November 26, 2010 § 2 Comments
First off, a huge, predictable and excited “it just started snowing here!” declaration. The only thing better than hat shopping in Paris is hat shopping in snowy Paris, because, you know, that makes your purchase all the more justifiable.
Secondly, another super excited announcement: This month, I was the host of Sugar High Fridays, an event started by Jennifer, the Domestic Goddess, wherein every month a blogger picks a theme and we all bake to it. I chose November’s theme which was “Desserts with a Hidden Surprise” and I am posting the roundup today!
I had some lovely contributions…delicious and elaborate cupcakes, cakes and even donuts, which I am sharing here today. Thank you to everyone who submitted something!
Mr. and Mrs. Swan Meet the Swans made Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes with a Cheesecake Truffle Surprise, topped with Pumpkin Pie Frosting and Sweet Cinnamon Sprinkle.
Lisa from Life From Here made Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling.
Ryan from Ryan is Baking made Peanut Butter Buttercream Filled Double Fudge Chocolate Cupcakes: rich dark chocolate cupcakes filled and frosted with a fluffy, creamy peanut butter buttercream and topped with chocolate sprinkles and half a Reese’s cup.
SilverMoon from Dragon Musings made Rainbow Cake for her daughter’s fifth birthday. It’s a white iced cake, with vibrant colours in the batter.
Sara from CaffeIna made bomboloni alla Nutella, Italian filled donuts.
Natalie from Seattle Lunchbox made banana-filled butterscotch cookies: classic cookie dough, but with warm, gooey banana and the sweetness of butterscotch.
Jackie Ruins the Cake made Pumpkin Rolls: It may not look very pretty, but it’s pumpkin and it has Nutella in it, therefore it is delicious.
Katie Rose from Level 2 Mommy made these homemade Hostess Cupcakes. The title says it all but they are chocolate cupcakes covered with chocolate ganache with a vanilla cream filling hidden inside.
Fun and Food Cafe made Chocolate Cake with Avocado Frosting: Layered Chocolate Cake is good, but unlike your regular cake, this one is a healthier alternative with a layer of Avocado frosting and slivered almonds adorning your chocolate cake. The frosting is so good, you’ll never guess it has Avocados!
For the challenge I made shortbread cookies with two different fillings: crushed pistachio with maple syrup and chocolate covered hazelnut. You can’t tell from the pictures what’s inside (I had to rush the cookies off to class) but that’s part of the point no?
October 9, 2010 § 1 Comment
I made something today (smiles). I don’t really know what to call it. I think that is the reason I am having such a hard time starting the paragraph. You see, I took the kilo of apples à cuire, which I purchased at the market for 1 euro, peeled them, loving how the skin came off easily in long curls, and tossed them in the stove pot. I took a couple spoonfuls of my leftover dulce de leche and a couple more of butter and added them to the pot. And hovered over it, smelling the air above it anxiously, as the mixture simmered and bubbled and boiled. I ate a cup of stewed apples then, just plain and simple, and set aside the pot while I prepared the shortbread.
I stood by the open window, looking out at the courtyard through the lacey curtains, my hands in the metal bowl, gently crumbling the cold butter into ground hazelnuts. When I felt the need for sweetness, I added an arbitrary cupful of sugar and a light drizzle of maple syrup. And then I padded the dough into a fluted tart shell, setting aside a quarter of it for the topping, brushed the top with the stewed apples and crumbled the remaining dough on top of it all. I had no idea, putting my creation in the oven, what it would result in. Would the apples soak through the shortbread? Would it cook through? Did I add enough flour? I had no idea beyond the feel of the dough in my hands.
It browned, to a crispy, golden hue. The apples turned to jam — a thick, tart layer with a hint of cream from the dulce de leche — between two layers of nutty, buttery shortbread. Except it’s less like shortbread and more like those little nutty cookies you make at Christmas-time, covered in powdered sugar. The crumble top crunches when you bite into a slice and then the soft texture of the apples takes over. The bottom holds up, but just barely, as you lift a slice from the pan. And for a moment, I feel like I have achieved something today.
And then I am taking a slice back to bed, where I am working on a million projects at once, trying to straighten out applications, travel plans and my life after Paris.
September 27, 2010 § 1 Comment
I think it is finally fall over here; the skies are overcast, it drizzles occasionally and I’m huddled up in my apartment in wool socks because I’m sick. Lovely. In fact I think we have skipped fall altogether and gone straight to winter. Which is unfortunate, because fall happens to be my favorite season of the year. I love walking to the crunch of the leaves underfoot, swerving a bit out of my way to make sure I step on that leaf that looks particularly brittle, breaking out my vast collection of scarves, which could probably represent every country I have ever been to, and bursting into the house on a really windy day, feeling that first initial blast of warm air on your face, and then the opposite cold burst when you step outside again. Back home, it means street blocks turn into pumpkin patches full of straw mazes and colorful pumpkins and squash every shade of orange, yellow and purple. Local coffeeshops start serving their seasonal flavored lattes — the cinnamon, the pumpkin which gradually merge into the peppermint and eggnog flavors of the holiday season. Cakes become denser, most fresh fruits slowly disappearing from the table to be replaced with spices and caramels.
But fall doesn’t seem to be much of a season over here. Indeed, as I spent the weekend in London, I toured various displays of Christmas trees, snowy animal decorations and hundreds of sets of Christmas china and ornaments. Glitter of every color seemed to sparkle in the windows of the department stores. Churches beckoned people dressed in their best clothes inside on Sunday morning, as we took a stroll along the Thames. For me, fall has a bit of a rustic charm, the charm of things changing, but that intermittent period where you aren’t quite sure where the change is leading. And when your surroundings are changing so dramatically, you long for your food to bring the warmth and comfort that you had taken for granted all around you during the summer. Fall is above all else a time for the homemade, a time for the nostalgic, a time for incorporating the warm with the simple.
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. The challenge was to made decorated sugar cookies with the theme of September. We were provided with a recipe for sugar cookies and a recipe for royal icing. I chose to make mostly bells, as the church bells have played a major part in my life this September. I live and go to school right by Notre Dame so my day passes according to the ringing of the church bells — once at the demi-heure and then according to the time on the hour. Sticking to the theme that baking in fall months ought to be warm and rustic — aided along by the fact that I simply could not find food coloring at any French supermarket — I decorated my church bells with dulce de leche instead of royal icing. I would love to decorate with royal icing one day, perhaps around Christmas.
Basic Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Peggy Porschen:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4″ Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Cream together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg until well combined. Add the sifted flour and mix until a sticky dough forms.
Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch). Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F . Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Decorate with Dulce de Leche
By David Lebovitz
August 26, 2010 § 2 Comments
Right as I was enjoying wearing boots and sweatshirts, an ungodly heat wave hit San Francisco. On a Monday afternoon, people flocked to the parks to picnic and schools kids complained about having to go to school right as the San Francisco summer finally got started. A run along Ocean Beach saw large clumps of people playing in the waves and cars overfilling the lots along the Great Highway. At midnight, I climbed to the top of Bernal Hill and walked out along Pier 1 with some old friends — all without long pants or a scarf, which is my standard get-up in this city.
This morning I stumbled out of bed, still in pajama boxers and my hair sticking every which way, and out the front door to take pictures in the gentle morning sun. In a couple of hours, the hot, dry sun will be beating down and I’ll have started a run along the tide line, hopefully barefoot, if I can find someone to shuttle my shoes around the city. Or maybe I’ll wait to run until the evening and cross the peak of Diamond Heights as the fog rolls in, when you can barely see three feet in front of you. As you climb to the peak, the air seems to thin and the wind comes from all directions, its cold blasts spurring you down the hill on the other side. Today, the day is temperamental, summer one moment and the perfect misty setting for a horror film the next.
But as I settle in to write, it is still morning and I am back in the house. I’ve poured myself a tall glass of iced tea with a kick of mint and made open-faced sandwiches with juicy heirloom tomatoes that were just waiting to be sliced. Ah, summer.
These browned butter cookies pair just as well with iced tea as they do with a cup of hot tea. And with the weather changing every day, I keep a roll of cookie dough in the fridge, so that I am ready to bake off a couple when the winds change. Nutty and sandy, with a touch of sea salt on top, these cookies bring to mind summer days collecting sand dollars, with your toes in the wet sand and the harsh coastal wind in your face.
I made these shortbread cookies for this month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by Elissa at 17 and Baking. Elissa picked browned butter or beurre noisette as the theme of the month, you can see all the details on her blog. Sugar High Fridays were started by Jennifer at The Domestic Goddess. This is the first time that I am partaking in the group challenge.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, browned and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 generous pinch kosher salt
Fleur de sel for topping
Cream the butters and sugar together. Then add the vanilla, and slowly add the flour and kosher salt. Shape the dough into a log and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut slices of the log approximately 1/4 inch thick and put cookies onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are browned. After removing from the oven sprinkle each of the cookies with a touch of fleur de sel.