Homemade Oreos

Slightly belated for Valentine’s day, I wanted to share with all of you the most wonderful recipe that no one can resist.  Homemade Oreos.

This recipe has been in the back of my mind for a while.  It has made the rounds of food blogs, and it seems everyone is making them now.  I can tell you why now.

These. Are. Amazing.  And dare I say . . . BETTER than actual Oreos. *gasp*  I know.  Why better?  Because, they have a nice homemade crunch without all the crazy unintelligible chemical ingredients.  Soy lecithin?  What?  Why do I need that in my cookie?

Plus, they are much easier to make than I anticipated.  I know I say that a lot in this blog, but part of the reason I stared at this recipe for about a year and a half is that I kept thinking about all the work involved in making a homemade sandwich cookie.  First you have to make the cookie.  Then you have to concoct some sort of filling.  I mean, its double the dishes.  And I’m not one for a ton of work.

There are two steps to this cookie.  I made them on two different days, which was totally fine and helps save on clean up.  I got a little nervous when the cookies were in the oven, thinking they looked a little too fluffy when cooking.  But sure enough, they deflated and turned into the perfect little wafer right before I took them out of the oven. I was concerned about the (very) short time frame between cookies-too-soft-they-fall-apart and burnt with these types of wafers, but the time frame in the recipe is spot on.

The chocolate wafers are a deep, chocolaty flavor with just a hint of sweetness.  The filling nicely compliments the wafers with a sweet vanilla creaminess.  Mmmm.  This might be my new favorite cookie.

A couple of recipe notes.  I always use unsalted butter.  You can always add salt to a dish, but you can’t take it out.  I don’t like to over-salt my food.  Also, the original recipe called for 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar for the wafers.  I split the difference and used 1 1/4 cups, which I thought was perfect.

From Smitten Kitchen

Cookie wafers

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature
1 large egg

Filling

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375°F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. On low speed, add the butter, and then the egg until a dough forms and mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

With moistened hands, form 1 inch balls and place approximately two inches apart on parchment then, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the filling, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, spoon or pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. I don’t have a pastry bag, so I do this by filling a plastic zip bag and cutting off the corner.

Lemon Victoria Sponge Cake

Firstly, apologies.  I know I’ve been a bad blogger.  Life caught up to me.  But never fear faithful followers!  I have not quit cooking.  In fact, I’ve been cooking nearly as much as ever.  I just haven’t been posting about it.  I pledge to try harder.

It is fitting that I am writing about this cake for 2 reasons.  First of all, I missed my blog’s one year anniversary.  I never even posted any recipes that month!  In addition, I made this a short while ago for a friend who was celebrating her birthday!  (Happy belated birthday Rach)  She is also the Matron of Honor in my wedding.  She asked me if I could try to recreate a classic English dish her grandmother always makes her.  Now, please don’t hold this cake to the standards of traditional Victoria Sponge Cake.  There are many things that the traditional cake will or will not have that just doesn’t *quite* make it the same.

For instance, I could not make the cake in crazy British measurements.  Not that they are crazy in general; just crazy hard to replicate here in the States.  Exhibit one: 7 inch sponge cake tins.  I didn’t know a 7 inch round pan existed.  I have one smaller pie plate that would have cut it, but no second pie plate for the second layer.  So I did not use the pie plate.  Instead, you can use two 8×8 square pans.  Exhibit 2: Funny names for items like caster sugar and icing sugar.  These are just superfine and powdered sugar, respectively.   Exhibit 3: Directions in ounces in grams.  This is actually a brilliant way to bake.  Europeans are much more precise in their measurements when baking, so they use scales to get the exact weight of the ingredient they are using.  While this is much more accurate, most American kitchens don’t have a scale.

Needless to say, I had to do some math and some research.  But, in the end I had an actual cake that had a striking resemblance to an actual Victoria Sponge cake.  The most amazing thing is this recipe is actually pretty simple.  There are only a few ingredients and you can easily customize it.  As long as you are careful with your technique, you can easily have a homemade sponge cake in no time.

I used a recipe from this site.  It’s a really fun site that also explains a lot of the conversions.  It also has fun history facts about some of the ingredients, which is super cool if you are a food nerd like me.   But I won’t make you do the math.  Here is the American conversions for the recipe.  You can find superfine sugar at most large grocery stores.  The Domino brand is especially easy to find.

1 cup of butter, softened

3/4 cup of superfine sugar

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

zest of one lemon

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Raspberry preserves and powdered sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 325.  Cream butter and sugar together.  The website explains that you want to do this, “until you get a pale, fluffy mixture that drops off the spoon easily”.  Beat the eggs, adding them into the butter and sugar mixture a little at at time.  It is important to do this slowly.  The best way to do this is add about a tablespoon of egg, then beat.  Add another tablespoon of egg, then beat.  Keep repeating until all the egg is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture.  Again, take your time folding this in.  Fold in lemon zest and juice. Make sure the mixture can slide off the back of a spoon. If your mixture is a little too thick, add more lemon juice.

Line 2 8-inch round cake tins with parchment paper.  Grease if you are worried.  Fill the tins evenly with mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cake WILL fluff up.  Thats good.  🙂  They will be springy in the center when done.  The most common way to serve this is with a thin layer of raspberry preserves between the two cakes, the sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The return and French words

As many of you know, I have been MIA from blogging for a little over a month for lots of exciting reasons.  First, we moved.  The boyfriend and I had been living on the edge of the city in a quaint little suburb.  While this was a lovely area, new jobs and no more classes (hooray!) persuaded us to move into the city.  This way, we are both closer to work and friends.  We now have a nice little apartment in the city with a view worth a million bucks.  Here’s the proof.

You will notice the train tracks in front.  Yes, we live next to the train.  Luckily, it is a suburban commuter train so it provides more of a soft rustle than a loud, disturbing noise.  My favorite part about the new apartment is my huge kitchen.  It’s lovely, with lots of counter space and tons of cupboards.  I can’t wait to start filling them up!

Second, (as I alluded to above) I am officially and finally done with school forever!  Well, classes that is. When you are a professional, the work is never done, so I do not have my degree yet.  I now have the daunting task of finishing my dissertation and internship before they hand me my diploma.  I foresee lots of late night cooking to keep myself sane over the next year.

Lastly, the boyfriend has now become the fiance!

I love the ring and he proposed in a very sweet and personal way.  We are very excited.  However, the thought of planning a wedding in the next year while finishing my dissertation and internship makes me want to hyperventilate, so the actual event will be more than a year away.  In the mean time, the fiance (that word is still strange to me) and I are just enjoying ourselves in our new apartment.

In honor of strange, French words like fiance, I decided to post a French dessert called clafoutis.  Don’t let the French intimidate you; this is a very simple recipe.  I have made it a few times and it almost always turns out great.

Essentially, clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-TEE) is a cross between a pancake and a custard.  Its light, slightly sweet, and should have the consistency of flan.  Clafoutis is one of those strange concotions that is difficult to explain, but has a strange familiarity when eaten.  It is often baked in a pie pan and has fresh fruit in it.  It is much easier to just show you what it looks like.

I used nectarines for this clafoutis.  Traditionally, the dessert has cherries or blackberries, but almost any ripe fruit works well.  The edges of this clafoutis really puffed up, a bit like a Dutch Baby.  This often happens with clafoutis because of the amount of egg in it.  I think it has a classy, rustic look.  It is a very simple dessert that you can make quickly for unexpected company with some basic ingredients you have around the kitchen.  In fact, I made this clafoutis for some friends of ours who happened to be in town and were stopping by after dinner.   It only takes about 30 minutes to prep and make, and is usually a crowd pleaser.

Clafoutis (adapted from Playing House)

1 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup white, granulated sugar

3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups milk (this works best with whole milk, or cream)

1 dash of salt

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

1 large nectarine, sliced 1cm thick

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a pie pan liberally.  If you like, sprinkle one Tablespoon of white sugar in the pan for a nice crust.

Beat eggs and sugar together in a large bowl.  Beat together well.  It is helpful to do this with a blender or stand mixer.  Slowly add in flour, milk, salt and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.

Place netarine in the bottom of the greased pie pan.  Pour mixture over the fruit.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Serve warm.  If you like, sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice cream.

Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble

Nothing says Spring like fruit desserts.  I absolutely love fruit, and come summer I begin dreaming of lemons, and strawberries, and melon, oh my!  In celebration of the lovely weather here in the Midwest, and my longing for juicy fruit, I made a lovely recipe for crumble.

Crumble is also sometimes called fruit crisp.  Crumble is a delicious topping consisting of oats, some type of fat (usually butter or margarine), flour, and sugar.  It is a very simple English peasant dish that was made for dessert when fruit was abundant.  It’s a lovely, simple dish that is very comforting.

Crumble can be made with any combination of fruit.  I used rhubarb and raspberry because I had these hiding out in my freezer.  I also chose them because rhubarb naturally somewhat sour, so it is commonly paired with a particularly sweet fruit to even out the flavor.  This is why there is often strawberry/rhubarb combinations in recipes.  You can use any combination of fruit you would like in similar measurements.

I recently discovered that rhubarb is not as common as I had initially assumed.  Growing up, I ate rhubarb frequently.  At home we had a neighbor with an overflowing patch of rhubarb.  She frequently gave us large bundles of the vegetable (yes, it is technically a vegetable).  It seems as though everyone had their own little patch of rhubarb.  In fact, my father’s favorite breakfast was pancakes and rhubarb.  Yet, after moving to the city, I found that some of my friends had never heard of rhubarb!  If you are one of those people I encourage you to try some.  You can often find it at farmers markets or local organic food stores.  Sometimes, even the larger food markets have it fresh or in the freezer section.

So, here is what you need to know about rhubarb.

1) Rhubarb is to vegetables what tomatoes are to fruit.  While it is technically a vegetable, it is cooked, eaten, and treated like a fruit.  It has a tangy, sour, and slightly sweet flavor.  You can easily cook it with a little sugar and water and make a delicious sauce.

2) Do not eat rhubarb raw!  Without cooking, rhubarb is very fibrous and bitter.  The stalks are similar in texture to celery, but nearly impossible to eat.  Don’t worry; cooking rhubarb is simple.  See #1.

3)  If you are getting your rhubarb from the garden or with the leaves attached, do not eat or use the leaves.  Rhubarb leaves have a small amount of toxins in them.  While not dangerous if touched, eating them could be hazardous to your health.  Simply chop them off and throw them out!

Adapted from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

2 cups of rhubarb, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (if using frozen, allow to thaw)

3/4 cup of raspberries (again, if frozen, allow to thaw)

1/3 cup of flour

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/4 cup of brown sugar, firmly packed

5 tablespoons of cold butter

1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Divide fruit equally between 4 ramekins.

In a food processor, cut butter into flour.  Pulse until butter is approximately pea sized.  Roughly mix butter and flour mixture with sugars and oats.  I usually use my hands to do this.  Pack this mixture onto the top of the fruit-filled ramekins.

Cook crumble until top is browned and fruit is bubbling.  This will take 40 – 50 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread

A couple of days ago, the worst thing possible happened. . . my computer crashed!  As a blogger, and a graduate student, my computer is like my right hand.  I go everywhere with it, and I can’t finish any work without it.  Needless to say, I nearly broke down when my computer shut off and wouldn’t turn back on.  Staring blankly at the black screen a daunting thought came to mind . . . “what do I do without a computer?”

Luckily, my boyfriend came to my rescue and agreed to stop by the Apple store after a long day at work and pick up a part for my computer.  With a few spare hours until he got home, and at an utter loss of what to do, I turned to baking!  I decided thank my boyfriend by making him a tasty snack – shortbread.

Shortbread is a lovely thing.  Its buttery and velvety, and you can add almost anything you wish to it, and it takes very little time and ingredients.  One lonely bag of mini chocolate chips had been sitting in my pantry, crying to be used, so I decided to make chocolate chip shortbread.  Thankfully, this shortbread turned out wonderful, and was a delightful little snack with a glass of milk.  Additionally, it took my mind off of my co-dependence on electronics.

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden recipe

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tbl brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Cut butter into flour.  To “cut in” means to cut up the butter into tiny pieces to incorporate into the flour.  The easiest way to do this is either with a pastry blender, or I used a food processor.  I added cold butter into the processor with 1/4 cup of the flour and pulsed a few times.  Add the rest of the flour, sugar, salt and vanilla and pulse until butter formed fine crumbs.

Pour dough onto a flat, clean surface.  Sprinkle chocolate chips into dough.  Knead chips into dough until the dough is smooth and forms a ball.

Lightly flour a baking sheet.  Roll dough into a 6×4-inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Using a utility knife, cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 16 pieces.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Assyrian Orange Cake

Today I have a real treat – a guest recipe!  This is a recipe from a friend of mine.  It is a traditional Assyrian cake and it’s been in her family for generations, so I am very fortunate to have her share with with me.  But I must say, after tasting this cake the first time she made it for me, I HAD to know the recipe.  I understand why it has been in her family for so long; its a beautiful cake.  It has the earthy, deep, hearty flavor of a tried and true recipe.  The cake has a sweet crusty exterior and a spongy, vibrant interior.  It even looks wonderful!

This cake is a memory from better days.  Days when warm spices and hot drinks kept you snug.  It’s the perfect combination of toasty, nuttiness and bright notes of citrus.  This cake would be a lovely addition to any brunch, paired with coffee.  I must say, from experience, it is also incredible after a meal with a cold glass of milk!

There are a couple of “tricks” to making this cake just right.  Firstly, my friend tells me you must have a good, sturdy bundt pan, preferably a thick-gauge one.  Secondly, each egg need to be fully incorporated before adding the next.  It is important to have them at room temperature, as well.  Don’t skip on these simple steps!  They will make the difference between pretty good cake and an amazing one.

My friend has also wavered between using wheat and while flour.  I’ve tried her recipe with both.  Personally, I like the wheat flour because I think it complements the natural nuttiness of the cake.  I believe my friend likes white flour.  I will leave it to your discretion.

Orange Cake (Cakekit’ Pertikala)

1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup unsalted melted butter (1 ½ sticks)
1 cup milk (room temperature)
3 eggs (room temperature)
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
2 ½ cups flour (preferably cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder (reduce by a pinch)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins (preferably golden raisins)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Grease and flour Bundt cake pan.  Mix sugar and butter with electric mixer until fluffy.  Next, add the eggs one  at a time, incorporating each egg fully before adding the next.  Add milk, orange and lemon zest, vanilla extract, Grand Marnier, orange and lemon juice until incorporated.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix thoroughly.  Finally, fold in walnuts and raisins.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour or until the cake is brown in color and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool before slicing.

Ginger Molasses Cookies

I thought I would start off by tempting you   with a picture of the delicious cookies I made.  What a great way to start off the new year, with cookies!  Molasses cookies always remind me of my grandmother.  There is something timeless, something comforting, about a good old-fashion spice cookie.  They take me back to my childhood and the smell of my grandparent’s old gas stove.  These cookies are spicy and sweet – the perfect type of treat to give you a fuzzy feeling in your tummy.

When I decided to make these cookies, I had a very specific idea.  I wanted the taste of molasses cookies.  Unfortunately, most molasses cookie recipes out there remind me of cardboard.  They are often thin and become rock hard 20 minutes after cooling off.  I wanted a lush, soft molasses cookie with an extra punch of ginger.  I love ginger, and the standard amount in traditional ginger cookies just don’t do it for me.  So, I went online, looked at some recipes and came up with this what is here.  It’s an amalgamation of a few ginger cookie and molasses cookie recipes with my own special touch.

There are 2 ingredients that make these cookies really special.  The first is a delightful little spice called mace.  My boyfriend introduced me to it when he was making mulled wine.  Apparently, most mulled wines in Germany call for mace.  It is actually the red casing of a nutmeg, dried and ground up.  Mace has an incredible taste.  I don’t know how to describe except . . . warm.  It adds another layer to the cookies.  The second special ingredient is ginger sugar.  Who wants to roll cookies in plain, old sugar?  To give these cookies the taste of ginger I was looking for, I made a “ginger sugar”, which is simply candied ginger and sugar.  Its heaven.  Trust me.

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 sticks of softened, unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup blackstrap molasses

1 large egg

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon mace

dash of salt

ginger sugar

3 tablespoons candied ginger

2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Cream butters and sugar until fluffy.  Add molasses, egg and vanilla.  Beat together.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Incorporate dry and wet ingredients.

To make ginger sugar, pour sugar and candied ginger into a food processor.  Pulse to break up the ginger.  Chop just enough so the candied ginger is broken up to the size of a mince.

Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll the balls in ginger sugar.  Place on a greased pan.  Cook for approximately 12 minutes, or until cracks form in the cookies.  Do NOT overbake!

Let cool and enjoy!