Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Can I just say it was 109 degrees outside today? I'm aware that it's summer, but this is a little extreme. It was time to cool down with something that tastes a little summery. What's more summery than lemon?

Mmmm... crinkly

I decided to make lemon crinkle cookies because they're a close cousin to my favorite cookie, the gooey butter cookie. 

A warning to any who would dare to make these: they're addictive. 

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Adapted from Heather Homemade's Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

1/3 cup powdered sugar for rolling 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper. 

2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat for about 30 more seconds.

3. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4. Place powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop cookies, about 1 tablespoon each, and roll them in the powdered sugar.

5. Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes, or until no longer shiny on top. Let them sit for a minute or two before transferring them to a cooling rack.

6. Eat one. Repeat this step until they are all gone. 

They're good with milk or lemonade. Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Father's Day Peach Picking and a Pretty Peach Tart

Another tart. Same recipe, different fruit.

You may have noticed I'm on a tart craze. There's something about summer that makes tarts irresistible to me. They're so light and fruity- perfect for cooling off on a summer day. 

This year, my dad will be out of town for Father's day, so we are celebrating our favorite daddy early. Allow me to make the biggest understatement of the year-- my dad loves peaches. He has a list of favorite foods and I believe it goes as follows:

1. Peaches
2. Toasted pecans
3. Sweet potato fries

So when it comes to Father's day, we try to stick to the basic loves of his food life. Since Father's day is always during peach season, we usually take our annual trip to the local orchard a few days before Father's day in order to make my mom's delicious peach cobbler. This year, my dad decided he would rather have a peach tart now and a peach cobbler later on. I was excited to take on the challenge. 

Mmmm... peaches! 

Unfortunately, there were about a million moths in the orchard which kept attacking me and my innocent family. We did manage, despite the moths' wishes, to bring home about 16 pounds of delicious peaches. Another good part of the orchard is you're allowed to eat as much as you want while you're there. My (ahem) strenuous  peach picking caused me to work up enough of an appetite to eat three peaches while I was there. 

Look at those big boys!

I made a small peach tart two days ago for my dad as a "test run" (snack) because I had a little extra dough left from my apple tart.

Pretty as a peach!

The recipe for the tart can be found here
It took 35 minutes for my peach tart to bake. 

I thought it was delicious, but if you don't trust me yet, you can take my dad's word for it...

I think he may like it. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

French Country Apple Tart

Oooh! Aaah!

Who doesn't love a good summer tart? With the sweet dough crusts, delicious fillings, and ever-beautiful presentations, they are always a crowd favorite.  

We happened to have a few apples laying around that were a little past their prime, so I decided to bake up a little tart to bring to my friend Emily's house. While this tart looks so impressive, it really doesn't take long! It's a gorgeous, no-fuss tart. The taste is out of this world, and the tight pattern of apples will leave guests (or even just family) wowing. I've brought it on many a picnic and it's always eaten up within minutes. 

This recipe is in two parts because there is one hour of refrigeration required in between making the dough and making the tart. Don't leave this refrigeration out! If you do, the dough will be too soft and it will bake differently. 

French Country Apple Tart

Adapted from the "From A French Country Kitchen" cookbook

Sweet Tart Dough

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces, chilled (the recipe calls for unsalted, but I always use salted butter)

1. Mix the sugar and flour together in a bowl. Form a depression in the center and add the egg and butter. 

2. "Fork" the egg and butter into the dry ingredients by rapidly pressing and sliding the fork along the bowl. It will take a few minutes. You'll get your arm workout in, as well. You can add cold water (a tiny bit) if the dough is too dry, but this has never been a problem for me. 

Just think of the triceps you'll have!

3. Form a ball with your hands and chill in wax paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Apple Tart

1 recipe sweet tart dough
1 1/4 pounds tart apples
1/2 tsp cinnamon
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter (again, I used salted)
4 tbsp granulated sugar
1 whole egg

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Press dough into a tart pan (mine is 9x9) or roll out onto a cookie sheet or baking stone. If rolling out onto a pan without sides, be sure to bake "barriers" of dough, like a pizza crust, so the juices don't overflow.

Squish, squish, squish!

3. Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the tart dough to prevent puffing of the dough. Bake for ten minutes.

Fork, fork, fork!

4. Reduce oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

5. Peel apples. Slice apples very thin, making sure to exclude any seeds or the icky hard pieces in the core. 

I peeled two apples keeping the peels each in one piece. Applause, please. 

6. Arrange apple slices in decorative, tight circular patterns. 

The middle kind of looks like a bird. This was unintentional. But seriously, isn't this gorgeous?

7. Melt butter over low heat, making sure not to brown it. Remove from heat and add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Let it cool down a little bit, and add the egg, beating until it's pretty smooth. 

Mmmm... sugar-butter-egg goop!

8. Sprinkle cinnamon on the apple tart and pour the sugar-butter-egg mixture over all the apples. Try to cover all the apples. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is tender. (or you can be like me and forget to turn the oven on and sit for 30 minutes wondering why the fruit isn't tender). 

That was painless, wasn't it?! And look at this beautiful result! Everyone together- "Oooh! Aaah!"

Excuse me while I eat my weight in tarts. 


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Macaroni Grill Bread and Gilmores! WWTBFCD?*

I've updated this post here with better pictures and a few updates on my method for making this bread. Check it out! 

Can I just say that I love carbs? I recently tried the Dukan Diet, which celebrities like Kate Middleton and J.Lo have done, and I didn't last three days. My breaking point was at the mall when my protein-filled stomach cried as I passed the Cinnamonster, and... well... I couldn't say no. The aroma of cinnamon, butter, and yeast entered my nose. The diet ended there.

My personal favorite flour-filled food is the rosemary bread from Macaroni Grill. The crispy crust and tender inside combine to make the most delicious bread my mouth has ever tasted. Every time I go to Macaroni Grill, I always ask for three loaves to-go so I can make what my dad calls my "Magical Sandwich," which consists of basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, pepperoni, two types of cheese, and of course, butter. That recipe will come later. 

Now it's not often I get the opportunity to bake in the summer. Here in Texas, with sweltering 100+ degree days even in June, baking can heat the whole house up, making it a no-go.

But when I found out today was going to be rainy and cool (Whew! We all needed a break!), I leapt at the opportunity to bake the Macaroni Grill bread I found on Jamie Cooks It Up! All I can say is... wow

The butter! The salt! The fresh rosemary! The glory!

This bread was actually very easy. It's a really quick recipe, excluding the total 55 minutes of rising, so it can be made while you're doing other things (like watching Gilmore Girls on a beautiful rainy day). 

I also got to use up some of the rosemary from my herb garden I've been growing.

I think I have enough rosemary to make 100 loaves... I just may do that. 

I used the recipe from Jamie Cooks It Up! with limited changes. 

Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread

Yield: 2 loaves

2 packets (1.5 tbsp) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil (I used extra virgin)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon mixed oregano, basil, and garlic powder (equal parts of each to total 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, cracked
1 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary needles, with stems chopped off

1 egg
sea salt

1. Combine in the bottom of your mixer bowl the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Mix it gently with a spoon to incorporate. Let it sit and rise for 5 minutes.

My yeast was so plump!

2. Add the salt, olive oil, and 1 cup of the flour. Mix it for about 1 minute on a low setting. Change to your bread hook attachment. 

3. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Once all the flour is in, let your bread hook knead on high in your mixer for 5-7 minutes. 

4. While the mixer is working its magic, chop up your rosemary. Mix it with the herbs and pepper so the rosemary is coated in the herbs. Add to the bread dough.

5. Thoroughly wet a clean kitchen rag and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat it up. Place this over the bowl to let the dough rise for 40 minutes, or until doubled in size. No need to put it in a warm oven if the rag is moist and warm. My dough not only doubled, but perhaps tripled. This is fine. 

6. Divide the dough in half and place the two balls of dough on a greased cookie sheet or a baking stone sprayed with a bit of olive oil. 

7. Beat the egg and brush it on the two dough balls. 

8. Place the baking stone with the two loaves in the oven heated up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them in the oven for 15 minutes to double in size.

9. With the loaves still inside, turn the oven up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. From the time you turn the oven up, it should take 20-25 minutes for the loaves to bake. 

10. Take the loaves out when they have a nice golden color to the crust. Brush butter on each loaf and sprinkle with sea salt. 

"Make sure to get my diamonds in there!" -Mom 

11. Eat it while it's hot... if there's any left!

They should sell a Scentsy scent called "Macaroni Grill Bread." I would certainly buy it. My house smells amazing right now. 

I'm so glad I decided to make this bread, because the whole Lorelai and Luke breakup was depressing me too much. When in doubt, always ask yourself, What would the Barefoot Contessa Do? I decided she would make bread.