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Category Archives: Cookies

O Beautiful, For Spacious Pies

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Blueberry pie, click image for recipe

Oh what I meant skies, not pies. But yes, it’s almost the 4th of July y’all! And in honor of that I feel the need to help you out a little bit. Trust me, I know the frenzy you feel. Grill recipes, pie recipes, treat recipes, snack recipes, goodness gracious how many times must I visit the Martha Stewart website before I can finish my menu!

But, wait, I’ve been baking for more than 2 years now, I should have some things…

What about some Mixed Berry Boy Bait?

Mixed Berry Boy Bait

I’m a pretty big fan of  blueberries. How great that it’s such a 4th of July classic, eh?

But that doesn’t mean blueberries are all! Check out Lemon Basil Shortbread Hearts. A delicious food to bring for a picnic if you’re one of those people heading out to parks to check out the fireworks this year.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Hearts

What if you’re going to a park and need picnic food? Well besides shortbread, look at peach crumb bars!

Peach Crumb Bars

Oh and drinks are on me too in the form of virgin mojitos.

Virgin mojitos

Maybe you’re looking for a summery cake that is just as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as it is to your taste buds? Try a ridiculously simple Summery Fruit Cake.

Summery Fruit Cake

I feel like I’ve covered most of my summer favorites for baking that you could surely incorporate into your own 4th of July menu. And just some last few options that might interest you:

Peanut Butter Blondies

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To Be Fearless

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I wish I were fearless. Scooby Doo can fearlessly solve mysteries with the help of Scooby Snacks and “the gang”. Will Ferrell can fearlessly walk around without having to suck in his stomach to feel confident. For goodness sake, even Rebecca Black has a certain degree of fearlessness. I was watching Rebecca Black’s interview on Good Morning America the other day and even though the whole world has been swept up in this hate-wave against her song “Friday”, her pretty funny music video and how we’ve all had our laughs for the past weeks or so, Rebecca Black didn’t show up to her interview with a paper bag on her head and a vow to never sing again.

Fearlessness is great and would make life so much easier. No more fear of failing 400-level philosophy classes when you’ve never taken a philosophy class before, fear of spiders crawling around your room at night, fear of slimy fish scales brushing against your face when you go snorkeling, or fear of making a fool of yourself in front of adorable guys. Just a conquer-all attitude that would simplify everything.

But just like Scooby Doo needs Scooby Snacks, fearless people need fearless treats. And even though you might be leaning towards protein shakes, homemade granola bars, and whole wheat biscuits, I present to you: brown butter blueberry cookies.

These are amazing and will make you feel fearless, at least until you finish the whole batch on your own and are left craving more. The brown butter adds just the right amount of flavor to complement tangy blueberries and you have a delicious concoction of everything the world needs to survive: the nutty aroma of browning butter and the beauty of glistening blueberries in the sunlight.

Oh sunshine. Thou dost make me feel completely at peace and are the finishing component to a batch of fearless cookies. With just the right amount of sunshine floating in the kitchen as you bake, you will feel absolutely fantastic. And that fantastic peace and uplifting of the mind could take you to great places…like successfully plowing through pages and pages of ochem practice problems, memorizing all vocabulary used in Psych 101, or planning out your schedule for the coming quarter (in which I will be a college junior. I started this blog when I was a freshman. Whoa…)

Or you could use that feeling for something even better: running as fast and far as you can while listening to your most endorphin-generating songs on your iPod. And when you are finally absolutely out of breath and your legs are aching , you take a nice long stroll back to where you came from. It’s a time-consuming endeavor, but so worth it, especially if you come home and remember that you saved a brown butter blueberry cookie in the microwave and with 10 seconds of heating, it will be warm and sweet heaven in your mouth.

Brown Butter Blueberry Cookies (From Batter Licker)

1 3/4 c. flour (I decreased this from 2 c., as my cookie dough was a tad drier and crumblier than I would have liked)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 c. fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter cubes. Continue cooking, stirring periodically, until butter is browned. Pour browned butter into a glass bowl, measuring cup, or mug, and allow to cool for a couple minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the browned butter and both sugars until blended. Add vanilla, egg, and egg yolk, and beat until creamy. Add flour mixture, and mix together just until blended.

Pour blueberries into the bowl with the cookie dough. Depending on how firm your berries are, you can carefully stir them into the dough by hand, or just start scooping some cookie dough into your hand/spoon/scoop and manually mix (i.e., gently push, but don’t squish) a few berries into each cookie. Drop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet, keeping a couple inches between each cookie.

Bake cookies in oven until the edges are barely toasted. Baking time will vary, depending on how large or small you make your cookies; for reference, my cookies were 2-3 Tbsp. (i.e., a large, rounded, overflowing Tbsp.) in size, plus a few berries, and they took 12 minutes to bake on a regular (NOT nonstick) baking sheet. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes before transferring them to your mouth a serving plate for two accompanied by a glass of milk for sharing a wire cookie rack to cool completely.


And It Lives! With Chocolate Meringues!

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As you may have noticed, my blog has fallen into a deep, cumbersome sleep induced by finals, papers, and spring break. But it lives once again and I return with some chocolate meringues and the fresh feel of spring break.

Spring break is like that pitcher of ice cold water that a friend pours on your head after you finish running a marathon. That is a marathon of coffee breaks, frantic studying, and your body weight in readings for philosophy (maybe it wasn’t exactly my body weight…but it sure felt close to it.)

Spring break is also amazing because, for the first time in an awfully long time, I slept for a full 13 hours in one single night. And then I woke up at noon and decided to stay in my pajamas and do pajama yoga (the polar opposite of bikram yoga a.k.a. very little sweating involved).

And spring break is the best of the best because instead of catching a bus to school at 9 am, I could instead be one of the first customers into Nordstrom Rack or heading to the gym in the morning instead of finishing up readings for class, as I would usually be doing during the quarter.

Last but not least, sunshine. Need I say more than that yesterday was the warmest day of 2011 so far. Yee-haw!

What makes me happy during spring break:

  • Driving with my friend V– in the sunshine with our windows rolled down while singing to our favorite songs. Hello Backstreet Boys!
  • Watching rerun after rerun of “That 70s Show”.
  • Weekday movie nights. A bowl of curry with some na’an and a few Redbox DVDs are all I need.
  • Eating Cadbury Eggs.
  • Spending extra time volunteering with my fave seniors.
  • Avoiding the thought of purchasing more textbooks.
  • Wearing sunglasses (<–this should probably be put on my universal make-Natalie-happy list because I love sunglasses anytime)

My twopence on sunglasses: if anybody can rock a pair of aviators, it is CSI:Miami’s Horatio Caine. Even Daniel Craig can’t top Horatio’s sunglasses-wearing skills.

Chocolate Meringues/Pavlovas (Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes)

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)

Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)

Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Don’t Worry Baby…

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My endeavors to find the perfect cocktail dress follow the storyline of a pitiful romantic movie where a young, bright-eyed gal goes into New York City to find the man of her dreams but ends up realizing that there’s no way that’s happening in New York City and and has a cataclysmic moment when she discovers the “true” meaning of love or something overly sentimental like that.

Sex and the City has a way of making us believe in the power of love in New York City (like how Sarah Jessica Parker’s character hired Jennifer Hudson’s character just because Hudson’s character wanted to “find love in New York City”). Aww. How sweet.

But it’s misleading. Just like how store catalogs led me to believe that the right cocktail dress for me could definitely be found in the mall. You would think that of all the dresses in all the department stores and boutiques, there would be one that would be just right. But then there are things like price tags that make me want to faint, styles that are all too drab, and colors that would probably be blinding under some light bulbs with higher wattage (not the ones in their dimly-lit dressing rooms).

So being able to find a nice (note that I’ve already stopped using the word “perfect”) cocktail dress is pretty much just a figment of my imagination now.

The words “dress” and “shopping” will probably never appear together again in the study break time slots I set in my planner. Instead, they have been replaced by nicer words or combinations of words like “gawk at nice dresses online”, “watch Never Been Kissed for the umpteenth time” (one of my favorite movies ever), and “eat peanut butter cookies until…”

I can’t really find a word to go after “until” in that last one. I can’t even think of a possible scenario where peanut butter cookie eating would be unpleasant for me.

Whatever the case, watching Josie get her first kiss at age 25 in the middle of a baseball field while stuffing my mouth with warm peanut-butter cookies beats getting out of my sweats and going shopping for dresses.

I watched Never Been Kissed for the first time last summer with my mom and we both cried like babies during the finale.

…but she looks in my eyes and makes me realize, don’t worry baby.

Peanut Butter Criss Cross Cookies (From Cookie Madness)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 generous cup peanut butter (a little over 5 oz on the scale)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Some extra peanuts if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter, and both sugars. Stir in the egg and vanilla.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt, then add that mixture to the peanut butter mixture and stir until incorporated. Add some peanuts (however many you want) if you feel like it.

Shape into small balls about ¾ inch in diameter and place balls a few inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Wet a fork with water and shake off excess. Press the damp fork into cookies and make deep criss-crosses. If fork dries, dampen it again and continue.

Bake for about 10-13 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet and place on a rack to cool.

Makes about 2 ½ dozen

P.S. The Beach Boys really do have a calming effect on a stressed pre-finals student.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Hearts And Reading Food Blogs in Libraries….

While most library-goers are frantically practicing calculus problems or typing up papers, I’m the one munching away at my almond cranberry trail mix while scrolling through food blog after food blog on the library computers. Though food blogs beat watching Netflix and checking Facebook incessantly, I always imagine being labeled as “Fatty who likes looking at food” or “Loud Munching Girl” behind my back by the other students.

Do you not secretly classify your peers in the library? There’s the guy who takes up a nice seat by an outlet (which would have been just perfect to charge your laptop with) just to snore with wild abandon. There’s the Facebook addict who refreshes his/her home page every 10 seconds or so. There are the potato-chips-and-soda guys. They keep the library echoing with the sound of soda cans opening and the squeaky rubbing of a plastic bag of chips as they rip it open.

Oh right and there are hungover people. Avoid these at all costs. They are obnoxious and distracting. I’ve had more than a fair share of experiences with these on Sundays at noon in the undergraduate library.

Yet, nothing quite matches that feeling when you look up from hours of intense cramming at a certain wooden desk in the library and see snow.

And not just a light sprinkle or something my friend likes to call “Snrain” (snowy rain), we’re talking about legitimate snow. Not powdered sugar, granulated sugar. When my dad drove me home from the park ‘n’ ride yesterday, the granulated sugar snow had just started sprinkling on the road outside my neighborhood. The little pieces of snow fell on the road like Dippin’ Dots and whenever a car drove by, the Dippin’ Dots came up in a wild flurry like free-flowing air particles.

Granulated sugar…Dippin’ Dots…air particles. Snow is monumental in our world. It’s beautiful, it postpones midterms, it cancels school, and it makes it acceptable to lie on a lawn and make repetitive motions with your arms and legs (what some may call snow angels). Try doing that on a lawn without snow. You’d get stares.

Snow’s a pretty powerful thing.

So are shortbread hearts that I made for my best friends. As February comes to an end, try to spread the love.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Hearts (Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes)

1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 or 2 T. lemon peel (to taste)
2 T. basil flowers or 1 ½ T. fresh basil leaves chopped
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), cold and cut into small pieces
To begin to make the shortbread, in a small bowl beat together egg and vanilla extract until yolk is broken up and evenly combined; set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter and mix until mixture looks like sand. Add egg mixture and mix just until dough comes together. Add lemon zest and basil. Form into a flat, rectangular disk, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375°F. Place dough on a 14-inch piece of parchment paper, lightly flour, and roll into a 13-by-8-inch oval, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer parchment paper with dough to a baking sheet, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate again for 15 minutes.
Cut each cookie into a heart using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Place on a baking sheet and cook until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

 

Inspired by Italy: Abbracci “Hug” Cookies

Today was one of those days when a wave of relief swept over me after finishing a chemistry quiz and all I wanted to do was sit back and be sentimental. By which I mean watch Katherine Hepburn’s “Summertime” and play love songs on the piano with my snoring pug and a box of tissues. And also look through old yearbooks, my middle school diaries, and wince at the quality of the first essays I ever wrote. That is…fake sentimentality.

The real stuff happens when you sit in the middle of your room doing nothing, but listening to Enya. And you are at such peace that you absentmindedly start humming “Only Time” and end up with a big fat grin on your face. It’s what I call a “mind-lift”. People in this world are in more need of “mind-lifts” than face-lifts.

Mind-lifts come in so many forms. A best friend is one of them.  J– came over on Saturday afternoon and rescued me from the little hole of homework I had welled myself in and made these abbracci cookies with me. Abbracci translates from Italian to something to the effect of “hug”. Hugging cookies. Isn’t that just sweet? It’s named that because the chocolate and vanilla doughs are literally hugging. I bought a bag of these from the little market one block away from our hotel in Florence. Turns out randomly grabbing bags of cookies off the shelf wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Biting into a warm fresh-baked batch of cookies is also a mindlift. These cookies are so perfect to make with a best friend or a sweetie of yours. (hint: Valentine’s Day idea?) Oh speaking of Valentine’s Day…cupid has aimed his arrow at drugstores and supermarkets around the nation already. Don’t get me wrong. I like Valentine’s Day. It is a very sweet holiday. But it is only mid-January and I walk into a Bartell’s with J– to buy Corn Nuts (because all college kids worship that stuff) and some Trolli candy and I am blinded by pink teddy bears and chocolates and paper-cutout-cupids dangling from the ceiling.

Somebody please save me.

And “Sweethearts”? Those candies nauseate me because I have had a traumatic experience that involved eating so many of them that I threw them all up. So if I even smell those, I start to turn green. Not pleasant in the least bit.

On the other hand, Halloween is one of those holidays that I never get tired of. A good old scare never gets old, does it? That is the point of Halloween after all (NOT for girls to put a “naughty” in front of any person/thing/animal they can think of and dress up as that).

Naughty Darth Vader? Naughty Teletubbie? Naughty fork? Well I haven’t seen the latter before, but I have seen a naughty Darth Vader and, believe me, Annikin Skywalker would not approve.

Notice the two figurines in a hug in the background. Those are my salt and pepper shakers. Aren't they just adorable?

Abbracci Cookies (Adapted from Seriously Italian)

– makes 2 dozen cookies –

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup (12 tablespoons, or 1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons dutch-processed, unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons milk

Procedure

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, starch, baking powder, salt and nutmeg and set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and ½ cup of the sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute, until the butter is creamy and light. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla, scraping down the sides, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about another minute.

3. Beat in the flour mixture for 30 seconds, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Gather all the dough together in a mass in one corner of the bowl, and with a spatula, scoop out half of it onto a piece of plastic wrap.

4. Add the cocoa powder, the last tablespoon of sugar, and the milk to the remaining dough in the bowl and beat well, until it is completely uniform in color, about 45 seconds. Scrape the chocolate dough onto another piece of plastic wrap. Wrap both doughs and freeze them until slightly firmer (~30 minutes).

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two baking sheets by greasing and lining them with parchment paper.

6. To form the abbracci, take 1/2 tbs of each type of dough, roll them into logs and wrap them together (in a hug!). To form the ying-yang, add two spot of opposite color dough on each side of the dough.

7. Arrange the abbracci about an inch apart on the baking sheets

8. Before baking, stick the baking sheets in the freezer for about 15 minutes (just to firm them up a little) and bake for 13 to 17 minutes, rotating the pans after 10 minutes. The cookies are done when they are firm and dry to the touch, and the vanilla dough is just turning golden at the edges.

9. Cool the cookies on the pans for about five minutes, then gently slide them onto a rack to cool completely. Store them up to a week in an airtight container.

I always have a tendency to digress. I should probably fix it.

In the end, these cookies turned out to be sort of “Everything nice” cookies. We made them into Ying-yangs, peace signs, a strange moustache man (not pictured), and even stranger…a cartoon flower.

Wow…do you guys see the extent of our imaginative minds? We were also supplemented by excessive jumping to J–‘s iPod, the aftermath of some hilarious Glee Karaoke, and the ongoing game of some classic Mario Karts.

Mind-lift indeed.

Inspired by Italy: Biscotti Al Ciocolatto

It’s strange being back home after nearly half a month away in ravishing Italia. My watch goes backwards by 9 nours. My sleep schedule is such that I am awake at 7 am Seattle time (4 pm Italian time) without an alarm clock and writing this in the wee hours. My house is a mess, strewn with souvenirs, gifts, and clothes from a rather sloppy attempt at unpacking. My dear pug is back in my arms after boarding with another very kind family during our vacation.

And I miss Italy so much. I miss the narrow cobblestone streets, the uniquely colored buildings, the ubiquitous red Vespas, the coffee shops where people drink their cappuccinos on the countertop standing up, the friendly calls of “Ciao!”, and the heaping cups of gelato for only 2 euros. Every part of Italy simply screams “Love me” to a tourist like myself.

On the plane ride back, I watched “Eat, Pray, Love” (that adorable movie with Julia Roberts starring as Liz Gilbert). And there couldn’t have been a better time to see Liz Gilbert living her life in Italy so I could re-live my own trip at the same time. In one particular scene where she and her Italian friends are celebrating Thanksgiving, Liz tells them how she is “the luckiest girl in the world”, even if she is newly divorced and has her own troubles, simply because the people she is surrounded by love each other so much.

That’s when I teared up and started sniffling. As much as my heart broke to leave Italy, I was bursting at the seams with happiness. To this moment, I cannot identify those tears as heartbreak tears or happiness tears. All I know is that the moment I watched that scene, I melted because I realized that I am also the “luckiest girl in the world”. I am lucky to have a family as adorable and endearing as mine to travel with. I am lucky to be able to savor the Italian smells and tastes in the dead of winter. I am lucky that I had Rick Steves’ “Italy 2011” book with me. I am so fortunate to have been able to travel to Italy.

And the nice Dutch guy sitting next to me offered me a tissue. I don’t think he really understood what was going on with me…

Biscotti Al Ciocolatto (By me!)

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate

Directions:
Preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until mixture is creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat for 2 more minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, until it comes together as dough.  Mix in the chopped bittersweet chocolate with a spoon or spatula.  On a lightly floured surface, work the dough until it comes together into one cohesive ball/chunk.

Divide the dough in half.  Roll each half into 10-inch logs.  Transfer logs onto the baking sheet.  Flatten both logs so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high and at least 4 inches apart.

Bake the logs for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.  Working with one log at a time, cut each log into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.  Stand the slices up on the baking sheet.  Bake the cookies again, this time for 10 minutes.  Let cool and eat.

Now, last but not least, remember the little Get To Know Your Blogger I did a few weeks ago? Well…here goes. All my answers are 100% honest.

Q. Do you have a boyfriend? If you do, he is one lucky guy. My brother wants to date you. This sounds creepy because we don’t need each other at all, but I am one of your biggest fans.
A. No, I don’t. And both you and your brother flatter me.
Q. How many ounces of chocolate do you eat per day?
A. It really varies. On stressful pre-finals-week days, it usually comes out to be about 8 ounces of chocolate a day. Some days…none. I know, I know. I’m an unfaithful chocoholic.
Q. how do you manage to balance college life with your microbio degree with this blog?
A. I think the key there is that everything I take time to do is something I love. I don’t think I could really live a life where I didn’t write anything or bake anything so this blog just sort of fits those two hobbies of mine. And since they’re hobbies, I don’t think of it as so much of an obligation and slide it in next to my love of microbes.
Q. What is your favorite recipe of all that you’ve baked?
A. This is probably the hardest question of the bunch. I love most things that are baked in the first place. Okay…this is going to be tough. Can I please choose 3 instead of 1? Pretty please? Here they are: Brown Butter Nectarine Buckle, Chocolate Chip Meringues, and Peanut Butter Blondies.
Q. If you had to date one celebrity…who would it be?
A. Well my most recent celebrity crush would be James Franco. And I seem to have forgotten my past celebrity infatuations already.
Q, How do you get the inspiration to write a blog?
A. Writing a blog is almost like writing a diary for me, except even better because I get to talk about recipes and share them with the internet world. I love keeping journals and diaries and a blog is no exception. Inspiration is simply a matter of what I happen to encounter or think about during a particular day and then I write about it.
Q. What is your favorite cookie recipe? How about favorite cake recipe? Need ideas, thanks!
My favorite cookie recipe? Chocolate spice cookies. My favorite cake recipe? Brown Sugar Maple Chocolate Chip Cake.

And now after shuffling through the 2,581 pictures I have from my trip to Italy, eating the sponge cakes with nutella filling provided by our hotel in Venice, and organizing all my souvenirs, I have found peace with a fresh baked batch of biscotti al ciocolatto.

And to everyone out there, a happy new year! Let’s usher in 2011 with some cheer.