Christmas Confetti Cookies

If you’ve come to Lucy the Baker for plain old sugar cookies, you’ve come to the wrong place. There are no plain sugar cookies here. Yeah, I’ve got cutouts (dazzled with royal icing and a hint of lemon), brown sugar ones that taste like cinnamon, and I’ve got pinwheels, but no regular old sugar cookie.

The thing is, sugar cookies are my least favorite.

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They are so BASIC. Ugh, like so plain with nothing really going on. There is so much potential in a sugar cookie to become something more than what I consider a sugar coated blob of butter. I actually had a bad experience once with a snickerdoodle that tasted just like that. Scarred for life, to be honest. It’s also what I’m trying to avoid, and why you won’t find a snickerdoodle or plain sugar cookie recipe here (for now…. never say never).

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Now, you might be thinking; “but Lucy, confetti cookies are still plain sugar cookies.” That’s where I’ll stop you. Confetti cookies are sugar cookies on steroids. I mean, it’s sugar on more sugar! I can’t hate on that. Why are confetti cookies different than plain old sugar cookies? They just are.

I’m aware that sprinkles (or jimmies to some folks) don’t taste like much or “add anything” to a recipe but I think they do. They add festiveness (in this case), decoration, and they’re just plain fun. Like, do you even consider a plain sugar cookie to be fun? I don’t think so. Besides, sugar cookies have to be adorned or decorated with something more, whether it’s icing or chocolate, to even become likable. Sprinkles are the best and easiest route, so I went with that.

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I saw this recipe on the amazing Joy the Baker‘s site when her newest cookbook, Homemade Decadence, came out. Consequently, it was also the same day her new page layout went live. Her site is bright and colorful (like she is), which matched these cookies. I’m a sucker for anything with sprinkles, so I knew these were going to be in my future for sure. Since December is basically National Cookie Month, I planned them to be a part of my #CookieCraziness.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that you can make the dough a day ahead. I’m not one to make things ahead of time, so I was intrigued into trying it. It made my life so much easier because I basically just preheated the oven, portioned the dough, put them on the sheet and baked them. That’s it! The only sucky part was photographing the making of the dough. It was late and the lighting was off. I felt slightly defeated but I rolled with it, and I think the photos came out okay.

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Since I wanted to make the dough ahead, I ran into some poor planning. I completely forgot to take out a stick of butter! You can’t really make anything with cold butter. The solution? Cutting the stick into tiny cubes, and spreading them out on a plate. I’m sure it’d work if you piled the cubes in a bowl but I’m really picky about these things. I spread my tiny cubes out on a plate, and made sure none of the cubes were touching. I came back in like 10 or 15 minutes to room temp, soft butter. This is honestly the best way. The microwave can backfire on you (ahem, melted butter), and putting a stick of butter in my pocket just won’t end well.

Needless to say, these cookies were awesome. I picked the red and green sprinkles for obvious reasons. I also accidentally poured in the whole half cup into the dough, realizing that I only needed to put in half right after I emptied out the measuring cup. I don’t think it harmed the cookie at all! They were crispy, with a little crunch from the sprinkles. Even with all the sprinkles in the cookie, I dipped them in more sprinkles. More the merrier, right?

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I hope you now realized that plain sugar cookies are lame, and that confetti cookies are where it’s at. Who would ever decline a fun, festive, and sprinkly cookie over a plain and unadorned one? No one, that’s who. Keep sprinkles in your pantry and dazzle your cookies every once in a while!

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Christmas Confetti Cookies – barely adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 32-36 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup red and green sprinkles

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Don’t be afraid to cream the sugar and butter longer than you think! Ideally anywhere from 3-7 or 10 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Fold in 1/4 cup (or all of them) of sprinkles into the batter. At this point, you can wrap and chill the dough or portion and chill the dough on the baking sheets. Either way, chill it for two hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Take out the chilled dough and portion, if you haven’t already into tablespoon sized dough balls. Drop the dough balls into the remaining 1/4 of sprinkles, and placed on the prepared sheets. Alternatively, if you decided to portion and then chill, roll them in the sprinkles before hitting the fridge.
  5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they start to get slightly golden around the edges but are still pale. Cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • My cookies spread out and flattened as they baked. This may have happened for a number of reasons. Either the dough got too warm, or the liners and sheets I used were to blame. For the record, I used standard aluminum half sheets lined with silicone liners. Darker pans and parchment produce a different, darker result. Both are fine but it’s just worth nothing. 
  • I do not have vanilla beans (sigh) so I stuck with extract. Should’ve liqoured them up, to be honest. 
  • We like jimmies here, so I used that. Feel free to use whatever sprinkles you have on hand. 
  • Go check out Joy’s blog if you haven’t already, and then weep at the magic inside her cookbook. 

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

It’s December, which can only mean one thing in the food world: COOKIES! Aw yeah, it’s that time of year again. I don’t know what’s more exciting; the cookies or the holidays? Either way, the holidays are upon us.

I decked my halls the day after Thanksgiving for two reasons. I was dying to get into the holiday spirit, and because I feel like my tree(s) are never up long enough. For me, my Christmas spirit lies solely in my Christmas tree. I’m in charge of decorating it by myself every year and it brings me such joy to see it lit up in the corner of my living room.  It’s weird but it doesn’t feel like Christmas without my baby tree all decked out in ornaments and bright lights.

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Anyway, let’s talk cookies. Here on Lucy the Baker, I have a number of cookies up already but this holiday season, I want to up the ante. I’m planning on doubling my cookie production this year, which will hopefully mean more posts. I’m excited, nervous, and hungry!

For starters, here are some red velvet cheesecake brownies. Now, before you even say it, brownies ARE considered a cookie. It’s technically a bar cookie, as opposed to a regular cookie. I don’t know who decided this but I agree with them. Brownies aren’t really a cake, so they must be a cookie. These brownies are special, though. Not only do they have a ridiculous cheesecake layer, but they’re red velvet. That automatically raises the bar, and then some.

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I don’t know if you noticed but I lack red velvet recipes. Sure, I have the lone one up but there’s a reason as to why that is. Like that recipe I posted last year, almost all my red velvet attempts have gone wrong. I don’t know what it is but, I always end up with a messed up red velvet something. My first ever (undocumented) attempt was some red velvet cupcakes, which came out flat and stuck to the pan. The whoopie pies were my second and although the cookie itself came out good, I almost forgot the sugar and messed up the filling to the point of no return. I had better luck this time but I wouldn’t call them a perfect success; typical things like broken and stuck brownies happened.

Either way, these are fabulous. Not only are they red velvet, with its smooth texture and hint of chocolate, but there’s a cheesecake layer. Believe me when I say it is ridiculous. I was amazed. Cheesecake and red velvet go together like chips and dip, to be honest. My favorite part of this entire recipe was the swirling part. It looked absolutely beautiful. The cheesecake batter swirled with red velvet brownie batter, came together in perfect and visually stunning harmony. I don’t know but there’s something about that tangy cream cheese against the lightly chocolatey taste in red velvet. It’s like, magical or something.

So, let’s start the holiday season, and the #CookieCraziness with these brownies!

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Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies – barely adapted from The Novice Chef

Makes 36 brownies

Red Velvet Layer:

  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring (I used Wilton’s No Taste Red)
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

Cheesecake Layer:

  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F, and lightly grease a half sheet pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, 2 tablespoons of milk, vanilla, food coloring, and white vinegar. Pour the wet into the dry and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick!
  4. Remove 3/4 cup of the thick batter and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk. Set aside.
  5. Spread the remaining batter into the prepared sheet pan. Make sure to spread it as evenly as possible, and all the way into the corners of the pan.
  6. Time to make the cheesecake layer: in a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Continue to beat until completely incorporated and lump free.
  7. Pour the cheesecake batter over the brownie batter, spreading it out to the corners. Drop spoonfuls of the thinned out brownie batter onto the cheesecake layer. Using a butter knife or small spatula, drag the tip through the cheesecake and red velvet batters to create swirls.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is set. Brownies shouldn’t jiggle. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Jessica, at The Novice Chef blog, made these for Valentine’s day and used a heart cookie cutter. Instead, feel free to get festive and use holiday cutters (like a tree or a snowman) instead of cutting into squares. 
  • My brownies took a bit longer than 30 minutes. The center was still jiggly, which scared me but they came out alright. 
  • I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (because YUM), which may have contributed to the burgundy color in these brownies. 
  • I strongly suggest gel food coloring, as the liquid stuff can dilute your batters if you use too much. 

Thanksgiving 2014: The Day After

WOW. Last night was pretty awesome. SO MUCH FOOD! We shook up this year’s menu a bit from last year’s. Like I mentioned on Wednesday, we aimed for a little more of an American Thanksgiving. I feel bad saying it but I try really hard to Americanize our food and household. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t because my culture is important to me and it’s something I want to keep going but I can’t help it.

Anyway, the table was pretty much half our traditional menu and the other was American.

On the menu we had:

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Turkey, obviously! (regular green salad in the bottom right corner that literally no one ate. Thanksgiving is not the time for “healthy” things)

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Parker House Rolls from Bon Appetit. So fluffy and so good! Spotlight may be coming soon!

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Macaroni and cheese. SO AMAZING. We added bacon and made the full recipe. This is that one time I am SO happy we have leftovers!

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Pastelón de viveres. This is my mom’s ~thing~; I don’t eat this at all. It’s basically a starch heaven casserole made with two kinds of taro root, green bananas (not to be mistaken with plantains but those can be used too), and kabocha squash. In the middle, there’s a layer of cooked pork. If you’ve ever had Dominican (or Puerto Rican? I’m not sure) pasteles en hoja, this is similar to that minus the leaves and the boiling part. It’s a weird culmination of things but my mom likes it and has been making it for the holidays lately, so I guess it’s here to stay.

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Salads and rice. On the left is my mom’s yellow rice with peas, below that is our potato salad, and next to that is macaroni salad.

The potato salad contains boiled and diced potatoes (duh) and carrots, diced hard boiled eggs, mayo, white vinegar, chopped cubanelle peppers and onions. The macaroni salad is almost the same as the potato salad; instead of potatoes, carrots, and eggs, it’s just tri colored macaroni.

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Behind the salads was my sister’s mashed potatoes. She made this on her own, without a recipe! Very proud of her efforts, and they were delicious.

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Pastelitos or empanadas! These were filled with ground beef and diced hard boiled eggs. Some were just cheddar cheese. Crowd favorite!

For dessert, we had this Apple Cranberry Torta from Cooking Channel TV. I made several changes to the recipe but it was a moist and delicious little cake. I feel like it was maybe a cross between a pie and a cake. I’m still trying to edge that in, obviously! Recipe will be posted below.

Overall, we had a tasty Thanksgiving. I can see mac and cheese in my future! I’m ready to get my tree up and move on to Christmas! Can’t wait to see what’s on the menu then 😉

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Full spread. And my mom’s arm.

 

Apple Cranberry Torta – adapted from Giada’s recipe on Cooking Channel TV

Makes one 8″ round cake

  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liquer)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 orange, zested
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of diced apples

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the orange liqueur just until warm. Turn off the heat and submerge the dried cranberries and golden raisins. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and line the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the four eggs and add the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix in the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
  5. Gently stir in the apples, cranberries and raisins. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for up to 30 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan before inverting to peel off the parchment. Serve slightly warm.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I took the walnuts out of this and replaced it with golden raisins because half my family is allergic to nuts. 
  • I used one large Granny Smith apple but use any kind you’d like. 
  • I also soaked my dried fruit for quite a while, which helped them sustain the orange liqueur flavor. 
  • Technically the recipe didn’t state to line the pan with parchment but I don’t trust recipes that rely on just buttering the pan. /skeptic

Recipe Roundup: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is finally here! Well, tomorrow officially but the wait is basically over. Even so, I don’t have a very clear idea of what’s landing on my dinner table tomorrow. It’s a struggle every year but this year feels different.

We try our best to combine both Dominican and American cultures on the table but I think this year, we’re leaning more on the American side. I guess I’ll see just how much we’re leaning tomorrow! Just know that no matter how far into the American side of things this family will lean, pie will never be a part of it (for shame:()

Anyway, I don’t have a recipe for today. Instead, I decided to do a little link roundup of recipes I’ve made or I’ve seen on the internets that I like and are on theme for tomorrow’s dinner. I’m including a few Dominican recipes that we’ve had for the holidays for those that want an idea of how to make some of those dishes. They’re not my recipes but we’ll get there one day! There will also a recap post of my Thanksgiving on Friday, so be on the lookout for that.

Treat House Salted Caramel Turkey

Salted Caramel Crispy Treat from Treat House NYC

 

Mains/Sides:

Bread:

Dessert:

Missed last year’s Thanksgiving recap? Check out what I had for dinner last year here.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas (Eve) Wrap Up

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday, full of great times with family and plenty of gifts, drinks and good food. Per our family traditions, we celebrate Christmas Eve. Back in the D.R., they celebrate Christmas Eve and open presents on January 6th, also known as Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Here in the U.S, we do our gift opening on the 24th instead of the 25th. It’s always been that way since I was a kid, and it’s how it’s always going to be. Of course, as an adult, the amount of gifts dwindle to almost nothing. Unless you’re lucky, then things never really change.

Since I’m now an adult (depends on the day and who you ask, to be honest), the most important thing about Christmas Eve is the food. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinners are basically interchangeable in my house. The only thing that is a major change is the main protein.

On this year’s menu:

  • Pernil: Roasted pork shoulder. I look forward to this amazingness every year. It’s tender and juicy and just absolutely delicious. Don’t be fooled by it’s appearance!
  • Moro de gandules
  • Pastelón
  • Dinner rolls: these are my standby recipe (again). I did half AP and half whole wheat flour. I also doubled the recipe. Remind me not to do that again by hand.
  • Potato Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Green Salad
  • Fruit Salad (not pictured): a giant can of fruit cocktail, mixed with blended sweetened condensed milk and plain Greek yogurt. My Mami also threw in a shot of brandy, for good measure.
  • Piña Colada (not pictured)
  • Random fruit bowl: grapes and apples, given to us by the folks at our local grocery store. They also threw in a bottle of cider. This is another one of those traditions, where they give loyal patrons a bag of this stuff for Christmas and again on New Year’s Eve.

The last thing on the table is the Bahamian Rum Cake. Purposely left for last because OMG it is amazing! I saw this recipe in David Lebovitz’s book Ready for Dessert. I knew I had to make it because it has all of the components my folks like; cake, coconut, and rum! It was so good! Words cannot express how delicious this cake is. I almost want to dedicate a post to it but a few pictures should suffice 😉

Our Christmas Eve meal was spectacular, as always. The holidays this year brought a weird feeling but I’m just going to take it as a sign that next year will be better. I hope you guys have a fabulous Christmas, and that you continue to enjoy the rest of the holidays; straight up into next year!

Note: for detailed descriptions of the menu, please check out my Thanksgiving post

Pizza Two Ways

Ah, pizza. One of my favorite ways to get my carb fix.  I haven’t had pizza in forever, so I was definitely due. My sister and I used to regularly indulge in a slice from our local pizzeria, where they’d heat up and fold our slices into a brown paper bag. We would pull out the slices and proceed to eat the folded piece of cheesy dough, cold tips first. After deciding to get healthy a few years back, pizza was on my imaginary ‘do not consume’ list. Pizza, along with all fast food, was immediately shunned because of its high calorie count and lack of nutrients. While I am still living a healthier life, it was time to reintroduce my favorite ‘unhealthy’ foods back into my life, but with a huge change.

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Over the years, I have become one of those people that believes that everything tastes better if it’s homemade. Anything can really be made at home, with a little search and effort. Not only will it taste lightyears better, but you will get some extra satisfaction upon realizing how easy it was and because you did it yourself.

As a New Yorker, I have a set of standards for the ‘perfect’ pizza. Every New Yorker compares every single slice of pizza to the one they used to eat as a kid; which undoubtedly becomes their ‘standard’. Now, New York style pizza traditionally has a super thin crust that can be crisp, a thin layer of greasy mozzarella cheese, and is mostly foldable. My friends and I used to open up our slices blot the extra, unnecessary grease before digging in. I knew I wanted something similar to what I used to get from my pizzeria but with a healthier twist.

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

This pizza dough is exactly what it’s name states. The recipe, from King Arthur Flour, is indeed “The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make.” It was a cinch to make, and came out ridiculously delicious. In an effort to make the crust relatively healthy, I switched out about half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I also added some vegetables to mine because everything is automatically healthier if it’s loaded with veggies; bonus if there’s vegetables on your vegetable. The result was a super crispy but slightly chewy crust. I rolled it out as thin as I could go, in an effort to imitate the pizza slices of my past. I was pleased at its stability when picked up, and it held on to my multitude of topping pretty well. Now, the crust didn’t fold but that didn’t even matter anymore. And the best part? NO GREASE! My family and I enjoyed this pizza, so this recipe will definitely be made again.

During my pizza crust recipe search,I also came across one of the trendiest ways to eat pizza without the guilt a regular, carby slice might bring. In an effort to have a healthier pizza, and after seeing it everywhere on the internet, it was time for me to try the famous cauliflower crust. I had to try this crust because it was already deemed healthy eats, solely on the fact that it was made with cauliflower. I admit I was a bit skeptical but I love trying new things, and anything that gets more veggies in me is an automatic win. I held out hope for this crust and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not your traditional pizza, like the one above, but it is still a nice substitution; especially if you’re doing the low-carb thing. You kind of have to eat this with a fork and knife though, as it won’t support itself when picked up.

Pizza is one of those things that is infinitely adaptable, and these recipes were no different. A pizza night with either of these recipes is sure to be a hit!

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The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 3 or 4 pizzas, 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast; or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups 100% whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, yeast, salt and olive oil  in the lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, to proof the yeast.
  2. Add the flour, starting with 5 1/2 cups and adding more as necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Knead the dough with your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces, for medium-crust pizza; or three pieces, for thicker crusts. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin. To roll, work from the center to the outside like pie dough. Let the dough rest several times to relax it and make it more cooperative. Turn it over from time to time and roll the reverse side.
  6. Place the rounds on pizza pans; on baking sheets; or, if you have a pizza stone in your oven, on parchment.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450°F. While it’s heating, get out your toppings, which you’ve prepared ahead. Some possibilities include sliced pepperoni; sautéed mushrooms, onions, or peppers; cooked meats; olives; anchovies; and grated or shredded cheese.
  8. Spread pizza or spaghetti sauce lightly over the surface, and add your favorite toppings. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  9. Bake the pizzas for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown, the toppings are hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizzas from the oven.
  10. Immediately transfer pizzas to a cooling rack, so the crust won’t get soggy. After about 10 minutes, to allow the toppings to set, slice and serve.
Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza – adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes two servings

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450ºF. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper.
  2. Wash and throughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets—you don’t need much stem, just stick with the florets. Pulse in your food processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups cauliflower “snow”.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.
  4. Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring out the excess water, squeezing out as much as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a crumbly mess.
  5. Dumped the squeezed cauliflower into a bowl. Now add the mozzarella cheese, kosher salt, dried basil (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), dried oregano (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), garlic powder (not garlic salt), and a dash of red pepper if you want.  Add the egg and mix with your hands.
  6. Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your parchment paper. Pat it down throughly, you want it nice and tightly formed together. Don’t make it too thick or thin either.
  7. Slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and add however much sauce, cheese, and toppings you want. Slide the parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.
  8. Allow the pizza to cool for one to two minutes. Use a pizza cutter and a spatula to serve up your delicious grain-free cauliflower crust pizza!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of whole wheat flour and all-purpose for the King Arthur Flour recipe, but it can also be made with only all-purpose. 
  • For the cauliflower pizza, do not fret if you don’t have all the listed ingredients. Use what you have; I promise it will still be equally delicious. 
  • To quickly cool down the microwaved cauliflower ‘snow,’ spread out on a plate or baking sheet and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. 
  • I think both of these recipes can be made vegan. For the cauliflower pizza, you can use dairy free cheese (like my sister does) and replace the egg with a flax egg. Let me know if you try this and how it turns out!
  • Take complete creative freedom when topping your pizzas. I added sliced mushrooms, sliced breakfast sausage, thin slices of bell peppers, and fresh, chopped spinach. The possibilities are truly endless!

Apple Cake

My dad is a huge fan of apple desserts, which is an odd thing in itself because he doesn’t like many things. You give him anything with apples and he’ll be a happy camper; apple pie, strudel, danishes, muffins, donuts, oatmeal, etc. This week, I decided to make something that I knew he would just love and devour.

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I go to the local farmer’s market every Thursday, and get a bag of apples each time. A small bag of apples, with about a dozen for $1.50 is not a bad deal! I ended up accidentally stocking up on apples over the past few weeks and since no one was eating them, this cake happened.

This beautiful cake is from the brilliantly awesome Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of my very favorite blogs. When I am in search for any kind of recipe, I usually check her site first. I’m convinced everything she makes, even the things I haven’t tried, are just absolutely delicious. I made her S’more cake (from her cookbook) for my birthday this year, with amazing success. This apple cake is originally her mother’s, which makes it even more special and a higher guarantee for deliciousness.

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The process is pretty straight forward. The most difficult part of the recipe, if any, was probably peeling, coring, and chopping the apples. Everything else is a cinch, and doesn’t even require a mixer. The only piece of equipment necessary is a tube pan.  These things can be finicky, and can literally make or break a cake. This dense but delicate cake can definitely crumble under mishandling from the pan. I may or may not know this from experience 😉

The result is a lusciously thick cake, full of cinnamon-y apple craters. The edges of the cake caramelize in the oven, forming a sugary sweet crust that goes deliciously against the soft and tangy apple pockets. It reminded me a lot of an apple pie, which is a yummy change.  My dad, and everyone else in my family, thoroughly enjoyed this cake. I would definitely make it again, and strongly suggest you do too.

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Apple Cake – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one 9 or 10-inch tube cake

  • 6 apples, (Deb’s mom and I both used McIntosh apples)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. A hand mixer makes mixing a breeze but is not necessary, just make sure you have a sturdy whisk! Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top.
  5. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and carefully unmold onto a platter. 

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a 10-inch tube pan for this recipe, with great results. Deb originally used a 9-inch, and recommends this one
  • Grease that tube pan really, really well. I didn’t have any sticking problems but it can happen.
  • I used half brown sugar and half white sugar for the apples, which is not necessary. Deb’s original recipe asks for all white sugar, which is absolutely fine.
  • Make sure that when you insert a cake tester into the cake, that you do so towards the center for higher accuracy. Do not fret if the tester comes out slightly wet towards the end of baking; it’ll continue to cook while cooling. Do not overbake!
  • Seriously, completely cool the cake before taking out of the pan. I bolded it for extra importance. I cannot emphasize it enough! This cake is dense but fragile, because of the apples, and can cause breakage if unmolded while warm. Trust me, the wait is worth it.

Orange Scones

Another day, another recipe I mess up! This was my first time making scones, and after having my sister nag me for weeks to make some, I caved. I scoured the internet and several cookbooks, in search for a recipe that seemed doable for me. Looking for recipes is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There are tons of recipes for the same thing, but there is always that one that is exactly what you’re looking for. It usually takes me a couple of days to find the ‘perfect’ recipe. Besides the obvious Google searches, I love going on Foodgawker for visual inspiration. I mean, everyone eats with their eyes first, right? The pictures on Foodgawker are absolutely gorgeous, which helps me make a quicker decision.

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Anyway, I didn’t find this recipe on there. This recipe is from a cookbook I found at my local library. The book, America’s Most Wanted Recipes Just Desserts by Ron Douglas, was sitting on the shelf and I borrowed it on a whim. This scone recipe was the very last recipe in the book. I almost gave up on looking for the scone recipe, until I got to the last page. I read the ingredients and the rest of the recipe and decided to move forward. I had most of the ingredients on hand, and made a couple of substitutions and got to work.

Now, my family is full of picky eaters. My mom and dad won’t touch anything that’s relatively pale, or anything that isn’t ‘plain.’ This means I can’t make anything too adventurous or exotic. The most I can do is basically a coconut pound cake or a yellow layer cake without any filling or icing. They are notorious for declining any dessert that is relatively over the top or covered in anything creamy. Their pickiness is one of the main reasons I barely bake (but am now changing that and teaching them how to try everything). My sister is pretty picky as well, but sometimes not by choice. She is lactose intolerant and is now allergic to tree nuts. This actually cuts my recipe selections by a lot. Most awesome recipes have nuts or some kind of cream on or in them. I sometimes feel like a mom with her because I always check labels to make sure there aren’t any nuts or milk in anything we eat. I can work around the dairy problem just fine but the nut thing is kind of hard.

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Being my parent’s daughter, she didn’t want anything in the scones other than the orange flavor. The original recipe calls for dried fruit, such as cranberries or currants. I left them out because I aim to please. I also didn’t have the orange blossom water the recipe called for, so I squeezed some orange juice in there instead. When I was mixing the batter, I noticed it was a little too wet. This was my first attempt at scones but I knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to look. According to the recipe, I was supposed to have a dryer dough that should have enabled me to roll out and cut into the signature triangular shape. Surprised at the outcome, I quickly came up with another solution: drop scones! They’re pretty much just sweetened biscuits anyway, so I picked up an ice cream scoop and set them on the baking sheets. I figure the omission of the dried fruit produced this wet batter.

So, I basically learned that altering recipes a bit too much can lead to different results. While they look more like cookies than scones, they still have that scone taste; fluffy but crumbly and orangey all at the same time. The next time (because there will be a next time) I make scones, I’m determined to get them ‘right.’

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Orange Scones adapted from America’s Most Wanted Recipes Just Desserts by Ron Douglas’ recipe for “Zuni Cafe’s Scones”

Makes (allegedly) 16 scones

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/2 cup of mixed dried currants, barberries, or cranberries (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of cold milk
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 1 tbsp of the sugar. Mix well.
  3. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or using your hands, until the butter is the size of small peas.
  4. Add the dried fruit and orange zest. Mix well.
  5. Whisk together the egg, milk, and orange juice. Stir into the dry mixture until everything is well moistened.
  6. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball. On a floured surface, pat each ball flat into a 6 or 7 inch circle and roll out until it is 3/4 inch thick. Cut each round into 8 wedges.
  7. Arrange the wedges on the pan without any crowding. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Serve warm.

Orange Vanilla Glaze

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4-1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the juice, milk, extract, and zest.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar until desired thickness.
  3. Spoon over completely cooled scones.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • The original recipe called for salted butter. Most bakers (like myself) only use unsalted. If using salted butter, cut the salt amount to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • The recipe also claimed I was supposed to get 16 scones. Considering I had an issue with the dough, I scored 11.
  • Keep an eye on your oven! My oven runs hot, so my scones were golden brown on the bottom but pale on top.
  • The glaze, which is not part of the original recipe, is optional. Mine came out thin, but use the larger amount of powdered sugar if you like your glaze a little thicker.