Monday, March 31, 2014

Boys and Cake to Celebrate!

This is a short-and-sweet post, kinda like the recipients of this past Saturday's cakes! The first, a Onesie Cake, was for Erin's soon-to-be-born baby boy. Her mom Nancy is a great and life-long friend of mine. We went to high school together. This will be Nancy's second grandchild, second grandson. Her son Jason has a cutie patootie little guy named Kenny with the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen!

A few words about the cake - Nancy sent a photo of her inspiration cake, a fondant-covered cake that looked like a baby's onesie. The inspiration cake had little nautical flags on the bib. Nancy asked for jungle animals. I'm not an expert at fondant-covered cakes, so I told Nancy I'd be happy to do it in buttercream with fondant decorations. The cake was a black-and-white marble cake, the marble made with two batches of a white cake recipe marbled with one recipe of dark chocolate fudge cake. I let the BIG cake cool overnight and carved its shape the next day. I made a sketch indicating just where I needed to cut away, and did just that. I crumb-coated the sides and top and allowed that to sit for a few hours to make sure the crumbs stayed contained, which is important when you're frosting raw, crust-free edges. I liberally frosted it in a pretty periwinkle blue, and smoothed out the surface with a paper towel (great trick!) and a fondant smoother. Then I started to make defined marks on the cake with a skewer and other gadgets (like a fondant wheel). I loaded up my pastry bag and added shell borders. The bib, jungle animals, and buttons were all shaped with fondant that I colored, molded, and even painted (with paste food coloring). I loved making this cake for Erin's new little bundle, and I am thrilled that it got such great reviews, not only for its appearance, but also for its flavor. Here is the Onesie cake:

The other cake I made for Saturday was for my great-nephew Carriag's 4th birthday party. Carraig's mom, Emily, told me Carraig really wanted a tuba cake. OK. A first, but who's to deny a 4-year old the cake of his dreams?  Not me! So, I looked up images of tubas all over the internet, got a bit of inspiration, and made this cake -- in true family fashion, chocolate on chocolate! -- as well as cupcakes for one of the cutest and sweetest little guys in the world! Here are Carraig's cupcakes and dream cake:

Hope you've enjoyed seeing these cakes as much as I enjoyed telling you about them!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chip Chip Cookies - Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips!

You can't avoid the sweet-salty collision. It's everywhere - in chocolates, caramels, and even baked goods. Today I made Chip Chip cookies, my take on the sweet-salty revolution. This is NOT your grandmother's chocolate chip cookie! It's a chewy cookie with sea salt and cracked pepper potato chips inside and out. I took an old recipe for a not-quite-typical chocolate chip cookie and changed it up even more with the addition of sturdy, kettle-style potato chips.

What sets this recipe apart from the familiar standard is that the dough is not beaten, it's stirred. I based it on the basic cookie my friend Betsy Cogan made for years. Everything is stirred, old-school. Barely melted butter mixed with more brown sugar than white creates a caramel-y texture, and these cookies are perfectly chewy when baked for 10 minutes (in my oven).

You can see the crushed potato chips on top of the cookies
giving a hint as to what's inside! 

Here's the recipe:

Makes 3 dozen large (3- to 4-inch) cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit
If you have parchment paper, line a cookie sheet. (I always use parchment paper - it's worth its weight in gold! Cookies bake evenly, and clean up is much simpler. Won't bake without it!)


1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups kettle-style potato chips or more to taste - I used Saratoga Chips - Sea Salt and Black Pepper


In large mixing bowl, place both sugars and vanilla. Stir.

In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter until it's about 3/4 melted. Turn off heat and allow the residual heat to melt the rest of the butter. These keeps the butter from getting too hot.

Pour melted butter into sugar mixture and stir well.

Add eggs to sugar butter mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Place flour, baking soda, and salt over top of mixture in bowl. Toss these dry ingredients lightly with a fork to incorporate, and then stir well into butter/sugar/egg mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips and 1 cup of the potato chips that you have broken in coarse pieces over the batter. Mix well. The other 1/2 cup of the potato chips will be crushed with a rolling pin (or however you'd like to crush them) to sprinkle on top of the cookies before they go in the oven.

Using a cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon, drop batter a few inches apart onto lined cookie sheet. You should get 12-15 cookies per pan. Press down a tiny bit to flatten the tops. Sprinkle crushed potato chips on top.

Bake for 10 minutes OR just until edges begin to brown and middles begin to look dry. Don't let them get brown all over or they'll lose their chewiness.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before moving the cookies to a cooling rack.

And the close-up!
See the potato chips? 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Legendary Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin

I've heard of this legendary recipe, and decided to try it. While I never visited the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston, this recipe is famous. Through the 1960s, their in-house bakery was a frequent stop at the end of a shopper's visit, and people bought these muffins by the box-full. When Macy's took over the store and the bakery closed, the baker who'd been making the muffins for so many years opened his own shop to meet the demand for the iconic muffins. He eventually retired and closed up shop, leaving these muffins as only a memory. People talk about the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin as if it was a dear friend, missed terribly. So, I thought it fitting to bring the recipe to you. I decided to trust an authentic Boston source, the Boston Globe, because there are a lot of inauthentic recipes out there. Here's the link to the article. 

While the original recipe used fresh blueberries, I used frozen (Dole, actually) and they came out great. I dusted the frozen blueberries in flour which ensures that the berries don't sink in the batter! I do recommend using paper liners as they were a bit of a challenge getting out of a greased (and non-stick) muffin pan. Make sure you grease the top surface of the muffin pan very well, too, so any oversized muffins will release easily.

I did add a bit of zested lemon to the recipe (about a teaspoon or so) but that is not part of the original recipe. I just like lemon. 

What sets this recipe apart from other blueberry muffins is the addition of 1/2 cup of smashed *FRESH* berries which gives the muffins their signature purple hue - frozen berries are too juicy for the smashing step - if you only have frozen berries, skip the smashing. And then there's the crunchy sugar crust on top, also specific to the JM muffin. 

If you are lucky enough to have had a Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin and have been wanting to replicate that experience, here's the recipe!

Sorry it's a l title blurry - still getting used to my new camera!

Oven 375 degrees F

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
½  cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 1/4  cups sugar (divided - 1 cup for batter, 1/4 cup for muffin tops)
2 large eggs
½  cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½  cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl and set aside.In large mixing bowl, combine butter and 1 cup sugar and beat at low speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract. (This is where I added lemon zest.)

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk and mix well. 

Gently mash ½ cup of blueberries (if frozen, allow to thaw for a few minutes) and carefully fold them into the batter, then gently fold in the rest of the berries.

Fill lined muffin cups 3/4 full.  Sprinkle remaining sugar over the muffin tops, Bake for 25-30 minutes (I baked mine for 30 minutes), until the muffins are done (top are golden and spring back when pressed lightly with finger).  Remove from oven. 

Adapted from:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sixty and the Ides of March

Well, it happened, I reached the ripe old age of 60 and I am here to tell the tale, as my Irish mother would say. Virginia McGeehan O'Farrell would have been proud, I think, to see her kids evolve into their 60s, but sadly she left us twelve years ago and didn't see any of us reach this milestone.

Most of us have heard the warning "Beware the Ides of March" though the date has been good luck for me. On March 15, 1954, I was born, the fourth of seven children, to Val and Virginia O'Farrell. Here's the line-up, oldest to youngest: Michael, Patsy, Steven, me, Ginny, Danny, and Anne. The past six decades have been so full of real life and experience, with memories I wouldn't trade for anything. There have been moments of extremes -- joy and sadness, abundance and scarcity, marriage and single-motherhood, loneliness after divorce and happiness in a new relationship, bad decisions and good choices, taking that first college course in years at age 39 and ultimately earning a masters degree at 55. Through it all there's been one constant -- community: the community of my first family of parents and six siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins, my young family with children extended with in-laws and cousins, the community of loyal and devoted friends, some in regular contact and some less so, but always in my heart. I don't know that I would have weathered the extremes this life has dished out without my very special community.

The capstone of these sixty years was a wonderful party my kids threw on this year's Ides of March, a well-kept secret until a few hours before the guests started to arrive, and then quite a surprise. I'd been away for a week in Florida and Katie and Pete had picked me up at the airport. When we arrived home (I live over Katie's and Bill's garage in a "granny flat") their good friend (and professional chef), Frank, was in their kitchen cooking away. Katie said he was cooking for a small family dinner party she was planning for my birthday the next day, which in retrospect was curious because Katie is an excellent cook and can handle a small dinner party blind-folded. Anyway, I was sitting for my grandsons Friday night, and Frank continued cooking for hours, slicing and dicing and making lots of food! I was curious why a small dinner party would require so much work, and Frank was back early the next day to continue cooking. Bill was moving snow from the driveway creating space for more cars than seemed necessary. I was beginning to ask questions. I told Russ "something's  up!" Late in the morning, Katie said I'd probably been figuring it out, and handed me an envelope that had a copy of the invitation she and her siblings sent out to family and a number of friends, and admitted that this was no small dinner party! I was so surprised, and of course, there were a few tears when I realized how much time and planning my kids put into this, and at the prospect of having so many people I love in the same room at the same time. Russ laughed at my reaction, in an empathetic but happy way. He said "you deserve it," gave me a hug, and I choked up.

Russ had instructions to take me out for a few hours before the guests would be arriving, and when we got home I was overjoyed to see so many family and some very close friends. There must have been 40 or more people talking, laughing, already enjoying food and drink. They all broke into the Happy Birthday song when Russ and I walked in. Frank created an exquisite Pacific Rim menu - I can't even remember all the wonderful dishes, but here are a few: crab cakes, sushi, marinated and roasted vegetables, Kahlua pulled-pork sandwiches, Thai curried soup (so amazing!), cole slaw (American and Asian), coconut shrimp and shrimp stir-fry, chicken and beef satay, sesame noodles (incredible!), and many, many more. He continued to cook throughout the night, replenishing platters of delicious food that were gobbled up quickly. To top it all off, Katie made a GIANT Pina Colada cake, filled with her own pineapple jam, and frosted in buttercream and toasted coconut. It was nothing less than perfect! Many guests said it was the best cake they'd ever had!

There was happy conversation, great food, thoughtful and meaningful gifts, the laughter of small children, and dogs all around, and I loved every second. It was one of those experiences where I was so aware, during every moment, that "this is special" and there's no doubt I'll remember my sixtieth birthday for the rest of my life. There were friends I missed (I would have expanded the guest list, but since it was a surprise…), though my kids did do an exceptional job of making the night so very memorable.  I couldn't have asked for more.

Here are some photos of the evening - I took them with my phone. I didn't have my camera with me (my kids gave me a new one, though!) so these will have to do. Enjoy!!!

Beautiful presentation!

My daughter Meghan and her childhood best buddy, Chad

The O'Farrell Girls circa 1959
L-R: Anne, Ginny, Jeannie, Patsy
(Anne superimposed her baby photo into the picture, far left!)

Sesame noodles - out of this world!

Frank's hand-rolled sushi!

Peter, 3 (left) and Henry, almost 6 (right)

My ULTIMATE birthday cake - Katie's creation - Pina Colada Cake!

It's true. I really am SIXTY!!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

On Vacation!

Photo credit:

Dear ADK Baker Readers,

After one of the longest and coldest winters in my memory, I am shaking the snow off these boots and headed to Siesta Key, Florida, with my friend Catherine, her sister Pam and her mom, and friend Lolly, and will be back in about a week. In the meantime, please browse through the almost 5-years of posts and enjoy!  The comment contest continues, so I'd love to hear what posts you like best, going all the way back. Comment here with your favorites, or on the original post you like. Each comment is an entry! Winner announced April 1st, no foolin'!


"See" you soon, with lots of pictures and stories about the great food we'll have eaten!


aka, The Adirondack Baker

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Easy Cinnamon Rolls - brought back from a 2009 post and worth another look!

Thought you'd enjoy this recipe for cinnamon rolls. If you've only ever bought your cinnamon rolls in a box at the grocery store, you have to try this recipe! They are so simple, and so delicious! Let me know how you like them. Follow the link below to the original recipe!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blast from the ADK Baker Blog Past: Home Made Oreos from 2012

It seems appropriate to dig into my bag of goodies and bring back a great recipe! This is an encore of a recipe I posted way back in 2012 - for Home Made Oreos!

Click on the link below and go back to the cookie future with me - and enjoy a couple of Home Made Oreos with a tall glass of ice cold milk!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Puppy Sitting

When Katie and Bill told me they were headed out of town with the boys this weekend, and asked if I'd be around to look after Oden and Freya, of course I agreed. I had no plans in particular, except to get ready for next weekend's departure to sunny F-L-A (!). So, when I took over care of the pups yesterday afternoon in their own home (since mine is not sufficiently puppy-proofed), I expected to be busy keeping up with a 4-month-old Bernese Mountain pup  (Freya) and figured Oden, the 8-year-old Black Lab, would be a spectator, pretty much. Which IS pretty much how it's been. Nothing is safe from the jaws and razor-sharp teeth of a 4-month-old puppy. It's been an aerobic exercise chasing her and removing items from her vice-like jaw, a jaw protected with razor-wire teeth. I have to figure out just where the gaps are, where I can jam my fingers in, without risk to my hands. Right now I'm sporting a slice on my thumb. There's a learning curve.

We started out well. I fed both dogs their dinners. Freya dined in her "yard," a six-foot square fencing system located near the kitchen, open on top, with a gate. The only thing she does in there is eat, or the occasional short locked-up stints if someone has to leave for a while. She has dinner in her space and Oden is free to eat without interruption, for which he is eternally grateful. There are the frequent trips outdoors for Freya to "do her thing" and she is, without going into graphic detail, quite productive. The problem is that she is equally productive on the other side of the door -- on the slate floor, or the hardwood floor, or just inside the door to go out. Luckily, the area rugs have not been a target. I've spent quite a bit of time on clean-up detail, spray bottle and towels in hand, especially last night when I was afraid to let the pooches out because I heard coyotes howling SO CLOSE to the house. That freaked me out. The score right now is (an estimation) outdoors: 20 / indoor floors: 5. I guess in statistical terms, that's not so bad.

Oden, his usual calm self, and Freya, a blur

The sun went down and it was lights out. With just the glow of the TV and my computer screen, Freya's circadian rhythms must have kicked in and told her it was time to sleep. She was out like a light by my feet, but I wasn't expecting the second, third, and eighth winds of energy that would keep us busy late into the night, with me diverting her attention to actual chew toys instead of my hands, feet, clothing, remote controls, ski boots, laundry. She's used to sleeping in a big, king-sized bed with Katie and Bill which started on day one a month ago and continues. However, I chose to sleep on the couch, so she nuzzled herself up between me and the back of the couch where she ever-so-lightly nibbled on my hair and t-shirt, with my constant reprimand, "No. Ouch. That hurts. No BITING! #@*% (good thing Henry and Peter weren't here for that teachable moment)! That cozy situation wasn't good enough for Freya, however, and she ended up, face-up, cheek-to-cheek, her body on my stomach where she fell sound asleep - until she sleep-rolled off onto the floor. This initiated confusion and then a ninth-wind of activity. We watched the sun come up.

"Help me!"

"Who, me? I didn't do it!"

What is it about puppies that they prefer a sock out of the clean laundry basket to a toy box full of squeaky, dog-intended things? Why do they prance around with Dad's size 13 (!) heavy leather shoe when there are all kinds of tug-of-war toys in their crates? Why do they prefer to go outside and eat snow (like her big "brother") when nothing seems less appetizing (to humans - wait, now I know why her bladder is bursting at the seams!).

Katie, Bill, and the boys will be home by lunch time. They promised, saying they were leaving Connecticut just after breakfast. I hope they got up early. Had an early breakfast. None of this long-lingering brunch nonsense. Freya and Oden miss them. And I want a shower!