Sunday, December 28, 2014

pumpkin muffins with almond & oat crumb topping

Now that Thanksgiving and Christmas are over, I finally have some free time to test bake. Sadly, my holiday baking fell a little short this year. I caught the flu and it was absolutely miserable. Needless to say, I was not in the best condition to whip up any holiday treats. I am totally ashamed of myself. And, even worse, I had an unopened can of pumpkin purée that clearly didn't get any lovin'.

Well, it's still pumpkin season in my book. I wanted to try Smitten Kitchen's Pumpkin Muffins recipe, because she never lets me down. I also added my own personal touch-- my Almond and Oat Crumb Topping.

Almond and Oat Crumb Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients except melted butter.
2. Add melted butter to mixture and combine well. Break up into crumble pieces to your preference.
3. Use as a topping for muffins, fruit crisps, etc.. If preparing ahead of time, can be refrigerated until ready to use.

So, I usually prepare the topping first, so then I just have to put it all together. This pumpkin muffin recipe is stress-free, not overly sweet, and just amazing. The moist muffin with the crunchy topping is   too good.

Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted by Smitten Kitchen
Yields about 24 standard cupcake-sized muffins

3 cups all- purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
Almond and Oat Crumb Topping (see above for recipe, also used here)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl. 
3. In a larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, and white granulated sugar.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. 
5. Fill muffin cups 1/2 to 3/4 full.
6. Add a heaping tablespoon of Almond and Oat Crumb Topping to each muffin cup.
7. Bake about 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
8. Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then, transfer to cooling rack until warm or room temperature.
9. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container. Muffins will remain fresh for up to 3 days at room temperature. Then can be frozen to store for longer until needed (just defrost before serving).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

pear crisp

Want to hear something crazy? I haven't baked anything since I've been back from New York.. until now.

Two nights ago, after getting home late from work, I decided to skip sleep and test-bake instead. Of course, I then proceeded to eat the warm pear crisp.. right out of the oven.. at midnight. The next morning, I opened the refrigerator and devoured a couple spoonfuls and it was just as delicious. Seriously, all of that happened.

Welcome to the blog, Pear Crisp. I also recommed throwing a pillow of french vanilla ice cream on top while it's still warm to make it extra amazing. My local taste-testers approve of this recipe. So, if you hate it, blame them. But I feel pretty confident that you will enjoy this.

Pear Crisp
Yields one 10-inch skillet

4 large pears, peeled and sliced (about 1/2-inch thickness or so)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, add all the filling ingredients. With a large spoon, toss everything together well. Set aside.
3. In another medium mixing bowl, stir together all topping ingredients together except for the melted unsalted butter. 
4. Then add the melted unsalted butter to dry topping mixture. Gently combine well. Break up into crumble pieces-- keep large or break up as small as you like.
5. In a round 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or about the same size baking dish), distribute pear filling mixture into an even layer. 

6. Then add crumb mixture and spread it out on top of the filling.

7. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Then transfer to the top rack for an additional 10 minutes.
8. Serve warm.. preferably a la mode. 

I used pears that were just under-ripened, because they mimic the firmness of apples and hold up better during the baking process. Slicing the pears fairly thick also results in a nice bite. I'm not a fan of a mushy fruit consistency. If you are, just slice your fruit thinner.

This may have been my first attempt at making a crisp, but it's definitely a new favorite. I used pears because I happened to have a 10-pound bag haunting my kitchen. However, you can substitute with apples, peaches, berries, or any other fruit of your liking. 

I'm in love. Pear crisp is like apple pie's cousin, except a million times easier to make. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

crystal mason ring

I just got back from New York last night and I could not be sadder about that. Every summer, I travel to New York to visit with my sister and college friends. But, this was an especially unforgettable trip. Like, seriously, it may have been the best one yet.

For me, the hardest part about going on trips is deciding which baubles to bring. If you don't already know, I have an extensive collection of jewelry. [And that may be the biggest understatement of the year.] One might assume that, having such a large collection, it's easy to pick out a few sparkly pieces for a nine-day trip. Wrong. I like having options. Choosing which bauble to wear is like choosing how I want to express myself for the rest of the day. I also try not to wear the same piece more than once in the same week, because all my baubles need a little love. With that said, I'm SO obsessed with the Crystal Mason Ring from the Baublebar x Stripes & Sequins collection. I wore this ring every single day of my trip. I'm also wearing it at this very moment. This ring is on repeat and the world deserves to know.

Grace Atwood of Stripes & Sequins is one of my favorite bloggers to follow, head of social for BaubleBar, and all-around amazing. I love every piece from her collection and I'm pretty positive that I'll eventually end up buying everything. 

When Grace's collection first launched, I immediately purchased the Crystal Mason Ring and Crystal Pheasant Bib. I buy with my eyes and my eyes are naturally drawn to sparkle. When I received them in the mail a couple weeks ago, this happened...

And, during my New York trip, the Crystal Mason Ring just seemed to add the right amount of sparkle to some memorable, Insta-worthy moments. This ring has gotten a lot of action and clearly goes with me everywhere. I wore it...

..while watching the World Cup with friends.

 ..while eating a giant ice cream sandwich with my sister at Smorgasburg.

...while solo-snacking on candy.

...while traveling back to California.

P.S. I miss you already, New York.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

summer greek salad

I've been craving salad. Maybe because it's been 100-degree weather and I constantly want to climb into the nearest refrigerator. Or, perhaps I just want to save my fatty fatty food binge for my NYC trip next week. Regardless, there's nothing better in summer than a meal that won't weigh you down.

I was inspired by The Girl Who Ate Everything's Portillo Chopped Salad and decided to give it a Greek spin.

Summer Greek Salad
Yields 10 servings

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
3 cups shredded red cabbage
3 cups cooked short macaroni pasta (Ditalini)
2 1/2 cups halved cucumber slices
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion (about 1 small onion)
2 cup halved olives (I used regular black olives because I like them better, but use Kalamata if you prefer)
2 cups diced tomato
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 recipe of Sweet Balsamic Dressing (see recipe below)

1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together except for dressing and feta.
2. When ready to serve, add enough dressing to taste and toss together well until everything is incorporated. Then, add feta last and give it another light toss. 

Sweet Balsamic Dressing
Recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated (or minced)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

You can follow the original directions here. But I was lazy and omitted the blender.
1. Whisk together balsam vinegar, garlic, sugar, dried oregano, salt and pepper.
2. Then whisk in olive oil slowly until everything is combined. 
3. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, June 20, 2014

still good and still on the blog

If you follow my Instagram, then you know I've been making a lot of goodies that are.. wait for it.. already on my silly, little blog. I post recipes on here not only for your lovely convenience but for my own, too. I can't remember every ingredient, measurement, and detail I've done in the past. But good news, the recipes are still tried and true to what I remember.

Here's a look at some of my favorite recipes on this blog that I recreated recently:

Grain-Free Granola: I have more requests for this recipe than probably anything else from my blog.  It looks ordinary, but it's probably my favorite snack ever. It's healthy, Paleo, grain-free, and definitely addicting. It's also super easy to make, and homemade granola is the best granola. It goes well in yogurt, with milk, or by the palmful.

Rustic Apple Pie: My dad loves apple pie, so I jazzed up this homemade rustic apple pie for him. The tart of the green apple and the buttery, crunchy sparkling sugar crust are the perfect combo. It's pretty and it should be made for people you really love.

Cheddar Jalapeño Bagels: Look at this bagel. Really look at it. How could this not be amazing?! My coworker said she was dreaming about it recently and [didn't you hear?] I make dreams come true. That's just what I do. She told me that since she had my cheddar jalapeño bagel, she has not eaten a store-bought one. With the jalapeños mixed into the dough and laid on top, this satisfies jalapeño lovers everywhere.

These three recipes are some of my absolute favorites. Try them! You won't regret it. Promise.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

chocolate chip coconut cookies

We all know I LOVE Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe. It's a classic that should be in everyone's recipe box. The flavor of the dough itself is just SO damn good. Yesterday, I was feeling fancy and decided to cut out the nuts and added some coconut into the mix instead. The texture of the coconut is really harmonious with the chocolate, and the chewiness of the cookie itself with crispy edges is unbelievable. These cookies are TOO good and must be made right away. No joke. I couldn't take a picture that does these cookie any justice, because it was late and my kitchen lighting is the worst at night.

I could have easily eaten the whole batch. If I had kept them in my house, I probably would have. But, I decided to practice some self-control and share them with work and Starbucks.. because mid-week is always sweeter with baked goods. Happy Wednesday! (As I'm writing this, I'm totally regretting that I don't have any left for myself. I actually might make these again tonight.)

Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies
Recipe Adapted from Ina Garten
Yields 36-40 cookies

1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

1. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
2. With a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. On medium speed, mix in vanilla, then eggs one at a time. 
3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture Mix on stir speed until just combined. Add chocolate chips and shredded coconut mix on stir speed for a few seconds. Everything should be well-incorporated and should not look "dry" but do not overmix.
4. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour. *I added this step. The chilled dough will prevent a super flat cookie. If you want a super flat cookie, skip this step. Either way, it won't change the flavor. ;)
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Drop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet using a 1 3/4-inch-diameter scoop or a rounded tablespoon. With the palm of your hand, slightly pat down the rounded portions.
7. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). 
8. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. (OR eat warm, because that's how cookies should be eaten!)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

roasted sweet potatoes with bacon and scallions

During the school year, I suck at being healthy. So, during the summer, I try to cleanse my body of all the crap food and nourish it with the good stuff. I've especially been attempting to be as Paleo as possible before my New York vacay in July. I was doing really well but, truthfully, I've FAILEOd a few times this week for social purposes. Oops.

Can you believe I only started eating sweet potatoes about a year ago when I did my first Whole30? Crazy right? White potatoes will always be better in my book but, if it's in the potato family, I'll work with it.  Lately, I've been addicted to this one sweet potato side dish. Since sweet potatoes are Paleo-friendly, I don't even feel guilty that I've already made it twice this week. SO good.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Scallions

2.5 lbs sweet potatoes
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp bacon fat (or substitute with extra virgin olive oil)
5 slices cooked bacon, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sliced scallions

1. Cook bacon. You can do this stovetop in a skillet or baked in the oven. Cook the bacon to desired texture (I like mine crispy!). Remove bacon from pan and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess fat. Also reserve additional bacon fat from skillet/pan to use. 
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
3. Prepare sweet potatoes. Wash the skin of the sweet potatoes by scrubbing with water. Cut raw sweet potatoes into 1-inch rounds, and then into half or quarter pieces. 
4. Place sweet potatoes, garlic, thyme, rosemary, sea salt, and black pepper into a large mixing bowl with 2 Tbsp of pourable bacon fat or extra virgin olive oil. (If the bacon fat has solidified, you can warm it up in the microwave to get back into liquid form.) Stir everything together until ingredients are well distributed onto sweet potatoes. I give the bowl a few tosses, too.
5. Place the seasoned sweet potatoes onto a foil-lined baking rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork tender.
6. Toss the warm sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp warm bacon fat or olive oil, bacon, and scallions. 
7. Serve hot. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

banana walnut muffins with cinnamon crumb topping

This week was exhausting, people... like borderline unbearable. I've been working almost every day, which is a big transition for me. Two days this week, I had to be in at 5am. Both those days, I passed out once I got home.. while it was still light out. Hence, I've been semi radio silent even though I keep saying things will be posted on my blog "soon". Sorry, a girl's gotta sleep. But, instead of resuming faceplant into pillow right now, I'm blogging from bed.. in the dark.. with the John Mayer Where the Light Is concert playing on my t.v. Yes, this is real life.

When asked to come in to work at 5am, I never want to show up empty-handed. So, instead of getting a solid 8 hours of sleep, I did a little test-baking on Tuesday night prior to my 3:30am wakeup. I adapted my Black and White, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe and present you with this:

Banana Walnut Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping
Yields about 28-30 muffins

Banana Walnut Muffin
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white, granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups mashed ripened bananas (about 5-6 medium-sized bananas)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Cinnamon Crumb Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan(s) with cupcake liners. 
2. Prepare Cinnamon Crumb Topping. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugars, and cinnamon. With a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until you have large pea-sized crumbs. You can also do this with your hands, but I find a pastry cutter easier, cleaner, and keeps the butter cold. Place this bowl into the refrigerator.
3. Prepare the Banana Walnut Muffin batter. In large bowl, combine the dry ingredients-- flour, white sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients-- eggs, canola oil, mashed bananas. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, carefully stirring until there is no more visible dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Fold in chopped walnuts until evenly dispersed.
4. Put it all together. Fill the cupcakes liners 2/3 full with the batter. Fill the remaining 1/3, up to the rim of the liner, with the crumb topping (about a heaping Tbsp). Gently pat down the crumb topping into the batter.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick come out clean. I also like to test by using my fingertips to gently pressing onto one to see if it is firm enough-- it should spring back a little bit when it's done.
6. Remove muffins from cupcake pans and place on a large tray or cooling rack. Serve warm. Can also be stored in an airtight container once cooled.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

royal chocolate- marshmallow bars

On my iPhone, I have at least 12 windows open on Safari. It's been like this for at least 6 months, which is kind of embarrassing. Every once in a while, I'll come across a recipe I want to try and leave the window open. I do this with the hope that, eventually, I'll actually have time to get the ingredients together and make it. You might be thinking: why not just bookmark these recipes? Good question. Here's my answer. I only bookmark recipes that I have already tried and are proven to be worthy of my recipe box. For the record, I didn't say it was a good answer.

So where is this going? On my first day off this summer, I immediately scrolled through the 12 open windows on my iPhone. I decided to make the Royal Chocolate- Marshmallow Bars by Recipe Girl.  I had all the ingredients, so it just seemed like an easy choice. 

Royal Chocolate- Marshmallow Bars
Recipe adapted from Recipe Girl


1st layer
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

2nd layer
10 oz. bag of miniature marshmallows

1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12x9 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Also line the pan with parchment so that there is extra parchment that hangs over all sides. *I do this because it makes removing the final product from the pan super easy once it's cooled. You can just lift it out carefully.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and Dutch process cocoa. Set aside.
3. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, mix butter and sugar on medium high speed until well-combined. Then, add vanilla and eggs one at a time. Keep on medium high speed until light and fluffy.
4. Add dry mixture to the butter mixture. Mix on stir speed until just combined. 
5. Spread this batter into your parchment-lined pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. (*The original recipe used a 15x10 inch pan which required about 15-18 minutes. I had to add more time, but it's best to gauge based on if it's set and not wiggling around when you move the pan.)
6. After first layer is done, immediately pour the marshmallows on top and return back to the oven for 2-3 more minutes. With a knife dipped in water, spread the melted marshmallows into an even layer over the first layer. Let cool.
7. For the topping, heat chocolate chips, butter, peanut butter in a small saucepan on low heat. Stir occasionally and heat until the ingredients are well combined. Remove the saucepan from the stovetop and add Rice Krispies. Spread this mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer.
8. Chill until firm (topping layer is set). Cut into bars.

I made a few slight adjustments to the original recipe when I made these. I used a smaller pan (12x9 instead of 15x10). Even though I have a 15x10 inch jellyroll pan, I wanted the layers to be thicker and more substantial. It's really a preference and either will work. It's like choosing to make regular brownies or extra thick brownies. Remember, just like the directions on the back of a brownie mix box, account for extra baking time if you use a smaller pan.

These bars are crazy good. It looks super sweet and overwhelming, but it's really not. The first layer is like a hybrid of a brownie and cake. It's not overly sweet or dense. The 2nd layer of marshmallows makes you feel like you're biting into a cloud-- an airy, gooey cloud of heaven. And the top layer of chocolate, peanut butter, and Rice Krispies.. it's like everything you didn't know you wanted in a dessert. (See my Everything Rice Krispies Treats if you like this combo, too). 

Give these bars a try. This recipe is definitely going in my recipe box.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

summer update.

I don't spend much time on this blog discussing my personal life unless it's related to my obsessions with baubles and baked goods (duh). However, this year has been a defining one for me and I feel somewhat compelled to share. Keep reading if you're interested in the other tidbits of my life. Stop reading if you just don't give a damn.

I just completed the first year of my Dental Hygiene Program. There were highs and lows, for sure. Being with the same 18 other people all day every day was an adjustment, especially because we are a mixed bag of personalities. After our last final, there was a sense of relief, overwhelming happiness, and just so much love. The reality is that, despite the momentary clashes or inklings of competitiveness, we have all really grown and learned from each other. Most importantly, we made it through the year together. Okay, that's enough mush.

The semester ended about 2 weeks ago but, you know, there were celebratory [alcohol-related] festivities (because we like each other a lot more when alcohol is involved). And those were followed by a recovery period, which included In 'N Out, sleep, and hydration (in no particular order).

Without school for the summer, I'm dedicating myself to both of my jobs and this blog. But, I plan on treating this blog like my third job-- one with an irregular schedule and no pay-- for your reading pleasure [or boredom] only. I am here to serve. You're welcome.

This summer, my goal is to give you more-- more recipes (especially Paleo ones) and more baubles (because I don't do that nearly enough). If you follow my Instagram, you know I haven't neglected either. They just haven't made it to my [small-time] blog over the past few months. I'll work on it though. Promise.

Okay, goodnight lovelies. We have lots of catching up to do starting tomorrow! xo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

homemade oreos

After all the Milk and Cookie Shot excitement yesterday, I don't think it's possible for me to ever make anything to top that. I still have PTSD from Day 1 and parts of Day 2. Let's just put it out there. Spring Break is almost over and I really don't have time to invest in another big project. That took everything from me, particularly my confidence as a baker (at times) and most of my dignity. I repeat: never again. Just so we're all clear. 

Because I had one more day off (meaning, one last opportunity to get some of that dignity back), I decided to pursue something a little less stressful-- like Homemade Oreos. This, I can do.. and you can, too. 

Homemade Oreos 
Recipe by Smitten Kitchen
Yields 25-30 Oreos (or enough for you and possibly a few select people you know)

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup white, granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. **I HIGHLY recommend using the food processor. It was easy to do without overmixing! While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
3. Take rounded teaspoons of dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
4. To make the cream, use a stand mixer with paddle attachment or electric hand mixer and a medium bowl. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and beat until cohesive consistency. Then, at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high speed and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
5. Place the cream into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip. **I just put in a Ziplock bag and snipped off the tip. Nothing fancy but works just as well. 
6. Pipe teaspoon-sized blobs of the cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
7. Dunk in milk and enjoy or, if your feeling generous, share! :)

And because I'm addicted to Insta video these days.. Enjoy this clip of my Oreo making! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

milk and cookie shot

I would like to preface this by saying I will never make these again. So, don't ask, beg, or bargain because it's not happening.. ever. But, I will share my journey with you. Prepare yourself for a novel. It's a doozy.

At SXSW, Dominique Ansel (creator of the ever-so-popular cronut) debuted his latest genius: the Milk and Cookie Shot. Ever since I came across the news, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I googled high and low for answers, direction, something to help me recreate this novelty. Nothing. Because it was so recent, people have been talking about it but nothing more.

The Method (or lack thereof):
I googled "deep baking pan" online, in search for some kind of structured apparatus for my cookie vessel. As I was scrolling, I noticed "petite popover pan". I scrutinized pictures from all angles, looked over the dimensions, and read numerous reviews on all the different brands offering a version of the same thing. I put a lot of effort into this, because I wanted.. hoped.. prayed.. I could actually make it work.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, I was able to get started 2 days after ordering. Those 2 days, I waited in nerve-racking anticipation. My eagerness to just dive in and do it was consuming me. I had no plan but I really felt like something would just click once I got my essential petite popover pan. Basically, I was an idiot. ALWAYS plan when taking on a project, especially when the odds of screwing up are more likely than not. Can't stress this enough.

In the past 24 hours since my petite popover pan arrived, I've almost had a panic attack (or five), wanted to give up (more then 100 times), and pretty much hated every miserable second of every minute of every hour of my existence. You get the gist. If you hate me and want to revel in the details of my torture, see my Twitter for your sick pleasure.

Because I was so excited, I woke up super early yesterday to get started. I knew I wanted to use Ina Garten's Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe for my cookie vessel, simply because it's delicious and I firmly believe in using what I already know I love. Upon making the cookie dough, I realized that it was a little too soft and way too sticky to use for this. I literally stared at the dough, stared at my sticky fingers, and stared at my petite popover pan and felt completely defeated already. It was way too early for that. I would not let the cookie shot win.

I added an extra 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to the already prepared dough. I also had an extra 2 pounds of standby flour because this shit was just not cooperating. It was less sticky but still somewhat too soft. I soon realized that the dough was the least of my problems. Although, I now had the petite popover pan, I didn't have anything to create the opening of the cookie shot glass. It took every little bit of creativity and craftiness in me (which isn't much- I hate crafts with a passion) to figure out what to do next. I'm not a freaking DIY person, I B-U-Y. If I were a DIY person, I would make my own coffee instead of going to Starbucks everyday.

I tore my kitchen apart and found a box of small sample-sized Dixie cups. I've had these damn cups since my 9th grade science fair project. I think I can work with this. Obviously the diameter of the Dixie cups is too large. So I cut a slit down the side and halfway through the middle to manipulate them a bit. To keep their new shape, I wrapped the Dixie cups tightly in aluminum foil.

I then began to roll out the cookie dough. Eff. Why did I have to use chips instead of chunks or flakes?! The chips became a new obstacle, because they awkwardly would not roll down with the dough. I started taking my anger out on the dough and added extra pressure with my pin as I rolled it out. Most of the peaks of the shitty chips broke and kept sticking to my rolling pin. It was necessary for me to adapt again, because clearly the dough had to be a certain thickness and it wasn't taking "no" for an answer. Grrrr. I also realized this when I wrapped the foil plugger I made with the dough and the whole fat thing would not fit into the slot of the petite popover pan.

Only 2 of the 12 that I prepared actually fit. As you can tell, it was going really well. So I put those 2 pieces of crap in the oven and baked them. I also wrapped some parchment around them so that it would stabilize the structure while baking and be extra easy to remove from the pan. Needless to say, I had to remove the thick dough from the other useless foil pluggers in order to unwrap, reshape, and re-foil. This really sucked. We're now on hour 5 or 6 (feels like 50) of this bullshit. It was at this time that I made the conscious decision to call it quits for the day. Nothing was going right for me and I didn't want to deal with this crap dough any longer.

After 15 minutes (in 350 degree oven), I took a peak at the 2 cookie vessels in the oven and they were doing exactly what I wanted them to do. I rotated the pan and let them bake for an extra 3 minutes so they would get more golden. When I pulled them from the oven, I was shocked. They looked freaking normal. I must have done something right, which I guess doesn't say much considering I still had a whole mound of dough on the counter that I absolutely despised. But, screw you, I was thrilled. I couldn't even look at the dough anymore and I felt like it was mocking me, so I just put some plastic wrap over it and threw it in the refrigerator. It was ruining my life.

While the cookies were still somewhat warm, I pulled my crafted foil plugger device out of it. This is the most awkward thing in the world because it's like pulling a tampon out of a vag. That was not PG and extremely gross, but I felt like it just needed to be said. I placed the cookie vessel upright and this effing thing actually stood up on its own. Holy hell. Kill me. It's working. I knew I had to sleep off my day's endless frustration. I just couldn't take anymore abuse from this project. I was too annoyed and too tired to keep going. However, the last 30 minutes of the day did give me a little hope that my ingredients, time, and money I spent on a petite popover pan weren't a total waste. That would have sent me over the edge.

Day [freaking] 2:
This morning, I woke up feeling good... well, not that good (less excited than when I woke up yesterday). More than anything, I felt motivated to finish this ridiculous project I had dumbly convinced myself I was capable of completing. I took the dough out of the refrigerator before taking a shower and getting ready, so that it could [un]chill out and I wouldn't have to work with a big rock.

The "getting myself ready for the day" was just what I needed. I got a sudden burst of energy. I was pumped. I was ready. I had my "Happy Place" playlist all set up. Refrigerating the dough overnight turned out to be helpful. Perhaps it just needed a time out to think about all the hell it put me through. I kneaded and abused it a bit to make sure it knew I was the boss today. The dough beatdown was key. After that, it was much easier to manage. And, somehow, everything that was an absolute disaster the day before was now going much more smoothly than I expected. The "Happy Place" playlist also kept my patience high and blood pressure low. Here's how it went down..

24 hours later, I have the cookie vessel. Halle[freakin]lujah. But oh no, wait, this nightmare isn't over yet. Dominique Ansel lined his cookie shots with a thin layer of dark chocolate. I followed his lead and lined mine with chocolate, too. I ended up melting a bunch of chocolate (can't tell you how much exactly because I did it like 5 times more after the first). Because I'm obsessed with a pop of color (see here and here), I also dipped the bottom of the cooke shotglass in more chocolate and then into a bowl of sprinkles. That's how I roll. These monsters needed all the help they could get, so you know I just had to do it.

They sure looked cute now, but then I had to bring out the milk (leftover from this) to test these assholes. Umm.. I tested one and it failed. There's nothing worse to bring spirits down than spilled milk.. literally. I quickly realized that any part inside the cookie vessel that wasn't lined with the chocolate was going to cause the milk to leak out. So, I melted more chocolate and slathered all of them again. Tested another one.. FAIL. OMG. I was really anxious and pissed off at this point. Like, are you kidding me? How could something so adorable make me feel so much hate? This is real life, people. It's not perfect. In fact, sometimes, it downright blows. So where do I go from here? Slather more chocolate, I guess. What else could I do?! (Please, someone give me another solution here!) I started melting all the effing chocolate I had in the house, because a thin layer was obviously not going to keep these bitches from leaking. Just saying. 

I felt like shit and a half. How the eff would you effing feel? I almost started throwing the remaining cookie shotglasses against the wall or in the garbage. Either way, I was over it. But everyone knew I was working on a project and I dreaded breaking the news that I had nothing to show for my 36 hours of misery.

We're on to the third cookie shotglass. Milk goes in.. wait for it.. nothing comes out. OMG OMG OMG. It's a Christmas miracle, I tell ya. The third shotglass with the third layer of chocolate... my heart just stopped because I was in disbelief. Seriously, this really happened and it made me SO happy. (See it unravel, here-- I unravelled many times prior this, clearly.)

So, I knew one worked for sure. The other 10 or whatever.. not so confident. I've never been more nervous to share baked goods in my life, and I hated it. Obviously, I wasn't going to poor milk in every single one just to be positive that it wasn't going to leak. So, as I handed them over, I made sure to provide the appropriate disclaimer of [perhaps] faulty execution-- i.e. Lower your expectations and pour over a plate first. Or just eat the damn cookie and eff the milk.

I recruited a few brave souls to put my cookie shot to the test. My heart was pounding so hard that it was about to jump out of my chest. Simultaneously, I was on the verge of peeing myself. Guess what, friends? Sometimes, dreams really do come true. Watch the Milk and Cookie Shot in action here and here!!

The Milk and Cookie Shot was definitely an adventure.. a one-time-only sort of adventure that I will never attempt again. But don't let me discourage you. Maybe you can learn from my never-ending sequence of mishaps. After all, that's why I'm here-- to do all the screwing up first and to show you that, at the end of the day (or 2 days of legit hell), it's possible. To see it work was actually incredibly cool and rewarding, so the whole experience was totally worth it.

If I haven't scared the crap out of you by now and you are interested in pursuing this project (maybe need more details than the lengthiness of this blog post), feel free to reach out. I have 48 hours of [more] unfiltered advice for you. Get excited for that.

Milk and Cookie Shot-- It's been fun (hah!), but see you never. Love you, but actually [not-so-secretly] hate your guts.

Friday, March 14, 2014

rustic apple pie

I don't remember much from math, but I do remember 3.14 (a.k.a Pi and the best excuse to make pie today).

So, Joanne Chang is the author of this amazing cookbook, Flour. I've made the Homemade Pop-Tarts from her book, which is constructed with the most perfect pâte brisée. I'm telling you, it's incredible. That's all I can say. Wait, no, I can say more. It's flaky, buttery, not too sweet, and oh-so-orgasmic. Yes, let me repeat that. Orgasmic. Needless to say, it's a go-to recipe for the rest of my life.

There's really only one kind of pie I make. Apple. It's not your traditional apple pie, but rather more rustic and way less complicated. There's no blind-baking and, surprisingly, no pie dish. This is probably the easiest homemade pie ever, and I can't believe I'm sharing all of my secrets right now. I swore I would take this one to the grave with me. Oh well. For the sake of butter, I'll let you steal this from me.. as long as you tell your grandkids where you got it.

So, here's the story. Basically, one day I was thinking about how traditional apple pies have a distinct end crust. Some people like that sort of thing, but I wanted to create a pie with a little bit of apple in every bite. This the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night...Literally. I distinctly remember not sleeping that night in anticipation. I wanted it to have the mind of a turnover and yet maintain the essence of a pie.

It was then that I recruited Joanne Chang's scrumptious pâte brisée for such a mission. And that's how the Rustic Apple Pie was born. Welcome to the world, you beautiful creature.

Rustic Apple Pie
Yields one pie to the face

3 medium Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored, and cut into roughly 1/2-inch slices)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pâte Brisée (see recipe below)

1 egg, lightly beaten
sparkling sugar (optional, but recommended!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pull out the pâte brisée from the refrigerator.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to combine apple slices, sugars, flour, and cinnamon. Make sure the apples are evenly coated.
3. Lightly dust a large working surface and rolling pin with flour. Unwrap the pâte brisée onto the working surface.
4. Roll the pâte brisée out until about an even 1/4-inch thickness (or desired thickness). 
5. Have a parchment-lined baking sheet ready. Use the rolling pin to transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet: Roll most of the dough onto the rollin pin. Then carefully lift it on top of the baking sheet. Unroll the dough from the rolling pin.
6. Once the dough is positioned onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the apple filling. Make sure all the apple is in there! See how I do it below.

7. It doesn't matter where you start on the dough, but just begin folding it over the apples. I like a little bit of apple to still peak out. The exposed apple will also help with ventilation of the pie, so it has some room to breathe. Each time you fold it over, make sure to press the down in areas where dough is overlapping so that it sticks together while baking. 
8. Brush the crust with the egg wash. Then immediately sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

9. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is just golden brown.
10. Allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes until cutting and serving. (It's best to allow the filling to set up a bit.)
11. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Pâte Brisée
Recipe by Joanne Chang
Makes about 18 oz. of dough

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 Tbsp cold milk

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt on stir speed for 10 to 15 seconds or until combined.
2. Scatter the butter over the top. Mix on stir speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and lumps of the butter the size of pecans are visible throughout.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk until blended. Add to the flour mixture all at once. 
4. Mix on stir speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough just barely comes together. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.
5. Dump the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, then gather it together into a tight mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.
6. Gather up the dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disc about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. (** I did not wait 4 hours before using it. Maybe 1 hour, at most. You can use once it's firm and relatively cold.) The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

What I LOVE about the Rustic Apple Pie:
-Easy for anyone despite baking experience.
-Very adaptable. (I've added cranberries and almonds to this during the fall. But honestly, I still like it best just the way it is.)
-Every bite has a little apple.
-Ratio of crust to apple.
-Year-round staple. It's appropriate for any time of the year. (Because what's more American than apple pie?)
-Tart of the apple. I purposely made this not overly sweet. (I've test-baked a lot of these pies with different apple filling variations. I find that the simplicity of just cinnamon, rather than overdoing it with other spices, allows the apples to stand out.)
-Having the last bite be as good as the first (except the fact that it's the last).
-Imperfectly perfect.
-Not labor-intensive.
-Glittering, semi-crunchy, sparkling crust! Holy goodness!

Congratulations to anyone who just noticed that I spelled out EVERYTHING. Because that's what I truly love about this Rustic Apple Pie.

Happy 3.14 to all the nerds, pie makers, and pie consumers everywhere today! P.S. I am all of the above.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

chunks and chips cookies

I hope you just got really excited from reading the subject to this post. Here's the deal: the chunks are chocolate and the chips are potato. Now let me break down my salty-sweet concoction into a recipe for you so you can make your own batch. This is for all the people who already saw my cookie-making on Insta and think I'm sending these to you. Love you, but no.

Chunks and Chips Cookies
Yields about 20 cookies
Adapted from Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white, granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (the good stuff), chopped into chunks
1 cup potato chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
4. To the butter and sugar mixture, add the egg and vanilla and beat on low. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and remix to make sure that everything is well-combined.
5. Add the flour mixture and mix on stir speed until it just comes together. Do not overmix.
6. Add chocolate chunks and potato chips. Fold together or mix on stir speed for a few seconds.
7. Onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, portion out 1 1/2-inch, rounded scoops of the dough (I use a small  cookie scoop) and space them 2 inches apart.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned, rotating the sheet halfway through the bake time.
9. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes. Then transfer to a cooling rack or eat while they're still warm! 

And because my blog is about baubles and baked goods and I've been slacking on the bauble-sharing these days..

necklace: Baublebar (and this one)

I decided that my cookies and I should be twinning today! :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

sprinkled milk chocolate peanut butter cups

I gave up on being serious blogger when I got accepted into my dental hygiene program. Let's face it, it's too damn hard scheduling free time when I'm usually at work, school, or Starbucks. Seriously, though.. never home. It's tough sometimes, but I'm still making and sharing sweets. It has kept me from fully losing my mind and also, conveniently, keeps my future career in demand. Win, win. I haven't been able to dabble into some super creative baking adventures in a while, but I'm hoping that will change soon.. Like tomorrow since my last midterm was today. There's two more days of school this week but, mentally, I'm already on Spring Break.

Remember that time I made those Pretzel-Topped Peanut Butter Cups? Well, guess what? I discovered they are even cuter with a little pop of color, instead. I mean, it wasn't too much of a surprise since a little bit of color is just like a little bit of sparkle.. always better.

Sprinkled Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Yields about 60 mini cups

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2- 4 cups milk chocolate chips

1. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together creamy peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until well combined.
2. In a microwavable bowl, melt 2 cups of milk chocolate chips in 30 second intervals until completely melted and smooth. Stir in between to distribute the heat and make sure not to overheat the chocolate!
3. Spoon a dollop of the melted chocolate into each of the cups of a silicone candy mold. Spread the chocolate around, creating an even, semi-thin later of chocolate covering all sides and crevices.
4. In each cup coated with chocolate, place a rounded ball of the peanut butter filling mixture in the center of the cup. The amount of peanut butter filling will depend on your specific candy mold. I personally like a good amount of peanut butter filling in each cup.
5. Stir around your melted chocolate (Hopefully, it hasn't hardened by the time you get to this step. Re-melt if necessary.). Spoon and smooth it down into each cup to fill completely and cover the peanut butter filling.
6. The chocolate won't hardened instantaneously, so you have some time to fill them all first. Then add your colored sprinkles on top to your liking.
7. Place the mold into the freezer for a couple minutes until chocolate has solidified again. 
8. Pop the peanut butter cups out and they are ready to eat!
9. Repeat from Step 2 with the rest of the chocolate.

My candy mold only makes 30 at a time, and the recipe will definitely make about double. However, I still like to work with only half the amount of chocolate at a time. It's more manageable, less messy, and I can avoid having an I Love Lucy moment. I hope you caught that old-school t.v. reference or else it was completely pointless.

The other change I made to this recipe is the amount of chocolate. In making these peanut butter cups again, I found that it's important to have more chocolate than you think you'll need. Just go with it. It works. I use it all.

Also, I used rainbow-colored nonpareil sprinkles. Back in the day, when I worked as a baker, I absolutely hated these sprinkles. Mostly because there was a time when I hosted birthday parties at the shop. Let me tell you, kids just do awful things with these sprinkles. Awful. It made me pretty miserable. But now that I'm not doing that anymore, we've sorted out our problems and reconnected. Yes, I'm still talking about sprinkles! These have just the right amount of crunch and color to make these peanut butter cups extra adorable. But again, use whatever will make you happy!

Happy Wednesday, lovelies! I kind of miss you.  xo

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Scones

I'm backkkkk! This is my first post of the New Year (which, in retrospect, doesn't say much considering I've been off the grid since September). Naturally, I am accompanying this return with a recipe that is worthy of a same-day share.

Scones are perfect for winter. I will tell you why. The process requires cold ingredients-- specifically, cold butter that will result in that oh-so-dreamy flakiness. With "room temperature" scaled on the cooler side these days, you don't have work quite as quickly as needed during the warmer months. The chance of messing this up is thus very low. You're welcome.

Back in May, I adapted a savory Cheddar and Chive Buttermilk Scone recipe. But if you are craving something fruity, I now have something new for you: Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Scones. They are divine. Tart, citrus, buttery, flaky sweetness... nailed it.

Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from Tartine // Elizabeth M. Prueitt & Chad Robertson
Yields 12 scones 

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups whole cranberries, unsweetened (Sometimes, it's hard to find fresh cranberries. I used frozen and then thawed them ahead of time)
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange Glaze

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
extra zest for sprinkling (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Then add sugar and salt and stir with wooden spoon.
3. Cut cold butter into 1/2-in cubes and scatter over dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into dry ingredients until it's a coarse mixture with visible pea-sized lumps of butter.
4. Add buttermilk, cranberries, orange juice, and orange zest all at once to the mixture. Stir gently with the wooden spoon. Continue gently mixing until dough comes together-- add small amount of buttermilk at a time if the dough is too dry. 
5. Turn dough onto work surface lightly dusted with flour. Shape into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick. 
6. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 triangles and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  
7. Brush the tops of the triangles with melted butter (you will need about 2-3 Tbsp).
8. Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before glazing.
9. Prepare the Orange Glaze: While the scones are baking, make the orange glaze. Whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange zest until even consistency. Then, set aside.
10. Once the scones have cooled down, generously drizzle the top surface of the scones with the orange glaze. *TIP: I like to transfer the prepared orange glaze into the bottom corner of a plastic ziplock bag. I just slightly snip off that corner of the bag when I am ready to drizzle!
11. Allow the glaze to set up and harden a bit or just eat right away. I don't judge! I couldn't wait to dive in either..

This is the treat you want to have on a lazy winter morning/afternoon/night when it's too chilly outside to care about leaving the premises. So, instead, you pop in a movie and devour a scone [or two] while sipping on hot tea. P.S. I just described my whole day. Oh yeah, also, it was awesome.