Fingers Crossed

I was a little worried that it’d be hard to wrap the cookies with the caramel drizzle on top, but thankfully, it seems to work fine with plastic wrap. Whew. Assembling Patreon treat boxes today, should be able to ship them out by end of day, fingers crossed.

This Worked Very Nicely

Sugar cookies with a bit of caramel in the royal icing, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with salt. Standard iced sugar cookies are a little too straight-up sweet for me, but these, I could eat rather steadily, esp. with a nice cup of coffee or tea. And so pretty too!

Baking a Bit

Putting together the autumn treat boxes tomorrow, to ship out to Patreon subscribers. So I’m baking a bit this weekend — made half a batch of sugar cookies yesterday and will bake the other half batch with the kids later today. I find that if I divide it into two batches, and do one batch on my own when I can be peaceful and obsessive, I have way more patience for baking some cookies with the kids. For the cookies themselves, I used the Sweetopia sugar cookie recipe, which I find perfectly reliable.

But I felt like experimenting a little bit with the icing — I’m using Alton Brown’s royal icing recipe, which is great and also reliable, but I stirred in a few spoons of caramel. (I thought about making caramel from scratch, but y’know, they had dipping caramel near the apples at the store yesterday, so I just picked up some of that, and I think it’ll be fine.) The caramel only flavors it slightly, but it does give it a lovely color.

My plan is to ice the cookies (the lazy way, just dipping them in the bowl of royal icing and lightly scraping off the excess), and then drizzle caramel over the top and sprinkle with flake salt.

That’ll have to wait a bit, though, as I need to go shower and get ready for the podcast recording session with Jed Hartman and Benjamin Rosenbaum
this morning. We’re planning to talk about editing today, and what makes a story good, if there is such a thing. 🙂 If all goes well, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter for it on October 1st, so watch this space. Would love your support.

But later, salted caramel cookies!

(I also put a spoon of the caramel in my coffee this morning, which I feel was a truly excellent life choice.)

NOTE: If you sign up for a treat box now, your next box will be in December. If you want the September box too, it’ll be an additional $20, which we can arrange via PayPal.

Mulled Apple Cider, Honey, & Jaggery Marshmallows

Cider marshmallow experiments. I made my mulled apple cider marshmallows with corn syrup and white sugar first, per usual, but for the second batch, I tried swapping those ingredients for honey and jaggery.

The honey makes the syrup boil up much higher, so you do need to use a bigger pot, or be extra careful watching the temp, or you’re likely to have it boil over. And the honey/jaggery version gave a stickier marshmallow, needing to be tossed in powdered sugar a second time. But I like this version better, with more complexity to the flavors.

I would still like a little more brightness of apple; the mulling concentrates and changes the flavor. Maybe adding a little apple extract next time? Hmm…

4 c. apple cider

4 sticks cinnamon

12 cloves

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 c. jaggery (or dark brown sugar)

1/2 c. honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

butter (for greasing the pan)

cinnamon powder for dusting (a few T)

powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (about 1/2 c.)

  1. MAKE MULLED CIDER: In a small pot on the stove, heat cider with cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes or so. Remove 1 c. for marshmallows, sieving out any whole spices; drink whatever remains. (Can be done in advance.) If you simmer for longer, the flavor concentrates more; you can simmer it all the way down to 1 c. if you like, but it’ll take quite a long time.
  2. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with 1/2 c. of the mulled cider. Stir briefly to combine.
  3. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine the other 1/2 c. of mulled cider, jaggery, honey, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.
  4. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
  5. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food color if desired.
  6. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan. Prepare an oiled spatula. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula.
  7. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest of the powdered sugar for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares, and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

Confectionery Experiments

Late night confectionery experiments. I wanted to try honey in my mulled apple cider marshmallows. Good! I think I’m going to make one more batch in the next few days, trying jaggery instead of white sugar. More complex flavor = good. I’m also wondering if I can use apple cider instead of water in the syrup-making stage — is that going to cause any difficulties, do you think? If I can amp up the apple, that would be great…

It’s Certainly a Treat

I bought myself a present back in March, to celebrate the cookbook launching: a new mixer in cobalt blue, with a glass bowl. I have to admit, the Cuisinart I had previously is actually a little easier to use — the components aren’t as heavy. So I’m not sure I’d recommend the Kitchen-Aid for general use. But if you want something pretty that you’re happy to leave sitting out in the kitchen, don’t mind that it’s a little heavier, and love watching your marshmallows and batters mix up in the glass bowl, it’s certainly a treat.

As for me, now I have a back-up, which is good for when I’m production cooking. Not a lot of that right now, but when the pandemic is over and we re-launch the cookbook with lots of events, I think both mixers will be in heavy use. Maybe I can have Kavi or Anand on one and me on the other. 

10 seconds of soothing mixer action, for apple cider & honey marshmallows.

Gingered Pumpkin Spice Muffins

(30 minutes, makes about 24 small muffins)

With a little extra ginger bite and plenty of warm spices, these are terrific slathered with salted butter. Autumn in a muffin! I like baking these in Nordicware’s Autumn Delights cakelet pan for extra charm.

(My kids don’t love the candied ginger pieces, so feel free to skip those if you aren’t feeding ginger-lovers. They’ll still be yummy. You might want to up the sugar by 1/4 – 1/2 cup in that case.)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup jaggery or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 c. chopped candied ginger, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two small muffin pans with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour, or use liners).

2. Measure out flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl and whisk together.

3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined; stir in candied ginger.

4. Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Functional and Charming

One more batch of madeleines for the treat boxes. I’m experimenting with different types of packaging, and I really like these little waxed paper bags. $7 for a 100 4×6 bags; good deal. Functional and charming. 

I had some extra melted chocolate at the end, so went ahead and dipped half a box of strawberries in there. Such an easy way to surprise and delight the family.

“Are those strawberries for us???”

Yes, yes they are.

Another Swing-and-a-Miss

This is another swing-and-a-miss. I like my chocolate-spiced cookies; the hint of cayenne brings out the chocolate beautifully, and the dough takes embossing well, letting me have fun with decorating. But they’re a little plain, and they seemed to be crying out to become sandwich cookies. I could’ve gone with an Oreo-type filling, which honestly would likely have worked better, but I thought a mango filling would taste even better with the chocolate and cayenne. So far so good…

…but I had some homemade mango curd left in the fridge, and I think that’s where my frugal instincts betrayed me, because I tried to make that into a filling, mixing it with confectioner’s sugar and melted butter. It tastes nice, but it was just too goopy, my friends. If you refrigerate it for an hour, and then pull it out to serve, I think you’d be okay for a bit, but after 30 minutes, it’d soften so much that it’d be squishing out filling with every bite, which not ideal.

Back to the drawing board — I need to figure out a good mango cream filling from scratch, instead of attempting a false economy. Can do. (I wonder if I can use amchur powder to get strong mango flavor, without the moisture of the mangoes themselves? Hmm….)