Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top 10 posts of 2013

Can you believe that 2013 is almost over? It's time time of year again to recap your favorite Eva Bakes posts from 2013. Here we go:

10. Chocolate healthy pudding or mousse - a wonderful vegan pudding with just a hint of coconut


9. Chinese "pineapple" (bolo) custard buns - the topping is the best part


8. Triple chocolate cupcakes - a chocolate lover's dream!


7. Gooey cinnamon squares - A popular dessert from smitten kitchen, and it's easy to see why


6. Oatmeal raspberry muffins - No butter, egg yolks or oil in these muffins!


5. Chinese baked custard filled buns (奶黄包) - My #1 favorite pastry from Asian bakeries



4. Overnight cinnamon rolls (take 2) - Prep these the day before and bake them the next day for a wonderful breakfast treat

3. Chocolate molten lava cakes for 2 - Two servings prepped and baked in 20 minutes. Surprise (and impress) that special someone!


2. The best chocolate chip cookies ever - From the man who is nicknamed "Mr. Chocolate"


1. Blueberry muffins with Greek yogurt - Wonderfully moist and just the way blueberry muffins should taste


Here's to a delicious 2014!


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Friday, December 27, 2013

Skating Fridays

2014 Skating Goals and 2013 accomplishments

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I am off the ice this week and visiting family but will be back to practicing soon. I thought it would be fun for me to post my skating goals for 2014 for all of you to see. This way, I have all of you to hold me accountable and help me check in and see how I'm progressing (or not).



  1. Pass the Adult Gold Freestyle test - I am trying to take this in January, so we'll see how that goes.
  2. Get the axel more consistent and fully correct
  3. Work on an axel combination (like axel-loop, axel-toe, etc)
  4. Work on a double salchow and/or double toe loop
  5. Add a high level GOE spin to my repertoire (like sit-cannonball for 8-back tuck)
  6. Skate with more power and speed
Wow, that's a lot to work on, but hopefully I can do it.

And here is a list of what I accomplished in 2013 so I can reflect on the wonderful progress I made this year.
  1. Passed Adult Gold Moves in the Field on my very first try
  2. Competed in my first singles competition at Adult Gold level (skating IJS)
  3. Learned how to do a death drop spin
  4. Got my axel more consistent (though still 1/4 turn cheated on the landing)
  5. Landed a lutz (this is huge because I was taught it incorrectly from a former coach) and have it consistently correct
Here's to a successful 2014!

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Peppermint cookies and cream fudge


Have you had Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe Joes yet? If you don't know what they are, listen up. These wonderful cookies are similar to Oreo cookies, but the filling contains a sigh-inducing peppermint flavor (and chunks!). I'm not a fan of regular Oreos, but I will and can eat an entire sleeve of these peppermint cookies in one sitting. Not that I've tried, of course...

Anyway - We just finished making a batch of Peppermint Joe Joe ice cream (I added crushed up cookies to my go-to vanilla ice cream base) and still had about a row of cookies left over. I also needed to fill up some tins for Addie's daycare teachers and wanted to gift them something homemade. Then it dawned upon me - peppermint cookies and cream fudge! I love fudge, and what better way to use up the remaining cookies than to add it to some fudge?

This fudge was creamy and chock full of peppermint cookies - like a cookies and cream ice cream, but in fudge form. It is a wonderful treat to for the holidays, and I know it is something that I will be making again.

Merry Christmas to all - hope your holidays are joyous and sweet!


Peppermint cookies and cream fudge
  • About 10 Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joes (can substitute with regular Oreo cookies)
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 18 oz white chocolate (can use chips, chunks or bars)
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, optional
  • Pinch of salt
Directions
Generously grease or line a 8x8 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Coarsely chop the peppermint cookies and sprinkle about a third of it on the bottom of your prepared baking pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and white chocolate in 30-second increments until both are completely melted. Stir well with a spatula until the mixture is smooth. Be sure not to overheat the white chocolate or it will seize.

Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and heat in the microwave for an additional 30 seconds. Stir well until all the ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture resembles a thick brownie batter.

Add in the vanilla, peppermint extract (if using), and salt. Stir well. Add about a third of the coarsely chopped cookies and gently mix until the cookies are just combined.

Transfer the mixture to your prepared baking pan and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the remaining chopped cookies on top and press down gently into the fudge.

Allow the fudge to firm up - at least 2 to 3 hours - before cutting and serving. If needed, fudge can be refrigerated to speed up the hardening process.

Fudge can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge for at least 1 week. Refrigerated fudge can last longer.

Yield: About 32 squares of fudge (or more or less, depending upon how big you cut your pieces)

Source: An Eva Bakes original

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Caramel stuffed snickerdoodles

Historically, I have never been a big proponent of stuffing cookies with other things. It's not that I don't like eating them, because I do, but my big issue is that it just tastes too long. I have a hard time shaping the dough around the filling since my cookies don't usually turn out as pretty as I'd like. Also, my cookies tend to spring leaks so they get pretty ugly (and messy).

I made an exception to this and on a whim decided to bake up some caramel stuffed snickerdoodles. I hadn't made any snickerdoodles this year and thought that a caramel stuffed one would be mighty tasty. I already had pre-packaged caramels in the pantry so I used those. The hardest part about making these cookies was unwrapping the caramels - the shaping part was easy since the dough was pliable and forgiving.

This was the second type of cookies that I sent to my recipient for the online cookie exchange. I heard that she and her fiance enjoyed them both. One bad thing about these cookies is that the caramel hardened pretty quickly so they were quite chewy. I'd recommend eating these cookies while they are warm (you can always microwave them for 15 seconds to soften them up if needed). One other nitpicky thing is that the caramel leaked to the bottom of the cookie. If you want to help prevent them from leaking, you can turn the cookies upside down while they are cooling.

Hope the tips I provided above are helpful. These were very yummy cookies, and I'd definitely make them again.
Caramel stuffed snickerdoodles
  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 36 unwrapped caramels (you can use homemade as well)
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop (or a spoon), scoop out portions of dough and flatten them with your hand. Place an unwrapped caramel in the middle and wrap the dough around it completely. Then shape dough into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.


Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes (mine baked for 12). Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Yield: I halved the recipe above, used a medium cookie scoop and got 18 cookies

Source: Adapted from my snickerdoodle post

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Skating Fridays

Inside Axels

I'm still having trouble landing my axel without the 1/4 turn cheat. I've had some people watch me in person and others watch my videos. Most of them have said that the jump isn't actually cheated that badly, but my ice tracings clearly show that I land with a "flag."  It appears that I land not fully backwards and then exit out of my jump to cover up the cheat.

I've tried just about every on- and off-ice exercise to fix this, but nothing is working. My body just wants to open up and does not want to land backwards on my toe pick. It's really frustrating.

Coach B had me try a new jump, which she just introduced to me. It's called an inside axel, which I had heard of before but had never seen before she demonstrated it to me. You do an inside forward 3-turn but you take off as you're going forward (and before you do the 3-turn; otherwise, it's just a loop jump). You rotate 1 and a half revolutions and land backwards. So, it's an axel, but starting on an inside edge, and on the "other" foot.

Confused yet?

Here is a video of my inside axels.


These are supposed to help train my body to pull in tight for a full rotation and land going backwards. You'll see that my landings are slightly cheated, but this exercise is forcing me to have to pull in tight. My free leg is out to the side on purpose - Coach B tells me that is correct.

The inside axel looks scary, but it is actually quite fun. Have you tried this jump before? Or, have you seen anybody attempt this in a competition before?

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

White chocolate funfetti pudding cookies

Have you ever been part of a cookie swap?  My friend Leigh hosts one at her house every year, but I also participate in an online cookie swap. My online cooking friends and I started a new tradition of swapping cookies with each other, and last year was the first time I participated. I got assigned someone who is local (and whom I've never met in person yet, but I hope to soon), and I decided to bake her something festive for the holidays - white chocolate funfetti pudding cookies. Pudding cookies have been on my to-bake list for a while now, and I finally get to cross them off my list.

The cookies were soft and chewy from the pudding mix, and the white chocolate and sprinkles made them more festive, flavorful and fun. I used a french vanilla pudding mix for my cookies but I bet that the cheesecake one would taste just as good. I've heard that the reason pudding cookies work so well is because of the cornstarch in the pudding mix. Try them and let me know what you think.

My cookie recipient will also receive another batch of cookies that I will share with you soon. I hope that she and her fiance' enjoy these.

White chocolate funfetti pudding cookies
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3.4 oz package cheesecake or vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup rainbow sprinkles
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and dry pudding mix. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to mix until they are fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Then add the sprinkles and chocolate chips. The mixture will be very thick.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop out the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking pans.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes (I baked for 10 minutes) or until the tops are slightly golden. Turn off the oven, remove the pan and allow the cookies to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Yield: I used my medium cookie scoop and got 3 dozen (36) cookies

Source: The Recipe Critic

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peppermint chunk fudge

One of the things that I love most about the holiday is making homemade baked goods for coworkers and friends. I get a lot of joy from baking (obviously), and I always get warm fuzzies when my sweets make people happy. I used to buy things for coworkers, but it's always a hit-or-miss situation unless I'm giving gift cards. Homemade gifts are much more personal, and when making a large batch of treats, I can always give more treats away.

An item that I make every year is peppermint bark. This year Addie helped me with the process. She helped me crush the peppermints and stir the peppermint extract into the melted white chocolate. Of course, she happily taste-tested along the way. I decided to make this a peppermint-filled year and also made peppermint chunk fudge. I absolutely adore peppermint around the holidays, and this fudge looked too amazing to pass up.

This fudge is super easy to make since it starts with a can of sweetened condensed milk. No candy thermometer needed, which is a huge bonus. I couldn't find the Andes Peppermint Chunks at my local grocery store but my Target carried them so I loaded up. You can cut the fudge into whatever sized pieces you like, depending on how many people you are giving these to.

I really enjoyed this peppermint chunk fudge. It was smooth, creamy and minty from the extract and the peppermint chunks. I could have easily eaten an entire pan, but thankfully I was giving these away and only sampled one small sliver for myself.

Peppermint chunk fudge
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter, plus some for buttering the dish (if using salted butter, omit the salt below)
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 LB dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (I recommend upping this to at least 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Andes Peppermint Chunks, divided (I found these at Target)

Directions
Generously grease or line an 8x8 inch baking pan. Scatter about half of the peppermint chunks onto the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In a double boiler (if you don't have one, simply set a heatproof bowl on top of a bowl of simmering water - make sure your bowl does not directly touch the water), melt the butter. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and mix until both ingredients are fully mixed together.

Stir in the chocolate chips and salt and keep mixing until the chocolate is smooth and free of lumps. Add the peppermint and vanilla and mix well until your mixture gets almost too thick to pour.

Take the mixture off of the stove and transfer to your prepared baking pan. Smooth out the top and sprinkle the top with the remaining peppermint chunks.

Transfer to your refrigerator and allow it to harden for at least 3 hours. Once the fudge has set, you can slice and serve.

Yield: I doubled the recipe and cut mine into 96 half-inch squares; you can definitely cut your fudge larger

Source: A Spicy Perspective

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Skating Fridays

Power and speed

The judges at my last test session mentioned that I needed to skate with more power and speed. Coach B and I have been focusing a lot on these two things, and I want to say that I've made some improvements. We've been doing a lot of half-circle patterns down the length of the ice that are supposed to help me get quicker and more powerful (note that we aren't focusing on the actual tracings or "perfection" that normal patterns usually warrant during Moves in the Field; we are solely doing these for speed and power):
  • Power three-turns
  • Forward crossovers into mohawk, into backward crossovers
  • Alternating three-turns down the ice
In addition to the patterns above, Coach B also has me skating power circles into 3 consecutive waltz jumps, loop jumps, and salchows. It is really scary going at top speed and then jumping! I know I can do it, but I'm so used to going at a much slower tempo.

This speed thing is really going to take some time getting used to.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dutch apple baby pancake


I couldn't stop thinking about the chocolate dutch baby pancake that I made a few weeks ago. As I mentioned in that post, it reminded me of my trip to Amsterdam. When I was there, I had a Dutch apple baby at Poffertjes. Since my chocolate dutch baby was successful, I knew that I had to create the apple version I had while I was in Europe. And since I had a plethora of apples from our apple-picking fun day at work, I was ready to go.


The only problem with this recipe was that the pancake batter had to sit overnight so I had to plan ahead. I rarely have time to eat a real breakfast in the mornings (hence, my boring English muffin routine), so I knew that I had to make this on a weekend when we had a bit more time. I prepped the batter on a Saturday night and baked it the next morning.

Addie really wanted to help me, so she cracked all the eggs and helped me whisk everything together after I added the rest of the pancake ingredients. Mommy's little helper really went to town with the whisking. She must have whisked the batter for a good 10 minutes before I covered it and put it in the refrigerator.

After the pancake was done baking, Addie bolted to the bathroom to wash her hands to get ready to eat. She obviously did not want to wait for the pancake to cool. I cut her a slice and she devoured it and asked for (and demolished) another serving. I have to agree with her - these pancakes were wonderful with the traditional apple spices. I used Fuji apples, and they stayed nice and crisp even after baking. I easily could have polished off the entire pancake on my own but refrained from doing so.


This is a wonderful recipe that you can prep the night before and bake up the next day. If you don't have a cast iron pan, you can use a pie pan in its place. If you have guests, be sure to double up the recipe (and bake in two pans) so you'll have plenty to go around. This pancake will make your home smell amazing, and your tummy extra happy.

Dutch apple baby
Pancake batter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
Apple mixture
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 4 TBSP) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large (tart) apple, sliced, cored and peeled
Directions
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Slowly mix in the milk in a steady stream until it is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, melted butter and the 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
 
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and stick your cast iron pan or oven-proof skillet/pan into the oven.
 
Once the oven has preheated to 425 degrees F, remove your pan from the oven and add the 1/4 cup unsalted butter. Use a spatula or brush to spread the butter all around your pan, including the sides.

In a small bowl,  mix together 1/4 cup of the sugar, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the melted butter. Lay the apple slices down in a single layer on top of the sugar mixture. Then top the apple slices with the remaining sugar. Line the pan with apple slices. 

Turn your stove on to medium-high heat and put the pan on the hot stove. Allow the apples and sugar mixture to heat up until everything bubbles.

Turn the stove off and pour the pancake batter over the apples. Then transfer to your preheated oven.

Bake in the 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

Turn off the oven, remove the pan from the oven, slice the pancake into wedges and serve. The pancake is best served immediately and will deflate fairly quickly.

Yield: About 4 servings


Source: Allrecipes.com

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Soft molasses (and rum) cookies

This holiday season seems to have come out of nowhere. I feel completely unprepared for December and haven't even organized my thoughts around what to bake this season yet. I think that part of the reason is that Thanksgiving was so late and the fact that I spent about a week in Taiwan in November. One of the events that really crept up on me was my friend Leigh's annual cookie exchange.

My family and I returned home for the holidays the day before the cookie exchange. I didn't have much time to think about what to make for this year's event, so I wanted to find something that would be easy, stress-free and something I could make with my pantry ingredients. I was still dealing with some jet lag from my international travels so this truly had to be a cookie that I could bake in my slightly discombobulated state. I didn't want to repeat anything I've baked in previous years either (pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, dark chocolate peppermint patty cookies, candy cane kiss cookies, and oatmeal raisin cinnamon chip cookies).

I found these soft molasses cookies on the King Arthur Flour website, and I was intrigued that they contained some alcohol. I found the rum to be a bit on the stronger side, so you can dial that down or replace it with water if you aren't a fan of dark rum. These cookies did bake up nice and soft as advertised, and the holiday spices and molasses were very prominent. All in all, these were some good cookies and perfect for the swap.

Soft molasses and rum cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature/softened (if using salted butter, omit the 1/2 teaspoon salt above)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (6 ounces) molasses
  • 1/3 cup dark rum (I used Myer's dark rum)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the molasses.

Alternately add in the dry ingredients and the dark rum until the mixture is fully incorporated.

Using a cookie scoop (or two spoons if you don't own a cookie scoop), portion out balls of dough and place it on a greased or lined cookie sheet or baking pan - make sure you allow about 2 inches around each cookie since they will spread slightly. I was able to fit one dozen (12) cookies on each sheet with no problem.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 11-12 minutes. When they are done, they will be cracked on top, and the edges will NOT be browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Yield: I doubled the recipe, used a medium cookie scoop and got 46 cookies

Source: King Arthur Flour

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Skating Fridays

Back on the ice... and tripping over myself

I was off the ice for two weeks because of a last-minute international trip and Thanksgiving. I know that my body usually gets out of practice after being away from the ice that long. I had my first practice this past weekend, and I was literally tripping over myself. The ice was fairly smooth, yet I almost bit it several times throughout the beginning of my practice. I tripped on minor grooves in the ice and over my own skates. Oops.

It didn't take long until I was almost back to my normal self again, but I was still a bit shaky. I did my usual warmup drills and then went into some easy spins and jumps. I need to kick it into high gear so I can prepare for Round 2 of my skating test next month. My primary focus is on power and speed, and my secondary focus is to land the axel and receive full credit for it.

In the meantime, here is a video from yesterday's axel attempts in class. I'm working on trying to jump out (in a straighter line) rather than pre-rotating and jumping around my axis. My jump is still landing 1/4 turn cheated since my body tends to check out early.

 Attempt #1

Attempt #2


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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thomas Keller's chocolate chip cookies


I've already declared these as my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Ever. Well, now I am seriously second guessing myself. I was pretty sure that nothing could top a cookie developed by Mr. Chocolate (Jacques Torres) but I might be wrong on this one. And I have a 3-and-a-half year old to thank... our dear little Addison.

Addie was flipping through an issue of Bon Appetit one day and asked, "Mommy! When I'm good, can we make cookies?" I nodded and asked her what kind she wanted to make. She said, "Chocolate chip." So I promised her that we could bake chocolate chip cookies if she behaved. Addie held up her end of the bargain, and I cleared off some time on a Sunday morning to make these with her. Addie helped crack the eggs and added the chocolate chips and chunks and was very proud of her contributions.

Oh. My. Word. Talk about the most perfect cookies. Addie and I had a grand time turning on the oven light and watching the balls of cookie dough flatten into perfect circles. The molasses flavor really came through into these chewy, thick, chocolate-y and dense cookies. Chocolate chip cookie perfection at its best, I say. They were just as good the next day (and the day after that).

And now the million-dollar question is: Would I rank these above Jacques Torres' recipe? My answer, you find, will be a bit vague. Both of these cookies are beyond phenomenal, so here is my recommendation: if you have the patience and time to wait 24 hours before baking, make Jacques Torres' version. If you are strapped for time, try Thomas Keller's recipe instead. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Thomas Keller's chocolate chip cookies
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plus 3 TBSP (238 grams)s all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.3 grams) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP (134 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoons (12 grams) unsulfured molasses
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon (104 grams) granulated sugar 
  • 2/3 cup (107 grams) chocolate chunks (70%-72% dark chocolate)
  • scant 1/2 cup (107 grams) chocolate chips
  • 5.9 ounces (167 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 TBSP plus 2 and 1/2 teaspoons (60 grams) eggs (about 1 large egg)
Directions
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and molasses until no lumps remain. Add the granulated sugar and mix well until the mixture is uniform.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), cream the butter on medium-low speed for about 2-3 minutes or until the butter appears light and the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the molasses mixture and mix for about 3-4 minutes or until the batter is smooth. Add the eggs and mix on low speed until the eggs are just combined (about 30 seconds).

Add the flour mixture in two additions until just combined. Add the chocolate chunks and chocolate chips and mix on low speed for about 5-10 seconds. You don't want to break up the chocolate chunks or chips, so you can do this part by hand if you want.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (if you have a convection oven, this is preferred; if not, you are still fine). Line two sheet pans with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Use a standard ice cream scoop (or a cookie scoop like I did) and portion out 6 event mounds of dough. These cookies are obviously very big. If you want your cookies smaller, you can do that too. I used a medium cookie scoop and got about 20 regular sized cookies.

Scoop the mounds of cookie dough onto your palms and shape them into balls. Transfer the cookie dough balls onto your prepared baking sheet. Be sure to leave at least 2-3 inches in between each ball of dough since they will spread.

If you are baking the LARGE cookies at 325 degrees F in a convection oven, bake for 14-16 minutes.

If you are baking the LARGE cookies at 325 degrees F in a regular oven, bake for 18-20 minutes.

If you are baking the SMALLER cookies at 325 degrees F in a convection oven, bake for 12-14 minutes

If  you are baking the SMALLER cookies at 325 degrees F in a regular oven, bake for 16-18 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 1 week. They can also be frozen and enjoyed at a later time (just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds).

Yield: I used a medium cookie scoop and got 20 "normal" sized cookies. If you follow Thomas Keller's instructions, you will only get 6.

Source: Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nigella's gingerbread


Last year we hosted Thanksgiving. My parents, my brother and sister-in-law all came over and stayed through the weekend. I made most of the sides and desserts, and my sister-in-law brought over a fabulous gingerbread. She said that it was a Nigella Lawson recipe, and it included Guinness as its secret ingredient.

I wanted to recreate this recipe this year but didn't have any Guinness, so I had to find a modified version of Nigella's gingerbread recipe. I finally found one on Epicurious and was ecstatic that the ingredients were items that I already had on hand in my pantry.

Although I am not a fan of ginger (I have quite an aversion to it, despite being Asian), I really liked this gingerbread. The molasses and golden syrup flavors really came through in the background, and the bread itself was slightly sticky, moist and light. The original recipe called for a glaze on top, but I didn't think it was necessary so I left it off. Although this wasn't the same exact recipe my sister-in-law made, it was still pretty fabulous and something I'm sure she'd love.

Nigella's gingerbread
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 TBSP light corn syrup (I ran out and substituted with Lyle's golden syrup)
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 TBSP molasses
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated (I used powdered ground ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Line or grease a 9x13 inch pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, ginger and cinnamon. Stir well until the mixture is uniform.

Turn off the stove and remove the saucepan from the heat. Add in the milk, beaten eggs and baking soda/water mixture. Stir well.

In a large bowl, add the flour. Once the liquid mixture is nice and smooth, add it to the bowl with the flour. Whisk everything well until no lumps remain. The batter will be very liquidy.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake in your preheated oven for 40-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake the gingerbread. Start with 40 minutes in the oven and add more time as needed.

Once the gingerbread is baked, remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice into squares and serve.

Gingerbread can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator in an airtight container for several days.

Yield: One 9x13 inch pan (at least 24 squares)

Source: Epicurious

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Skating Fridays

My skating journey

Many people have asked how I got into figure skating or how long I have been skating. I figures that it would be fun to tell you all my skating story and what got me started.

In fourth grade, one of my classmates had a birthday party at an ice rink. I distinctly remember being very proud I myself for only falling 5 times that day. After that, I asked my mom to enroll me in lessons.

I participated in a Learn to Skate program on Saturday mornings that was organized in the ISI system. We also did ice dance. I passed through ISI freestyle 4 and ice dance 3 before I went to high school. At that point I had to make a decision since band conflicted with skating. I chose to stick with flute and postpone skating. In college, I did not have a car so I didn't get to skate then.

After college graduation, I picked up skating again but only sporadically. I was involved in some team sports at work so I only skated in the winter. One of the coaches at the rink made fun of me for this but thought I showed promise. He asked me to take lessons with him.

Several years later, I agreed and also skated year round. That is when I got serious. I didn't start testing until fairly recently since I had no desire to compete (I was a competitive gymnast back in the day and did not miss the competition aspect at all).

And here I am today. You can find me at the rink about 3 times a week. I take one half hour lesson each week and mostly focus on freestyle.

I hope to keep skating as long as possible. Hopefully that will be when I am well into my 80s or 90s!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey cranberry wreath


Can you believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving? My family and I will be spending it at my brother and sister-in-law's house. It should be a great time since my parents and my brother's in-laws will be there as well. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

This recipe is something that uses up some of your Thanksgiving leftovers. It's a meal that everyone in my family enjoys. And yes, I am fully aware that it uses refrigerated crescent rolls, but I just haven't had the time to experiment with an alternative yet. We only eat crescent rolls once or twice a year, so I don't feel too guilty about it. I've had this recipe since 2000, when I attended one of my first Pampered Chef parties. It was a hit back then, too.

My friend Joanna of Kosher Kitchen challenged the What's Baking gals to bake with cranberries this month, and this Pampered Chef recipe happens to use sweetened dried cranberries. Perfect. They add just the right amount of sweetness to this wreath, and the mayonnaise provides just enough moisture to keep the filling plump and juicy. If you wanted, you could add chopped walnuts into the filling for some extra crunch.

Addie originally wasn't a fan of this until we started calling them "pizza rolls." Once we started referring to the wreath as a pizza roll, then she gobbled it up.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Turkey cranberry wreath

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, chopped (I like using rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) Swiss or mozzarella cheese, shredded
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Unroll one package of the crescent rolls. Arrange them on a large pizza stone (or a lined baking sheet) into a circle - you will want the long points of the triangles sticking outward like the shape of a sun. The short, flat sides of the triangular roll pieces may overlap.

Unwrap the other package of crescent rolls. This time, arrange them so they fill up the center of the circle. The long points of the triangles should face in towards the center of the circle, and the wide ends should overlap with the first batch of crescent rolls you laid down.

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, black pepper, turkey or chicken, celery, cranberries and cheese. Mix well.

Scoop the filling onto the seams of the crescent rolls shape so that it forms a ring.

Using your hands, lift one end of a piece of dough over the filling and tuck it underneath. Alternate lifting from the outside and inside of the filling. Continue lifting and tucking until all the crescent roll ends have been used.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Yield: About 10 servings

Source: Slightly adapted from the Pampered Chef's Season's Best Recipe Collection, Fall/Winter 2000



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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chunky peach and apple snack cake (or muffins) and a giveaway


I'm not sure about where you live, but here on the east coast of the United States, we get all four seasons of the year. Sometimes we tend to skip over fall and go straight to winter, or sometimes the winters are so mild that it seems like an extended fall season. Regardless, it's near impossible to get fresh, seasonal fruits year-round. That is when I normally head to my grocery store's freezer section.

Many of you may know that frozen fruits and vegetables provide just as many nutrients and vitamins as their freshly-picked friends. But did you know that canned fruits and vegetables can also be in this same category?  Here is a recent study that Oregon State recently published about the benefits of canned California cling peaches. The researchers actually concluded that canned peaches were better than fresh fruit. Wow, huh? (You just need to be careful that the canned fruits are not packed in a heavy sugar syrup.)

So I put the canned California cling peaches to the test. I had some apples left over from my apple picking day at work and wanted to incorporate them into whatever recipe I ended up baking. I found this chunky peach and apple snack cake and thought that it would be perfect for breakfast.

I baked one 8x8 inch pan and 12 muffins with the recipe below. I wanted to be able to share the muffins with friends and keep the cake for ourselves. The muffins were really good - I could barely taste the difference with the white whole wheat flour, and I loved the chunks of apples and peaches. I would recommend adding more fruit if that's your thing. Another change I'd recommend is swapping out some of the white sugar with brown sugar so you can have a more caramel-y flavor to your muffins/cake. If you want to make these even healthier, you could try substituting the melted butter with more coconut oil. Overall, these were very yummy, and the canned peaches passed the test.

And now for the giveaway...

One lucky winner will receive a California cling peach prize pack (say that 10 times fast!), which includes some canned California cling peaches, a reusable grocery bag and a plush "peach pal."  All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient since the widget may load slowly. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: The California Cling Peaches Board provided me with some product samples and the prizes for the giveaway. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post. All thoughts, opinions and reviews are 100% my own.

Chunky peach and apple snack cake
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped fresh, frozen or canned peaches
  • 2 TBSP sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 cup whole grain wheat or spelt (I used white whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange (I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan (alternatively, you can bake this in two 8x8 inch pans or in a muffin pan). Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, toss the apples and peaches with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the orange juice, orange zest, butter, coconut oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla.

Add the orange juice mixture into the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) and stir until just incorporated - do not over mix. Gently fold in the apples and peaches.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pans. If you are baking muffins, fill them 2/3 full.

If baking in the 8x8 or 9x13 inch baking pans, bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If baking muffins, bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins/cake from the oven and allow them to cool before serving.

Cake/muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 3-5 days.

Yield: One 9x13 inch pan, two 8x8 inch pans, or about 2 dozen muffins.

Source: Hearth and Hospitality

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Skating Fridays

Skating idol

I am off this week to spend time with my family, so I don't have any specific skating updates. I thought it would be fun to tell you who my skating idol is. He is an Olympic silver medalist (should have gotten Gold in my opinion) and toured with Stars on Ice for many seasons.

Who is he? Why, none other than Paul Wylie, of course.

When I was in middle school and high school, I used to pretend that I was married to him. Some of my friends would jokingly call me "Mrs. Wylie" and I would get all giddy. Paul had beautiful choreography, and he skated with a lot of passion. His artistry was second to none, and his footwork was always mesmerizing (have you seen the footwork wars with him, Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning? If not, look for it on YouTube - it's from Stars on Ice). I especially loved his Schindler's List and Apollo 13 programs.

I even joined the official Paul Wylie fan club before the days of the internet. The club president would photocopy articles that were written about Paul and send them to each of us. Sadly, I still haven't met him, but I hope to one day.

Paul remains an inspiration to me, as I hope to continue to skate as I get older and am done with tests and competitions. I want to remain involved in the sport, just as he has.

And maybe one day I will earn a silver medal in a large competition too...

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Post: Sugar cookies from Simple Gourmet Cooking


As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am on a week-long blogging break and will be resuming my posts next week - along with a giveaway. Today, my friend Dawn from Simple Gourmet Cooking is guest posting for me. Dawn and I also became friends through an online cooking forum and "chat" online pretty regularly. She is absolutely killing me with these mouthwatering salted caramel brownies and has an awesome treat for you today. So without further adieu, here she is...

Sugar Cookies 4

I was so excited when Eva asked me to do a guest post-I love all her recipes and love reading about her adventures with baking (and skating!).

With the holidays approaching, I've been trying to decide what to bake.  I love baking for the holidays and every year I am overly optimistic and plan to bake way more than I can handle.  I really love classic cookies-chocolate chips, gingerbread and snickerdoodles and always try to make a few batches every year in addition to some new cookies.

Up until now, I had not found a recipe that I was in love with for a sugar cookie.  Let's face it-a sugar cookie can be pretty boring.  But, not if it's done right.  Like these. These cookies were absolutely perfect-slightly crispy on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside and had big flavor from the sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. They are in every way, what I think is the perfect sugar cookie!

Sugar Cookies

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (11 and 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions Place an oven rack in the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Add 1½ cups sugar and cream cheese to a large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish, bowl or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; whisking until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft and smooth dough forms.

Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each. Roll dough pieces into balls. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheets, about 12 dough balls per sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with sugar remaining in shallow dish.

Bake cookie, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes; rotate the tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes then transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.
 

Source: America's Test Kitchen

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guest Post: Stuffed maple vanilla spice cupcakes from Feed Me, Seymour

So far, November has been an absolute blur for me. I've had some significant family events happen this month, and I need to spend some time with my loved ones right now. As a result, I need to step away from the blog this week, but I have some fabulous friends who have generously offered to do guest posts for me while I'm away.

Today, my friend Kim from Feed Me, Seymour is sharing her stuffed maple vanilla spice cupcakes with us. Kim and I "met" in an online cooking forum and interact with each other almost daily. I hope to meet her one day and convince her to bake me some of her Harry Potter butterbeer cupcakes.  While I'm trying to accomplish that, here is Kim!


Sometimes, I get on these kicks where I want to make the same things over and over again. For a while, it might be risotto. Then I might change my mind and become obsessed with mac and cheese. Either way, I end up with thirty different kinds of something. Lately, it's been cupcakes. 

I rustled up the idea for these cupcakes back in the beginning of fall, when it was still warm outside. Now, the weather has changed and it constantly smells like charcoal and burning leaves outside. The best kind of smell, if you ask me. These cupcakes are perfect for this time of year. The cake itself stays simple, just a classic vanilla cupcake. The icing and the filling? That's where we jazz things up a bit. 

The filling is a cream cheese filling that's been spiced with all kinds of goodness. A little bit of cinnamon and a little big of nutmeg go a long way, making the filling spicy and warm. The icing? Oh, that's the crown jewel here. It's a traditional buttercream base that's been fancied up with maple syrup. Because fall means maple flavors just as much as it means pumpkin flavors. There must be maple in fall. And so, maple and vanilla and spice come together for a fun, tasty little cupcake. 

I knew I wanted to share these with Eva and her readers. Eva is obviously a baker, and a great one. So the dessert I picked had to be good. It had to at least come to close to some of her tasty treats. I think I succeeded here in at least coming somewhat close! 




Ingredients

For cupcakes:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup milk

For filling: 
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

For icing:
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
splash of vanilla

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bwl and beat in vanilla. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly among the liners, about 3/4 to the top. Bake until cupcakes are golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside on a baking rack to cool completely. 

To make the filling: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until well mixed. Take a knife and cut out a small circle from the center of the cake. Discard the center portion. Use a spoon and spoon the filling into each cupcake. 

To make the icing: Beat butter until fluffy. Add in sugar, maple syrup and splash of vanilla. Beat until completely incorporated. Add in a splash of cream if the icing seems to thick. Transfer the icing into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe roses on top of the cupcakes, covering the filling

Serves 12



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