Wannabe Martha

Still trying to figure out which Martha

I’m on vacation

I’m really on vacation. Haven’t taken one in 10 years. No email. No financials. No reports. Just a lot of flour and butter and cinnamon and sugar. What a perfect day!

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Advent Baking Week 2 – Orange Ricotta Cookies with Dark Chocolate (updated)

People.  If you don’t bake any other cookie this year, bake THIS one from Two Peas & Their Pod (a favorite place of mine to hang out). I’m a bit at a loss for words to describe them.  They’re puffy and moist and cakey and a little dense (but not heavy).  They’re fragrant with orange zest.  Not too sweet.  Coated in an orange juice glaze.  Drizzled with dark chocolate (I used the Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips – melted them in a Ziploc bag which I know you’re not supposed to do, then snipped the corner and liberally drizzled the chocolate over them). Angharad took some into work and came home with an empty tray and a bunch of requests for the recipe; Iseult announced that her friends devoured hers and would I please make more.  You bet I will. This is one of those recipes that I can see myself making over and over again and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. For those wondering why I’m not posting the actual recipe here, well, I thought I’d use this time to steer folks over to some of the sites I love.  Hopefully y’all will discover other delicious recipes that have your family and friends clamoring for more.

Edited to add a couple notes.

  • I used a large naval orange and a very fine microplane to zest it; ended up with about 1Tbsp. orange zest.
  • I used my OXO Good Grips Medium (1.5 Tbsp.) cookie scoop and they came out perfectly.
  • Bake these on parchment paper for a couple reasons – (1) they don’t stick and (2) you can slide the cookies on their sheet of parchment onto cooling racks and let them finish cooling there. But that’s not all. Just glaze them while they’re still on the parchment and you’ll have a lot less mess.
  • Finally – I needed a bit more orange glaze than the recipe called for and made up a little extra (1 Tbsp orange juice to 1/2 cup powdered sugar)Enjoy!

    The photo just does not do them justice. They’re one of the best things I have ever baked

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Advent Baking-Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies

Look what I made the other night – they’re all over the web thanks to the publication of THIS COOKBOOK (Dear Santa, please leave this in my stocking even though I’m trying to cull the cookbooks).

So, what’s with the “Advent Baking” thing? Well, I was thinking about all the tasty cookie recipes that keep hitting my FB feed and how I wanted to make them and then it came to me – make a new cookie each week and ship them off to folks who like getting cookies. Nifty, right?.

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Yummy Delicious Red-Velvety Goodness

 

OK, so about the cookies. They’re super easy, and they have that distinctive “red velvet” taste – you know the one: slightly chocolaty but with that particular flavor that can only come from an insane amount of artificial food coloring? Yep – that taste. I actually grabbed the recipe from Chef in Training (a terrific site – do check it out) and the only teeeensy weeeeensy adjustment I made (isn’t there always one with me?) was to add 1 tsp. vanilla extract.

One other thing is the sheer versatility of these cookies.  Let’s say you’re looking for a St. Patrick’s Day sweet – you can make them into Green Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies; maybe you’re thinking something pompous – go for Purple (it’s kind of the royal color, right?); Feeling Smurfy?  Do Blue.  The possibilities are endless (except I don’t think you could pull off yellow or orange or the like – the albeit small amount of cocoa powder in them would make for a mud-like color and that’s just nasty.

I’ll be posting another cookie next week, hopefully earlier.  In the meantime, take a break and whip up a batch of these lovelies. They’ll be perfect for your tree-trimming activities.

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Saturday Morning Baking – Blueberry Muffins

Muffins are a perfect food. They’re quick, easy to make, generally cheap.

Except when they’re not.

I get frustrated when they’re more like cupcakes. Using every bowl in your house? Multiple kitchen appliances? 11 individual steps? All kinds of strange and esoteric ingredients? Two hours of your life?

Le Sigh.

The muffin should be a friendly food. It’s a Quick Bread (did you notice the word “quick” there?); a whip-up-spur-of-the-moment food; you shouldn’t have to schedule your day around them – save that for yeasted breads.

Let Muffins Be Muffins, people! (my new rallying cry)

There’s nothing fancy here – a simple muffin batter is elevated by mashing some of the berries and leaving the rest whole. A light, slightly cinnamon-y streusel is sprinkled over the top. 15 minutes to whip up, 20 in the oven. You won’t need to run out to some specialty market for ingredients. And you won’t have Mt. Dishmore in your sink. And you won’t need to take a powder to recover from the baking process.
By the time these babies are out of the oven, you’ve cleaned up the kitchen and the coffee is ready.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Heat the oven to 400˚F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners (or grease them well).

Make the streusel – in a small bowl, combine until crumbly and then set aside:
• ⅓ cup sugar
• ⅓ cup flour
• ¼ tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. cinnamon
• 3 Tbsp. butter

Make the muffins – In a large mixing bowl, whisk together:
• ¾ cup whole milk
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a smaller bowl, combine

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 1 Tbsp. baking powder
• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 ½ cups blueberries (mash ½ cup of blueberries & leave 1 cup whole)

Add the dry ingredients to the milk & egg mixture and gently combine. Fold in the blueberries. Don’t over mix – this is a quick bread recipe and you don’t want tough muffins.

Fill the muffin cups and sprinkle the streusel over them (be generous).

If you like, you can sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar over the streusel. It’s not necessary, but we like it.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the muffins spring back when lightly pressed. (I always check after 15 minutes because my oven tends to be disagreeable if I don’t pay it enough attention).

Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.

Obligatory note of caution – the fruit is really hot when these come out of the oven. Of course, you CAN eat them immediately, but I’m not responsible for any blistering that may result from lack of will-power (and the smell of these beauties WILL test that will-power)

Makes 12.

Note – these work equally well with fresh or frozen berries. You don’t want to defrost your berries (well, you need to let the ½ cup of berries that you’re going to mash soften a bit. I made these with frozen and nuked the ½ cup for about 20 seconds just until they got soft enough to mash – easy peasey)

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No, they don’t look perfect. They’re Muffins. They should have that imperfect, rustic look.

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Happy Birthday to Her Grace, Anna, Duchess of Bedford

Why are we wishing her happy birthday?  And, isn’t she, uh, deceased?

We’re celebrating because thanks to her, the world has Afternoon Tea.

I love tea (afternoon or otherwise).  My favorite would have to be Darjeeling (just thinking about it makes me happy)

My least favorite is a toss up between the green stuff (any of the green stuff) and Earl Gray (that oil of bergamot makes me queasy).

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This is my absolute favorite teapot (mostly because the spout never drips)

I realize that Afternoon Tea is not just the brew itself – but the whole little ritual – boiling water; loose leaves; tea pot; something tasty to nibble on.  A good book.  The English really do have something going there with this little daily timeout – and we would not be worse off for indulging a little ourselves (and if that means have a PB&J sandwich with some chocolate milk, well who am I to judge?).

(If I don’t post again it’s because my (long-deceased) Irish great-grandmother just flung some lightening bolt at me – she had English-issues, but I’m a more evolved creature)

Breton Butter Cake

This isn’t my pic, but that’s exactly what it looks like. Are you drooling yet?

This is my favorite accompaniment to a pot of tea – Breton Buttercake. What????? Not shortbread???? Maevey, you heretic!!!

Well, hold on to you shorts – I DO love shortbread (posted a couple recipes a while back) – but this delightful pastry is like a cross between shortbread and pound cake. It’s totally addictive. Make one yourself and see if you don’t agree.

Totally unrelated aside….my mother was probably the best woman I have ever known (I’ll never come close to being her equal).  She loved my Dad and my brothers and I with great devotion.  But.  If she got angry with you, you pretty much prayed for death.  How did you know you were in deep poop?  She’d announce that she needed “to take tea with you”.  Sounds innocuous, doesn’t it?  UH – NOT AT ALL.  Even our friends quaked at the uttering of those words.  I’m a grown woman, she’s deceased, and I still can break out in a cold sweat thinking about it.  Oh yeah – and she never even laid so much as a finger on us – and we knew she wouldn’t – and still, the prospect of having our mother take tea with us….OK, I’m going to have a little sip of something restorative and head back to work – if I can get my hands to stop shaking.

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How I take a short tea break

[Edited quite after the fact to add:  I love this little teapot & cup set which I bought from Pottery Barn when I was first married; the Waterford sugar & creamer set was a wedding gift and the tray was my mothers.  The H worked terribly long hours (chefs do, ya  know) and I would have these long Northeast winter afternoons by myself.  Later I bought larger teapots (I collected them) but this little set still fills me with delight when I use it.  I encourage every lady to put a little tea set together for herself (although it’s nice to have enough to share with your gentleman, if he is so inclined) and try to carve out a few minutes now and again for a little refined relaxation.]

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Happy National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!!!

I have tons of recipes for chocolate chip cookies, but because I love you all, I’m sharing my favorite recipe with you.

These are eye-ball-rollingly-delicious. I almost always make a double batch (because it’s actually as easy as making a single batch) and then freeze the balls of raw cookie dough. That way, you can pop a couple in the oven when you need some deliciousness and you won’t feel compelled to eat the many dozen that the recipe actually makes. If that doesn’t prove I have your waistline in mind, I don’t know what will.

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups salted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups (or 1 12-oz pkg) semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips
Heat oven to 350˚F.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Mix butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Reduce speed to low. Beat, gradually adding flour mixture, until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks/chips.
Drop dough by ¼-cupfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets.
Makes 26 jumbo cookies

Tip: Scoops work well for dispensing cookie dough and making sure they’re all the same size.

Tip: For 2 ½ inch cookies, drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown – yields @ 4 dozen cookies.

To freeze uncooked dough: line baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough onto baking sheets, just so they balls of dough aren’t touching. Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer. Once the cookie dough balls are completely frozen, place in plastic freezer bags. To cook frozen dough, place on (parchment-lined) cookie sheets and bake at 375˚F for 10-14 minutes, checking after 10 minutes.

I truly wish this recipe was my own creation, but it’s not. I pulled it off the inside of a box of Land O’Lakes ™ butter. Here’s the link to the recipe on their site (because one must give credit where credit is due, dontcha know.)

 

(And, no, the Land O’Lakes ™ people didn’t pay me to talk about their butter or their recipe)

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Tuesday Night Baking – Spreads Cookies

I first heard about these “Spreads” from the Food Librarian’s site (if you’re not a regular visitor there, you need to be) and they really appealed to me. They’re originally from the Pioneer Woman (over at Tasty Kitchen) and she tells how when she was a little girl her brother called them “spreads” because you spread the cookie dough onto a baking sheet and then you spread on the melted chocolate chips. What they need to be called is “That was just too easy – What’s the Catch?” Cookies.

Iseult and friends had a little get together last night and I made this for them – super easy and gobbled up so quick (I blinked and suddenly there were only crumbs left on the plate – teenage girls can put some serious food away).

The idea truly is genius – the mixed-by-hand dough has the buttery-brown-sugary taste of the best chocolate chip cookies; you spread it on an ungreased baking sheet; once it’s baked, you throw chocolate chips on it and return to the oven for a couple minutes.  Then you spread on the chocolate chips. Then the fun starts.  Add teddy grahams and mini marshmallows; add M&M ™ or finely chopped nuts. Maybe a mixture of PB chips. I’m going to make these again and substitute some cocoa powder for the flour and use PB chips.

Anyhoo….here’s the recipe and make sure to check out more yumminess at the Food Librarian and Tasty Kitchen.

• 1 cup light brown sugar
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature (I used salted – also, unlike the original recipe I did use butter instead of margarine, because I never have margarine in the house)
• 1 whole egg
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 8oz chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

With a wooden spoon or heavy-duty spatula, mix the brown sugar and butter together until creamy then add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla and salt; then add the flour and mix the whole thing.

At this point, someone should offer to be the sacrificial penguin and taste the dough, fearless in the face of raw egg (everybody in my house fights for the right to brave the risk of salmonella poisoning just to have that heavenly mouthful of raw cookie dough). I don’t actually need to put it in writing that that you should exercise your own good judgment regarding the consumption of raw eggs, do I?

Spread the dough onto a cookie-sheet to a thickness of about ¼ – ½ inch

Bake the cookie for 15 to 20 minutes or until it’s ever-so-slightly browned.

Pull the cookie out of the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the surface. Return to the oven for one minute to soften the chips; then remove and spread the melty chips all over the surface of the cookie. Cut into squares and…..TA DA!!! That’s It!

For a fun kid thing; divide the dough so that each child has a cookie to spread and decorate.

Go Crazy and Happy Baking!

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There were a lot more than this; I had to fight just to get a picture of these few that were left.

 

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Tuesday Night Baking

Iseult is studying for a test tomorrow. What’s a nice Mama to do? Uh, bake a skillet chocolate chip cookie, that’s what. We love these and we’d love them even more if there was some vanilla ice cream in the house, but there isn’t, so we’ll have to make do with the cookie.

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You can find the recipe right here at the Tasty Kitchen Blog (warning – venturing into the Tasty Kitchen site is dangerous; it’s like falling down the rabbit hole and getting lost in Wonderland – you’ve been warned – proceed with caution).

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Happy National Apple Pie Day

I know some people are afraid to make pie crust.  That’s OK.  I used to be afraid of it, too.  And even though I’ve made hundreds of pies, I’m always reminded to be respectful of the dough – it has a will of its own and it’s not afraid to exert it.

So, what to do if you’re really not of a mind to pay deference to pastry?  Well, you can make this delicious Apple Shortbread Tart from the “Loaves and Fishes Cookbook” by Anna Pump.  I like making this in the summer, when the heat and humidity just add to the difficulties of rolling out pie crust.  Let’s face it, when its 90˚F outside, and you’re heating your oven to 375˚F – the kitchen is just not a suitable environment for dealing with something as pernickety as pie pastry.  It’s extremely versatile – you can use other fruit, vary the topping, etc.  It’s an all-around good recipe to have tucked away.  Plus you can have the entire thing done from start to finish in an hour –how’s that for last minute dessert?

For the Crust

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature, sliced into 8 Tablespoons
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp. heavy cream (you can use whole milk or half & half)

Heat the oven to 375˚F.

Make the crust by blending together the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the butter, egg yolk, and heavy cream; use your hands to create a crumbly mixture.  Press the dough into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

For the Filling/Topping

  • 7 medium apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Place the apples over the dough in a circular pattern.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until crumbly and sprinkle over the apples.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until the apples are soft when pricked with a knife.

So yummy warm with ice cream.  I often double the crumb topping and have also used apple crisp (oat-meal based) crumbs.  I’ve made this with pears, peaches and plums.  In fact, I might need to bake one today .

 

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I Want to Bake This…Desperately

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Photo Credit – Cakeletsanddoilies Blog – It’s her pic; I haven’t made it yet

So, I was idling around Pinterest this morning and came across a scrumptious-sounding recipe for a Lemon, Ricotta & Almond Flourless Cake.  This appeals on many levels:

A) I’m trying to restrict wheat based foods to see if the nearly insatiable craving subside (jury’s out still)

B) It’s made with Lemons and I lovelovelovelove all things lemon – if only I had some Meyer lemons (Le Sigh)

C) It’s made with almond meal (which I like and the girls don’t).

I foresee some challenges – namely, the blogger is Australian and I’m not sure that we’re all talking about the same thing.  I think she calls for the cake to be baked in a convection oven, which I don’t have, so will need to account for that; my oven does not have dual temp settings (Celsius/Fahrenheit), so need to fiddle around here as well.  I also should not assume that all ingredients are equal – as in size of eggs, granularity of sugar, etc.  This should make for a fun exercise – hope to bake it this weekend and then post my success/lack thereof.

Stay tuned!

 

 

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