Christmas Cookie Party

It’s finally Christmas time! This is my favorite time of the year. I love going all-out with decorations (yes, I’m one of those people with reindeer antlers in their car), gifts, and of course–dessert.

Ever since I moved back to Miami four years ago, my friend Karina and I have hosted a Christmas Cookie baking day. Basically we just go crazy and bake hundreds of cookies so that we can “gift them” in pretty christmas tins. But to be honest we have never actually gotten to the part were we wrap them and gift them–we usually end up eating most of them ourselves.

IMG_0786

Some of last year’s cookies

This year we’re switching up tradition, and instead of baking all the cookies ourselves, we’re having a Christmas Cookie Party. Every guest has to bake a batch of cookies–from scratch–and then we swap cookies so that everyone gets to try every flavor. Less work, more fun.

I’m obviously very excited, I already bought my cookie tin, and I’m between making cranberry and pistachio biscotti (the green and red makes it festive) or something more chocolatey. Maybe I’ll get crazy and do both. Either way it’s going to be a fun time with good friends, and more importantly yummy cookies.

Happy Holidays

Finding your “Go-To” Recipe

When you’re the official baker in your house, like I am, there are usually a couple of recipes that are requested time and time again. For me, that’s chocolate chip cookies.

I’m very particular about chocolate chip cookies–they have to be very chocolatey and must stay chewy even after they cool. (Although I’ve been known to break my rules when I get a request for crispy chocolate chip cookies now and again.)

After trying what seems like hundreds of recipes and different techniques, I’ve finally found one that works every time. And the best part about finding your perfect recipe, is that after perfecting it, you can get creative and add different ingredients–white chips, nuts, berries, and my favorite alteration: M&Ms.

M&M Cookies

The best part about chocolate chip cookies is how versatile they are, there’s no wrong way to make them. So go ahead and bake some, your “go-to” recipe is out there somewhere, I promise.

P.S. Here are two of my favorite recipes: Alton Brown’s The Chewy Recipe and How Sweet it Is rainbow cookies (which are the ones I made in the pictures above.) Give them a try and tell me what you think..

Oh, Apple Cake

So here I’m taking a moment to rant about recipes that don’t give you exact instructions.  Isn’t it common knowledge that baking is a science? It’s a ll about perfect measurements, and exact temperatures–if one little thing changes the whole cake can collapse on you.

Why the rant? Well, my mom was craving an apple cake that she remembers having years ago at some lady’s house–you know how it is. So it’s up to me to scout the internet for this mystery cake she remembers so fondly. There hundreds of recipes out there, but none of them passed my mom’s approval.

Finally I find one–it looks promising. The basics, granny smith apples, caramel, and a simple cake.

I start prepping everything and find strike number one–no pan size. I seriously have cake pans that rage from 6 inch to 12 inch. I go for the medium 9 inch, and cross my fingers that it’ll be alright. Finally I’m ready to bake  and then strike two–no oven temperature. Really? That’s like baking sacrilege. I’m beginning to regret this recipe. But it’s not over, strike three: no cook time. “Just cook until golden.” I was about to give up right there.

But I kept going, and thankfully the results were good. It’s not the most attractive cake, the “wait until golden” technique cause me to burn some of the caramel.

Image

But thankfully, people ate it up and my mom was happy. Lesson learned though, read a recipe completely before baking, and if it’s not right, keep looking.

The Quest for the Perfect Marble Pound Cake

So if you ask my friends and family one thing I’m really annoying about and they’ll tell you: my obsession with Starbuck’s Marble Pound Cake.

As a kid I didn’t really like desserts with all the cream and the syrups, but one thing I always liked was pound cake, and to this day there is nothing more comforting than a big piece of plain old pound cake. (You don’t want to know how many times I’ve considered baking a whole cake and eating it with a fork–dark times.)

I know I’m probably biased, but mom makes the best vanilla pound cake in the world, and her marble cake is delicious too (she has always used milk chocolate powder for the chocolate part instead of cocoa powder.) But then I tried the marble pound cake from Starbucks. I know my ultimate guilty pleasure should be some fancy baked good from some French bakery, but those people at Starbucks just really know how to get you hooked.

Anyway, ever since then I’ve been trying different marble cake recipes in search for one that can compare. It needs to be moist but compact, and very chocolatey.

So today, in one of my horrible moments of procrastination, I came across a recipe that looked promising. I’m all about the visual, and this one looked delicious. I had to try it.

So I decided to bake, at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night. Told you I was obsessed.

IMG_5960IMG_5962

Anyway, the recipe was amazing, very moist and chocolatey. The addition of the almond paste really gave it a surprising flavor. I highly recommend it, it’s definitely bookmarked for future use. Look how pretty.

img_59671-e1384738215681

But although it’s pretty much one of the best marble cakes I’ve ever tried, it’s still not what I’m looking for.

My quest will continue… I’ll keep you posted.