Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lemon Pull Apart Bread

My rule for my coworkers regarding their birthdays is: If it's coming up and you want something, let me know because I'll bake it for you. It's very much "Ask and you shall receive."

Well, my coworker, Mel, always let me know that she expects something with lemon. (I can already hear her now, "I didn't EXPECT it. I just wanted it." Details details.)

Lucky for her I found a recipe for lemon pull a part bread on Buttered Up.
Lucky for me I found exactly what I needed to make this recipe much faster: Pillsbury Seamless Dough Sheets! I was planning on using the biscuits that I use for my Monkey Bread (aka Pull Apart Rolls) until I found these lovely things.

The bread turned out to be delicious and exactly what we needed in the office after an earthquake. Yep, I felt the earthquake way up on the umpteenth floor that I work on. Mel did too. And you know what? It was nice to have a coworker that likes desserts and likes to evacuate when the floor shakes while we're so high up in the sky. It was a pleasure and a relief to have a like-minded coworker to rush down all those stairs with!
Lemon Pull Apart Bread (my easy adaption)
2 cans of Pillsbury Seamless Dough Sheets
1 C white sugar
zest from 6 lemons
2 T butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a loaf pan (9x5).

2. Place the sugar in a bowl and rub the lemon zest in with the sugar.

3. Unfold one baking sheet and with a pastry brush or small spatula, spread half the melted butter on the dough.

4. Cut the dough into 4x3 rectangles and add half the lemon zest over the rectangles.
5. Stack the rectangles one on top of each other and transfer into the loaf pan. You will want the cut side down (the longer of the sides.) 
6. Repeat steps 3-5 with the other dough.

7. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes and invert loaf to release bread.
 Bake well and prosper!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cherry Brownies

While browsing around online, I saw a brownie recipe that involved cherries. Since it IS cherry season, I decided to make it. (One of the easiest decisions I made this week.)
Dealing with cherries created such a mess!

How lovely. :)

I promise that's just cherry juice.
I did feel like I was murdering the cherries seeing they oozed beautiful, red juice...

Anyway, like I said at the top, I saw a cherry brownie recipe online. Too bad I didn't revisit it once I started baking. It was a ROASTED cherry brownie recipe. I just started making my normal brownies and added in the cherries. Whoops. I think the roasted cherries would have helped create firmer brownies. Mine were quite mushy, but still yummy! 
Cherry Brownies (Cherry idea from Pink Parsley & brownie recipe from NY Times)
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, such as muscovado (Erika's Extra Note: light brown sugar works fine as well)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 cup sweet and sour cherries pitted and halved

1. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper. (Erika's note: This recipe is so buttery I've never needed to use parchment paper.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, or on low power in a microwave, melt butter and chocolate together. Cool slightly. In a large bowl or mixer, whisk eggs. Whisk in salt, sugars and vanilla.

2. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Fold in flour just until combined. Fold in cherries. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top. Cool in pan on rack.

Note: For best flavor, bake 1 day before serving, let cool and store, tightly wrapped.
Bake well and prosper!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crumbly Peach Bars

I had to add peach schnapps to this recipe. HAD to.

Ok. Explanation: I saw this recipe yesterday and knew that it was THE recipe to end peach season with. I combed all the fruit bodegas near me in Astoria. I had just bought great peaches from them two weeks earlier and discovered that my biggest fear was true: Peach season is over. Sure, there were peaches, but they were all hard and didn't smell like a peach. The summer days of just grabbing any peach at the stand and biting into a lovely, succulent peach were over. I found three peaches that seemed like they might be ok to use.

Unfortunately, one was a dud. Out of the other two peaches, one was great and one was ok. To make the ok one better, I decided to soak it in peach schnapps. Naturally. Thus, a mediocre peach = I HAD to add peach schnapps to the recipe.

Another thing I decided to do? Well, you know me - big on messes. Totally took the option 3 route and used my hands to blend the crumbs mixture.
One more cool thing about this recipe: it was the first time I browned butter. Browning butter is fun!
Crumbly Peach Bars (adapted from The Sweet Art)
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
3 peaches, peeled and sliced into small chunks or thin slices

Brown your butter: Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly. (Erika's Extras: This process took me 20 minutes.)
Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray.

Soak cut up peaches in peach schnapps (enough to cover the peaches).
In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Use a pastry blender, fork, or your fingertips and blend the solidified brown butter and egg into the flour mixture. It will become crumbly.

Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly.

Tile peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. Feel free to use some of the peach schnapps on this layer, but just a little bit of the leftover liquid.

Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches and bake in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges.

Cool in pan before cutting into squares.
Bake well and prosper!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies - Toulouse, France

While I was on my European vacation disaster struck! I LEFT MY CAMERA IN SYROS. IN a BODEGA. And I realized this WHILE the ferry was LEAVING the island.

I had a slight freak out for 15 minutes and then calmed down. It's just a thing. A possession. It's not my passport, which would be a problem.

Once I got a hold of my friend on Syros (4 hours after I left the island), he secured the camera from the bodega. Whew!

Unfortunately this meant that I wouldn't have my nice camera for the second part of my European trip which was in France. :( This just means that I'll have to go back sometime soon with my nice camera to take better pictures, obviously. :)
Toulouse was lovely (even with a normal point and shoot!) This is the view from my friend's apartment. Incredible, right?!
The city of Toulouse had a wonderful City Hall and operas are performed there. Some day maybe I'll sing there too!
After eating days of healthy Mediterranean fare, I rejoiced with being surrounded by buttery goodness again. I probably had 2 types of croissants a day. Yes, TWO. I also had about 1.5 desserts each day too. Mmmm. The above picture is of a famous patisserie in Toulouse where I had a chocolate almond croissant. Yes. Chocolate AND almond filling with sliced almonds and powdered sugar on top. I was in heaven!
One of the coolest things I did while in Toulouse was sing on top of my friend's apartment, which happened to be a tower from the 12th century. My voice bounced off the tiled roofs and cut through the gloomy clouds. People of the neighborhood opened their windows and enjoyed my impromptu concert. I even received applause! :)

My friend Marie and her boyfriend enjoyed the private concert very much. Then we went back inside to enjoy Marie's WONDERFUL vegan chocolate chip cookies.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Post Punk Kitchen)
Makes two dozen two inch cookies or about 16 three inch cookies
1/2 brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (Marie felt that the cookies were too oily so we suggest you cut this amount down by a teeny bit)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two large light metal baking sheets.

Mix together sugars, oil, milk and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, for about 2 minutes, until it resembles smooth caramel. There is a chemical reaction when sugar and oil collide, so it’s important to not skip this step. Mix in the vanilla.

Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips. The dough will be a little stuff so use your hands to really work them in.

For 3 inch cookies, roll the dough into about ping pong ball size balls. Flatten them out in your hands to about 2 1/2 inches. They will spread just a bit. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes – no more than 9 – until they are just a little browned around the edges. I usually get 16 out of these so I do two rounds of eight cookies. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

For 2 dozen two inch cookies roll dough into walnut sized balls and flatten to about 1 1/2 inches and bake for only six minutes.
I had such a lovely time in both Greece and France. I can't wait to go back!

I get my camera back this week and will be back in the kitchen to share tons of goodies with y'all!

Bake well and prosper!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Orange Cake from Syros, Greece

Hello dear readers! I'm back from vacationing in Greece and France. I feel like I have deserted you when I really should have been dessert-ing you! (Ha! Get it?!)

Most of my time in Greece was on the lovely island of Syros. I mainly stayed in Galisas which is a beach town. There were many lovely sunsets I enjoyed from the beach there.
Galisas also has a couple of restaurants, but the best one is Sunset (check out the Greek spelling below.)
The owner and waitstaff were great and gave me special treatment! (Of course it helps that my friend Sean has been eating there for the past 3 summers.) :) The restaurant itself is lovely and also has outdoor seating where one can watch all the beautiful sunsets.
See the beach in the background?

One afternoon I was served a dessert which they called Orange Cake. It was delicious, but seeing that Greeks don't really use butter and flour like we Americans do, I'd call it an orange flavored flan. It was on top of about 10 layers of phyllo dough and it was delicious! (Thanks to Heavenly Housewife's search, here's a recipe that looks like it's close to what I ate: Saveur's Portokalopita)
I loved the Mediterranean diet that I ate while there. I had tons of Greek salad and fresh fish. Even better than the food was the people. I fell in love with the people in Athens and on the tiny island of Syros. They are friendly, happy, and want you to enjoy their country. I need to go back to visit more islands and stay for longer. I miss Greece already!
The pretty blue used all over Greece.
Ermoupoli (main town on Syros) had so many lovely colors and walkways.
I was such an adventurous explorer (read: dork.)

Bake well and prosper!