Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers': Doughnuts!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

While my doughnuts may look nice they didn't turn out quite as I had expected.  I adapted Nancy Silverton's recipe and my dough came out very runny.  I tried to salvage the recipe by putting the dough in the fridge for a bit, but that did not work as well as I had hoped.  Instead of making a typical doughnut I then decided maybe I could still use the dough to make doughnut holes.  While I was successful with the holes I think I may have left them in the oil for too long as they came out a bit darker than planned.  When I took a bite, the cake in the middle tasted great, but the outside was a little too crunchy for a doughnut.  I think I'll name these my chocolate doughnut fritters!

Instead of leaving you with my adapted recipe I will give you the exact recipe for Nancy Silverton's Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts.  And I'll also say that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  Look out for my next batch of doughnuts sometime in the near future!  ;)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Caramel Cookies

Who ever said dessert had to be bad for your body?  Well these caramel cookies prove that person wrong!  The cookies are super tasty, light and chewy, and couldn't be any simpler to make.  With few ingredients and minimal steps you can whip up a batch in a flash!  And the best part is you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying every bite!

I usually have trouble rolling cookie dough into a log, so my cookies turned out more like an oblong than a perfect circle... but I think it gives them character. ;)

Caramel Cookies
taken from Weight Watchers
(1 PointsPlus per serving)


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda


Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly.

Scrape dough out of bowl and onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll dough into a log, about 2 1/2-inches wide; completely wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 20 minutes or up to overnight.

Cut dough into 1/8-inch-thick slices and arrange on several large ungreased cookies sheets about 1- to 1 1/2-inches apart. Bake until lightly browned around edges, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for about 1 minute and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields 1 cookie per serving. (1 PointsPlus per serving)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies


Back in high school I remember my mother trying out a fat free/sugar free cheesecake recipe she had found.  That was the first time I had ever tasted cheesecake, so to be honest, I remember thinking it wasn't half bad - keep in mind I had nothing to compare it to!  Then The Cheesecake Factory came to town and with one simple taste of their full fat/full sugar worth every calorie and gram of fat cheesecake, my mind was changed forever!

You must be careful with this recipe because the individual size cheesecake cookies are small enough to keep popping in your mouth without realizing how many you have had!  Pressing the graham cracker crumbs into the pans was a bit tedious and I had trouble making the crumbs stick together (I may try adding more butter next time), but the cookies were definitely worth the effort.  The combination of the soft cheesecake batter with a little crunch of the graham cracker crust and then the saltiness of the snickers made these cookies seriously addicting.  I made 12 large cookies using a muffin top pan and about 24 smaller cookies using a mini muffin pan.  The mini muffin pan may cook for a bit less than the recipe calls for, so just make sure to check the oven around 15-18 minutes of baking.

Snickers Caramel Cheesecake Cookies
adapted from Picky Palate 


2 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp sugar
2 cups chopped Snickers Bars
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp caramel sauce (plus more for garnish)
Whipped Cream (for garnish) *optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the chopped Snickers Bars into a bowl and set aside for later.  Place the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter into a mixing bowl to combine.  Place a couple of spoonfuls of crumbs into each muffin top tin (mini muffin tin) and press down and up the sides a bit.  Bake for 5 minutes or until just browned.  Remove from the oven.

In a stand or electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add in the eggs and vanilla until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the caramel sauce until well combined.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the cheesecake mixture over each baked crust then top evenly with the chopped Snickers Bars.  Bake for 23-26 minutes or until cheesecake edges are just starting to brown and the centers are nearly set.  Remove and let cool completely. While still warm, loosen all of the edges with a plastic knife to make for easier removal from pan.  Refrigerate once cooled then top with caramel sauce and whipped cream to serve.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Adventures in San Francisco

I spent the past weekend in San Francisco exploring everything the wonderful city has to offer.  Food exploration was not the only thing on my to-do list, but it certainly competed for the top slots.  First up was a recommendation by my favorite baking buddy who emphasized that Tartine Bakery & Cafe was an absolute must.  This small cafe located in the Mission District of San Francisco had a line out the door...always a good thing when it comes to bakeries.

I was tempted to order one of everything, but ended up with a frangipane croissant and a humboldt fog goat cheese pressed sandwich.  After snapping a few photographs I was asked by someone at the table next to me if I had a blog.  She said she had one as well and just finished taking pictures of her order.  It's good to know I'm not the only one documenting my bites!  Check out her post from Tartine at Cheetah is the New Black

While walking around downtown I stumbled upon several churros stands.  I wasn't sure these could top the dulce de leche filled churros I recently had in Miami, FL, so I opted to photograph and not taste.

I stopped to watch the mounds of sugar fall from a churro as an excited customer pulled one from the bunch.  The sugar blew up in the air and added to the sweet temptation I smelled the rest of the afternoon as the scent of the churros lingered throughout the streets.    

While watching the Blue Angels practice for their air show the following afternoon, I sought refuge from the crowds in a cute little shop near Fisherman's Wharf which offered frozen chocolate covered bananas and candy coated apples. 

The shop was so colorful and inspiring that I had to snap a few photographs.  I also came out of there with a few ideas for future recipes.

I ended my long walk along The Embarcadero in Ghirardelli Square where I happened upon a sweet little tea room called Crown & Crumpet.  It was such a beautiful sunny day, so I found a cozy spot outside overlooking the water and decided to relax a bit.

I ordered a peach crumpet tea and was told by my server that the scones were fresh out of the oven and absolutely delectable, so I received one apricot and one regular scone as well.  I could have done without the clotted cream, but the lemon curd and raspberry jam which came with the scones were unbelievable.  The lemon curd was perfectly tart and when mixed with the raspberry jam and then spread on the soft and warm buttery scone made for the perfect bite.

The following day, at the Ferry Building Marketplace on the corner of Market and The Embarcadero, I wandered through the building browsing through the different kiosks and restaurants.  I tasted chocolates and honey and different blends of olive oil and was eventually drawn to the miniature donuts made by Pebbles Donuts.  They feature all vegan ingredients and produce exquisite looking donuts which reminded me of my trip to the Doughnut Plant in NYC.

And now the weekend has come to an end as I make my way back home.  Hasta luego San Francisco. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No Knead Bread

Have you heard of the new TV station the Cooking Channel?  If you haven't, you must check it out immediately.  One of my favorite shows is Chuck's Day Off.   Chuck Hughes, the owner and chef of Garde Manger in Montreal, Canada has convinced me I need to go to Montreal sometime in the near future solely to check out his restaurant.  Anyone up for a trip to Montreal?

So I woke up on a weekend morning and figured I would check out the Cooking Channel before starting my school work.  While I watched Chuck make his famous No Knead Bread I thought to myself that because the recipe seemed so simple maybe I could sneak in a quick loaf before I began working on my paper.  The good angel on my shoulder convinced me I should start working, so I decided to save the bread for later.  Maybe this wasn't such a great idea because instead of focusing on my paper I was constantly brought back to the bread recipe.  I eventually gave in, set myself up in the kitchen, and made the dough.  To appease the good angel on my shoulder I did a little research while the dough rose and then continued once I popped the loaf pan in the oven.  Thank goodness for multitasking!

The smell of the sweet cinnamon as the bread baked was just delightful and it filled my entire apartment and probably the hallway as well.  I wonder what my neighbors thought!  The smell was even better once I took the bread out from the oven.  I attempted to wait 10 minutes before slicing, but it was just too tempting.  There is nothing better than a nice slice of warm fresh bread on a weekend morning!  I hope you enjoy. 

No Knead Bread
adapted from Chuck's Day Off

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
3 cups warm, but not hot water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 cups flour
2 1/2 to 3 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp coarse or kosher salt
½ tsp cinnamon
Raw sugar, for sprinkling
Herbs or spices *optional


(If you want to make only one loaf simply following the directions, but halve the ingredients.)

Mix together the yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl and allow to bubble up and foam.  Wait a few minutes until the yeast starts to work, and then add the vinegar and oil.  Add the flour cup by cup, stirring well after each addition.  Then add the whole wheat flour cup by cup stirring well after each addition and mix in the salt as well. The dough will still be a little bit wet and spongy.

Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a big spatula, spoon the dough out into 2 well-greased loaf pans. Using your fingers if needed, press the sides down, helping to create the perfect loaf shape. (Do not knead). With a knife, make 2 or 3 diagonal shallow incisions across the top of the loaves. Top with the raw sugar (or for a savory loaf use any herbs or spices).

Bake the loaves for about 50 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crusty on top, and sound hollow when tapped on the underside. Let sit, if you can wait, for at least 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

This moist bread keeps well for a few days if placed in a resealable plastic bag. The bread can also be frozen for many weeks.