Sunday, September 23, 2007


This will be a quick post. All I will say is that it doesn't get any better than these.. They are easy to make with no advance notice. Their texture is chewy, and the nuts get even toastier and crunchier in the oven. The white chocolate is very important - they take on the butterscotch flavor of the butter and brown sugar. I have made this recipe so many times I know it by heart. I'm pretty sure I haven't made a single batch of chocolate chip cookies since finding this recipe - these are the perfect combination of chocolate chip cookie and brownie.

Blondies, from Baking Illustrated: the Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine.

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled in a large saucepan
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped and toasted pecans

Oven to 350 degrees; 13 x 9 inch pan lined with parchment, parchment sprayed with cooking spray.

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Mix the brown sugar into the melted butter, then add the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and spread the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the pecans on top. Bake until the top is shiny, possibly cracked, and feels firm to the touch, about 22-25 minutes. Cool in pan on wire wrack.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Parmesan French Toast with Zucchini, Squash, and Tomatoes

I seem to be doing a lot of complaining about the weather lately, so before I get to my french toast, I need to mention how much I love Fall in Seattle! The weather is totally unpredictable, and can change at a moment's notice. After a sunny day today, the clouds just rolled in about an hour ago. Now there is a flat, grey haze over everything. Leaves are starting to turn amazing colors, and there is a bite in the air. It is cold enough to need a sweater and a jacket. All of this just makes for really good baking weather. (Blondies, actually. I will post about them soon.)

I took the photo below Tuesday night. I was on my way to a lecture on "perspective" at Gage. When the black clouds in the distance finally arrived, they brought a few flashes of lightening, but no rain.

Okay - french toast... I love french toast. I was craving it today, but my sweet tooth wasn't present at the time. This was the result:

French Toast

- eggs
- milk
- pepper
- finely grated parmesan cheese
- good crusty bread

Whisk eggs, milk, pepper, and parmesan together in a bowl. Dip bread into egg mixture, and fry in a pan on medium heat until cooked all the way through.

Sauteed Veggies

- zucchini, chopped
- squash, chopped
- cherry tomatoes, left whole
- butter
- herbs
- salt

Saute everything until done to your liking; serve atop french toast, with a spoonful of sour cream or plain Greek-style yogurt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Coconut Cookies with Lemon Icing

Please notice how dark it is in these photographs...all of a sudden I am finding myself getting ready for work in the middle of the night. When did that happen?! I made these cookies late in the evening, and figured I would photograph them in the morning before taking them to work so I could have better light. Apparently that won't be an option anymore. Luckily I left two cookies at home, and got a couple more pictures the next day.

I have future plans for these cookies. I could never duplicate them exactly even if I wanted to because there were so many mishaps, (such as tripping while measuring in the almond extract.) But the fact of the matter is that they were too labor intensive with the rolling, etc, anyway. I am thinking they might work as a refrigerator slice and bake cookies, with more spices to go with the cinnamon, and then sandwich them with something creamy. Okay, I will confess, I secretly want to duplicate Mother's Taffy Sandwich Cookies. I think these are on the right track, and I will revisit them the next time I am inspired to work on this endeavor. But that may be awhile, because now I also have major negative associations with these cookies. I took them to work, and ate one-too-many, which left me feeling a little gross late in the afternoon. Then my day proceeded to turn into one of my Top 3 Most Sad and Heinous Days At Work Ever. I almost couldn't bring myself to post about these cookies because of it, but really, they are just cookies, and good ones at that. So here they are.

The original recipe came from Big Fat Cookies, by Elinor Klivans. The unadulterated cookies were fabulous - nice and crispy-crunchy. And they tasted wonderful with the lemon icing, but it caused them to become chewy cookies, which is not what I wanted at all. Does anyone out there know how to avoid that in the future? I want a frosted cookie that is also crunchy...

Toasted Coconut Washboards

- 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes (stir occasionally, and watch closely)
- 2 cups flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- heaping 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I used 1/4 tsp, and regretted reducing it)
- 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract

Oven to 350 degrees. Mix together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar until fluffy, then add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract, and beat until blended. Mix in flour, then coconut.

The dough is soft, and the recipe calls for rolling it to 1/4 inch thickness between sheets of wax paper, then slicing the cookies into rectangles, and transferring the cookies to the cookie sheets. I did it, but I won't be doing it again. It was a royal pain in the ass. Bake until edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Lemon Icing

- lemon juice
- lemon zest
- powdered sugar

Mix until spreadable, and spread on cookies.


I just heard on the radio that it is 49 degrees outside.

Anyway...I thought I had already posted about these mittens, but I'm not seeing the post anywhere, so here they are (again?). They were my first successful attempt at knitting something that wasn't a square. The pattern is Heather Dixon's "Valentine's Hat & Mittens" from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation by Debbie Stoller. In the end I was surprised at how easy it was to make something with so many corners and turns. I still wasn't happy with my finishing though - there are little knots poking out all over the place.

The yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky. I'm fairly certain that this yarn was purchased in either 1992 or 1993. I bought the grey for a sweater vest(?!) that I gave up on after two disasters (involving a LOT of frogging.) Nina Roux, my roommate at the time, bought the brown. I don't remember what she had planned for the stuff, but it was still tidy in its original skeins when she finally passed it on to me about five years ago.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Found: A Good Cup of Tea!

I do like coffee, and an Americano with cream and sugar can certainly hit the spot. However, nothing compares to a good cup of tea. But in this town of endless cafes, a good cup of tea seems next to impossible to find! Tea in coffee shops is usually weak and flavorless, one tiny tea bag to 12 ounces of hot water. Or sometimes you may get a really expensive pot of tea that is no better, and the pot is usually served with a tiny, wide-mouthed mug that causes the tea to become tepid moments after you have doctored it with cream and sugar. Years ago I travelled through Ireland, Wales, and England with my choir, and one of my best memories of that trip was the amazing tea that you got with every breakfast. It was strong and hot and could hold its cream and sugar!

The other day I was wandering through Pike Place Market, and came upon the Crumpet Shop. I've seen this place a million times in the million years that I have lived in Seattle, and it never occured to me to go in before. But today I was having a bit of a sweet tooth and decided to give it a try. Hurray! Not only was the tea as good as the stuff I had in England, but there are free refills, the mugs were the proper shape and size, AND I got to drink it with one of my new favorite foods - a crumpet!

The crumpet was steamy on the inside, and crispy-chewy on the outside. The dough was almost salty which went well with ricotta cheese and blackberry preserves. And my Earl Grey tea.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chewy Gingerbread Squares

I made these the last week of August, back before summer had actually arrived in Seattle. Now that we are getting our share of sunshine, these cookies seem a little less appropriate, but I will post about them anyways because they were GOOD.

I found this recipe while snooping around the Canadian Baker. I made only three tiny modifications to her recipe: 1) No candied ginger 2) I added lemon zest to the icing 3) I over-baked them because of my bad, bad oven...

But even though I nearly ruined them, they were still chewy and spicy, with a texture like a cakey brownie, or dense gingerbread. The icing was super-lemony. I will definitely make them again once the leaves turn crunchy.

Gingerbread Squares:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- generous 1/4 tsp salt

- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon

For the icing: mix everything together just before spreading it on the gingerbread.

For the gingerbread:
Oven to 350 degrees; line a 13 x 9 inch pan with parchment.
Whisk together dry ingredients in small bowl. In larger bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, molasses, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet, mix until combined, then pour into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick is clean, about 40 minutes (unless your oven sucks, like mine, in which case your chewy gingerbread squares will be overdone at 28 minutes.) Cool in pan for 45 minutes, then spread on icing.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I've never made any critters before. I usually stick to mittens and scarves, but when I saw this pattern I decided to give it a go. It was easier than I expected, but as usual, I had a difficult time with the finishing. I can never seem to tie off the ends neatly, and this project had lots of ends to deal with. The pattern called for wool, but I used some old left-over acrylic stuff I had laying around. Also, all I had on hand to stuff him with was black beans, so he packs a mean punch when hurled by his 3 year old friend.

Bunny meeting his new best friend:

Flying Bunny:

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fruit Tart

I have a friend that moved to the United States about 8 years ago. Every since he learned that I like to bake, he has been requesting a "fruit cake". I figured that something was getting lost in translation - there was no way he could possibly be asking for an actual Fruit Cake. I thought maybe something along the lines of strawberry shortcake? Nope. Finally one day, we were walking through a Whole Foods bakery and he exclaimed, "That's it! That's what I want! A fruit cake!"

I made this "fruit cake" for his birthday. It was my first time making pastry cream, and now that I have done it, I can't wait to move on to Boston Cream Pie and eclairs. It was way easier than I imagined, and tasted heavenly. I followed the directions exactly, but still had a moment of terror just after the mixture came to its final simmer - suddenly the cream appeared to curdle, and looked like it was rapidly becoming scrambled eggs. But I just continued to whisk vigorously as I removed it from the heat, and the cream turned out beautifully.(!?) I don't know if that is normal or not, but the final product was wonderful. The tart shell was also delicious, and the dough was easy to roll out and work with. It tasted like not-too-sweet vanilla sugar cookies.

I used the recipe for the "Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream" in Baking Illustrated: the Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. The recipe calls for either currant or apple jelly to glaze fruit - I used neither, and did not miss having a glaze. For the fruit part, I used blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, champagne grapes, and mandarin orange slices. The recipe called for unwashed berries, because any moisture left on the fruit would cause the pastry cream to weep. My O.C.D. tendencies in the kitchen prevented me from following that direction. Please note the drying fruit in the following picture...

Sweet Tart Pastry for 9 or 9 1/2 inch tart shell, from Baking Illustrated, p223

- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used salted)

Whisk yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.

Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor and combine. Scatter in butter and process until resembles coarse meal, about fifteen pulses. Turn on machine and pour in egg mixture; process until dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn dough onto plastic wrap, press into 6 inch disk, wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

If dough has been refrigerated for longer than 1 hour, remove dough from frig and let stand at room temp until malleable. Roll out between lightly floured sheets of parchment to a 13 inch circle. Transfer dough to 9 or 9 1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom and carefully press dough into corners. Roll over pan with rolling pin to trim edges. Freeze tart pan for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, oven to 375 degrees, rack to middle position. When dough is done freezing, place pan on baking sheet. Line with foil, and fill tart with pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes on baking sheet, rotating half-way through. Remove from the oven and carefully remove foil, lifting weights with it. Bake another 5 to 8 minutes, until tart shell is deep golden brown. Set baking sheet on wire rack to cool shell completely.

Pastry Cream, from Baking Illustrated, p227

- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp corn starch
- 4 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat the half and half, 6 Tbsp sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occassionally.

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and 2 Tbsp sugar in medium bowl until creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in corn starch until pale and thick, about 30 more seconds.

Gradually whisk simmering half and half mixture into egg yolks to temper. Return mixture to saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking CONSTANTLY, until a few bubbles burst on surface and the mixture is thickened, about 30 seconds. Add butter and vanilla off the heat. Strain through fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Refrigerate at least 3 hours with plastic wrap pressed directly on surface to prevent skin from forming.

Do not assemble this tart until very close to the time that you will be eating it, particularly if you are using sliced or washed fruit (see above).