Tag Archives: homemade

Homemade PSL

Homemade (and Cheaper) Pumpkin Spice Latte

One time I went over to my boss’ home for coffee and paperwork. The coffee she was brewing smelled so good, I thought it was some specialty flavored kind. It tasted richly of cinnamon and milk.

Then she let me in on her secret: it was just regular ground coffee but she added a few taps of ground cinnamon to the top of the coffee grounds before brewing. It was like drinking flavored coffee!

This year, with the presence of Starbucks around the corner from my apartment (and really anyone’s apartment in Manhattan), I’ve been drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes like I have $5 to spend on daily coffee.

They are a deliciously warm and remind me of good autumnal times. But let’s be honest, they are full of sugar, fake sugar, chemicals and cost a million dollars (not really, but they’re not cheap).

So even though I don’t think I’ll totally quit my Sbux habit, I have come up with an equally (although less syrupy-sugary-sweet) yummy version of the #PSL that I can make at home.

While I’ve been a devoted cinnamon-shaker ever since that morning when I learned my boss’ trick, I never thought about taking it to the next level in terms of adding AAAALLLLL the pumpkin pie spices.

So that’s what I did: after measuring out my ground coffee, I sprinkled a good amount of cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg, a bit less of ginger and threw in some whole cloves (although ground would’ve been fine too) on top of the coffee, and brewed away.

The result was coffee that tasted like pumpkin pie! Without any added chemicals, syrups, sweeteners or sugar.

coffee, spouted cup, milk frother
coffee, spouted cup, milk frother

Now, you could just add milk and call it a day. Or sugar, or simple syrup if you like your coffee sweet.

But I took it a step further and warmed some milk up in a pot (not to boiling but almost) and transferred it to a mug with a spout (I have a special metal one for frothing milk but a measuring cup would do too).

warming-milk
warming milk

Using an aerolatte milk frother that we got for our wedding, and a technique I learned while barista-ing it up at my bakery gig, I added some creamy warm milk and latte foam to the top of my coffee ~ instant pumpkin spice latte!

So here’s the trick: either keep the frother near the bottom of the cup of milk and keep it steady to create some foam but also to generally steam the milk; or move the wand slowly up and then slowly back down to create tons of foam ~ more like cappuccino-style, less warm milk, more foam.

Maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon to top it off? And even if you don’t have the milk frother, just add warm milk to your pumpkin spice coffee, try it and let me know what you think!

Homemade PSL
Homemade PSL
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Homemade Limoncello

Ever have an after-dinner sour limoncello at a fancy Italian restaurant and wonder what it really is and how to recreate the delicious drink at home?

Well it’s easy as 1, 2, 3 (plus some waiting time) to make this digestif (after-dinner beverage thought to aid digestion)! This limoncello recipe is from the delightful Karla Vasquez at PK Custom Designs. Karla and I met through The Rising Tide Society – a worldwide network of creatives and small business owners that was established by my amazing wedding photographers Natalie Franke and Krista Jones in order to foster community and support.

It’s been so fun to connect and meet new friends through this group! So when Karla said that she makes homemade limoncello (lemon-infused vodka essentially), I knew I wanted to try out her recipe.

On top of that, she creates custom labels – for her limoncello, for wine bottles, beer bottles, candles, etc. – that are perfect for unique wedding favors or for those that create a product in need of a label! Check out all that she does here.

Below is her recipe and her gorgeous photos (apologies that they had to be compressed to fit here). I’m going to make my own batch this week, so check back to see how it turned out! (And if you’re in NYC, look out for a Limoncello Party invitation soon!)

Ingredients:
10 lemons (organic, washed and dried)
1 750-ml bottle of vodka (100-proof preferred)
1 to 4 cups of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

To Make:
1. Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler, trying not to scrape the pith (the white fleshy part underneath the peel).
2. Place the peels in a 1 quart jar and fill the jar with vodka. Screw the lid on tight.
3. Store the jar in a cool, dry place for a minimum of 4 days and as long as a month. The longer stored, the more lemon-flavor will be infused.
4. After the vodka has had time to infuse, line a strainer with a large coffee filter and set it over a 4 cup measuring cup. Strain the vodka through the filter.
5. Bring 1 cup of water to a simmer, add 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow the simple syrup to cool. [Side note: If you like your beverages sweeter, make more simple syrup using the 1 to 1 water to sugar ratio.]
6. Stir the syrup into the vodka and taste. Add more sugar if desired.
7. Fill bottles using a funnel and add a pretty custom label.
8. Store the bottles in a cool, dry place and chill in the freezer or refrigerator for at least 4 hours before drinking.

zest lemon
Step 1: Zest Lemon

lemon peels

add vodka
Step 2: Place in jar and add a bottle of vodka
lemon peels in vodka
Step 3: Wait
finished limoncello
Step 4: Bottle your homemade limoncello (after adding sugar syrup to taste)

 

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies!!!

I hope you had a delicious holiday weekend! No matter what holiday(s) you may or may not celebrate, it was a good three day weekend to get together with friends and family.

I was lucky enough to get warm and cozy at my parents’ house, and while most of my friends from growing up have moved away, at least a little away, so many were home for the weekend and I loved seeing all of them and sharing some cookies, coffee, donuts, sandwiches, etc. 🙂

My mom and I baked German spice cookies on Saturday, but that recipe will have to wait another week, because this week I’m sharing this yummy and festive candy cane sugar cookie recipe that I made last week.

This is perfect for: a. people who don’t like chocolate (aka crazies but they exist), b. doing something with left-over candy canes.

I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com for chewy sugar cookies, but with some added twists. In my version, I cut their recipe in half, producing 15 large-ish cookies.

Ingredients:
1 cup + 6 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (you know I’m not too exact with my salt though)
10 tablespoons butter (I let all the butter come to room temperature and then I half melted 5 of the 10 tablespoons to achieve a slightly flatter, chewier cookie center)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 candy canes (depending on how minty you like your cookies)

To Make:
1. Set oven to 350 degrees
2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
3. Smash up your candy canes in a Ziploc bag using the back of a frying pan or meat hammer or whatever other heavy object you have lying around. Definitely don’t grind it into a powder – think little chunks, like marbles or slightly smaller (and for those of you who are too young to know what marbles are, think of small pebbles). Keeping the candy cane chunky will add a good sticky crunch to your cookies.
4. In a small bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt
5. In a different (larger) bowl, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to cream (aka beat on low-med speed) the butter and sugar until uniform
6. Beat in the egg to the butter/sugar combo on low-med speed
7. Beat in the vanilla to the butter/sugar/egg combo on low-med speed
8. With a large spoon or with the stand mixer, carefully blend the dry ingredients into the wet until fully incorporated but not overly stirred

IMG_0288

NOW!! HERE’S WHERE YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE!!
You can EITHER stir your smashed candy canes into the batter so that the pieces are spread throughout the cookie OR you can save them for last and place them on top of the cookies before they’re baked (see pic below for second version).

FullSizeRender_1
Personally, I think the cookies taste the same either way but they look prettier with candy cane on top, so that’s how I’m going to continue this recipe, but if you’ve already stirred your candy canes in at this point, then you should’ve kept reading until the end of this paragraph to realize that’s not where I was going. 😉 Just kidding – they will still be delicious.

9. So! Moving on!
10. Pour some extra sugar into a small bowl
11. Use your tablespoon to scoop out balls of dough and roll them into balls using your fingers.
12. Roll them in the sugar.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset
13. Place them on the baking sheets
14. Slightly tamp them down to spread them out a bit
15. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and press the candy gently into the dough to get them to really sink in. (I found this method was actually kind of a pain in the a** but again, I think they looked more festive in the end.)
16. Bake one sheet at a time. Start checking the cookies at about 10 minutes. Mine ended up going for 13 and were super chewy in the center and nice and crispy around the edges with sticky candy cane bits!
17. Let the cookies cool on the pan until they’re set up a bit and then use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack. (Tip: use a metal spatula to remove cookies from sheets – way sturdier and thinner to really get up under them than a plastic/silicone one.)
18. Enjoy and share! (Perfect to pair with milked coffee, Candy Cane tea from Celestial Seasonings or gingerbread ale.)

FullSizeRender

 

Easy Winter Peppermint Bark

One of my all-time favorite holiday treats is peppermint bark. I’m particularly taken with the Ghirardelli version which uses dark or milk chocolate layered with white chocolate, and what appear to be crushed up bits of candy cane.

IMG_0262

But I sometimes feel like store-bought chocolates can be a bit waxy and I strongly prefer dark chocolate to other kinds. (85% cacao is an excellent mid-afternoon snack to wake up and because it’s so strong, no fear of eating the whole bar!) It seems like most of the peppermint bark in stores has at least some element of white chocolate in it, which I could do without.

So I decided to make my own wintery peppermint bark with deep dark chocolate, crushed up candy canes, and a bit of peppermint extract for an extra minty kick.

Note that you can use other kinds of chocolate to suit your preference! It’s such a simple recipe, but you’ll need wax paper or even better, shallow silicone ice trays which will make perfect little rectangles! Or you could find some fun holiday shapes like pine trees! Or make your own Hanukkah gelt if you find a tray with circlular molds.

Here’s what to do:

Melt your chocolate. I chose a mix of 70% and 86% cacao which is bitter but still palatable as a dessert. (Pick your mix of favorite chocolates!) Use a glass bowl set over a pot of boiling water (not touching the water) and continually stir the chocolate until it’s a smooth glossy liquid. Start with either a bag of chocolate chips or 5 standard size bars. This will make enough treats to eat yourself and share with a few friends.

Depending on how much chocolate you use, you will want a candy cane ratio such that each bite gets some chunks. For 5 chocolate bars, I used a total of 8 regular candy canes (they taste so much better than those round red and white dinner mints). First I finely crushed up 3 candy canes in a Ziploc bag using a meat hammer (you could also use the back of a frying pan).

Once the chocolate was melted and smooth, I turned off the stove heat and mixed in my 3 crushed candy canes and ½ tsp of peppermint extract to really amplify the mint flavor which can get lost in the overpowering dark chocolate (guess that’s why it’s standard to use white chocolate).

Line a pan with a lip (I used a pretty small one since I only used 5 chocolate bars) with the wax paper so that the paper hangs over all the edges. Pour the chocolate mix onto the wax paper and use a spatula to spread it evenly (or evenly pour the mixture into your silicone ice trays).

 

Then, in the Ziploc bag, I crushed up the remaining 5 candy canes into a mix of small and medium chunks. Don’t crush them into too fine a powder or else you won’t get that satisfying candy cane crunch in your bark.

Sprinkle these crushed candy canes over the chocolate along with a smattering of sea salt (a trick I learned from Carla Hall on The Chew).

Refrigerate until hard. Either pop the chocolates out of the silicone mold or break up the large chocolate sheet into bite sized chunks with a knife.

Wrap them up in cellophane or craft paper and make cute tags for friends and family! Yum!

Image

Holiday Ginger Snap Cookies

I love baking seasonally-inspired cookies around the winter holidays. Recently, I’ve made gingerbread men and speculoos cookies (a Belgian and Dutch ginger-graham cookie, like the kind they serve on Delta).

The warm flavors of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg play well together and the quantities can be tweaked to really make one pop. One of my favorite cookies to buy and eat (all year round) are crunchy ginger snaps. More crispy and gingery than gingerbread, ginger snaps are a relatively low cal cookie (relatively, they’re still cookies). And my mom says that if you are craving chocolate, eating ginger can satiate the craving instead!

Also, I am obsessed with molasses. I think it is delicious, so I added a bit more than the original recipe called for. I know they say baking is a science and each ingredient must be properly measured. And that’s probably true for the main ingredients that make the base of the cookie – flour, egg, butter and sugar. But I like to play around with the measurements of the other ingredients, like ginger, salt and molasses, to see what textures and flavors different quantities will bring out. I’m really not precious in measuring the spices uber precisely. It doesn’t always make for the prettiest, most perfect cookies, but 9 times out of 10 they are still extremely yummy!

I found a base recipe on finecooking.com. Below find my adjusted recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand and my experience in recreating a seasonally-appropriate ginger snap. Cozy up with some tea and start dunking!

 

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

1 & 2/3 cup flour

1 & ½ tsp ginger (I love ginger so I used 2 tsp…also easier to measure because you only have to use a 1 tsp spoon!)

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp salt (I used sea salt to get a little bit bigger grain because I enjoy biting into a cookie and getting a little salt crunch from time to time. You can also use finer salt if you don’t like that experience.)

¼ tsp black pepper

1 & ¼ tsp baking powder (The original recipe called for ½ tsp baking soda, which I didn’t have, so I subbed 1 tsp baking powder; baking soda is about 3-4x more potent than baking powder so you need more baking powder if you’re going to substitute, but if you use the full 3-4x your baked goods may come out a little bitter.)

In the stand mixer, fitted with the paddle, mix on medium:

½ cup butter (Unsalted because you’re already adding chunky salt. Remember, the butter should be at room temperature for easier mixing.)

¾ cup light brown sugar (The original recipe called for dark brown sugar, which I didn’t have, so I subbed light brown and added a smidge more molasses.)

Mix this for about 3 minutes until the batter is smooth and light-colored.

Then add: 1 egg yolk (also at room temperature) and 3+ tablespoons of molasses. Mix for one minute more.

With the mixer going at medium-slow, add the dry ingredients in 3-4 pours. Mix until rough pebbles form.

Dump/scrape out the dough onto an UNfloured work surface:

Knead and shape (the dough isn’t moist enough to really roll so just form it with your hands, gently pressing it together) into two 7-8 inch long logs about 1.5-2 inches in wide. They may turn about a bit square from sitting on a flat surface as you work the dough into the sticks. Then wrap them in plastic or plastic baggies. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

When you’re ready to make the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 2 large cookie trays with parchment paper.

Use a long, sharp, NON-serrated knife to slice the log into ¼ inch rounds or even thinner if you can manage. (The original recipe called for 3/16 thick rounds and my mind couldn’t wrap itself around how I was going to measure that, so I just sliced as thin as possible for crisp cookies.)

Place the rounds on the sheets. They don’t spread much and if you’ve cut them thinly, they won’t rise much either.

At this point, I would sprinkle some sugar on the tops of the cookies and gently press it into the dough. I didn’t do that this time around, but that would be a lovely addition.

As you can see, this recipe can make about 100 silver dollar-sized cookies.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes until edges are slightly darker brown than the middles. I would start with 9 minutes and give them a check depending on how thinly you’ve sliced them and how large they are. Add additional minutes for crisper cookies, but be sure not to burn them!

Let the cookies cool about 15 minutes on the sheets to set up and then gently twist and pull each one by hand to remove them from the pan. Allow them to fully cool on a wire rack (or let’s, be honest, on a plate if you don’t have a rack). Normally, I would scarf down some piping hot cookies, however these are actually one cookie that is better fully cooled to get the true ginger flavor and a bit more crunch. Pour that Earl Grey or coffee with cinnamon and enjoy!

tea and cookies