Sunday, November 29, 2009

PotW: Post-Thanksgiving Pancakes (Pumpkin-Sage with Blackberry Sauce)

[last Pancake of the Week: Apple pie pancakes]

Did everyone have a good Thanksgiving?

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner at my best friend's house in L.A., and it was a blast.  She told me that I had to feed seven people, and true to form, I made enough food to feed twenty.

Thanksgiving 2009

Grapefruit, poached pear, goat cheese, candied pecan mixed herb salad
Corn egg drop soup
Spicy shrimp-stuffed mushrooms
Rosemary roasted chicken
Mayonnaise lemon pepper salmon
Chicken beer gravy
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry-pomegranate sauce
Carrots vichy
Green beans with dried cranberries
Roasted potatoes with figs and thyme
Butternut squash and wild rice
Apple pie
Pumpkin pie
Vanilla bean ice cream

Then, the next morning, my best friend requested pancakes (yes, even after all of that food).  She said she'd seen all the ones on the blog, and she MUST have some.  I wanted to do something light to compliment the previous night's Thanksgiving feast and yet still incorporate some of the lingering Thanksgiving flavors.  Hence, pumpkin-sage pancakes with blackberry sauce!

Yes, yes, I know.  This is already the third pumpkin pancake that I've made this year!  And, honestly, I was going to quit after two. (Pumpkin maple chocolate chip pancakes and Brown butter pumpkin pancakes)  However, it was insisted upon that I make pumpkin pancakes, and friend's requests is the mother of invention (hm... somehow I don't think the saying goes that way...).  Thank heavens though that I found a huge box of gorgeous blackberries at the market and had a bunch of fragrant fresh sage leftover from Thanksgiving dinner!

I tell you --these pancakes were the perfect post-Thanksgiving breakfast.  No heavy creams or overbearing chocolate.  Just light, airy berry syrup on dense and moist pumpkin pancakes with a hint of sage to carry over the fall flavors from the previous night's dinner.  Yum, yum.

Okay, I promise this will be the last of the pumpkin pancakes for this year!  Now that the holiday season is fully upon us and I am allowed to blast Christmas music out of my speakers, I must bid adieu to these autumn flavors and move onto winter and Christmas flavors!  Hm... peppermint pancakes?  We shall see...

Read on for recipe...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brown Butter Ginger Cookies + Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everyone!

In case you've been wondering, no, I haven't disappeared off the face of the Earth.  I've just been so incredibly swamped for the past week at my day job and then had to leave on my vacation to SoCal!  So for the past few days, I've basically been here:

Then, when I got to L.A. after driving down Highway 1, my friend informs me that I will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for seven people.  On the day BEFORE Thanksgiving!  (okay, to be fair, she gave me a week's warning... but still!)  So, today has been all about running around and shopping and baking desserts.  What a vacation, huh?  As much as I love cooking, part of me does wish that I could be back here:

Given the whirlwind that's been my past week and a half, I haven't even had time to post this recipe that I've been so excited about for a few weeks now: Ginger Sugar Cookies!  Now, this obsession all started this past summer when my good friend, Priscilla, introduced me to Bakesale Betty in Oakland.  I have to say--how I lived in the East Bay for practically all of my life and never knew about Bakesale Betty, I don't know!  It's such a cool storefront.  Basically, all they sell is a few types of cookies, seasonal pies (or strawberry shortcake in the summers), and coleslaw-fried chicken sandwiches.  That's it.  But they sell a lot of it!  And everything is so amazingly YUM.  Trust me, if you're in the area, you MUST go.

Anyways, Bakesale Betty has one of the best ginger sugar cookies that I have ever had.  And I'm not talking gingersnaps.  These are proper, large, chewy cookies of goodness.

Bakesale Betty ginger cookies

Bakesale Betty's ginger sugar cookies are not only the perfect balance of chewiness and sweetness, they also have huge chunks of crystallized ginger in them that make them truly ultra-gingery!  I recently got so obsessed with these cookies that within the course of three weeks, I drove the hour drive across the Bay to get a hold of these.  I also made sure to pack some for the drive down to L.A.

Inspired by Bakesale Betty, I decided to try my hand at ginger sugar cookies as well.  Now, I have to tell you that if you're looking for the Bakesale Betty cookies verbatim, these are not it.  But I would say that these brown butter ginger cookies are a great spin-off to the classic ginger cookie.

Brown butter ginger sugar cookies

The brown butter in these cookies add a rich, dark depth of flavor which couples nicely with the molasses.  And, I took a cue from Bakesale Betty and included chopped crystallized ginger in the cookies for an extra spicy kick.  Perhaps the most special thing about these brown butter ginger cookies is their shape: instead of being large and flat like many store-bought cookies, these are somewhat mounded:

I've found that this mounding is the trick to achieving that perfect cakey-chewy texture balance that you find in store-bought cookies.  You see, because they're big in diameter, store-bought cookies manage to be chewy and moist in the center despite their flatness, but if you try to imitate the same thickness at home with a smaller cookie, the centers just dry out.  So the solution that I've found is creating these mounded cookies, which allow and preserve the moistness in the centers.

So how did my ginger cookies stack up against Bakesale Betty's?  See for yourself!

 My cookies definitely weren't the same as Bakesale Betty's, but they most definitely helped to satisfy my ginger sugar cookie craving!

Here's wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving with plenty of amazing food!  Make sure to save room for dessert--or, do what I would and eat dessert first. ;-P.

Read on for recipe...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

PotW: Apple Pie Pancakes

[last week's PotW: Brown butter pumpkin pancakes with bourbon mascarpone cream]

Like pumpkin pie, apple pie is on my list of Staple Desserts of the Holiday Season.  I can't get through November and December without apple pie!  So, when I had a bunch of small home-grown apples to use up this week, I thought: what about apple pie pancakes???

Yes!  you CAN make apple pie into a legitimate breakfast.  :-P  (Not that I don't already when I have the real deal lying around.)

There's also no better accompaniment to apple pie than a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top of a hot-out-of-the-oven slice of pie.  But, my freezer was stocked to the brim with pumpkin cheesecake and coffee ice creams.  So, instead, these pancakes are super vanilla pancakes to make up for the lack of vanilla ice cream.

I caramelized the apples first before baking them in the oven with a sugar crumb topping, adding extra depth and sweetness to the flavor.  These pancakes were most definitely an ultra-indulgent way to start the weekend.  :-)

Read on for recipe...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pumpkin cheesecake ice cream

David Lebovitz scooped me (pun intended!) *again* today with his pumpkin ice cream post!  But alas, I made pumpkin cheesecake ice cream.  So there, Lebovitz.  :-P

I have a BUNCH of fresh pumpkin puree sitting in my fridge from this past weekend when I finally got around to cutting up my uncarved Halloween pumpkins.  But, in my excitement at having fresh pumpkin puree around, I suddenly became hugely indecisive over what to do with it all!  Pumpkin pancakes, of course, but that hardly uses up any of the puree.  Also floating around on my list: pumpkin pie, caramel pumpkin pie, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin ginger cookies, pumpkin bread, etc. etc. etc.  Oh boy--I was, quite honestly, overwhelmed.

And then, my boyfriend, Richard, just had to go and say, "oh, cheesecake sounds good."  (Cheesecake always sounds good to him.)  So I added *that* to my list: pumpkin cheesecake.

When it finally came time to actually start making something, I suddenly didn't feel like making a whole cheesecake.  Yet, I had all the ingredients for cheesecake on hand.  And then a stroke of lightning!  (this is often how my baking adventures begin--I wait to be hit by inspiration.  Whether or not this is the most efficient method of food preparation, I'm not quite sure, but it seems to work. :-) )

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
with Gingersnaps

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream!  Yes!  It's like cheesecake--except better.  I have to say, this is probably one of the creamiest ice creams I've ever made, with the cream cheese lending the ice cream an incredibly smooth texture.  Imagine cheesecake, but frozen.  Yup.  It's that dense.

The pumpkin puree and spices typical of pumpkin pie make for a surprising flavor profile in the cheesecake ice cream.  And, I most definitely recommend serving this with whole or crushed up gingersnaps to mimic cheesecake crust.  It's like a whole pumpkin cheesecake--in a bowl!  :-D

(well, it was full. *innocent eyes*)

Read on for recipe...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Drunken pear frangipane tart

David Lebovitz beat me to it today with his almond and pear tart post!  Then, the NYTimes Minimalist with this post on upside-down pear cake.  The whole world is going pear crazy, I swear.  (And, to my credit, none of their pears are drunken. :-) )

But with good reason.  Pears are good.  And, I subscribe to the belief that they can cure a sore throat.  So bonus to pears.

Anyways, I was so excited last week when I went to Costco for eggs and discovered boxes of beautiful seckel pears for ridiculously cheap!  These tiny little pears are so cute.  Kind of like what crab-apples are to apples, seckel pears are to pears.  (Yes, I rocked analogies on standardized tests.)  And who can't resist things in miniature?

This past weekend, I finally broke into my pounds of seckel pears.  So tender and sweet and juicy--really, I could just gobble them up as is.  But, no, no.  What would be the fun in that? :-)  So, I busted out the poaching liquid that I'd saved from making poached pears with rosemary pancakes and added a good half bottle of leftover red wine, since there wasn't quite enough liquid, along with some additional spices.  The resulting poached seckel pears were so flavorful and totally drunk with wine.  (Actually, as I was poaching, my roommate claimed she was getting drunk just on the smell of the poaching liquid. :-P)

Drunken seckel pear frangipane tart

The drunken pears were a perfect accent for the almond nuttiness of the filling, the sweet crispiness of the tart crust, and a hint of apricot glaze.  The alcohol came through in a bit of a whisper in the end of each bite, which was perfect.

I took the large, rectangular tart to a workshop for my day job, saving the small round one for personal devourment.  One participant of the workshop said to me afterward--and I quote--:  "You have truly attained proficiency in the grammar of high desserts."

Okay, that really cracked me up.  But it was an appreciated compliment nonetheless.  So, folks, here's the lesson: this tart may not look as pretty as its summer fruit counterparts, but, trust me, it is most definitely yummy.

Read on for recipe...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

PotW: Brown butter pumpkin pancakes with bourbon cream

[last time's PotW: Bananas about pancakes!]

Nothing's quite as quintessentially autumn as pumpkin.  (Ironically, a winter squash? bizarre.)  Okay, maybe butternut squash, but really, I just lump those two in the same category.  This week, I had pumpkins! left over from Halloween--I was a wimp and didn't carve mine.  And then my mom came to visit and deposited two beautiful organic sugar pumpkins here as well.  So, with all the pumpkin madness, I had to give pumpkin pancakes another go.

Brown butter pumpkin pancakes
with bourbon mascarpone whipped cream

Actually, I made pumpkin pancakes a few weeks back right when thoughts of Halloween, fall, and cooling weather reminded me of the upcoming pumpkin season.  But these pumpkin pancakes this time around were quite different.  First of all, I made my own pumpkin puree.  I actually--surprisingly so--haven't done that before because it's just been so much more convenient in the past to just buy cans of pumpkin puree.  But since I had so many pumpkins on my hands this time around, I couldn't avoid it!  Second, pumpkin takes quite a back seat to the flavor of browned butter, spices, and bourbon in these pancakes.

Instead of tasting the pumpkin as a foregrounded ingredient, it sort of lurks in the background, really providing more of a texture than anything else.  And the texture of these pancakes were really their selling point!  The homemade pumpkin puree, along with the brown butter, gave these pancakes a sort of chewy-melt-in-your-mouth cake-iness that isn't usually all too present in most pancakes.  It also didn't hurt that Maria--my roommate, who did the frying-up of these cakes this time while I whipped the cream, made them nice and thick.  I definitely recommend following her example.  The bourbon in the cream lends a zing in the finishing touches--though, be careful not to go overboard with the alcohol like I did.  (oops! :-P)  Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or freshly ground nutmeg, and it's a perfect stack of pancakes and flavors for the cooling fall weather.

Read on for recipe and directions for making pumpkin puree and browned butter.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nostalgia in cookie form: Oreos

It's the continuation of sandwich cookies!  :-)

Rosemary-lemon sandwich cookies
Classic chocolate-vanilla oreos

So the other type of sandwich cookie that I made for Ting's birthday package (read about it here!) were good ol' chocolate vanilla oreos.  I figured that these would provide a homey and comforting contrast to the more "out-there" rosemary and lemon cookies that I was including in the box.

Ah--and many of you are probably wondering: why in the world are these cookies purple?  Well, purple is Ting's favorite color, so I had to incorporate it somehow.  :-)

All Gone!

Read on for recipe...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oreos grow up: rosemary lemon sandwich cookies

As I mentioned sometime last week, I've been a little obsessed with sandwich cookies.  It all started when I sat down to try to think of what to get my cousin for her late October birthday.  Of course, the natural answer was desserts!  This was all well and good, except for one giant hitch: Ting lives in New York City.  That's ..., well, over 2500 miles away from me.  Hm.  But, enter in the modern miracle that is 2nd day mail!  (I <3 USPS.)

So my thoughts turned to what kinds of desserts would travel best.  Ice cream was obviously--though quite unfortunately because Ting loves froyo--out.  As was cake, since I wouldn't want to send anything unfrosted and DIY unfinished.  That left breads and cookies.  I decided that while breads would be a great care-package type item, they weren't really all that festive and therefore were inappropriate for a birthday, so cookies it was.  Then, I knew it had to be some form of more robust cookies, since I didn't want the treats to end up arriving in New York as a big package of crumbs.  That would be a huge waste of postage.  And, I don't know how it hit me but suddenly... *sandwich cookies!*  They would travel perfectly, and I could make two different flavors to send for variety.  :-D

Rosemary-lemon sandwich cookies
Chocolate-vanilla "oreo" sandwich cookies

So, Ting's birthday package ended up with two kinds of "oreos": rosemary-lemon and good old nostalgic chocolate-vanilla.--both recipes that I'll be posting this week, starting with the rosemary-lemon ones today.

The rosemary-lemon sandwich cookies were definitely the more "grown-up" flavor out of the two, but they were a great complement to the traditional oreos.  The rosemary in the cookies isn't overpowering, and, together with the lemon, lends a subtle excellent fragrance to the overall cookie.   I thought the combination might be a little too exotic, but when I took both types with me to the office after I'd made them, the rosemary-lemon were definitely the more popular of the two (probably also thanks to that exoticism--everyone wanted to try them)!

I heard from Ting a few days after I sent the cookies telling me that they arrived completely intact and were still delicious, even after having survived a couple-thousand mile journey across the country.  :-D  Hope you had a very happy (and yummy!) birthday, Ting!

Make sure to tune in later this week for the traditional chocolate-vanilla oreo recipe.

Read on for recipe...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hope you had a Happy Halloween! (and Pumpkin Cake)

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!  My party turned out to be a lot of fun, though I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from it (hence no Pancakes of the Week, please excuse me!).  I promise that this will be my final Halloween-related post--that is, until next year, of course, but I wanted to share with everyone the cake I make every Halloween.

Pumpkin cake
with cream cheese frosting

Every year, I ask myself why I don't make this cake more often.  It's so dense and moist that some have even remarked (in a good way) that it's like eating a solid pumpkin mousse!  I really do need to whip out this recipe more often, if not in pumpkin form then at the very least in loaf pan form.  It's perfect for cool, fall mornings.

Anyhow, we'll move back to regularly scheduled programming on Desserts for Breakfast this week (I do have a day job that I can't abandon).  Here's looking forward to the holidays!  :-D

Read on for the recipe...