Tuesday, October 7, 2014

FutureChefs!

Well hi there. Sorry for the temporary absence - I've had a busy few weeks with a variety of music-related things, but not to worry, recipes will be back this weekend...
Anyway, I have news. Big news. Crazy fun news.
Sophia's Sweets is in a book!!
FutureChefs is a compilation of 150 recipes from young chefs all over the world. I just received my copy yesterday, and it's a beautiful collection of photos and mouth-watering recipes, in addition to fun profiles on each chef.
My recipe is for the cookies pictured on the cover of the book - an indulgent variation on these old favorites, involving Nutella and raspberry jam. There's also a picture of me in front of my house, and one of my hands sifting sugar - super fancy y'all. (Actually, having a photographer come to my house to take pictures of me making cookies was one of the craziest "pinch me" moments ever.)
Anyway, the book is now available online! And, we will be having a little "Twitter party" with a bunch of the chefs sometime next week, where you can ask us questions and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book. Details to come!

Order your own copy here! The perfect gift for foodies of all ages. :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Browned Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies

 On the first day of my freshman year of high school, I was simultaneously more nervous and more excited than I think I had ever been. Coming from a tiny school where I knew the names of everybody in the building (and probably those of their parents, too), stepping into a school holding over 2,500 people every day was a bit of a shock. I knew hardly anybody, I got lost multiple times, and I feared that the next four years would be the longest of my life.
 It could only get better from there, and I quickly made friends and came to know and love my new teachers and classes. Days rushed by and blurred into weeks, months and years; and now, I'm a senior spending my Sundays writing college application supplements. It seems like five minutes ago that I was trying to write my first essay for an intimidating English teacher I was determined to prove myself to.
My friend who graduated this spring recently advised me to really appreciate every minute of this coming year, because it will go by faster than I realize. I know that in the blink of an eye, I'll find myself in my college dorm, looking back on this post and laughing at myself; and while I can't wait to start that new, exciting part of my life, I'm also trying to hang onto the little things I won't have anymore in a year. One of these being the ability to make delicious cookies for a school club meeting late at night, just because I feel like it - without getting lost trying to find my dorm's kitchen.
Enjoy!
Browned Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Joy the Baker)

                                                             2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
                                                                        1 teaspoon salt
                                                                  1 teaspoon baking soda
                               1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
                                                          1 cup packed light brown sugar
                                                          2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
                                                                    1 teaspoon molasses
                                                                1/2 cup granulated sugar
                                                                             1 large egg
                                                                        1 large egg yolk
                                                               1 cup white chocolate chips
                                                               coarse sea salt for sprinkling

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.
Start by browning 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter.  In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted completely, it will begin to foam and froth as it cooks.  The butter will also crackle and pop.  That’s the water cooking out of the butter.  Swirl the pan occasionally, and keep an eye on the melted butter.  The butter will become very fragrant and brown bits will begin to form at the bottom of the pan.  Once the bits are an amber brown, immediately remove pan from the heat and pour browned butter (bits and all) into a small bowl.  Leaving the butter in the pan will burn it.  Allow butter to cool for 20 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream remaining 1/2 cup of butter with brown sugar.  Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and molasses and beat until incorporated.
Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, pour the butter (brown bits and all) into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Add the granulated sugar and cream for 2 minutes, until well incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 1 minute more.
Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything is evenly mixed.  Add the flour mixture, all at once to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap and wrap into a disk or cylinder and seal at both ends.  Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop dough by the two tablespoonful onto prepared sheets.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Be sure to leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes of until cookies are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.  Serve warm or allow to cool completely. 
      -makes about 2 dozen cookies

Friday, August 29, 2014

Spiced Zucchini Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

 I'd like to take a moment to talk about mutant vegetables. Zucchini, to be more exact.
Around this time of year, food bloggers tend to start a trail of complaints along the lines of, "OMG, I can't even deal with how much zucchini is growing in my backyard and I'm so overwhelmed and it's taking over my kitchen and my life is really hard."
 The thing is, I live in New York City, where if your backyard is big enough to hold one small zucchini, you should consider yourself lucky. So I don't have a whole lot of sympathy.
Above is my dog, lying next to a zucchini we were given by a friend with her own little vegetable patch. Guys, this was one crazy zucchini - it was over a foot long. I didn't even know this ridiculous, genetically outrageous thing was possible in nature. Seriously, what?!
Regardless, I suddenly had a lot more understanding of the complaints popping up on my computer screen constantly, and I decided to tone down my own sass. And that's my life lesson for the day. (Is there even a lesson in there? I don't know. You're welcome anyway.)
This cake is crazy delicious. As in, way better than I ever thought a dessert based on a vegetable could be. (Although to be fair, that's pretty much the only healthy thing about it.) It's full of shredded zucchini, making it really moist, and it's studded with bittersweet chocolate chips. (These make everything better. We've been through this before.) I topped it with a quick cream cheese frosting made with both orange zest and juice (I used a blood orange, but you can use any kind), which adds a nice little pop of flavor to this summery cake.
Enjoy!
Spiced Zucchini Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse's Farm to Fork)

for the cake:
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

for the frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
grated zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and grease an 8" square cake pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the vegetable oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla extract and mix well. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder, and mix until well blended. Stir in the chocolate. Pour the batter into the pan, and tap it gently on the counter to release any air bubbles.
Bake until the cake has risen and is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes; then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.
Once the cake is completely cooled to room temperature, make the frosting. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, the orange juice and the orange zest. Add more sugar or juice, until it reaches the desired consistency. Spread on top of cake (if you'd like to frost the sides as well, double the frosting recipe).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Spicy Chocolate Brownies

 Last summer, my dad and I spent three days in Paris. He had been there several times in the past, so he told me that I could plan the trip as I wanted, and he would be happy to follow along. I made sure that we got to all of the usual tourist spots - the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de triomphe, etc. - but also planned our days around p√Ętisseries. I had spent years reading about food bloggers' adventures eating in Paris and had been making a mental list of places to go - so when I got three days to play with, I had to fit in as much as I could!
On our first day, we were walking down a narrow street on our way to lunch and were stopped by a man who offered us a chocolate sample from his little shop. It was a thin dark chocolate bark with chili in it - it wasn't something I would usually go for, but we were in Paris, so why not? Even though his shop wasn't one on my list, he ended up giving us one of the best chocolates we had ever eaten.
 This brownie uses that same combination of dark chocolate and spice. With cinnamon and a hint of cayenne pepper, the chocolate flavor is enhanced, and it makes for a brownie you can't eat just one of. These are more cakey than the usual brownie, but in this case it works surprisingly well; that said, if you want them fudgier, feel free to leave out about 1/4 cup of the flour.
  Enjoy!
Spicy Chocolate Brownies 
(slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine)

2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter.
Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt, and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack before slicing.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Honey, Lavender, and Vanila Bean Ice Cream

 I got my first "real" job this summer. By "real," I mean doing something other than working as a camp counselor, which, as rewarding as it is, wasn't in my plans this year. Instead, I'm basically spending a couple of weeks doing secretarial work for a family friend who is a doctor; entering his patients' information into an online database and so on.
 While it's not exactly the most challenging job in the world, it's been surprisingly entertaining. Not only have I learned how to spell hundreds of last names I have no idea how to pronounce, I've had the Brandenburg Concertos on as background music more times than I'd care to admit. It also makes me smile every time I'm entering a baby's information, and the parents have listed five or six different emergency contact numbers. (The doctor says he's never once had to use an emergency number, much less six.)
 I try to make the time that I'm not working as "summery" as possible. Last week, I decided that a batch of freshly churned ice cream was in order.
  On their own, honey, lavender, and vanilla beans aren't particularly overwhelming flavors. But when mixed together, some kind of magical taste fairies make them incredibly warm and refreshing at the same time; put this together with smooth, rich ice cream, and you've got quite the summer afternoon ahead of you.
  Enjoy!

 Honey, Lavender, and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop)

½ cup good quality honey
¼ cup dried or fresh lavender flowers
seeds from 1 large vanilla bean (scraped out)
1½ cups whole milk
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

Heat the honey, 2 tablespoons of the lavender, and the vanilla in a small saucepan.  Once warm, remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.
Pour the cream in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
Pour the lavender-infused honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavour as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the cream.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to avoid cooking, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.
Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, before churning, strain the mixture, again pressing on the lavender flower to extract their flavour.
Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: I used vanilla bean-infused honey, so if you happen to have some around, you can use that instead and leave out the fresh vanilla.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch Cookies

 Cookies seem to be everybody's go-to dessert, and are definitely what I most often am asked to bake. If you think about it, they're perfect in so many ways: they're easy to make in big quantities; there are a million and one variations on the original sugar cookie; and, they please just about everybody. Oh, and (in case you didn't know), more often than not, they're delicious.
Certain cookies also tend to make people nostalgic. Everybody has that one recipe that brings back childhood memories, be it chocolate chip cookies made from a refrigerated tube of dough or decorated Christmas sugar cookies.
 Every time my dad's side of the family gets together for the holidays, it's pretty much our mission to bake as many kinds of cookies as possible. We've had our great moments and our not-so-edible, but I guess you could say this tradition instilled a certain cookie adventurism in me.
 As soon as I saw this recipe in a book my friend gave me for my birthday, I knew I had to try it - Cap'n Crunch cereal, in a cookie? With peanut butter?
 As it turns out, this little combo is a fantastic idea. The cereal gives a great crunch to the soft, chewy cookies, and the peanut butter and cinnamon manage to be perfect together. As a plus, eating sugary breakfast cereal inside of a cookie totally makes anybody feel like a 5-year-old again.
  Enjoy!
Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch Cookies
(slightly adapted from Coolhaus Ice Cream Book)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnmon
2 1/2 cups sifted pastry flour, or 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups Cap’n Crunch cereal

In a large bowl, mix brown sugar with butter and whisk to combine. Add peanut butter and whisk to combine. Whisk in egg and yolk, one at a time, then whisk in vanilla. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together granulated sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Add cereal, mixing until evenly distributed. Be careful not to overmix or overcrush cereal. Refrigerate dough for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325F, with racks in lower and upper thirds. Line two half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper. Form dough into balls about the size of whole walnuts. Roll each in the cinnamon sugar mixture before placing 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until edges are light brown and centers are still soft; don’t overbake. Immediately transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Let cool before serving.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blueberry Buttermilk Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

 When I was about eight years old, my parents and I drove to Massachusetts to spend the 4th of July with our friends. We planned a fun weekend, stocked the fridge with the makings of quite the barbeque, and bought plenty of glow sticks to wear at night.
   On the 4th, after our little backyard party, we walked up the road to an open field and settled in in our lawn chairs to watch the fireworks. (Side note: it still amazes me that for some people, this is an everyday occurrence; in New York, the most we can do is climb up a fire escape to get to somebody's roof and watch fireworks. This is probably illegal. I will forever be jealous of the small-town life.)
   Just as the fireworks started, our friends' dog started to bark uncontrollably. It took us all of two seconds to realize that we were about to be hit with a rainstorm emitting from the sprinklers on the field. That night, we walked back to our friends' house soaking wet, but it's a moment we still laugh about every 4th of July.
    This year, I'm spending the 4th at Westminster Choir College, where I'm doing a voice program for a couple of weeks; it's great here, but our cafeteria food certainly doesn't compare to the homemade picnic lunch my parents will be putting together. So before I left home, I made this cake as my own little celebration of the start of summer. It's light, moist, not too sweet, full of fresh blueberries, and topped with a thin, almost crunchy glaze. I think I just found myself a new favorite tradition (with quite the tongue-twister recipe title).
   Enjoy!
Blueberry Buttermilk Brown Sugar Bundt Cake 
(adapted from Food Network Magazine)

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups blueberries (about 1 pint)

For the glaze:
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
4-5 tablespoons milk

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a nonstick 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk 3 cups flour, the baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat 2 sticks butter, the brown sugar and vegetable oil in a bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, at least 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Add about one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; beat until almost incorporated. Add another one-third of the flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk. Beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat 30 seconds. Finish incorporating the flour by hand to avoid overmixing.
Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Spoon one-third of the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle in half of the blueberries, then top with another one-third of the batter. Scatter the remaining blueberries on top and cover with the rest of the batter; smooth the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 30 minutes in the pan. Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto the rack to cool completely. 
 
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, butter and 4 tablespoons milk in a bowl; if the glaze is too thick, whisk in up to 1 more tablespoon milk, a little at a time. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.