Category Archives: Baking

Cinnamon Roll Bliss!!


Every year for probably the past eighteen years, our traditional Christmas breakfast has consisted of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that come in a tube. Because they smelled and tasted good, because they were super easy, and because we’ve had so much chaos and small children to deal with, not much sleep, and knee-deep wrapping paper. It was all we could manage.

But one of those small children has grown into a budding baker, and this Christmas she offered to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. She found a recipe in one of her Christmas presents from last year, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. This cookbook has produced some incredibly delicious and amazing treats this year.

These cinnamon rolls were probably one of the best things yet.

These cinnamon rolls were not to sweet. The density was perfect – soft, yet with a thick and satisfying chewiness, almost biscuitlike. The cinnamon center was incredibly rich and wonderful, and the icing had a little tang of cream cheese. It was so deeply satisfying and decadent, and was definitely a special treat, yet wasn’t overly sweet.

These are hands-down going to be the new Christmas (and maybe New Year’s!) morning tradition. Recipe from: America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

(recipe after the break)

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Polenta Cornbread: A Happy Mistake

Tonight, I was planning to make chili for dinner. Usually we serve chili over rice (natch) but I had a quart of buttermilk in the fridge and thought… can I use that to make some cornbread?

I went over to Foodgawker (which I am in LOVE with these days!) and did a search for “buttermilk cornbread.” There were so many options, and many of them looked amazing, BUT I did not have the time or the ingredients to add special nifty stuff like fresh corn or bacon or chiles or whatnot. I just wanted yummy cornbread that included buttermilk.

Finally I settled on this recipe at The Hungry Mouse. It looked awesome! I love step-by-step photo recipes.

I looked in my pantry. Could not find cornmeal anywhere. I swore we’d had a big container of it. But my pantry is an overstuffed, disorganized MESS and I could not find it. I did, however, find a bag of polenta. Ahhh!

Isn’t polenta just … Italian cornmeal? I went to Twitter and asked, “Can I use polenta instead of cornmeal to make cornbread?” and I got a flurry of responses. Such as, “They’re really the same!” to “Grind it in a coffee grinder!” (what???) and “NO.” Yow! But at this point I was committed. I had all my ingredients out, including the buttermilk that started it all.

Then I could not find my metal 8 x 8 pan, only a glass one. Again I turned to Twitter. HELP! And got another round of enthusiastic yet conflicting advice. “Metal is better!” “Glass is more even!” “Try a cast iron skillet!” This all made me laugh in a confused way. Then I found the metal pan. Whew! But people were still touting the benefits of glass. Hmm! What to do?

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Jacques Pepin’s Caramelized Apple Granola Timbale

caramelized apple granola timbale

I love Jacques Pepin. LOVE HIM. Loved him with his daughter Claudine (“Claudine, you are–you are chopping eet wrong…why are you chopping eet so slowww…Bon Appetit!”)…loved him with Julia (their rapport was amazing and made me feel like a totally delighted and privileged eavesdropper)…and love him on “Fast Food My Way.” (quick cooking! but oh so delicious!).  I love him for how he shares his knowledge on technique with his viewers (he doesn’t just take apart a kitchen, he guides us through the steps–and he always shares a tip or two on each of his shows).  I love his accent and his charm!

So anyway–he’s on my TiVO and I watch him when I’m feeling like a bit of comfort.

A few months ago, I saw him make caramelized apple granola timbales on television. Which was really caramelized apples on little toast circles!  And I HAD to make them.

At the time I didn’t realize he had a cookbook out, cataloguing all the recipes on the “Fast Food My Way” show–and so I made the timbales by piecing together the steps shown on the show. They look complicated, but they are easy to make, and so delicious.  I could imagine having these for breakfast.  And impressing a house guest or two in the future.

Because I was making these on spur of the moment, I didn’t have granola on hand.  I used cereal and nuts and currants instead.  Decent substitute (even though the cereal texture wasn’t perfect), but I’m going to make it with granola, go forward.

After making these timbales, I went out and bought the cookbook.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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best.banana.bread…EVER.

fresh baked banana bread!  still warm.

Our household, for the last week, has been full of sick people. Feverish, shivering, aching, nauseous sick people on the B.R.A.T.S. diet (bananas-rice-apples-toast-soup). Sick people who could not stomach a food show or read food blogs. Sick people whose dog had sympathetic stomach flu and started barfing alongside them. Sick people who lived almost solely on bananas.

…uh.

Oh. Sorry. Not a great start for a post on a food blog.

But this is all to say that we have a lot of bananas around here. And they’re turning brown, on the road to black. The kitchen is full of their tropical fragrance as they languish and call to us. Eat me! Eat me! Sorry bananas, we’ve had our fill of you.

So what to do with all the bananas? Banana bread, of course. I’ve been collecting banana bread recipes for some time–with a particular eye towards the recipe from Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland. (If you have not been to Bakesale Betty’s and you live in/near Oakland, you are MISSING OUT)! Everything at Bakesale Betty’s is yummy and scrumptuous in a down to earth way.

So I mashed them up and there we went…

fresh baked banana bread!

The recipe is straightforward–combine all the dry ingredients together…mash and mix all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and combine. Pour into a loaf pan…sprinkle with a sugar topping and BAKE.

Ideas on future variation: I’m tempted to make a few changes next time around–add a big handful of nuts (pecans or walnuts) and maybe even decrease the sugar and/or honey (the banana loaf, while delicious is a bit on the sweet side with both honey and sugar in the recipe). I’m also wondering if I could make muffins out of this.

Update: YES! I decreased the sugar by a third, kept amount of honey the same, added half a banana…and added nuts! Of course I did not tinker with that perfect sugar topping. You WANT tons of sugar for the topping, trust me. OMG delish. I’ve noted the changes in the recipe below.

I hope you enjoy–we’re chowing down on warm banana bread right now. My husband says it’s the best banana bread he’s ever had in his entire life.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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new york times chocolate chip cookie recipe >> all others

new york times chocolate chip cookies

OMG. The New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe makes the best.chocolate.chip.cookies.ever. (Though I still have a soft spot for Philippe Patiserrie’s chocolate chip cookies).

The recipe’s been taking the blogosphere by storm, and of course I had to try it out. Oh boy. Yumyum.

I followed the recipe exactly (used the cake flour and the bread flour combo), and used up the appropriate amount of Valrhona dark chocolate. I had a fun time hacking the big chunk of chocolate into little chunks.

Update: in subsequent batches, I’ve just gone with all purpose flour instead of the cake flour + bread flour combo, with no bad effects. I think the most crucial elements are: the chilling overnight (36 hours is better than 24 hours and so and so forth), the fleur de sel sprinkling, and making the cookie larger rather than smaller.

I refrigerated the dough for 36 hours (an exercise in self control), and made a combination of smaller and larger cookies. Alas, the bigger cookies were “tastier.” Farewell to portion control!

Try it. It’s my new go-to recipe. It sure beats the pants off my previous favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. (Though I do wonder if I just chilled my previous favorite recipe overnight before baking what the results might be…)

recipe follows after the jump…

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Girl Scout cookie season

Homemade Girl Scout Cookies in progress

I love girl scout cookies, especially Samoas (aka “Caramel de-Lites”)–this unique and tasty conglomeration of butter shortbread cookie, caramel, coconut, and chocolate. Soooo deliciously evil, especially as they come on the heels of the holiday, threatening to sabotage any new year’s diet.

I put in my order for girl scout cookies (samoas and thin mints) with a coworker and friend selling boxes on behalf of his daughter. But damn the wait!

I found a recipe for Samoas at Baking Bites–not only can I indulge my desire for Girl Scout Samoa cookies more immediately, I can avoid trans-fats by baking them at home!

Mine didn’t come out perfect, but I got my craving satisfied (and there are a couple dozen, packaged, to take to work tomorrow).

Some caveats for making them at home:

1) They take some effort (make the cookies, prep and apply the coconut and caramel coating, and prep and apply the chocolate). More than chocolate chip cookies, less than a fancy cake.

2) I’d add waaaay more caramel next time. I added the prescribed amount of coconut and it overwhelmed the caramel, such that the mixture was waaay “tougher” than it should have been (the caramel even when set, should be fairly “squishy”).

3) I’d skip the hole in the cookies. See the picture below:

Homemade girl scout cookies in progress

They’re a waste of time–I went to the trouble of cutting a hole in each, about the size of a straw…but the caramel-coconut topping covered the hole entirely. See the picture below:

Homemade girl scout cookies in progress

If you insist on having a hole, make the hole a lot bigger.

4)  The dough can get a bit “sticky”–the recipe said it should be a ball, but I don’t stress out if you don’t have a smooth ball of dough.  Add a little extra flour if you think it’ll help…and chill the dough in the fridge before rolling it out.  Even so, you’ll find yourself peeling the cookie rounds off of the parchment paper.  A delicate operation.  Don’t roll it too thin–otherwise, they’ll be too delicate and break when you start applying the gooey caramel topping.  See the broken pieces above?  You’ve been warned!

Overall: yum yum!

David Lebovitz’s James Beard’s persimmon bread

David Lebovitz's Persimmon bread

My friends gifted me a few hachiya persimmons a couple months ago.

I looove persimmon trees, especially when all the leaves have fallen off and all that remain are the bright orange fruit hanging off the bare branches. It is one of my favorite Autumnal sights, a fruit laden persimmon tree under a gray sky.

If you’re reading carefully–you’ve noticed I write “I love persimmon _trees_.” Not so much the fruit–even though I am ethnically Korean and that almost obligates me to love persimmons. My parents love the fruit so much they had several persimmon trees in our backyard and because of their overeager urging to eat persimmons, I may have rebelled. I never grew to love the fruit.

Since my friends’ gift, I have learned that it’s fuyu persimmons I don’t like (my parents ate, almost exclusively, fuyu persimmons, which can be eaten when firm). Of course, I learned this the hard way, first biting into the hachiya persimmons when hard.

Ack!

The tannic, bitter fruit besieged my mouth, my tastebuds–I quickly gargled with water. No dice. There was a sickening coating all over my mouth, a sensation that felt like corduroy jeans, and a taste–bleah.

Hachiya persimmons MUST be eaten when super squishy, when they appear as if they’ll totally fall to pieces, when the fruit is “liquidy.” Then, and only then, are they soooo yummy and sweet and delicious and juicy. I am so buying hachiya persimmons, go forward.

And thankfully, I made this discovery not too far into persimmon season. There are still persimmons left to enjoy! And if you’re still hesitant to eat the fruit while fresh, you can do as I’ve done all these years: use the fruit in baked goods.

Particularly excellent is David Lebovitz’s rendition of James Beard’s persimmon bread recipe. It is entirely fantastic–I made it this morning and now the house is filled with the perfume of baked bread and my tastebuds are so very happy.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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