Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Naturally Beautiful Iced Sugar Cookies--Decorated without a Drop of Dye

Whew!  With hurricane Sandy now blowing on out of Maryland, my plans are back on track to teach several "au naturel" cookie decorating classes at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Vermont. They're scheduled for this Friday and Saturday.

 The focus will be on completely dye-free decorating. Though it may seem a little hard to believe, EVERY single one of the sugar cookies pictured here was decorated using icings tinted with only natural colors from fruit juices. Not a single drop of dye was added. Besides boasting truly beautiful hues and being more flavorful and less risky health-wise than "regular" icings,  my au naturel versions are also amazingly simple and quick to prepare. Here's a sugar cookie dough; here's some info on dye-free icings.

If you're interested, you can learn firsthand  how to create not only these edible works of art, but some luscious buttercreams and cookies, including the to-die-for rose petal buttercream-filled vanilla-cream sandwich cookies shown at the very bottom. There are still some openings in the Friday, 4 to 6 pm class; the Saturday class is sold out. (King Aurthur is  right off  the 91 Interstate in Norwich, Vermont; call for info or registration 800.652.3334 .)  

In addition to showing step-by-step how to roll and cut out dough turn out all of these seasonal holiday shapes, I'll also be demonstrating how to make easy dye-free sprinkles and garnishing sugars like those on the cupcake cookies at left. I'm always delighted  to provide these when my grandkids decorate cookies, because I know they won't be eating any worrisome synthetic colorants and additives if (when!) they sneak a few snacks.

BTW, should you wonder--yes, indeed, the King Arthur class will feature samples of the goodies for attendees to try.

 In case you aren't in that area and able to take the class, all the instructions and recipes for making naturally beautiful icings and cookies are in my new book, Simply Sensational Cookies. It's in bookstores and can be purchased at a discount on line. Additionally, I have provided some how tos, recipes, and other pics on Kitchenlane: for an icing recipe used in the pics above go here; for a buttercream recipe go here; for tips on making sprinkles, go here,

For a dough, plus more enticing pics of decorated sugar cookies for all seasons, go here.

For more on
 King Arthur, check out my story here. The huge retail shop, shown below, carries loads of tempting supplies for home bakers.


Continue Reading...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Good Gourd! Should We Be Going Green with These Gnarly Garden Oddities?

Have you always thought, as I have, that the gnarly gourds of autumn are fairly weird, fairly useless garden oddities? Yes, they have a peculiar beauty and can make attractive table ornaments or centerpieces for holiday entertaining.  But  frankly, since they are nearly empty inside and yield only a few seeds to eat, they always struck me as a waste of garden space.

Until recently I was puzzled as to why humans had so long cultivated and prized gourds. Now I get the reason, and it's  brilliant: Although some varieties, like Asian snake gourds, are actually fleshy and grown to be eaten, most gourds were valued precisely because of their large, empty, bowl-like cavities.

With no tools and skills yet available to readily create ceramic, glass, metal or even wooden bowls and vessels, clever ancient peoples worked with what nature provided. They just lopped off the gourd tops, removed (and ate) the seeds, and then turned the remaining bulbous portions into ladles, cups, bowls, bottles, canteens, jars and many other simple containers.

 Sometimes, they carved, painted, and polished whole gourds and prized them as toys,  art or ritual objects, or as musical instruments such as rattles and drums (shown below right) and even guitars. Even now in parts of South America a traditional tea-like beverage called yerba maté is still drunk from calabash goblets, and certain Native American tribes still fashion gourds into ceremonial rattles, shakers and clubs. (Native Americans also made great use of cranberries; details are here.)
Now that I actually "get" gourds, I'm wondering if, in the interest of going greener, we more advanced societies should  embrace them again. They are  sustainably produced, biodegradable, naturally lightweight, sturdy, and come almost ready to use and in nearly infinite shapes (note the strange goose-neck gounds below left!). Perhaps  learning to produce  the vast array of environmentally unfriendly plastic-ware, bottles, and jugs that  now litter our landscape really wasn't progress at all?  What do you think?

Perhaps you're in an autumn mood now and would like to try my pumpkin bread,  or my pumpkin soup here.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ultimate One-Bowl Chocolate Chip (or Chunk) Cookies--If You're One of the Millions Searching, Take a Look

I'm just home from a baking convention in California, and my head is still spinning with all the new information learned. I was particularly interested to hear what baked goods recipes Americans most often search for on the web.

If  you're guessing, as I did, that chocolate sweet treats head the list, you're absolutely right, though I was surprised at which one was in the biggest demand. As you can see below, chocolate cake recipes were searched for most often; I'd expected chocolate chip cookies to be on top. (Incidentally, these two came in third and fourth in all recipe searches, right behind pork chops and meatballs!)

But what really boggled my mind and will likely stun you also is just how many millions of folks are out there surfing for recipes of their baking favesAccording to Erika Kerekas of  inerikaskitchen.com, who gave an excellent talk at one of the convention sessions, here are the amazing stats on the number of peeps searching per month:

>7.4 million search for chocolate cakes

>6 million search for chocolate chip cookies

>4.75 million search for "bread" or "loaf pan bread"

>2.25 million search for banana bread

Now, I already have several entries on my blog that fit in three of the categories: chocolate molten lava cakes, banana muffins, banana-chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze, and yeasted chedder bread and crusty white pot bread. But I don't include a chocolate chip cookie (horrors!), and since I have a brand new book called Simply Sensational Cookies just published this month, it's definitely time to post one of my favorite chocolate chip recipes from the book here on my blog.

Actually, I designed this recipe so it can be made with either chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate. So, if you like the convenience of reaching for a bag of morsels you can, but if you prefer to choose a favorite brand of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and  incorporate it, that's fine, too.

You'll notice that I added the tag "Ultimate One-Bowl" to the recipe name. This is partly to highlight that I think it's  especially delectable, but also to signal that it's easy. Like a number of other cookies in the book, including  the One-Bowl Mocha-White Chocolate Chip Cookies and One-Bowl Big Chocolate-Chip Cookies, these are "one bowl wonders," with everything mixed together in a single container. This, of course, makes cleanup a breeze. If you'd like to see my ultimate chocolate chip cookie being mixed up, baked and scarfed down by my grandkids, check out the quick little video here. The pic at the top of this post is one I took of the cookies; below right is the pic that pros Diane Cu and Todd Porter took and that is actually featured in the new book.

I'm excited to tell you that Simply Sensational Cookies is already garnering some great buzz and a highly enthusiastic response from both critics and buyers. It has been a brisk seller on Amazon.com, ranking as one of the best selling cookies books since the very first day it came out.  If you're one of the "early adopters," thank you VERY MUCH. (And do spread the word!)

Two sites, yumsugar.com here and yahooshine.com here  put the book on their "best" fall cookbooks lists.

Plus, the Good Cook Book Club has chosen to offer Simply Sensational Cookies as a selection for their members.

Ultimate One Bowl Chocolate Chippers (or Chunkers) 
from Simply Sensational Cookies--New from Wiley

If you’re one who feels that ready-to-use semisweet chocolate morsels produce perfectly delicious chocolate chip cookies, then use whatever brand of semisweet or bittersweet brand of morsels you like for these easy, crisp-on-the-edge, chewy-in-the-middle treats. (For very chewy middles, take care not to overbake.)

If, on the other hand, you prefer chunks of premium chocolate, then feel free to chop chocolate and use it instead.  In this case, do be sure not to use chocolate with a cacao percentage higher than 65, as it likely won’t be “baking stable,” meaning they may run and cause the cookies to flatten too much.  (For my chocolate chip bars-in-jars, go here.)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, plus more if needed
1 ½ to 2 cups (up to 11 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate morsels or substitute 1 ½ to 2 cups chopped (1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces) semi-sweet or bittersweet (50 to 65 percent cacao) chocolate bars, disks or pistoles

Baking Preliminaries: Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease two large baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray; or line them with baking parchment.
In a large microwave-safe bowl with the microwave on 50 percent power, melt the butter just until not quite fully melted or runny, stopping and stirring at 30 second intervals. Stop before it melts completely. (Alternatively, in a large, heavy pot over medium heat, heat the butter, stirring, until mostly melted. Remove from the heat.) Stir until the butter is lump-free and barely warm.

Vigorously stir the brown and granulated sugars into the butter, mashing out any lumps with the back of the spoon and stirring until well blended. Vigorously stir in the egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda until the mixture is well blended and smooth. Stir in the flour just until evenly incorporated. Lightly fold in the chocolate morsels or chunks; excess stirring may cause them to melt. If the dough is very soft, stir in up to 1 tablespoon more flour to stiffen it slightly. On a sheet of wax paper with greased hands divide the dough into quarters. Then shape each portion into 6 or 7 balls, spacing about 2 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Pat down the tops just slightly.

Bake (middle rack) one sheet at a time until the cookies are lightly tinged with brown and are not quite firm when pressed in the middle, about 10 to 13 minutes. Let stand until they firm up just slightly, about 2 minutes. Using a wide spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Cool completely. Cool the baking sheets between batches or the cookies may spread too much. Yield: Makes about 30 2 1/2- to 3-inch cookies. Storage: Store airtight for up to 1 week. Or freeze airtight, for up to 3 weeks.

For my chocolate chip-cranberry bars, at right, go here.

Or, check out the banana-chocolate chip bundt cake here.
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Launch Party! A Sweet Time was Had by All

Monday evening some friends, family, and colleagues gathered outside DC to launch my new book, Simply Sensational Cookies, and my cookbook author friend, Jeanne Sauvage's first cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays. I wrote the foreword to Jeanne's book because I was amazed that her g-f baked goods, including the pretty Buche de Noel (left) and mincemeat tartlets shown on the green plate at the very bottom, were good enough to pass as "regular" treats. (Which is an amazing accomplishment, believe me!)

That's Jeanne and me in the top pic toasting to our books' success, with cookbook authors Monica Bhide (in red) and Domenica Marchetti (in blue) enjoying the moment along with us. (It appears that we were all on a sugar high, doesn't it!?)  At left are some of my long-time writer colleagues, Toby Devens, Eileen Bucholtz, and Joanne Settel (foreground); I recently talked about my writers' group in a post here.

At right you can just catch a glimpse of the Severn River; the back of the house offers a panoramic view looking out towards the Chesapeake Bay.  My daughter-in-law, Kip, is at the far right, and my thanks go to her and my son, Dave, for allowing us to use such a wonderful venue for the party. At the far left is Phyllis Fruct, then my sister, Sally Churgai, the Kip's mother, Jane Young.

Here, left, you see Jeanne signing some books for friends and colleagues. At right are some of her books--yes, they contain eye-catching pics!

Several decks and a balcony overlook the Severn, and at left my son, Dave, my long-time friend and co-author, Ruth Glick, and her husband, Norm, are enjoying the fresh air. Norm mentored Dave for a computer science project during high school. Ruth posted a terrific article about me  nd my new book here .

Below left are some of  the vanilla-cream sandwich cookies filled with fresh rose buttercream that I served (hence the rose decorations), plus some copies of Simply Sensational Cookies on the signing table. You can't tell from that pic, but, like Jeanne's book, mine includes some absolutely beautiful photography.  Mine was done by Diane Cu and Todd Porter.

Several of my DC Les Dames colleagues, Phyllis Frucht, Gail Forman, and  Amy Riolo are at right below.  Amy has blogged about the party, here, and in fact has posted some nice views of the river looking out toward the Chesapeake Bay.

At left below is Gonzalo Rodriguez and his wife, Maggie--he's the videographer who worked with me on the book trailer that features my grandchildren and me baking cookies.  While Jeanne and I readied all the cookbook samples, the dinner was prepared by Anna Saint John and her catering staff.  Thanks to Anna I didn't have to worry about a thing!

We all had a great time. I suspect you can tell!

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Trendy Pumpkins, Wart Wars, Plus a Fine Harvest Bisque

If you haven't been to a farmers' market or pick-your-own farm to buy Halloween pumpkins recently, you may not be aware of what the most fashionable fruits (yes, pumpkins are fruits) are wearing these days. It's a far cry from that basic orange of the vast fields in the Charlie Brown "Great Pumpkin" movies of several decades ago. In some cases, the offerings are downright weird.

Almost every orb who's anybody in the patch is sporting trendy, subtle designer shades like those shown above--think bleached oyster, stonewashed sage,  peek-a-boo peach  (below) or striated  maize (left).  Plain orange is considered just sooo unsubtle and ORDINARY these days!

And note that  the smooth, unblemished skin that used to be deriguer for aspiring top models is passe. Lumps, bumps, and wrinkles are prized for lending character. Warts are in, the more the better!  The one above right and second down on the left (quite a hot item now)  has been  aptly dubbed "peanut pumpkin" because it looks a lot like it's been rolled in discarded peanut shells. The official name of this variety, a French heirloom from a southern town called Eysines, is Brodé Galeux d'Eysines; this translates as "embroidered with warts from Eysines."

Considering the odd-looking outside of peanut pumpkins, I was surprised to discover that they are very tasty baked and even better in soup--a bit like acorn squash, but softer. And their flesh is thick and a bright, deep orange that is strikingly pretty. However, don't buy with the intention of carving them; the shells are extremely hard and the task will be frustrating instead of fun. Another lesser known squash that's a hu-hum green on the outside (below right)
but has an unbelievably brightly colored flesh and tastes wonderful roasted or microwaved is called Fairytale, shown at right. (You might be tempted to think the color has been manipulated through photoprocessing, but it's totally natural!

Lately, American pumpkin seed purveyors have actually  been squabbling over who has the right to sell seeds of  certain gnarly kinds. One company attempted to patent a "new" pimpled variety that detractors claim has been been around for centuries. Writes Grit editor-in-chief  Hank Will:

"In an interesting move in the wholesale garden seed supply industry, Siegers Seed Company in Holland, Michigan has been quietly pushing an all-encompassing patent application through the system that would essentially allow them to own a piece of genetic history in the pumpkin and squash families. Siegers’ move appears to be aimed at owning the rights to virtually all warts on pumpkins and their relatives. And they want to own the rights to all patches in which warted pumpkins appear. Huh? My ancestors grew warted gourds, pumpkins and squashes long before Siegers was even in business, and they received the seed from Native American gardeners who had warted cucurbits in their patches for who knows how long....."

 For more details, plus a late 1700s image of an orange pumpkin with warts, check out the Grit story here.

Actually, all these curious, non-traditional-looking pumpkin shapes and colors made me wonder whether in fact some of them  might technically be called "hard-shelled squashes" instead. However, a little research on the topic didn't enlighten. A couple sources said pumpkins tend to have tougher stems than their cucubit cousins--not terribly helpful. So I'm just not going to worry about botanical correctness.

Autumn Harvest Bisque 

As you can see from the pic above, the produce place I visited was loaded with apples and other harvest bounty, which, of course, I couldn't pass up.  So, I decided to put some of  it to work in the wholesome cool-weather soup offered here.

Featuring apples, several root vegetables including carrots and parsnips (don't leave them out), and winter squash or eating pumpkin, this simple, healthful bisque really captures the spirit of the season. It is  fragrant, delicious and colorful, and makes a fine starter for Thanksgiving dinner or any festive cool weather meal. I love it for lunch.

Frankly, I was surprised at how terrific all these ingredients are together. I think you'll like it, too.

For another appealing, very traditional autumn recipe, my pumpkin bread pudding, click here.

1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups peeled and chopped sweet-tart apples (such as Golden Delicious or Honeycrisp)
1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped parsnips
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped peeled Acorn, Hubbard, Fairytale or other winter squash
1 cup peeled and finely chopped carrot
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
About 4 cups reduced-sodium or regular chicken broth
Salt and black pepper to taste (optional)
Fine slices unpeeled apple for garnish

In a 4-quart saucepan or similar-size soup pot, combine onion and butter. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, 3 or 4 minutes, until onion softens and begins to brown.

Stir in the apples, parsnips, squash, carrot, coriander, ginger root, and thyme. Stir in 3 3/4 cups broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat; simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until parsnips and carrots are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

In batches, puree until fairly smooth in a food processor or blender. Return pureed mixture to saucepan over medium heat. Thin the bisque to the desired consistency with more broth or water. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes until flavors are well blended. Taste and add salt and pepper, as desired. Serve in cups, bowls, or soup plates. Garnish servings with several fresh apple slices just before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

For a different autumn recipe, check out my pumpkin-cranberry quick bread here.
Or perhaps another soup--my very zippy pumpkin-tomato bisque (a fab combo); go here .

Continue Reading...


Welcome to Kitchen Lane. It's a comfortable place to drop in, relax, and unwind. A place to browse through recipes and read the related stores. A place to enjoy the communal spirit and kitchen pleasures that bond us together.

Nancy Baggett's Kitchenlane Copyright © 2015 All material on this website is copyrighted

and may not be reused without the permission of Nancy Baggett.

WoodMag is Designed by Ipietoon for Free Blogger Template