baking therapy: salted chocolate chip cookies

Jordan loves chocolate chip cookies. He also loves to boast that his chocolate cookies are better than anyone elses’, including mine. A risky thing to boast when I happen to be the one baking chocolate chip cookies for him on a fairly regular basis, but that is neither here nor there. These are a variation on my tried and true recipe inspired by the cookies made by another exceptionally nice girlfriend of an Amoeba-Music-Store-working boy.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t coarse salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (We like Guittard the best)
fleur de sel or other very coarse sea salt  (Our friends Matt and Alexa brought us back fleur de sel from their trip to Paris!)

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sugars and beat some more. This is a very important step in achieving excellent cookie texture once baked. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Add vanilla. Stir in flour until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Scoop into rough balls and place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes, until crusty on the outside but still soft in the center. When you remove them from the oven, top with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Surprise, surprise … Jordan liked these cookies, but prefers his standby recipe sans salt topping. I thought the salt added a fun crunch and burst of flavor. Still, I think I may agree with Jordan that traditional chocolate chip cookies might be the best.



baking therapy: whole wheat shortbread

I very much enjoying making my food blog rounds, collecting new ideas, ooohhing and ahhhing at all the pretty photos and delicious dishes. There are just so many amazing cooks out there – it’s both intimidating and inspiring! These whole wheat shortbread cookies caught my eye on Lottie + Doof, a fabulous and adventurous mostly baking blog. They were just too adorable (and contained too much butter) not to make. I had high hopes to turn them into nectarine sorbet-shortbread ice cream sandwiches. The sandwiches never happened, but these cookies were wonderful.

Whole Wheat Shortbread, adapted from Lottie + Doof 
2 cups plus 2 T all purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 T whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
16 oz butter, at cool room temperature (I used Strauss Unsalted Butter – it is amazingly creamy and has a great grassy flavor)
3/4 cup sugar
1 t salt
additional sugar for dusting

Heat an oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flours and cornstarch. In standing mixer, beat butter, sugar and salt together. Add the flour mixture and mix just to combine. Be careful not to overmix – you don’t want a tough cookie!

Line several baking sheets with parchment. Roll out the dough on a flour dusted workspace. I rolled mine out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut using cookie cutters into your desired shapes – I choose a round because it was the only cutter I knew its whereabouts. Transfer onto your parchment lined sheets using a thin spatula. The dough is very soft and your meticulously cut shapes can get a little wonky if you’re not careful with them. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until just golden on the edges. Let them cool for a few moments and then dust with sugar. After dusting, let them cool completely on a wire rack and then enjoy!

These cookies are wonderful – so light and delicate and just sweet enough. They are good with sorbet, with coffee, and all by themselves. The recipe makes a lot of dough … I would recommend halving it or saving some of the dough in the freezer for the next time a shortbread craving strikes. If you decide to go the freezer route, let the dough come to cool room temperature before rolling it out and then bake as directed above.

And wow … we’ve had a lot of sweet treat posts in a row. Where’s Jordan to help set this course right?



baking therapy: marble gugelhupf – yep, that is a cake

I bought myself a bundt pan at a thrift store when we visited Sacramento a while back and I decided to break it in with a marble cake. This recipe was adapted liberally from NPR’s The Splendid Table. The flavor is nice, but I overcooked it a bit and so, sadly, it was dry. See all those little crumbs all over the place …

Jordan was left with the terrible task of cleaning the bundt pan after I unmolded the cake. He tells me it was a real pain. Next time, I’ll just make this cake in a loaf pan. Added bonus: it’s harder to overcook things when they’re in a loaf pan. Sadly, that bundt pan might be heading back to the thrift store. You’ve got to be cut-throat when space is a premium (and when you’ve got an antiquing habit).

Marble Gugelhupf, adapted from NPR’s The Splendid Table
3 oz high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I like Scharffen Berger)
2 cups cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup milk
2 t vanilla
2 sticks of butter
1 cup powdered sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a pan with butter and flour.

Over a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the chocolate. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, mix the milk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar. Then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and beat until stiff. Stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it. Fold the remaining egg whites into the batter. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the chocolate and stir to combine.

Pour 1/3 of the vanilla batter into the mold. Top with the chocolate batter and then with the remaining vanilla batter. Use a knife to swirl the batters together into marbled goodness. Pretty, huh?

Bake 45 minutes – 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.



cream cheese pound cake, two ways

I made this cake for a dinner party we went to on Friday night. It was great and I decided to make it again for our mamas when they came down to celebrate Mother’s Day last Sunday.

A quick side note here: Jordan was an absolute champ both nights. Friday night he sweetly convinced me  – braving my baking righteousness – to bring the cake unbaked to Matt and Alexa’s to finish there. I had just assembled the ingredients and it was already 6:35 pm when I sheepishly admitted that the cake would need to bake for at least an hour. Good call Jordan! Sunday night he was also a dream. Jordan cooked an amazing dinner for 6 ladies, listened to them gab endlessly for hours and did all the dishes! I am a lucky, lucky girl!

Now onto the amazing cake! My new go-to pound cake (aside from the blood orange olive oil cake from a few weeks ago).

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis or Passionfruit Glaze, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz  cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
zest of two lemons
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t salt

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan (or butter a loaf pan and dust with granulated sugar- my preferred method borrowed from my friend Miykaelah).  

Beat the butter and cream cheese in a mixture until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined. Add the vanilla. Stir in the flour and salt until just combined. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan. If serving with strawberry coulis, you can serve the cake warm. If you plan to glaze the cake, let it cool to room temperature before glazing. 

Strawberry Coulis
1 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed
1/4 cup water
2 T sugar
1 T lemon juice 

In a blender or food processor, puree the berries, water, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Strain though a fine mesh sieve and chill. Serve with several tablespoons poured over each slice of cake. 

Passionfruit Glaze
3 T passionfruit pulp
2/3 cup powdered sugar

We all know how much I love passionfruit. It is the most amazing tropical fruit I’ve ever eaten. I wrote a delightful piece about my love here. You can find passionfruit pulp in the freezer section of some latin markets. If you ever see one fresh, buy it (and immediately call me with the market coordinates)!

Whisk together the passionfruit pulp and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour over the cooled cake. Let sit at room temperature to harden. 

Passionfruit Sauce
1/4 cup passionfruit pulp
3 T simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves)

Serve with several spoonfuls poured over each slice of passionfruit glazed cake for an extra passionfruity tartness. 

This cake is awesome with both fruit sauces. The strawberry is delightfully seasonal and fresh. The passionfruit is too good to describe, especially if your are as obsessed as I. Honestly, I’d recommend both. Maybe do half and half when you bake it at home. 





baking therapy: buttermilk corn muffins

These muffins were an experiment. I had some extra buttermilk left over from last week’s chicken and waffles and figured I should use it before it went bad. I’m sure glad I decided to experiment. The muffins were fluffy on the inside, crunchy on the outside and perfectly corn-y. We paired them with a grilled pork chop and a salad of arugula, radish and goat cheese.

Buttermilk Corn Muffins
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 T butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour 6 cups in a muffin tin or line with paper liners. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Combine the wet with the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Mix just to combine. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Dust the tops with a additional cornmeal for an extra crunchy crust. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes. Enjoy hot from the oven with butter or honey.



lemon cream pie with fresh strawberries

This pie is about as spring as you can get in one dessert! The fresh strawberries compliment the lemon cream perfectly and it’s not heavy, which is nice now that the weather is starting to warm up a bit. Additional bonuses: it looks gorgeous and you can assemble it all in advance!

Lemon Cream Pie with Fresh Strawberries

For the crust, from the Tartine Bakery cookbook

This recipe makes two pie crusts. You’ll only need one for this recipe, so stick the other in the freezer and defrost overnight in the refrigerator the nigh before you want to use it. 

1 1/2 t salt
2/3 cup very cold water
3 cups plus 2 T all purpose flour
1 cup plus 5 T unsalted butter very cold, cut into cubes

In a small bowl, add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve.  Put the flour in the bowl of a food processor.  Sprinkle the butter on top. Pulse briefly. Add the water. Pulse again. The dough will just begin to come together. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Divide into two balls. Press into 1 inch thick disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. 

Roll out the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick. Lay into a pie or tart dish. Line with parchment and fill with pie weights, beans or rice (new discovery on the rice – works just fine). Chill the shell for another 30 minutes to get the flakiest crust. 

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the weight and parchment and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool completely.

For the filling, adapted from the SF Chronicle
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
a pinch of salt
4 T butter, cut into cubes

Over a double boiler, whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest and juice together. Continue stirring until a custard has formed. Be very diligent with this step. You can very easily end up with lemon scrambled eggs!  No good! Once the mixture has thickened, take it off the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain though a mesh sieve and chill. Ta-da! Lemon curd!

To assemble
1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 T sugar

Slice the strawberries. Whip the cream with the sugar. Lighten the lemon curd with the whipped cream by first stirring in 1/3 of the whipped cream and then folding in the remaining. Carefully! I always am too hasty here and Jordan has to remind me to slow down. Pour the lemon filling into the prepared crust. Top with sliced strawberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

This pie is delicious and the lemon cream would compliment any berry as each comes into season. The combination of the lemon and the strawberry is particularly satisfying because it hit a nostalgic vein in all of those eating it … Jordan, Matt, Alexa and I were eating our dessert on Sunday evening when Jordan pauses, “Does this remind anyone of some sort of ice cream novelty?” Instantly, and almost in unison, the rest of us cried, “Flintstones Push Up pops!” Yep. The pie tastes like a Push Up. Not sure how it happened, but it is absolutely going to happen again.



baking therapy: chocolate cake with ricotta filling

Even after making the linguini with ricotta dish earlier in the week and eating it for lunch the next day with extra ricotta, we still had quite a bit of cheese left over. With the leftovers,  I wanted to make a recipe that would respect the effort I’d put into making the cheese from scratch and not overpower its milky flavor.  Well, the King Arthur Bread Flour Company was on my side! Their weekly email featured a recipe for a chocolate cake with a ricotta filling based on a traditional Italian Easter dessert; I drew inspiration from that recipe for this cake.

Chocolate Cake with Fresh Ricotta Filling

For the cake

I used the same Ina Garten recipe that I used for Jordan’s birthday. The secret ingredient in this cake is 1 cup of fresh coffee, which intensifies the chocolate flavor and makes a very moist cake.

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8 inch round pans.

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir to combine. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add the coffee. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Cool before frosting.

For the filling
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Mix the cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Once the cakes have cooled, spread a thick layer of cheese between the layers and serve. After serving, refrigerate any leftover cake well-wrapped in plastic wrap.



baking therapy: homemade graham crackers

Our good friend Jeff made these homemade graham crackers from Smitten Kitchen and brought them oven for us the other weekend. They were so good that Jordan and I ate the entire bag of them in a few hours. I decided to try to recreate the magic on Sunday.

Sadly, my grahams did not turn out nearly as perfect as Jeff’s. I overcooked one batch and undercooked the other. While the undercooked batch was still tasty, they lacked the satisfying graham cracker crunch we all know and love. Still, I’d recommend the recipe, because when these turn out well they blow store bought graham crackers out of the water!

Visit Deb’s recipe here and follow her advice, since I can’t yet stand behind mine.

Homemade Graham Crackers, in photos



baking therapy: homemade cheez its

I love cheese, I love cheese on crackers, I love cheesy crackers. Cheez-its, Goldfish crackers, Flaming Hot Cheetos, yummm. BUT, we are trying to stay away from processed foods, which means no cheez crackers for Emily.

That is until I found a recipe for cheese straws (made with real cheese, butter and flour!) on Smitten Kitchen. I made these sharp cheddar cheese crackers last night and boy do they fill my cheesy cracker void. They actually taste more like cheddar than cheddar, if you can believe it. Even Jordan, who is not a processed cheese cracker aficionado like me really enjoyed them.

Homemade Cheez Its, adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Cheese Straws

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated (about 6 0z)
3/4 cup flour
4 T butter, softened and cut into cubes
1/2 t salt
1/4 t crushed red pepper (although paprika or ground red pepper may give a more even distribution)
1 T milk

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor,  process cheese, flour, butter, salt and red pepper until it resembles coarse sand. Add milk and process until dough forms a ball. About 15 seconds.

Take out the cheesy ball and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. If you’d like to make cheese straws, roll it until it is 1/4 inch thick and cut into straws. If you’d like to make cheez-its, roll the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick and cut into squares. Poke the squares with the tines of a fork.

Transfer straws or squares onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack and devour!



baking therapy: cinnamon rolls

On Saturday night at about 8 pm I decided that I had to have cinnamon rolls. My sweet Jordan humors these moods of mine, but also tempers them with a little reason: perhaps I should not try to make and eat cinnamon rolls on Saturday night, but instead have them for breakfast on Sunday. Making the dough, plus 2 hours for the dough to rise, plus baking time … point taken. I also wisely decided that I should not eat a dozen cinnamon rolls myself, and invited a few lovely friends over for Sunday brunch.

These cinnamon rolls are awesome – gooey and cinnamony with a little tang from the cream cheese frosting.  And the best part is you can make them almost entirely ahead of time, which means you sleep in and have homemade cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. You really can’t ask for more on a Sunday morning.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, by Alton Brown

For the dough:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
6 T butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 cups flour
1 packet instant dry yeast
1 1/4 t kosher salt

In a stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugar, butter and buttermilk to combine. Add two cups of the flour, yeast and salt and mix. Switch out the whisk for the dough hook and add another 1 1/4 cup of flour. Knead on low for 5 minutes. Touch the dough – it should be smooth and soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour. My dough did not need additional flour, but yours might. Knead for another 5 minutes on low.  Knead the dough with your hands for 30 seconds and place in a lightly oiled bowl to rise. Lightly oil the top and cover with a towel.

Now for the rising. The dough should rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. If you live in an old, poorly insulated apartment like I do there is probably not an appropriately warm place for your dough to rise. And if you’ve never made a yeast dough in said apartment, you will most likely have a panic attack when after two hours of quiet counter sitting your dough has not risen and you already have 4 confirmed breakfast guests. So you don’t experience a similar panic and wasted time, I recommend you place your dough in the oven, fill a dish below it with boiling water and close the door. Replace the hot water every 30 minutes or so and your dough will rise beautifully.

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 T cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 T butter, melted

Once your dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a counter and butter a baking dish. Roll the dough into a 12 by 18 inch rectangle. Spread the melted butter on all but the top 1 inch. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt mixture on all but the top 1 inch. Roll the dough, starting with the edge closest to you and pinch the edge to seal. Turn it over so the seam is face down on the counter and cut into 12 pieces. Place the pieces in a buttered baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge.

The next morning about an hour before your guest arrive, take the rolls out of fridge, remove the plastic wrap and place in an off oven with a pan of boiling water to rise again. After about 30 minutes they should look delightfully poofy.

Remove the rolls and water from the oven. Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Cook the rolls for about 30 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top. Frost with cream cheese frosting once you take them out of the oven.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
3 T milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the milk and powdered sugar and mix to combine. Spread over the hot cinnamon rolls and serve.

Like I said before, these rolls are good. They are everything you want out of a cinnamon roll and, despite involving yeast and rising, are pretty easy to make. But, I think what these rolls have really taught me is that the pan of hot water trick is one to live by.