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Entries in Baked Goods (53)


Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers

Colorado is known for its fickle weather.  Saturday I enjoyed a day at the swimming pool.  It was over 80 degrees outside and in one hour in the sun I managed to get a sunburn.  We had a picnic, including a few of these Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers.  

Today it snowed.  The spring flowers are in full bloom, the lilac bushes have buds, and the air smells of spring.  One can only hope that this April (snow) shower doesn't ruin it all.

Spring or winter, I think you'll enjoy these crackers.  At our March cooking club, three people mentioned how much they loved these and how easy they were to make.  What isn't to love about a cheesy cracker, particularly for a cocktail party or to bring to someone's house as a hostess gift?  Double the recipe and freeze a log so you'll always be able to pop a tray of crackers into the oven.  And while I made these with fresh rosemary, the original recipe calls for thyme and I think you could use any fresh herbs you have on hand.

Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers
Adapted slightly from the Barefoot Contessa

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary sprigs (stems removed)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper 

1.  Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the Parmesan, flour, salt, rosemary and pepper and combine.

2.  Dump the dough on a lightly floured board and roll into a 1 1/2-inch wide log (mine was approximately 12 inches long).  Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.*

3.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 22 minutes.

* I made a double recipe and froze one log to bake later.  I let the log thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then proceeded with step (3) above.  


Jim Lahey's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rob's grandmother spends her summers in Bridgehampton and it was on a visit to see her when I first had a Tate's Bake Shop chocolate chip cookie.  You can find Tate's cookies all over, but the original bake shop is located in Southampton... and like a Range Rover and a popped collar, these are a staple at picnics and beach outings in the Hamptons.

These cookies remind me of Tate's.  They are thin and crispy - I tried baking them two different ways (first immediately after mixing the dough and then after freezing the dough) and it didn't make the slightest bit of difference in the thickness of the cookies.  My go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe from Alexandra Cooks produces soft, chewy cookies and I love them; however, these cookies, particularly if you like your chocolate chip cookies on the crispy side, are delicious. 

Jim Lahey's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Active time = 20 minutes
Recipe from Jim Lahey via the March 2011 Bon Appétit 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and both sugars in a large bowl until well combined, 2–3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add dry ingredients, reduce speed to low, and mix just to blend. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2" apart. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature, or freeze cookies for up to 2 months.


Simple Sugar Cookies

A classic sugar cookie recipe is something every baker needs in their arsenal.  A great sugar cookie is versatile in that it can stand on its own as a tasty treat, but also can be decorated with frosting and sprinkles on the proper occasion.  

My mom is notorious for having baked goods all over the house at the holidays.  She tucks a covered plate of cookies or a bowl of her famous sweet and salty popcorn in some nook in my parent's house where you inevitably stumble upon it (see the photo below of the popcorn in a sneaky spot at Christmas).  Before you know it, you have eaten 10 cookies or many handfuls of said popcorn.  It is both a curse and a blessing.

This past Christmas, my mom's holiday cookies were particularly good so I requested the recipe.  Something about the cookies set them apart - they have a bit of a zing that I attribute to the freshly-ground nutmeg.  My grand plans for decorating sugar cookies at the holidays did not materialize, but when we hosted two football parties, I had a chance to put the recipe to use.  

My dear friend L sent me an ingenious Christmas present that made the cookies even better - an alphabet cookie press set from Fred & Friends.  I made "P" and "B" cookies for our Patiots vs. Broncos party (in addition to football helmet cookies) and I am already envisioning using these for bridal showers, baby showers, and any party where cookies are appropriate (when aren't they?).  I didn't decorate my cookies at all, but they'd look great with either the letter or the background filled in with a solid color or if you made them with colored dough.  And the cookie cutters are so simple to use - you use one side to cut the shape of the cookie and flip the cutter over to press the appropriate letter into the cookie.  The best part about this recipe, however, is that you don't *need* to do anything to these cookies - they are delicious on their own.

Simple Sugar Cookies
Yield = approximately 45 2-inch cookies

2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks), room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsps vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly-ground nutmeg

Make the dough
In a large bowl using a hand mixer set on medium speed or a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly add granulated sugar and beat until combined.  Add 2 eggs, the 2 egg yolks, and the vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Reduce speed to medium low, add the flour, salt, and nutmeg, and mix until combined.  Divide dough in half, shape each piece into a 6x4-inch rectangle, and wrap in plastic.  Chill for 4 to 24 hours.  At this stage, you can also freeze the cookie dough for future use - just defrost the dough in the refrigerator when you want to use it.

Bake the cookies
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut out shapes of choice and, using a spatula to transfer them, place cutouts 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Rotating pans halfway through, bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Gather up the dough scraps, form into a disk and rechill.  Repeat until all the dough is used.  Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Scones & Snow

Last Friday, I had a snow day.  I assumed my chances of having a snow day as an adult were non-existent given that I am not a teacher (and I can walk to work), but I was proved wrong.    

My office was closed because we had a 24-hour blizzard in Denver on Friday.  It was so lovely to work at our dining room table while the snow fell outside, to enjoy multiple cups of my new favorite tea (thanks, M), to watch our new family member, Forest, staring out the window, mesmerized by the fluttering flakes, and to run at dusk with Rob through freshly fallen, untouched snow drifts.  I find snow so peaceful.

With the office closed and the morning stretching ahead of me, I did the obvious - make scones!  I'd pinned a simple scone recipe from Saveur a few weeks ago and wanted to make a batch to serve with the countless jars of jam I have stored away.  My mom is a master jam maker but I find that it is impossible to consume at the rate at which she creates.  Because these scones have no added flavor (e.g., berries, nuts, extracts), they are the perfect vehicle for jams and jellies or to be made into a tasty breakfast sandwich.  I enjoyed mine with homemade elderberry jam.  The best thing about these scones (other than that they are delicious)?  They come together in one bowl in a matter of minutes.  Quick and limited dishes? Yes, please.

Yield = 16 scones
Recipe from Saveur  

5 cups flour
½ cup sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
2½ tsp. kosher salt
14 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
2 cups whole milk* 

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Add butter and rub into dry ingredients with your fingers until pea-size crumbles form or combine on low speed in a stand mixer.  Stir in milk until dough forms or use stand mixer to mix milk in only until dough forms.  

Transfer dough to a heavily floured work surface and pat into a 12″ × 12″, l″-thick square (in an ideal world, you'd make a square; however, I made more of a 9" x 11" rectangle-ish shape... close enough).  Cut the dough into 16 smaller squares.  Using a floured metal spatula, transfer squares to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake scones until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm with butter, jam, and clotted cream. 

Remember that you can always freeze the cut scones prior to baking and bake them off as needed (I did this with half the recipe).  Just separate the scones with a square of parchment paper and freeze in a Ziploc bag.

* I used whole milk because I had some available.  I have yet to try this recipe with skim milk or 2% milk, but when I do, I'll update this post as to how the scones turn out.  If anyone tries this with other milk, please let me know.


Vanilla Almond Shortbread Cookies

My parents are the champions of homemade gifts.  Each year, we are surprised by incredibly thoughtful and creative gifts that they make.  For example, the pencil holder my Mom made me after my first Ironman sits on my desk at work and I am reminded of her and the event every day.  My Dad made me a beautiful wooden cutting board last year that I use almost every day and have posted about before.  My craftiness is limited to making cards.... am I really their daughter?

This year I decided to tap into the one other "homemade" thing I can do - bake.  My Dad loves shortbread, so instead of buying him Walker's shortbread for his stocking, I made shortbread from my new favorite cookbook - The Grand Central Baking Book.  This Vanilla Almond Shortbread is simple and tastes just like a classic shortbread should taste.  It would be easy to roll out and cut into a cute shape (say, a heart for Valentine's Day?) and doesn't crumble easily so works well for gifting.

Vanilla Almond Shortbread Cookies
From The Grand Central Baking Book
Yield = 4 dozen cookies

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly ground almonds (not almond meal)
2/3 cup (2.75 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Measure the flour, confectioner's sugar, almonds, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine.

2.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. 

3.  Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add the vanilla and the dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough.

4.  Shape the dough into two logs.  To do this, first use a bench knife or sturdy spatula to divide the dough in half.  Place each half on a 12- to 14-inch length of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap.  Smooth and pat the dough into a rectangle by flattening the top and sides with your hands.  Then use the paper to help roll and shape the dough into logs 2 inches in diameter and about 10 inches long.  Twist the ends of the paper to seal the log, then refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 3 months).  If you are using previously frozen dough, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.

5.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

6.  Slice the cookies 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart, in 3 by 4 rows, on the prepared pans.  Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.  The cookies are ready when they begin to brown at the edges.

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