Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peppermint Meringue cookies

Meringues are really simple desserts, but they never really appealed to me because they are kind of plain. But I ran across these in flipping through my Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook, and they caught my attention as being perfect for the holidays. Plus, the peppermint adds a kick of flavor that makes them a little more interesting.

The only thing I changed was to add a pinch of salt to the egg whites, and also I didn't do the chocolate ganache that the recipe called for (they're supposed to be made into sandwich cookies).

I think the source of all difficulties with meringues are doing the egg whites correctly. One thing being out of whack -- the bowl being a little dirty, the egg whites being the wrong temperature, anything else -- and you'll keep whipping and whipping forever and nothing will happen. Meringues won't work at all unless the egg whites can hold their shape on their own enough to keep the cookie shape. Like so:

Set up a pastry bag with a star tip, and then paint stripes of red food coloring on the inside. I had red food coloring in gel form, which had solidified pretty... solidly... because my baking things had been in the garage for most of the fall and winter. Add a few drops of water to the gel to soften it up until it's kind of like the consistency of paint. Then, paint stripes. It doesn't have to be super precise.

If everything's going according to plan, the meringues will pipe out like little star cookies:

Also, I'm not usually a fan of parchment paper because it seems like a waste of paper, but they're pretty much required for this recipe -- meringues are sticky!

After a long, slow bake, the cookies will be dry and crunchy.

Happy holidays! I'm doing another cookie tomorrow, so we'll see if I can get that posted soon.

Peppermint Meringues

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
small pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
red gel paste food coloring

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a small open-star tip. Paint two or three stripes of food coloring inside the pastry bag.

Put egg whites and sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl, and set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir gently until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Mix in peppermint extract.

Fill pastry bag with 1-2 cups of meringue. Pipe small (3/4 inch high) star sheets onto the parchment paper. Refill bag as necessary, and repaint stripes each time.

Bake cookies until crisp but not brown, about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Let cool completely.

Yield: 5 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Difficulty: Medium

Snack Box bento (21)

This is kind of old, but I must clear this photo cache! I had packed this for a snack for when I was working over the summer. It's a fairly small bento, so it doesn't hold much, but it's super convenient.

On the bottom tier, I made four pickle onigiri, wrapped in seaweed. (To see how to make them, go to this older post.) On the top, orange slices, and cucumber slices.

They stack up and strap together like so:

Adorable, right? The box is actually my sister's - she bought it online somewhere, I am not sure where.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blueberry Crumb muffins

This is a recipe I adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe for "allspice crumb muffins" (which comes from this cookbook of hers, aka my baking bible). I was having trouble finding a satisfactory blueberry crumb muffin recipe, so I just used hers, but I took out the allspice and I added blueberries instead.

I folded about 1 cup of fresh blueberries into the batter. I imagine frozen would work just as well. (I made these in the summertime - ha! shows you how long I've been sitting on these photos - so I just happened to have a lot of blueberries to use.)

Scooped into the muffin tin (remember an ice cream scoop is your best friend!):

Mixing together the crumble topping (you can do this ahead of time, too):

Feel free to leave it chunky. It'll make it crunchier in the end. Evenly distributed among the cups:

Aaaand out of the oven:

Blueberry Crumb Muffins

Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into bits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line or butter muffin tin.

To make topping: put flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl and toss together. Add in the cold butter bits, and toss to coat, then use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have irregularly shaped crumbs. Set aside the mix in the refrigerator while you prepare the batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the brown sugar. In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and fold together quickly to blend. Fold in the blueberries. The batter will be lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups, sprinkle some streusel over each muffin, and use your fingertips to gently press the crumbs into the batter.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the mold.

Yield: 12 muffins
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Monday, December 14, 2009

Corn bread

Okay, this came from Thanksgiving dinner, but you have to forgive the delay because... law school final exams! You can understand, right? There is a temporary lull in the storm, however, so I have some time to post this recipe for you.

I made cornbread to go with Thanksgiving dinner. This cornbread also holds together really well (doesn't crumble terribly), so I'm willing to bet this makes for a great stuffing if you're so inclined. I took this recipe from, and made a few changes.

This recipe is very good for efficiency because it's all done in one pot. If you have a cast iron skillet (which I don't -- I know! -- sadness), you can bake the corn bread in it, too, and no need to even dirty up a baking pan.

I love cornmeal -- it feels cool. Yes, feels. But I find few occasions to use it.

Basic changes were that I reduced the original recipe from 2/3 cup of sugar to ½ cup, which turned out perfectly fine. I also changed the ratios of cornmeal and flour (instead of 1 to 1, I made it 1 ¼ cup cornmeal and ¾ cup flour). Also, I added some chopped frozen corn into the batter at the end.

I baked this in an 8" cake pan because my mom was currently using our square pan for another dish (and so it goes on Thanksgiving).

If I had my druthers, I would've used a smaller pan to get more height, but it still tasted great. And there you go. Cornbread.

There will be more recipes coming soon! (I have a backlog.) Next, blueberry muffins.

Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread

Recipe adapted from (bethanyweathersby)

½ cup butter
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cup cornmeal
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped frozen corn (defrosted)
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.

Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Fold in corn. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yield: 9 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy