Crunchy Gingersnaps

Here’s a fun fact: humidity makes baked goods go stale. My part of Northern California is not a very humid place, and neither is Wellington, and most of my baking back in Massachusetts took place during the colder parts of the year, so I only just found this out today. When my lovely, fantastically crunchy gingersnaps, went soft and chewy overnight. Apparently a slice of bread in the container helps? Or I need better containers? Or I should have just frozen them overnight. I’m not sure. Any advice would be welcome. Regardless, these were a bit of a disappointment the morning after. Still tasty! But I like my gingersnaps almost hard enough to crack a tooth on.

snaps

Still, if you are somewhere less humid, or you have a better storage strategy, or you plan on eating these immediately, you should try this recipe. They are (or, in my case, were) just what a gingersnap should be. Very gingery, not too sweet, a touch of salt, and (did I mention this already?) nice and crunchy. Excellent holiday cookies. Which makes sense because I got the recipe from Alton Brown, and that man knows his cookies.

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Mexican Wedding Cakes

As promised, seasonally appropriate cookies. Well, I say “seasonally appropriate” but of course here in Australia it’s 2000 degrees and everyone is more or less running around naked. Not exactly mulled wine and gingerbread weather, but I’ll make do. Starting with a cookie that was one of my favorites growing up.

snowball

I didn’t know anything about this cookie until I looked up how to make it. Apparently it has about six different names (including Russian Tea Cake and Povlorón) and no one knows why, or what its true origin is. All I know is that one of my neighbors back when I lived in Palo Alto used to give us a box every Christmas and I loved them. I’d never eaten them before and I loved the flavor and the unreasonable quantities of powdered sugar. I haven’t had these for years, and since no one here in Australia seems to have ever had them at all, I thought I should share.

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Double Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Puddle Cookies

I totally missed the boat on a Thanksgiving post, guys. It’s hard to celebrate being so far away and all, although I did manage to get a big group of travelers in on a potluck dinner. My Thanksgiving this year consisted of a random assortment of dishes, from vegetable curry to bruschetta to mango dumplings. Everything was delicious, but the only traditionally Thanksgiving food was the stuffing I made. Which was delicious, and which may get a write-up this time next year, but I wasn’t quite on top of things enough to get it up before the holiday. I’ll do better for Christmas.

inside

So instead, some more cookies. More gluten-free cookies, even! I’m still pretty busy and worn out with work, so this is another good quick recipe. Hopefully next week I’ll be back up to my usual tricks, making unnecessarily involved desserts for all my lovely new friends here in Australia. This week, though, you only need seven ingredients and about half an hour of your time.

stacked

And these are so good. Chewy and rich, with a smooth, slightly crunchy surface like a meringue. More crunch from the macadamia nuts, and plenty of deep, intense sweetness from the dark chocolate. They are one of my favorite gluten-free recipes and definitely a good one to have in your arsenal.

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Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I can’t say I’m wholly sold on this whole “Australia” thing, but I will say this – it is so sunny and warm and beautiful. A little too windy down on the beach, maybe, but after a childhood spent on Northern California beaches (where you always need a sweatshirt and the water is so cold it hurts your bones), I can’t really complain about that either. And it’s only getting hotter and more summery.

cairns1

 (Okay, that photo’s actually from up near Cairns because I haven’t shot much of Byron Bay yet, but you get the idea.)

I don’t mean to brag (I totally mean to brag), I’m just trying to explain how busy I have been at work lately. The tourists are starting to flock to Byron Bay, and everyday the little cafe I work at is packed out from about 9:30 am until sometime in the early-mid afternoon. Between the ever-busier days and some abrupt staffing changes, I have been pulling some long weeks. So the last time I went to bake, I just wanted something quick and easy and mindless. That’s what these cookies are for. The gluten-free thing is a nice bonus, but mostly they’re just so wonderfully simple. Not in a gross microwave-cake-in-a-mug (do you guys remember that fad?), just in a delicious, sometimes-you-only-need-three-ingredients way.

threeingredients

And then if you’re like me, you make it all a bit complicated and coat everything in chocolate. But that’s optional.

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Vegan Hippie Cookies

I know what you’re thinking – more vegan baking? Already? Don’t worry, as soon as I finish this post I’m going downstairs for some more traditional lacto-ovo-vegetarian baking, but yes. I made some vegan cookies. And they were amazing, although weirdly my new coworkers here in Australia did not eat all of them. I brought a whole box and only about half went. Quite a change from bringing literally 100+ cookies into work and having people tell me I hadn’t made enough. I’m a little relieved, to be honest.

box

These are not actually all that outrageous. I still used refined sugar and wheat flour, because at the end of the day I just love my chocolate chip cookie recipe too much as it is. So if, like me, you’re more of a health fan than a health freak, or if, like me, you just have a couple vegan friends and you want to give them some cookies, this is perfect. And they taste amazing. The cacao nibs (broken-up bits of raw cacao beans, and definitely part of what makes these hippie cookies) add a nice intensity of flavor and a bit of crunch. And the coconut butter adds just the right amount of coconut flavor – it’s not overwhelming, but it’s there. Equally important is the texture, which is not all that different from your standard chocolate chip cookie, though perhaps a bit softer.

spiral

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Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Muffins

Hello again! I’ve really dropped the ball on my Halloween baking this year – I had grand intentions of skull cookies, which I will still probably bake this week, but I obviously didn’t get anything done in time for this blog. So it goes. I’ve had a very busy weekend – it was my 25th birthday, so lots of socializing and eating and drinking. A friend of mine even baked me cupcakes from this blog! Such a great birthday present. But I didn’t want to neglect you guys, so here’s a slightly older recipe for you.

berries

I’m not usually a huge fan of baking with fruit. A bit of orange zest here and there, sure. Apple pie, definitely. But most of the time I’d really rather have the fruit by itself than waste it in baked goods. However, over the past few months I’ve become inordinately fond of berry and chocolate muffins. And so, when I got to Byron Bay and strawberries were unbelievably cheap, I thought I’d try my hand at making some myself.

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Josey Baker’s (Gluten-Free, Vegan) Adventure Bread

Bake this bread. Seriously, stop what you’re doing, go buy some nuts and oats and seeds, and get started, because it won’t be ready for at least another five and a half hours, which is already way too long to wait. This stuff is delicious. I ate at least five pieces of it, and the part I brought over to my backpacker friends (you know me, I have to give my baking away to someone) received rave reviews. It’s great plain, it’s great with butter, it’s great with olive oil, I can only imagine how good it would be with some honey or peanut butter or the right kind of cheese (I’m thinking a really sharp, nutty cheddar). It’s got a bit of a daunting ingredients list, but it is one of the easiest breads I have ever made. I promise.

lone

And it’s naturally gluten-free (although if you are baking this for someone with Celiac Disease, make sure your oats aren’t contaminated. I know a lot of major brands aren’t actually Celiac-friendly). Which is great, because I have a horrible confession to make, you guys: I’ve been cutting down on gluten. When I first got to Australia, I was all set to live off my favorite cheap diet of peanut butter sandwiches, but it turns out my stomach can’t handle quite that much wheat, and so I have become one of those obnoxious people with a fake gluten intolerance. I know, I’m not happy about it either. I will by no means be giving up flour on this blog, so don’t you worry. I’ve just been exploring some naturally gluten-free recipes as well. And this one, well, I think I may have mentioned that this one is delicious.

bread

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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

I’m sorry guys. I’m so sorry. I’ve been neglecting you. It’s not just that I’ve been baking less often – though I have definitely been baking less often. I’ve also been doing some seriously sloppy baking (and, as you can probably tell from the photos below, some even sloppier photography). I just sort of throw things together, and then I heat it all up in the hostel toaster oven (which is actually a decent little oven, but I know it’s lying to me about the temperature so there’s a lot of guesswork involved.) Sloppy. I even managed to bake the first batch of these without sugar. Eight ingredients and I managed to forget one.

So yes, I apologize. But I’ve moved into a new place, with a nice kitchen with things like scales and measuring cups. Mixing bowls. A fridge with enough space to chill things. It’s wonderful. I’m about to start on my first baking endeavor, but I wanted to give you guys a couple of the nice things I baked in the hostel to tide you over.

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Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies

pileHi guys! Predictably I’m behind on my posting. I’m currently living in a hostel in Byron Bay, Australia. It’s sunny and beautiful, but I’m working with a shared kitchen, a communal toaster oven, and a seriously tiny food budget, so I haven’t exactly been doing tons of baking. I’m probably more upset about it than you are. Anyway, I’m hoping to get some done in the next couple weeks, but in the meantime, I have another old post for you!

aerial single

These were born out of failure. I wanted to make Old-Fashioned macarons – you know, like the classic bourbon, sugar, bitters, and orange cocktail. But I ignored the first rule of making macarons: don’t do it without a scale. I tried. I failed. Twice. But I had some really nice Buffalo Trace bourbon left over, and some ingredients to use up before leaving Wellington, so I made these instead. They were pretty damn tasty.

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Apple Pie

Apple pie is a specialty of mine. I make it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, sometimes even 4th of July (even though apples are technically out of season in the American summer). I’m not an enormous fan of baked fruit, but apple pie is just so tasty. Especially nice and hot with a big scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.

baked

I’m pretty neurotic about my pie-making, as you’ll see below. The first time anyone not directly related to me saw me slicing up apples for pie, they expressed sincere concern for my sanity. Which is fair enough because (as, again, you’ll see below) I slice my apples in a completely insane and very time-consuming fashion. But they taste best this way. But if you chop yours a bit more coarsely, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

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