Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Things

  1. I know I am not the first to say this, but what is UP with the new Facebook?! Seriously?! Every time I go to my homepage it is the same story over and over, and then it won’t keep me logged in, and then no one can see when I have a new post because the news feed is beyond weird. 
  2. Speaking of Facebook – if it’s possible to navigate to it, find the Dormestic Goddess page and like it! Like it a lot!
  3. Speaking of pages – make sure to check out the new Chicago Chronicles page. I’ll post reviews, pictures, and thoughts on places I’ve eaten at in, and around, Chicago. Of course, I’m always open to suggestions so if there’s somewhere I absolutely must check out – send me an email or leave a comment.
  4. This is my life. 
Five pounds of butter in a 3ft. refrigerator.

     5.  I am still eating apples from last weekend’s Apple Fest. 
     6.  There’s only one class standing in the way of me and my weekend.

     7.  I am fighting the urge to stockpile pumpkin under my bed. I am scared I won’t be able to make all of the recipes I have bookmarked in the few short months of fall. Pumpkin spice blondies are still totally acceptable in March right?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bennison's Bakery

I like to get up. I’ve said it before (and to your annoyance, I’m sure I’ll say it again), I am a morning person. I love mornings. They’re the best part of the day. Steaming coffee, soft robes, the promise of a new day, a new start. There’s nothing better.

So, when a journalism assignment required me to photograph a series of events for a slideshow, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – photograph the opening of a bakery. But not just any bakery, oh no! I was going to Bennison’s Bakery.

Introducing: The Chicago Chronicles!

I go to school very close to Chicago. There’s a lot of good food very close to Chicago. I like to eat. A lot. You do the math.

Since I am blowing my work study money have a great opportunity to explore and taste the city, I figured I would share it here! And so, without further ado, may I present to you The Chicago Chronicles!

The Chicago Chronicles is going to be a place where I get to recount my eating-out exploits. As a student, sometimes I spend more money time eating out than in the kitchen. As disappointing as that may be for my bank account, I love experiencing this wonderful city through my taste buds. Since coming to school I have stepped outside of my comfort zone as a diner, and subsequently as a cook. I’ve got to keep eating so I can keep cooking, right? Right!

Head over to the Chicago Chronicles page and check it out!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Apple A Day...

Two things to start off Tuesday

1) I have a cold. Not necessarily a big deal, people get sick all the time, but it has definitely put writing a post on the back burner. Plus, it is always a little harder to be sick away from home. All I wanted this weekend was for my mom to be around to rub my back and tuck me in. My mom is almost four hours away, so a phone call had to suffice.

2) Nyquil causes me to have the strangest dreams. Like, really, really, weird. Think Criminal Minds, meets the Office, meets my high school career. It has made for some interesting nights of sleep these past few days. Now that I am almost completely out of my Nyquil stupor, I am ready to get down to business!

Spinach and Feta croissant - no apples, but SO tasty :)
I think the exclamation point on the sign says enough...

Mother Nature was on my side this weekend. The forecast going into Saturday called for clouds, thunderstorms and possibly hail! Not necessarily ideal conditions for an outdoor festival. But somehow, we were blessed with wonderful weather in the morning! Not too hot, not too cold, a light breeze that made the cup of coffee in my hands the perfect accessory. The rain held out until we had just left. I believe they call that kismet.

Best. Pie. Ever.

The fates can also be responsible for me getting to have a slice of apple pie (with homemade whipped cream!) at 8:30 in the morning. Pie for breakfast? I want that to be my life every day. I don’t like crowds, so we got to Apple Fest very early to walk around and get the lay of the land before things got too hectic. I am glad I got the pie when I did because they sold out before noon! 

The Apple Harvest Crepe - sauteed apples, ham, brie and candied walnuts. Just look at that cheesey goodness. 

We walked around and saw all the booths. There were crafts, jewelry dealers, activities for kids, even a doggie costume contest (<-- hi, yeah, that’s weird). The only thing I spent money on was food…go figure. There was so much to get that sadly I didn’t taste everything, though if my pants budget had allowed, I SO would have. 

Apple Fritters that may have been the size of my face. Each.

I know that I have been fighting fall, despite my love for it. But this weekend I jumped onto the fall bandwagon. Hard. And I don’t intend on falling off anytime soon. Besides all the great food eaten at the festival, I bought some apples and cider to make some culinary concoctions of my own, look out for those posts soon!

Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake. Perfect way to end the day. Sigh.

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away I should be good for a decade or so!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday Things

  1. I am so tired of people tweaking their orders at Starbucks to change a latte into a cappuccino. Ordering a latte “extra dry” (meaning more foam, thus making it a cappuccino) doesn’t make you sound fancy or sophisticated – it makes you sound high maintenance! Viva la cappuccino!
  2. I am going to see the Lion King in 3D on Saturday! I am so excited to relive part of my childhood!
  3. The Big Bang Theory premieres tonight but I am going to miss it because the cable in my dorm is out. I am going through serious TV withdrawals, I have the shakes and sweats. It’s really not pretty.
  4. Classes haven’t been in session for a week yet and I’m already behind on my reading. But, in my defense my books just came in the mail today.
  5. After I finish my third load of laundry tonight I am going to work on a new cookie recipe.
  6. I now know why I am behind on my work…
  7. This weekend I am going to Apple Fest. I cannot wait! Nothing says fall like crisp, fresh apples! I am going to drink cider and eat a caramel apple and buy SO many fresh apples to make delicious, delicious treats. The great thing is that it’s for class to boot!
  8. I don’t have class tomorrow! Yay for three-day weekends!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Late Summer Peach Cobbler

I am a firm believer of living in the moment. Of enjoying where you are and what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. But that doesn’t mean I don’t worry think about the future. Because I do.  Ask anyone who knows me even remotely well, and they’ll tell you I’m only myself when I am worried or stressed or rushing.

 Remember these beauties?

We rush so much nowadays. Everyone’s always moving, only staying in one place long enough to finish a phone call or shoot off an email, to sip the last dregs of coffee before tossing aside the paper cup. Even I do it; running around campus all day trying to get a million things done before collapsing into my bed at the end of the night, only to think about everything that needs to be done tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's the story, Morning Glory?

There are two kinds of people in this world. Morning people and everyone else. I fall into the former category. I have always been an early riser, so much so that my family gave me the nickname Sunshine as a child. While the nickname has since fallen out of favor, my pension for waking up early has not. Even in college, I’m that weird girl that goes to bed before midnight and is up by 7.

That came in handy this weekend when my family came to take me to the farmer’s market in town. I was ready by 7:30, they picked me up at 8 and away we went. After a quick pit stop for pumpkin spice lattes and doughnuts we made it to the market before too large of a crowd had formed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Things

  1. I am applying for a job at a local café! I spend enough time there as it is so I may as well be on the payroll. Wish me luck!
  2. Because I spend so much time at said café, I tend to shake from all the caffeine I consume. But that's good right? Burns more calories?
  3. I am relatively productive. But also a heinous procrastinator. I think that’s why I like the idea of journalism so much. The deadlines and need to beat the clock make it seem exciting.
  4. I have over 2 dozen recipes bookmarked that contain the word “pumpkin” <--fact.
  5. This morning my dorm had a pancake breakfast. Best. Idea. Ever. Carbs + conversation = human connections.
  6. Nothing makes me more nervous happier than baking for my friends. I feel such a sense of relief accomplishment when they take home my treats and don’t get sick come back asking for more.
  7. By combining numbers 3 and 6 above, a friend of a friend asked me to make cupcakes for her daughter’s graduation party next year! A real, live baking job! I am beyond ecstatic. Naturally, I had to make test batches for her and her daughter to try. So, the weekend before I left, I spent nine hours in my kitchen when I should have spent all of that time packing. It was totally worth it though when I produced these little beauties below.

To start things off I made this dark chocolate cupcake with white chocolate ganache and cinnamon and sugar bacon on top (recipe via How Sweet Eats). The mother and daughter loved the idea of bacon in a cupcake (who wouldn’t?!?), so I am going to add bacon to the actual batter and change the ganache to a sour cream frosting to add a little more tang to the dessert.

This guy is a dark chocolate rootbeer float cupcake with a vanilla bean butter cream and rootbeer frosting and filling (recipe via How Sweet Eats). For the party I am going to do a vanilla rootbeer cake, but keep the frosting and the filling the same.

Here we have a a candied ginger cake (recipe via 101 Cookbooks) with a tangy lemon and cream cheese frosting that my mom and grandma have used for years.

A balanced diet means plenty of vegetables so these brown sugar banana cupcakes with avocado butter cream from How Sweet Eats totally fit the bill, right? Right.

The café I adore (as referenced above) has an amazing horchata cake made with ground almonds. I didn’t go that route but found this horchata flavored cake recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop that was a good approximation. I made the horchata buttercream, adding a little lot more cinnamon and filling the cakes with a cinnamon whipped cream. Sigh.

One of my favorite desserts is tiramisu, but I don’t have the patience feel I have the expertise to execute it properly. These tiramisu cupcakes brushed with a coffee liquer glaze and topped with a mascarpone whipped cream frosting were a delicious approximation on the Italian layered dessert (recipe via Martha Stewart).

Since I was turning desserts into cupcakes I decided a bananas foster cupcake with a cinnamon caramel Swiss meringue buttercream would be a fitting recipe to tackle. This was my second time making a Swiss meringue buttercream and I love the process! It produces a light, not-too-sweet frosting that is delicious and SO worth the extra effort (recipe via  The Curvy Carrot).
       8. I really like cupcakes.
             9. I really need to go for a run.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies > College

I have been at school since Friday. That’s five days and four nights away from my home. That’s five days and four nights away from my bed, my car, my family, and my kitchen. That’s five days and four nights of showering with flips flops on, walking up eight flights of stairs to go to bed, realizing I forgot an air freshener, and having someone else make my meals.

But that’s also five days and four nights of welcome back hugs, “how was your summer?”s, walks around the city, and meeting new people. 

Classes don’t start for another week, but I got to return early to help move the freshmen in. Scared, anxious, and more than a little nervous mixed with a lot of excited – that was them. And that was me only last year. It is amazing how things can change so much in only 365 days. 

This year is completely different than last. I can feel it already. With every box that I lifted and bed that I lofted, I felt the weight from my first year of college sliding off my back. Now, I recognize people when I’m walking down the street, I know the fastest route to work without having to think about it, and I unpacked and set up in my room in less than two hours. While I do miss home, and all that is familiar there, I am happy to be back. And I am so happy to help the freshmen make the transition that was excruciatingly a little hard for me. 

Last year, when I would get to feeling homesick I searched for a way to comfort myself, some solace for my heart, mind, and soul. I found that in food, in making my own specifically, and baking especially. At times, I thought I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough for my school. That it would all be easier if I just called it quits and went home. The reassurance I got from pulling my pan out of the oven was enough to quell those negative thoughts, to make me realize it would all be ok.

No matter how different I think this year may be, I know I will still get homesick. It is an inevitable as late night study sessions and extra shot lattes. Even now, just imagining the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven provides me the biggest feeling of relief. The warm vanilla and cozy brown sugar enveloping me like a hug. The taste of a warm cookie, with its melty chocolate, crisp edges, and sweet softness, offers me more reassurance than I would have ever thought possible.

And in return I want to help the freshmen. I want to let them know that it’s hard, but it gets easier. It’s lonely, but you make great friends. It is tough, but it is rewarding, and in the end it is all worth it. I know that they’ll make it through this; I have an entire year under my belt to prove it. I also have my cookie sheet and measuring cups to help me if necessary.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 36 cookies, adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker and The Pioneer Woman)

2 ¼ cups plus 2 TBSP flour

1(heaping) tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. instant coffee granules or espresso powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of ground ginger

12 TBS (1 and a half sticks) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

1 and ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Wisk or sift together flour, baking soda, salt, coffee granules, cinnamon and ginger in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine butter and sugars. Mix on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add egg and yolk and beat for another minute. Stir in vanilla.

Working in three small batches (and going SLOWLY), add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Start with the mixer on low speed and increase to medium speed as flour is incorporated, only adding the next batch of flour once the previous is fully combined. Scrape the bowl as necessary.

Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dough can be stored, covered, in the fridge for two days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for one month.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.*

Using a large cookie scoop, or ¼ cup measure, scoop dough onto lined sheets, leaving about 2-2 ½ inches between each cookie. Don’t worry about rolling the dough into a perfect ball, we want the rough, uneven edges to produce those beautiful cracks in the tops of the cookies.

Bake in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden brown and centers are just set. (I pull mine out right at the 10 minute mark, but depending on your oven and desired level of doneness, adjust times accordingly.)

Let rest on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a week.

*parchment paper is not necessary with these cookies. If you don’t have it there’s no need to spray the pan, I just like the way the paper helps crisp the bottom of the cookies.

No one ever warned me about Sophomore 15...

Monday, September 5, 2011

The King's Cookie: Peanut Butter, Bacon and Chocolate Banana Chip Cookies

To have a grandma compliment your baking is like having Michael Jordan say your free throw form is good. It is the Holy Grail all bakers search for, whether they’ll admit it or not. These are the women that have loved, cared for, and fed us since we were tots. They know a thing or two when it comes to creaming butter and sugar and always smell like vanilla and cinnamon.

So, when my grandma told me I should open up a bakery after eating one of these cookies, I knew I had something.

Grandma and I have always connected over food – she is the one who really got me interested in it. A lot of what I know and do in the kitchen is because of her. We can talk for hours about recipes, meals, restaurants, you name it.

When I found these chocolate covered banana chips while we were out shopping the wheels in my head started turning. We had just shared a wonderful meal together at a local farm market that left both my soul and my stomach satisfied. Over the course of two hours my grandma shared stories, laughs and lessons that I am going to miss when I am away at school.

I put the chips in my basket and looking at Grandma, I said, “What if I made a peanut butter cookie with these and bacon in them? Like an Elvis cookie?” I was met with a blank stare. I don’t think she quite understood what I was getting at. 

Once we got home she left me to do my experimenting, only poking her head in a few times to make sure I was doing it. Putting bacon? In a cookie? 

See the bacon-ey goodness in there?

Then she tasted it. And her eyes went wide and then closed. She smiled as she chewed. “These are wonderful, I want the recipe.” Here you go, Grandma.

Peanut Butter, Bacon and Chocolate Banana Chip Cookies (adapted from, makes 36 large cookies)

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder 

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk

1 ½ cups peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

½ cup chocolate covered banana chips

2/3 – ¾ cup bacon (about 8-12 strips, depending on how meaty you want the cookies)

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, thoroughly mixing after each addition. Mix in the peanut butter. 

In three or four small batches (and with the mixer on low, like really low) add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until flour is thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the banana chips and bacon. 

Cover and chill dough for at least one hour. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Using a large cookie scoop or ¼ cup measure scoop dough balls onto baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden brown. 

This may be called the King’s cookie but it is in honor of a queen, my grandma.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Salted Caramel Pretzel Cheesecake

As I have mentioned before, I work at a restaurant. And at said restaurant we have gelato – which is just fancy Italian ice cream. We have the regular flavors like Tahitian vanilla and dark chocolate and then there are some more interesting ones like caramel mascarpone pistachio and key lime pie. I have personally sampled every flavor a million times in the customers’ best interests. You know, for quality control purposes.

A lot of the flavors are inspired by favorite desserts (Traditional pumpkin pie = good. Pumpkin pie in ice cream form = ohmygoodness.). The opposite happened with me. I was inspired by the flavor salted caramel pretzel to create a dessert. And thus, the Salted Caramel Pretzel Cheesecake was born!

Now, I have never made a real, honest-to-goodness cheesecake before. With the springform pan and the water bath and the TWO POUNDS OF CREAM CHEESE. But, I was willing to take that bullet for the blog.

I searched and searched for a plain cheesecake recipe that I was willing to use – and finally found it at Simply Recipes. I love Elise’s blog and peruse it frequently and so should you! Her cheesecake recipe came from the incomparable Dorie Greenspan, Baking Maven Extraordinaire. I knew it would not disappoint. 

To make this a Salted Caramel Pretzel Cheesecake instead of just a regular ol’ vanilla cheesecake I substituted half of the graham crackers in the crust for crushed pretzels, used salted butter and topped the cake with salted caramel (duh) and more crushed pretzels. Di-vine. 

I wish I could honestly say that if this hadn’t turned out I would have been okay with it. If it had been too salty or pretzely or caramely (no such thing in my opinion), that I could have just shrugged it off. But I don’t think I could have. I am very good at following recipes – it’s why I love baking so much, the precision of everything. I’m a bit of a control freak and I am in complete control when I am in the kitchen. For this dessert I was doing two things I had never done – baking a cheesecake and making homemade caramel.

Being able to execute this dish has made me a more confident developer. It has inspired me to be willing to take more risks in the kitchen and to follow my gut (literally). 

Salted Caramel Pretzel Cheesecake (recipe adapted from Simply Recipes via Dorie Greenspan)


1 cup graham cracker crumbs (a little less than a package and a half)

1 cup pretzel crumbs (I used about 20-30 of the small dipping rods)

2 TBSP sugar

Pinch salt

5 TBSP salted butter, melted


2 pounds (4 8oz. packages) cream cheese at room temperature

1 1/3 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or regular extract, I just like the little flecks of vanilla from the paste)

4 large eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup sour cream

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350, move rack to bottom third of oven.

Mix the graham cracker, pretzel crumbs salt and sugar in a bowl with your hands. Add the melted butter and mix until all the crumbs are wet. Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan that has been wrapped tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crust is golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven to cool. Lower the temperature to 325. Put 2 quarts of water on to boil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add in the sugar and beat for another 4 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla, beat until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions to ensure all the cream cheese is thoroughly blended into the mixture and there aren’t any clumps floating around. Add the sour cream and whipping cream and beat until incorporated. 

Place springform pan (with cooled crust) in a roasting pan (or if you’re like me, a large skillet) that is deep enough to fill with water halfway up the side of the pan (about 1.25 inches). Pour the filling over the cooled crust, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Place pan in the oven and fill with the boiling/hot water. This keeps the cake moist and prevents it from cracking.

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes. Turn of the heat and crack the oven door an inch. Leave the cake in the oven for another hour to cool; this will also prevent cracks from forming on the top of the cheesecake.

Cover cooled cheesecake with foil and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours, if not overnight.
While the cheesecake cools, prepare the salted caramel sauce. 

Salted Caramel Sauce (adapted from the Amateur Gourmetvia Zoe Nathan from Food & Wine Magazine)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Do not stir.

Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil over high heat until the sugar turns a deep amber color, about 6 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully (read: SLOWLY) whisk in the cream. Add the butter and salt. 

Pour the caramel into a glass jar or bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce.

Covered, the caramel will last for two weeks in the fridge. 

Tip: If your sugar recrystallizes when you add the cream, don’t fret. Continue stirring and turn the stove back on to medium heat. Allow the sugar to bubble and nearly boil again, about 5 minutes. Remove again from heat and continue as directed, stirring constantly.

Once the cheesecake has chilled, and you are ready to top with caramel sauce, remove foil from top and set pan on plate or cake stand. Run the edge of a blunt knife (I used a butter knife) around the perimeter of the cake, loosening it. Using a blow dryer on low heat circle the pan a few times to take the chill off the pan and more easily remove the form. Unlock the form and slowly pull up to remove.

Top the cheesecake with ½ - 1 cup of caramel and smooth the top. Add crushed pretzels to finish.

Leftover caramel, meet spoon. Spoon, meet my mouth.