Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Easiest Biscuits in the World

I'm beginning to feel like an advertisement for this book:Baking Illustrated: the Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Almost anytime I try something for the first time, I will turn to this book, and I'm pretty sure it has never led me astray.

This is another example. I haven't made biscuits in years, and decided to give it a try yesterday morning. When I turned to my baking bible, there were two recipes listed - one was pretty traditional, with cold butter cut into the flour. But this one was the easy version, and instead of butter, it uses only heavy cream. I was intrigued and gave them a try. They were indeed incredibly easy to make, and they were actually really good! The texture was crispy on the outside, soft and flakey on the inside. I must confess, I am not a true connaisseur of biscuits, but I can't imagine ever using another recipe (and the other folks at the breakfast table didn't seem to have any complaints either.)

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

- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Oven to 425 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk together dry ingredients, then stir in only 1 1/4 cups of the heavy cream with a wooden spoon. When the dough comes together, dump it onto a lightly floured countertop, and then use small amounts of the remaining cream to moisten the dry bits left in the bowl. Add these to the dough and knead briefly until smooth. Pat dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut out biscuits. Bake for about 15 minutes.

PS - I discovered that this recipe works great for dumplings in a pot of veggie soup. I halved the recipe, which worked well. I also used half-and-half in place of the cream, because that was all I had around, and it worked fine. Just make sure not to crowd the dumplings too much, or else you may end up with little under-cooked spots.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My first embroidery project

DANGER:This stuff only costs THIRTY cents a skein.

It is sold in a zillion beautiful colors which are enticingly displayed at the store. I think it is going to require an enormous amount of willpower to keep from getting over-run with this stuff.

A new/old friend of mine has recently inspired me to try embroidery. I found this book,Doodle Stitching, and instantly went out and bought needles, thread, a hoop, and a few pieces of craft felt. (As I mentioned, this is a VERY inexpensive hobby.) Then I proceeded to get a horrible cold, and have spent the last day and a half on my couch, with my new hobby!

The bird pattern I tried came out of a project in the book. When I got started on it I really didn't have a plan. As a result, the embroidery is not placed on the fabric in a way that lends itself to much. Let me know if you have any ideas. I will probably just turn it into a small bag or something.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mexican Wedding Cakes

These were another request from my Bosnian friend. He was very concerned that I would try and sneak frosting on them, "You Americans put frosting on everything!" Yes, I am guilty! But I reassured him that even I could resist frosting Mexican Wedding Cakes.

When I started baking these I realized I didn't have half the ingredients that the original recipe called for, so I ended up mixing pecans with almond meal. They actually turned out great anyways - very nutty!

(More of the view out my kitchen window. The other day I glanced up and saw that the air outside looked yellow - it was super weird. This was the view to the east. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was the best I could do. The sky was black, the air was yellow, and there was that stripe of royal blue peeking out from under the clouds.)

Mexican Wedding Cakes

- 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
- 3/4 cups almond meal (toasted in 325 degree oven for about 5 minutes)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 sticks of salted butter, softened but still cool
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl mix pecans, almond meal, salt, and flour together. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add vanilla and almond extracts. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Using 1 Tbsp of dough, roll into balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 16-20 minutes, until cookies are beginning to brown on the bottom and turn golden on the tops. Cool to room temperature before rolling in powdered sugar.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pumpkin Cookies with Orange Frosting

For as long as I can remember, my mother has been making these cookies, only as a banana version with lemon frosting. We have no idea where the recipe came from, but I remember eating them when we still lived in Houston (in other words, a very long time ago.) I have wondered how they would be with pumpkin instead, and finally gave it a try today. My experiment was successful! They are like tiny little pumpkin cakes - they are incredibly soft and spicy and made my apartment smell delicious. They would be lovely on their own, but I can never resist frosting...

(I have been enjoying the ledge outside my kitchen this fall - the ivy finally reached my window!)

Pumpkin Cookies

- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 2 cups flour (The flour can be replaced with 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour, or with quinoa flour for gluten-free cookies. Both work really well with this recipe, and still give you soft, cakey cookies.)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I will use a little more next time)
* If you want to do the banana version instead, use 1 cup of smashed banana (about 2 large bananas), and replace the pumpkin pie spice with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp cloves.)

Oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients well in a small bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until fluffy, then add eggs and pumpkin. Mix well, then add dry ingredients. Drop in heaping tablespoons (or use a smallish ice cream scoop) on cookie sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes until firm to the touch, or a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.


- 1/3 cup butter at room temperature
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- 2-3 Tbsp orange juice

Beat until fluffy. Spread on cooled cookies.

A Shared Present

Finally - I finally got to try them! I've been reading about salty caramels forever, but couldn't bring myself to fork out the dollars to try them. However, my mom received some as a gift and was kind enough to share. Yay! The reason I have been so drawn to these is because 1) I LOVE chocolate and caramel, and 2) I love chocolate and salt (particularly in the form of Chubby Hubby Ice Cream, or World Peace Cookies.) Therefore, chocolate, salt, and caramel all in one should be pretty good, right? Yes! Very tasty, with a very satisfying crunch to go along with it. The one change I would make to these would be to distribute the salt more evenly on the candy (I realize that would decrease the cute factor, but it would be nice for those of us that like to take small bites...)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I got the recipe for these cookies from Smitten Kitchen. She mentions that she uses less sugar than the original recipe calls for, and I used the lower amount too. But the next time I make these, I will probably experiment with using even less. The cookies were still very sweet, and left me craving that saltiness you get with Oreos (my brother mentioned the same thing). I also used salted butter, and used a generous 1/4 tsp of salt - I would probably increase that slightly too. However, these were still very good, and I will definitely be making them again!

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies


- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 10 Tbsp butter at room temperature
- 1 egg


- 4 Tbsp butter at room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla

Oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor or an electric mixer, mix the dry ingredients, including sugar. On low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Mix until dough comes together. Place rounded teaspoons of dough on cookie sheets and flatten the dough slightly with damp hands. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating trays half-way through. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack.

Meanwhile make the filling:
Mix butter and shortening, then gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Mix on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Assemble cookies using about 1 tsp of filling per sandwich.