Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

It is officially autumn.

Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

I’m living in giant sweaters and boots, and just got a new coat.

Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

I painted my nails red this weekend and settled in for a Gilmore Girls marathon (that burgundy pre-Instagram filter on the opening credits just instantly puts you in the fall mood).

Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

And I’ve had my favorite Christmas-y smelling candle lit all weekend.

Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

So obviously this weekend when I settled in for some baking, I knew I needed cinnamon and browned butter involved, and it seemed the logical next step to throw in some other winter/autumn spices: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger. They are crisp on the outside and cakey on the inside–the perfect snickerdoodle.

Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

The real reason I baked was because I have a friend coming over for a visit, but even though I normally have pretty good self-control over leaving my baking be after a taste test, I just cannot stop eating these things. (Cleverly, I made them bite-size so even though I’ve had at least half a dozen already, it looks like I’ve barely made a dent. Pro baking tip from me to you!)

Autumn Spice Snickerdoodles

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Tasting Tuesdays: Gingersnaps

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Well, guess what?

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“Winter is here!” … Says the weird, adorable beaky bird guy from Anthropologie.

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Guess what else?

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Winter calls for a sea of warm, spicy, snappy cookies. Like these.

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They’re as fragrant as a candle and will make your whole apartment smell the way winter should smell: dense, nutty, sweet, spicy.

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These are almost like an uber-ginger-butter-cookie. The dough is a lot like a shortbread, although still crisp. Although I had some serious frustrations with the recipe (see below), the flavor is deep and dense and really wonderful. Adjusted below, these are a keeper.

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Thanks as always to the fabulous ladies of Anthropologie: Shannon, Annie, Kim, Tera, and Kim’s talented intern, Katelyn, who created this beautiful display! (Full disclosure: This month’s Tasting Tuesday was totally a Tasting Wednesday. The snow was way too crazy here in Milwaukee to venture far from home on Tuesday!)

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Come join me next month on February 21!

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Tasting Tuesdays: Gingerbread Muffins

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That gingerbread candle from last month’s Tasting Tuesdays really did me in.

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I was going to make something gluten-free, I swear, but then I opened up Home Made by Yvette van Boven… and that was it. I was done.

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Yvette van Boven is a super-talented cook-baker-artist from the Netherlands. This book is gorgeous–half illustrated diary, half recipe collection. The gingerbread muffins recipe was so ridiculously adorable looking (evidence above) that I couldn’t resist baking it.

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And the muffins are really lovely: moist, spicy, sweet, simple, and extremely easy. Although she suggests a cream cheese based frosting, I whipped up an easy royal icing for some crunch to balance the softness of the muffins.

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By the way, you might be wondering: really, Chelsea? You’re calling these muffins? They look like cupcakes to me… Shh. Muffins are much easier to eat five in a row of than cupcakes. So they’re muffins. Just spiced, sweet muffins.

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These keep well in an airtight container, so you should make them for holiday brunches… for pre-Thanksgiving snacks… for Christmas morning… to leave for Santa… For every night of Hannukah… Oh man, I’m getting a little too excited about the holidays, aren’t I?! I’m blaming Anthropologie’s pretty displays–I got a preview of the holiday windows: just you wait, people, Kim’s windows are going to be amazing! (Not to mention what’s in store right now… I mean. Have you seen these tea towels used in the display? They’re sparkly teacups in the shape of a Christmas tree. Too much.)

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As always, thanks so much to the Milwaukee Anthropologie! The display was lovely and all the staff were so sweet, especially Emily and Lynn! (Last, can I just share? When I popped in for a bit of shopping earlier that week, the ladies called me “our baker” at the cash register. Yes, that totally made my entire month!)

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Pearl Sugar Molasses Cookies

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Pearl sugar–hands down one of the best Scandinavian inventions ever–is one of the primary reasons why I am proud to be Norwegian.

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People know within a few weeks of meeting me (okay, a few days) that I am Norwegian. This is because my heritage is the excuse reason behind many of the quirks of my personality.

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My pale skin? Norwegian. My bizarre love of cold weather? That Scandinavian blood. My obsession with cardamom? A childhood of baked goods filled with it.

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My love of pearl sugar? Yes. Norwegian.

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I love chewy cookies. I’m not big on raw dough, but an undercooked cookie is my kind of baked good. But every so often even I need some variety in texture. (Check out the cooking lingo I’m learning from Top Chef Desserts!) That is why pearl sugar is genius. It holds its crunch and bright glowy whiteness when baked. And you probably know this, but it is pretty difficult to make a cookie that is crunchy-crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

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That is where substituting pearl sugar for regular sugar is a genius move: you get the undercooked, thick, dense texture, the intense dark-molasses-brown-sugar-cinnamon-cloves-ginger-allspice flavor, and a super-sweet crunch of sugar every time you take a bite.

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So until I can visit the fjords and northern lights of my ancestral homeland, I will just make some molasses cookies. I’m pretty sure the history of this recipe has nothing at all to do with my Norwegian heritage, but I don’t care: adding pearl sugar makes them Scandinavian enough for me. Continue reading

Snickerdoodles with Crystallized Ginger

Note: There is a super exciting announcement at the end of this post! So please read till the end…

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Oh my goodness gracious. It is fall. Glorious, chilly, wonderful, boots and scarves and leggings and knits fall. Spices and pumpkins and apples and leaves fall. I know there will be some people who will be angry at me for ushering in the cold. And I do appreciate wearing flip flops all the time, believe me. But I just love really, really love cold weather. (I know: it is a good thing I live in Wisconsin.) These 90 degree days are not for me, and you know what else? They are not for baking. (Although, admittedly, I have had quite a fun time experimenting with lemons and herbs.)

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But there is something about the first chilly week of fall. Even though fall is currently in the running for shortest season ever in Wisconsin (it’s neck and neck with spring), I still love it. I love not wearing a coat but wearing a sweater, wearing boots but not snow boots. I love baking with spices and especially baking with cinnamon. I love telling myself I’m going to go to eight apple orchards and live off of nothing but apples, applesauce, apple pie and cinnamon even though I never can get it together to actually go. And did I mention I love cinnamon? Because I’m pretty sure that that is the primary reason why I love cold weather.

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This week. This week it is fall. So I did a weird thing. I baked on a weeknight. I baked on a weeknight when the light was poor and I have work tomorrow. I baked when I just got back from a trip to Pittsburgh, my hometown, and my awesome mom sent me home with enough food to feed an army. I am not kidding: I brought back five different kinds of cheeses (thank you Penn Mac), a bag of parmesan garlic popcorn (thank you Pittsburgh Popcorn Company), a stack of the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted (thank you Rococo Chocolates), and heck, somehow I even came back with cookies and crack pie from Momofuku Milk Bar! (Thank you, thank you, thank you, little sister.)

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But tonight, even though it is not an optimal time to bake, even though I have a ridiculous amount of food in the fridge, I baked. After all, it is fall. And I wanted something spicy and cinnamony and warm. And snickerdoodles were it. Fluffy and soft and accidentally-but-not-disastrously undercooked.

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I also did something a little crazy to them. I chopped up crystallized ginger and snuck them in the dough. That was a good decision. It’s not overwhelming, but adds a zing and a little more chewiness. A good fall celebration all in one little pillow of a cookie.

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And now, the exciting news…

Tasting Tuesdays at Anthropologie!
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m baking once a month for my local Anthropologie store in Milwaukee, WI! Every month, I’ll bake a recipe from a cookbook sold at Anthropologie. The treats will be on display for you to try–that’s right: goodies from my blog not on your computer screen, but actually in your stomach. Yum. And I’ll be there, too, of course, camera in hand! The featured recipe and photos of the event will be posted here afterwards.

The first one is September 20 at 10 AM and I’ll be baking from the Miette cookbook. RSVP on Facebook right here. I would LOVE to meet you and have you try my baking in person, so please come! And, if you’re feeling really social (har, har), feel free to “like” this blog on Facebook for instant updates, or follow me on Twitter for musings on baking and other things I love.

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Sunset Morning Muffins

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Homemade Poptarts

Here’s an epic one. POPTARTS.

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All caps are definitely necessary. I am indeed internet-shouting about POPTARTS. POPTARTS!

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If I’m being honest, I actually like the artificial, goodness-only-knows-what’s-in-them poptarts you buy at the grocery store. But these guys are a whole different breed. They probably shouldn’t even be called poptarts. More like handheld pies. Or little pockets of heaven. Either way.

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First you make a pie dough–super simple, very easy, as long as you keep the butter cold. (By the way, might I suggest splurging on butter for this one? Go for the fancy European kind, like Kerrygold. It is such a joy to bake with. OK, unintentional advertising done.)

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Then you fill the pie dough with whatever you want. Like raspberry preserves, mixed with a bit of flour to thicken things up. Or cinnamon sugar, which turns gooey and delicious when baked. Or if you’re Norwegian like me, you make a little Scandinavian spice mix just for kicks and put it in a couple. You could even put nutella inside if you’re feeling really adventurous.

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Then you bake them. Let them cool (good luck not eating one hot out of the oven and burning yourself). The non-fruit-filled ones need a little something on top, so make yourself some killer browned butter glaze, which happens to be my favorite thing to put on cupcakes, cookies, on a spoon… and decorate!

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Seriously, the recipe below might be long, but it is actually super easy. And the payoff is great. (You just may want to double the batch though: a dozen is not enough.) Continue reading