Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sugar Cookies...Just in time for the Holidays!

With Thanksgiving coming up, it reminds all of us the things we have in our lives that we are thankful for.  No matter how much loss a person experiences, there are always things in life that you can appreciate.  So, with this in mind, I am making sugar cookies with different colored vanilla buttercream frosting for my awesome coworkers.  They make coming to work every single day something that I actually look forward to (how many people can say that?).  But there is a twist to these cookies I am making for them....we are doing a cookie decorating contest with the winner receiving an awesome prize.  I found a recipe for Chewy Sugar Cookies that promise to be soft and, of course, delicious.  We shall see.....

Chewy Sugar Cookies
2 3/4 C. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 C. Butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 C. White Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 to 4 tbs. Buttermilk

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and baking powder) and set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the soften butter and sugar for 3 minutes with an electric mixer.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Next, gradually blend in the dry ingredients.  After this, add the buttermilk to moisten the dough until it is soft, not wet (I recommend 3 tbs. of buttermilk).

Take rounded tablespoons of dough into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  With your fingers, moisten the top of each cookie with the remaining buttermilk and slightly flatten the top of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, maybe a few minutes longer depending on how big you have made the cookies, until slightly golden around the edge.  Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to cool on a rack.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
3 C. Powdered Sugar
1 C. Butter (room temperature)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 to 2 tbs. Whipping Cream
Food coloring of choice (I am doing all of the primary colors so they can mix and match)

In a bowl, mix together sugar and butter with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended, and then beat for another 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and the cream and continue to beat on medium speed, adding more cream if needed for consistency.  Separate the frosting into different bowls and add food coloring to create all the different colors you want.

This was so much fun!  The winner of the competition was Shari!  She created a dragon cookie sculture:

I officially work with some of the most creative people ever.  We had so much fun decorating!  Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chocolate and Peanut there anything better?

My friend Becca gave me this amazing cook book recently, and I have been dying to try all of the recipes.  The cook book is made by the individuals who own Alice's Tea Cup here in New York City, and let's just say they know what they are doing.  There are so many amazing recipes, but I wanted to start off with just a simple cookie recipe.  I don't think there is anything better than chocolate and peanut butter together, and so when I came across the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, I knew we had a winner.  I brought all of my equipment over to my friend's apartment so that I could bake, and so the ladies (and gentleman) who came over for Family Night got a special treat!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 C. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 sticks Butter (room temperature)
1 C. White Sugar
1 C. Dark Brown Sugar (firmly packed)
2 Eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 C. Creamy Peanut Butter
2 C. Chocolate Chips (I used milk chocolate, but semi-sweet would be delicious too!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degree.  To start, you want to combine all of the dry ingredients.  In a bowl pour in the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Next comes the wet ingredients.  Use a mixer to cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl (this is the key to any good cookie, so make sure to cream these together for at least 3 minutes!).  Add the eggs, mixing them into the mixture one at a time, and then add the vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add in the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing as you go until everything is incorporated.  Add the peanut butter and mix until it is creamy.  Next, stir in the chocolate chips with a spoon.

Depending on how large you want to make the cookies will dictate the cook time.  I usually take some dough into my palm and create a ball that fits into my palm, and then flatten them out into thick discs.  With this size cookie, I baked them at 12 minutes because I don't like overly done cookies, but you can bake them up to 14 minutes if you want them crispier.  With this cookie, you want to pull them out of the oven and let them cool directly on the baking sheet so that they don't crack and crumble. 

This cookie was really good:  it had a delicious flavor and was  soft and moist as well.  The only way to make this cookie even better is to make sure that you eat them with a cold glass of milk!  The best part about this recipe is that if you want just plain peanut butter cookies, you just don't add the chocolate chips!  I've said it once and I will say it again....peanut butter and chocolate is the world's best combination.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Get Baked NYC goes RAW!!!

The time has come to go outside of my comfort zone and tackle something unheard of for an avid baker like myself....I am about to make my first RAW DESSERT. My amazing colleague, Denia, has intrigued me with her Raw Food Diet. Wikipedia describes Raw foodism (or rawism) as "a lifestyle promoting the consumption of uncooked, unprocessed, and often organic foods as a large percentage of the diet." Now, as a die hard baker, the first thought that came to mind was "how can you make a delicious dessert without the oven?" She assured me it was possible. Then, to prove it, she brought me a piece of Raw Key Lime Pie. As I stared at the slice of what appeared to be pie, I was skeptical. My thoughts swam with images of apple pies, fresh baked cookies, and warm chocolate cake out of the oven. But I took a bite anyway. And guess what? It tasted quite similar to the last key lime pie I ate. It was sweet yet tart, and the crust had a good texture and taste. So the gauntlet had been thrown down so to speak. Denia gave me a basic recipe to start off with, so here it goes. Come along for the ride...if you dare!

3 Cups Almond Flour
4-5 Mejool Dates (make sure to take out the seeds!)
2 Tbl. Organic Coconut Oil (the "oil" has a consistency more so of vegetable shortening)
1/2 Tsp. Sea Salt

1 1/4 Cup Key Lime Juice, freshly squeezed (regular limes are fine; I used about 8 limes total)
2 Ripe Avocados (yes, it does use avocados)
1/2 Cup Mango Slices
1 Banana
1/4-1/2 Cup Agave Nectar (Add to taste)
1/3 Cup Organic Coconut Oil

First, preheat your oven....just kidding. Leave the oven alone this time. Lets make the crust first. In a food processor, take the dates and coconut oil and process until smooth. Next, add the 3 cups of almond flour and process until thoroughly incorporated. Put this mixture into a spring form pan, and press into the bottom. If you don't have a spring form pan, don't worry! You can see that I just used a basic cake pan, but a normal pie dish would work all depends on if you want to take it out of the pan for aesthetic reasons.

Next, lets make the filling. Take all of the ingredients, except for the agave nectar, and put them into a blender and puree until smooth. Take the agave nectar, starting with 1/4 cup, and add it to the mixture, working your way up to another 1/4 if needed. Once you have achieved the right sweetness for your taste, pour the mixture into the pan, and put it into the freezer. It should stay there for anywhere from 4-6 hours. If you want to spruce up your presentation, sprinkle over some raw shredded coconut or maybe even mango slices....the possibilities are endless, just as long as it's raw!

The question I was asking myself as I was looking at this recipe was "where do I find these products?" Luckily, living in NYC does have its perks. This city is a foodies paradise, and you can find ANYTHING. The place where I found the goods was Whole Foods, but buyer beware: the products are pretty expensive. As each item beeped across the scanner, my jaw dropped a little further to the ground. Another place to try (which I will most likely try next time!) is Trader Joe's. They are really great about having products for everyone (vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists, and even omnivores like me!) but also at prices that the populous can afford. The good news is that I have enough agave nectar and coconut oil to last me awhile, so I looked at it more as an "investment."

So....what's the verdict? Has this hard core baker gone raw for good? Sorry, but no. As delicious as this recipe truly is, I most likely won't be converting to Rawism anytime soon. Part of the reason that I bake is that smell of something baking in the oven which brings on a sense of accomplishment. There truly is nothing better than a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven in my opinion. Will I try another raw recipe in the future? Absolutely. But, for now, I am sticking with my oven. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go preheat her to 350 degree....