Friday, October 28, 2011

Shortbread is awesome, you guys.

Okay, so my new precious happens to be shortbread. My first foray into it was an unmitigated disaster of which we shall never, ever speak. EVER. My second attempt, though, was more ambitious and about twenty different kinds of awesome. SERIOUSLY. I kept taste-testing the finished product and telling myself how ridiculously brilliant I am. And I wasn't even exaggerating!

Anyway, here are four different kinds of shortbread I made. I have some fancy ceramic shortbread pans, but nine-inch cake pans (not the dark ones!) would do in a pinch.

Basic Shortbread Recipe (from


1 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 c flour


1. Preheat oven to 325*F.
2. Cream the sugar and butter together. Add the flour and mix until it resembles a fine cornmeal. (I start with a wooden spoon for the creaming and the initial flour mixing, and then I just use my hands.) Don't overmix! If you do, your shortbread will be gross and ungood.
3. Butter the baking dish, ceramic or otherwise. Press the shortbread dough into the pan evenly.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the edges start to turn a sandy color. Be careful not to overbake! If you do, your shortbread will be (unsurprisingly) gross and ungood.
5. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pan for a good 15 minutes or so, then turn out of the pan to finish cooling. I put a bit of parchment paper over the wire rack so that weird stripes don't get pressed into the bottom of the shortbread, but that's not really a big deal.
6. Cut while shortbread is still slightly warm. When the shortbread is completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature. It gets better as it ages, and it can last for a week or longer in the right kind of container and at the right temp.

But I can never be satisfied with a base recipe, can I? OH, NO. NEVER!

So I made four different kinds. The variations are as follows:

Lemon Ginger Shortbread

Add the zest of two lemons and 1/4 c crystallized ginger pieces to the dough. I mixed the zest and ginger pieces in with the sugar and butter so I wouldn't overmix once I added in the flour. It worked great!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Add 1/2 c dried cherries and 1/2 c mini chocolate chips to the dough. Again, I added these to the creamed sugar and butter so the dough wouldn't be overmixed when the flour was added.

You could always go with a smaller amount of chocolate chips, if you want, around 1/3 or even 1/4 c. I haven't tried this with the cherries soaked in coconut rum yet, but that's my next experiment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Update: It goes awesomely! You just have to be sure to drain the cherries very well so there's no excess moisture to mess up the shortbread dough's texture.

Orange Spice Shortbread

This one's my favorite so far. Add the zest of one largeish orange, slightly less than 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and a small pinch of ginger. Since this is mostly dry stuff, you could add it in with the flour. To make these even more awesome, when they've cooled, I suggest dipping the bottoms in dark chocolate. Divine!

Vanilla Shortbread Dipped in Chocolate

Add 1/2 to 3/4 tsp vanilla extract to the butter and sugar as you cream them together. When everything is cooled and cut into its individual pieces, dip the bottoms in dark chocolate. Om nom nom...

So, there you have it: shortbread four ways. I'm going to experiment with the coconut rum cherries and with a maple ginger shortbread over the next week, and if they turn out well, I'll post those recipes, too.

Happy baking, all!

Friday, June 3, 2011

They say it's your birthday ...

Okay, so I made some awesome stuff the other day because it was my birthday and that required, you know, CAKE. Not just cake, but copious amounts of it. Thus, CAKE.

Anyway, these are adapted from recipes I use all the time and would be easy to figure out on your own, but they turned out so nicely I thought I'd share them in their entirety just in case you didn't feel like branching out and doing the experimentation on your own.

Aaaaand away we go!

First, I made a couple of lemon berry poundcakes. One was lemon raspberry, and one was lemon blueberry. They were both ridiculous. And by ridiculous I mean nomsome to the extreme. I started with my favorite base poundcake recipe and just added a couple of things from there. GENIUS, people. It was absolutely genius.

Lemon Berry Poundcake


2/3 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 c all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 c sour cream or vanilla yogurt
zest of 5 small or 3 large lemons

6 oz of a large fresh berry of your choice (like raspberries or blackberries) or 8 or 9 oz of a smaller-ish fresh berry of your choice (like blueberries)

For the glaze:

½ c sugar

¼ c coconut rum


1. Preheat oven to 325*F. Lightly butter 9 x 13-in. baking pan.
2. Cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 min. (Or, you know, do it by hand until it's creamy and fluffy.) Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

3. Add lemon zest and vanilla extract; stir until incorporated.
4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, and add alternately with the yogurt or sour cream to the creamed sugar mixture. Beat on low until just blended.
4. Add in berries; stir gently until just mixed in. Don't overdo it, though! Otherwise, your poundcake will be all weirdly rubbery and dense in a not-good way.
5. Pour into pan and bake for 1 hr and 15 min or until cake tests done. (You can also make muffins, round cakes, or whatever. Baking time will vary, though.)

6. Just when you pull the cake out of the oven and put it on a wire rack to start cooling, dump the sugar and coconut rum into a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk briskly until the mixture begins to boil and goes clear (about 5 minutes). Pour it over the cake, making sure to coat the whole top. I usually use a large spoon to pour puddles of glaze over the cake and then stroke the glaze into the cake with the back of the spoon.

7. You can let the cake cool in the pan if you like before cutting, which is what I do, or you can pop it out of the pan after 15 minutes, let it cool completely, and then do the glaze. But the glaze won't soak in at all the way it does when the cake is hot, and the soaking in is part of what makes this cake so amazing. The top doesn't get sticky or soggy if you glaze it while it's still piping hot—it just gets delicious.

Okay, the second (third? Do the two lemon berry cakes count as one total, or one each? Meh, who cares? They were delicious) thing I made was a ganache-filled chocolate cupcake. And they were total amazeballs, okay? Okay?! So that completely justifies another chocolate ganache cupcake recipe so soon after my other one. NO. REALLY. IT DOES! So stop looking at me like that, will you? Just ... go bake something!

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cupcakes

The Chocolate Raspberry Ganache


4 oz. high-quality dark chocolate (60-72% recommended), in pieces (I used Ghirardelli semisweet chips because they were handy)
1/4 c heavy cream

1/4 c raspberry preserves
2 Tbs confectioners' sugar


1. Drop the chocolate, cream, raspberry preserves, and powdered sugar in a small glass bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth after you've stirred it a bit.
2. Set aside in the fridge to cool (unlike the other ganache I've made for cupcakes, this one is really soft. So I recommend making it 2 hours before you make the batter. Seriously). When the cake batter is poured, drop about 1 tsp of ganache on the top of each cupcake before baking and—this is important—push it down so the top of the ganache dollop is even with the top of the batter. If you don't, the ganache will just run over the top of the cupcake, not sink to the center. Actually, since this ganache is so light and soft, it doesn't really sink at all. That's why you have to refrigerate it and push it down to have it end up in the middle of the baked cupcakes.
4. If there's any ganache left over, eat it up with a spoon. NOM!

The Cupcakes


3/4 c boiling water
3/4 c high-quality dark cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli for these, and they turned out great)
1 c buttermilk or heavy cream; I used heavy cream this time
2 1/2 c flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350* F.
2. Pour boiling water over cocoa to dissolve; whisk until smooth. Stir in buttermilk and set aside to cool.
3. Stir together the dry ingredients (minus the sugar, of course), and set aside. Note: You can leave out the cinnamon, if you like, or drop it down to 1/4 tsp if you want a subtler hint of it in the cupcakes. I really like the way the cinnamon plays off the chocolate cake and the rich raspberry ganache centers, though, so I do recommend it.
4. Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. (You can use an electric mixer, but I usually do this by hand. It seems to work just fine.) Stir in vanilla.
4. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture, alternating with the chocolate mixture.
5. Pour into paper cup-lined muffin pans (leave a bit of space at the top, but to tell the truth, these won't rise too much), drop 1 tsp. of ganache onto the top of each and push the ganache down a bit, and then bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 30 cupcakes, depending.

The Ganache Frosting


8 oz. high-quality dark chocolate (60-72% is good)
1/2 plus 2 Tbs heavy cream (you can go up to 3/4 c heavy cream if you want a much softer frosting, but remember that it won't hold up as well at room temperature)


1. Melt the chocolate and cream in a microwave in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth after you've stirred it a bit.
2. Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache and swirl around a bit to completely coat each one with the ganache frosting. Set aside to cool a bit and let the frosting begin to harden a little, then store in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to eat. Rejoice in the awesomeness of your endeavor.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Too sexy for my kitchen

Okay, check this out and try not to flail right out of your chair: orange cranberry cookies with white chocolate chips and a hint of coconut rum.

Right? RIGHT?!

And they're super easy because I just used the regular old Tollhouse recipe as the base. I mean, ffft, I've made these cookies twice, and they just keep getting better. And I don't like dried fruit or white chocolate in my cookies! Or generally care for white chocolate at all!

But enough about the fabulous flavorgasm that is these cookies. On to the recipe!

Sexy Orange Cranberry Cookies with White Chocolate Chips


1 c butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
the zest of 2 medium to large oranges
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger
1 c dried cranberries
1/2 c coconut rum
1 c white chocolate chips


1. Soak the cranberries in the rum overnight. When you're ready to bake, drain the cranberries and set them aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375* F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper because parchment paper is awesome.
3. Cream together the sugars and the butter. Add eggs and beat until fully incorporated.
4. Add the zest; stir until mixed.
5. Add in the dry ingredients (from the flour to the ginger). I know the Tollhouse recipe says to add the flour in two stages and whatnot, but screw that. Just do it all at once. It's fine. The dough will seem a bit dry, but that's okay. The rum-soaked cranberries will fix that.
6. Add the cranberries and the white chocolate chips. Stir until fully incorporated. But don't overdo it or your cookies will be like leathery hockey pucks. Sadness.
7. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, a dozen cookies per sheet. Bake at 375* for about 10 minutes. You want these to be on the lighter side of done so the subtle flavors all meld together properly and don't get lost if the cookies get really brown and caramelized. Unless that's totally the only way you'll eat cookies, in which case you should totally be my guest!
8. Remove from cookie sheet a few minutes after they're out of the oven. Let finish cooling on a wire rack (if you can! I dare you to not eat these morsels of flavorosity right up while they're still warm).