Monday, December 24, 2012
This year, I'm spending Christmas with the Monkey Scientist's family. His mom is an expert baker and I wanted to help contribute to the endless flow of Christmas cookies she's producing. I picked up a couple bags of these MandMs at Target (uhh they were white chocolate and peppermint, of course I bought 2 bags) a few weeks ago but I'd been fighting not to eat them so I could make cookies! (I knew if I opened the bag without a plan, I'd eat it all in a day or two. I lack self-restraint.)
I whipped these up yesterday so that I wouldn't be contributing to the chaos once the Christmas cooking really begins. We have them in an airtight container (along with his mom's famous sugar cookies) and I think they might last through tomorrow! There is never a lack of good food around here - especially baked goods. I was glad I could contribute a little something.
This is my first year not heading up north in New Hampshire to ski over Christmas, I think in my whole life. Things were just a little too crazy for me to travel over the holidays. Luckily, the Monkey Scientist and I will get a good weekend of skiing in just after the New Year. It doesn't sound like the skiing I'm missing has been very bad lately, anyways! I'm certainly missing my family, but looking forward to seeing most of them in a few weeks. I'm also lucky the Monkey Scientist's family takes me in as one of their own! It's my first Christmas with a tree, rather than a pile of presents at the bottom of the stairs or under the fireplace.
These cookies are super sweet and minty - just how I like them! They would be perfect to leave for Santa under the tree as well. They came out a little bit puffy for me, which I tried to fix with my rapping against the oven door trick, but I think you could also reduce the flour a bit. I also left out the candy canes because the Monkey Scientist thinks they stick in his teeth too much. Regardless, they taste wonderful!
Have a happy holiday!
White Chocolate Peppermint MandM Cookies
slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup White Chocolate Peppermint MandM's
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
3. In the bowl of the standing mixer, cream the butter and sugars until blended. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to incorporate.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing on low until fully incorporated. Mix in the white chocolate chips and MandM's.
5. On a baking sheet (I lined mine with a Silpat) drop the cookies in tablespoon-sized balls about 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven. Bang the pan against the open oven door or your stove-top to flatten the cookies. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the cookies are browning around the edges (but still soft in the middle).
6. Remove from the oven and let rest on the cookies sheet for 2 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Last week I had a very special treat. My former coworker was visiting Chicago and invited me and the Monkey Scientist to have dinner at her sister's house. I used to eat lunch with her every day, but now I hadn't seen her in months! It was great to be able to spend time with her and catch up. I can't believe how many people I used to work with have had babies since I left. I miss the flurry of baby pictures I used to get in my email.
As I've mentioned before, my coworker isn't a big chocolate person. I dug through my recently starred recipes in Google Reader and it seemed like everything was chocolate! Finally, I came across this cake and I knew it was perfect. I love cakes that are sweet and this cider glaze was perfect. I knew she'd love it.
Besides that, the Monkey Scientist gave me a bundt pan last Christmas and I still hadn't used it until now! His mom makes a few really amazing bundt cakes, so I never wanted to compete with her. Fortunately, this cake was far enough from her chocolate chip cake that I wasn't too worried. However, after the first 70 minutes I could tell the cake wasn't going to keep its shape and was going to become a pool of dough. I threw it back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, though, and it really did the trick. So even if your cake is starting to turn brown around the edges, don't fret! Let it cook all the way through! (Especially if you have a silicon bundt pan).
To no big surprise, this cake came out really delicious. It's sweet without being too sweet, and has a nice subtle apple cider flavor. I love the warmth of the cinnamon throughout. I didn't reduce the cider quite enough so the glaze looks pretty white compared to what it should have looked like. It didn't matter though - I liked the white color and it tasted great.
Apple Cider Pound Cake with Apple Cider Glaze
very slightly adapted from Buns in My Oven
For the cake:
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the glaze:
1 cup apple cider
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
dash of salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 325 and grease a bundt pan.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
3. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the dry ingredients. In a measuring cup, combine 1 cup of apple cider with 1 teaspoon vanilla.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry mixture and cider a bit at a time, alternating between which you are adding. When everything in incorporated, spoon the batter into your bundt pan. Bake for 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (I used a silicon bundt pan and it took closer to 90 minutes).
5. Remove from the oven and let the cake sit for at least 20 minutes in the bundt pan. Remove from bundt pan and allow to cool completely.
6. Add the remaining 1 cup cider to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for at least 10 minutes or until the liquid reduces by half (I don't think mine reduced enough, so it wasn't dark in color).
7. Add the butter, salt, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. If it isn't thick enough, continue to add powdered sugar until it reaches desired consistency.
8. Allow to cool slightly, and then pour over cake. I recommend doing this over a jelly roll pan so you can collect the drippings and pour it over again if you like (I did this 3 times). Serve at room temperature.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Even though I'm Jewish, I can't help but love Christmas. We have my menorah set up (I have a gorgeous one that my mom's friend gave me) but I've also done a lot of Christmas decorating. Since the Monkey Scientist's family celebrates both Christmas and Chanukkah, this year he gave me the perfect excuse to get my first Christmas tree ever. It's a tinsel tree - so it's not exactly traditional - but I'm loving it nonetheless.
I bought most of my ornaments at Crate and Barrel and Target, but I had to make a few of my own! When I found these cute little Santas on Floral Blossom (via Home and Garden) I knew I found this year's craft. All of the instructions to make these yourself can be found right here.
I started out by following the instructions exactly - using my hot glue gun to stick on all the pieces besides the base. But then I tried to actually sew on all the pieces to each side and then sew it all together and I liked how that came out a lot more. Plus it was pretty relaxing to sit and sew while we watching Sunday football.
In fact, I was having so much fun that I decided to make a little Rudolph, even though I hadn't actually bought the fabric for the Rudolph pattern. I think I did pretty well with what I had! I think the Monkey Scientist liked my homemade ornaments too. He suggested that this be the start of a tradition, so I wrote 2012 on the back of these in hopes that they'll be the first of many!
But don't worry that Christmas has totally taken over. We've still been lighting the menorah every night!
No matter which holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season filled with love!
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
I don't think I've ever eaten as much food over a 4 day period as I did this Thanksgiving. We had huge dinners with both sides of my family, sandwiching a couple of delicious restaurant meals. I feel ready for hibernation - I do not need to eat another thing for the next month!
One dish I just had to make was this sweet potato bread pudding. We never grew up having sweet potato casserole, but I love it. I mean, what's not to love? Sweet potatoes. Marshmallows. YUM. I'd take that over tzimmes any day!
My cousin, who is 8, is a fairly picky eater. He's usually willing to try new things, but I've seen him not like a lot more things than he likes. When he tried this bread pudding, he actually sought me out to tell me how much he liked it. That was a major compliment coming from him! His sister loved it as well, but I'm not sure she didn't just pick the marshmallows off the top.
This recipe is dessert, but it really isn't that bad for you. I think you can totally justify it as a starch, rather than a sweet. We used unsweetened almond milk in our version because my grandfather is allergic to dairy, and I think it made it better! It added a new dimension of flavor to the dish in addition to making it lactose-intolerant friendly.
The challah we used is from one of my favorite places in the world - Rein's Deli - that we picked up on our way back to New Hampshire from Connecticut. Normally, I would probably make my own bread, but I know I can trust bread from Rein's. We served it alongside my Lobster Mac and Cheese. It was quite the indulgent evening. We also had my grandmother's famous pastrami that my brother craves all year. It was a pretty fantastic meal all-around. I may have been full - but I think it was well worth it!
Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
adapted from Baking Bites
2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
2 2/3 cups unsweetened almond milk (cow's milk is ok)
4 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
9-10 cups cubed challah
4 cups mini marshmallows
1. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until soft enough to pierce with a fork. Remove the potatoes from the oven and lower the temperature to 350.
2. Remove the skins and puree in a large bowl with an immersion blender (or in a food processor). Whisk in the almond milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
3. Add the bread to a separate large bowl and pour the potato mixture over it. You could add the bread into the original bowl, but it's really difficult to stir and your bread will get all broken up. Fold to coat all of the bread and let it sit for 20 minutes so the bread can soak up the liquid.
4. Grease a 9x13 baking dish, then transfer the bread into it. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the pudding is set and springs back when lightly pressed.
5. Take the dish out of the oven and carefully sprinkle the top with mini marshmallows. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes (WATCH CAREFULLY, marshmallows burn easily!) until the marshmallows puff up and turn brown.
6. Let cool for 15 minutes, then serve.