September Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Sugar Cookies

I love sugar cookies. They’re pretty easy to make, you can make them in any shape or size you want and if you have the time and patience, decorating them is very fun. The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

I had a lot of trouble with this dough recipe. I’m not sure if it was a mistake I made, or I just wasn’t used to my dough being this dry, but I had a hard time getting the dough to roll out properly. I ended up more or less handshaping a lot of discs from which I cut out pieces.

I settled upon some fall themed cookie cutters – apples, acorns, and leaves. Fall in  New York is one of my favorite seasons, although the recent rain/humidity spell has not been all that pleasant. I love walking through Central Park when all the leaves have changed and cannot wait to start wearing my jean jacket and boots more often.

I spent a lot of time decorating these cookies, for as you can see from the photos, my lovely roommate decided to make a paper-maché tree to hang them on. It’s possible that the tree was more complicated than the cookies, although it did take me about 2 and half hours to do all the cookies. I’m most proud of the apples, I think they’re just so cute. I had a hard time deciding on colors for the leaves but when it was all set up on the tree, they looked good. Perhaps this new ”fall tree” will be the new fad!


Peach Jam

I don’t know why, but starting about a month ago, I became obsessed with the idea of making jam. I don’t know where it came from – maybe seeing all the beautiful fruit at the farmers’ market? Or the beautiful display of canning products at the Broadway Panhandler?

Whatever it was, I finally decided to make jam last week! Having no prior experience making jam, I decided to order a jam kit online as well as a large stock pot, given that our largest pot isn’t even big enough to make a serving of pasta.

After venturing to the farmers’ market to buy perhaps some of the last peaches of the seasons, I started the jam-making process. It was actually a lot easier than I anticipated, it just takes a solid chunk of time where you really have to pay attention. At first, I was awfully confused with the whole boiling water bath for the jars, but I realized that with the help of the special rack that came with my pot, it was all actually quite easy.  I jumped around from recipe to recipe and had a hard time deciding between using pectin or just sugar. I finally decided on no-sugar pectin because it was the only kind they had at the supermarket and added about 2 cups of sugar. It didn’t come out quite how I wanted it – it was bit more of a fruit compote than jam – but it was still yummy and I’ve been having it on my toast most mornings.

I am 100% certain that this was just my first adventure in my new obession with jamming.

PEACH JAM

(Adapted from the pectin box and PickyourOwn)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 – 12 fresh peaches
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 box no-sugar added pectin
  • 1-4 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you want it

DIRECTIONS

1) Crush 1 cup chopped peaches in the bottom of a large saucepan. Add remaining peaches, and set pan over medium-low heat. Bring to a low boil, and cook for about 20 minutes or until peaches become liquid.

2) Add sugar, and bring to a boil once again over medium heat. Gradually stir in dry pectin, and boil for 1 minute.

3) Remove from heat after 1 minute, and transfer to sterilized jars. Process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. Let cool, and place on shelf.

Here is a great tutorial (towards the bottom) on processing jam in a hot water bath with a nifty little video that helped me a bunch!

Honey Cake

Shana Tova to all! I know it’s already passed, but honey bread is the essential dessert for any Rosh Hashanah dinner, so I just had to share my experience making it last week. I spent the first evening of the New Year at my mom’s new apartment in Brooklyn. Going there reminds me that there is a world outside of Manahattan – only 20 minutes away mind you – that feels like a completely different city. Small brownstones on every street, a main road with small shops and so much less noise than outside my window. It’s quite amazing.

Honey cake is incredibly simple to make, but care must taken after it’s put in the oven so as not to over-bake and becoming dry, which it tends to do. I used a pretty generic store brand honey, but I’m sure it would be very tasty to test out some more interesting farmers market honeys to see if there is any difference. I doubled the batch, as we were having multiple meals and had to juggle the ingredients in many different bowls as my mother does not yet have a proper set of mixing bowls. This is certainly a true holiday cake that fits at any Rosh Hashanah table.

HONEY CAKE

(Adapted from epicurous.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup honey (preferably buckwheat)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed strong coffee, cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon (I left this out, since my mom didn’t have any)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F. Oil loaf pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

2) Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and ginger in a small bowl.

3) Whisk together honey, oil, and coffee in another bowl until well combined.

4) Beat together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add honey mixture and whiskey and mix until blended, about 1 minute.

5) Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Finish mixing batter with a rubber spatula, scraping bottom of bowl.

6) Pour batter into loaf pan (batter will be thin) and bake 30 minutes. Cover top loosely with foil and continue to bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Cool on a rack 1 hour.

7) Run a knife around side of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack. Turn cake right side up and cool completely.

Peach Crisp

Today was my first day of school! I can’t believe summer is already over, although given the weather today, it still feels like the middle of June. The week leading up to school, I had kind of lost interest in going back to school, but last night and this morning I was very giddy with the prospect of seeing my friends again and remembering how to do homework 😉

Last night, we decided to have our old roommates over for a back to school dinner. It was so much fun to see them all again. I hadn’t seen any of them since we moved out in May. It was so different being in our apartment rather than being in the dorm all together. It seemed like just yesterday we were all living in the same apartment, yet now we are all spread across Manhattan – we’re in the East Village, some in Union Square, the Upper East Side and even Gramercy Park. I’m hoping that we continue to have dinner parties thoughout the year as we always have such delicious food.

I decided to make peach crisp, because I knew it’s the end of peach season and I knew it was quick to make since I didn’t have much time, having arrived back from Washington D.C. an hour before dinnertime. I called up my dad to give me the recipe, as he is a Master Crisp Maker, although I added a few spices on my own and an egg following my roommate’s recommendation. We were out of all-purpose flour, so I had to use bread flour. I don’t think it really made a huge difference, although the crisp a day later seemed a little more gelatinous than usual – possibly because of the bread flour? I’m not really sure. I got some vanilla ice cream to accompany it and  we ate it right out of the oven. This is such an easy recipe that could be adapted to most any fruits that are in season.

PEACH  CRISP

(Adapted from my dad)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 pounds fresh peaches
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of ground ginger
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (powdered sugar or granulated white sugar would work as well)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2) In a large mixing bowl, toss sliced peaches with the first 5 ingredients to coat. Pour over a 9 X 13 baking dish.

3) In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, using a dough blender, two forks, or even your hands to make a crumble dough. Add more oats or flour if the dough is still too wet.

4) Cover the peach mixture with the flour and oats mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy.

5) Best enjoyed right out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream 🙂