Almond Croissant FAIL

Confession: I can make a lot of things, but pastry is my weakness. This is largely because I am an impatient person who doesn’t let things chill properly. A few days ago, I attempted almond croissants and met with disaster. More specifically, I set them to rise in what was probably too warm a spot, with dough that was already too warm. The butter in the dough melted as they rose, so when I baked them, they both fried in the melted butter…and then proceeded to burn at 10 out of 18 minutes in the over. The end result looked generally like this masterpiece:

Of course, I still scraped out the almond filling and ate it, since that was why I was making them in the first place.

I’m in Ireland these days, and I’ve started baking more again. Yay! So hopefully, there will be more frequent updates in the near future.

Stained Glass Pudding

What would one call this? Jell-o suspended in a condensed milk gelatin? It’s not really a pudding. Anyway, whilst reading the New York Times recipe, I came across this article and decided that I would attempt to recreate the concoction shown the in title photograph. Now, I loathe basically all Jell-o because I am not a fan of blatantly artificial flavouring, but I really like condensed milk, especially when it’s caramelised into dulce de leche. But that is fodder for another post. Anyway, I figured that maybe putting the Jell-o in something I liked would make me enjoy it – this was faulty reasoning, as I keep picking the Jell-o out and only eating the condensed milk pudding part. I used cherry, blue raspberry, orange, pineapple and “melon fusion” because I wanted a rainbow of colours. Having tasted the product, I would recommend thinking about how the flavours will mix before preparing – the melon fusion, which was by far my least favourite, completely over powered all of the others with its fake watermelony flavour, and it also tainted the taste of the condensed milk portion. But, on a bright note, it does look pretty!

Stained Glass Pudding

4-5 3.0 oz packages of Jell-o powder (I used 5, I think 4 would have worked better)
2 packages of Knox plain gelatin powder
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

1. Prepare the Jell-o in separate containers according to the instructions on the package. Let set for 3+ hours in a refrigerator.

2. Remove the Jell-o from the refrigerator and slice into small cubes or other shapes. Gently place in a 9×13″ pan and toss to mix up the colours.

3. In a medium bowl, dissolve the plain gelatin packages in 1/2 c cold water. Once the gelatin “blooms” (it will look all bubbly on top), dissolve in 1 1/2 c boiling water, then stir in the condensed milk. Briefly let this mixture cool a bit (so that it does not melt the Jell-o shapes), and into the 9×13″ pan over the Jell-o shapes. At this point, you may want to smooth out the air bubbles on top for a cleaner look (I didn’t). Let set in the refrigerator overnight.

Makes a 9×13″ tray of Jell-o-ish pudding

Pumpkin Pie Jack-o’-Lanterns

My friend Isabel (aka Grushenka of Grushenka i Alyosha) came over today, ostensibly to study physics, but really to bake and play some Beatles Rock Band.  She is a pie baker, and I am in love with my new non-stick cupcake tins, so we decided to make miniature pumpkin pies in the cupcake tins, which we intend to bring to our Russian-folk-song-singing club/group/thingy.  And, in honour of the approaching festivities of next weekend (i.e. Halloween), we gave the pies miniature stems and faces so that they looked like jack-o’-lanterns (ok, in retrospect it might’ve been wiser to draw those on with frosting for better accuracy). After a taste test, we agreed that these were absolutely delectable, and would make an excellent dessert for any fall gathering.

Pumpkin Pie Jack-o’-Lanterns
Crust
3 c flour
2 sticks (16 tbs) unsalted butter
ice water

Filling
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can of pure pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Chocolate chips, for decorating

1. Prepare the pie crust: chop the butter into 1/4″ pieces. In a large mixing bowl, cut the butter and flour together until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Adding the ice water 1 table spoon at a time, mix with the flour-butter mixture until the dough holds together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2. Prepare the filling: in a large mixing bowl, blend together the cream cheese, pumpkin, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and beat until smooth.
3. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Roll out the dough to about 1/16″ thickness. Using a nonstick muffin tin, cut circles large enough to fill each cup. Line the muffin tin with the dough circles. With the extra dough, make the stems, and press into the dough-lined cups to attach. Fill each 3/4 full with filling and decorate with the chocolate chips. Bake 18-20 minutes, until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely, then remove from the cups, taking care not to break the stems in the process.

Makes about 16, using full size muffin tins

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I don’t really recall eating snickerdoodles growing up, which is a bit shocking as I love cinnamon. Probably the lack of chocolate turned me off to them. In any event, my first recollection of eating a snickerdoodle is over the summer, when I made them for the first time.? Last night, while engaging in my habitual reading-of-food-blogs-to-procrastinate activities, I discovered someone who mentioned making snickerdoodle cookies and snickerdoodle cupcakes and kind of gluing them together with some boiled frosting. What a fantastic idea! Here is my take on that.

Snickerdoodle Cookies
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1/4 c sugar
2 tbs cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375oF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium for about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Then, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
3. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 c of sugar with the cinnamon. Form dough balls about 1″ in diameter and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until well-covered. Place on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies begin to crack on top. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 18-20 cookies (but we only need 12, so the extras are excellent for snacking!)

Then, make the cupcakes!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c buttermilk, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line a cupcake tray with 12 liners.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 parts (so you begin and end with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
3. Fill the baking cups until about 7/8 full.
4. Bake for about 17-19 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

Makes about 12 cupcakes

And finally….

Boiled Frosting
3/4 c plus 1 tbs sugar
1/3 c water
1 tbs light corn syrup
3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1. Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Continue boiling without stirring until the syrup reaches 230oF.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed, until soft peaks form. Then, mix in the 1 tbs of sugar.
3. As soon as the sugar reaches 230oF, remove it from the heat. With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow stream. Raise mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is completely cool, about 8-10 minutes.

Assembly
Spread a layer of the frosting on top of a cupcake. Press a cookie on top. Garnish with another dollop of frosting, with cinnamon sprinkled on it.

Rainbow Cupcakes

After a very long hiatus, I am back, in a new apartment (yay!) with an old kitchen (boo).

When I was growing up, my mother, like most parents, wanted to make sure that I ate healthily.  In most cases, this meant that I was not allowed to eat white bread.  However, exceptions were made for a bit of heaven sold at the local ShopRite: rainbow bread.  Rainbow bread is simply white bread, made with dyed dough, rolled together and baked normally, but the addition of colour increases its appeal (and apparently its parental approval rating) by tenfold.

Rainbow cupcakes are the cake equivalent of rainbow bread: vanilla cupcakes with rainbow swirls.  They’re no more difficult to make than regular cupcakes but have the added appeal of colour!  In other words, they are absolutely fabulous.

Rainbow Cake
2 c all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c sugar
4 large eggs
1 c vegetable oil
1 c buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
red, yellow, green and blue food colorings

1. Preheat oven to 350oF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin pin.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Pour in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
3. Divide batter evenly into 4 small bowls and add 10-12 drops of food colouring to each bowl to make red, yellow, green and blue batters. Stir well, so no streaks of plain batter remain. Add additional food coloring if necessary.
4. Starting with the one of the batter colours, add a small spoonful to each of the muffin cups. Repeat with each of the remaining colours, going in whichever order you like. Do not attempt to spread or stir the colours, but allow them to spread on their own to achieve the layered effect.
5. Bake the cupcakes for about 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack before frosting. (I whipped together some cream cheese frosting with 1 8 oz package of cream cheese, 1 c confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 tbs milk.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosions

This is the second cookie that I baked for my sister’s fencing competition. In terms of taste, I was a little bit selfish – the coconut in the previous cookie was for her, and the peanut butter in these was for me. Really, it’s a continuation of my peanut butter obsession from a few weeks ago. This is a basic soft chocolate cookie, with the added bonus of some Reese’s Pieces and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and some Peanut Butter chips. Exciting, right? I was specifically craving the type of peanut butter that is at the center of Reese’s Cups.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosions
5 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
6 tbs unsalted butter
1 c sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c Reese’s Pieces
6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped into 1/4″ chunks
1/2 c peanut butter chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375oF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt the semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate together with the butter. Stir until smooth, and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the chocolate mixture and the sugar on medium-high speed until well-mixed, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, and mix until completely combined. Then beat in the vanilla.
4. Add the flour and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the Reese’s Pieces, Peanut Butter Cups and peanut butter chips.
5. Drop the dough by tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 50 cookies

Coconut Lime Crunchies

For my sister’s All-Ivy League Fencing Competition (Part I), I wanted to bake her something special, and every time that I ask my sister what sort of cookie she’d like me to make, her answer is the same: “Something with coconut.” Not being a huge coconut cookie fan myself, I try to incorporate other ingredients so that the coconut is a complementary ingredient rather than the focal point.

These cookies are a variation on a grapefruit cookie made by Martha Stewart. I modified the recipe to use lime and added the coconut, which I think pair well.

Coconut Lime Crunchies
Grated zest and juice from two limes
1 c sugar
1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c plain cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
2 large egg yolks
1/2 c coconut

1. In a small bowl, mix the lime zest with 1 tbs sugar and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt and set aside.
2. Beat the butter with the remaining sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the egg yolks and beat until combined, then beat in the zest-sugar mixture. Add the flour in two batches, alternating with the lime juice, and beat until well-mixed. Then, stir in the coconut.
3. Turn the dough out onto waxed paper, shape into a log approximately 1.5″ in diameter, and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour or more.
4. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the log of dough from the freezer and slice into 1/8″ rounds. Place them on the baking sheets, spacing about 1″ apart. Bake 18-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 40 cookies

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Well, to start with, this is my first cookie of the New Year!  I was in New Jersey for a few weeks, and I don’t generally do much baking there (the kitchen is more frequently occupied by my mother).  Plus, we had so many leftover Christmas cookies that there was no space for anymore in the house!

This first cookie is a soft peanut butter cookie with chocolate chips, which I basically made up in a half-batch recipe.  I’ve been craving peanut butter a lot lately, so I wanted to bake it into something.  I have a particular love for “The Heat Is On” from Peanut Butter & Co. (but obviously not for baking!)-  I dip chik’n (that’s fake chicken) strips in it – an amazing snack! These cookies are great, because they only use one bowl, so they can be easily whipped up in an instant!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
1/4 c butter, softened
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky (I used PB&Company which is not sweet)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 c sifted flour
1 cup chocolate chips (I used a combination of Baker’s Chocolate Chunks and Toll House Swirled Morsels)

1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Beat together the butter and both sugars until creamy. Add in the peanut butter, egg and vanilla and beat until well-blended. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt until just mixed, and stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Shape the dough into rounded tablespoons and place on the baking sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork and bake 13-15 minutes.

Makes about 15 cookies

Stained Glass Cookies

Once, when I was little, my mom decided that we should try to make windows in our annual gingerbread houses by melting hard candies in spaces.  This did not work out well.  However, I decided to give these a try, this time, lining the baking sheets withoarchment to prevent sticking (a problem with the gingerbread).  One of the great things about stained glass cookies is that they can be used to decorate Christmas trees.  Simply poke a hole in the dough before baking (I used a needle) and then widen it a little bit when the cookies come out of the oven.  Then you can run some thread through to hang them easily.

Sophie likes them, too!

Stained Glass Cookies
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
6-8 oz fruit-flavored hard candies (Jolly Ranchers work well)

1.  Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, then beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
2.  Shape dough into 3 disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.  Meanwhile, unwrap candies and separate by color in small heavy-duty Ziploc bags.  Wrap the bags in kitchen towls and pound with a rolling pin to crush the candies.
3. Preheat oven to 350oF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll out one dough round to 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface with floured rolling pin. Cut out cookies with a large round cutter, then cut out centers (and throw into scrap pile) from those with a small round cutter and transfer to the baking sheets.  Spoon about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed candy in the center of each cookie. (If you want to use these cookies as tree ornaments, make a hole with a straw so that they can be hung later.)  Refrigerate scraps and reroll.
4.   Bake until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, then cool cookies completely on baking sheet on a rack, about 10 minutes. Peel off of the parchment and store, separated by layers of parchment to prevent sticking.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies