Everyone buys cookbooks with great intentions. Most people follow through with their good intentions, doing awesome things like cookbook clubs, cookbook-centric blogging, and even making sure to use them in their everyday meal-planning efforts. When I first started purchasing/finding/using cookbooks I had great intentions, too. I got, and still get, so excited when perusing pages of delicious treats, thinking about the wonderful things I’d be able make and all the people I could surprise with fresh baked goods. I’m still not sure when it happened, but life came and took over. I brought home cookbooks but left my intentions at the door, and didn’t even try to delude myself into thinking I would have the time to and/or be able to take advantage of the new recipes at my fingertips.

You know what I should have left at the door, instead of my good intentions? My overwhelmingly defeatist attitude. It’s super easy for me to get sucked into that way of thinking and it’s a pretty dangerous attitude to sling over your shoulder and haul around all day. On account of my most recent move, I’ve been doing a lot of organizing and prioritizing. My cookbooks were some of the first things to be relieved of cardboard box confinement and I spent a little bit of time looking over the ones I haven’t really gotten the chance to go through yet. On one hand, I’m kind of miffed for not having gone through them before but, on the other hand, it’s like discovering hidden treasure. No exaggeration. Take, for example, today’s recipe – Buttermilk custard with coconut in a cookie dough crust. Buttermilk and coconut? Pretty much genius. Buttermilk, coconut, and cookie crust? Sold.

I’m falling in love with this book, Great Pies and Tarts, all over again, and I couldn’t be happier! Carole Walter is really an inspiration; her work ethic and seriousness in the face of pie can’t be beat. She includes a hefty – forty pages at least – glossary of all the different fruits available in the US, just so you can go through and pick out for yourself the fruit or combination of fruit you’d most like to put in a pie. She also set up the book with crusts and shells first, then fillings, so you can mix and match if you so desire (while also giving suggestions as to what to put with what). I’m in love with the cookie dough tartlet shell, and plan to use it many, many more times. It’s just so easy, so basic, and SO good! I’m so glad to be able to share this recipe, and my love of this book, and hope that you’ll get to make and enjoy it as well!

PS- Has anyone tried the Cooking with Dorie App for the iPad? Maybe buying an iPad is worth it after all…

Chef’s Cookie Dough for Tartlets

(Recipe adapted from Great Pies and Tarts)

Yields eight 4 ½ inch tartlet shells

Notes: The recipe as written suggests that you can sixteen 4 ½ inch tartlet shells, or two 11 inch shells, but, when I halved the recipe, it only yielded four 4 ½ inch tartlet shells. I might have made the crust a little thick, but I generally like a solid crust to filling ratio. I ran out of cake flour while making the cookie dough crust and substituted the equivalent to ¼ cup in graham cracker crumbs. I enjoyed this textural addition to the dough.

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups cake flour, sifted

Method:

1. Cream butter and sugar just until sugar is fully incorporated.

2. Add egg and vanilla, and stir until ingredients are fully incorporated.

3. Add flour and mix just until dough forms one mass. If making dough by hand, add flour 1/3 cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon until dough becomes too difficult to handle. At this point, turn dough onto a clean surface and, with lightly floured hands, knead dough just until dough forms one mass.

4. Shape dough into two 6 inch discs, wrap in plastic, and then chill for at least 15 minutes before use.

 

Coconut Tarts with Buttermilk Custard

(Recipe adapted from Great Pies and Tarts)

Yields enough filling for eight 4 ½ inch tartlets, or one 11 inch tart (or four 4 ½ inch tartlets and three ½ cup ramekins, for those of us who have trouble remembering to cut recipes in half!)

Notes: I did not cut the recipe for coconut custard in half, like I did with the cookie dough crust, and it left me with more than enough to fill the four tartlet shells. I layered the extra coconut and custard in three small ramekins and baked them in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes.

Ingredients:

½ recipe Chef’s Cookie Dough for Tartlets, chilled for at least 15 minutes

1 ½ cups granulated sugar (if using sweetened coconut, reduce sugar to 1 ¼ cup)

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups shredded coconut (freshly grated, sweetened and flaked, or unsweetened)

Method:

1. To make tartlet crusts: Split dough into eight equally sized lumps (the number of lumps corresponds to how many tartlets you plan to make). For each tartlet shell, break a lump of dough into smaller, equally sized lumps, and line lumps next to one another in pan. Press lumps down and flatten dough into pan, making sure to keep layer of dough even on the bottom and sides. Run a butter knife over edges of each tartlet pan to cut excess dough and ensure a level edge. Place shaped tartlet shells on a baking sheet and cover loosely. Place baking sheet in freezer until ready to use.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs just until smooth. Add dry ingredients, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk just until well blended (avoid over whisking – you don’t want the filling to be foamy).

5. Remove tartlet shells from freezer. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons coconut evenly over bottom of each tartlet, then pour about 1/3 cup filling, per tartlet, over coconut. Sprinkle remaining coconut over tops of filled tartlets.

6. Bake tartlets in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and custard is puffed and lightly browned.

7. Remove tartlets from baking sheet and place on cooling rack for at least 25 minutes before removing tartlets from tartlet pans.

Storage: Cover tartlets loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze, double wrapped in plastic, up to a month. These tartlets are best served warm, so before serving warm tartlets in a 325 degree oven for 10 to 14 minutes, or just until heated through.

You know what I hate most about the moving process? The moving process. Yes, all of it. It seems like every life skill in which I’m deficient is nicely rolled into one long, boring process. Organization? I know where everything is, thank you, I certainly don’t need to confine myself to one single system. I’ll totally remember what’s in this box when I unpack it, don’t insult me. Oh, I have to pack the box before getting defensive? Well, that’ll be a problem, I’m the queen of not only procrastinating but also coming up with excuses that seem to justify said procrastination. For example: That box doesn’t need to be packed now, for goodness sake, I have a whole ten days! Spelled out, it doesn’t seem convincing, but I’m easily manipulated, even if I’m the one in charge of manipulating… myself? Finally, I have a mental block when it comes to tasks that, once done, have to be undone in a matter of days. Cue reader eye rolls and the utterances of ‘quit yer complainin and DO IT ALREADY.”

Time for a little perspective, just to make sure I keep in mind why moving is important and why the process will be more than worth it. I’m so lucky to be moving into a beautiful new apartment with one of my closest friends. This coming year will be all kinds of awesome if only because we’ll be looking out for each other. She’s helping me move in little by little, knowing that help will be scarce come moving day, because she cares about me and that, well, I could think of all the negative things concerning moving and they wouldn’t even come close to the feeling that someone cares enough about you to go out of their way to help. I’ll definitely miss my one roommate but take great comfort in the fact that she and I will always be friends, no matter where life takes us. She is, after all, my hetero life-mate. She’s stuck with me. (You hear that?! No escape!)

Now that I have some perspective and my excitement is gaining momentum, I need some delicious, sugar-laden comfort food. Something a little like cookie cake. Yeah, that hits the spot. I’ve made this a few times over the past year and loved it every single time, sticking to the original recipe or, in this case, adding some ingredients I want to use up before moving. Check out the peanut butter chocolate chip cookie cake, too!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

(Recipe adapted from Lemonpi)

Serves 8 to 10 people, in a 9 or 10 inch round cake pan

Notes: I added coconut and walnuts but the original recipe just calls for 1 ¼ cups chocolate chips. The final product was a lot less cakey than the original, more like a giant cookie blondie, but I didn’t complain. The almond extract is optional but highly recommended!

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 stick, or ½ cup, unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing pan

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

1 cup chopped chocolate, dark, or semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup walnuts, toasted and cooled

½ cup coconut (mixture sweetened and unsweetened), toasted and cooled

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 9 or 10 inch pie plate, cake part, or fluted tart pan by buttering it generously.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and extracts, until lighter in color and fluffy in texture.

4. Add egg to butter mixture and beat until combined, making sure to scrap bottom of bowl to incorporate all ingredients.

5. Add flour mixture and stir just until combined well enough that a few flour streaks remain.

6. Stir in mix-ins until just combined and ingredients are evenly distributed throughout dough.

7. Smooth dough evenly in prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven 18 to 22 minutes until sides are puffed and lightly browned. The middle will appear under-baked.

8. If using a cake pan or pie plate, run a butter knife along the sides of cookie cake after taking it out of the oven. Cool in pan until cake reaches room temperature before removing from baking dish.

Store cooled cookie cake in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days or freeze, double wrapped in plastic, up to a month.

In totally unrelated news, there's a tomato on our tomato plant! What a cutie!!

Happy belated Fourth of July! I tried my best to muster energy enough to research some sort of patriotic red-white-blue crazy concoction of a dessert but couldn’t manage it in the end. I tried to justify my lack of research by thinking that pancakes were just as patriotic as they come, and then the idea was thwarted by the fact that pancakes are not really an epitome of American cuisine – Swedish pancakes, anyone? Dutch pancakes? Crepes? Looks like I’ll have to find a different reason to make pancakes as an Independence Day treat.

Wait a minute! Did I really just write a short paragraph about needing to justify the making and eating of pancakes?! Who am I? When have I ever needed a reason? Psh, holiday, schmoliday and research, schmesearch. I really wanted to spend the day doing the things I enjoy most and leisurely making pancakes is one of my favoritest things in the world. I was able to try a new recipe using an ingredient I don’t normally think to use in pancakes (almond meal), to practice my flipping, to hone internal-pancake-browning timer, and, last but definitely not least, to eat copious amounts of sweetened coconut and almonds enclosed in a pancake. No part of this breakfast was very patriotic or American, but I heartily enjoyed every minute of it, thinking it was the best way I could think of to celebrate a birthday – in this case, America’s birthday.

I hope everyone had an awesome Fourth! Did you eat anything especially yummy or interesting? I’d love to hear about it!

Coconut Almond Pancakes

(Recipe adapted from The Nesting Project)

Yields 9 to 10 pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup almond meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Optional: 1 heaping tablespoon yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup sweetened coconut (if using unsweetened coconut, add extra sugar to batter)

Method:

1. If using a cast-iron skillet, preheat over medium heat. If desired, preheat oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil – to keep pancakes warm after taking off the skillet and before serving.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, sugar, yogurt (if using), vanilla and almond extracts until frothy.

4. Fold wet ingredients into dry, mixing until just combined. Fold in coconut just until distributed evenly throughout batter.

5. Grease skillet and drop pancakes by the ¼ cupful, cooking 3 to 5 minutes (until bubbles form and edges look slightly dry) and flipping, then continuing to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until browned.

I’d recommend serving the pancakes as soon as possible, however, I tend to keep them refrigerated in a tupperware container up to 3 days, heating them up for breakfast on the go.

There are two foods that I associate with my childhood: grilled cheese and quick bread. Seeing as this is predominantly a baking blog, you’d assume there would be at least a few recipes for deliciously easy to prepare, easy to store, easy to eat quick bread. You would assume wrong; I just went through my archives and found zero. This saddened me more than I thought it would for two reasons, the first being I like to think of myself as a person who is constantly trying/baking/writing about new things and the second being that quick breads were such a huge part of my upbringing and now they seem to be relegated to the back of my mind when perusing recipes.

The best part of going to visit my grandmother was eating either a zucchini or banana quick bread with cream cheese spread. The recipes themselves weren’t particularly memorable, but the simple association is beautiful and apparently something I have been trying to emulate subconsciously (now that I’m giving it some serious thought). I love that my friends, co-workers, friends of friends, co-workers of friends connect me with the giving and sharing of sweets. Maybe it is time I start trying to connect the child I once was to the adult I’m trying to be… starting with a recipe for quick bread. One step at a time, people.

On a WAY less intense note, this tropical quick bread called out to me in spite of rain and 40 degree temperatures because I happened upon some mango butter in Trader Joe’s and, holy Batman, is it good. It’s a great accompaniment to the coconut bread. In fact, I ate a piece for breakfast covered in drippy, golden mango butter and it almost transported me to a place, well, less like Boston at the moment.

Jamaican Coconut Bread

(Recipe adapted from Almost Bourdain)

Yields one 8 inch loaf

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon*

1 cup granulated sugar (or caster sugar, if you have it)

2 cups, or 5 ounces, shredded, unsweetened coconut**

5 tablespoons, or 2 ½ ounces, unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

*I did 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground cardamom. I didn’t end up tasting much of the cardamom at all, so feel free to just stick with cinnamon

**The recipe doesn’t specify whether or not coconut should be toasted, so while the oven was preheating I spread it out on a baking sheet and toasted it very lightly, hoping to add something to the overall texture.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8 inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and spices together.

4. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour egg mixture into well. Stir until just combined, leaving one or two flour streaks. Add melted butter and stir again until just combined, but now there shouldn’t be any flour streaks. Be careful not to over mix batter at this point.

5. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan. It will seem like there is too much batter for the pan, but have faith. If you’re me (a tad paranoid), you can put the loaf pan on a baking sheet to prevent any instance of rogue batter.

6. Bake loaf in preheated oven for an hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of loaf comes out clean.

7. Cool loaf in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Store loaf in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days or freeze slices of loaf, wrapped airtight, up to a month.

Mini Coconut Cakes

February 16, 2011

Do you ever have mornings when everything seems really arduous? Things like getting out of bed, turning on the coffee maker, letting go of your blanket even when you are sitting at the kitchen table trying to eat breakfast? I wanted to bake today, to share another new and exciting recipe, but kind of wanted the baked goods just to appear, and the recipe just to be typed, and oh look! I only have an hour and a half before needing to leave for work!

This recipe for mini coconut cakes makes my day. It’s simple, quick to prepare, doesn’t yield a ridiculous amount of baked good, and is almost infinitely adaptable. Instead of coconut, you could substitute ground almonds, or ground hazelnuts. I ended up using 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut and ½ cup ground almonds, but you could mix and match these ingredients exactly to your liking. Instead of lemon zest, I zested a blood orange and the cakes turned out beautifully. I love recipes that allow for you to be creative, personalizing your own treat exactly the way you want, or exactly the way your recipient would want. I could see myself making these over and over, bringing them to parties and picnics and all the other fun things that will happen when it isn’t so ugly and cold outside.

The only bad thing about this batch of cakes was that they browned quickly, because the only mini-muffin pan I own is a very dark, non-stick metal, so I would keep an eye on yours around the 13 minute mark and make sure you get the golden color they are meant to be instead of looking like they have a dark brown mini-cupcake liner. They are kind of interesting, though, in that the browned outside acts like a crust and the middle is still soft and decadent. That being said, they were delicious, and a great pick me up to motivate me for work.

If this recipe is of interest to you, I highly recommend making financiers. I made these over the summer and NONE of them left my apartment. Dangerously good.

Mini Coconut Cakes

(Recipe adapted from Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking)

Yields 24 individual cakes, made in mini-muffin tins

Ingredients:

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups unsweetened dried coconut (or 1 ½ cups ground almonds, or combination thereof)

4 egg whites, as close to room temperature as possible

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (I used blood orange zest)

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

About 2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut and/or slivered almonds to adorn the tops of the cakes before baking

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour two 12-cavity mini-muffin pans. (Note: I totally forgot to prepare the pans, but mine are non-stick and the cakes turned out fine with just a little more care in removing them from the cavities.)

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and coconut (and/or ground nuts). Set aside.

3. In a larger bowl, whisk egg whites and salt until combined, then whisk in the zest and slowly whisk in the melted and cooled butter.

4. Whisk in half of dry ingredient mixture, then fold in the rest with a spatula.

5. Split batter evenly between the 24 cavities of the mini-muffin pans and top with shredded coconut and/or slivered almonds.

6. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven, or until cakes are firm when pressed and deep golden in color.

7. Invert cakes over a cooling rack, then turn them right side up to cool completely.

Store cakes lightly covered for one day at room temperature. For prolonged storage, store cakes refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 more days. Bring to room temperature before serving/eating.