Long forgotten, but still remembered

I must apologize for my lack of updates in the recent months. I’ve had a few recent bumps in the road in terms of my health that have kept me from updating as often as I would have liked (take a look here for more information on that side of my life – http://abvdinnyc.wordpress.com/) I’ve been baking a bit here and there still, but with summer upon us, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things baking-wise!

Instead of backtracking to find all the recipes I’ve used in the past month, I thought I’d just share some pictures that I have taken of my creations. We’ve had a few birthdays in the apartment, Passover, and the usual baking adventures. I also hosted a baking birthday party for some 6 and 7 year olds along with my roommate. It was loads of fun and if anyone is interested in having a baking party, let me know!  With school over in just a few days, my time will be opened up once again to try some new things this summer!

Coconut brownies made during a ski vacation in Vermont. 

Chocolate cake with caramel butter cream, chocolate ganache, and salted praline for my grandfathers birthday. 

Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my grandfathers birthday. 

Adventures in juice making with our lovely new juicer. 

Carrot, pineapple, and apple juice made at home. 

Lemon cheesecake cupcakes with glazed blueberry topping for a roomies birthday party. 

The birthday spread. 

The start of the most amazing meal I had while on spring break in France. 

The most perfect steak. 

Leading a six and seven year old baking birthday party. 
A sugar cookie baking adventure at a birthday party. 
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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!


Sugar Cookies II

I’ve had a crazy weekend. Worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday just about non-stop with a quick jaunt to see A Single Man with my roomie, which I highly recommend. Anyway, prior to commencing this crazy weekend, a few of us decided to watch the new season of the WIRE we had got in the mail Thursday night. Needless to say, we watched 4 episodes in a row because it is hands down one of the best TV shows ever.
Anyway, while we were watching, I had that baking itch and decided on some sugar cookies. Not just any sugar cookies mind you, sugar cookies with royal icing. I had never made royal icing before and had I been smarter about it, I probably should have waited. By the time the cookies were out of the oven and cooled, it was already 10:30 and I was just starting to ice. I did about 12 cookies with detail, but given how long it took, I just gave up with the fanciness and kind of globed it all on after that. When I was paying attention to detail, I used a variety of tips from my cake decorating kit to get some thin and thick lines. I added a but too much water to some of the purple icing that I planned to flood, so it didn’t dry so well, but I learned my mistake and only diluted the blue a teeny bit. For future, I will definitely give myself plenty of time to ice cookies with royal icing. I could see making some really awesome cookies though, because the icing dries hard, so you can stack them when you’re all done and you can make some really nifty patterns. So while not a complete success this time, I will certainly try again.


SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, brandy, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

2) Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

4) On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

royal icing:

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder, or 2 large egg whites (I used meringue powder)

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder.

2) Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water.

3) A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details.

4) Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.

Chanukah Sugar Cookies

The festival of lights is upon us! Friday night marked the first night of Chanukah. I love Chanukah for many reasons. Obviously for the gifts, but mostly because of the yummy yummy food you get to eat. Latkes, apple sauce, and sour cream if one of my favorite combinations ever. So far, it is only the third night and I have eaten god knows how many latkes. They’re just so delicious all fried up in oil. I think for the remaining 5 nights, I’m going to have to eat a more balanced diet if I ever plan on fitting back into my jeans.

So for the first night this past Friday, Charlotte and I ventured uptown to have a celebration with my entire family – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc… It was all very fun. It was the first time I had spent Chanukah in New York with my extended family in a long time.  It was also Charlottes’ first Chanukah celebration, so we explained to her all about lighting the candles, and even she got some presents! We had a yummy dinner, although the latkas did get a slightly bit scorched, and by slightly I mean then were mostly black.

Anyway, the rest of the meal was great and I decided to make some sugar cookies for dessert. I got a set of Chanukah cookie cutters from my secret santa the other day. So there were dreidels, Jewish stars, menorahs, and even little Judah Maccabee cut outs that really just looked like ginger bread to me. They were super easy to make. I did the dough the night before and just rolled them out Friday morning and popped them into the oven. I debated for a very long time whether I wanted to make icing or not, but after much contemplation and realizations that I was far to lazy, I decided to leave them plain. I think icing would have been nice, but they were perfectly fine by themselves. This will definitely be my go to sugar cookie recipe from now on when ever I need to make some.

CHANUKAH SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from The Splendid Table)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together.

2) Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale.

3) Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated — because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and malleable.

4)  Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least two hours.

5)  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6) Working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies  Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the cookies onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.

7) Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove pans from oven. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

8 )  Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.