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the urban baker

the urban baker: February 2010

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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I had about 2 cups of buttercream left over from Eli's birthday cupcakes.  Each time I opened the fridge door (which is probably about 50 times per day) the buttercream stared me in the face.  I couldn't waste it.  I thought about making more cupcakes as I still had extra sour cream.  But who was I going to give 2 dozen cupcakes to?  I am sure many of my friends would have volunteered to take them off my hands.  Yet, I just made them and wasn't in the mood to do it again.  Also, it is not like I could make  and freeze them.  Cupcakes are not meant to be frozen.  They are meant to be eaten almost immediately when taken out of the oven.  So that wasn't going to work.

Oreos. My kids love oreos but I won't buy them.  Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on a package of oreos?  No thanks.  I flipped through a few books and then did a little internet search.  I found a chocolate wafer cookie on the Smitten Kitten website.  She's a fellow blogger and happens to do it really well, way better than me.  I used her recipe (here) for the cookie base, but then used my buttercream for the centers.

These are pretty good.  Still not what I am looking for.  I want something a little less crispy and something a little cakier?  I may have to create my very own take on the perfect oreo.

In a pinch, these are good.  I know they will go over well for both the Purim basket as well as their bake sale.

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Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

I received a message on my cell phone yesterday, asking me for a description of the "bakery basket" I was making for this weekend's Purim Carnival raffle.  Huh?  I never said I was going to make a basket for the Purim Carnival Raffle.  Yet, how could I say "no".  As you all know, I am not really good at saying the "N" word, and I truly believe they know that, and that is why they assumed I would do this.

On the heels of that call, I received a call from someone else asking me what I was going to bake for the bake sale at the Purim carnival.  A double whammy!

So, today, Tuesday, I start planning and prepping doughs, recipes, and ingredients.  Today I made a chocolate chip cookie recipe from 125 Cookies by Elinor Klivans.

I wanted to do some sort of chocolate chip cookie both for the basket as well as the bake sale and anything with "the best of everything" in the title of the recipe is a sure fire winner for me.

The Best of Everything Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
6 Tbl. sugar
1 large cold egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl. good unsweetened cocoa powder (I use valrohna)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used less)

1.  Preheat oven to 350*
2.  Place 1 oz of chocolate in glass bowl over barely simmering water.  Melt and set aside.
3.  Sift flour, baking soda, + salt together.
4.  Mix butter, brown sugar + sugar in mixing bowl of electric mixer and combine.  Add egg + vanilla and blend thoroughly.  Decrease speed and add flour mixture until blended.
5.  Divide dough evenly.  Leave half the dough in the bowl of the mixer and add the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder.  Mix evenly.  Add 1 cup of chips to each dough.
6.  Create 1 teaspoon size balls with each of the doughs.  Place one ball of vanilla dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place a chocolate one just next to it, touching.  Repeat process on baking pan and space 2" apart.  These will spread
7.  Bake for about 11 minutes, rotating pans front to back and top to bottom half way through.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Isaac ate 4 of these before I could even ask him if they were tasty.  He said they reminded him of "flatsos" (his favorites).  He is right!

These are delicious.  These will be a cookie jar staple!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies

I needed something for a crowd.  As I searched my vast library of cookbooks for Pecan Bars, I came up short.  I have made lots of pecan bars in my day and for the life of me, I cannot remember which are my favorite.

During my search I came across these Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies in The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.  I dont really use this book often, yet with that said, these were very well received.  I had to bring dessert for 110 6th graders and these did the trick.

The recipe called for peanut butter chips, but they are no where to be found.  I altered it a little and used really good bittersweet chocolate chips instead.  I think they were almost better with the chocolate.

These are great when you need to feed a ton of people.  Light, good, crunchy, moist and delicious.

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, creamed
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temp.
2 Tbls vanilla
3 cups self-rising flour

1 cup peanut butter chips (i used bittersweet)
3 Tbls. heavy cream
1 cup  coarsley chopped heath bar
1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts

1.  Preheat oven to 325*
2.  Grease & flour 12 x 18 jelly roll pan
3.  Beat butter, peanut butter until fluffy.  Add the sugar & beat until smooth.
4.  Add the flour and beat until well incorp.
5.  Spread evenly in pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of pan.  Cool to room temp.

Prepare topping
In a small saucepan over medium heat and melt chips and the cream until smooth.  Drizzle the mixture over cooled blondies.  Sprinkle with heath bar and peanuts.

Let set in fridge overnight.

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Eli turns 12

This past Saturday we celebrated Eli's 12th birthday.  His actual birthday is this Wednesday, the 24th.  However, he will not be here.  Yesterday, he left for Yosemite with 40 of his classmates and won't be back until Friday.  He and I were both very sentimental about not being together on his birthday.  He was really struggling with the idea of being away, hence it did not stop him from getting on that bus yesterday! The sad part about all of this for me, is that this will be the first birthday we don't spend together, however it won't be the last.  Boo Hoo!

In the spirit of Salzman celebrations, we decided to celebrate early.  Glad we did.  Eli included about 10 of his friends for Go-Kart riding, dinner and cupcakes.  He enjoyed his evening.  Plus it was a good distraction for him of what was to come the next morning.

I wanted to make a Hostess Cupcake style cupcake, with the cream filling, etc.  I found this recipe (here) on for devils food cupcakes.  OMG.  So amazingly good!  I read the reviews and although they were mixed, I went for it anyway.  These are pure perfection.

I searched many sites as well as many of my cookbooks for a chocolate glaze.   The one I found was perfect and fool proof. I made the Lacquer Glaze (page 306) from Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  I love Rose.  She and I go way back.  Then I made a very simple, basic buttercream (4 oz. softened butter, 4 cups sifted confection sugar, 1 Tbl. vanilla, 3 or more Tbl. milk - mix to your desired thickness) to pipe on the top.  Had I had more time, I would have piped some of this yummy buttercream into the center of each cupcake.  I had enough buttercream, but my morning was so full that I just didn't have the time to create the ultimate Hostess Cupcake.

Even without the buttercream center these were AMAZING.  These are worthy and should be made often!
I cannot get over how delicious these are.  And even after two days (in the fridge) they are still as good today as they were on Saturday.

Happy 12th, Eli.  
I love you to the moon and back!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

A new Mexican Wedding Cookie

Cooking dinner for 16 kids - all ages - can be problematic.  Stick to what they will eat.  Each and every child will find something to eat when cooking Mexican.  Dinner menu; tofu fajitas, chicken fajitas, black beans, rice, salad, quacamole, salsa.

This particular group of kids always expect dessert.  What better choice than Mexican Wedding Cookies?  I have been making the same ones for 25 years (Rose Levy Barenbaum's).  Wanted to go out on a limb this go around and found a recipe on (recipe here) for one with pastry flour.  Plus this recipe is from two of my favorite chefs; M.S. Millken & Sue. Feniger!  Original gals from City Cafe and Border Grill.  If you don't know them...check them out.  They are two cool chicks.

This recipe is FABULOUS.  This is my new go to Mexican Wedding Cookie recipe.  I must have eaten 10 of them before they made it to the kids!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Pot de Creme

After spending a few hours at the beach (75* today & beautiful), we stopped at Santa Monica Seafood to pick up some shrimp for tonight. I love the new and improved SM Seafood.  When I am in there, I feel as like I am in New York.   We also popped into Huckleberry for a snack.  If I were EVER to open my own cafe, it would be similar in so many ways to this place.  It reminds me of Tartine in San Francisco!  Eli was eyeing the pudding and mumbled that he would love for he and I to make some pudding for tonight's dinner.  I agreed.

We made Vanilla Pots de Creme from Sherry Yard's  The Secret of Baking.  They are rich, silky and delicious.  I thought about making the chocolate version, but the kids consumed so much See's Candy today.  Enough is enough.

Tonight's dinner menu:

Arugula salad w/shaved parm
Shrimp cocktails ( Isaac's request)
Grilled roma tomatoes & onions
Roasted Fingerling potatoes
Grilled Lamb Chops w/a Chimichurri sauce

Vanilla Pot de Creme

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolk, cold
pinch of salt

•preheat oven to 325*.  Place the ramekins ( I used small little cups I got at Cost Plus ) in a larger baking pan.
• bring milk, cream, sugar & vanilla bean & seeds to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  Reove from heat, cover w/plastic wrap, & let steep for 15 mins.
• Whisk eggs, egg yolks and salt in a med. bowl
• After steeping, bring the milk mixture back to a simmer over mediu heat.  Remove 1/2 cup of milk mixture and slowly add to eggs while whisking.  Pour the mixture back into the hot milk whisking constantly.  
• Strain through a fine strainer into the bowl of a large measuring cup.  Fill each ramekin to the rim with the custard.  Fill the larger pan with hot water until the water is 2/3 the way up the ramekin.
• Cover the baking dish loosely with foil and bake 40-45 minutes.  They are done when set and have a uniform jiggle.
• Chill the custards for at least 2 hours.  
Happy Valentine's Day!


Happy Birthday, Isaac!

Today Isaac turns 9.  Time is really flying by.  I cannot believe he is 9.  Where did the last nine years go?

Today is Isaac's day.  He gets to be the "king" and call all the shots.  Right now, he is at baseball practice.  He opted for me to make him lunch today (tuna and chips) rather than go out for lunch.  I am open for a quiet, simple lunch. At 4 p.m. today, 8 of his friends are coming over and my house will no longer be quiet and peaceful.  They won't be here long, though.  We are loading them in the cars and heading out to Chinatown.  After all, it is the Chinese New Year!  We are going to get dinner and then load the kids back into the car and head over to the ESPN Live Zone.  Hopefully, a couple hours of arcade games plus who the heck knows what else will be enough for two handfuls of  9 year old boys.  

Isaac wanted to bring dessert to the restaurant.  He was very specific on vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting.  I love this cupcake recipe from Elinor Klivans CUPCAKE book.  Super simple.  

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream

• preheat oven to 350*.   Line 24 cupcake tins w/liners
• sift first four ingredients. set aside
• cream sugar and eggs until yellow in color
• add oil and vanilla
• add sour cream
• add dry ingredients
• scoop into prepared muffin liners and bake for around 20 minutes, rotating pans back to front.  let cool.

I used the Dark Chocolate Buttercream from the Bakerella (scroll to the bottom of her post to view recipe )website.  I think this is one of those extra perfect frostings.

Isaac loved his night.  He deserved it!  


Saturday, February 13, 2010


Valentine's Day is around the corner and although I planned on making a host of cookies and candies this year, I couldn't motivate.  I knew I wanted to make caramels and even though I LOVE my caramel recipe, I was up for something new.  I found this recipe on (recipe here).  I liked it because it made, what seemed to be, thousands of individually, wrapped gooey goodness.  With that said, it took FOREVER to complete this process.  I guess with both 4 cups of sugar and corn syrup one is bound to be in the kitchen for half the day.  I did, in fact, read the recipe prior to making it, but I went ahead with it anyway.  I am glad I did because I am really happy with the outcome.  Next time, I will save this task for a rainy day.

What I love most about making caramels is watching the colors change. You start out with your sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a large, heavy duty pan.  It starts out opague.  Then turns milky in color.  Once it starts boiling it goes from that milky white, to opague (again) and then gradually starts turning tan, then a light amber and finally a deep amber.  

Today I tested the caramel along the way.  After the cream and butter were added the mixture had to reach about 240ish degrees. I wanted to see what it would be like at different stages (220, 230, 235, 240, 242).  I love caramel in all shapes and sizes.  By testing the consistancy along the way, I was looking for the best consistancy for caramel apples.  I think around 232 would be a good place to start for apples.  I will try it and let everyone know what the outcome is.

The recipe doesn't call for it, but after the caramels set for about an hour, I sprinkled them with a little Fleur de Sal.  Isaac just ate 4 of them.  I think he likes them!  

Packed up and ready to go to all of those that we love and adore.


I Heart You

A holiday isn't a holiday with out butter cookies.  I happen to LoVe this recipe (recipe here in older blog post) and make it all the time.  I made a double batch thinking I was going to package and give away.  Yet, between the fudge and caramels, we had more than enough sugary sweets to package and deliver.

When my kids saw the canister sitting on the counter, they were pleasantly surprised that these were actually for them.
The problem for me with having them sitting on top of the counter is that I want to eat them ALL.  They are addicting.

I think I will pack them in their lunch boxes today.  Got to think of ways to get rid of them!

Happy Valentine's Day


Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

I first saw these being made on an episode of Martha Stewart about 2 years ago.  I have been wanting to make these ever since and I am using Valentine's Day as the perfect excuse to challenge myself.  I have made marshmallows in the past and happen to really like my recipe.  Yet, I choose to follow this recipe exactly.

On the Martha Stewart website (recipe here) they look perfect.  I have recently gotten into the habit of reading recipe reviews.  These reviews were mixed.  Prior to starting this project I knew it could potentially be a complete and utter disaster.  I was right.  After dipping about a dozen marshmallows into the fudge, I gave up.  I cut up the remaining marshmallows, mixed them with some marcona almonds and poured the fudge mixture over it.  I let it set and cut them into squares.

Fudge anyone?

The best part about this recipe was the marshmallow fluff. Levi couldn't help putting his finger in it every time he walked by the bowl.  This fluff would be a good center for a cream filled cupcake.   Hmmmmm....may have to be Eli's birthday cupcakes this year!

Don't make these.  Go on line to Fun in the Sun and order a pound box of their caramel covered marshmallows, in all flavors and enjoy your day.  These were a childhood favorite  of mine and I continue to indulge myself whenever we go to the desert!


Pound Cake with a Kick

The magazine, Cuisine at Home, Holiday Baking has proven to be one of those fabulously rare issues that will adorn my cookbook shelves for many years to come.

This is a really, really good pound cake.  The two glazes make it extra special, however the cake would have been just as good, dusted with a powdered sugar and eaten without all the trimmings.

With that said, the chocolate, espresso glaze along with the espresso glaze was oh-so good.  I made this for a girls get together.  As it was sitting on my kitchen counter, all my kids requested a piece.  It was hard to say no to them, yet I knew, since it was going in front of a bunch of weight conscious girls, there was going to be plenty left over to bring home to the three ninos.

This cake is light and delicious.  This is a great base for any glaze or topping.  I highly recommend this cake.

1 C milk
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
4 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
2 C sugar
6 eggs, room temp.

4 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
1/4 C heavy cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. espresso powder

Espresso Glaze
1 Tbsp. hot water
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
1 C sifted powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

• Preheat oven to 325*.  Grease a 10" bundt pan & coat with flour
• Warm milk and vanilla bean with seeds in a small saucepan over med heat for 5 mins.  Cool to room temp.  Add extracts and discard vanilla bean
• Whisk flours, baking powder & salt.
•Cream butter & cream cheese in mixer until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and cream mixture.  Add eggs, one at a time.
• Alternately beat flour and milk mixture in three batches.  Pour batter in prepared pan.
• Bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean when tested.  Cool in pan for 30 minutes before turning out.

• Heat all ingredients for the ganache in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir until chocolate melts.
• Pour ganache over cooled cake
• Let set completely.

• Mix hot water & espresso powder for glaze.  Whisk powdered sugar, cream, corn syrup & espresso mixture until well combined.  Once ganache is set drizzle glaze over ganache.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Oatmeal cookies with a twist

I am on a mission to create really good cookie doughs that can be preshaped and frozen.   I want to fill up my freezer with lots and lots of different flavors of cookie dough.  This way, whenever I need dessert in a pinch, I don't have to stress.

I have also been recruited to make cookies each week for both religious school and the hebrew school.  Rather than making cookies each week, I want to have these doughs prepared and ready to bake (this way I don't have to be responsible for actually baking them each week).  Having the pre-made doughs, perfectly shaped with instructions on the packaging makes this simple enough that anyone could bake off the cookies.

I found this recipe on a website I don't really use that often, (recipe here).  I have an oatmeal base that I think is kind of perfect.  I should have just used my favorite recipe.  This was not a great one for me.  My kids really liked them, but I wasn't crazy about it.  

Next time, I will make my favorite base and then add the toffee, maybe some coconut and some sort of dried fruit.  

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cacao nib-walnut ganache tartlets

I had all of that chocolate ganache left over from the fondue I made 2 weeks ago.  I didn't want it to go to waste  as I used one pound of the best bittersweet chocloate and the idea of tossing it, really upset me.

I found a recipe for Cacao nib-walnut ganache tartlets in bite-size desserts by Carole Bloom. The best part about this recipe is that I had everything in the pantry.  I have been dying to make something else with my chocolate covered cacao nibs (made ice cream awhile back).  This is my new favorite ingredient.  They are subtle but you can really taste the chocolate without it being over powering.



pastry dough:
1/3 cup walnuts
2/3 cup flour
2 Tbl. brown sugar, packed
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
2 oz. unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1 extra large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla

6 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


1.   preheat oven 350*.  Spray the inside of the tartlet pans.
2.   toast walnuts in oven for 7-8 minutes.  cool and then chop
3.   Pulse brown sugar, flour, salt in food processor
4.   Cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture.  Pulse 5 times.  There will be lumps.  Add cacao nibs + walnuts and pulse briefly.
5.   Beat yolk + vanilla in a small bowl.  Turn on processor and pour yolk mixture through the feed tube.  Mix until all comes together
6.   Break off small pieces (walnut size) and press in prepared tartlet pans.  Press a 2nd tartlet pan over dough and shape dough.  
7.  Bake 7 minutes.  Remove top tartlet pan.  Prick pastry with a fork and bake for 7-8 more minutes, until golden. Cool and remove from pan.

Place chocolate in bowl.  Bring crea to a boil voer mediu heat.  Pour cream over the chocolate.  Let stand 15 minutes and then stir until smooth.

Use a 1" ice cream scoop to fillt he tartlet shells.  Chill 15 minutes.  Serve room temp.