* I know that it has been awhile since I shared my adventures in cooking and baking here. Please indulge me as I do something new in this space and let me know what you think! *

Tonight I had the privilege and pleasure to join DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) and some of their supporters for the first annual Capitol Hill Pizza Toss.  The event was held at Spike Mendelsohn’s , of Top Chef fame, newest restaurant, We, The Pizza and featured a member of the United States Pizza Team showing off her tossing skills.

Karen, member of the United States Pizza Team, shows how it’s done.

DCCK, for those of you that aren’t familiar, is an incredible organization here in Washington, DC that works to address the interconnected issues of poverty, hunger and homelessness in a sustainable way through job training, meal distribution and supporting local food systems.  I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer in their kitchen, and the work that the do, the reach that they have in this community is truly inspiring.  We all know how powerful food can be- food brings people together, food is comfort, and food evokes memories of fond times spent together.  The reality is that for many people in this country, and around the world, a meal on the table at the end of the day isn’t a given.   So, as someone who recognizes just how darn lucky I am to be able to bake to my hearts content, to whip up a gourmet meal just for the heck of it, I also feel it’s my duty to shed some light to the great work that is being done to end hunger.  I hope to feature more of the great work of DCCK in the coming months.

DCCK will be hosting an incredible foodie event, and fundraiser, “Capital Foodfight 2010” on November 11 at the Ronald Reagan Building.  Capital Foodfight will be a truly knock-out event featuring signature dishes from 60 restaurants, incredible auction items (check this one out- http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/ripert-dinner.php how cool would that be?) and a line-up of celebrity chefs including: Jose Andres, Tom Collichio, Eric Ripert, and more!

At tonight’s pizza toss, three of the battling chefs that will be featured at Capital Foodfight tested out their dough-slinging skills (Scott Drewno, The Source; Will Artley, Evening Star Café; Victor Albisu, BLT Steak).  It was great to see these guys a bit out of their comfort zones, and I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for the on-stage chef battles in November!

Chefs Drewno, Albisu and Artley prepping to toss their pizza dough.

If you have a chance to go to We, The Pizza, I thought their “forest shroomin pie” was delish- great earthy mushroom taste with a subtle fresh hint of thyme.


I’m sorry Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.  It’s not you- it’s me.    For as long as I can remember I’ve made chocolate chip cookies from the recipe on the back of the bag.  Classic, childhood memory invoking, chocolate chip cookies.  Then, I tried these cookies and my firm belief in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” went out the window.

So, I’m sorry Tollhouse, but I won’t need the recipe on the back of the bag anymore.  I have Julie T’s chocolate chip cookie recipe now.  Julie T. is the mother of one of my sister’s closest friends (did you follow that? Do you want me to draw a diagram?).

This recipe makes a slightly chewy, super chock full of chocolate goodness, cookie.  As one taste tester said, they are so satisfying and good that you could eat just one, but what fun would that be?!

So, I bring you a life changing chocolate chip cookie, courtesy of Julie T.  Try to go back to Tollhouse, I dare you.

Julie T’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1c. unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. dark brown sugar

½ c. sugar

2 eggs

2 ¼ c. flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 c. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

1-    8oz. Hershey’s Special Dark Candy Bar (or any dark chocolate), chopped

Cream together the butter, vanilla, sugars and eggs.

Mix in the flour, salt and baking soda.

Stir in the chocolates.

Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Bake at 375 for 8-12 minutes (depending on size of cookies) on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

*Beautiful photos thanks to my baby sister Michelle and her awesome camera! She helped with the mixing and measuring and baking too.  Sister Morgan helped with the cookie dough consumption/batter licking.  It was a family affair!


Today, we ate red, white and blue for breakfast.  As the proud new owner of a waffle iron, I’ve been testing out waffle recipes to find “the one” that will be our go to waffle recipe.  If anyone has a favorite you think I should try, please leave it in the comments.  I think the recipe this morning is pretty close, and I’ll post it as soon as the verdict is out.

Until then, have fun, safe 4th of July celebrations.  I know it’s been awhile since I shared here, but I’ll be back soon- that’s a promise.


When I walked into my friend Chrissy’s apartment in Philly two weeks ago to fin her red Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter, cupcakes cooling in the refrigerator, and an adorable apron hanging from the hook on the wall, I knew we would have to trade tips and recipe ideas before I headed back to DC.  She did not let me down! I came home with a real winner of a recipe that I tested out last night.  Chocolate and peanut butter has long been a favorite flavor combination of mine.  So when Chrissy offered to share a family favorite recipe- Chocolate Peanut Buddy Bars- I knew I had a winner on my hands.   The result- a layer of dough that bakes up soft like a peanut butter cookie studded with chocolate chips, covered in a shell of hardened chocolate.

Ingredients

1 c peanut butter (I used natural, chunky peanut butter- you could use creamy, but I like the texture the crunchy PB added to the bars.  If you use PB that has added sugar you may want to reduce the amount of sugar below.)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 ¼ c sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 c flour

¼ tsp salt

2 c chocolate chips, divided (this time I used milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet would be great too)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the peanut butter and softened butter with a hand mixer until smooth. Add in the sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Beat until creamy.  Blend in the flour and salt.  Stir in 1 c of chocolate chips.  Spread mixture into a 9” x 13” pan (I didn’t spray mine with cooking spray, but it would probably have made it a bit easier to get the bars out, so I will next time).  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining 1 c of chocolate chips on top. Let chocolate soften for 5 minutes then spread.  Let cool completely.  Serve and enjoy!


Forget about the pastry case at Starbucks- whip up a batch of these and you’ll have a sweet treat to go with your coffee at your fingertips.  The best part- you’ll never even have to leave the house.  Inspired by the recipe posted by The Pioneer Woman, I knew this recipe was meant for the whole vanilla beans in my pantry.  These beans came from a colleague in Madagascar so I was waiting for just the right occasion to bust them out, enter scones! Scones- ready to have a vanilla bean glaze bath!

My scones weren’t as mini as I wanted them to be, but they weren’t too big either. Just the right size I think!

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients

SCONES

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cups sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 whole large egg
  • ¾ cups heavy cream (more if needed)
  • 2 whole vanilla beans

GLAZE

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • dash of salt

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split the vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise and scrape out all the beans inside. Stir beans into cream. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Look at those beautiful vanilla beans imparting all their great vanilla flavor into the cream.

Sift together flour, 2/3-cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut cold butter into pats, and then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour. Keep going until mixture resembles crumbs.

Mix vanilla bean cream with the egg, then combine with the flour mixture; stir gently with a fork just until it comes together.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle. (Mixture will be pretty crumbly.) Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Use your hands to help with the forming if necessary.

Use a knife to trim into a symmetrical rectangle, then cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares/rectangles. Next, cut each square/rectangle in half diagonally, to form two triangles.

Transfer to a parchment or baking mat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes, removing from the oven just before they start to turn golden. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

VANILLA GLAZE

While the scones are baking, make the icing.  Split one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the beans. Stir beans into milk; allow to sit for awhile. Mix powdered sugar with the vanilla milk, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the consistency the preferred thickness. Stir or whisk until completely smooth.

One at a time, carefully dunk each cooled scone in the glaze, turning it over if necessary. Transfer to parchment paper or the cooling rack. Allow the glaze to set completely, about an hour. (Or eat one immediately, if you just can’t wait-messy but totally worth it!) Scones will keep several days if glazed stored in an airtight container.

Perfect with a cup of coffee, glass of milk, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert! (Just ask Ray- they were all gone when I got back from a weekend away- that is the ultimate seal of approval).


The latest birthday girl at work insisted she didn’t want me to bake anything for her.  However, I jump at the opportunity to bake for a special occasion and set out to figure out what type of birthday treat she would pick if she had her druthers.  Now, if it were my birthday I’m sure I would request an elaborately chocolatey treat. But this birthday girl wanted yellow cake with vanilla frosting.  And there’s nothing wrong with being vanilla. So I set out in search of the best yellow cake I could find.  Lo and behold Smitten Kitchen had just what I was looking for.  Combined with a quick and easy vanilla buttercream, I was in business!

I didn’t have cake flour or buttermilk on hand, so read on for my easy-peasy quick fix substitutes for both ingredients.

Next time I would love to try this moist, yellow cake with the chocolate sour cream frosting.  Who’s birthday is next?!


Best Yellow Cake from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake.

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising) *If you don’t have cake flour, you can easily substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour, minus 2 tablespoons for each cup a recipe requires.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken *If you don’t have buttermilk in the fridge, measure out just under 2 cups of milk and add 2 Tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice.  Let sit for 5 minutes then stir well. Voila!

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tray with baking cups.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (20-25 for cupcakes). Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Mighty pretty cupcakes. And not too shabby on their own before you have even made the frosting…not that I would know or anything…just saying!

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe from FoodNetwork.com

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup butter (softened)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. (If you don’t have a standing mixer, a hand mixer will work just as well)

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

All packed up and ready to go to work.


Listen, I know that Saint Patrick’s day was March 17th, and now it is nearly April.  But you have to trust me when I tell you that you will not want to wait for March 17th to roll around again to try these cupcakes.  I will never understand why someone thought combining beer, whiskey and Bailey’s into a drink was EVER a good idea, but I will let that go for now.  Of course, translate that combination of beverages into individually baked and frosted sugary goodness, and I can totally get behind the Irish Carbomb idea.

Last year I brought these festive treats to the office St. Paddy’s day potluck.  Since I am now at a different office, I decided I would wow the crowd with these babies for my colleague’s birthday on March 18th this year.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen with my notes inserted.

Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes

As Deb notes, the frosting recipe does not make a ton of frosting, but the cupcakes and ganache filling are so sweet I found a small little dollop of frosting did the trick, but double the recipe if you want more.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream ( I didn’t have sour cream, so used some Greek Yogurt, which worked great)

Ganache Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional-I went without, and the ganache was still a perfect surprise in the middle of the cake)

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work). The  apple corer was the perfect tool for removing the center of the cake.  For the ganache filling the plastic bag trick worked wonders.  I loved the fancy piped frosting look, but you could easily spread your buttercream on with a spoon or use a plastic bag with the corner snipped off for the frosting also.

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream (or yogurt) in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the chocolate ganache filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your  apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. Make sure to taste test the pieces you’ve removed. Put the ganache into a piping bag or plastic bag with the corner snipped off and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.  Make sure to add the sugar slowly, it really does help to reduce the amount of sugar you will need, and makes the buttercream less grainy.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes. All packed and ready to share with the office!



Who doesn’t love a bake sale?Some lovely DC food bloggers have organized a bake sale, all proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders and the great work they are doing in Haiti.  I am already plotting to contribute some tasty muffins, and there are sure to be plenty of other mouth watering baked goods for sale.

So come by, this Sunday, March 28th from 9-11 AM and check it out!  See Adventures in Shaw for more details.


One of my first baking memories is my first solo attempt at my mom’s banana bread.  Everyone loves banana bread, and how hard could it be to mess up a quick bread? Or so I thought…I happily mixed everything together, poured it into my pre-prepared loaf pan and popped it into the oven.  When the timer went off, and I cautiously removed the pan from the oven, my heart sank.  Instead of a fluffy golden loaf of banana bread, I had a blackened lump in my carefully greased and floured pan.  What could have possibly gone wrong? I consulted the well worn recipe card, reading and re-reading the instructions and list of ingredients.  Then it hit me and I tried to think of an explanation to spare myself the embarrassment.  The recipe card had remnants of previous baking sessions all over it, maybe the missing ingredient had been hiding behind a spot or spill?  But alas, it was clear, I had just plain forgot to add the flour!

It took me awhile to live that one down, and that massive kitchen fail is probably part of the reason I am so meticulous when it comes to making sure I have all of my ingredients ready when I set out to make anything to this day.  So with that banana bread disappointment fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday, I enter this space to share my culinary adventures with the world, starting with my very first lesson in the kitchen.

Here’s a copy of the famous banana bread:




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