Old Tradition Meets New: Ginger Cutout Cookies
Oct28

Old Tradition Meets New: Ginger Cutout Cookies

I didn’t grown up with Halloween, so even after living in the US for 21 years (how did that happen?!), it doesn’t have the same meaning for me as the die-hards around me. (I’m sure if I had grown up collecting pails of candy with my friends, and dressing up in lavish costumes, it would be my fayyyvorite holiday!)  But I did grow up with a tradition of ginger cookies. My love for ginger “biscuits”—as we called them in South Africa—began with these very gingersnaps that my step-mom, Pam, used to make. They’re characteristically crunchy, but if you prefer a chewy cookie, just bake for less time. I like them perfectly crispy around the edges with just a little chew in the middle. Yum! If you’re not gonna frost them, painting them with egg gives them a glossy sheen, but if you forget this step (like I did) they will still be delish!   My favorite taster said they’re just right! (She’s munching on a ghost cookie—in case you’re wondering.)   I found the cute jack-o-lantern cookie stamp set at Sur La Table. Would you believe I FORGOT to use them and just managed to scrape three together with the last offcuts of dough!     And even after being rolled and re-rolled they were still pretty yummy! Though I did leave these in the oven for about 30 seconds too long so they’re crrrrrispy! Make sure to keep an eye on them because every minute counts!   In my recent trip to South Africa, I poured over Pam’s recipe book, taking snaps of all my childhood favs. (I sure wish I would’ve been more interested when I lived there.) How cool is this? The original recipe from her mom, Nan, who was a fabulous baker.   You know I just couldn’t stop there though, right? I modified the recipe (after my usual hours of research and testing) which called for creaming the eggs and sugar. (Yes, you read that correctly) There are so few recipes that require this step, that I decided to go with the simpler method of whisking and stirring—from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book (fabulous book) . I mean, why bring out the mixer unless absolutely necessary, right? And this way my daughter can be involved in the mixing too—not just the cutting and frosting. You might be wondering why they call for such a large amount of baking soda (2 teaspoons). This is so that they rise dramatically and then collapse, leaving the cute crackles on the surface. It also allows for better browning and the cracks in the dough allow more moisture to escape, making them crispier. Refrigerating the dough deepens...

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Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies
Sep15

Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies

This is the ultimate, chewy sugar cookie—and you don’t even need a mixer! The browned butter and brown sugar gives them a rich, toffee taste, and a delightful chew that kids and grown ups alike will LOVE. And they’re super easy and fun to make. What you will need. Weighing ingredients is more accurate and makes for easy cleanup. Melting the butter makes for a chewier cookie than the usual creaming method. The only tricky part is getting the brown butter just right. I bust out my fancy All-Clad saucier pan, but you can use a 10-inch skillet. Don’t use non-stick because the dark finish makes it hard to judge the color of the butter. Swirl the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. There’s a fine line between brown enough and burned, so don’t take your eye off it for a second!   Transfer to a large heatproof bowl. Carefully add remaining butter so it doesn’t splatter and stir until completely melted.   Mix brown sugar and salt into cooled butter with a wooden spoon, squishing any remaining sugar lumps with the back of your spoon. Add egg and yolk and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.   Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 tablespoons dough) and roll into balls. Place on prepared sheets, spaced 2 inches apart Kids will love to roll them in the sugars! Bake 12 – 14 minutes until browned and edges have begun to set, but centers are still soft. They will look underdone, but will develop out of the oven; if you leave them in too long they will get crisp and hard. After 5 minutes, transfer to wire rack to cool completely Cool Tools Salter Aquatronic Glass Electronic Kitchen Scale Oxo Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop Parchment Paper Sheets Brown Sugar Cookies 2013-09-15 17:34:07 Yields 28 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus for one cookie Write a review Save Recipe Print 154 calories 24 g 22 g 6 g 1 g 4 g 36 g 73 g 17 g 0 g 2 g Nutrition Facts Serving Size 36g Yields 28 Amount Per Serving Calories 154 Calories from Fat 53 % Daily Value * Total Fat 6g 9% Saturated Fat 4g 19% Trans Fat 0g Polyunsaturated Fat 0g Monounsaturated Fat 2g Cholesterol 22mg 7% Sodium 73mg 3% Total Carbohydrates 24g 8% Dietary Fiber 0g 1% Sugars 17g Protein 1g Vitamin A4%Vitamin C0% Calcium2%Iron1% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on...

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Apricot Squares
Sep02

Apricot Squares

Grating the dough gives these tasty squares their good looks, and wonderful, crumbly texture!   The smell wafting out of my oven right now takes me right back to my childhood, when my older sister, Sharon, often made these delicious “farfel biscuits.” I’ve fleshed out the simple recipe from The New International Goodwill Recipe Book (which every young Jewish girl in South Africa got when starting out) with detailed instructions and pics. I hope you’ll give them a try, because they’re really easy, and you’ll probably find all the ingredients in your pantry! What you will need  Since this is a jam-centric recipe, buy a good quality jam. I’m partial to Bonne Maman, which is smooth and has a lovely taste, and most importantly doesn’t contain corn syrup. You can find it at most supermarkets these days—even Costco carries the Apricot Preserves, so you know they must be good! Spray baking sheet and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang for easy removal Grate half of the chilled dough directly onto the prepared pan Spread the jam evenly on top Grate the remaining dough on top Bake 20 – 25 minutes till golden; after 5 minutes carefully transfer to wire rack to cool completely Cut with a sharp knife into 2-inch squares Apricot Squares 2013-09-01 20:58:35 Yields 35 Write a review Save Recipe Print 184 calories 30 g 25 g 7 g 2 g 3 g 52 g 31 g 15 g 0 g 2 g Nutrition Facts Serving Size 52g Yields 35 Amount Per Serving Calories 184 Calories from Fat 57 % Daily Value * Total Fat 7g 10% Saturated Fat 3g 17% Trans Fat 0g Polyunsaturated Fat 0g Monounsaturated Fat 2g Cholesterol 25mg 8% Sodium 31mg 1% Total Carbohydrates 30g 10% Dietary Fiber 0g 2% Sugars 15g Protein 2g Vitamin A4%Vitamin C3% Calcium3%Iron2% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Does this look wrong? Ingredients 1 cup butter, salted, room temperature 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 large eggs, room temperature 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 4 cups all-purpose flour 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt vegetable cooking spray 2 1/4 cups apricot jam, room temperature Instructions Lightly coat an 11 x 17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Spoon jam into a bowl, and beat with a rubber spatula to smooth out; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt to combine. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with...

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Extreme Makeover for OrnaBakes and Bulkas on YouTube!
Aug26

Extreme Makeover for OrnaBakes and Bulkas on YouTube!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I launched OrnaBakes, with my Cinnamon Bulkas (yeast buns). Since then I’ve learned so much—about blogging, and cooking! You wouldn’t believe how much time and effort goes into each post… and how many programs and platforms I’ve had to master. (WordPress, MailChimp, iPhoto, iMovie, YouTube, Evernote, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, the list goes on…) When I started I barely even knew how to hold a full size camera, and was terrified to remove the memory card for fear of inserting it the wrong way into my Mac. Sam probably regrets nagging me to learn how to use iPhoto for all those years, because now every computer, camera, and iOS device in our house (of which there are many) is overtaken with pictures of food! It’s very rewarding to see what a long way my pics have come since my first post. Exhibit A: Featured Image from First Bulkas Post (9/27/12) Exhibit B: Updated Bulkas Post (Pic Optimized for Pinterest in 4:5 ratio, proven to get the most pins) These heavenly buns are my personal favorite, and along with my Crunchies—another traditional South African treat—are my Signature Bake. While perfectly sweet and buttery, they aren’t too rich—so your family can enjoy them anytime. (And they don’t completely break the calorie bank!) What better a recipe for the launch of my brand new site (So exciting!) I recently had a blast teaching a class on how to make them. My friend Liat’s sweet daughter Chloe was my Sous Chef. Watch the YouTube clip and see for yourself how simple it is. Proudly edited by yours truly—so please go easy on me. 🙂 Thank you to my saintly husband, Sam, for taking the time to record the class. And for listening to me go on about my website for hours on end… (He banned me from saying “bulkas” ever again!) They’re a little time-consuming, but well worth the effort. I’ve added step-by-step instructions, illustrations, and video clips to the recipe, so there’s no guesswork. Click here for the updated Cinnamon Bulkas Recipe. Just in time for the upcoming Jewish New Year Growing up in South Africa, it was our family tradition to break the fast on Yom Kippur with a warm Bulka (a/k/a Boolke). I wish that my Auntie Phyllie could see me sharing her special tradition with my little Aja. OrnaBakes 2.0 Rockin’ logo designed by sweetheart Sammy Jay Purkin! My Trader Joe’s and Costco Shopping Lists are now super-easy to navigate and print. It’s a snap to add comments or share your favorite recipes or posts. You can search recipes by diet, holiday, country, or type. A...

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Low Fat Cinnamon Apple Cake
Jun14

Low Fat Cinnamon Apple Cake

You don’t have to be a baker to make this cake! It’s super-easy and absolutely delicious. Only 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus values per slice.   Your family will be chomping at the bit to try it, after inhaling the wonderful aroma while it bakes. The cream cheese in the batter—even though fat free—gives the cake its moist, luscious texture, and cuts the calories and fat. Delicious for dessert, as a coffee cake, or even for breakfast. I love that you can make it the day before and it will still be moist and delicious. I went with Trader Joe’s 0% Frozen Vanilla Greek Fat Free Yogurt. Slightly tart, but deliciously smooth and creamy. (If you’re a Pinkberry fan, you’ll love it.) If you’re going to all that trouble to bake a low-calorie cake, it seems a little silly to add full fat ice cream to the plate! Don’t you think? Only 100 calories and zero grams of fat for a 1/2 cup serving. Compare to 160 calories and 16 grams of fat in TJ’s Super Premium French Vanilla Ice Cream. Springform Pan If you don’t have an 8-inch springform pan, you can use an 8 1/2 or 9-inch springform, but reduce the baking time to 50 – 60 minutes. It’s really worth it to invest in good baking equipment because you will see a huge difference in your baked goods. Apples Always buy an extra apple or two just in case! The original recipe calls for Rome apples, but I’m partial to Fuji for their flavor and texture. From reading reviews online, it seems as if almost any apples will work. Click here for an easier way to peel and core apples >> Cream Cheese Fat free  or low fat cream cheese work just as well, but make sure to use the one in a block, not in a tub. I usually use Fat Free Philadelphia, but this time I used Trader Joe’s Low Fat Cream Cheese and it was delish. Half the fat of regular cream cheese What is Softened Butter (and Cream Cheese)? Softened butter (65 – 67 degrees) should easily bend without breaking, and should give slightly when pressed. Let refrigerated butter sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. For faster softening, cut it into slices. It shouldn’t be melting at all, or it won’t retain the air incorporated during creaming. Tips for Success Don’t overmix the batter; when you see the last traces of flour disappearing it’s time to stop mixing!   Gently stir in the cinnamon-apple mixture with a silicone spatula. Mix in the apples just until incorporated evenly. Mmm… yummy batter! Smooth...

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