Syrupy Goodness

Prepare yourselves for an onslaught of tea-related treats. This is one of three.

It almost looks healthy - look at all that green and those carrot-like shards of orange!

It almost looks healthy - look at all that green and those carrot-like shards of orange!

Though I haven’t begun to make the other two things yet, they are my projects for the next couple of days. This, however, is something I made before I left on my trip. I just put the elements together yesterday after getting home from the store (to buy things that I needed to make the upcoming stuff).

I like veggies, but this is good, too.

I like veggies, but this is good, too.

I know I said I wasn’t going to try making ice cream again until I could get an ice cream maker, but I had leftover egg yolks and just felt like playing with matcha.

Zesty, yummy and dainty. No, really, those are small scoops.

Zesty, yummy and dainty. No, really, those are small scoops.

I also constantly have a small collection of flavored syrups in my fridge, since I really enjoy candying things. It’s fun! I actually candy ginger more for the ginger syrup than for the candied ginger itself now, though I do love hot, chewy little shards of candied ginger.

So many things I love in one dessert!

So many things I love in one dessert!

I’m always trying to come up with new ways to use the syrups – in marshmallows, drinks, I use ginger syrup to make a glaze/sauce for tofu stir fries…But I rarely use them straight-up. I happened to have both ginger and kumquat syrup on hand and knew they’d both go great with matcha ice cream, so I created this little sundae.

Though the first time I made candied ginger I used Alton Brown’s method, I’ve used this one since, because it actually results in a ginger syrup as opposed to a ginger water that needs sugar boiled into it. I never posted the recipe for candied kumquats because I just didn’t really like them candied as much as fresh, which is kind of a shame because the syrup is incredibly good. It’s not bitter at all (which is good, considering it’s a flavored sugar syrup), and has an earthy, floral quality that is absolutely delicious. I don’t know if you’d get different results using whole as opposed to sliced kumquats, but I’d slice them so you can de-seed them. There’s a recipe for candied kumquats on this page, along with lots of other kumquat recipes. The simple candied ones I made are in the left column, almost all the way down.

Matcha Ice Cream Sundae with Kumquats and Ginger

That's syrup, not water. The color in the syrup is hard to see in small quantities, but the flavor is definitely there.

That's syrup, not water. The color in the syrup is hard to see in small quantities, but the flavor is definitely there.

First, Make the Ice Cream:

1 1/2 cups (whole) milk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp fine sea salt

1 Tbsp matcha powder

1/4 cup hot water

Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear (do not allow it to boil). Immediately remove from heat and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the yolks and gradually mix in the sugar and salt. Whisk for about 3 minutes, then slowly add the milk/cream mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until it is thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside. Whisk the matcha into the hot water until dissolved, then pour it into the custard and whisk until fully combined. Pour the custard through a sieve into a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to cool to room temperature. Once it’s fully cooled, pour into an ice cream maker or freezer-safe container. Follow ice cream maker directions, or if not using a machine, stir thoroughly every 40 minutes until evenly frozen and scoopable.

To Make the Sundae:

3 small-medium scoops of matcha ice cream

2-3 Tbsp kumquat syrup

2-3 Tbsp ginger syrup

1-2 tsp finely chopped candied ginger

1 kumquat, pulp removed and sliced into thin strips

Arrange the ice cream scoops onto a chilled plate, drizzle with syrups. Arrange the kumquat strips on top of the ice cream and sprinkle with chopped candied ginger.

This will definitely wake up your tastebuds! The matcha provides a mild, earthy backdrop for the flowery kumquat syrup and zesty ginger, and the fresh kumquat provides a nice sour contrast.

I want an ice cream maker more than anything now, because though the ice cream turned out tasty (Z ate half the container when I was out the day after I made it), the ice crystals are way too big and the ice cream doesn’t come out as creamy as it should without the proper equipment.

A Very Squirrely Inside Joke

Everyone has a few inside jokes. Something that isn’t funny at all to everyone else is hilarious to you and maybe a childhood friend or two. This is one of mine.

Glad I reserved a handful of each of these kinds of nuts...

Glad I reserved a handful of each of these kinds of nuts...

Squirrels are funny to my best friend and I.

Especially…

Oh noooooo!

Oh noooooo!

…rabid squirrels.

From being warned when we were eating outside that friendly squirrels might be rabid, to leaving messages on answering machines that made one sound like a rabid squirrel, rabid squirrels have been funny to us for over ten years.

Interestingly enough, rabid squirrels are pretty uncommon in nature – rodents (and lagomorphs) don’t really get rabies. So they’re not much of a hazard.

I have tasty chestnut and almond (and a little rice!) flours on hand lately, and decided to put my squirrel cookie cutter  to use to make a gluten(and dairy)-free in-joke cookie. And I thought they needed eyes. And remembered I had recently bought royal icing eyes. And thus, the Rabid Squirrel Cookies were born.

The rabid part is optional, but I’m including it in the recipe. Because I wouldn’t make them without the rabies.

Rabid Squirrel Cookies

Mmm, squirrels...

Mmm, squirrels...

1/4 cup Earth Balance (or butter)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1/2 cup almond meal

1/2 cup chestnut flour

1/4 cup rice flour

1 tsp double acting baking powder

(pinch salt, if using unsalted butter)

To Decorate:

1 tsp soy milk (or real milk)

1 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Royal icing eyes

Cream the fat with the sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt, if using. Combine dry with creamed mixture. Turn out and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 3-4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out between layers of plastic wrap or parchment to 1/8″ thickness. Cut out squirrel shapes and arrange on Silpat(or parchment)-lined baking sheet at least 1″ apart (about7 or 8 to a sheet). Bake for 7-14 minutes, turning halfway through if your oven has any hotspots (if you see some getting browner than others). Cookies will be slightly puffed with light brown edges. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks, and allow the sheet to cool fully before loading up the second batch (you can refrigerate the dough while you wait if it’s getting too soft). Makes 12-16 squirrels (and one little lump of excess dough).

Allow the cookies to cool completely. In a small, shallow dish, mix the milk and powdered sugar together with a small whisk. Once it forms a thin paste, use a toothpick to carefull smear a little on the backs of the eyes. Place on squirrels and allow to dry.

These cookies are kind of sandy, naturally sweet from the chestnut flour and earthy from the brown sugar. They would be excellent with tea or maybe coffee. And because of their roll cookie nature they are sturdy and will keep for up to a couple months if well-wrapped.

A (Sort of) Basket of Goodies

Happy Jelly Bean Day!

That's supposed to be grass underneath the candy, not green spaghetti.

That's supposed to be grass underneath the candy, not green spaghetti.

Oh, right, Easter too. I’m really just here for the jelly beans, though.

Originally in my head, these cupcakes were supposed to have tuile cookie handles. But I ran out of time and didn’t bother.

Poor excuse for a handle.

Poor excuse for a handle.

I made some paper ones, even colored them to match the cupcake papers. But I couldn’t come up with a good way to attach them, so I skipped them. No one seemed to mind.

Some had jumping bunnies and fat little chicks.

Some had jumping bunnies and fat little chicks.

I did consider making my marshmallows look a little more Peep-ish, but I got an old set of tiny farm-themed cookie cutters from my mom and had to use them. They’re very cute.

And some had sitting bunnies and little duckies!

And some had sitting bunnies and little duckies!

The marshmallows are made from the basic recipe I use, with the addition of crushed, strained strawberries (about 3 large ones) in the strawberry bunnies, and strained Meyer lemon juice in the lemon chicks and duckies. I ended up using the juice of an entire lemon but should have used closer to half that; they are intensely lemony.

Oh, also there’s food coloring in them. But that should be obvious.

The cake was so WHITE. And vanilla-y.

The cake was so WHITE. And vanilla-y.

In keeping with the lemon and strawberries theme, I stuck a piece of balsamic-soaked strawberry in each cupcake and made a Meyer lemon-basil cream cheese frosting. A word of warning: if you’re going to try to pipe any frostings with bits of stuff (say, shreds of fresh basil) in it, don’t use the “spaghetti” tip on your pastry bag. You’ll be picking bits of whatever’s in your frosting out of the holes the entire time.

The cakes themselves also got a double hit of vanilla – I scalded the milk with a vanilla bean and used some vanilla sugar, which will be reflected in the recipe. If you use extract or something, you lose – it definitely will not be as vanilla-y and good. Don’t complain about vanilla beans being expensive, either – just go on eBay or Amazon and buy a bulk bag. It’s not very expensive and totally worth it. I usually have more vanilla beans than I know what to do with. Sometime I even give them away!

Springy Easter Basket Cupcakes

Better than Peeps any day! Though I do still love me a stale Peep every once in a while.

Better than Peeps any day! Though I do still love me a stale Peep every once in a while.

First, Make the Cakes:

1/2 cup plus a couple Tbsp milk, to allow for volume lost in cooking

1/2 large vanilla bean or 1 small bean

1/4 cup unsalted butter, soft and cut in Tbsp

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

1 cup cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 egg whites

Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape it into the pan, then add the pod itself. Cook over medium heat until the milk just barely boils. Immediately strain it into a measuring cup and remove the vanilla pod (which you can clean and use to make more vanilla sugar). Allow the milk to cool.

Sift together the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer on low, cream the butter and sugar together. Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Add the egg whites and turn the speed up to medium-high. Mix until the batter is light and fluffy. Pour into lined muffin tins and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Do not allow the tops of the cakes to get browned – mine were just cooked through and completely white. Allow to cool fully before assembling. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Next, Prepare the Strawberries:

1/2 lb. strawberries

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp vanilla sugar

Wash and hull strawberries, and cut into 1″ pieces. Place in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with balsamic and dust with vanilla sugar. Gently stir to coat with a spoon, then cover the bowl with plastic and allow to sit out for 1-4 hours. You will have extra, as you only need 12 pieces. You can either scale the recipe back or do what I did and sprinkle the leftovers with black pepper and enjoy with a spoon.

Once the strawberries are done macerating and the cakes are fully cooled, use a sharp knife to cut cones out of the cupcake tops. Trim the removed parts so that only a thin lid remains, and remove any extra loose cake on the inside. Plcae a piece of strawberry into each cupcake and cover with their lids.

Then, Make the Frosting:

Zest & juice from 1 Meyer lemon

2-3 large basil leaves, very finely chopped (either in a food processor or by hand, and by very finely I mean VERY finely)

8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

Green gel food coloring (about 1/4 tsp)

In a stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, cream together everything but the sugar. Gradually add the sugar by cups. Once fully combined, scoop the frosting into a pastry bag by thirds and pipe on top of cupcakes. Garnish with homemade (or storebought, I guess) Peeps/marshmallow bunnies and sour Jelly Bellys (because they look the cutest).

You wouldn’t expect a candy-topped cupcake to have such “grown-up” flavors in it but it’s a good match for my personal tastes – a little fresh fruit, some jelly beans and marshmallows, and a few odd little twists thrown in to make it interesting.

Things I Ate

When I went to New York City last summer, it was a birthday present to myself. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve been, and was timed with getting my big fat stimulus check, which resulted in a nice bout of clothes shopping. This time I had a significantly smaller budget and the focus of the trip was FOOD. I went to check out the French Culinary Institute (and with any luck will be starting pastry classes as the end of the summer) and ate my way around the city. While the mostly-crappy weather and my stomach capacity didn’t allow me to eat at as many places as I would have liked, I made a point to take lots of pictures. Not of everything, but of all the prettiest things.

It looks upside down, but it was just a weird angle.

It looks upside down, but it was just a weird angle.

One of the first stops we made was to Jacques Torres’s shop in Brooklyn. As you can see, I got a little box of fancy chocolates. The empty spaces are where my best friend’s chocolates were. I’m good at sharing. I also bought a 2 pound bag of quarter-sized dark chocolate disks, but unfortunately left them at my friend’s apartment. She’s supposed to be coming up here soon, though, so my chocolatey treats and I should soon be reunited. The only ones I ate so far were one of the white chocolate chai pieces (intensely chai flavored and very good) and the dark chocolate wine one (filled with a chocolate-red wine ganache and totally yummy). The others are a dark chocolate passionfruit heart, a pistachio chocolate (I like to live dangerously) and, um…I forget what the green-swirled one is. I’ll fine out soon, though, I hope!

Totally truffular.

Totally truffular.

At the FCI (among many other things) I was given a list of places in the city owned by graduates of the school. While I didn’t get to visit most (this time!) I did make a point to go a few blocks away to Kee’s Chocolates, since they gave me a little card for one free chocolate. I bought a box of seven, in tiramisu, pignoli, creme brulee, coconut, green tea, lemon basil and lavender. Unfortunately, I found most of them to be a little lacking in their respective flavors, with the exception of the green tea and lemon basil. Most just had a plain-ish but still high-quality chocolate filling, but the lemon basil had an actual yellow, intensely lemony filling, and the green tea was white chocolate with a gooey, very matcha-flavored filling. I didn’t eat the pignoli one, though, because that belongs to my friend. It’s still in the fridge.

Hello, rosefriend.

Hello, rosefriend.

While debating flavors at Kee’s I happened to notice a little case with two macaron flavors to choose from. Yes please! The one pictured above was rosewater-lychee, and it was good. The rose flavor was strong but not overpowering and the lychee filling was buttery and delicious.

Lavender surprise!

Lavender surprise!

The other flavor offered was lavender, and I was surprised and thrilled to realize, upon biting into it, that the filling was lavender-chocolate, which is such a great combination. I really liked the macarons at Kee’s, and my only complaint would be that the shells were not quite crispy enough on the outside. I won’t fault them for that, though, as it was a miserable rainy day. I guess that means I’ll just have to go back and try them again on a sunnier day!

It was Matcha Day!

It was Matcha Day!

A trip to New York would not be complete for Z and I without a trip to Soho for cream puffs at Beard Papa’s. They rotate their cream flavors throughout the week and we were lucky enough to be there on a matcha day. I love their cream puffs so much, and I made a serious mess eating mine. A picture exists of me making that mess but I don’t have it.

Don't you just want to crawl in there?

Don't you just want to crawl in there?

After Beard Papa’s, we headed a couple blocks over to Pommes Frites, another New York necessity.

The lighting isn't so good, but the frites were epic.

The lighting isn't so good, but the frites were epic.

I couldn’t get a great picture but they were so damn tasty that I’m posting it anyway. We got pomegranate teriyaki, cheddar cheese and rosemary-garlic mayonnaise dipping sauces and they were all incredible. If you haven’t been there, it’s a shame. They fry roughly-cut frites fresh for each order, put them in paper cones and you have your choice of several unique and delicious sauces to dip or have pumped over the frites. It’s worth it to order a few and alternate between different types of greasy, yummy potato goodness. One of my favorite things about the place is sitting on the rough wooden benches in the back, with holes in the tables to set the cones of fries in. Behind the tables is the tiny stockroom, where you can see gigantic bags of huge potatoes. So many potatoes.

So green...

So green...

Eventually we made our way over to TAFU, a tiny little Japanese green tea place nestled into a Doubletree hotel. I had heard that the absolute best source for macarons in New York was a little lady named Mitzi, and that she sold her little treats exclusively at TAFU. Plus I love my tea.

We each got a little bowl of matcha, which was green as can be and totally delicious. Hot and energizing, just what we needed after walking in the cold, windy rain.

Squishy, cold and sweet.

Squishy, cold and sweet.

I noticed they had daifuku, which I hadn’t tried before, so I got one with matcha filling. It was really good, simultaneously light and rich at the same time, icy cold with a chewy rice exterior and creamy matcha interior. If I hadn’t had two people to offer bits to I couldn’t have finished it myself – it was intense!

What deliciousness lurks inside?

What deliciousness lurks inside?

Halfway through my matcha-licious snack I was presented with this fancy little box of goodies. My six precious macarons!

How does she make them so perfect? One of the great mysteries of the world.

How does she make them so perfect? One of the great mysteries of the world.

One of the hardest parts of the whole trip was deciding what flavor NOT to choose – there were seven flavors and only six spots in the box. I ended up leaving matcha, just because I was already consuming so much of it. And I’m pretty sure they always have the matcha ones, since it doesn’t appear to be a monthly flavor on Mitzi’s site. Also they specialize in matcha, so that would make sense.

Hello, friend!

Hello, friend!

That’s the black sesame macaron. It was slightly nutty, slightly seedy and probably Z’s favorite.

You were yummy, little sesame friend.

You were yummy, little sesame friend.

But, it was not my favorite.

Almost freakishly green. Not freakishly flavored.

Almost freakishly green. Not freakishly flavored.

That’s the mint macaron. That one was definitely one of my favorites. The filling was chocolate, but that’s not what was so interesting about the macaron.

I miss this macaron. It was so tasty.

I miss this macaron. It was so tasty.

Mitzi somehow gets her mint macarons to taste like mint LEAVES as opposed to mint extract. It’s incredible. I guess she just uses actual mint leaves, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are mint fairies who sprinkle magic mint dust on each one or something.

Dusted with cocoa powder...and magic.

Dusted with cocoa powder...and magic.

That was another of my favorites – the passion fruit chocolate. I really like passion fruit, I’ve recently discovered, but was not sure how well it would go with chocolate.

I wish passion fruit wasn't so expensive or I'd make all kinds of passion fruit-chocolate stuff.

I wish passion fruit wasn't so expensive or I'd make all kinds of passion fruit-chocolate stuff.

It turns out that passion fruit and chocolate are more than a perfect match. The two flavors melt seamlessly into one another. It’s almost enough to convert this straight fruit-loving girl into a chocolate dessert kind of girl. Almost.

Mmm, mango.

Mmm, mango.

That’s the mango macaron. It was really interesting, because you don’t taste mango immediately upon biting into it.

Makes me want to go eat the mango in the fridge.

Makes me want to go eat the mango in the fridge.

The mango flavor actually comes once you have chewed each bite and are about to swallow, creeping up from the back of your mouth. Sensational.

So innocent-looking.

So innocent-looking.

Ah, jasmine. Another of my favorites. It doesn’t look like much, but damn is it good.

I think I'm going to have to go make some jasmine tea now.

I think I'm going to have to go make some jasmine tea now.

The jasmine flavor is more of an aroma. You don’t really taste it with your tongue, the jasmine comes from your sinuses and the back of your throat. And it’s amazing.

Well hi there, Mr. Caramel.

Well hi there, Mr. Caramel.

That’s caramel-chocolate. It was pretty good.

I'm running out of macaron-related commentary...luckily this is the last picture.

I'm running out of macaron-related commentary...luckily this is the last picture.

No real complaints about it, but it couldn’t touch the mint, passion fruit or jasmine.

There were lots of other places we went but either I didn’t take pictures or the pictures just sucked. The first night we went to a little falafel place in Williamsburg, I don’t remember the name but it was on a corner at a bus stop and was tasty, with gigantic spicy, cumin-y falafel balls tucked into big floppy pitas with a creamy sauce and shredded red cabbage. I didn’t think I liked cabbage, but I think I just don’t like it cooked, as it provided a nice crunchiness that went well with the creamy sauce and chewy falafel.

We also went to Almondine Bakery, across the street from the Jacques Torres shop. I heard their madeleines were great so I got a couple, and noticed they had passion fruit and red currant macarons, so I got one of each of those as well. The madeleines were all right, but I didn’t have any tea to dip them in. The macarons were very sweet but good, with nice crisp shells and good flavor, especially the passion fruit. The red currant had a jelly filling, which was the first one I’ve had like that.

It’s not particularly foodish, but we did stop in at the Brooklyn Flea Market. I really liked some antique lithographs of fruits and vegetables, but they were, well, antique, and the prices reflected that. I did get an adorable little red enamel pot and lid, which I had to leave at my friend’s place.

We had dinner at the Brooklyn Red Bamboo one night, which was good but nothing too special. I just had rice and teriyaki mixed veggies with mango juice, which was just what I needed. Usually I find that when I go to New York I tend to mostly eat pastries and junk food, and by the end of the trip am feeling awful and just want some fiber and greens. By eating a big old pile of steamed vegetables and fragrant rice mid-trip, I was able to keep my enthusiasm for sugary items up and my energy high.

We were also treated to a free lunch at L’Ecole, the FCI’s restaurant. Unfortunately they don’t cater much to the vegetarian crowd, but the baguettes were delicious and the desserts were phenomenal.

We popped in to Evolution at one point, which I believe is basically the East Coast branch of LA’s The Bone Room. It’s essentially a museum where you can buy everything on display. Human child skull? Sure. Various animals’ penis bones? Yup. 10,000 year old cave bear skeleton, on sale for nearly as many dollars as it is old? You bet! Pretty hardcore and awesome. With an authentic embalmy smell. They had ancient fossils of sea critters and shiny crystals and stuff, too, but the cave bear skeleton was probably my favorite.

The final stop we made was to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which was all right. It was loud, overpriced and crowded – just the thing I don’t like about the more popular areas of Manhattan. But a place with bulk bins of jelly beans and gummy candies is a place with bulk bins of jelly beans and gummy candies. Plus they had really awesome candy-in-resin stairs leading to the other floors. And the smell of fresh cotton candy. Yum. Honestly, though, I’ve found better selections of both Jelly Belly flavors and other candies at little cheap hole-in-the-wall candy shops.

There were lots of places I would have loved to visit but the weather was terrible most days and the trip sort of sloppily planned. I missed out on the Fred Flare storefront (they closed earlier than I thought), Momofuku Milk Bar (we left the neighborhood it was in, thinking it was closer to our next destination and were too cold and tired to trek back), Rice Ball Cafe (cold, tired and still stuffed with frites), The Doughnut Plant (just didn’t get there), Chikalicious Dessert Bar (just didn’t have time and it was lower on the list)…

So there you go. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit again between now and when I plan to start classes, but either way there will be more review-y type entries whenever I get the chance to stuff myself silly on yummy junk food in The Big City. Unless you guys don’t like when I do that. Then there won’t be.

Lacy, Lovely and So Easy

Here’s another little lavender something I whipped up before my trip to bring to my best friend in New York.

Surprisingly healthy! Really!

Surprisingly healthy! Really!

While I don’t particularly like some forms of alternative baking (especially vegan…you want me to bake something with NO EGGS? HAHAHA…no) I do enjoy the challenge of baking for my best friend and mom, who both have an allergy to wheat, among other things. So I was excited when I came across a recipe for flourless oatmeal lace cookies in my copy of The Joy of Cooking during the four day power outage in February. I immediately made a note about them, adding “lavender?” onto the end.

Oatmeal makes them an acceptable part of a healthy breakfast!...Right?

Oatmeal makes them an acceptable part of a healthy breakfast!...Right?

In the baking-frenzied days leading up to my trip, I realized they would be perfect to bring along in a little tin, so I made them. And they were goooood. So good that when I offered Z one that wouldn’t fit in the tin, he asked if I could make him his own batch. I haven’t yet, but I will. Maybe once the macarons are gone. Though first I have to make chocolate chip cookies with some incredible chocolate disks I picked up.

Perfect with tea, but then, what isn't?

Perfect with tea, but then, what isn't?

These cookies would be perfect to pack in a lunchbox or on a picnic because they’re so small. Which also makes them adorable. Little tiny disks of oatmealy, lavender-scented goodness! What could be better?

Packed in like sardines. Actually, nothing like sardines.

Packed in like sardines. Actually, nothing like sardines.

And must I say that these are really easy to make? As in, one bowl (plus mortar & pestle) easy? Perfect for Inexperienced Bakers and Those Who Loathe Dishwashing alike. Or just anyone who wants a batch of tasty, crispy little springtime cookies.

Lavender Lace Cookies (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

These guys escaped the tin. But not my mouth. Omnomnom.

These guys escaped the tin. But not my mouth. Omnomnom.

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp dried lavender

1 egg

2 tsp melted butter

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut

2/3 cup raw oats

Preheat the oven to 350. Grind together the sugar and lavender in a mortar & pestle until the lavender is finely crushed throughout the sugar. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add the lavender sugar and mix well. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat (I tried both and preferred the Silpat since it yields a more evenly golden, shiny bottom) and drop the dough by half-teaspoons about an inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden brown. Allow to cool fully before removing from sheet. Makes about 2-3 dozen.

There’s really no reason not to bake these up as soon as possible and take them on a nice little picnic. It’s lovely and sunny outside here. I recommend bringing along a thermos of tea and a couple of mismatched fancy china cups to pour into. Or, if it’s rainy and yucky where you are, enjoy them inside with tea – their springy flavor will remind you that rain doesn’t last forever and things will be just a little bit greener and more alive once it does stop.

My goodness, I’m optimistic today.

Just Because

I’ll be writing up my trip to New York in the coming days – I’ve got a lot of pictures to edit and a box of the most gorgeous macarons to eat. But in the meantime, here’s a little something sweet I put together before I left.

I don't see an end to this lavender obsession of mine. And I don't really care.

I don't see an end to this lavender obsession of mine. And I don't really care.

If the cookie looks a little familiar, it’s because they’re from the same batch as these, just in the shape of the Eiffel Tower as opposed to little bumpy rectangles. The Eiffel Towers were actually the “original” shape I made – the rectangles were just to use up some of the dough (and they were a LOT easier to cut out). I even still have a lump of dough in the freezer.

The Eiffel Tower cutters are part of a set of little world landmarks given to me by my best friend this past Christmas. Originally I just wanted to make cookies with each that reflected the flavors of that particular region, but I may (all right, probably will) end up going all out and making cookie-topped cupcakes for each one. We’ll see.

Ooh lala, you brought friends!

Ooh lala, you brought friends!

There was no reason behind these cupcakes really – it was just an idea I had. They were a bit of work considering the cookies, but were light, sunny and delicious. The two main flavors are lavender and meyer lemon, and the lemon really shines.

I considered using a richer frosting given the French appearance, but they ARE already topped with butter cookies. And it's springtime.

I considered using a richer frosting given the French appearance, but they ARE already topped with butter cookies. And it's springtime.

The lemon curd in the middle of each cupcake is by far the best curd I’ve tasted. It’s just incredibly flavorful  – so good I saved the leftovers in a jar. Which I’ve been dipping a spoon into every once in a while. What?

There is a bit of an unexpected flavor component in the cakes themselves. After making the spinach lasagna, I had some leftover fresh thyme from my mushroom ragu, and as thyme is sometimes used in French cooking (alongside lavender and other herbs in herbs de Provence, for example) I decided to finely chop some and add it to the cupcakes. As a result, the cupcakes are fragrant and subtly herbal, providing a great background for the meyer lemon flavor to really pop.

Paris in Springtime Cupcakes

Lavender everywhere!

Lavender everywhere!

First, Make the Meyer Lemon Curd (from Recipe Girl, which says you need like 4 lemons but mine were big so I only needed 2)

2 tsp meyer lemon zest

1/2 cup meyer lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Whisk together the zest, juice, sugar and eggs in a metal bowl. Add the butter and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook the curd for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Once it’s thick, strain it into a bowl. Press plastic wrap into the surface and poke a few holes for steam to be released. Refrigerate until chilled.

Then, Make the Lavender Thyme Cakes:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into Tbsp

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk, plus a little extra (you’ll be heating it so you’ll lose some volume)

2 egg whites

1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp dried lavender

1/2 tsp fresh thyme

Place the milk and Tbsp of lavender in a small saucepan and heat until it just boils. Immediately strain and set aside to cool. Finely chop or crush the remaining lavender and thyme. Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer and sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add the herbs to the dry mixture. With the mixer on low, alternately add the dry and wet ingredients in two or three additions until well-combined. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat in the egg whites until the batter is light and fluffy. Pour into lined cupcake tins and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool fully before filling.

Once the cupcakes are cool, fill them with curd using the cone method, trimming the cones themselves into thin disks. You could use an injector but I find I can get more filling into the cupcakes this way, and as long as they are well-frosted it doesn’t matter if there’s a little “man hole cover” on the top of the cakes. Once filled, set the cakes aside.

Now Make the Lemon Meringue Frosting:

4 egg whites

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp meyer lemon juice

1 tsp meyer lemon zest

Pinch cream of tartar

Pinch fine sea salt

1/2 tsp or so yellow gel food coloring

Place everything but the food coloring into a double boiler over simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Transfer to a stand mixer (I just put my mixer bowl over the water) and whip on medium-high until it is cool and forms soft peaks. Beat in the food coloring. Put the frosting by fourths into a pastry bag fitted with the largest round tip you have and swirl it onto the cupcakes. Top with lavender-colored sprinkles and Eiffel Tower-Shaped Lavender Roll Out Cookies.

These cupcakes were well-received all around, and, more importantly, everyone was able to tell that the cookies were Eiffel Towers! Hooray!

Watch out for another lavender-iffic cookie recipe, a picture-filled write up or my trip, my second attempt at homemade ice cream and lots more. Plus, by the end of spring I hope to move from this crappy blog to my very own domain under a much better name. Wheee!

Lavender Obsessed

This will be a short entry, more of a teaser than anything else. I’ve been in the kitchen making sugary concoctions, but won’t be able to post about them for a few days. I’m leaving for New York tomorrow morning to see the culinary school I’m planning to go to and taking plenty of treats with me for friends there. And just because I love New York so much, we’re spending a couple extra days exploring and having food adventures. Not the best idea considering my money has no real way to replenish itself at the moment, but I don’t go out much anymore so it’ll be worth it.

Hello, cookies! Hello, spring!

Hello, cookies! Hello, spring!

The cookies in the pictures are actually made from extra dough. I’m putting the finishing touches on my first cookie-topped cupcakes this morning. The cookies that will go on top of the cupcakes are in a different (and much more tricky to cut out) shape, but are also cris-crossed with purple icing. These cookies aren’t really meant to be spectacular on their own, so don’t expect anything fabulous when you make them. I just love this basic cookie recipe.

The original recipe comes straight out of the Joy of Cooking. The lavender is my own addition – I wonder when I’ll get tired of putting lavender in everything? Maybe when it starts looking/feeling more like spring outside (the snow is gone and it’s not FREEZING anymore, but it’s not warm and flowery yet either).

Lavender Roll Out Cookies

These would make great sandwich cookies, perhaps with some lemon curd?

These would make great sandwich cookies, perhaps with some lemon curd?

1 cup butter, softened and cut into Tbsp

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp dried lavender, crushed with mortar & pestle

2 1/2 cups AP flour

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, baking powder, salt, vanilla and lavender and beat until mixed well. Gradually beat in the flour. Turn our the dough and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Preheat the oven to 350. Roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake on a parchment- or Silpat-lined cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, or until just golden around the edges. Allow to cool fully before icing.

Lavender Royal Icing

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 egg white

1 Tbsp Monin lavender syrup

Juice from 1/2 meyer lemon

About 1/4 tsp each blue and red gel food coloring

Sift the sugar into a bowl. Whip the egg white until stiff but not dry, then gradually add the sugar and other ingredients. If the icing is very runny, add more powdered sugar. Pipe with piping bag or use a toothpick for fine lines and details on cooled cookies.

I’ve got another kind of lovely lavender cookies to share, as well as the final, assembled epic cupcakes. And some pate de fruits. And maybe some ice cream. But I have a feeling it will all have to wait until I get back – so Wednesday night or Thursday morning. By then maybe I’ll have some fun pictures and stories to share from New York – I always bring the camera and forget to take any pictures, but I’ll really try this time. At least to get pictures of some of the foods (ok, mostly pastries) I plan to eat.