Category Archives: Baking

Sunday Ramblings

1. I’m practicing my cookie baking for The First Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! I just signed up for this fun holiday cookie swap (send 3 dozen cookies to 3 different bloggers and receive 3 dozen from different bloggers back). Yup, I can’t wait. I’m in the process of deciding which cookies I am going to be making…

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

(I mean I just HAD to make another batch of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever to test them…)

2. I can’t believe at 4:45PM today the sky looked like this:

It takes me weeks to get used to Daylight Savings! (I’ve been ready for bed since 7:30…and have been in my PJs since 5).

3. In preparation for Q’s arrival in 3 weeks I’ve vowed to eat better, work out more and clean the heck out of my room. It took the majority of the day, but I successfully packed 3 bags of goodies for donations and now my closet looks like this:

(This is the after photo, the before one would have made you wince)

4. Going with that “work out more” philosophy, I am attempting to do the 1oo Push-Up Training Program. It’s a 6 week mini-challenge which has you practicing push-ups for 30 minutes a week based on your fitness level. I’ve never been great at push-ups and thought I would try it out…I’ll keep you posted how it goes.

(source)

5. Is it weird that I’m still wearing ghost socks a week after Halloween? (I obviously vote no).

6. And finally, the random winner of the Lollihop Giveaway is… Ellen Gibbons! Send me your address and I’ll get your delivery all set up!

Hope everyone had a great weekend. We just made risotto for dinner and I’m really excited to post that recipe up this week!

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Filed under Baking, Exercise, Giveaway

Halloween Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Top 4 Reasons Why I Love Halloween:

1. Dogs in costumes.

2. Guilt free unlimited candy consumption.

3. It’s my birthday. As a kid this was awesome since trick or treating at the neighbors’ houses resulted in extra treats for the birthday girl. Now, it is an excellent excuse to have a Halloween party.

4. My mom makes me a dessert of my choosing for the big day. This year, I opted for coconut cupcakes (my absolute favorite kind).

My mom makes the BEST cupcakes I’ve ever had. They are fluffy, moist, flavorful and perfectly frosted and covered in sprinkles. This recipe has been one we go back to often since it has never done us wrong. One word of caution with this one: don’t be afraid of the massive quantity of butter used… just close your eyes and pretend it’s healthy.

This year, we decided to make our cupcakes a little Halloweeny by adding some fun sprinkles on top. I got a big case of Halloween sprinkles from Target and went to town. It gave them a fun little touch and ensured that no cupcake looked the same.

Last Halloween thought of the day – in New York, how do kids trick or treat? Apartment door to apartment door? Do they go out to the suburbs? In LA, I used to do a quick trick or treat around my small neighborhood early and then my parents would drive me to Hancock Park to meet up with my friends and do a full 2-hour door-to-door trick or treat marathon.

Halloween Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 18 to 20 large cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut
  • Cream Cheese Icing (directions below)
  • Sprinkles (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minues. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.
  4. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. FIll each cup to the top with batter. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese icing and sprinkle with remaining coconut and sprinkles.

Cream Cheese Icing

For 18 to 20 large cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook 

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Filed under Baking, Cupcakes, Recipe

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I know I make a lot of banana recipes, but I hate letting browning bananas go to waste. Last night I had a few bananas that were past their prime and I wanted to try the combination of bananas & chocolate chips, since I was craving a dessert/treat and not a breakfast banana bread (my usual go to with brown bananas).

The result? A delicious cakey, not too sweet muffin. The bananas weren’t overpowering (which I like) and the chocolate chips added a nice “treat-like” quality to the muffins. I had one after dinner and it completely satisfied my sweet tooth.

This recipe is basic and easy to complete. I also really like that  you don’t have to haul out your stand mixer and can do it all by hand. I adapted the recipe below from Bon Appetit (although my batter created 15 not 12 muffins). In other reviews I read, people suggested using apple sauce or Greek yogurt instead of butter as well as adding a little vanilla and cinnamon to the batter. I think both variations would work well if you are looking to make a healthier muffin.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 15 muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Skill Level: Easy

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line fifteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with muffin liners.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a ricer, mash the 3 bananas into a medium bowl. If you do not have a ricer, use a large fork instead. Add egg, melted butter and milk and mix.
  4. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients using a spatula and folding the mixtures together. Stir until just blended (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Divide batter amont prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached, but no crumbs. About 30 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1999 

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Caramel Chocolate Nut Ice Cream

Midway through October, my mom and I decided to do the most logical thing possible…we bought an ice cream maker. We had been holding on to one that was 10 years old and was a LOT of work to manuever and we weren’t using it at all. So we upgraded to this snazzy Cuisinart one ($50 and totally worth it).

Living in LA means you really can eat ice cream all year long. And we have taken this to heart. Our first homemade ice cream of the season happened this past weekend (yes, the first weekend in October) and it was to die for.

This Caramel Chocolate Nut Ice Cream melts in your mouth. You can serve it on it’s own or on top of a sugar cone (my personal favorite). It is so rich with flavor and truly one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. Homemade ice cream is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, creamier, richer, just better.


For storage, we purchased pint and quart containers from Smart & Final and put our ice cream in them with a seal of wax paper and a lid. They make great hostess gifts (who doesn’t like homemade ice cream?).

Caramel Chocolate Nut Ice Cream

Makes 2 Quarts

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups pecan halves
  • 7 ounces of best-quality dark chocolate, diced

Directions:

  1. Place 1/2 cup water and the sugar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, and cook over low heat, without stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and boil until the sugar turns into a warm mahogany or caramel color, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally so the caramel cooks evenly.
  2. Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully pour in the cream. The caramel is very hot, and the mixture will bubble up violently, then slidify. Don’t worry. Return it to low heat and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vanilla. Pour into a container and refrigerate until very cold.
  3. Roast the pecans in a toaster oven (or regular oven) for 8 minutes at 350 degrees, until crisp. Cool, chop, mix with the diced chocolate, and store in freezer until ready to use.
  4. Freeze the caramel mixture in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. (It may take several batches). When it is frozen, add cold chopped pecans and chocolate and mix in completely. Transfer to quart containers and store in the freezer until ready to serve.

Recipe from Barefoot Contessa Parties

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Filed under Entertaining, Ice Cream, Recipe

Banana Bread Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze

It’s a little funny that when I see browning bananas I actually get excited instead of sad because that means more banana bread recipes!! For all banana bread recipes, the browner the bananas the better since they make a moister and tastier cake/bread/muffin/scone.

When I found this recipe I was eager to try it out because it combined two things that I love, but didn’t necessarily think went together: banana bread and scones. The only thing I wish was that it made more than 8 scones since 3 were gone within minutes. The scones tasted even better this morning with a 30-second pop in the microwave topped with warm glaze (which I stuck in the microwave for 30 seconds also). These things are deadly…

The scones are really moist because of the bananas and taste like banana bread and cake combined. I will tell you that the true secret to this recipe is the glaze. It is delicious on its own (yes I took spoonfuls from the bowl) , but on top of the scones, it is perfect. The two flavors pair well and really transform the scones into something special. They are definitely more like a dessert/tea time treat rather than breakfast because of the sweet glaze. (Don’t tell anyone I ate mine for dessert and breakfast).

Halfway through eating this, I thought “whoops aren’t I supposed to be photographing these?,” I must put down my spoon…with extra glaze on it…

These scones were easy and highly recommended. I will be adding them to the “what to make with browned bananas” pile and will definitely be trying them again.

Me pouring my glaze on my scone halfway through eating it…I have no shame…

Banana Bread Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

For the scones:

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 very ripe bananas (about 1 cup once mashed)
  • 2-4 tablespoons half and half or whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 0% or 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon salted butter (if you don’t have, use unsalted and add a small pinch of salt)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) half and half or whole milk
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Directions:

  1. Place your walnuts in a pan and place them in the toaster oven (or oven) for approximately 5 minutes. Be careful when toasting nuts, check on them often as they burn quickly and burnt nuts don’t taste good. Set toasted nuts aside to cool.
  2. Place your bananas in a ricer and mash them into a 2-cup measuring cup. If you don’t have a ricer, mash with a fork. Add enough milk to the measuring cup to make one total cup (if necessary). Stir in the yogurt and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Cut the butter into several pieces. Work it into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or fork until there are no pieces of butter larger than a pea (this takes approximately 1-2 minutes).
  4. Pour the banana-yogurt mixture into the bowl with the flour and with a large spatula stir just enough to incorporate all the flour. Fold in walnuts. If there are stray pieces of dough, quickly use your hands to incorporate them. (Try to limit touching the dough with your hands, the heat from your hands heats the dough up).
  5. Line a dinner plate with a piece of wax paper and turn the dough out on top. Pat it into a disk about 1-inch thick and cover with another piece of wax paper. Place the plate of dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Remove the disk of dough from the plate, remove the wax paper and place it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (the flat side of the dough should be flat against the baking sheet). Slice the dough into eight wedges (like cutting a pizza) and pull them apart a little to give them room to expand.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the scones are firm to the touch and are turning golden-brown on the edges. If the scones start to brown before they are firm, put tin foil over the top of them and continue baking until firm. This will prevent them from burning.
  9. Cool completely and cut apart any scones that baked together with a sharp knife.
  10. For the glaze, place the butter and milk into a 2-cup measuring cup and melt in the microwave for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and vanilla, and stir until the sugar has melted (heat for an additional 30 seconds in the microwave if necessary). Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar, starting with 1/4 cup. Add more confectioner’s sugar if desired to make a thicker glaze.
  11. Before serving, drizzle the glaze over the scones with a spoon or whisk (like I did since I was lazy). The glaze will set after a minute or two. Note: only glaze the scones right before serving them. Otherwise keep the scones and the glaze separate as the glaze will make the scones sticky to the touch if they sit for too long.

Adapted from TheKitchn

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Filed under Baking, Recipe, Scones

Ultimate Chip Lovers Cookie

Yesterday I was craving a sweet  (what’s new right?)- I really just wanted a simple, easy cookie and I wanted it fast (I was NOT waiting to refrigerate my dough). My favorite go-to quick cookie recipe is from the back of the Nestle Tollhouse bag of chocolate chips. It has never done me wrong.

This time around I wanted to make the cookies a little differently – instead of just putting in the 2 cups of chocolate chips, I put in 1/2 cup butterscotch chips, 1/2 white chocolate chips and 1 cup chocolate chips. The tastes came together perfectly – I especially loved the butterscotch edition, although 1/2 cup was just enough, otherwise they would have overpowered the cookies.

These cookies are so simple to make and great for keeping in the freezer. I have a bunch of my college girlfriends coming into town next weekend and I already know I will be bringing these out for them! PS I wish you all could have heard the 20 minute conversation I had with my mom over what to name these cookies- some suggestions were : Chip-alicous, Chip Loaded, Lots of Chips… it sort of stressed me out, so hopefully my title does the trick 🙂

Ultimate Chip Lovers Cookie

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (leave it on the counter for 30 minutes before you want to bake)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. Set aside.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy (about 2 -3 minutes). (*Always over-beat instead of under-beat in this stage of baking.)
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. By hand, stir in your chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and white chocolate chips.
  6. Drop dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon balls onto baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from the recipe on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip bag. 

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Pecan, Peanut Butter, Banana Bread

As promised, today I bring you a treat that just looks like Fall to me- Pecan, Peanut Butter, Banana Bread. I was kind of in the mood to make cookies or even cupcakes, but yesterday I saw this:

A plate full of ripe bananas and I couldn’t let them go to waste. I thought about making traditional banana bread, but I wanted something a little different, I grabbed my mom’s Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts and found this recipe. By the way, if you don’t have this book I highly recommend it as a kitchen staple, this woman knows how to bake!

A couple things to note in this recipe- the first is that it calls for you to butter your loaf pans and then dust them with wheat germ, fine bread crumbs or uncooked oatmeal. This creates a really pretty look to your loaves. I used Pam and oatmeal and just tossed it in my pan and shook it around until it stuck. It will look a little like this:

The second is that in the original recipe, it has you mashing your bananas with a fork on a plate. Our secret is using a ricer for our bananas- it has the same effect but less work (always nice).

If I were to do this recipe again, I would go with my instincts which said “wow that’s a lot of walnuts” and cut them in half. I left the original measurements below so if you are a big walnut fan you can keep them as is. Also I would have added another 1/4 cup peanut butter, since you get a hint of the taste, but I would like a bigger impact. Again, original measurements below, but feel free to add a little more!

Pecan, Peanut Butter, Banana Bread

This bread is a dark, moist, nutty banana bread filled with walnuts. It’s delicious served with a little bit of honey or warm butter or jam. 

Makes 2 Small Loaves

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) pecan halves or large pieces
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose whole wheat flour (Trader Joe’s carries this)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 large fully ripened bananas (makes 1 cup mashed)

Directions:

  1. Using a toaster oven or oven, lay pecans on baking sheet and toast for 5-7 minutes. (For a toaster oven, just set to toast. In an oven, set to 350 and turn the nuts halfway). Set aside.
  2. Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter or use Pam to spray two small loaf pans, each with a 4- to 5- cup capacity (they pans may measure about 8 by 4 by 2 1/2 inches). Dust all over with toasted wheat germ, or fine dry bread crumbs or uncooked oatmeal, invert over paper, and tap to shake out excess. Set aside
  3. Sift together both the flours, the baking soda, salt and nutmeg and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until softened (3-4 minutes). Add the peanut butter and beat to mix. Beat in the sugar, and then the eggs one at a time.
  4. Peel the bananas and either mash with a fork on a large plate or use a ricer. You do not want the bananas to be liquified, they should remain coarse and uneven with a few slightly larger pieces.
  5. Beat the bananas into the mixture. Then, on low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients and beat only until incorporated (I used a spatula to finish mixing the dry ingredients in). Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the pecans by hand.
  6. Pour half of the batter into each of the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes more (Total baking time is 50 to 55 minutes). Test by inserting a toothpick or cake tester to the bottom of each loaf; bake until the tester comes out dry or only with a few dry crumbs).
  8. Let the loaves cool in the pans for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn each loaf out onto a folded towel in your hand and place the loaves on the rack to cool.

Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts

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Filed under Baking, Breads & Loafs, Recipe