Archive for December, 2009

Christmas Traditions – Grandmother Kroener’s Rolls

Rolls 2

The most anticipated dish on my family's Christmas table. No, really.

I can’t really believe that it’s Christmas Eve – this holiday season has gone so quickly that it’s like it barely happened at all. The DC snow storm definitely put a damper on my Christmas shopping, so I’ve been spending today madly running around trying to get all my shopping done. But it actually feels nice to be out doing errands – I spent a total of 8 hours on planes yesterday, and it feels so good to move around.

I don’t have a lot of time to write (and my parents don’t have WiFi, which is a challenge for a blogger and Internet addict like myself), but I wanted to leave you with one final post before Christmas. It’s a family recipe and one of our most sacred Christmas traditions. It’s a recipe for rolls.

These rolls have a very special place on our holiday table. The recipe was passed down from my father’s grandmother, to his mother, to my mother, and now I’m giving it to you. My mother only makes them three times a year – for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Because my mother saved them for special occasions, the rolls took on a rather mystical quality in our household. When we were little, my siblings and I talked about “the rolls” with the same awe and reverence that we talked about Santa Clause.

And it’s no wonder, because the rolls are addictive. The texture is light and bready, and the yeasty dough is just a little sweet. The salt in the dough gives them a savory kick, which is heightened when they’re spread with butter. For a bread lover like myself, the sweet/savory/yeasty flavors and soft texture is irresistible. My standard Thanksgiving meal growing up was a piece of turkey, a little stuffing, and seven or eight rolls.

It goes without saying that I’m super excited to eat the rolls tomorrow.  And I know that, no matter where I am, they’ll always have a place on my Christmas table. Maybe now they’ll also have a place on yours.

Merry Christmas!

Rolls 1

Rolls, in process.

Recipe: Grandmother Kroener’s Refrigerator Rolls


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Snow Weekend Baking

DC Snow Day - Adams Morgan 3

Adams Morgan this Saturday.

Yes, in case you’re wondering – that’s what I’ve been doing all weekend.

Snow Day Weekend Baking 2

Not exactly crescent-shaped, but still tasty.

I told you I was going to make croissants. Okay, so I still need some tips on shaping them, but they taste great – very flaky and buttery.

Snow Day Weekend Baking

Banana muffins. They look homely but these are delicious.

I was going crazy with cabin fever Saturday night. And the smell of these really old bananas was driving me crazy – they were way past their eating prime. So rather than toss them, why not make banana muffins? I used my banana bread recipe and baked them in a muffin pan, and they came out very well.

Snow Day Weekend Baking 3

Glaze is such a classy way to top a cupcake.

I’m bringing these to the office Christmas party (postponed a day because of Monday’s snow day). They’re chocolate cupcakes filled with a white chocolate ginger mousse, and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. I tried a new cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cupcake book for these (the jumbo marshmellow filled ones), but I wasn’t a huge fan – the cake tastes too sweet, and isn’t chocolately enough. Next time I’m sticking with the One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, which is a far superior recipe.

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Also For Your Snow Day: Hot Chocolate

hot chocolate

Hot chocolate - perfect for a snow day too!

I realized after writing up my ideas on what to bake on a snow day, that I forgot the most obvious snow day sweet – hot chocolate! From what I can gather from Twitter, many of you have already been out and about this morning, and I’m sure you’re freezing (I, on the other hand, stayed up until 3:00 am last night watching Hulu and woke up . . . well, let’s just say I haven’t been outside today yet). So here’s some delicious hot chocolate recipes to warm your soul, and fingers.

  • Have you read David Lebovitz’s book “The Sweet Life In Paris?” Well, one of my favorite chapters was the one on the hot chocolate in Paris and Lebovitz’s search for the “perfect” cup. I haven’t tried his recipe for rich, intensely chocolatey chocolat chaud, but I want to.
  • White hot chocolate – I actually like white chocolate (I know, I know, it’s not real chocolate. I don’t care), so this white hot chocolate recipe from Martha Stewart looks tempting. Although I might spice it up with some fresh ginger, to cut down on the sweetness. Or rum.
  • It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of mint and chocolate desserts, and this peppermint hot chocolate from Michael Chiarello looks lovely. It uses peppermint schnapps, so it’s for grownups, but I don’t have a problem with that.
  • This Mexican hot chocolate recipe from David Guas also looks good. I bet putting an actual vanilla bean in the hot chocolate is delicious.
  • And, finally, a recipe for spiked hot chocolate from Emeril, that adds bourbon or brandy to the regular hot chocolate mix. Um, this may be the one I need to make tonight – especially if I can corral some friends into coming over. I wonder if the liquor store near me is open in the snowstorm.

Happy snow day! Any recipes for hot chocolate you want to share?

Hot chocolate 2

Mmmmm . . .

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What to Bake on a Snow Day

Snow day

It's a perfect baking day. What will you be making?

It’s snowing in DC – like, really snowing. There’s a blizzard warning until 6:00 pm tonight and, according to Twitter, DC has already made a mad rush on its grocery stores.

So you’ve stocked up on milk, eggs and (hopefully) even flour – and you’re holed up in the house. This can only mean one thing – epic baking day. I mean, like, epic baking day. It’s a day to bake something complicated and difficult – although not something that needs multiple days worth of rising time (unless you anticipated this baking day and made your bread starter last night).

Good things to bake on a snow day:

  • Cinnamon Rolls – What could be better after coming in from a snowy walk than a hot, warm, gooey cinnamon roll? They’ll take some time to rise, so you can have a leisurely day of baking while watching the snow.
  • Croissants – this is what I’m going to be making today, myself. The rising time isn’t that long, so I can fit it in a day, but because you have to roll (or “turn’) and rest the dough several times you have to be around all day.
  • Gingerbread cookies. These are perfect for a snow day – they’re time consuming because you have to make the dough, chill it, and roll them out, and you can spend time decorating them with royal icing.
  • Guinness Bread (or really, any rustic artisan loaf). This is my own recipe, adapted from The Bread Bible, and I’m seriously thinking about making it today too. The rising time isn’t that long, and there’s nothing more homey and comforting on a snowy day than bread dough rising in your kitchen. I would make this and serve it in thick slices, slathered with butter and sea salt, and eat it with a cup of tea while watching the snow.

What will you be baking today?

Snow day 2

View from my apartment window. So pretty.

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Weekly Roundup: Prefer Not To Talk About My Christmas Shopping Edition

Gingerbread Ornaments

I would rather make gingerbread ornaments than do my Christmas shopping.

It is December 18th. Have I done my Christmas shopping? I prefer not to answer that question.

Recipes I want to try:

And in other Internet news:

  • Everyone should read this New York Times article about the holiday layer cakes of Alabama. It’s a wonderful piece on how these cakes figure into the community there.
  • The Arugula Files has a roundup of classy and trashy recipes for your holiday parties. I would like a trashy appetizer please.
  • I am a sucker for a gingerbread house – so I can’t resist a gingerbread castle. Via Top Shelf.
  • Brightest Young Things has a 2009 wrap up from DC’s food bloggers and foodies. Newsflash – Tim Carman hates cupcakes.
  • Young and Hungry has named five dishes to its DC “hall of fame.” I will admit it here – I only voted for the things I had eaten. It was a good thing I could only vote for five.

Happy Friday!

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Food Blogger Post-Holiday Potluck: Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 6:30

Mark your calendars!

Sometimes when the holidays are over, I feel a little let down. After Christmas and New Years, what else is there to look forward to?

Well, now there’s a bright spot on my January calender – a food blogger post-holiday potluck on Wednesday, January 6 at 6:30! Lauren at Capital Cooking has graciously offered up a room in her building for the shindig, and everyone will be bringing a dish or drink to share. With food bloggers doing the cooking or choosing the wine (or beer), I think this will have to be good.

RSVP over at Capital Cooking.

Many thanks to our planning committee: Gradually Greener, The Arugula Files, Capital Spice, Capital Cooking, DininginDC, WeLoveDC, and the Beerspotter. If you want join the planning committee, send me an email and I’ll get you in the loop.

Food Blogger Post-Holiday Potluck

Wednesday, January 6
Union Row
2125 14th St. NW

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Local Desserts – Poached Pears With Almond Ice Cream and Shortbread

Poached Pear 3

I didn't realize how beige this would be until I put it all on the plate.

Check out my guest post on Going Green DC for a recipe that features local farmer’s market fare for a holiday dessert. The ginger poached pears with almond ice cream and shortbread is a play on Julia Child’s pear and almond tart I made last weekend.

Happy holidays!

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Holiday Desserts – Julia Child’s Pear Tart

Pear Tart

A delicious blast from the past.

Last Sunday I had my book club over for an afternoon of Julia Child, chatting, and food. We were reading Julia Child’s memoir, “My Life in France,” about Child’s first years in Paris and her education at the Cordon Blue Cooking School. Back in July when I watched Julie and Julia I had the bright idea that I should have the book club over in December and make lunch from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking.”

I have to say, I was so focused on making the lunch that I actually didn’t read all of the memoir (okay, I stopped at page 70). And I had no idea that the recipes in “Mastering” were so damn labor intensive – I wanted to make a sauce to go with my chicken, but I didn’t have the four hours that it would require. I read somewhere (and I can’t now remember where, otherwise I would link to it) that Child’s techniques reflected classic French restaurant cooking – her laborious methods reflect the technique of a restaurant chef rather than those of a home cook. I believe it.

Even if looking through the Mastering the Art of French Cooking transports me back to the 1950s, I was surprised at how great all the food was. The butterflied chicken, bathed in butter and tarragon, was delicious, and the cauliflower, cooked in cheese sauce and spread with bread crumbs, was one of the most perfect things I’ve had in a long time.

But I was really surprised at how much I loved the dessert. It seemed so staid and boring – a poached pear tart with a sugar cookie crust and frangipane (almond pastry cream) filling. But the simple flavors were perfect. I poached the pears in a wine syrup flavored with cinnamon and spices, which made them sweet and spicy and even more pear-like than before. The almond cream was sweet and creamy and paired perfectly with the pears. And the cookie crust was crunchy and sweet and fresh. It was a perfect dessert.

Really, this Julia Child person really knew what she was talking about. And some classic things – even if they feel stuffy, actually are classics for a reason. The only problem I had with the tart was that the pears were a little too big to fit in the tart shell – I guess pears were probably smaller in Julia Child’s time.

Pear Tart 2

So yeah, my pear slicing skills are not so hot.

Recipe: Julia Child’s Pear Tart

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Weekly Roundup: Holiday Cookie Edition


It's cookie time. Now that's my kind of time.

What is it with the cookies? With the exception of an ice cream recipe (I can never resist a good ice cream recipe) all the recipes I want to try this week are cookies. I think that the holidays are just cookie time – people bring them to parties, they give them as presents, they put out plates of them at the office. Hell, even I posted a cookie recipe this week for salty and sweet chocolate thumbprints (which you should make because they’re a-mazing), and usually I’m more of a cake girl.

And no, in case you’re wondering, I haven’t done my holiday shopping. I haven’t even really thought about it. Is it acceptable to give one’s marathon-running sister and theater-loving brother trays of cookies for Christmas? No? I didn’t think so.

Recipes I want to try, as found on the Internet this week:

  • Polenta ice cream, from David Lebovitz. Can I just move to Paris and become his ice cream taste tester? Please?
  • Chocolate creme de menthe bars, from A Measured Memory. These seriously look like these mint brownies I used to get from Humble Bagel, this bagel shop across the street from my middle school. God those were good. And God, these look good too.

And in other news:

  • The Tipsy Baker shares her thoughts on “Cleaving,” Julie Powell’s new memoir about her obsession with butchering, and her extra-marital affair (and yes, that’s the same Julie Powell of the Julie/Julia Project).
  • The Arugula Files is asking for your input about what she should make from the farmer’s market.
  • Micheal Voltaggio wins Top Chef. It feels weird that that means nothing to me, after recapping Top Chef last season (I was rooting for Carla Hall, by the way). The Voltaggio brothers, both of which were Top Chef finalists, have launched a new Web site where you can keep tabs on the brothers. So you can . . . stalk them? Via Top Shelf.
  • The Washington Post published an investigation into Founding Farmer’s food sourcing (the restaurant has built its brand on the image that they get their food from small family farms). What did they find? Well, some of the food comes from small farms, but a lot if it doesn’t. It’s an interesting look at the difference between a brand promise and the reality of running a restaurant. And I’m still planning on going there with Miss. Nonnka, by the way.
  • The Washington Post publishes their holiday cookie guide. See what I mean? It’s cookie season.
  • Lemmonex posts her 500th post. It is a cause for celebration. And interviews.

Happy Friday!

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Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

These cookies did not survive for long after I took this photograph,

In case you missed it, yesterday the Washingtonian Web site featured ModernDomestic in their weekly “blogger beat” feature. The interview with reporter Emily Leaman was really fun to do – mostly because I got to do what I already do here: write about baking. Thanks for everyone’s feedback on the piece – your comments and kudos are very flattering. I’m touched.

However, I know what you’ve come here for, which isn’t to hear about my press coverage (well, except my parents, aka my biggest fans). And, really, I’d much rather be writing about the cookies I made for my friend Victoria’s going away party last Friday.

It was a bittersweet affair, since Victoria, a fellow choir member, was abandoning us for Boston. But it was also a party, and parties are generally fun, even if they celebrate departures. I decided that I wanted to make cookies, since I often overlook them in my current quest to make ever more complex and “impressive” desserts. Which is silly, because cookies are actually really hard to get right. The Washington Post just did an annual cookie feature and interviewed pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac on the complexities of cookies (check out my own interview with MacIssac here).

Maybe I don’t make cookies often because I, too, find them challenging. Take chocolate chip cookies. I can use the exact same recipe, and it will yield entirely different cookies – sometimes they’ll be thin and spread, and other times they’ll be chewy and thick.  Cookies are also prone to burning because they’re small and delicate – I’ve probably burnt more batches of cookies than all other baked goods combined. Plus it’s hard to make cookies pretty – my cookie dough is always rolled unevenly, or my drop cookies end up being all different sizes.

So yes, cookies are a veritable mine field of baking challenges. But, that being said, these salty chocolate thumbprints with chocolate ganache came out really well. Victoria’s party was well supplied with treats and food and I wasn’t sure they’d get eaten. But they were all gone by the time I left.

These cookies owe their magic to the salt, which brings out the chocolate and gives them an addictive salty-sweet quality. I adapted them from a Martha Stewart recipe, but decided to use my own ganache recipe for the filling. The ganache is fudgy and deeply chocolatey, and adds a rich, creamy note to the cookies.

My one note of caution is to not over bake the cookies – you want them to be soft and crumbly, and the centers should be fudgy. The soft cookies and rich ganache melts in your mouth, followed by hit of salt and sweet. Believe me, they’re a little unusual, but I find them completely addictive.

As I mentioned in the Washingtonian article, cookies make great holiday gifts, and any friend with a sweet tooth would be happy to receive a tin of these. Just take care – you may find yourself eating them all before you can package them away!

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints 2

Wouldn't you want to get these for Christmas? I know I would.

Recipe: Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

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