 1 hour or overnight. To keep pinwheels from flattening on one side, remove the log from the refrigerator from time to time, and roll it again on a flat surface. Then cut the log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, rerolling it as needed to retain shape.

Changes I made, mostly because I didn't read the recipe before I went shopping, brilliant: No apple juice, used the rest of my apple butter, watered down a bit. Added some vanilla to the cookie dough because I don't trust cookies without vanilla. Used regular raisins instead of golden. Also, 12 minutes worked fine on my cookies, 15 made them a bit too crisp for my liking.

I was actually so anxious waiting for election results that I made some bars while the cookies were baking. Because I am insane. I've been wanting to make a puffed grain cereal and dried fruit breakfast bar for awhile now and I finally got all the stuff to do it. I didn't know what I was doing but they turned out yummy so I'm happy.

I've seen brown rice syrup used as a binder in vegan baking and I started looking at that as an option for my bars. I decided to use brown rice syrup as a binder instead of marshmallows or corn syrup so that at least I can pretend they're healthy. But brown rice syrup is actually one of the healthiest sweeteners: it has a low glycemic index and isn't quite as creepy as marshmallows or corn syrup. Plus, it tastes good, kind of like molasses or caramel.

Here's what I came up with: a puffed corn cereal, studded with dried apricots and raisins, bonded together with brown rice syrup flavored with a little vanilla and cinnamon. I sprinkled some sea salt on top for some salty contrast. Mom, I think you'd like these too, they're not too sweet and have lots of fruity goodness in them. They're pretty gooey, brown rice syrup doesn't set up as well as other binders, but they're really good and will make a good grab-n-go snack, I think.

Ooey Gooey, Salty Sweet Breakfast Bars


- 1 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup dried apricots, diced
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 Tbsp butter (or margarine)
- 5 cups puffed cereal (I used puffed corn)
- Pinch cinnamon
- Dash vanilla
- Sea salt (optional)


Grease a 9x13 pan. Pour the brown rice syrup and sugar in a large pot and place of medium heat, stir to let the sugar dissolve. Add butter/margarine and let melt. Add the chopped apricots and raisins, stir to combine. Add cinnamon and vanilla. Stir in cereal, mixing to combine. Immediately pour into greased pan, using a spatula to pat the mixture flat. Sprinkle with a few pinches sea salt, if desires.

Next time, I'd use a smaller puffed grain but we happened to have a billion bags of puffed corn, so puffed corn it was. I'll try cutting out the sugar completely next time, with the dried fruit I don't think it's necessary. The bars would be good with some chopped almonds or something as well, if desired.

I am EXHAUSTED now and need to sleep. I nearly put my iPhone in the oven earlier, sleep is due. It would be like me to bake my most treasured item, I did lose my prior cell phone on an Alaskan mountain somewhere. Don't ask.

Happy birthday, mom, have a fantaaaaastic day! And happy election day, congrats to my man Obama!