Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friends, I have a confession.

A lot of the recipes I post on this blog are ones that I cook quite often. Lots of dinners, side dishes, breakfasts, and even desserts that you’ve seen in the last three years make regular appearances in my kitchen or in the kitchen’s of friends and family when I’m visiting. It’s actually pretty convenient to have my very own personal recipe book at my fingertips in any kitchen, grocery store, or farmers market that has data or free wifi.

But I’ve been holding out on you. I haven’t shared with you one of the treats I cook most often, a recipe that I know so well I haven’t looked at the recipe card in years, a recipe that continues to be Brad’s most-requested dessert.

My mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies
My mom has been baking these cookies since long before I was born, and truth be told, they’ve gained rather a lot of fame at the staff meetings, potlucks, and holiday gatherings in her little corner of Southwest Colorado. This is also one of my mom’s memorized recipes, complete with a snappy little mnemonic jingle that I learned growing up and use to this day to remember the order of ingredients.

So why wasn’t this recipe at the top of my list to share when I started this blog? I’ve shared numerous other treasured recipes from my childhood: Almond Toffee, Lasagne, Favorite Party Mix, to name a few.

Here’s the truth. Most of my life, my mom used butter-flavored Crisco for her magical chocolate chip cookies. And while I had tried using butter and liked the results, it just felt odd to make such a vast departure from her recipe and then post it as “hers”. Irrational? Probably. But it held me back. I was writing a blog about eating less-processed, locally sourced ingredients. Butter-flavored Crisco is none of those things.

But then, a few months ago, my mom informed me that she had switched to butter for her cookies. Liberation! Now I could honor this, my “Mom’s recipe”, without the mysterious yellow shortening. I’m so excited to finally share these with you. Read on »

Fluffy Frosted Sugar Cookies
As someone who bakes rather a lot of cake, it might surprise you to know that I actually don’t bake many cookies. If you invite me to a dinner party, you’re more likely to answer the door to find me carrying a teetering stack of tender cake layers, smeared with berries and whipped cream, than a plate of half a dozen cookies. Well, I should clarify: I make a LOT of chocolate chip cookies, as it is Brad’s favorite and one recipe that I could likely make in my sleep. No, I haven’t posted that recipe here yet, but I promise I’ll remedy that situation soon.

In the meantime, though, I desperately want to talk about this cookie.

Frosted Fluffy Sugar Cookies
If you’ve ever enjoyed one of those Lofthouse cookies, or the grocery-store knock-offs, this recipe is for you. Not only are these cookies SHOCKINGLY easy to make, but they are soft and fluffy and flavorful and cute and everything you want them to be without the weird sugar-y aftertaste of their inspiration.

Simple cookie ingredients
We start with a pretty basic array of ingredients. Flour, baking powder, and salt combine to form the dry set, butter and sugar cream together to form the base, and egg, vanilla, and just a bit of almond extract wrap it all up.

Read on »

Valentines Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
Hello!

I’m so happy to say that. You may have thought that I had given up the goat, abandoned this little blog and buried it in the snow of this long, deep winter. But the truth is I just, quite simply, haven’t had the time or creative energy to handle it these last couple of months. Between the final events push of the fall semester at Duke, co-hosting a holiday party, moving out of my sublet, traveling for the holidays, camping on a friend’s couch for two weeks, saying goodbye to Durham, moving to Columbus, unpacking, organizing, starting a new job, visiting old friends, re-organizing, visiting more friends, and enjoying the company of Brad again, my camera has sat dormant for just over two months.

This move was a toughie. I started my new job almost immediately  upon my arrival in Columbus, and the cold weather provided me with little incentive to do much more than curl up in blankets when I got home each night. It’s taken several weeks to get used to my new kitchen. I’ve spent several evenings lamenting the fate of meals I nearly burned to death as I try to get used to cooking on a glass-top stove. I keep reaching for things where they used to be in my old kitchen. The pantry, still, is a total nightmare, as I have yet to find several hours to sit down and really consider where everything should go (doesn’t everyone do that?)

But finally, the time came this weekend for me to break out a recipe I’ve wanted to share with you since I started this blog. I must say, glass stove and messy pantry aside, I can’t deny that my current kitchen is far more equipped for blogging than my last, primarily due to one giant feature.

LIGHT!

Light, glorious light! Flooding in to every corner of our apartment, these gaping sunny windows line the southern and western walls of our new home. They overlook a park and a river and trees and some sort of weird oyster-and-pearl sculpture. Admittedly, also a freeway, but I confess it is somewhat fascinating to watch the sludge of evening traffic heading north after Brad and I have already arrived home.

The point, here, is that not only did I shoot one recipe this weekend, I shot three! Complete with the natural, angular light that I love to shoot in. No more toting cutting boards topped with carefully balanced ingredients to the office!

Let’s get started, shall we? Three years ago, about two weeks BEFORE I decided to start a food blog, I made these compact cheesecake bars to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Thinner than normal cheesecake, they can easily be eaten without a fork and can be made in any shape you so desire.

Graham crackers ready to crush Read on »

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

For the first several years of my training as a cake decorator, I used an icing composed primarily of Crisco and powdered sugar. And I’ve gotta admit, for someone decorating 1-2 practice cakes (and in later years, simply styrofoam cake forms) every month, there was nothing better: it’s snow white, doesn’t take long to bring to room temperature, holds it’s shape  and consistency even as it gets warm in the piping bag, and seemingly never spoils.

That icing served me well for a long time. But as I grew older I started to grow wary of the mysterious ingredients in Crisco, and the gritty texture of the powdered sugar irritated me more and more. I started to think perhaps it was time to up my game in the icing department. And it only took a teensy bit of digging around the cake-baking community to know that I needed to learn, above all other things, the art of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

The very best buttercream
And boy am I glad I did. Each batch I make reaffirms my obsession with this icing: impossibly smooth and creamy, light and airy, shiny and stable, and delicately sweet. It freezes well, so it can be made in large batches even if you only have a small cake to bake. Because the sugar is dissolved, there is no grittiness whatsoever. It’s stable once applied, gives strength to your cakes, and is gorgeous enough to be used as an outer icing with no need for fondant. Plus, it can be adapted to just about any flavor you want.

I’ve now used this buttercream for two wedding cakes, a birthday cake, cookie icing, cupcake icing, and dinner party cakes. It’s extremely versatile and soooo tasty.

So today, I want to share it with you. And it’s not scary! Though it is a bit time-consuming, it’s pretty straight-forward to make. So let’s dive in and make some SMBC!

Read on »

Lemon Cookies with Blackberry Buttercream

Oooooooooooooh blackberry season is here! It’s been summer here for a long time, but blackberries have always signified summer for me more than any other bounty the garden has to offer. Usually, between Brad and I, fresh blackberries don’t last long enough for me to put them into baked goods. They’re just too damn delicious raw and fresh! But this year, with a half batch of leftover buttercream lurking in the freezer from a round of wedding cake recipe-testing, I decided I’d test out a flavor combination I’ve been curious about for some time now: blackberry and lemon.

Blackberries and lemons

Perhaps it’s my love of sweet and tart flavors. Perhaps it’s the purely aesthetic bliss of bright purple icing against a mellow yellow cookie canvas? I don’t know. But this was the year! I would not let blackberry season pass me by without trying out the union of blackberry and lemon. I thought about making a layer cake, or maybe cupcakes, but since there’s been a lot of cake around here lately, cookies seemed like the way to go this time around.

Read on »

Chocolate & Strawberry Cream Cake

A little over two months ago (gah, has it already been that long?) one of Brad’s friends from law school invited us over for a dinner with him and his wife, and we were asked to bring dessert. I had a busy week at work, so Brad volunteered to make our contribution. How kind of him to volunteer to prepare a dish to represent us at a dinner with his friends, yes?

*twitch* *baking-control-twitch*

It really was very nice of him. But you see I have this slight love of baking cakes, and the night before the dinner, I my control-freak-baking-nature took hold. I wanted to make something easy, tasty, and pretty, and I wanted to make it now.

Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake

This cake, you guys, is all of the above.

To be honest, I put this combo together the weekend before when testing a final batch of recipes for Scott & Crystal’s wedding cake. Enrobed in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, this chocolate cake with strawberries and whipped cream was a favorite and made it into the ceremony cake.

But it’s far too good to reserve only for wedding cake. This version is doable in less than 2 hours and doesn’t require the effort of icing the exterior. The cream and berries are icing enough, and it makes a stunning, seasonal dessert for dinner parties, summer barbecues, or birthdays.

Read on »

Rhubarb dessert

Making two wedding cakes in less than a year has involved many, many practice cakes. Almost every weekend since early September, I’ve tested at least one recipe to see if it was worthy of inclusion in one of these two celebration cakes. And though I do have a crowd of chipper undergrads more than happy to polish off any test cakes I bring to the office, you’d think I’d avoid baking so soon after completing the wedding cake was done, right?

False.

False, at least, if I have a gift of gorgeous pink rhubarb falls in your lap.

Pretty red stalks

One major perk of wedding cake-baking for a wedding in Madison, Wisconsin was the opportunity to stay with my aunt and uncle, who aside from allowing me to take over their kitchen for several days also have a beautiful stand of rhubarb. On my last morning in town, my uncle was kind enough to cut me a couple pounds of the prettiest, pinkest rhubarb I’ve ever seen.

But how to use this precious windfall? I’ve baked with rhubarb a few times before, as part of a cookie, in a fruity appetizer, and as a co-star in a classic pie, but I really wanted to try something where the rhubarb played the lead. Something simple but essential.

Rhubarb Crisp, anyone?

Read on »

Chocolate & Raspberry Cream Sandwich Cookies

I’ve never been a particularly voracious celebrator of Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I spent too many years as a single teenage girl, pining for the magic of rom com love and commiserating with fellow single teenage girls about the fairy tale love affairs we surely were soon to have. I supposed that Valentine’s Day for those lucky ladies in relationships were whimsically romantic and that I was sure to celebrate this holiday with fervor when I, someday, became an un-single lady.

What’s interesting is that, once I did find a smart lad to be my companion, I virtually stopped caring about Valentine’s Day all together. Those romantic candle-lit dinners at tables with red rose centerpieces were wildly extravagant for college students on a budget (and I was probably in rehearsal anyway). The idea of receiving gushy Valentine’s gifts, which seemed so appealing when I was younger, seemed borderline silly. You’re more likely to find Brad and I ordering pizza in and laughing ourselves to tears watching funny YouTube videos this Thursday night. And you know what? I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Little Valentines

What I do love about Valentine’s Day is the opportunity it offers me to bake pink, chocolatey, heart-shaped little treats to share with the people around me. These cookie sandwiches have it all. Crisp, deeply chocolate cookies sprinkled with course red sugar press together around a layer of creamy icing studded with raspberries. And despite their showy appearance, they are incredibly easy to make.

Read on »

Rhubarb Thumbprint Cookies

My local food quest suffers no greater challenge than it does in January and February. I love fresh fruit, and as I don’t live in a citrus-producing state, the options are pretty sparse for local fruit.

The earliest harbinger of spring, however, earlier even than the asparagus and strawberries that declare the season’s coming with certainty, is rhubarb.

Pretty early fruit

Rhubarb, which grows in varieties ranging in color from pale green to deep red, is technically a vegetable. However, it has been classified as a fruit in the United States since the late 1940s since it is primarily used as a fruit. Naturally quite tart, it is typically paired with sugar and other sweet fruits to create tangy, flavorful desserts.

Rather like this one.

Read on »

Winter wonderland

Durangoans are particularly proud of our beautiful state around the holidays. While many people send seasons greeting cards adorned with wintery vistas, evergreen trees weighed down with glistening mounds of snow, and woodland animals making their way silently through the drifts, those of us who spend Christmas in Colorado usually have the great fortune of watching those holiday cards come to life around us. This year, the first major snow of the season hit my hometown just a few days before I came home, and a gentle snowfall on Christmas Eve really sealed the deal for a white Christmas.

The Peaks Approacheth

The View

Mountain Vista

Christmas card

Having resided primarily in non-mountainous locations outside of Colorado for the better part of the last decade, I start getting really antsy for snow right around Thanksgiving but rarely actually see any until I’m flying over the Rockies a few weeks later on my way home for the holidays. For my holiday party (I swear, I’m almost done posting recipes from that dang party) in early December, I wanted to pay some small homage to the spectacular winter beauty of my home state, and I also was lacking a chocolate-y dish on my menu.

Read on »