Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Coffee and Doughnuts

Coffee and doughnuts are like two lovers waking up together on a lazy weekend morning with nothing to do but enjoy each other's company.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Seduced by a Chocolate Chip Cookie

If I'm being honest, I believe that baking involves a good deal of seduction.  And although we bakers may not freely admit it, we enjoy seeing others being seduced by our sweet creations.  I don't mean sexual seduction, necessarily, although butter and flour caking my fingernails, achy feet after standing barefoot for hours to decorate a cake, and my face warm and damp from an over-heated kitchen is undeniably sexy.  Or at least it might be if I was baking with nothing on underneath my apron, but that never happens, much to my husband's disappointment.

But knowing that something I've made is enticing enough to draw someone closer, bewitching them with the scent of butter and chocolate and spices, and finally, tempting them to taste - that's the seduction for which I feel no shame.

With that said, as we list our condo for sale this week, I'm not above tempting potential home buyers with homemade chocolate chip cookies arranged prettily on a glass pedestal.

And these cookies really are something special.  They are spiced with a little cinnamon and nutmeg, and of course, a decent pinch or two of salt.  They are studded with pecans, which I love with chocolate.  And they're under-baked, so they stay wonderfully soft and chewy for days.  As a bonus, too, the dough doesn't require any refrigeration, so there's no waiting.  Because waiting for a chocolate chip cookie is agonizing.

But the two ingredients that add a lovely depth of flavor you can't quite identify is a bit of molasses and espresso powder.  Don't get me wrong - they don't taste like molasses or coffee; you really might not even know they contain either.  But they create a beautifully complex flavor profile that has you reaching for a second cookie.  Or a third.

They are the only recipe I will ever use again for chocolate chip cookies, which is saying something.  And when I'm craving a truly phenomenal cookie, no mediocre substitution will have a chance at seducing me.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and molasses for five minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice, until fluffy and lightened in color.  Beat in the vanilla and the eggs.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and espresso powder.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients until moistened.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans; the dough will be quite thick.

Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet (I baked six cookies at a time on each baking sheet) and flatten slightly with your hand, leaving two inches between each cookie.  Bake for exactly 8 minutes until pale golden and crisp around the edges but gooey in the middle; let cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yields about 2 1/2 dozen large cookies

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Buttercream

My love of pumpkin is such that I always keep several cans of it on hand after winter is over, just in case.  Throughout the spring and summer they sleep, tucked away in the back of the cupboard, but not quite forgotten.  I might bake something pumpkin when least expected, but then again, I might wait for fall.

And when the nights become cool and crisp, a confetti of leaves crunch underfoot, and the afternoons are dappled with the golden glow of earlier-than-usual sunsets, there is no more quiescence, and my kitchen is longing to be filled with the scent of something sweet and pumpkiny.

Pumpkin and cream cheese are made for each other - like a cool autumn day and brown boots - and a little maple extract in the buttercream made them taste like pancakes.  I dipped each rounded cap of maple cream cheese buttercream into toasted coconut or a mixture of crushed salted pecans and toffee bits.

I couldn't decide which topping I liked best, because they both complemented the soft, spiced pumpkin cake so beautifully.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  • toasted coconut
  • crushed toffee, pecans and sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with 24 paper liners.  In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the pumpkin/ sour cream, starting and ending with the flour.

Divide between the cupcake liners and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the centers spring back when lightly touched.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter for several minutes until smooth.  Combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder and with the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls until combined.  Add the extracts and beat the frosting for several minutes until light and fluffy.

Yields 24 cupcakes

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, October 17, 2014

Curly Girl Wedding: A Paris Street Antique Market

There's this place, an antique market in Denver that's only open for a few months from spring to fall, one Saturday a month, A Paris Street Antique Market in the Aspen Grove neighborhood.  Even the location sounds so charming.

What I love is that it's full of actual antiques, along with, of course, the usually crafty things, but not so many handmade crafts that they take over the real antiques, which is the reason I go to an antique market.

I fell in love with a gorgeous black typewriter, but just couldn't afford it.  A friend of mine has an old typewriter, which she let me borrow for our wedding, and it sat in the lobby with the story of our engagement which I wrote and typed up in pretty typewriter font.

I did bring home that lovely tobacco tin with the yellow label, and the thing that made it so perfect is that S&M are the initials of our last names, so it was such a cute touch on the cake table to hold my collection of vintage cake servers.

The same day I bought the tin, I also found those cute little flower girl dresses for my nieces (pictured in last week's wedding post), which made me feel a little better for not getting to buy the typewriter.  Or that beautiful blue bicycle which even has an S for Smoke!

Sadly, the market is now closed for the season, although they will have one indoor market day in December this year.  I've already marked it on my calender.

To read more about my wedding, visit my Curly Girl Wedding page.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pumpkin Smoothie

It's time for pumpkin everything, is it not?  I'm starting off pumpkin season with a smoothie that tastes like you're drinking pumpkin pie.

With my eating very clean over the past year, aside from the occasional sweet treat, I've eliminated protein powder from my smoothies.  I just couldn't find one - that I liked the taste of - that didn't contain artificial sweeteners and other ingredients that I don't want to eat.  So instead of protein powder, I use raw eggs in all my smoothies now.  Yes, raw.

If you're squeamish, well, I get it, but I urge you to at least try it.  Eggs are some of the best protein for you, and a raw egg or two in a smoothie adds such rich creaminess that you'll almost feel like you're drinking a milkshake.  There was a reason Rocky gulped down a glass full of raw eggs every day.

This pumpkin smoothie is the perfect balance of healthy fats, protein and carbs, and tastes completely indulgent while providing your body with some great nutrition.

Pumpkin Smoothie
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 whole eggs (raw)
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk (whole milk or unsweetened almond milk)

Blend all ingredients in your blender until smooth!

Yields 1 serving

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Fritters with Orange Maple Glaze

I made doughnuts for the first time in my cramped Chinese apartment kitchen years ago.  I knew nothing about oil temperature, so I cranked the flame to high on my propane stove and heated the oil dangerously hot.  I confidently started sliding doughnuts into the boiling oil, though, and watched with dismay as they burned to a blackened crisp within seconds of touching the oil.

Needless to say, they went into the trash and I didn't get any doughnuts that day.  Although I never mastered doughnuts in my Chinese kitchen, or frying anything for that matter, I did bake some pretty great cookies in my tiny little stove, usually of the peanut butter and chocolate chip variety.

Sundays lately have been sweet as we've been experimenting with various doughnut recipes.  Delicious experiments, to be sure, although not all of them worth sharing.  These apple fritters, though, are some of the best doughnuts I've made.

Soft yeast dough spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg is stuffed with a tempting amount of tart apple filling and then fried until golden, before getting dipped in a sweet orange maple glaze.

The first bite into the golden crisp dough coated in that sugary maple glaze, your mouth filling with hot spiced apples and a hint of orange, is pure felicity.

Baker's Note:
These are best the same day they're made, since the apple filling can cause the fritters to become a little soggy the following day.  Make them for a hungry crowd one weekend morning and they will disappear fast.

Apple Fritters with Orange Maple Glaze

Fritter Dough
  • 1/3 cup hot water (between 110-115 degrees F)
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, soft
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Oil, for frying

Apple Filling
  • 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped to 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of 1 navel orange
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Orange Maple Glaze
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • zest of 1 navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the hot water and yeast and let stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy.

Add the yogurt, butter and vanilla, and mix with the dough hook.  In a bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add by spoonfuls, with the mixer on low.  Increase to medium speed and knead the dough for 4-5 minutes (adding another tablespoon or two of warm water if the mixture is too dry), until the dough slaps against the side of the bowl and the dough springs back slowly when pressed.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.

In a saucepan, combine the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and orange juice.  Over medium heat, simmer until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the apples are softened but still hold their shape.  Set aside to cool.

Dump the risen dough out onto a generously floured surface and press out into a circle with your hands.  Dump the apples on top, and gently knead the apples into the dough until dispersed throughout, adding the remaining cup of flour as needed to keep the dough from being too sticky and wet.  Press the dough out to about a half inch thick, and cut into 15 fritters with a 2 1/2 - 3 inch biscuit cutter, gathering up the scraps to cut the remainder of the fritters.  Place the fritters on a piece of parchment paper.  Cover loosely with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes while you heat the oil.

In a large pan, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 365 degrees.  Carefully lower the doughnuts into the hot oil, working with just a few at a time, and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, until a deep golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a wire rack to cool slightly while you make the glaze.

In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, orange juice, orange zest, corn syrup, maple extract and vanilla extract.  Over medium heat, whisk to dissolve the sugar.  Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Dip the doughnuts into the hot glaze, using tongs of needed, and set back on the wire rack.  Glaze will set in about 5-10 minutes.

Yields 15 fritters

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

For the second weekend in a row, I made another first birthday cake for a good friend's baby boy.  Katie is so imaginative, and quite the party planner with such cute themes and color schemes, and she pulled off such an adorable party with this Twinkle Twinkle Little Star theme.  I just love the orange and green/blue color palette she chose!

With Owen's party invitation in hand, I started sketching my idea for the cake and collecting pretty craft paper, ribbon and paper straws to use.  Katie is a professional photographer and was planning to set up an official cake smash photo shoot with Owen after the party, so I kept the top tier of his cake separate so that she could easily remove that and put it away for the photo shoot later.

I frosted the cake all in buttercream and decorated the bottom tier with fondant letters and stars.  The top tier is decorated with stripes of buttercream stars, a cute little fondant bow tie, and a cupcake on top for Owen to eat at the party.

The paper moon and stars on top couldn't have been simpler to make - just cut the shapes and hot glue onto paper straws for the most adorable cake toppers.

And don't you just love the night sky with moon and stars backdrop that she made?  And that beautiful piece of chalkboard art she designed in Photoshop?  I'm always so amazed at Katie's creativity, and there isn't a detail she didn't think of.

When I decorated Owen's cake last Friday after work, I even had a little helper in the kitchen.  Lucy and her mom (who brought the cutest matching aprons for them to wear) asked if they could come watch me decorate a cake, and they even brought me flowers as a thank you.

Since just watching isn't as fun as decorating, I baked a special little cake just for Lucy to decorate.  She picked her colors, frosted the cake herself, and even rolled out fondant and cut it with cookie cutters to decorate her cake.  And she just so happens to be a curly girl, too, so she was right at home in my kitchen!