December 24th, 2008

cinnamon crackle cookies

crackle cookies 3

merry christmas and happy chanukah from pete bakes! i hope you’re having a happy holiday, and if you’re not too cookied out yet, i hope you make your family some of these cinnamon crackle cookies. they go perfectly with a cup of cocoa or coffee after a long day of entertaining, and might just cause your guests to go back and reward you with a few more gifts.

grating orange

cookie flour

i’m writing this post from my parent’s house in beautiful and freezing king of prussia, pennsylvania on christmas eve, and the house is bursting at the seams with cookies. my mom bakes 18 (seriously) different types of cookies every year. so yeah, i’ll be coming back with some new recipes.

rolled cookies 2

rolled cookies 3

the citrus and the cinammon work together perfectly, and although they literally crackle into a million pieces when you bite down, it’s nothing a quick dunk in a big mug of cocoa won’t fix. speaking of cookies, i hear some pitzels and pressed almond tuiles calling my name right now, so i’ll just say have a safe and delicious holiday!

crackle cookies 4

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December 17th, 2008

almond brioche bostock

brioche bostock 5

sometimes the payoff for a recipe truly is worth all the trouble.

whisking eggs

there i was, saturday morning, 8 am, ready for a full day of baking. it’s been harder and harder to bake during the week, so i’ve taken to making 4 or 5 things on saturday and sunday to keep up. i had gone grocery shopping the night before so i wouldn’t have to run back out into the freezing cold for supplies and had even prepared the brioche dough the night before so it would be ready to work with in the morning. with a fresh cup of instant coffee (i know, i know, instant, ew) in hand, i set to work on the almond cream. and that’s when things went south.

brioche bostock in pan 1

almond paste can be really tough to work with – one second it’s rock solid, the next second it’s oily and crumbling apart in your hands. so after putting all the ingredients in a mixer, i ended up with a beautiful almond cream, full of small shards of rock-solid almond paste that just wouldn’t break up. i tossed that batch to gave it another shot, but had the bright idea of microwaving the almond paste for 30 seconds so it would break apart more easily. the result? burned funky smelling almond paste. i thought maybe i could salvage it, so i added the other ingredients, but adding cold ingredients to warm almond paste just made the almond paste’s resolve stronger. it became a burned mass of almond rock at the bottom of the mixer. failure.

brioche bostock in pan 4

at that point i had run out of almond paste and the thought of going out into the cold for an $8 tube of the stuff made me want to scratch the whole thing. but i bundled up, got to safeway, and after 20 minutes of searching (why do they keep rearranging the aisles?) found the almond paste, got back home and proceeded to make a wonderfully smooth delicious cream that worked perfectly. good thing too, i was ready to toss my mixer out the window.

brioche bostock 4

then i realized i didn’t have enough flour to make all the other things i wanted to make that day and had to go back to the store AGAIN. but that’s another story.

brioche bostock 6

the brioche was completely amazing and tasted better than i could have imagined. the combination of almond and orange gives it incredibly bright flavors and the bread itself is rich enough that it could be dessert. the instructions said to invert the brioche onto a plate after it came out of the oven but didn’t specify whether it should be served that way. in retrospect, it should have been pretty obvious to just flip it again onto another plate so the topping was, you know, on top, but the golden caramelized sugar coated bottom made me think twice.

brioche bostock 7

one more thing: this is my 50th post! i know that’s hardly a milestone compared to the work so many other bloggers have accomplished, but as i began writing this post, i kept thinking about why i started pete bakes in the first place. when i launched the blog in april, it was a sort of test for myself to see if i could keep baking and writing on a regular basis. i wanted the experience to push me to try new techniques and recipes and still have it be fun. i never expected to get comments or responses aside from the friends and family who followed it.

i also could not have expected the level of talent, creativity and generosity of the food blogging community. if you’re reading this, you are the reason this blog exists – because what would all of these experiences mean without someone to share them with?

so if you’ve ever left a comment, or written an email (i try to respond to all!) or just tried a recipe, THANK YOU! it humbles me to find out that after being inspired by all of you who cook and bake and share it with the world that i could have some small impact as well. THANKS!

brioche bostock 10

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December 15th, 2008

soft pretzels

pretzel 6

did you know that people in philadelphia eat 12 times as many pretzels as the average american? if you’ve ever been to an eagles, sixers or phillies game, you’ve seen the guys on the street selling them on the median – and while it would probably turn off most people, anyone from the area knows you can’t go wrong with a street pretzel. go ahead, buy a few. you won’t be able to stop after the first one. pretty good, huh? maybe you should get a few more.

pretzel dough 1

the $550 million pretzel industry can be traced back to german immigrants that settled in southeastern pennsylvania. they’ve been churning them out by hand since the 1800s. it takes a skilled hand to get it right, but with a little practice you can get close.

pretzel dough 4

i’ll admit, my pretzels were pretty ugly, but they still tasted great. next time i might try a few different toppings, like cinnamon and sugar or almonds, but it’s hard to improve on perfection. in fact, i usually keep my pretzels plain – NEVER MUSTARD. i can’t be the only one who hates it.

pretzel dough 3

are they as authentic as the soft pretzels you can buy from the guy under the overpass in center city philadelphia? not quite, but they’re a quick and easy solution when you don’t liveĀ  too close to the real thing. but rest assured that when i head home for the holidays, i’ll be replenishing my supply.

pretzel 4

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