Browse Tag

baking

CLOSED Nielsen-Massey Vanillas review and giveaway: when baked desserts are done right!

The kitchen is filled with zesty rich aromas, and my daughter is getting impatient: she wants cake, and she wants it now! My repeated attempts to temper her kitchen tantrums are a failure – and, after all, who can blame her? The flowery notes in the air are pungent and unrestrained, promising heaps of flavor and refreshing baked joy. They are just too alluring to resist. Faces covered in sweat, MIL and I have been baking for about one hour, and the waiting will soon be over. I take the round pan out of the oven, and a fresh explosion of citrusy notes permeates the hot air in an instant. Say hello to orange ricotta strudel! ­čÖé

I have baked a lot this summer. From ├ęclairs to cookies and from clafoutis to strudels, I have baked – and baked – and baked some more! – and have found it very therapeutic. In the process, I have used a variety of extracts to elevate my desserts. Indeed, extracts can add or enhance the flavors of baked goods and can provide convenience to the busy baker. My mom used a lot of extracts in her baking when I was growing up. Sadly, these were all fake extracts – colored water with a drop of artificial flavors and very little else. Since then, we both have learned to appreciate the value of the “real deal,” of authentic extracts made with natural ingredients. This is why I was very excited when I was contacted by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, a Waukegan IL based company with worldwide distribution, for a product review and a giveaway. I chose their pure orange extract for my review.

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Cookies for Santa and Rudolph: sugar and… lemons – and all things nice!

Yes, I know the title doesn’t rhyme, but what can I do? I’m hopeless: I have fallen in love with Meyer lemons ­čÖé After years of using lemons indiscriminately, I have finally seen the light: some lemons are, indeed, better than others.

With a delicate, sweet flavor, thin skin and aromatic smell, Meyer lemons are something to behold. I was lucky to find them on sale at the local grocery store, and this limited time offer could not have come at a better time. I used Meyer lemons to make two kinds of lemon cookies, using my mom’s age-old recipes. I am still amazed: How could so much flavor, zest and juiciness come in such small packages? Keep Reading

Éclairs: a delicious fall treat

What is better than an ├ęclair? Two ├ęclairs! Everyone in my family is a fan of ├ęclairs, but until recently we did not have a recipe to make them at home. The recipe below comes from my mother-in-law, and it took her and me months of testing to get the quantities right.

When I was little I would buy ├ęclairs from a local confectionery shop, on my way back home from school. Crammed and dark, with oversized platters and old-fashioned decoration, that place sold day-old┬á├ęclairs filled with a custard vaguely tasting of coffee. Sometimes, the custard was sour and the dough was stale, but there was nothing I could do: I had spent good money on the ├ęclair, and I had to eat it. There was no flour or butter on sale at the grocery stores, and sugar was rationed, which meant baking at home was also very limited.

Those days are long gone, thankfully. With so much abundance of ingredients at the stores, why not indulge in one of the favorite desserts of my childhood – and why not share it with the world? ­čÖé Keep Reading

Baking for comfort, baking for memories: Why these cranberry cookies remind me of my mom

Can you smell the cookies? Yes, it’s happening: I’m baking! It’s 86 degrees in here, very humid, and the air conditioning is on. The noise of the hood is cutting through the heat, yet – thankfully! – the little one is sound asleep on the silky brown carpet. I’m baking not because I’ve been craving cookies, nor because I enjoy sweating next to the hot oven, but because I need to feel that, somehow, my mom is┬á still with me.

My mom went back to Europe last month, and we did several rounds of baking just before she left. We looked through her old recipe notebook – a bunch of butter-smeared and cocoa-dusted pages barely hanging in there – and found culinary gems we had long forgotten. We shared memories about the loved ones who are no longer with us, and my mom’s eyes often grew sad as her mind revisited the past. We spoke, baked and remembered, and traveling through time provided comfort and a bitter-sweet, almondy sense of happiness. Isn’t this what baking is all about? That’s what I think, anyway ­čÖé

This is one of the recipes we revisited before my mom left for Europe. Keep Reading