Lemon bars

So between the two of us, I am the more traditional baker/chef while Greta is much more modern. I’m also the one who absolutely loves citrus recipes. What better way to combine these two traits than with a batch of lemon bars!

I actually have a story about lemon bars. It was probably only a year and a half ago that I had my first one. My entire extended family was gathered at my Uncle Adam’s house for my cousin’s birthday party. I have three cousins at that house and a birthday party is thrown for each of them, every year. The dessert is almost always a chocolate cake. Since I don’t eat chocolate (gasp!), there has been a running tradition that someone will bake something that isn’t chocolate-based. At that particular party, my aunt baked lemon bars for me. That was the first time I ate a lemon bar, and that may have been the beginning of my love for citrus recipes. And now these bars have made their way from Wisconsin to Germany.

The recipe is, once again, in two parts: the shortbread crust and the lemon filling.

Ingredients for crust:

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted, softened butter

– 1/4 cup of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

– 1 cup of all-purpose flour

– 1/8 teaspoon of salt

Ingredients for lemon filling:

– 1 cup of granulated sugar

– 2 large eggs

– 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice (the recipe says from 2 lemons, but I only needed one large one)

– 1 Tbs. of grated lemon zest (I found this was the zest from one large lemon)

– 2 Tbs. of all-purpose flour

Garnish:

– Confectioner’s sugar

Step One: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8×8 inch pan, and set aside for now.

Step Two: This is for the crust. Put the softened butter and sugar into a bowl, and cream them with either a hand mixer or an electric mixer.

Step Three: Add the flour and the salt. Then beat your mixture until the dough just starts to come together.

Step Four: Press the dough onto the bottom of your greased pan and pop it in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until it is lightly browned around the edges. When removed from the oven, set it aside to let it cool while you make the lemon filling.

Step Five: This is for the lemon filling. In a bowl, combine the sugar and eggs and beat them until they are smooth.

Step Six: Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir to combine.

Step Seven: Fold in the flour.

Step Eight: Pour the lemon mixture over the shortbread crust.

Step Nine: Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove it from the oven, and let it cool before serving.

To serve, cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar. In my excitement to start eating one of these lemon bars, I forgot to put powdered sugar on top. Oh well. They were delicious without it. There was a very nice, thin crust that formed on top of the bar.

Enjoy!

– Ali

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Southern peach cobbler

Yay, I’m finally baking in Germany! I went to the grocery store for the first time by myself and bought ingredients to make a peach cobbler. This recipe doesn’t require many ingredients, and they are all very easy to find in America. In Germany, on the other hand, that is a different story. I couldn’t find self-rising flour, but I do happen to know how to make it using all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt (I recommend learning how to do this. It’s a very handy trick!). So then I had to locate baking powder (which would be Backpulver), and that took me quite a while! They don’t sell it in a container; they sell it in packets, and the packets come in a pack of seven or so. Very odd. I’m starting to catch on to the fact that German baking and American baking are two very different concepts.

I would also like to point out that three peaches cost 78 cents in Germany. When I first made this recipe back home, I bought five peaches and it cost me just over five dollars. How ridiculous.

This recipe is in two parts: the cobbler and the fruit.

Ingredients for the cobbler:

– 1/2 cup of butter (one stick)

– 1 cup of granulated sugar

– 3/4 cup of self-rising flour

– 3/4 cup of milk

Ingredients for the fruit:

– 1 28-ounce can of peaches in heavy syrup

OR

– 2 cups of fresh, sliced peaches

– 1 cup of sugar

– 1 cup of water

(I know the picture of the ingredients won’t make much sense to almost all of you. I just feel odd not including a picture. But hey, you can see the foreign words and packaging!)

You will also need about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, for sprinkling on top.

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step Two: Put the butter in a 9×13 baking dish. Put it in the oven and remove it when the butter has melted. Set it aside for now.

Step Three: If using canned peaches in syrup, you can skip steps three and four. Otherwise, peel and cut your peaches into slices.

Step Four: Put your sliced peaches along with the water and sugar into an appropriate-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the peaches simmer for ten minutes.

Step Five: This step is for the cobbler. In a mixing bowl, combine the self-rising flour and sugar. Then stir in the milk. The batter should be a little lumpy.

Step Six: Pour the batter on top of the melted butter. Don’t worry if it looks rather gross at this point; it will all come together in the end.

Step Seven: When the peaches are done simmering, spoon the peaches evenly onto the flour/butter mixture, then pour the liquid right on top of the peaches. Do not mix everything together! I know it’s tempting, but like I said, it will all come together in the end.

If you are using peaches in a can, just pour the contents of the can onto the flour/butter mixture. And don’t mix it all together!

Step Eight: Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Do not forget the cinnamon!!! This is my second time making this recipe, and both times I had already put the cobbler in the oven before I remembered that I had to add cinnamon. I even forgot to buy cinnamon at the grocery store. Fortunately for me, my friend’s dad volunteered to go and get it.

Sorry, Zimt.

Step Nine: Put the cobbler in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. The batter will rise to the top and make an amazing crust (otherwise that self-rising flour wouldn’t be doing its job, now would it).

This cobbler is delicious. Seriously, try the recipe. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the oven the entire time it was baking.

Enjoy!

– Ali

(Recipe found at Mama’s Southern Cooking.)

Blueberry Birthday Cookies

Sandra called to say it was her nieces birthday and they were having a party. First thought: WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE?!

Usually Ali is the indecisive one. Indecisive about what to do, where to eat, which movie to watch. But when it comes to the kitchen, I’m the one that flounders. She tells me at three that the party starts at five. I spent over an hour pouring over favorited recipes trying to pick one when I found one for blueberry cookies! Until… dun dun dun “chill for six hours.”

At this point I literally gave up. I texted Sandra and told her to call me after the party, I was too upset about not making anything to come. But before she even had the chance to text me back I did a quick Google search of all things and found just what I was looking for. For Valerie’s 8th birthday in the middle of summer, what could be better than brown sugar cinnamon blueberry scrumptiousness?!

Get ready to start salivating… and turn on this mix to bake to! (It says it’s sad, but really it’s really relaxing and won’t distract you when the flour starts puffing out of the mixer when you accidentally turn it on too high.)

Ingredients:

FOREWARNING: This recipe make a teeny tiny batch of cookies, 12-15. I left a couple at home, ate a teeny tiny one that I’d made for taste-test purposes specifically, and brought the rest over to the party. If you want to eat any of these yourself: double it. for the love of fruity sugary goodness, double this recipe.

 

1/2 cup butter, unsalted (one stick)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt (I did a little less than this)

1-1/2 tablespoons cinnamon (I added more like two… I realllllly like cinnamon)

1-3 tablespoons milk

About 1 cup fresh blueberries (the more the merrier)

 

I wouldn’t bother preheating the oven yet, unless yours takes about a century in which case I’m worried about your baking future anyway. Cream the butter and brown sugar, a couple minutes until smooth. Add the egg, once it’s mixed in add the vanilla extract. I didn’t bother mixing the dry ingredients separately, although I suppose you could. Little by little add the flour, pinch of salt, and finally the cinnamon. When it’s all mixed together start adding the milk just as needed. With the recipe I used I saw in the comments that a couple people mentioned it was kind of dry. So instead of using just enough milk for it to combine well, I added another tablespoon and a half for good measure. Ok, after a little taste off the mixer paddle, I deemed it ready for blueberries. I used a little less than a cup, which is about half of the container from the grocery store (yet another reason to double this recipe). Mix ’em in, if they break… they break. Not a big deal. But still be gentle. Please.

It should look kinda like that ^^! But then mix it together. Ok now here’s where it gets a little iffy. Instead of putting the bowl in the refrigerator for half an hour, which you totally could/should do, I was in a time crunch. It was already quarter to five! I stuck them in the freezer and preheated the oven to 375. I went ahead and greased the cookie pans a little while I was waiting and got out my wire racks and spatula for when they were done. After 15-20 minutes I took them out and scooped them out, a little less than 1/4 cup each cookie. I made 15 plus a tiny baby one to taste test (can’t serve something without trying it first!). Into the oven for just over ten minutes- you could leave them a little longer if you like them crisper, but I like them soft and like I said was under a super time crunch. They looked a little bit undercooked, and I was worried they would be drippy in the middle, but once they cooled they were the perfect amount of done.

I feel like this picture doesn’t even do them justice!!!! This top one is heart shaped, completely unintentional but they were baked with loooove. ha-ha, corny. Anyway. I tried a baby one. Burned my tongue on a blueberry. It was worth it. Left a couple cookies at home for my parents to try, and was hoping to snag another but they were GONE! The kids loved that it was a summery dessert that wasn’t TOO sweet. Maybe next time I’d put a little sugar on the top for the extra little something, but either way I would make these again in a heartbeat. So quick, before summer is over go grab some blueberries and whip these up!!!

 

Greta

{Recipe adapted from Hot Sweet Eats}

Martha’s cherry pie (complete with cherry massacre)

On Saturday I made a cherry pie. In my previous interrogation of my brother (see banana bread post), the one thing he really wanted me to bake for him was a cherry pie. This time I didn’t need to scour the internet for a recipe; I knew exactly who I was going to turn to for the recipe. Martha Stewart, of course! I love her. I decided on a sweet cherry pie because I didn’t think my brother would have liked a sour one. He is very finicky about the foods he will consume.

As Greta has stated, I am in Germany now. The only problem with that is I don’t know when I am going to get around to baking something. I am not moved into my permanent location and won’t be until the 25th. I am staying at a friend’s until then. Maybe I’ll just take over her kitchen for a day…

The recipe is in two parts: the pie crust and the pie filling.

Ingredients for crust:

– 2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling out the pie dough

– 1 tsp. of salt

– 1 tsp. of granulated sugar

– 1 cup (2 sticks) of cold, unsalted butter (cut into pieces)

– 1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water

Step One: In a food processor or, in my case, using a pastry blender, combine the sugar, salt, and sugar. Pulse briefly or mix them together. Add the butter. Pulse or blend until the mixture looks like a course meal. It should have small chunks. Once you have achieved this, add the ice water. Start by adding 1/4 cup of ice water, then determine whether the mixture could use more or not. The dough should still look crumbly, put if pressed together, it should hold together. If the dough doesn’t hold together, you need to add more ice water. But be careful not to add too much!

I made the mistake of adding the water into the mixture at the same time that I added the butter. It was a tad more difficult to blend together, but the end result was still the same.

Step Two: Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Make sure to press the halves into 3/4 inch thick disks. Then pop them into the refrigerator and chill them for at least one hour, until they are firm. You can refrigerate the dough for up to three days, if need be.

Step Three: Roll the dough out onto a floured surface. Make sure to work quickly because the dough does come to room temperature fairly fast, and then it is harder to work with. Roll one disk into a 14-inch circle, then wrap it around your rolling pin to move it into a 9-inch pie pan. Gently fit the dough into the pan, making sure not to stretch out the dough. Then trim the edges until there is an inch long overhang on all sides. Put the pie pan and the other dough disk back in the fridge until you need it. (I made another mistake of rolling them both out at the same time. Oh well. It still turned out. Hey, I was having an off day.)

Ingredients for pie filling:

– 2 pounds of cherries (calls for bing, I used red), halved and pitted

– 1/2 cup of granulated sugar

– 2 Tbs. of cornstarch

– 2 Tbs. of lemon juice

– All-purpose flour (for rolling out the other dough disk)

– 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbs. of water, for egg wash

– 1 Tbs. of turbinado or granulated sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Step One: Pit those cherries. If you have a cherry pitter, kudos to you. When I was making this pie I was wishing that I had bought one on my last trip to Williams-Sonoma. Cut the cherries in half after you pit them. If you are like me and don’t have a cherry pitter, cut the cherries in half first, then pit them. This is where I had a cherry massacre going on.

My brother helped me take pictures of the cherry massacre, as my hands were becoming increasingly stained red. Fortunately, after about three washes, my hands weren’t stained anymore.

Step Two: Combine the cherries with the cornstarch, sugar, and lemon juice. Then toss it all together until the cherries are well coated. You should probably also preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit at this point.

Step Three: Pour the cherry mixture into your prepared pie pan.

Step Four: Roll your second dough disk into another 14-inch circle. Now you have to decide what kind of top you want your pie to have. You can either cut the dough into eight 1 and 1/2 inch wide strips, discard the shortest two, and weave the others into a lattice. Or you can take the route I did and simply wrap the dough around your rolling pin and lay it over the top, trimming the edges and cutting slits into the top. Crimp the edges with a fork, or pinch the edges together.

Step Five: Coat the top and edges of your pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle with turbinado or granulated sugar, if you desire to do so.

Step Six: Put the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the oven for 60 to 70 minutes (until the filling is boiling rapidly). Tent the pie with aluminum foil when the crust begins to brown, which is after about 40 minutes. I had to look up what tenting was, but it’s just simply putting the foil over the pie. When the 60 to 70 minutes is up, take the pie out of the oven and put it on a wire rack. The recipe says that it needs to cool for three hours. At first, I didn’t think that it could possibly take that long to cool. But it really did need that long.

Enjoy!

– Ali

(Recipe found on MarthaStewart.com)

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Anyone that ever cooks or bakes or has at least one mouth to feed can relate to this dilemma: What to make when you just can’t possibly run to the grocery store for the zillionth time. I opened every drawer, peaked behind every box. Just when I came close to giving up on the idea of making dessert the same night I made dinner, I ran across a recipe for snickerdoodle blondies. a) Love snickerdoodles. b) Love blondies. Insert something about when a is b and b is c then a is c and c is snickerdoodle blondies. I keep repeating myself here, but if only you could reach through these pictures and smell my kitchen you might begin to understand.

Let’s get right to the point.

Ingredients:

Don’t you just love the colors of farm-fresh organic eggs? I save the prettiest ones for making fried eggs, but they all taste delicious. Anyway here’s what you need!

2-2/3 cups all purpose flour

2 TEASPOONS baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon salt (or substitute by using 1/2 cup salted and 1/2 cup unsalted butter like I did)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

A dash or two of ground nutmeg (optional)

2 cups brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the top:

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

I got off to a bad start on this recipe (slip of the baking soda), but everything turned out fine so not to fret! Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan and set it off to the side. Get out a medium bowl for the flour, salt (if using all unsalted butter), baking powder, and cinnamon. Whisk it up, I like a french whisk over a balloon one.

Move over to your handy mixer (whether handheld or electric) and drop in your room temp butter and packed brown sugar. Put it on a medium setting for around five minutes just until it’s creamy. I was getting a little dizzy watching it go ’round and ’round.

Add in your eggs one at a time then last add the vanilla extract. Not to be redundant, but you can see how smooth it should look before pouring it into your greased pan.

Scrape every last bit into your mouth, I mean pan. Then in a small bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle over the top of the whole thing.

25-30 minutes at 350 does the trick. The top should bounce back a little to the touch. I would tell you to let them cool all the way before cutting, but who am I kidding. A glass of milk and a fork is really all you need.

No joke, the second this thing pops into the hot oven you will have to tear your nose away from the kitchen it smells so delicious. Usually I’m a chocolaholic, but whoever can turn down the unbeatable combination of cinnamon and sugar has far more willpower than I do! After eating one myself, I brought a couple over to my friends Sam and Hanna and also one for Sam’s foreign exchange student Nikolaus. He doesn’t speak much English but he understood the words: eat, sugar, and yum! I meant to snap a pic but in my excitement over bringing someone something fresh from the oven, forgot to grab the camera. Anyway, the irony wasn’t lost on me that Nikolaus is here enjoying my baking while Ali is only three hours away from Frankfurt! I bet they like Snickerdoodle Blondies in Frankfurt, too…

-Greta

{recipe adapted from browneyedbaker, thanks!}

Margherita Pizza from Scratch

This morning started out a little bit sad. I knew that today was the day Ali would be flying out, and I felt like we left so many summer plans unfinished. However, bringing my (semi emotionally underdeveloped) kitten over to say goodbye and talking about all the awesome things she’s going to be doing over there only motivated me to make some great posts here for her to read from overseas!

It had to be pizza. Today was perfect, sunny but not too hot and fantasies of swirling pizza crust through the air clouded my ability to concentrate on finding a recipe. Active yeast is intimidating, but I think the whole meal was a huge success and I’m so glad to be debuting this blog with it!

Ingredients:

Thick, perfectly soft yet crisp crust:

1 packet quick-rise yeast

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

olive oil

My preferred margherita toppings:

2 cups (more or less) shredded mozzarella cheese

About 10 small fresh mozzarella balls

2 large tomatoes on the vine

3 or 4 fresh basil leaves

Like I said, I was enormously intimidated by the active yeast (falsely advertised, you only need one packet!). Get it out. Stare it down. Preheat the oven to lowest temp (mine went to 170). As soon as the oven is preheated, turn it off but leave the door closed trapping that warm air right where you want it.

To start run the tap until just before the water is hot enough to burn you. Too hot and you will kill the yeast, too cold and it won’t activate. I didn’t take the temperature of my water but it should be about 120 degrees. Fill one cup of hot water in a liquid measuring cup and add the honey. Stir to dissolve and add the yeast on top of the water. Make sure the yeast is spread out, but don’t stir it in— let it sit for 5-6 minutes and it will foam. In the meantime, take a big oven-safe bowl and fill it with hot water then set it off to the side. I used ceramic, but yeast likes anything that isn’t metallic. There is a huge leap until my next picture due to my anxiety about the yeast working!

With your yeast activating and your bowl heating up, break out the trusty KitchenAide mixer. Ali is going to hate me for this seeing as it’s been on her wishlist for a number of years. A food processor would also work for this step. I grabbed the bread paddle attachment (as seen below). Put your flour and salt in the mixer then slowly slowly slowly add your yeast, and don’t spill! After a few minutes a ball will form. Turn off the mixer and dump out your big bowl of hot water. Dry the bowl, set it to the side once again and flour a surface for the tacky dough.

Bread Paddle Attachment

Slide the dough ball carefully onto the floured surface and work until it isn’t sticky. Drizzle olive oil over the whole ball and also in the bottom of the warmed-up big bowl. Set it in the bowl covered by a damp warm towel and put it in the still-warm oven for about an hour an a half.

Waiting is the hardest part! I spent the time deciding what to make for dessert— check the next post for Snickerdoodle Blondies! Other than that, make sure all of your toppings are in order.

When you think you just can’t wait another second, pull the bowl out of the oven. Immediately preheat the oven to 425. The dough should be about twice the size it was when it went in but go ahead and punch it down. At this point I used an 11 inch pizza pan, which made a really thick crust. For thinner crust you could split it between two pizzas or go for a larger rectangle. Stretch it out across the whole pan then stick it right back into the oven to rise again. While the dough was re-rising I cut up my tomatoes and cut the small mozzarella balls into thirds. After a few minutes, pull the pizza out and set to work putting your toppings on. I eyeballed it and sprinkled whatever seemed right. Here it is before the plunge:

Yum! Into the oven for 15-20 minutes. I like my cheese nice and toasted… Since this was Sunday dinner I ended up as the chef for my parents, my brother and myself. We paired it with a basic salad of fresh green from the local farmer’s market with olive oil and creme balsamic as dressing (my dad used the bleu cheese and added croutons… he must have forgotten about the blondies). It was the perfect patio summer dinner!

{This recipe was adapted from the amazing Simply Scratch}

-Greta

Vanilla chocolate chip meringue cookies

I decided to make these cookies for the sole purpose of using up the leftover chocolate chips from the banana bread I made yesterday. Otherwise they would have just been thrown in the baking cabinet, never to be seen again.

Ingredients:

– 2 large egg whites (at room temperature)

– 1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar

– 2/3 cup of granulated sugar

– 1 tsp. of vanilla extract

– 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips (or finely chopped semisweet chocolate)

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (shiny side up).

Step Two: Beat the egg whites until they are foamy.

Step Three: Once the eggs are foamy (like in the picture below), add the cream of tartar and beat until the mixture is fluffy, but not dry.

Step Four: Add the sugar gradually (about 3 tablespoons at a time). When half of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding the remaining sugar in batches until all of the sugar has been dissolved.

Step Five: Once the sugar is dissolved, the meringue should be beaten until it forms stiff peaks.

Quick Tip: If the meringue holds like the picture below, it is not done yet!

When the meringue holds like below, it is done! See the stiff peak? The meringue should hold its shape.

Step Six: Add the chocolate chips and gently fold them in.

Step Seven: Put teaspoon-sized dollops of the meringue mixture onto your baking sheets.

Step Eight: Put the baking sheets into the preheated oven, and then turn the oven off. Leave the cookies in the oven for at least 2 hours (and up to overnight), and be sure not to disturb them! My family loves to open the oven door to get a good look whenever I have something in there (I’m not entirely certain if they understand that by doing that, they mess up the temperature of the oven), so I made sure to tell them all NOT to open the door. Of course, then they kept teasing they were going to for the rest of the evening.

These were my cookies when I took them out. I left mine in overnight, and they turned out perfectly. They tasted just like this treat called meltaways that you can get from my bakery.

Enjoy!

– Ali

(Recipe found at What Katie’s Baking.)