My summertime blues.

The weather has turned here in Seattle. Maybe just temporarily, but for the past week it's been a full-on Seattle summer. Impromptu BBQs, shoulder-to-shoulder walks around Greenlake and day drinking on my favorite Bottlehouse patio. Though somehow, even with the warmer temps and much-needed Vitamin D, I'm having an unusual case of seasonal depression - the opposite, in fact, of the typical Seattleite. The longer days and sunnier skies remind me of a different time - memories of last summer and the way things were. A stark difference from the summer that lies ahead.

So even on this gorgeous evening, when I should be out in the sun and enjoying every last drop of daylight, I just stayed put.

I needed to bake.

Without a plan or even a craving, I went to the cupboard to see what I was working with. What inventory could I turn into a little goodness? I went straight for the comfort food. The classic chocolate chip cookie. But lurking in the cupboard and typically reserved for a little salad topping....hazelnuts. Why not, right? I looked at Hugo and thought, "let's go nuts."

Chocolate Chip + Hazelnut Cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped (You can substitute with any nuts or just leave them out all together.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat the butter, sugar(s) and vanilla extract in a large mixer until creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, combining well between each addition. Gradually add in the flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts, making sure to get a nice, even distribution throughout the cookie dough. Drop/spoon onto an ungreased baking sheet. (I use a pretty big spoonful!)

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

If summertime blues are such a thing, this classic sweet was the perfect cure for me tonight.  


Turning Trix in the Kitchen

While I don't think this necessarily qualifies as a baked good, it certainly performs like one. "Ooohs" and "Ahhs." Big grins. Cavities on the cusp with just a glance.

This weekend I'm headed off to Vashon Island for the Seattle Works Board Retreat. It's our annual meeting of the minds where we talk direction for the organization, tackle big challenges ahead, get all introspective about our mission and, my favorite parts - connect with fellow board members and get re-engaged overall. We spend lots of time brainstorming, mind-mapping, group-thinking - all that retreat-y stuff. Naturally, I figured we'd need some brain food.

This playful and unexpected take on the Rice Krispy Treat is the perfect mix of sweet...and well, sweet. It should certainly provide that sugar rush we'll so desperately need as we're 10 hours in.

Trix Cereal Treats
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1 bag of mini marshmallows
  • 1 box of Trix (around 12 cups)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
1. Place the marshmallows and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove and stir until completely melted together and smooth.
2. Add your Trix! Toss. Coat. Turn. Coat. Make sure it's all covered. (I used a little non-stick cooking spray on the spatula to avoid the crazy stickiness.(
3. Spray a 9" x 13" pan (think Pyrex dish) with cooking spray and spread the Trix mixture into the pan. Pack it in and press it down, smoothing over the top with your "non-stick" spatula.
4. Let sit for 15-30 minutes to firm up. Cut into your desired shapes! Store in an airtight container...or (who are we kidding?!) eat right away!


When life hands you lemons...make Lemon Bundt Cake.

It's been nearly two years since my last post. To say that a lot has happened, well, that would be an understatement.

I've had some of the best moments of my life coupled with the worst. I found a best friend, fell in love, baked him a load of goodies, sold my house and moved to his area code, said "yes", planned a wedding, picked the dress, the flowers, the pies (yes, a pie tasting was involved!) and ordered over 150 mason jars for some homemade salted caramel sauce favors. (Lofty yet sweet plans.)

But then, just when I least expected it...whoop! That good ol' rug called life got pulled right out from under me. He changed his mind and our plans changed.The ring came off and the big day never came.

Needless to say, I've been just going through the motions since the new year and things have been a bit surreal. Luckily I have friends and family (and an adorable little pup, Hugo) to walk beside me (or drag me) as I start putting one foot in front of the other to move forward and start over.

Throughout this period of incredible change, one thing has remained - the solace I find in baking. The calm and concentration it offers me. The feeling of creating a lovely package of goodness and the joy that sneaks back in when I see someone take that first bite. The attention needed so that my mind can take a break from my current reality and focus on the chemistry and creativity of baking. It busies my mind and feeds my soul.

So as I re-dedicate myself to baking more and dwelling less, here's the first of many new favorite recipes to come. This is a sunny cake that's dying for a summertime brunch. It's an adaptation from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten. I made a few substitutions - swapped out the buttermilk for heavy whipping cream in a moment of "I'm not going back out to the store." I also skipped the glaze and added some macerated strawberries for color and sweetness - a nice touch against the citrus.

Lemon Bundt Cake with Macerated Strawberry Coulis
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream. (Or buttermilk, at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour your favorite, fancy bundt pan.
    Cream the butter and 2 cups of granulated sugar in the bowl of your Kitchen-Aid fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.
    Sift together the flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Add the flour and whipping cream mixtures, alternating each, beginning and ending with the flour.  Once mixed, pour the batter into your bundt pan, smoothing the top. Bake for 50 minutes to just over an hour - until a cake taster comes out clean.
    Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice into a small saucepan and cover over low heat until the sugar dissolves. (I used sugar and orange juice as I mistakenly used up all of my lemons for the zest and juice in the batter. Oops!)
    When the cake is done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon (in my case, orange) syrup over the cake, allowing it to soak in. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
    For the macerated strawberries
  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered - about 4 cups
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
    Toss the quartered strawberries with the sugar and juice.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes - I let them sit while the cake was baking and cooling. After the berries and sugar have macerated and become very juicy, remove 1/2 of the berry mixture, put it in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Return it to the rest of the berries and set aside until ready to use.  
    The next and final step is the most crucial - invite your friends over, slice and serve this baby with a spoonful (or three) of the strawberries and sit back and appreciate this little slice of sunshine that you just created.


    été le croissant

    It's Memorial Day weekend and while most are spending it celebrating in the most American of ways - BBQs, picnics,  summer gardening - I'm daydreaming of Paris and planning ete le croissant - the summer of the croissant! 

    Since my younger sister gifted it to me during the holidays, my Tartine Bread cookbook has been a regular weekend companion. I pour through it's pages on a Saturday morning, french press alongside, and devour each and every gorgeous picture. The care that's been taken in presenting such a simple staple as bread is truly a labor of love - as are most of the recipes within.

    I've dabbled a bit in their Savory Bread Pudding and Fresh Fava Panzanella (both delicious!) but the 10-page croissant recipe always seems to be where the book falls open as if taunting me, daring me to try it. So today, as my Saturday morning ritual has extended to a Memorial Day Monday - the mark of the summer season - I've decided that this will be the summer of the croissant, ete le croissant! Oui indeed!

    So let it be known internets....I will tackle this "petit engineering marvel" if it takes me 'til Labor Day. (And given the labor that will go into these culinary icons, it's only appropriate.) Stay tuned!

    "A well-made croissant will give one pause, a moment to reflect on the petit engineering marvel set before you." - Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread


    Watch out Cupcake...the Pie is back!

    I fancy myself a baker. (Amateur that is.) If I'm asked if I can cook I reply: "I bake." 

    I love the methodical focus involved. The consistent gratification I get from mixing butter and sugar together to form a sandy heaven. The way the darkest vanilla extract seems to lighten the mood. The fact that when I bake, my mind goes still and all the day's chaos is sifted away. 

    I bake cookies, cupcakes and cakes. Tarts, bread and muffins. But oddly, never a pie. Until now.

    Good thing because there seems to be a pie uprising afoot. Seattle has recently been dotted with such shops as Capitol Hill's High Five Pies and Fremont's Pie.  Kate Winslet goes from housewife to business woman by selling her homemade pies in HBO's Mildred Pierce. And the domestic goddess of them all, Martha Stewart, has recently unveiled a collection of her favorite pie and tart recipes. All signs point to a trend. All signs point to pie. 

    Flipping through my new copy of Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts, I instantly landed on a Pear-Raspberry Heart Pie.   (Yes, it was quite possibly the heart cut-outs that gave me the security of my tried and true sugar cookies.) I repeated my baking mantra, "If you can read, you can bake," and I begin the dough. 

    The dough was prepped, the pears were peeled, the pie was chilled and a few hours later emerged a golden brown pie, bubbly with sweetness and shiny with sugar. 

    I have converted. 

    While I'll never shun the cake, not leave behind my beloved cupcakes or neglect my cookie dough, I am excited by the fillings that lay ahead. The summer fruits that are just starting to grow and the crust designs I'll most likely be sketching out in my Moleskin. 

    Yes, I love pie. 
    (Images: Martha Stewart)


    Sugar Sugar

    Whatever the holiday - or if it's simply just a random Tuesday - I'm known for the shapes and sugar of my cut-out cookies!
    Tiny feet and hands for a baby shower. Space Needles for a local non-profit auction. Seahorses or Anchors for a boating excursion. Lobsters for a weekend in Maine. Squirrels and acorns for a harvest wine tasting. Lips for a sassy Valentine's Day Party. Snowflakes during the winter months. Footballs for a Superbowl Party. Ice Cream Cones for a summer picnic. Ninjabread Men for the sneakiest of occasions. Whatever the case...I love to take some dough, make a shape and give the gift of sugar cookies! 
    They've become so popular with my friends that they're now on a request/wait-list basis. But...no longer! Here's the special recipe that's tried and true and never fails with the fans. Now...the shape is up to you. What's your favorite shape??

    4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting.
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
    2 cups sugar
    2 large eggs
    2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    Royal Icing (optional; click here for recipe)

    Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
    Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Divide dough in half; flatter each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
    Preheat over to 325F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temp just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to just under 1/4 inch think, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. (I tend to make mine a bit thicker. Keeps them softer, chewier!) Cut out cookies with the fabulous cookie cutter of your choice, transferring shapes to parchment/silicon-lined baking sheets as you work. Roll out the scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining dough. Chill cookies in freezer until very firm, about 15 minutes before their turn in the oven. 
    Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes. (I don't wait until mine are too brown. They "continue baking" a bit as they cool. And this makes them less crisp/hard.) Let cool on sheets on wire racks. 
    Decorate to your hearts desire...once their done cooling of course! I love the Royal Icing recipe and it can be tinted with food coloring. 
    Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temp for up to 1 week. 


    Soft and Salty Goodness

    Soft pretzels make me happy. Whether they come from a street cart in New York City, an Auntie Anne's in a shopping mall food court or a ballpark, I tend to pick pretzels as my go-to snack. (I'm not sure why I feel they're a healthier option. I just do.) 
    Last week I had a hankering for a soft pretzel and rather than scour the streets for the closest food cart, I decided to make my own. Enter...Google. 
    Within seconds of a simple search for "Homemade Soft Pretzels" I had the recipe and it was underway. I've never watched Alton Brown or made any of his recipes before but this was easy and delicious. (And easy and impressive. For my readers, you know this is a favorite combination of mine.) Click here for the recipe from the FoodNetwork
    I made these pretzels on a Thursday afternoon in preparation for a Saturday Halloween party. (The recipe said they could keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.) When I finished they were picturesque. (See above!) I was so pleased with them (and myself!) and packed them away for the weekend's festivities. 
    Come Saturday, they still tasted great but the salt had dissolved a bit and they looked more swollen than crisp. I would MOST DEFINITELY recommend this recipe but would urge you to serve them the day of baking them. 
    So...what about you? What's your go-to snack? (And have you ever made them yourself??)