Archive for June, 2009

Degrees of pie

June 30th, 2009

Jeff took us on another run for Marie Callendar pies on the way home: Kaluha cream cheese for Mommy and French apple for Daddy. Jeff reports the apple is “very sweet.” (Read too sweet. Please don’t choose again.) Carter loves to go in and pick out the pies, but he has yet to eat them.

Update: The next day, Jeff asked Elyse how much pie she would like.

“A medium slice,” she said
“How many degrees?” Jeff asked.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a pie slice measured in degrees. Is it just me?

Tag, you’re it!

June 29th, 2009

My assignment: the perfect tagline for Baking with Carter.

While I started writing this blog more than a month ago, it’s still not live. I didn’t want it to be empty at launch, and I’ve been waiting for a pro bono design spot with Rare Brick, the marketing firm my very talented friends Dawn and Adam own, which specializes in creating websites for high-end hotels, bed and breakfasts, and the like.

I wasn’t getting anywhere coming up with a tagline until I talked to my sister Kathy. When she said, “Something like: ‘Everything tastes better with chocolate chip cookies.’” It took just a couple of tweaks to personalize it for my favorite little baker whose favorite color is red (!) and frequently and convincingly makes the case for adding sprinkles. Who can argue with that?

Staying cool

June 28th, 2009

Too hot to bake. Perfect day for Burger King $1 value chocolate shakes. 12 ounces of coolness.

Carter and I hit the drive-through after hanging out at the air-conditioned Hiller Aviation Museum, where we’re members. It’s a favorite weekend field trip.

Pancake special

June 26th, 2009

animal pancakesPancakes on a weekday? Anything is possible when Carter gets up an hour early and decides to make pancake sandwiches for select animals—Scooba blue (bunny), Pink Bear, and Chita. 

We used the Quaker oatmeal pancake mix Jeff bought for my Mothers’ Day breakfast in bed. We went with the “traditional style” whole egg over the “heart-healthy” egg-white only option then doctored the rest by skipping the oil, and adding 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce and a generous dash of vanilla. Carter loves to smell vanilla!

Carter already knows how to test the griddle to see if it’s hot enough, so he went ahead and got out a spoon to sprinkle water on the griddle. Then he listened for the sizzle and watched for the skitter. Today’s lesson: how to tell when a pancake is ready to be flipped. Answer: when it’s bubbling in the middle and becoming dry on the edges. Carter is a quick learner, saving a batch that had started to bubble from overcooking.

pancake sandwich Carter: “I know why they’re called pancakes. They’re cakes you cook on a pan.” He had four: two sandwiches with jelly in the middle, like the Linzer cupcakes.

Butter tart for Daddy

June 21st, 2009

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Years back, Jeff heard a song that talked about butter tarts, a traditional Canadian dessert, and asked me to make one. My early efforts using a recipe with maple syrup were overly runny. Along the way, at Jeff’s request, I swapped out the raisins for dried cranberries and started using Macadamias nuts. The combination is outrageously rich. Since Jeff complains that I rarely make butter tarts, I decided to treat him for Dads’ Day (because he is an amazing dad, a real natural).

Butter tarts are traditionally made as individual tarts, but I just use a premade piecrust. (Yes, it’s embarrassing, but I’ve never made a piecrust on my own.) I found a recipe on All Recipes that opts for brown sugar over the most commonly used corn syrup, which I just can’t fathom buying these days. Here’s my adapted version. The verdict: Not runny. “Different,” said Jeff. Based on the daily slice he had until it was gone, I’d say a success.

Jeff’s Butter Tart
1 (9-inch) unbaked piecrust
1 egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup unsalted Macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

In a large bowl, beat egg with an electric mixer at medium speed, then beat in brown sugar. Add the vinegar and vanilla extract and mix well at low speed. Then add melted butter. Mix at low speed until combined.

Sprinkle cranberries and nuts evenly over piecrust. Carefully pour butter mixture into the piecrust over the cranberries and nuts.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until set.

Carter’s Take: Not in the mood to bake, he just watched me make it and left the eating to Daddy.

Linzer cupcakes

June 20th, 2009

linzer cupcakes
Back from vacation and back to our weekend baking routine. Today, Carter insisted that we make cupcakes for Bunny’s birthday. (Select stuffed animals, among them a blue bunny that plays Braham’s Lullaby, live quite the life.)

With my major recipe reorganization earlier this month, I unearthed a Real Simple article from three years ago that showed how to decorate cupcakes Linzer style. I always cut out and save these kinds of articles because I will and did forget this easy idea.

Just like with Linzer torte cookies, you simply sandwich jam between two layers, with a shape cut out of the top one. Doing the same with cupcakes is a super-simple thing to do with kids because after you (adult) cut off the tops in the first step, kids can pretty much take it from there.

(1) Using a serrated knife, slice the top of each cupcake and stamp out a shape, such as a heart, with a cookie cutter. (2) Sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar. (3) Spread jam on top the lower portions of the cupcakes. Reassemble the cupcakes with the jam in the center now peeking through.

Cut out shape with cookie cutterSprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Spread jam on bottom and return top.

Carter’s Take: They’re yummy. I like the cupcake sandwich.

cupcake warm-up

June 20th, 2009

For the cupcakes we decorated Linzer style, we adapted the coconut cupcake recipe from the cookbook Williams Sonoma Kids Baking. This gives me a chance to comment that having ingredients at room temperature does make a difference for the better when you’re baking any kind of a cake.

A couple of shortcuts for those of us who don’t plan our baking that far in advance: If the butter is cold, microwave it at half power in short intervals (10–15 seconds). Monitor by touch (you’re want soft but not too squishy)—don’t let it melt! It took about a minute in our microwave. If your eggs are cold, put them in a bowl of hot (just from the tap, not boiling!) water for a few minutes.

Basic Butter Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain yogurt (we used Trader Joe’s full-fat Greek yogurt, which I bought by mistake, instead of fat-free)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Add the yogurt and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat just until blended. The batter will be fairly stiff. Using an ice cream scoop or 2 large spoons, one to scoop and one to push, fill each lined cup mostly full with batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Tip the cupcakes out of the pan onto the rack and let cool completely.

Go crazy with jam, Linzer style!

Just a bite, please

June 11th, 2009

Since Carter turned 4, he’s subject to the one-bite rule. Whereas previously he could say “no thank you” to any food,” now he has to try one bite first. Tonight I made the same pasta dish (Fettuccine With Peas, Shallots, and Herbs) for my family that I made on Tuesday for Stacey’s family. Carter ate 1 pea, 1 noodle, 1 small piece of parsley, and handfuls of strawberries.

Then he was ready for the outrageously expensive flower-shaped frosted cookies from JJ&F Market. They cost twice as much as the six shallots and box of linguini that I picked up on the way home. I’m not sure about this slaving over a hot stove for dinner, since I’ve never been much of a cook, but I certainly felt accomplished having actually used a recipe for dinner. At least, Jeff had seconds.

Strawberries, anyone?

June 10th, 2009

Two baskets of organic fresh strawberries from Whole Foods. One gone within minutes. The other smells soooo good. I love having a neighbor who likes to share food.

Carter’s Take: Don’t eat too many or you’ll get a tummy ache. (He hasn’t but we’ve warned him because he eats so many berries.)

Let me make you dinner

June 9th, 2009

Made dinner for Stacey, who has been sick way too many weeks, and her family at their house. I know my way around their kitchen because I was her son’s first babysitter (he’s turning 10 this weekend) and later her daughter’s (now 7), too. (Being a part-time nanny in Palo Alto was a good thing if you were a freelancer following the bust layoff.)

I made a pasta recipe, Fettuccine With Peas, Shallots, and Herbs, from this month’s Real Simple.

Fettuccine With Peas, Shallots, and Herbs

12 ounces fettuccine (3/4 box)
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup grated pecorino or Parmesan (2 ounces)
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain, and return the pasta and peas to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Toss the pasta and peas with the shallots, 1/4 cup of the cheese, and the reserved pasta water. Fold in the parsley and mint. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and serve.

Nutrition Per Serving
Calories 515; Calories From Fat 109; Protein 23g; Carbohydrate 81g; Sugar 9g; Fiber 6g; Fat 12g; Sat Fat 3g; Sodium 698mg; Cholesterol 10mg

Real Simple, June 2009

Yummy and easy. Brendan liked the peas better than the noodles. Amelia liked the noodles better than the peas.