Tag Archives: New York City

Hurricanes and Hunger

Speaking with Chef Seamus Mullen at Tertulia during the Sandy blackout, photo GrillWorks

Life is such a cacophony of beauty/horror right now.

The holidays are coming, and I thrive during the holidays. There’s the beauty.

The horror is that two weeks ago my city was hurt badly. This morning I wept openly on the subway reading this article from the New York Times about the 8 who died in Midland Beach on Staten Island. The other day my buddy Johnny Iuzzini (who, like many chefs, is doing some great volunteer work out there) tweeted this video on what’s happening in the Rockaways that sent chills down my spine. I can’t stop watching it. Another video – NYC Dark – captured how eerie and foreign lower Manhattan felt during the blackout.

I’m not suffering-by-association. I’m incredibly fortunate that my apartment didn’t even lose power and I only lost two days of work from lack of transportation.

But this is my city, man. And my city is hurting.

Because of my health there are some things that I am just not able to do. Sometimes it render me feeling helpless, but I’m not even going into what they are for fear of sounding ungrateful.

I need to contribute.

So last week I did what I was able: amongst other things I wrote a series of three pieces on what a group of four chefs are doing to help out with what they’re calling the “NYC Food Flood“. The chefs (who also took big losses when their restaurants we closed due to blackouts) are taking turns bringing their skills to those in the hardest-hit areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The pieces – an introduction to the NYC Food Flood, a narrative on dining during the blackout at one of the chef’s restaurants and coverage of the fundraising dinner that raised over $20,000 for their efforts – went up on Serious Eats NY last week.

I also organized one on a Gnosis, a chocolate company based out of Queens that is donating 5% of profits this month to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief, on Easy Eats magazine’s blog, which I edit.

If you have a few minutes, please check out the pieces, available at the links below. And for other ways to help, check out the links that Venessa at Gnosis compiled for us.

————-

For those of you in the NYC area who are looking to volunteer, here are a list of organizations who could use your time and energy:
– Google Crisis Map (shows nearest shelter/evacuee centers)
– New York Cares
– NYC Service
– Food Bank for New York City
– Follow the hashtag #sandyvolunteer on Twitter

For those of you who are looking to make donations, here are a list of organizations who are doing great work specifically to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy:
– Red Cross (text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10)
– Red Cross Blood
– New York Blood Center
– Operation USA
– International Medical Corps (helping those affected by Sandy in Haiti and Cuba)
– Salvation Army
– Save the Children (text HURRICANE to 20222 to donate $10)
– ASPCA

————

Help and Healing with Chocolate, on Easy Eats Magazine’s blog, Nov. 7, 2012

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Rise Up, New York. (and Big Apple Cupcakes)

My friend Robbie…

There’s something about when the lights go out in New York City.

When restaurants are closed, Broadway stages are dark, and bridges and tunnels flooded.

I’m incredibly fortunate. Washington Heights is called the Heights for a reason in that we’re elevated, so my neighborhood wasn’t in danger of flooding – though ten blocks away and the highway below me got wiped. We passed a relatively uneventful night, the howling outside and occasional crash of something flying and falling a soundtrack to the news we couldn’t look away from and the movies we eventually distracted ourselves with. Eerily, the streets were empty. But, though it flickered, we never lost our electricity. We woke to quiet.

Everyone I know is safe, though many are still without power and a few have flooded homes.

I am very fortunate.

Anytime something strikes NYC – a madman with a gun, a massive transportation strike, a blackout, a hurricane – I become even more in love with where I live. I truly love New York City. I love the community, the diversity, the possibility. Yes, it takes energy to live here, but it gives me energy as well. It doesn’t feel like a big city at all. It just feels like… home.

So, thank you to those who are working to repair our home. To those who helped evacuated the hospitals without power and on fire. To the emergency responders who helped people out of collapsed homes, evacuated the areas in danger of being crushed by a falling crane, who worked to put out fires through floods and who are still working in teams to bring help to those in need. Thanks to those hauling away debris, washing muddy roads, pumping out the subway tunnels and working to get the millions of us without power back into the light.

My heart is downtown…

…and for all those who have made sure we’re safe and sent loving energy from Toronto, Cape Town, Denver, Tampa, California… please hug someone you love.

Because hugging is awesome. And we should do more of it.

For a NYC-inspired recipe and more blubbering about why I love my city so much, check out my Big Apple Cupcakes with NY Cheesecake Frosting.

– Jacqueline

Milk Bar Mondays – Carrot Cake Truffles (gluten and dairy free)

Carrot Cake Truffles

Around the holidays, I was at Barnes and Noble flipping through cookbooks for my chef roundup feature coming out in March for Easy Eats magazine.  Content with a decaf Americano, the rain pouring out over Union Square and my shared table stacked high with books from Blue Ribbon, The Meatball Shop, Frankies Sputino, Eleven Madison Park and such NYC food havens, I merely flipped through Christina Tosi’s Milk book.  Tosi has almost a cult following (Chef Stephen Collucci admitted to calling one of her creations so good it was “stupid, it’s just dumb”).  I’ve never partaked.

Because milk – a featured ingredient along with sugar and glutenous flour in Tosi’s work – will send me into a flu-like state for days if I accidentally imbibe.  Not that I don’t admire and respect what she does, at all, but I remember setting the book aside thinking, “there’s no way I can even adapt 1% of these recipes”.

Enter the Milk Bar Monday swap.

This title intimidates the crap outta me

A few weeks ago Meagan of Scarletta Bakes emailed me asking if I’d consider participating in a bi-weekly swap, all of recipes from the Milk Bar book.  I was walking to a date on 9th avenue and literally my heart started shaking as if I had just swallowed a Tbsp of white sugar.  I was scared.  Tosi’s recipes have a ton of steps to them like soaking cereal in milk and then using the milk in recipes (or drinking it straight, according to some of my friends in the know).  Adapting was gonna take planning.  But I really admire the ladies of this swap, and when something scares me, it usually means I should do it.  So of course I concluded, “this is gonna be awesome”.

Welcome to the first installment of Milk Bar Mondays, folks!

Meet the Ladies!

Meagan of Scarletta Bakes

Erin of Big Fat Baker

Cassie of Bake Your Day

Audra of The Baker Chick

Nicole of Sweet Peony

Krissy of Krissy’s Creations

Follow the group on Twitter!

I have to say I am particularly enamored by this collection of bloggers.  Just check out their sites for today’s creation and for their work and writing style in general.  Stellar photos, clever ways with words, mouth-watering recipes… I’m truly psyched to be in such company.

And now… the recipe.

I have to hand it to her, these are goooooooood.  Like, so good they are indeed stupid good.  I’ve passed them along to friends who all had an eyebrow raise when they started chewing.  Dumb.

If you follow me on twitter you may recall that last weekend I spend hours making (and cursing over) cake pops for an event.  They came out adorably, but hurt my soul in how long they took and at how little skill I have with white chocolate and craftiness.    But everything happens for a reason, and last weekend made this one actually a cinch.  Because Tosi’s truffles are actually cake balls.  And since these didn’t require sticks, double dipping, dyed chocolate or lettering, I felt like a pro.

For this swap in general I’m going to try to keep as much as I can to the original recipe, making versions of Tosi’s recipes that gluten and dairy-free eaters can enjoy without putting my own spin on things.  So for this I simply used gluten-free flour, almond milk and Earth Balance in the cake, soy cream cheese in the liquid cheesecake and dark chocolate instead of white.  For the milk crumbs I used crushed Classic Butter Cutout Cookies I’ve had in the freezer for just such an occasion.

Voila.

Carrot Cake Truffles (gluten and dairy free)

recipe adapted from Milk by Christina Tosi

Ingredients: Cake

  • 8Tbsp / 1 stick butter flavored Earth Balance, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled, grated carrots

Directions: Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 6×12 inch cake pan or a quarter baking sheet with cooking spray and line with parchment or Silpat.
  • In the bowl of  a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium/high until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides, add the eggs, and beat another 3 minutes until fluffy and smooth.  Scrape down sides again, turn the mixer to low, and slowly stream in the oil.  Return to medium/high and beat about 6 minutes until the mixture is almost doubled in size and looks almost like Fluff.
  • Meanwhile, combine flours, starch, powder, soda, gum, cinnamon and salt in a bowl ad whisk to combine.
  • Turn mixer to low and slowly add in flour mixture.  Mix to combine.
  • Remove from mixer and fold in carrots.
  • Pour into pan and smooth top.  Bake for 25 minutes, until it is puffy and almost doubled in size.  The edges of the cake should be springy and the center soft but not jiggly.  Bake another 3 minutes if it’s not at this point.
  • Cool completely.

Ingredients: Liquid Cheesecake

  • 1 8-oz container “Better Than Creamcheese” Tofutti cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca starch
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 egg

Directions: Liquid Cheesecake

  • Preheat oven to 300°.  Line a 6×6″ baking pan with plastic wrap – yes, with plastic wrap. I had never done this before but it worked just fine.
  • Beat “cream cheese” on medium/high speed in bowl of standing mixer with the paddle attachment until soft and smooth, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the sugar and beat again for another 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch with salt, then add 1 Tbsp milk and whisk to combine.  Add 2nd Tbsp and whisk to combine.  Add egg, and whisk thoroughly until smooth.
  • With the mixer on low, stream in egg slurry.  Return speed to medium/high and beat for 4 minutes until mixture is smooth and loose.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are set but the middle of the cake is still loose and a bit jiggly.
  • Cool completely so that the cake has time to set.

Ingredients: Truffles

  • 6oz 70% dark chocolate
  • 2 cups crushed sugar cookies (I used this recipe from Christmas and had them in the freezer, then ran them through a food processor so they were incredibly fine)

Assemblage:

  • In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment beat the cake and 2 Tbsp liquid cheesecake. If you can shape it into a ball, it’s good to go. If too dry, add more cheesecake 1 Tbsp at a time. It should be a tad moister than a cake pop combo, if you’ve made them before.  I found this cake already quite soft so I only needed 2 Tbsp.
  • Roll into balls a tad bigger then a tablespoon, and set on wax paper.
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute, then stir to completely incorporate and melt chips.
  • Place the cookie crumbs in a second bowl.
  • Roll each ball in a thin layer of chocolate then in two coats of cookie.  Set back on wax paper and chill until hard.

Classic Butter Cutout Cookies (gluten free) – the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

I’m gonna get a sentimental for a moment.

I have a very clear memory of my first Christmas with Lyme Disease, when I was 12 or 13 years old.  I was upstairs in my room, having been excused from the dinner table.  It was a cold winter.  I was in a lot of pain.  I hadn’t eaten much food, because I could barely digest anything at that point.  I had been carried upstairs, as I had lost almost my entire ability to walk.  I could hear laughter, and smell delicious things, and I felt very alone and very sad.  I cried, all bundled in bed, and listened to Windham Hill Artist’s A Winter Solstice, which my mother would play to comfort me.  The song “Gift” has always stuck with me – a gentle bit of comfort when feeling ill and lonely.

I pulled out of that bout of Lyme, and two others, and walked again.  My ability to move from point A to point B is something I will never take for granted, and a reason I so fully love walking in the 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure.

Changing my diet is what healed me.  Yes, I’ve taken a lot of antibiotics in my 18 years of battling Lyme.  But every time I’ve gone through treatment it has not been until I’ve worked with a nutritionist of some sort and been put on a strict diet with lots of supplements and vitamin drips that I’ve seen results.

As a child it was obviously hard.  There weren’t cookbooks and blogs on gluten or dairy free baking.  There was one alternative for gluten free bread, and it was horrid.  Rice Dream was no substitute for ice cream, and the only offering.  Whole Foods did not exist, at least not in Connecticut.  There was almost no “alternative baking”.  It was a huge adjustment for my parents.

So this holiday season I’ve found myself overwhelmed with joy, gratitude and a feeling of community.  In one weekend I participated in three cookie swaps.

The first, the NY Cookie Swap organized by Three Many Cooks for Bloggers Without Borders, benefited Cookies for Kids Cancers.  Obviously any way I can help other children fight their illnesses, I’m in.  I remember how hard it was for my parents, seeing me sick as a child, a college student and as a full adult, and how my father sometimes tears up to this day, knowing I will never be as free of illness as he wishes I could be.  On a crisp Sunday afternoon dozens of bloggers met for some barbecue, margaritas and cookie swapping.  It was a joy to put faces and voices to the blog names I’ve seen all over the web.  And there was an entire table set aside for gluten-free cookies.  Awesome.  (Getting misty-eyed).

My monthly Burwell General Store Swap went up that Sunday as well.  Every month I join a group of 25 or so bloggers in adapting a recipe to our heart’s content.  Mine, of course, are gluten free.  I love this group of talented home and professional chefs.  For the NY and Burwell swaps I made Mesquite Gingerbread Men (recipe soon) and Chocolate Almond Biscotti, the recipe of which was chosen for FoodBuzz’s Top 9!

And then there’s this: the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, which required me to ship out 1 dozen cookies each to 3 bloggers I had been paired with – all gluten-free eaters.  In return I’d get three dozen different cookies as well! Awesome, no?

I am so very thankful for my ability to walk, my ability to eat what some see as a limited but I see as an incredible diverse and dynamic scope of food.  And I’m so thankful to have grown with a community of those who need to eat the same way, who pool information and resources, and to be able to teach some of what I have learned in my 18 years of living this way.

While I look back on that first Lyme Christmas as a blue one, the only blue snowflakes that are falling for me now are the ones I’m dunking in my almond milk.

Thanks to Three Many Cooks for the NY Cookie Swap and Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen for organizing the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

I don’t have pictures of the beautiful gluten free cookies I received in the swap because as soon as they came in they were either in my mouth or on a plate and out the door with a collection of others.  They were so delicious and looked so nice alongside others that I had made for gifting, and, well, I’ve seen myself on camera lately and I have to WATCH MY COOKIES.

Julie from Swim… Bike… Running on Empty sent some deliciously moist gluten, corn and dairy free vegan pumpkin bites that were laced with nuts and chocolate as well.  The perfect soft cakey-cookie.  Check out her blog for healthy living tips including balancing all these cookies with exercise (which some of us need to incorporate more, note to self).  Follow her Tweets, people!

Maria from Gluten-Free Girl in Chicago‘s White Sugar Cookies with Pecans reintroduced me to the love of dipping cookies in milk.  Don’t know why, but I’m as excited about this practice as if I’d just discovered the combo myself.  Her crisp, delicate cookies were made with Earth Balance Coconut Spread (which I’d never heard of) and Better Batter All Purpose Flour.  So two new things for the DB.  I’m making them asap.  Since I have a big thing of almond milk waiting for me in the fridge.  Also check her out on Twitter.

Lastly, Clean Eating Chelsey’s Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were just the perfect way to round out this trio.  I loved how they weren’t that sweet.  I find a huge difference between gluten-free and/or vegan eaters: we generally use less sugar. When adapting some recipes I’ll think something is WAY too sweet and my regular eating friends will disagree.  So these soft, chewy cookies (also perfect in almond milk) with big chunks of vegan chocolate and a strong coconut oil flavor were divine.  Follow her on Twitter too.

Classic Butter Snowflake Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen large snowflake cookies

Ingredients:

Adapted from the Classic Sugar Cookies by Saveur

  • 3 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups arrowroot or tapioca flour
  • 1 cup quinoa or millet flour
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (3 sticks), soft
  • 2 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tbsp Meringue / Egg White Powder
  • 1/2-1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, cinnamon etc.)
  • Gel food coloring
  • Colored sanding sugar and edible glitter

Method: Cookies

Whisk the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (especially when using organic sugars or sucanat, you need to mix longer as they don’t break down or dissolve very well).  Add the eggs, one a time, beating thoroughly between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add the flour, and mix until the dough just pulls together and the flour is blended in.

Divide in four, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for 45 minutes or until a bit firmer.

When ready to cut and bake, preheat oven to 325°.  On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with 3 inch snowflake cookie cutters (or cutters of choice, of course).  Bake for 15 minutes or until just brown at edges.  Cool for 5 minutes on sheet before removing to cooling racks.  Cool completely before icing.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Note: It’s easier to re-roll gluten-free cookies than regular cookies because you don’t have the presence of the gluten protein to make them tougher.  However, the softer the dough gets, the less crisp and crumbly it will be.

Method: Royal Icing

To make the icing, place sifted powdered sugar and meringue / egg white powder in bowl of standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add 1/2 cup of warm water and mix on medium low to incorporate.  If it is very dry, add a bit more water.  Increase speed to high and beat until glossy and stiff, about 6 minutes.

Now, some people freak out with royal icing.  I find it fun.  Because if you need thinner icing for piping a trillion cookies smoothly, just add warm water a teaspoon at a time until you get to the consistency you want.  Mix gel food colorings in a desired amount in small bowls.  This mixture makes about 3 cups, which is plenty for this batch of cookies.

Have fun with icing tips to pipe thick frosting on the snowflakes, and immediately sprinkle with shimmery sanding sugar or edible glitter as you go.

Carrot Cake Pops and A Buddy Birthday Blog

Happy Birthday to Ruark!

By the time this post goes live, I will be in the middle of no where in Vermont, most likely freezing and huddled over a campfire, stirring something warm and sweet.  My phone and computer will literally be held captive by my father in Connecticut.  And most likely I will have spent the weekend breathing deeply, doing yoga on boulders, racing ATVs through the trails, and watching my city pup scamper amongst the trees.

Meanwhile, back in New York City, my dear friend Ruark will be turning 31 years old.

I’ve known Ruark for 12 years now: for over 8 of those years we were an item.  In a stroke of divine blessing, we have remained incredibly close since breaking up 2 years ago when I chose to move to Cincinnati for a year to work, a split we both desired.  Because of the distance, we were able to comfort each other through the breakup, through my living in a new city, through our apartment being a tad emptier without me.  He visited me once out there, and every time I flew home (8 times I believe), I saw him.  His father lives in Cincinnati, and it was comforting to have this friend and father-figure so close by.

Ruark's 30th bday, 2010

We were tight with each other’s families:  I learned how to make scones from his father, pie crust from his Auntie, and his mother’s gingerbread is one of the best things I have ever tasted.  They gave me my Kitchenaid and countless beautiful platters and pie plates and tablecloths and things our 20-something selves couldn’t afford.  Ruark is an incredible cook, spotless in his technique, and between the two of us we ate very well and threw some incredible parties.  He makes one of the best meat sauces I have ever tasted.  We both still marvel at how much we love duck.

On top of that, Ruark and I have seen each other through so many ups and downs, one taking care of the other as needed.  To the point now that we still support each other in new relationships, in new work endeavors, and will drop any doubt or judgment when one of us says to the other “I just really need you to be my friend on this right now”.

Talk about lucky.

Whenever I come to Ruark with a revelation – in this case how I don’t really know how to relax anymore – he’ll usually point out, “Jax, you’ve always been this way.  Remember when…”.

When I first set eyes on him, my first few days in college, I knew our relationship would be something special.  But I never thought that over a decade later I could know someone so well, or love a friend so much.

Happy Birthday, Ruark.  You’re something beyond special.

– “Jabadine”

Carrot Cake Balls

This recipe is adapted from Best of the Best from New England Cookbook.  Eaters were a huge fan of the flavor, but the cake completely crumbled when I eased it from the pans.  Hence why one half was salvaged and given to my Poppa for his birthday and the other smushed into cake balls for Ruark’s.  Because of the crumbliness it worked well, but the high amount of oil wasn’t a huge yay factor for me.  I had thought white chocolate would be a better match (I can’t eat it so I don’t really know), but my roommate and Ruark both confirmed that dark would be the best way to go, grounding the sweetness in the cake itself.  I’m putting the recipe up as I think it’s a great one for experienced bakers to look at and adapt.  I hope if you make it you’ll come back with tips for me!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 whole eggs and 1 egg white, beaten well
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 recipe cream cheese frosting
  • dark and white chocolate for dipping, decorations as desired

Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and grease 2 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, mix vegetable oil and sugar and beat well on high, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and beat to combine.

Sift all dry ingredients, and add to the wet mixture.

Fold in the raisins and carrots.

Pour into pans and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool completely, then mix with 1 cup vegan cream cheese frosting.  Leave in fridge overnight to chill.

When ready to assemble, roll into 1-inch balls and place on wax paper lined baking sheets.  Freeze for one hour to firm.

Melt chocolate slowly over a double boiler and quickly roll all cake balls in chocolate, setting back on sheets to firm.

Maple Ginger Cakes with Brown Butter Caramel – A Vintage Recipe Swap!

Maple Ginger Cakes - a Burwell General Store Recipe Swap!

This is a very special post for this little Dusty Baker.

One year ago, I started this blog.  I had been blogging on another site, which housed a wider range of aspects of the holistic health industry as I pulled out of another bout of Lyme Disease.  I wanted to focus on recipes, and writing, and how baking could connect me to other aspects of my art and to the art itself that is baking.  

Also one year ago, on the other side of the country, Christianna of Burwell General Store and Lindsay of Rosemarried started a recipe swap, comparing their takes on vintage recipes.  That group grew into an incredible community of food bloggers who monthly change at least 3 aspects of a recipe that Christianna sends to us, and then we all post at the same time and exchange blogging love.  I don’t quite remember if I found out about the swap from Lindsay or Toni over at Boulder Locavore – I found and fell in love with their blogs around the same time, in April of last year.  All I know is that I feel very fortunate to be a part of this little group.

These bloggers have become teachers, inspiring me by their personal focus in the food world, their varying levels of culinary expertise and their love for what they do, both in and out of the kitchen.  Through them I get to feel the seasons change all over the world (we have several overseas swappers!), and how that effects what we’re all making and how we’re nourishing our bodies.  I get little glimpses into the lives of passionate, creative and sometimes exhausted people.  All because of our shared love for food.

Burwell Swappers, you rock my world.  Happy Birthday to Christianna, Lindsay, Toni, Chef Dennis, Sabrina, Lora, Mari, Shari, Monique, Pola, Linda, Alli, Barb, Priya, Lana, Shumalia, Claire, Jamie, Jaclyn and Alex (did I miss anyone?!!?).  And welcome to the new swappers Eda, Julia and JoAnn who are contributing this month! Please click on the link at the bottom of this post to check out their contributions, read more about their blogs at the Burwell General Store and, if you’re the tweeting sort, follow our Burwell Swappers list on Twitter.

When sending us the recipe for this month, Christianna asked us to ponder where our lives have traveled this past year, what we’re thankful for and what we want to celebrate with this post.

It’s been an interesting year: at points I’ve had less money than I’ve had in my entire life and questioned my decision to not have a “boss” and to work only freelance.  I took on the responsibility of managing my family business, and continue to learn just what it means to be a boss.  Through this blog I’ve met some incredible people,  been asked to participate in live food events, and developed the voice that brought me to writing for the NYC food blog Bromography and now doing research and writing for Easy Eats, an incredible gluten-free digital magazine that as an eater I am very excited about and am particularly thrilled to be contributing to. I did a few shows, meeting insanely talented, big-hearted people.  I fell in love, then had my heart broken for the first time.  I got a dog!  Projects that I’ve dreamed of creating have come into reality.  I’ve met teachers who are so far above me in the food world, and seem to see some glimmer of potential in what I have to contribute.  I am still relatively healthy after my third bout of Lyme, and my family are all close by and well.  It’s been a weird, hard year, but I have so much to be thankful for.

So in celebrating the anniversary of my blog and the birthday of the Burwell General Store swap, I’m doing a Thanks-GiveAway!  For the month of November, I’ll be hosting discussions, comments, sharing the recipes of others and asking readers to follow the lovely bloggers who are the filling to my macarons.  And in thanks I’ll send a few readers each two copies of some of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, one to keep for themselves and one to give as a holiday gift to a baker they love.  Along with a few of my favorite things.

For information on the giveaway, CLICK HERE.

Now, this month we were given a Maple Syrup Cake to swap, which overjoyed me as I love baking with maple syrup and go through jugs of the stuff far too often.  After last month’s Millet Coconut Breakfast Pudding  I decided I didn’t want to change too much of this recipe, I just wanted to make a really delicious gluten-free take on these cakes.

My first go-around I adapted the recipe by cutting the white sugar completely, substituting with my gluten-free flour blend and adding some chopped ginger.  I used 3 teaspoons of soda as gluten-free flour sometimes need the extra lift.  And I added some chopped candied ginger along with increased the amount of spices in the cake.  The cakes were so-so.  A bit to baking soda-y and not sweet enough, even for me.  And a little dry.

So the second go around I added back in a bit of the sugar (palm), even more ginger, and some pumpkin, to give a little extra moisture. I also made a quick caramel sauce to serve on top.

The result? Um, yum!! These are incredibly moist little cakes.  The pumpkin isn’t a feature as much as the ginger and spice, but it provides great body.  The texture of the candied ginger suits the soft cake perfectly.  These would be divine as a special breakfast treat, or made in regular cupcake tins and topped with pumpkin or cream cheese frosting.

Going on my list as one of my favorite cakes.  Thanks, again, Burwell Swappers.

Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday Burwell Swappers!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
  • 1/3 cup palm sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup maple syrup (I used one from Vermont, which I love.  Always try to keep it as close to home as possible, and luckily that’s not a problem in New England)
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free cake flour with xanthan gum (if using a mix without xanthan gum, add 1 1/4 Tbsp to the flour)
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease and flour cake pan of choice.

In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients up to ginger.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with whisk atatchment (or in bowl with hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until smooth.  Add pumpkin and continue to beat until combined.  Add maple syrup, and beat until smooth.

Alternate the flour and hot water, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing on low, until all are incorporated, occassionally wiping down the sides of bowl.

Stir in the candied ginger.

Pour equally into prepared pans.  My cakes took 24 minutes to bake, a larger cake will take about 35.

For the brown butter caramel:

Brown 2 Tbsp unsalted butter on medium heat until golden.  Whisk in 2 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp light brown sugar, and whisk until smooth.  Immediately pour over cakes and serve.



Gluten-and-Dairy-Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten, Dairy and White Sugar Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten, Dairy and White Sugar Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Autumn has hit New York City.  I’m typing at my desk by my window, and a sharp chill sneaks in.

It seems that, practically overnight, we’ve said goodbye to sundresses and sandals, to bare arms and walking in the shade.  One part of me loves this crisp air, and is day-dreaming of pumpkins and pie, of Halloween and Christmas cookies.  The other part of me is mourning how the streets are already a little bit emptier at night, how my dog is going in hibernation mode, how I have to buy new shoes to replace the ones I wore out through the city slush last season.  Of being cold for the next few months.

Saturday I took Mitra for a walk in Central Park with a friend, decked in worn fall boots and a scarf.  And when I got home I knew what I needed to get me through the weekend: oatmeal cookies.

I had spent the morning working out a recipe for a Dusty Baker reader in the UK (Hi, Peter!)  – and it wasn’t quite right.  The night before I had tried a sweet and savory cookie recipe for a local friend – it also wasn’t quite right (all I’ll say is peanut butter and duck fat… it’s coming).  I was a bit of a grumpy dusty baker.

So there was to be no failing with this recipe.  Not only did I have some friends I wanted to bring something sweet to, but I wanted to get back to the gluten-dairy-sugar alternative baking that is a major part of my food lifestyle, which had been neglected a bit by all the baking I’ve been doing for other organizations.  And I had a short amount of time before heading downtown again.

I looked at a bunch of cookie recipes – both those with and without gluten – and was shocked at the amount of sugar or sweetener the recipes called for.  White and brown sugar, and a lot of it?!  A cup and a half of agave syrup? No, thank you!

I wanted my cookies to be simple, wholesome and just-sweet-enough. 

So I used only 1/2 cup of maple syrup for sweetness, added a bit of dark molasses to replace the flavor missing from the absence of brown sugar, and added some flaxseed meal for fiber.  I used shortening for stability.  I added some black pepper for a savory kick, and threw in a healthy spoonful of my favorite Vietnamese cinnamon along with some freshly grated nutmeg (they’re totally worth it).  I followed the advice of Karina at the Gluten-Free Goddess and kept rice flour out of the recipe (I based my proportions off of her recipe, which  is stellar – thank you Karina!).

I love the results.  For me, these are the perfect cookies to dunk.  Slightly sweet and spicy, soft, a perfect vehicle for the delicious chocolate that sits nestled within the oatmeal.

They’d also be stellar with raisins.

Start to finish, it took me 45 minutes to make, bake and wrap 36 of these babies.

I was a happy camper.  I brought a few to a friend to nosh on over some cheap whiskey and a game of chess (which I’m not as bad at as I had previously thought) and to another friend I met up with for a post-show glass of wine.  And may have eaten a few for breakfast before heading off to a late brunch with food-blog people the next morning.  Followed by an awesome Bloody Derby and Stumptown Coffee.

OK, Autumn weekends in New York City can be pretty awesome.  This one was delicious.

Wait, what’s a Bloody Derby, you ask? Oh, let’s just say an incredible cocktail I introduced a few people to at the Ace hotel (and had to name).  I think it will go along swimmingly with a duck-fat cookie. Coming soon to a Dusty Baker near you.

I may have eaten this entire stack of cookies for breakfast today. Yes, salad for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds meal
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp dark molasses
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • 3 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup ground walnuts or pecans, optional

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats (totally worth the $).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk all dry ingredients up to the black pepper and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large bowl) beat shortening on high heat until fluffy.
  • Add eggs, maple syrup and molasses and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes (beating the eggs gives a little lift and body to the coming flours).
  • Quickly beat in the vanilla.
  • Add all the flour, turn speed down to low, and mix until just combined.
  • Fold in the oats a cup at a time until distributed evenly.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips (or raisins!) and optional nuts.
  • Drop in rounded tablespoons onto mats.
  • Put in upper and lower third of oven and bake for 6 minutes.
  • Press down on each of the cookies with a metal spatula to flatten, then rotate the trays (switch upper and lower) to ensure even baking.
  • Bake for 7-9 more minutes, or until lightly browned. 
  • Cool a few minutes on trays before removing to cooling rack.

These are stellar when warm, and when dunked in a glass of unsweetened almond milk.

These will make soft and chewy cookies. If you like them crispy, turn heat down a bit and bake for about four more minutes.

Big Apple Cupcakes with NY Cheesecake Frosting – a 9/11 Frosting for the Cause

Big Apple Cupcakes

This weekend is a somber one for our country, and especially for those of my glorious city.  Time is such a fickle thing – at some points seeming so fleeting and delicate, a paper crane crushed in a child’s ecstatic palm.  Yet a dark night can stretch on for what seems like a year, and goals and dreams can seem so inevitably far away.  Ten years have passed since September 11, 2001, and how the world has changed for so many people.

This post is part of Frosting for the Cause, an online baking event that connects bakers from all over the world with womens cancer charities.  365 days a year, a blogger posts a recipe on the site, as well as shares a story of someone they know who has been affected by cancer.  They then make a small monetary donation to a cancer organization and bring the baked goods to a local cancer shelter.

Because my posting date fell on September 11th and I love my city Paula, the wonderful woman who runs the site, allowed me to stretch the rules of the post a bit and focus it around how 9/11 has caused cancer amongst the first responders who had spent much time around Ground Zero in the months and years following the collapse of the towers.

The Cancer…

Hundreds of first responders – firemen, police officers, medics – died on that day.  But since then that community has seen a large increase in serious chronic illnesses, and not all respiratory illnesses, as you might expect.  Many are developing serious cancers – melanoma and lymphoma specifically.  Hundreds have been diagnosed: in fact, first responders who worked at Ground Zero following the collapse are 19% more likely to develop serious cancers within the first 7 years of repeated exposure to the environment of Ground Zero.

The toxic dust that was in the air for months after the collapse is the cause, though the Environmental Protection Agency won’t conclude that the mixture of non-fibrous materials, asbestos, glass, lead, cadmium and other toxins is the link between.  Asbestos is highly carcinogenic, and a report from HP Environmental, a firm from Virginia, found that the asbestos was so pulvarized it was literally just too small to show up on the EPA’s tests.

Debates have gone back and forth, but the reality for first responders and their families is this: they saved lives by rushing people out of buildings, mining them out from under the rubble, and helping to clean up the wreckage.  And they’re paying for it – both with their own money and their lives.

Roy Chelsen

This is Roy Chelsen.  He was a “Viking” of a firefighter, one so strong that he could hold a blasting hose that would usually take two men to control.  Quiet and somber, he did his job well and love his company, Engine Company 28.  “To say he loved it is an understatement” his son Christopher said.

His company rushed to the first tower and started evacuating civilians at 1 World Trade Center.  But a point came when Roy knew that the second tower would begin falling, and he commanded his colleagues to get the last people they could and evacuate.  They made it to under a nearby bridge as bodies started falling, and when the tower collapsed were able to run to safety.

Many firefighters and civilians credit Chelsen with saving their lives – though he was so humble about his affect that day that few knew of this during his life.

Roy died on January 9, 2001.  1/9/11 – an almost bittersweet set of numbers.  He died of multiple myeloma, a serious blood cancer that requires bone marrow transplants along with a rigorous regimen for treatment.  He had finally received a match and had a stem cell transplant only a month before he died: doctors believe all those who donated blood in hopes of matching with his saved other lives through their donations, and will continue to do so.

As of now first responders do not get their cancer costs covered by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, a fund that has allotted more than $7 billion in funds over the last ten years and now is working with about $2.8 billion.  While the Zagroba bill (named for James Zagroba, a police detective who died of 9/11 related illness) was signed into law in January to follow up on and in some cases cover medical bills for those suffering from toxicity related to 9/11, there needs to be overwhelming scientific proof in order to get “cancer” put on the list of applicable illnesses.

John Feal doesn’t need scientific proof to know the connection is there: “I’ve been to 54 funerals. 52 of them were 9-11 cancer,” Feal said recently at town hall meeting held by the 9/11 Compensation Fund.  He heads up the Feal Good Foundation, an advocacy group for first responders, and was instrumental in getting the Zagroba bill signed.

While certain other factors obviously play into how and why someone gets cancer – age, genetics, lifestyle – there is little doubt that working through the toxic rubble of Ground Zero has increased the chances for first responders, and that they should get compensated for it.  They’re getting cancers at young ages, and dying from them quickly.

The Donation…

The FealGood Foundation - Click on the logo to donate and for more information

For my monetary donation for Frosting for the Cause, I am proud to donate to John’s efforts at the Feal Good Foundation.  Since his own injury at Ground Zero – 8,000 pounds of steel fell on his foot, causing a partial amputation and years of therapy – he has been a stalwart in teaching others how to advocate for their own rights.  Those who need the help are mostly blue-collar, hard-working, physical people, and John is the perfect spokesman for them.  He is out there, every day, challenging unjust laws and educating politicians, so that first responders who risked their lives to save others and clean up the literal mess that is Ground Zero don’t continue to suffer alone.

Several friends have mentioned that they’d like to contribute to an organization in honor of those lost on September 11th.  If you’d like to join your little Dusty Baker and Frosting for the Cause in supporting the Feal Good Foundation, CLICK HERE or on the image above to donate.

FDNY Ten House

The Cupcakes…

I consulted John as to where my baked goods should go and he responded: “the 10 House next to GZ would be the perfect gesture. They lost so many people that horrible day.” On September 11 2001, they lost a captain, two lieutenants and 3 firefighters.

From their website:

Thanks!
FDNY spacerThe Officers and Members of FDNY Engine Company 10 and FDNY Ladder Company 10 would like to express our sincere thanks to all those that have supported us and continue to show your appreciation.  Words can not adequately express our feelings of gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of support.
FDNY spacerMaybe you contributed in our efforts to support the families of our lost Brothers or maybe you stopped by just to say Hi!  Maybe you waved or smiled as we drove by on the streets.  We join the thousands of other FDNY Firefighters serving New York City from more than 200 Firehouses in saying we are truly grateful to all.
FDNY spacerIn the words of William Shakespeare, “I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”

I’m a little in love with any firefighter who can quote Shakespeare, frankly.

Thursday I trekked down with 2 dozen Big Apple Cupcakes to the Ten House, which sits literally next to the gaping hole we call Ground Zero.  It was already packed with tourists, many who wanted to see the inside of the fire house, and the man who answered the door looked calm but slightly exhausted amongst the chaos.  I handed him my package, gave a quick little introduction as to what I was doing, pointed out that my info was in the bag, shook his hand, received a warm smile, and went on my way.  It wasn’t my intention to add any more chaos to the scene, just to drop off something sweet.  They were very sweet and humble in their appreciation.  I am thankful they continue to serve my city, open their house to those who want to see it, and offer them my prayers, thanks and love.

Big Apple Cupcakes

The Recipe…

I’m going to warn you, this is not the quickest recipe to make.  And I can’t even promise that it’s the best cupcake I’ve ever made because I didn’t get to taste them – the batter made 24 exactly, and because they contained dairy and gluten I wasn’t going to risk sampling.  But the parts I could taste were rather delicious, and they looked and felt wonderful.  I made the two batches of 12 only slightly different (the second had a bit less fat and calories in the cake) but in most respect the content was the same.

This is a 5-part recipe:

  1. Make the cupcakes
  2. Make the apple pie filling
  3. Make the cheesecake frosting
  4. Make the fondant apples
  5. Assemble the lot

Vanilla Cupcakes

1. Make the Cupcakes:

Though I’d consulted it often when adapting recipes, I had never directly made a recipe from The Joy of Baking before.  These tested recipes are known for being rather simple and straightforward and foolproof! I chose a basic vanilla cupcake thinking it would best compliment the apple pie filling and cheesecake frosting.  I made the first batch according to plan, and simply replaced the butter with Earth Balance and cut the sugar for the second batch.

Click here for the recipe I used, or have fun with your old favorite.  Just make 24 awesome vanilla cupcakes.

Apple Pie Filling

2. Make the Apple Pie Filling:

I made an easy apple pie filling on the stove top – using just a little maple syrup and apple juice, it was incredibly sweet.  Sauteing it for a while and then letting it cool completely made sure it gelled correctly and that the spices had time to settle a bit.

Big Apple Filling:

  • 3 cups chopped peeled apples (I used one Gala and one Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup apple juice

Place the apples in a medium nonstick pan over medium-low heat.  Add the spices and mix well, then add the maple syrup.  Cook until the mixture is bubbly and the apples begin to soften.  Then add the apple juice and sprinkle on the gelatin.  Let the gelatin sit until it is absorbed, then continue to stir the apples as the liquid boils down and the mixture softens completely.  When golden-colored and almost dry, remove from heat and chill until completely cooled.

If you don’t have gelatin on hand (or just prefer not to use it) you can mix a tsp or so of tapioca starch in with some cold apple juice before pouring it over.  It will give you a slightly different texture but will help to pull some of the moisture together.  Or you can just omit completely and use slightly drier apples.

Cheesecake Frosting!

3. Make the Cheesecake Frosting

This frosting is only slightly sweet and laced with cinnamon and nutmeg – too sweet and it would completely overwhelm the cake and pie filling flavors.  It’s super easy to make but does need to be cold in order to pipe clearly and retain its shape.

This was not exactly easy on the warm and humid NYC afternoon during which I was piping away and trekking on the hot subways.  Oh well.

I used a large pastry bag with a large star tip on the end to pipe my frosting.  But if you don’t have a pastry bag set or just hate piping, you can easily just swipe the frosting on with a small spatula.  Or you can cut the corner out of a plastic ziplock bag to pipe it on.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of plain Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

  • In the bowl of a standing mixer with the beater attachment (or with a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time, sifting as you go.
  • Once you’ve mixed in all four cups, test the flavor.  If you want it sweeter or with a thicker consistency, add more sugar a 1/4 cup at a time.
  • When at the proper level of sweetness and flavor, add the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Beat to combine.
  • Fill into a large pastry bag and place in refrigerator to chill until ready to frost.

Fondant Apples!

4. Make the Fondant Apples:

I must admit, this was my first time using fondant (gasp!) and boy was it fun.  It brought back to mind my art teaching days, where I made homemade play dough and colored it with my hands.

Fondant!

Instead of making my own fondant, which is an art in its own, I bought some ready-made from Wilton and used my trusty gel colors to get the red and green hues I wanted.

Warning: if you use too much green coloring the majority will end up embedded in your fingernails, making it perfect if you want to audition for Elphaba in Wicked.  Which I don’t particularly but it was fun to think about.

I simply pulled off a good-sized piece of fondant, rolled it flat with a rolling-pin, added about 3 drops of red gel and started working it in with my hands like a happy kindergartener.  I then did the same with the green (Elphaba!).

Working it with the heat of my hands kept it moist so that I could roll the red into balls, shape the bottom with a toothpick and top them with little leaves I had cut out of the green.  Yes, they look like something my kindergarten self could have made – but on top of the cupcakes they made the right impression.

Filling the Cupcakes

5. Assemble the lot!

This is mostly self-explanatory.

I used a tiny espresso spoon to scoop out about a teaspoon size hole in the cupcakes and filled with the cool filling.  Then a swirly piping of frosting and an apple – voila!

Cupcakes ready for hungry firefighters!

Thank you to: Paula at Frosting for the Cause, John at the Feal Good Foundation and the men and women of the FDNY Ten House for allowing me to create this recipe for them.

Thank you for sharing your comments, retweeting this post on twitter, and sharing it with friendsAnd please click on Frosting for the Cause so that site gets the traffic it deserves today too!

I’m also stepping in on Frosting for the Cause on Thursday, September 15th for a blogger who had to back out.  My Pink Ribbon Cookies to Cure Cancer and stories about my walking with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure will be posted then – please check it out!

For more information on how cancer is affecting first responders, the Feal Good Foundation and Frosting for the Cause, please check out the links below.

Please also check out these tributes I wrote on several people we lost on 9/11 as part of Project 2,996:

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