Noodle Kugel

This is a very Jewish time of year. I should know. We’ve just had the two biggest Jewish holidays of the year, so I’m sure many people have reached their limit for Judaism, but not me! Specifically, I’m not yet (and never shall be) at capacity for Jewish food, so I was thrilled when my friends suggested the theme for our weekly brunch be “Jewish Food”.  Have I told you about brunch? It started as an experiment to make Liege waffles and evolved into a weekly Sunday morning tradition.  We do it potluck style and rotate bringing different courses of the meal. Booze is a course, right?

So here we have kugel. I like to describe it as sort of a bread pudding – if you lost the bread and used noodles instead. There’s an eggy, custardy base with cinnamon and sugar (and apples and raisins) that’s baked until golden and crunchy on top.Why are crunchy noodles good, by the way? We strive for “al dente” only to throw them into the oven the dry out. This is true for kugel and baked ziti and surely many other things that I can’t think of right now. The point is, crunchy, baked noodles are good, cinnamon and sugar are good, brunch is good. There’s no way to go wrong with this. Also good, is the Hebrew Hammer.

Apple and Raisin Noodle Kugel

Ingredients

  • ½ lb wide egg noodles
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 8 oz cottage cheese
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 4 tbsp melted butter, cooled
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small cubes (any apple will work, I used Gala)
  • ½ cup raisins

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and parboil noodles until al dente, 4-5 minutes; drain and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk in cottage cheese, sour cream, and butter until combined.

Add cinnamon, salt,  apple and raisins to mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Stir in noodles. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and smooth top. Bake until top is golden and kugel is set, about 35 minutes.

Note: you can assemble the kugel the night before then bake it in the morning. This feature makes this dish fabulous for brunch!

Blogging

Let me tell you guys something: blogging is hard, especially when you’re talking about food, and people want to see pictures and get recipes (the nerve, right??). I think I’m good at the “talking about food’ part. I mean, I’m no restaurant critique, but I know what I like and I think that counts for something. I’m decent at taking pictures of most of the baking process and I usually remember to take pictures of the finished product. Then everything sort of falls apart. I start writing a post and I get distracted, then I never upload the pictures, then I just can’t tie it all together. I’m working on it though! I promise I’m trying to get better. Therefore, I’ll leave you with an apology that it’s been so long since I’ve posted here and a few delicious pictures of recipes that may one day (fingers crossed) show up here. Enjoy!

Nutella Swirled Banana Bread

Maple Bacon Biscuits

Peach Pecan Praline Coffee Cake

Buttermilk Berry Cake

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how I love to bake for people because of the satisfaction I get from watching them enjoy. I usually follow that up by telling people not to be alarmed that I’m watching them take their first bite of cake. I just like to see how people react! Is that a crime? Granted, this does make me feel like the old woman in The Wedding Singer who paid Adam Sandler for singing lessons with a meatball in each hand. Is that acceptable by the way? Can I pay for goods and services with baked goods? I’ll have to do more research.

So why then has it been so long since I’ve updated? Well it’s not for lack of baking! I have been, probably more than ever. I started an internship in January and it turns out that the people in my office loves sweets! Shocker! I was baking something nearly every week, and the good people I work with have been kind enough to eat all the goodies I’ve made over the past few months. But then one day, a few weeks ago, we received some terrible news: an office-wide weight loss challenge would take place through the end of the summer. WHY, GOD, WHY?! Once I recovered from the shock, I took a hard look at the situation. Am I participating in the challenge? No. Is most of the office? Yes. Am I a cruel, cruel person who wants to torture the good, dieting people with the demon cookies that I bake out of the goodness of my heart? Well, I haven’t quite answered that one yet.

You know, I resisted for a while. The few people that aren’t trying to lose weight in the office give me dirty looks in the hallway. I’ve only brought in cocoa Rice Krispies treats since this whole thing started and instead of writing a note to let people know what it is (as I usually do), I put an apology note. Well, no more! I will not apologize for baking! You’ll eat this cake and you’ll like it! No, really, you’ll love it. This cake is so moist and you can use any berries you like in it. Maybe the people in my office will like it so much they’ll forget to be mad..A triumphant return to baking and blogging!

Buttermilk Berry Cake
Adapted from a few different recipes

Ingredients
For the Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used a mix of blueberries and diced strawberries here, but you could use anything. Raspberries are particularly good)

For the Topping:
¾ cup berries
¼ cup raw sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
For the Cake:
1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13×9-inch baking pan.

2. Whisk 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of the flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of the milk. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss the berries with remaining 1 teaspoon flour. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in berries. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

For the Topping:
4.  Scatter the berries over top of the batter. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean (this cake was done for me in 35 minutes but some recipes call for 45 to 50 minutes). Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and cool completely. Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Pumpkin Bread

What is there to say about pumpkin bread? Everybody loves it, right? I do. Everyone I talk to does. Let’s just get to the point. Pumpkin bread is the perfect thing to make at this time of year because it’s warm and spicy and delicious. It’s also really quick and easy to put together. I’ve made a loaf for two weeks in a row and probably going on a third. You’ll be making this weekly too. Assuming you can wait that long.

On a side note, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and I know I said that last time too. I’ll tell you now that it might be a while until the next update too, but once the holidays hit – I’M BACK BABY! I’m graduating in December and then I’m free! Well, actually, I have an internship for the spring then I’ll hopefully be starting grad school next year. But in the months between when I finish school and start school again, I’ll be baking like it’s my job (if only). So hold tight for a few months (scary!). I’ll see you again soon!

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Epicurious

 Ingredients

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ large eggs (beat the 2nd with a fork then pour half in)
  • ½ 16 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Turbinado sugar (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pans or 8×8-inch pan. Beat granulated and brown sugars and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts, if using. Pour into pan and sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar, if using. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for loaf pan, or about 45 minutes for an 8×8 pan. Transfer to rack and cool completely.

Note: This recipe is halved from the original, which is why there are funky measurements for the eggs and pumpkin. Feel free to double.

Cinnamon Chocolate Truffles

Do you miss me? I told you I’d be scarce this summer. Honestly, I’m giving myself a little pat on the back  for posting something this soon. Well anyway, here I am! And with truffles no less! We’re friends again now, aren’t we?

That’s something I know about myself: people like me because I bring dessert. Seriously. I mean, I’m a nice enough person. I have a pretty good sense of humor. But when someone’s planning a get together and they say, “should we invite Sari?”, I’m pretty sure it’s countered with, “well…she’ll probably bring cookies”. And that’s the end of that. Granted, I do use baked goods to win friends and influence people, so I guess it’s a two-way street.

Case in point: my current internship. I’m working for a candy company. I didn’t tell you that before, but I am. It’s a big company that makes lots of little candies. Take a guess. So my first thought was, if you work at a company that makes millions of pounds of chocolate, who’s going to bring in sweets for the office? As it turns out, I am.

It started with s’mores treats, graham cracker cereal and chocolate chips used in a basic rice krispies treats recipe. It was a hit (I’ll share it here eventually). Then last week I brought in no-bake peanut butter bars (again, you’ll see that here soon). So now I’ve set a precedent. People expect sweets, and I am happy to deliver.

I was talking to the woman who sits next to me about a recipe she had for apple cake with lots of spices and a kick of cayenne pepper. The idea of spicy sweets reminded me of cinnamon devil’s food cupcakes I made once, and since I don’t have an oven, I translated the idea into truffles. Great success.

Cinnamon Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients

  • 8 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, shaved or chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon (plus more to taste) cinnamon
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (to taste, optional)
  • Cocoa powder, for coating
  • Powdered sugar, for coating

Directions

Place chocolate shavings in a medium glass bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream and spices to a boil. Pour cream over shaved chocolate and whisk gently until all the chocolate has melted and ganache is smooth. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Scoop teaspoons of ganache and quickly roll into balls (this is easiest with a small ice cream or cookie scoop). Place on a baking sheet or plate lined with foil or parchment. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Mix together about ½ a cup or cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and a dash or cinnamon. Roll truffles in cocoa mixture, shaking off any excess. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 30-40 Truffles

Walnut Brownies

Let me start with an apology. My last post was from mid-March. Pitiful. It’s not that I haven’t been baking these past few month; I have. I’ve just been so consumed with school that I haven’t had time to tell you about it. Will you forgive me? I’d love to tell you that I’ll be baking for you all summer…but I can’t. You see, I’m going to New Jersey for the summer for an internship. I’ll be staying in an extended stay hotel. There’s no oven. That’s right, no oven. This is a sad post so far, isn’t it?

Well the good news is, I will be doing plenty of cooking so you’re likely to see a lot more “real food” around here over the next few months. I’ll also be experimenting with stove-top and no-bake desserts so you (and I) won’t be completely deprived for the summer. Do you feel better now? I do. To make you feel even better (or to make myself feel better, I haven’t decided yet), I made brownies. This is a recipe I saw on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine months ago and have been dreaming about since. I love brownies (who doesn’t?) and I was actually surprised when I realized I haven’t posted a brownie recipe here!

I’ve tried many, many brownie recipes, but haven’t found one I truly love. I think the problem is the chocolate I use. To be honest, it’s hard for me to drop 4 times as much money for the fancy chocolate than I would for the regular (read: cheap) stuff. Is it worth it? Yes, I’m sure it is, but I just can’t do it. What’s good about this recipe is that is uses cocoa powder instead of baking chocolate. Of course, you can buy fancy cocoa powder too, but I find that the difference between fancy and cheap cocoa powder is much smaller than the difference between fancy and cheap baking chocolate. So here we have it! Cocoa brownies with walnuts. They also have browned butter. I can’t decide yet if it makes a difference, but I think the smell of browned butter alone makes it worth it. You can leave the walnuts out if you’d like. I know some people are weird about nuts in their brownies. But you could add in anything you want. Have fun!

*Bonus fact: these are made in one bowl! I refuse to ever make brownies that require more than one bowl.

Walnut Brownies
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnut pieces

Directions

Preheat to 325°F. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan (or 7 x 11) with non-stick foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. You can also use foil coated with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch closely as it can go from brown to burnt very quickly. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, salt, water, and vanilla. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Remember that other birthday recpe that I mentioned earlier? Well, here it it. Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. And here’s the story:

If you’re following along, you’ll know that last week I discovered that my cousin Amy would be in town from Florida just days before her birthday, so I decided to surprise her with a twist on her favorite dessert. As it turns out, my brother’s birthday was the same weekend and wouldn’t you know that he was coming in from out of town too! What kind of sister would I be if I made cookies for my cousin and not for my favorite/only brother? I decided to let him choose what he wanted, and he quickly decided that he wanted mint chocolate chip cookies. There was no recipe, just an idea. The only guideline: “does not necessarily have to be green.”

So off I went looking for a recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies. What we’re talking about here is a plain cookie (i.e. not chocolate) with mint and chocolate chips. Nearly every recipe I found was a riff on a traditional chocolate chip cookie with peppermint extra swapped for the usual vanilla extract and sometimes with green food coloring added. I know I can make chocolate chip cookies, but a certain brother of mine thinks I make them too thin. I love the thin chewy cookie with a crisp edge, but for the purpose of making my brother happy on his birthday I made them puffier. Still chewy, but not so thin.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I’m sure others before me have had this brilliant idea, but I’m going to enjoy it anyway. I decided I would use Andes as the chocolate chips. Brilliant, right? If you’ve never heard of or had Andes, you’re missing out. They’re melt in your mouth chocolates with a creamy mint layer in the middle and they are so good. So I bought one package of Andes (my mother was kind enough to painstakingly unwrap each one), and cut each candy into 4 pieces which ended up giving me about 1 cup of chips, which I then supplemented with regular chocolate chips. You can definitely use all chocolate chips, but the Andes added an extra minty kick to the cookie.

I’m happy to report that the cookies were a hit. They were exactly what my brother wanted. Mission accomplished.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 28-piece package of Andes Crème de Menthe candies
  • About ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl. In a large bowl beat together butter, sugars and peppermint extract until fluffy. Add eggs and beat again until combined.

Mix in the dry ingredients in 3 batches until the batter is completely combined. Stir in the Andes and chocolate chips.

Scoop dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes until cookies are just golden brown around the edges, rotating once halfway through cooking time.

Makes about 40 cookies