Friday, March 30, 2012

cornflake chocolate-chip marshmallow cookies

Lets talk about where I'm coming from today. I'm coming from a place where I woke with a start at 5am. Because it was raining. In my apartment. Through my ceiling. When you're awake in the wee hours of the morning and struggling to maneuver your bed out of the path of a deluge, there's one of two things you can do: you can totally freak out, or you can laugh. Somewhat uncharacteristically, I decided to do the latter. Partly because my very responsive super came over at 5am to freak out for me, and partly because my panic is somewhat alleviated by the fact that I'm moving at the end of next month.

Moving in Manhattan brings its own special set of challenges (though hopefully none as great as the middle of the night leaking ceiling).  This time, I'm adding a co-op board package to the mix. I found an apartment that's bright, spacious, and in a great location. It's also in a co-op, which means that along with my application, I had to provide all sorts of information to the co-op board, including letters of recommendation from my friends and coworkers. Let me give you a tip: if you're ever feeling low--say you've been working around the clock, haven't had time to do your hair let alone your taxes, and are seriously considering wearing lululemon leggings to the office--I suggest that you ask your friends to write you some recommendation letters.  Because nothing cheers you up like reading nice things about yourself written by some of your favorite people.

I also suggest making your friends and coworkers these salty, sweet, and totally addicting cornflake chocolate-chip marshmallow cookies to thank them for taking the time to write the aforementioned letters. Given the mass hysteria these cookies induced when I brought them into the office, I think it's safe to say that they will ensure your friends stay in the recommendation writing mood for a long time. It also ensures that you'll have something to stress eat should the ceiling of your old apartment open up and start pouring down water at 5am. Oh well, nothing that can't be fixed with a little spackle and a lot of chocolate. 

Cornflake Chocolate-Chip Marshmallow Cookies
Just barely adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook by Christina Tosi

For the Cornflake Crunch
5 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup milk powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 275. Use your hands to crush the cornflakes in a large bowl until they are about 1/4 their original size. Stir in the milk powder, sugar, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the cornflake mixture, and stir until it's incorporated and clumps begin to form. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Cool completely before using. (Note: you will have extra cornflake crunch, which can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature, or for up to a month in the freezer.)

For the Cookies
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups cornflake crunch
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups mini marshmallows

Beat the butter and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, and add the egg and vanilla.  At this point, Christina Tosi recommends beating the mixture for 7-8 more minutes to ensure that the butter and sugar are well bonded. This creates a cookie that is crunchy on the outside, and chewy on the inside. Your mixture should be pale yellow and voluminous. Turn the mixture speed down to low and add the dry ingredients until just incorporated--do not over mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and, with the mixer on low, add the cornflake crunch and chocolate chips, beating until just incorporated (around 30 seconds).  Add the marshmallows, and beat until they are just incorporated as well.

Scoop mounds of cookie dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Christina Tosi recommends scooping your dough using a 2 3/4 ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measuring cup. I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup because I was afraid of making cookies that were too large, and I thought they came out well. My cookies were big but not humongous. Flatten the tops of the cookie dough mounds, and wrap the cookie sheets tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour. (Refrigeration is necessary, as Tosi says the cookies will not hold their shape if baked from room temperature). 

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the cookie sheets from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap from the cookie sheets, and make sure that your cookie dough mounds are spaced at least 4 inches apart. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies should be browned on the edges and should have puffed up, cracked, and spread out. The middle of the cookies should be just beginning to brown. If they don't look quite done, leave them in the oven for another minute or so. Cool the cookies completely on the cookie sheet. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for 5 days (or up to a month if stored in the freezer). 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

{city love} winter instagrams

It's officially spring! Which means that it's almost April. Which means that winter has come and gone. Which means that 2012 is already 1/4 of the way over. What? How? When did that happen? Here's a peek at how I spent the colder months, as seen through the lens of my iphone. I hope you kept warm, ate lots of winter comfort foods, and are ready to catch  a serious case of spring fever.

{the view of elizabeth street from brunch at public}

{kale + quinoa}
{in a taxi on a sunny saturday and a not so sunny saturday}
{green tea times two}
{view from a morning run}
{a rainy nyc night}
{valentine's day graffiti}
{afternoon treats from epicerie boulud}
{blue bottle rock center--my new afternoon coffee break}
{mint green and light purple nails from birchbox}
{my favorite winter outfit + accessories}

To see more food, nyc and crazy colored nails, follow me on instagram: @sweettarteblog

Monday, March 19, 2012

homemade funfetti cake

March is a big month for birthdays. So far I've celebrated the birthdays of two coworkers (with elaborate three-layer cakes), the birthdays of no fewer than four Facebook friends (with generic, "happy birthday so-and-so!!" messages) and the 100th birthday of the Oreo (with a late afternoon vending machine run, though if I had it to do over again I'd definitely be making these).  

Let's leave aside the junk-food binges and virtual well-wishes for now and focus instead on the three-layer cakes. Specifically, this three-layer, homemade funfetti cake, which I made for my friend and coworker Katie's birthday. (The other birthday cake was the almond joy confection featured here.) The fun thing about this cake is that it looks like any other plain white cake from the outside--it's not until you slice it open that your guests realize what's hidden within.

I wanted a stark white cake to offset the brightly colored sprinkles, but was wary of ending up with something dry or cloyingly sweet. To that end, I made a riff on a favorite buttermilk cake and was extremely happy with the results. The cake was as scrumptious as it was stunning, and it will definitely be a part of my celebration cake rotation for many a birthday-packed March to come.

Funfetti Cake
For the Cake (Adapted from Perfect Party Cake, Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours)

2 cups all purpose flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup multi-colored sprinkles

*edited to note: The original recipe for the Perfect Party Cake calls for 2 1/4 cups cake flour. Since I didn't have any cake flour on hand, I substituted with a lesser amount of all-purpose flour. I haven't tested this version with cake flour, but it will likely produce a lighter cake with a more delicate crumb. If that's what you're after, it may be worth using 2 1/4 cups cake flour here instead of 2 cups of all-purpose.

For the Frosting
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg whites and buttermilk and set aside as well.  In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy,about three minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer running, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating the flour and milk, adding another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary, and then beat the batter on medium for about a minute to make sure it's well incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and gently stir in the sprinkles. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is golden, springy to the touch, and a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, invert onto wire racks, and peel off parchment paper. Allow the cakes to finish cooling completely. 

To make the buttercream icing, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until light and soft. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar.  Once all of  the sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt if desired. Beat on medium speed for another minute, or until the frosting is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake, place one layer on a plate or cake board. Spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top of the cake. Place another cake layer on top, and repeat with another thin layer of frosting and the remaining cake layer. Working with an offset spatula if you have one, spread a very thin layer of icing over the top and sides of the cake, using a thicker coating of icing where needed to fill in any holes or gaps in the cake. This is your crumb coating--a very thin layer of icing in which all of the crumbs are suspended so that they're not visible in the finished cake. Once you have applied your crumb coating, pop the cake in the refrigerator or freezer for about 20 minutes to harden.  Remove the cake from the refrigerator, and spread the rest of the icing in an even layer over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with more sprinkles, if desired. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

gwyneth paltrow's blueberry spelt muffins

When it comes to small decisions, I'm the worst. Big life choices don't really phase me (Should I go to law school? Why not? Move to New York City? Sign me up!) but when it comes to choosing a color to paint my nails or selecting a spot for Saturday night cocktails, I agonize over the perfect pick for far too long. Unsurprisingly, my decision paralysis is at its height when faced with a choice about what to eat.  Sweet or savory? White or whole grain? Healthy or hearty?

It all starts with breakfast.  Breakfast sets the tone for my day in food.  Am I going to drink a green juice and have a healthy day? Or splurge on a scone and carry that indulgence through a Chipotle lunch and a Chinese food dinner?  It's usually the former, but sometimes I succumb to the siren song of a morning sweet.  (Which of course brings its own set of decisions--pancakes or waffles? Cinnamon or chocolate chip?) 

Thankfully, these muffins from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook bring the best of both worlds. They taste like a treat, but are packed with super-healthy spelt flour and are vegan to boot.  The blueberries burst  during baking, forming jammy swirls throughout the muffins, while a healthy dose of maple syrup lends a flavor reminiscent of pancakes. A breakfast that feels like a splurge but is actually a healthy start? Easiest decision I'll make all day. 

Blueberry Spelt Muffins
Adapted from My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (Gwyneth uses soy milk)
1/2 cup grade b maple syrup
1/4 cup light agave nectar
2 cups spelt flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

*Note the original recipe calls for 1 cup white spelt flour and 1 cup whole spelt flour but I could only find one type at my store. I used Arrowhead Mills whole grain spelt flour and didn't find the muffins to be heavy or dense at all. 

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. Mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients, and fold in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.