Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dream Lemon Raspberry sandwich cookies

The other night I woke up from a very vivid dream. I usually can only remember bits and pieces of dreams, but this was super clear and detailed. I dreamed that I ate the best lemon raspberry cookie in the world. It was a sandwich cookie, two lemon cookies with raspberry jam in between. The cookie itself was rustic and imperfect, but it was the most delicious thing ever. In my dream, I shared it with my parents, who didn't think it was anything special. But I knew they were wrong.

So I awoke with a mission: to make the cookie of my dreams! All I really needed was lemons and raspberries, since I had all the staples to make cookies. I scoured the internet for a recipe that resembled my dream cookie, but couldn't really find anything. It wasn't a cut out cookie, it was more of a drop cookie. I finally found a recipe I could adapt, from David Leibovitz's book Ready for Dessert. His is an orange poppy seed cookie with raspberry jam filling.

So I swapped the orange zest for lemon and omitted the poppy seeds. This cookie dough is super buttery. The original recipe says to roll it out, but it was too soft for that, so I just scooped it into balls and rolled them evenly. Then I pressed them flat onto cookie sheets, making mostly uniform disks.

While baking, it was hard to tell when the cookies were done, because they were so soft. I removed one and tested it to tell for sure.

After cooling, I sandwiched raspberry jam that I bought between two cookies. Not too much jam, so it wouldn't squish out. The first bite had a lot riding on it! They were delicious. Super lemony and soft, with a hint of raspberry. I could have used more jam to up the flavor.

I'm not sure they were the cookies of my dreams, but they were super tasty and delicious. I made 10 sandwiches, and my husband had eaten 5 by the end of the day. I call that a success. I think I'll continue trying to make the perfect lemon raspberry cookie, but this was a great start.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am constantly on a quest to make the best chocolate chip cookies. It's my husband's favorite treat and there's so many different ways to make it. Crispy, Chewy, Cakey, with nuts.... the possibilities are endless!

So when I found a recipe online for brown butter chocolate chip cookies I decided to give it a go. Half the butter is browned, meaning melted in a pot and let boil until it turns a rich caramel color. After a little cooling, it's ready to use in the recipe.

These turned out great! Chews and crisp along the edges and nutty from the brown butter. It really lends a great depth of flavor to the cookies. They're not too sweet, the perfect texture, a big hit!

But, since I never leave good enough alone, I decided to jazz them up a bit. So I dipped them in melted chocolate, then sprinkled them with fleur de sel and......Bacon! Chopped up cooked bacon. Yup.

I only had enough chocolate to dip about half the cookies, but they were so rich and decadent that you really can't eat too many. Wow. These were sooooooo good! Successful experiment for sure.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blueberry Pie Day

So Monday was National Blueberry Pie Day. Who knew there were so many food holidays? It inspired me to make blueberry pie cupcakes, although I wasn't able to actually make them until the next day.

I recently bought a new cookbook, Trophy Cupcakes & Parties, from Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle. Although I've never been to their bakery, I've been a fan for a while. Since they have a recipe in the book for blueberry pie cupcakes, I could try a new recipe while celebrating a food holiday. Two in one!

This is a multiple step recipe with many components. Pie crust, blueberry pie filling, vanilla cupcakes and vanilla frosting. Fortunately, I had leftover pie dough in the fridge, so I just rolled it out and baked it. I also had blueberries in the freezer, so I used those for the filling.

Their vanilla cupcake recipe is different, there's a lot more sugar in it than I'm used to. The texture of the cupcakes was a little unusual. It took longer for them to bake, they were pretty raw in the middle for a while. There's also a disk of baked pie crust at the bottom of each cupcake, before you pour in the batter.

The frosting recipe was even more unusual. 6 sticks of butter!!!! I didn't have that much butter so I halved the recipe and it was the perfect amount to frost 24 cupcakes.

Cupcakes baked, cored, filled and frosted! I of course turned to my taste-tester, Jason, to bite into the first one. The crust and filling were perfect. I'm still not pleased with the texture of the cupcake, and the frosting is super rich. It was so warm in my house that I had to chill them or the frosting would melt.

Overall, a fun challenge, but I think I'll stick to my tried and true vanilla cupcake recipe in the future.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Happy Pretzel Day!

Today is National Pretzel Day. Ever since I traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest, I've been obsessed with Bavarian soft pretzels. In Germany, they are huge and crusty and delicious! Perfect to soak up all the beer.

Me and Carrie with a pretzel the size of our heads!

I've had a hard time finding anything that even comes close to Bavarian pretzels in the US, so I've had to make my own. I was never pleased with my results, until I found this book: Pretzel Making at Home. 

I even got to meet the author and watch her shape pretzels at a book signing. I immediately ran home and tried to make my own. It turns out, to make super authentic pretzels with a brown crust, you need food grade lye. There's simply no other way to get the same results any other way. For those of us who cant find or don't want to use lye, the book offers a decent substitute: baked baking soda.

To make soft pretzels, after making the dough and shaping it, you boil the twists in the lye solution for a minute before baking them. That develops the crust.

You can top them with whatever you want, salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, herbs, cheese, cinnamon, whatever! I prefer savory pretzels. With spicy mustard. Or hot cheese sauce. Yummmmmm.

So anytime I have an uncontrollable desire for a Bavarian pretzel, I can either fly to Munich or make them myself at home. Either way, pretzels are a delicious anytime treat. Happy Pretzel Day!

John and Carrie devouring a pretzel after many beers

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pie Social and chocolates

Sunday was the 2nd annual Pie Social, a competition to benefit the San Francisco Community School. There's a band, pie tasting, and lots of auction items. The judges are all local experts from the food industry.

The Verdi Club ballroom

I entered last year and it was a lot of fun! Although I didn't win, I did make it into the top ten. So I figured I'd give it a try again this year. I baked my go-to favorite pie, Bourbon chocolate chip pecan, with an added twist: bacon! I used both cooked chopped bacon in the filling, as well as bacon fat instead of butter. It gives such a smoky, salty flavor that complements the sweet filling well. I also added a bit of maple syrup. Yum!

my pie: Bourbon Bacon Pecan
Pie tasting- over 30 varieties!

We arrived at the Verdi Club to enter in my pie, actually 2 pies, one for the judges and one for tasting. The event had a band, refreshments, auction items to bid on, and lots of pie! There was actually another entry just like mine. And I thought I was being so original!

The judges hard at work
Slicing up all those pies!

I'll be honest, since this is a fundraiser for a school, there were tons of kids running around like crazy. I wasn't such a fan of that, so we spent most of the time outside. I just wanted to know who won! So after a lot of waiting, I went to check on the results, and they had already announced the winners, and I wasn't one of them. Too bad! I think I'll stick to cupcake competitions in the future.

After it was over, we explored the neighborhood a bit. We found a cute chocolate shop and factory, Charles Chocolates. They offer tours and tastings during the week, but we just bought some chocolates to take home. And a meyer lemon pate de fruit that I ate right there in the shop.

They were all so cute and delicious! We got a honey bunny, a fleur de sel caramel, an espresso ganache, and a passion fruit heart, my favorite. We also bought a bag of hazelnut truffles to share with our friends. Super yummy! I love discovering new treats, and I'll definitely go back for the tour soon. So even though I didn't win the pie contest, I still went home with a prize.

Friday, March 28, 2014

King cupcakes

The other day, my friend asked me to make cupcakes for her company, King.  I've made King cupcakes before, but those were of the Mardi Gras variety. These are different. These are for the company's IPO! We all know King for its games, most famously, Candy Crush Saga. It's super fun and addicting. I've been thinking about making Candy Crush cupcakes, so this is a good introduction for me.

I made one dozen vanilla gluten free cupcakes, topped with yellow frosting, orange sprinkles, and the King logo. I thought they turned out quite well! And everyone at the company loved them.

To make the logos, I used yellow candy melts to pipe the design. I first printed out a scaled version of the logo, then placed it under a sheet of wax paper so I could trace it. Worked like a charm, once I got the candy melts to the proper consistency. While it was still wet, I sprinkled orange sanding sugar on top, since the company's colors are orange and yellow. Then I let them dry, and placed them on top of each cupcake.

To make the cupcakes gluten free, I used Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour. I found it at Whole Foods! It was super easy, and really is a cup for cup substitute. The consistency of the batter is a little different, but the end result is still light and fluffy.

This was a fun challenge and I got to practice my piping skills. Maybe now I'll be inspired to tackle a more complex cupcake. Or maybe I'll just go back to playing Candy Crush.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Macaron Day!

So, today is apparently national macaron day. You know I'm a sucker for any food holiday, so I of course made macarons! Now, I've tried many times to make these little suckers, with varying results. They're so beautiful in pastry shop displays, so perfect and jewel-like, that I strive to make them at home. But so far, no luck.

Biscoff and lingonberry jam macarons

Not satisfied with the results, I kept looking for a better recipe. Most have you "cure" the piped macarons before baking them. It's usually a lot of work. So when I came across a new recipe from none other than my favorite Martha Stewart, I was intrigued. The cover of the March issue of Living magazine was stunning, so I was determined to try. And what do you know, perfect! I literally squealed when I opened the oven door. The recipe was easy and effective. Leave it to Martha! I kept it simple and made vanilla shells and filled them with either Biscoff or lingonberry jam. So perfect I will always use this recipe from now on.

Biscoff and lingonberry jam macarons

I've also made the Bouchon Bakery recipe three or four times, with varying results each time. Usually at least half of the batch comes out cracked. Still delicious, but not so pretty.  It's frustrating to follow the exact same instructions and get different results.

hazelnut macarons- apparently I like stacking them
vanilla macarons

However, the macarons at Bouchon Bakery are exquisite! Bigger than most, and in so many fun flavor combinations, they're always churning out new and exciting options. They even enrobe them in chocolate!

I like to try macarons at different local pastry shops, and Tout Sweet is one of the best. Since they're pretty pricey, I usually just get one or two with a cappuccino or cup of tea. It's the perfect mid-afternoon treat.

salted caramel and Earl Grey macarons

No matter if you make them at home or buy them in a shop, macarons are a wonderful indulgence. And they're often gluten (and guilt)- free!