Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oreo Cupcakes

photo by Anthony Palatta

This is a recipe that comes from the cookbook 500 Cupcakes, but it's really more a method than a specific set of instructions.

Simply make your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe.  You can find a good one (from Billy's Bakery in New York) here.  When you've mixed all the ingredients, take 10 Oreos, or any generic variation thereof, crush them up, and fold them into the batter.  Proceed to bake the cupcakes. The crushed cookies will retain a slight crunch after baking.

When the cupcakes are fully cooled, prepare the frosting.  For every 1/2 cup of butter, use 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar and a pinch of salt.  The frosting will come out smooth but a bit stiffer than your usual buttercream, a bit like the filling of an Oreo.

Frost the cupcakes, then crush or chop some more Oreos and sprinkle them on top for decoration.  The resulting taste is just like eating an Oreo, only in a cupcake!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cinnamon Rugelach

photo by Anthony Palatta

My mother has made these cinnamon rugelach for years, from a recipe she found in a cookbook put out by a local synagogue.

The first time she made this yeast-based dough, she found it too sticky to work with until a friend of hers recommended kneading it in flour.

The original recipe calls for adding crushed nuts for the filling, though I imagine you could add jam or chocolate chips too.

These treats are like doughy mini-cinnamon rolls. They're a favorite in my family, though some people find them a bit too doughy.  I'm thinking about adding a sticky filling and drizzling some icing on top.  They freeze perfectly, and can be defrosted and refrozen whenever you need a cinnamon kick.

Cinnamon Rugelach

1 package dry yeast
½ cup (2 sticks) butter, margarine, or vegetable shortening
½ cup sugar (+1 teaspoon for yeast mixture)
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour + extra for kneading

2 tbsp cinnamon
½ cup sugar
1 cup of crushed nuts (optional)

1.     Mix warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, and yeast in cup and set aside for about 15 minutes or until doubled in size. 
2.     Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter, ½ cup sugar, and eggs in a stand mixer at medium speed.  Mix in salt and vanilla.  Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour until incorporated.  Add yeast ingredients just until mixed. 
3.     Divide dough into 5 parts.  Remove each part of the dough, one at a time, using a spatula and knife.  Try to avoid touching the dough.  Knead the dough in flour just until workable and not too sticky.  Spread cinnamon-sugar topping on a flat surface and press dough into a circle on top.  Lift the circle and press the other side into the topping, then roll out into a thin circle.  Cut into 12 wedges and roll into a crescent shape.  Repeat process with remaining 4 parts of dough. 
4.     Bake on cookie sheets for about 15 minutes.  Makes 5 dozen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Iced Lemon-Lime Tea Cakes

photo by Anthony Palatta

I've been meaning to try the recipe for these citrus-flavored tea cakes for a while.  The ingredient list couldn't be simpler:  flour, sugar, butter, egg, the usual party guests when cake's involved, plus some lemon and lime zest.

Warm out of the oven, the cakes had an intense, fresh lemon-lime flavor.  The longer they cooled, however, the more I felt a little embellishment was in order. The original recipe calls for candied lemons, but the cakes are too small for that.

I came across a simple lemon glaze recipe on line:  melt a 1/4 cup of butter, add 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and the juice of a large lemon, stir together.  If I'd been thinking, I'd have added some yellow food coloring, and then topped with bright green sprinkles, to suggest the burst of lemon-lime flavor hiding underneath.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Art of the Sandwich Cookie

photos by Anthony Palatta

Last night, I taught my very first cooking class: The Art of the Sandwich Cookie, at my local Whole Foods, at Bowery and Houston.

Having been a student in a number of cooking classes myself, it was interesting to see one from the perspective of the teacher. The first thing that struck me was the degree of planning that went into it beforehand.

Besides writing up all the recipes as well as researching and testing them, I had to think of how to divide up the work to fit the time frame of the class, order all the food necessary, and even make a few things ahead of time.

(Cookie dough needs time to chill, time I wasn't sure we'd have in class, so I made some back-up batches at home, pre-chilled, and brought them in.)

I chose to teach sandwich cookies because they're easy, fun, and delicious.  The four recipes I taught were oatmeal scotchies, sandwiched with vanilla ice cream, lemon cream sandwiches (last week's post), homemade oreos, and peanut butter cookies, the very first post on this blog.

My class, which sold out (woo-hoo!), had 13 students, who divided into teams to make the dough for each cookie.  Once they'd finished, they brought the dough to the front of the room, where I demonstrated how to shape each one for cookie making.  At that point, it was a race to get as many cookies sliced, scooped, cut and baked off as quickly as possible, so that they could cool in time to make the filling.  Our classroom became an assembly line, with each student pitching in, while Wai Chu, an accomplished chef and instructor who's on staff at Whole Foods, supervised the rotation of cookie trays in the oven, and my partner Anthony ran around trouble-shooting.

As an instructor, I was surprised by how many questions I had to answer, and how many of them at once, often as four different sets of recipes were going at the same time.  I wanted to clone myself to stand next to each team and help everyone!  It was also interesting to see where students got confused or had trouble, which taught me a lot about how to write the recipes in a clearer way.

After we made all four fillings, it was time to sandwich everything up, and then eat.  We ended up with dozens upon dozens of cookies, and the students came up with endless variations, adding melted chocolate and jam to some cookies, and even hot pink sprinkles to oreos, which was a very pretty combination.

In the end, a good time was had by all, especially me, and I didn't even eat any of the cookies! (I was too pooped.)  Teaching cooking was a definite adrenaline rush, and I can't wait to do it again.

I'm already thinking of other cookies to work on.  The possibilities are endless...