Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moving to a new home...please join me!

Since starting this journey of baking and blogging, and now selling on Etsy, I've dreamed of having a beautiful, streamlined blog that reflected a fun but polished spirit.  And, thanks to Erin of Edub Graphic Design, I finally have exactly that.  Erin has given me a beautiful logo and website that combines all my baking adventures with the ability to order directly from me or through my Etsy shop.

I love Blogger, and it has served me well, but I'm excited about the move over to WordPress.  Please come join me at my new dot com (how exciting is that?), Sugarloaf Eats.  I promise to make it fun and exciting and worth all the work involved in any kind of move!

See you soon!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Candycorn Cupcakes

Thursday, I was in the grocery store.  And I spotted candy corn.  I don't even like it that much.  But I had to buy it.  It was calling out to me.  It is nearly Halloween, after all.  I just knew I could turn it into an interesting cookie.  But, then I didn't.  Instead, I made cupcakes.

These actually turned out to be much cuter than I really thought they would.  And, the cake recipe was fantastic.  It's a little complicated in that you mix up most of the batter, but then you whip up a meringue and fold it into the batter.  This step adds a fluffiness to the cake that takes it from being an ordinary, every day cupcake to a very tender, exceptional one.

Candy Corn Cupcakes:
2 large eggs, separated

1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated white sugar, divided

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1/2 cup rice milk

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350.

Separate eggs and set aside.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until soft, about 1 minute.  Add 3/4 cup sugar and beat until soft and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Add in the egg whites, one at a time, and beat after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Move the mixture to a separate bowl.

For this next part, you need the bowl of your mixer to be very clean.  Squeaky clean. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tarter and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.  Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form.  With a rubber or silicone spatula fold in some of the egg white mixture into the batter mixture.  Fold until combined and then fold in the remaining egg white mixture.  Be careful not to overfold so the mixture doesn't deflate.  

Divide the batter evenly among three bowls (or, two additional bowls to the one you already have.  Each bowl should contain 1/3 of the batter mixture).  Add Americolor orange gel coloring to one of the bowls.  Add egg yellow to another.  Leave the third without coloring.
Divide each color of batter evenly among lined cupcake pan, starting with the uncolored batter on the bottom, followed by the orange, topped off by the yellow.  Bake for 18-25 minutes (mine took 21 minutes).
While cupcakes are cooling, mix up your favorite frosting.  Also divide it into thirds and color just like you did the batter.  Put each color into a disposable piping bag.  Snip a .5 inch section off the tip of each.  Fit another disposable pastry bag with a very large piping tip. (I used this one.)  Insert each of the three bags into the bag fitted with the pastry tube so that you are squeezing all three colors through the tip at once.  (Here's a great tutorial.)  Top with a piece of candy corn and watch them get gobbled up!      

Source:  Cake slightly adapted from Joy of Baking.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Favorite Find Fridays - Precut Parchment

I know.  It's been weeks since I posted a Favorite Find Friday.  I've failed you.  Again.  But, I'm here now and that's what counts, right?


This is probably my absolute favorite kitchen find:  Precut Parchment sheets!  Woohoo!  I found these on The Webstaurant Store's site while I was searching for sheet pans.  They are perfect and I use them nearly every day.  If I roll dough, bake cookies, decorate cookies, roast vegetables, or use a sheet pan in any way, I use one of these flat (and not curling under from being wound into a roll), perfectly sized sheets of parchment paper.  The best part?  They come in packs of 100.  Oh, and the other best part?  Those 100 sheets are only $4.49/pack.

You see, I found these while I was contemplating buying Silpat mats because I so despised those supermarket rolls of parchment paper that curled under and made accurately lining pans nearly impossible.  But, I already have one Silpat mat and I hate it.  It works great, but I hate cleaning it.  It's just a pain.  But, I was willing to give in and spend the money to avoid that roll.  Until I found these and took a chance.  I am now in love!  

And, the other great part?  The Webstaurant Store.  It's fantastic with great prices and great service.  Most restaurant supply stores will not sell to individuals, but thankfully, the Webstaurant Store will.  And, their delivery times are great and shipping rates reasonable.  I feel like a genius for finding them! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies

I apologize for the lack of posting lately.  Things here have just been, well, busy.  Life seems to get away from me before I even realize it has begun.  My girls are absolutely beautiful and wonderful and make every day worth living (and every night worth waking up several times).  But, they are a handful.  There never seems to be a moment when everyone is happy.  Unless, of course, everyone is sleeping.  But, even then the moments are fleeting.  Baking is typically my refuge, but there just does not seem to be enough hours in the day to bake the things I want.  You should see the list of recipes I've been planning to try - it grows daily!

Despite our wonderful (and reliable) chaos, I have been working on a chocolate nut-free, milk-free macaron with a pretty amazing milk-free filling.  I have the taste down, just not the aesthetics.  So, hopefully that will be on here soon enough.  In the meantime, though, I did whip up these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  There's a bit of a back story, and you may find it irrelevant, but well, it's my blog and I feel like telling it (so there)...

*If you are a guy, or are not, or have never been, a nursing mother, you really may not care about this next part.  In fact, you may find it a little TMI and be annoyed by it.  Whatevs.  Just skip on down.*  

As I've mentioned 8000 times before, I am nursing my milk-allergic infant.  We had a bumpy ride the first few weeks (cracking, bleeding, mastitis twice and a nasty case of thrush. Yuck.), but overall things have gone smoothly.  For some reason, though, in the last few days I have become a bit worried about my milk supply.  Truthfully, I have no reason to be concerned.  I've always had oversupply.  If my little one pulls off before let-down has subsided she gets a shot to the face.  And she usually ends up drenched.  But, she's now 6 months old and my supply is evening out a bit.  Instead of waking up leaking and engorged, things are fairly controlled now.  But, I've also been spending lots of time in the gym and I know I'm not drinking the water I should.  As any nursing mom knows, this can all lead to panic.  Where's my crazy-huge supply?  Why am I not walking around with two giant, painful rocks anymore??  What have I done????  Mah poor bay-bay!!!

I know.  And you're right.

But, in order to calm my nerves, I decided to eat me some oats.  Yup.  Oats.  I have read in several places that oats can help to boost your milk supply.  And by several I mean KellyMom.  But, the thing is, I hate oatmeal.  HATE it.  It's just so mushy.  And gross.  Yuck.  But, oatmeal cookies?  I can get behind those.  So, there you have it.  The reason I randomly made oatmeal cookies at 9pm on a Sunday night.

Okay, so if you've made it this far in the post, just bear with me as I quickly explain these cookies...  These are out of the book, Presidential Cookies.  It includes a cookie, or sweet treat, from every administration through President George W. Bush.  (I do not know if a new version has been released since the latest election, so please do not go crying foul over lack of inclusion.)  I have been making Laura Bush's Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies out of this cookbook for a few years now, and they are always a hit.  But, somehow, I managed to forget about them and it's now been over a year since I last baked them.  Horrible!

But, these are so yummy.  In fact, in the middle of baking these, I went to nurse my daughter back down to sleep, and when I came into the kitchen again, there were suddenly four less cookies.  In ten minutes.  Obviously, my husband likes them a little.  

Mrs. Bush's recipe calls for coconut and nuts.  Because of our food allergies, I don't use either, but I will include them below so you can add them if you'd like.  Also, I halved her recipe.  The original quantities make either an enormous cookie or an enormous amount of cookies.  Mrs. Bush recommends using a 1/4 cup dough per cookie for giant ones, or 2 Tbs. per cookie for smaller ones.  I just used a large spoon to scoop them and even with the recipe halved still made 25 very large cookies.  If you would like to make her full recipe just double everything (you will need 3 eggs for the full version).   

Laura Bush's Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies:

1 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
scant 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon  (full recipe also calls for 1 Tbs, but I used nearly the full Tbs. in the recipe)
1/2 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 Tbs. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks Earth Balance vegan butter, at room temp (or, regular butter)
3/4 Cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 egg, 1 egg yolk (3 whole eggs for full recipe)
1/2 Tbs. vanilla
1 1/2 Cup milk-free semi-sweet chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life
1 1/2 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 Cup sweetened flake coconut
1 Cup chopped pecans (4 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add in the sugars and beat for an additional two minutes.

Add in the egg and yolk, beating well.  Add in vanilla.  On low speed, slowly add in chocolate chips.  Add flour mixture on low speed and mix until just combined.  Add in oats and mix on low until all ingredients are well incorporated (but do not over mix).

Scoop out approx. 2 Tablespoons of dough per cookie (or, 1/4 cup dough per cookie for giant cookies, leaving 3 inches between each) and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for 12-17 minutes for smaller cookies (it took mine 13.5 minutes), or 17-29 minutes for the larger cookies.  Makes 2-2.5 dozen using 2 Tbs. dough per cookie.


Source:  Adapted from Presidential Cookies Cookbook by Bev Young.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Onesie Sugar Cookies

These cookies were shipped off to North Carolina for my sister-in-law's baby shower.  We're so excited to be welcoming our third nephew in November!

For whatever reason, baby onesie cookies have been my achilles heel in decorating with royal icing.  They just never turn out as beautiful as I envision.  But, I may have finally broken that curse!  These aren't "beautiful" in the same sense as the brush embroidered cookies from earlier in the week, but they were definitely pretty and worthy of a celebration for a little boy.  I was able to find duckie ribbon and "It's a boy ribbon" that topped it all off wonderfully.

So, just a few tips about these cookies....

Always chill this shape before baking.  For whatever reason, these cookies tend to puff and spread more than other shapes. And puffy onesies just end up looking like those sumo wrestler suits unsuspecting guests are talked into wearing - and humiliating themselves in - at baseball games.  You know...rollling around out in the outfield, trying to stand up and having 30,000 people laugh at you as you repeatedly fall on your face.  And, what self-respecting onesie wants to look like that?

Hmm.  Moving on...   

Be very careful with the blue or it will become too dark much too quickly.  This blue is ONE drop of Americolor Sky Blue and lots of Bright White.  The green is also ONE drop of Leaf Green and lots of Bright White.  Deep Pink (the pink I use the most often) is the same way.  And, the tricky part is they don't look dark when you mix them.  This is why it is always smart to let the colors rest for a bit after mixing but before using.  After about 20 minutes, the color will be more accurate.   

Have fun!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Frosting for the Cause - Brush Embroidered Sugar Cookies

Today, I am guest posting over at Frosting for the Cause.  This is a wonderful website dedicated to raising money for cancer research and to sharing our baked goods with those who help cancer patients.  When I signed up for the post, I agreed to donate $25 to cancer research, to do a tutorial and to donate the baked goods from my tutorial to a local cancer or hospice center.  So, today I am delivering my brush embroidered royal icing sugar cookies to the Life With Cancer center here in Fairfax, VA.  While the cookies are certainly a small gesture, I do hope maybe they will bring some joy to the staff who devote their lives to helping patients wage courageous battles against a horrendous disease.  If any of you would like to sign up for Frosting for the Cause, please do.  It certainly is a worthy cause...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Swirled Rye Bread

Over the last year, I have come to love bread making.  It's relatively easy, and I find the prep and shaping of it to be somehow cathartic.  Plus, it makes a truly impressive final product that will wow almost anyone.  The most difficult part of any bread prep tends to be the proofing (a.k.a. rising) times, as you must be home to make sure your bread is not left out to fall.  As a stay at home mom with a five month old and a 25 month old, I'm typically not far away from home, so that's not usually a problem. But, these last few weeks have been nothing but late night cookie baking and decorating (and traveling alone with my girls on a seven hour road trip...what was I thinking?), so I've been feeling the need to get in the kitchen and well, knead.

(My word-play skills are impressive, aren't they?)

So, I decided it was finally time to delve into my new Peter Reinhart book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I have read it cover to cover several times but just have not had the opportunity to make anything.  His sourdough has been on my list for a while, and I even made a starter for it.  But, we ended up being away so much I wasn't able to feed it like I needed and finally tossed it.  I wanted something, though, to make now.  You know, instant gratification.  No starters - no pre ferments - just good ole flour, yeast and whatever else could be thrown in together.  This rye bread seemed to be the perfect solution.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it is naturally milk free (and if you opt out of the egg wash, it's egg free, too).  I didn't have to make any substitutions or worry that rice milk or vegan butter wouldn't produce the desired results.  It is also an incredibly easy recipe and the proofing times aren't too crazy with a typical two rises, each for 60-90 minutes.  My only issue came when I couldn't find white rye flour.  I was able to find organic rye flour, but not white rye flour, although I plan to order some from King Arthur.  Reinhart does specifically request this white flour, but sometimes you just have to make do.  What came out of the oven was a dense, aromatic and wonderful bread that will be great for toast and sandwiches.  The Monkey even enjoyed it, which is always a welcome surprise.

Light Rye Bread:
1.5 Cups White Rye Flour  (or, rye flour if you cannot find white rye)
3 Cups Bread Flour
1.5 tsp. salt
1.75 tsp. yeast
1 Tbs. molasses
2 Tbs. shortening
1.25 Cups water, plus 2 Tbs. if needed

Dark Rye Bread:
1.5 Cups White Rye Flour (or, rye flour if you cannot find white rye)
3 Cups Bread Flour
1.5 tsp. salt
1.75 tsp. yeast
1 Tbs. molasses
2 Tbs. shortening
1.25 Cups water, plus 2 Tbs. if needed
2 Tbs. Cocoa powder dissolved in 2 Tbs. water (or, 1 Tbs. liquid caramel coloring)

1 egg whisked with 1 tsp. water until frothy.

For the light rye:
Combine the rye flour, bread flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low just long enough to combine.  Add the molasses, shortening, and 1.25 cups water.  Mix on low for about 1 minute until the dough comes together and all the dry bits have been incorporated, adding the 2 Tbs. of water only if needed (I needed it).

Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium low until the dough feels a little tacky but not sticky, about 4 minutes.  (Reinhart suggests adding flour, a little at a time, if needed.  I definitely did not need extra flour).  Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

For the dark rye:
Dissolve the cocoa powder in water and set aside.

Repeat process of light rye, adding the dissolved cocoa in at the same time as the molasses, shortening and water.  Also proof this dough at room temp., lightly covered in plastic in an oiled bowl, for 90 minutes.

Once the doughs have doubled in size, *lightly* flour a work surface (I think I probably could have done without the flouring at all and the surface I work on usually needs quite a bit of flour, but just to be safe, do add a very light dusting of bread flour).  Divide each of the doughs into four equal pieces and set aside.  Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into an oblong shape approximately 5 x 8 inches.

Once all pieces have been rolled, begin shaping the loaves:
Stack one piece of dark rye on top of a light piece.  Repeat.  Fold the long edge of one side over the middle of the loaf, like a letter.  Press down with the edge of your hand to seal the dough a little, but do not press so hard you de-gas the bread.  Fold the other side over to complete the letter-like fold, and seal with your fingers.  Lay the folded loaf, seam-side down, on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper, and proof at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 60-90 minutes. 

Repeat this process to complete the additional loaf.

Preheat oven to 350.

Gently brush the egg wash onto each loaf.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Immediately remove to a cooling rack and let cool 1-2 hours before slicing and serving.   

A few notes:
Using rye flour versus white rye flour works fine, but the swirl is not as obvious.   

When forming the loaves, you want the fold to be tight.  If it is too loose the loaf will separate into individual layers rather than baking as one big layer.  But, try not to over-handle the dough.  Rye bread is already a dense dough and you don't want to toughen it anymore than necessary.

Reinhart states one baking sheet should be used for each loaf - two sheets total - but I just used one of my half sheet pans, covered in parchment paper, for both loaves.  He does also say the loaves can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days before the second proofing.  So, if you want to bake one and chill one, just let one loaf go through the whole process, and store one on a baking sheet in the fridge covered in plastic before it proofs for the second time.  Once you remove it from the fridge, let it proof until almost double in size.

Make sure the seams are facing down when you place the loaves onto the baking sheets.  If you do not, the loaves will expand and open some during baking.

Reinhart also says you can use loaf pans for baking.  I would not do this.  These loaves are very large and when baked without the restricting sides of a loaf pan, they are beautiful and rustic in appearance.