Sunday, May 15, 2011

on hiatus

It's time to admit the obvious - I'm on hiatus from Baking Therapy. I appreciate all of you guys too much to pretend each week that I'm going to get my act together and back to posting. The truth is it's just not happening right now. I haven't had the time or the gusto to make any delicious sweets or treats lately.

So until future notice, I'm living in a world of taffeta and chiffon with wedding planning vs. flour and brown sugar.

I'll be back so this isn't the end... just an "until then" :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

molto bene: easter sweets with maria sanchez

If you live in the Waterbury, CT area and have Italian-American blood in your veins, you've probably been noshing on frosted lemon italian cookies and biscotti from Sweet Maria's for a while (if you're lucky). For the rest of you: meet Maria Bruscino Sanchez, owner and baker at Sweet Maria's bakery. After a short career in the advertising industry, Maria followed her dream and opened a bakery in her hometown - pretty inspiring (and relevant) for a girl like me!

So this weekend, future MIL and I dropped by The Kitchen at Middlebury Consignment for an Italian Easter Sweets class lead by Maria herself. What we found was a beautifully updated kitchen filled with Italian ladies eager to learn from a master. And a list of yummy treats waiting to be sampled.

The topic was "Easter Sweets" but in 29 years of Easter celebrating, I've never had Italian meat or rice pie. But... OMG praise Jesus that I'm marrying into the Italian way of things! I could eat both of these and nothing else for 40 days and never want anything else - and that's saying something.

The Italian Rice pie is the delicious result of rice pudding getting frisky with tiramisu in a dark alley. It's creamy and rich with the texture of rice and the spice of cinnamon. And the Easter Meat Pie is meaty and cheesy with crust that goes for days. We ate it at room temperature but I'd love to try it warm. Imagine a quiche on steroids with two kinds of cheese and three types of cured meat. Salivating yet?

OK, are you now??

Many many thanks to Sweet Maria for sharing her secrets - now make this yourself! Your Easter guests will thank you, I promise. And let's just say I'm looking forward to Easter dinner at MIL's this year to continue my Italian culinary education :)

Pizza Piena (Easter Meat Pie)

8 eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta (preferably whole milk)
1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano
3/4 lb. am (diced small)
3/4 lb. prosciutto (diced small)
1/4 lb. salami (diced small)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. black pepper

4 eggs
1/3 cup shortening, melted, then cooled
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Make crust. Beat eggs and cooled shortening. Add salt and pepper and 1 1/2 cups flour. Knead to make a soft, not sticky dough. If dough is sticky, add additional flour. Cover and set aside.

Make filling. Beat eggs, ricotta, pecorino Romano. Add chopped meat, parsley, and black pepper.

Reserve 1/4 of the crust dough. Roll out 3/4 of the crust dough like a pie crust. Place into a 9-inch springform pan. Pour in filling.

Roll out remaining crust. Cut into strips. Layer strips over filling in a lattice pattern. Crimp edges of crust all around.

Bake 1 hour and 15-20 minutes, or until center is set. Cool pie in pan 3-4 hours or overnight.

Refrigerate and cut into pieces.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

OMG: spaghetti bolognese

HTB* and I are still getting into our suburban routine. For us that means pick-ups at the Metro North train station, taking turns walking the Grizz,** and maneuvering weeknight dinner duty - among other things. I absolutely have new respect for commuters who cook dinner after a full day, do homework with their kids, run a load of laundry, kiss their husbands and get up in the morning ready (and willing) to do it all over. I can barely stay awake on the train home and HTB has gone a couple weeks without a real make-out. Poor guy.

And just to remind me how much I love him, last Thursday I came home after a long day to the most incredible smell in our house. I may have told you that HTB comes from an Italian American family, but that fact alone does no Mario Batali make. In fact, dating in the culinary capital of the States, he never had a chance to woo me with his culinary ways... but OMG. Complex flavor with a robust red wine taste, and still light enough to be scooped with a crusty warm baguette. I mean, restaurant quality! I guess HTB was telling the truth about sweating olive oil and bleeding marinara. Lucky me :)

*HTB = Hubs-to-be
**the Grizz = 3-year old Cockapoo princess
Caveat: the following recipe is to me what "F-me boots" are to college guys. Make it immediately - but beware of the inevitable food baby to follow.

Spaghetti Bolognese
adapted from Rocco Dispirito's Rocco's Italian-American

1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground beef
3 tbsp. extra-vigin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, rinsed and diced
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 glass red wine
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups chicken stock
salt and red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti (or orecchiette when you have it as leftovers)

In a stockpot, over high heat, brown the meat in the olive oil. Lower the heat and add everything else, except the pasta and the cheese, cover, and simmer 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt when it begins to simmer. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, drain, and toss it in the pot with the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the cheese.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

comeback: peanut-butter surprises

I know, you're surprised. But I'm back! It was a long hiatus (actually the longest in Baking Therapy history), but it was much needed. I had an engagement to celebrate, a fiance to play with and a new home to warm. Plus a new commute to figure out. But the fiance is happy, the house is sizzling (photos to come soon!) and I'm a master of Grand Central. So it was time to pull the standing mixer and return to the baking state of mind.

I knew it would be a shock to see Baking Therapy pop up on your newsfeed, so I chose Martha's Peanut-Butter Surprises for my comeback. What's better than a current Baking Therapy post and a burst of peanut butter inside double chocolate cookies?? Maybe a supercute 1890's farmhouse and sunny skies all weekend... but we already got that :)

These. are. chocolatopia in your face. With a splash of pb. And a side of happiness wrapped in deliciousness.

Peanut-Butter Surprises

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully combined between additions. Add vanilla, beat to combine. Gradually add dry ingredients; mix on low speed until fully combined. Add chocolate chips, mix on low speed just until combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; chill until firm, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl using a rubber spatula, stir together peanut butter and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Drop 1 tbsp. of dough at a time onto baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2-inches apart. Make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie. Fill thumbprint with 2 tsp. peanut butter mixture. Top with a second tablespoon of flattened dough. Carefully mold dough to cover the surprise.

Bake until firm, about 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Oh! Oh hi!! Friends it's been too long! I know it has. But I have an excuse. (well, two)

First, you know I'm moving. So I've been busy packing and purging... and packing more.

But the better excuse is...

I'm engaged!!!!!

Bf did it last weekend, completely shocking me and pulling off a surprise engagement party with all of our closest friends and family. Can you believe it?! Isn't he the cutest??

We're just over the moon and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

So, needless to say there's no recipe today (my kitchen is in boxes!), but hang with me and give me a week to move in and unpack. I promise great things in the Connecticut kitchen!

In the meantime, I can't stop smiling :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

chili, bands and beer: NYChiliFest 2011

Tonight was a true test of stomach capacity. It was NYC's biggest chili festival - with dozens of NYC's best restaurants serving up their finest and competing for the ultimate prize: the golden chili cup. All proceeds went to Food Systems NYC, but we didn't need the charity excuse to stuff our faces full.

We checked in to get a bowl and spoon and then set off to find our fill of chili and Brooklyn Brewery beer inside Chelsea Market. With 2 dozen chili stations and a couple thousand hungry patrons it was chaos for a while as mugs and spoons clinked together searching for the next ladleful. But we pushed our way through to make the most of the "unlimited" experience and OMG.

Chili. Coma.

I think in the end I had about 14 helpings. 14. Helpings of chili. But I had to try them all (well, most of them)! And they were only about an ice cream scoop-ful, we're not talking full bowls here. So, that's fine, right..?

My favorites:

And the very best of the night (in bf and my eyes): a dark, bbq-rich short rib chili from Fette Sau

Some surprising dislikes:
and the Food Network Test Kitchen

The biggest issue were the crowds (and the chili shoveling that ensued). We ate like it was our last meal and we were in the wild fighting lions for a fresh kill. But it was worth it! After all, there was live music and all the chili you could eat.

If you didn't make it this year, mark your calendars for 2012. We'll be back, and we might be throwing elbows next to you :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

blue: flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Ok, my fingers are blue. Some shade between blue jean blue and royal. Why? 'Cause there's no heat in my apartment. And it's in the teens outside. So.

I'm baking.


Oh and thanks for all the well wishes on my big move! Ya'll are so sweet - really. I know, I'm excited too. And yes, you can come over for dessert sometime around our new expands-to-be-90" dining room table. We'd love to have you for an evening in the country!

In the meantime I suppose it's fitting that my last few weeks in Manhattan are spent living like a true hardcore New Yorker (freezing in my pre-war brownstone, under 4 blankets, wearing sweatpants to bed).

Inspiration from tonight's recipe came after perusing Tastespotting and finding an unusual amount of flourless peanut butter cookie recipes. I heart flour and I was pretty skeptical of the results, but photos in the posts showed gorgeous puffy cookies. So I gave them a try.

How do cookies puff with no flour? Good question. But they did and OH MY they're sinfully good. If you have a peanut butter cup craving, trade in the Reese's for a homemade treat. These are deeeeeelightful!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Southern Living

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup Hershey kisses, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugars, egg, baking soda and salt and combine with a hand blender until mixed. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using a 2-tablespoon scoop, measure cookies to a baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time at 350 F for 10-12 minutes, or until puffed and edges are just brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool until firm.

OH! AND GO STEELERS! Super Bowl #7 here we COME!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

new digs: alexis cookies

It's been 10 days since my last post. 10! Miss Marla even called me out for leaving you hanging. And ya'll, I apologize sincerely... I just had to wait until all was final so I couldn't jinx it with an early slip. But papers are signed, checks have been exchanged and here is my news:

I'm trading my 300 square feet for 12o0! And trading the 88th Street kitchen closet for this:

Do you see that? Do you see that shiny silvery thing? IT'S A DISHWASHER. And that black thing on top of the cabinets? GRANITE COUNTER TOPS. Are you swooning?

I don't think I've ever shared the kitchen closet with you. For the past two years everything I've beaten, creamed, whipped, and baked for this blog has come out of a kitchen closet no bigger than a Port-O-John. But you get what you get (a brownstone apartment steps from Central Park) and you don't get upset - you just cook in 4 square feet. I even had (a couple) dinner parties! It's amazing what you can do with a kitchen closet when you put your mind to it.

The truth is I've been dreaming of the new place since we put the offer down, but it's bittersweet. 2/19 will mark my official departure from this island I've loved and called home for the past 6 years. Trading kitchens means I'm leaving the 212 for the 203 and becoming the very thing I've snubbed as a New Yorker... a commuter.

Don't worry, I'll be in the city every day for work and play! I'm terrified, overwhelmed, nervous and absolutely thrilled, but change is good and this one means bf and I get more of the quality time we've been missing. We're gonna be roommates :)

So the countdown is on! I'm so excited for the creative freedom the new kitchen will bring and can't wait to share it with you. In the meantime, tonight's recipe came from a friend whose cookie taste I trust. I'd never heard of Alexis Stewart's chocolate chip cookies but between her famous Mother and my friends enthusiastic thumbs up I had to give them a try.

The butter and brown sugar are intense but they really do make a perfect chocolate chip cookie. They're soft, chewy and crispy in all the right places - so if you can get past the calorie count they make a great treat! Give them a try for a tasty update on a classic. For now I'll be here. Packing and decorating the charming 1890's farmhouse I don't live in yet.

Alexis' Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Alexis Stewart

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 package semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini's)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Cream butter until smooth; add sugars and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet mixture. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop 2-3 tbsp. dough per cookie onto prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 8-10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets, and allow to cool on racks.

Monday, January 10, 2011

belated: pretzel salad

Well I have no idea how it's already January 10th, I just don't. A minute ago I was in an all-sequin dress for NYE (yes I was) and the next I'm speeding through Connecticut on the Metro North last Friday with feet of white stuff coming down around me.

Now it's January 10th, we've seen two Bachelor episodes, and we're staring a long weekend in the face. And in the middle of all that I'm on the cusp of some very exciting news :)

Hopefully I can spill the beans in the coming days but for now that's the teaser!

In the meantime, here's a much-belated recipe that was requested by Maris a few posts ago. This pretzel "salad" is a staple on my Mom's holiday table and I've grown to crave it over the years.

Salty, crunchy pretzels paired with sweet strawberries and cream make this a favorite. Serve it as an appetizer "salad" or dessert and your guests will love you for it!

Pretzel Salad
from "Favorite Recipes of Alabama Vocational Home Economics Teachers, 7th Edition"
recipe by Deborah G. Kidd, Benjamin Russell High School, Alexander City

2 cups thin pretzels, crushed
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp. sugar
8 oz. package cream cheese
2 10-oz. packages frozen strawberries
1 cup sugar
1 small carton Cool Whip
1 large package strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix pretzel crumbs, butter, and 1 tbsp. sugar. Pat into a 9" x 13" dish. Bake 8 minutes and cool.

Cream cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Stir in Cool Whip and spread on pretzel layer.

Combine Jell-O and boiling water. Stir in strawberries and mix well. Pour over cream cheese, sugar, and Cool Whip layer.

Refrigerate until top layer is congealed and ready to serve.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

HNY! the '10 highlights post

Well Happy New Year everyone! It's really hard to believe that 2010 is done and done (when will time slow down?) but I hope you celebrated the year last night and welcomed the new one in style with yummy food and drinks like me. Many drinks.

I thought about how to wrap up the year of Baking Therapy and got inspired by someone whose delicious blog I visit almost daily. Joanne is talented, hilarious, a NYC runner (!!) and one of the better food photogs around - if you haven't been reading, hop on over! Her post today featured her Eats Well With Others resolution and top 10 posts - and as I scrolled down (and started salivating) I agree there's no better way to recap the year.

So here it is. Baking Therapy's 2011 resolution - push my comfort zone and break into Bon Appetit Desserts (thanks J)!

And the top 10!

The year started off with some incredible soft pretzels that I need to make again soon. They're easy, fun to shape, and provide instant gratification when they pop out of the oven looking perfect. These would be great for a Super Bowl party served with some hot mustard or cheese spread!

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year since the best night of my life (aka my night with Dorie Greenspan). The randomness of this evening combined with the fact that I got to work alongside Dorie, baking Dorie's cookies, in Dorie's rented commercial kitchen, FOR FREE continues to astound me. New. York. Moment.

These were a really fun Baking Therapy creation for a friends Valentines Day party and though I won't take credit for the creative genius behind the concept I was pretty proud of myself and my little hearts. So cute! So easy! So impressive at a party :)

This was a Real Simple recipe I really adored, for its ease as well as its pretty final product. Potato and fresh rosemary makes this flatbread a light app or a filling meal depending on the size of the slice.

I'm convinced these cookies won me friendship with my boyfriend's closest girl friends, so for that I'm eternally grateful. Not only do I truly love the girls, but I love the cookies! I've made them several times since and each time they come out of the oven in chewy perfect rounds.

There are some foods that hit your tongue and make ever fiber in your body smile with the bright sun of summer. It doesn't get more summer than ripe peach pie and this recipe is a keeper - if I could make it in our beach house kitchen (read: oven which is only used to heat frozen pizza), it's a 10!

Well who could forget ice cream making with Blake Lively and Chace Crawford (i.e. the most-read Baking Therapy post EVER). It was fun, random, supported marginalized populations around the globe, and gave me starry eyes that lasted for days. AND! Thanks to Santa and my new KitchenAid Ice Cream Attachment (YAY) there will be ice cream in 2011. And it will be homemade.

And for the second most-read post of 2010: Kristin Chenoweth's Pumpkin Roll! It was part of my October pumpkin obsession and fun to make - next rolling recipe in line, chocolate roll cake with Hostess Ho Ho-inspired filling!

These croissants were a real coup for me. Light, layered, flaky, and YEAST! They were made with yeast! And they came out of the oven with French accents. I can't wait to try them again soon.

My only yeast loaf bread of the year and this challah turned out well enough to inspire brioche, rye and raisin bread to come in 2011. It's just so easy!

Ok! I hope this post (and my blog) has inspired you to break out the standing mixer once in a while. It's been a great year and I'm looking forward to lots more in 2011! Thanks as always for reading, for commenting, for emailing, and for making my 2010 one to remember.

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