Whole Wheat Herb Foccacia

Hello from Pieland! 21 pies down, 3 more to go (for a post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving). Yep, the number increased again to make the final count an even 24.

The other day my brother took me to Whole Foods to buy all of the ingredients for my pies. I calculated everything out exactly to avoid over/under buying anything, so my list looked ridiculous with a bunch of crazy calculations on it. As I was shopping around, I couldn’t find the baking aisle. I asked a man that worked there if he could steer me in the right direction, and he asked what I’m baking. “Uh, 17 pies…” I responded and giggled nervously. “Oh! Well how much flour do you need?”. I look at my list. “Approximately 24.5 cups.” After a bit more calculating, we figured out that I would spend almost $35.00 on individual bags of flour, until he suggested another idea: I could buy a 50 lb. bag of flour from him for $20.00. That’s more than double for almost half the price. Seriously? Deal.
I love when things like that happen. It just goes to show that people will surprise you, and are often much more willing to help than you’d think — you just need to talk to them first.

Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

Your first impression of these cookies is probably like most everyone that saw them in real life: “Why are they shaped like hatchets, you creep?”. Well, on the day that I made them I thought it would be more obvious, being that it was Halloween and all. Hatchets are scary! Halloween is scary! It totally makes sense. Plus, it was a perfect opportunity for me to use one of the awesome cookie cutters my friend Natalie got me for Christmas last year.

Still, no one got it, making me look like a total weirdo. This isn’t uncommon, just a little unfortunate.

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Homemade Granola Bars

People are usually surprised when I admit that one of my favorite foods of all time is peanut butter. It took me 4 months to convince my Spanish roommates to try it, but once they did, they were immediately seduced by its magical powers. I’m usually a purist, though, when it comes to peanut butter. I eat a PB&J, have it with apple slices, or ants on a log as a snack, but that’s about it. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to make my own granola, and finally I found a recipe where I can combine the power of peanut butter and homemade granola.

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Braided Bread with Lemon Curd and Sweet Cheese Filling

If you are not intrigued by the title of this post then you should just stop reading right now. This bread was my pride and joy at the brunch. It came out more beautiful and delicious than I even thought it could, and made my apartment smell like homemade lemon doughnuts. I honestly hold more love for this bread than probably any other non-human element in my life thus far. Get the picture, internet-lovers?

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Pear Rosemary Scones

This recipe was inspired by a scone I recently had at Lula Café. I love rosemary but have never heard of using it in pastries or sweet baked goods. It’s a lovely combination and was the crowd favorite. I saw one of my friends try to hide one in her bra to take for later. There really isn’t any better compliment than that, so thanks. You know who you are.

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Hazelnut and Brown Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Last week my friend Miquel came to visit from Spain. The two of us met when I was studying abroad in Barcelona and he was the R.A. in my dorm. Back then we weren’t as great of friends as he was always upset with me for finding wine in my closet or staying out too late. I was in Spain (and college) – give me a break. Fast forward 2 years later and we are much better friends considering I’m not threatening his job for the sake of a couple glasses of Rioja. It’s working out quite well.

So during his time in Chicago, what did we do, you ask? No, we did not go to the top of the Sears—ahem, Willis—Tower. No, we did not ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. One thing we did do, though, is make cupcakes. Yes, I said cupcakes. They don’t have these things in Spain.

   

Ok, yes they do–but my friends Claire and John are getting married (heyo!), and their engagement party was one of the nights that Miquel was in town. Miquel also shares a love for baking so we made them these delectable brown butter and hazelnut cupcakes with chocolate ganache. Yes, I did say brown butter, hazelnut, and chocolate.

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Door County Cherry and Almond Granola

I recently returned from a 6-day trip to Door County, Wisconsin. If you haven’t yet been there, you are really missing out. I started visiting there with my family 20 years ago, and not much has changed since that first year I went. It’s one of the few places in the US that has been untouched by big corporations and chain restaurants. Every institution you go to you feel like you’re part of the family — as in, the actual family that owns it — and they welcome you with warm smiles and sconnie accents. By the end of the trip you’re throwing around “Don’tcha know”s like you’ve been living there your whole life. It’s marvelous.

Usually there’s a big group of us that go, but this year it was just me, my dad, and my step mom. It made for some serious bonding time and a captive audience for my dad and the corny hilarious things he says. For example, the three of us are biking on a beautiful trail. There are a lot of hills — despite my assumption that they no longer existed in the midwest — so we are getting tired. My dad finds himself on a relatively flat surface. “When there’s gravity, use it! That’s what I always say!” he states as he rides along beginning up a hill. He’s not pedaling. He’s not moving. “Guess there’s no gravity right here!” he says. “That’s what you always say, huh, dad?” I joke. “Well, I said it, and I believe it!” he responds with a proud smirk.

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Apple and Cheese Scones


Scones are one of the baked goods I’m most proud of accomplishing. I never ate them growing up, but first discovered them at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.

Now, Tartine is not just your average coffee shop/bakery. They are not messing around. Their chefs studied in France and all that jazz and the painfully long line out the door and around the corner proves it. So, after eating that incredible french masterpiece in the form of a currant scone and I completely forgot about the line and knew what had to be done.

My Tartine treasure and some minty mint tea.

The main issue baking scones is that they can get dry and tough very easily. A dry scone has to be one of the worst things on this planet Earth, but these scones–these scones are not dry. These scones are rich and creamy and will explain immediately why you will never buy a scone from Starbucks ever again. I’m serious–don’t do it. I’ll ban you from this blog.

All proceeds from this post will go to apple domestic violence prevention.

I was inspired by a recipe I’d read recently for apple cheddar scones from Smitten Kitchen, but instead of cheddar I used some creamy onion cheese, sold to me by a darling little Amish man at the Daley Plaza Farmers’ Market.

So I turned on some Paul Simon, got out my crappy camera, and baked my little heart out. Continue reading