Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chocolate Babka

For the past few years, my sister has taken it upon herself to request an unconventional birthday treat.  A regular birthday cake is never good enough for her. She's requested homemade Chocolate-Glazed Yeast Doughnuts, a sky high New York Style Cheesecake, and last year, she wanted an entire week dedicated to breakfast treats.  This year, however, I beat my sister to the punch.  I thought "birthday babka" had a nice ring to it, and she immediately agreed.  I'd been wanting to make a babka for years, but I was never brave enough to go through with it. The yeast, and the folding, and the swirls! It all seemed like too much.  I had already opened my mouth though, and she was set on her birthday babka, with lots of chocolate swirls. There was no turning back now.  

I went straight to Smitten Kitchen, because I knew Deb had simplified Yotam Ottolenghi's chocolate krantz cake recipe into one that was foolproof. If I've learned anything from working closely with Clarkson Potter over the past few months, it's that Ottolenghi is a brilliant, brilliant man. I figured that if Deb had worked her magic on an Ottolenghi recipe to improve it, the final result had to be spectacular.  Her recipe seemed completely doable, and as I was reading it through, I wondered why I hadn't ever given myself chance to actually make a babka.  It didn't seem that hard. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Birthday Cake Ice Cream

My sister is the best at picking unconventional birthday treats (stay tuned for her pick, next!).  As excited and ready to take on her birthday request as I was, I wanted to make something else too.  Something that combined my sister's favorite things all in one.  I wanted to make Birthday Cake Ice Cream. My sister loves nothing more than a simple, classic yellow cake with sprinkles, and because birthdays and ice cream go hand in hand, the combination is a winner.  It's obviously been done before, but I wanted to make the ice cream for myself, because ice cream is one of those treats that is always better when it's made at home. And there anything happier than cake flavored ice cream with sprinkles? It's the happiest treat imaginable. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Buttermilk Waffles (Gluten-Free)

I have a special place in my heart (stomach) for waffles.  I grew up with the frozen kind; I had two for breakfast everyday, all the way up through high school.  I never tired of having the same breakfast, and while I eventually switched up my routine in college, there were a few moments where I caved and bought myself a box, for old time's sakes. At restaurants, if an ice cream-topped waffle is on the dessert menu, it's the obvious choice to finish off my meal. A special breakfast out calls for a waffle.  Basically, I'm crazy for them.  I don't make them all that often though, and it's mostly out of laziness (I'm not a fan of standing over a hot iron making one waffle at a time).  However, when the mood strikes, I just have to make myself a batch at home.  There's nothing like a freshly made waffle. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Baileys and Shortbread Milkshake

And the booziest day of the year has arrived! I've never been much of a St. Paddy's gal, and since I've been commuting to work or from school over the past few years, I've come to associate the holiday with nothing more than a mass transit and commuter nightmare. Penn Station is awful on its own, but it transforms into this hellish, rowdy black hole, the kind of place where all you want to do is head in and head back out, as fast as you possibly can. I think based on those facts alone, it's clear that I'm no St. Patrick's Day partier, but it doesn't mean I'm a party pooper either.  I just celebrate with food instead of booze! Marrying the two and incorporating my one true love, ice cream, is the best of both worlds. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chocolate Stout Tart with Pretzel Crust

When it comes to beer and cocktails and fancy drinks, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m neither adventurous nor very knowledgable. I have a very basic set of cocktails, beers, and after dinner drinks that I stick to and rotate through, and if you were to offer me a glass of wine, I’d have to politely decline, as that’s a beverage I haven’t quite gotten a taste for just yet. It’s a situation that is slightly embarrassing, but at the same time, it’s not a priority for me to fix.  I don’t drink all that often because to put it simply, I much prefer to indulge in a caloric overload via ice cream, cake, and brownies. That’s just the reality of the situation. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a beer with friends every now and then. I’ll just almost always choose a beer on the lighter side (because I like to play it safe), and I steer clear of anything dark.  I make a special exception for stout though. Definitely not for drinking, but for baking; give me a slice of rich Chocolate Stout Cake and I’m all over it.  The first time I made it, I wasn’t sure if the stout flavor would be too pronounced and overpower the chocolate (a horrible situation for anyone who prioritizes chocolate above all other things), but I was so surprised with how well the combination worked, and even more surprised at how much I loved it. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Homemade Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts

One of my earliest, EARLIEST posts on this tiny site of mine was all about pop tart pops. A bit more trouble than they were worth, poorly photographed, but tasty nevertheless. They were teeny tiny, filled with strawberry and peach preserves, drizzled in a sweet icing, and sprinkled with candy colored sugar. They were a "wholesome" breakfast option and a great after work snack. Fast forward two years, to when I questioned why I felt a need to make pop tarts on a stick. Surely I could be a better foodie than that. Fast forward to last weekend, when I found myself trapped inside my house on a snowy Sunday making mini pop tarts again. 

At least these were a bit bigger. And I got rid of the sticks. I replaced the candy colored sugar with candy colored jimmies (and chopped pistachios because I'm almost a grown up now). I did add more icing though. And used only strawberry filling because it's my favorite (how mature of me). I really don't know why I made these; the only explanation I have is that I was bored at home, came across some home made pop tart photos online, and got a huge urge to make a batch. Sometimes you just can't reason everything out logically. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Simple Almond Cake (GF)

Here's a fact that I’m slightly embarrassed to admit: I never actually took the time to really read through Dorie Greenspan’s newest book, Baking Chez Moi. I’ve had it for months sitting on my shelf, and while I made a batch of rugelach using her recipe, I just never got around/made the time to peruse through its contents.  A fact that I’m even MORE embarrassed to admit is that this is my ONLY Dorie cookbook.  Seriously.  I know she’s a goddess when it comes to flour and chocolate and sugar in the kitchen, and yet the only thing I’ve ever baked using her wisdom are her rugelach (which, by the way, are the best rugelach I’ve ever tried). This past weekend though, in searching for a new “thing” to bake, I picked up my brand new, hardly used copy of Baking Chez Moi, and became aware of this incredible resource that I had been neglecting for all these months.  There were so many recipes that I wanted to try, and she even has an entire chapter dedicated to simple cakes! It’s easy to say that this was the chapter that inspired me the most, and while I had a hard time selecting my first cake to bake, in the end, the choice was pretty clear. “Plain and Simple Almond Cake.” Can’t argue with a title like that, now can you?

As much as “plain and simple” grabbed me, my real reason for choosing it over her TK cake with salted dark chocolate chunks is that it’s a flourless cake.  Made only with almond flour, eggs, sugar, and vanilla this cake is not only completely gluten-free, but it’s also dairy-free. My mom has been completely gluten-free for about 6 months now, and the changes in her health and well-being have been remarkable. She’s less tired, has very minimal stomach discomfort, and fewer headaches. She’s eliminated almost all dairy from her diet as well, save for when it’s baked into a gluten-free treat, and while she hasn’t completely given up on dairy, limiting it to the extent she has has also had a positive effect on her health.  She’ll sometimes experience some slight discomfort, but not enough to keep her away from her favorite gluten-free cornbread, for instance.  When I realized that his cake was free of gluten and dairy, I just had to make it. I really hate leaving my mom out of the loop when it comes to the treats I bake at home, so I try to bake gluten-free versions as much as possible.  Getting used to working with new flours, blends, and techniques has been a ton of fun (and work!), but sometimes I just want to be able to prepare a GF treat to share with everyone in my family that’s made with regular old ingredients that I have on hand. Something that feels a little more familiar, and that’s why this simple cake seemed so attractive (aside from the fact that my mom and I both happen to love almonds!).

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