Posts Tagged baking

Chai Snickerdoodles

We made it through the holidays! High fives all around.

Granted, my house is in shambles and my pants feel like they are two sizes too small. But that’s what the holidays are all about, right? In all seriousness, I had a wonderful Christmas. I spent a lot of quality time with my family (and adorable nieces), I ate a lot good food, and played a lot of Just Dance 3. (In case you were wondering, I’m absolutely horrible at Just Dance 3.)

However, the holidays aren’t technically over yet. We still have to ring in the new year! I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions – namely, I don’t like making promises I can’t keep – but I do plan on making a few dietary changes on January 1st. No, I am not going on a diet. I’m just going back to the way I normally eat. I like eating fruits, veggies, and whole grains. I feel better when I eat healthy and exercise (call me crazy, but I actually like feeling good). So, I’m going to listen to my body and I’m going to cut back on sugar, carbs, alcohol, etc.

But, that starts on January 1st. Meaning: I’ve got a few more days to eat cookies. And so do you!

So make these cookies now and gobble them up before your New Year’s resolutions begin. ;)

P.S. I’m aware that these cookies may appear to be sprinkled with black pepper, but I can assure you that they are sprinkled with Chai tea leaves (and cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, etc). And I can assure you that they are really, really delicious.

CHAI SNICKERDOODLES
Adapted from The Novice Chef

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar**
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

**If you do not have cream of tartar, you can substitute a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.

For the Chai sugar:
5 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons Masala chai tea leaves (Use loose leaf, or empty the contents of a couple of tea bags)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Method:
Using a food processor or mortar & pestle, grind the Chai tea until it is fine. Combine chai with the sugar and other spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

In another (medium) bowl, combine dry ingredients.

Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer), cream together butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add in vanilla (and lemon juice, if substituting for cream of tartar).

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix until combined. Place dough in refrigerator to chill for a half hour.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or a Silpat).

Once the dough has chilled, remove from fridge. Using your hands, form dough into large balls (about 1″). Roll each ball in the chai sugar mix, and place on a baking sheet (leave space, as the cookies will expand during baking). Bake for 12-14 minutes, until edges are just barely beginning to turn golden brown. Allow cookies to rest for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Welcoming Fall (with The Best Zucchini Bread Ever)

And just like that, autumn has arrived.

I want to fight it! I want to kick and scream and go on strike until the sun comes back out. I want more red tomatoes in the garden (and less rock hard green ones). I desperately want an Indian summer. But, that’s the funny thing about life…you don’t always get what you want.

Despite my protests, the rains have come. The days are getting shorter and darker. Whether I like it or not, the season is changing. And to be honest, I wasn’t having it. I was downright grumpy about the changing of the seasons. I was so fixated on the lack of sunshine that I almost forgot all that I love about fall: chunky sweaters, tights, scarves, all things pumpkin, cappuccinos, soups & stews, apples, pears, and so much more.

So, then, I can’t change the weather. But I can certainly make the best of it. On one particularly drizzly and chilly morning this week, I woke up and decided to do just that. I made my all-time favorite zucchini bread recipe, made a large French press of coffee (all for myself) and snuggled up with a blanket, my cat, and a Harry Potter book.

It was perfect.

It didn’t matter how miserable it was outside, I was happy and cozy and content. If there was ever a day to curl up with a good book (and cat, and coffee, and zucchini bread), this was it.

I won’t lie: I still miss the sun. But I’ll do my best to embrace this season; to curl up with a good book (and baked goods!) as often as I can.

As for the zucchini bread? There’s no point in rewriting the recipe. Heidi (from 101 Cookbooks) nails it. However, I’ll make a couple notes. First off, I don’t like walnuts and so I always make this bread with slivered almonds. Secondly, while Heidi says that the poppy seeds are optional, I disagree. The poppy seeds are totally and completely necessary (and delicious!). I also like to add in a bit of ground ginger and nutmeg and I substitute a cup of white flour for one of the cups of wheat flour. Oh, and lastly – don’t be afraid of the curry powder! I really think the curry powder is the secret of this magical zucchini bread. I promise you, it is the best zucchini bread of all time.

Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones

This past week, my lovely little niece Jubalee was born.

At the exact time of her birth, I was having lunch with my family at a nearby cafe. We had been waiting patiently at the hospital, but the nurses told us to go get lunch as it would be hours until Jubalee made her entrance. After all, she was already 10 days late…why not stall a few more hours? But, of course, she decided to arrive while we were having lunch. Life is funny that way.

We quickly made our way back to the hospital to meet the little one. My sister was a champion (16 hours of labor!), but her and the baby are happy and healthy. Jubalee has a full head of black hair, powerful little lungs, and the cutest chubby pink cheeks. I may be biased, but I happen to think I have the cutest nieces on the planet.

So, after a long day of driving, waiting, cooing, picture-taking, baby-gazing and the like, we finally headed home. I was exhausted, but my heart was full. It was a really wonderful day.

When I got home, I did what any normal person would do after a long and emotional day: I baked raspberry scones. I probably should have collapsed onto the couch and zoned out in front of the television, but I just couldn’t help myself. Call me a little crazy, but I find that cooking (and baking) is my favorite form of relaxation. For whatever reason, I’ve found that when I step into the kitchen, my outlook on life changes.

So after the birth of my niece, I cooked. I celebrated her entrance into the world by making a whole host of goodies, including these raspberry scones. The reason I’m writing about the scones now – as opposed to the other goodies I made that evening – is simply that they were my favorite creation of the evening. They were simple, flavorful, and a joy to bake. The dough came together easily, the scones cooked quickly, and when I finally sat down to relax – I munched happily on warm scones and all felt right with the world.

Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup (plus a little more) fresh raspberries
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream

Optional: Raw or large grain sugar to sprinkle on top of the scones.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. In a large bowl, whisk together the white and wheat flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Add the butter and use a pastry blender (or knives, or fingers) to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in raspberries and use the pastry blender (or knives) again to break up the berries into smaller chunks.

Add the ricotta and heavy cream to the flour/butter mixture. With a spatula, stir together until a loose dough has formed (the mixture will be thick and wet). Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl.

With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter or surface. Flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square (about 1-inch tall). With a large knife, cut the dough into 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges.

whole wheat molasses quick bread.

It is officially awful outside.

And although I’m feeling slightly grumpy (I don’t particularly care for rain/snow/ice/cold), I am trying my best to have a thankful heart. Truth be told, I really do have a lot to be thankful for. But in today, in particular, I am thankful for our happy little house. Our new place is just so cozy (and warm!). Last winter, Nich and I were in a much bigger house that was poorly insulated and had horrible leaky windows. We were always freezing. But our new place is magical. It stays so warm! I hardly have to turn the heat on, and when I do the whole house warms up instantly. We have not had to use our space heater once. I love it. In weather like this, having a warm house is most definitely something to be thankful for.

So, what do you do when you have a happy little house and its cold and miserable outside? Why, you make delicious things, of course. A few days ago, when it was especially horrible outside I decided to bake this fabulous bread. I’d seen the recipe in a recent issue of Food Day (from The Oregonian), and knew I needed to try it. I’m always game to try a quick bread (Its bread, and its quick. Enough said.) and this one caught my eye as it was Mark Bittman’s Whole Wheat Molasses Quick Bread. (There is nothing in that sentence that I don’t like. Done and done.)

The bread is thick, hearty, and satisfying. (Note: most quick breads tend to be much more hearty, due to their lack of yeast and rising time. But, this gives the bread a whole different quality that I’ve come to appreciate about quick breads. This is the kind of bread that ‘sticks to your guts’, as my grandfather would say). The molasses lends a subtle sweetness to the bread that isn’t overpowering or cloying. It is the perfect compliment to soups, salads, and is absolutely sublime when served warm with a little butter.

Mark Bittman’s Whole Wheat Molasses Quick Bread
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients
Oil or butter for greasing pan
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses (I used black strap

Method
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-inch or 9-by 5-inch loaf pan, preferably nonstick.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients. Stir the molasses into the buttermilk or yogurt. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients (just enough to combine) then pour into the pan. Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

sweet potato biscuits.

In honor of Valentines day and all things “sweet” I feel it would be appropriate to share my recipe for Sweet Potato biscuits. This is one of my new favorite recipes – its easy, quick, delicious, and a nice twist on classic biscuits. Have I mentioned that biscuits are one of my favorite foods of all time? My grandpa used to make the best buttermilk biscuits growing up, and ever since then I’ve been hooked. There is nothing to dislike about buttery, flakey, carby biscuit goodness (I think I just made up a word and I like it: Carby). So if you take normal biscuits and add in the texture, color, and sweetness of sweet potatoes…I’m sold.

I wish I could tell you that I was whipping up some fabulous dinner for Nich in honor of valentines day, but alas we are going to pay someone to do that for us. I love cooking, but sometimes its nice to celebrate without having to clean up afterwards. :) We are staying at the Ace Hotel in downtown Portland tonight, and will be dining at Clyde Commons. I am so excited.

Anyway, if you are so prompted, you could make some sweet potato biscuits for your sweetheart. Or you could be like Liz Lemon and celebrate Anna Howard Shaw Day and make a batch and eat them all by yourself. Happy Valentimes, everyone. Lets eat some biscuits.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces (plus a little more for brushing on top of the biscuits)
3/4 cup Sweet-Potato Puree, chilled (To make the puree: Boil the sweet potatoes in water until tender. Blend, food process or mash until they are a puree. Season with nutmeg, brown sugar, and cinnamon.)
1/3 cup buttermilk

Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers Рcut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some pea-sized lumps of butter remaining. In a small bowl, whisk together sweet potato pur̩e and buttermilk; stir quickly into flour mixture until combined (do not overmix).

Shape the biscuits: Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead very gently until dough comes together but is still slightly lumpy. (If dough is too sticky, work in up to 1/4 cup additional flour.) Shape into a disk, and pat to an even 1-inch thickness. With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter (or a juice glass! This is what I use), cut out biscuits as close together as possible. Gather together scraps, and repeat to cut out more biscuits (do not reuse scraps more than twice).

Bake the biscuits: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. with rack on lower shelf. Butter an 8-inch cake pan. Arrange biscuits snugly in pan (to help them stay upright). Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden, 20 to 24 minutes.