Friday, February 26, 2010

Fabulous Food Friday: Bakeshop

Let there be cake!  Cupcakes, to be specific.  I'm giving a special shout-out to my new neighbor, Bakeshop.  The cupcakes are truly amazing, though they have other sweet temptations on hand like a variety of cookies and oatmeal cream pies.  My husband Chris surprised me on Valentine's Day with two different kinds - red velvet and apple cupcakes.  The icing was so light and fluffy and the cakes were moist.  We've also tried the variety in the picture above - chocolate peanut butter, vanilla and chocolate - all were so fantastic that I will probably never need to bake again.  The cupcake craze is still in full swing and if you haven't tried this place yet, you must add it to your list.  For a leisurely afternoon in Clarendon, go to American Flatbread (see my previous review), walk a few doors down to Bakeshop for dessert, and buy a box of chocolates at Artisan Chocolates next door for the way home.  (I'll review Artisan soon but don't let that stop you from going there in the meantime.  Best chocolates around!)

It's hard to live right across the street from this place but I suppose someone has to do it.

1025 N. Fillmore St., Suite G (Clarendon)
Arlington, VA  22201
(571) 970-6460

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Too Good to Be True" Cocoa Brownies

Stuck inside?  I have been the last few days due to the crazy snow we've been getting here in DC.  It's hard to run to the grocery store, especially when they are practically out of supplies as well!  So when I had a hankering for brownies the other night, I checked my pantry and realized that I didn't have a box o' brownies on hand to bake.  So I quickly flipped through my beautiful Good Housekeeping cookbook and came across a recipe for Cocoa Brownies, and amazingly, I had just enough ingredients!  Turns out these were really good too.  Hope you'll try them too, whether you're snowed in or sitting in sunshine.

Oh, and if you're wondering why there isn't a picture, they just didn't last that long!

Cocoa Brownies
(Courtesy of The Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook)

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (4 ounces), optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9"x9" pan (metal or glass).  In a 3-quart saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat.  Remove from heat; stir in sugar.  With a wooden spoon, stir in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla until well blended.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and next three ingredients; stir flour mixture into saucepan until blended.  If using, stir in walnuts.

Spread the batter evenly in pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fabulous Food Friday: American Flatbread

The snow is falling and everyone in the DC area is hunkered down, bracing for the anticipated 20-30 inches.  Everyone has gone to the store, leaving shelves empty.  Except me.  Stores were too crowded last night!

I could bake a lot of sweets but I don't have too much "real" food at my fingertips.  If you're like me, or if you find yourself needing to get outside, here's one of my favorite neighborhood places - American Flatbread - that you should try.  Besides that it's directly across the street from where I live (how convenient!), it has amazing flatbread (a.k.a. pizza).  They use organic ingredients, and bake their flatbread in a "primitive wood-fired earthen oven."  It's a cozy place.  My favorite flatbread so far is their pepperoni and peppers, but the others are good too.  Stop in this weekend (since they will be open) or when the snow melts - you won't be disappointed!

American Flatbread (Clarendon)
1025 N. Fillmore St.
Arlington, VA  22201
(703) 243-9465

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Sweet Treat...Peppermint Caramels

Happy February 1st!  Now we're even closer to the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, and President's Day (a day off!).  If you're looking for a sweet treat this month for parties or for your Valentine, you should try this recipe.

I've never ventured into making candy before, although I have been thinking about it for a few months.  In preparation, I bought my first candy thermometer.  This recipe, versions of which are common in Sweden, was really easy.  The caramel turned out to be fairly soft and chewy, and the peppermint added a wonderful surprising flavor.  I made these recently for my husband Chris' birthday party, and they were enjoyed.

Polkagriskola (Peppermint Caramels)
(Courtesy of Saveur, December 2009)

4 oz. hard peppermint candies
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup superfine sugar
6 T. golden syrup or dark corn syrup
3 T. honey
7 T. unsalted butter

Put peppermint candies into a plastic bag and crush them coarsely with the flat side of a meat mallet.  Using a large sieve, sift candy pieces, discarding powder; set candy pieces aside.

Line the bottom of an 8"x8" baking pan with parchment paper; grease parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Heat cream, sugar, syrup, and honey in a 6"-diameter 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat; stir until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Bring to a boil and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan; cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 250 degrees F, about 45 minutes.  Remove pan from the heat and add butter.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Pour sugar mixture onto prepared baking pan and sprinkle evenly with peppermint candy pieces, pressing them lightly into toffee with the back of the spatula.  Let cool completely; cut into (roughly) 64 squares to serve.