Scone Trial

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My previous post touched on my breakfast ritual with my daughters.  Luckily, one of the coffee shops in town brings a taste of the city to its patrons, having pastries from Balthazar’s delivered to their shop on a daily basis.  A particular favorite of mine is the cranberry scone.  These are the perfect combination of buttery, slightly sweet from the cranberry and sprinkle of sugar crystals on top, and surprisingly, there is no orange zest as you typically find with any baked good containing cranberries.

Well, I wasn’t lucky enough to find the recipe for these online, so I turned to the Ina Garten as a base recipe to start from.  One good thing about making these, I finally used my stand mixer, that has been sitting on my counter accumulating dust for years.  This wonderful piece of machinery made everything incredibly easy.  My daughters were fascinated with seeing the stand mixer work as well as how easy it was to operate.

While this recipe was good, it wasn’t of the same quality of Balthazar’s.  I think that in order to get there, it needs more butter, just a small twist of sugar, and I did omit the orange zest as well.  I did love that the egg wash with the sugar crystals really made these scones look amazingly delicious.  My youngest daughter ate a whole scone for herself once these came out of the oven.  It was quite amazing because they were each almost the size of her face!  While not what I was aiming for, they were still quite delicious!

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Bakery Blues

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One of my main sorrows in leaving the city is the lack of a good sit-down bakery to enjoy delicious baked goods for breakfast (I’m not talking about cupcakes).  Ever since our first daughter was born, we made a ritual of going out to breakfast on the week-ends.  I would bring my daughter to one of the various coffee/ bakery shops around us and we would enjoy some quality mommy-daughter time.  It was always such a pleasant way to begin the week-end.  In moving to the suburbs, I had a hard time finding the perfect breakfast spot that had the ambiance and the the quality of baked goods.  One of our favorite places to frequent in Brooklyn was a wonderful little bakery called Blue Sky Bakery.  They make the most delicious muffins.  All of them are fresh-made daily and incorporate seasonal ingredients, such as fresh pumpkin or apple in the fall, peaches in the summer, and so on.  On any given day, they have at least 10 varieties to choose from.  My daughter loved to eat all of the fruit out of my muffins and we thoroughly enjoyed the varieties offered each day.

I wondered if I could find the recipe for these muffins, as the shop only had two base recipes, one bran and one non-bran, with different fruit mixtures for variety.  I was in luck and thank you Google for helping me find it!  These are seriously the best bran muffins I have had and I was so excited to find the recipe out there.  I found out that it was published in a cookbook “Table of Contents“.  You can use any combination of fruit in these muffins and they are always amazing.  I made these as my two year old sat on the kitchen counter watching me create these wonders and when they were done, she dug in, eating all the fruit out of the center, just like her sister used to do.  It’s like they’re related!  You should try these muffins out.  Not too sweet, very easy and fast, extremely delicious!

Blue Sky Bakery Bran Muffin (makes 2 dozen)

  • 2 and 2/3 c buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c vegetable oil
  • 3 c. wheat bran
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cup fruit (I used raspberries and peaches)

Preheat oven to 425 and coat muffin tin with butter or cooking spray.

Mix buttermilk, eggs and oil in a medium bowl.

In seperate bowl combine wheat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt.

Pour wet mixture into dry one and mix until just combined.

Place about 2 tbsp of batter in each muffin tin (the batter will expand to fill about 1/2 the cup).  Place a generous layer of fruit  (about 2 heaping teaspoons) into each cup.  Measure 2 tsp of the sugar in a small bowl, taking pinches with your fingers, sprinkle the sugar over the fruit.  Divide remaining batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Place remaining 2 tspn of sugar into bowl and pinch and sprinkle the sugar over the top!

Bake for 5 minutes.  Rotate muffin tins front to bake to ensure even cooking and bake for another 11-13 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it.  Do NOT overbake.

Cook on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from tin.

 

The Second is 2!

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So it’s happened.  My baby turned two.  When did this happen?  I can hardly believe that time has flown so quickly!  I don’t know if it’s because I’m so tired these days or if life is just too full of things to do, but having to even consider planning a birthday party for my daughter seemed beyond me at this point.  Planning playdates for two children seems to so difficult and this seems to be one of my shortcoming as a parent.  I look for the easy playdate where friends have more than one kid so that all the children can keep each other occupied.  Is that terrible of me?  Don’t lie, I’m sure I’m not the only one!

I am glad to say that my second daughter is quite gregarious and will run around to almost everyone after she has acclimated and flirt outrageously with them.  For this I am very grateful that she finds her happiness instead of having to have someone define it for her.

Well, I may not have planned a big party for her, but I did get my act together enough to make her cupcakes to bring to school as well as have a small gathering with family to celebrate.  For her cupcakes, I opted to make a lemon cupcake with a lemon buttercream frosting.  I have made these before for my first daughter’s first birthday, noted here.  However, instead of mini-cupcakes, I opted for large ones.  The recipe will make about 16 large cupcakes.  I used the buttercream frosting here and added half a lemon with half a lemon’s zest.  It turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself!  I also opted to use a pre-made candy flower by Wilton’s, which I got from Michael’s.

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When my eldest daughter learned that I was going to be making cupcakes she insisted on helping.  It was quite hilarious how she helped me with the icing.  For every cupcake iced and flower she placed, she would then help herself to a small taste of icing.  And with each taste, she would exclaim “I love helping you make cupcakes mommy!  Mmmm!!!”  What a comedian!  Although, I must say, she was surprisingly exact in measuring the perfect amount of batter needed for cupcakes.  I may have to employ her services in the future.  Haha!

Anyways, the cupcakes were quite delicious and my youngest daughter was quite enthusiastic about the blowing out of the candles.  She actually blew the candle out too quickly the first time, requiring us to re-light them before we finished singing happy birthday.  And, she was singing happy birthday to herself for about 3 weeks straight. What a great age this is, toddlers are like little comedians!  Happy birthday my wonderful, funny, intelligent and daring girl!

Happy V-day 2016

 

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Cookies decorated by my almost-5-year-old daughter

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  I don’t usually celebrate this holiday, but since this is coupled with President’s day as a 3-day week-end, as well as the weather being unbelievably frigid, I was looking for indoor activities that would keep two active young kids occupied and engaged.

My eldest daughter L.O.V.E.S. baking and decorating cookies.  Ever since she was almost 2, she’s been helping out with baking in the kitchen or helping to decorate cookies for this occasion or that occasion.  I have been a little bad about keeping up with baking lately so I figured I owed it to her to give her a decent baking and decorating session.  If the little one wanted to join, so much the better.

After my visit home last summer, I mentioned to my mom how I was envious of her great cookie-cutter collection.  She immediately told me that it was mine for the taking, which thrilled me to pieces!  She packed it all into a box and mailed it to me and it was better than Christmas when they arrived!  My eldest daughter was SO excited she immediately started making plans of all the different cookies she was going to make.  I think she was a bit disappointed when I packed them away and then forgot to make any cookies for the Christmas holidays.  Oops.  So this was my chance at redemption!

It’s so crazy to think that my daughter is almost 5 years old.  She can roll out dough, cut out cookies and ice them (kind of) and decorate them all by herself!  It’s amazing when I think back to the first time she decorated cookies and what a mess it was.  Not that this wasn’t a mess as well, but in a different way.  Maybe I’m lucky the youngest wasn’t interested in making or decorating cookies!

I used a simple sugar cookie recipe I found from Epicurious, which I have used in the past and it works beautifully as it issimple in method and number of ingredients.  I would highly recommend it as they are simple, yet tasty.  I would, however, note that you likely only need half of the icing recipe that goes with this as you will have too much left over.

May you be surrounded by love and happiness (and warmth) today.  Happy Valentines everyone!

Panda Party

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My daughter recently celebrated her fourth birthday.  As a part of her birthday, she asked if she could bring cupcakes for her classmates.  I don’t mind bringing goodies for the kids to celebrate a birthday.  I actually think it’s quite nice and fun for the kids to be able to celebrate something in school and I know that my daughter was so excited to turn four like all of her friends.

I wanted to make something special for her so I looked at my trusty pinterest and found the cutest pin of a panda cupcake.  The link didn’t work but the images were enough for me to be able to figure it out for the most part.  I didn’t have a lot of time so I decided to use a cake box mix and dress up the cupcakes really cute.  When my daughter saw the panda cupcakes I had started before she went to bed, she was very excited, exclaiming how cute they were.  When she woke up in the morning, she saw all of the panda cupcakes and excitedly said “Mommy, there are so many more cute pandas!”  She couldn’t wait to share them with her friends at school.  I hope it was a memorable celebration!

Buttercream frosting

1 C butter, softened

4 C confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 T milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well incorporated.  If the mixture is too thick, add more milk.

Ingredients:

Buttercream frosting

Icing piping bag with a wide circular tip

small bowl of granulated sugar

semi-sweet chocolate chips

chocolate sprinkles

Instructions:

1. Bake chocolate cake batter in mini cupcake tins, as directed.

2. Using your icing piping bag, pipe the frosting onto a cupcake, as smooth as possible.  I piped from the edges and moved into the center and then piped extra icing in the center to really give the cupcake a rounder shape.

3. Taking the iced cupcake, roll the icing in the granulated sugar until completely covered.

4. Starting with the nose, place a chocolate chip sideways a little lower than the center of the cupcake.  Follow with two chips with points down as eyes and then two chips with flat side facing up as ears.

5. Using tweezers, place the chocolate sprinkles to form the mouth.

6. Using a very thin piping tip, squeeze small dots onto the eyes.

Voila!  You have cute little panda cupcakes that are fun to look at and yummy to eat!

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An Apple-demic

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It has really been a long while since I’ve posted! I can’t believe that the summer is gone already and that fall is upon us! While I lament the passing of the warm sunny days and going to the swimming pool, there are certainly many aspects of fall that I look forward to. One of the best things about fall, in my opinion, is the official arrival of apple season!

Now, I don’t know if my readers know, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia. While this may not seem relevant to fall, let me give you a bit of background. I grew up knowing three types of apples: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith. I didn’t know that there were any other kinds. Imagine my surprise and delight when upon moving to the Northeast, I discovered endless varieties of apples to be had! Fuji, Gala, Mutlu, Macintosh, Spartan, the list goes on and on!

Since our CSA runs through October, we are naturally partaking in the apple festivities!  Not only do we get fresh-pressed apple cider, we get bags and bags of apples!  We were literally overflowing with apples!  As a bonus, we also got a bag of Barlett pears!  I love my pears!

Well, what would you do with more apples that you can consume?  Why, make a pie, naturally!  AND, it happened to be my little brother’s birthday, so why not make TWO pies?  I know, crazy, right?  It was like a pie factory in our apartment!  My daughter had lots of fun helping.  While she didn’t get to wield a knife (she’s only 2.5!) she did enjoy helping me put all the apples into the bowl and then mixing the apples in the sugar mixture.  She also enjoyed eating the apple filling out of the mixing bowl as I rolled out the crusts.

The pies kept our apartment smelling delicious with the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and apples, which is a perfect way to welcome fall into our house.  Happy fall everyone!

Apple-Pear Pie

Filling:

1 1/2 C Bartlett Pears, peeled, cored and chopped – about 3 med-sized pears

2 1/2 C apples (whatever variety) peeled, cored and chopped – about 6 small/med-sized apples

1 C granulated sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 T flour

Crust (makes top and bottom crust):

2 C flour

2/3 C shortening

1/2 tsp salt

6 T cold water

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients for the filling in a large bowl.  Let sit.  The mixture will accumulate water as it sits.

2. Cut shortening into flour and salt until you have coarse crumbs.  Add cold water 1 T at a time, mixing as you go.  The dough will be ready when it pulls away from the bowl and is smooth.

3. Divide dough into two even pieces.  Roll out one piece into a large circle so that it is larger than the pie dish.  Place in the bottom of a glass pie dish so that it comes up the sides with about 1/2 and inch of overhang.  Use a fork to punch holes in the bottom of the crust.  This will help ensure that when the pie is baking, the crust won’t form bubbles.

4. Pour filling into pie crust in dish.  Roll out the other pie crust so that it is at least a inch larger than the pie dish.  Fold into quarters and use scissors to cut vents into the top of the crust.  Take the crust and fold the edges to seal the bottom and the top crust together.

5. Cover the crust edges with aluminum foil.  Place a covered sheet pan on the rack below the pie rack.  Place pie in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Take off the aluminum foil and bake for 25 more minutes.  Take out the pie and let cool.

Berry Berry Bread

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Happy Memorial Day to all!  I hope that you all had a restful and long week-end!  This week-end we decided to sequester ourselves in the apartment and try to potty-train my daughter.  It was a particularly blustery and overcast day on Saturday.  Perfect weather for hiding out in the apartment.  Since we were confined to the indoors, I decided to take the opportunity to make breakfast.  We happened to have strawberries and blackberries in our refrigerator, which I thought would make a delicious breakfast bread.  I used the recipe found in my previous post here  except I substituted strawberries and blackberries for the fruit/ nuts addition.

My daughter who just turned two, is growing by leaps and bounds every day now.  Her affinity for helping in the kitchen has not declined in the least so she was excited to help me make the bread.  Needless to say, everything she was doing came to a dead halt when she saw I was beginning to make something.  She stopped eating what she was eating, got off her chair, and pulled up her stool up to the island where I was working so she could see what I was doing.  So of course I let her help me mix the ingredients and add the berries, and together we watched the bread rise in the oven.  She even insisted on bringing my cookbook to the bathroom when she sat on the potty so she could “read” it!  She is a constant source of entertainment!

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This bread is a wonderful spring bread.  I loved the flavor of the berries mixed together.  I think I took it out of the bread pan too soon (out of eagerness) as gravity quickly began to pull it down and it ended up in quite a squat form.  Despite it being one of the uglier breads I made, it was still delicious.  The berries were piping hot and very fresh, so the bread had a wonderfully bright sweetness to them.  My daughter and husband quite liked it and I have to admit that these impromptu breakfast breads are quite tasty and fun!