Sunday, July 19, 2009

Baking Extravaganza!!! (Sadly, no SMS)

My mom and I own a retail store together in downtown Asheville, NC called Nest Organics, and yesterday we celebrated our second anniversary of being in business! We threw a party in our store, complete with entertainment, massage, give-aways and of course food!!! I took it upon myself to cater the event. It was so fun, and so much work, and I was very pleased with all of the results.

I'll warn you ahead of time, this is going to be a loooooong post! I'll try to be as concise as possible, but I made 5 kinds of cookies, and 2 different brownies, and I've decided to put them all in one post. I already have so many things I've baked and photographed, but haven't had a chance to put up yet... Speaking of photographs, these aren't the best ones, but the light in my store wasn't very conducive to food photography, and the day was pretty much a blur, so it's a wonder I got any at all...

So, first up is a lemon ricotta cookie. The recipe is by Giada De Laurentiis, and can be found here. I don't have an individual photo of these, but they are the ones in the bottom right corner in the below photo. The recipe has a glaze to go along with them, but I omitted it just to simplify things. They are rather homely looking cookies, but they really surprised me with their deliciousness! They are a cakey cookie, but the ricotta in them makes them nice and chewy. I liked them baked a little longer than the recipe suggests - I thought they were best when they were lightly browned all over on the top an bottom. This made them slightly crispy, which was a nice contrast to the soft cookie. These were like the top of a cupcake, when it gets a little caramelized - do you know what I mean? - and I really loved them! They were easy to make, and delicious. My cookies spread a lot, so I found that 1 tbsp of dough worked better than 2 as the recipe suggests.

Next, we have 2 different cookies made from the same dough. The recipe is for caramel coated cardamom palmiers from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: if you don't already have this book, go buy it. Now! 

Medrich uses a cream cheese dough for these palmiers, instead of the traditional puff pastry. I decided to use half of a recipe for the palmiers and half to make some rugelach. 

Both cookies were sensational. The palmiers - which I think would be better named caramelized cardamom palmiers - were delicate, crunchy, not too sweet, and just lightly flavored with cardamom. The only change I might make to these would be to add a little more cardamom, actually. I love the stuff. The rugelach - which I filled with pomegranate raspberry jam, currants and pecans - was the first thing we ran out of, and was so melt-in-your-mouth heavenly, with a wonderful combination of soft and crunchy. I love rugelach. I love making it, I love the way it looks, the way it tastes, and these were no exception. 

Now, the brownies. I made the Martha Stewart double chocolate brownie, which I've posted about before, and the Baked brownie - which I was very excited to make, as it has gotten a lot of attention of late. I wish I had had the time to photograph the Martha Stewart brownies, because the photo in my post about them does not do them justice. They are just gorgeous brownies. They always have the most perfect paper-thin crust on top. The brownie in the foreground of the photo below is one of the Baked brownies. I stated a week or so ago that the Martha brownies were my favorite, and I'm not retracting that statement, but we may have a tie here. I tried to like one better than the other, but they are both so incredible though the Martha brownie is still my husband's favorite. They are both incredibly chocolatey and decadent. They are both fudgey, though the Baked brownie is more dense than the Martha one. Martha's brownies actually have a lightness to them. Everyone at the party flipped out over both brownies. They are so incredibly good, I don't know what more to say! Go make them both, maybe you'll have more insight than I do... 

Also from Baked, I made their peanut butter cookies. I have a love/hate relationship with peanut butter, but I usually like it in cookies. This was no exception. In fact, they were the best peanut butter cookies I've ever had! They are very soft, not dry at all like most that you find, and best of all, they have milk chocolate chunks in them which pair beautifully with the peanut butter. Unfortunately, I didn't even get a photo of these! I'll make them again soon, I promise. 

Last, but most certainly not least is the New York Times chocolate chip cookie adapted from Jacques Torres. I have mentioned on this blog before how picky I am about chocolate chip cookies. I have seen a lot of blogs comparing this recipe to Alton Brown's and the Toll House recipe. I've never had Alton's cookie, but really after eating the NYT version, there is no need. I have found cookie nirvana. The recipe calls for using 2 kinds of flour which I didn't have - cake and bread - so I just used all purpose. If they were this good with AP, I can't even imagine what they would be like as written. The only other change I made was to use chocolate chips instead of bittersweet feves. Since I was giving these out to hundreds of people for free, I just couldn't justify the expense. I will splurge when I'm just making them for family, however, because the only complaint I had about these was the sweetness of the chocolate. These cookies have a beautiful golden crispy edge, and a soft chewy middle - even when room temp. 

There are some very specific instructions in this recipe: it instructs you to make 18  3 1/4 oz cookies, and to refrigerate the dough for at least 36 hours before baking. The size of the cookies wasn't feasible for the party, but I had some extra dough which I did bake as written, and let me tell you: listen to the recipe! They were really good smaller, but they were spectacular bigger. I also wasn't able to give them 36 hours in the fridge - they had about 12 - for the party, but when we baked the bigger cookies they had rested that long. 

These were without a doubt the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had, and that is saying something! 

It was an exhausting 12+ hours of baking over 2 days, but it was a blast, and so worth it! Sorry there is no SMS this week, but you can see why... Head on over to Melissa's blog Lulu the Baker to see the recipe for this week: Whole Orange Poppyseed Cake. It looks delicious, and I'm disappointed I didn't have a chance to make it. Yet...


  1. Glad to hear you had fun baking for your party! Congratulations on your anniversary. I hope I will be able to stop at your store when we will be in Asheville near the end of August. I assume you made all these treats with organic ingredients from your store? I know some people think it is strange that I like to bake organic desserts ("organic cheesecake! can you believe it?") but it makes sense to me. I recently made a lot of treats for our beach trip....Many hours of baking and cooking over several days, and it was worth it, like your marathon, because we got to enjoy all natural cookies and muffins and brownies etc, on our vacation.

  2. Stephanie,
    Definitely stop by if you're in the area! Yes, it was all 100% organic!

  3. Everything looks wonderful! I think its great you cake all organic- I try for the most part but there are certain ingredients I can't get around here... All this talk about the NYT cookie- I'm going to have to try it sometime soon.

  4. Congratulations on the 2nd anniversary of your store! That's a milestone to celebrate. All of the goodies that you made look sensational. I love palmiers, and I definitely want to try the recipe that you posted about. And, the NYT chocolate chip cookie is one of my favorite cookies ever. It's so tasty!

  5. Wow, what an impressive spread! That looks like so much work, but I'm happy for you that it all turned out so well. And great job on the organic baking front as well! I feel like I'm going to have to make the "Baked" brownies sometime soon, after all the hype they've gotten.

  6. Congrats on your business success! That's wonderful. All the cookies and treats look delicious.

  7. Congrats on your 2nd anniversary, and many more! Great job on all the baking. Wow, you must have baked like crazy. Having everybody enjoy it sure makes it worth the effort, doesn't it?

  8. Wow, what a wonderful variety of treats! I love the Baked brownies, they quickly became my favorite. And congratulations on the two-year anniversary for your business; it's inspiring to hear about small businesses succeeding.

  9. Wow, Sarah!

    I'm exhausted just reading your post! What a baking marathon. Congratulations on your anniversary- that's a wonderful accomplishment, and I'm so glad you decided to celebrate! And thank you for introducing me to a bunch of great recipes to try... they'll be going on my "must-make" list. I'm sorry you didn't do SMS this week, but if you're a citrus fan, I'd definitely recommend you give the recipe a try when you have a chance. My taste-testers thought it was really delicious.

    Hope to hear from you/talk to you soon :)


  10. Whoa, you really have been busy! Congrats on the anniversary of your store


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