Oh my gosh is it shortbread??? Again?? When does the obsession with shortbread end you may ask??? My answer at the moment is never!!! As a kid, I really hated the short texture in cookies where they just crumbled apart in my hands. I always preferred my cookies soft and honestly, I still like my chocolate chip cookies a little under baked so that they stay soft for days! However, I think shortbread reminds me so much of the Great British Baking Show and I refuse to watch the newest season without my mother present, so I’m compensating by making as much shortbread as humanly possible. Shortbread is also a celebration of simplicity with a huge flavor packed inside each cookie! I never appreciated nuance in my cookie but I’m really starting to, especially with the quantity of cookies that I’ve been making lately!
I actually made this recipe about a week before I choose to post about it because I wanted some time to experiment with the recipe a little bit. This recipe is originally from King Arthur Flour where it was credited to Alyssa Rimmer of Simply Quinoa! So you can thank Ms. Rimmer for the original recipe and myself for a few modifications. When I made it the first time, it was really heavy on the cinnamon and pecan but lighter on the maple. I had chosen these cookies for their maple flavoring and was disappointed when they didn’t deliver as much punch as hoped for in the maple department. As much as I complained about it not going as perfectly as I wanted, my boyfriend still taste-tested as many as he could get his hands on! So obviously, there are fans of the original recipe but I’ll be putting my variations next to the recipe below. I replaced the confectioners sugar with maple sugar and doubled the amount of salt. I thought it was missing salt from the original recipe but a doubled amount may be too salty for some. These are also a super quick cookie to throw together, so the opportunities to modify the recipe just a tad to your taste are only limited by your quantities of the ingredients! Let me know what you think of recipe or any of the modifications in the comments below! Happy baking!
WOW!!! What a ride this one took me on! I devoured this book in a few days after finishing from Dawn to Decadence. I was desperate for a good read to take my mind on an adventure and boy did I find that here! Also, I must add a disclaimer that I loved reading this book but I also really enjoy the genre of true-crime in books, podcasts, or even television shows. If you don’t love crime or are not a huge fan of thrillers, this book will not be for you. It’s definitely got a deeper exploration into the suburban mentality that some may enjoy but it is very heavy on the crime drama and the suspense!
The book follows the perspective of the husband who has been married to his “lovely” wife Mildred for fifteen years. The pair have to hustle everyday for a place in their suburban paradise of Hidden Oaks in Florida and to raise their two children. However, their relationship takes an interesting turn when they decide to begin murdering together! Normal spousal fun right? Things take a turn for the worse when the pair resurrect a serial killer to cover their crimes and their deadly romance takes a turn for the worse.
As mentioned, I really enjoyed this one. It kept me on the edge of my seat but I was a little disappointed in the end. I felt that Millicent wasn’t as fleshed out as a character as she could have been but if she had been, the final twist wouldn’t have caught me like it did. I would recommend this but probably not to younger readers! It’s one to take on a nice long road trip or just to bring with you to the beach! Happy reading and let me know what you think if you happen to pick up a copy!
Fall is here!!! It has been for several weeks but this past week, the fall baking cravings hit me hard! These muffins are amazing! I made them a few times last year but never with the greatest results. I have a tough time with muffins; they can seem so simple to make but are very easy to under or over mix or bake if you’re making them from scratch. These muffins have been described like mini pumpkin pies and they have been universally loved by my taste-testers! The original recipe calls for walnuts and raisins to be added but I don’t love either of those two in muffins so I made a few changes. Also, with this recipe, I was finally able to use the Halloween themed muffin liners that my boyfriend got me and they make me absurdly happy.
The original recipe is from The Village Baker’s Wife, a cookbook by Gayle Ortiz that came out in the seventies! My neighbor was the first to introduce me to it and it’s been my favorite cookbook to bake out of for all-American favorites. The recipes are near fool proof and are versatile for scaling up and scaling down. The book says that this recipe makes about 18 muffins and it really makes me wonder about the size of the bakery’s muffin tins! This recipe easily makes 30 muffins made in the standard 3 by 4 tins that most people have at home. Being slightly limited by my college dorm, I made a mini loaf with the extra batter because I only have two muffin tins. The muffins don’t take long to bake, 15-20 minutes and are worth waiting for them to cool completely before eating! Like with cookies, the chips become molten in the baking process and will burn your mouth if not cooled! The recipe also doesn’t use a full 15 oz can of pumpkin. It uses most of it but there’s just a little bit left over at the end. I wouldn’t put that extra bit in the recipe because it’ll make it a little too wet and it won’t bake properly. It’s too little to make anything substantial but let me know if you come up with a good use for it because I love not wasting food! Enjoy baking and I hope you’re having a lovely fall!
Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe
3 large eggs
446 grams (2 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
170 grams (6 oz or 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (should still be a liquid)
380 grams (1 2/3 cup) pumpkin puree, canned is fine
400 grams (3 1/3 cup) All Purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400F and line two or three standard muffin tins.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin.
In a smaller bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, nuts, and chocolate chips.
Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet (flour mix to egg mix). Mix until there are just a few dry spots. Those spots will be absorbed in baking and by leaving a few, it prevents over mixing.
Scoop batter into lined muffin cups with an ice cream scoop.
Bake 15-20 minutes. The muffins are done when a knife inserted in their center comes out clean or when the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool in the tins until cool enough to handle. Cool on a wire rack and eat!
All I can say is OMG I FINALLY FINISHED!!! This book is a WHOPPER of a read and it was recommended to me by a very dear family friend. This family friend has recommended many books to me over the years and it was a treat when he was able to drop this book off for me during the early months of our societal quarantine. I started this book in April which both seems like yesterday and like a lifetime ago! This book is around 800 pages, give or take a hundred additional pages for the references and notes. I’ve been reading this in the background as I couldn’t tackle it all by itself without a serious headache. I feel very accomplished that I was able to finish it but I don’t know if I volunteer for the task again anytime soon.
This tome by Barzun is truly a masterpiece of Western cultural life. I am glad that I read this book; just by reading a few pages a day I’ve learned so much more about the history of culture in the West. While I’ve always treated culture as an interesting footnote in my historical studies, Barzun shows how culture plays such a meaningful role in shaping history and the course of the world. My biggest issue with the book was that Barzun did such an excellent job of describing the first 450 years covered in his book and did such a poor job describing the most recent years that his book purported to cover. I felt that the last fifty years have been done a great injustice by Barzun. Perhaps he was writing from a spot that made him too near to something to write objectively. Barzun’s description of the last fifty years before the close of the work, 1995, was a confused diatribe against modernity. Barzun did a wonderful job of shedding light on the cultural pathways of the west before World War 1 but after his writing is disorganized and extremely critical. Perhaps in the last fifty years, our society has descended into such a state of decadence that it will collapse but I felt that Barzun didn’t do the recent past justice. I enjoyed the experience of reading Barzun’s work but would not recommend this to be consumed by the average reader.
I am so excited to finally have maple shortbread cookies that have worked! For several weeks, I’ve been baking and baking trying to find a good maple shortbread recipe. I’ve never been the biggest fan of shortbread but I’ve recently become absolutely obsessed with the crumbly crunch of these cookies. They remind me a lot of the Great British Baking Show because they seem so quintessentially British. For several weeks, I’ve been trying recipes with various levels of success. I’ve added maple syrup to several recipes to try and emulate that maple flavor without much success. Using maple syrup as a sweetener in a recipe is a lot like using molasses in the way that it adds the moisture and causes the cookies to spread. Maple syrup isn’t a good sweetener for shortbread because it adds a moistness to the cookie that is great for a cake but not so great for a cookie that you want to be very short or crisp. Below is a photo from one of my early experiments. The cookies were delicious but they definitely were not shortbread. They were a joy to eat but not quite what I was aiming for so I decided to try again with a recipe from King Arthur’s Flour.
When I was researching maple shortbread recipes, I came across quite a few that used maple sugar, something that I had never heard off. I looked it up online and even on Amazon, a one pound bag of the stuff sells for around $8!!!! That’s more than I pay for a five pound bag of flour!!! I kept digging and found out exactly what maple sugar is which is the crystallized sugar granules from maple syrup! Being an adventurous baker, I set out to make my own maple sugar from syrup and it turned out really well! You definitely need a candy thermometer to check temperatures but equipped properly, you can have a good quantity of maple sugar in minutes. The process is dangerously simple; you heat the maple syrup in a pot until it reaches about 50-60 degrees above its boiling point. From there, you beat it (by hand or with a stand mixer which is easier) until it crystallizes. Because I have a bit more experience and I can be a little reckless, I decided to do this and came up with about a fourth a cup of maple sugar! I would NOT recommend an amateur baker doing this but it can be done in a pinch if needed. Buying it is definitely easier and safer! If you feel that you have enough experience, look up instructions online and enjoy! I thought it was very fun!
This recipe is adapted from one from King Arthur Flour that actually makes maple shortbread sandwich cookies. My goal was to try and get the maple shortbread nailed before I started doing more complex stuff so my recipe only includes the shortbread dough. I used two different techniques for rolling out the dough. One was a traditional roll and cut out with cookie cutter while the other was using a cookie stamp. My mother gave me a beautiful pinecone cookie stamp for Christmas this past year and I’ve been dying to use it. This recipe gave me a great opportunity to try it and I think it came out very well for a first attempt! Either method you choose to use, I would roll to dough out to about 1/4 of an inch thick. I think it makes for a more satisfying cookie and it holds the shape much better. I hope you enjoy baking these as much as I did!
131 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) All Purpose flour
Beat together the butter, salt, sugars, and vanilla extract/maple flavor.
Add flour and mix until the dough comes together.
Wrap in cling wrap and chill for thirty minutes if using a cookie cutter. Chill for 2 hours if using a cookie stamp.
Preheat oven to 300F and line a cookie sheet
Cookie Cutters: If using, roll dough out to 1/4″ thick and flour the cutter. Cut out cookies and place on lined sheet.
Cookie Stamps: If using, remove tablespoon scoops from the chilled dough and roll into a ball. Lightly flour both the dough ball and the cookie stamp. Place the dough ball on flour and press down with the cookie stamp. Gently peel the cookie out of the stamp and place on lined sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on thickness of the cookie or until the cookies just begin to brown.
Remove from oven and cool on the cookie sheet.
Once cooled, eat and enjoy!
A comment made by my boyfriend is that the texture is similar to pie crust. If I end up using it as piecrust, I’ll let you know how it goes! The recipe can also be easily doubled for more cookies. They store well in an air tighter container for several days and the dough/cookie can be frozen.
It was a nice day, probably one of the last for quite some time, and I was working on my laptop. I looked up and saw a group of four, maybe five, boys across the quad from where I was sitting. The first thought that came to my mind was fury. None of them were wearing masks nor did they appear to be taking the ordinary covid-19 precautions that seem to have become second-nature to me. It was disconcerting to watch them play, just play, on the quad during this time. I almost went over to them and said something but I didn’t. I don’t know what held me back, but I do know that something did. I didn’t chastise them or remind them of the precautions they should be taking because they made me take a moment to reflect. We’re seven months into a pandemic, the president and assorted others have gotten the virus, two hundred thousand plus people have died of covid and these guys are just playing spike ball on a quad.
Their actions made me reflect on all the joys of college that I may never see again. The joy of simply belonging to a group and feeling free to just hang. Today, life is so much more complicated. I rarely see anyone outside of a few friends and my boyfriend which is still many more than most are able to see, but less than I saw as a college student pre-covid. As I now go about my day, I must gear up and gear down whenever entering or exiting my apartment. Fear is a constant companion when I venture out of my home, but I continue to do so because I must. I cannot stay inside all day every day for the rest of my life but I can try to be as careful as humanly possible. But the sight of these boys made me just paused that fear and that worry for some strange reason.
Those boys, while not safe in the slightest, felt like a time capsule into another world, one far removed from the life that we all now live. But looking at them, I could envision a future where covid does not haunt our every move. Where we are able to play and be free amongst each other as we used to be. We will go back to some of the drudgery and work that we once loathed but we will also be able to reclaim that sense of careless joy that coronavirus has stolen away from our lives. One day, when this is in the rearview mirror, we may or may not treasure moments like these. I may think about this moment in ten years as one of reckless behavior, young men totally disregarding the rules of safe social behavior in the pursuit of momentary pleasure. Or I may just be able to treasure this moment as a testament to the joy that went unnoticed in so many of my days pre-covid.
These were a lovely shortbread recipe that came together in a matter of minutes! These cookies did need quite a while to cool in the fridge so factor that in when you’re planning on making them and make sure that you have plenty of fridge space for all the cookies! I decided to make these after a particularly bad baking day last week. I talked with one of my best friends in the whole world for an hour or two over FaceTime and she inspired me to bake these! I had been wanting to make a lemony dessert for some time; I haven’t been able to let go of the summery feeling that lemons bring and decided to capitalize on this. I grabbed a lemon at the store and was able to make do with what else I had at home. I really loved how crisp and short that these turned out! I haven’t had a ton of luck with shortbread in the past but these were great cookies to start with.
The recipe only calls for a teaspoon or two of lemon zest but I ended up zesting a whole lemon into the dough and it wasn’t too much for me. The dough, sans the lemon zest, is actually a great shortbread base that could be added to to make a ton of different kinds of shortbread. I’ll be experimenting with this in the future so I’ll keep you all posted if I find a good derivative of this recipe for another flavor. The dough also held its shape really well after being rolled out and chilled. I’ve had issues with this in the past and it’s made me wary of using some of my trickier cookie cutouts but go wild here! The cookies will hold so find your craziest cookie cutter and get baking! Let me know in the comments below how it works out for you and happy baking!
Lemon Shortbread Recipe
113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature (indents when you poke it)
29 grams (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons packed lemon zest (I zest the whole lemon but I love lemon)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) All Purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt (between 1/8 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon)
Granulated sugar for rolling
Line two baking sheets. (The dough can be made 3 days in advance and just chill in the fridge until needed)
Beat together butter and powdered sugar. Beat in lemon peel and vanilla extract
Beat in flour and kosher salt and beat until just blended.
Transfer dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and press into a disk. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness.
Place plastic-wrapped disk into the fridge and chill until firm, 20-30 minutes
Position a rack in the top and bottom third of the oven and preheat oven to 350F.
Transfer dough from plastic wrap onto a sugared surface. It replicates the non-stick that flour helps with but coats the dough deliciously.
Cut out shapes in the dough with a cookie cutter or lid of a mason jar or with the lid of a clean drinking glass.
Place cut outs on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and chill for 10 minutes. Coat lightly with sugar before putting them back in the fridge.
Bake cookies until light brown, 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully, the cookies around the edge of the cookie sheet with brown faster.
I made this recipe over the summer, somewhat successfully but I actually lacked the proper amount of chives that the recipe called for. Last week, I got a massive bunch of chives within my CSA box and immediately thought of this recipe to put them to use. A quick side note on CSA boxes! Over the summer, I worked in food systems and nutrition research and found out that CSA boxes were not only a great way to help a local farm but they also help you to reduce the carbon footprint of your food because it is sourced locally and it has helped me a ton in my journey to become a better cook. CSA stands for community supported agriculture and it’s much more common that I had previously thought. The pandemic has actually increased interest in this and many farms are unable to keep up with the demand!!!
It was hard to find an open slot when I came back to school in the fall but I’ve been getting a weekly “Ugly” share from Moon Valley Farm which delivers to various locations in Baltimore. My share or box usually contains various vegetables with the occasionally bunch of fruit and it has encouraged me to really broaden my culinary horizons. One of the veggies that has come pretty consistently in my boxes the past few weeks is okra, which I had never ever cooked or eaten. Now, I’m enjoying an okra and tomato stew for lunch that I never could have made a few months ago! I really enjoy my CSA box but I also have the time to dissect and cook through my whole box. It can be really tough at first but I have learned a lot and love getting my box every week. I encourage everyone to look into purchasing locally sourced agriculture in any form, not just from a CSA. It both reduces your carbon footprint and encourages you to eat seasonally! Although, I am still tempted by the sales of pineapple and lemons from far-away countries so even my food purchasing process has quite a bit of leeway!
Back to the baking aspect of this blog! This recipe is based off a recipe that came in my King Arthur Scone pan that was a Christmas gift from my lovely parents. I did make a few changes to the recipe to fit it to what I had in the fridge and to lighten up the recipe a little. American scones are a pretty heavy affair, full of butter and cream. Because I had some frozen low fat buttermilk, I defrosted that and used it in the recipe and it worked out really well! I often have to buy dairy for recipes but I don’t really drink it or use it in other recipes so I’ve taken to freezing it in specific quantities and defrosting it as needed. Fresh dairy is always preferable but if I’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that you must be flexible! On a college budget, I’m always looking for ways to stretch my grocery budget and my freezer has been the greatest thing ever for helping me do that. I also substituted the regular bacon for turkey bacon. It’s not as greasy and I think it adds plenty of flavor without some of the fat. I’ll put the original recipe guidance down below in parentheses next to my additions. I really recommend not doing the recipe if you don’t have enough chives or green onions. The two are interchangeable and you could probably even use half of each if you don’t have enough of them individually. They really add just a subtle onion flavor that complements the overall scone. These come together super quickly and are a delicious breakfast treat! They can also be frozen and baked at will, just freeze the dough before you get to the step where you brush them with buttermilk/cream. Let me know if you try the recipe in the comments below and happy baking!
Bacon, Chive, and Cheddar Scone Recipe
241 grams (2 cups) All Purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
14 grams (1 tablespoon) baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar (offsets bitterness of baking powder, please use)
57 grams (4 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
113 grams (1 cup) coarsely grated or diced cheddar cheese
14 grams (1/3 cup) chopped fresh chives
227 grams (1/2 pound) turkey bacon, cooked, cooled, and crumbled (original recipe calls for regular bacon)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk (original recipe calls for heavy cream)
Preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle or upper third of the oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, slat, baking powder, and sugar. Work the butter into the flour mixture until the mix is unevenly crumbly with the butter in pea sized pieces.
Mix in cheese, chives, and bacon until evenly distributed.
Add 3/4 cup of buttermilk or cream, stirring to combine. Try to squeeze the dough together and if it won’t stay cohesive, add a little more buttermilk or cream.
Transfer dough to lined cookie sheet and pat into a 7 inch disk about 3/4 inch thick. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the disk into 8 wedges. Separate these wedges a little and brush them lightly with buttermilk or cream.
Bake scones in the middle or upper third of oven for 22-24 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool them in the pan they were baked.
As the school year has started, I’ve been baking up a storm and am loving it! I’m hoping to come out with a book review in a week or so but I’m finishing up a monster of a book that I’ve been reading intermittently since April! While I finish that up, I thought I could distract you all with yet another delicious cookie recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour. Now, for my friends out there who are allergic to nuts, this recipe may not be for them but I always encourage recipe substitutions in the name of creativity so if anyone finds a good peanut or nut free alternative to the peanut butter in the recipe, let me know if the comments below! I was inspired to look for cookie recipes so that I could share some with my godmother Sue, who has been very kind in testing out several of my blog recipes.
This was a relatively simple recipe, I didn’t run into any huge logistical or recipe errors which is great! The recipe requires butter to be at room temp and unlike the brown sugar and maple cookies, the butter can be microwaved thirty seconds to forty five seconds to soften it. The recipe will be quite stiff with the peanut butter addition so the butter can be almost melted if you need to microwave it. To make these cookies less stiff, the recipe calls for a tablespoon or two of water. You could even add another tablespoon if you need to and don’t be alarmed when the dough gets really stiff after you mix all the ingredients together.
I normally mix my dry and wet goods separately but I know that some people along with myself sometimes just throw everything in the bowl and mix. In this recipe, try to use two separate bowls for wet and dry goods if you can because the peanut butter will cause everything to stick together and not mix well. Final note is that I used chocolate chips in the cookies because they were all I had on hand. They do taste great in the cookies but you don’t get as much peanut butter without using the peanut butter cups recommended by the original recipe. So if you like a more chocolate than peanut butter, use chips but if you love that PB then go find some mini peanut butter cups to use! I hope that you enjoy this recipe and follow any of the above mentioned tips!
So these were made on the same week as my catastrophic blue soup. It was a week that felt like nothing would go right for me in the kitchen but I kept going! These cookies were absolutely scrumptious and if they had stayed in my kitchen, I may have devoured the lot. These cookies are warm and inviting with a little glaze on top to tickle the tastebuds. It hasn’t really felt like fall much here in Baltimore with the heat, but compared to CA it’s a veritable igloo over here! This recipe is from the Los Angeles Times Food section from about a month ago that I saved until I needed a little dose of fall.
So even though they turned out delicious in the end, there were some technical issues to be aware of as you try this recipe! I did not have enough butter on hand when I was making the recipe and substituted in some margarine which worked well. However, I did microwave the butter briefly because I hadn’t left it out long enough to soften. The microwaving made the margarine too soft and while I was able to mix the cookies up just fine, the batter was much softer than I would have liked. Before I scooped it, I froze the dough for twenty minutes which is good practice whenever you have really slack or soft cookie dough. Once baked, the cookies tasted fine but went soft pretty quickly. This recipe calls for a glaze which can add moisture to the cookies. If you prefer crunchier cookies, bake for an addition minute or two but watch carefully. The high sugar content from the brown sugar and maple syrup means that these cookies can catch or burn in the oven really quickly. A note on the glaze, mine wasn’t particularly white colored but to make a more solid glaze, you can add teaspoons of powdered sugar until it reaches the appropriate consistency and color that you prefer. I hope you enjoy and be sure to check out the Lost Angeles Times Food section on Sundays; it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the newspaper and the writers work really hard on perfecting these recipes!
Brown Sugar and Maple Cookie Recipe
For the Cookie:
240 grams (2 cups) All Purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
170 grams (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
213 grams (1 cup) packed dark brown sugar (light is fine as well)
78 grams (1/4 cup) pure maple syrup
1 large egg, room temp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Glaze
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
1 Tablespoon Water
1/2 cup packed powdered sugar
Heat the oven to 375F and line 3 cookie sheets (I used two and rotated their use but they are supposed to cook a little extra on the sheets once out of the oven so try to have 3)
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
In a separate, larger bowl, beat together the softened butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the syrup and beat until incorporated then beat in the egg and vanilla extract until well-blended.
Add flour mix and fold in gently until no trace of flour remains. If your dough seems really slack at this point, freeze for 10-20 minutes or until it hardens enough to scoop
Using a tablespoon measuring tool or a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop dough onto the sheets with at least 2 inches of space around each cookie. They will spread in the oven.
Bake each sheet for 12 minutes or until golden dark brown. Cool completely on the cookie sheets on wire racks.
In a small bowl, stir together the glaze ingredients. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Once cookies are completely cool, drizzle the glaze on top. Try to wait to eat them until the glaze hardens on the cookies.