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.

Wrap up! My year in baking...(Pt. 2)

And here are my remaining baking efforts for the year. The second half of the year brought a lot of use of my oven. Thankfully, it can take it. August:

The Dish: If it isn't already evident that I'm a lemon nut then here's more proof. My baked good for August was: Lemon Poppyseed Cake. Hell, I had left over lemons and, as mentioned, a whole lot of poppyseeds. Why not make bread?

Tarter than your average "cake"

End result: Also from Sweet Melissa's Cookbook, but I was not a fan of this one. Too tart and not sugary enough for me. Plus, I believe I left one loaf in a bit longer than necessary so it was a bit too crisp on the bottom. But, I brought it to work and people enjoyed it. I was told that the fact it was more lemony than sugary made it taste more like a traditional bread rather than cake. Go fig.


The Dish: The previous month I had gone to Vermont for a Writer's Conference. My roomie at the conference went to a Maple shop and I implored her to get me maple sugar if she could find it. She did! (Thanks, Iris!) And so I made it a point to find something to use this decadent sugar for. And so I found a simple recipe, because I like simple, for Mapledoodles.

Not my favorite recipe of the year, so I'll keep on the look out...

End result: For me, I think these cookies tasted better cool rather than warm. I got a metallic like taste from either the maple extract or the maple sugar. And lastly, too much maple! This recipe called for maple extract and maple sugar in the cookie along with maple sugar outside of the cookie and an (optional) maple glaze! I had to hold off from doing maple outside of the cookie because the taste was too darn strong! Decent enough cookies, but I've seen alternate mapledoodle recipes I'll try.

The Dish: In addition to the, somewhat disappointing, mapledoodles I made a classic fave: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! My same friend who is a gifted baker introduced me to pumpkin chocolate chip bars, which are amazing! This is a take on that.

A personal fave!

End result: These have a cakey texture rather than your normal cookie texture. And to eat these warm is amazing! The moist cakey-ness along with melty chocolate chips makes these to die for. It's filled with the same spices you'd use to make pumpkin pie as well as pumpkin filling and is amazing!

You'll fall in love with these and the recipe I use makes five dozen or more which is never enough! People in the office loved them and I found the adult mentors liked them too. Kids and teenagers may be a bit sketched out by pumpkin cookies, but once they try them they'll be reformed. I'm drooling just thinking about them.


The Dish: Of course one would think that I'd save the pumpkin treats for October, but in all honest they're good any time! But this month I actually delved into a treat I've eaten a lot, but never had the cajones to make: pound cake!

Turns out it's super-easy!

Basically butter cake, but an old time fave...

End result: Main difference is that it is made with light brown sugar rather than regular granulated as per the recipe on the back of the Domino's sugar box. So it looks a bit darker as well. Tasted really good and familiar, almost like my grandma's!

Made it for my drinking group (hey ladies!) and they enjoyed it. Moistness keeps if sealed well for a couple of days, but definitely tastes best right out of the oven and with some accoutrements such as cream or berries.

The Dish: I also did a pumpkin recipe for Halloween! Last year I had an awful pumpkin bar recipe. The bars were incredibly dense and not sweet at all. Not happy. So I went with a Paula Deen recipe this year because, quite frankly, you can trust her butter-filled delicacies. And I wasn't disappointed!

Just between you and me, this is pumpkin cake...

End result: I just couldn't be bothered with icing and didn't want to deter from the pumpkin taste, so there you go. I have to say that this was more of a cake then a bar. It was mighty fluffy and could've used icing. It tasted fabulous and I'll make again instead calling it Ms. Deen's pumpkin cake!


The Dish: And as the year comes full circle so does this month's dessert which was, well, lemon of course! This time lemon cupcakes with lemony cream on top. I made it for my department's first ever Dessert Hour before Thanksgiving and these cupcakes were a hit! If you're not a big dessert person lemon is excellent because it's not too strong and complements the sweet just right.

The lemony cream is the best part!

End result: These cupcakes are somewhat of a semi-homemade approach and you just do your own thing after using the cake mix. Lemon curd is the secret ingredient for these minicakes and it's really good. I have to say my main delight was in the lemony cream (heavy whipping cream, lemon curd, and confectioner's sugar that you beat the hell out of). I've made it again since I had left over ingredients and it was well received with some brown sugar bundt cake on Christmas. Also, used the lemony cream on a pumpkin tart with friends for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it! So it just goes to show that again...lemon shows its versatility!

The Dish: And lastly for the year of the pumpkin (and lemon) was pumpkin chocolate chip muffins from the same book I got the lemon cupcake recipe Cupcakes from the Cake (mix) Doctor by Anne Byrn It was hard for my husband to find a chocolate chip muffin mix, but when he did I went buck wild with left over pumpkin filling and enjoyed the results merrily.

Notice a trend?

End result: Pumpkin and chocolate is basically the best combination...ever. Just don't argue with me on this one. These muffins kept, when well sealed, and I brought some in for co-workers who are also pumpkin fanatics. Needless to say they loved them also.


Well, another marathon baking month for moi this month.

The Dishes:

First up, Almond toffee crunch cookies from Cookies to Die for. Another hunt for me, but I found toffee bits! You put almond extract, chopped almonds (which I left out so my husband could eat the cookies), toffee bits, and your basic cookie ingredients to make this decadent type cookie.

The toffee's the best part, I think.

End result: Well, the recipe said you could make five dozen and I stayed up making about eight or nine dozen. Almond extract has quite a particular taste so if you're a fan of that (or say almond croissants and such) then you'll enjoy these cookies immensely. They're soft and slightly crispy. The toffee sticks to your teeth, but that's the best part about toffee! I'll probably try these again and use vanilla extract instead of almond and see how much more you can taste the toffee.

Next up, peanut butter cookies (from scratch!) from the Sweet Melissa book. Another super easy recipe, hoorah! I added chocolate chips because I think most things with chocolate are awesome so I just keep adding. I made these for a friend's holiday cookie party when my original cookie dough went up in smoke or crumbles I should say.

Peanut butter and chocolate? Pure genius!

End result: The recipe calls these chewy peanut butter cookies, but if you cook them a bit longer they become crunchy, which isn't a bad thing really. I've gotten them in the middle for the past two times I've made them. Very enjoyable and I have the ingredients at home so I'll make these again and again.

And then there were maple chocolate chip cookies! This was the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe (courtesy of Hershey's) and instead of brown sugar I added in maple sugar and a smidge of maple extract.

Maple sugar can make all the difference.

End result: Again, better the next day. I dunno if it's the maple extract or sugar but right out of the oven there's a bit of a metallic taste. However, the next day when cool (and super chewy) these cookies tasted awesome with a hint of maple. Co-workers loved this holiday treat!

And for me that's it for the year in baking. I look forward to the new year and new recipes and experiments in the kitchen.

Happy Holidays and Happy Baking!