Jan 12 2011

Broken Bread

In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the midst of a snowmageddon here in the Northeast. Two feet of snow fell overnight and this morning, covering the landscape in a blanket of white newness–just beautiful. Luckily, I had nowhere to go today. While I do have a Chevy Blazer, the 4WD broke over the summer and now I’m stuck with a rear-wheel-drive vehicle that doesn’t get around too well. Especially when there’s an un-plowed driveway between it and the road.

I decided to make the best of the situation, putting some Wildtree Southwest Stew in the crockpot for dinner and baking some of that 5-Minute Artisan Bread I had fermenting in the fridge. Mmmm…the apartment smelled wonderful, instantly transformed into a patisserie by the dough baking in the oven. That is, until the odd noise I heard.

I rose from my burrow in the bedroom to investigate, sure the kids had broken something else. Instead, I found this:

Yup, my Pampered Chef stoneware that I rave and rave about broke into 5 pieces in the oven. I was more upset that the almost-sourdough bread would now be ruined than by the shattered stoneware.

Seeing as the company only has a 3-year guarantee, I won’t be able to get it replaced: I’ve had it for 4 years. I’m not ready to leave Pampered Chef behind yet–I still have 2 other stoneware baking sheets, plus a cupcake pan, loaf pan, 9 x 9 square baker, etc. But I’m open to suggestions for other options, especially since the PC stoneware isn’t supposed to be pre-heated and many of the recipes I use call for that step. So what’s your favorite? What do you recommend?

Sadly, the bread, was a casualty. I tried baking it through anyway but there were complications getting the inside baked properly.  My poor, poor bread–it didn’t deserve this!

Jan 12 2011

Add a banana and Elvis would approve!

It’s pretty widely known that Elvis Presley was quite fond of unusual food combinations, peanut butter and banana sandwiches being one often attributed to him. What I didn’t know until recently was that he also liked to add bacon to the mix. Bacon + banana + peanut butter apparently added up to pure bliss and he enjoyed them throughout his short life. Then again, that’s probably a part of why he had a short life. Hmmm…

bacon peanut butter cookies

I’m not quite so fond of bananas, to be honest, so I think I’ll be skipping this version of the pb&j we all so love, but I can get behind peanut butter and bacon. (You had to know there’d be a follow-up bacon story after yesterday;) )

Some time ago, I came across a recipe for peanut butter and bacon cookies. I truly meant to make them but life got in the way–as well as many other fabulous recipes–and before I knew it, a year had passed without the meeting of these two unlikely lovebirds in my kitchen. Luckily, I had a hankering for candied bacon yesterday–and some extra strips that I managed to chop up and stash in the fridge before my willpower succumbed to bacon’s beckoning call. That evil little beastie!

bacon peanut butter cookie dough

Mine is different from the recipes I’ve seen before because I started with candied bacon. (If you don’t know how to do this, refer back to yesterday’s post for more info.) As a result, I reduced the sugar in the recipe. Otherwise, it’s pretty easy. No flour makes it gluten-free, too, if you’re concerned about that. We need all the help we can get in justifying cookies, don’t we? :)

Peanut Butter & Bacon Cookies

adapted from Joy the Baker

  • 1 cup creamy all-natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 slices of candied bacon, chopped
  • raw sugar for rolling

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper (or use a nonstick cookie sheet).

Cream the peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating thoroughly. Add the baking soda. Remove from mixer and stir in the chopped candied bacon.

Scoop out dough and roll between your hands into balls. Roll in the raw sugar til lightly coated, then place on cookie sheet. Press down with a fork in criss-cross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let sit on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen, depending on the size of your balls you make them.

Jan 11 2011

I Love Bacon

Bacon… those tasty strips of piggy flesh that could bring a man to his knees, weeping for joy. Thick or thin, crispy or chewy, there’s just no way to go wrong: it’s all good.

bacon lettuce tomato

Bacon has become pretty trendy in the foodie world, with bloggers sampling it in just about anything conceivable, all for the glory and honor of coming up with the next big bacon thing. From the more tame bacon chocolate chip cookies to the wild bacon implosion, there aren’t many frontiers left for bacon. Just about everyone has been there, done that.

What is it exactly about this breakfast meat that has made it so popular though? I like a good piece or two of bacon with my pancakes but to be honest, I never went ga-ga over it before the craze. It’s forbidden by two major religions, reputed to be an artery-clogging heart stopper, and a mocking presence to vegetarians and vegans everywhere. With all this against it, how has bacon become such a rock star?


I don’t have any answers…but I do have bacon. And while a traditional, good old-fashioned BLT is a perfect way to enjoy it, I suggest you take it one step further and candy your bacon first. It’s unbelievably addictive. You’re welcome.

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper and place a cooling rack inside it. Lay out the strips of bacon on the cooling rack and sprinkle brown sugar on them liberally (you can sprinkle on cayenne in addition to the brown sugar, but I prefer it without). Put cookie sheet on the middle rack in the oven and set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the strips, apply more brown sugar, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes, or until it’s done to you’re liking. Once cooled, this bacon confection will have you craving a daily dose of porky perfection–sorry, Wilbur.

brown sugar bacon

Jan 10 2011

Magnolia Bakery and Cheesecake


I love New York City. Even though I live only 2 hours away, for many years, I didn’t travel there at all. This past summer, a friend reminded me of all the things I loved about the City and so I visited it again, several times–the last being for my birthday in October. The trip itself was somewhat of a flop. We wanted to attend the New York Burlesque Festival but in an attempt to circumvent exorbitant Ticketmaster fees, I didn’t buy the tickets ahead of time and it sold out–which we didn’t discover til we went to wait in line for the performance. There was no backup plan. Distraught, we started wandering toward Greenwich Village, hoping something would present itself that would be a suitable replacement for my birthday festivities. What followed was a long, long walk with a lot of frustration (10.5 miles throughout Downtown in boots that aren’t meant for walking is a painful affair!) but there was a moment in the middle of serendipitous delight!

Magnolia Bakery. The Magnolia Bakery. Well, one of them. We had seen the one in Grand Central Terminal and I knew there was one in Greenwich Village, but I was unable to locate it the last time I was in the area. But there it was, right before us, an oasis in the desert of birthday celebration. It was nearly closing time and the line snaked around the counter inside all the way to the door. I had no clue what I wanted, I just wanted to try something.

I got in line, nervous and excited. What to pick? What to pick? I didn’t want to hold up the busy people behind me–it was such an efficient operation! Luckily, I discovered the perfect confection for the occasion, just sitting there innocently, waiting in the bakery case–white chocolate cheesecake. Hubby and I devoured it on the sidewalk outside, bypassing our forks in favor of our hands as a more efficient means of capturing every morsel. Mmmmmm… It was worth every filling gram of fat, every freaking calorie. Delicious!

For Christmas, hubby recaptured that moment by giving me The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old-Fashioned Recipes from New York’s Sweetest Bakery. We can’t go there often, but at least I can attempt to recreate that moment at home–a few seconds of New York in my own kitchen.

I only had a 9-inch springform pan, so I did the best I could with what I had. In the future, I will adhere a little better to the rule: always use the size pan recommended in the recipe. There was a moment–when I had to take it out of the oven to add the crumb topping–when I thought this wouldn’t work. Over 4 cups of topping crowning a cheesecake that was already to the rim? But I dutifully added it. It all fit in the end, but it took quite a bit longer to finish baking because of my ill preparation in pan sizing and the end result wasn’t a pretty picture. Tasty, but not beautiful. Crumb toppings are supposed to be on rustic looking baked goods anyway, right?

This cheesecake is a bit different in that there is no crust, but that’s a nice time-saver, too. Many people recommend a water bath when making cheesecake so you don’t get cracks on the top but since this one has a crumb topping, it’s not a concern. Plan ahead! It does need to be refrigerated for half a day before you can serve it and you really do need to take it out 20 minutes or so before you plan on eating it, otherwise it’s a bit difficult to cut through that crumb topping.

I made this for my grandmother’s 89th birthday party yesterday and it was a hit! Another birthday with a Magnolia Bakery cheesecake… this one, without the trip to NYC for it!

Crumb-Topped Cheesecake

adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old-Fashioned Recipes from New York’s Sweetest Bakery

makes one 10-inch cheesecake


2 lbs cream cheese (that’s 4 8-oz packages), softened

1 1/4 cups sugar

5 large eggs, room temp

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1 Tbsp vanilla extract (I used the scrapings of 2 vanilla beans-soak them in the heavy cream before adding)


You could cut this in half and still have plenty…

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the cream cheese at low speed until it is smooth. Slowly add the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between. Scrape the sides and bottom to ensure the filling is mixed well with no lumps, then stir in the heavy cream and vanilla extract.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and set the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, confectioners sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder. Use a pastry blender or 2 forks to cut the butter into the mixture, working until you have coarse crumbs

Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of it. Return it immediately to the oven, baking for another 20 minutes.

Bake until the edges are set and center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour in total. Once it has reached this point, turn off the oven and prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon to keep it slightly ajar. Cool cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour before removing. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Remove from fridge at least 20 minutes prior to cutting to serve.

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