Tag: baking

ice cream sandwich cookie #3: accidentally awesome honey cinnamon squares

honey cinnamon cookie squares 2

i’ve gotten a pretty quick schooling in american vs. british english since moving to london. trash = rubbish. bathroom = loo or toilet or ‘the ladies’. cell phone = mobile phone (had to make that conversion fast considering i run a business based on mobiles). and on the food side:  zucchini is courgette, arugula is rocket, eggplant is aubergine, cookie is biscuit, jello is jelly, and so on and so forth.

all this is a fun vocabulary game that i actually enjoy until the point that it MESSES WITH MY COOKIES. see, i went to the local grocer and purchased granulated sugar for my honey walnut cookies. because granulated sugar is granulated sugar, right? well, in fact, it’s not. what we in america bake with and call granulated sugar is called caster sugar in england. and what they call granulated sugar here in england are the massive boulder-like rocks that people stir into their coffee as sweetener.

i discovered this upon pouring a cup of allegedly granulated sugar into my honey walnut cookies and sticking a fingerful of batter in my mouth and finding it…crunchy. gritty. like someone had poured sand into my cookie dough. WTF england!?! i figured out the problem after googling around and finding this very helpful translation/glossary of US vs. UK kitchen terms.

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ice cream sandwich cookie #2: a lazy lemon rosemary cookie recipe

lemon rosemary ice cream sandwich cookies

the simple lemon rosemary cookie above was born out of pure laziness. thought process: what else is in the house besides the basic cookie ingredients?

1. potatoes.  meh…can do better.

2. pasta. not useful.

2. lemons! good.

3. ham. baaaad.

4. a plastic tray of plants masquerading as a ‘garden’ with oregano, basil, sage, rosemary and thyme. yes, perhaps we can do something with this.

the result? lemon rosemary cookies, most delicious in sandwich form with homemade vanilla ice cream from foodrambler.

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ice cream sandwich cookie #1: C is for cayenne pepper chocolate

chocolate cayenne pepper cookies

i think i may be possessed by a cookie demon. this cookie demon worms its way into my brain and convinces me that it’s a good idea to make a trio of ice cream sandwiches for dessert at rambling restaurant. i listen to this cookie demon and then i find myself experimentally baking 3 kinds of cookies for 3 kinds of ice cream sandwiches (each requiring 2 cookies)  for 19 diners last night. all of which, including screwups and overspicing and um-let-me-try-another-one-of-those-to-make-sure-it’s-good adds up to…almost 200 cookies baked in the last 4 days. damn you cookie demon!

luckily, i happen to like cookies (duh). if you don’t like cookies, you have your own demons.  i also enjoyed the excuse to play around with new recipes and have an automatic tester audience.  it did make me slightly nervous that these cookies were for paying customers and therefore needed to be really good. but most of all, i was very happy to have an automatic set of mouths to feed these cookies to. if i bake by myself,  there’s a possibility i will consume all the fruits of my labor and that’s never good. although let’s be honest – i definitely ate a lot of cookies this week.  so many cookies that at certain points i kind of wanted to toss my cookies.

sorry. that’s gross. but true.

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experiments in the kitchen: orange spice pecan shortbread cookies made with leftover egg yolks

orange nutmeg shortbread cookies

suppose you’ve made a delicious meringue. suppose you then have six egg yolks, tragically separated from their egg white counterparts, sitting forlornly on your kitchen counter and hoping not to be wasted. what to do?

the obvious answer:  you make cookies! i actually think that answer applies to many different scenarios, but maybe that’s just me. anyway, in a valiant attempt to save the extra egg yolks, i went for a little baking experimentation. i decided to throw together all the usual cookie suspects – butter, sugar, flour – and add the extra egg yolks and see what happened. a little poking around in the kitchen cupboards resulted in the addition of nutmeg and allspice for added flavor and an orange in the fridge was also requesting to be consumed and zested. and as soon as the cookie dough circles were baking, i noticed a big bag of pecans next to the oven so i pulled the cookies back out and pressed the halves on top for an additional flavor dimension and some visual excitement.
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ginger meringue + fresh whipped cream + perfectly ripe berries = the holy trinity that is pavlova

ginger meringue and berries

i’ve always been meh about meringues. the texture’s so dry and chalky and the taste so overly sweet that it felt like a dried out hardened marshmallow left to die a lonely death on the arid plains of some forbodingly airless planet. actually, now that i think about it, meringues resemble astronaut ice cream, but less awesome because they don’t come from the science museum or exist in space.

but… all of a sudden, the meringue has new meaning! i’ve always been a sucker for desserts involving fruit and cream and  i have recently become acquainted with the fabulous and apparently sort of retro dessert known as the pavlova.  oh, the pavlova – named for the ballerina anna pavlova and invented somewhere down under (both australia and new zealand claim ownership) – it elevates the lowly meringue to a shining pedestal for a magical combination of pure whipped cream and fresh ripe berries. no longer dry and chalky, the cream adds a light and airy feeling to offset the brittle meringue and the juices bursting forth from the fruit. no longer marshmallowy sweet, the unsugared cream and tartness of the berries temper the intense sweetness of the meringue to perfection.  hooray! the meringue has returned with a vengeance.

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experiments in the kitchen: zucchini, potato, and onion focaccia with fresh herbs

potato zucchini focaccia dough photo

i’m making focaccia for rambling restaurant tomorrow! i’m excited because it’s my first time doing any real cooking for our secret supper underground restaurant and because i’m currently in the midst of a focaccia obsession. i’m also a little nervous because it’s my first time doing any real cooking for our secret supper underground restaurant and it better be good because people are paying for it. yikes! i think it’ll be great, but bread can be temperamental and i really hope it doesn’t get angry with me tomorrow.

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experiments in the kitchen: a (non)recipe for roasted tomato focaccia with mixed garden herbs

roasted tomato focaccia

i am not particularly good at following directions when it comes to baking. often, i am also bad at planning ahead to make sure i have/purchase all the ingredients necessary to make whatever i initially planned. i used to think that both those failings were major liabilities on the kitchen front, but i’ve decided that they can actually result in unexpectedly useful instances of discovery and creativity.

take, for example, the above roasted tomato focaccia. i made my first rosemary and sea salt focaccia last week, following this recipe from a spoonful of sugar as closely as my inattentive measuring and poor gram-to-cup conversion skills would allow. the result was a tasty but certainly not exciting sort of flatbread, a little too thin and a little too dry to be considered a really stellar focaccia.

upon attempting my second round of focaccia,  i had the brief thought that maybe i should pay better attention to the recipe, which seemed to work really well for the author. then i decided to screw it and go the opposite route. instead, i’d just make the adjustments i deemed necessary – i wanted it to rise more, so i added more yeast. i wanted a more moist bread, so i added more olive oil. i also found this recipe for perfect cherry focaccia from a chef from the river cafe (their menu makes for some very enticing reading btw; i shall venture there once i actually start generating an income).  i really like what this writer, stevie parle, says in the recipe:

‘Its hard to give a recipe for bread, as it is in the hands of the baker, use this recipe as a guide.’

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storming the castle walls!

i ‘ve heard and generally agree with the statement that cooking is an art and baking is a science.  this phrase explains why i love baking (yay science experiments!) and why i am sometimes so ridiculously terrible at it (just like in a lab, chemical reactions require precise measurements. duh.)

there is certainly room for experimentation in baking, mostly when it comes to taste and what you might call  seasoning in cooking.  i like strong flavors and often feel that baking recipes are much too hesitant about adding intense tastes. so i often ignore measurements, and this has resulted in some exciting new flavor combinations.  quadrupling the spice in a chai spice muffin?  that’s why it’s called a SPICE muffin. it should be SPICY. dumping a tablespoon of cayenne pepper into my  toffee cookies? delicious and HOT LIKE FIRE. i love the look on people’s faces when the slow heat kicks in after the sweetness.

at other times, exactitude in baking is required. those tasty toffee cookies originated in my head, and on the stove, as soft fleur de sel caramels. after i insisted on ignoring all the recipes requiring a candy thermometer, they became rock-hard bits of toffee that luckily tasted absolutely delicious when baked into butter cookies.  the flouting of other baking processes are not so salveagable, and this is absolutely true in my experience when it comes to bread.

for me, making good bread equals magic. the baking process is very complex and exact and i am generally unable to follow long series of directions or wait patiently for things to rise.  you can’t just go all renegade in bread making and switch wheat flour for white flour or dump in some flax seed or eyeball the amount of yeast and expect your bread to turn out delicious. in fact, if you do all three of these things at once, your bread will turn out wholly inedible with a cardboard texture and a sour taste not even fit for breadcrumbs and you will have to shamefully scrape this bread directly into the trash can. so either follow directions when baking bread, or just walk down the street to tartine and experience the true magic that is their bread.

ANYWAY. irene, the reason i’m discussing all this baking in the first place is because of the best thing i brought back from italy, my silicone castle cake mold. i did some more baking experimentation to discover the best type of cake to form the castle materials, using mostly bittman’s ‘how to cook everything’ and a little bit of the interwebs. unfortunately, there’s no section or recipe for ‘the best cake to shape into a really fucking awesome castle,’ so i went with what i had. or to be exact, i went with what i didn’t have. no milk in the fridge meant finding a recipe with no milk, so i started with a sponge cake. sponge cakes are pretty much egg, sugar and flour. for a lighter cake, you can separate the yolks and fold them together, but i wanted something denser that wouldn’t fall apart in the mold. unfortunately, it turned out too dense  and eggy in a bread-pudding/french toast-y kind of way, so i decided to suck it up, eat me some turrets, and actually leave the house to buy ingredients.

upon purchasing milk and more eggs from our super amazing corner store (you know you live in san francisco when the bodega downstairs sells not only cage free eggs, but also biodegradable bags for the compost bin), i decided to make a bundt cake. bundt cakes are the main recipe i can think of where the outer form of the cake requires a certain consistency. lo and behold…the CASTLE CAKE.


oh, to be queen in the kingdom of bundt, where lemony goodness flows from the heavens and sugary sweet cakiness is your royal birthright. here is me storming the castle walls and DOMINATING the enemy. i shall not be stopped by boiling oil or catapults or malicious wizards throwing spells from your turrets. you will be mine…

castle attack

mmm. nothing like the sweet taste of conquering your enemy, especially when your enemy is drenched in lemon icing, lemon zest, and sugar sprinkles. the spoils of victory below:


family cupcake hotness


irene and lauren looking SAUCY. only second in attractiveness to a Duoseptuagenuple Stuf Oreo.


jasongraphix, you’re my hero.