White Chocolate Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies

It’s been nice to get back into my own kitchen over the past several weeks, apart from having a couple of extra sink-fulls of dishes to do. Sometimes, as with all passions and art forms, it can be hard to find your creative spot, really feel inspired, or not let discouragement hold you back. Cooking for me is no different, and while so often these days I’ve been searching for my hibernating enthusiasm and questioning my talents, I’ve had to remind myself that what I do in my own kitchen can only be judged by and help myself. While I’m still struggling with it all, much of my curiosity and motivation has returned.

This past weekend Greg and I went over to a friend’s house for a birthday dinner celebration and football watching, and of course wanted to whip up a batch of something simple to take along. While walking through the grocery store on Friday night (yeah, we know how to party) I thought I’d make some white chocolate macadamia cookies, since I’ve never had one before. Greg suggested oatmeal as well since that’s his thing. There was so much food around the table, I couldn’t help but feel thankful especially knowing people in my own neighborhood still don’t have electricity. With my family living so far away it was so comforting to borrow someone else’s for the evening, and spend a little time laughing and bonding over food, board games and football.

That’s really the point of cookies to me though, they’re comfort food. While they’re usually not the first thing I’ll make for dessert, when the mood strikes it’s great to know they can be made quickly, with plenty to share with friends. These cookies were adapted from this Hershey’s recipe.

White Chocolate Macadamia Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 34 large (3″) cookies

1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
1 cup Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs, large
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Macadamia Nuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups Oats
20 oz. White Chocolate Chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F) and line 4 half sheet pans or cookie pans with parchment paper (or in my case, 2 with two more sheets of parchment ready to go for the next round).

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy and completely blended. Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure it all comes together. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and add to the mixer slowly on low speed. As soon as the flour is in add the nuts, oats, and white chocolate chips. There’s no need to over-mix, stop mixing as soon as it’s all incorporated. If you need to knead the last bit of chocolate chips in because you’ve got a 4.5 qt mixer, go ahead – I had to as well.

Scoop 8 golf ball sized rounds of dough onto each sheet and press the tops down gently to flatten slightly. I use an industrial red handled scooper/disher, but heaping tablespoons will work just fine. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, checking after 10. 13 minutes was the sweet spot in my oven. You’re looking for golden edges, and puffy in the middle without looking wet.

These cookies are great with a cup of coffee. Next time I make them I’d like to actually use less white chocolate chips. I think they’re very sweet and since they don’t have any of the bitterness of dark chocolate, I’ll probably cut the amount down to 12 – 15 ounces. Of course, it all depends on how into white chocolate you are!

{psst: with the holidays just around the corner, these would make a great addition to homemade cookie boxes, stocking stuffers, or pot luck parties. They stay nice and moist for several days when kept in an airtight container.}

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Halloween Kitchen Gadgets & Goodies

The truth is, I don’t need any more spatulas. I think I have seven. But until last week I didn’t have any miniature FRANKENSTEIN spatulas! These days kitchen gadget retailers are finding all new ways for you to spruce up your kitchen for the holidays, and I’m eating the Halloween novelty goodies right up. I’m so excited about my black table cloth, skeleton apron, and gauzy window hangings that I might just leave them out until Christmas, about the time my parents will come over and INSIST I take them down. These are a few more kitchen-y things I’d “die for” (ha!).

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1. Zombie Head Cookie Jar – Wandering fingers will think twice before nibbling on your cookies. 2. Purple Finger Spreader – The final touch to any cheese plate. 3. 400 mL Graduated Glass Beaker – An amazing way to serve up your home brew or wicked punch, even cooler with some paper straws! 4. Uglydoll Ice-Bat Salt & Pepper Shaker – It’s just too dang cute, and his head comes off. 5. Bones Sprinkles – Add the sweet crunch of bones to your cupcakes.

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6. Scary Creature 8″ Plates – I’m not even sure I could eat off of a plate with a spider on it. 7. Halloween Printable Treat Labels – Perfect for homemade Halloween goodies! 8. Skeleton Hand Bags – These filled with white cheddar popcorn are my favorite! 9. Black Cake Stand – A little bit gothic, a little bit chic, I’d use this cake stand year-round. 10. Smoky Black Glass Plate – For a wicked party display.

Hope everyone’s Halloween plans are coming together well. Here in the greater NYC metro area we’re still out of power, but hoping to get it back soon. This whole hurricane thing is putting a kink in my blogging stride, what with no electricity and all, but hopefully I’ll be able to update again this week! xo, Jenny

Pumpkin Spice Zombie Cupcakes + Printables!

Hello friends! I’ve been waiting so long to get back to blogging, and looking forward to spending some more time in my kitchen at home. Between last spring and now I’ve been a little busy with the daily routine and well…getting married! There’s so much to share about all of the amazing foods and coffee we enjoyed out on the west coast during our honeymoon, but this week is all about Halloween and Fall. Sadly, as a post-college, pre-child adult the opportunities to really celebrate Halloween are a little limited, especially when it falls on a Wednesday, so I’ve decided to have my own little celebration here.

Of course, you don’t need to be throwing a Halloween party or expecting Trick-or-treaters to make a batch of Zombie cupcakes. You can make them in any flavor you like, preferably with a light colored frosting. I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Pumpkin Cake and whipped up a batch of Browned Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The recipe posted on Martha’s website makes 18 cupcakes, cooked for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. My recipe for the frosting is:

Browned Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream (a long title for not that complicated of a frosting)

12 Tablespoons (6 oz) unsalted butter + 4 Tablespoons (2 oz)
2 egg whites (large or extra large)
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red food coloring ONE DROP

In a small pot on medium heat melt the first 12 Tablespoons of butter, and let cook until it reaches a dark golden brown/light caramel color. Don’t be alarmed, it will bubble up. There’s a fine line between browned and burnt, so give it your full attention. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely. I like to do this step before mixing and baking the cupcakes, just to make sure it’s cool enough.

Fill a small or medium pot with a couple of inches of water and bring up to a simmer. In the metal bowl of your stand mixer whisk together the egg whites and granulated sugar. Put the bowl over the simmering water bath and whisk constantly until the whites are warm and the sugar is completely dissolved. At this point you can put the bowl back on the mixer and whip the egg whites until they’ve at least doubled in volume, hold a peak, and the bowl has cooled off.

Next stream in the cool browned butter, while the eggs continue to whip. Once all of the melted butter is incorporated add the final 4 Tablespoons of room temperature butter. Next add the Confectioner’s sugar in two parts, followed by the vanilla extract. Scrape down the inside of the bowl regularly. Finally add one drop, and one drop only, of red food coloring for the fleshy brain coloring.

To frost the cupcakes, use a small spatula to spread a flat layer of frosting. Fit a piping bag with a small round tip (I used an Ateco #6) and fill it with some of the frosting. Pipe a line down the center of the cupcake, then back down towards the beginning with squiggly zig-zagging lines. Repeat on the other half of the cupcake for the other half of the brain.

For the cupcake wrappers you’ll need some regular white card stock, scissors and scotch tape. Just print out the attached zombie wrappers, cut them out, and tape one end over the other. Brains for everyone!!!! (Everyone wearing a costume that is.)

 

Keeping it Ethical. Keeping it Tasty.

At the moment I’m sitting on the couch, watching a movie while baking off a batch of what I consider to be the easiest and most delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies. It happens to be a Martha Stewart recipe, widely distributed online, published in her Cookies cookbook, and in a 2005 magazine. It’s a no-fail-cures-a-raging-sweet-tooth-in-20-minutes kind of recipe. Not that it can’t easily be found online, but can I write about it on this blog? I mean, can I publish the recipe too?

The ethics of food blogging have been on my mind since I started this blog, but without a definite idea of what that meant, I’ve felt a little apprehensive about publishing recipes. Of course the number one goal of mine is to develop my photography and food styling skills, while testing out new recipes and perhaps even developing a couple of recipes along the way. Is it possible to develop a successful food photography blog without sharing recipes? I love cooking and baking, and would love to share recipes. I’m a professional cook, and while this is a personal project, I’d like to treat it with the same level of professionalism and integrity that I do my day job. I’m not here to distribute other people’s work, I’m here to share my own. For some advice I turned to some food bloggers I have a special respect for.

Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen has shared her practical ethics, “[O]ut of respect for the place where I started my hunt for the dish, and out of a stubborn belief that it’s in bad form to pretend you were the first one to ever rub butter into flour, I like to give shout-outs to places that got me started on the path to what I wanted to achieve in the kitchen.” As far as taking a recipe and re-using it, Deb suggests, “You are welcome to run the ingredient list as-is, but you should put the directions in your own language and add your own tips. By doing this, you are creating a new piece of work, not just creating an infringed copy of what is already out there.”

Officially the U.S. Copyright Office has a somewhat vague description of what parts of recipes can and can’t be copyrighted. “A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.” They say that there MAY BE a basis for copyright, but let’s just show a little professional courtesy and read this as: the ingredient list is up for grabs, but commentary and instructions are off limits.

Justin Schwartz of Justcook NYC sees food blogging ethics from the perspective of a cookbook author and publisher. “Think about it this way — what if you publish a cookbook someday and then dozens of bloggers start posting your recipes for free on their sites? Or they “adapt” your recipe by changing one ingredient? You might start thinking it would be nice if people would buy your book, right? If a recipe I blog about is readily available on the web, I’ll post a link. And I might reprint a recipe on my blog occasionally, but not very often.” As someone who dreams of seeing my work in print one day, I understand exactly where he’s coming from. For that matter, I’d be pretty upset if someone were to take my work and use it for their own gain.

So basically, after a great deal of thought this is how I intend to ethically write on this blog:

Recipes published here will either be:
1. Entirely my own creation.
2. “Adapted” from a specifically noted source, only after extensive recipe testing and manipulation.
3. Linked directly to the originally published online recipe.
4. Not published at all and reader will be directed to the appropriate cookbook.

Photographs and stories of course, will remain exclusively my own works.  {Whew} It’s nice to get that off my chest. Let the blogging continue!

Spicy Crunchy Chocolate Ice Cream Love

You know how you flip through a new cookbook and there’s so many amazing looking recipes you hardly know which one to make first? Yeah, this book is like that.

Last year I was walking through the aisles of the bookstore, when my eyes landed on an ice cream cookbook. It looked adorable, and there were pictures of each ice cream beckoning me to take it home and give the indulgences within a turn in my ice cream machine. But, having recently been disappointed with another ice cream cookbook purchase, I resigned to leave it be. Several months later I returned to look up an apple ice cream recipe after spending the day in an orchard, and came home with the scribbled down version of Jeni’s Splendid Baked Apple Sorbet. At that point I knew that this woman was probably on to something and it was only a matter of time before I’d give in to the crippling cravings to own this book.

Two more visits and a round of “Oh, I want to make that! And That! AND THAT ONE TOO!!!” I went ahead and bought Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer, and haven’t been disappointed. Not only are her flavor combinations really something to celebrate, but she really knows how ice cream works. I bothered to read the introductory chapters before diving into the recipes and learned that her techniques are a little different than the classical anglaise bases I was taught in pastry school and have duplicated in several restaurants.

So I decided to start with the Gucci Muu Muu, a rich and creamy chocolate ice cream with the warmth and spice of curry and the subtle crunch of toasted coconut. IT ROCKED. The whole quart of it. Which I ate all by myself. I’m not even the tiniest bit sorry either. I’m pretty much ready to take anything Jeni says about ice cream as gospel at this point. The book is broken down into four main recipe sections, based on season, and while the winter recipes have been delicious I’m anxious for the springtime ingredients to work with, and warmer weather to ride my bike around in. Preferably while eating a homemade ice cream cone (see recipe in the book) full of Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream! {heart melts in anticipation}

This Cheese Stinks. (and rocks.)

I haven’t always been devoted to the pastry arts. There’s a chance I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about delicious foods at all if it weren’t for dairy, which is essentially my first love. Milk, cheese, more cheese. I’m not especially picky, I’ll try any kind of cheese no matter how pungent or generic it is although I’ll probably reach for the runny triple cream more often than not. So whenever I’m walking through Whole Foods or Murray’s in Grand Central there’s a good chance I’m picking up some cheese.

Now this cheese… tastes like barbeque.

I’m totally not kidding. This is the “Harbison”, a cow’s milk cheese by Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT. Upon unwrapping it, the cheese had a very strong ripe and earthy scent. Admittedly, it’s not my favorite kind of cheese usually, but like I said, I’ll try anything. After cutting into the round the delicious insides nearly oozed out, how could I resist that? I slathered a little on a pita chip cracker and was surprised and delighted. It tastes like barbeque!!! Smoky and woody, with earthy flavors and ultra creaminess to boot. Of course, the flavor is no doubt derived partially from the spruce bark wrapped around the cheese, cut from the Jasper Hill grounds. This cheese isn’t dainty, and feels just right for these chilly winter nights.

I feel like it’s also a beer drinking kind of cheese. I’d pair it with the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout for a rich wintery indulgence, or a Thomas Hooker Nor’Easter Winter Lager to accent its woodland aromas and keep the mouth feeling crisp.

This winter isn’t just for hibernation and cheese eating though. After thinking through a couple of typical new year’s resolutions (eat better, keep my house clean, save money, etc) I settled on the resolution to eat more DELICIOUS food, push myself to experiment with cooking new things, and to take more photographs of it all. Life has changed a lot in the past three months since I dedicated my time here, but all in wonderful ways. I’m really looking forward to keeping up with it and hopefully making some images and dishes that are truly inspired. Happy New Year!

Dying for another bite: 99 miles to philly

Many months ago I was walking down 3rd Avenue on the way to something or other, and passed by 99 miles to philly, a Philadelphia style cheesesteak joint in the East Village. I scoffed, there’s no comparison to the real thing… or is there?

This past weekend we had tickets to a show at Webster Hall, so Greg and I decided to grab a quick bite before the show in the neighborhood. As we walked towards the restaurant I threatened, “If they’re serving steaks on Kaiser rolls, I’m out.”

The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the Phillies game on tv, of course. They were up and while we waited for our steaks, they racked up 3 more runs. I then immediately noticed that they were serving up their cheesesteaks on Amoroso’s Rolls. If you aren’t familiar, it’s the only roll for an honest cheesesteak. I became more hopeful. A quick look at the menu reassured me that I could order my steak with American, Provolone, or Cheez Wiz – just the way it should be, nothing fancy. Anyone who’s been to Pat’s in South Philly knows you order wit’ or wit’out (onions). I’m an extra American wit’out kind of girl. My mouth began to water.

Each second felt like a lifetime as the sound of metal spatulas scraped beef across the flat top grill and the scent of steak and onions permeated the air. When our order was up, I unwrapped the first half and dug in for a bite. It was…transcendent. I had to remind myself to stop and take a picture and wipe a dusty tear from my eye. For the next 20 minutes it all felt just like home with a cheesesteak in my hands, the Phillies on tv, and my best friend across the table.

I probably wasn’t hungry enough to eat the whole thing, but I couldn’t NOT eat the whole thing, you know? It was fantastic right down to the last crumb. And just like that I was on the streets of Manhattan again, a city that’s still not quite home – but closing the gap on those 99 miles.

99 miles to philly – Old Style Cheesesteaks
94 3rd Avenue (between 12th & 13th); (212) 253 2700/2730
Atmosphere: Philly dineresque.
Sound Level: Conversation, low television.
Price Range: $7.75 cheesesteak (meat, cheese & onions) extras $.25 – $3.50
CASH ONLY – ATM on premises

Saturday Morning Cinnamon Rolls

Saturday mornings in my house are something new and incredible. For the last year and a half I’ve spent Saturdays at work (or school), and very few weekends have passed spent with my own family and friends. When I signed up for a career in the kitchen I knew that’s what I’d be getting myself into.

As a little luck would have it though, and a great deal of reorganization, I’ve been granted Saturdays off! Knowing that this sort of thing is rare and probably won’t last forever, I’m determined to make the most of it.

Of course no weekend would be complete without something tasty for brunch. In my parents’ house it was often cinnamon rolls, which I adore. So I decided to give a batch of handmade rolls a go last Saturday.

Now I happen to think the folks over at Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen have it all figured out. So I based this recipe on the Quick Cinnamon Buns in Baking Illustrated. Of course, cooking on a whim means that occasionally I don’t have everything on hand that the recipe calls for, so I improvised a little.

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
3/4 c. Light brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. Sugar
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Cloves
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Unsalted butter, melted.

Stir all filling ingredients together until completely combined with a sandy texture. Set aside and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9″ cake pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Dough
2 1/2 c. All-purpose flour (plus more for rolling out)
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1 1/4 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 c. Milk (I had 2% on hand)
1/4 c. Heavy cream
6 Tbsp. Unsalted butter, melted.

Whisk all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder & salt) together to combine and break up lumps. Pour in the milk, heavy cream and 2 Tbsp. Of the melted butter, and stir with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula until all of the liquid is absorbed and dough comes together.

On a floured surface, turn out the dough and knead together any pieces not completely combined. With your hands, smooth out and pat the dough until it forms a rectangle about 9″ by 12″. Brush the dough with melted butter and add the filling in an even layer on the dough, leaving a 1/2″ border of dough showing.

Gently roll the dough (with the long side, across the 9″ portion) with a bench scraper, and seal the edge by pinching the dough at the seam. With the bench scraper, trim the edges of the log, then cut the dough into 8 pieces. Put one roll in the center or your 9″ cake pan and surround it with the other 7 rolls. Gently pat down any pieces that may have popped out of place and brush with more butter. Bake until the buns are lightly golden, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Icing

8 oz. Cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. Light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. Heavy cream
2 c. Confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla extract

Beat all ingredients together with a stand or hand mixer until icing is smooth, creamy, and fluffy. Spread on top of biscuits after they’ve cooled for 5 minutes. Enjoy a tasty start to your weekend!

Inspired by: Carrie & Andrew Purcell

She’s the stylist. He’s the Photographer. Together they are pictures & pancakes and one powerhouse of a creative team! Their resume is enviable to the point of jealousy, with clients including Martha Stewart and Food Network publications, along with a slew of others. One look at their images and it’s clear why Carrie and Andrew are so sought after.

This is food, with a focus on food. The settings are often straightforward and chic, playing up the colors of each dish. Carrie & Andrew’s blog combines their talent for photography and constructing great images with their interest in cooking and little morsels of their travels and adventures.

…And now I have to have that. Luckily, I can make it! What’s also impressive is their interest in expanding their art forms outside of the boundaries of their daytime job. Mad Props, a collaboration with Sarah Cave explores the use of “orphan props”, where the styling comes first, and the food is displayed to highlight these unique pieces.

All images copyright Carrie Purcell and Andrew Purcell

A Handful of Macarons

Our little street in Montreal (on St. Dennis) was crammed with restaurants, lounges, and little speciality stores. The block is mostly 3 or 4 story townhouses, with the basement and first levels of each home all commercial. Tucked into the ground level of one of these buildings is Marius et Fanny Patisserie Provençale. This place has it ALL. Chocolates, cakes, savory goods and sandwiches, croissants, macarons, EVERYTHING.

So of course I had to get one of every macaron…for photographic purposes! They even made them all the way back to the states so I could photograph them. I honestly don’t even remember what flavor all of them are, apart from delicious. Some were filled with creams and ganche, while the fruity ones had jam sandwiched in between. Why haven’t I thought of using jam?!

I really adore the bold colors they used in creating these. I know some of the Parisian macaron makers prefer to be a little more subtle with their colors, but it’s great that they’ve created their own palette so to speak.

With the weather finally being cool enough to whip up a sturdy meringue, perhaps it’s time to give making macarons at home another shot. Since the possibilities are endless they’re a great treat for just about any occasion. Maybe a set of fall/Halloween colored macarons?

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