momofuku milk bar exam no. 5 {birthday layer cake}

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The birthday cake is the most anticipated dessert. I mean, there’s a whole ceremony dedicated to it. People light it on fire, they sing a song around it, they feel obligated to put all their hopes and dreams into one wish upon it. Plus it usually includes sprinkles!

This is the mother of all birthday cakes. Everytime I show this recipe to someone, they get so excited, almost giddy with childlike joy. And with good reason because the finished product is gorgeous– a showstopping funfetti cake made from scratch.

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momofuku milk bar exam no. 4 {corn cookies}

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Corn is genetically modified. Corn is nutritionally empty. Corn is the devil’s carb.

If you agree with any of these statements, stop reading and start making these cookies. You will change your ways, I promise. Because corn is delicious. Seriously guys, these cookies are THE BEST. If you like corn muffins or corn pudding, you will love these cookies. Add to the hitlist of Momofuku Milk Bar Exams thus far.

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The corniness in these cookies comes from corn powder and corn flour.  I got the corn flour at Whole Foods but the corn powder was a little harder to find. Christina Tosi makes her corn powder by grinding freeze dried corn in a blender… but the two Whole Foods I went to surprisingly didn’t have freeze dried corn. It can be found pretty readily on Amazon but only in multiple packs and I don’t really need 3 pounds of freeze dried corn. So when I found a packet of freeze dried corn at Fairway, I jumped for joy (literally, it was on the very top shelf). You can also buy them online on Just Tomatoes or just buy the corn powder straight from the Momofuku Milk Bar website. Just buy them somewhere, anywhere, for the love of God. Because I really want you to make these cookies.

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momofuku milk bar exam no. 3 {apple pie layer cake}

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So last year, I was at pub trivia night in Brooklyn and one of the questions was: Name all four members of the band, The Black Eyed Peas.

Ok… well Fergie, obviously. Um, Will.i.am. Alright, we got this. Uh, gosh what’s his name… the one with the, you know, I…… and that’s as far as we got. Because NOBODY could remember what the other two even looked like. Answer: Fergie, Will.i.am… Taboo and apl.de.ap. Ohhhhhh… yah, I totally didn’t know that.

What I do know is that it makes for a nice segue into this apple-de-app dessert, Apple Pie Layer Cake aka Momofuku Milk Bar Exam no.3! no.1 was cookies, no.2 pie, and now CAKE. But Momofuku Milk Bar cakes are unlike any other cake I’ve ever seen or made. Christina Tosi is like the Betty Crocker of the future, so of course her cakes are assembled in a cake ring, wrapped in acetate sheets, and presented with their sides unfrosted.

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Although I usually like a perfectly frosted cake, I’m marveled by this presentation. It reminds me of a trifle in which you see each layer of the individual components of the dessert. But let me tell you, I had a bit of a doozy tracking down the equipment.

  • 6-inch cake ring: Ok, I just bought this one off Amazon so not that hard.
  • acetate sheets: ??? You’d think in a city like New York, I’d have no problem finding them but when I went to Michael’s they told me to try Staples. I went to Staples and they said ‘maybe Michael’s?’ Needless to say, I Amazon-ed these last minute as well and was biting my nails with worry, afraid that they wouldn’t arrive in time for me to make this cake for my friend Emily’s birthday.

But they did and I sighed in relief and I made this cake and my friends all ate it. All’s well that ends… with cake. So word of advice, if you’re planning on making any Momofuku Milk Bar cake, make sure you locate all the necessary parts at least a week before you need them. Now, I’m not gonna lie. There’s a lot of parts to this cake. Just make sure you have everything prepared and stay really organized (the finished cake has to freeze for 12 hours before being served, so it’s not a last minute dessert).

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momofuku milk bar exam no. 2 {grasshopper pie}

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I always say I’m not a chocolate person but the fact is… of course I am. Who am I kidding. Chocolate is great. Chocolate AND Mint is fantastic. So I’m not sure why I was hesitant to make this Grasshopper Pie but I was. It’s just not something I usually jump to make when I’m in a baking mood or crave at night during my ladytimes. But that’s the beauty of this wonderful endeavor I’ve decided to take on. I get to learn on a constant basis that I have no idea what’s good for me.

Make this pie NOW. Especially since today is Galentine’s Day. Celebrate ladytimes!

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Anytime you start with a graham cracker crust you can’t go wrong. Add a mint cheesecake and brownie layer and… I’m just preaching to the choir here, right?

Despite the fact that this pie requires a few separate components, it was actually pretty easy to put together. And as I’ve found with most of Christina Tosi’s recipes, really fun! Serve cold, frozen is even better.

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{my Jackson Pollock tribute}

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grasshopper pie
from Momofuku Milk Bar
makes 1 (10-inch) pie; serves 8 to 10
  • 1 recipe Brownie Pie, prepared through step 8
  • 1 recipe Mint Cheesecake Filling (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) mini chocolate chips
  • ½ cup (25g) mini marshmallows
  • 1 recipe Mint Glaze (recipe follows), warm
(1) Heat the oven to 350°F.
(2) Grab a sheet pan and put your pie tin of graham crust on it. Pour the mint cheesecake filling into the shell. Pour the brownie batter on top of it. Use the tip of a knife to swirl the batter and mint filling, teasing up streaks of the mint filling so they show through the brownie batter [I wanted to keep the layers separate so I didn’t do this].
(3) Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips into a small ring in the center of the pie, leaving the bull’s-eye center empty [I literally made a bull’s eye in the center of the pie, using a ½ measuring cup]. Sprinkle the mini marshmallows into a ring around the ring of chocolate chips.
(4) Bake the pie for 25 minutes. It should puff slightly on the edges but still be jiggly in the center. The mini chocolate chips will look as if they are beginning to melt, and the mini marshmallows should be evenly tanned. Leave the pie in the oven for an additional 3 to 4 minutes if this is not the case.
(5) Cool the pie completely before finishing it. (You can speed up the cooling process by carefully transferring the pie to the fridge or freezer directly out of the oven if you’re in a hurry.)
(6) Now the pie needs to be Jackson-Pollocked with mint glaze. Make sure your glaze is still warm to the touch. Dunk the tines of a fork [I found a small spoon to work better] into the warm glaze, then dangle the fork about 1 inch above the bull’s-eye center of the pie.
(7) Transfer the pie to the fridge [freezer is better] so the mint glaze firms up before serving—which will happen as soon as it’s cold, about 15 minutes. Wrapped in plastic, the pie will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
 
Brownie Pie
makes 1 (10-inch) pie; serves 8 to 10
  • ¾ recipe (255g, 1½ cups) Graham Crust [I love graham crust, so I just used 1 full recipe. Why not?]
  • 4½ ounces (125g) 72% chocolate
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • ¼ cup (40g) flour
  • 3 tablespoons (25g) cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • ½ cup (110g) heavy cream 
(1) Heat the oven to 350°F.
(2) Dump 210g (1¼ cups) graham crust into a 10-inch pie tine and set the remaining 45g (¼ cup) to the side. With your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the crust firmly into the pie tin, covering the bottom and sides of the pan completely. Wrapped in plastic, the crust can be refrigerated or frozen for up to 2 weeks.
(3) Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and gently melt them together on low for 30 to 50 seconds. Use a heatproof spatula to stir them together, working until the mixture is glossy and smooth.
(4) Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip together on high for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow and has reached the ribbon state. (Detach your whisk, dunk it into the whipped eggs, and wave it back and forth like a pendulum: the mixture should form a thickened silky ribbon that falls and then disappears into the batter.) If the mixture does not form ribbons, continue whipping on high as needed.
(5) Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Dump the chocolate mixture into the eggs and briefly mix together on low, then increase the speed to medium and paddle the mixture for 1 minute, or until it is brown and completely homogenous If there are any dark streaks of chocolate, paddle for a few seconds longer, or as needed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(6) Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and paddle on low speed for 45 to 60 seconds. There should be no clumps of dry ingredients. If there are any lumps, mix for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(7) Stream in the heavy cream on low speed, mixing for 30 to 45 seconds, just until the batter has loosened up a little and the white streaks of cream are fully mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(8) Detach the paddle and remove the bowl from the mixer. Gently fold in the 45g (¼ cup) graham crust with a spatula. (These crumbs will add little bursts of flavor and texture into the pie filling.)
(9) Grab a sheet pan and put your pit tine of graham crust on it. With a spatula, scrape the brownie batter into the graham shell. Bake for 25 minutes. The pie should puff slightly on the sides and develop a sugary crust on top. If the brownie pie is still liquid in the center and has not formed a crust, bake it for an additional 5 minutes or so.
(10) Cool the pie on a rack. (You can speed up the cooling process by carefully transferring the pie to the fridge or freezer directly out of the oven if you’re in a hurry.) Wrapped in plastic, the pie will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
 
Graham Crust
makes about 340g (2 cups)
  • 1½ cups (190g) graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup (20g) milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick, 55g) butter, melted, or as needed
  • ¼ cup (55g) heavy cream
(1) Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients.
(2) Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as a glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 14 to 25 g (1 to 1½ tablespoons) butter and mix it in.
(3) Eat immediately, or deploy as directed in a recipe. The crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
 
Mint Cheesecake Filling
makes enough for 1 grasshopper pie 
  • 2 ounces (60g) white chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) grapeseed oil [used canola]
  • 2 ½ ounces (75g) cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) peppermint extract
  • ¼ teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
  • 2 drops green food coloring [only 1 drop]
(1) Combine the white chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe dish and gently melt the mixture on low for 30 to 50 seconds. Use a heatproof spatula to stir the chocolate and oil together, working until the mixture is glossy and smooth.
(2) Combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and stir together on medium-low speed for 2 to 3 minutes to blend. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(3) On low speed, slowly stream in the white chocolate mixture. Mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until it is fully incorporated into the cream cheese. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) Add the peppermint extract, salt, and food coloring and paddle the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until it is smooth and leprechaun green [I kept mine more minty green]. (You may need to scrape the bowl down once midmixing.) No point in making ahead—you don’t have any use for it otherwise and it will make it trickier to swirl in later.
  
Mint Glaze
makes enough for 1 grasshopper pie
  • 1 ounce (30g) white chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons (6g) grapeseed oil [used canola]
  • scant ⅛ teaspoon (0.5g) peppermint extract
  • 1 drop green food coloring
(1) Combine the white chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe dish and melt the chocolate on low for 20 to 30 seconds. Use a heatproof spatula to stir the oil and chocolate together, working until the mixture is glossy and smooth.
(2) Stir in the peppermint extract and food coloring.

momofuku milk bar exam no. 1 {blueberry & cream cookies}

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This cookie was actually the first item I ever tried at Momofuku Milk Bar (thus starting this obsession). For a place known for its eccentric Crack Pie® and Bagel Bombs, these blueberry & cream cookies look deceptively simple. Ohhh but think again! Imagine a chewy, buttery cookie dotted with blueberries and white chocolate and multiply those flavors by 1000! You’re gonna love this cookie.

The thing I really appreciate about the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and Christina Tosi is that she’s very clear with her directions as well as the specificity of her ingredients. I’m a recipe/cookbook connoisseur and I hate when chefs leave out the specifics– Tosi keeps no secrets. She’s very direct in the intro pages about EXACTLY what brands she uses for her butter, flour, sugar, chocolate, fruits, etc.  which is a tremendous help to an obsessive nit-picker like myself. I’m going to try my darnest to listen to her suggestions and adhere as closely as possible to each recipe. My new motto is: What Tosi Wants, Tosi Gets. She would probably be mortified and slightly disturbed by my cult-ish devotion but I’ve tasted her Kool-Aid (cookies) and I’m just not going back!

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What makes these cookies stand out are a handful of key changes. Since this was my first Momofuku Milk Bar endeavor for y’all, I was a bit nervous. Milk crumbs? Glucose? I’ve never baked with these ingredients before. But it all makes sense. The milk crumbs (a combination of mostly butter, milk powder, and white chocolate) give the cookies an additional oomph in the creamy, milky department. And the addition of glucose (which I previously only associated with my dreaded year of organic chemistry) is now my new best friend and the secret to what keeps these cookies nice and chewy.

Most of my ingredients I procured at either Trader Joe’s, Fairway, or Whole Foods, but the glucose I actually purchased at Michael’s. The directions say that corn syrup can be substituted for the glucose but speaking from experience now, I can say that glucose is WAY stickier and less sweet than corn syrup (and thus probably produces a better chewier texture).

{milk crumbs}

{milk crumbs}

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As hard as it is, resist from eating all the cookie dough before baking. Or eat half then bake half. Compromise.

{ready to eat. or scoop.}

{ready to eat. or scoop.}

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{momofuku milk bar exam no.1 complete!}

 

blueberry & cream cookies
from Momofuku Milk Bar
makes 12 to 17 cookies

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks, 225g) butter, at room temperature [preferably Plugra, I used Whole Foods brand– sorry Tosi!]
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup (150g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • ¼ cup (100g) glucose [can substitute: 2 tablespoons (35g) light corn syrup]
  • 2 [large] eggs
  • 2 cups (320g) flour [preferably King Arthur bread flour]
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1g) baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Milk Crumb, recipe below
  • ¾ cup (130g) dried blueberries [can be bought at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s]

(1) Combine the butter, sugars, and glucose in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
(2) Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. (Do not walk away from the machine during this step, or you will risk overmixing the dough.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
(3) Still on low speed, add the milk crumbs and mix until they’re incorporated, no more than 30 seconds. Chase the milk crumbs with the dried blueberries, mixing them in for 30 seconds.
(4) Using a 2 ¾-ounce ice cream scoop (or a ⅓-cup measure), portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour [I did overnight], or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not bake properly.
(5) Heat the oven to 350° F.
(6) Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes [Mine were done at 15-16 minutes, don’t overbake!]. The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute or so if that’s not the case.
(7) Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or to an airtight container for storage. At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.
 

Milk Crumb

  • ¼ cup (20g) milk powder [non-fat dry milk]
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon (6g) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon (12.5g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (¼ stick, 27.5g) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) milk powder
  • 1 ½ ounces (45g) white chocolate, melted

(1) Heat the oven to 250° F.
(2) Combine the 20g (¼ cup) milk powder, the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the melted buter and toss, using a spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.
(3) Spread the clusters on a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at that point, and your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Cool the crumbs completely.
(4) Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than ½ inch in diameter and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the 10 g (2 tablespoons) milk powder and toss together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixtures.
(5) Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed. Then continue tossing them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.

Happy Birthday Katherine!

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While most of you are probably busy wrapping (or buying) last minute presents, I have a special place in my heart for Christmas Eve for several different reasons. Not only is it my parents’ anniversary (27th this year!) but it’s also my friend Katherine’s birthday!

Happy Birthday Katherine! I hope it’s the best yet xo

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For her early birthday this year, I made Katherine these strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. Her favorites are strawberry and cream cheese frosting (as coincidentally are mine) so these were the perfect surprise birthday treats!

And if you know Katherine, you will know she is THE sparkle, glitter, sequin queen. So in lieu of topping them with strawberries or graham cracker crumbs, I sprinkled some edible silver glitter and colored sugars on top. They were incredibly delicious and fun!

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{cheesecake + cupcake: best of both worlds}

I adapted the proportions of this recipe quite a bit as it made way too much graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese frosting. The recipe below is how I would suggest the cupcakes should be made– this is now one of my favorite cupcake recipes!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
adapted from Joylicious

  • 2 sleeves of graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped (and more for garnish)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe below

(1)  Preheat oven to 350° F and line 20-22 muffin tins with cupcake liners. 
(2)  Mix graham cracker crumbs with butter using a food processor.  Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin.  Press down using a ¼ measuring cup and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove immediately from oven and set aside to cool.
(3)  In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 3-4 minutes, be careful not to overbeat. Set aside.
(4)  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
(5)  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla.
(6)  Next, add half the flour mixture and incorporated on low speed until it’s almost all incorporated.
(7)  Then mix in the sour cream/yogurt. Add the remaining flour and mix until just blended. Don’t over mix.
(8)  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg whites and fold in the chopped strawberries.
(9)  Fill each muffin tin almost to the top and bake for about 20-22 minutes depending on your oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking a toothpick through the center and seeing if it comes out clean.
 

Cream Cheese Frosting 

  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(1)  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.
(2)  Add the sugar slowly in small batches, beating on low speed until incorporated. Once all sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy.
(3)  When ready to serve, spread icing on cupcakes or use a pastry bag with a star tip. Garnish with freshly cut strawberries and graham cracker crumbs and serve.

Makes about 20-22 cupcakes

rise and shine!

Yes, we all know it’s ‘the most important meal of the day’ but… do you eat breakfast?

I admit that for a long time, I did not. Mostly because I am not much of a morning person. Still not. When I did start eating breakfast, it was more like, grab a Special K bar before heading out the door. Even now, I’m not a huge breakfast fan unless it involves my sister’s oatmeal pancakes or a nice crab cakes benedict (anything with poached eggs really).

The issue with breakfast is I want something that’s energizing, not too filling, and of course yummy. These days, my very fancy breakfast usually consists of anything that’s easy to grab-and-go like these oatmeal applesauce blueberry muffins (which I waxed poetics about in my NY Diet). These muffins are the perfect on-the-go, nutritious breakfast. Seriously, I love these. I even eat them as a sweet treat after dinner. Bake a batch over the weekend then refrigerate them so you’ll be sure to have breakfast all during the week… if they last that long.

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins
adapted from Joy the Baker 

  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup low-fat buttermilk (I used soymilk)
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

(1)  Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
(2)  In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
(3)  In a medium bowl whisk together the applesauce, milk, sugar, oil, egg and vanilla.
(4)  Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. As with most batters, it’s better to not overmix; a few lumps of flour are fine.
(5)  Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (about ¼ cup).
(6)  Bake for 16-18 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before taking out and cooling on a wire cooling rack.

Makes 12 muffins

have a holly, jolly (Lincoln) Christmas!

2011 has been the year of my first grown-up Christmas. The first year I got my own Christmas tree in my own apartment with my very own golden pinecone star! Sexy Sallie (the name we bestowed on our tree) is the first real pine tree I’ve ever had and I have to say, the smell of a real pine tree is unmatched. Look at Sallie in all her glory…

Another first for me this Christmas was my first holiday work party. And lucky for me, I had not just one holiday party but two! The first was a lovely lunch last Friday hosted for the entire staff and volunteers of the museum. It was a wonderful affair held at the Temple of Dendur with entertainment provided by staff members (!!!).  Now, the second party was a smaller, less formal affair for our department planned by the PPC (Party Planning Committee) of which yours truly is a member. Here is the invitation we sent out for our holiday party:

Now I know what you’re probably thinking… ‘Umm, are they having a Lincoln-themed holiday party?’ I can feel your jealousy burning and let me explain.

(1) It’s actually a Civil War-themed holiday party, thank you very much
(2) Our Vice President of External Affairs is a pre-eminent Abraham Lincoln scholar and we were all hoping the theme would inspire a certain holiday bonus (still waiting on that btw)
(3) think Little Women. The soundtrack alone sold me.

Most of the staff outside of the PPC were still skeptical about the theme but once party time arrived, everyone got into the 1864 holiday spirit!

Our (Gingerbread) House Divided

wonderful members of the PPC (minus Christopher Gorman)

As a representative of the South, I thought it would be fitting to bring something with true southern roots. So I made these delicious red velvet bars. Exactly the same as red velvet cake but more portable and party-friendly sized. So yummy, just like anything slathered in cream cheese frosting.

Red Velvet Bars

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1 ounce red food coloring (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.
(2)  In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.
(3)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
(4)  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
(5)  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color. (Be careful not to get ‘red-handed’!)
(6)  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored red batter.
(7)  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

(1)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy.
(2)  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next ½ cup.
(3)  Once all of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.

Oh how I love the holidays! And tomorrow evening I will be heading to the best place to spent one’s holiday season… HOME!!! I am just so excited. Because as much as I love my grown-up Christmas, there’s nothing like being a kid on Christmas morning!

xo Margaret