Hamburger Cookies

Posted: May 31, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 3 Comments »

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you all enjoyed a nice long weekend. I sure did.

This lovely summer weekend, I saw a cake much like this at a local bakery:

A hamburger! Totally cute, right? Okay, also a little gross-looking. But it reminded me of my first foray into cooking/baking, a 4-H project back in the 4th grade (for which I got a blue ribbon, thank-you-very-much). I don’t have kids, but when I do, this fun little project is something I would totally do with them… and if you do, please feel free to make them with yours! They’re very easy and kid-friendly, and while they’re not exactly for foodies, they’d be fun for a summer bbq, too.

Hamburger Cookies!
You will need:
A box of Nilla Wafers
A box of Thin Mints (if you can’t get the Girl Scout kind, Keebler makes a decent substitute).
Sweetened Coconut
Food Coloring
Frosting (in 4th grade, I used canned, these days, I’d probably use a simple home-made butter cream)
sanding sugar

First, put the coconut in a bowl and mix with green food coloring. This is the “lettuce” for your burgers.

As a kid, I liked to also dye the frosting red so it would be “ketchup,” but you can also leave it white and say it’s “mayonnaise.” Your call.

Spread frosting on a Nilla Wafer. Stick a Thin Mint on top. Spread more frosting on the Thin mint. Put on some coconut. Top with another frosting-spreaded Nilla Wafer. You can put sanding sugar on top for “sesame seeds.”

The finished product looks something like this:

Silly? Yes. Using lots of pre-packaged, pre-processed ingredients? Check. A great introduction into baking for children? I think so. They can do it all themselves, because there’s no oven or sharp knives, and they’re actually really cute. And while I’m a grown-up and a food blogger, I’d be happy to eat one of these today.


Pie. Tasty, tasty pie.

Posted: May 23, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | No Comments »

Who doesn’t love pie? Nobody. Pie rocks.

Pie crust is tough to make. Here’s how I like to make mine:

(This makes A LOT of crust. Enough for basically two pies. You can put any leftovers in the fridge or add more sugar and turn them into cookies).

3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3-4 tsp sugar (or more, if you want)
3 sticks of butter, cold and in small pieces (hells yeah)
1 cup ice cold milk (some people like water, but I love me my dairy. Nonfat is fine).

Process everything except the milk together, either in a food processor or with a pastry cutter, until it looks like a coarse meal. Slowly add the milk, until it holds together. Shape it into a disc, place in plastic wrap, refrigerate at least a couple hours.

While you’re refrigerating, make your filling. I used strawberries and pears in the one pictured, because I wanted strawberry rhubarb but I couldn’t get any rhubarb. Pears are the tofu of pie filling, they’ll absorb whatever flavors are around them. Chop up the fruit into little pieces, saute in butter and sugar, and any spices you’d like (cinnamon, nutmeg…). Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take out the dough and put it on a floured surface. Roll out about half of it for one pie. Only roll it once. Don’t keep touching it up, it will make it less and less flaky. Put it in your pie tin, cut the hanging over edges with kitchen shears or a knife.

Put in your filling. To make a lattice pie, roll out more dough and cut into strips, either using kitchen shears, a knife or a pastry roller. Arrange it in a criss-crossed pattern on top of the pie, sticking it to the edges of the crust. You can also cut shapes with a cookie cutter and arrange them on your pie.

You can make a nice glaze by whisking up an egg yolk and a little heaving cream and brushing it on top. Sprinkle some sugar on. Pretty.

Bake for 75-90 minutes. Take out of the oven.

Strawberries are really juicy when baked. I drained the pie into the sink, seriously. This really helps. Peaches are similarly juicy. With these sorts of fruits, don’t entirely cover the pie with crust, so you can drain it.


Going Balls Out

Posted: May 9, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla, delish | 3 Comments »

Sometimes, you have a reason to go balls out. Well, not literally, but figuratively. You have an occasion to make your fanciest, richest, unhealthiest dish to celebrate a special occasion. I had an opportunity on Friday, which was the last day of my internship, and I wanted to say “Thank You” to everybody there, who were super friendly and welcoming to me, but going balls out.

So I made an incredible pound cake, and a strawberry-pear pie. I’m going to post about the cake today, and the pie later, for you guys to wait with baited breath. The director of the clinic, a brilliant psychiatrist and genuine foodie, stated that this was “one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted.” So don’t just take it from me, this cake is delicious.

Why? It’s called a pound cake because the recipe calls for AN ENTIRE POUND OF BUTTER. Yup. That is what makes it so incredibly tasty. And something to eat in SMALL PORTIONS.

This is from Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise. You will need:
-a 12-cup (large) Bundt pan, greased and floured
-1 pound (4 sticks) of softened butter, unsalted
-2 3/4 cups of sugar (I like brown, but white is also fine)
-1 tbs vanilla extract (use real. Always. Imitation vanilla extract is horrid).
-Half a dozen eggs. Try to get them to room temp if possible, but cold is also okay.
-2 3/4 cups flour (I use unbleached, but any all-purpose flour is fine).
-Half cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 2 cups berries, fresh or frozen. I used blueberries, but raspberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, or any other berries or combination thereof would be tasty too.

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the cream in a medium bowl and put it in the freezer as you start.

Start by beating the butter to soften. Cream in the sugar. Then beat in the vanilla. Then, slowly beat in the eggs one by one. Then, add in the flour in 3 or 4 small batches, beat until just combined.

Take the cream out of the freezer. On high speed, whip it until it forms soft peaks (that’s exactly what it sounds like, it will look kind of like gentle hills in your bowl).

Fold the whipped cream into the batter. Don’t just add in the cream. Whipping it truly makes this cake have an incredible texture. It lightens it up, while it is still an incredibly moist cake. Fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the greased, floured bundt pan.

The recipe said to bake it for 50-60 minutes, but mine took about 80 minutes. Test it with a butter knife or cake tester, it’s done when it comes out clean.

Not only does the clinic director think this cake is great, so does my cross-eyed, intellectually challenged cat:


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted: May 6, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 4 Comments »

Cookies are awesome. You know why? They’re the quickest, most whip-up-able baked good around. Cakes and pies and bread require some degree of pre-planning, and often grocery shopping, as well as precise, exact measurements. Cookies can often be made with whatever you have in the house.

Like these, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I made a quick, small batch of these the other weekend.

I used:
1/2 a stick of butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter (I had crunchy in the house, but smooth might even be preferable)
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 (maybe a bit more) cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Put some parchment on a baking sheet.

Mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips with an electric mixer. Then, mix in the chips with a spoon (you don’t want to destroy them with the power of the mixer).

I made fairly big, hearty cookies. So, I spooned about 3-4 tbs for each cookie onto the sheet, and flattened it down a little. Then I baked them for 10 minutes, until they just started to brown.

Peanut butter adds extra taste and moisture the plain old chocolate chip cookies, making these special. The important thing here is that with so few ingredients, use high quality chocolate. It really makes the difference.

A chocolate free variation would be to use a little more peanut butter, make smaller cookies, and press down with a criss-crossed fork design. Classic American peanut butter cookies. Another option that I’m dying to test out is to substitute nutella for peanut butter in those. I will let you know the results of that experiment when I do it. I suspect delicious, mostly because it involves nutella.


The French Chef

Posted: April 27, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 1 Comment »

In case I didn’t share this before, for the past 16 months, I have been in an intensive master’s program. Anyone who’s been to graduate school knows that it truly kicks one’s ass. It has been well worthwhile, but exhausting, busy, stressful and just really, really intense.

Today is my last day of class. All of my papers are handed in. I graduate 2 weeks from tomorrow. And, I have promised myself that it’s time to catch up on some things I find enjoyable and that have nothing to do with my area of study. The first thing on my list: get to know Julia Child, the French Chef.

I know everyone loves Julia Child, but I am a bit too young to have watched the original PBS show, and was still in school when Julie and Julia came out. But, last month, I went to Washington DC and toured her kitchen at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. It was a thing of beauty. She had every kitchen tool imaginable, but it wasn’t a sterile chef’s kitchen. It was painted a beautiful blue-green, it had playful pictures everywhere, and magnets on the fridge. She was more than a chef, but a real person, who loved her home, and made it comfortable.

Next, I picked up a copy of her book, “My Life in France.” Wow. She tells the story of how she lived in France at the beginning of her marriage, and fell in love with French food, French wine, and French people. She discovered herself there, and realized her passion for cooking, and her dream of bringing the art and soul and most of all, joy, in cooking to Americans. It’s speckled with descriptions of the things she prepared and ate, and stories of her loving, fun relationship with her husband, her sheer humanity, her exuberance and insight. To be honest, a lot of the food itself isn’t all that appetizing to me (e.g. “little fish en lorgnette (a pretty dish in which the fish’s backbone is cut out, the body is rolled up to the head, and the whole is deep-fried in boiling fat)”). It’s her curiosity, her happiness, her honesty, and her exploration of a new culinary world that’s inspiring. Her lessons about cooking, about love, and life, and her propensity to look at the world with excitement are what makes her so incredible. And, the fact that she helped introduce America to a new way (the French way) of cooking and enjoying food (with wine! what a concept!) makes her a role model for me. I may never aspire to be a professional chef, but I hope to cook with the same devotion as Julia Child did forever.

Who else are some of your food heroes? Who inspires you?


Homemade Food Bars

Posted: April 22, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla, beans | No Comments »

I don’t know about you guys, but I love food bars. They are so tasty. I especially love ProBars, which are all natural, delicious, and really, really expensive. I thought that maybe I should make some of my own with ingredients I had lying around the house, and together with a banana and a cup of coffee, this is a great breakfast.

I took about a cup or so of each of these:
-flax seeds
-sunflower seeds
-chopped mixed dried fruit (I had apricots, apples, nectarines and dates)
-dark chocolate chips
-oats

Then, 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of flour. This keeps the mixture sticking together.

Mix it all together in a bowl, and spread it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about twenty minutes.

You can use any types of nuts, raisins, dried fruits, chocolate… Get creative, that’s what the fancy bar companies do! These have no added sugar, lots of fiber… tasty. Easy. Saves you from buying them every morning on the way to work.


Priest Stranglers

Posted: April 8, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla, vegetarian | 3 Comments »

Did I get your attention? No, I am not advocating asphyxiating any priests. These are a variation of an Italian dish called strangolaprieti, which translates to “priest-stranglers.” Wikipedia tells me they get their name because priests were said to be rather delicate, and that these dumplings (close cousins of gnocchi) are so hearty they might choke them. How funny!

These are on the hearty side, but I’d like to think they’re too delicious to choke anyone. They also demonstrate what an incredibly awesome and practical cooking method that baking can be. Italian dumplings, such as gnocchi, are usually boiled. However, this carries the risk of them falling apart. Believe me, it’s happened to the best of us. One could also fry them, but that would add a lot of fat and calories. Baking them means they taste good, don’t fall apart, and aren’t saturated in oil! Hurray for baking!

To make these, you will need:
- 10 (or more) ounces of fresh spinach
-3 eggs
-1 cup grated Parmesan (or, if you want, Romano, it’s cheaper)
-1/2 cup ricotta (reduced fat would probably work fine)
-1 1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs
-2 tbs (or more!) fresh basil
-1/3 cup chopped scallions (or a milder variety of onion)
-1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
-salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Preheat to 400. Spray a baking dish or cookie sheet liberally. Rinse the spinach and chop off the biggest stems, don’t stress too much about it. Place it in a large pot/skillet (preferably nonstick!), cover, cook, stirring a couple times, just until it wilts, like 2 minutes. Put in a colander and let it drain.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in all the remaining ingredients except the spinach. I would say it’s safe to use more ricotta and less bread crumbs, the ricotta gets overpowered easily. Once the spinach is cool enough to touch, squeeze some more water out of it and chop it. Stir it into the mixture. Form the batter into balls, about 2-3 tablespoons each (or smaller, if you want). Bake for about 20 minutes, until they strangolaprieti begin to brown.

Serve topped with tomato sauce. I made a very simple one by cooking up onions, garlic, basil and a big can of diced tomatoes together. A high quality jarred sauce would work fine as well. I would stay away from heavier sauces like Bolognese, because these are pretty heavy already and that would be too much. Sometimes people serve these dumplings with pasta as well, I had made a lot, so I skipped the pasta because I didn’t want leftovers forever. That being said, these do store and heat up well.


A Quick Passover Treat

Posted: April 1, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | No Comments »

I’m not Jewish. I grew up an Irish Catholic. However, I have many Jewish friends, and one Jewish special someone. So, I made a Passover dessert this week using matzo. I’m informed that once Passover is over, Jewish people are so sick of matzo that they won’t look at until the next year, but I actually kind of like it. I mean, it’s just crackers, they’re simple, they’re tasty, and they make an easy base for things like:

CHOCOLATE CARAMEL MATZO!

First, make the caramel. Caramel is basically just dairy products and brown sugar melted together to make some gooey deliciousness.

Take about half a stick of butter, a cup and a half of brown sugar, and 3/4 cup milk and put them in a heavy saucepan. While stirring, bring them to a boil. Once they’re boiling, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, cook for a minute or two more (watch it so it doesn’t burn), take off heat. Spread over the matzo, let cool.

Once the caramel is cool, melt some dark chocolate chips (use high quality) with some milk, so it’s spreadable. Spread this on top of the caramel.

I sprinkled some coarse sea salt on top. I LOVE salty chocolate, but be careful not to use too much. A little goes a long way. This is a fairly new taste to me, and I love to contrast. Delicious.

Allow to cool, and bon apetit! Easy, few ingredients, Kosher, delish. For those who celebrate, enjoy the rest of your Passover, for those who don’t, enjoy some chocolate-caramely matzo anyway! I’d like to think that food is the easiest (and tastiest) way to bridge cultures.

Speaking of, this image of a bloody confectionary lamb is from my new favorite website, Cake Wrecks: http://www.cakewrecks.blogspot.com

They also have a book out, and the tag is “when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.” Now, I’m not pretending that I’m the best cake decorator there is. Far from it. But some of the stuff there… makes me laugh to the point of tears. I hope you enjoy as well! (Warning: may not be suitable for work).


Bakezilla’s Aunt’s Stuffed Mushrooms

Posted: March 25, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

When I was younger, I thought that my aunt’s stuffed mushrooms were the classiest foodstuff ever created. Seriously. While they are made with pretty pedestrian ingredients, these little guys are tasty, vegetarian and still quite classy. One of my favorite recipes of all times. So here it is for you:

- 1 package regular button mushrooms
- 15-20 Ritz Crackers
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 small onion (or ½ large)
- 2 tbs. olive oil or butter
- oregano, basil, salt, pepper (all to taste)
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese (my aunt recommends Sargento because it’s pretty salty… mmm, salty…)
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Get out a clean, ungreased baking sheet.
2. Wash the mushrooms. Remove the stems from the caps, reserve.
3. Crush up the Ritz crackers into small pieces, set aside.
4. In a food processor mince the onion, garlic and mushroom stems together. I love the food processor… I only have a little guy. I went to Amazing Savings to buy a new one, but they didn’t have one. They did however, give me plenty of sexual harassment. Why do I go to Amazing Savings?
5. In a skillet, heat the olive oil or butter, bring to medium heat. Add in the mushroom stem mix, and sauté until soft and it smells fragrant (about 10 minutes). Add in the spices to taste.
6. Add the mushroom stem mixture to the crushed Ritz crackers, combine. When it is cool, stuff this into the mushroom caps. Top with shredded cheese.
7. Bake the mushrooms on the ungreased sheet for about 20 minutes, when the cheese is melted and the mushrooms change color a little, serve warm.

So there you have it. A great little appetizer for a party. Or, if you’re like me, something to make on a weeknight when you need some cheering up and you want to feel classy. I recommend pairing a dry white wine.


Pumpkin Sage Brown Butter Loaves

Posted: March 16, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 3 Comments »

Hey Everyone,

Sorry for not posting in a bit, things have been a little nuts for me. However, I’m back with a tasty quick bread recipe full of ingredients us Pretty Girls all seem very fond of – pumpkin and brown butter. I made mini-loaves, but you could also make a regular sized loaf, just increase the baking time.

Before they go in the oven

Before they go in the oven

Here’s the recipe, from Martha Stewart Living:

(Makes eight 2 1/2-by-4-inch loaves (really little guys – really only 1 big loaf))
- 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, cut into thin strips, plus more, whole, for garnish
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin (from one 15-ounce can)
- 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour eight 2 1/2-by-4-inch loaf pans. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sage strips, and cook until butter turns golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and let cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
3. Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and browned butter with sage. Add flour mixture, and whisk until incorporated. Divide mixture evenly among 8 pans. Smooth tops gently using an offset spatula.
4. Place pans on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until a tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Finished Loaf

Finished Loaf

The pumpkin makes these nice and moist, and the sage adds an unexpected flavor. They’re really different from your average quickbread.

Also, here’s a picture of my kitty cat checking out the completed loaves. Aww.



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.