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Archive for June, 2011

when it’s the first night of little birds baking club…what else would you make?! chocolate chip cookies are a classic. everyone needs a solid chocolate chip cookie recipe up their sleeve. we asked the girls how many of them had made chocolate chip cookies and a number of hands went up in the air. when we asked how many had made cookies from scratch, and not out of a plastic tube…all the hands went down. needless to say, the girls were pretty pumped to make AND eat these little guys. they all herded around me and took turns adding ingredients. oh, and hands down – being the one who gets to crack the egg….is the most coveted responsibility.

with little bird recipes, i’ll point out some tips that will be helpful for a new baker…and obvious to an experienced baker. bare with me on some of these….or enjoy them, depending on where you stand.

adapted from Baking Basics, by Betty Crocker

ingredients:
(wet ingredients)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) *unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 large eggs
(dry ingredients)
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 12oz bag** semisweet chocolate chips

equipment:
stand mixer w/paddle attachment
OR large bowl w/wooden spoon
cookie sheets
cooling racks

* instead of using all butter, i used half butter half shortening. my butter vs shortening experience is: butter makes a better tasting cookie, but also makes a flat cookie while shortening helps the cookie keep a good shape…..so using both = best of both worlds (taste and shape).

** can you believe this recipe actually called for a 24oz bag of chocolate chips?!?! i mean, my dad’s famous cookies only call for 6oz…so i had a hard time even using a whole 12oz bag. i cut it off at about 10oz….i mean, come on? you want some cookie with your chocolate chips?!

preheat your oven to 375º

prep – since your butter and eggs need to be room temperature, start by prepping all your ingredients. remove butter and eggs from the fridge and let sit on your counter while you measure out the rest of your ingredients. the time it takes to measure out all your ingredients into separate bowls….should be just enough time for your butter to soften up enough to beat easily.

tips & tricks:
“packed” brown sugar
: means to pack it into the measuring cup – pressing it in firmly. if the brown sugar has been packed firmly, it will keep the measuring cup’s shape when removed – if it crumbles apart, you have not packed it well.

flour: when you measure your flour, don’t scoop you’re measuring cup into the flour and shake or tap on the counter to get in as much flour as you can. you want your baked goods to be light and fluffy, not dense, so the way you measure your flour makes a big difference. instead of using your cup to scoop up flour, spoon your flour into the measuring cup, and level it off with the back of a knife. also, take the time to sift your flour. this just helps to get air into your flour. if you don’t have a sifter, just use a fork to stir up your flour.

eggs: if you want to avoid egg shells in your dough, crack your eggs into a separate bowl and make sure any accidental shells are removed before mixing them in. also, crack your egg on the side of the bowl….not the side of the counter – the less raw egg spills you have to worry about cleaning up, the better.

mix – using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment OR by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat your butter, both sugars, vanilla and eggs at a medium speed till light and fluffy.

we call these our “wet ingredients” (mix first)

at a low speed, slowly stir in your flour, baking soda and salt. add in your chocolate chips. (by all means, go crazy with the 24oz if you want to….but, i’m just sayin, my 10oz was plenty)

these are our “dry ingredients” (mix into your wet ingredients)

bake – using a ice cream scoop or two spoons, transfer your cookie dough to cookie sheets. bake at 375º for 12-15 minutes. mine only took 8 minutes…so be on the lookout. once the edges have turned golden brown, remove and place the pan on top of a cooling rack for about five minutes. then carefully (once the cookies aren’t ooey-gooey anymore) transfer just the cookies from the pan to the cooling rack. cool to room temperature, if you can wait that long.

tips & tricks:
baking time really varies from oven to oven. always check on your treat earlier than the recipe calls for. with cookies, what you’re really looking for, are the edges to begin to turn golden brown. the cookie will also start to form cracks on the top. once your edges are brown, remove your cookies and place the pan on top of a cooling rack for about five minutes, or until the cookies can be removed from the pan without falling apart in a gooey mess. as the cookies cool….the insides of them keep baking so what seems like underdone when you first remove them from the oven, becomes the perfect, soft, break-apart without hearing a crunch, cookie once it has cooled.

that’s it. once your cookies have cooled, bust out the milk and enjoy.

for the record dad, the recipe was named “the best” chocolate chip cookies. in no way do they trump your famous cookies, so don’t feel threatened. love you! :)

-L

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“what’s the frosting? cream cheese and magic?!”

spring has sprung and i think it sprang us directly into summer. with highs already hitting the high 90’s we were in need of something light, sweet and juicy. sugar cookies, cream cheese frosting and strawberries? count me in. i love pizza, so why wouldn’t i love a dessert counterpart? to make this as delicious as possible i knew i could count on my old friend Martha Stewart for a superb foundation. here is what you will need for this simple and delightful treat.

sugar cookie crust

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

cream cheese frosting

8oz. cream cheese

8oz. cool whip

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 cup powdered sugar

fruit topping

strawberries

grapes

blueberries

and really whatever fruit you desire

– – – – –

equipment

electric mixer

mixing bowls

parchment paper

rolling pin

biscuit/cookie cutters

first things first, the crust. in a large bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt. in your electric mixer’s bowl, go ahead and whip your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. i usually do this on medium speed for about a minute. but make sure the butter and sugar are well blended and aren’t in crumbles. once fluffy, add your egg and vanilla. slowly begin adding your flour mixture, next. once this is all combined it should resemble cookie dough. split in half and, on plastic wrap, smash the dough into a disc shape, wrap up and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes. do the same to your other half of dough. (preheat oven to 325 degrees) after 20 minutes take out and leave on the counter for 5-10 minutes. on a flat surface lay down parchment paper and dust with flour. dust your rolling pin and roll out your first disc of dough to desired thickness. i rolled mine out to about an 1/8 of an inch and got about 2 dozen 3.25″ in diameter, cookies. using a round biscuit cutter cut out your crusts. pickup scraps, roll into a ball and roll out again, cutout and repeat this until no more dough is left. place crusts onto cookie sheets and bake for 5 minutes @ 325, turn cookie sheets around and bake for 5 more minutes, turn again and bake for 2.5 or until golden around the edges. once finished baking, remove from oven and set out for about 5 minutes before transferring cookies onto cooling racks.

in the meantime, while your crusts are baking get your frosting started. in a large mixing bowl, add all cream cheese and cool whip and mix together. add lemon juice and powdered sugar and mix together well. cover and place in fridge until cookies are completely cooled. once cooled, using a spatula, spread frosting onto your crusts. chop up some fruit and decorate as you see fit! enjoy your self…this is the fun part. i suggest adding fruit close to when you will be serving. the fruit juices tend to discolor your frosting. if you need to make them ahead of time, place in fridge once decorated, just know that your frosting may get a little tie-died.

please enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

b

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one year ago: spring time lime cheesecake

listen, i can’t tell you how many times i’ve passed by this recipe with the understanding that it would be too much of a hassle. but when it was a birthday request from B, i could hide from it no longer. (“i could hide from it no longer”? have i been reading too much charlotte brontë and jane austen?!)

cream puffs are surprisingly simple. all in all, it’s just heating up some ingredients, mashing them, beating them and plopping them onto a cookie sheet, in any shape or form. it’s the ingredients that do all the magical work…not you…so there’s really no pressure!

have i talked you into it yet?!

i adapted my recipe from my favorite pie and pastry bible by rose levy beranbaum.

cream puff pastry
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 large eggs

preheat your oven to 400º and line your pans with parchment paper.

in a medium sized saucepan, stir together water, salt, sugar and butter. stir over medium heat till mixture just comes to a rolling boil. remove from heat and pour in flour. mix together till ingredients come together to make a ball. return the saucepan, back to low heat, for another 3 minutes to cook the flour…stirring and mashing as if you’re mixing up mashed potatoes.

transfer this mixture to a large bowl. add in eggs one at a time. with an electric mixer beat the mixture for about one minute after each egg is added.  your mixture should be smooth and shiny.

you can pipe your mixture onto a cookie sheet, but i opted just to use two spoons to drop the mixture/batter/dough (what do you call this stuff?!) onto the pan to avoid all that extra clean up. i thought my results came out just like the picture i saw, so i had no regrets. take two spoons and use one to scoop up the batter and the other to scrape it off the other spoon onto your cookie sheet. leave about an inch and a half between each dollop.

bake for 30 minutes, till pastry has puffed up and turned a nice golden brown.

transfer pastries to a cooling rack and with a sharp knife cut a small slit in the side of each pastry to release steam. leave these to cool to room temperature, in a draft free area.

while they are cooling, go ahead and whip up your filling. there are lots of options here…ice cream, custard, pudding….but B is a whipped cream fan, so that’s what i’ve got for you.

stabilized whipped cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy whipping cream (divided)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

(note: i ended up making four batches of this cream to fill all the cream puffs i made….plan accordingly)

begin by putting your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

in a small sauce pan, over low heat, combine powdered sugar, cornstarch and 1 /4 cup whipping cream. whisk together till well blended. bump your heat up to medium and continue whisking till ingredients begin to thicken up and come to a rolling boil. immediately remove from heat and transfer to glass bowl to cool to room temperature – i usually just transfer it back to my liquid measuring cup as you will have to pour it out later on. once mixture is cooled, stir in vanilla and set aside. (if you’re making all parts of your cream puffs at once, you might want to start with this step, since it will take a while to cool down. it wont take too long for your whipping cream to whip up, so keep in mind that this mixture needs to be cooled before you start with the next step.)

using your chilled mixer bowl and beaters or whisk attachment, beat the remaining 3 /4 cup heavy whipping cream at a high speed till you begin to see distinct lines forming in the cream. with the beaters still going at high speed, pour in your cooled, sugar/cream/vanilla mixture. the next part happens pretty quickly, so pay attention. continue beating this mixture till it forms stiff peaks, being careful not to over-beat.

transfer to piping bag and fill your puff pastries up with cream. add powdered sugar or chocolate sauce and serve. (you should plan on adding the filling no sooner than 30 minutes before serving)

you can either slice your cream puffs in half, gently with a serrated knife, and pipe in the cream…or use a bismark tube to pipe the cream in where you previously made a small slit….i chose the lazy way….big surprise :)

enjoy!

happy birthday B….i’m so glad you get to scope out the new age before me, to let me know what to expect. welcome to your mid-late twenties….i know you don’t like the sounds of it….but i bet you like the sound of late-late twenties less….so rock this year out and enjoy it to it’s fullest! love you girly!

-L

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