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The Norms (Because I Didn't Take Pictures of Anything I Baked This Weekend)

  The Norms:

  Muffins with personality, 'tis how I roll.

  Green smoothies.  I know, I know...I was scared too.  Believe when I say that this tastes precisely like tropical fruit.  Really!  Spinach is our friend.

  Kittens.  Too much of a norm around here this time of year.

  What is this business??

  Not quite normal yet...

  Too many times cupcakes are gorgeous, but taste like crap.

  This shouldn't be normal.


  Beyond normal, beyond anything.

  The norm for homework.

  Made possible by these muffins.  Yes, more muffins.  Hush.

  The norm for Easter roadtrips.  I heart jelly beans.

  A pound of butter in my room?  Hecks yeah normal!

  And...the process.  Powered by killer sandwiches on bread that should definitely become a norm in your household.

  And so it goes.

  (I'll shove baked goods in your face soon,  promise.)


Chocolate Rolo Cookies (Chocolate Caramel Surprise Cookies)

  There's a reason these are all over Pinterest.  Um, hello, chocolate cookies spewing out caramel?  Meant to be.

  It actually took a little while for me to get into these.  And by getting into them, I mean trying them.

  For one thing, storebought caramel of any sort just doesn't cut it for me anymore.

  But I guess, if it's rolled in cookie dough...it's alright.  It'll do.  Very well.  For my soul.

  They're pretty no brainer, and apparently, if you're not a Rolo fan, Milk Duds have also yielded good results.

  And if Milk Duds can, what's stopping us from trying Reese's cups?  Or Snickers?  Or Three Musketeers?  Or...Milky Way?  Hey hey...

  Things could get dangerous, fast.

  I have to ask...how do you like the photos?  The whole reason I actually got around to trying these is because my friend Carrie is doing a magazine article with a recipe, and wanted me to grab my camera and do my thing.

  I did my thing.  So one of these photos will be showing up in some cowgirl magazine somewhere, which is pretty cool.  Yeah, ya know, whatevs...

  I'm going to keep this short, so you can run to the store and get some Rolos.  And so I can go to bed and stop eating turkey jerky.

  Eat (cookies) and be well.

Chocolate Rolo Cookies
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/8 cup (1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp.) dark cocoa (e.g. Hershey's Special Dark), sifted
  • 3/8 cup (1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp.) regular cocoa, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 30-40 Rolo candies (one 12 oz. bag should cover it)
  • Raw sugar crystals (such as Sugar in the Raw), for decorating

In a large bowl, cream the sugar, brown sugar, and butter.  Mix in the vanilla and eggs until well blended.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, dark cocoa, regular cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.  Cover and refrigerate the dough, chilling for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape about 1 tbsp. of dough around each Rolo, making it similar to the size of a golf ball.  Smaller if you wish, just make sure the dough covers the Rolo completely.  Press the top in sugar and place on the baking sheet, about 1 1/2 in. apart.

Bake 7-10 minutes (Be careful not to overbake, they're best slightly underdone.  Keep in mind that they will harden and set as they cool.  Just make sure the cookie has spread itself out from it's ball form.) Let rest on the pan 5-10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely (if you can wait that long!).

Sources: adapted from my friend Carrie and Dine and Dish


Sourdough Bread

  Friends, I have finally put my sourdough starter to use!  And I remembered to take pictures for all of you before the loaves got greedily gobbled.

  Herbert has made some delicious bread, I am pleased.

  Herbert is my sourdough starter, I'm not totally bonkers or anything (sort of).  If you would also like a Herbert, check out my sourdough starter posts!  Day 1 has the starter recipe and instructions, Day 2 shows Herbert in the inbetween stages, and Day 3 he's all bubbly and happy and yeasty.

  It was a wild yeast hunt, and I highly recommend it.

  This, this is bread.  It is legit.  And I'm really lacking in the creative writing skills today.

  Well, maybe not, I wrote a poem for school and my mom thought I copied it from a book.  Minor bragging there, whatevs.

  But anyway, this bread is such a no-brainer for me, I've made it many (four) times.

  It is crusty, with a soft interior.  It is bread.  And it is good.

  I'm not doing a good job at getting into this.

  Well here's something, it makes a danged good sandwich.  Truth.

  Oh yeah, it's an overnight thing too.  Make sure you time it right, unless you want to get up at midnight to bake your risen loaves.  Planning, you can do it!  I believe in you.

  Before you do any of that, you need a starter.  Because that's where it all...starts.  Kay bye.

Sourdough Bread
Yield: 2 large, round loaves

  • 1½ cups lukewarm water (100˚ F)
  • 4 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 5½-6 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. bread flour mixed with 1 tbsp. yellow cornmeal

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the water, yeast, honey, and sourdough starter just until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until slightly increased in bulk and bubbly, about 1 hour.

With the flat beater attached to the mixer and the mixer on low speed, mix in 3 cups of the flour, the butter, eggs and salt.  Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add in 2 more cups of the flour and beat for 2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time, until a very soft dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead on low speed, adding a tablespoon of flour if the dough begins to stick, until the dough is smooth and elastic, tacky but not sticky, about 6 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1½-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sprinkle generously with the cornmeal-flour mixture.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into two equal portions and form each into a tight, oval loaf.  Place the loaves on the prepared baking sheet, several inches apart.  Sprinkle the tops with flour and gently rub in.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator, 8-12 hours.

Place a baking stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  (If you don’t have a baking stone, use an overturned baking sheet.)  Using a thin sharp knife, make three slash marks over the top of each loaf.  Place the baking sheet on the heated baking stone and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400˚ F and continue to bake until the loaves are golden brown, 25-30 minutes more.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Sources: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Williams-Sonoma


Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

  There are certain ingredients that bring back memories of my Grandma, and the baked goods she made.

  These usually include nuts (typically walnuts or pecans), freshly-ground nutmeg, fresh raspberries, fresh strawberries, apples, oats, anise, whole wheat flour, and the like.  To me, they're Grandma things.

  Now, I'm definitely a chewy cookie kind of girl, I've said so before.  I don't know if my Grandma had a huge preference, she liked almost anything she tried.  But I do remember her cookies were always on the crunchy side.  Even though that's not my favorite style, I still enjoy them, because of her.

  Her cookies had their own special flavor and smell, they were deep.  Crunchy, and chock-full of chocolate chips and walnuts.  Her cookie jar was always full of these.  Now that cookie jar is mine, and I try my best to live up to it.

Yes, they're that small.

  What I'm getting at here is that these cookies remind me of my Grandma.  Brown sugar, butter, spices, nuts, oats, and the crunchy factor.  I didn't even mean to make them crunchy, just left them in the oven a little too long.  I wanted chewy sandwich cookies.  I'll probably do that next time round, but one bite of these crispy delights and I was transported back to porch swings, hammocks, raspberry picking, and tall glasses of Yo-J.

  That bittersweet rush of memories made overbaking the cookies entirely worth it.

  So how 'bout them cookies?  Besides their nostalgic capabilities, these cookies are uh-mazing.  Seriously.  I made them yesterday, and there were 2 dozen little sandwiches.  Today, I think there's probably 6 left.  No joke.  They're that good.

  Thank you, pretty cookies, for bringing back some sweet memories.

  However, next time we meet, I'm either freezing most of you or giving you away.  I know that sounds harsh, my little temptresses, but measures must be taken; I simply can't call you dinner anymore.

  P.S. This was sort of unintentionally Grandma-themed, and it reminded me that I'm doing a guest post in a couple weeks on my friend Jeremy's blog, with one of her recipes and a story.  I'm excited to share, so stay tuned!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen small sandwich cookies

Ingredients for the Cookies:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients for the Filling:
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 tbsp. milk

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the egg and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Stir in the pecans.

The cookies will be small, so portion about 1 heaping teaspoon of cookie dough into your hand.  Roll into a ball and place on the prepared cookie sheet.  Keep cookies about 1 1/2-inches apart on the baking sheet.  If the cookie dough begins to stick to your hands as you’re making dough balls, rinse your hands and portion the dough with just slightly damp hands.

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until they’ve reached your desired done-ness (If you like the chewy underdone thing, go for ten minutes.  If you want crispy, bake until the edges just start to harden, but any longer and they'll be quite rock-like.).  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the filling, place butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium speed (start out low, of course, to incorporate the sugar; unless you want a snowstorm), drizzling in vanilla extract and salt.  Scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Add milk one tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency.  The filling should be easily spreadable. 

When cookies are completely cool, flip over and spread half of the cookie bottoms with peanut butter filling.  Top with a similarly-sized cookie.  Wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Cookies are best served slightly chilled.    

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker


Mini Quiche Appetizers

  As one of the more popular appetizers at the party I catered, I thought it might be good to share these.  That, and my little sister had been bugging me to make them again ever since she discovered the leftover frozen puff pastry.  The little piggy.

  But she had good reason, these are dang delicious.  And utterly addictive.

  You can use just about any green thing under the sun, be it basil, parsley, spinach, whatever. 

  Might I also recommend the addition of some pre-cooked bacon?  Oh, you thought that too?
  I like the way you think.

  Be sure to stab the patooties out of the puff pastry.  And even if they do puff up after you prebake, just fork em down again.  No biggie.

  Normally, when it comes to bread-y, egg-y, and cheesy things, I have major texture issues.  But I found these to be a lovely balance, with just enough crunch and solidity to make me grab another, and another...

  Any good-quality, soft melting cheese can be used with these.  I used a combination of Asiago and Farmer's, it was delish.  Don't skip the Parmesan/Pecorino either, it does wonders for the flavor contrast.

  They're best slightly warm, but can certainly be consumed at room temp.  Cold?  Maybe not so much.

  Make your morning warm, bright, and quiche-y.

Mini Quiche Appetizers
Yield: about 30 quiches

  • 1 package (about two 9x9" squares) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, rosemary, etc.)
  • 1 cup soft-melting cheese, diced (such as Asiago, Fontina, or Farmer's)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, lightly grease muffin pans.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into about an 11x11" square, or until adequately thin.  Cut into circles to fit into the bottom and sides of your muffin tin (I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter.  It may be necessary to stretch out the circle a bit, so it goes up the sides better.  Keep in mind, the center tends to puff up, pulling down the sides.)  Poke the bottom and sides well with a fork.  Bake 5 minutes, then let cool slightly.

Distribute the herbs, diced, and grated cheese between each of the quiche bottoms.  Beat together the eggs, cream, milk, salt, and pepper until frothy.  Pour the egg mixture filling to just over half full. 

Bake until the egg mixture is set and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Cool to room temperature before serving.

Sources: adapted from Italian Food Forever 


Nutella Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

  I'm trying not to be a fussy pants right now.  I'm trying to be a...thankful pants.

  But I keep seeing negative things.  Like the crappiness of these muffin liners (Wilton...), the addictive finickiness of macarons (not macaroons, macarons, major pet peeve),  my inability to write a stupid report about a depressing book, how I seem like the only happily single person my age, I have to return this beautiful camera lens Sunday... the list goes on.

  First world problems.

  And for what it's worth, I've eaten half a dozen of these muffins in the past two days.  Fussy pants might be a precursor to big lady pants.

  Let's talk about muffins, they're not fussy.

  We have here a muffin, banana-style.  Think of it as banana bread in muffin cups, because that's what's going on here.  Lovely, right?  How could it get any better?

  Well, I'll tell you.

  Meet Mr. Nutella and Lady Peanut Butter.  Today, they marry.

  From such a union, only good things can come.

  Feel the love, and get rid of those goshdarned fussy pants.

  Thus are the words of Ellen the Wise.  I'm going to fussily sandwich my hollow macarons now.

Nutella Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
Yield: about 20-24 muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt (fat-free yogurt, greek yogurt, and sour cream can also be used)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1 /2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup Nutella 
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line muffin tins with liners or coat with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate medium bowl, combine mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla.

Beat the sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until light, fluffy, and well-blended; about 1 minute.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add banana mixture and beat until blended.  Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined.

In a small bowl, barely mix together the nutella and peanut butter.  You want them streaked together just enough so that each flavor gets into the muffins.  Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large tip, a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off, or just use a spoon.  Fill muffin tins about 1/4 of the way full with batter.  Place about 1 tsp. of the nutella peanut butter mixture in the center of each muffin, thus filling about another 1/4 of the cup.  Fill muffin tins with remaining batter so they are 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (batter-wise anyway, you might get a streak of nutella) and the tops are golden brown.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Sources: adapted from Bakin' and Eggs, banana bread recipe originally from Cooking Light


The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

  Chocolate chip cookies play an integral part in my baking life, they always have.

  Check it, they starred in one of my earliest food photos.

  As one of the first doughs to christen my young hands, these cookies will always hold a special place in my heart.  They are something I can fall back on, rely on, change up, and possibly live on...

  Clearly, such a near and dear cookie cannot come from a mix.  It cannot come frozen from a can.  It cannot come from Subway.  It cannot come from McDonald's (really?).  It cannot come from your grocery store.  It just can't.

  You might get some semblance of it, but you will never know the real thing until you mix it up (from scratch), eat half the dough, bake what's left, and eat an oozing, warm cookie dunked in cold milk.  Okay? Okay.

  Maggie Gyllenhaal totally backs me up on this.

  Lots of my baking time has been spent with cookie recipes, trying to find "the one."  So far, this is it.  These cookies are not your average Wakefield's recipe.  Which, incidentally, was the one I grew up with.  It's so much more.

  The butter is melted rather than softened, there's more brown sugar than white, just enough flour, and you do use a whole egg, but with an extra yolk.  I can't specifically name all the differences, but I can say that the results are distinct.  I've played around with refrigeration and mixing techniques, always searching for the thickest and chewiest results.  This is it.  The simplest method you can find, but really...it's the best.

  I've made this a thousand times, and the recipe below is my adaptation for (what I like to think of as) the perfect cookie.  I know that's a ballsy thing to say, but there's just no other way to put it.

  And let's not forget one important detail, the fleur de sel.

  If you haven't already heard about the new phenomenon of putting sea salt on top of cookies, you're about to.  Oh my gosh, just do it.  I did this on a whim last week, and it made this recipe.

  A few strange people in the world complain about the blandness of chocolate chip cookies.  They obviously have never sprinkled salt on top.  It bakes in just slighlty, leaving a crunchy little kick that makes the sweet and salty contrast go and throw a party in your mouth.  Really.

  Let me finish my lecture with just a few more reasons to make these:

  1. You can use up those nifty caramel bits you bought forever ago, and throw in just about anything else you like.

Photo credit: my friend Lydia

  2. They travel well.  Going to the beach just got more awesome.

  3. It's a really good recipe to make with friends who have never made cookies.  I've done it many times, and the best part is seeing the sense of accomplishment and pride in the faces of those who have only known those discs from a carton.  It's so worth it.

  4.  The dough balls are freez-able, just increase the baking time and keep on eye them when baking from the freezer.

  5. Everyone will love you.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yield: about 2 dozen


  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed**
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Fleur de sel (or a coarse sea salt) for sprinkling on top of cookies

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. 

Roll a very scant half-cup of dough into a ball.  Tear the ball in half and place on the baking sheet with the jagged, torn-apart sides facing up (this will give you the beautiful, rustic top), leaving ample room between each ball.  Sprinkle with fleur de sel.  Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges just start to harden, yet centers are still soft and puffy (the centers will look somewhat underbaked, no worries).  Approximately 11-14 minutes. Do not overbake.

Remove from oven and cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

**Make double sure that your brown sugar isn't old.  It doesn't go bad, but it can get really dry and your cookie dough will not be moist, or hold together.  If it's rock solid (seriously, you need a knife and chisel) and crumbly, all signs point to don't use it.  Also, I found that dark brown sugar yielded a chewier and more desirable cookie than light brown sugar, but that's just my preference.  Another preference of mine, check out joythebaker.com and make your own brown sugar.  It's super easy to do, and the fresh flavor is to die for.

Sources: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated