When I think of quintessential fall flavors, four always come to mind – apples, cinnamon, chocolate and, of course, pumpkin!
I have not always been a fan of pumpkin. It’s not that I disliked PSL (pumpkin spice lattes) or pumpkin pie, I just never chose it when given other options. However, I eventually fell for the ubiquitous fall treat. Even as I type this post, I’m sipping on pumpkin flavored coffee.
This week, I made pumpkin bread for my colleagues who love pumpkin flavored food and for those who are open to being pumpkin converts like me. Once Upon a Chef had a simply but seemingly flavorful pumpkin loaf recipe. I loved how it called for a whole can of pumpkin and a good helping of spices.
Following the recipe as written, I made the wet dough before pouring it into a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Since the dough is roughly half pumpkin puree, I let it bake in the oven for roughly 75 minutes. I confirmed it was done with the toothpick check before taking it out of the oven to cool.
The bread had a vibrant burnt orange color, it was extremely moist, and smelled so yummy.
When I first moved to DC, I distinctly remember being giddy about the gas stove in my new apartment. Why? I could make s’mores! In my first grocery haul, I made sure to include jumbo marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey’s chocolate bars. It was the best first snack to break in the stove.
Lately, I’ve been craving these sweet sandwiches. Instead of the traditional s’mores, I decided to make s’more brownies so I could share them with friends. It was my first time making them, and it was so easy to do. They were also ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.
Take any box brownie mix and prepare it according to the instructions. After baking the brownies, take them out of the oven. Turn the oven to broil and move the rack up towards the top shelf. Cover the brownies with about 2 cups of mini marshmallows. Then sprinkle crushed graham crackers and chocolate chips to give the topping color and a crunchy texture. Broil the dish for roughly 5 minutes or until the marshmallows are slightly toasted. Enjoy!
I recently joined a women’s bible study group, and we’ve been discussing Courageous Women of the Bible by LaTan Roland Murphy. Although I’m only three chapters into the book, I am consistently in awe by how Murphy puts the readers in biblical women’s shoes. I have a much deeper understanding of each woman’s trials and the courage they received from God to move forward.
“Do you have a talent you have been withholding: a beautiful voice, a servant heart, the gift of teaching, speaking, or writing? Whatever God has given you, give all of it back to Him as an act of worship.” This passage really spoke to me. How many of us fail to embrace our talents? I honestly feel that in many ways I’m squandering my gift. My pastries offer a chance for people to indulge in sweet treats; however, once they congregate around the plate of food, something much more important happens- people start conversing with one another. This is the primary reason why I love baking – it brings people together. For this reason, I want to bake regularly to encourage this fellowship among friends and colleagues.
Now onto my latest bake – chocolate almond biscotti. After reading from the aforementioned book, I was inspired to make something new. Assessing what I had in stock, biscotti was the best choice.
I love having the crunchy cookie with a good cup of coffee in cafes, and I thought my colleagues would appreciate a similar experience.
The New York Times has a wonderful selection of recipes, and their chocolate biscotti caught my eye. I modified the recipes slightly to give more texture to the cookie. Instead of adding a teaspoon of espresso I added almond extract. Additionally, I tossed in about 1/2 cup chocolate chips and a little less than a 1/2 cup almond slices.
Since I finished making the dough around 8:30 pm, I stored it in a bowl with saran wrap in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I formed the dough into two 1.5 inch wide logs and followed the baking instructions. Roughly 1.5 hours later I had beautiful biscotti that tasted similar to brownie brittle.
My colleagues were elated to have the delicious treats! They spent 10 minutes learning about each other’s weekends and joking around while nibbling on biscotti. Although it was just a small portion of their day, I like to think that they felt happier and had a stronger connection to one another afterwards.
I’ve been baking consistently for about six years and I find myself making the same treats over and over again. While practice makes perfect, I started getting bored of making cheesecake, cinnamon rolls, and cupcakes all the time.
To remedy my ennui, I emailed close friends to solicit their favorite desserts. Perhaps they love a dessert that I haven’t tried yet. To show my appreciation for their suggestions, I gave them a sample of what I made.
One friend immediately wrote back saying his favorite dessert was French macarons. Finally a challenge!
As seasoned bakers know, it is vital to conduct research prior to making something new. It saves both time and ingredients.
I scoured the Internet, reading multiple recipes and watching various videos to learn how to make these tricky cookies. Afterwards, I decided that Beth’s Foolproof French Macarons tutorial was the best recipe to follow. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ636Y8N6E8) Beth gave me the directions necessary to ensure my macarons had feet on the first try!
3 egg whites at room temperature
¼ cup white granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (200 g)
1 cup almond flour (120 g)
Gel food coloring (optional)
French macarons are a finicky cookie that require a keen eye and patience.
Start by whipping your room temperature egg whites until they’re foamy, then add salt, cream of tartar and white sugar. Whip until they form a peak that stands upright.
Then add the gel food coloring. Add more than you think you need since the color fades in the cooking process.
Sift almond flour and powder sugar. Fold the flour/sugar mixture into the egg white mixture until is like lava slowly falling off the spatula. If you under-mix, your cookies will crack. If you over mix, they won’t have feet (the little ridges on the bottom of the cookie that indicate a successful bake).
Pipe dollops of batter of the same size on parchment paper. Bang the tray on the counter to release any air bubbles, and then let the tray rest for at least 20 minutes so the batter is tacky to the touch.
Put the tray in a pre-heated 300 degree F oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Afterwards, let the cookies cool completely before sandwiching them together with jelly or buttercream.
Last November, I took my first solo trip. After a string of bad luck including dealing with an attempted break-in to my apartment and minor heartbreak, I decided to take a respite from life in DC. Bringing up Google flights, I searched for the cheapest upcoming flights to relatively safe major cities. Seattle was the winner at only $290 for a round trip without layovers!
Next I had to secure housing. While hotels offer many amenities, I needed more budget friendly accommodations. Thus, I found a place on Airbnb that had good reviews, including some from women who also took unaccompanied trips to the Pacific Northwest.
I went to the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden, the International District, Public Market and paid respects to Bruce Lee. I took back to DC not only indelible memories, I also a new recipe!
Next I had to secure housing. While hotels offer many amenities, I needed more budget friendly accommodations. Thus, I found a place on AirBnb that had good reviews, including some from women who also took unaccompanied trips to the Pacific Northwest.
I went to the Space Needle, Chuhuly Garden, the International District, Public Market and paid respects to Bruce Lee. Not only did I take back to DC with me indelible memories, I also got a new recipe!
Every morning, the Airbnb host offered guests freshly baked scones with jam. Vanilla almond scones, buttery scones with strawberry jam, lemon scones with raspberry jam, and more! These scones were not the typical dense biscuits, instead they were very buttery and flaky. I audibly groaned in pleasure when I took an initial bite on my first morning in Seattle. Thankfully they made a huge batch, so I was able to take two (let me be honest, three) scones.
I knew I had to get the recipe before I left. The host received the request multiple times, so she had copies on it on hand for guests! It was a modified version of Ina Garten’s scones!
When I got home, I recreated the scones for my colleagues. I was amazed by how quick and easy it was to make them!
Below is the base of the scones. Feel free to add dried fruit, nuts, vanilla, or citrus zest to bring more flavor or texture to the scones.
I hope you loves these scones as much as I do!
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
3 extra large eggs
sliced almonds, dried cherries, 1 teaspoon vanilla, dark chocolate, zest or orange or lemon, dried blueberries, etc
Combine the dry ingredients. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and then mix them into the flour just until it’s the size of small peas, which is roughly for 1 minute in a standing mixer. Do not over mix. Whisk the 3 eggs and then add a cup of milk. Add the milk and egg mixture. It will be a wet dough, so mix just until combined.
Move the dough onto a floured surface. Fold and flatten the dough a few times so it will have a nice rise. Cut the 1/2 inch tall dough into triangular or circular shapes. Put the dough onto a parchment lined baking pan and place it into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. The scones are done once they have a golden top.
I love brushing melted butter on the freshly baked scones. Afterwards, I’ll drizzle on a simple glaze consisting of milk, powder sugar and vanilla or citrus juice.
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. When my parents would treat me to breakfast at a local eatery, I would always order biscuits. There is nothing better than having a buttery biscuit slathered with jam, honey, or sausage gravy.
This recipe is easy and makes heavenly biscuits. I followed this recipe step-by-step to produce delicious biscuits with a perfect rise: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013741-all-purpose-biscuits
To help a good friend properly celebrate her birthday, I made some yellow cupcakes with fun decorations.
Box cake mixes are usually of high quality and save loads of time, so I used the Duncan Hines’ Butter Recipe Cake Mix to make the batter. The cupcakes only took 18 minutes to bake to perfection in a 350 degree oven. As the cupcakes cooled, I whipped Rich’s Vanilla Bettercreme until it formed a soft peak, which took about 10 to 15 minutes on medium speed. After piping on the frosting, I transformed the plain cupcakes into gorgeous delicacies by drizzling on chocolate ganache and caramel as well as sprinkling on colorful metallic edible pearls.
I am pleased to report that my friend enjoyed the cupcakes so much that she kept them all for herself.