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!

Wrap up! My year in baking... (Pt. 1)

I enjoy baking and cooking. Baking more so because of the fact that I actually seem to be good at it and things turn out the way they're supposed to (most of the time). I can't always say the same for savory or meat dishes in my hands. Since I started my current job I found I was surrounded by people who enjoyed baking and even more so enjoyed eating what someone else baked. It only seemed fair that I participate in the activities since I enjoyed their offerings. I usually only baked for the holidays (cheap gifts!) and to say "thank you" for donating to a special cause (hundreds raised for AIDS Walk and rewarded by cupcakes!) And so within the past year my baking efforts have quadrupled. I bake new recipes regularly and am happy to offer my services for others including my current mentoring group.

Many of my baking successes have been posted to my Facebook album page, but I wanted to also include them here because, well, I like y'alls.

I present...my baking efforts of 2009!


The Dish: For my cupcake-themed birthday party I made lemon-raspberry cupcakes and my husband contributed red velvet cupcakes with a cinnamon buttercream icing. Both were well regarded at the party. I first made the lemon-raspberry cupcakes for my mom and mother-in-law on Mother's Day in 2008, I made them again to say "thanks for donating to AIDS Walk in my name" that same year, and then again this year.

This recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine. And thus far my husband and I have not been let down by the recipes we've tried in there.

Lemony goodness with a fruity surprise in the middle

End result: I'm a lemon lover so this is a great treat. You use lemon zest and fresh lemon juice in the cupcake so that it has a light (not overpowering) lemony taste. In addition you put in a teaspoon scoop of raspberry jelly inside as a nice treat and top it all off with an intensely sugary lemon icing (lemon juice, confectioners sugar; add some jam if you want to make it pink).

Voila...you have lemon goodness! Party-goers enjoyed this treat a lot and many raved about it even against the well loved red velvet.


I will say not much went down during the winter months baking wise.

The Dish: Lemon strikes again! In cookie form this time. Lemon Poppyseed Cookies have become a staple for me this year. The people love 'em, and I have to give the people what they want. And since I have a crap load of poppyseed's I might as well make these treats as often as possible.

Lemon strikes again!

End result: The lemon comes from, again, lemon zest! Which is amazing in every sense of the word. You can't add too much so don't be afraid to add more than the recipe dictates.

Did I mention people love these cookies? I most recently made them for my department's book club and these things were ravaged. A co-worker even said she was introduced to a flavor she didn't know she liked. That's right, baking causes miracles!


My oven started getting heavy use when NY AIDS Walk came around and I was basically pimping my baking skills for donations. And dagnabbit it worked! Even during a recession I was able to raise several hundred dollars for the cause. Heck yeah!

Requests were varied and some people just got some of what I made others. But let me tell you it was a baking bonanza for a good couple weeks.

There were brownies, yawn. But then I made cupcakes!

The Dishes:

1) Carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I skimped on the icing and bought some whipped. After spending almost an hour zesting (not smart on my part) 2 cups of carrots I was tired and it was late on a school night no less.

Good and good for you!

End result: Those who donated enjoyed this treat as well. Though, I felt it tasted more like a muffin than a cupcake. Moist and good and all but light on the sugar taste. So perhaps it's better for you?

2) Coconut cupcakes with cream cheese icing: Since I had left over icing from the carrot cake cupcakes you know where it went. This recipe was interesting because it called for coconut flakes in and on top of the cupcake as well as coconut extract. But, in a war of extracts the vanilla won because I tasted that more than the coconut. And toasting the coconut then sprinkling it on top gave off a nice effect I think.

Delightful coconut and vanilla flavors.

End result: My donator who is a coconut lover really enjoyed this cupcake. So I'm pretty sure he'll be donating again next year.


The Dish: May was also busy in that I went to Book Expo of America and don't think I didn't go about trying to get as many cookbooks (books in general) as I could. I did snag Cookies to Die For by Bev Shaffer and found one of the easiest recipes to make and went for it: Maple Butter Cookies. One thing to note is that you have to refrigerate the dough after making so it's a day affair to make these cookies.

More butter than maple and that ain't bad.

End result: Unfortunately the supermarkets nearest me don't have the best brands of maple syrup that was called for in this recipe. So I don't think the maple taste was as heavy as it should be. But the public enjoyed. Personally, I think they're biased by butter, which I am as well.

The Dish: I also made Blondies for the first time. Not realizing how easy it is to make these things these have now become a staple when visiting people. Need me to bring something? Heck, I'll make blondies! Anyone probably has the ingredients for these in their home: flour, butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and perhaps chocolate chips. There you know the recipe, now go out there and bake!

Tower o' blondies!

End result: I've made these three times this year because they're so easy. If you're nervous about blondies don't be. It's basically a chocolate chip cookie in bar form. Sounds delicious right? My co-workers thought so and so I'll continue to make them.


My husband and I had visited Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Brooklyn a little while earlier and I tried her pumpkin bread pudding, which I liked. So when I found out she had a book and additionally saw her win a decorating competition on FoodNetwork I knew I had to get her recipes! She had pumpkin recipes for crying out loud!

The Dish: And so, with book in hand, I made Snickerdoodles. A friend first introduced me to this and she is also a phenomenal baker. Hers are quite moist, these are moist but a bit firmer.

Sugar and cinnamon, a perfect pair.

End result: Pretty easy to make and I've had requests for these. I made some for a friend's birthday party and even though the cookies were still a bit warm in the dense humidity of July the three or four dozen cookies I bought were ravished within the first 30 minutes I set them down. Someone asked if this was a family recipe and I had to give credit where it was due. Thanks, Melissa!

The remainder of the year to be summed up in the next post...

Year in Review of NYC's baked good offerings.

In preparation for my year-in-baking wrap-up post(s) here are some of the places in NYC I tried this past year for baked goodies. Some were good, some disappointing, and all were an experience in their own way. I'm pretty sure I gained some cavities along the way, but well earned I say! Cupcake Stop aka the Cupcake Truck

I tried several cupcakes from the ever mobile dessert truck (not to be confused with The Dessert Truck). Their lemon raspberry wasn't as good as the one I've made. Decent but not lemony enough for my taste. Their red velvet was better than some (Magnolia you really disappoint me!) and they had a chocolate peanut butter cupcake that was good. I don't know how good stuff keeps from there, but the cupcakes weren't as super moist as I'd expect the day of.

They also offer mini cupcakes at $1/each, which may be a good buy if you just want to have a little taste.

Milk Bar

Love, love, love Milk bar! Their cookies are amazing! I tried their dulce de leche cake which was heavy as heck and a bit dry. So I'd recommend the cookies. My faves are the compost cookie (with chocolate, marshmallow, corn flakes, and pretzels) and the blueberry creme. So freakin' good I took an extra long lunch break to buy some for dinner. Dinner!

Tribeca Treats

Better than average cupcakes and their pumpkin is mighty good. They lost some of my good graces because I kept calling ahead for the pumpkin cupcake and getting denied when I showed up at the store (seems they make small batches day-by-day) but overall I've had a couple of their cupcakes and given some to friends who have been impressed. Plus, their cupcakes are mighty reasonable in Manhattan at $2/each.

Their brownies are spectucular, but are overpriced at $2/each for the tiny size you get.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine

A former co-worker introduced my friends and I to this spot and it's become a fave since. The only cupcake I truly enjoy from here is their pumpkin, which they offer year-round! So a big plus in my book. Their claim to fame is their buttercream icing and varied flavors of cupcakes, so I'd highly recommend. Also quite cheap at $1.50/each, so splurge people, splurge!

Butter Lane

My was I highly disappointed after this place. And thankfully I have a rock hard stomach so it doesn't upset easily. I happened to pass by this place from having lunch with a friend and figured "why not?" I should've kept moving.

Butter Lane is known for it's freshly made, organic buttercream icings and that's pretty much it. The place has a lovely decor but their cupcakes are disappointing and look/feel kind of hard. Also disappointing is that their cupcakes are named for the icing only. So I picked up a pumpkin cupcake thinking I was getting a pumpkin cupcake, but all I was getting was a golden cupcake with pumpkin icing. And such is the same for ALL their cupcakes. They either have golden or chocolate cupcakes and many types of homemade icing. The icing was good, the cupcake was not and I don't purchase cupcakes just for the icing so I probably won't go here again. Also their cupcakes are $3/each a bit hefty considering you're paying for the icing mainly.


I've loved crumbs since I first had it several years ago and that didn't stop this year either. They have a fluffy moist cake in various sizes (tiny, regular, and ginormous!) They have various flavors year round and I've received pretty darn good service from the ones around the city. The regular cupcakes are reasonable at $2.95/each and the massive ones even more reasonable at $3.95/each.

Fay Da Bakery

A nice Asian bakery in Chinatown where you can get Asian desserts or savory treats like pork buns, chicken buns, etc. I particularly liked their rolls. Their vanilla roll and lemon rolls are delicious and reasonable. A big one costs about $11 and an individual one would be a little over $1.

Dessert Truck

How I miss thee! They had amazing goodies like homemade donuts (with jelly), hot chocolate (as thick as pudding and very tasty!), and a chocolate mousse that made me curl my toes in delight! Woowee! Unfortunately something about permits deterred the Dessert Truck from making a resurgence for most of the year, but at least I had that bit and it was lovely!


Since the two locations aren't located that far from me in Queens it's nice to know I can get crepes any time I want! Sweet or savory take your pick, but I have to say I love the warm cinnamon apple crepe with ice cream or banana and nutella (staples at most crepe shops). Good and good for you!

Royale Bakery

Tried a chocolate cupcake and sea salt brownie. The brownie was quite good I have to say. The salt did not over power the sugary & chocolatey goodness of the colossal sized brownie I had. The cupcake was okay. A bit dry (which tends to be a consistent problem at bakeries) but the peanut butter icing was very good. Plus, the lady at the counter was very knowledgeable and kind about telling my husband and I about the different choices. I also liked how they put the cupcakes in cups (upside down) so as not to smoosh them in transit. I'd recommend.


A co-worker enthusiastically told me about Grom and one day while strolling around West 4th Street and 6th Avenue on a summer's day I just waltzed right in. Grom serves freshly made gelato in various flavors. I had the plan vanilla which was quite good. The small (one scoop) is pricey at $5 but it is good for the money.

Grand Daisy

This Italian staple became a growing chain when another one opened up just a block or two from my building. They have lots of breads, sandwiches, pizzas, and desserts! One of my favorites is the tortino di cioccolata (aka chocolate tart aka big ol' brownie) delicious. They also have a good sandwich cookie which is two butter cookies with nutella in the middle. They also have tortes (tarts/cakes) and bread pudding! The slices of tarts and cakes is a bit pricey, but individual cookies are pretty good at $3 each considering their size. A slice of their bread pudding would run you $6. I have yet to take the plunge and keep going to Whole Foods for their bread pudding that I can get at $3 or less.

Once upon a tart

I have yet to try the tarts here, but had a couple of their humongous cookies! Pretty good and reasonably priced for such large confections. I'd say their chocolate chip is better than their peanut butter. Though I will be returning to try their pear tart that just looks darling from its place perched high in their window.

Sweet Melissa Patisserie

In the heart of family friendly area of Park Slope (there's also a location in Carol Gardens, Brooklyn) sits a cute patisserie started by a lovely lady who seems to enjoy pumpkin as much as I do. I tried the pumpkin bread pudding with caramel rum raisin glaze/icing and loved it. It's not as mushy as your typical bread pudding, more cake like in it's look and portions. But warm with the glaze it is very satisfying. My husband bought me the Sweet Melissa Baking book after we tried her tasty goods. I can't wait to go back when we just happen to be in the area.

I look forward to retrying some of these places and trying many new ones.