Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Slutty Brownie


To me, the slutty brownie is the ultimate American dessert.  We take classic baked goods that are great on their own and think - Oh, why don't I just combine them all together?  When they first went viral two summers ago I thought it would just be a fad that quickly came and went and was likely more impressive in description and looks than taste.  But as usual, I was willing to try baking them, just in case, and I'm lucky I did.  After letting these fully cool (ideally overnight) the flavors really meld together into something amazing and special.

These are the ultimate pot luck treat - my mom says they often disappear before people start on the savory dishes.  They are also the best pick-me-up - I have started a tradition that I bring a batch of these to celebrate our last final exam at the end of each semester.  I first did this at the end of our first year exams.  Our last final was a long MCQ and people came out of it looking miserable and depressed.  Upon biting into their first slutty brownie - you could literally see some of the depression just melt away into deliciousness.  It may be just a transient feeling of happiness, but its worth it!  Tomorrow marks our last exam of our clinical teaching and after passing this we start rotations next year.  So of course I made the traditional slutty brownies and this time added some extra festive sprinkles on top (homemade!!).  If you still haven't tried these yet, go home and make them.  You won't regret it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mini Butter Tarts

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  In my family it consists of spending the whole day (and a few before it) cooking/baking in the kitchen with bickering family, followed by the traditional giant meal with friends and family, and then eating left overs for the rest of the week.  Pretty traditional.

But growing up, it was also the one day of the year that it was justified for me to make that 8 layer cake, with 4 kinds of chocolate, that takes 3 days to make, plus 4 other desserts, and I was guaranteed an audience to eat it!  Since I always wanted to try new recipes, and there were always a few traditional desserts that had to be made each year (parents requested a fruit aspic, sister wanted pecan pie etc), each year my desserts grew in quantity.  And each year they got more complicated... I would hand my mom a shopping list asking for a gallon of whipping cream, 4 pounds of chocolate, and a few boxes of butter among other things, and no one would bash an eyelash at me.  I don't see how a holiday can get better than that...


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ginger-not-so-snap cookies




In the UK, since they don't celebrate thanksgiving, we are now well into the holiday cookie season, which I love!  I am always looking for an excuse to bake something (its much more fun than studying for upcoming exams....).  This past week I brought out my gingersnap recipe from my archives, and discovered they are way better than I remembered them.  The spices in them make them taste like the holidays!  One of the other great things about this recipe is that they age well.  Fresh out of the oven they are good (what cookie isn't?) but 24 hours later, they soften up, and the flavors seem to meld together, and then they are really good...



Here is some of the feedback I received:
               "Best cookies slash biscuits I’ve ever had,"
               "Even though they don't have chocolate in them, these are great," 
               "Can you please please please make some more," (I did, I made another batch a few days later).

Notes: *This recipe teaches that molasses in the US = black treacle in the UK!
This is a recipe for a soft, buttery gingersnap - so if you prefer the crunchy variety, steer clear! They can be a bit sensitive with their baking times - so it may take a tray or two to find the exact time to bake them for in your oven, but its worth it!  You want to take them out of the oven while they are still puffed up, then watch them collapse into a thin cookie while they cool on your wire rack.  If they collapse in the oven, cook them less.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies


Happy Halloween!  Growing up I was never a big fan of pumpkin, and thus never baked much with it.  However this time of year I always start to feel an increasing pressure for pumpkin baked goods.  So I gave in and started baking more with it this year - and learned that pumpkin is mainly a vessel for delicious fall spices.  These cookies were the final touch in winning me over!  They are a soft spice filled cookie, with a light sugary/spiced icing on top - great for a blustery autumn day.

Note - if you are in the UK and have struggled to find cans of pumpkin, no worries, just roast your own!  Follow this link for simple steps and pictures of how to roast a pumpkin.  And remember: you can substitute any type of squash you like the flavor of, in a recipe that calls for pumpkin.  If you are sticking with pumpkin - pick a small one, as they tend to be sweeter.  I roast and puree a few pumpkins at the beginning of the season, then freeze little containers with 1 cup of puree - a great way to have easy pumpkin all season.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

S'more bars



Graham crackers have not made it to the UK yet, so of course s'mores don't exist here either.  They are one of those things I did not eat often in the states, however as soon as I can't have them...

One of my class mates brought over these soft graham cookies last summer and they were delicious!  I hadn't realized that baking a cookie with the flavor of graham crackers was soo easy (homemade graham crackers just didn't seem worth the effort).  These cookies are definitely worth making and eating on their own - but of course I figured they might be improved by adding in chocolate and marshmallows.


I tried a few variations of stuffed cookies, then found that a bar cookie was less effort, and allowed a better distribution of chocolate and marshmallows in every bite. Luckily none of my friends complained at having to try 4 or 5 variations of these cookies over the last few weeks... I used milk chocolate in my last edition, to make it more similar to the S'mores of our childhood - but they are also delicious with a dark chocolate, if you want a more adult version.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Chewy Brownie!


The brownie has been a recipe I've struggled with ever since I started baking.  The previous brownies I've made have always been ok, as it is hard to go wrong with a chocolaty square, but I just never felt they were great (and I always sorta thought a box mix brownie was better).  I spent a few years making everything but brownies, then decided recently that I needed to finally find a decent recipe - it just seemed pathetic that I could make homemade Samoas, but not brownies.


I tried a lot of recipes, each claiming to have the trick to the chewy brownie - things like putting the tray into an ice bath straight out of the oven, adding extra egg yolks, or having the perfect ratio of oil to butter.  In fact it was the first time a cooks illustrated recipe failed me (I felt their chewy brownies were much too cakey).  I finally tried this simple recipe from King Arthur Flour cook book, just because it was different from the others, not expecting much.  I'm happy to report that this recipe is the one I've been looking for.  Not only does it make an amazing chocolaty chewy brownie - but it comes together in one pot, in 10 minutes!

Note: the original recipe actually called for whole wheat flour, but I misread that and used bread flour by mistake.  They came out great, and very (very) chewy.  Since then I have also been making it with regular flour, and they are also delicious - still chewier than cakey, but not quite as hard on your jaw.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cinnamon rolls!

There is a Cinnabon location in London, right near Picadilly Circus...  and every once in a while after a night out in town, with a pack of Americans, we find ourselves devouring Cinnabons late at night (4 for £10!).  And they are delicious.  While it may just be nostalgia for childhood sleepover parties with Cinnabons for breakfast, I think we get lured in because it reminds us of home.

I recently remembered this recipe for cinnamon rolls I had made a few years back and tried it again, inspired by the idea of home made Cinnabons.  They may not be quite identical to the original, but they are pretty delicious, and these get devoured very fast, especially fresh out of the oven.  The only draw back I've found  to them is that they don't leave you feeling as sick as a real Cinnabon does, leading me to over-consume.

One of the great things about this recipe is you can prepare it all in advance, then put it in the fridge overnight, pop it in the oven in the morning, and have amazing hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast!

*This recipe taught me that bread flour(US) = strong white flour (UK).

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wedding Cookies



I tend to think that cookies are a good thing to bring to most occasions.  When planning our wedding, I had a grand plan of having a cookie table that people could contribute to and then take home at the end of the night.  However I was sad to find out once we picked our venue that due to food safety laws no homemade food could be served there.

After some brainstorming - we came up with the idea of cookies in a jar.  I figured this was even better than taking away already made cookies - as our guests could take them home, and have easy delicious cookies whenever they wanted.  I set out to find a recipe with ingredients that just fit inside a quart jar, had a variety of colors, and were tasty - and I lucked out to stumble upon this monster cookie recipe.

Not only are these cookies simple to make, but they are delicious!  They are sort of a like a chocolate chip, M&M and oatmeal cookie, all mixed in together into one chewy cookie.  And they make great gifts either in a jar, or in cookie form :).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies



With a name like this, I don't think these cookies need much introduction, one could guess that they would be pretty good.  My first taste of them fresh from the oven, of course confirmed this suspicion.  But once they cooled down and sat for a while, that was when these cookies really shine.  All the flavors seem to meld delightfully together into an amazing soft flavorful chewy cookie.

So I recommend you resist finishing them off straight from the oven, the wait will be worth it.



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Carrot Cake Cookies


Carrot cake is a favorite in our household that was previously reserved for special occasions worthy of 3 layer pretty cakes.  But I recently stumbled upon a picture of a "carrot cake cookie" and thought it was worth a shot.  I was a bit nervous that if I left my recipe as is (to maintain its delicious flavor and texture), and just baked them as cookies, I'd get a very flat cookie.  And, I did indeed come out with a flat cookie, no matter how small I made them, but that turned out to be ok.

These cookies may not win any awards for beauty - but they sure make up for that in taste.  And the flatness of the cookie means you finally get the perfect ratio of frosting to cake in every bite!  Carrot cake is now welcomed into the world of every day finger food recipes in our house.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Caramel coated salted pretzels


I recently had caramel coated pretzels as a topping on ice cream at a great shop in town and fell in love.  While the shop did sell small bags of them, they were five pounds each, way too expensive to fulfill my cravings, so I set out to make my own...  I was a little worried that these would not be worth the effort, as I envisioned carefully watching a candy thermometer trying to get caramel just to the hard crack stage, then rushing to individually dip pretzels before it cooled to much.  Then I realized I could just make them like caramel corn - replacing the popcorn with pretzels and baking them in the oven.

These come out of the oven looking very innocent - you can barely see the caramel coating, you might even make the mistake of thinking it doesn't have enough caramel.  But then you put one in your mouth, and then another... and then half the bowl is gone and you feel sort of sick.  So here is my warning - do not make these without having someone to share them with!  They are delicious, addicting, and way too easy to eat.  These are so easy to make and make an amazing party snack.  Everyone is impressed by someone who makes their own caramel!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chocolate Chip Nutella Swirl Cookies


I think this cookie recipe is probably my second-most american recipe that I have (#1 will be posted at some point soonish).  It is inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart (here) - called thousand layer cookies - in which they layer chopped chocolate in between sheets of cookie dough.  I was intrigued by the idea of layering things into a chocolate chip cookie - but didn't think chocolate was quite exciting enough to warrant the extra effort of rolling the dough, etc.  One of my friends who had recently dog sat for us (and thus I owed cookies to), is obsessed with Nutella, so I went with that.  I opted for more of a jelly roll cookie than a rolled flat one, making a less homogenous cookie, with bites that burst with Nutella.

These cookies basically follow the American premise that if you take two things that are delicious, and add them together, you get an even better result (ex: the deep fried twinkie?? ).  If you are still unsure if you want to bake these, I'll just add that someone told me it was the best cookie I had ever made, and I sort of have a reputation for making decent cookies.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Banana Raspberry Muffins



I was pleasantly surprised this week to find a couple of brown bananas hiding in a corner of my kitchen that I had forgotten to eat the last few weeks, giving me an excuse to make these muffins.  I discovered a few years back that the secret to a moist flavorful banana bread is adding in yogurt!  And after that discovery I make these much more frequently.


This recipe makes a delicious moist muffin - that seem to keep well for the whole week.  I love whipping up a batch Sunday night, and having an easy breakfast for the whole week.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Homemade Samoas








It is that time of the year again when everyone on Facebook is talking about all the delicious Girl Scouts cookies they are selling, buying, and eating, and here I am, stuck in the UK, with none.  I got lucky last spring, when one of my friends sent me an amazing Easter box full of delicious treats including two boxes of cookies (which my lovely dog ate one of ..) but this year neither us were that lucky, and I was sad.


That is.. til I stumbled upon a recipe for homemade Samoas.  Usually I might scoff at the idea of spending hours in the kitchen slaving away over something I could buy (that would be easier, and probably cheaper!).  But as we can't buy them here, I figured I might as well try out the recipe.



I made half of the batch into the original "donut" shape, then made half into little rectangles to save on energy.  Making the original shape definitely requires a labor of love and lots of tedious time in the kitchen.  But it turns out if you are willing to accept rectangular Samaos, the recipe is surprisingly easy, and amazingly delicious!  They taste just like Samoas, and maybe even better.  My only complaint might be that the recipe is TOO easy, and thus I've made two batches this week, and need to start running again.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

S'more Mini Cupcakes


It turns out that s'mores are an American treat that has not made it across the pond.  In fact - over here we can't buy graham crackers or Hershey's chocolate bars, and even big marshmallows are hard to find.  So when I got my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook this fall, I was pretty excited to find a recipe for a s'more cake inside!  I made it last fall with some imported graham crackers, and it was pretty delicious, but I thought it might be even better in bite size form.  And while the frosting was delicious and super fun to toast with a blow torch, it didn't really taste like marshmallow to me.  Below I've adapted the recipe to be made into mini cupcakes, with British ingredients - ie I've replaced graham crackers with digestive biscuits.

I'll admit this cupcakes don't quite taste like s'mores, but they are delicious and cute!  And with the little bit of extra frosting, I recommend making a British homemade s'more in the process - layer up a digestive biscuit with some chocolate, pipe on some of the leftover marshmallow frosting, and torch it up.

Note - the frosting recipe below does require a candy thermometer.  If you want an easier approach - just buy a jar of fluff - I've heard you can find it at Tescos here.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Peanut Butter Nutella Blossoms


One of the classic American cookies I used to make back in the states was the Hershey's peanut butter blossom. A delicious soft peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss on top.  While I didn't make them too often, distance makes the heart grow fonder.  As soon as I no longer had access to Hershey kisses, I suddenly wanted them.  That, and peanut butter is way less common over here, so anything with peanut butter in it is a good thing.  Then one night, I suddenly woke up, poked the husband awake, and whispered - "Nutella peanut butter blossoms" and fell back asleep.  (Yes, I dream of things like peanut butter and chocolate).  And so a delicious recipe was born.


While I was originally thinking these would be a delicious substitute for the classic in their absence, I have to admit these may actually now be a replacement.  I think they are worth making even if you are in the states and have access to Hershey kisses.  They are easy to make, and even more delicious than they look.  I may have made them twice last week... oops.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Intro

Welcome to my new blog! Here I will chronicle my trials and tribulations as I navigate attempting to bake american classics in a foreign country.  I will blog about recipes that require ingredient substitutes and variations on american recipes, to make them work abroad.
I'm a vet student most of the time, but long hours of studying and stress require cookies and cupcakes in large numbers.  So while I may not post frequently, I will try and always post deliciously.

(One of my favorite cakes to bake growing up - the Godiva chocolate raspberry cake).

Spiced apple cake

I have this dream that someday I will post recipes in a timely fashion for various holidays.  In fact I had made this apple cake recipe...