The Saucy Scholar

Archive for the category “desserts”

Recipe: Glazed Cornmeal Cookies

photo (7)When I first saw a recipe for cornmeal cookies in Everyday Food a couple of years ago, I was pretty skeptical. I’m not sure what it was that convinced me to give them a try, but I’m glad I did. The Boyfriend tried them right out of the oven, and not only did he say it was the best cookie I had made to date, but one of the best he’d had ever. I’ve made plenty of cookies since then, and these are still one of his favorites. And, according to the recipe, a serving of two cookies is only 176 calories! (The first time I made them they came out a little too big, but still, they’re fairly light and, with icing, can also satisfy a sweet tooth!)

I’m planning to make these again soon as a nice Valentine’s day treat, but I’ve used the same dough recipe to make other cutouts too. You can view the original recipe on Everyday Food, and, if you’re interested in my less-competent, real-life experience making them (as adapted from my former blog!), you can find my version below.

What You’ll Need:

2 cups  all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg 1

1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-2 drops food coloring (They suggest red or pink, but I say, go crazy. Who says a heart can’t be blue some of the time?)

What To Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. mix the flour, cornmeal, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the butter and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar until creamy. (I also slap some flour on the beaters to keep the batter from sticking, since I have a pretty crappy electric mixer. I mainly bought it because it was a Black and Decker, and they also make power tools.)
  2. After about 3 minutes, add the egg and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Then gradually add the flour mixture. (Also, at this stage, I try to use my hands as much as possible, since the batter should be pretty doughy at this point.
  3. Place the rest of the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Coat them with sugar, and then transfer to two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. use a glass  (or in my case, a beer bottle) to flatten, and then press the cookie cutter into each, being careful not to cut all the way through.
  4. bake until cookies are golden at the edges, they say approximately ten minutes but mine sometimes take longer even though my oven gets pretty hot. (They also suggested to rotate the two baking sheets about halfway through, but really, who does that.)  Anyway, when done, let them cool. Un-iced, you can save them in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  5. now for the icing! whisk together confectioners’ sugar and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 3/4 teaspoons cold water. then add your food coloring of choice and spread the glaze in the heart with a small spoon or something with a flat edge. allow it to set for 15 minutes.

Apparently, in addition to being a key ingredient in tasty cookies and dishes like polenta, cornmeal can apparently be used to kill skin fungus! The more you know…

<3,

AM

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Blueberry Bonanza

I finally finished my first qualifying exam last week! If you’ve noticed a dearth of posts, it’s partially because I was frantically typing away, and, if it weren’t for The Boyfriend making me coffee, tea, and TGIFridays Potato Skins every few hours, I probably would have forgotten to eat.

A trip out of the city was just what the Dr. ordered. We drove out to Mattituck, Long Island with some friends, and I had my very first berry-picking experience at Patty’s Berries and Bunches. It being late July, it was prime time for blueberries, and there were even some blackberries ripe for the picking. Of course, I couldn’t resist sampling a few of each as we went along. The blackberries were some of the sweetest I’ve had, and some of the blueberries were downright huge, not to mention juicy.

They were so good, in fact, that I picked extra so that I would have enough to make Blueberry Cobbler and Blueberry Muffins, neither of which I had attempted before, but how could you go wrong with fresh blueberries picked right from the bush?

Once we got home, I began an intense online recipe search, though I really should have looked no further than Mark Bittman’s book, How To Cook Everything. (By the way, if you are serious about learning to cook, you absolutely need this!) His recipes for both cobbler and muffins are classic and simple, and can be made with any and all kinds of fruit. Fortunately, he happened to post both of these recipes on his website, and so here they are for anyone who is interested in trying these out for themselves:

Blueberry Cobbler: 

I was especially pleased with the Blueberry Cobbler. The berries were tart and sweet, and went nicely with the buttery crust. (Jeff asked me what the “filling” was made of–ha! Just fresh fruit and some sugar, plain and simple.) A scoop of vanilla ice cream was the perfect finishing touch for this classic summer dessert. Definitely serve warm, or immediately after baking if possible.

Muffins, Infinite Ways (see his suggestion for Blueberry Muffins)

The muffins turned out well too, and, as you might predict, the fresh blueberries were the stars of that show too. These came out moist and a little hearty (probably on account of the substitution of cornmeal for some of the flour), making these muffins ideal for a light breakfast.

I still have some blueberries (and quite a few blackberries) left over, so I may try to make something else, but something tells me I might need to go back to Patty’s for a refill.

What’s your favorite blueberry treat? Feel free to sound off in the comments!

Happy summer, The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: Plum & Blueberry Upside Down-Cake

One of the most valuable pieces of advice that I have for fellow novice cooks is this: Unless you are working in the sparkly, magical kitchens in cooking-show land, things will inevitably go wrong. Your eggs could go bad. You could run out of spices. You could mistake baking powder for baking soda, or vice versa. Or, you could use a springform pan instead of a regular cake pan, almost set your apartment on fire, stub your toe, and scare your cat into hiding for three days.

That’s what happened the first time I tried to make this Plum & Blueberry, Upside-Down Cake from the September 2011 issue of Everyday Food. It smelled so good while it was baking–until the kitchen filled up with smoke. Watching the cake literally deflate after being rescued from the gaping maw that was my oven made me even more determined to try this recipe again–with the right cake pan. A good 8 inch cake pan that is also 2 inches deep is hard to find, but it is absolutely worth it. (You can also use them to make layer cakes!) Anyway, I was a bit more successful the second time around:

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Click here for the original recipe and the full list of ingredients–below is my shortened version, including photos:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and line the bottom of your buttered 8 BY 2 INCH CAKE PAN (figure I couldn’t emphasize it enough!) with parchment paper. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter into the pan, and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of packed, light brown sugar over the butter. Finally, add the plum slices, and use the blueberries to fill in the gaps–I may have overdone it with the blueberries myself, but the top came out tart and sweet, almost like an old fashioned jam.

Transfer your batter (butter, brown sugar, eggs, egg whites, orange zest, flour, poppy seeds [I omitted these], baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk [I found reduced fat in my supermarket!], vanilla extract) to the cake pan. Smooth the top and make sure there are no air bubbles. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and passes the toothpick test. Watch this one like a hawk–burned fruit is not a good look, trust me.

Wait until after it cools to invert, and then serve warm or at room temperature.

And that’s all there is to it!

–Stay cool and eat your fruit, The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: S’mores Cheesecake

This is probably one of the best things to ever come out of my oven. The combination of chocolate and a lightly-roasted marshmallow topping make this twist on the tried-and-true cheesecake a perfect finale to any outdoor BBQ.

The recipe below comes from Bon Appetit/ Epicurious.com, and is ranked one of their best. I highly recommend that you visit the original site and read through the comments for plenty of helpful suggestions. I personally substituted kind of fancy dark chocolate for the milk chocolate the original recipe suggests, and it came out melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

What You’ll Need:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs–about the equivalent of one packet, or 9 graham crackers, will do the trick. FYI, a food processor makes this much easier.
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 9 ounces chocolate, chopped
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs

Topping:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 large marshmallows, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Bunches of sweet summer berries to serve alongside your cheesecake.

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare the crust by mixing crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl, then add melted butter and stir until mixture is evenly coated. Press onto bottom of  a 9-inch-springform pan with your fingertips.Bake on the center rack until set, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, and reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Now, the filling. Stir the chocolate of your choice in top of double boiler set over just simmering water until smooth. (Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a double boiler, you can use a carefully positioned bowl over boiling water–just don’t let the bottom touch!) Remove from over water, and set aside to cool. According to the original recipe, you should combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth, and then, with the motor still running, add the whipping cream, melted chocolate, and then the eggs 1 at a time. Because I also don’t have a food processor, I combined these ingredients in a large bowl and used a hand-mixer and lots of elbow grease. The cake came out perfect, but, again, the food processor will make it so much easier.

Transfer the mixture to your springform pan and bake for about 55 minutes. Your cake should have that just-baked cheesecake look, with raised, slightly puffy outer edges and a smooth,shiny center that jiggles a bit when you move it. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, and chill for at least 8 hours.

The Next Day…

To make the marshmallow topping, whisk sugar, egg whites, 3 tablespoons water, cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large metal bowl. Here’s where it gets tricky: place the bowl over simmering water, and whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. The mixture should be hot enough to melt the marshmallows. Remove bowl from over water, and, while it continues to simmer, stir in marshmallows–it may take 3-4 minutes for them to soften and melt completely. Set the topping over simmering water again, and using an electric mixer (woo! I have one of those!), beat into stiff shiny peaks, about 4 minutes, then mix in the vanilla extract.

Spoon topping onto cheesecake, making a swirl pattern, then let the cake set for about 15 minutes. The original recommends using a kitchen torch to lightly brown the topping. This is probably the best way, but I used my broiler instead–place the cake about 4 inches away from the heat source and whatever you do, keep an eye on it, as it can burn very easily.

Then, you’re done! For best results, serve outdoors with seasonal berries. You can also keep the topped cake overnight and serve the following day.

Enjoy! I hope this recipe works out as well for you as it did for me.

Happy Summer,

The Saucy Scholar

Recipe: Lemon Squares

For such a seemingly simple dessert, I feel like Lemon Squares (aka Lemon Bars) are one of the most difficult to pull off. Some people like them tart and lemony, others prefer more sweetness, and still others grew up eating them from a mix and will only be satisfied by that exact taste. It was almost enough to discourage me from even trying altogether, but the truth is I can’t resist a challenge, and the prospect of possessing the perfect Lemon Squares recipe is just too good to pass up–it would probably be more impressive to some family members than my doctorate!

So, is it perfect? Let’s just say, if there were a Platonic Ideal of Lemon Squares, I think this might be it. Of course, this recipe comes from none other than the great Martha Stewart. It’s simple and effective, and is more tart than sweet–if you use fresh-squeezed lemon juice, you can’t go wrong. If you do prefer your Lemon Squares on the sweet side, you can change the proportions of juice to sugar in the filling–I actually added another tablespoon of flour and another tablespoon of sugar myself, and the filling set quite nicely and was silky smooth.

Martha has a few other recipes for Lemon Squares out there (including one for Creamy Lemon Squares that I’d like to try one day.),  but what I liked about this one is that it sticks pretty much to the essentials, and can be easily customized to taste. For instance, I may add lemon zest and a bit more sugar next time around, and not use every crumb of the pie-crust mixture so I can get them just a little bit thicker. Also, this recipe makes use of some very interesting techniques that I had never heard of , like freezing and then grating the butter for the pie-crust to make it easier to work with, and lining your glass dish with parchment. Once it’s done, you just lift the parchment paper and transfer to your cutting surface, and voilà–you have yourself a giant Lemon Square ready for cutting and sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar. If you’re looking for a dessert to bring to a BBQ or other gathering this summer, this might be just the thing–sometimes the simplest desserts can be the biggest hits.

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