Meringue ghosties

October 26, 2011

So we have a Halloween dessert potluck at our homeschool co-op tomorrow. I had planned on making owl cookies, but it turned out we were out of butter (what? shocking, I know! I always assume that I have several pounds of butter in the freezer).

“Let’s just make meringues,” I said. Mostly thinking that cookies that are more-or-less two ingredients would simplify my life. And thinking that I maybe don’t care if they’re not actually Halloween-themed (confession: Halloween is not my favorite holiday).

“Yeah!” said Eli. “And let’s stick on little chocolate chips and make them into ghosts!”

Well, yes! Let’s! Suddenly these were going to be even better and more Halloween-themed than the owl cookies, even.

You can see that everyone was very, very serious about sticking on the chocolate chips. You can see that it is not actually that easy to fashion meringue into a ghost shape using a pastry bag. But! They do look appropriately spooky. As long as your definition of “spooky” is “tilting, haphazard ghoulish-type figures.”

If you’re in any sort of situation where you need to make Halloween goodies, I recommend these. Just make any old meringue recipe, glob the stuff into ghost shapes, and stick on mini chocolate chips. Easy.

In other news, am I the only person who continually mixes up the spelling of meringue and merengue? Maybe these are dancing ghosts, doing the meringue merengue.

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CATEGORIES: baking, holidays

Children’s Book of the Week: My A to Z Recipe Box

March 1, 2010

My A to Z Recipe Box by Hilary Karmilowicz, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Ok, so this week’s book isn’t actually a book, but it’s still worth recommending. Henry got this recipe box for his second birthday, and he still loves it. It’s fairly self explanatory: a recipe box, with 26 recipes, one for every letter. Each recipe is illustrated by Maine’s own Melissa Sweet, and is straightforward as far as ingredients and directions.

For a long, long time, Henry mainly liked to lay the cards out in a grid on the floor and then put them back into the box in order. But as he’s gotten older, he has gotten more into the actual recipes. We’ve probably made half of them, and all have been good. I like that they are kid-friendly recipes but aren’t all cookies. The Nifty Asian Noodles have become a standard dinner for us, and we make the Whole Wheat Pretzels on a semi-regular basis as well.

This is a perfect birthday gift for anyone from age 4 on up (especially if you give it with some little wooden spoons or a whisk or something). I actually have a new one of these on my Gift Shelf in case there’s a birthday party and we forgot to get a gift. Kids seem really satisfied to put the cards in alphabetical order, and also very happy to choose a recipe to make. I haven’t yet let Henry loose in the kitchen all by himself, but I think it might happen soon, and these recipes will be perfect for that.

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Our Go-To Cookies: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

February 24, 2010

While we do certainly make a lot of cookies here, and we try to go for variety, if we’re wanting some cookies now, we make these chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. They were originally from an “Everyday Food” magazine, I think. My mom gave me the recipe. I can’t find it online.

Here’s what I do know: they’re flourless, and butterless. They mix up so quickly that I’m often waiting for the oven to preheat fully when the cookies are ready to go in. And they make one batch of cookies — that is, two cookie-sheets-full, which is a nice small size, so you’re not overwhelmed with cookies, or with spending an hour at the stove swapping out cookie sheets (of course, sometimes I want to be overwhelmed with cookies, but that’s a different story). But these are, without a doubt, the cookies we make most often.

Here is my slightly-adapted recipe:

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 350, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup chunky peanut butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. salt until well combined. Stir in 3/4 cup chocolate chips.

2. With moistened hands, roll dough, about 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, into balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on two baking sheets.

3. Bake until cookies are golden and puffed, 12 to 14 minutes (rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking). Cool 5 minutes on sheets, and then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.

CATEGORIES: baking

Cranberry Buckle

February 16, 2010

As soon as I saw Elizabeth’s post about making Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb, I had to make it. I innocently put cranberries on the grocery list, only to be told at the store that cranberry season was over and would not be back until next year. But by then I was obsessed with this buckle, as well as a cranberry nut bread recipe I saw in Cook’s Illustrated. I finally found some cranberries at another grocery store, and bought seven bags to stick in the freezer.

If you have done the same, I highly recommend making this buckle. It was amazing, and you end up with excess vanilla crumb (oh happy circumstance!) which I put in the freezer and have been throwing on top of muffins. If you don’t have any cranberries, I think this would also be amazing with frozen raspberries.

(P.S. The recipe is for a 9-inch square baking pan, which I don’t have. I made it in a deep-dish pie tin.)

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CATEGORIES: baking

Random Product Endorsement: Architec Mixing Bowls

February 3, 2010

Recently I found myself with mixing bowl issues. For years we used the glass nesting bowls from Williams-Sonoma. They’re pretty and there are ten of them, so you’ve got all the sizes you need. They were great, until they started breaking. I guess at some point they just had too much wear or something, and started shattering. They’re made of tempered glass, which means that, when they break, they break into 3 billion one-centimeter-square pieces. Two of them had already broken when, last fall, the boys were at Sutswana’s and Zuzu was napping, and I was happily cleaning up the kitchen, when all I did was pick up one of the bowls from the dish rack and it exploded all over me. So I spent my two hours of kid-free bliss cleaning up tiny glass shard squares from all over the kitchen. I’d had enough.

I found some colorful plastic Kitchenaid bowls at Target, but the first set got oddly discolored after three uses, and the second set broke when I dropped one (isn’t the whole point of a plastic bowl that it doesn’t break?), and I won’t return something more than twice.

FINALLY, I found these great Architec bowls at Le Roux. They are much thicker plastic than the Kitchenaid ones are, but, even better, they’re actually sort of sculpturally interesting and attractive. When they’re all nested they look a bit like a flower about to bloom. I’ve been using them for about 6 weeks now, and I love the size and the shape. Perfect! And no more glass bits all over the kitchen and in my hair, thank you very much.

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CATEGORIES: baking

I know I’m big, but…

January 28, 2010

Yesterday a woman said to me, “Any day now, huh?” and I had to swallow and smile and say, “I’ve got four more months!” She totally backtracked and said something about, “Oh, but you’re gorgeous!” and it was all I could do not to say, “Yeah, whatever, shut up, lady.” (Instead I very diplomatically said, “Well, it is the fourth kid.”)

In other news, today is Dave’s birthday, and I’ve got the carrot cake from Smitten Kitchen baking in the oven. Once again I am Good Wife adding walnuts and raisins to a baked good, because I know he wants them.

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CATEGORIES: baking, Julie

Signs of the Times

December 21, 2009

Cookie baking aftermath:

About to watch “Charlie Brown Christmas”:

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CATEGORIES: baking, holidays

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

October 21, 2009

I always (over-indulgently) let the kids choose what kind of birthday cake they want. This year Henry picked “blueberry cake with chocolate frosting” which sent me in a bit of a panic. I mean, that’s not usually something you see, and I wasn’t really feeling like I had the time to invent a recipe and try out several iterations (or give a bunch of 6-year-olds an untested made-up cake).

When I was scouring the internet for recipes, I ran into a few for blueberry lemon pound cake, which sounded so good, and also sounded like something that Henry would really, really love. So I did what any normal mom would do and dropped major hints that blueberry lemon pound cake would be better than cake with chocolate frosting, and Henry agreed.

Henry’s party was fun, I guess. Somehow 6-year-olds are a whirling mass of early sassiness and competing emotional needs, and parts of the party were a bit of a drama fest. By the time we got to cake, I was so tensed up that I robotically cut hugely enormous pieces for each kid, until Dave caught me (and saw his available cake portion rapidly diminishing) and squawked, “What are you DOING?” Yeah, a kid doesn’t need a 4-inch piece. Whatever.

I will say that it was delicious cake, and made even better because, just as we started to make it, our neighbor magically appeared with a huge container of blueberries he’d just picked from the giant blueberry bush in his yard. You make the cake in a bundt pan, and then brush it with sugary lemon syrup afterwards. (Sugary lemon syrup: that’s probably all you need to know.)

Next year: no party, maybe. If we can get away with it. Might just go to Storyland instead, or something.

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake (from epicurious.com)

For the cake

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3 cups picked over blueberries, tossed with 1 1/2 tablespoons flour

For the syrup

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Make the cake:
In a small bowl whisk together the milk, the eggs, and the vanilla. Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter with the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, and the zest until the mixture is light and fluffy, add the flour mixture alternately with the egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating the batter after each addition until it is just combined, and fold in 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries. Spoon one third of the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (3-quart) bundt pan, spreading it evenly, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining blueberries over it. Spoon half the remaining batter into the pan, spreading it evenly, and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining blueberries over it. Spoon the remaining batter into the pan, spreading it evenly, sprinkle the remaining blueberries over it, and bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until it is golden and a tester comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, poke the top immediately all over with a wooden skewer, and brush it with half the syrup. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, invert it onto the rack, and poke it all over with the skewer. Brush the cake with the remaining syrup.

Make the syrup while the cake is baking:
In a small saucepan combine the lemon juice and the sugar, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, and remove the pan from the heat.

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CATEGORIES: baking

Hello, chocolate black pepper cookies!

October 7, 2009

These are my new favorite Birthday Present cookies (based solely on the fact that I’ve given them to both Scott and Stacey on their birthdays). Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies: YUM. Dark cocoa, espresso powder, black pepper in the dough and then a sprinkle on each cookie, and crunchy turbinado sugar along the edge. They are a masterpiece of flavor and texture. Really.

And my new favorite way to package them is to take an empty oatmeal canister and wrap it in wrapping paper, and then stack the cookies inside. So much nicer than trying to load them onto a plate and mess with plastic wrap. Or load them into a plastic bag and pretend that’s at all gifty.

Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling
  1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.
  3. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Roll log in the parchment. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove log from parchment paper. Let soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Roll log in sanding sugar, gently pressing down to adhere sugar to dough. Transfer log to a cutting board, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle each round with freshly ground pepper.
  5. Bake cookies until there is slight resistance when you lightly touch centers, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.
CATEGORIES: baking

Children’s Book of the Week: All in Just One Cookie

September 14, 2009

All in Just One Cookie by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Timothy Bush

This is the book I’ve been looking for! At the beginning of the summer, when I was assembling the Summer Jar, I had the idea of doing things like baking cookies, but learning while we did it, mostly learning about food chemistry and how cookies become cookies. I actually looked around for some adult food chemistry books, but didn’t find anything useful. And there, all along, in our library, was this book, which was exactly what I had in mind.

All in Just One Cookie is about Grandma, her researching cat, and her hungry dog, who are making chocolate chip cookies. With each ingredient added, the cat and dog find out where the ingredient comes from, how it is harvested, and what it does for the cookie. There’s even a bit about how dogs and cats can’t eat chocolate. The kids were totally enthralled with the story of what makes a cookie, and I actually learned some stuff myself (like where baking soda comes from).

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