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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

Grain of Salt: Damage Control

I’ve realized that every time I make a transfer from home to school, I seem to try my absolute hardest to make you guys extra jealous of the food I get to eat at home. When I’m home I wax poetic about foods like boeuf bourguignon, Persian jeweled rice, and plum crumble with vanilla bean. When I’m away, I whine about how much I miss them. I suppose that’s my way of handling my joy/sorrow. To be truthful I’m pretty sure mom just makes all that stuff to keep me around. But I am a very defiant girl, and I will not let her win, which is why I try to make as much of her food as I can at school. It has nothing to do with the fact that I miss home. Nothing at all. So of course, you would imagine my distress when I came home this week to discover that she was taking the recipes I had tried so hard to steal and *dramatic pause* innovating on them. The woman will stop at nothing. All my defiance was for naught because, what’s worse, it was all for the better… almost.

 

something is, indeed, amiss

 

One of the recipes I had stolen was this awesome leek and goat cheese quiche. It’s so popular at school that one of my friends once ate half of it in one sitting. Mom teaches it all the time in her 20 Minute Dinners class, and every time I eat it, it reminds me of home. Because it’s supposed to be quick and easy, and because homemade pie crust is almost never worth the effort, we use good pre-made crust. But last night, mom was teaching 20 Minute Dinners, and she thought it might be a good idea to replace the pie crust with puff pastry pressed into a tart shell. Now granted, it did sound like a pretty good idea, but it sounded like a *bit* more effort than I was going to go into on your typical Wednesday night, and I just knew I was going to end up missing home again and we just can’t have that. But mom insisted, and so she took the puff pastry out of the freezer and let it defrost… forgetting, as we chatted over smoothies, that you have to unfold puff pastry as quickly as possible before defrosting. Lo and behold, we tried to unfold it and ended up with the sticky monster you see above.

 

Preview of things to come

 

I, of course, was thrilled. Not only were there very literal holes in this silly plan, but I had just acquired a whole sheet of puff pastry to play with. I made some cinnamon sugar, got out some Hershey Special Dark Kisses and Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips, and got to immediate work. I wrapped pastry around chocolate, around bunches of peanut butter chips, and sometimes around combinations of the two. Sometimes I dipped these in cinnamon sugar, sometimes not. And then sometimes I just tied pastry in a knot or twisted it up and dipped that in cinnamon sugar – like the cinnamon twists you’re currently overpaying for. It was a lot of fun. I really love puff pastry.

 

Doesn't this look like it was left by the druids or something?

 

I baked them at 375 until they were browned and sugar was caramelized. I removed them from the oven and redipped all of the cinnamon sugar ones, so that they had a layer of caramelized sugar and a layer of fresh (do that while they’re hot so that it sticks). They were heavenly, especially the chocolate-filled cinnamon-dipped ones, which tasted kind of like rugalach. It was quite a success, especially considering this was all happening at 10 am.

 

Would you ever know these took about 30 seconds to make?

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, mom was still trying to make innovation worthwhile. She took out a new sheet of pastry and pressed it into a tart pan. But somehow, much as we tried to keep it in shape, the sides refused to stay up and we ended up with a beautifully puffy gallette. Having finished my pastry bits, I came to the rescue again, filling it with dried cranberries, apricots and almonds…

well half of it at least, we have to leave something for francesca ;)

 

And topping it with dark chocolate.

 

Disaster makes the best dessert

 

Seriously, how does my family even function without me? Granted this part was kind of her idea… but I did it, and my point makes more sense if I take credit. I then baked it until it was sort of toasty and the chocolate was melted (which doesn’t take long, next time I’m going to bake the puff pastry longer first). I spread it around and topped Francesca and Isabella’s half with some sugar because that makes it taste like a chocolate croissant (did you know that’s why they taste the way they do?). Seriously, I could sell a prettier version of this for so much money at a pastry shop.

 

That piece was never even there. Don't ask.

 

In German tradition there’s a time, around 3 or 4 o’clock, where everyone sits down for Kaffee und Kuchen, or coffee and cake. But since I don’t think my family comes from the fancy part of Germany, we call it yowza (yauße?) (does anyone know anything about this?). So yesterday afternoon, once I’d picked up my sisters from school, we sat down to a lovely yowza of mini pastries and chocolate tart. It was ever so classy, and the puff pastry was all saved from a monstrous end. And of course, my mom was forced to concede that quiche should just be left to the pre-made crust. I guess she’ll just have to find better ways of getting me to come home.

 

The real question is how do these people even function without me?

 

There are several morals to this story, all of equal importance. Moral number one: daughters may need their mothers, but mothers need their daughters just as much. Moral number 2: there is no disaster so big that it can’t be made into pastry. Moral number three: you can try all you want, but you just can’t improve on pre-made pie crust.

Batter Up

Pancakes!

 

You may have been wondering whatever happened to the mommy part of Fig Test Kitchen? Did teaching a full load of cooking classes, several appearances/fundraisers a month, raising six, fifteen and nineteen year olds (oh yes, Gabrielle still needs me!) (note from GOS – Oh puh-lease… Also I’m 20 now ;) Happy Birthday to Me!), and singlehandedly taking care of a house finally, you ask, just put me over the edge? Well obviously, but that’s nothing new. But I talked to all of my super-organized friends who are, in fact, the opposite of me… methodical tall, athletic and sometimes blond. I’ve taken a lot of their advice, and gotten my life at least somewhat in order. As you may know from the first two videos posted recently we’re starting with the basics – salt, equipment, spices, and moving toward easy recipes before we’ll finally move on to stuff like seared duck breasts or Persian jeweled rice. What all this means is, I’m back on the blog.

 

Don't you want to make these?

 

But you want recipes.  And I made pancakes! We’ve had an unusually early and beautiful spring here in New Haven, and I’ve been thinking about flowers. I was making creme fraiche pancakes during a cooking demo at the Elm City Market in New Haven and lavender just hit me. And a recipe was born. Creme fraiche is rich and creamy like sour cream (it actually has a higher fat content), but a bit more tart. Perfect for pancakes. Combine it with chocolate and lavender, you get pancakes that are fragrant, sweet and irresistible. Here’s what you need to do:

First, you will need to gather the ingredients and make sure your ingredients are in place, measured and ready to go. Believe me it pays to do, especially when baking. It seems like an extra step, but it saves so much time in the long run, and keeps you organized. You don’t want to add the baking powder twice. Not that we’ve ever done that…

 

GOS says: And yes, you absolutely must arrange your ingredients like this or the recipe will not come out.

 

Chop the dark chocolate to any size you like. I wasn’t done chopping when I took this photo, I’m just posting it because I like it. They were eventually the size of the chocolate in vanilla chocolate chip ice cream. Obviously you can use store-bought chocolate chips if you want.

 

Chop chop!

 

Once you have all your ingredients measured and ready, add all the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk well.

 

Whisk these...

 

Then add all of the wet ingredients in a separate bowl

 

 

And blend with a hand mixer or immersion blender or whisk. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix once again. Do not overmix or your pancakes will be tough. Then add the chocolate chunks and stir gently with a  spatula until just combined.

 

So close you can (and should) taste it

 

After melting unsalted butter in a large skillet, pour about a ¼ cup of batter per pancake, and cook on the first side for about two minutes, until light brown. Turn over to cook the second side for about another minute until light brown.

 

GOS says: Ahhhhhhh!! (I haven't even had these yet. I'm dying right now)

 

Find some plates, and serve with or without syrup.

 

They're done!

 

Here is the full recipe. Enjoy your breakfast, enjoy the birds chirping, and welcome spring in style.

 

Click for Printable!

Grain of Salt: All Bark and No Bite

Thing number one: my computer’s back! Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. They worked, and everything is more or less in working order after several hours worth of file transfers, two trips to the Apple store and a whole bunch of inconvenience. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is I don’t know how I even survived. But I did, so I’m back and so are the posts, like this one, which starts…. now.

I have this thing at home where I only compliment the things I make. Think, “the milk was so perfectly stirred into this soup,” and “this Thanksgiving dinner would be absolutely nothing without the cucumbers in this salad.” Petty? For sure. Ask anyone, I’m extremely egocentric. So you can only imagine how good these chocolate bark recipes must be for me to compliment them, even though mom undeniably came up with these recipes (although I did make the three you see below, and you have to admit, they’re freaking gorgeous).

 

 

When we started planning our table for Taste of the Nation 2012, and decided to do our school theme, Chocolate Bark representing EnviSci was the absolute first thing we thought of, and the flavor combinations just kept rolling off our tongues. We eventually settled on making our Christmas Bark, with Cranberries, Candied Ginger and Pistachios, a French-Flavored Bark, with Lavender, Almonds, Dried Apricots and Sea Salt (my favorite), and finally, the ultimate snack food indulgence, featuring Potato Chips, Pretzels and Dulce de Leche. This is too easy to make, so I’m not going to even dignify it by putting it in recipe form. So if anybody is skimming this post looking for the recipe, this is the recipe. All you have to do is melt chocolate gently in a non-stick skillet or double boiler, and spread it over a sheet pan covered with wax paper or parchment paper.  Then you put stuff on it (first chunky, then drizzles) and then put it in the fridge until it hardens, about an hour. Then you break it up, and you eat it. And that’s literally it.

 

 

We used 56% dark chocolate for all of ours, but you can go darker or lighter based on what you like (though white chocolate does not count, because I don’t like it). You’ll want it to be pretty thin, so we recommend about a pound of chocolate for a full pan, or 8 oz. to a half pan, if you don’t want to make chocolate bark for the whole world. Then see below for our topping recommendations. All chunky toppings should be 4-5 tablespoons for a half pan or 9-10 for a full pan, unless otherwise noted. The real reason I didn’t put this in recipe form is that that would imply that there are rules to this. There aren’t. Have lots and lots of fun with this. Try our combos (see above), or come up with your own. I promise they’ll be good… even if I didn’t make them.

Chunky Toppings

Dried Fruit (raisins, craisins, apricots, peaches, mango, cherries, pineapple etc.)
Toasted, chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews, macademia nuts, etc.)
Chopped up Candy (Reese’s Cups, M&Ms, Candy Canes, Kit Kats, Peppermint Patties, etc.)
Cookie Crumbles (shortbread, chocolate chip, Oreo, Girl Scout, etc.)
Chocolate Chips (or peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, etc.)
Snack food (potato chips, pretzels, etc.)
Coconut Shavings
Crystalized Ginger
Sea salt (sparing: 1/2 tsp half, 1 full, or to taste)
Lavender (1.5 tsp half, 3 full)

Drizzles

More chocolate (Not the same kind you used before. Note that white chocolate is permissible in this context).
Caramel/Dulce de Leche

{I gave in. You can see the official recipes written up here on Food52.}

Grain of Salt: Pancake Devotion (and Syrup Woes)

 

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear this, but every once in a while, we college students aren’t in the mood to eat healthy food for dinner. In my suite, that means we make pancakes instead. It’s less of an incredibly terrible idea than you think, and if you serve them with fruit and count them as dessert too you can pretty much justify it. And besides, by anybody’s definition my friends and I are really good kids, so I guess this is our way of sticking it to our parents (don’t tell mom). But we should have known better than to disobey anybody ever, because today, karma came and (very literally) stuck it right back to us.

 You see the droplets on that pancake? Contrary to popular belief that's not what they're supposed to look like.

 

It began at the supermarket, when the cheapest bottle of maple syrup we could find was the same price we paid for tomorrow’s Salmon. Which granted wasn’t that much… but seriously, it’s syrup. But I’m a hardcore New Englander, and one of the very first Facebook groups I ever joined was “Just Say No to Fake Maple Syrup.” I didn’t have it in me to buy Aunt Jemima, and fortunately none of my suite-mates did either (and they’re from California and Alabama!). So we said, “Whatever, at least it will last us a while, and at least it’s not over-processed, artificially flavored corn syrup.” Plus it was organic. And we were splitting it a bunch of ways. All things considered probably worth it. We thought.

 

There's a nail in that syrup...

 

Things went swimmingly until we got to the dinner table. The pancakes puffed up perfectly, the bacon was crisp as crisp can be, and even the January blueberries were good. And then Theresa went to open the maple syrup. The cap didn’t budge. Not even a little.  She tried again. Nothing. She passed it to Mary Margaret. Still nothing. They passed it to me. Predictably nothing. As you can probably guess from the picture above (yes, that’s a nail) we were in for a long evening. Still not properly worried, we tried cutting off that little plastic ring that holds on the cap with our pancake knives. When that didn’t work, we successfully severed it with a sharp knife. But obviously, that wasn’t the problem.

 

This is the arsenal. Don't we look so legit?

 

After prying with a large kitchen knife, attempting to loosen it with a bottle opener, running it under hot water, banging it on the table and even getting my roommate, a fencer, to try her hand at it, all four of us had injured ourselves in some decently significant way. At this point, any sensible person would just give up, or at least go return the syrup. But the pancakes were cold by now anyway, and for what we paid for the syrup and the effort we’d already put in, gosh darn it, we weren’t eating without it. And since we’re not sensible in the slightest, we got out a serrated knife and started sawing it off. After many minutes of sawing we finally got through to the glass…

 Theresa with a knife

 

and of course it didn’t budge. Clearly, we realized, some spiteful person at the Brad’s Organic factory had glued the top on just for us. And so finally we had no choice but to resort to… the hammer.

 

Hammer, otherwise known as desperation at its finest

 

Five holes later, we were able to apply our syrup in a spongey fashion, like kindergarteners with those funny, squeezey glue sticks…

 

I wanted to make cookies out of this syrup... Does anyone know a better way to do this?

 

… and ultimately, we developed this beautiful contraption to let the syrup drip out over the course of the next century, so that someday I can make cookies out of it, and *maybe* we can access enough to put on waffles. The moral of this story is: never underestimate 3 nineteen-year-old girls on a quest for syrup.

The end!


I’m going to give you my favorite pancake recipe now, on the condition that your syrup a) is made of Maple and b) is not Brad’s Organic. This recipe is hopelessly fluffy, and great with bananas, with chocolate chips or with both. Or plain, or with blueberries, or with sliced strawberries. Unless you use Brad’s Organic Syrup, you just can’t go wrong.

Click to download PDF!

 

Sweet Dreams: Explosive Plum Cakes

One of the hardest things, but perhaps the most exciting, about living in an apartment rather than a dorm or at home, is having to deal with all the stuff there is to figure out. Last year, if I wanted cake, I went down to the dining hall and picked some up. At home, if I want cake, I know everything I need to bake one is in the kitchen… somewhere. But here, as well as we try to plan things, there is always the chance that, for example we’ll only having baking powder and we’ll be halfway through a recipe that calls for baking soda.

But, as everyone knows (or ought to) these situations are great for testing our creativity, or else for leading us to super awesome mishaps. Our pantry is now mostly stocked, but two weeks ago, we were very much still trying to find our way. So when Theresa, my extremely talented baker friend, was baking plum cakes soon after we arrived, we did in fact realize that we’d forgotten to buy baking soda. We may live in an extremely safe neighborhood, but we’re still 6 nineteen-year-old girls in a big city, so it’s far too easy to pull the “I’ll get murdered if I leave the house now!” card when we need an ingredient past midnight and we’re just too lazy to leave the house. Anyway, I had just read an article in Fine Cooking about the relationship between baking powder and baking soda, and as far as I could remember, baking powder needed liquid to be activated. Sure there was some sort of volume difference, and the two were definitely not substitutes for each other, but ‘Whatever,’ I thought, ‘there’s liquid in this batter, we’ll make do with what we have.’

Half way through baking, Theresa calls me over, and shows me the most beautiful blobs of misshapen explosiveness I’ve ever seen. And now I am proud to say that between her baking expertise and my utter cluelessness, we have invented Explosive Plum Cakes. October is a great plum month, so now’s the time to make them. They’re light, airy, moist, fruity and fantastic. And they’re not too sweet… but not too healthy either ;) Let us know if yours come out like ours, or if you have even more exciting mishaps.

And as always, sweet dreams!

Landed (or Sweet Dreams, Part 1)

It’s been three crazy days since my second year of college officially began. My schedule’s still not complete, but my room’s nearly decorated, I have 5 amazing suite-mates, and most importantly of all… I have a gas stove! A lucky lottery number landed the 6 of us in a legitimate apartment (with a hallway and everything!) and while we had literally no water pressure for the first two days, I hardly noticed because we were making Tilapia Tacos with Lime Guacamole on the first night, then Pesto Pasta with Crostini topped with Goat Cheese and Bruschetta on the second. Ding dong, the meal plan’s dead. Peace out tofu meatloaf, I’ll be seeing you never.

 

This is none of the things I just mentioned ;)

 

So what does this mean for you? It means a year full of budget-friendly, schedule-friendly, super flavorful recipes. Because we’re not going to let our small city kitchen, busy schedules and utter lack of money get us down – we’re going to bring you apartment gourmet at its finest. I didn’t exactly pick my suite-mates for their culinary sensibilities… but that’s probably I’m friends with them in the first place.

 

It's a ricotta mousse. But it will all make sense in a second, don't worry.

 

Unfortunately, the card reader for my camera got lost in the moving process, so the kitchen escapades will begin as soon as I can get a new one. Meanwhile I’d like to share a recipe we developed in the final days of summer. Mom, Isabella, Francesca and I went to Le Cirque this past July, because we wanted to celebrate (belatedly) Isabella’s middle school graduation, and Francesca’s impending birthday… and because we are not the types to let $25 prix fixe Restaurant Week deals at (arguably) the city’s finest restaurant pass us by. Between the four of us, we ordered all of the desserts… except the ricotta mousse cake, which sounded kind of mediocre. Yet somehow, at the end of the meal, we had Plum Tarts in front of mom and me, Rocky Road Panna Cotta for Isabella, Crème Brûlée for Francesca (I kid you not) and a Ricotta Mousse cake in the middle of the table. Now, I’m not sure how that happened – kitchen mix up, superior charm, or divine intervention – but all I know is I have never tasted such a perfect cloud of wonder in my life. It was smooth, it was creamy, it was light, it was airy, it was pretty much Heaven… only it was a food.

 

 

See, told you so. And just for the record, you know you want one.

 

It was only a few days later that Isabella suggested we start a series called “Sweet Dreams,” to share our favorite baked goods. And when she said that, all I could possibly think of was this mousse. Then Vinny, the cheese guy at our local Italian store started bragging about how amazing their ricotta was, and all the pieces fell into place. And so the recipe that you see before you was born. And can I tell you a secret? It’s probably the easiest dessert I’ve ever made. So moral of the story? Your kitchen has the potential to be a five star restaurant. So as you wait on pins and needles to hear more college adventures (you know it’s true) whip up a batch of this ricotta mousse, and impress all your friends. You’ll be glad you did, and so will they. I’ll be back soon. Meanwhile, sweet dreams!

 

(click on recipe for printable version)

A Better Beignet

It doesn’t take more than a trip to a carnival (or really an imagination) to know how great fried dough is, but a really great beignet can take one of the world’s best street foods to a whole new level. Last year we went to New Orleans and visited Café du Monde, the French Quarter’s premier beignet shop, but we found it to be a bit over-hyped. Like, no question they were worth every Calorie, but fried dough generally is.

 

This beignet could model, couldn't it?

 

When we began to formulate our version of Tiana’s “man-catching beignets” for Francesca’s birthday party, we knew we had to take it to the next level. Our recipe is inspired by a Buttermilk Beignet recipe we found on epicurious.

 

 

This one particularly struck our fancy because buttermilk gives so many Southern treats moisture with just a touch of tanginess. They’re quite easy to make (much much much easier than we expected) so we should warn you:  it will take a lot of willpower not to make this sometimes food every day.

 


Guilty Pleasures: The Chipwich goes to Finishing School

 

The other day, over dinner, mom innocently asked Bella and me what our favorite Trashy Junk Food was. On so many levels, that ought to be an easy question for me to spurn: The Omnivores Dilemma is my favorite book, I love the locavore movement, I’m a part-time moral vegetarian, my mom’s a gourmet cooking teacher, and for Heaven’s sake, I write a food blog. On all accounts, I should really be above all that.

 

 

But, you may find it refreshing to know, food bloggers (most of us) are people too. From Pringles to Flavor Blasted Goldfish, Green Sour Patch Kids to Snickers Bars, memories and flavors came rushing back to me. I remembered the time at summer camp when Nora and I each ate 3 bowls of Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast, or the many Halloweens when I would trade Ellie for all her Reese’s Pieces (after we’d eaten Nathans Hot Dogs wrapped in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls for dinner…). Then, of course, some of these foods  just taste much better than any of us want to admit. Cappuccino Jelly Bellies are almost as good as Tiramisù, and McDonalds French Fries could hold their own at any bistro. We find the Ruffles rrrrrrrrridges completely irresistable, and though many of you may have heard me profess that goat cheese is my favorite food in the whole wide world, I’m sorry to say that is a vicious lie.  I’m just too ashamed to admit how much I love Frosted Flakes.

 

 

 

Your list may not be as bad as the one Isabella and I started (57 favorites, and counting) but I *know* you have foods like this too. The problem is, as I’ve already addressed, we are all so (theoretically) above these foods that it’s kind of embarrassing to buy them. Our twinkies are supposed to come from local bakeries, and at the very least we have to pretend that Paul Newman makes milk’s favorite cookie (although to be fair, Trader Joe Joes actually are way better than Oreos). But that brings me to the other issue. A lot of times, when you go back to your favorite junk foods, they don’t taste quite the way you remember. Duncan Hines brownies have yet to disappoint me, but I swear Funfetti is way sweeter than it used to be. So I decided to begin an intermittent series in which we’ll take our favorite junk foods, and we’ll make them ourselves so they’ll taste as good as we remember (maybe better!), and so we can sort of pretend they’re healthier (they’re not). And because the Good Humor Truck has been tempting me at the playground all summer, I thought we’d start with the Chipwich, my all-time Ice Cream Truck favorite.

 

 

 

I didn’t want to change it too much – no Rosewater Ice Cream or Dulce de Leche layers or Almond coatings. Those would be delicious, but superfluous. I trust you (and encourage you) to add them on your own if you want, but my goal was to get the satisfaction of the original, while making up for the few things it lacks. For our version, we adapted the New York Times version of the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie, which is is the best cookie we’ve ever made or eaten, and to preserve our sanity we filled them with Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream. I’ll spare you my rant on Haagen Dazs Five, but the little known secret is that Haagen Dazs Vanilla only lists five ingredients anyway, so it’s pretty much like homemade (only way better) but it spares you the stress of the ice cream freezer. And Haagen Dazs is a level of perfection you can’t improve on anyway.

 

 

Bake the cookies, freeze them, fill them, freeze them, roll them in chocolate chips, freeze them… or at any step along the way just eat them. These taste just like the original, but with a creamier filling, a more buttery cookie, more chocolatey chocolate, and top notes of bourbon from the ice cream. And they strike just the right balance of sweet-but-not-too-sweet, because there’s no HFCS! They’re perfect any time you’re yearning for a summer refreshment with an indulgent, nostalgic spirit. Our recipe is not intended as a replacement – the original will always have a place in our hearts. This is simply the chipwich refined, finally reaching its ultimate potential, grown up to be the best it can possibly be.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the New York Times

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Generous pinch coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli or equivelent)

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
2. Cream butter and sugars for 5 minutes or so, until very light.
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until combined before adding the next one.
4. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.
5. Lower speed, and add dry ingredients and mix until just combined and drop in chocolate chips and mix until incorporated. Alternatively, you could knead in the chocolate chips, which is even better if you don’t mind getting your hands messy ;)
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-72 hours.
7. Preheat oven to 350°F and cover 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
8. At this point, the original recipe calls for you to scoop 6 3.5 oz balls onto each sheet and bake them like that. But I should warn you that this will make fork-and-knife chipwiches for giants. Which will look beautiful but they’ll be huge. So if you want to adjust that, just make smaller balls (as small as half the size) and just remember that they won’t need to bake for as long (the exact length of time will depend on your oven) so you’ll have to monitor them very carefully.
9. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown, and cool completely on a rack. Or, if you’re just making the cookies, cool for 10 minutes and eat warm.

Chipwiches

1 batch of chocolate chip cookies (see above)
1-2 quarts of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream (depending on the size of your cookies and how much ice cream you like)
1 lb bag of good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (preferably the same kind you put in the cookies)

1. Freeze cookies for at least 6 hours. Also make sure your ice cream is very cold.
2. Put 1/2 – 1 cup ice cream on a cookie (again, depending on your taste and the size of the cookie).
3. Place another cookie on top to make a sandwich, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for several hours (or they can be eaten at this point if you want). Repeat steps 2 and 3 with remaining cookies.
4. Place chocolate chips in a bowl and remove sandwiches from freezer one at a time.
5. Roll in chocolate chips (or, if they’re not sticking, press them on by hand).
6. Rewrap and refreeze, or eat immediately.

Enjoy!

Fig Solemnly Swears that it’s Up to No Good (or Fig Distillery Presents: Home Brewed Butterbeer)

When I was eight, my family took a road trip to Maine, and forced me, against my will, to bring all four Harry Potter books with me. I was sure I would hate them, because I kind of figured they’d be like video games or pokemon – playground nuisances best left to the boys. As an aspiring fairy princess, even at eight, I wouldn’t touch anything any boy liked, but I was an insufferable bookworm, so I agreed to try them anyway. By the end of the week, the fairy princess plans had fallen by the wayside – being a witch was so much cooler.

 

 

I don’t remember much normal stuff from that trip to Maine, but I can still clearly picture my ever-patient family watching as I made potions from ocean water and wands from old sticks, and listening (they’re such good people) as I divined their futures and read them excerpts, faithfully mispronouncing everybody’s names (most notably Hermoyne and Professor McNoggle). My love for the books was such that, upon finishing the fourth book and realizing there was nowhere else to go, I simply turned back to the first page and began it again. Eight cycles later my family forced me, against my will, to put the Harry Potter books back on the shelves until the midnight release, three years later, of Book 5.

 

 

But of course, nothing has haunted and taunted me so much as the elusive flavor of butterbeer. The moment it made its first appearance in book three, my heart was on a mission to recreate it. It’s a challenge food bloggers and theme parks have taken up again and again but to no significant avail (it’s very hard to measure up to something that doesn’t exist). I’ve encountered cream sodas and creamsicles, butterscotch slushies and an alluring apple cider float.

 

 

But frustratingly, none of these met the basic requirements for a butterbeer. So as I was ordering tickets for the midnight premier (hehe) and trying to figure out the most effective way to channel my freak-out energy, I realized I was going to have to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed Isabella and we made a list of what little information we had to go on. And here’s what we came up with:

- It’s called butterbeer, which is made of the words butter and beer
- It can be served warm or cold (cold is typically bottled)
- JK Rowling said that she imagines it to taste “a little bit like a less sickly butterscotch” (She also said, interestingly and awesomely, that it couldn’t contain corn syrup)
- It contains enough alcohol to intoxicate house elves, but not 13-year-olds
- It’s not a slushie

 

 

We really can’t blame Universal for getting it wrong – they couldn’t use any alcohol, and they didn’t want to leave out the lactose intolerant by putting butter in it. But Isabella is lactose intolerant too and she said it absolutely needed butter (duh). So we decided to make a toffee base, which is pretty much what “less sickly butterscotch” means, and then we added a little vanilla extract to deepen the flavor, and some cream for smoothness. The cream also made the perfect foamy top when we added a bit of seltzer to fizz it up. As for alcohol, vanilla extract is made with bourbon and our miniscule quantities may get a house elf wasted, but us… not so much.

 

 

We warmed up the toffee, mixed in some cream, poured the seltzer on top, took a sip, and knew at once (after four or five tweakings) that we had butterbeer as JK meant it. Our recipe comes in hot and cold varieties – hot is creamy and smooth, cold is fizzy, foamier, and a little less sweet. Of course, cold doesn’t warm you up the same way, but it makes a beautiful crown of foam when you add the seltzer (beautiful accident). We’re probably heretics for saying this, but we both liked that one way better.

 

So make yourself a nice hot/cool mug of butterbeer as you’re gearing up to go see this movie, getting ready for a long discussion about just how good it was (incredible), or just getting ready to make some mischief. The series may technically be over, but we can rest assured knowing it will always live on in our hearts, our bookshelves and our tastebuds.

Also, just for the record, this has about much cream as a crème brulée, so please drink responsibly.

Toffee Syrup

1 cup dark brown sugar plus 4 tablespoons
2/3 cup water plus 1 tablespoon
1 stick butter
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Mix 4 tablespoons brown sugar with 1 tablespoon water and microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute until a syrup is formed.
2. In a medium-small saucepan, combine 1 cup dark brown sugar with butter and syrup. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and the mixture bubbles a bit.
3. Add 2/3 cup water and vanilla extract. Gently boil for about 10 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and gets syrupy.
4. Remove from heat. This is also awesome on vanilla ice cream, just for the record.

Butterbeer

Toffee syrup
Heavy Cream
Seltzer (the fizzier the better)

Hot Variation
A little sweet for me, but reminiscent of the warming, Book 3 butterbeer

Mix 2-3 tbsp toffee syrup with 6 tbsp heavy cream and microwave for 1 minute. Fill rest of mug with seltzer and enjoy :)

Cold variation
Creamy, cool and delectably foamy, this is the perfect summer dessert drink

Mix 4 tbsp toffee syrup with 6 tbsp cool heavy cream, whisking together with a fork. Pour in the seltzer while still whisking with the fork. Enjoy :)

Pie Squared

Ever since the macarons, which sort of represent an excess of streamline and precision, I’ve felt a need to kind of make up for it with something you might actually want to make. I mean, let’s be honest: it’s summer time, the living is easy, why should our sweets be so hard? Besides, last week, my sisters and I ate a half gallon of blueberries that were so good that Francesca has sworn off sweets for the rest of the summer. And they weren’t even from the farmers market.

 

In wax paper, served with Yumberry Punch in an old milk jar. Seriously, why even bother otherwise? (Just kidding).

 

When even Costco’s blueberries take on a sort of magical flavor, you know the time has come to leave delicate pastries and (dare I say) even chocolate behind us, and let summer’s bounty speak (mostly) for itself. And so, when I was flipping through this month’s Bon Appétit and saw a recipe for portable, hand-held “pies,” I was inspired. The only thing in the whole world I like better than pie, is food I can eat with my hands. For as long as I can remember, my vacations have been filled with forkless indulgences – pizza from Pepe’s, burgers with crispy cheese from the Shady Glen Diner, and black cherry vanilla ice cream cones from Pralines. Summer is a time to relax and have fun, not a time to wrestle with those super pesky knives and forks (I mean seriously, you have to wash them and everything…). So not only is a hand pie the ultimate food, it’s about as seasonal as you can possibly get.

 

 

 

These days, pie is my favorite dessert, but for a long time there was only one pie in the world I would eat, and that was my mother’s blueberry-lime pie, known affectionately in our house as The Best Blueberry Pie Ever. She found the recipe years ago in an old newspaper clipping, which itself cited another newspaper clipping. It’s simplicity perfected – graham cracker crust, mounds of homemade whipped cream, and blueberry-lime filling on top. She’d make it after our  trips to Lyman Orchards, and back in the days when I shunned apple, peach, pecan, key lime and strawberry rhubarb, there was always a place in my heart (and my stomach) for an extra piece of this pie.  I still do shun all other blueberry pies, because nothing compares to this.

 


 

 

And so I took the hand pie, and filled it with my best childhood memories. These are ridiculously simple to make. You simply prepare the filling, and roll out store-bought puff pastry while it cools. Cut the puff pastry into nine pieces, place filling on each, and fold them over. Cut designs on each of them (extra points for creativity)…

 

 

 

Sprinkle them with raw sugar…

 

Yes I swiped this from starbucks. I fully expect you to do the same ;)

 

Chill, and bake. That’s it! And unlike some recipes we know, these need no explanation other than the recipe below. Also, with all these Independence Day picnics coming up, I hope you do realize that these are blue on the inside, and that they are positively heavenly with whipped cream and strawberries. Just saying.

 

Happy 4th of July! And as always, Happy Baking.

 

Blueberry Lime Hand Pies
Adapted from Bon Appétit, July, 2011 and an old, long lost newspaper clipping

filling
1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
grated peel of one lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4-1/2 cup water
2 pints (1 quart) fresh blueberries, rinsed

pies
1 14-17 oz package of puff pastry (preferably Pepperidge Farms), thawed in refrigerator
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1.5 teaspoons (or about 2-3 packets) raw sugar

1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, lime peel, lime juice, and 1/4 cup water.
2. Add 2 cups of blueberries and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, and blueberries are softened, about four minutes. If mixture is thick before it turns dark purple, add the other 1/4 cup of water. Your kitchen should be smelling like my childhood right about now.
3. Remove from heat and stir in remaining blueberries. Let chill for 15 minutes.
4. Flour a baking surface, and roll out puff pastry into a 15 x 18 in rectangle. Pepperidge Farm comes in two sheets, so be sure to lay them down next to each other and roll them into one sheet. You’ll create a small seem, but that doesn’t matter because you’re going to fold it over there anyway.
5. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut rectangle into 3 columns and 3 rows, creating 9 5×6 in rectangles.
6. Combine egg white with 1 tablespoon water together, and, working with one at a time, brush the edges (approx. .75-1 inch wide) of  a rectangle with the egg wash. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of blueberry filling on one end, and fold over the other side, so edges meet. Seal edges by crimping with a fork, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat for the rest of the rectangles. If you have leftover blueberries after this, just eat them with whipped cream or ice cream, or waffles, or whatever you want.
7. Make a few cuts on the top of the pies, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375°F (or 350°F on convection).
8. Brush with remaining egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar.
9. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
10. Cool on sheet for 10 minutes, and then on baking rack.
11. Serve with whipped cream, strawberries, or nothing at all. Enjoy!

 

*Note – I had mentioned in an earlier post that the Jack Daniels Fudge Pies were the only pies in the whole world worth making. You may make an exception or two until September 21st.

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