It’s true, I idolize Martha Stewart, felony and all. There is something about her crisp life that is neatly organized and cleaned that I love. Her food is good, her tips are better (No one else had a solution for when Vito ate an ink pen and spilled the ink all over my brand new couch and white carpeting. It’s isopropyl alcohol, by the way. Little bit on a cotton ball, dab it on the ink and it draws it right out. It was miraculous.), and the photos in her books/magazines are inspiring. That being said, I no longer have a subscription to her Living magazine as the projects aren’t practical for my season in life and I felt like I was paying to read advertisements. I do however, have her Cooking School book. I like all the step-by-step instructions and the photos, but what I now like above all else, is this cake recipe. According to her directions, this recipe is supposed to make 42 cupcakes or 2 9-inch round cakes. I made the cupcakes, but only got 36 out of the batter. I like my cupcakes to fill out the wrapper. Actually, I only got 35 cupcakes. We left the cupcakes on the dining room table to cool and ran out to get some last minute errands done. Upon our return, I realized that one cupcake was missing from the rack and Nunzio seemed extra pleased with herself.
Yellow Butter Cake (From Martha Stewart’s Cooking School)
- 2 1/4 sticks butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 1/4 cup sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line your cake pans or cupcake tins. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Alternate the addition of the dry ingredients and the buttermilk until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. The batter should be smooth and rather thick. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans or cupcake tins. For the cakes bake for 40 and for the cupcakes, bake 20-25 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Then allow them to cool completely on a baking rack. Ice with your favorite icing.
I am not a huge fan of butter cream icing. Perhaps it was all the batches I had to make for my Wilton classes, but I will do anything to avoid it! I do, however love cream cheese icing. I like the tanginess of the flavor and the fact that leftovers can be spread on waffles the next morning. That is, if you aren’t having left over cake for breakfast the day after your birthday!
Basic Cream Cheese Icing
- 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth on a high speed setting so that there are no lumps. On low speed blend in powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Then return the mixer to high speed and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth). If you prefer a sweeter and/or stiffer frosting, you could add more powdered sugar (up to four cups). I don’t think this is necessary though, as the more sugar you add, the less you’ll be able to taste the tangy cream cheese!
Alternate title: Because I Married a Man With an Art Degree!
I should begin this post with a confession: Liam’s cake was supposed to be a pirate ship. When we first began talking about the birthday party and what, we as the parents, wanted we thought of an outfit in Liam’s closet with a cute little pirate and ship on it and thought it would be fun to theme the party around the outfit. As the months passed, we came to our senses and realized that we were going to be the only ones to enjoy this and we really should save it until we have had more experience with fondant and Liam will care. I know, we’re so smart. Anyway, since Liam is really into the dump truck and I wanted to make something to decorate the top of the cupcakes, we settled on making cute little primary colored dump trucks for the toppers. So the decision was made and ingredients purchased. And then, 10 pounds of green beans landed in my kitchen and I had to deal with them pronto. So last Friday night, my husband was making fondant. That’s right, my 6 foot, manly man of a husband was rolling out marshmallow and confectioner’s sugar so that I could have the cupcakes of my dreams. He’s a doll isn’t he?
We used the recipe from the Wilton site, but without the shortening. Matt thought it would be better to simply coat our pastry board with more sugar and roll the blob of fondant around on it until he had managed to get the consistency that he wanted. Since he was the one doing it, I did not stand in his way. Turns out, his method worked just fine and I didn’t have to clean shortening up from anything in the kitchen! Once the fondant was worked together and in a ball, Matt divided it into thirds so he could color it. There aren’t too many pictures of this whole process because I was up to my elbows in beans and didn’t really think about documentation. For coloring, we used a vegetable based food colorings that I got at the health food store. What with all the research that food coloring isn’t the best thing to put in children’s bodies, I felt it was our best choice. I don’t know what it would be like if you were using conventional food coloring, but with the veg based, it took a LOT of coloring to get to the bright colors.
We double wrapped the fondant in plastic wrap and let it set over night. Saturday night, after everything was ready for the party, we put in a movie and sat down to mold the trucks. Matt made the cab and the bed (Is it obvious I’m the mother of a little boy? 2 years ago, I hadn’t a clue what those parts were!) and I did the wheels. For the record, blue food coloring, dyes your hands far more than a combo of red and yellow. I had blue thumbs until Monday. We started out making the whole truck, but got tired as the night went on, because let me tell you, 11pm after a full day is not the time to decide to make 60 fondant dump trucks. So in the end, I made the wheels and he put together the bodies and we refrigerated them until the next afternoon. Since it is July and it is HOT in Ohio, we waited until the last possible moment before icing and decorating the cupcakes. Once they were all done, we turned up the window AC and put the cupcakes on a table in front of it. I think the kids at the party were a little disappointed that I didn’t bring them out until right before we were ready to sing Happy Birthday to Liam.
I must tell you that I’ve had traditional fondant on wedding cakes and not really liked it. However, even I who does not like marshmallows, thought this turned out well. It was a little time consuming to shape, but if you were going to use this to cover a cake, it would be easy as… well, never mind.
Once upon a time, a new mother thought that it would be simple to provide for her child the best food on the planet. She ate organic, sustainable, local foods throughout her pregnancy. Her worst craving was for fresh kale salads. Once that child was born, she nursed him faithfully even when her body stopped producing, caving to feed him organic formula only because he was hungry. When the little baby was ready for solid foods, his mama steamed and pureed and mashed everything in sight. She even tried making her own version of biter biscuits (an epic fail). Little by little, the baby realized that the food on his parents’ plates was what he wanted and suddenly abandoned all purees in favor of whole solids that he could nosh on with his stunning 6 teeth. As he was weaned onto whole milk, the mama realized that it was now time to give him an afternoon snack to tide him over until supper. But what to feed him? The mama didn’t want to hand her son preservatives at every snack, but she also didn’t want to spend the bulk of her food budget on organic snacks!
I was really surprised how many recipes there are out there in cyberspace pertaining to snacks. Healthy snacks, guilty snacks, weird snacks. Most of the healthy ones called for honey, though. Almost every medical resource I have agreed that children under 12 months shouldn’t have honey because they can contract botulism. This posed a slight problem given that the honey is used to hold the rest of the dough together. I don’t like molasses, so that was out and I didn’t want to add another liquid for fear that would make the dough tough. So I abandoned the idea of homemade teddy graham crackers. Then one day, I came across a jar of malt barley syrup. The light came on and I am thrilled to present to you the product of a well-used afternoon naptime for Liam! These crackers have a graham-like flavor, but are crisper like an animal cracker. I love them and Liam always points to the jar whenever he sees it now!
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 7 Tbsp. butter
- 1/3 c. malt barley syrup (or honey if not using this recipe for a child under 12 months)
- 5 Tbsp. whole milk
- 2 Tbsp. vanilla
Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and place them in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until fluffy and then gradually add in the milk, vanilla and syrup. Mix in the dry ingredients until dough forms a ball around the paddle. Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in saran wrap. Chill for a minimum of 2 hours. (I made the dough during a nap and then shaped them when I had time the next day. The dough was still fine to work with and didn’t get tough.) Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out shapes. Freeze the dough for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool before storing; they keep well for 2 weeks in an air tight container… if your kids don’t know where you hide them!
** I tagged this as a frugal recipe since when I worked out the math, I am saving myself $7.35 a month in graham crackers for Liam. This includes the price of the barley malt syrup in my calculations. It honestly takes very little time out of my day and will eventually be something Liam and I can do together!
** Since barley is non-allergenic to most babies, I plan to play around with the end form of the crackers and use this as biter biscuits for my future children.
This is my second attempt at this dessert and my second recipe. Suffice to say, this one won out. The main reasons for the winning was simplicity of this recipe. Whereas the night before Easter I was desperately trying to get a custard-like filling to not overflow as I put it in the oven, I only had to spend a great deal of time sweating it out over the stove for this to reach the correct consistency. On my previous attempt, the tart overflowed out of the tart pan all over the baking sheet and came out with a harsh burnt top with an entirely liquid center. After an hour of baking. Disappointed does not even come close to describing how I felt about that. No baking was required of this tart (other than the shell) and I am thrilled about that!
Matt and I spent Saturday working at my grandmother’s house. Upon her death, I became the owner of her home, property and all the contents therein. I am completely conflicted about this new responsibility and unsure of our next move. Saturday was spent moving all my aunt’s possessions out of the house and making a vain attempt at creating some order. At the end of the day, I was feeling defeated when I got a phone call inviting us to a 4th of July picnic at a friend’s house. I could taste a lemony dessert as I said we’d be there. This dessert was perfect for the night and I’m debating whether or not I should make this again or move on to something else from my mastery list for my birthday!
French Lemon Cream Tart (Baking: from My Home to Yours by Dorrie Greenspan)
- 1 cup sugar
- the grated zest of 3 lemons
- 3/4 c. fresh lemon juice
- 10.5 oz butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature
- 1 9-in. tart crust (the book recommends one, but I didn’t like it as well as my usual crust recipe)
Zest the lemons and mix them together with the sugar in a heatproof bowl. Using either your fingers or a spatula, mash the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist from the zest and a little bit grainy. Your kitchen will smell heavenly! Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Heat a pan of water to simmering and place the bowl over the top. Once the mixture starts to feel warm, begin whisking. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees. You will need to whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. I gave up measuring the temperature and went by the appearance of the cream. When it was thick and the whisk left tracks through on each swipe, I took it off the heat. (Dorrie’s instructions say it can take up to 10 minutes to reach the proper temperature, but because I was using such a heavy bowl, I whisked and cooked for almost half an hour. It was 92 degrees yesterday. I’ll be using a lighter bowl next time.)
When the cream is cooked, remove it from the heat and allow it too cool to an approximate temperature of 140 degrees. Once it has reached that temp, pour it into a sturdy blender and add a few pieces of butter. You will need to add the butter a few pieces at a time until it is all incorportated before continuing. If your blender is having trouble with the cream, which mine did, you can use a food processor or an immersion blender. I used the immersion blender. Blend the cream once all the butter is added for an additional 3 minutes, the cream is light and fluffy. Chill the cream for a minimum of 4 hours before pouring into a baked tart shell. I chilled mine again before serving and topped it with fresh raspberries.
**Notes: The photo in the book shows a cream that is much lighter than mine. While I cannot say for sure, I’m going to believe it’s because of the eggs I used. My eggs are home-grown and have an almost orange yolk to them. Hence the rich yellow of my tart.
It’s the very beginning of berry season here. I’m beyond excited. Excited in a way that I should probably be embarrassed about. But I’m not. In fact, as I type this, I’m messaging with a friend to try and get a load of people together to take the patch by storm next week. I’m gearing up to fill my freezer once again and I am excited! Last week, while I was at the market, I found local strawberries on sale for an excellent price, so I snapped some right up. They weren’t very big, but they were so sweet and juicy that I had to make shortcakes. Paired with some freshly whipped cream and my most recent attempt at a plain vanilla ice cream that didn’t contain only heavy cream as the base, it made for a wonderful end to dinner. Shortcakes are essentially a sweetened biscuit, which I was thrilled to learn are rather simple to make. My only down fall in this experience was realizing that I don’t own a biscuit cutter and had to use a mini tart pan in it’s place. Biscuit cutter is now on my list of things I “need”! I won’t lie, I didn’t make up my own recipe, I used the one from Martha’s book. Honestly, there are somethings I don’t mess with and anything involving cutting in butter is one of those things. You have to know your limitations. Mine don’t involve any on strawberries, though. You can never get enough!
I am more than relieved to announce that I can wipe this one off my list. Making the profiterole (also known as a cream puff here in the States) is really a very simple task; the baking of it requires a bit of attention. Oh. And you absolutely, certainly, should not open the oven to “peek”. Be patient and back away from the oven. I’m saying this because it was humid yesterday while I was baking, so we were already at a tenuous balance between the puffs puffing or not and I couldn’t control my anxiety and peeked. Several times. I might have been able to overcome the humidity issue if I had only been more patient. Of the 4 dozen I baked, only about 16 turned out nicely puffed. That should teach me. Thankfully, I have made these several times so I know what my error was and am only telling you this so you don’t also make the same mistake.
How beautiful your profiteroles can be if you don’t bother them while they bake!
The official name for the dough is Pâte à choux. A choux dough doesn’t have any sort of a leavening agent in it; instead it relies on the moisture in the dough to create steam while it cooks and puff up the dough. This type of dough what one would use to make profiteroles
. I am anxious to keep trying this dough and working with it so I that I can become comfortable. I have decided though that I should invest in a larger piping bag and tip so that I’m not covered in the dough by the time I’m done piping out my little puffs. I’m also anxious to try these as a gougère in the winter with a hearty stew.
Basic Pâte à choux dough:
- 10 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 6 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter, sugar and salt to a simmer so that the butter is able to melt. Remove the pan from the heat and using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour to make a paste. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly until the paste is shiny and easily pulls away from the pan (about 7 minutes). Cool slightly. Either transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer or use a hand mixer fitted with beaters and then beat it for about 2 minutes on low-medium speed to cool the paste further. Then, add in the eggs one a time. Scrape the bowl as needed. Once all the eggs are incorporated thoroughly, transfer the dough to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip. Have 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper ready. Pipe the dough out until it is about the size of a golf ball – you should have 4 dozen. Wet your finger and smooth down the peaks of dough that will form from being piped. Bake until they are puffed, about 15-20 minutes, and then lower the heat of the oven to 350 degrees to finish until the puffs are golden. You can then turn off the oven and leave the puffs inside for up to 10 minutes to dry them out. Once they are cooled, you can fill them with pastry cream.
The 16 winners for the baby shower… ignore the florescent icing on the cupcakes, please. Due to a sick child throughout the week, I had to sacrifice some of my baking. What suffered was the thing I hate the most: cake icing.
I had this recipe and the two cookie recipes all typed out and ready to go earlier in the week. Then my 10 month old decided that my SD card adapter for the computer was his next task for destruction and I didn’t have any photos to go with my posts. Matt brought me a new adapter the other night, but things have been super hectic this week in our house so I am just now sitting down to publish my work from the week… 11 pm on a Saturday night. Now, I told you that story but have no photos to show for my efforts on this recipe. I have made these bars 7 times in the last month, tweaking the recipe a little more each time. One would think that as much as I’ve made it, I’d have something to show from at least one of the tries, right? Nope. It gets eaten far too quickly!
Breakfast is a real challenge for me. I don’t like it. It takes up entirely too much of my valuable productive time in the morning and I totally resent it. However, Liam is a huge fan. In fact, it’s his biggest meal of the day followed by dinner. Now that he is eating essentially 100% table foods, sitting down to eat with him makes breakfast a little less burdensome. I just can’t get into pureed avocado in the morning, although I am in the process of a post on all the things I’ve learned with the pureeing and feeding of homemade baby food.
Anyway, I found this recipe on another blog and posted about it on my old blog. I’ve since adapted it further so that it’s healthier and has less sugar… I’m not about to set something with lots of sugar in front of a already very busy little guy! Liam loves this. I can’t break the bars up fast enough for him! I started out cutting it into little bit size pieces, but he is now adept enough with feeding himself, that I cut it into slices and he mashes it into his mouth. I’m a huge fan as well, but I’m far neater when I eat.
Breakfast Crumb Bars
- 1 c. flour
- 1/2 c. wheat germ
- 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 c. oats
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp.baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
These ingredients form your crust and crumb for the bars. I have no sophisticated method for mixing them together, I simply dump all the ingredients into the bowl of my mixer and turn it on. The machine works everything until there’s a nice crumb about the size of a pea and then, I stop mixing. I remove 2 1/2 c. of the mixture and press it into the bottom of a buttered 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish. This is then baked for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. In the meantime, I make the filling.
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 pound of fruit
- 1 tsp. vanilla
(It should be noted that I have had more fun playing with the fillings for these bars than I did when I was learning to make cheesecakes! I have made strawberry-rhubarb, blackberry, red raspberry and apple/cream cheese fillings. Oh! I just looooove trying variations!) This batch of ingredients is dumped into a sauce pan and cooked together. On my recipe card, the note I made was to achieve a “compote-y” consistency. I like to have a smoothish filling, but still some of the structure of the fruit is there for contrast. Once you are pleased with the consistency of the filling, pour it over the crust and top it with the remaining crumb mixture. Finish by baking it for an additional 40 minutes. The longest this recipe has kept has been a week, sealed in a container in the fridge. The shortest was 20 minutes at a brunch. It’s a winner!
This isn’t so much a new recipe as a revelation. I love sugar cookies, but sometimes, I don’t want a crisp, iced disk. I want something that is soft and a little on the fluffy side. So off I went in search of that. I’ve been fighting with recipes and eating far too many cookies, when it occurred to me last week while I was weeding. What if I tweaked my Snickerdoodle recipe?! I’m such an over thinker! Good grief, here I’ve been wanting a cookie that is the snickerdoodle, just without the dusting. Although, now that I’ve typed that out, I don’t know why on earth anyone would want snickerdoodle with out the dusting… Anyway. Here’s another cookie recipe for you to enjoy!
- 2/3 c. butter, softened
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add in the egg, followed by the vanilla. Mix together the dry ingredients and incorporate them thoroughly. Lay out some plastic wrap on the counter and put the dough on it. Form the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough up and chill for 30-45 minutes in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the chilled dough into 1/4 inch thick disks and arrange them on a lined baking sheet so that they are not touching. This cookie doesn’t really spread, so you don’t have to keep them too far apart on the pan. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk.
I’ve been testing cookie recipes for months… the waistband on my pants condemns me on a daily basis. If I am going to eat a cookie, I want it to be soft and chewy in the center and crisp around the edges. I want it to be a comfortable size and not too sweet. Matt doesn’t quite agree, but I’m the one doing the baking, so he can just eat the experiments and hope I decide to make the monstrosity he considers to be a serving size with the left over batter. Also, in the case where there are bits of chocolate, I don’t want chips, I want chunks. There is something about a rugged hunk of chocolate that melts in your mouth compared to a bit of uniformly shaped chocolate. If I were the type to drink milk with my cookies, I think it would be perfect with these.
Chocolate Chunk Cookies:
- 2 cups flour (you can use half white and half whole wheat)
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup softened butter
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 c. Chocolate chunks
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with either parchment paper or a silpat. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Add in the dry ingredients until there are no streaks and everything is fully incorporated. Then mix in the chocolate by hand. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before forming the cookies. Using a small ice cream scoop, take 2 scoops of the dough and form it into a ball. Place each of the balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets and pat down gently. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen medium sized cookies.
I’m not too much of a crust eater. I generally tear mine up and give it to the dogs. Sometimes, I dunk it in ranch dressing. I don’t really care how thick and beautiful a pizza parlor claims to make their crust or if you can read newspaper through it. I’m really here for the cheese. And green peppers. Matt had been a bachelor for some time when we met. I never ate so much pizza as when we started dating. Once we got married, it was his joke that when he “cooked” it came to the door in a box. We always order Besta Fasta pizza. I like that they make theirs fresh daily, so much so that sometimes, their sauce is super mild and other times, it’s so spicy that we are both sent searching for an antiacid!
As much as I like the option to order pizza out, I still like to have the confidence to be able to whip up a batch at home whenever I like. I keep pepperoni in the freezer, pizza sauce in the canning cellar and provolone in my fridge. I like having provolone on my pizza. If you ask, you’re going to find that many pizza places use a mixture of provolone and mozzerella on their pizzas. I don’t know how I got started asking, but I did and was thrilled when I realized that that is why their cheese is so mouth-wateringly good! I make this dough in my bread machine (on the dough setting) because it’s contained in there and I don’t have to worry about getting distracted by a diaper my increasingly dare-devilish child. If you want to make this by hand, you only need to mix all the ingredients together gently, knead it well and let it rise for about 30-45 minutes in a warm place. Nothing else needs to change. Top it with your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese before baking it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. You can get 2 12-inch pizzas with a medium/thin crust out of this recipe or one giant, fluffy crusted one.
- 2 1/2 tsp yeast
- 4 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
**This dough is wonderful baked in the oven on a pizza stone or baking sheet. It’s also sturdy enough to be prepared and grilled. I also like this recipe because you don’t need to prebake it. Just form it, top it and throw it in the oven. The oven that is heated to 450 degrees. This is my warning: a pizza stone coming from that oven is going to be hot. Be careful. I barely tapped my arm with fresh-from-the-oven stone 2 months ago and still have a nasty looking burn mark on my arm. It’s embarrassing to have to explain that you were trying to go from the kitchen to the dining room and ducking around a Johnny Jump-up in the doorway when you burnt your arm. Just so you know.