baking

Miss Erika's Caramel Surprise Brownies

  Brownies in the Bakers Edge Pan

Sometimes, you need a nice big batch of brownies to get through a cold Winter's day. This recipe makes a nice thick brownie, and is ideal for use with the Baker's Edge brownie pans (seen above).

Miss Erika's Caramel Surprise Brownies Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 10 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 TSP vanilla
  • 1 cup caramel chips

Sift flour, cocoa and salt together in a large bowl and set aside. Cream sugar and butter on low speed with your mixer until combined, then add  eggs and vanilla. After mixture is well-combined, add in flour mixture and beat until texture is smooth. Stir in caramel chips by hand.

Add batter to your favorite brownie pan and smooth to spread it evenly throughout the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Halloween Honey Cookies

image from distilleryimage9.ak.instagram.com

I tend to make the bulk of my rolled out cookies during the holidays. But since I was craving my honey cookies, and Halloween is just around the corner, I decided to make some this week. They'll make fun care packages...

image from distilleryimage0.ak.instagram.com
My favorite Halloween cookie cutter is the scary cat. When decorated with the spooky purple rubble sprinkles, it's adorable (and tasty!):
image from distilleryimage11.ak.instagram.com

Honey Cookies 

  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract in your mixer or a large bowl until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Separate dough into 3 balls and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake 8 minutes. They will look pretty brown due to the honey but don't fret! Adding the icing will moisten them up, making a crispier cookie better. Decorate with your favorite royal icing and cover with festive Halloween sprinkles like these or colored sugar. 


Rum Banana Bread with Milk Chocolate Chips

image from distilleryimage2.ak.instagram.com

Rum Banana Bread with Milk Chocolate Chips

Adapted from Pastry Affair's dark rum banana bread. Yields one 9 x 5-inch loaf 

  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 average sized bananas)
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup rum (I used Malibu)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a loaf pan or line it with parchment paper.

In a mixer or a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs individually and mix until combined. Add vanilla extract and mashed bananas and mix until combined. Mix in dry ingredients, scraping down bowl, and mix until all flour is evenly incorporated into the batter. Stir in the rum and the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 70-80 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing from pan and transferring loaf to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Miss Erika's Holiday Bread Pudding

our tiny bread pudding for Christmas Eve dessert

It's becoming a holiday tradition for me to make my bread pudding for bringing to our Sonoma Christmas dinner with L's family.

  • 1 loaf of Challah, stale, torn into bite-size chunks (approx 9 cups)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 1 package chocolate chips

Preheat oen to 325 degrees.

Beat eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and bourbon together. Add bread chunks, stirring them into the egg mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow bread to soak up the egg mixture. Pour into buttered 2 quart baking dish. Add chocolate chips and gently toss with bread chunks.

Bake 45 minutes or until set.


Holiday Cookies

image from @sferika on instagram.com

Baking holiday cookies has been an annual tradition of mine since junior high school. In fact, I've been making my honey cookies, seen above, since then.

image from @sferika on instagram.com

A few years ago, I added these gorgeous chocolate shortbread cookies to the mix. I love that they are a tiny bite-sized chocolate bomb. I've traditionally always topped them with chopped pistachios, but this year decided to try something new and covered some of them with chopped up See's molasses chips.

image from @sferika on instagram.com

And back by popular demand, I made the peppermint surprise cookies that were such a hit last year. I had intended to try a new recipe of some sort as well, but the above took me the whole weekend -- an entire day to bake (I did double batches of each) and another day decorating them.

image from @fynralyl

It was all worth it when I took in my goodie bags and cookie tins and shared them with colleagues and friends. It was a nice way to say goodbye to folks, with something sweet in hand.


Cheddar Cheese Scones

  image from farm9.staticflickr.com

Nothing says Thanksgiving appetizer like baked treats loaded with butter and cheese, yes? Thus, my cheddar cheese scones, hot out of the oven and destined for tomorrow's Thanksgiving buffet table...

  • 3 cups flour, self-rising
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (8 TBSP)
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Butter 2 cookie sheets or spray with cooking spray; set aside. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F (220 c.) Sift dry ingredients together. Add butter, cutting in or thumbing in, until butter is integrated throughout, leaving you with tiny flakey crumbs that clump together if you squeeze them. Slowly pour in buttermilk, stirring in with a knife until just combined. Add cheddar cheese and combine in with your hands. You will have a very sticky dough. You may roll out the dough on a floured board to a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness and cut with a 2" pastry cutter into rounds, or use a floured ice cream scoop, or your hands, to make the balls of dough equal sizes and drop onto your cookie sheets. Personally, I prefer the drop scones, as you get some crunchy bits on top.

Bake 12-15 minutes until they are golden on top. makes up to 20 drop scones, 24 rolled scones.

Cap'n Crunch Coffee Cake

image from distilleryimage4.s3.amazonaws.com

I've been making one variation or another of this coffee cake since I was in high school. For my most recent batch, whipped up to celebrate my friends Sharon and Ian's housewarming party, I decided to try a little something different with the topping. Instead of the usual brown sugar and butter topping, I went with some Cap'n Crunch. And it was delicious!

For the Topping

  • 3 Cups Cap'n Crunch Cereal, smashed by hand so it is partially crumbled
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup powdered milk
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TSP salt

Combine all these ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

For the Coffee Cake

  • 3 Cup flour
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 5 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 Cup butter (room temperature) or shortening
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375. Grease your loaf pans or muffin tins (I've even used brioche tins with great success for these.) Mix all the coffee cake ingredients in a large bowl or your mixer until blended together, about 1 minute. Spread batter into pans and sprinkle topping over the  top. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the topping starts to brown. Then cover with foil to resume baking for another 20 minutes. Test with cake tester and remove from oven when cake tester comes out clean. Muffin tin sized cakes usually are ready in about 30 minutes, but larger pans have taken up to an hour in our terrible electric oven.

Enjoy!

 


A Cookie Baking Weekend

image from farm8.staticflickr.com

I spent all of this weekend baking cookies. Chocolate shortbread. Honey Merry Christmas rolled out cookies. Peppermint surprise chocolate cookies. Then I spent the better part of today decorating them. Milk chocolate used as glue for getting smashed candy cane bits to stick to the peppermint surprise or the chocolate shortbread (which also had a set with pistachios on top.)

But the big push was icing and sugaring all the honey cookies. I try to do a wide variation in decorating these cookies-- some with only a little sugar and icing, others with sprinkles, and only a few that go full out with the icing and sugar. For some reason, folks can be a little timid about biting the top off a big sugar coated tree. Which is why I always make so many of those wee stars. I consider them to be the gateway cookies. People take one to be polite and bite in, expecting a dry, flavorless vanilla sugar cookie, and instead are hit with the aromatics and taste of the honey. And *then* the go for the tree.

These honey cookies are pretty much the only holiday tradition I have carried with me from childhood onward. I remember making these cookies with my mother and grandmother as early as 7 years of age. And using some of the same HRM cookie cutters I used today. (As an aside, that snowman is my most favorite cookie cutter ever. I use it sparingly however as it is cracked. I keep hoping to find a set of them in a junk shop.) And just as I did as a child, I make my own colored sugar, using regular old table sugar and food coloring. I've never developed a taste for those bigger pre-colored sugar crystals. For me, the hand colored sugar is what these cookies need to be complete.

The next step of course will be to package up all these treats, then give them away to the folks who have made my life a better, happier place in the past year. I'm planning to put a number of them in the mail and hope they won't be too battered when they arrive. And hope that the folks who open up their mailbox to find a small package of the cookies know that even if I don't always say it, they are most appreciated and greatly missed.

The only fly in the ointment in this cookie euphoria is my SO had oral surgery last week and is on a strict no chew diet. I reserved a couple of the cookies for him, however, to be crunched up into a milkshake. It's not as fabulous as the finished cookies mind you, but it will do in a pinch.

I would have waited until he is back on solid foods, but since I am taking vacation time for the two weeks prior to Christmas, this was my only chance to bake cookies to bring in to work.

I haven't had the weeks prior to Christmas off in at least 5 years, probably longer. But this year, since I hadn't taken a 2-week break, and my SO has the time off from his Master's in Library Science studies, I am thrilled to be able to get the time off. I plan to go do some volunteering at the SPCA holiday windows, have a lunch or three with friends I don't get to see often enough, and to trek out to the Valley to see the other Erika.

I'm totally looking forward to my leisurely long holiday break.


Red Velvet Cookies

sort of more auburn velvet cookies

I finally got around to making those red velvet cookies I saw over on Fake Ginger's blog.

After making them today, I would call these more like devilishly chocolate chip cookies more than red velvet, truth be told, but I did really like them. I'm less excited about having ruined my manicure with the red food coloring.

I made a couple of tiny tweaks to the recipe, trying to get more of a red velvety taste, and to account for the original recipe's comments regarding amount of wet ingredients.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg


In a liquid measuring cup, add together:
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1 tsp lemon juice
fill up to 1/4 cup line with heavy cream

In a large bowl, sift or stir together:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder


1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cream the butter and sugars in an electric mixer. Mix in the egg. Pour in the cream mixture, scraping down the sides to get as much of the red coloring into your bowl as possible. After this is just mixed in, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. You will have a fairly thick dough.

Use a cookie scoop to form your cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies start to firm up.

Yields 38 cookies.


Tea and Sympathy

SconesOver the past few days, the news has alternately made me angry and disappointed. Disappointed overall in the lack of empathy I'm seeing folks have for others who lack their privilege. And angry to see those smugly assured they will never be poor, or female and pregnant raising a child alone, and thus can not imagine why we should provide social support for those who need it.

When I've seen folks in my twitter feeds being hateful, I've unfollowed. When I've seen thoughtful posts such as the one I linked to above, I have shared them. I am only one person, but I try to do what I can.

Most of what I can truly impact is, of course, my own immediate surroundings. How I behave, my empathy for others. And of course, my baked treats. For as long as I can remember, I've used baking as a way to show those close to me that they have my love and support. (And I've contributed a fair number of treats to charity bake sales.)

This is why today I am finally getting off my butt and making my blueberry scones. I'd wanted to bake them for my team for Christmas, but I battled a nasty cold for most of Christmas, and colds and baking do not mix. So there you have it -- Christmas in February: Frog Hollow jam and scones from me. It's a small gesture, but one from the heart.

Recipe adapted from the Ritz Carlton Book of Afternoon Tea, a gift many years ago from the fabulous Miss Mitzi.

  • 3 cups flour, self-rising
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter (8 TBSP)
  • 1 1/3 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (Substitute a cup of Guittard milk chocolate chips if you are not a blueberry fan)

Butter 2 cookie sheets or spray with cooking spray; set aside. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F (220 c.) Sift dry ingredients together. Add butter, cutting in or thumbing in, until butter is integrated throughout, as tiny flakey crumbs. Slowly pour in milk, stirring in with a knife until just combined. Add blueberries, and stir in. You will have a very sticky dough. You may roll out the dough on a floured board to a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness and cut with a 2" pastry cutter into rounds, or use a floured ice cream scoop to make the balls of dough equal sizes and drop onto your cookie sheets. Personally, I prefer the drop scones, as you get some crunchy bits on top.

Bake 12-15 minutes until they are golden on top. makes 20 drop scones, or 24 rolled scones. 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per scone.


Holiday Star Cookies


Holiday star cookies, originally uploaded by almostgold.

Starting in on the frosted+sugared cookies now.

 Merry Christmas Cookies

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Lightly grease cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake 8-10 minutes. Ice with your favorite royal icing technique. I like to slather them in frosting then cover them with colored sugar. 

Share with those you love.


Seven-Layer Brownies

Since we are off to the fair today, I have snacks on the brain. Thus once a twitter friend was trying to decide on some brownies to make, I felt prompted to share my friend Carolyn's recipe, which I wheedled out of her when we did a holiday cookie exchange several years ago.

These are truly the most fabulous 7 Layer Brownies I've had, and so simple to make.

1. Melt 1 stick of butter in 9"x13" pan, then add the following layers:
2. 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
3. 1 cup of grated coconut
4. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
5. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of butterscotch chips
6. 1 cup chopped nuts (Carolyn used pecans)
7. Pour 1 can of sweetened condensed milk over the top

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for nugget style brownies.

I mean, how can any recipe that starts off with melting an entire stick of butter *not* be fabulous???

Summertime Baking

One of the small pleasures of living in San Francisco is our cool weather continues through most of the Summer. Which means we can actually entertain the idea of baking during the berry months without getting up at the crack of dawn.

Here are a few that have tempted me, to be added to the "Must Bake" list:

If I had a deep fryer, I'd also be after a good recipe for Fried Zucchini chips. We had some at Rose Pistola last night. They were so good. So very evil and delicious.


Mini Bluberry Muffins

Made these babies again today.

Muffins2

In my fabulous mini muffin tray. MMMM. 

Muffin_pan

I love that I can just use these silicon pans without prep -- no liners, no buttering each cup. And they make perfect teeny muffins that even the dieting ladies at my office will eat. That's what I call a win/win.

Non-related, this place has been devoid of photos for the last few months due to my fabulous new computer. Leopard broke my ancient copy of Photoshop. And though I tried to find a free or chea or lite photo app, I ended up not taking pictures out of annoyance at not being able to play with them the way I like to.

But last week, I gave in and bought Adobe Photoshop CS4 . And I love it. Worth every penny.


Nilla Wafer Pudding

It has already been established within these pixels that I do love white trash 70s food. It is the comfort food my mom made while I was growing up, so I can't help it.

Tonight, I'm making Nilla Wafer pudding.

INGREDIENTS

1 box Nilla Wafers
1 box instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk for the pudding
2 bananas

ASSEMBLY
Make pudding. Line small round dishes with Nilla wafers on sides and bottom. Slice rounds of bananas and cover the bottom layer of Nilla wafers with them. Pour 1/3 of the pudding over the top. Make a layer of Nilla Wafers on top of that, then bananas, then pudding, repeat again.

BAKING
Pop into a 350 degree oven and heat until warm throughout (15-20 min). Enjoy the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.


The Blueberryist Muffins

BlueberrymuffinI am blessed with working downtown, steps away from a weekly farmers market.

This past week, in addition to the amazing peaches, nectarines, and strawberries that made their way home with me, I bought a pint of blueberries.

These were bursting with flavor, and needed to be used right away. I obliged by whipping up the blueberry muffin recipe I had just seen on the CHOW blog.

I'd seen comments therein about these being a little salty. Lacking any kosher salt, I subbed in some grey sea salt. The results are a few spikes of salt that perfectly offset the sweet berries.

Now I just have to decide what to do with more of these luscious berries this week. Thinking some sort of bread maybe?


holiday baking shortcut: gingerbread edition

I made gingerbread cookies yesterday, to take to a holiday party. The royal icing on top is such an amazing thing. It goes from marshmallowy consistency to shiny hard icing in such a short amount of time.

I made the icing from scratch, of course, but I cheated on the cookies. With my wrist repetitive stress injury, I didn't want to deal with molasses. (I have lingering memories of the arm strain from making lebkuchen as a child.) So I did what any other savvy consumer would do -- I bought the Williams-Sonoma mix at the mall last week.

The cookies are yum and no one will ever know my little secret.


Trader Joe's Ready-to-bake Cookie Dough

I don't think I've ever brought home a ready-to-bake cookie dough before. After all, my homemade baked treats are raved about by friends and family--and even requested specifically by coworkers.

However, I've been under the weather lately, so the prospect of whipping up a batch of cookies from scratch was overwhelming. So when I saw the tub of chocolate chunk cookie dough at Trader Joe's last night, I popped it into the cart. Why not give it a try? Even worst-case scenario, it should be more tasty than prepackaged cookies, right? It also gave me an excuse to try out the new Delonghi convection oven that arrived from Williams-Sonoma yesterday.

Getting the timing right took a batch, but even those turned out despite the multiple checks and time increases. The taste overall reminded me of the Specialties cookies that are prevalent in San Francisco. Definitely well worth it for when you want fresh cookies but aren't in the mood for messing up the kitchen.


Madeleines

image from distilleryimage0.ak.instagram.com

I finally found a madeleine recipe that worked for me... I basically did this, borrowing from an online recipe and from Julia Child's "The Way to Cook"...

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter (plugra) melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a few drops of lemon juice

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Paint madeleine tin with a flour and melted butter mixture (1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp melted butter).

2. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add vanilla extract and lemon juice to butter. Combine the eggs and sugar in a sauce pan. Place pan on low heat and beat the mixture with a whisk or electric beaters until thick and pale yellow. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to beat the mixture until cooled slightly and increased in volume.

3. Add the egg and sugar mixture to the sifted flour, then add in the butter, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Fold all ingredients in quickly until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the madeleine tin.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Carefully remove from the tin and place on a wire rack until cold. OPTIONAL: Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


Carolyn's 7-Layer Brownies

The tastiest treat in our cookie exchange, other than my stars, of course, were these fabulous 7 Layer Brownies:

1. Melt 1 stick of butter in 9"x13" pan, then add the following layers:
2. 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
3. 1 cup of grated coconut
4. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
5. 3/4 of a 12 oz bag of butterscotch chips
6. 1 cup chopped nuts (Carolyn used pecans)
7. Pour 1 can of sweetened condensed milk over the top

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for nugget style brownies.

I mean, how can any recipe that starts off with melting an entire stick of butter *not* be fabulous???


Pound Cake French Toast

This is a  fast and easy dessert that sends your guests home with a warm happy feeling (and the impression you slaved over it.)

Pound Cake French Toast

1 slice pound cake* about 1/2 inch thick per person having dessert
2 eggs
2 TBSP half and half
1 TBSP grand marnier**
1 square dark chocolate per slice of pound cake
butter
powdered sugar
real maple syrup

In a wide bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, and grand marnier. Melt butter (1-2 tsp) over medium heat in a pan large enough for both slices of cake. Grate chocolate squares and keep chocolate close by. Lay each slice of cake in the bowl, coating each side with the egg mixture. Place coated cake in the pan. When first side is lightly browned, turn over. Sprinkle the chocolate on the top of the cake and cook until done. Serve with sifted powdered sugar and maple syrup on top.

* You may use previously frozen pound cake if your neighborhood bakery ruins their pound cakes with raisins and such.

** I suppose you could substitute orange juice, but I wouldn't. And don't even think of using cheap triple sec; it'll ruin everything. Pony up the $3 for the single serving size of the grand marnier at your friendly neighborhood bodega.