Do Or Pie

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It’s tough being a Columbia Lions fan. After 9 consecutive losses there isn’t much hope going into the 10th game of the season. Luckily, (for many) the fun of a Columbia football game isn’t watching the scoreboard (unless you support the opposing team). This weekend’s game is an excellent excuse to make Columbia-themed baked goods for the winningest marching band and Lions fans in all of Ivy League sports: the CUMB.

The Oreo recipe we* used comes from Flour Bakery, which is worth a trip to the north if you’ve never been. The Flour Bakery Oreo cookie is a classy relative of classic Oreos. Add some light blue frosting and you get the Roar-eo. Oh no, check that Columbia pun.
#turnitblue yup, we went there.

*co-chef Hayley Peterson (*tweet tweet* fanfare)

Recipe from Flour Bakery for Alma Mater on the Hudson Shore

Cookie Dough
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled a little
1 egg
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
About 8 drops blue food coloring

1. Beat 1 cup unsalted butter with 3/4 cup sugar until smooth. Add vanilla, melted chocolate, and egg.

2. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until combined. Let the dough rest on a counter top for about 1 hour.

3. On parchment paper form dough into a log and roll into the paper. (We made two logs so that each log was about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Leave in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half.

4. Remove from the refrigerator when the log is solid. You may want to re-roll the log into a round shape since it may have flattened while resting.

5. Slice each log to make cookies each about 1/4 inch think. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes. Cookies should look slightly firm on top but don’t wait til they brown; they’ll be overdone!

6. Once cookies have cooled, add frosting. Combine butter and sugar in a mixer until smooth. Add vanilla and milk. Stir in food coloring if using. We needed a lot  more coloring than we expected to get the right color. Start with a few drops and add more one at a time. Create sandwiches.

7. Head to Baker Field. Feed to sleepy lions fans.

Note: This is a single batch but we made 1 and a half batches. We got about 48 sandwiches.


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Cranberry-Apple Gingersnap Crisp

There are two reasons we made this:
1. We had frozen cranberries.
2. We did not have eggs.

This dessert really only exists because no one was willing to go to the grocery store. Oh and we used apple instead of pear because we happened to have a lot of apples. Let’s see how many constraints we put on recipes when it’s actually cold outside; I’ll be making vegan baked goods simply to avoid changing out of cozy socks and pajama pants.

The crisp was completely un-photogenic but tasted like Thanksgiving. If you have any frozen cranberries to spare before the holiday give this a try.


Note: No one really gets the terminology for the various fruit + crispy topped desserts. Gourmet magazine has a summary here. This cranberry-apple dish is apparently a crisp because the topping is made from butter, flour, and sugar. “Crumble” is the British term for a crisp. Buckles have topping mixed into the fruit and Brown Bettys use breadcrumbs. Cobblers have a stiffer cookie-like top. I’m a bit overwhelmed.


Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and born of necessity/laziness

Crisp Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (4 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 pounds of apples (peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick)
1 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh frozen, not dried)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. In a Cuisinart, crush gingersnap cookies until you have cookie crumbs. Mix together crumbs, flour, sugars, ginger, and salt. Add melted butter and mix with a fork until you get small chunks.

2. Prepare 2 pounds of apples (peel, core, slice to 1/4 inch thick). Toss with cranberries in a large baking dish. Combine lemon juice, vanilla, sugar, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour over fruit and toss together in the baking dish. Sprinkle crumbled topping all over the fruit.

3. Place your baking dish on top of a cookie sheet (preventative measure in case your fruit spills) and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Topping will turn dark brown and fruit will be bubbly. Let sit to allow ingredients to solidify a bit. Or just eat the thing.

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Spoon Cookies

Baking is incredibly predictable and I’m comfortable admitting that the predictability is perhaps the activity’s appeal. When you read a recipe you know what you’re getting yourself into. Cookie dough is doughy, yeast makes breads rise, icing goes on/in/all over cake, we all lick the bowl sometimes and occasionally even the whisk, and so on. When you attempt The Spoon Cookie don’t be alarmed when your entire baking experience is turned upside-down in service of the most delicate, flaky, buttery, rich sandwich cookie of (maybe) ever.


Not that I regret attempting this recipe, but we should have been mentally prepared. The first warning sign was in the text of the Gourmet Magazine article from Celia Barbour in December 2005: “I sometimes find myself wondering… why I’ve bothered.” Granted the author is discussing mass production of these cookies as Christmas gifts, but still, perhaps we should have considered ourselves forewarned. The second cause for alarm was the consistency of the dough. After refrigeration (we* followed the recipe exactly; no fooling around here) the dough appeared hard as rock and then crumbled once we tried to scoop it into the desired spoon shape. With some cajoling, the dough did in fact come together inside the mold of the spoon to form delicate oval shapes. Don’t even think about trying to remove these from the baking sheet until way after they’ve cooled. They’ll crumble at the slightest touch and you’ll be forced to eat the cookie crumbs left behind to hide the evidence. On second thought, maybe broken cookies aren’t so bad.

You didn’t scare us off, Celia Barbour. Nice try though.

*we = my mom and I. Hi, Mom.

Recipe from Celia Barbour, Gourmet Magazine

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup fruit preserves (I prefer raspberry. Strawberry tasted great too but the little hunks of fruit got in the way when sandwiching the cookies)

1. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

2. Take cold butter and heat in a saucepan over medium/low heat. The butter will brown and start to smell nutty after about 10-12 minutes on the stove top. Stir occasionally. Watch for little brown flecks to form at the base of your pot. The butter will foam a few times during this process so you may need to peek under the bubbles to see the browning occur. When the butter has begun to brown remove the pot from the flame and put the entire pot into cold water. I used a larger pot filled half way with water and some ice cubes. Stir the browned butter continuously for about 4 minutes; it will start to turn opaque.

3. Mix the sugar and vanilla into the browned butter. Pour the warm butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon or fork until combined.

4. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. Dough will feel solid.

5. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon (the kind you have in your dinner set not a measuring spoon), break off bits of the dough and press into the bowl of the spoon. The dough will crumble but when pressed with your fingers into the spoon it will hold together and mold to the spoon’s shape. Slide each rounded cookie off the spoon and place (rounded side up!) on the baking sheet. Place cookies about 1/2 inch apart.

6. Bake for 14-16 minutes at 325 degrees until slightly golden around the edges. Do not touch the cookies to check the bottoms (if that is your habit). They will break. Let the cookies cool for at least an hour before attempting to remove them. Preferably wait over night for maximum sturdy-ness. These little guys are delicate.

7. Heat 1/3 cup of jam and spread a thin layer on half of the cookies. Create sandwiches. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the warm jam to cool and the cookies to hold their sandwich shape.


Cinnamon Buns

It’s unfortunate that so many people associate cinnamon buns with roadside truck stops and Penn Station. Saturday mornings and cinnamon buns are truly made for each other. A nearly perfect dessert when fresh, those commercial cinnamon buns are victims of unfortunate circumstance. From this injustice were born this weekend’s buns. (Just watched a lot of West Wing; feeling oratorical. Give buns a chance.)

This recipe was shockingly simple. I woke up early, budgeted a few hours to let the buns rise, bake, then cool but the extra time was hardly necessary. The rising time turned out to be just 45 minutes. And these might just be the prettiest baked goods I’ve ever made.

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) of instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
2 and 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

1. Combine 2 ¼ cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer. Set aside ½ cup of flour to use in step 3.

2. On the stovetop, melt 2 ½ tablespoons of unsalted butter over low heat. Once melted, combine with the water and milk.

3. In a standing mixer combine the butter/milk/water mixture and 1 egg into the dry ingredients. Mix until combined. The dough will be sticky, so use that extra ½ cup of flour you reserved earlier and mix until the dough holds together enough to handle. [I switched from the standing mixer’s paddle to the dough hook after adding the additional flour.]
Form your dough into a ball and knead on a floured surface for about 4 minutes. Invert a bowl over the dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

4. Roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape on a floured surface until it is about 18 inches by 8 inches.
Brush the dough with your melted 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar all over. Don’t be shy with the sprinkling! The sugar will dissolve into the buns in the oven. You’re going to want an extra crunch.

5. Roll the dough into a tight log. Slice into 12 pieces with a sharp knife.

6. Arranged the 12 buns in a well-buttered pie pan or other dish. Place, covered with foil, in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Buns should double in size. You can do this in a warm oven by heating your oven to 200 degrees, turning the oven off, and letting your buns hang out there.

7. After your buns look nice and puffy, set the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. If buns begin to get too brown cover them with tin foil for the remainder of the baking time.

8. Once your buns are out of the oven, add the glaze. Combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk until you get a thick yet runny consistency. Serve warm.

Note: The buns don’t store well, so plan to eat them while they’re hot. I don’t think that will be a problem.


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Simple Chocolate Cake

If you’re into instant gratification  this cake comes really close. After riding the subway during rush hour with some particularly pushy people (check my alliteration, thank you for noticing) this cake seemed like a guaranteed cure-all for New York frustration. The recipe has few ingredients, a standing mixer is barely necessary, baking time is 45 minutes, and then you eat freshly baked cake. I can’t think of a single thing to complain about here. Can’t say as much for the 6 train.

While the recipe didn’t exactly blow me away this dessert has serious potential. It made a perfectly lovely Bundt but it would have been even better with a homemade chocolate or vanilla icing. The consistency actually reminded all of us of cake from a box (reliably delicious and always moist) but this cake is chemical-free. The recipe calls for a cup of brewed coffee which I’d recommend making VERY strong if you actually want to taste the coffee flavor. The only ingredient making this cake chocolatey is cocoa powder; using a higher quality brand will likely produce more delicious results. Next time I’ll probably throw in some chocolate chips for some additional chocolatey-ness.


Adapted from Food52, Best Chocolate Cake Contest Winner

1 ¾ cups sugar*
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cups dutch process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup milk (can substitute 1 cup of milk + a tablespoon of lemon juice for the desired “sour milk” flavor of the original recipe)
1 cup freshly brewed strong black coffee
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

*The original recipe calls for a full 2 cups. If you’re not afraid of a full 2 cups go for it. It looked like too much so I cut back.

Frosting thoughts:
Any frosting will do here. Try a homemade vanilla, chocolate, or coffee frosting. Maybe a cream cheese based frosting if you’re feeling adventurous? Or a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar.

1. Brew one cup of coffee. Make it strong! Remove from pot and let it cool off in the refrigerator while you mix the rest of the ingredients.

2. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl until combined. Sifting is recommended, but optional if you’re impatient (*raises hand*).

3. In another bowl mix together milk, coffee, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in batches until combined. Mix on medium speed of a standing mixer for about 4 minutes.

5. Butter a Bundt pan (or other cake pan) and pour in cake batter.* Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cake should be firm/spongy on top but not wet in the middle.

*If you decide not to use a Bundt, adjust baking time accordingly.

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Peanut Butter Cups

Every Halloween I marvel at the deception involved in producing flavors like “blue raspberry” or “cherry.” Since when do those candy flavors actually taste like the real thing? And what’s a blue raspberry? I was pretty excited to find an alternative to commercial peanut butter cups, which I used to hoard every Halloween. Well, still do hoard on Halloween. Using good chocolate makes a huge difference.
Adapted from Food52’s recipe here
Makes 24 small peanut butter cups
The measurements are a bit ummm unusual because we thirded the original recipe. Don’t skimp on the peanut butter filling. This recipe makes enough for all 24 cups to be fully loaded.
1/3 cup of creamy unsalted peanut butter
1 1/3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
5 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (or other chocolate)
1 package of small cupcake paper cups
NOTE: We used mini cupcake tins, but this wasn’t entirely necessary. The tins did help keep the paper cups from moving around while we poured the chocolate.
1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler. (Make shift double boiler = a sauce pan of boiling water + a small bowl that fits inside the pan without touching the bottom.)
2. In each of 24 paper cups, dollop melted chocolate. Your cup should have about 1/4 inch of chocolate on the bottom.
3. Chill the cups in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. While they are hanging out, mix together the peanut butter, butter, sugars, and salt until they form a paste.
4. Once the chocolate in your cups has hardened in the fridge, put a fat disk of peanut butter in each one. The disk shouldn’t extend the entire width of the cup since you want it to be nicely hidden under the chocolate.
5. Add more melted chocolate to cover each peanut butter disk. Sprinkle sea salt or table salt on top, to taste. Refrigerate again until hardened (about 10 minutes, again).
Enjoy at work as second breakfast! Or maybe that's just me...

Enjoy at work as second breakfast! Or maybe that’s just me…

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Pie

Making your own pie crust really isn’t hard or scary, so why do people insist on buying pre-made crust? Everyone stop doing that. Pumpkin puree from scratch is a whole different story. Example: the Pumpkin Experiment of Thanksgiving 2011 during which I purchased a Japanese pumpkin (Kabocha) in order to create a pie from super-scratch. I probably should have picked the pumpkin from the outdoors instead of Whole Foods if this were actually to have been a true attempt at farm-to-table but I’m only medium crunchy. The Kabocha filling was flavorful, smooth, and fall-like. Unfortunately the entire process took a long time, my blender was too small to puree the pumpkin all at once, and I’m not convinced the taste was significantly more delicious than canned pumpkin. A year after The Experiment, NPR ran a story about the glories of Kabocha. I would recommend skipping the hipsterly trend. Save some time and use the can.

The recipe below isn’t just a pumpkin pie. A few reasons for this:
1) The filling includes a cream cheese swirl. It is really fun to make, looks beautiful, and tastes excellent.
2) The crust is made from cookies.
I think I had more items to add to this list but those are really key. I’ll leave you with those two delicious thoughts.

This recipe is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
Deb, the genius behind Smitten Kitchen, is my baking hero. That being said, I have a few suggestions. Warm your cream cheese batter on the stove before swirling it into the pumpkin. If the cream cheese batter isn’t warm and smooth you end up with unattractive white blobs in the pumpkin batter. Also I cut back on the spices to appease some family members who are anti-nutmeg.

4 ounces gingersnap cookies
3 ounces graham crackers (about 5 cookies)
4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Pumpkin Batter
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree (about 1/2 to 3/4 of a 15 ounce can)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1 cup heavy cream

Cheesecake Batter
4 ounces cream cheese
3 tbs white sugar
1 egg yolk

A Cuisinart is helpful for pulverizing cookies. If you don’t have one you can put the cookies in a plastic bag, cover with a dishtowel, and let out your rage with a hammer or mallet. Don’t do this on a nice countertop, please.

1. Break gingersnap cookies and graham crackers into large chunks and crush in Cuisinart. The cookies should become a crispy mealy substance. Add the melted better to Cuisinart and combine.

2. Press the cookie mixture into a pie pan using your hands to pack down the crumbs. The crumbs will probably be a bit loose and pesky.

3. Make the pumpkin filling. Whisk together the egg and egg white. (Reserve the egg yolk for the cheesecake batter.) Add pumpkin puree, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and optional clove and nutmeg until combined. Add heavy cream and whisk together until creamy and pale orange.

4. Make cheesecake batter in a saucepan on the stove. Combine ingredients over low heat and whisk until smooth and a little runny.

5. Add the pumpkin batter to your cookie crust. Using a spatula, pour cheese cake batter over the pumpkin batter. Using a butter knife held vertically, swirl the cheesecake batter around until it looks as swirly as you please.

6. Set oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn temperature down to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 35 to 40 minutes. A knife inserted into the pie should come out clean.

7. Let rest in the refrigerator or at room temperature until set. As the pie cools the filling comes together. If the filling hasn’t set it will be a bit goopy (impatient people like myself don’t especially mind).