Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I don’t fancy myself “picky.” Instead, I prefer “particular.”
How, you wonder? Well, for one, I am particular about the texture of my brownies.
Many times, I feel that brownies don’t hit that perfect brownie pitch; they either stray into the dangerous territory of being too cake-like or they are just one step away from fudge.
 If I may be particular, I like my brownies to be brownies.

In trying to find that perfect middle ground, I went through dozens of recipes, comparing the ratios of butter, chocolate, flour, and eggs. After all of my searching, I can say one thing with relative certainty: Brownie recipes are largely very similar.
Another thing I can say with certainty: Most of the recipes I saw evidenced a wide-spread obsession with gooey, fudge-like brownies.
Call me particular. Hell, call me picky. I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. Nope. Not me.

Instead, I tweaked the basic, across-the-board ratios to try to get a brownie that complied with my particular tastes.
Because I’m picky a bad ass particular. And I pretty much do what I want.
I used cake flour instead of all-purpose (to reduce the gluten), used more flour and leavener than most recipes, and baked it until completely done.
I really love the way these turned out. I sent them to my Dad for Father’s Day. From all accounts, he likes the way they turned out, too.
Score one for the particular picky home bakers.

1 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks of butter (12 tablespoons), cut into cubes
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with foil, leaving some foil hanging over the edges of the pan (to assist with lifting the brownies out of the pan later.) Grease the foil-lined baking pan for extra insurance.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together to combine and disburse the baking powder evenly.
Melt butter and chocolate in a glass bowl that is put on top of a saucepan of simmering water, creating a double boiler. Stir until completely melted and smooth.
Once chocolate and butter have become completely smooth, take glass bowl off of the saucepan. Add in sugar, fully incorporating into the butter and chocolate mixture.
Then add in eggs, one at a time, with a whisk, combining thoroughly. Once all 4 eggs have been combined, add the vanilla extract.
Next, fold in the flour mixture a little at a time until combined. (I added the flour in 4 equal parts, gently folding flour into the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula.)
When all ingredients are completely combined, pour into the baking dish and use the spatula to make sure the brownie batter is evenly spread out.
Bake in the oven at 325 for 25-30 minutes.
When cool, use the extra hanging foil to pull the brownies out of the pan with relative ease. Cut and serve. (Or ship to a happy Dad.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

sugar cookies

In my ever humble opinion, when it comes to cookies, it is really hard to beat classic chocolate chip.
In my defense, I think the fact that the Cookie Monster only ever ate what appeared to be chocolate chip cookies entrenched in my young and all too impressionable skull the belief that there is one, and only one, true cookie.
Because the Cookie Monster can’t be wrong.
He is, after all, a monster of discerning taste, regardless of his terrible grammar and manners.  

But you know what? Sugar cookies are pretty awesome, too.
I really hadn’t given them any thought until a year ago when a friend brought some to me during a weekend visit. And those cookies changed my life/rocked my world/settled a tiny cookie colony in my heart.
I guess I had always dismissed sugar cookies as being a cookie that someone forgot to add the good stuff to. But I am willing to admit that I was wrong. Especially if being wrong means getting to make these cookies.
Oh, and just in case you hypothetically find yourself in a situation where you may or may not feel the need to freeze these cookies in order to keep yourself from eating them all, know that they freeze well.
Also know that they are really good still frozen … right out of the freezer. Hypothetically speaking.

Sugar Cookies
Adapted from a recipe given to me by Ms. Laura Smith
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1.      Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
2.      Add in egg and vanilla.
3.      In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk.
4.      Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until completely combined.
5.      Wrap dough in plastic wrap, allowing it to chill in a refrigerator overnight (or at the very least an hour or two.)
6.      When ready to bake cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
7.      Take the cookies out of the fridge, and roll them out on a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper.
8.      After cutting out dough using whatever cookie cutter you so choose, place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 8 minutes (time may vary based on oven or size and shape of cookie).
9.      Once cooled, add a simple icing or eat as they are.
This recipe made about 21 large round cookies, but that amount is totally dependent on the size of the cookie cutter being used.

Friday, June 10, 2011

cinnamon rolls

Some food requires an occasion. Or, at the very least, a reason. Because making a cake with five graduated tiers is not something that is normally crafted for “no reason.” For that, I really can think of only one reason.
Hey, don’t look at me. I didn’t make the rules.
I found a recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls and was consumed with the idea of making them.
But you can’t just make cinnamon rolls. On a Thursday.

Well, you can, if and only if:
1) It is a holiday (exception: Passover, what with the whole unleavened bread mandate), or
2) You are Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa (She can do whatever she wants, whenever she wants; Thursdays be damned!), or
3) You have friends over for Brunch/Dunch/Brinner?
Due to this being June and me being me, I opted for the latter.
Unfortunately, having brunch on a Thursday is not a really feasible plan (work, school, daytime soaps, etc). People are busy. So, instead, I made brunch for dinner. That’s right. My compulsive desire to make these would not be limited by the time of day, season, or shame. I based an entire evening’s worth of food around my desire to make cinnamon rolls.
Was it worth it? Pshhh. YES. These were good. Really good. For real.  

Take heed, comrades. Do as I say, not as I do. Make these, no reason or occasion necessary. Buck the system. Give the finger to the man. Let them eat cinnamon rolls! Vive la revolution!  

Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from this recipe via Food.com
1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
½ cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter, softened
An extra few sprinkles of flour

4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
Milk, to desired consistency

1.      For the rolls, dissolve yeast in warm milk in a large bowl. Wait 5 minutes.
2.      Add sugar, butter, eggs and combine. Add in flour, two cups at a time, combining after each. With the last portion of flour, add in salt.
3.      Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until combined well. It should be a large and relatively smooth ball.
4.      Put the dough in a bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size. (This should take around 1 hour.)
5.      Once doubled in size, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 21 inches long by 16 inches wide. At this point, it should be approximately ¼ inch thick.
6.      For the filling, thoroughly combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
7.      Spread the softened butter over the surface of the rolled out dough. Then sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture evenly over the buttered surface. If you desire, sprinkle a little flour over the sugar mixture to prevent it from running out of the rolls while baking.
8.      Once the filling it in place, carefully roll the dough from the long edge.
9.      Cut the roll into even, 1 ¾ inch slices, totally approximately 12 pieces. (Mine ended up being 14)
10.  Place the sliced rolls into baking pans lined with parchment paper, 6 or 7 in each. Cover the baking pans and allow the rolls to rise again for 1 hour. They will become much larger.
11.  When ready, bake at 375 degree Fahrenheit for approximately 15 minutes. They should be lightly golden brown on top.
12.  While the cinnamon rolls are baking, prepare the icing. In a bowl, using a mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese. Add in vanilla and salt. When well combined, add in confectioners’ sugar. Add in milk, if desired, to achieve looser consistency. (I added in approximately 1 tablespoon milk.)
13.  When the rolls are done, allow to cool for a few minutes and then ice generously!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cream Scones

When I was in sixth grade, I was assigned some sort of informative project – telling the class how to do something that I already knew how to do. Accordingly, I informed my classmates on how to make scones and brought a batch with me to share. Since then, scones have held a special spot in my heart.  While I don’t have that same recipe (which is a crying shame), I do remember a few things about the experience:

First, it took me a long time to make them. Or, at least it seemed like it did. Hours. All day. For-ev-er. Could it be that my eleven year old self had a warped perception of time? I’m willing to entertain that possibility. (Read: YES)
Second, I remember bumbling around my kitchen and knocking things over a few times. Okay, fine – more than a few times. Maybe that is why it took so long…
Last, and most importantly, when I brought them to class, the boy that I had a crush on took two and gushed over how much he liked them. Gushed! Which, in my eleven-year-old world, felt like the functional equivalent of him giving me a lock of his hair and/or a vial of his blood to wear around my neck.
No? Oh, well, like I said, my perception back then might have been a bit off.

But is it any wonder why scones hold a soft spot in my heart?
I also think my fondness for scones relates to them being something special. Unlike muffins and biscuits, scones don’t give off the same air of everyday-ness. Which is a shame, really, because they are so amazing (fond boy memories aside.) Also, they are really easy and quick to make, despite my recollection to the contrary.

So break these out at your next tea party. Or brunch. Or sixth grade presentation. Because they will be a hit, the cute boy will take two, and you will be regarded as generally amazing. Or you could not share with anyone, eat them alone in quiet satisfaction, and regard yourself as the Emperor or Empress of Scones. Either way, totally make them. Whatever you do with them afterwards is your business. We’re all friends here.

Recipe adapted (slightly) from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook, via Smitten Kitchen

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup of chopped raisins (though I can only imagine how delicious dried blueberries would be)
1 cup heavy cream


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl and whisk together.

3. Use a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in raisins.

4. Stir in heavy cream until the mixture begins to form a dough.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds.

6. Form scones by pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges

7. Place wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

peach and blueberry cobbler

Memorial Day demands wholesome and “All-American” – Mom, Apple Pie, Tom Hanks.
Equally wholesome? This peach and blueberry cobbler.
That’s probably because you can’t do better than an easy, not too sweet cobbler that allows you to exploit fresh fruit in the best possible way.

Emphasis on the easy, exploiting, and not too sweet. Pshh – all I had to do was drop this little harlot in some hot water and a strip tease ensued. I am blushing just thinking about it.
The punishment for such lewd kitchen behavior? Dismemberment. Sorry, peach.

{Don’t worry. My Kitchen’s Criminal Code is much more lenient on human stripping. But, um, gross. Keep it covered.  This is a kitchen. There are wholesome cobblers present. }
Truly, this cobbler is greater than the sum of its parts. And that is no mean feat, because the fruit was perfect to begin with. But, believe it or not, even those floozy peaches were made wholesome by this cobbler.

So really, this cobbler post has been a pitch for Law and Order: Special Kitchen Unit. Peaches who engage is blatant vulgarity will not be safe from the iron fist of American justice.
 Rehabilitation? For those peaches - never. Retribution is too sweet.

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

For the Fruit

1 1/2 (about 4 cups) pounds peaches, pitted, peeled, and cut into slices*
1 pint (about 2 cups) blueberries, rinsed and dried
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

*Drop the peaches with an X cut on the bottom into boiling water for 30 seconds; peeling them should then be easy!

For the Biscuit Topping

 cups flour
1tsp. baking powder
¼tsp. baking soda
¼tsp. salt
2tsp. sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
4Tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen
cup buttermilk
1large egg
1tsp. milk


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. To prepare the Fruit: Toss all of the ingredients for the fruit together in the dish in which you plan on baking the cobbler. (I used a 9x9 pan)

3. To make the Biscuits: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 2 teaspoons sugar in a large bowl.
4. Using a large cheese grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients.
5. Stir in the buttermilk until the mixture is starts to come together. Don't over-mix it! You want soft and fluffy biscuits, right?
6. Spoon the batter over the fruit in equal mounds. (My 9x9 pan looked like it needed 9 mounds)
7. Mix the egg yolk with the milk and brush over the tops of the biscuits. Sprinkle the tops of the biscuits with extra sugar. (I used about 1/2 Tablespoon, but you can use more or less.)
8. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees until the tops of the biscuits are lightly browned; about 20-25 minutes. 
 As it will be bubbling hot, let it cool a bit before dishing it up. 
Perfect Toppings (as if the perfectly browned biscuit weren't enough): Ice cream, whipped cream, heavy cream drizzled on top...

Monday, May 30, 2011

cheesecake bars with chocolate ganache

Confession: I don't own a springform pan.

I know, I know.

Confession: I don't like cheesecake.

Yeah, I know. No, really, I know. I am like the only one. Ever. And while we're at it and you are all up in arms about my dislike for a universally loved dessert, I might as well tell you that I don't like Italian food. Yeah, yeah, yeah - I know.

This weekend, I took a road trip with a few of my friends to go see our mutual friend (and classmate) get married. The wedding was wonderful, the bride was beyond beautiful, and there were about 5 different types of dessert. All in all, my definition of perfection.

This road trip was of the 7-hour-round-trip variety. You know, one of those. Where it is long, but not too long. Where you can still talk the entire way and not necessarily run out of things to say. Right? People talk for 7 hours straight? Other than middle school girls on the phone with their long-distance boyfriends?

Yeah, so as you might have guessed, I basically talked the whole way there. And back. What can I say? I have the gift of gab.(Though my use of the word "gift" is debatable. But remember, I will out-gab you in said debate. So it's probably better that you don't even start. Thanks.)

Like I said, I don't like cheesecake and I don't even own a springform pan. So why make my first baking post on cheesecake bars?

Well, these cheesecake bars were originally intended as a gratuitous baking adventure, requested by the lovely driver of our wedding excursion. And then I realized that I talked for 7 hours straight; so now these cheesecake bars are more like "thanks for being my friend" cheesecake bars, combined with a little "you're hella awesome for not kicking my overly-conversational bum out of the car"  chocolate ganache.

Despite not being fond of cheesecake, these bars are actually delicious. And I don't know of anything that isn't improved by chocolate ganache.

Additional bonuses: No water bath required, and any infamous cheesecake cracks are covered up by ganache. Win. 

Recipe [very slightly adapted] from Bakerella's Chocolate Biscoff Cheesecake Bars:

Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Ganache

1 1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
6 Tablespoons melted butter
  • Mix cookies and sugar together.
  • Add butter and stir until combined.
  • Press mixture into a 13 X 9 pan.
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
3 eggs
8 oz. sour cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Cream the sugar, cream cheese, and flour with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy.
  • On medium low, add eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition.
  • Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until just combined.
  • Pour on prepared crust and bake for about 40 minutes.
  • Remove and cool completely.  
  • Prepare ganache.
Chocolate Ganache
8 oz. heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons butter
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
  • Heat cream and butter on stove until just before boiling.
  • Remove from stove and pour over chocolate. Stir until completely combined.
  • Add confectioners’ sugar and beat with a wire whisk until combined and smooth.
  • Pour over cooled cheesecake.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Cut into bars and serve.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

and so it begins

Let's bake. All summer.

For those of you who don't already know, I am in law school and, while I am currently in a summer session, I still have that pesky reading to do. While my summer is technically being postponed until mid-July, I am not letting tiny details like school, or endless reading, or, hell, even the obnoxious limitation of twenty-four hours in a day prevent me from reaching personal glory and satisfaction. I will become a legend. And by legend, I mean someone with an active hobby. Yeah, law school is that bleak.

Therefore, my conscious object this summer is to bake as much as possible. My guilty pleasure during the normal school year is to bookmark endless recipes. While I do not anticipate that past time ending any time soon, I would like to make some progress and actually make some of those tasty treats.

Oh, did I mention I don't actually want to eat 5 dozen cookies in one sitting or a whole cake by myself? Okay, fine, you caught me - that is a bold faced lie. So sue me. I do want to eat all of that and more. But something called my metabolism (yawn) refuses to let me do so without dire consequences. So I plan on forcing my treats on to unsuspecting friends. And strangers. The latter should be even more interesting. But just know that taking cookies from a stranger is different than candy from strangers, as a general rule. Any run of the mill creep can go to the corner store and pick up some Hot Tamales or Skittles; it takes a really special person to make cookies to lure in strangers. Or just a creep with a plan. Should I clarify that I am not a creep? You knew that. Moving on.

Well, now that you have the general idea, let me know what I should make. Or if you want me to send you some baked goods. For real. This isn't one of those ploys where I say its free and then I send you a bill if you don't return the baked goods within 30 days. You are free to consume them with joy and merriment, without repeatedly glancing over your shoulder. Unless you have some sort of tick, in which case I am sorry for bringing it up. Maybe some brownies will help you forget. Let me know. Let's not get off on the wrong foot.

Oh and I am also open to bartering. I think I should start acquiring the barter skill now, before the impending zombie apocalypse, so that I will have a better idea of what things are worth beforehand. Because there is nothing worse than getting ripped off in a barter exchange. Scratch that - being eaten by a zombie is totally worse. But getting ripped off sucks, too.

Wow - this post has gone on for quite some time. Let's promise that I won't do this next time in exchange for you reading my post next time. Deal?

(I never said it was a good deal on your part. Unless I sweeten the deal with cobbler; see above)

Oh, and you probably are wondering about the blog name. My theory is that lots of things don't always make sense (see law school). Additionally, I am pretty sure that the world is going mad. But, you know what? Cake is pretty much as sane and sensible as it gets. Unless that cake starts talking to you about being a pie. Then I would definitely be forced to question that cake's sanity (and yours, as well. Stop talking to cakes, you wierdo.)