Archive | August, 2012

Challenge #16: Julia Child’s Cinnamon Toast Flan

17 Aug

Julia Child, the American queen of French cooking, would have been 100 on Aug. 15. In honor of her birthday, I declare a French-themed baking challenge.

A while back, I checked out “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom,” one of her last, and I would say most accessible to the everyday chef, cookbooks. It’s full of simple recipes, explanations of French terminology and instructions for how to perfect the basic French techniques.

Tucked away in the chapter on “Breads, Crepes, and Tarts” is Cinnamon Toast Flan–A Bread Pudding. I wanted to do something different than just the standard cake or crepes, and this seemed like just the thing. I may try cutting the recipe in half, because I definitely do not have 6 to 8 people to serve, or maybe it’ll be a good excuse to entertain. We’ll see. A caveat, it takes a lot of eggs (10 total), but surprisingly not that much butter.

I’ll leave you with two awesome things I learned (or was reminded of ) about Julia this week.

1) The woman liked Goldfish.

2) If you’re fan enough, you can even visit her kitchen at the Smithsonian in D.C. (Chris, we are definitely going here when Hannah and I visit).

I’m excited to see how this turns out. Bon appetit!


(Brains’) Cornflake-Chocolate Chip Mallow Cookies: Portland

17 Aug

First off, Happy Birthday, Brains! (That’s what I call our friend Blaine who lives in Chicago. Other aliases include Beezy, Beez Knees and Balvarez).

These Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookies can be described in three words: buttery crunchy caramelly. I’m so glad Hannah suggested this recipe. After she said her cookies had turned out kind of ridiculous, I somehow naively thought I would be able to avoid disaster (read: one giant blob cookie). Not so. In hindsight, this recipe requires a bit of tinkering to make it work, which I’ll explain as we go. Once again, this recipe was a another lesson for me in the basics of baking.

I also broke out the Homemade Vanilla Extract for this recipe. It has a very subtle flavor, surprisingly, because the base is vodka. Basically, you put two vanilla beans in some vodka in a dark place and let it sit for 5 months. I made this for Hannah’s birthday, so it’s been waiting since the beginning of February for me to test it.

First in the process was to cream the butter (2 whole sticks?!) and sugar. This is the first place the recipe went awry. Including the Corn Flake Crunch (shown at the beginning of this post), these cookies have 3 sticks of butter, which I hate to say it, is waaaaaaay too much. For the crunch, I would’ve cut the amount by at least half. And in the regular recipe I would’ve either cut the amount of butter, or added 1/4 to 1/2 cup more flour to the cookie dough at the end. This would have given them less of a buttery consistency in the dough itself, and it would’ve made them hold together better after baking.

Here’s the cookie dough with the Corn Flake Crunch, mini chocolate chips and marshmallows mixed in. It looked amazing, but upon molding it into 1/3 cup cookies, it already felt super buttery (greasy even). I naively followed the recipe to the letter, instead of following my instincts.

When I had the cookies all set out, they looked great, but I should’ve guessed they’d be too big and run together in the oven.

Here’s the first batch, which I refrigerated for 2 hours before baking, but I think they needed longer in the fridge and needed to be more spread out because they turned into a giant giant monster cookie.

Below is the final batch of cookies, which I sent to Blaine. These I left in the refrigerator overnight and made sure to space them out enough so they wouldn’t blob together. Still, they were HUGE when they were done. So really, I learned a lot from this (almost failed) recipe:

1) Don’t follow recipes exactly. You have license to improvise and experiment.

2) Use less butter and more flour for more coherent cookies.

3) If in doubt, refrigerate dough for longer so it keeps its shape.

4) Make the cookies smaller rather than larger, and space them out more than you think necessary.

It’s basic, yes, but it’s good to have a recipe that challenges you to think about your methods in a new light. In any case, they tasted great, and I hope Brains enjoyed them!

Happy Birthday, Brains!

(Blaine’s) Cornflake-Chocolate Chip Mallow Cookies: Denver

15 Aug



I guess I can start by saying that they are delicious, even though they look bad. Really, really bad.


I sent this batch of cookies off to my friend Blaine, who is living in Chicago doing a second term with the AmeriCorps program City Year. He’s doing really well for himself and we are all so proud! I was lucky enough to visit him in early July – I’d never been to Chicago before and left completely smitten with the whole city.



(Me [center] and Blaine [right] with our other college friend, Martin [left] at the Bean!)


Blaine’s birthday is today, and Nora and I cooked up a scheme (GET IT?) to both mail him cookies for the occasion. Last year, I sent Blaine some snickerdoodle cookies (his favorite), and he made his roommate open the box because he didn’t trust me not to mail him Smirnoff Ices. Clearly, ours is a friendship based on trust.


Anyhow, I saw this cookie recipe and was instantly sold. Chocolate chip cookies with marshmallows? AND there are butter-roasted, sugared cornflakes in them? Done. However, my dough had WAY too much junk mixed into it to hold its shape when it baked, and I think that was the beginning of the end for these. I did double the recipe, and I do know that these things don’t always translate into double- or half-recipes, but I can’t imagine that the issue was that I doubled it.


I started with my cornflake crunch, as per Miss Martha’s instructions. This stuff looked amazing. I did take the advice of one commenter on the Martha Stewart website and decreased the amount of butter I added; they turned out perfectly, so I can’t imagine that 18 tablespoons of butter (for my doubled recipe) wouldn’t have left me with soggy flakes.


I followed the recipe from there… creamed butter and sugar. Added eggs.


Added vanilla – this stuff is incredible! Nora made it and gave it to me as part of my birthday gift this last year. It’s just vanilla beans in some base (wtf is this stuff? I’ve never been able to guess and I’ve been too lazy to ask Nora. Maybe/my guess is that it is vodka).  It has an incredible, real flavor, and there’s a ton of it. When she gave it to me (February), it had to wait several months to mature, but now it’s in full swing and it’s awesome.



Then came the dry ingredients.


Ironically, at this point, I was worried that my cookie dough was too sticky. It was almost closer to a batter than a dough. In went the flakes, the chips, the mallows. And then…the hard part began. Even trying to get these things into balls was a struggle. They fell apart the instant they were on the parchment. I did the best I could, and took Martha at her word that if you don’t refrigerate the pre-baked dough balls, they won’t hold their shape. Into the fridge they went.


When they were about to go into the oven, I was still skeptical. They smelled like heaven while they were baking, though. My whole kitchen still smelled like s’mores the morning after these cookies were baked.  Imagine my dismay when they came out of the oven looking like this!


I have no idea as to what went wrong other than my theory that there wasn’t enough cookie dough to hold everything else together into cohesive cookie-shaped cookies. I did eat the crumbles from breaking the cookies that had melted together apart, and they were so tasty! Just not pretty.


So…what was I supposed to do with the remaining POUNDS of dough? Seriously, I had made a ton of this stuff, and I wasn’t about to deal with the stress and the mess of trying to make actual cookies out of all of it. So… Tah-dah!


I wondered if packing it into a brownie pan and making cookie bars out of the stuff would work better. I got out my gold pan (which you may remember I bought for my sucre ala crème challenge last fall), lined the bottom with parchment, and packed that dough in. It took about 40 minutes for this thing to bake. Also, the pan weighed like 10 pounds, haha. This stuff is dense. It came out of the oven looking and smelling amazing, though.


I let it cool overnight, but to be honest with you, it was basically rock-hard the next morning. It took some maneuvering to get a bar out of the pan, but it was delicious! I tossed the whatever-stuck-in-the-pan, and left to go camping. The cookies, however, went off to Blaine.


Happy birthday, Blaine! We love you.

Cornflake-Chocolate Chip Mallow cookies: Secret Cookie Challenge

6 Aug

Nora and I share a secret event as the impetus for our next baking blog challenge. We’ll let you know what it is when we post our blog posts, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises, just in case one relevant person is reading our blog.

This time, we’re going to be making cookies. Not just any cookies, but Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies. God bless you, Martha Stewart. Lately, I’ve been on such a HUGE marshmallow kick that I can’t be trusted to have them in the house.

Let the secret scheming commence!

Lemon-lavender scones: Portland

6 Aug

I love scones, but these were better in theory than practice. Turns out, I didn’t like the lavender. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that it wasn’t fresh. World Market had dried lavender, but I think these would have been better if there wasn’t so much concentrated lavender flavor. Maybe I just don’t like lavender. Who knows. In any case, they were still fun to make.

Because I was at Andrew’s place, I didn’t have a proper citrus zester, so I made do with a serrated knife and a little elbow grease.

Cutting butter can be frustrating, but the finished product looks lovely.

Once the lemon and lavender were mixed in, the dough smelled wonderful.

When it came time to form the dough into a circular wedge, it was a bit sticky, so I added more flour to get it to the right consistency.

Then it got cut into eight scone-shaped triangles.

Often I put a little bit of egg on the tops of scones, but this time I left them as is (perhaps out of laziness).

They turned out looking great, but there was too much lavender for my taste. I liked Hannah’s idea of doing plain lemon scones, so I think that’s next on the scone agenda.

Lemon (Lavender) scones: Denver

6 Aug
Let me start this post by saying I tried. I really tried. I could not find lavender ANYWHERE. Like, anywhere. I went to both Whole Foods stores in the city. I tried a Trader-Joe’s-like store here called Sunflower Market. The craft store had some, but it didn’t seem edible-quality. I even considered ordering it online! Ultimately, I weenied out and made just plain ol’ lemon scones.
But you know what? They were AMAZING, lavender or no lavender. They were soft and light and lemony and powdery. I heavily modified the recipe from Baking Obsession, but retrospectively, I wish I’d used the recipe from A Passionate Plate that Nora suggested, because I love the idea of using lemon yogurt. So clever!
I started by sifting the flour, salt, and baking powder. I actually just omitted the baking soda and doubled the baking powder (I was out of baking soda, and I generally prefer baking powder anyway).
Then, I zested my lemons. If you have read some of my other blog posts, you will probably remember how much I love citrus zest.
Once I had mine all zested, I actually mixed the sugar in with a spoon – I really ground it up good, to try and get the oil in the zest going. Then I mixed it in with the flour mixture.
I cut the butter in after that. On a side note, I have always loathed cutting butter in. Our friend Chris might recall making a pie a few summers ago and I made him make the crust because I hate cutting butter into pastries so much. It kind of boils down to the fact that I don’t actually own a pastry cutter. I always mean to buy one and then they’re like $16 and I decide to put it off, and then here we are…every damn time! I do it with my hands, even though you aren’t supposed to since it heats the butter up. Sigh.
Then, in went the buttermilk (aka “buttermork” in my household), and yogurt. I found that it was pretty soggy after I’d mixed it together, so I ended up adding a little more flour.
Here we go…into a round:
Then wedges!
I brushed some more buttermork over the wedges, and then added yellow sanding sugar to 1/2 of them and yellow pareils to the other 1/2. Into the oven they went.
After about 25 minutes, they were perfect.
I let them cool, then glazed with a little powdered sugar/lemon juice. And added more sugar or sprinkes. You can’t ever have enough sprinkles.