Meringue Birch Twigs
SUMMARY – light and tasty. Gluten-free! Easy to assemble, harder to execute. Prettier than grisini.

beating-wggwhites
I always seem to have extra egg parts. Either I need a bunch of yolks or a bunch of whites. Never at the same time, of course. BTW egg parts freeze well, in case you can’t use up your extras within a reasonable time frame. Luckily I had a mason jar in the freezer full of extra egg whites. No need to create more extra yolks!

soft-peak
FYI – I learned this fact at a Paleo baking class I took last week. Eggs are not dairy. That is all.

almosr-glossy
Making the meringue was the easy part. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar? Check!

Add sugar slowly? Check!

adding-flavor
Add flavoring? I used coconut. Beat some more? Check!

finished-meringue
Put meringue in pastry bag? Check! Line baking sheets, one with parchment and one with my solo Silplat. Check!

piped-twigs
Surprisingly, piping was easy, too! Put them in the oven, bake, cool. I also let them sit overnight. Why? Because trying to move them off the sheets broke them. Yikes.

into-the-oven
The next day, I gingerly loosened them off the parchment paper and put them between the twigs on the Silplat to drizzle the chocolate.

chocolate-added
More problems. I seriously couldn’t get them off the sheet without breaking. Don’t use a Silplat with these. Use parchment.

birch-kindling
Needless to say, my twigs look a more like kindling than branches. They are still super cute and taste really good, but they are certainly not tall enough to display in a vase. Sad face.

birch-kindling2
With that in mind, I would use a larger tip. They wouldn’t be as thin but I could get them off the sheets!

“The Dutch” Pecan Sandies Banner
SUMMARY – an unassuming cookie that is tender, buttery, nutty, crunchy and cinnamony all at once. This recipe proves your freezer is a baking tool.

browned-butter

When I first looked at this recipe, I checked out the picture of it. OK, it’s a round sugar cookie with sugar sprinkled on it. Been there, done that.

browned-butter-strained

As a kid I was a big fan of pecan sandies that the elves baked in their tree. They were also one of the very few packaged cookies that my mom would buy, probably because my dad liked them, too. Only if she had a tripled coupon, though.

butter-bits

There had to be something to these cookies, though. I saw plastic wrap, cooling and resting in the freezer these called for. Looks like a 2-day project, if only not to fill the kitchen sink with dirty dishes.

sugars-cooled-butter

I browned the butter first. Which took a while to do, since I didn’t want to scorch the last bit of the good Irish butter. I did that and worked on dinner (and played Farmville o.O).

creaming-butter-sugar

As an added bonus, I was heating up chicken cassoulet for dinner. Yes, this is leftovers in my house, the other half of the big batch I made a few weeks ago. After I strained the browned butter, I scooped out the solids and put them on the cassoulet breadcrumb topping. Butter on top of crunchy chicken skin and butter? Not thinking this is bad. Of course, my cholesterol numbers may disagree.

dry-ingredients

I measured the butter out (a little more than the recipe needed but it’s butter!) and put it in the refrigerator to cool during dinner.

dry-to-wet-ingredients

After the dinner dishes were corralled I started on the rest of the dough. It’s a good thing I heated up leftovers instead of dirtying a cutting board, knives and pans, since I had to break out the mixer and food processor for the dough.

kneaded-dough

Cream together the butter and sugars? Check. Grind the pecans with the flour and dry ingredients? Check. Great idea here to prevent over-processing the nuts. This would probably be even better in a recipe with toasted nuts. Toasting the pecans for this recipe might be interesting, as it would reinforce the nuttiness of the browned butter. I’ll file this idea away.

divided-dough

Scoop out the dough and knead it? Yeah … ugh … plastic wrap is involved.

rolled-dough

I hate plastic wrap. It doesn’t stick to what you want it to stick to, only itself. The stupid cutter thing on the box never works right. I think Rose uses top-secret special plastic wrap. Wrap that is nice and wide, sticks what you want it to stick to, and cuts nicely. Navy Seal Team “Cookie” brings it to her. Shhhh.

cookies-cut-freezer

I managed to get the dough divided and into the refrigerator without too much incident.

cookies-sugared-panned

The next night, after dinner, and after letting the cold dough warm up, I finished up the cookies. Again, with my off the shelf plastic wrap. Sigh.

cookies-cooling-overhead

I finally used my hexagonal cutters (a Christmas present from last year), so there wasn’t much re-rolling. The last batch I cut had only a little bit of dough left. There was no sense in re-rolling it, we ate it. Yum!

cookies-cooling-closeup

Because of the freezer rest time, the cookies took longer than a drop cookie. But the results I think were worth it. Tender and crunchy, nutty and buttery, cinnamon and pecan, so good.

cookies-plated

As I was eating one, I thought that this dough would make really good pie crust for a pumpkin pie. Or for the pumpkin-pecan pie we made last year. Ooooo …. another idea to file away!

Breadcrumbs

Vegan / Vegetarian

roasted-yams-and-chickpeas-with-yogurt

Chickpea “Tuna” Salad is Not Tuna, But No One is Mad via Food52
Blueberry Pie Overnight Oats from The Kitchn
roasted yams and chickpeas with yogurt from Smitten Kitchen
10-Hour Slow-Cooker Chana Masala from The Kitchn

Baking

halva-brownies

The Easiest Buttercream You’ll Ever Make (+ Meringue 101) from Food52
Yung, Wild and Free: Crucial baking advice from a Michelin-starred pastry chef from Tasting Table
You Deserve an Entire Cake All for Yourself from Bon Appétit
Classic Smith Island Cake from Saveur
Claire Ptak’s recipes for halva brownies and cookies from The Guardian

Techniques / Equipment / Etc.

cast-iron-myth-1

6 Things You Should Do to Take Care of Your Knives from Food52
The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away from Serious Eats
The Temperature Rule to Follow When Converting a Dutch Oven Recipe to a Slow Cooker from The Kitchn
Chained to the Stove: What It’s Really Like to Write a Cookbook from Serious Eats

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Silk Meringue Buttercream

SUMMARY – not-to-sweet and subtle coconut cupcakes. Creamy light buttercream topped with toasted coconut shreds. Like a pina colada in a paper wrapper.

coconut-collection

These were some really good cupcakes. Like cupcakes that would win Cupcake Wars. Or a blue ribbon at the fair.

batter-mixing

It took a couple of stops to find real coconut extract. At the local grocery coop, I found this Aussie concentrated paste in a tube that was all natural, and not that fake stuff I kept finding in the spice section in the market. Thankfully I didn’t have to drive to another county to get it.

finished-batter

The cupcakes themselves were simple, although not one-bowl simple. More like 4 bowls for the separated eggs, the measuring bowl from my digital scale, then the mixer bowl.

cupcake-papers

I love the idea of using coconut milk in these. I was thinking that you could make these paleo if you used coconut flour and coconut sugar. Switch the butter with coconut oil, and you could make them vegan if you had an idea about egg substitution. Which, unfortunately, I don’t.

creme-anglais-start

I also decided to make the buttercream instead of the ganache. I found a new way to make buttercream from Food52 here. It’s a way to make meringue buttercream using a swiss meringue technique.

creme-anglais-done

Instead of making sugar syrup and pouring it over beaten egg whites, you heat the egg whites and beat them hot.

heating-eggwhites-sugar

The texture of the beaten meringue was like marshmallow fluff. But I think that’s because I only used 1 egg white from this frosting recipe instead of the 4 egg whites.

finished-frosting

Since there wasn’t a lot of volume of meringue, there wasn’t a lot of frosting. There was enough to put frosting on all the cupcakes, but the frosting to cupcake ratio was a little low.

trayed-cupcakes

And the frosting was so good that I wanted more of it!

3-cupcakes-in-a-row

I brought some to work. I have a co-worker that is not a cake fan. She is all about ice cream. She liked these!

3-overhead-cupcakes

And … there are no more left. We ate the last of them for dessert tonight. I call that recipe success.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart

SUMMARY – Soft, crumbly crust topped with a smooth and creamy filling and chocolate glaze. The hazelnut praline was distinct and well-balanced. The bonus of a press-in-the-pan crust means this is a dessert to make again!

boiling-pot

Oh em gee. This tart was awesome!

boiled-hazelnuts

I’m not just saying that just because I didn’t have to roll out a crust. Which, by itself, was awesome.

skinned-hazelnuts

Even though I had to make hazelnut praline, which wasn’t so bad except for the getting the skin off the hazelnuts.

completed-paste

I couldn’t boil the hazelnuts long enough to make the skin easier to remove, because the baking soda made a lot of foam in the pot and I had to keep taking the pot off the burner.

crust-construction

But once I got the skins (mostly) off, and toasted, and covered with caramel, they ground down into this paste that would have been good enough to eat with a spoon. Oh, wait … I did eat that last bit of it with a spoon. Shhhh!

dough-in-pan

So the hazelnut praline was, in itself, awesome, in spite of adding an extra component to the tart construction.

mousse-filling

The tart crust was really good too. Soft, flavorful, food processor friendly. I baked it and it did puff up like Rose warned. But then it sunk back down and it was perfect. It would make really good cookies too, with a whole egg.

whole-tart-landscape

The mousse layer was also, dare I say it, awesome. And easy. I veered slightly off Rose’s instruction with the last whipped cream addition. I underbeat the whipped cream. I scraped it into the other mixing bowl with the cream cheese, praline paste and brown sugar, and beat it more. That worked out just fine.

whole-tart-top

Ganache? Easy! Tart assembly? Easy.

cutup-tart-top-closeup

I skipped the candied hazelnuts, because I put all the hazelnuts into the praline. I used nonpareils instead, which are still sugar.

cutup-tart-side-closeup

Everyone who had some loved this tart. And I didn’t feel too bad about giving away slices because they didn’t look like leftovers. Awesome!

Mini Gateaux Breton

SUMMARY – buttery, nutty and tender, these tiny cookie gems will impress even your most fussy aunt or mother-in-law. Double the recipe because these will disappear quick.

toasted-almonds-sugar-in-processor

These cookies were so good and so easy!

processed-sugar-almonds

I, like Marie, didn’t have the exact correct pan. I did a little digging through my pantry, and found a super-mini bundt pan that I must have bought specifically to make these cookies. I don’t remember what I actually bought it for!

finished-dough

The hardest part about making these cookies was finding good butter. I went back to PriceRite to get more high-fat European style butter for $1.99 for 7 oz, but of course they were out. I got some Kerrygold Irish butter from the coop instead.

mini-mini-bundt-pan

The dough came together easily. My smallest cookie scoop makes 10 gram dough scoops so I didn’t have to scale every single cookie. Of course I did scale a few of them to make sure how much to fill the scoops. I didn’t care much if some cookies were 12 grams instead.

scooped-cookies

I sprayed baking Pam on the pan indents, plus dropped the dough balls onto a floured plate, and dusted my hands with flour. to roll them.

dough-in-pan

The cookies didn’t stick at all. I over-baked the first batch a little, but the cookies still didn’t stick. No need to work them out with a needle or skinny knife. Yay!

finished-cookies

I didn’t use my pinkie finger to press the dough in, I used the flat end of my big whisk. It worked. The last batch I forgot to press into the molds. The design was looser but still visible.

closeup-finished-cookies

These cookies are so cute! Like Barbie bundt cakes.

tops-of-cookies

I will make more of these, and double the recipe. Maybe dunk them in some melted chocolate. Mmmmm. These might also be good made with almond meal instead of flour. I might have to try that, too.

Breadcrumbs

I am an information pack rat.

I used to cut articles from magazines and copy pages out of library books and put them in binders.

Now I use Pinterest and Evernote to save articles and recipes. There’s a lot less paper clutter around and the trees are happier!

Instead of hoarding this info, I am sharing my “Breadcrumbs” with you.

I hope you find these articles interesting, informative, and maybe inspiring! And feel free to save them or pin them yourself.

Cake, Cookie and Bread Recipes

Banana-Bread-HonestlyYUM

Black Sesame Banana Bread from Honestly YUM

Homemade Everything Bagels with Step-by-Step Photos from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ultimate Chocolate Cake from ChefSteps

Persian Love Cake from Aimee at Twigg Studios

How to Invent a Cookie Recipe from Lifehacker

Dinner, Soup, Stew and Other Recipes

columbian-stew

Colombian-Style Chicken, Short Rib and Potato Stew from the NY Times

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich from Martha Stewart

Stuffed Turkey Breasts with Butternut Squash and Figs from SkinnyTaste

Broken Wonton Soup from Mark Bittman

Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes from Jerusalem (the book) from The View from Great Island

Other Food-Related Links

typographic-map-flavors

A World Map of Flavors – 36 Regions, 36 Herb and Spice Combinations from Tim Ferriss

15 Pro Tips and Techniques For Quicker, Easier, Better Cooking from The Kitchn

Breaking Bad: How to Kick the Late Night Snacking Habit from Summer Tomato

Mark Bittman: 19 Ways to Cook Everything Faster from Readers Digest

Decoding Tough and Tender Cuts from ChefSteps

I have three projects in one post this time.

I do actually make most everything for Alpha Bakers, but I don’t always get a chance to sit down and post it. I can do the baking, but writing about it is harder.

So I am rectifying this, sort of, in a late (or early!) post about some of the projects I made, but didn’t talk about.

White Christmas Peppermint Cake

Project #1 – White Christmas Peppermint Cake ➡️ Ornament Cupcakes

I don’t like making large cakes unless I have a specific event that requires an actual cake, like a birthday party, wedding, anniversary. I would much rather make small cakes that I can easily transport and give away.

cake-batter-mixing

I decided on cupcakes because I was inspired by a Christmas ornament! A mini-cupcake with lots of sprinkles. How could I not make cupcakes that look like my ornament?

baked-cupcakes

The other thing  about this cake was the peppermint. Don’t get me wrong, I like peppermint. But not in a cake. I skipped the peppermint extract and went with the vanilla in the cake base.

frosting-started

It was a good cake, too. It had nice flavor and light color. I would use this cake again if I wanted really white cake, and not a yellow-ish cake.

frosting-finished

The frosting … oh the frosting! It was creamy, chocolate-y, light, fluffy, great to work with. A perfect frosting.

sprinked-cupcakes
I piped the frosting on the mini cupcakes and decorated. I had gold sugar nonpareils and crunchy pink sugar crystals flavored with peppermint. Not too much mint, but enough to get them somewhat back to peppermint.

cupcakes-with-ornament

There was a lot of frosting left over from this recipe. I packed it up and waited for another project to use it up.

This bonus frosting was used in …

Faux-reoCookies

Project #2 – Faux-reos

My mother gave me a King Arthur boxed cookie mix a while ago. It was rolled chocolate cookies with white frosting. Sort of like homemade oreos. I finally got tired of looking at this box in my pantry and made them.

dough-started

To me, they were strictly OK. Certainly better than something out of a plastic sleeve, but still, not that great. I brought some down to the corner market to get rid of them. The clerks down there really liked them! One of the girls, Briana, begged me to make more of them for her birthday.

dough-done-mixing

Since King Arthur doesn’t make this cookie mix anymore, I decided I could do a lot better. I already had some really tasty frosting. I just had to find a cookie recipe to go with it.

ready-for-baking

In Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook (which I have renewed twice from the library because I don’t want to return it!) I found a recipe for TKO cookies. Chocolate shortbread cookies filled with white chocolate ganache. Ding ding ding!

plated-cookies

The cookies were really really good. They got even better filled with Rose’s frosting. They were so good, I almost didn’t want to give any away! But I dropped a container off at the store for Briana. She really liked them. I really liked them! I may have even found another fair recipe.

These cookies lead to …

Pink Pearl Lady Cakebecomes Pink Pearl Baby Cakes

Project #3 – Pink Pearl Lady Cake ➡️ Pink Pearl Baby Cakes

Believe it or not, I really wanted to do the full cake this time. Or at least heart-shaped small cakes. I have a silicone heart pan with cupcake-sized hearts in it.

starting-batter

I showed my roommate Kathy this recipe and she wanted to help me make this. Kathy does pottery, so she was really interested in working with the fondant. Interestingly enough, the last time I made a fondant cake was her wedding cake! And I was somewhat traumatized by the whole fondant process, so I was quite happy to get an offer of help with it.

batter-finished

The day I planned to make the fondant, I was sick. I had a nasty headache, stomach ache, and felt just plain lousy. I didn’t want to go to the store and find glycerin and glucose. Even though I didn’t make the fondant, I decided I could still make cupcakes instead.

egg-whites

I went ahead and made mini-cupcakes. I overfilled the little cups, and forgot to grease the top of the pan, so I had to excavate the cupcakes. Sigh.

finished-frosting

This frosting wasn’t as nice as the white chocolate frosting for the earlier cupcakes. I worried that the frosting would be too warm! I wrapped a cold pack around the bowl bottom. Then the frosting was too cold. I held my hands on the bottom of the bowl to warm it up. I was Goldilocks and the Three Bears of Frosting. It finally came together. Whew.

finished-cupcakes

It wasn’t easy to pipe out, either. It wasn’t warm enough. And there wasn’t enough of it. Some cupcakes didn’t have quite enough frosting.

finished-cupcakes-closeup

The frosting tasted pretty good. But the Ornament Cupcakes were just a teeny bit better.

Hopefully I will get the Breton cookies done. And written about. I don’t have mini brioche pans, but I think I have a solution worked out. We shall see!

Pizza Rustica
SUMMARY – sweet crust wraps a savory, cheesy, creamy and meaty filling. Great warm, cool or cold.

dry-ingredients-processor

If I had an Italian grandmother, I can imagine her making this. And, I can imagine the extra work it would be without a food processor! I could see that this would appear only on holidays. Just to make it special, and make us beg her for it.

butter-incorporated

Sadly, my grandmothers were neither Italian, nor pizza or pie makers. I can’t become Italian, but I can make a mean pizza pie!

crust-in-bag

This was a great recipe to make on Sunday. First, I could take all day to make it. Second, once it was done, it could sit on the table, with our small junk food fest, while we watched the Panthers take on the Broncos. Although the game was disappointing, this pizza was not.

crust-in-pan

I thought the reaction would not be as positive as it was. When I packed it up, there was only half of it left. I consider that a vote of confidence.

sieving-ricotta

Why was I worried? I tasted a bit of raw crust and it was sweet. Not cookie-level sweet, but enough that I thought it was a little odd with the Thanksgiving herbs. But Rose made this so it will make sense in the end.

filled-pizza

Since I didn’t want to try and flip it out of a cake pan, I used a springform pan. The sides were a little high, so I couldn’t drape the edges of the bottom crust over the side.

lattice-done

I had to stick the crust to the edge of the pan so it didn’t flop down. I also put it in the refrigerator for a while because the crust dough got too soft and started to rip everywhere. There was enough extra dough for some quick patchwork.

ready-for-oven

The dough did rip while I was weaving the top together. But the glaze would fix that.

Since the dough was so sweet, I also sprinkled the top with some pretzel salt. Because, well, crunchy salt.

plated-pizza

 

Another thing I should have done was wrap the pan with a cake strip. I thought the side crust got too brown, but the top crust didn’t get brown enough.

finished-whole-pizza-closeup

If I make this again, I think I would add more meat. The sausage was good, but ham and chopped meatballs would punch up the salt quotient.

sliced-pizza

I could really see this as a sweet ricotta pie. I wouldn’t make it as sweet as a regular cheesecake, but I would add a lot of berries, dried and/or fresh, or maybe pumpkin puree, and use honey to sweeten.

 

 

Irish-Cream-SconesSUMMARY – so easy, you can make them in the morning and bring them to work. So good, you will be the best co-worker ever.

dry-ingredients

You’ve heard of “Bring Your [Child, Parent, Family, Pet, Grandparents] to [Work, School, the Prom]” Day.

I created a new day. Bring Scones to Work Day.

ready-for-wet-ingredients

First, because the day before I brought them in, I was not in the best mood. Stressed, cranky, annoyed with everyone. One of those days. What is better than an apology? Baked goods.

added-honeySecond, because these scones were so easy to put together. It took me 15 minutes to make the dough. 15 minutes! I am either super-fast in the morning (not really), or this scone recipe is super easy (more likely).

added-cream

I even made a couple of substitutions. First, I used currants and not raisins. Currants belong in scones. They seem more … traditional.

Second, I only had a half-pint of cream. I added sour cream to make up the rest. I used as much whey as was floating in the container, plus the more solid cream. Sour cream seemed to work just fine. I probably could have used yogurt, too. But this project was pre-coffee so my improv skills were not peak.

wrapped-dough

I got the dough together, but looked at the clock. I had a time dilemma. I could:

(a) bake the scones at home and be late to work. Or,

(b) go to work early and bake them in the toaster oven.

off-to-work

I opted for baking them at work in the toaster oven. I bundled the scone dough together with a towel, butter, jelly and small spatula.

unwrapped-dough

Fortunately, the toaster oven at work is HUGE. You could bake a chicken in it. It has a baking sheet that easily fit 8 scones. It has a broiler rack for a cooking rack. Even better, the whole office would smell like scones.

portioning-dough

I divided the dough, and put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 400. Spun them around, and back into the oven for another 15 minutes at 425. They finally got brown. The big boss asked me what smelled so good.

in-the-toasteroven

I took one out and split it. Done!

scones-cooling

And best yet, we had a staff meeting. So everyone got to have one. I brought butter and homemade grape jelly (using Rose’s recipe!).

scones-closeup

The consensus? Great scones! Better than Panera! Can you do this every morning?

Well, maybe not every morning. But I guess if I’m in a foul mood, I might have to have another Take Scones to Work Day.midmorning-office-snack