Tag Archives: Baking

First taste of Fall: Dark Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Cookies

Not too long ago I listed my favorite things about fall, and somehow this got left off the list – very tragic!  I found this recipe last year and made it for my office, and it was a big, big hit.   Pumpkin is a fall mainstay and one that I very much enjoy.  Growing up a favorite smell and surprise was the aroma of a freshly baked pumpkin bread in my mom’s kitchen, which I really should get the recipe for.  

In the meantime, we’ll have some cookies, Dark Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Cookies

Dark Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Cookies
Ingredients, adapted from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp of nutmeg
¼ tsp of pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of canola oil
1 cup of pure pumpkin, pureed
1 tsp of vanilla
1 cup of dark chocolate chips (or not, totally up to you)
Set Oven to 325 degrees

In one bowl lightly beat the sugar and eggs for a light golden color and slightly frothy texture.  Add to the eggs and sugar the oil, vanilla and pumpkin puree. 

Add to the wet ingredients the white flour and whole wheat flour, baking soda and powder and all of your spices and seasonings.  It will smell like fall, right there in the bowl.  Remember the uncooked eggs?  Don’t try the batter yet.

Did you notice that there is more baking powder that is normally required for most cookie recipes?  This makes the batter extra airy and fluffy.  You’ll notice this difference in texture as soon as you mix it up.

Orange, pumpkin scented, and delicious…  What is missing?  Chocolate!  Pumpkin is a must for fall, but in our house chocolate chips are a year round staple.  I make no apologies for this confession, besides it is dark chocolate – that has to count as being on the healthy side of the aisle.  I suppose if chocolate isn’t your thing, which is shocking in and of itself, you could swap in nuts, or a blend of raisins, or dates?  

I use a large spoon to scoop these out and bake them in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes.  As I mentioned, these cookies bake up extra fluffy and high as opposed to baking and spreading on the pan, so no need to worry about crowding the pan. 
When the cookies are out of the oven, these are the critical next steps: find a sweater (to my Florida readers, maybe a light cardigan?), find a cool breeze, a cup of cider/tea/coffee/chai and share with someone you love.  Cookies and cake are delicious, but when you eat them with someone you love, wow, the flavor is x 1000.

Happy Fall!

Tastes like Home

Shortly after I graduated college my mom compiled a binder filled with recipes that were the sort of things you would always love to eat at a mom’s house and should always know how to make; apple pie, quiche, perfect salad dressing, cakes for holidays, and banana bread.

Banana bread feels like home.  It is warm, it’s comforting, it’s not so bad for you that you can’t eat it all day long – which I ultimately did.   After a whirlwind week of doctors appointments and hospital stays, more on that at another time, I just wanted to be back in our home.  All I could think to do was clean, do laundry and bake.  I’ll spare you the pictures of me sweeping and folding towels.

I took my  mom’s already really terrific banana bread recipe and upped the ante in the “good for you” category, without losing points in the “good tasting” category.

Healthy and Fluffy Banana Bread
1 2/3 cup of whole wheat flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of turbinado sugar, or regular white sugar
1 apple sauce snack cup (4 oz.)
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
4 mashed very ripe bananas
1/2 cup of fat free Greek Yogurt
Bake at 350 for 1 hour

As a tip the banana shown above are not the ones I used. For a really good banana bread you want the bananas that look really bad: covered in spots, mushy and overly ripe.  If you want to fastforward the ripening process you can keep the bananas in the freezer, and then take them out about an hour before baking time to defrost, like so.

First melt the butter and let it cool and then add the sugar, eggs, vanilla and apple sauce. When you mix it up it will look like nothing very exciting.  Don’t lose hope.

Then add in those super ripe, but full of flavor bananas and the yogurt.  I know, now it just looks like banana baby food.  Believe in the banana bread!  I promise!

Time to add the dry ingredients.  A bunch of scoopfuls.

Here’s a secret, whenever I make a bread or cake I pour a little extra batter in some muffin tins also.  Maybe this is to taste test to make sure the recipe worked, but maybe it’s also to have a great treat in less time then in takes to bake a whole cake, you be the judge.

After an hour in the oven, always test with a toothpick, your banana bread should be done.  Let it cool, if you can, before removing it from the pan.  If the temptation is too great, that’s what those little muffins were for!   I loved this banana bread, it would be great with nuts or chocolate chips added in or smeared with some peanut butter or cream cheese.  But in this case, it tasted like home and that is all I was craving.

Sweetness for the New Year

Growing up there were certain food pairings that always went together: peanut butter and jelly, Oreo cookies and milk, apples and honey.  As the Jewish High Holiday season approaches, my mind and my appetite starts to shift away from blueberries and peaches and to autumn’s bounty of apples.  

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it is traditional to dip apples into honey for it signifies the wish for sweetness in the coming year – but really any reason is a good reason to mix apples with sweetness.  The holiday season is always filled with multiple meals, treats and often overindulging, this healthier take on a traditional apple cake will set the year off on a healthier and sweet note, and that’s what I always wish for good health and sweetness.  
Whole Wheat Apple Muffins, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup of apple sauce
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsps dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
2 large apples, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
I have to start off by saying that I played with the ingredients for this recipe to create something lighter, and more sponge cake like than a traditional dense muffin – although I do love a good muffin.  

Let’s get started, all of the dry ingredients are in one bowl.  Because I subbed out half of the butter, I halved the amount of all-purpose flour and added half a cup of cake flour to help keep the fluffiness.  I also used less sugar than the original recipe called for because of the natural and added sugars in apple sauce.  As a side note, we just got fresh cinnamon, and the aroma is amazing.

In a separate bowl mix the butter, apple sauce, and sugars.  When the butter is broken up enough – it won’t look like normal creamed butter and sugar because the liquid content of the apple sauce, don’t worry.  Now blend in the egg.  It still is not going to be pretty, don’t worry.  Now add in the yogurt.  I use non-fat, sugar free Greek yogurt, because I don’t want to add extra sugars that are hidden in most yogurts.

After you blend the yogurt it will resemble what you probably expected the mixture to look like all along – phew!  Slowly add the dry ingredients to to the wet mixture.

Time to get to the apples.  I am partial to granny smith apples.  I use them for my apple pies or just for snack.  I love their tart flavor and crisp bite.  I am sure you could use your favorite variety.  Make sure to eat some apples a long the way, that’s what I did.

With a large spoon mix in the apples.  I have to warn you at this point the batter is sticky, and not at all like a traditional cake dough.  It more closely resembles a cookie dough.  Don’t worry about it.  Seriously, apples and sugar and yogurt and flour is not something to worry about.

Plop large spoonfuls of the batter into muffin cups or if you run out of papers as I did eventually just make small balls on a cookie tray.  For extra sweetness you can sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on top of the muffins.

Pop these into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, and then lower the oven temperature to 400 degree for another 5 minutes.  That is it.  It is a fast, fast baking recipe.  Kind of perfect for the holiday season when you are cooking/basting/baking all day and don’t have time to slave over dessert – and probably even better to save for yourself for a treat the next day.

Wishing you good baked goods, health and happiness.

Life gives you Lemon Meringue Pie


Two things to know about me:

  1. If I am going to someone’s home I will always offer to bring something
  2. I am a pie girl, I take the buttery, fruity, chocolatey, sweet, savory type over cake on nearly any day.

Okay, back to present, last Sunday an invite for Father’s Day and my sister-in-law’s mom’s birthday linner is sent out. It turns out my sister-in-law’s mom’s favorite dessert is Lemon Meringue Pie. Full disclosure, I have never made a meringue, I have never made a lemon pie, and I have actually never tasted a lemon meringue pie. Sounds good, I can do this. By Thursday the above mentioned really starts to sink in. By Friday I am actively looking for recipes (thank you http://www.epicurious.com). By Saturday I am grocery shopping, and by Saturday evening a panic is starting to settle in.

Sunday I bake.

ents: Pie crust, you’ll get this recipe at another time. Because of the doubt I was feeling about the filling and the topping I went with a store bought. Homemade or store bought you’ll want to use pie weights (rice, beans, pie beads) and pierce the dough with a fork – like you might have done with a frozen tv dinner’s plastic wrap as a kid.


1 cup sugar

5 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
4 large egg yolks
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp fresh lemon zest

4 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup of sugar

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, 1995

Make filling:
In a heavy saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt and gradually whisk in water and milk, whisking until cornstarch is dissolved.
In a bowl whisk together egg yolks. Cook milk mixture over moderate heat, whisking, until it comes to a boil, this happens all of a sudden and the mixture is surprisingly thick.
Take the pan off the stovetop and gradually mix into the egg yolks, whisking all the while so that your eggs aren’t scrambled. Return egg and cornstarch+milk mix to the stove. Simmer mixture, whisking, 3 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, lemon juice, and zest until butter is melted. Cover surface of filling with plastic wrap.
Make meringue:
In a large glass or metal bowl with an electric mixer beat egg whites with cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar in a slow stream, beating until meringue just holds stiff peaks.
Pour filling into shell and spread meringue on top, covering filling completely, sealing it to pastry. I found it worked best to allow the meringue to lap up onto the baked pie crust. Draw meringue up into peaks and bake pie in middle of oven at 350 until meringue is golden, about 15 minutes.

Somewhere along these steps the first pie crust that I blind baked shrunk in the pan, do not forget to pierce the dough! So as I continued to mix, blend and whisk I snacked along the way on shrunken pie crust – it tastes just as good as you’d imagine, very.

The meringue was definitely the most intimidating, it’s very humid in DC (not good for flully egg whites) and after watching many episodes of Alton Brown I imagined it would be something you would have to learn how to make only from practice. Hah! Alton is such a good teacher, it worked! I just kept looking for the peaks. That’s them in picture #3.

Success! The pie was delicious, the meringue did shrink up a little bit and slide across the filling. So, while it didn’t look as picture perfect upon delivery as it did on the counter, it did get good reviews for taste. Things I would do differently next time: Put the meringue directly on the warm filling, this helps to set the egg whites; not drive 2+ hours before it gets served, this allowed the meringue to ride a slip and slide all the way there.