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the urban baker

the urban baker: July 2009

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Perfect Lemon Bars

I had so many egg yolks left over from those disastrous milano cookies from the daring bakers challenge, I didn't want them to go to waste.

So, I decided to make something great out of something not so great...I made lemon bars. I have made these before and remember them being really, really good. My memory served me well and they were just as good as I remember them.

What I love about this recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Christmas Cookie book is that the lemon curd is so good. It is just the right thickness and has the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Eli was so impatient waiting to try these (made the curd in the evening and then made the crust the next morning) that he almost became annoying with "are they ready yet".

Everyone enjoyed them, even the neighbors!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers- Choco-Pies

My boys love Choco-Pies. Asaph, Isaac's friend, is Korean and Isaac has fallen in love with all of the Korean snack foods; Choco-Pies, Seaweed sheets, some of the candies and more. Whenever Asaph and Isaac have plans, Asaph's mom never comes empty handed. She always comes with one or two boxes of Choco-pies.

Naturally, when I opened up the Daring Bakers July Challenge, I got excited. It had all the elements of a choco pie; cookie based, marshmallow and chocolate glaze. I knew my kids would enjoy eating these, however I also knew I would enjoy making them.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

There were many pros and cons to this recipe. The pros; the dough was very easy to work with. Hence, next time, I would roll out the dough, put on parchement and store in the fridge for a while. It got a little too elastic. Might have something to do with the heat this past week. With that aside, I would pre-roll and let set for awhile. I have never made marshmallows with egg whites before. I am really excited to use this recipe again. I want to make my own s'mores with a chocolate truffle filling on top of graham crackers. Another use for this perfect concotion, it's the perfect meringue for cupcakes. I love, love, love this filling. The cons; the cookie was a little dry, the glaze was flat. I think I have just gotten spoiled with my tempering machine. I vow, from this day forward, to not top anything with chocolate unless it is tempered!

I made two versions. I made one that replicated at Choco-Pie. Two cookies with marshmallow cream sandwiched between, covered in glaze. And one version exactly as the recipe calls for. The vote in our home was the single cookie version. I have to agree with my kids!

Milan Cookies
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened

• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

This recipe was a HUGE waste of my time. Didn't like these one bit and everyone in our house agreed. The cookies were mushy and chewy. The glaze was so so. And if you piped these the way she suggest (1"), you end up with cookies the size of half your pinky finger. In my opinion, these were not worth the trouble.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

buttermilk crumb muffins

Summer doesn't motivate me to do much. I am simply motivated to read lots and lots of books, peruse through all of my neglected magazines and although I hate to admit it, watch reality T.V.

So, when my kids ask where are the sweets, I simply say, "it's much too hot to bake". Little do they know, I am perfectly happy being a lazy bum.

When I realized I was out of syrup for my kids freshly made batter of buttermilk pancakes, I panicked. I had to think of what I could make in a jiff that still gave them the sweet factor. My kids love to eat the oh-so mediocre coffee cake or sweet roll at our local Starbucks, so this muffin seemed like the perfect solution.

These were a big hit. And, since, Julia Child's birthday is approaching (aug 15th), I choose to bake something from Baking with Julia. Everything I have made out of this book, is simply delicious and always well received.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

chocolate-orange marble cake

This is yet another one of Donna Hay's delicious recipes. The apple-cinnamon cakes I made were so delicious that I figured, why not try another one?

Her recipes are super easy, quick, pantry ingredients, so it makes trying them, not so challenging.

This didn't marble as well as I would have liked for it to have. The recipe says to do a layer of the vanilla batter and then put the chocolate batter on top and swirl with a knife. Next time, I would do a layer of one and then a layer of the other, swirl and then repeat with the remaining batter. Also, next time, I would not add the orange colored food coloring. I think it would have been much prettier without it. The chocolate layer baked much quicker than the vanilla layer. So, when checking this one, really get the toothpick into that bottom layer.

Again, my best critic, Eli, loved it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beach Camp & Mexican Wedding Cookies

Tomorrow, Friday 7/10 is "Mexican Fiesta" day at the kids camp. Eli thought it would be a fabulous idea to make Mexican Wedding Cookies for the ENTIRE camp.

I am a sucker and couldn't say no. However, the deal is, I make the batter and he has to roll them out prior to baking! We will see if he lives up to his end of the bargain.

My favorite Mexican wedding cookie recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Christmas cookie Book.


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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Yucky Bananas!!!!

The bananas in our house were really being neglected. I honestly don't know how as both Mitch and I make protein shakes almost every morning. I guess, this particular week, we didn't have as much time as we normally do and the shake ritual was put on the back burner.

So, with that said, I had yucky, brown bananas, perfect for some sort of sweet and just enough buttermilk to make these muffins. The recipe comes from, The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge. I received this book as a gift over a year ago and I am embarrassed to say that I haven't made much from it. What I liked about the book (aside from the extra large type face-perfect for my aging eyes) was at the end of each recipe she gave options as to how to bake off the recipe. Although this was a "cake" recipe, I opted to make these into mini-muffins. I added mini chocolate chips (cuz everything is better with chocolate) and I baked them a little longer than what she suggested.

According to Eli, they were delicious (I am not a fan of bananas, so I hadn't tasted them). Dropped boxes of the muffins off at neighbors and they all agreed with Eli.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blueberry Lemon Yum Delicious

This recipe was brought to my attention by two different people on the same day.  I respect both parties immensely, so I immediately downloaded it from The Los Angeles Times website and waited for the perfect opportunity to try it.   Since it is National Blueberry Month, the 4th seemed like the perfect time to share this with those that appreciate yummy food.

This recipe has been indoctrinated into the binder of "Favorites" and will be made and shared for many years to come.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

An All Day 4th of July

July 4th I honestly thought I could wake up in the morning and take a long, leisurely walk. Ha Ha! I had so much to do. And with Mitch on his 30 mile bike ride, it was up to me to organize.

First thing in the a.m, I made the mint-green tea ice tea, cut the watermelon, mixed and baked the Lemon Blueberry Buckle, made the salad dressings, prepped the ingredients for the crostini, and made the butter cream frosting for the sugar cookie bars (from the Stylish Cuisine blog).

These were so much better than I had ever expected. I found the recipe on tastespotting, and it suggested the Magnolia Bakery butter cream frosting, which I use often. However, I usually add lots more powdered sugar than the recipe calls for as I like a really thick butter cream. This was the perfect large party dessert.
Even though we had over 20 kids and probably 20 adults, there were a lot left over.

As the kids started arriving on their bikes and scooters, the parents started drinking, Mitch started grilling and I sat back, watched and took a bunch of photos.

The highlight of the party was the enormous water slide that graced our lawn. The kids had a ball and couldn't get enough of it. Not looking forward to getting that dreaded "shame on you" letter from the DWP. Oh well, I guess I just won't water my plants the rest of the month!

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Friday, July 3, 2009

4th of July Prep

We are having two sets of guest tomorrow. Don't ask! In the morning, the kids invited the neighborhood kids over for bike decorating and a bike parade and then in the evening we are having "adults" for a BBQ. I have two different menus for each "meal". Thought I would share my TO DO list with you:

The most fun thing that I made was the Jello.  I was perusing Tastespotting and I came across this recipe. As we were having 25 kids over for lunch on the 4th, I had to make this jello.  It was time consuming but managed to mutli-task as the layers were setting.  Next time I would make extra of the white layer and put it between the 1st blue layer and the 2nd red layer.  Although I made this with the kids in mind, the adults went crazy for it!  I am not a jello lover, yet this was pretty darn good!

Be on the lookout for more of my holiday themed jello !

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Today I had the luxury of spending the day with Amanda. Amanda was Isaac's T.A. in his kindergarten class (2006-2007). Our entire family adopted her and she remains a big part of our family. Amanda is now living in Memphis, getting her teaching credentials, so when she does come into town, we scoop her up.

Amanda loves my treats. However, today I had nothing to offer. We decided to bake together (so fun!). After picking Levi up from pre-school and the boys from beach camp, we didn't have tons of time. We picked something we could whip up quickly. After sifting through a few books, we decided on marble cookies from Elinor Klivans The Big Fat Cookie Book.

Looking at the photos in the book, this cookie looked more like a crispy cookie. However, when baked, ours were flatter and more cake like. I was hoping for a crispy cookie. Hence, neither Amanda nor the kids complained. My kids were just happy to have cookies in the cookie jar!