Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lemon Sunshine Cookies

Here in Phoenix the weather has been BEAUTIFUL ( with the exception of this past weekend. There was rain. Dark clouds. And a lot of wind. - I’m not the biggest fan of wind. I hate wind). The highs have been in the 70s, the sky is the PERFECT spring time blue, the clouds are extra fluffy - cotton ball like, and the grass is the prettiest color green. There's a still in the morning that let's you know it is going to be a beautiful day. I LOVE this time of year. It's the perfect time to go hiking or lay in your back yard and read a book under the shade of tree. It's the perfect time of year to roll your windows down, open up that sun roof, and blare the Beatles – singing at the top of your lungs is a must. Ahhh. I love it. I think more than anything I love the anticipation for summer. The days are getting longer, and the smell of summer is just lingering in the afternoons.

I feel like the perfect cookies to eat during this time of year are these lemon cookies I adapted from Joy the Baker's recipe for Black and White cookies. I am obsessed with lemon in baked goods. It brightens anything up and makes everything taste so delicious. These cookies help add a little bit of sunshine to my day. The batter is more like a cake batter than a cookie batter, and the result is this delicious moist thick cookie. Sounds good, right? Well it is. Then it get’s topped with this freaking awesome lemon glaze that takes the cookie from delicious to “holy moley, I can’t stop eating these things!” Yeah. They’re that good. Well that’s what I think… I guess you’ll just have to make them to make that decision for yourself! :)

Side Note: Have you seen (500) Days of Summer? Have you? Well if you haven't the second thing you should (the first obviously being bake these cookies!) is rent it! Then you MUST download the soundtrack. It will change your life. I promise you this (kind of like these cookies will). Finally, I ran 1.5 miles last night! I know it's not much, but I feel accomplished. :)

Sorry for the last minute rambling, now to the cookies!

Lemon Sunshine Cookies:
(Adapted from Joy the Baker's Black and White Cookies)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups well shaken buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon extract (or fresh lemon juice)
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In another small bowl, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, lemon extract, and lemon zest; set aside.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, mix in the dry and wet mixtures, alternating batches ; starting with the dry and ending with the dry (dry, wet, dry, wet, dry). Mix until smooth.

Using a large cookie scoop, or ¼ cup, spoon batter about two inches apart onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. After batter is scooped on to a cookie sheet, take the back of a spoon and spread out the batter; this will help the cookies to cook evenly and to make sure they aren't so puffy.

Bake until the cookies are puffed and the tops are a pale golden brown, between 15 – 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

The Glaze:
(Adapted from Joy the Baker's Black and White Cookie Recipe)

2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
½ teaspoon lemon extract
1 tablespoon warm water
1 table spoon lemon juice, heated up

In a bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon extract, corn syrup, water, and lemon juice until smooth. Turn over cooled cookies so the bottoms are facing up. Spread the cookie with glaze, and let set. Then enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Challah Bread

Today, in hopes of countering the whole “getting fat” part of this food blogging journey that I am on, I signed up for Pat’s Run. It’s a 4.2 mile run in April. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for me it is! My friend Jill is my hero! She’s a runner who seems to be doing half marathons all the time.  Back in September she told me that I could be a runner too, she even sent me a running schedule to do for a half marathon. At first I thought she was crazy. How could I possibly run a mile, let alone 13.1!? But now I think I finally believe her.  I’m determined to become a runner, and hopefully Pat’s Run will be the first of many races. Now, I know it’s only 4.2 miles, but everyone has to start somewhere right?

Just like with this bread.  I knew one day I’d have to tackle my fear of working with yeast and making a loaf of bread.  Thankfully, I found a recipe that didn’t seem too complicated and had a pretty presentation (it’s braided).  So the first loaf of bread I ever baked was Challah bread for this past Christmas.  My fears of working with yeast quickly faded away as soon as I smelled the dough.  I absolutely LOVE the smell of yeast and fresh dough.  Oh my gosh it’s like heaven on earth – I swear.  But something I love even more than the smell of fresh dough, is the smell of a fresh loaf of bread coming out of the oven.  I made it this past weekend for a Valentine’s Day picnic I had with my boyfriend, Alex.
It’s slightly sweet and absolutely delicious fresh from the oven with butter on it.  Plus there is something about making a loaf of bread from scratch that is so satisfying; it will make you feel so accomplished.  So go. Make it. I promise it will be the most satisfying thing you do this week. 

Challah Bread
(Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book)

4 ¾  to 5 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons poppy seeds, optional


In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups flour with the package of active dry yeast and set it aside.  In a medium sauce pan heat the sugar, butter, salt, and water together just until they are warm (120F – 130F) and the butter is almost melted.  Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on low speed for thirty seconds.  Add both eggs, one at a time. Beat on high speed for three minutes.  Using a dough hook, or a wooden spoon, stir in as much o the remaining flour.

Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and kneed until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 6-8 minutes).  While kneading add in remaining flour by the tablespoon.*  Shape the dough into a ball.  Place dough into a lightly greased bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size – about one hour.

Punch dough down.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into thirds.  Cover the thirds, and let rest for another 10 minutes.

Roll each third into an 18 inch rope.  Place ropes on a large baking sheet  one inch apart and braid the dough.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for thirty minutes.  Combine the egg yolk with the two teaspoons of water.  Brush egg mixture over the entire braid.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired.

Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.  When the bread is done it will sound hollow when tapped.  Remove bread from baking sheet  and cool it on a wire rack.

*You may not use all of the flour.  It's most important that the dough be elastic, not that you use all 5 1/4 cups of flour.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snicker Doodle Cupcakes

Here's the deal: I am a 22 year old college graduate who dreams of one day opening up her own bakery. The only training I have had is the guidance of my mother and grandmothers who instilled the love I have for baking in me at a very young age, and the many Martha Stewart recipes that I have drooled over every time I make them (seriously Martha is a god). Other than that I am a self taught sugar fiend that loves to spend any chance she gets baking – and eating delicious sweets.

My goal: Post one recipe a week in hopes of advancing my baking knowledge.

My fear: Getting fat.

I've spent the past 4 or 5 months reading the blogs of Smitten Kitchen, Joy the Baker, Brunellos Have More Fun, and 17 and Baking. With every blog they posted, I found myself wanting to be a part of this online food blogging society. So with the support of my friends and family I am finally finding the courage to do it. So please bear with me. I ask that you have patience with me in the beginning because this is all very new to me. I can't guarantee that my pictures will be amazing, because they won't, and I can't guarantee that I won't ramble, because I most likely will. I'm excited, nervous, and terrified. Hopefully I won't bore you, and hopefully you'll be inspired to bake one of these recipes your self!

Now to the cupcakes!

These cupcakes are a piece of heaven on earth. ( I know that sounds corny, but it is the absolute truth! ) The cupcakes are so light and airy. Even without the frosting they are so delicious. But who would want a cupcake without frosting? Seriously? That's absurd. Especially this frosting...oh man oh man, it is oh so delicious.

Snicker Doodle Cupcakes
(Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcake Book)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (if you don't have cake flour it is okay to substitute with all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full (I like to use an ice cream scoop to make sure they all come out evenly). Bake, rotating tins halfway through, for about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

After they've completely cooled frost the tops of each cupcake. I also like to make a cinnamon sugar mix (3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon) and sprinkle a little on top of each cupcake before the frosting hardens.

Vanilla Frosting
(Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcake Book)

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter on medium high speed for two minutes, until pale and creamy. Then add 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar, beating until well incorporated and scraping down the sides. After each 1 cup of confectioner's sugar added to the butter, turn the mixer on high and beat for ten seconds. Continue to do this until all 4 cups of sugar has been used. This should take about 5 minutes.

*This makes for a very large recipe. I usually halve the recipe when I make one batch of cupcakes.

You know you want to make these. And trust me, you can't eat just one. They are so freaking delicious!