New York Crumb Cake

You know how pregnant women crave very specific, seemingly random things?  Well, I am not pregnant and haven’t been for a while, yet sometimes I get a craving so strong that I will not rest until I have that exact thing.  Nothing else will do.  It is not good enough to just have a mediocre version- It has to be the very best iteration of my dream food.  Yesterday, in the midst of the biggest blizzard the East Coast has seen in 20 years, I was suddenly overcome with an intense urge to have the ultimate New York Crumb Cake.

You know, the one that is half moist yellow cake, half giant buttery brown sugar and cinnamon crumbs lightly dusted with powdered sugar. I even dreamed about it.

So, the next morning, I set about looking for a good recipe.  Some recipes called for cake flour and buttermilk, but I am both out of those and snowed in.  Some recipes made gigantic 9×13 inch cakes, but let’s be real, I am going to eat the whole thing, so an 8 inch is plenty.  I put together a combo of a few different recipes, scaled it down to 8 inches square, and am writing it up just for you all to make while you are snowed in.  Also, so I can justify eating a whole cake.  Enjoy!

Virginia Snowmaggedon 2016
The view out back this morning

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  I use the convection setting on my oven, though conventional is fine. Spray an 8 inch square cake pan with non-stick spray.

Now, cream your butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric hand or stand mixer.  In a measuring cup, measure out milk, adding egg and egg yolk, vanilla and additional extract (if using).  Whisk together lightly.  Add to creamed butter mixture and beat on medium for a minute.  It will have some lumps, but that is okay.  Add flour salt and baking powder.  Mix until well blended for about 30 seconds on medium speed.  Spread in prepared pan.

In a separate bowl, make crumb topping by combining all dry ingredients, pouring in melted butter, and mixing well until it feels like damp sand.  Pack it down a bit, break into large crumbs, and sprinkle evenly over cake batter.  You want big crumbs on top for the most part, with some smaller crumbs underneath.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Mine took 42 minutes.  Let cool completely and dust with a bit of powdered sugar.  Enjoy with coffee on a snowy day!

Final New York Crumb Cake 2

New York Crumb Cake

Ingredients

    For the cake batter:
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Lor-Ann Princess Emulsion, or 1/4 teaspoon lemon or almond extract, or 1 teaspoon lemon juice (all optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    For the crumb topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2-3 teaspoons powdered sugar, for dusting on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease an 8inch square cake pan.
    For batter,
  1. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.
  2. Pour milk, egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and additional extract or lemon juice (if using) in a measuring cup, whisking lightly to combine.
  3. Add liquid to butter mixture and mix until combined but slightly lumpy.
  4. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix on medium speed until smooth, thick batter forms.
  5. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
    For crumb topping,
  1. Combine flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  2. Pour melted butter over top, and mix well with a fork.
  3. Press down firmly to pack mixture.
  4. Scoop out some of mixture with hands, squeeze into large clumps, and break into smaller crumbs.
  5. Sprinkle evenly over cake batter in a thick layer.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Cut into large squares and serve with coffee.
  9. Makes 9-12 servings.
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Kelly’s Cookie Challenge

Tomorrow night, I get to be on the other side of a judging table, for a welcome change of pace.  I’m so honored to have been chosen as a judge for this year’s Kelly’s Cookie Challenge charity bake-off…and I get to taste lots of amazing cookies- Kind of a dream come true.

Several teams of bakers will be there with their best cookie bakes, and three judges (that’s me!  Well, one is me) will pick a winner. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the winning team’s charity of choice.

There are teams representing a number of charities this year including:

And many more!  If you’re at the event, you’ll have the opportunity to join the “Long Shots” team, and make a mystery baked good for charity.

If any of you are in the Silver Spring, MD area, and have some time tomorrow night, stop by to support a great cause! Based on pictures from previous years events, it looks like it will be a great time!  Hope to see you there.  I will try to post photos of the cookies and teams very soon.  I really love the idea of being a judge.  Way less pressure, and lots of yummy desserts-  This might be what I want to be when I grow up!

Easiest Cut Out Sugar Cookie

I have tried many “Roll Out” Sugar Cookie recipes for use with cookie cutters, and I am always surprised that many do not hold their shape or taste very good.  This is my go-to recipe, and I actually found the basic recipe on the tag of a cookie cutter.  Of course, being the weirdo I am that can’t just follow a recipe as written, I have changed it a tad.  Plus, I have about a million ways to make them really special….Hello Tangerine-Chai Sugar Cookies from Cookie Week on The Great Holiday Baking Show!  They really are my favorite thing to make from the show, and it all started with the easiest cut out Sugar Cookie recipe.  They will hold a cookie cutter shape perfectly, are not too sweet and can stand up to some icing, and the dough is easy to roll and handle.

Basic Roll Out Sugar Cookies
Tangerine and Chai Sugar Cookies, all gussied up for Valentine’s Day

Lauren’s Sugar Cookie Dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon additional extract, any flavor-almond, lemon, orange, etc… (optional) and/or 1 tablespoon citrus zest or fresh herbs, finely grated or chopped (I love tangerine zest!)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 325 degrees convection.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy (1-2 minutes).  Add egg and vanilla to mixer, beating on medium speed until just incorporated.  At this point, if you are using any citrus zest, herbs or additional extracts, add them now and mix for a few seconds.

For the dry ingredients, there are two options:

For basic dough, just add the flour and salt, mixing until the dough just comes together.

*Or for a dry mix in, such as **Chai tea, Earl Grey tea, freeze dried fruit (I love this with freeze dried strawberries!), or dried herbs and spices, run the extra ingredient and the flour and salt in the food processor for a couple of minutes until very finely broken down.  I do this step so that you don’t get bits of tea in your teeth.  Then, add the blended dry mixture to the wet ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Chill dough for at least 2 hours.  You can chill the dough faster in the freezer, if desired.  Also, this step can be done up to 3 days in advance of baking.  Take dough out of the refrigerator, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Dust counter and dough liberally with flour, roll to just under 1/4 inch, and cut into desired shapes.  Bake for 9-12 minutes or until edges just barely get a hint of color.  Remove to cool on wire rack.  Decorate with glaze, royal icing, or whatever your heart desires!

many different cookies

**To add tea, cut open 3 tea bags and blend in the food processor with the flour.

To add freeze dried fruit, add 1 cup to food processor, pulse, then add flour and blend for a minute until combined.

Flavor combinations I like:

  1. Orange zest and fresh rosemary
  2. Lemon zest and fresh thyme (leaves only, no stems)
  3. Grapefruit zest and Earl Grey tea
  4. Lemon zest and British Breakfast tea
  5. Tangerine zest and Chai tea
  6. Freeze dried strawberries and vanilla bean seeds
  7. Fresh basil and freeze dried strawberries
  8. espresso powder and vanilla bean
  9. mint extract or fresh mint and cacao nibs
  10. Orange zest and ground cloves
  11. Fresh ginger and lime zest
  12. Freeze dried blueberries and lavender (go light on the lavender!)

The sky is the limit.  Let me know if you try any good combinations.  The trick is not to add any ingredients that are soggy or inherently waterlogged.

 

Perfect Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

This cookie is simple and unassuming, but I swear it calls to me like no other.  So much so, that I have inadvertently eaten a whole batch by myself without surfacing for air.  My family is not known for their baking, or even cooking, for that matter.  They are kind of famous for their eating skills, but that is another story.  Anyway, the only particularly notable recipe that I remember from childhood would be my Aunt Ruth’s Crispy Oatmeal Cookies.  They are highly addictive, perfectly crisp, lacy yet substantial, and delicately flavored with brown sugar, nutty whole oats, salt and vanilla.  Just try to resist them.

Aunt Ruth, who is not actually my blood relative (more of a relative by marriage through another relative), was a sweet, kind, adorable lady that you couldn’t help but love.  Her charming barely-there Southern accent and warm, perfect manners made her a lovely host and gave her cookies something extra that nobody since has been able to replicate….even with her exact same recipe.  My Aunt Adele, who has even made them side by side with Aunt Ruth, says that she can’t get them to taste just right.  So, I set about testing this recipe with little tweaks in the method to see if I could get close to the original.  They came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  Maybe, just a hair different than Aunt Ruth’s cookies, but definitely worthy of making on a leisurely day of baking.

Crispy Oatmeal Cookie

Aunt Ruth’s Crispy Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats

Makes 4 dozen cookies

In a large bowl, cream together softened butter (or margarine for pareve cookies) and sugars.  Aunt Ruth specified to do this whole method by hand, but I used the kitchen aid on low speed.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Mix until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Again, do this by hand or on very low speed with mixer.
Fold in oatmeal by hand. Refrigerate dough for 3-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll into small balls (a rounded teaspoon) and flatten until very thin (the thinner the better) onto greased cookie sheet.  You can flatten with a fork or your hand, but try to get a very thin, even layer.

Flatten well! This is the key to a crispy cookie all the way through.
Flatten well for a crisp cookie.

Bake 9-12 minutes or until medium brown and crisp at edges.  Remove from oven and let sit on pan for 1-2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Can be stored in airtight container for a few days, if they last that long.  Enjoy!

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Healthy New Year, Whole 30

Last year, I was on track. I had lost 20+ lbs, was going to the gym regularly, and was eating pretty well. Then, a trifecta of doom struck: My personal trainer quit to pursue a new career, I was cast on a television baking show, and subsequently traveled to England to film with no time for/access to a gym.  To add insult to injury, we ate at restaurants for 3 meals a day, while also intermittently shoveling in loads of decadent pastries. Sometimes when life gets crazy, you just eat whatever is available in large quantities, and then try not to think on it too hard.

Fast forward 4 months later-2016, and I am up 10 lbs but ready to get back on track. I am one of those people that doesn’t instinctively know  how to eat healthy or in moderation. Strict Guidelines seem to help me, especially when I don’t have a lot of wiggle room. So, I am planning to start my second Whole 30. If you are unfamiliar with this plan, it is basically all whole foods-organic when possible and includes: Meat, fish, poultry, fruits, veggies, seeds, most nuts, and healthy oils that are not grain derived. No grains, no sugars, no artificial sweeteners, no soy, no, dairy, no fun….It gets a bit tricky for me, since my home is nut and coconut free, due to my son’s severe allergies. However, I do sneak around a bit with some pecans and coconut milk (stored like contraband in hidden compartments and labeled with skulls).

Still, being obsessed with preparing food and known for creativity in the kitchen, I still want to eat satisfying foods that I love. Here are some ideas for healthful and mostly Whole 30-friendly snacks, smoothies, and treats (some require a bit of tweaking for whole 30).

Banana Matcha Energy Smoothie:

My favorite Pre-workout energy smoothie, low calorie with a good proportion of protein and carbs for optimum performance. This one could be made without protein powder and with coconut milk for whole 30 compliance. I love to freeze chopped bananas for this smoothie in ziplock bags (when I have overripe ones sitting around).

Ingredients:

1/2 frozen or fresh banana, cut into chunks (about 1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder

3/4 cup flax milk, almond, soy, rice, coconut or cashew milk

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

3 Medjool dates (optional, but makes smoothie sweeter)

1/2 cup ice cubes

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until very smooth. Enjoy immediately, preferably 1 hour before a tough workout.  I recommend half a smoothie before a workout for energy and the remainder post-workout to replenish carbs and protein.

Snacks:

I know you are not supposed to snack much on Whole 30, but sometimes you need a little something to get over the starvation  hump.  Some of my easy to grab go-to snacks are:

  1. An apple cut into thin slices (or even French fry shapes) and tossed with a bit of cinnamon in a ziplock bag.
  2. a slice of deli turkey (organic and sugar free, of course) wrapped around a slice of avocado and/or a pickle.
  3. Prosciutto wrapped around a wedge of melon.
  4. Crunchy, freeze dried fruit.
  5. Hard boiled eggs or deviled eggs made with homemade mayo, finely diced shallot, and paprika.
  6. These babies pictured below, minus the cream cheese for Whole 30 compliance.  You could sub a pimento stuffed olive or even an almond stuffed olive…yum!  Those are thinly sliced, seedless cucumbers (use a vegetable peeler) rolled up with smoked salmon and an olive.  Tie it up with a chive if you are feeling fancy!  I actually won a Healthy Snack Contest from Cooking Contest Central (my favorite community of cooking contest friends) with these beauties last yearwhole 30 snack
  7. I also love a slice of roast beef with my homemade mayo, some grated fresh horseradish, and a slice of tomato all rolled up.
  8. Raw veggies with a dressing for dipping.  Some great brands to buy include Brianna’s and Tessimae.  To make your own, the sky is the limit.  I plan on making  a tahini and roasted eggplant dip soon.

Sweet treats:

  1.  A sliced banana, some fresh pineapple chunks, nuts (walnuts or pecans, if you are not allergic), coconut chips, and a drizzle of coconut milk that has been blended with a little cinnamon.  This also makes a great breakfast when you can’t look at another egg.
  2. Cherry-Chocolate Sorbet:  This will only work in a food processor or a vitamix blender.  Blend frozen dark, sweet cherries with a teaspoon or two of unsweetened dark cocoa powder.  Keep agitating mixture until the cherries are blended completely smooth, like sorbet.  You might need to add a touch of coconut milk to get the blender moving.
  3. The following concoction:

image

Carrot Cake Smoothie:

  • 1/2 frozen or fresh banana, cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • 3/4 cup organic carrot juice (I used Boathouse Farms)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3 Medjool dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I LOVE the one from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes

Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth and serve immediately.

Lastly, I do want to say that I learned a lot on Whole 30 last time I did it, even though the scale did not show that much movement for me.  I felt great, my skin was glowing, and I saw definition in my abs that I had never seen before.  Of course, it is all gone now, but I will let you know in a month if I am back in the game; )

Feel free to leave any tips or snacks that you love while doing Whole 30 (or any clean eating plan) in the comments section.  Thanks and have a Happy, Healthy New Year!