welcome to martha mondays!

hello out there in blog world. after i heard about the amazing group tuesdays with dorie, i thought it was such a great idea.

but the book i'd really love to pour through and bake to my heart's delight is martha's baking handbook. i've made a couple of things, and everything has always been fail-proof, there isn't one thing in there that i wouldn't love to bake!

and from your comments and emails, it is true - there are others out there, secretly (or not) loving the martha! this would be a bi-weekly event to start out with (unless you're all jonesing for more!) and all of us would post the same goodie on the specified monday.

thanks to the suggestion of columbus foodie, it won't all be baked goods every time. and sometimes it will be a specific recipe, other times it will be a suggested ingredient or magazine issue. and it won't be a member "group" but we'll see what happens with hopefully more and more people joining us!

update: the first bake will be her coconut-pecan-caramel sandwich cookies, on page 114. if you don't have the book, i'll be getting the recipe up in a couple of days.

second update: martha thankfully has the recipe on her website. there are minor differences to the one listed in the book: 1/4 cup coconut (all other ingredients the same) and for the filling 1 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cream, and 4 tb butter. the methods all read basically the same. in the photo she has cookie shapes with circle cut-outs. i'd love to see other shapes too!

click here for the link to the online recipe.

everyone will post on the same day, monday 14 april.
all i ask is that you share the word and have fun! :)

oh yeah, and email me your name, name of blog, and permalink for martha monday post and i will do a modified round-up of everyone who participated! send email to mimikatzchen {at} gmail {dot} com with "martha monday" in the subject line.


party time, daring bakers style!

when morven from food art and random thoughts announced that this month's daring baker's challenge was going to be classic party layer cake from dorie greenspan, i was super excited. my previous experience with layer cakes has been (a) betty crocker box mix or (b) just buy a cake, have you seen how many gorgeous bakeries are here in the city? why would i ever bake my own??

but truth be told, the reason why i ever had an inkling of interest in baking was because back when i was bored in undergrad, i had the grand idea that deep down inside i was born to be a cake baker. it wasn't even the cake ... but all those flowers, squigglies, vines, and basket weaves!! i was so impressed with it all and so desperately wanted to try perfect it myself.

well, that lasted about 5 days.

but now, older and wiser, i feel free to indulge my inner cake obsession. this was my first ever layer cake. my first ever buttercream. this is what being a daring baker was all about, and i was totally excited to get to it!!

i made the cakes last week and planned on finishing this weekend (yes, i procastinate, that's the beauty of my life). since this was my first i decided to go by the book and bake exactly as described in dorie's recipe. well, since this was my first cake i have nothing to base my experience on, but they didn't seem to rise too well. i mean, it was like maybe an inch high? which was just about where the batter was to begin with. sigh. was i doomed to just a two layer cake?

when mr. mimi saw it, being the professional naysayer, he immediately pronounced it non-cuttable into additional layers!

well, i'll show him! nobody puts baby in the corner!

so here it is, with the original raspberry jam and lemon buttercream recipe. i used up all the buttercream, so whipped up some quick royal icing for the rest of the decorations, which some how came out all peeps looking, even though i didn't mean the yellow and pink to be so flourescent. but i look forward to many more piping adventures in my near future! :)

check out all the daring bakers for more fantastically beautifully delish party cakes!


classic banana bread

last week at fairway ...

mr. mimi: (as he walks down the aisle) do you want any bananas?

mimi: no, i'm not really in the mood. (yes, there are moods for produce)

mr. mimi: i'm gonna get some bananas. (and he picks up a couple)

mimi: (yelling down the aisle) yeah well you better eat them! i don't want to see any rotten bananas!!


so here i was again, with some brown bananas. not rotten, but definitely not enticing (this photo shows their good side; the backs were bah-rown!) i'm sure there are many different options for softy bananas, but i was still wanting a classic banana bread, something a little more true to my memory than what i made before. i googled around the usual suspects, but everything sounded much more complicated than what i wanted, with rum, or coconut, or this and that. i knew that what i was looking for was just simple bread - flour, sugar, leavening, maybe some cinnamon - and mushy (not puréed) bananas.

and here you have it! next time i would probably even leave the bananas mashed up a little more rough. it was delish, and even better the second day ... and third and fourth :)

this whole brown bananas = some baked yumminess is the start of a beautiful relationship!

for the recipe, click here.


magnolia's got nothin' on mimi!

shiny happy frosting

this weekend, my dear good friend SV visited because he loves
cars. we always have such a good time together and so he's always a good friend to have around and we wish he'd visit more often!

when the mimis first moved to new york city nine years ago, we lived in the west village. one day we discovered that we were about 3 blocks away from the famous magnolia bakery. back in the pre- sex in the city cupcake craze, this little bakery made quite a few good sweet temptations.

our trifecta of good friends (SV, H, and K) would often come down to visit and once we took them to magnolia on a perfect summer night. everyone fell in love with the old fashioned cupcake with melt on your tongue buttercream frosting. especially SV, who bought a boxful to go! and now every time he would come down to visit, he'd always make a side trip to magnolia for an orgy of buttery proportions.

well this time i was going to trump magnolia!
sure, it was busy especially on a nice evening when everyone's walking down bleecker. but it eventually became the "you must try this. now." type of place for every out of towner and their fanny pack wearing mother. and nothing against tourists and their mothers, but the cupcakes have never been the same since. a little too dry now, and the frosting was too oily tasting. so the challenge was on!

i knew i wanted to make two different types for him, and i wanted to make it a surprise. ever since i'd first drooled over the photo of martha's yellow cake with chocolate frosting i've been wanting to make my own. then i spent the rest of my otherwise unfruitful workday afternoon scouring the internet for a second choice. i decided on coconut cupcakes from the lovely barefoot contessa. i have never made any of her recipes before, but it received rave reviews, so i thought why not?

the first thing SV saw when he walked in our door was four dozen cupcakes cooling on racks on the dining table, and he was in bliss! once i got them all frosted (which i found is much more tiring than i thought) i anxiously awaited his verdict ...

"they are as good as magnolia"

hmmpf!! good as?? good AS?!! what does that mean?!!

well, since he had two cupcakes that night, and another one the next morning, i'll take it as meaning pretty darn good and finally he admitted the only thing that would've made them better is if they were bigger :)

for the coconut cupcake recipe, click here. i toasted the coconut for the topping; i also followed other's suggestions and halved the frosting recipe and still had plenty for two dozen. they were okay. a bit too sweet for my tastes.

martha's recipe for yellow cake and chocolate frosting is in her
baking handbook. no changes were made and it came out delish!

this is my first ever entry for sugar high fridays #41 hosted this month by danielle over at habeas brûlée where the theme was "sweet gifts"!


mini veggie pot pie for the revolution!

when it was announced that pot pies were the theme for this month's revolution, i was psyched. i love me some yummy pot pies. the only problem is that i kind of stopped eating them when i became vegetarian again. sure, there are veggie pot pies, but what i really loved and craved were steaming hot chicken pot pies of wonder years gone by. so since then (seven years ago?) i have been deprived of the singular pleasure of the deliciousness of creaminess covered in pie dough. then last winter i said, enough of this denial, i need a pot pie! we made one from deborah madison and it was like a dream. so creamy, so full of vegetables. but i just couldn't help but feel like it was missing ... chicken :(

so for a chance at a redux, i couldn't wait! especially tonight when it's so windy cold on the first day of spring! this time we went with the mr. mimi SOP (standard operating procedure) recipe. and because i didn't want to be bothered with cooking an entire chicken from the farmer's market in advance, i decided to use fake chicken. haha. i know! what was i thinking?

because a bit of time management issues, i had to make the pie dough this afternoon. typically i like to make the dough at least a day in advance so it gets a real good chill before rolling and baking, but it is what it was. i had been wanting to try out the flaky pie dough recipe given by julia. remember the old adage to trust your eyes (and nose and fingers) when baking and not the recipe? you know, if it says brown in 30 minutes and yours is brown in 20 minutes, take it out of the oven! yes, i do know this. and yet, as i was streaming in the cup of ice water i could hear myself: "self, look how it's all balling together moist, i think this is enough water, despite the fact that i still have a good 1/3 cup left." and then you know what i did?? i foolishly continued: "self, but julia says 1 cup, so there goes 1 cup!" of course you know the rest of the story. it was a wet, gluteny, ball of dough. sure it would be edible. but it wouldn't be flaky.

faced with either: (a) buying some puff pastry or (b) using that wet ball anyway i decided on (c) let's try another round. this time i used the old recipe from joy of cooking that i've done before. and this time i trusted myself. came together crumbly but slightly moist. it looked and felt like the beginning of the perfect measure of flakiness!

so here are two little mini veggie pot pies with faux chicken. aesthetically, i wished the top browned a little more but they were absolutely delish (even if i did run out of top crust because i mistook how big my so-called "single serving size" le creuset dishes are!) i can't wait to see what our next revolutionary tactic will be!

oh yeah, and next time ... i think i'll get a real chicken from the farmer's market :)


bake-off of the biscotti babes

mise en place

i hate coffee but i love biscotti. especially classic almond biscotti. however, the biscotti goddesses were not with me this night. i tried two (2!) recipes tonight.

the first one was a disaster. of course, it could have been of my own making, who knows? i had all great hopes as it smelled sooo delish after it's first bake. but it was strangely still moist when i sliced it, and hardly risen at all. i went ahead and baked it twice, but it was a mess. a burning mess that is. one toppled off the rack, unnoticed, until that rancid burning smell could be ignored no longer. i saved the rest but the taste was too sweet, and almost lemony?

the flat sticky mess

but i was determined to enjoy biscotti tonight. so i pulled out another cookbook, with slightly different ratios in the recipe. hmm, could this be the source of my consternation? unfortunately i did not have whole almonds, as i love the crunchy nuts in my biscotti. and the logs came out a little mini looking. and the taste? meh. it was okay. but nothing like what the best bakery in carroll gardens can provide. although after trying them again in the morning, they actually aren't too bad. maybe it's the missing whole almonds.

meh tasting minis

one recipe was from dorie. everyone loves dorie. and one recipe was from martha. and well, you either love her or hate her. but which one was which?

if you guessed that dorie's was the one that didn't come out right, you are correct! but martha shouldn't be too proud of herself either because hers didn't come out tasting all that smashing. hmm. or maybe it was just me? can a baker have such a ridiculous off-night that she ruins not just one, but two!, recipes of the same thing?


mushroom ricotta tart

i know that almost any recipe can be tweaked and altered, but i especially love those dishes which have endless variations ... such as risotto, or vegetable stews. another new found favorite are savory tarts. almost anything can be combined to go on these light sheets of puff pastry.

last time we did
asparagus and gruyère by the book. i can't wait for summer's fruits and vegetables for tomato tarts, zucchini and squash tart, caramelized onion with fresh herbs. i can't wait, too, until i am a little more experienced and can make my own puff pastry.

last week we were inspired by the mushroom tart described by martha, but used up leftover ricotta mix instead of the goat cheese. i think the photos speak for themselves ... delicious!! :)


world peace cookies

and the winner for the nobel peace prize goes to ...

what more can i say about these that can't be read elsewhere? almost any baker worth their blogger has either read about these cookies or tried baking them him/herself. although i do have to say that i never heard about them (gasp!) until i was pouring over my new dorie book.

a creation of monsieur hermé, these cookies are buttery and sandy with a whole lot of darkness. i didn't find them particularly salty or amazing, but then again i'm not a big chocolate fan, so please don't go by my opinion! i was re-assured from my other half that they were yummy and so we brought them to a going away party for our good friends H and M (and no, i don't mean hennes and mauritz, although they are just as cool) who are returning home across the atlantic. sniff sniff.

but why "world peace" cookies? originally called korova cookies by dorie, the story goes that her neighbor was so smitten by these lovelies that he became convinced a daily dose was all that was needed for peace and happiness all over the world.

world peace cookies: makes 3 dozen
from dorie greenspan's baking book (2006, p. 138)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tb butter, room temp
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips

1. sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda together.

2. beat butter until soft and creamy. add both sugars, salt, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes more.

3. pour in sifted dry ingredients and mix on low until just incorporated, about 40 seconds; don't overwork the dough. toss in the chocolate pieces and mix just until combined. the dough may look a little crumbly but that's okay.

4. turn dough out onto work surface and divide in half. shape dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches thick. wrap in plastic or parchment and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours (up to 3 days).

5. preheat oven to 325F. using sharp thin knife, slice logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. they may crack, but just patch together.

note: it is true, i have no knife skills. so when mr. mimi saw my terrible attempts that more resembled butchery, he gracefully showed me the better way. don't slice or cut into the dough log. instead, use the rocking motion where you basically have the front tip of the knife on the board and lift the knife up and rock down as you come down. in this way, you're cutting with the back of the knife which is heavier and more stable. all my slices were crumbly. all his slices were clean!

6. arrange rounds on baking sheet 1 inch apart. bake for 12 minutes. they won't look typically "done" or firm, but that's right! transfer sheet to cooling rack.


pi(e) day!

pizza rustica

besides warm weather, i am also a sucker for foodie blog events. time constraints mean i don't get to participate in as many as i would like, and inevitably i am always super-last-minute, but when i saw the event to celebrate the revered mathematical constant coming i knew i had to join up!

i am also very weak at the knees when it comes to books. i don't "browse" amazon or strand. if i'm online or in the aisles, i will most certainly find something i want to buy! my usual book buys have always been literature (typically russian) or history (typically german) but for the past month i have just been flat-out obsessed with increasing my collection of baking books. thanks to the wonderful experience of the daring bakers, i received some good recommendations. and here you have it ... the four new books that are now gracing my shelves:

so of course for pi day i just had to try a new recipe from a new book. i didn't want to do a fruit pie because i like to keep those in-season. pecan pie was out for the same reason. i've already made key lime and lemon meringue and wanted something different, but coconut cream wasn't doing it for me. i browsed and pondered and finally settled on the original diva of american kitchens, ms. julia child. her pizza rustica sounded so delish.

i had to do some substitutions with what i had on hand (the recipe below is as written). i used chives instead of parsley and parmesan instead of pecorino. even though the dough wasn't challenging, this was the first time i was going to do a lattice top, so i was excited. then i realized that to do a "true" lattice top takes a lot of time and space, none of which i had tonight. so i did just the regular criss-cross lattice and it still looks beautiful! the crust also of course came out a little too brown around the edge, so if you make this keep on eye on it and tent it if you'd like something more even looking.

so pizza rustica is my entry for pi day, a nice savory option. i can't wait to see what every one else comes up!

pizza rustica: serves 8-10
from baking with julia (1996, p. 430)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1. put flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into food processor; pulse a few times to mix. add butter and pulse 15-20 times, or until mixture resembles cornmeal.

2. with machine running, add the eggs and process until dough forms ball on blade.

3. remove dough and knead it until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. divide the dough in two pieces, one twice as large as the other. wrap in plastic and set aside until needed (you can refrigerate in advance for up to 3 days).

1 lb ricotta
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto, shredded
2 tb chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp pepper

1. in medium bowl, stir ricotta with spatula until smooth. add rest of the ingredients one at a time, stirring until each addition is incorporated and well blended.

2. preheat oven to 350F. butter 9-inch pie pan.

3. knead the large dough piece into disk and roll out on lightly floured surface to fit pie pan (about 12" circle). transfer dough to pan and press on bottom and up sides; trim excess. fill pan with ricotta filling.

4. knead and shape the remaining piece of dough into 9-inch square. using pastry cutter or small sharp knife, cut dough into 12 even strips. lay strips across the pie, in criss cross (easy way is to lay the 6, and then lay the other 6 the opposite way). trim edges of lattice and pinch to seal.

5. bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden and filling is firm and slightly puffed. transfer pie to rack and cool completely before serving.


seven days until spring

and it couldn't come any sooner! i am a sucker for warm weather. and it's not just the cute cotton dresses, or the mister softee jingle, or those briny ocean waves. what i really also love about seeing crocuses, and longer days, and cleaning out the backyard ... are the first arrivals of the new local spring produce. one of the first to come bursting from the dregs of winter are artichokes. or fartinchokes if you really must know what the mimis call them at home. don't tell me i didn't warn you!

artichokes should be heavy, fleshy, and the leaves should be tight. they don't have to look pretty or unblemished, as the outside appearance of the leaves typically do not indicate its freshness. there are many ways to cook artichokes, but my absolute favorite is steamed. no matter how big, i can always eat an entire steamed artichoke all on my very own, thank you. back in the day i used to eat them with melted butter. but now i just make a super simple vinaigrette, heavy on the lemon juice, with just a bit of salt and pepper. wow. easy, easy, easy, but a great reminder that even sunnier days are yet to come!

tips for steaming and eating artichokes:

1. trim the stem, but not too short, so it can stand upright. run artichoke under water, rinsing the outer leaves and flushing the inside of the leaves.

2. set the artichokes in a large pot of water (about an inch or so covering the bottom of the pot). squeeze lemon juice directly over the artichokes, and add lemon slices (a few juiced), peppercorns, and bay leaves. be generous with the lemon; i typically use about 3-4 lemons. bring to a boil and cover to steam. make sure to keep watch that the water doesn't boil away and add more if necessary.

3. artichokes are done when the outside leaves can be pulled off fairly easily. it should be about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size.

4. discard a couple of the outer leaves if they are too tough. then pull off each leaf, dip into vinaigrette, and scrape the bottom of the leaf with your teeth. with a really delicious artichoke you can usually eat quite a bit of the inside of the leaf, not just the bottom part.

5. once down to the soft inside leaves, pull off and discard. you'll then have the fuzzy choke. scrape or cut if off with a small knife. you're left with the most delicious tasting "heart". dip into vinaigrette, close your eyes, and sail off to artichoke heaven!