Category Archives: Baking Projects

#Pie Day with #UpSouthCookbook’s Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk Pie in Pie PanButtermilk Pie

I’ve been waiting for a while for just the right moment to post about this recipe. #PieDay seems like an appropriate time, donchathink?  This custard-like, fragrant concoction is a Southern staple, and I’d heard about it for years, although my mother didn’t make this kind of sweet really ever.  For all the desserts I’ve made, I’d also never tried my hand at this one until Nicole Taylor (aka Food Culturist) asked if I’d recipe test it for her Up South Cookbook last year.  Now, I’m hooked on it and can think of all sorts of events at which it would be perfect to bring to the table.

Buttermilk Pie in Tart Pan

Buttermilk Pie in tart form

The original pie in the photo that leads off this post found an audience at a shiva for a friend’s father.  The creamy, cool interior and flakey crust was admired and devoured by the assembled guests.  The photo at the top of this paragraph was a bit of a re-creation on my part.  For the annual #PieParty that is put together by a couple of fellow NYC food bloggers, I swapped out the pie plate for a tart pan and let it cook a tiny bit longer for some more color and a brûlée effect.  One of the chefs at our host location, the Institute of Culinary Education, happily consumed the few leftovers that remained, calling it one of the best baked goods he’d ever eaten.

UpSouth Cookbook

 Up South Cookbook

For my next cooking adventure with this recipe, I think I’m going to morph it even more and make tartelettes.  I have this great Nordic Ware pan that I’ve used to make mini crostate that I think will work out really well.  Nicole includes the pie crust recipe as well in her cookbook; it’s one that is super easy to pull together.  I’ll likely double that and make one batch of the filling, with its scent of cardamom, nutmeg, and vanilla that casts a lovely, warming perfume as it bakes.  That way, more guests can enjoy this taste of the South and of the regional hospitality that goes along with a slice of pie.

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Use the best-quality, full-fat buttermilk in this recipe.  It is so worth the end result to spend that bit of extra time and money to track it down.  In the NYC area, you can find Five Acre Farms products or visit the Union Square Greenmarket and pick up some from Tonje’s Farm Dairy.  

Dinosaurs Bake Biscuits for #Dinovember

1 - Dinosaurs set up mise en placeT-Rex explains that setting up the ingredients beforehand makes it faster to get the biscuits done

Sometime last year, I bumped into the Facebook page for Dinovember. It might have been around Christmastime, when I was looking for a present for my dinosaur-obsessed nephew. It was right after Dinovember had passed, and I was captivated by the creativity of the originators of this month-long activity as well as by the responses of their ardent followers.

2 - Pour in flourVelociraptor and Dilophosaurus pour in the flour

This year, I said that I was going to take part in the adventure. It reminds me so much of what my mother used to do with us kids: give us whatever materials were lying around and let us be as creative as we wanted to be. Inevitably, with brothers, this turned into sword fighting with craft paper tubes (well, until they snapped in half) and turning wiffle bats into lightsabres.

3 - measures out the saltAnkylosaurus measures out a bit too much salt

Blankets became capes, worn while running around the house singing the Batman and Robin theme song (reruns were a snow day tv treat). Almost anything, including leaves from the magnolia tree in the front yard, could be a Star Trek communicator or a phaser, depending upon the mood and the storyline that we would have made up.

3 - Tears foil from new tin of baking powderVelociraptor figures the easiest way to open the new tin of baking powder is just to rip the foil with his teeth

When I visit my nephews and nieces, they have tons of toys and games to choose from. They also seem equally adept at organizing the vast collection of Fisher Price people, animals, and gear that my parents accumulated over the decades and in creating their own worlds with them. For me, Dinovember is a chance to re-capture some of that whimsy which which I grew up, and to share it with the little (and not-so-little) ones in my life.

4 - tall enough to reach baking sodaBrachiosaurus is the only one tall enough to measure the baking soda

This year, after way too much Halloween candy, it seems like the dinosaurs in my home wanted to get off on the right foot (paw?) by making buttermilk biscuits from scratch from a recipe I’d posted on this website a few years ago. They seemed to have learned something from when I was in culinary school because they not only prepared a mise en place before getting started, they also cleaned up after themselves.

5 - work together to mix dry ingredientsVelociraptor and Dilophosaurus mix together the dry ingredients

The biscuit recipe is one that I’ve used before from Thibeault’s Table.  I’ve made these biscuits dozens of times.  They are also perfect to bake up a big batch and to freeze to keep on hand.  As I had leftover buttermilk from a pie that I’d made from The Up South Cookbook for #PiePartyICE hanging out in the fridge, I’m really glad that the dinosaurs saw fit to use it up making biscuits for Sunday brunch.

6 - Stegosaurus jumps in to helpStegosaurus decides to help out mixing the butter into the flour

This biscuit recipe in a slightly different format, adding chives, sharp cheddar cheese, a bit of dry mustard, and a kick of cayenne pepper, are the ideal appetizer to bring to holiday party, which I’ve done several times.  They are the basis for my Ham Biscuits that I’ve made for many gatherings and which are always a huge hit.  I’m wondering if I can convince the dinosaurs to make another batch!

7 - Makes a well for the liquidAnkylosaurus makes a well for the liquid

8 - Brachiosaurus pours in the buttermilkBrachiosaurus wonders if it would be rude to bathe in the buttermilk

9 - Cut out the biscuitsIf we all work together, this will go much faster!

10 - Ready for the ovenT-Rex asks if they should each mark their biscuits before they are baked

11 - Stegosaurus & Brachiosaurus confer on clean-upStegosaurus and Apatosaurus confer on how to clean up the biscuit-making mess

12 - Dinosaurs clean the dishesEveryone chips in to lend a hand with washing the dishes

13 - Hot biscuits from the ovenIt’s almost too much to have to wait for the biscuits to cool

14 - what to spread on the biscuitsButter, jam, honey or everything?  The dinosaurs are divided on what to put on the biscuits

Post15 - everyone gets their favoriteFinally, a decision is reached to put honey on one half and jam on the other

Buon appetito!

Cookies for Kids Cancer #50States4Kids

Baking CookiesBaking cookies as a study break in college

Happy September!  Aside from being a back-to-school month (well, for those who didn’t start school in August, anyway), it is also a sort of turn-over-a-new-leaf month and a let’s-start-afresh month with various projects.  It’s also a wonderful month, now that we’re heading into cooler weather, to whip up a batch of homemade cookies.  Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is encouraging everyone to do just that to call awareness to and raise funds to fight childhood cancers.

Peanut Butter CrisscrossesPeanut-Butter Crisscrosses – a childhood favorite of mine

I’ve made (and eaten) cookies for most of my life, with my mother leading the charge as an avid baker.  I think one of my earliest cooking memories is of coming home from school and seeing my mom cutting out cookies with one of my younger siblings.  It was probably not until I was about 10 or so years old that I even ate my first store-bought cookie.  When she was still able, we re-created that same memory with a couple of my nieces, even using the same rolling pin that I had used as a child, one that belonged to my mother’s mother, and possibly even to her grandmother.  Cookies are really a family favorite, as my brother mentions in C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me…,” his story about secretly consuming Girl Scout cookies as a child.

White Chocolate-Cranberry-Macadamia Nut cookiesWhite Chocolate-Cranberry-Macademia Nut Cookies from Cookies For Kids’ Cancer cookie swap

Cookies have a more personal connection for me, however, in this case.  As I mentioned a few years ago, when I took part in a cookie swap and fund raiser for this organization, this is a cause that is very close to home for me.  One of my little nephews was diagnosed with a form of leukemia when he was just a little over three years old.  For the past three-plus years, he’s been waging a rocky battle against the disease.  He’s had allergic reactions to the medications and to some of the chemotherapy, even spending his most recent birthday in the hospital due to one.  I jump every time my sister calls me, hoping that it is not news I am dreading to hear.  At this point, he’s in his last stages of treatment, and, then, we get to hang on for a few years, keeping our fingers crossed that he says in remission.  We will be holding our breath that he beats this disease for good.

Millionaires Shortbread squareMillionaire’s Shortbread – another cookie swap contribution

There’s several brands who are supporting this project, too, helping to spread the word about Childhood Cancer Awareness MonthCookies for Kids’ Cancer is hoping that everyone can join forces to cost cookie swaps or to send cookies to family and friends as a way of raising money for and showing support for increased funding for research and remedies for the cancers that take the lives of children each year.  Some of these treatments have definitely helped my nephew in his battle, but we all know that there’s still a ways to go.  If you can, I encourage you to help out in any way you can with this initiative during the month of September.  Here’s a few more links (aside from those in the photos above) to some of the cookie recipes on this website to give you a few ideas for what to make.

Almond Butter SticksAlmond Butter Sticks – a family favorite

Chocolate Chocolate Chip CookiesChocolate Cookies with Chocolate Chunks – for your chocoholic friends

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with White Chocolate & PeppermintChocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint and White Chocolate Drizzle – o.k., these are kinda fancy, but I did make them for last year’s holiday cookie swap

Chocolate-chip cookies with Sea SaltChocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt – one of my friend’s favorite of all the cookies that I make
ShortbreadClassic English Shortbread – perfect for teatime or anytime (especially, if you can find some late-season strawberries)
Magic Cookie BarsMagic Cookie Bars (aka Seven Layer Bars) – a favorite of one of my ex-bosses and perfect for potlucks and picnics

Parmesan Shorbread RoundsParmesan Shortbread Rounds – Who says that all cookies have to be sweet?  These are perfect for your next cocktail or dinner party.

Buon appetito!

Mini Apricota Crostata (Crostatini)

Crostate on plateCrostate on Plate

Even though I’ve cooked most of my life and have made many different dishes for varied meals and occasions, putting food together for a party for a friend to mark a special event in his or her life is still a special treat.  I always want everything to turn out perfect, even more perfectly than when I make things for work.  Today was one of those days.  Because the friend for whom this party was happening is someone I know from my time living in Italy, these Mini Apricot Crostate (Crostatini in Italian) seemed like the perfect thing to bring to it.

Apricot JamApricot Jam

They are a modified version of this larger Apricot Crostata with Almonds merged with this Mixed Berry Crostata.  The dough comes from the latter recipe, as does the technique for building the lattice top.  The apricot jam filling is taken from the former recipe.  Because these are really just tiny bites, I didn’t sprinkle the slivered almonds on top of them.  Instead, I ground up the almonds in the food processor and incorporated them into the dough to give it that lift.

Cutting out dough circlesCutting out dough circles

To get the shape of these crostatini, I borrowed a few techniques from working the Pastry Station during my culinary school days.  This dough, in particular, is more sugar and butter-based, which makes it fragile and even a bit temperamental to work with, especially with it being as humid as it has been these past few days.  One way around this is to roll the dough out between layers of parchment paper to about 2-3 cm in width, and then place it in the freezer for a few minutes (around 5-10).  Once it is chilled, it is easier to punch out circles for the base of the tart and then, working quickly, to place those circles into the baking pan.

Dough base in panDough base in pan

This mini tart pan is by Nordic Ware.  I had it for many years before I figured how to make it work for making bite-sized desserts, which I need to do for catering gigs.  By taking the step of rolling out the dough and cutting the circles while the dough is chilled, you’ll have more consistently-sized crostatini.  For this project, I used a 2-inch round cutter.

Bases filled with jamBases filled with jam

The uncooked bases are filled with the Apricot Jam.  It just takes about a tablespoon of it to fill the whole crostatino.  One trick is that the jam should not be too liquidy, which will just soak the base and make it more difficult for the base to cook through.

Dough in LatticeA piece of the lattice

Working with the dough to make the lattice top is also a bit tricky and labor-intensive.  It is helpful if the dough is bit chilled and if there’s minimal humidity in the air.  The lattice pieces are rolled out into long, thin strips and then layered on top of the jam to make the top to the crostatini.

Close up of prepped crostataPrepped crostatino

If the lattice breaks, you can try to stick the pieces back together or just leave them for a more rustic look.  This step is a bit fiddly, but as you can see from the first photo, the results are quite pretty and really do honor the spirit of a full-sized crostata.

Cooked crostataBaked crostatini

This level of detail was also admired by the my friend and the other guests at the party.  When plated up, they really did mimic the look and feel (and taste) of the larger-sized version.  This was an experiment to see if I actually could replicate this Italian snack-time treat.  I’m very happy with the results and looking forward to another opportunity to make these.

Buon appetito!

#Snowday Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate-chip cookies with Sea SaltSea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I heard that today was the first official snow day of 2014, I decided that it should also be the first SnowBakeDay of the new year.  Fortunately, I had just enough supplies on hand to make a batch of Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies.  These should probably be called “Kim E’s Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies,” because I first developed this recipe for a former co-worker of mine, as chocolate chip cookies are his favorites.  He loves the taste of the deep dark chocolate combined with the crisp, toffee-flavored edges and that pop that the sea salt gives to the cookies, as it dances on the tongue, highlighting even more of the richness of the chocolate along with the soft, buttery interior.

Chopped chocolateChopped Chocolate

They were well-received when I brought them to an appointment I had this afternoon at the International Culinary Center. The staff had trudged in through the snow and the frigid temperatures to get things up and running for the students.  It was a bit of a risk to serve them to folks who work at a culinary school, but as I wasn’t a pastry grad, I thought I could take that chance!  These are a wonderful treat to make anytime, not just on snow days, so they are a great addition to your catalogue of cookie recipes.

IngredientsIngredients

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep time:  about an hour, including baking time

Serving size:  yields 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter (I used Kerrygold), softened

1/4 c., plus 1 Tbsp. White Sugar

1/4 c., plus 1 Tbsp. Light Brown Sugar

2 Tbsp. Dark Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 c. All-purpose Flour

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1.5 oz. 70% Cocoa Solids Chocolate Bar, chopped

Sea Salt (like Maldon) for finishing

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine butter and sugars in mixing bowl until smooth.  I am very low-tech about making cookies, preferring to mix everything by hand, using a wooden spoon.  Then, mix in one egg and the vanilla extract and stir until the batter is light and fluffy.

Wet Ingredients Mixed TogetherWet ingredients mixed together

Mix together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir to combine them thoroughly.  Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Chocolate chips mixed inWet and dry ingredients mixed with chocolate chunks

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray.  Scoop teaspoonfuls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet.  I actually purchased a small ice cream scoop to try to keep the amount of dough I was baking per cookie consistent.  When I made the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint and White Chocolate Drizzle for the NYC food bloggers holiday cookie swap, I found that it helped me to create fairly uniformly-sized cookies. 

Scooping cookies on trayScooping out cookie dough

Then, sprinkle the sea salt on top of the cookies, after they are on the tray.  I actually crumble the sea salt a bit, so that there aren’t large chunks of salt on the finished cookies.  Bake them for 5 minutes, turn the tray around and bake them for 5 minutes more, until they are, as we would say in the prep kitchen, “GBD” (Golden Brown and Delicious).  Remove them from the baking sheet to a cooling rack.  Try to keep from eating too many of these, as you decide with whom you are going to share them.

Cooling cookiesCooling cookies (spatula courtesy Kim E & Rich)

Buon appetito!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint and White Chocolate Drizzle

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with White Chocolate & PeppermintChocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint and White Chocolate Drizzle

This past Saturday, I took a few hours out of the craziness that is the holiday season working catering dinners and parties in the evening and helping out in a prep kitchen during the daytime to join fellow bakers at Cookie Swap NYC, put together by the wonderful Lillian Huang of Sweets by Sillianah. The proceeds from the event tickets went to City Harvest, so we were able to enjoy our sweets and to feed others as well.  As in past years, bloggers and bakers gathered together to exchange season’s greetings and to sample each others’ culinary creations.  I’ve brought Millionaire’s Shortbread and White Chocolate-Cranberry-Macadamia Nut Cookies to share.  This year, I decided to take a crack at making a chocolate-peppermint combination.

Candy Cane dustCandy cane dust

I took a recipe that I’ve been fiddling around with for chocolate-chocolate chip cookies with white chocolate chunks and converted it to include a more seasonal flavor profile.  The tricky part was that I wanted to get just enough peppermint infusion to come through without going overboard and having it become too overwhelming.  A couple of months ago in the prep kitchen, the pastry chef was working on some holiday peppermint meringues.  The aroma that permeated the kitchen as they were baking was almost suffocating.  I think we were on the fence as to whether we felt like we were in a toothpaste commercial or drowning in essence of breathmint.

Sprinkling candy cane dustSprinkling on candy cane dust

So, when I was mulling over how to avoid that same overly-aromatic fate for my Cookie Swap contribution, I asked the pastry chef what she thought.  Her advice was to take the chocolate chunks, melt them down, add peppermint extract to them, re-harden the chocolate, and then break it up and add the peppermint-infused chocolate pieces to the cookie dough.  I opted for the easy route and decided to add peppermint extract to the dough and to top it with crushed candy cane, hoping that I’d get enough of the mint flavor for the cookies to be festive but also keep the deep, rich chocolatey component.  I think this recipe succeeds in doing just that, especially given the fact that when I dropped off the leftovers with the guys at the front desk in my building, they actually called me to tell me how much they liked them (which they had never done before).

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint and White Chocolate Drizzle

Serving size: Makes 4 dozen 2- to 3-inch diameter cookies
Prep time: about 1 1/2 hours, including baking and cooling time

Ingredients:

12 T Unsalted Butter, softened
1/4 c. Unrefined Cane Sugar
1/4 c. Light Brown Sugar
1/4 c. Dark Brown Sugar
1 large Egg
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Peppermint Extract
1 c. Flour
1/2 c. Droste Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 c. Semi-sweet Chocolate pieces
1 c. White Chocolate pieces
Crushed peppermint candy canes (about 2 whole candy canes’ worth)

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix butter and sugars together until they are completely combined. Add the egg and extracts and stir to incorporate.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter, egg, sugar mixture. Stir until there are no traces of the dry ingredients. Mix in the semi-sweet chocolate pieces.

Chocolate chunks mixed into batterDough all mixed together

Bake the cookies for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and cook them for 5 minutes more. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack.  While the cookies are cooling, crush the candy canes by running them through a food processor until they become a fine red and white dust (see photo above).

White chocolate drizzleWhite chocolate drizzled on cookies

Melt white chocolate pieces over a double boiler until smooth. Place the melted chocolate in a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag and make a cut at the corner of the bag to create a small opening. Drizzle the chocolate in random patterns over the baked cookies.  Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the chocolate cookies. Allow the white chocolate to harden before serving them, if you can resist the temptation to bite into one right away!

Cookies finished w candy caneCookies finished with candy cane dust

Buon appetito!