I love fall. I love Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love foliage. I love sweaters and cups of tea. And, I adore fall food. Squash, pumpkin (which, I suppose, is a squash), apples, cranberries, the works. It’s a great season. So, I bring to you a very fall-feeling recipe for stuffed Butternut Squash. You could really use any squash for this, and I’m sure acorn would work very well, I chose butternut because it’s common, they had good looking ones at my supermarket, and it’s amusingly phallic. (I never promised I was mature).
This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook, adapted for my personal tastes.
Preheat the oven to 350. Halve a squash (again, whatever type you have) and remove the seeds and guck. Cutting a squash can be tough, don’t be afraid to pretend to be a sensai and yell “Hi-yah!” when you do it. I did. Put it on a well oiled baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 25-30 minutes (even longer if it’s a particularly large squash). Remove and let cool until touchable. Don’t turn off the oven, you’re going to need it again.
Meanwhile, make the stuffing. Chop up a package of mushrooms, a small onion or a couple shallots, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and sautee in 2 or three tablespoons of oil or butter. Throw in whatever spices suit your fancy. I used oregano and basil and a tiny bit of thyme. I’m sure rosemary would be good too. I also bet you could put carrots or some other veggie in with the mushrooms…
Put the mushrooms in a bowl. Mix in a cup or so of breadcrumbs and some other things that might be good. I used chopped walnuts, chopped celery sunflower seeds and grated parmesean cheese. Add in a good dose of salt and pepper. Some more suggestions of what you might like to put in: dried apricots, dried cranberries, raisins, any type of nuts, sundried tomatoes, any type of cheese… or get creative. The only things I’d say this really needs are the mushrooms or the breadcrumbs… everything else is negotiable.
Fill up each half of the squash with the stuffing mixture. Bake, covered with foil, for another 15-20 minutes.
This is a very filling, hearty and healthy dish. It would make a great Vegetarian main course for Thanksgiving, served with cranberry sauce, a green vegetable, maybe a starch and of course dessert. Or, just an awesome fall oriented dish.
So, here’s some personal information for the world: I have had some real, serious anxiety about driving. Yes, I’m a grown woman, yes I have a driver’s license, yes I took driver’s ed and practiced and all that stuff, but driving has always made me nervous (the roots of this are something I won’t go into here, but I have gotten treatment for anxiety, no worries). So I’ve avoided driving like the plague for years, which is pretty easy when you live in New York City. But recently, I’ve realized, it is really good to know how to drive. It is a very practical skill. Especially when you have both a zip car and costco membership at hand. So I decided to take this issue head on. I enlisted my dear friend and fellow pretty girl Johanna, and arranged a driving lesson/practice session in exchange for baked goods. I must say, she was an extremely patient and kind driving companion, and really helped me feel a lot better about my ability to drive like the rest of American adults, and, well, she got some honey-gingerbread cookies.
I made these halloween themed because it’s October. And I had ghost and cat cookie cutters. I like gingerbread a lot, and the honey works really well… it’s a great flavor addition. I have to work on my royal icing technique – they were a little sloppy – but the taste results were great. Note: the dough needs refrigeration and then the cut out shapes need freezing – so A. make sure you give yourself a while to make these and B. make some room in your fridge and freezer for them.
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup honey (don’t use fancy honey for these – it’s expensive and the flavor you’re paying for won’t be taste-able – save that for tea.)
1/2 cup molasses
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in honey and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Divide dough into 3 portions, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a generously floured piece of parchment, roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Slide dough and parchment onto a baking sheet, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Cut out desired shapes. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Bake cookies for 6 minutes. Remove sheets from oven, and tap them firmly on counter to flatten cookies. Return to oven, rotating sheets, and bake until crisp but not darkened, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
Ice them with royal icing. I have written about this previously… but the kind I use has raw egg whites. I mix one box confectioner’s sugar, 1 tbs. lemon juice, 1 egg white, and 1/8-1/4 cup water to make it… and I like using gel as opposed to liquid food coloring if available. Ice cooled cookies as desired.
This week, my dear boyfriend’s grandfather passed away. While I never met Grandpa, his family has always been very nice and generous to me, so I wanted to do something for them while they are grieving. (I will note that this was not a tragedy, so no one gets too upset – Grandpa lived a long, healthy life and died surrounded by loving family, it’s more to mark an occasion of loss and celebrate a life well lived). Anyway, when he flew down to the funeral, I sent with him some cookies to share with his family. Because that’s the only way I know how to send my thoughts and well wishes.
Pralines are awesome. Pecans and caramel, where can you go wrong? Seriously. If I were to make these again, I would add bourbon to the caramel. Bourbon and caramel are a great combo, and I think that would have added some nice flavor to the cookies, but they were great as they were. (Note: as with most baked goods, if you do add booze, only add a small amount, maybe 2 tbs, and all the actual alcohol cooks out, so they’re safe for pregnant ladies, non-drinkers, etc.).
The Cookie Base:
A basic, brown-sugar cookie:
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat to 350. Put parchment on cookie sheets. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: always use parchment. Even if the recipe doesn’t say to or suggests greasing your sheets or pan. Ignore it and use parchment. Seriously. I will say it every blog if it gets someone to use it: this stuff is life changing.
Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients, set aside. In a large bowl or mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the egg and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients to combine. Drop rounded teaspoons for small cookies, tablespoons for larger cookies, and bake until golden, 10-15 minutes, depending on size. Allow to cool.
Don’t turn off your oven just yet though! Put about 1 cup of pecan halves in a baking pan and roast them for a few minutes. I have burned too many nuts, so I may under-roast, I usually put them in for 3 or 4 minutes. Take them out and then you can turn off the oven. When the cook, break them into small pieces (I just used my hands, because I wanted chunks). Then, in a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup cream, 1 cup brown sugar, possibly more vanilla or bourbon, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium for 2 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat, and whisk in 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Whisk it good, until it starts to look frosting-y. Add in the pecans. Top the cookies with the praline mixture. I think the best thing to do is the let the mixture dry for a while and then trasfer to your serving dish, because caramel frosting is super sticky while wet.
Again, I’m so sorry Grandpa is gone, and know that he will be missed by his great family, who have always been so kind to me.
It seems that coconut is a controversial ingredient. I know several people who aren’t crazy for it, including at least 2 of our pretty girls and even my own mother. So perhaps this is a controversial statement. But here goes: I love coconut. Almond Joys are my favorite cheap candy, coconut frozen fruit bars are my favorite… I love it. Especially when it’s served sweet (ie macaroons), though I’m also partial to more savory (coconut milk curry…).
In that spirit, here are some coconut cupcakes I made, with all this leftover shredded sweetened coconut I had bought when it was on sale. The cake is like a plain old cake with a coconutty twist… which to me, was awesome.
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk
8 large egg whites (I used the kind that comes in a carton, because it felt like a big waste to toss 8 yolks).
1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners, or grease them well to go paper-less; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture; stir in shredded coconut.
Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.
I then frosted mine with regular chocolate ganache, though the recipe called for a meringue frosting. I also put some sweetened, shredded coconut on top for decoration. If you’re a coconut fan like me, these are sure to please!
It seems I accidentally deleted the pictures I took of these cupcakes. Sorry!
I love holidays. They’re a perfect excuse for baking things to give to people. Which is the best part of baking. So, here’s a recipe for a very gooey apple pie I made for Rosh Hashanah. It’s a little different from what I usually make because it has a gooey glaze (sort of gelatin-ey) on top, and a thin, cookie like crust. If I were to do it again, I’d use less of the glaze, and more cheese and apples. Also, explore a flakier type crust. But it was good, and sweet, and used the traditional Rosh Hashanah apples and honey. And, of course, change is good.
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup ground almonds
- 3 to 4 tbs water
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut together the butter and flour (with a pastry cutter or food processor). Stir in the almonds. Add in the water and mix until it forms a dough. Roll the dough out on a floured surface (it will be rather thin) and gently put it in a standard 9-inch pie pan. Make a nice edge. Pierce it with a fork. Put a piece of foil on top, and then sprinkle 2 cups or so of dried beans onto it. Bake 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans. Bake for another 15. Allow it to cool and shut off the oven.
The Apple part of the filling:
- 1 1/2 cups port or dessert wine
- cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 3 large peeled thinly sliced apples (a tart variety, I used Granny Smiths)
- 1/3 cup honey
- a pinch of salt
Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Toss the cinnamon stick. Strain, reserving both the liquid and the apples. Stir the honey into the liquid.
The Cheese Filling
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 almond extract
- 2 tbs honey
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth. Spread it into the crust.
Put the apples over the cheese filling.
Make the glaze:
Take 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquids, put it into a small saucepan, whisk in 2 tbs cornstarch, and whisk as you bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat, and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour it over the apples.
Let the pie cool, then chill it in the fridge.
I know that I’m Bakezilla and I’m supposed to tell you all about lovely baked goods… BUT, it’s the summer. And, it’s been a really HOT summer. So, even die-hard bakers like me have been forced to turn off the oven and look for foods that are a little more weather appropriate.
… Like, this tasty chilled tomato soup. I wouldn’t call it a gazpacho, it’s got more of an Italian/French feel. What I can tell you, is that my beau and I came across this, made it, and ate it, we both decided it was awesome.
# 2 1/4 cups tomato juice
# 1 1/3 cups finely chopped tomatoes (about 11 ounces)
# 1/2 cup (generous) finely chopped roasted red bell peppers from jar
# 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
# 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
# 1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish
# 1 garlic clove, pressed
# Generous dash of hot pepper sauce
# Fine sea salt
# 4 1/3-inch-thick rounds soft fresh goat cheese
# 6 grape tomatoes, cut in half
# 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
Combine first 8 ingredients in large bowl; whisk to blend. Season soup to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and flavors blend, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
Ladle soup into 4 bowls. Top each with 1 goat cheese round and 3 grape tomato halves. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and basil.
Summer, it seems, is too busy a season for all of us pretty girls. But, fear not, dear readers, Bakezilla’s back. This frosting was for my birthday cake a few weeks ago, and while the cake was good, it was the frosting that was a real star. I wish I had layered more on, because this recipe, adapted from Shirley Corriher’s Lucious, Creamy Chocolate Icing, makes a TON. And it’s awesome. Really, really awesome.
You will need:
-12 oz milk chocolate chips
-9 oz semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbs brown sugar
-1/2 tsp almond extract
-3 tbs light corn syrup (I promise that this isn’t the high fructose stuff that’s so bad for you found in processed food…)
-1 1/2 cups sour cream
1. Melt the chocolate most of the way, either in the microwave on 50% power or on the stovetop over medium heat. When it’s almost all the way melted, take it off the heat and stir until smooth. Don’t burn it – burned chocolate smells almost as bad as burned hair. A kitchen mistake every baker knows.
2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, almond and corn syrup. Stir in the sour cream with one or two strokes. Add the melted chocolate, beat on low until very smooth. If it’s too runny, let it sit for 30-60 minutes.
Before frosting, make a soaking solution for the cake. I had never used this technique before, but this really enhances your frosting and cake’s flavors. To do so: mix together 1 cup of hot water with 1 cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add in 2 tbs rum or liqueur of your choice (I like Grand Mariner). Drizzle 3-4 tbs of this over each layer of your cake before frosting it. The hot water evaporates all of the alcohol, so not to worry serving this to those who cannot have any.
To make the frosting more chocolatey, play with the quantities/types of chocolate – use dark, or use more semi-sweet and less milk. You could also use bars of chocolate chopped into little bits, but chocolate companies are making chips much more high quality than they used to (there are more options than Tollhouse! I promise!), so I think there’s no shame in using them.
As the summer hits New York City, and I experience its heat, its humidity so thick it’s hard to breathe, its sleepy days and frenetic nights, I’m brought to a far away place where I spent a summer now six years ago. El Salvador, a tiny Central American country where the heat never breaks, and life moves painfully slowly and so fast you can’t keep up all at once.
I’ve had a long time to reflect on my time there. Most time in El Salvador, including mine there, is spent outdoors. Their national song, a poetic description of the Salvadoran people’s dignity, courage and strength in the face of brutal repression and a horrible war begins with “the Salvadoran people have the sky for a hat,” meaning that they are always outside, retreating only inside to sleep. The family I lived with for those three intense months, like most Salvadoran families, had no formal kitchen. They had a large sink, called a pila, outside under a tree, where all washing (and I mean to say I washed my dishes, my clothing and stood there nude at night and washed myself) takes place. They had a small gas range and a refrigerator also outside, protected by a porch. Like most Salvadoran families, they had no oven, and bought most of their food already prepared from street vendors, cooking only on the occasional Sunday after church. This is a place where it is always too hot to cook.
I think about this now, when my computer’s weather monitor says it’s 99 degrees, and I too eat mostly food that’s already prepared, or that requires no cooking and certainly no baking. The only baked good I ever ate there was a sweet and savory cheese bread known there as “quesadilla,” not to be confused with the more popular Mexican version. No one taught me to make it, as it is made there only in restaurant kitchens and not private homes. I’ve made it here several times, substituting Parmesan for Salvadoran cheese, which is remarkably similar but somehow different all at once.
Here is a Salvadoran Quesadilla recipe, taken from epicurious.com, for days I want to remember El Salvador, but it thankfully isn’t too hot to cook:
- 1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1/2 ounces finely grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional), not toasted
They say to use a 9×5 inch loaf pan, however, I’ve only ever seen this made in round cake pans.
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter and sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs, sour cream, and cheese.
Reduce speed to low and mix in milk. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Transfer batter to pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.
Cool to warm in pan, 20 to 30 minutes. Turn cake out onto a rack. Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature.
One of the greatest things about food is that it lets you travel without leaving home. Traveling to far away places might not happen every day, but eating their cuisines can. In that vein, today I bring you a cookie recipe from either side of the Aegean.
* 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup polenta (yellow cornmeal)
* pinch of salt
* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest, (1 lemon)
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat to 350. Whisk together the dry ingredients, set aside. Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, the the vanilla. Slowly add in the dry mixture.
Place the batter into a pastry bag with a large star tip. Pipe 2-3 inch S-Shapes onto parchment lined cookie sheets, spaced at least 1/2 an inch apart. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
My cookies came out flatter than the recipe’s picture, but they were wonderfully moist and stayed for several days.
Kourambiethes (Greek Powdered Sugar Cookies)
*2 sticks of butter, creamed until fluffy
*1 egg yolk
*2 (or more) cups flour
*1/2 tsp baking powder
*3 tsp liquor (brandy or whisky work well)
*1 tsp vanilla
*1/2 cup chopped almonds
Preheat to 350. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar to the butter and beat well. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla and liquor. Add the almonds and enough flour so that the dough stops sticking to the side of the bowl.
Shape the cookies into small crescents, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes or so. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a clean surface, placing the very close together. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, using a mesh sieve. Let cool completely.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gone crackers. I mean, don’t we all? Well, I don’t have an answer to that question, but I did make some crackers and an eggplant spread to go with them recently. Making food probably helps keep me sane, so I make crackers and not go crackers.
Herbed Whole-Wheat Flatbread:
a cup of warm water
one packet active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp sugar
Fresh herbs (your choice)
1. Place water in a mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast in. Allow to stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in flours, oil, 2 tsp salt, sugar. Stir until it forms a dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead 2-3 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough in it, cover it, and allow the dough to rise for an hour. While you’re waiting, chop up some fresh herbs in any combination you’d like, I used oregano and rosemary for mine. You’ll need about 3/4 of a cup total.
3. Preheat the oven to 350. In a small bowl, mix the egg with a tablespoon of water and set aside. Put parchment on a baking sheet. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll out the pieces into long, thin crackers and put them on the sheet (do this as quickly as possible, the dough continues to rise). Brush the crackers with the egg wash, and sprinkle on some salt (not too much! a pinch will do), and herbs onto the crackers.
4. Bake about 20 minutes, allow to cool.
Caponata (Italian Eggplant Spread)
This is a tasty, healthy spread to top your crackers.
2 medium eggplants
2 tbs red wine or cider vinegar
1 tbs sugar
1 cup chopped cilantro
2/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers (jarred = okay)
1/4 cup rinsed capers
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the eggplants in half and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, allowing them to get soft and their bitter juices to leak out. Let cool until you can touch them without hurting yourself.
2. Scoop the flesh out of the eggplants, throw away the skins. Add vinegar, sugar, a dash of salt and pepper and stir. Allow to cool.
3. Put in the remaining ingredients. Place the caponata in the fridge for at least an hour.
This spread will stay for several days in the fridge, and can be eaten cold or room temperature.