I had many, many people in my tiny, tiny apartment today to celebrate… well, my love of baking, I suppose. There were a lot of things I wanted to try making and not enough patience or calories in a day to do it piecemeal, so I invited everyone I knew in DC to come by and have some dessert.
It was great fun, of course (how could friends and desserts not be?), and I particularly impressed myself by spontaneously cooking up a quick, easy dinner at the spur of the moment for everyone without flipping out– with just ingredients I had in the pantry. Now, to most of the experienced cooks and homemakers out in the blogosphere, this may seem like no big deal; however… well, I tend to be the planning type, as you may have noticed. And if there are *people* coming over, I like to go all out. It was nice to feel confident and comfortable enough to just throw something I knew how to make without making a fuss together from my bare cupboards and not freak out or order pizza when things comfortably ran on into the evening hours.
The first beauty, one of my all-time favorites, is a Linzer Tart cookie made with hazelnuts substituted for almonds. It worked pretty well, but the hazelnuts seemed to be a little oilier than the almonds. so next time I do them, I’ll reduce the butter slightly. I filled them with raspberry jam, but I’d love to try nutella in the future. Unfortunately, the way I rolled them was sort of a pain. I don’t have circular cookie cutters, so I made do with a glass for the big circles and a soda bottle cap for the cutout centers. In the future, when I make them for home consumption, I think I’ll make them as “circular” (i.e. cut off from a chilled log that’s roughly circular) sandwich cookies. Less dramatic, but they should taste just as good, and I’m more likely to make them if they’re not as a pain.
These are gingersnaps. I’d never had gingersnaps until last year, when I fell in love with the buttery, spicy treats I got at a cookie swap. The dough freezes beautifully, and so it’s very convenient to store a log in the freezer for when people decide to drop by. The shine you may or may not notice on the top comes from ginger-sugar (similar to cinnamon sugar) sprinkled on just before baking.
I made marshmallows, too, for the first time. Don’t they look like big, fluffy, somewhat irregular (oops), comfy pillows? They tasted and felt markedly different from the storebought ones, much in the same way that boxed mac and cheese and boxed cake mix taste different from the homemade versions. Both are good, but you really have to think of them as being entirely different products or else it’s impossible to like whichever you tasted second.
These are the base to “apple pie” cupcakes that I topped with whipped cream and graham goldfish crackers. I made the base from a mix, Hodgson Mill Vanilla Bean. I usually make my own cake, but there was plenty of mess going on, and while the boxed mixes barely save time, they sure do save on mess and cleanup time. Hodgson Mill is the most homestyle of the mixes I’ve tried, though I also like the Trader Joes version for homestyle desserts. For trashy dessert nights, I occasionally buy Betty Crocker. When I feel like baking, I search blogs and try a new one almost every time– when it comes to vanilla cake, anyway. I love Orangette’s chocolate cake recipe, and use it as my standard. Anyway, I sauteed apples in sugared and spiced butter, and poured some over each cupcake before baking. After would have been good, too, but less portable. I got the idea somewhere on the blogosphere, but I really can’t remember where. If you know, let me know. I hate not to give credit where credit’s due, especially since they were a big hit.
I didn’t get pictures of two things. The first, chocolate pudding, was far too rich for most people’s taste– made from cream, milk, chocolate, and sugar, it was so rich that it was pretty much solid– so most people “cut” it with extra whipped cream. I also made tiramisu (also a first-time endeavor.) It was time consuming and fabulous, and I made waaaaay too much. Leftovers for work, I believe. After having made it, I can tell you it is *decidedly* not healthy.
Now that you’ve all gained weight just looking at the pictures, I think I’ll call it bedtime. Let me know if you want a recipe, I’m always happy to share.