Fall Inspired Trail Mix

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Fall is pretty much my favorite time of year. Being warm and cozy, getting to hide under blankets without being sweaty, snuggling up with a nice mug of apple cider.

It also makes me miss the Midwest because I don’t live near trees that change colors, but I’ve discovered new ways to celebrate fall.

Such as cloudy day beach walks — there is a certain appeal to the beach in the fall and winter when it is abandoned by the tourists.

cloudy beach santa monica

One of my favorite ways to connect with the fall weather are the colors. Burnt orange, mustard yellows, olive greens, oh my!

Fall Chicago

Thinking of those colors and feeling a bit hungry and I came up with a quick and easy fall trail mix.

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Fall Trail Mix

1/3 cup White Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Dried Apricots
1/2 cup toasted Walnuts
1/3 cup Honey Sesame Cashews (I got these from Trader Joes)
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine & Serve

Enjoy.

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Chocolate Funfetti

Monday’s to me have never really held too much value over the last couple years. It seems like I’ve either always had a job that I worked weekends for, or I just always had stuff on. That said I still get a mean case of “the mondays”.

To remedy todays I decided to experiment with a classic. Being in the mood for chocolate, I figured why not add it to some funfetti cupcakes. Now I know normally that this wouldn’t really work because chocolate baked goods tend to be dark brown, almost black. I thought I’d try anyway.

Chocolate Fun-Fetti Cupcakes
adapted from Ambrosia Baking

For the Cupcakes: 

1 cup milk
4 egg whites
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups pastry flour, sifted
1 tbps + 1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp butter, room temp
6 tbsp vegetable shortening
2/3 cup rainbow sprinkles

For the frosting:

2 1/2 cups confectioners suger
5 tbsp butter, room temp
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the over to 350 degrees

1. Combine the eggs & egg whites with the milk and vanilla bean. Set aside.

2. In a bowl with a mixer, combine all the dry ingredients. Add shortening and butter. Mix for about a minute then add in 3/4 cup of milk. Turn up to high and mix for another minute.

3. Slowly beat in the egg mixture.

4. Fold in the sprinkles and pour into wrappers and bake for 23 minutes.

5. While the cupcakes are baking mix the confectioners suger, butter, and 2 tbsp of milk together with the vanilla. Mix on high for about 5 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes then cover tightly and set aside.

6. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost and decorate with sprinkles.

Enjoy!

Doughnuts with Joy the Baker

This summer has been a crazy one to say the least. I apologize for my sporadic posting.
Summer is funny in that it’s when everyone decides to everything because the weather is usually so accommodating. For me thus far, it’s meant lots of studying (hurrah for summer school!), fun birthday weekends, and wedding festivities. In between I’ve trying to make real the fun cooking and baking ideas that I have in my head, in what little time I have.

A little while had the please of meeting with Joy the Baker as she taught a class at The Gourmandise School. It was a fun couple of hours filled with doughnut making and sparkling wine drinking, curated by Whitney Adams.

Let me start off by saying I totally felt like a badass to be in a class with these two lovely ladies. The wealth of knowledge was both awe-inspiring and intimidating (in a good way). Additionally doughnuts are now on the list of can do, win!

I wanted to share this recipe with you guys, for those of who don’t read Joy’s blog and haven’t seen this yet.

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Pink Raised Doughnuts with Toasted Coconut
(From Joy the Baker)

makes 12-14 doughnuts
recipe adapted slightly from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts

For the Doughnuts:

3 tablespoons (four ¼ ounce packages) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 105 degrees F)
½ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons iodized salt
4 to 4 ½ cups bread flour, plus more for dusting, rolling, and cutting
¼ cup vegetable shortening
3 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
canola oil for frying
toasted coconut for topping

For the Glaze:

4 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 3 drops red or pink food coloring
scant 1/3 cup hot water, plus more if necessary

To Make the Doughnuts:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Let stand for 5 minutes until mixture is foamy and frothy.  That’s how you know the yeast is alive and ready to doughnut!

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and 4 cups of bread flour.  Set aside.

Break up shortening and add to the yeast mixture.  Add the egg yolks, and vanilla extract and beat on low speed using the paddle attachment.  This will deflate the yeast bubbles and help break up the shortening.

With the mixture on low speed, add one third of the dry ingredients.  Blend until flour disappears.  Add another third of the dry ingredients.  Beat until flour disappears.  Switch to the dough hook and add the last amount of flour.  Mix on low speed until no flour bits remain.  Add a bit more flour if necessary.  The dough should clean the sides of the bowl, and not stick to the bottom in a pool.

Knead for 2 minutes.  The dough will be glossy, and just a bit sticky… but it shouldn’t stick to your hands.

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Shake into a 6-inch circle and dust the top with flour.  Cover with a dishtowel and set in a warm place to double in size.

The Top Pot Cookbook has an awesome way to create your own proofing box!  Bring a large kettle of water to a boil.  Pour about 8 cups of water into a large baking dish.  Set it on the floor of your oven.  Place the sheet tray with covered dough on the middle rack above the steaming water, close the oven door and let rise for about 1 hour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a roughly 12-inch circle, about ½ inch thick.  Cut into 12 doughnuts and 12 holes using a 2 ¾-inch and 1 ¼-inch round cutter.  Gently transfer the doughnuts and holes to two baking sheets that have been sprinkled with flour.  Set the doughnuts for their second rise about 2 inches apart.

Let rise in the oven for another 30-45 minutes, using another hot water proofing bath.

In a medium or large, heavy-bottom saucepan, heat canola oil that is 2-inches deep.  Use a candy thermometer to bring the oil to 350 degrees F.

When the doughnuts have doubled in size place a few doughnuts into the oil to fry.  Don’t overcrowd the pan.  Fry for 30 seconds on one side, flip and cook for another 30 seconds.  Doughnuts will darken slightly as they cool, so don’t cook them too dark.  Transfer to a few layers of paper towel to cool.  Bring the fry oil back to 350 degrees F before frying new batches of doughnuts.

Allow to cool completely before glazing.

To Make the Glaze:

Place the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Add the food coloring and hot water and use a whisk to incorporate.  Blend until entirely smooth.  If the mixture seems to thick to easily dip doughnuts, add more hot water 1 teaspoon at a time.

To ice the doughnuts, dip one side of the cooled doughnuts into the freshly made icing.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut.  Let dry and set for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m a big fan of the chocolate chip cookie. I’m not really a fan of milk, but somehow whenever I bust out the cookies, out comes the milk. I think I weary from milk because it always turned my cereal soggy as a kid. It takes a certain kind of cookie though, not just any cookie, that necessitates milk to complete the experience. For me this has always been with chewy chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven, complete with that crunchy edge that I’m convinced seals in the deliciousness.

For a long time I’ve been on a quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie and I think I might have found it. I was perusing recipes when I discovered this famed recipe that was originally published in the New York Times. It was adapted from no other than Mr. Chocolate himself, Jacques Torres.

This cookie comes out so perfect I literally did a happy dance I was so proud of myself. Usually I fight with cookies, either they poof to much or they’re not that perfect gooey to crunchy ratio. It’s been a long war, but there is now hope on horizon.

While these do take a bit of foresight, as you have to let the dough rest for 24hrs, it’s well worth the wait.

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Definitely make sure to cream the butter until its super light and fluffy.

Make sure to press the plastic tightly around the dough before you let it rest in the fridge. You don’t wan sneaky flavors sneaking in and you don’t want the dough to become brittle due to exposure to the air.

Following these directions will help you create cookies that will bring a smile to your face and boost to your confidence. Please note, I didn’t have any cake flour on hand so I just doubled up on the all-purpose. As well I think this recipe is a great base for any cookie as it just comes out so well, with it’s seductive wrinkles filled with tastiness.

Enjoy.

Ode to Chocolate

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I cannot feasibly go a day without consuming chocolate. It’s secured it’s rank of number 1 on my list of vices, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In case you’re not a chocolate fan (yet) and you need some reasons on why to get on the daily plan, allow me:

1. It’s pretty versatile. You can bake it, eat it straight, drink it. All forms equally delicious.

2. There has been some research into chocolate aiding in the fight against cardiovascular disease (Research)

3. It’s easy to make, and great for parties.

In any regard I’m a total chocolate evangelist, so I know that this post is going to be biased in that direction. I don’t however think that I’m alone when I say that it’s a core component of comfort food; whether it be brownies, chocolate chip cookies, or just a cozy mug of hot chocolate. I was thinking deeply, more of a longing really, about comfort food when I was at work yesterday and the weather was both cold and rainy. The combination that just screams, “don’t get out of bed, find the nearest movie and cozy up for a day of playing hooky.” Alas I did find myself at work but when I got home, I treated my self to some quality lounge time complete with comfy blanket. Inspired by this mood, I felt a tasty batch of brownies were in order.

Ingredients

  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate and milk in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and eggs. Add milk mixture and 1/2 cup chocolate; stir to combine.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a rack. Cut into squares.

[These are best enjoyed with a tall glass of milk.]

Awhile ago I’d stumbled on the recipe for these brownies and they are phenomenal. I got it from the First Look Then Cook Blog. (Link) They come out really moist and gooey, which is how I like them. If you want more of a cakey consistency add 1-2 more eggs.  The best thing about them though, it they save amazingly well. Simply wrap them up in some aluminum foil (I line my pan with them so I just fold over all the edges to save it after it’s cooled) and it keeps for  at least a week. This is conditional on you having enough self control to keep them that long, or that you make a large enough batch. Speaking to that, the recipe also doubles well.

This, of the same vein as my previous post, is best when you use good chocolate. While using Hersey’s won’t make a bad batch, chocolate of a slightly higher grade will seriously rock your world. Lately I’ve been using E.Guittard but I recommend trying a couple brands and seeing one that you like the best. This goes the same for cocoa powder. Brownies are one of those things that everyone has a preference on, experiment to find yours. Your tastebuds will thank you later.

I recall when I was reading David Lebovitz’s book The Sweet Life in Paris  that his Dulce De Leche brownies would open a lot of doors for him when he first arrived. I havent tested this theory myself  but so far they have won the affection of a lot of the people at work. Just another affirmation of the power of chocolate.

I’m curious, what role has chocolate played in your life?