Sunday, January 30, 2011

Little Lemon Breakfast Cakes

I bought cake flour in July with the expectation of making scones. Fast-forward almost 7 months and I finally got around to using it. Not as I originally planned, but for these cute and tasty concoctions. They are definitely not scones, or biscuits, but are really more like breakfast cakes. They are not too sweet (just 1/4 cup of sugar), the glaze gives it a nice lemony kick, and the cake flour makes them super light.

They are the perfect way to make morning a little extra special. Or to bake for a friend coming over to study criminal law (as was the case here). They also come together and bake up really quickly, which is great if you have a legal writing assignment to finish. Enjoy!

Little Lemon Breakfast Cakes

2 cups of cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup of granulated sugar

zest of 1 lemon
1 1/3 cup heavy cream

juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1. Sift flour, baking power, salt and sugar together. Add the zest.

2. In a separate bowl combine the heavy cream and lemon juice. Slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry, stirring until just combined.

3. On a floured surface knead the dough. Don't be afraid to add enough flour to make the dough manageable. Gently spread the dough until 1/2 inch thick.

4. Using a biscuit cutter, cut circles and place on a parchment covered baking sheet.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes until the bottoms are just browned.

6. In a separate bowl whisk together lemon juice and confectioner's sugar. When the cakes are done, let cool for a few minutes and then cover with glaze.

Friday, January 21, 2011


In an attempt to embrace all of the wintry weather we're having, here is one more favorite cookie that my mother and I baked while I was visiting over my break from school. Spritz cookies are really easy to make (as long as the spritz gun cooperates), they are super fun to decorate, and are perfect to snack on as is or dipped in tea!

For those unfamiliar, a spritz cookie is made by filling a special "spritz gun" with a simple dough and picking different plates (pictured above) to form various cookie shapes. I think this is a must own for households with kids, but if you have tiny kitchen like me (with no kids) it is more of a luxury item. But visiting your mother's well-stocked kitchen is the perfect excuse to break it out and go to cookie-town. And if that's a place, I will be moving there post-haste.

My only warning for this cookie is that they are addictive (maybe it's the almond extract - is it just me or is that like the best thing ever?!). And so light that it is far too easy to eat an entire handful and still want more. Our game plan was to make the full batch, but to pack up a bunch quickly to take to friends. There was still a lot leftover for us - but really, we weren't complaining!

Spritz Cookie
from Betty Crocker

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 400 F. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and scrape down the sides as needed to combine. Add almond extract.

2. In a separate bowl mix flour and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredient mix to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Beat until combined.

3. Fill spritz cookie press and choose your desired shape plate. Using the spritz gun, fill an ungreased/unlined cookie sheet.

4. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes or until set, but not brown.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mushroom Soup

I'm sure others (especially fellow Slovaks) have their own recipe for mushroom soup, but this is ours. It is the epitome of a family recipe. Not written down anywhere (except for now of course) and many many tweaks over the years by great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mothers.

One of the great things about family recipes is how personal they really are. Each taste and smell evokes specific memories, but also a warm and cozy feeling. The other thing I love about recipes like this is how they change just a little bit with each generation. Some tweaks are just to improve taste, others are to make it a more perfect reflection of the cook. My grandmother added ketchup (a "secret ingredient") and my mother added malt vinegar right before serving, instead of the regular white vinegar as a nod to our love of British fish & chips. It remains to be seen how my sister and I will adapt this recipe as it settles into our kitchens, but it is exciting to think about. And certainly a wonderful inspiration in the kitchen.

Mushroom Soup from the Sedlar/Rash family collection
24 oz sliced button mushrooms, washed & patted dry with a paper towel
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shakes crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 32 oz boxes vegetable broth
1 19 oz can vegetable soup
4 oz pearled barley
1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 egg
a few drops of water

1. In a medium sauce pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushrooms and cover. Cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

2. In a large pot put 1 box of vegetable broth, vegetable soup, and cooked mushrooms. Cook second half of mushrooms as in step 1 and add to the large pot.

3. Place lid over the large pot and simmer on low for about an hour.

4. After an hour, add the barley and cover. Increase heat to medium-low.

5. When the barley is cooked through (about another hour), remove from heat and let rest for about 1/2 hour.

6. About an hour before you are ready to eat, put the pot on medium-high heat and add some more vegetable broth if the texture is too thick (it should be closer to soup than stew).

7. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cornstarch and egg with a fork. It will be a very thick paste. Add a few drops of water. The desired texture should be like a very sticky dough - if it is closer to a batter, you've added too much water and should compensate with more flour.

8. Once the soup is simmering, it is ready for the dumplings. Using a fork and knife, cut small (seriously, not too big) pieces of the sticky dough into the soup. Stir after each forkful or the dumplings will stick to each other. Use all of the dough.

9. Let simmer for about 30 minutes - the dumplings do not take long and will start to float when they are cooked. Add ketchup and stir.

10. Remove from heat and serve with white or malt vinegar to individual taste.

2011 & a favorite cookie

It wasn't exactly planned, but I took almost a month off from blogging. And from really doing much of anything online. It was a nice change of pace; not to check email every five minutes and not to be logged on to facebook at all times. But as I sit in my parents living room on the new wireless network I helped them set up (along with google tv - which will be so cool once we figure out how to get it working!), I feel the need to re-connect.

So as a welcome to 2011 for you (and a sort of "welcome back" to the internet for me), here is one of my favorite holiday cookies. Each bite reminds me childhood and even if you don't have the same sentimental attachment, it really is just a delicious and light cookie to snack on. My mother and I laughed as we made this, because other than being shaped like a candy cane, there is really nothing candy-cane-ish about how we have always made this cookie. There is no crushed peppermint bark sprinkled on the outside and no peppermint extract added to the dough. This year, we didn't even have red food coloring - so our candy canes are white & green.

But they sure are yummy. So if you need a good cookie, and one that's fun to make with kids (of all ages) this will do the trick. And since the holidays have already flown by, feel free to make these in any shape you want - candy cane or not. enjoy!

Candy Cane Cookies adapted many years ago from Betty Crocker

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red (or green) food coloring

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Cream butter, shortening, and confectioners' sugar until light and airy. Add the egg and beat on med-low, scraping down the sides until fully incorporated.
Add vanilla and almond extracts.

2. In a separate bowl combine, four and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Beat on med-low until combined. You may need to add a little more flour (the texture should be silky, but not stick to your finger when you touch it).

3. Divide the dough in half. Place one half in a bowl and mix in the food coloring until the dough is completely colored (a fork works best for this).

4. Shape 1 teaspoon of dough from each half into about a 4 inch ropes. Place ropes side-by-side, press together lightly and twist. Complete each cookie one at a time - and be careful not to make them too big as they will puff up in the oven.

5. Place on a a parchment paper-ed cookie sheet and curve the top down on each cookie to form the cane handle.

6. Bake for about 9 minutes, or until set and very light brown on the bottom (watch them - because ours went from a little to a lot brown very quickly).