Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I tend to try a number of different recipes for my favorite desserts before I settle on a go-to version. This snickerdoodle recipe has officially made it into my book. Because of the shortening these are chewy rather than crispy cookies--just the way I like them.

1/2 c shortening
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 tsp milk
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Cream together shortening, butter, and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
3. Add to butter mixture.
4. Add milk and mix well.
5. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
5. Roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter (refridgerate for 15 minutes or so if the dough is too sticky).
6. Dip dough balls in cinnamon and sugar
7. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Oh, and the dough is good, too.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Something Sweet

A new lovely, homey bakery has opened up right across from the best pizza in D.C. (2 Amys, obviously). The bakery is pink, green, and endlessly cute. Their treats taste homemade and very good. The menus and even the store hours sign are hand-written. The staff are actually helpful and seem happy to have you there.

Something Sweet has several sweet things that they will put into handy-dandy single serving containers for takeaway: frozen treats, cookies, tarts, brownies and 6 or 7 flavors of cupcakes.

This shop is doing big flavors and plenty of sugar. All the usual cupcakes are reminiscent of old favorites that your mom made. The vanilla cake was a bit wet, and the M&Ms on top of the chocolate frosting were a little cutesy, but the chocolate buttercream itself was wonderful. The chocolate cake is very chocolate-y, and the vanilla buttercream while slightly gritty is a meringue-like fluff of vanilla goodness. I haven't been there while they've had an orange flavored cupcake, but a friend of mine assures me it is like biting into a sweet and juicy orange that just happens to have the texture of cake and buttercream.

So grab a friend, have some pizza, buy a cupcake, and eat it on a bench on the beautiful National Cathedral grounds. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Heather's Pick: Red Velvet
This is the real deal! The red velvet cake is dense and tangy and the cream cheese frosting is extraordinarily creamy and sweeter than I usually go for, but not unpleasantly so. I meant to leave half the red velvet for my husband, truly I did.

Get to Georgetown Quick!

There are just two days left in August, and that means there are just two more days to get a coconut-key lime cupcake at Georgetown Cupcake. Sure, you've had their coconut with cream cheese frosting which is very good and you've had their key lime which is also really delicious, but trust me, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That cupcake is freaking a-mazing! Go, go, go!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Passion Fruit Custard Cakes

I love custard. I love souffles. This is a wonderful something in between. The top is a fluffy, moist cake and the bottom is a creamy liquid custard.

Custard cakes are the latest delight I've discovered in my quest to create the perfect passion fruit dessert. I whipped these up on a Sunday for a barbecue. I didn't have enough granulated sugar so I used powdered and adjusted the amounts accordingly. The light and pucker-up tart results were a huge hit with my family. I will say that the other couple and their children who tried them were not super enthusiastic. Even with a generous topping of whipped cream, the cakes are very tart and intensely passion fruit flavored--probably not the best thing to serve in strictly chocoholic circles. Fruity dessert lovers take notice: my husband, my sister and I had a near brawl over the extra ramekin. YUM!

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups whole milk
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup thawed passion fruit concentrate or passion fruit pulp
1 tablespoons finely grated lime zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter eight 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups. Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, and pinch of salt in medium bowl to blend. Combine milk, egg yolks, passion fruit concentrate and lime zest in large bowl; whisk until blended. Add flour mixture to yolk mixture and whisk custard until blended. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar to whites and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into custard. Fold remaining whites into custard in 2 additions (custard will be slightly runny).

Divide custard equally among prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake custard cakes until golden brown and set on top (custard cakes will be slightly soft in center), about 27 minutes. Chill custard cakes uncovered until cold, at least 4 hours, then cover and keep refrigerated. Custard cakes can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Serve with whipped cream.

Lemon Chiffon Pie with Gingersnap Crust

I needed to make a lemon pie for the next installment of the Anne of Green Gables book club and settled on this recipe. From the descriptions in the book, I picture Anne's lemon pie as a pate brisee filled with lemon curd and topped with whipped cream, but I didn't feel like doing pate brisee because I am lazy. This pie from epicurious looked intriguing, so I gave it a shot. To make them uniform, the gingersnap cookies had to be processed until they were extremely fine crumbs. The resulting crust was quite hard--no shocker since gingersnaps are so hard themselves. If I made it again, I would use half gingersnaps and half graham crackers so I'm making that alteration in the recipe below. I wasn't crazy about the texture of the pie. I don't love the texture the gelatin creates.

Keys to success: Be sure to strain your custard before adding the cream. Give yourself plenty of time to cool the crust, plenty of time to cool the filling all the way down to 60 degrees and plenty of time to let the pie set. I also chilled the bowl and whisk with the cream before whipping it. The filling immediately started to set up and was easy to mound in the middle.

This was a simple, if time consuming pie which people seemed to really enjoy.


3/4 cup finely ground gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 12 cookies ground in processor)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


2 cups ice cubes

1/4 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

For crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of spring form pan with baking spray. Mix gingersnap cookie crumbs, sugar, and ginger in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir until mixture is evenly moistened. Transfer crumb mixture to spring-form pan; press crumbs firmly and evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake until crust is firm and slightly darker in color, about 8 minutes. Cool crust completely.
For filling:
Pour enough cold water into medium bowl to come halfway up sides; add 2 cups ice cubes and set aside.
Pour 1/4 cup water into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, grated lemon peel, and salt in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens very slightly (mixture will coat spoon but will not be thick like curd) and thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 8 minutes (do not boil). Add gelatin mixture; whisk until gelatin dissolves and mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Place saucepan in bowl with ice water until lemon filling is cool to touch (appox. 60 degrees), whisking occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer lemon filling to large bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat whipping cream with powdered sugar in another medium bowl until peaks form. Fold 1/4 of whipped cream into lemon filling until incorporated. Fold in remaining whipped cream in 3 additions. Transfer filling to cool crust, mounding slightly in center. Refrigerate pie until filling is set, about 4 hours. Serve with additional whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nectarine Pie

My 16-year-old sister visited last week and wanted to learn to bake something new. I had taught her to make red velvet cupcakes last January, which she then made and sold with resounding success at her Quiz Bowl bake sale (though my sister, Mikaela, who is partial to cream cheese frosting, may have purchased most of them.)

This time, wanting to broaden her range, we settled on pie. And, wanting to do something a little different, we chose a Nectarine Pie. The result was mixed. Though the crust and the crumb topping were excellent, the filling wasn’t quite sweet enough. If I were to make this again, I would definitely add more sugar – and possibly macerate the nectarines before putting them in the pie plate.

The original recipe came from All Recipes – here is my modified version.


2/3 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ tsp vanilla
4 large nectarines

7 tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp cold water
1 ¼ c flour

Crumb Topping:
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
¼ cup butter


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Prepare pie crust. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in cold water and flour. Mix just, until blended. Form the dough into a ball. Place the ball between two sheets of waxed paper, lightly floured. Roll out to 1/8 inch and line a 10-inch pie plate. Trim overhang.
3. Combine sugar, flour cinnamon, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
4. Slice nectarines (you can remove the skin if you feel so inclined – I didn’t). Place in pie shell. Pour cream mixture around the nectarines.
5. Prepare crumb topping. Cut the butter into the brown sugar and flour until butter is in pea-sized chunks. Sprinkle over top of pie.
6. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes. (Put a baking sheet under pie plate to catch any drippings – I didn’t do this and ended up with a disconnected smoke detector and a very smoky apartment).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

I am doing a 12-week fitness challenge at my gym which is really affecting my relationship with baked goods. So I got it into my head to try to make a low-calorie version of the white chocolate raspberry cupcakes I love so well.

I bought a beautiful brick of Callebaut white chocolate at Whole Foods and decided to make a simple ganache glaze to keep the calories lower than a full frosting.

I used fresh red raspberries and this recipe I found online.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup fresh raspberries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin cups with paper liners.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk alternately in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Fold in the raspberries.
Divide the batter among lined muffin cups. Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Turn cupcakes out onto a rack to cool completely.

3/4 cup chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan. Pour cream evenly over chocolate. Let stand for one minute to soften, then stir until smooth. If frosting is too loose to spread, let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, ganache will continue to thicken as it stands.

They were sad! This recipe should have made 11 cupcakes instead of 12 and even so they would have been sad little itty bitty cupcakes with barely any raspberry flavor at all. The white chocolate ganache completely overpowered the cakes.

The only good thing I have to say about them is that they were about 250 calories each. Booooo!