Paper Treats

IMG_4120For our Paper Towns discussion, I couldn’t figure out just what to make.  The only food they really discuss was raw catfish (not an option) and brief discussions of the junk food they eat on their road trip.  I decided that August was a good time for strawberries and chocolate so I wanted to make a chocolate chip strawberry cake.

I adapted my recipe from Julia’s Album. I found her instructions to require baking time that was just too long.  I like my cakes soft and spongy.

Ingredients

  • 1 & 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp Greek yogurt, plain or vanilla
  • 1 C sugar, granulated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C chocolate chips, plus a little for the top. (I did a mix of semi-sweet & milk chocolate)
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
  • powdered confectioner’s sugar for dusting.

IMG_4121Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper. Grease or non-stick spray the sides of the pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder & salt together into a medium bowl.
  3. Mix softened butter, Greek yogurt & 1 C granulated sugar: beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Don’t mix longer than about 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to medium, mix in the egg, beat until light and fluffy. Then mix in milk & vanilla.
  5. Mix in the flour mixture, gradually on low speed, just until combined. Be careful to not over mix.
  6. Fold in 1/3 C chocolate chips. Transfer batter to springform pan. Arrange strawberries on top of the batter, cut sides down. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top.
  7. Bake cake for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. When the cake is done baking, let it cool (still in the baking pan) on a wire rack. After cake has cooled for about 40 minutes, you can release the cake from the springform pan.
  9. Serve your tasty treat refrigerated or room temp. Lightly dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

IMG_4122It was pretty tasty!  I still haven’t figured out the magic of getting my chocolate chips to float in the cake so the bottom of the cake was a bit chocolate heavy from settling and I over baked it just a bit. It was still a nice summer treat.

The strawberries seemed to sink into the dish a bit and I’m not sure if that was from being too wet when they went onto the cake or from my over baking. I’ll have to try again!

Cream Cheese & Cucumber Cupcakes

IMG_4075For treats for The Importance of Being Earnest, I made the most lovely cupcakes inspired by Aunt Augusta (and Algy’s) love of cucumber sandwiches. A plain vanilla cake, I topped it off with a zingy cream cheese frosting which is so easy to make and seriously about 10,000 times more tasty than store bought:

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 package (8 ounces) of cream cheese: room temp or softened.

1/4 stick unsalted butter, which is half a stick: room temp or softened. (I had a long chat with my mother-in-law last month about unsalted versus salted butter.  She uses salted for everything.  I use unsalted for everything, especially baking.  I like to control how salty my dishes will be.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

1-2 cups of confectioners sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy.  Blend in pinch of salt and vanilla extract.  Gradually add in confectioner sugar until your reach the consistency you want.  I like my frosting to be not too stiff, but not too runny either.  You can sift your sugar if you’re worried about lumps.  I didn’t bother this time around.

Using a piping bag, pipe the cooled cupcakes with your cream cheese delightfulness.  Then pipe the leftovers into your mouth, perhaps for breakfast like I did.

I then topped my cupcakes with sliced cucumber.  If I were to do this again, I would not put the cucumber on top until I was ready to served the cupcakes and then I would only top the ones that were going to be consumed immediately.  I ended up having to throw out a few of the cakes when the cucumber topping got gross and leached into the cake.  Oh, well.  Now I know!

I didn’t serve any specialty tea in July because, well, I forgot!

The cakes were still delicious and the cucumber/cream cheese combo was something of which Algernon and Aunt Augusta would have definitely approved.

IMG_4076

Beautiful Treats

For Beautiful Ruins, I decided to contact my wonderful sister-in-law Amy for a recipe I’ve been meaning to take a stab at.  Amy makes the most delectable ricotta cookies at Christmastime and since a lot of Beautiful Ruins takes place in Italy, I thought now would be the perfect time to try my hand at these airy dreams.

So here it goes, what follows is how I made them and it yielded almost 3 dozen good sized cookies.  You can double the recipe if you need:

Cookie Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
7.5 oz (1/2 12 oz jar) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder (yes, that says Tbsp!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped (my addition!)

Icing Ingredients

whole milk (you’ll use far less than a pint, just a few splashes)
confectioner’s sugar (you shouldn’t need more than 1/4-1/2 cup)

Note: You should start stingy with the icing, it’s easy to make and you don’t need too too much of it.  Of course, you’re going to end up leaving some behind on the parchment so take that into consideration too.

in the mixerPreheat 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat sugar and butter on low until well combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
Reduce speed to medium and beat in ricotta, vanilla, scraped vanilla bean and eggs.

Reduce speed to low and add baking powder, flour, salt.

uncookedDrop dough 2 inches apart on sheets.  These don’t spread too far, so you can get by with them being a little closer.

Bake @350 for about 15 min. This will depend on your oven. I took mine out at about 12 min and they were perfect.  I also rotated my sheets at the 6 minute mark.

You can see the bottom edge start to get light brown. When you take cookies off the sheet the bottom of them should be faint light brown.

baked

Set cookies aside to cool.

While cooling, put about 1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar in a bowl.  Add just a splash of whole milk and whisk briskly to incorporate.  You can use beaters, a whisk, or even just a fork (that’s what I use).  Gradually add more of either ingredient until you’ve got a nice icing consistency, not too runny!  Be sure that it’s smooth, no powdered sugar pockets.  frosted

I put my cookies on my used parchment paper butt-to-butt (that’s not a pretty image, but you know what I mean).  I’m so stingy with parchment since it’s pricey, so I was able to dirty only one piece by putting them so close together.  It also made it easier to distribute the icing. Spoon icing over cooled cookies and leave aside to set.

Once set, peel the cookies off your parchment and dispose of the bits of frosting left behind . . . if you choose to dispose of the frosting by putting it in your belly, I won’t judge.

Note from Amy: Don’t store these too tightly or in a warm place as they can get a little soggy if the icing softens.  Leave them out overnight.

Note from Kate: I followed Amy’s note and they turned out amazing.  I do recommend that you close the tupperware tightly if you’re going to transport, otherwise, you may hit your brakes too hard and have the tupperware turn over and almost lose the cookies when they try to spring free from your not secure tupperware.  Just saying.  It could happen.

cant wait tastes greatThese were enjoyed by all!  So much so that for the second month in a row, a steeper couldn’t wait to dive in and partook before we even started! Maureen said, “Looks great, can’t wait!”

For tea I served a very lovely Lime Blossom blend, simply because it looked good and I thought it would pair nicely with the ricotta cookies.  I was right.  It was delicious.  I’ve had a couple of the Octavia Teas and they’re all lovely.  Plus they come in the cutest tins.  Win/win!

Green Mile Yums

IMG_3779For our discussion of Stephen King’s The Green Mile, I wanted to make something lovely and Southern. I had considered, briefly, making chili for the gang based off of poor Eduard Delecroix’s request for a last meal: “. . . he had ordered chili for his last meal and gave me special instructions for the kitchen. ‘Tell em to lay on dat hot-sauce,’ he said. ‘Tell em the kind dat really jump up your t’roat an’ say howdy – the green stuff, none of dat mild . . . I can’t get off the toilet the nex’ day, but I don’t think I gonna have a problem this time, n’est-ce pas?’” (page 239).  I, myself, am not fond of anything too spicy, and I wouldn’t do that to my Steepers.  Continue reading

The Proof is in the Pudding

Bread PuddingThe food described in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is, for the most part really gross. This is to show how families with financial difficulties need to get by sometimes. *Side note, my wonderful mother-in-law was telling me about when times were tough for them when the boys were small and she described some of their “get us through until payday” meals, which included what they called broiled cheese (essentially an open-faced grilled cheese made in the toaster oven) and, most memorably, pond scum (still not quite sure what this is all about, but my husband informs me it included hot dogs and a wok).*

Continue reading

The Irish Cream Brownies of Deliverance Dane

There wasn’t too much in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane that I wanted to make for book club. We happened to be meeting on St. Patrick’s Day, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make something with some Irish flare . . . by which, of course, I mean Irish Cream!

I adapted a lovely recipe that I found through pinterest at Wonky Wonderful (don’t you just love that blog name?! I sure do!) For my brownies, I used my silicone two-bite brownie pan. I also decided to pipe the frosting on directly before serving . . . which was an amazing idea because I was able to squeeze frosting directly from the piping bag into my mouth. Sorry for the lack of picture . . . we ate all the brownies before I could take one. I’ll make them again sometime soon and add a photo. Delicious! Continue reading

A Delicious Christmas Carol

gingerbread bitesFor December, I considered making things like figgy pudding or some other traditional Victorian dessert.  Really what it came down to was time and palates.  I made these fantastic gingerbread bites.  They’re super easy (especially if you buy the premade gingerbread cookie mix, which I did) and they turned out so delicious.  This recipe also made almost 50 bites so it was plenty for book club and for some other events that week.  I served one of my favorite teas along with it, White Christmas from Stash teas.
Steepers were treated with a small package of “Novel Teas” (get it?!) and a candy cane.  The novel teas said, “Read ’em and steep!” on the packages!  They’ve stolen my phrase!