Easy Focaccia

IMG_3499

One of my best friends from college and his wonderful significant other visited me this past weekend, and we made a feast. A summer feast. All things meant to be eaten cold, which worked well in 90-degree heat. Orechiette with beef and arugula tossed in fresh balsamic vinaigrette (thanks Giada), salada chilena, and berries and fresh vanilla bean whipped cream.

IMG_3458

And also, of course, something baked. Specifically, this ridiculously easy, totally delicious focaccia. We plucked fresh herbs from my apartment building’s urn garden, bright parsley and fragrant basil.

IMG_3476

Sprinkled liberally with tangy, lasting grey sea salt and a hint of black pepper, we baked the softly puffy dough till it was golden and crisp and ready to serve (and snack on, while pasta was cooking).

IMG_3486

I am generally fearful of things that require yeast (yes, even pretzel buns), but this focaccia doesn’t even make me break a sweat, and it only takes a short afternoon to fix up. Couldn’t be easier–or more impressive.

IMG_3495

Continue reading

Advertisements

Salted Toasted Coconut White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

And the prize for longest name of a baked good yet on this blog goes to…

IMG_3384

These guys. Yes.

IMG_3376

Another short and sweet one here. There is not really much to say about these once you know what is in them. If you’re smart, you’ll run off and bake them right now. That’s right. Don’t read on. Just go bake ’em.

IMG_3297 IMG_3303

Still here? Didn’t listen? You will after the next few pargraphs. Toasted coconut hide inside the extreme sweetness of this cookie. White chocolate chunks offset that sweetness with a cooler flavor.

IMG_3312

Salt gives them a complexity and a bit of a kick. They are nothing special without that salt. Don’t skimp.

IMG_3360

They are chewy and crunchy all at once. This is thanks in part to the oatmeal, and in part to the frightening amount of butter. They demand a glass of milk to go along with them.

IMG_3331

If you’re still here, I can only assume it’s for the recipe, which I suppose you’ll need if you are to run off and immediately make them. Here you are then! Continue reading

Sunset Morning Muffins

IMG_3283

Here’s what’s going on with me and breakfast. We had a good thing going for a while. Cheerios and milk. Predictable, reliable. Then I decided to switch to drinking organic milk after a somewhat traumatic and eye-opening trip to a Wisconsin farm. No big deal. I get tastier milk on my cereal in the morning, and I support local farmers and happy cows, right?

IMG_3272

WRONG! So. Wrong. I have bought organic milk twice now. And it tastes weird. Kind of metallic and plastic-y. What is up with that!? I wish I knew. I googled it and found some uneasy solace in message boards proclaiming a worldwide dairy conspiracy. More practically and less globally, I just hate going to the grocery store every other day. What’s a locavore girl to do?

IMG_3243 IMG_3245

Needless to say, for the past two weeks, breakfast has not been my pal. It’s been chocolate chip granola bars and coffee around here. Maybe some O.J. to get some vitamins in there. (In the beginning of this tragedy, there was also cake, but two bites of insanely rich cake does not a breakfast make.) None of those things are good for your first meal of the day. They are not filling. Which is, of course, the whole point of having breakfast in the first place.

IMG_3251 IMG_3259

Luckily, though, as often happens in life, as in baking (sage metaphor coming right up), challenges lead to creativity. And so it was with my organic-milk-breakfast-dilemma. Walking home from work today, I thought to myself, HANG ON. I have buttermilk. I have butter. I have some eggs. I have cranberries. I have oats. I have spices. I have walnuts. I am making myself muffins for breakfast. At least until I get off my lazy butt and go to the grocery store for some new milk.

IMG_3268 IMG_3269

So that is what I did. I made these as the sun was setting, for tomorrow morning (now you get the title right?). You can put whatever you have in your pantry in these things. I put in a bunch of oats so they are healthy. (That’s a lie–don’t kid yourself–these are full of brown sugar and butter.) I put in walnuts for crunch, allspice for some dark background spiciness, and cranberries for tartness and a little bit of sunset color. But any nuts, dried or fresh fruit will be good in these things.

IMG_3293

Breakfast problem solved. Except for the fact that now I’m not really sure I’m ever going to want to go back to plain old cereal and milk again… Continue reading

Birthday (Almost) Dobos Torte

Allow me to introduce myself. Kari Couture, self-proclaimed Best Friend of All Time to Chelsea Kelly (sorry other besties, it’s my 15 minutes of fame here!). I am guest blogging to bring you the story of the Birthday (Almost) Dobos Torte – which, come to find out, was not really an all the way Dobos Torte… but we’ll get to that in a sec!

IMG_3121

You may think it cruel of me to let one of my best friends make her own birthday cake, but when someone loves baking the way Miss Kelly does, you would just never dream of getting in the way. AND, when I saw the cake she had her birthday sights set on, frankly, I was pretty sure that neither of us (especially me) could take on this endeavor alone without coming out a very bitter and beaten down cake-less creature.

IMG_3126

So, in order to show my love and appreciation, I let Miss Kelly bake her own cake. But I separated ALL the whites from yokes, I chopped chocolate until there was (literally) no chocolate left, I kept the cats off the table (save for one tail in the icing), I swept the kitchen floor (I don’t even do that at my own house!) and I photographed the hell out of every single step of this cake – as evidenced in this post by the series of twelve photographs documenting each of the twelve layers. Just call me Kari Sue Chef-ture.

IMG_3108

Here is the recipe that inspired and struck fear into us. And here is the recipe and blog that provided comic relief and many insights, albeit AFTER we baked the cake. We found out one of the characteristics that makes a Dobos Torte a Dobos Torte, is the caramel layer, which we did not do, hence the (Almost) in our Dobos Torte.

IMG_2890

Both the cake batter and icing were mysteriously made of almost all egg. Do you have a dozen eggs in your refrigerator right now? Well if you do, that is not enough to make this cake, so go get more. 7 egg whites and 10 egg yolks, and that’s just the batter… more to come.

IMG_2929

The consistency of this batter goes through change after weird change. From slimy to thick and dense to frothy but somehow also sticky. Pouring and spreading it out as thinly and evenly as possible was a bit tedious.

IMG_2912

Watching it through the oven window, we saw it bubble and grow in places while it seemed to fall in others – reminding me of the eerie landscape of Yellowstone Park.

IMG_2969

After the first one came out, although impressed with how thin and even it was, we were pretty underwhelmed. It smelled a bit like scrambled eggs and looked a little weird. There was some debate at this point as to whether we should even continue. Miss Kelly was ready to revert to a trusty old cupcake recipe. I admit, I almost gave in. But I just couldn’t let us turn back!

IMG_2977

We found that baking the second one until it was golden with some brown spots made the cake smell, look and taste much better. It was spongey and sweet and the scraps went down easy.

IMG_2947

Once both layers were baked and cooling, we started the icing. Chocolate and butter, a match made in heaven.

IMG_2989

In case you all don’t know this about Miss Kelly, she hates eggs. In every form except baked into cookies, scones and cakes. So this cake already had her on edge. Then to make matters worse, the icing recipe called for raw eggs!! Her response: “EEEEWWWWW” accompanied by a shudder.

IMG_3047

After presenting a lengthy argument for putting the raw eggs in the icing, she was still putting up a fight. (Her issues with raw eggs and eggs in general go way back to a childhood instilled with fear of Salmonella. Sort of like how my Grandmother told me you can bleed to death from your belly button and to this day I am convinced I should have some kind of protective cushion around my belly button, just in case she was right. And yes, belly button piercings horrify me.)

Much to Miss Kelly’s dismay, I went ahead and just put the egg yolks in. I compromised though and only used two when the recipe called for three. Thank goodness because that third egg MIGHT have been the one with Salmonella! (Later, she shared this link with me to add some evidence to my totally unsubstantiated claims that she will be FINE if she eats raw eggs.)

IMG_2996

The quote of the baking day, “WHAT HAVE WE DONE!?” escaped from Miss Kelly’s mouth after sampling the icing. The uneasiness about eating raw eggs was quickly overshadowed by the mind-blowing chocolately, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that is this icing.

IMG_3002

Cake – check. Icing – check. Now plating and layering. After much deliberation and sorting through the box cleverly labeled “Box” with miscellaneous kitchen stuff in it, we decided to make a square cake and the trusty round cake stand. Cutting our two 11×17 cakes into six pieces each… that’s where the twelve layers come in! Yup. TWELVE.

IMG_3045

Our cake layers were a bit uneven. One 11×17 was nice and thin and one was a little on the thick side so we were careful to alternate. The icing layers got progressively thicker toward the top. A second batch of icing was needed. (In case you’re not keeping track, the egg count is now up to 14, or 16 for those of you not so afraid of raw eggs.)

IMG_3062

So its wasn’t perfect. It didn’t quite look like Smitten Kitchen’s cake, but our cake had serious heart!

IMG_3084

And last but not least, Miss Kelly sealed it into its cocoon of rich dark chocolate and sprinkled on some celebratory stars. Tiny, delicate and golden.

IMG_3142

And then it was done. Twelve beautiful layers. Another baking challenge successfully conquered by this unstoppable duo.

IMG_3125

What is the moral of the story of the Birthday (Almost) Dobos Torte? Just remember the three Ps. Persist despite your doubts (about the eggs). Persevere (through the HOURS this will take you). And Perfection… is overrated and always trumped by taste.

IMG_3138

Your first bite will make it well worth the time. I promise you. But invite a lot of people to help you eat it. The cake continued to exert its power over us when we discovered how little we could eat in one sitting due to the overwhelmingly delicious richness. For me it was about 10 really, really good bites. The remainder of the piece of cake took me another couple of days to finish.

IMG_3115

Without further ado… Miss Kelly’s rendition of the (Almost) Dobos Torte recipe. I hope you enjoy baking it as much as we did! Continue reading

Lemon Vanilla Bean Scones

IMG_2807
IMG_3105

I really should quit making any scone recipe other than my cream scones. I know they work. I like them best. I am always, without fail, disappointed in any other recipe. But this was an adaptation from Alice’s Tea Cup–my favorite ridiculous little fancy-pants tea shop in New York City. I might have lived off of those scones most of the summer I lived in the city. So this recipe had to be great. Right?

IMG_2797

Wrong. I hate to write that–but wrong. The recipe was not great. It was certainly not bad; it might even have been good. But it was definitely not great.

IMG_2755 IMG_2758
IMG_2759 IMG_2760

The dough is sticky and much more vanilla-y than lemon-y, and I still can’t figure out how they work when they don’t have an egg in them.

IMG_2764 IMG_2770

They were a success at the brunch I brought them to, but I’m pretty sure that was mainly because of the hostess’ amazing fresh strawberry compote and whipped cream, which can make any ho-hum recipe pretty great indeed!

IMG_2788 Continue reading