Category: miscellaneous baked goods (page 1 of 8)

It’s Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Squirrel Appreciation Day

It’s only appropriate that a blog called “Squirrelly Girl Bakes” take part in Squirrel Appreciation Day! I mean, it’s my namesake!

I haven’t baked any squirrel-shaped cookies lately, but I DID make a stunning “everything” challah last night.
Challah baking process

Anyway, just a quickie today. Work has been super busy, but I have been in the kitchen baking. Now to find the time to post!

Double fig honey blondies with pretzel crust

Double Fig Honey Blondies with Pretzel Crust

Photo by Julia Silva

[Mel’s note: I’m slowly getting back into baking — whee! — but in the meantime, I want to share some of the original recipes I crafted for Table Matters with all of you. Recipes are my own, but I will be featuring the images of some talented photographers who were kind enough to make my desserts look damn near magical]

Bake these when you want to impress people with something decadent, yet quirky. The honey and figs — either chopped or jammed — are a perfect match, and the slightly salty pretzel crust keeps the dessert bars from being too sweet.

Cut these on the small size: Anything larger than a 1 x 2-inch rectangle will be too much due to their richness. Turkey and Calimyrna figs are both easier to find dried, but feel free to use fresh if you can find them.

For the jam, I like to use this recipe from the Kitchn when I’m working from dried figs.

Double Fig Honey Blondies with Pretzel Crust

Yields: 16 1 x 2 inch blondies

  • Pretzel Crust Ingredients
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 oz pretzels (yields approximately 1 cup pulverized pretzels)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • Blondie Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup de-stemmed and chopped Turkey figs or Calimyrna figs
  • 4-6 tbsp Mission fig jam

Heat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit and center the rack in the oven. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with aluminum foil so that the foil overhangs the edges. Spray the foil with nonstick spray.

To make the pretzel crust, pulverize the pretzels in a food processor until broken down into small bits. Add the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon to the food processor and pulse to combine. Pour in the melted butter, pulse until the crust begins to come together (you’ll see it darken slightly and begin to clump).

Scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, spreading out evenly, then pat down, making sure the crust is spread into the corners. Bake for 10-12 minutes until fragrant, then cool while making the blondie batter.

For the blondies, combine the flour, salt and cardamom in a mixing bowl and set aside. Combine the melted butter, light brown sugar and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and egg, beating until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients, beating slowly. Add the chopped figs and mix until they just come together — don’t overbeat.

Pour the blondie batter over the pretzel crust, gently spreading the blondie out to the sides as evenly as possible. Dollop 4 to 6 tablespoons of the mission fig jam on top of the batter. Use a knife to gently swirl the jam into the batter (do not cut down into the crust).

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the middle looks set (the blondies will still be a bit soft in the middle, but they’re better a little gooey!)

Cool fully on a rack before slicing.

Hey there National Pizza Day!

Homemade pizza

 

I found out a little late, but yes, today — Feb. 9 — is National Pizza Day. Of course, it seems like every day of the year is National Something or Another, but pizza has always been one of my favorite things to make. It’s a great party entree, perfect for a small dinner when you size it down … and you know. It’s PIZZA!

So to celebrate, here’s a recipe for pizza dough that I’ve used for several years. It’s trusted, true, and makes enough to either prep 2 pizzas for a party or 4 pizzas for two!

Homemade pizza with marinara

Homemade crust, homemade marinara sauce, pickled banana peppers, sage, basil, rosemary, mozzarella and fresh cracked pepper.

 

Perfect Pizza Dough

  • Pizza Dough Ingredients
  • 1 lb bread flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey or sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 8 oz water, room temperature
  • Optional: fresh cracked pepper, herbs
  • Selection of delicious sauces and toppings

Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and combine the flour, oil, honey (or sugar), salt, and yeast in the bowl.

Pour in the water and mix on low speed until combined, 1-2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough becomes a pretty tight ball. It should be a little tacky, but should not stick to the bowl.

Spray a large mixing bowl (at least twice the size of the dough) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around, coating all sides.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and ferment. You have 2 options here:

• Room temperature: Place the covered bowl in a slightly warm area and let the dough rise for 2-4 hours.

• Refrigerator: If you don’t have time to let the dough ferment at room temperature, or would like a slightly-sweet dough, refrigerate for at least 8 hours before working with it. Bring up to room temperature before working with the dough.

Once you’re ready to divide the dough, lightly flour your work surface. Place the dough on it and divide it into 4 (for pizzas that will serve 2 people 2 slices) or 2 (for a pizza that will fit a traditional pizza pan).

Wrap the dough pieces up in plastic wrap and freeze what you’re not using.

For the piece of dough you are using, shape it and place it on a lightly floured pizza pan (or use a pizza stone, if that’s your thing).

To bake, heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Prebake the crust with nothing on it for 5 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, add your toppings, and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes (or until your cheese is either melty or golden, depending on your cheese).

 

Cupcake Friday Project’s 2014

Cupcake Friday Project's 2014 stats
2014 is drawing to a close … and I’m not sorry to say that I look forward to it ending. Now, I know that for many, 2014 has been a great year, and I’m happy for all of you and the joy that entered your lives. Sadly, that was not the case for me, and I can see that reflected here on my blog.

In 2013, I wrote 103 new posts, co-hosted an event, held fundraisers for She’s the First and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and did a lot of baking. But in 2014, I only wrote 43 posts. I didn’t bake for any fundraisers, I didn’t host events … and I stopped bringing in treats to work.

What changed? Well, I had a lot of things — both good and bad — going on in my life. But because I want to think of myself as a positive person, let’s look at some of the great stuff I achieved in 2014 … things that I may not have shared here:

Cookie Monster cycling jersey

My fellow cyclists LOVED my jersey! I earned the nickname “Cookie” and was asked often if I had cookies to share. Sadly, I did not.

I participated in my first Bike MS City to Shore Ride, biking 45 miles in late September and raising $1,601. I’ll be back next year, this time maybe riding 80 miles if I can get the training in, otherwise I’ll be riding a solid 45.

Working on Luscious Bakery's Food Truck

Vending at The Oval, right outside the beautiful Philadelphia Art Museum.

I’ve always loved food trucks, but in 2014 I got to actually work on one. Though I only worked on the Luscious Bakery truck a handful of times, mainly due to my 9-5 style work schedule, I consider the shifts Jamie offered me hugely influential. I got to learn another side of the bakery business, and learn directly from someone I consider a wonderful friend and mentor. I hope to spend more time on “Marcia” in 2015, and watch Jamie’s business grow and flourish.

My Table Matters Writing Portfolio

Maybe one of the main reasons I didn’t write as often here is due to the fact that from May-November, I developed recipes and wrote for Table Matters. In total, I wrote 8 articles, ranging from personal stories about family trips to CNY and shortcake to how to make best use of the bounty of figs in the early fall. I even pitched the idea of tackling my Grandma Betty’s Hungarian Chocolate Cake again, this time finding a quiet success in the deep chocolate layers of the cake. I shared 21 recipes during that time period, often using ideas I had put on the back burner, just waiting for a good reason.

Cookie and Caramel Corn Club goodies

Top, left to right: pecan pie caramel corn; blueberries and cream cookies; sriracha peanut butter cookies; Middle, left to right: peanut butter chocolate delights; salted caramel corn; matcha green tea cookies with crystallized ginger; Bottom, left to right: cacao nib and orange shortbread; chinese 5 spice snickerdoodles; peanut butter and jelly caramel corn

I also began a small, mail order cookie and caramel corn club in 2014, with a handful of dedicated customers. To date, I have baked more than 35 dozen cookies and over 13.75 lbs of caramel corn. I took November and December off, but will finish up my club offerings during 1Q of 2015. Then who knows what I’ll do next! Some of the recipes have been posted here, with more to come, and others to perfect.

By my counts, I developed 34 new recipes in 2014, though only a handful made it to this blog. They break down into:

  • 12 cookie recipes
  • 8 caramel corn recipes
  • 5 pie/tart recipes
  • 3 cupcake recipes
  • 2 cake recipes
  • 1 blondie recipe
  • 1 brittle recipe
  • 1 brownie recipe
  • 1 scone recipe

Looking at all of this, I can see that while I may have only published fewer than 50 posts in 2014, I did a lot. And sometimes you need to take a closer look before you throw your hands up in the air and say “I got nothing accomplished!” Because all of this is evidence that I did do a lot this year.

So what will 2015 bring? Jan. 28 will be Cupcake Friday Project’s 4th anniversary … it’s kind of amazing to look back at the last 4 years of blogging and see every I did. I hope to continue writing for Table Matters, and may begin pitching a few other food publications. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

For all of you, I hope that 2015 brings you light and love, butter and sugar, and as many good things as possible. Until next year!

Baking is science!

science-baking-final-rd2

Shari’s Berries contacted me with this really wonderful infographic, asking me to share it with readers, and I just couldn’t say no!

Pecan pie caramel corn

Pecan pie caramel corn

I realize that pecan pie is more of an autumn dessert, but I couldn’t resist! That, and I had a bag of pecans I wanted to use up, so it made sense to craft this delectable caramel corn.

When looking up pecan pie recipes, however, I didn’t see any of them using spices, which perplexed me. So I decided to use cinnamon and cloves, since I felt like those two spices would support the molasses and pecans best.

And I was right!

Pecan pie caramel corn

Yields: Approximately 26 oz

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups pecans

Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large dutch oven, combine the olive oil and popcorn kernels over medium high heat. Put the lid on, and pop, shaking the pot from time to time. When the popping stops, remove the popcorn from the heat.

Sort through the popcorn, removing the unpopped kernels. Return the popcorn to the dutch oven, and set aside.

To make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the molasses, then turn the heat up and boil the caramel for 2-3 minutes until a deep amber.

Add the salt, cinnamon and ground cloves, stirring to combine.

Add the baking soda, stirring until dissolved (the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color).

Add the vanilla, but be careful. The caramel will sputter when a liquid is added. Stir to combine.

Pour in the pecans, stirring to coat.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn in the dutch oven and stir to coat.

Pour the caramel corn onto the parchment paper, spread out, and place in the oven.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 20 minutes.

Once done baking, cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before enjoying. Store in an air tight container to keep the popcorn fresh.

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