sweets


I’d forgotten how therapeutic cooking can be. Baking, in particular. I do believe people usually lean one way or another. You have your bakers, who like measurement and absolutes, and then you have the cooks, who look at various ingredients and can play, with it with or without a formal recipe. I’d just finished Alyssa Shelasky’s “Apron Anxiety”, where the kitchen functions more or less as her sanity – providing her a release when nothing else seems to be able to do the same. Great book – perfect summer read if you love food and haven’t picked it up yet.

 

Last Wednesday, I’d planed on making T a big batch of peanut butter cookies. I figured I’d be up late making them since I had trapeze, but I found myself home an hour early after leaving midway through the class in tears. While the class wasn’t my finest, the substitute teacher who didn’t know me or my capabilities had said some things which really upset me. Out of line seeing as this is something I do only once a week rather than in their formal circus training program.

Still coated in a thin layer of chalk that seems to linger until the next morning, I started scraping out what was left of my large container of peanut butter from Costco. It doesn’t last long when you’re making peanut butter cookies, at 2 cups worth a pop.

This is my favorite recipe which I found on AllRecipes.com. I made them for T before a road trip only a month after we started dating and I’ve used it ever since. Lesson from last time – if you’re running low on granulated sugar, stop and go get some. It’ll be worth it. I added the tiniest bit of Splenda and it made them come out flatter than usual.

Ingredients
• 2 cups peanut butter
• 2 cups white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 pinch salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F & grease cookie sheets. Stir peanut butter and sugar together until smooth. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets (if you put them too close together, they seem like they’ll never finish cooking!). Press a criss-cross into the top using the back of a fork. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (I usually start with way less and work my way up to avoid burning the bottoms). Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

~~~~~~

Yesterday I went back to the rig for another class, determined to turn the prior week’s experience around. And even though I’m not where I was (had to take off 3 weeks when I tore up my hand in class and then a few weeks before that, I’d been out 3 weeks with a sprained ankle), I like to remember where I’ve been, and then I feel pretty good!

Here’s an older video… my swing is way lower. My toes aren’t remotely pointed and my strength, though more than it’s pre-trapeze days still is not so apparent.

I had to remind myself I’ve gotten stronger. Way stronger. This is me swinging for the first time out of safety lines three months ago. All me for the first time. No one pulling my lines. No one there to save me if I did anything dumb or to pull in any way, shape or form to help me get additional height. Just me. Just me.

And this is last night… Not perfect, but hey, I’m back up there. After all, that’s all I can do. Because unlike him, I know where I’ve been and I know how far I’ve come. Long road ahead but sometimes you have to keep it all in perspective, bake, and smile.

Throughout my whole trip to San Francisco, I was in hot pursuit of sweets. Namely cupcakes. Perhaps it was where we happened to have plans, but I never seemed to come across anywhere selling this (or anything worth stopping for, that is). After brunch at 15 Romolo, my friends drove us around the city a bit and we saw some of what we hadn’t seen yet. Along the Waterfront. Over and down Lombard Street (windy windy and oh so packed with tourists) and we weren’t far from a spot they said was good – Kara’s Cupcakes. I was thrilled!

They have different types. There’s there signature flavors, including the likes of “sweet s’mores”. There’s their filled cupcakes, such as passion fruit, meyer lemon, just to name a few). And then there were some seasonal options, such as key lime or their latest – “royal biscuit”, which is a nod to the London Summer Olympics.

While it might have been smart to have gone with their mini cupcake options (and they had quite a few), I felt since I’d looked for days for cupcakes, I’d earned the real deal. I went with the key lime, since I wanted to make sure to try at least one of their filled options. It was a graham cracker crust vanilla cupcake with a key lime curd filling with cream cheese frosting. Pretty good, though the cake part was a tad on the dry side for my taste.

I also had to get the sweet s’mores, which was a chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker crust and a toasted marshmallow frosting. This was good though, again the cake was a bit dry and warning! If you leave this one in the box to eat for later and oh, maybe walk around in the Haight for a bit thumbing through dresses at Ambiance and various vintage stores, you might (ooops) find that gorgeous frosting has slid off the top.

Kara’s Cupcakes – 3249 Scott Street (@ Chestnut), San Francisco – 415.563.2223

While we’ve had a few days here and there that have been nice, yesterday was one of the first truly nice days where I was out and about on the weekend. As I mentioned earlier today, on Sunday I went to brunch with the gang of Google Places Power Users at Cafecito Bogota. left craving a little something sweet. Blame it on my having eggs and not french toast.

It was nice that from there my boyfriend and I decided to go on a walk. We continued on through the rest of Greenpoint into and through Williamsburg, winding back into Bushwick, making sure to stay on the sunny side of the street since it’s the time of year where that makes all of the difference.

Blame it on the weather, but along the way that dessert craving became more focused. Ice cream. Only ice cream. We passed some ok looking places, but why settle for ice cream dispensed from the corner of a convenience store when you can keep going a bit more for the real thing – Ample Hills.

Ample Hills Creamery opened last summer on Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights. I didn’t get to try it for a bit -scared off by the likes of them selling out of all of their ice cream during their first four days they were open, causing them to have to close and replenish their stock. That’s no joke!

I finally got to try their ice cream, but never on-site. One cold, gross day my boyfriend surprised me with a pint for us of their Black Cow Float – root beer ice cream with a swirl of milk chocolate. So good. Root beer ice cream? Yes please. And for a friend, we had one of their ice cream cakes – tasty but heavier than other ice cream cakes I’ve had.

Fun with seasonal flavors

Fun with seasonal flavors

Yesterday though? I went inside. Ok. I may have gotten ice cream not only once but two times in the same – once before dinner and another time after dinner. Both at Ample Hills. That’s okay though. Being able to do things like that make all the downside of being an adult a bit more bearable.

First, I had their PB&J ice cream. I sampled it first as I thought that sounded like it could be amazing or disgusting (note after sampling a few flavors here, I think even the most extreme flavors here end up working). It was really good – not overwhelming peanut butter ice cream base with a grape jelly-esque ribbon running through. Unique and so good.

Oh hey hey, PB&J

Oh hey hey, PB&J

The other flavor I’d been eyeing was Nona D’s Oatmeal Lace – brown sugar and cinnamon ice cream with bits of oatmeal cookies sprinkled throughout.

They’re about to start ice cream classes and they also often accommodate parties. Have an idea for a flavor? Tack it up to their flavor board and maybe you’ll get your wish. Let’s just say I’m thankful I don’t live around the corner from this place or else I know where you’d find me all summer long!

Ice cream doodles from the suggestion board

Ice cream doodles from the suggestion board

Next visit? Shake time. Yes, that’s happening.

Ample Hills Creamery – 623 Vanderbilt Avenue (at St. Marks Avenue) – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn – 347.240.3926

Today’s the next 140Sweets event, benefiting the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation Program. When I learned about the event, I started thumbing through all of my cupcake cookbooks for the “magic” cupcake. Lots of the ones I really wanted to make (why hello, spiced chai!) involved temperamental icing (something about a whipped cream style icing doesn’t work with making an interim stop at the office).

Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes - Before Icing

Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes - Before Icing

These peanut butter cookie cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook (apparently, even available for ordering for your Kindle!) caught my attention. They were like a cupcake version of a standard peanut butter cookie. Yes. Just about perfect. Peanut butter in both the cupcake and icing portion (the icing also has cream cheese – so much cream cheese).

Iced and ready to go!

Iced and ready to go!

These were super easy to make. The recipe claimed a 30 cupcake yield, but I ended up with 26. Check out @140Sweets on Twitter if you’re interested in learning more about tonight’s event!

On Monday, Butter Lane invited me to stop by to taste test possible new icing flavors for the month of August. If you’re new to this blog, you might have missed out of all of the various times I’ve raved about Butter Lane. Let’s say I’ve been a fan for a long time. I love their varied icings, your option to customize the pairing of icing with the cake base (banana, chocolate, or vanilla), and they try to use as little processed items in their baking as possible.

So true...

So true...

The options were interesting – pistachio, peach, and cherry. What I like about icing shots at Butter Lane is that they don’t just give you a plain cup of icing. The shot is topped off with something corresponding to the flavor. Pistachio was topped with actual pistachios. The peach was topped with a peach drizzle. The cherry was topped by a big fresh cherry. And with the peach and cherry, there were little fruit bits throughout all of the icing.

Three August Icing Flavor Contenders

Three August Icing Flavor Contenders

We each voted for which one we thought as the best and they were going to then compile the votes and choose August’s flavor. I had to go with peach, though I wouldn’t be disappointed if cherry came out the winner. So much fun to be able to participate in this with Butter Lane!

Butter Lane – 123 East 7th Street (at Avenue A) – 212.677.2880

I’ve been on a run of really tasty, yet highly unhealthy fried food that seems to be plentiful as of late in this city. I believe I’ll round out this rampage after I finally make it to Chip Shop in Park Slope, and then I’ll relinquish my recently obtained crown of all things fried to the first willing taker.

Buuuuut… in the meantime, I’ve been trying a bunch of different things around the city. First, there were fried Oreos. Now I was thinking I’d never had them, until my sister reminded me (as did this blog), that I had in fact had them before and sung their praise even. Oooops. For shame. This time though, it was at the street fair on Second Avenue, which was packed with people being one of the first really nice weekend days. I was out walking around shopping with Dixie, so picking up the fried Oreos had the added twist of trying not to feed crumbs for Dixie. For the most part, I succeeded.

Fried Oreos - Second Avenue Street Fair

Fried Oreos - Second Avenue Street Fair

Oreos Showing How They're Best Served. Phenomenal.

Oreos Showing How They're Best Served. Phenomenal.

The next day, I found myself in Coney Island for a friend’s birthday, which of course meant the Freak Show, riding the Cyclone, as well as the required food items – a hot dog at Nathan’s followed by a funnel cake from some random counter along the way. And while I love me some funnel cakes (I always think of is like a poor man’s conjoined beignet), I am not usually one to rant and rave about its wonders. However this particular vendor, just toward the water from the Freak Show, was just perfect. It wasn’t overly done. Only slightly crispy in parts and definitely not throughout. The center was slightly doughy, but it wasn’t raw. It was just right. And the powdered sugar was plentiful. So good. I figured it wouldn’t be bad, but I’d have never expected it to be this good. Next time I’m in Coney Island, I’m going to this place to see if they can make it 2 for 2. I’m hopeful they can.

Funnel Cakes at Coney Island

Funnel Cakes at Coney Island

And this past weekend, I went to CitiField to see the Mets play the Dodgers. A friend of mine is a big Dodgers fan, so we went and I tried to figure out who to root for (I grew up a Braves fan and still don’t know what to do with NY sports teams) and decided finally to root for two main things – the power of the sunshine and the stadium food. After my hot dog, I made my way back down to get an order of “Fried Dough”. It was really a zeppole, except in the form of a long sheet. Intrigued, I got an order and asked for a box in hopes of some of the powdered sugar successfully making the hike back to our seats with me.

Fried Dough at CitiField

Fried Dough at CitiField

It was good – fresh and thin, though a bit greasier than I would like. And even though I made that powdered sugar shaker into my own personal Shake Weight, the powdered sugar wasn’t quite enough for all that dough. Still, it wasn’t too bad and it was interesting to see for sure. A big flat sheet of dough frying, in a shape that at the time most reminded me of a sting ray. Bizarre.

Fried Dough - All Powdered Sugar'd Up

Fried Dough - All Powdered Sugar'd Up

Overall assessment?

Coney Island Funnel Cake > Second Ave Fried Oreoes > CitiField’s Fried Dough

What are some of your fried faves??

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

I’ve mentioned here before my intense feelings for pumpkin, regarless of the season. I have even shared quite a few recipes for various pumpkin things for you to enjoy. This new one here is from the Philadelphia website and is one my mom tried out over Christmas. I’ll admit a bit of the luster of pumpkin pie has worn off for me, as it sometimes tastes um well too healthy (whether it is or not) and not enough like dessert. This recipe brings together two good things and basically makes them both  better. The full recipe from their website also includes the crust, which is different from how we made it. You can either follow the full recipe or make a quick standard graham crust shell (super easy). In thic case, you cannot really use a pre-made at the grocery store since it works best with a springform pan.

Ingredients

  • 3 (250 g) packages PHILADELPHIA Brick Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 dash ground cloves

 

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Beat the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Next add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each one is added just until blended. Remove 1 cup of the plain batter; place in small bowl.
Batters, Divided

Batters, Divided

  • An optional step which might be worth your while is draining the pumpkin. Draining the pumpkin? I know. My mom mentioned this, which I’d never done, and I was really intrigued to see what happened. Canned pumpkin actually has a fair amount of excess moisture in it. She emptied the pumpkin out onto a paper towel lined plate. Within minutes, the paper towel was soaked. Look at this below!
Optional: Draining the Pumpkin

Optional: Draining the Pumpkin

  • Back to the recipe. Next, stir the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin and spices into remaining batter. Spoon pumpkin batter into crust, which should be lining the inside of a 9 inch springform pan; top with spoonfuls of reserved plain batter. Cut through batters with knife several times for marble effect.
Adding the Swirl

Adding the Swirl

  • Bake 45 minutes or until centre is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Cut into 12 slices. Be sure to store the leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.
Finished Cheesecake

Finished Cheesecake

This dessert was perfect. The pumpkin flavor was very strong, with the sweetness of the cheesecake having a perfect balancing effect to make it the perfect combination. Call me crazy, but I think this would be my new pick for must-have Thanksgiving dessert.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers