Tag Archives: Baking

Rosewater frosting

20 Jun

May came and went. But, it was not for lack of things to do, people to celebrate, or events to remember.

The fifth month of the year immediately follows my mother-in-law’s birthday (and mine), and then it actually consists of our wedding anniversary (sometimes coinciding with Mother’s day), Christopher’s birthday, Mother’s day (often coinciding with my brother-in-law’s birthday that also happens to fall on our anniversary), and my own brother’s birthday, which also happens to land on the same day as my sweet little niece’s birthday.  Whew. Is your head spinning? Because mine does ever since I’ve been married. And the spinning increases with the years.

So, of all these celebrations, efforts and hearts seems to naturally focus on one special little girl’s day. It was, after all, her very first birthday.  Sweet Juliet turned one on May 23rd, and I was fortunate enough to have a very willing mommy ready and (dare I write?) eager to listen to my silly, elaborate crafty ideas.

Perhaps my favorite thing of all was the cake. Melissa, the proud mommy, baked three layers of perfect chocolate cake, and I piped on the pink frosting with a 1M tip. SO easy! And, the result was truly a happy one.

Rosewater Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

½ C butter (set at room temp about 10 minutes but still cool)
6 oz. cream cheese (directly from fridge)
4 C powdered sugar, organic
2-4 T rosewater
1 drop natural food coloring (I get mine at Whole Foods)

Directions:

Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly.
Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
Add powdered sugar and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy.
Slowly add the rosewater, a little bit at a time until desired consistency is met. Don’t add too much if you want the frosting to stay in place when piped onto cake.
Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Use at once or keep refrigerated. (This frosting will keep well in the refrigerator for several days, but you may need to re-beat it for the best texture.)

Happy frosting!

My Favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

4 Jun

Christopher and I try to be healthy. We really do. In fact our latest health craze has gotten us into a big intake of fruits and leafy greens. Our own jumping onto a green smoothie revolution wagon– and we’re taking as many people as we can on that journey.

I eat this way, so that I can feel light and energetic and happy. I also eat this way because I want to be able to indulge in new and old favorites without the guilt.

So, the other evening, I revisited a chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe I had spotted several months back on the Apple a Day blog, and I gave the cookie my own little organic, slightly experimental twist.

I try to use as little refined sugar as possible in my desserts, and lately the only sweeteners I have had stashed in my cabinet of baking goods have been maple syrup, raw honey, and organic, raw sugar. The last two especially bring back memories of my childhood with my paternal grandmother– the smells, sounds, and tastes of early mornings and peaceful, star-filled nights at my Nina’s ranch in Baja, California. “Mi Nina” was a beekeeper, one of her many trades, and she readily used honey in the kitchen and to treat scrapes and cuts.

But, every evening, she would sit at her kitchen table, pour herself some coffee, and ask me to pass the sugar. Grainy, brown-ish sugar. When I became an adult, I started seeing the stuff advertised as Turbinado or raw sugar, but I had always thought of it as “Mi Nina’s sugar.” You know, the unrefined Mexican stuff that most of us gringos wouldn’t dare touch with a ten-foot pole.

A few years ago, I started using it as a substitute for white sugar, and for this recipe I’ve used it exclusively– even instead of brown sugar.  The crunch added to this chewy cookie makes me feel so giddy. I hope you enjoy it as much as Atticus, Christopher, and I do.

My Favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients: 
3/4 C unsalted organic butter, softened
1 C organic, raw sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 C organic unbleached flour, sifted
1/3 C organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C organic semolina flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 C bittersweet chocolate chips
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Sugar crystals will still be visible. Add egg and extracts and blend.
Mix in flours, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.
With a  tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared, parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 7-8 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges.  (The tops will not brown, but do NOT bake longer than 9 minutes.)
Allow to cool 15-20 minutes on the baking sheet, then gently transport to cooling racks. Cookies will seem underdone, but they will be just perfect (at least for me) when completely cooled.
I would love to read about your favorite cookie recipes.
As always, happy eating!

Macaroon Nests

8 Apr

In 2010 a friend of mine asked me to prepare some baked goods for what she called a collaborative Mother’s Day boutique. It was an incredible amount of work; but, while the labor and the finances didn’t quite match up, I did end up with a very satisfying coconut macaroon recipe. At the time, I had scoured recipe upon recipe that I found on the internet and in my own collection of cookbooks, and here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate-dipped macaroons from 2010

I don’t like the idea of using anything artificial, and I continue to lean more and more to fresh, pesticide-free ingredients.
These almond-y mounds fit the bill and were a big hit with all us coconut freaks.

Earlier this month I decided that for Easter I would turn my macaroons into little nests, an idea that I had been toying with for over a year. It’s really a very logical next-step– I love all things bird-nest-like. Besides, coconut is the perfect edible nest ingredient.

I guess deep-down I knew that someone must have already thought of this, but I must admit that when I spotted the Coconut Macaroon Nutella Nests on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog, my heart sank ever-so-slightly.

Nutella nests. I secretly like mine better– no condensed milk! Also, the organic semi-sweet chocolate chips in my recipe solidify and make the job of transporting these cookies much less messy.

Luckily, I got over my heart break long enough to read the Two Peas & Their Pod recipe, decide I still preferred my original idea, and give this experiment a go, with 20 minutes to spare before our family Easter lunch.

Kosher Coconut Macaroon Nests

Place 3 chocolate chips in the center dimple of the nest before baking in a 350-degree oven until cookies are slightly golden. I like my macaroons to be tender.

Ingredients:

4 egg whites, large
3/4 c sugar, raw
3 c shredded coconut, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, enough to put 3 chips in each nest

1/3 c mini egg candies, I used Boston baked beans

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a cookie tray with parchment paper and light brushing (or spraying) of oil to prevent cookies from sticking.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites for 3 minutes, until stiff. Gradually add sugar and extracts. Continue to mix at low speed until raw sugar crystals are no longer obvious.
With a wooden spoon or spatula, blend the coconut with the egg white mixture. Use a tablespoon to create tightly packed mounds. Set mounds relatively close together on the cookie tray, about 1/2-inch apart. Remember, these cookies won’t spread in the oven.
Create dimples in the center of the mound with your index finger dipped in fresh water. Dip finger in water with each new dimple. (This should make your job less messy.)

Put 3 chocolate chips in the center, inside each ‘dimple.’
Bake for 7-12 minutes, until desired golden color.
Place tray on stove top and place 1-3 mini egg candies, using the melted chocolate chips as an adhesive.

Cool cookies completely in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Remove from freezer and allow cookies to sit at room temperature. Chocolate should be solidified at this point.

I am so happy with how these turned out. There’s no reason these nests should be confined to Easter use. I envision a spring or garden-themed birthday party and, of course, a baby shower.

Happy eating!

King Cake and Rosemary-Sage-Garlic Bread

21 Feb

(You’ll have to scroll waaay down for the Rosemary-Sage-Garlic bread entry)

Working with yeast can be frustrating. It is definitely time-consuming. And, ultimately, it should be wonderfully rewarding. Honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a piece of fresh-baked, heaven?

This Sunday, our kitchen was overrun with labels featuring semolina, all-purpose, active, and other such descriptions. I worked hard, but I had so much fun. It was as if I were in the dark room again, transfixed by the ritualistic process and reaping the rewards as images came to life right before my eyes. I will always look back on those days in the photo lab with nostalgia and idealism; however, I believe I have found a worthy substitute in the kitchen– baking yeast breads!

Atticus was so excited to watch the dough "grow bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until it got gigantic, enormous!"

My co-worker, Chrissy D’Amico is originally from New Orleans, and she is my inspiration for the first recipe. You may or may not know that tomorrow is Mardi Gras. It just so happens we are also celebrating two birthdays in our office with a pot luck. (Yes, well, you might groan, but hold off on that for now.) It wasn’t the first time we had talked about King Cake. Chrissy had explained that in New Orleans people eat King Cake on Mardi Gras, although it is originally eaten on January 6th to celebrate Epiphany, much like the Rosca de Reyes is in Spanish and Latin American traditions.

And so, I decided to attempt a King Cake. I had never before tried to bake or eat one. She suggested a Food Network recipe. As usual,  I read that recipe, then obsessively looked around for more until I found a satisfying combination. My recipe most closely resembles the Southern Living Magazine’s King Cake recipe.

Southern Living Magazine’s King Cake

I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for the bread; added 1/3 cup light cream cheese and orange rind to the filling;  substituted lemon rind for the yellow decorating sugar; and used a far less sweet cream cheese frosting for the glaze.

Like anything else, you can and should make this bread your own. Here is how it went for me:

Raw sugar and organic cinnamon for the filling

Orange rind for the cream cheese filling

I don’t usually advocate it, but punching can be fun.

King cake dough "before" and "after" rising

Punch the dough

 I think the process is rewarding enough, but I am strange that way.

Roll out to a 10-inch with, and as long as it can possibly go

 Any filling will do. Make it your own. Some people opt to use fruit fillings. Others use pecans.

Thin layer of cream cheese, orange rind, topped with cinnamon and sugar

Roll the dough and join both ends to form a giant ring. Don't forget to hide an almond, bean, or plastic baby at the bottom.

If you find the baby (or bean, as the case may be), you should throw the next party.

Rosemary-Sage-Garlic Bread

This yeast bread recipe is from a recent blog discovery– Alexandra’s Kitchen recently featured Rosemary Semolina Bread with Sea Salt from Seattle’s Macrina Bakery. The pictures in Alexandra’s blog are excellent and decidedly far too tempting.

I followed the recipe pretty well. I did, however, add roasted garlic cloves and shredded sage. Oh, and I brushed an egg wash with a sprinkling of water right before putting the bread in the oven, and repeated every five minutes during baking.

Just in case you are wondering– we could not stop eating this! Not one of us.

Roasted garlic to mix into the dough

One last thing– I made two very decent-sized coiled loaves. I don’t own a baking pan that would house either her original intention nor her actual execution of the shape.

This recipe calls for two different flours– all-purpose and semolina (or pasta) flour.

Pour the yeasty, bubbly, all-purpose batch into the grainy semolina mix.

I loved Alexandra's coil shape so much that I made two!

Happy baking and, as always, happy eating!

Emergency Heart Day Dessert: Buttermilk Pound Cake Muffins

15 Feb

We almost had an emergency on our hands yesterday.

Atticus, Christopher, and I (along with about three-quarters of the population, apparently) have been battling this mystery cold and flu for a few weeks now. Although Atticus and I are still functioning normally, Christopher has had the hardest time. I know that it’s because he does too much for us. He washes dishes, does the laundry, takes the little guy to school, and indulges my every whim. Oh, my. I’m started to feel kind of guilty.

I felt even worse when I received a phone call from Christopher on Valentine’s Day informing me that he was in the emergency room, under doctor’s orders. Without going into too much detail, I am relieved to report that an appendectomy scare turned out to be unfounded.

Basically, my multi-tasking husband has been ordered to rest and recover.

And, so I tried to take care of him the best way I know– I cooked and I baked.

I had had Mixed Bean and Lentil Soup with Roasted Butternut Squash on my mind anyhow, but now I needed  to think of a quick, comforting dessert. Something fool-proof. I remembered the batch of Brown Sugar Hot Fudge that I had prepared earlier with my mother-in-law’s treasured family recipe, so I swung by the market to pick up vanilla ice cream (Haagen-Dazs has a great five-ingredient ice cream, aptly named Five) and organic flour for my favorite pound cake recipe (also courtesy of my mother-in-law).

Brown Sugar Hot Fudge!

Usually, I’ll bake this perfect pound cake in a bundt pan, but that takes nearly one hour, so I decided to try something different to speed up the process– individual Buttermilk Pound Cake muffins! I got the idea when I spotted a box of so-called tulip baking cups in red, pink, and white.

Buttermilk Pound Cake

"Daddy, tell me a story." Atticus is simultaneously enjoying a muffin at the table and a story from Chris.

Ingredients:

2 c sugar ( I use raw unrefined sugar with great results)
1 c butter, room temperature
3 eggs

3 c cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream sugar, butter and eggs.
Slowly add flour mixture (with salt and soda), alternating with buttermilk about three (3) times, beginning and ending with flour.
Add flavor extracts.
Pour batter into muffin pan lined with tulip baking cups, almost to the top of the tin. The extra length on the baking cups should prevent spillage.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Under-baked is best with this recipe!

Pound Cake Muffins in Tulip Cups

If you use the traditional bundt pan for this recipe, be sure to grease or butter the pan liberally, dust with flour, and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Use a flour sifter or sieve to 'dust.'

May your days be filled with friendship, peace, and enough food to keep you going. Happy eating!
~ Isela, Christopher, and Atticus

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