2010 Wrap up! My year in baking. (Part 2)

The last half of 2010 proved incredibly hectic. While the first half of the year was quite mellow and slow going, the second half went full throttle! Driving lessons, writing conference, road test, moving, looking for apartments, moving, settling into new apartment, fellowship applications, writing groups galore, and baking. And now as this years comes to a close we get to do it all over again. Are you with me? And now for your baking pleasure... JULY

July tends to be one of the hottest months in summer, especially if you live in NYC. So you're probably thinking, Who the heck wants to bake? (thumbs pointed) This gal!

One day I was at home and had a bunch of left over ingredients and wanted to use my fantastic oven as much as possible before we moved so I started looking around for a simple recipe I could make on a Sunday afternoon. Low and behold I found oaty pecan cookies via Cakes and Bakes. Since I didn't have pecans I substituted with chocolate chips and bam I had a delicious and fiber-filled cookie! It stayed chewy for several days when properly contained and I was a happy camper. 'Nuff said.


For a friend's birthday, pre-wedding, I decided to make her one of my favorite cookies. This cookie is a copycat recipe for the Momofuku Milk Bar's cornflake marshmallow cookie. The reasoning for me adapting this was because when I had visited Milk Bar earlier in the month they didn't have my favorite cookie. Like any fan I was truly disheartened and kinda peeved. I wrote to Milk Bar and inquired why they replaced the awesome cornflake marshmallow cookie with the lame confetti cookie and if I could look forward to my fave cookie again. The enthusiastic message said the cookie would indeed be back, so all I had to do was be patient. Instead of patience I took to the net and found a copycat recipe. Yay cookie fans.

Marshmallows, cornflakes, choco chips, oh my!

I accidentally messed up the recipe slightly by using regular salt rather than kosher which made the cookies a bit saltier than intended but not so much so that they killed the sugar taste and all those tasty accoutrement such as cornflakes, marshmallows, chocolate chips and such. It was good, but not great. I am happy to say that I visited Milk Bar in August and was pleasantly surprised and sated to find the cornflake marshmallow cookie back in it's rightful place. Take that confetti!


And with August brought some last minute baking before I went on vacation, took my road test, and moved. All in a month! Craziness I tell you.

Again, this was me using up items I had so I made a maple marshmallow blondie. Yes!

The taste is there! Believe me.

While the look of it wasn't what I wanted the taste was there. Maple was light from the maple sugar, but people loved it nonetheless. It had more a cake texture than a dense or chewy texture, but in my office taste is what matters not looks so it was gone by early afternoon. Success!


September took a toll on my psyche, wallet, and back so I was happy to get back into my form of therapy: baking! And I had to try out our new oven in our new apartment. Brand spanking new digital oven, thank-you-very-much.

Anywho, first up was banoffee pie! On an episode of 5 Ingredient Fix I saw host Claire Robinson make a banoffee pie. I love toffee and bananas and it looked quite easy when she did it. (Five ingredients after all!) So I got my ingredients and set up a Friday night for boiling sweetened condensed milk and making pie!

Banoffee Pie aka Banoffee Mess. Messy indeed.

The recipe was quite easy to make, but because I didn't let the boiled can of condensed milk fully cool it was more gooey (liquidy gooey) than stiff gooey. The taste was there, believe me. Sweetened condensed milk can do no wrong, but it made slicing the pie quite runny rather than stiff. The toffee is so strong you don't notice the lack of sugar in the whipped cream (beaten heavy cream and that's it). I'll try again when I have more time in the day or try Paula Deen's method of baking the liquid in a pan rather than boiling the can for several (read: four) hours.

The next goody is a repeat from last year, but I made it with real pumpkin that an editor from my job gave me from his farm. Real pumpkin! Real pumpkin is quite liquidy and light in color compared to the canned stuff. So you have to drain thoroughly. It also smells like tea, intriguing.


So I made these delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. They looked less pumpkin like, i.e. less orange, but the taste was there! Something to be said for natural.


Since it's officially fall and all we have more pumpkin! Yes, pumpkin. There were cans on sale at Whole Foods for 99 cents so how could I resist? That's right, I couldn't.

Sandra Lee had a recipe for pumpkin-maple bread pudding I'd been dying to try since I got her Semi-homemade cookbook numero tres. I love bread pudding. Whenever I see it on a menu I must try it and if done properly I can't get enough of the stuff.

Pumpkin AND Bread Pudding, you say? Fantabulous!

This recipe called for cinnamon raisin bread but I just used Cinnabon cinnamon bread and adding maple sugar (1/4 cup) in addition to the maple syrup. This is not an overly sweet dish. I think the maple sugar helped and had I not added any it could have been too light or a bit bland. You use pumpkin spices and canned pumpkin and it tastes just like pumpkin pie filling. Yes, I'm serious. A large bowl of warm pumpkin pie filling. Delicious and best served warm, though, I had no complaints when it was eaten cold either.


This is usually marathon baking month. Parties, gifts, and so forth are when baked goodies are in high demand. Expect several posts of sugary goodness.

First up was my first foray making donuts. Over the Thanksgiving holiday my husband and I saw a friend on Big Daddy's House make lemon donuts. Since I love lemon and I love donuts it was a no-brainer. We have a small deep fryer that my husband purchased years ago and it was going to come in handy.

Lemony donut goodness!

Well, the dough took a bit of time to knead and get at the right texture so that took some time. My husband is more patient when it comes to this stuff so I had to find my happy place as I kneaded and added flour and kneaded and added flour and rolled and kneaded and so on. Finally, getting the right texture for frying I used our biscuit cutters to make donut holes rather than full on donuts.

Well, after the first few tries we got fried donuts with doughy centers. Since the recipe didn't specify how long to fry (mainly until they got golden brown) we had to hypothesize and figure it out since we weren't using the same shape as the show. The taste was good after we got them fully fried and we enjoyed them the next day with powdered sugar on top. Light lemony taste that is more emphasized eating them the next day rather than newly fried.

The plan was to take these to a friend's party, but I decided to keep these for myself and bake something else. Great for brunch!

On to some light and fluffy cookies! From Cookies to Die For I made melt in your mouth sugar cookies. True to their title these babies are light. This is because you use egg yolk and more sugar than flour. The texture of the dough is grainy from all the sugar and they bake up light and fall in the middle after being taken out of the oven. They bake really quick so you have to keep an eye on them and they have air pockets to show how light they are. When eating out of the oven they're a bit chewy but become more crunchy and will crumble in your mouth, so make sure to have a napkin ready.


Next up is my own creation. Something I am quite proud of and plan on making for cookie competitions next year. Behold, the maple butterscotch cookie!


Using my remaining maple sugar from Vermont and butterscotch chips I made a cookie that is buttery, mapley, and good-y. I got rave reviews from co-workers on this one. The maple is intense but not overpowering. When I opened the tupperware to present these babies the maple wafted at you. These are good and I'm not just saying that because I made them. I mean I pay people to flatter me on the regular. If you're in NYC next year look me up and I'll make sure to provide you some samples.

And just when I thought all my baking was done for the year I realized I wanted to use up some mascarpone cheese I had left over. And since I paid $5 for a tub you know I was aiming to use everything.

On Christmas eve I scanned recipes and found one from my trusty FoodNetwork buddy Giada DeLaurentiis: blueberry mascarpone cheese turnovers! Looked easy enough.

Giada and I are BFFs, for reals.

So, you mix lemon zest & juice, sugar, and blueberries into mascarpone cheese as a filling. Get some pie crust (or make it your choice) and cut out circles. Add filling inside of circles and pinch shut and you have yourself a dessert empanada! Again, we pulled out the trusty deep fryer and made these babies. The good thing is you just have to bake 'em long enough for the outer crust to get crispy which only takes a minute or so. Let cool for ten minutes and then enjoy. These were amazing! Light and tasty with my two favorite components lemon and blueberries! We indulged and forced ourselves to eat more the next day. Upon reheating these in the oven more grease was released (yay!) but much of the mascarpone filling seeped into the dough (no!). Luckily we had more filling and dipped the turnovers into this. But, apparently this is a treat best eaten the day of making. So I wouldn't advise making too far ahead of time if you plan on serving people. You may miss out on the best part!

In the midst of all my baking was enjoying a lot of other people's baking, bakeries, Dessert Day this past September (thanks Top Chef Just Desserts!), and eating lots of goods sent for the holidays from vendors and such. (Toffee popcorn became an addiction as did truffles.)

Here's to another year of baking and many more! Now let's look forward to entering 2011 with resolutions we may forget about come February and lots of other goodies to create and ingest. Heck, I'm making a list already.

2010 Wrap up! My year in baking. (Part 1)

As the end of another year quickly comes upon us it is time for some reflection. Perhaps you're wondering what decisions you made over the course of the year and if these were good or bad. Maybe you're already putting the year behind you and looking forward. Perhaps you're just gorging this month and are certain you'll make up for all this holiday gluttony once the clock strikes midnight bringing us into January 1, 2011. Or maybe this has been the crappiest year ever and you just need to move on already. Either way, I think it's a good time to reflect on baking efforts (good and bad) this year and hope for some more deliciousness as we get further into the twenty-first century. Yeah, food heals if only for a bit.

And with that I bring you my baking for 2010! Don't be surprised to see many pumpkin entries. You know I have a thing for that tasty veg.


Pumpkin Bread a la Food Network.

Well the first baked goody of the new year was a bit of a bust. I had buttermilk and aimed to use it. The result was a pumpkin bread that was not very sweet, but had the taste of pumpkin due to puree and the traditional pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice/cloves, and ginger).

Not my fave so much.

Since I had left over buttermilk and pumpkin and was going to be bringing a dessert for friends I decided to take another crack at a recipe that evening, meaning I put in an all-nighter.

The second dessert was pumpkin muffins and instead of pecans I used left over walnuts. I was very happy with the muffins as they were sweeter and just all-around tastier for me. So this recipe from Food Network was a win!

Pumpkin redeemed!


I was forwarded or simply saw a recipe in the New York Times and decided to go all out. Usually I stick with simple recipes, but decided to try something more difficult. A buttermilk poundcake with lemon glaze. I know! Tres fancy.

Hard work, but worth the effort! You're drooling a little, aren't you?

I made a brown sugar poundcake last year that was darn tasty. But nothing compares to the moisture and delicacy of this buttermilk poundcake. It's a lot of work in the beating, but well worth it in the end. While the edges browned a bit more than I would've liked from my bundt pan the taste was not affected whatsoever.

Next up was a marble orange tea bread. I'm not a huge fan of orange outside of juice and maybe some orange-flavored chicken a la my local Chinese restaurant or Trader Joe's frozen orange chicken, but dang it all this marbled chocolate and orange tea bread was tasty!

Orange and chocolate never looked so good, seriously.

The orange was not too heavy, but very pungent with the zest. The chocolate taste was quite light in the swirls and I was shocked I made it look close to how it did in the Cakes and Bakes cookbook I used. So, this was good. I tried the same recipe another time and the center sunk, so I know not to peak at it while baking next time. My bad.

Cakes and Bakes was instrumental in another tasty treat that my husband loves and is addicted to and is our go-to dessert for when we go to people's houses the cinnamon blondie!


Goodness, the picture just doesn't do it justice.

Dependent on mixing you may get a couple of results texture-wise. You can get the dense-ness of a true bar or more cakey. My husband prefers the former and I don't care because it tastes amazing! The cinnamon is the star but not overpowering and within a blondie it's a perfect combination making it taste like a cookie in bar form. Good stuff.


Giada DeLaurentiis has never steered me wrong and in a recipe of hers I found my new favorite cookie (and a fave of co-workers as well): lemon ricotta cookie (with lemon glaze, though I tend to go without it.)

Light and fluffy and heavenly.

This cookie can do no wrong. It's light, fluffy, and as some have told me "refreshing." That's the power of lemon zest, baby! The dough is just as good, trust me. I can eat a dozen of these and not feel full (both a good and bad thing). I strongly encourage you to make this cookie, ASAP. You'll thank me. (You're welcome.)


And we are officially in spring! Ah, warmer temps and less layers. Good times. This recipe from Cakes and Bakes seemed simple enough and, as already stated, I love simple. I made ginger-topped fingers. A shortbread with ginger inside and on top in a syrup that was made with simple corn starch and ground ginger.

A delicate taste and textured shortbread.

My husband is the ginger fan in our household. I like it in small doses and it wasn't too much in this recipe. The cookie was incredibly buttery and crisp, not crumbly which I enjoyed and the ginger syrup atop it made it a bit more moist. Delightful.


You and I both know that pumpkin is good year-round, year-round!, so I tackled it again as we approached summer. This recipe is from the grand dame herself of all things domestic, Martha Stewart! Pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing.

Icing or no, that is the question.

I made these for a friend's baby shower of sorts and it was a hit! I made a few dozen with the brown butter icing (not really brown in color, mind you) and a few without. Everyone loved this cakey, moist cookie with the icing. Without icing it was still loved, just not as much. I'd say that evaporated milk added to the moisture for this cake. It's in the method and also ingredients of course. The more dairy the better, I say!


We get back to basics with the help of good ole reliable, Cakes and Bakes! This is a basic sugar cookie recipe with the addition of lemon zest. This is more a hard, crunchy cookie rather than a chewy one. I'm still in search of the perfect sugar cookie, much like many may be looking for the perfect chocolate chip recipe. These were tasty and good. The dough is meant to be cut and/or shaped rather than a drop cookie, so it'll pay to have cookie cutters for this one.

A delightful cookie with a hint of lemon.

Another Cakes and Bakes recipe was chocolate caramel bars. The bar part, which includes oats, was too thin so it was pretty crispy. The caramel was made from (yum) sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar over an open flame as the next layer and add on some melted chocolate and you've got yourself a bar! Very tasty. Compliments noted.


Well, that's it for the first half of the year. I'll be back with the latter half. This past week was a baking bonanza for me! December is my busiest month it turns out.