Monday, August 31, 2009

Blackberry Jam

It's been a million year since I did any kind of preserving, but there are giant blackberry bushes very close to my house so I've been wandering down every few days throughout August and collecting berries. Now I have a freezer full and decided today was the day to do something with them. Or some of them, at least.

Coincidentally, blackberry is one of my favorite flavors of jam, so not only will I enjoy giving it away to others, but I will enjoy some myself!


4 cups blackberries, washed and picked through
4 cups granulated sugar

Sterilize your jars and lids and set aside.

Start a large pot of water to boil (for processing the jars).

Crush berries and strain out seeds, if desired. Combine berries and sugar in a medium-sized pot over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reads 220 degrees on thermometer, or has thickened.

Pour into prepared jars and top with lids. Immerse in boiling water and process for several minutes. Let cool and store.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not Great...

Kind of disappointed today with the kitchen. Totally having an off day, dropped everything, spilled everything, twice, ruined an entire tray of lemon macaroons (I knew from the time I put them in the oven they weren't right). The only thing that worked was my lemon curd.

My great success yesterday with the chocolate macaroons diluted my thinking to the point where I assumed I could bust out two batches tonight, no problem. Wrong. I am instantly humbled.

I made some vanilla ones that turned out alright, not great, though. I think I might skip this recipe in the future. Or maybe I will try it once more, but not anytime soon.


1 cup slivered almonds
2 cups powdered sugar
4 egg whites
5 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Process almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and process until very fine. Sift mixture into a bowl.

Beat egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy, increase speed to medium-high and beat until whites form medium-stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar, whisking constantly until stiff, glossy peaks form. Stir in vanilla.

Transfer whites to a large bowl. Fold in almond mixture in two batches. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch piping tip. Pipe 1-inch rounds about 1/2-inch apart on baking sheets. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bake until puffed and lightly colored, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool completely before peeling off parchment.

They tasted okay, a little sweet for my liking, even with the tart curd.

I am on hiatus from macaroons...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Cookie Day!

Since I was already in the kitchen waiting for the macarons to cool, I decided to make a quick batch of shortbread to take to my staff on Monday.

I bought my first cookie press from Sur la Table when I was in Seattle last month and haven't tried it out yet. I searched and searched for a recipes to try with it, and then in the end, I decided to use my mother's Whipped Shortbread recipe. I was pretty sure it would work in the press and I was right.

There are literally 3 ingredients involved, and it's such a versatile cookie. I usually only use it at Christmas, rolled into balls and then flattened, decorated with colored sugar crystals, or as a thumbprint cookie with homemade raspberry jam in the center. I even filled some last year with some leftover lemon curd I had in the fridge. They were awesome.

I didn't have a lot of time, so the press worked out perfectly. Since it's summer, I used one of the flower patterns and then some pink sprinkles for some color.

As far as baking time, it took a lot less time to bake the cookie press cookies, only 11 minutes per batch, and when I roll and press them, they take about 16 minutes.


2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
3 1/2 cups flour


In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until blended. Add flour in batches.

When completely incorporated, bake at 350 degrees until done.

Macaron? Oui!

Okay, so I've been putting off making these for as long as I can remember because I was afraid of the outcome. I've heard too many horror stories to not be apprehensive.

Then I found David Lebovitz's website and he quite frankly recounted his experiences baking macarons, both hit and miss. He was also kind enough to post his tried and true recipe for Chocolate Macarons.

It was surprisingly simple, they turned out fantastic, with the perfect 'foot', with a beautifully crispy shell and a fabulous, soft center. His were paired with a prune filling, but I opted for a classic chocolate ganache, to which I added peppermint extract, and they were phenomenal.

I am definitely making these again. Soon. And also, I am now empowered to try other flavors, lemon, raspberry, lime, pistachio... The possibilities are really endless!

One tip that I read while researching other recipes, but Mr. Lebovitz prefers matching up the shapes, is to trace a series of perfect circles to pipe your batter into. I decided to go that route, and I'm happy I did, the result was perfectly round meringues all very close to the same size.


1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup powdered almonds
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tbsp. granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with parchment and have a pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch round tip ready.

Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps, use a food processor.

Beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you're working alone).

Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tbsp. each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch apart.

Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

Chocolate Mint Ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. light corn syrup
4 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

Heat cream in a small saucepan with corn syrup. When the cream just starts to boil around the edges, remove from heat and add the chocolate. Stir until smooth, then stir in peppermint. Let cool completely before using.

I applied the ganache with an offset spatula, it could also be piped.

Makes 10 to 15 cookies depending on size.

Of course I could barely wait to get them together before I had to have one! I paired it with an espresso and it was amazing. Don't be afraid to try something new, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NYTimes Brownies

I love all things I can make with chocolate. I only use the very best quality chocolate that I can buy and it makes such a difference. Same rule goes for fresh baking powder and baking soda, pure vanilla extract, organic free range eggs, etc.

When Mark Bittman posted a new brownie recipe to his Bitten Blog in the New York Times last May, I saved it away and decided today was the day to put it to good use. What appealed to me in the first place about this recipe specifically was that it didn't call for any nuts. I guess if you like them, you could probably add some, but I think brownies are way better fudgy and not tampered with!

Not only are these brownies delicious, they were so easy to make. I double the recipe and used a bigger pan. It calls for unsweetened chocolate, but I used bittersweet and it was fine; I just used a little less sugar.


3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, optional


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate is just about melted, remove from heat, and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Meanwhile, butter and line an 8-inch square pan.

Transfer mixture to a bowl, and stir in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add flour and vanilla if you are using it, and stir to incorporate. Stop stirring when no traces of flour remain.

Pour into pan, and bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until set and barely firm in the middle. Cool on a rack before cutting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nom Nom Nom

I went down to Seattle for a long weekend last month and did some serious eating. For breakfast everyday we walked down for Top Pot doughnuts. You have not eaten a doughnut until you've had Top Pot. Promise. On the first day we each had a cake doughnut and they are super heavy, so every day after that we opted for yeast doughnuts. They're amazing, almost the size of your head! I am still craving their lemon-filled...

Top: Raspberry Bullseye Bottom: Lemon-Filled Ovaltine Lattes

It was really hard to try to get a shot of ALL the doughnuts from my spot in the lineup!

View from the street.

I saw Trophy Cupcakes featured on Martha Stewart's show last year and have been dying to check it out ever since. I think we went there three of the four days that we were down, and ate cupcakes to the ridiculous point.

Clockwise from top left: Cafe au Lait, Lemon, Red Velvet, Triple Chocolate.

We sat down with a pot of tea and actually ate ALL of them in one sitting. We cut them each in half and shared and we were doing pretty good until we were left with the chocolate one, but we still went for it. OMG - big mistake! Know your limits!

They feature different flavors on different days of the week. Their website has all the information you need so you don't miss out on your favorite flavor!

Really cute shop. We went to the location in Wallingford.

Low Fat Blueberry Muffins

Bottom to Top: LowFat Bluberry Muffins, Zucchini Muffins, leftover Vanilla Cupcakes.

I love blueberries. I love them fresh, in scones, in crumbles, in smoothies, pretty much any way I can get 'em! But my most favorite thing to do with them is turn them into muffins. There are so many different recipes out there, and I love trying new ones to see how they're different. My old stand-by is my Mom's recipe which is delicious, but not exactly the healthiest.

Going through my collection, I found a "low fat" recipe. I'm always super skeptical about "low fat" anything when it comes to baking, it's been my experience that I should just suck it up and use full fat whatever is called for.

That said, there are some great tricks and substitutes that work great without compromising flavor, like soy milk (but not light, I always use Silk brand plain and it works quite well wherever you would use milk because it doesn't have a strong taste and it's got a pretty creamy consistency), applesauce in place of eggs (doesn't work all the time, but great for loaf cakes where there's generally a pretty dominant flavor ingredient like bananas), or sour cream instead of butter (but still, I always use full fat sour cream, and again, it doesn't work in every recipe).

However, I was pleasantly surprised by how these muffins turned out. They are very moist and fluffy, I haven't yet been disappointed by a blueberry muffin!


2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup non-fat milk (I used soy)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 to 1 1/4 cups blueberries (I always go a little heavy on the berries)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin or line with papers.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, oil, and the egg.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Stir just until blended. Fold in blueberries. Batter will be lumpy.

Fill muffing cups 2/3 full and bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

Hmmmm... What To Do With A Giant Zucchini?

Ah, summer! A friend gave me a huge zucchini earlier this week (it's bigger than my dog!), and I've been trying my best to use it in as many different ways possible. Something that clearly should have been picked long before it was, has actually turned out to be quite a fun project for me. So far I've made fritters (twice, they were awesome), stirfry, oven roasted with tomatoes, and finally muffins.

It took me a while to find the right recipe to bake with, they all ask for a barrage of spices, chocolate, nuts, etc. I'm not crazy about some nuts and almost everything I found called for walnuts or pecans. I was looking for something a lot simpler, so as not to stray too far away from the main ingredient. I ended up choosing one that has the spice flavor I love - cinnamon! - and adapted it a little to my own preferences.

They turned out light and moist, with lots of flavor, perfect for breakfast or a tea snack.


1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup shredded zucchini


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray or line with papers a 12-muffin tin.

In a small bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Stir in the zucchini.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, do not overwork.

Fill cups about 2/3 full and bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Makes exactly 12 muffins.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Black and White

When I make Black and White Cookies, I don't mess around. I make enough to fill my freezer so that in a moment of weakness (which incidentally is often), I have no stress in knowing I have a secret stash! I wrap them individually with plastic wrap. Black and White Cookies are a New York City trademark. They're highly publicized, talked about, and advertised by characters on shows like Seinfeld and Sex and the City.

The perfect Black and White Cookie is moist, cake-like, and not too sweet. I think that's why I love them so much. They're iced but the recipe I like the best calls for real chocolate instead of cocoa powder, and I use the very best 72% bittersweet chocolate I can find so the icing comes out very rich and glossy.

I have tried many recipes for these cookies from many sources and the one I find the closest to an authentic NYC Black and White is the recipe from Glaser's Bakeshop on 87th Street.


1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup boiling water
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp. light corn syrup


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix by machine or by hand until fluffy. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla and lemon extracts until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder and salt. Stir until blended. Add dry mixture to the wet in batches, stirring well after each addition. Using a soup spoon, place heaping spoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Place confectioners' sugar in large mixing bowl. Gradually stir in enough boiling water to the sugar to make a thick, spreadable mixture.

Put half the frosting in the top half of a double-boiler. Add the chocolate and corn syrup, and set over simmering water. Warm the mixture, stirring, until chocolate is melted and frosting is smooth. Turn off the heat, but leave chocolate frosting over hot water to keep it spreadable. With an offset spatula, ice half of each cookie with the chocolate frosting, and the other half with white frosting. Let dry, and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 dozen large cookies.

Geroy's Birthday

Silly, I know. A friend decided at the last minute to celebrate her puppy's first birthday. She asked me along with my little dog, and it was a great afternoon with friends and too many snacks. It also gave me an excuse to do some baking! I decided on trying the Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes. I found the little bears at a craft store, they're very cute.

Most of Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes are frosted with an offset spatula, but I took the opportunity to test out my new Ateco #828 piping tip. I had to search high and low to find one, and I've been itching to use it.

The icing is white, so it would be a great opportunity to get creative with colors!

The buttercream in particular is extremely easy to work with, sometimes they can be challenging.

The recipe is also available online at

For the Cake:

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. In a small bowl, combine flours; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, and scraping down sides of bowl in between each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about three-quarters full. Bake, rotating halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool in tins for 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tins, and cool completely on rack. Once cupcakes have cooled, frost the tops by using a small offset spatula.

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, 4 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition, until icing reaches desired consistency; you may not need to add all the sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.