Tuesday, December 28, 2010

seasons greetings: mexican wedding cakes

Greetings from PA (aka not the Blizzard of 2010)! I'm not snowed in under 14 inches of snow and my flight home (so far - I leave Wednesday) isn't canceled, so there's really no good reason for me to be baking up the storm I have been the past two days except... I can! And there are people (family) here to eat everything! Which means good things for my waistline and gives me something to do besides the Back To The Future marathon that appears to be never ending.

To that end, here are some cookies I whipped up tonight after some social plans fell through. When you can't drink, bake! My Mom used to make these and I found them absent in the Christmas cookie tins this year, so I perused Tastespotting and found this recipe that seemed easy enough for 10pm on a holiday Monday - though I'll tell you what, cookies are tough to make when there are cute little Grizzle dogs nearby. I used almonds since that's what was on hand (thanks Mom's kitchen pantry!) and they turned out quite tasty! And hey, they even look like the snow balls I'll be coming home to on Wednesday when/if I make it back to NYC.

There will be another Christmas-recipe coming, though to be honest I seemed to stick by tried and true recipes this year. I made this appley-goodness for Christmas dinner dessert, and put together a batch of these as hostess gifts for a neighbors party, but by request I'll be posting my Mom's Holiday Pretzel Salad! So stay tuned...

I hope you all had wonderful holidays filled with family, laughter and lots of joy (and good food) - now on to the recipe!

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup toasted and ground almonds (no need to skin them)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment paper (I didn't).

In a bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the ground almonds and beat on low speed until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat until a soft dough comes together in large clumps (it will seem very dry).

To form each cookie, roll a level tbsp. of dough between your palms into a 1-inch rectangle.
Place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until the cookie bottoms are light brown and the tops are very lightly colored, about 20-22 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Gently roll the cookies in the sugar to coat them evenly. Store the cookies in an airtight container. The cookies will become surprisingly softer the second day - make sure you cover them nicely when storing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

holiday treats: peanut butter-chocolate chip-oatmeal cookies

It's December 21st and Christmas is all around with:

- giant snowflakes on Columbus Avenue
- holiday markets with red stripes and gingerbread men
- the Rock Center tree
- ice skating in circles at Wollmann Rink and The Pond
- peppermint Mocha's and red Starbucks cups
- fresh-cut trees being bartered on street corners
- holiday windows on 5th Avenue
- freezing cold apartments and salted sidewalks
- ugg's accessorizing every outfit
- horrible fragrance commercials flanking every TV show
- christmas parties and holiday cards
- lots of wine and bubbles
- snow wishes
- doggies in sweaters
- my birthday (and the late night it implies)
- Mom's pretzel salad
- White Christmas on AMC
and, maybe best of all, Christmas cookie exchanges!

I asked my co-workers for their favorite Christmas cookies and got a surprising answer: good ole Chocolate Chip. I've had a personal hankering for my own favorite Christmas cookies lately (and I'm on batch #4) so I found a recipe that combines the two into a cookie filled with deliciousness.

These were picture perfect and I stacked them together as a holiday treat for colleagues. Hope you're making the most of the last few days before Christmas! Merry, merry!

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chocolate chips (1 12-oz package)
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped (I left these out)

In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

In another bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir or beat into butter mixture until well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and oats.

Drop dough in rounded 2-tbsp. portions, 3 inches apart, onto buttered or cooking parchment-lined baking sheets. With a fork, flatten slightly into 2 1/2-inch rounds about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake in a 350 F oven until cookies are golden and tops feel set when lightly pressed, about 12 minutes (they will feel underdone but will firm up as they cool).

Let stand 5 minutes on sheets, then transfer to racks to cool.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

happy hanukkah: sweet challah

And... we're back. Back on solid foods, that is. It was a rough go there at the end but I prevailed and the crazy thing? I miss the juices. Weird right? And not what you'd expect from a foodie like me. But my skin is glowing, my tummy is flat(ter), and I've been sleeping like a baby. Mission accomplished!

Now on to the good stuff. In celebration of Hanukkah and my Jewish friends, I'm sharing a delicious yeast bread that I love to eat year-round. Yes! Another yeast bread! Wuahahahaha. With this braided beauty, I think I've conquered my yeast fear :)

Challah bread's soft, eggy texture makes it perfect for morning french toast - or as a vehicle for something delicious like pumpkin butter, which is what I used it for!

This recipe yielded one big loaf - next time I'd either split it into two or create a 6-strand loaf - and it was easy to follow and absolutely gorgeous. Plus, with a perfect bread after just a few hours I think I'll be making this again soon. Maybe next time with raisins? And cinnamon??

Viva yeast bread! And Happy Hanukkah :)

Sweet Challah Bread
adapted from Cooking Light

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water (100-110 F)
3 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour, divided
cooking spray
1 tsp. cornmeal
1 tsp. water
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. poppy seeds

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; stir in honey. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add melted butter, 1 tsp. salt and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 F), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough).

Punch dough down. Shape dough into a ball; return to bowl. Cover and let rise an additional 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 25-inch rope with slightly tapered ends. Place ropes lengthwise on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal; pinch ends together at one end to seal. Braid ropes; pinch loose ends to seal. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine 1 tsp. water and egg yolk, stirring with a fork until blended. Uncover loaf and gently brush with egg mixture. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 tsp. poppy seeds. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

yummy: Real Simple Pop Up Shop

Day three on my juices and going strong. With each juice filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables I'm never hungry, but ya'll, I am CRAVING cheese. Is this a side effect? Homemade cheese-filled ravioli, cheesy alfredo pasta, cheese and crackers, you name it. Get it. In. My mouth.

And today at the Real Simple Pop Up Shop, I almost snapped. Real Simple Food Director Allie Lewis-Clapp was on location to give a fabulous cheesy food demonstration within the 15,000 square foot space at Rockefeller Center. It was opening day at the Pop Up Shop and staff and crew were abuzz adding finishing touches and welcoming customers.

You haven't heard of the Pop Up Shop? Well, let me fill you in. Just in time for the holidays, Real Simple has created a full-blown retail store in NYC to set you up with a gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list. There's something For Her. Something For Him. Something for the Kids, and something for Home. And even something for Pets! Some of the proceeds go to charities, you can sign up for high-value sweepstakes (Kitchen makeover, anyone?), and you can even have gifts wrapped and shipped to friends and family, right from the store. Oh, and you'll leave looking better than you did when you strolled in after a complimentary makeover by L'Oreal Paris.

There's so much going on you might need to stop by twice. I'll be there tomorrow through Monday so come say hi!

In case you missed it today, here are two Real Simple recipes from Allie's demo - both perfect for snacking at a holiday party. I might have to host one just to try them out!

Artichoke and Spinach Relish with Walnuts
1/4 cup walnuts
1 13.75-oz. can artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper
Crackers and cut-up vegetables for serving

Heat oven to 400 F. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally until fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop.

In a small bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, mayonnaise, lemon juice, walnuts, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Serve with crackers and vegetables.

Creamy Salmon Spread with Horseradish
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
Crackers and cut-up vegetables for serving

Combine the cream cheese, horseradish, dill, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper in a small bowl.

Fold the salmon into the cream cheese mixture. Serve with the crackers and vegetables.

Note: The relish and spread can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

give thanks: pain au chocolat, take 2

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope it was fabulous and filled with food coma(s) and family.

I've been home for the past week in Western PA and a "dead" video card on my parents desktop computer prevented me from posting all of the deliciousness that went down my gullet during the holiday. And... now I'm on a 5-day juice cleanse to detox from all of that deliciousness, so I'm anti-solid food until Saturday. But don't worry! I took pictures! And I saved recipes! And I'll be posting them all week (and salivating into my kale juice while I do so).

First up is something I'm truly thankful for. After a first brutal attempt, last week I gave thanks for... full-size kitchens and good yeast! Because apparently that (and lots of patience) is all you need to make patisserie-quality chocolate croissants. On Wednesday afternoon, with Turkey Day prep covered in foil and casserole dishes stacked in the fridge, I decided to give croissants another try. They'd been vexing me since the last unsuccessful attempt and I figured I had the best conditions to try again: a full-sized kitchen with plenty of counter space for rolling (and rolling, and rolling).

So I pulled up a new recipe and got to it. I think the recipe made all the difference but I also know why the last one didn't - rule #1 of yeast doughs: never try to half the recipe (which is what I'd done). So I mixed dough and let it rise and punched it down and let it rise again and by Thursday morning we had croissant dough ready for Thanksgiving breakfast.

This was a really solid recipe that was easy to follow, perfect to help someone like me conquer her yeast-fear :)

I made "plain" croissants with the rest of the dough (it makes a lot) and the family was snacking on them with grins and buttery fingers even this morning. The egg-wash is key for the bakery-look-alike croissants but not necessary for taste. I'll definitely be making these again, as soon as I get a full-size kitchen in my own apartment!

Chocolate-filled Croissants

1 cup butter, softened
2 (1/4 oz) envelopes active dry yeast
3 tbsp. sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water 105 - 115 F
2/3 cup milk
4 cups to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2-3 rectangles chocolate candy bar (I used semisweet chocolate chips)

Day 1:
Press butter into a 10x8-inch rectangle on wax paper, chill.

Combine yeast, 1 tbsp. sugar, and water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.

Heat milk to 105 - 115 F. Combine yeast mixture, warm milk, remaining 2 tbsp. sugar, 2 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat mixture at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 F), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down. Cover with plastic wrap and chill dough 1 hour.

Punch down dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 24x10-inch rectangle. Place chilled butter rectangle in center of dough rectangle, and carefully fold dough over butter. Pinch edges to seal.

Roll dough into an 18x10-inch rectangle; fold into thirds, beginning with short side. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Repeat rolling and folding procedure twice, chilling dough 30 minutes each time. Wrap dough in aluminum foil and chill overnight.

Day 2:
Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll 1 portion into a 12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface, and cut into 4 rectangles (keep remaining dough chilled). Place 2-3 rectangles of chocolate candy bar, beginning on the short end of each rectangle and roll up tightly. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 425 F for 8 minutes (mine took 9-10) or until lightly golden. Cool croissants slightly on baking sheets, and transfer to wire racks to cool. Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions.

For egg wash: Combine 1 tsp water with yolk of one egg. Brush mixture onto croissants with pastry brush before baking.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

breathe in: flourless chocolate cake

This past weekend, a couple friends, bf and I rented a house in the New York countryside and spent the weekend sleeping, cooking every meal, and drinking lots of red wine. Lots.

It was the kind of weekend where you embrace relaxation, stay in your sweatpants from Friday until Sunday and truly enjoy the fact that the nearest neighbors are a couple acres away. And it helped that the house we found on Craigslist was absolutely gorgeous - an old(er) farmhouse that had been completely re-done with a nature-meets-modern-design interior, a stainless steel kitchen, and a back porch the size of my studio apartment. Oh who am I kidding, it was bigger. And it had two grills. TWO!

It was the prescription I needed for a weekend when I couldn't run, couldn't hike, and was forced to keep the walking to a minimum (by order of the doc). So I read half a book (The Help is so good!!), gorged on home-cooked food (including s'mores), and did 2 loads of laundry. Because there was a washer/dryer. IN THE HOUSE.

And I obviously took advantage of the kitchen to make us dessert on Saturday to pair with our grilled steak dinner. It was the Real Simple recipe that popped into my inbox last Friday, and with so few ingredients it was an easy choice for our weekend away.

I followed the directions and it turned out... exactly like the photo. Decadent and chocolatey and just like the "molten lava cake" I always want to order on restaurant dessert menu's. This is a true winner and would make a great entertaining recipe due to its ease and deliciousness. Pair it with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream for a yummy dessert!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch springfoam pan (I used Pam for baking) and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter with 1/4 cup heavy cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar and cocoa powder; whisk in the chocolate mixture.

Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake before unmolding.

Tip: the cake can be baked up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate covered. Before serving, bring the cake to room temperature and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

parts 2 & 3: pain au chocolat

Ok, so I really failed at my first ever 3-day blog post with the chocolate croissants this week. By now I should’ve been 3 posts deep with an estimated 2 to 6 croissants in my belly.

The truth is a totally bummer, too. On Tuesday when I should have been turning and rolling and chilling x3 I found out that I have a pretty painful running-related injury. And on Wednesday when I should have been egg-washing and baking ‘till golden and eating, I found out that it could be pretty serious and I might have to take the next 6-8 weeks off to heal. Which means missing the half-marathon in 2 weeks that I’ve been training 3 months for. Waa.

So - many apologies for those of you who’ve been waiting for my flaky pastry results in anticipation, it’s been kind of a downer week. But! I really like the idea of multi-day posts and will continue them in the future with some exciting time-consuming recipes. Stay tuned.

Unfortunately I think the 3-days between Monday (dough making) and Thursday (baking) had a rough effect on the golden and puffiness of my croissants. Plus I feel like something about my dough wasn't quite right in the first place - might need to add some more milk to part 1. So no photos tonight, but I'm excited to try again soon? 'Cause nothing tastes as sweet as a flaky chocolate croissant!

Pain au Chocolat

Semi-sweet or milk chocolate (chunks or chips)
1 egg, lightly beaten, plus a splash of milk or cream for the egg wash

Part 2:
Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to a rectangle, 1/2 inch thick with a short side facing you. Remove butter form refrigerator, place on bottom half of dough, fold the top half of the dough over the butter, pinch the edges good to seal.

Roll out the dough to a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick, with a short side facing you; keep the corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a dry pastry brush. Starting at the far end, fold the rectangle in thirds as you would a business letter. This completes the first of three turns. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. Repeat rolling and folding process above, two more times for a total of three rolls, with an hour refrigeration time in between. After the third roll, wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Part 3:
Turn out chilled dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a rectangle. Using a pizza wheel or pastry cutter, cut the dough lengthwise to form two rectangles. Cut each half into smaller rectangles.

Place 1/2 oz. of chocolate 1/4 inch from edge on short side of rectangle nearest you. Roll the croissant over the chocolate and brush the edge with egg-wash before sealing over. Finish this process with all croissants. Cover loosely in plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until very spongy and doubled in size , about an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly brush croissants with the rest of the beaten egg. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the croissants are puffed and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temp.

Monday, November 8, 2010

part 1: pain au chocolat

When I was a Junior in college I took a semester and spent 6 months abroad to study creative writing at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England. Well OK... I spent 6 months abroad and went to a couple classes while I was there. I mean who really studies when they "study abroad," right?

But I did take advantage of my time in England. I got to know the locals (I bartended under-the-table at a local night club), I learned the customs (my boss taught me to roll my own cigarettes), and I enjoyed the cuisine (I binged on digestives and got sloshed on "snakebites"). And for a month in the Spring my friend Joe and I spent "Easter Holiday" carousing around Europe taking in the sights, eating delectables, and developing our wine palettes. It was heaven.

We made a breakfast tradition in each town we visited (from London to Madrid to Valencia to Barcelona to Nice to Rome to Cinque Terre to Florence to Vienna to Munich to Geneva to Mallorca) and treated ourselves to some of the best chocolate croissants I've ever had - and we weren't even really in France! Can you believe there was a delightful little bakery near every hostel/1-star hotel we stayed in? Bakeries with chocolate croissants?? It was like fate.

So we ate piles of fresh seafood and pasta and drank a LOT of red wine on the trip - we even went sky diving in the Swiss Alps! - but after all that eating I'm convinced the extra 10 "vacation" pounds that came home with me consisted solely of flakey, buttery, chocolately croissants (with some gelato on top).

I've been wanting to re-create them since (it's been 6 years) but the time and labor involved with homemade croissants has always stopped me. There is some overnight chilling (and then some more) and lots of folding and chilling and re-folding before you even get to bake them. But last week (in a separate conversation) someone told me "there's no time like right now" and then today I happened to find Willow Bird Baking - so we're giving it a shot!

Tonight I fitted the dough hook to the KitchenAid and made some croissant dough. And tomorrow I'll be folding and turning. And then Wednesday night (God willing) we'll have golden puffed pain au chocolat. Just like the bakery in Rome. Kinda.

So stick with me for the next couple days and let's see how it goes... this is just part 1.

Pain au Chocolat
adapted from Willow Bird Baking (which was adapted from Gourmet)

For the dough and butter block:
3/4 cup cold whole milk, heated to 110 F (use a candy thermometer)
2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
One 1/4 oz. package active dry yeast
1 1/2 plus 6 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold

Make the dough package; heat milk to 110 degrees F. Stir warm milk, brown sugar, and milk in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about about 5 minutes. Add flour and salt and mix with dough hook on low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.

Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, overnight.

Make the butter block; arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a work surface. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly, butter should be malleable but still cold. Scrape butter into a block and put on plastic wrap, then cover with additional plastic wrap. Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform rectangle. Wrap and chill overnight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

the harvest x5: chocolate gingerbread

I'm into my final wedding stretch of the year - two left in the next two weeks and then I'm done for months. No more travel itineraries or rental cars, no sparkly shoes and matching earrings. I've seen southern weddings and midwestern weddings and high-altitude weddings and am adding South Jersey and North Carolina this month. But even though my real weddings are almost done for the season, I can sneak away whenever I want and click click click through layers of taffeta and piles of letterpress invitations. It's kind of my out-of-the-kitchen guilty pleasure (and let's face it, any girl who tells you it's not fun is downright lying).

I mean look at THIS!

{photo via Style Me Pretty}

And I mean, pulled pork sliders?! This is a couple after my own heart.
There's so much deliciousness that surrounds weddings it's almost too much to handle... almost.

{photo via Style Me Pretty}

This weekend I'm wearing a chocolatey brown harvest dress. With pink shoes. So this week's harvest recipe? Chocolate gingerbread that turned out the same color as my J.Crew a-line.


Chocolate Gingerbread
adapted from Lara Ferroni

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
6 oz. plain greek yogurt
1/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F and line full sized loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Mix in the yogurt and molasses. Add the flour mixture and mix just until you get a smooth batter. Fold in the chocolate chips being careful not to overmix.

Bake until a cake tester comes clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the harvest x4: pumpkin chocolate chunk muffins

Do you ever feel that life is passing by a mile a minute and you can't seem to reach out and grab hold of it before it's passing you by again? Like you have to remember to breathe and take long showers and put creamy lotion on your feet before you go to bed and do all of those luxurious things that you should be doing anyway but easily forget about?

Lately I've been doing 4 things: working, eating, drinking wine, and running. The first isn't an option because I need to pay my ridiculous NYC rent each month. The second is required for survival despite the fact that I could probably live off of my thighs for the next month if I didn't eat. The third is a side-effect of the first two and I haven't been shy about it lately. And the last one is a must if I want to smile after I cross the finish line next month.

Did I tell you I'm running the Philadelphia Half-Marathon on November 21st? No? Well, I'm running the Philadelphia Half-Marathon next month like I do every November and I've been a running fool the past few weeks getting myself whipped into shape. So between working, eating and drinking with friends and running there hasn't been time for much else.

But this past weekend I reminded myself to breathe deeply, I took a hot shower after my long Sunday run (sorry, Earth) and even put expensive lotion on my feet before I went to bed. And it felt great. Really great. Mental note: add in all of the above somewhere between working and eating and drinking and running. It feels awesome.

The one thing I have consistently fit into the schedule the past few weeks has been the Harvest celebration. I mean, before we know it it's gonna be 30 degrees and leaves will be crackling under our feet instead of dangling in shades of autumn above our heads. And it's almost November, can you believe it? November!

To slow down the time a bit I put together some Harvest muffins for a treat. I brought them into work and even though they are a snap to make, my co-workers said they might be the best thing I've ever brought in. Ever? Forever-ever? Maybe they're Harvest-starved.

But they are delicious, and the word muffin doesn't even work for these. A muffin implies a breakfasty-pastry-thing, and these... these are divine. Don't think about it too hard, just make them and enjoy the "best-ever" comments from those lucky enough to get a bite.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Adapted from Cooking On The Side

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Heat oven to 350 F.

Grease muffin tin, or use foil or paper baking cups.

Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

Break eggs into another bowl. Add pumpkin and melted butter, and whisk until blended. Stir in chocolate chunks. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Makes 12 regular muffins.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the harvest x3: pumpkin roll

Ok, I think I lost some of you with the Betty Crocker post. I know, it was kinda amateur hour. But it was late on a Sunday? That's my only excuse.

Today's Harvest post comes from somewhere slightly (?) less lame but equally bizarre. Each Thursday my office distributes the week's People magazine. I know the People brand is as old as the hills and a success benchmark for all other celebrity/lifestyle weekly magazines, but it's never been my favorite (then again I don't read US Weekly or Life & Style either, just not so much my thang).

So I flip through each week to see what everyone's wearing and catch the occasional glimpse of K-Stew and R-Patz - and then pass it along to my celeb-loving friends (read: bf).

Last week as I was flipping I came across a recipe which lead to me haggardly ripping out the page before anyone caught me in the act. Because it was a recipe in People magazine. And it was by Kristin Chenoweth.

You know her as Glinda the Good Witch from Wicked or Fran from Promises, Promises but I know her as pint-sized, Mr. Schue-crazed, alcoholic April Rhodes from Glee. It's one of my favorites (Rocky Horror next week OMGGG!!!!) and I couldn't pass up her recipe for her Mom's harvesty Pumpkin Roll.

Despite the odd-ball instructions (roll in a tea towel?) I figured if Kristin could do it so could I and I gave it a shot the other night. My jelly-roll pan is about as small as she is so my roll turned out on the thick side but it was delicious nonetheless, and perfect for a Harvesty night.

Plus, EVERYONE loves cream cheese frosting. Everyone, I tell you! My roll turned out just like the People photo and it would be the perfect hostess gift for a Harvesty gathering - the cut rounds of cake are just so swirly and divine!

Moral of the story is: don't be ashamed of your recipe. As we know, some A-listers like to bake (and cook and make ice cream), and if they can do it so can we!

Pumpkin Roll
by Kristin Chenoweth via People

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice

Sift together:
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp. butter
6 oz. cream cheese
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease and flour 15 x 10 x 2 inch jelly roll pan. Line pan with wax paper.

Beat eggs at high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually add sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice.

Fold sifted ingredients into pumpkin mixture. Spread batter into pan and sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven. Let cake sit in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on a clean tea towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Peel off wax paper. While cake is still warm, roll up in towel, lengthwise.

Beat filling ingredients until smooth. When cake is cool, unroll and spread with filling. Re-roll (without towel), cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
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