The Polar Espresso

When it comes to culinary adventures, taste is the most obvious of the five senses involved. Smell is close behind, and sight is also thrown into the mix. But there are sounds that are always coming out of my kitchen that make cooking about more than what meets the eye, nostril, or tastebud. Just as the young boy who narrates The Polar Express is so affected by the ring of a small bell, I am instantly brought back to a comforting and magical place with certain sounds – the sizzling of a breadcrumbed chicken cutlet, the rhythmic slicing of risotto-bound onions, and (perhaps most importantly) the whiz of the coffee grinder first thing in the morning.

My father is a self-proclaimed coffee snob, and I am following directly in his footsteps. There is truly a difference in tasting the flavor of freshly ground beans in each sip of my morning jolt that has made me very attached to all things espresso. And so, I couldn’t resist injecting a bit of that richness into this festive holiday recipe. Merry Christmas!

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Gooey Mocha Brownies:

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup espresso powder

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup strong filter coffee, near boiling

2 oz. dark chocolate chips (and 6 oz. dark chocolate chips later on)

2 eggs, room temperature

2 additional egg yolks, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups sugar

1 ¾ cups flour

1 tsp salt

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instruction:

  1. Whisk cocoa powder, espresso powder, and cinnamon in coffee until smooth. Whisk in first 2 oz. of chocolate chips until melted.
  2. Whisk butter and oil into mixture. Then, add eggs, additional yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  3. Sift in flour and salt and fold until completely combined. Finally, fold in the remaining 6 oz. chocolate chips.
  4. Transfer to 9×13 baking pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour, until toothpick comes out clean.
  5. After brownies have cooled slightly, carefully transfer to wire rack. To serve, stack different sized squares at 45 degree angles and dust with powdered sugar.

Enjoy gooey mocha brownies with Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Bun Also Rises

I am currently fulfilling a lifelong dream: being – and living – in London during Wimbledon. Though I love watching all of the big tennis tournaments, the traditions surrounding this particular one take it to a heightened, magical level. The all-whites rule is one that I believe should extend beyond the tennis courts. (Wouldn’t we all get along so much better in immaculate, dazzling apparel?) The strawberries and champagne diet should apply all year round. But ‘Breakfast at Wimbledon,’ the time in which the nation wakes up to a cup of tea and a quick gab about the day to come, is the best part of all.

Such morning gossips are made extra sweet by a plate full of cinnamon buns. But often times one is deterred from making them, because any yeast-based product requires so much patience. As the young protagonists in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises demonstrate, waiting often seems impossible. Just as the sun will always return after a dark night, yeast will always activate if left overnight. But sometimes a catalyst is necessary to speed up the plot. For Jake Barnes, that was a few drinks at a bullfight. For these cinnamon buns, it is the combination of yeast and baking powder. You’ll be finished in plenty of time for the first match on Centre Court!

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Glaze:

3 tbsp buttermilk

3 tbsp cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoon melted butter

1 1/2 cups icing sugar (or enough for glaze consistency)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter

Pinch of salt

Dough:

6 oz all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons yeast

1/8 cup plus 1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Instruction:

1. Heat 1/8 cup milk to barely a simmer. Take off heat, whisk with yeast. When yeast is dissolved, let sit for five minutes (letting mixture become frothy).

2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add rest of milk, yeast mixture, vanilla extract, and butter to form dough. Knead dough on a floured surface until a smooth ball is formed. (If dough is too sticky, add flour several tablespoons at a time.) Let dough rise in a greased bowl covered with a tea towel.

3. While dough is rising, combine cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt. Pour melted butter over the mix to create a paste.

4. Roll dough into a 6×9 (approximately) rectangle. Spread filling evenly, leaving a half inch border. Roll (beginning with the shorter length) into a tight cylinder. Pinch at the seam. Cut into six even rolls and place in greased muffin tin. Cover with tea towel and let rise for at least half an hour.

5. Bake buns in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes (until golden brown). While the buns are baking, whisk together cream cheese, buttermilk, vanilla extract, (all at room temperature) and salt. Add icing sugar in batches, whisking until smooth. When glaze consistency is reached, finish with melted butter.

6. Allow buns to cool for five minutes. Drizzle with glaze.

Enjoy cinnamon buns with buttermilk glaze with Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Rummy Oat and Juliet

As I get older, it becomes much more apparent how similar I am to my parents. Anyone who knows the pair of them is aware that they are quite different – opposites, in many ways. I seem to have landed somewhere in the middle. From my mother, I’ve inherited slight OCD tendencies and a solid knowledge of every word to “It’s Rainin’ Men.” From my father, I’ve learned Shakespeare’s great monologues and the importance of travel.

But one thing they have both passed on to me is a love for chocolate chip cookies. When I was younger, my father baked a batch almost every Saturday afternoon. Now mother continues to make them, with the addition of hearty oats and a dash of cinnamon. The sweet smell throughout the house, the cheeky teaspoons of raw dough, and finally warm gooey goodness with a cold glass of milk are all avenues to instant happiness. I’ve tried for years to find a way to find a way to make a recipe equally as delicious and comforting. A dash of rum complements the brown sugar quite well in this “grown up” cookie recipe. But hurry, because they’re so delicious that a batch will be gone in an instant – and parting with these cookies is such sweet sorrow.

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Grown Up Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons rum

1/2 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

Instruction:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter and sugars together until smooth. Add vanilla extract, rum, and egg. Whisk until smooth.

2. Sift in flour, baking soda and salt. Beat in with wooden smooth until completely combined. Fold in oats and chocolate chunks.

3. Using an ice cream scoop, form large dough balls. Flatten slightly into disk shapes. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes (until golden brown). Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes.

Enjoy grown up chocolate chip cookies with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Madeleine

In an old house in Bryn Mawr on the long Main Line, Lives a crazy and wonderful mother of mine. She’s tipsy after one glass of wine, And goes to bed at half past nine.   Like the pink-green-brown of these tasty treats, She’s a colorful surprise to those she meets. So when you bake madeleines for some sugary eats, Just remember my mom, who inspired these sweets. IMG_0291

Citrus madeleines:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 vanilla bean

Zest of one lemon

Zest of one orange

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup icing sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

*A few drops of food dye

*2 tbsp cocoa powder plus one tsp water

Instruction:

1. In saucepan, melt butter. Turn off heat and add vanilla bean and lemon and orange zests to infuse.

2. Whisk eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon juice in bowl for about 3 minutes, until frothy. Add icing sugar in two batches, whisking until liquid absorbs sugar.

3. Sift in flour and baking powder, whisking until mixture is completely smooth. Strain butter and add to batter, again whisking until completely smooth.

*Optional: before adding butter, sift in cocoa powder. Then add extra water and proceed to butter step.

*Optional: as a final step, add several drops of food dye.

4. Pour batter into madeleine molds, filling each pocket about halfway. In 375 degree oven, bake madeleines for 8-10 minutes, until batter has risen and is spongy to the touch.

Enjoy Mothers’ Day madeleines with Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline books, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Sense and Sensibilitea Biscuits

My sister and I have been talking about one thing and one thing only for the past week: the Jeopardy audition exam. Anyone registered can log on at 8pm on one of four designated days to take the timed test. Mary Kate took the exam on Monday, breezing by with knowledge about Montana’s adjacency to Idaho. (Though she did forget essential Alanis Morrisette lyrics… how embarrassing for her.)

While she dove right in and took the exam, I, meanwhile, have spent the week asking her tons of trivia. Can I study for this test? Can I look up the answers? Can I retake it? What if I don’t know anything? What if I get zero right? In fact, I asked so many questions today that I actually missed the registration period and couldn’t take the test. Oops.

Like the sisters in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Mary Kate and I differ in countless ways. She’s a doer and I’m a planner. She’ll be shaking hands with Alex Trebec when I’m still figuring out how to click the red answer buzzer. But like a crumbly shortbread with a smooth cup of tea, different textures, temperatures, and flavors can compliment each other perfectly.

Hurry on home, MK! There are shortbreads waiting for you! Oh, and I chose this cookie cutter because I, you know, heart you.

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Earl Grey shortbreads:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea leaves

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 stick plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Instruction:

1. In standing electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, tea leaves, and salt.

2. Add egg and vanilla extract. When combined, add butter.

3. Pour the crumbly mixture onto cling film; form into a ball, wrap, and put in refrigerator for an hour. (Allowing the mixture to firm up in the fridge will make rolling out much easier.)

4. Roll dough to quarter-inch thickness. Use cookie cutter depending on shape desired. Bake cookies in 375 degree oven for about 8 minutes (until firm and turning golden).

Enjoy Earl Grey shortbreads with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Peter Pain au Chocolat

J.M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan has lasted the test of time. In fact, after a Disney movie and live television production, it’s easy to forget that this beloved story began as a series of novels.

Each and every one of us has an idea of Neverland, a place where we don’t have to grow up and deal with “grown up” things. The idea of Neverland seems pretty good to me right now as I think about earning, saving, budgeting, planning, networking, and choosing. The anxiety of being (a few months away from) mid-twenties and not being certain of goals or direction or finances is ever-present.

But I ruminate over these things and realize that I’m eating chocolate for breakfast and petting my anthropomorphized, humongous dog, and suddenly those scary adult things seem very far away.

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2 1/4 cups bread flour

1/8 cup yeast

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 sugar

1/4 cup whole milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

plus 3 tablespoons melted butter

~1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 eggs and an optional dash of cinnamon (for egg wash)

Instruction:

1. Dissolve yeast into water. Meanwhile, whisk flour, salt, sugar.

2. To dry ingredients, add melted butter, whole milk, and finally dissolved yeast. Combine either in standing mixer or with hands.

3. When everything is incorporated, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead dough until smooth. Form into ball, wrap lightly in cling film, and let rise for two hours.

4. Knock back dough (basically, punch dough to let air out) and roll out to rectangle of about 9×7 (approximately a quarter inch thick). Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with cling film, and let rise for an hour.

5. Roll out dough again to quarter inch thickness. Spread softened butter onto two-thirds of the dough. Fold the dough like a posted letter, first with the un-buttered third and then with the remaining buttered third. Roll out, then rotate the letter-like parcel 90 degrees. Fold in the same manner – thirds – and roll out again. Place back on baking sheet, cover, and leave for an hour.

*Any of the resting times can be done in the refrigerator; however, this slows the yeast and may need to be increased to several hours.

6. Roll, rotate, and fold twice more, ending by rolling out entire dough to quarter-inch thickness. Slice into eight triangles. At the tip of each triangle, place three or four chocolate chips, then roll towards opposite side. Place each rolled croissant seam-side down on parchment lined baking sheet. Let rest for at least an hour.

7. Brush each croissant with egg wash. Bake in 375-degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until croissants are deep golden brown.

Enjoy pain au chocolat with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Porks of Being a Wallflower

When I met Sam last year, I was shocked to learn that she was a teenager (though has moved up to the next decade of life since then). Immediately I was amazed by how creative, talented, mature and – well – together she is. In our Marketing and Food Product Design class, we were asked to come up with a new product for the market. The only limitation was that the product had to contain blueberries. Sam’s brilliant idea to combine the two best components of breakfast time – bacon and blueberries – is absolutely inspired (and perhaps somewhat influenced by her summers spent in the good ol’ USA).

As the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower find ways to cope with teenage years, these small muffins can carry pretty heavy flavors and still turn out beautifully. Everyone handles adolescence in different ways, and sometimes seemingly random and (let’s face it) super weird qualities can produce a magnificent result. I could barely tie my shoes when I was nineteen; meanwhile, Sam is now running a pub in Berkshire.

And so, this post celebrates both a head chef at the age of twenty and brilliant friend, who possesses an appreciation of the finer, American things in life: bacon and carbohydrates.

IMG_9865Bacon Blueberry Muffins

110 g flour

110g butter

65 g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

100 g blueberries

300 g bacon

Brown sugar

Instruction:

1. Melt butter in a pan with bacon. Turn off heat and let the bacon infuse into the melted butter for about 5 minutes.

2. To candy bacon: generously coat strips of bacon with brown sugar. Sandwich between parchment paper and two baking sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes. When bacon has cooled, slice into small pieces.

3. Whisk sugar and eggs in a medium bowl. Add melted butter, then sift in flour and baking powder. Fold in blueberries and bacon. Transfer batter into greased or lined muffin tin.

4. Bake muffins in 350 degree oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Enjoy bacon blueberry muffins with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Scone

I associate several things with autumn: flannel, pumpkins, Mumford and Sons, Sunday afternoon football, snuggling, and Harry Potter. Although the series isn’t season-specific, the descriptions of Hogwarts fireplaces and Quidditch matches are so cozy. Plus, the premise of witches and wizards, learning how to cast spells, and ghosts floating around the grounds has an unmistakable “October” feel to it. (Peeves was always my favorite. It was a crime that the filmmakers left him out.)

I decided to develop a recipe that would incorporate all my favorite autumnal flavors. The spiced pumpkin flavor brings a warmth to a previously simple recipe that will cast a spell on all of you Muggles and aspiring bakers.

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Pumpkin scones:

2 cups flour

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/ 2tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground ginger

7 tbsp butter, cubed and cold

1 tbsp skim milk

1 egg

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

3 oz. block chocolate, chopped (milk or dark)

Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.

3. Pulse cold, cubed butter until mixture has course, sand-like consistency. Add egg, pumpkin, and milk and pulse until  mixture is just combined.

4. Dump dough onto floured surface and knead several times, incorporating chocolate as you do so. Using a floured cookie cutter, cut out six circles and transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes in oven or until scones are light brown and pass the toothpick test (insert toothpick into center of scone and it should come out clean or with only a few crumbs). Let cool for a few minutes before tasting!

I’m still working on my butterbeer recipe, but in the meantime, enjoy a pumpkin scone with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Not to brag, but my copy is signed by J.K. Rowling…) And check in at warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!