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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Virtual Valentine

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 8.18.12 AMWhat baker doesn’t love Valentine’s Day? Let me count the ways I love thee, and make thee a smorgasbord of precious heart-shaped treats. It has everything to do with my loving heart and nothing to do with my chocolate addiction. I am aware that if I really gave in, I could go overboard. I love baking that much. What did I bake this year? Nada. Zilch. Nul. Nothing. I have a kind of reverse pride about it. I was working; who has time for hallmark holidays anyway? But a girl can still dream, can’t she? This is what I would have whipped up, you know, in my spare time. In the spirit of “Nothing Twice,” a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, I wish you a happy, belated Valentine’s Day:

“Nothing can ever happen twice
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.”
(Which leaves just enough time for…

Homemade Fudge Sauce

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5 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1 can (14 1/2 oz) evaporated milk
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 c. unsifted confectioner’s sugar
Melt chocolate and butter; remove from heat. Add sugar and evaporated milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook/stir about 8 minutes, until thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Serve warm.)

“Even if there is no one dumber,
If you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.”

(Unless you are Martha Stewart, in which case
your DIY projects are ALWAYS perfection)

Linzer Heart Cookies

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“No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.”
(Precisely: see these lumpy, oozing, imperfectly heart-shaped

Salted Caramel Brownies

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“One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?”

(Or might that be the invigorating scent of peppermint mingled with the decadent warmth of chocolate, dare I say a HOMEMADE OREO? Actually,

Chocolate Wafer Sandwich Cookies

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 6.49.55 PMAdapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, makes about 24

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. plus 2 Tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 c. packed light-brown sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder/soda, and salt; set aside. In an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. And egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, add flour mixture a little at a time, beat to combine, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  • Turn out dough onto plastic wrap. Divide in half. With floured hands shape each piece into flattened rectangle, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  • Place one rectangle of dough on lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness, stopping to release dough by running an offset spatula underneath. You should end up with a rectangle about 14 by 11 inches. Transfer dough to a prepared baking sheet and freeze until very firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place one rectangle of dough on a clean work surface. Working quickly, cut out rounds using a heart shaped cookie cutter. (Return to freezer if dough softens too much.) Transfer hearts to parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather remaining scraps, reroll, and cut out more hearts. Freeze on baking sheet until firm; about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining rectangle of dough.
  • Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until centers of cookies feel firm when slightly pressed, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. (This is how long recommended for 2-inch round cookie cutter. May vary depending on size of hearts.)
  • Using an offset spatula, spread 1 tablespoon desired filling onto flat sides of cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Unfilled cookies can be kept in airtight container at room temp for up to 1 week. Once filled, cookies are best eaten the day they are made but can be kept in an airtight container in fridge for up to 3 days.

With Peppermint Icing

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“Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.”

(Indeed. The day is fleeting, and the recipes are now online. Why not sit down to a leisurely lunch primarily consisting of cheese, and watch the world by, one drop at a time.)

Croque Monsieur

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[Photos: “A Mother’s Love, Staten Island NY,” Grufnik’s photostream, sea turtle’s photo stream, geertr’s photo stream, smitten kitchen’s photo instructions http://smittenkitchen.com/about/faq/, godutchbaby’s photostream]

Best of Citrus Part 1

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 4.00.21 PMRemember the scene from Little Women when Amy nabs a large orange on Christmas morning? She clutches it possessively until her more noble minded sisters set out to distribute Christmas breakfast to the poor. I can still hear Kirsten Dunst reciting Amy’s line in a greedy little whisper, “Butter! Oh, isn’t butter divinity? Oh god thank you for this breakfast.”

There is something about citrus — we’re talking oranges, lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, clementine, mandarin, kumquat — that inspires thanksgiving and connotes prosperity. Citrus is certainly glamorous – colorful, aromatic… Ah, let me count the ways I love thee…

As the worn-out saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees — but citrus does 🙂 Add to its abundance the fact of its impeccable timing of being in season during the winter (in the United States, at least). So, to brighten up your gray skies or give a little pep to your sluggish internal clock, or, if you’re already feeling sunny like Florida, in the simple spirit of thanksgiving, allow me to share my zest for citrus with a few good recipes worth trying:

1. Citrus salad with feta and mint

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This is a sleek and simple salad to throw together for a dinner party (speaking of sleek, avocado would be a tasty addition…)

If you’re hosting brunch and want to emphasize breakfast flavors 1) forgo the feta 2) dress your mixed citrus with some granulated sugar, snipped mint, and lime zest, adapted from “lime-mint sugar” from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Breakfast & Brunch. Here is the original, summer fruit salad recipe:
2. Lime-mint sugar

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  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint*
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest**
  • 2 each nectarines and peaches, halved, pitted, and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cantaloupe or other melon, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup seedless grapes
  • Juice of 1 lime

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, minced mint, and lime zest. Set aside. In a bowl, combine the nectarines, peaches, and melon. Cut the grapes in half, and add to the bowl. Drizzle the fruit with the lime juice and stir gently to coat. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture and turn the fruit once or twice to coat evenly.

*To prevent the mint leaves from discoloring when cut, strip them with scissors rather than mince them with a knife.

**Make the lime-mint sugar no more than an hour before serving the salad, as the aromatic oil in the zest quickly loses its potency.

3. Lemon sugar snaps

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I don’t have a problem with adding table salt to my food, but I have a habit of peppering almost any baked good with extra citrus zest or juice. (Tip: orange zest/juice is the KEY to unbelievable pie filling! Use the suggested lemon zest/juice and add some orange! You won’t believe it!) There has to be some method to my madness, because evidently, Martha Stewart agrees. This recipe for “lemon sugar snaps” from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook is a lip smacking endorsement for lemon infused baked goods:

MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN These cookies have a delicate texture and light, fresh taste.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for coating
  • 1 large egg
  • Freshly grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and lemon zest and juice; beat until combined. Add the flour mixture; beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 4.16.51 PMPreheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place sugar in a shallow bowl. Shape leveled tablespoons of dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar to coat completely, and place about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the edges just begin to turn golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I’m bursting with enthusiasm. (Did you just laugh?) For more where this came from, visit Best of Citrus Part 2.
[Photos: “Citrus,” blackeiffel’s photostream, Smitten Kitchen image according to photo guidelines, Uwe Hermann’s photostream, Florian Maul’s photostream, & pinprick’s photostream, “Lemon,” Chugy’s photostream]

Best of Citrus Part 2

Orange chocolate chunk cake

This orange + chocolate + chocolate ganache cake comes from Barefoot Contessa Parties, adapted above by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. We’re talking 1/4 cup orange zest + 1/4 cup orange juice flavoring some serious chocolate.

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Yogurt grapefruit cake

Here is a yogurt grapefruit cake/sweet bread that Deb Perelman tweaked from Ina Garten. I appreciate her consideration of how to capture grapefruit’s more elusive flavor in a baked good. I made it a few years ago, and took her suggestion of making two mini loaves. Somehow things are more scrumptious when they are miniature.

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Linguini with shrimp scampi

This lemon shrimp scampi recipe is one of my favorites. Lemon, garlic, butter, and white wine have a little party in a frying pan…

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Lemon risotto

It was a sad day when Martha Stewart said the thing she missed most in prison was lemons. And yet, not a disingenuous one — the woman makes a fabulous lemon risotto. This was the first (and only?) risotto recipe I have ever attempted. For anyone who is intimated by risotto, it is a doable and delicious place to start.

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And finally, here are some citrus recipes that I have tested with eyes only. Let me know if you try them. They come from much-respected sources that as a rule, leave very little desired for the inexpert home cook.

Roasted Citrus Wedges

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Serve as a side with waffles… or pork loin…or something

Lime Glazed Cookies

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These cookies remind me of Sanibel Island, Florida. And Martha Stewart usually gets cookies about right.

Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Orange
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This last recipe from Epicurious is calling my name like a long, sun-drenched nap on the beach… Seems like a  pretty elegant take on comfort food?

If you have reached the end of this ridiculously long post, I can only assume that you share a taste for what is inherently bright, sour, and subtle about lemons/limes/oranges/grapefruits, especially in these slushy winter months.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 4.08.12 PMAs I was aggressively chipping ice off my dashboard last week, following ongoing TV and radio coverage of the impending snow storm, I thought of Audrey from “Little Shop of Horrors,” crooning campily for “Somewhere That’s Green.” On that note, I wish you plenty of something green (or yellow/orange/pink) and healthy dose of vitamin Deee-licious.

[Photos: Marcus Nilsson, frankfarm’s photostream, WGyuri’s photostream, & Chugy’s photostreampoopoorama’s photostreamDaniel Slaughter’s photostreamjmackinnell’s photostreampcarpen’s photostream]

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