It may be obvious but for every friend and family gathering, when I pose the question, “What can I bring?”, dessert is almost always the answer. Of course, I appreciate this consideration from my loved ones because it provides me with an easy escape should I choose to take it (which I almost always do). By that, I mean that I can simply grab a One Girl order form, jot down the dessert of my choice, and voila, my responsibility as gracious guest is fulfilled.
That being said, there is always a bit of guilt attached to that decision once I see the contributions of others. Appetizers and side dishes and salads that I know took the maker a good amount of precious time and effort. I humbly accept the compliments on my dessert and vow that next time I will refrain from taking the easy route and actually make the dessert myself. Considering that I actually LOVE to bake, this should not be difficult. You would think I would relish the opportunity to plunge my hands into some velvety dough or whip some sweet cream or slice a bowlful of juicy fruit. I figured that Thanksgiving would be the perfect debut for my homemade desserts.
Once I made that decision, I almost immediately felt a tinge of regret. Reason being that where Thanksgiving pie is concerned, I am somewhat of a purist. I feel like apple and pumpkin pies fare very well for themselves and need little, if any, adornment. That’s how we make them at One Girl Cookies and so why was I trying to mess with perfection? Perhaps I was just getting hung up on principal. But, since I made the commitment, I needed to follow through. I began perusing my recipes looking for something classic, yet with an ever so slight twist…just so I could call it my own. What I found fit the bill…and filled the belly.
For the apple, I chose a fairly straightforward double crust but…here’s where it gets good. It was filled with four, yes FOUR, pounds of heirloom apples. It was unclear how I would even fit so many apples under that crust but we (we being Dave and I who, for a remarkable culinary feat, actually worked in the kitchen together…harmoniously) realized that the more we piled the apples on, the more the pastry dough embraced them. It was like a magic trick and the white rabbit was instead the loveliest mile high pie.
In the case of the pumpkin pie, I decided on a pumpkin meringue. I was a tad skeptical. Was the meringue element going to be totally gratuitous? Maybe, but the photo of the huge pouf of meringue perched atop the amber pumpkin filling seduced me. I went for it. And the answer was, hell no…not gratuitous in the least. Actually, I might say the meringue will be downright necessary for Thanksgivings to come. As will desserts that I actually make myself. Mainly, because I so enjoyed doing it.
For me, Hanukkah has always been about savory foods and disregarding my current culinary preferences in favor of the foods I grew up eating around the holidays. There’s the oil-permeated air that saturates your clothes, your kitchen and the rest of your home that ordinarily would be kind of gross, but on Hanukkah it’s comforting. Plus, it indicates that you’ll soon be piling crisp fried latkes onto your plate and topping them with cool sour cream and applesauce. Usually I like my vegetables browned and crisp, right out of a very hot oven. But during the holidays I prefer when my carrots can be smushed apart by a fork, the result of lingering in brisket juices for hours.
My nostalgia for Hanukkah desserts is a little less strong. Some families would have donuts after dinner, to incorporate another food cooked in oil, but my family never did. My memories of Hanukkah dessert aren’t negative, like my memories of sitting down for lunch during Passover in elementary school, eating store-bought, semi-stale coconut macaroons while watching friends dive into piles of Easter candy. For Hanukkah, there was gelt—gold-wrapped chocolate coins—but other than that, it felt like there were no rules for dessert.
Because Hanukkah falls around Christmas (except for this year’s odd placement next to Thanksgiving) and is one of the more secular Jewish holidays, it has taken some cues from its more widely celebrated calendar-mate. Most obviously, there’s the giving of gifts. But in my family, we would also always decorate our house with “Happy Hanukkah” banners and place stick-on menorah decals on our front door. Most importantly, though, we would break out the only cookie cutters we had in my house and bake and decorate dreidel and Star of David cookies.
This year I’ll treat myself to one of the Hanukkah cookies we have at the shop. It’s definitely tastier and undoubtedly prettier than the ones I made when I was little. But whether your Hanukkah cookies are decorated by a child with wobbly hands, or intricately marbled by a professional, whether they’re eaten in November or December, their presence is a sign of eight celebratory days to come, and of the beginning of the holiday season.
"Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf?..."
Turns out I was when a mom called and asked us to create Big Bad Wolf inspired sweets for her little one's birthday. How in the world could we make something that would work within that theme? Then it came to me, our "Animal Cracker" cupcakes!
I knew that somewhere in our collection of mini cookie cutters, we had a cowboy set with a howling coyote... that could be our wolf. I showed mom, Karla, a photo of our "Animal Cracker" cupcakes and she loved the idea, then asked if we could do little pigs, too. Yes, we definitely had that cookie cutter. By adding a little house cookie, our trio of "Animal Crackers" for a Big Bad Wolf party was complete. In addition to the cupcakes, we did little cello bag favors for the kiddos to take home.
Now I am in love with the idea of a Big Bad Wolf theme for a child's birthday party! (I loved the Disney cartoon version when I was little.) The 3 Little Pigs is a classic fairy tale that in retrospect is the perfect inspiration for a preschooler's big day, and the invitation for this party is fantastic:
Turns out the Big Bad Wolf wasn't so scary after all!
I am always curious about adult birthday celebrations. The way people choose to celebrate the day they came into the world is very personal. As kids, it’s obvious. You have a party, usually centered around some theme you are interested in at the time and then invite your whole class to join in the fun. At the end of the day, the only things that really matter to you are the cake and the presents. It’s innocent and pure and really easy because someone else (your parents) make all of the decisions for you.
Once you start making decisions for yourself, birthday life becomes somewhat complicated. Have a party or let your big day slip away unnoticed? Hope that your bestie or significant other plans a gathering? Notify your friends that your birthday is approaching and gently suggest they take you out? There are lots of ways to handle the conundrum. Luckily, this year, I was not burdened with any of it because my amazingly awesome family, friends and husband decided to shower me with a flurry of birthday celebrations fit for a queen.
The kick off celebration took place at my parent’s house and all I can say is what a way to get the party started! Aside from the fact that my whole family plus closest friends were in attendance (which would’ve been enough!) my mom put out a spread like no other. I’m Italian, so I’ve seen a spread or two in my time, but this was something to blog about. Because she knows that I am a fan of the small plate, she went that route as opposed to a sit down coursed out meal. This allowed the opportunity to graze a bit, mingle a bit, then visit the food table again. And again.And… Well, you get the picture.
My mom pulled out all the stops for this meal. She started with a selection of artisanal cheeses because what’s a celebration without them? Heck, what’s a day without some fine cheese? Of course, charcuterie, olives, breads and all other savory bits were well represented. This portion could have been the entire meal, but that would not have been nearly glutinous enough. So for the second round, she covered every square inch of her tremendous kitchen island with platters of lovely, petit bites.
There were sliders with a choice of three, yes three, fillings (crab cake, salmon or filet mignon). A luscious arugula, fig, and fontina pizza that has a little kick from a zesty dressing. Olive pinwheels that were as pretty as they were tasty. Shrimp cocktail with a perfectly spicy cocktail sauce. Mini baby back ribs that fell off the bone. Flaky phyllo mushroom turnovers. And perfectly fried eggplant fritters filled with fresh mozzarella. I am certainly forgetting something here but the food coma that ensued after my second round renders my memory quite foggy. I just know that there was not one thing I or our guests could have wanted for.
Except dessert. In this case, only very certain sweet treats could hold a candle to that feast. In my world those desserts are angel food cake covered in whipped cream topped with big flake coconut and pumpkin pie in a cornmeal crust. Those, of course, were supplemented by some other items but they were peripheral for me because my focus was clear. It took all I had to clear some room for slivers of each. All in all, the meal, the dessert, and the company made for one memorable, albeit fattening, celebration. It incorporated every element of a perfect party and I felt lucky to be the guest of honor.
We’re already well into fall which means you probably have turned your ovens back on and started roasting all those great fruits and vegetables that fare so well after caramelizing in the oven. Winter squash have reappeared at the farmers’ markets and are an excellent ingredient in many dinner (and dessert) recipes. There are many different types of squash and all have different flavors, textures and sizes. Similarly to apples, each type is useful for a different purpose. Winter squash are also loaded with vitamin A and C, and lots of fiber. Technically, because of their seeds, squash is considered a fruit!
The most popular squash you’ll find at your supermarket are butternut, acorn, and spaghetti. However, stop by any local market, and you’ll discover many more!
Acorn squash- As its name suggests, this winter squash is small and round shaped like an acorn.
Ambercup squash- A relative of the buttercup squash that resembles a small pumpkin with orange skin. It has a bright orange flesh has a dry sweet taste.
Butternut squash- Beige colored and shaped like a vase or a bell. This is a more watery squash and tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes. It has a fine-textured, deep-orange flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor.
Buttercup squash- Buttercup Squash are part of the Turban squash family (hard shells with turban-like shapes) and are a popular variety of winter squash. This squash has a dark-green skin, sometimes accented with lighter green streaks.
Carnival squash- Cream colored with orange spots or pale green with dark green spots in vertical stripes. Carnival Squash have hard, thick skins and only the flesh is eaten. It is sometimes labeled as a type of acorn squash.
Delicata squash- Also called Peanut squash and Bohemian squash. This is one of the tastier winter squashes, with creamy pulp that tastes a bit like corn and sweet potatoes. The squash can be baked or steamed and the thin skin is also edible.
Fairytale Pumpkin squash- French name is "Musquee de Provence." The fruits are flattened like a cheese but each rib makes a deep convolution. The Fairytale Pumpkin is a very unique eating and ornamental pumpkin. It's thick but tender, and the deep orange flesh is sweet, thick, and firm. It’s best for baking.
Kabocha squash- Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash, but refers most commonly to a squash of the buttercup type. This squash has a green, bluish-gray or a deep orange skin. The flesh is deep yellow.
Spaghetti squash- A small, watermelon-shaped variety, ranges in size from 2 to 5 pounds or more. It has a golden-yellow, oval rind and a mild, nutlike flavor.
If you feel like doing some experimentation with squash, here's a recipe from our cookbook!
Autumn Harvest Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
1 medium butternut squash
1 teaspoon olive or canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 crisp apple (such as Braeburn, Empire, or Crispin), peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan by greasing it with cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds an the strings. Rub the oil all over the cut surface of the squash, and place it, flesh side down, in a baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the squash is soft to the touch. Let the squash cool. When it is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the baked squash.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the squash and the apples, and mix for 1 minute.
6. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds. Make sure to scrape down your sides and that all is included.
7. Take the bowl off the mixer and finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and gently rap the pan on the counter top to even it out. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the batter.
8. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto a clean plate, remove the parchment paper, and turn the cake back over onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.
If you want some more, here are a few more recipes from around the blogosphere...
Warm butternut and chickpea salad from Smitten Kitchen… http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/01/warm-butternut-squash-and-chickpea-salad/
Kaboch thai curry from Food 52…. http://food52.com/blog/8597-kabocha-squash-curry
Butternut squash, chanterelle, and brie pizza from Heather Christo… http://www.heatherchristo.com/cooks/2013/10/14/butternut-squash-chantrelle-and-brie-pizza/
Butternut spice blondies from Eat Live Run… http://www.eatliverun.com/butternut-spice-blondies/
Roasted heirloom pumpkin and squash with ricotta salata from What’s Gaby Cooking… http://whatsgabycooking.com/roasted-heirloom-pumpkin-and-squash-with-ricotta-salata-and-pomegranate-seeds/#.Unp16_nryR8
Butternut nachos from NYC blogger How Sweet It Is… http://www.howsweeteats.com/2013/11/butternut-mushroom-and-fontina-nachos-with-crispy-sage/
Typically, my midday meal consists of a repeat performance of the prior night’s dinner and almost always comes out of a Tupperware. So, playing hookie from work and going out to lunch in the middle of the week seems so decadent. Almost naughty. And last week, I was very naughty. My old friend Tom (best known for coming up with the name One Girl Cookies) was visiting from Boston for a fun filled week. Along with our friend Christina, we felt obligated to show him a good time. That, of course, involved eating lunch out. Let’s just say more than once.
On his first full day here we were headed to Soho. We had no real agenda besides meandering the cobblestone streets and soaking up some NYC energy. Tom announced that his cuisine of choice for lunch was Asian. Hard as it may be to believe, it’s somewhat difficult to find an Asian lunch spot in Soho. After flipping through our mental restaurant guides, the best Christina and I could come up with was a dated spot on Prince St.
Neither Christina nor I felt we were putting our city’s best culinary foot forward, but we were somewhat stumped by his request. Tom and I arrived first and the waft of cleaning solution that filled my nostrils upon opening the door had me feeling skeptical. It went downhill from there.Thankfully, when Christina arrived, her unspoken language made it clear that we were on the same page (one of the many reasons we get along so well). Without more than a few words of discussion, we agreed that we could do much better and explained to Tom that Asian food was not in his future.
It took no more than a few steps to find the most perfect replacement in The Dutch. A place that has somehow slipped under my radar, despite my appreciation for the great talents of Chef Andrew Carmellini. Upon entering, the feeling was the exact opposite of the Asian restaurant and we knew immediately the meal we were about to enjoy would be well worth playing hookie for. The space itself is cleverly designed with dark wood, beautiful lighting and rich red leather mini booths to accommodate one person. One of those spaces that beckons you to enjoy a two hour lunch. So, we obliged.
The meal was fantastic, made even better by dining companions that are eager to share all sorts of plates. Stand outs were the savory eggplant dip, ruby red slices of raw tuna served with seaweed and dashi and the trout a la plancha with smoked potatoes and cipollinis. Each dish was balanced and flavorful and left you wanting just one bite more. Which is the sweet spot, in my opinion, because that means the chef has fed you sufficiently but reserved enough room in your belly for dessert.
We would never want to let the chef down, so we inquired about the freshly homebaked pies our server boasted about. Since the leaves outside had just begun to turn and the air had that sight autumn chill, it seemed appropriate to go with the seasonally inspired maple custard pie. After one bite, there was clear evidence that the boasting was justified. The creamy, sweet custard was cradled by a graham crust, topped with some perfectly tart poached cranberries and then garnished with a dollop of mascarpone and another of pumpkin sorbet.
Every element on the plate had a job to do and each did it well. The sorbet was most intriguing because it had very little sugar and no spice so there was nothing masking the flavor of the squash that it is. The success on that plate was achieved by allowing the custard to be the sweet star and rather than the other components trying to compete, which would have resulted in an overly sweet dessert, were happy to play supporting roles. They all left the sweetness up to the maple custard and instead, provided a tart or earthy balancing note. We left feeling giddy, satisfied and wanting just one more bite. A sweet spot, indeed.
The Dutch131 Sullivan St, New York, NY
It’s a term that you often hear from parents trying to grasp those bygone days before children entered the picture. The once in every six months that they actually pay a sitter to get a night on the town with each other and/or some friends, eat dinner later than 6pm, at a table that is visibly lacking chicken fingers or grilled cheese.
When friends and family advised us that once we had kids our lives would change beyond recognition, we thought of less sleep, more laundry and the occasional temper tantrum. The loss of the freedom to paint the town red did not really occur to us. Until it happened. And once it did, I went into survival mode. I obviously loved my new baby but there was no way I was giving up my entire social life for him.
That was the beginning of our weekly date night and we have been religious about it for the past four years. We almost always see friends and enjoy a nice dinner, preferably in Manhattan (we love Brooklyn but the rest of our lives take place there) at a restaurant we've not tried before.
As New Yorkers, we are guilty of being afflicted with restaurant ADD which is defined as “dining someplace and having a thoroughly lovely experience, only to never return”. That being said, every now and then we find it nice to return to a restaurant that we’ve experienced and enjoyed before.
This past week though, we did just that and went to Ma Peche, a member of the David Chang tribe that we’ve been to several times. As always, the meal was full of flavor and unique tastes. Highlights were clams in soybean jalapeno broth, lobster fried rice (replete with the crusty rice bits from the bottom of the skillet) and broccoli salad with a smoked raisin mayo (I know, but trust me on that one).
The dessert list was short but included everything you needed…with the exception of someone to make the decision for you. That was actually fine by me because the words “peanut” and “butter” were listed and in my mind’s eye had flashing lights and arrows all around them.
It arrived at our table and I knew at first glance the pastry chef knocked it out of the park. First off, after coconut, peanut butter is my favorite dessert ingredient. Much to my lament, we do not offer anything that incorporates it at One Girl Cookies due to allergy issues. My heart goes out to those poor people that are unable to experience the greatness of ground goobers. Anyway, being thankful that I am not one of them, I dug in. The peanut butter component was much like a pate, sliced into perfect little chunks, surrounded by paper thin slices of dried apple, chunks of lily white meringue and tiny puddles of caramel. And did I mention the perfectly tart apple elder-flower sorbet placed in the center of the plate? In my opinion, it was a near perfect dessert…pretty to look at, well balanced flavors and rich without being cloying. It just may give me reason to get that restaurant ADD cured.
- This shop just opened up on Atlantic Avenue in Cobble Hill and we can’t get enough of these fantastic scents. http://www.ateliercologne.com/store/
- Fall is the perfect season for spicy beverages, both warm and cold. Currently, Switchel is all the rage here in Brooklyn. It’s an old-fashioned American beverage, originally made by farmers, and it has apple cider vinegar, molasses, and ginger. I recommend heating it up with some bourbon, but it’s equally as tasty without any alcohol. http://www.drinkswitchel.com/index.html
- I’m personally a fan of simple sweaters, accented with beautiful jewelry. I can’t get enough of the pieces from A Peace Treaty, for their design and history. A Peace Treaty creates employment for skilled artisans working in places of socio-political strife, effectively supporting their technique and craft while elevating their products to the level of high design. http://apeacetreaty.com/pages/shop
- Roasting pumpkin seeds after carving my Halloween pumpkins. So delicious! http://food52.com/blog/8665-how-to-make-roasted-pumpkin-seeds-without-a-recipe
- “Cool Culinaria” has created antique-menu-themed merchandise, including posters, aprons, tote bags, mugs and note cards. These notecards could be idea invitations to a holiday party, or the perfect way to send thank-you notes to family and friends. http://coolculinaria.com/
- This is my favorite season to dine out and taste all that New York City has to offer. I’m particularly enjoying Saxon + Parole’s carrot ginger soup. It’s topped with a chili marshmallow and cilantro oil and I could eat it every day. http://saxonandparole.com/food/dinner/
If we were having coffee this morning we would talk about our upcoming fall classes. Dave will be teaching a cookie basics class in October and an apple pie class in November. Both are perfect sessions to cover the basics for holiday preparation! The cookie class will cover three types of cookies: bar, cut-out, and drop cookies. You’ll discover secrets right out of our cookbook, including our sinfully delicious Lucia! We’ll equip you with the perfect knowledge and technique to face the holidays head-on. We use a website called Ticket Leap so that you’re able to easily sign up online for the classes!
Did you attend Bridal Week in Manhattan? We were able to provide a cookie bar for the Claire Pettibone STILL LIFE show and it was such a treat! We were able to meet a lot of great vendors and designers, view some beautiful dresses, and soak in all the inspiration! Bridal week takes place once a year in October at Pier 54 in Manhattan and we highly recommend attending.
Doesn't Halloween feel as if it’s just around the corner? Many of you are being proactive and already ordering pumpkin whoopie pies to celebrate the fall. They’re the perfect combination of pumpkin and spice and a great gift for a friend or coworker! We’ll also be offering some spooky treats for Halloween as well, including decorated cupcakes and cookies. And let’s not forget s’mores! Please visit and show us your great costumes!
We're also planning for November and Thanksgiving, also known as Pie Season! The kitchen will be baking a double-crusted apple pie, a pumpkin pie with a cornmeal crust, and a maple-pecan pie, all which will be available to order for Thanksgiving. Pair these pies with some whoopie pies or cookies and your family and friends are sure to have full and happy bellies. All pies are $30 and we will stop taking orders on November 25th. Want to try? Don’t worry; we’ll be slicing these pies all November long as well!
Have you checked out our new fall Cake Shop Cakes yet? Our pastry team created an earl grey cake with orange curd and orange butter cream as well as a fluffy cornmeal cake with caramel filling and chocolate buttercream, topped with caramel corn! The earl grey tea cake is homage to Ayumi’s native Japan where tea-flavored desserts are customary. The caramel corn cake, or as we fondly call it, Snap, Crackle, Pop, is our ideal fall dessert. You can purchase one over the counter or call ahead of time to order!
If we were having coffee this morning we would gush about how much we love fall, having school back in session, and all the great colors and flavors that inspire us to create delicious treats for you. Stop in and say hi one afternoon and try some of our new treats!
We wouldn't be what we are today without the fabulous folks who make it happen.
Meet one of the most loyal One Girl Cookies team members: Nydia! She has been with us for ten years and knows almost every aspect of the business. You never see her because she's behind the scenes filling, wrapping, and packaging your favorite cookies and whoopie pies. In fact, she used to make all the deliveries as well! She's done it all.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
What brought you to New York City?
I moved here with my parents when I was a teenager. Only moved back to Mexico for four years when I went to school.
How long have you lived in New York City? What neighborhood?
I've been in New York for 20 years and live in the Bronx.
How do you get to OGC every day?
What do you do when you are not at One Girl Cookies?
I'm a mom so my day never ends! After work I still have to go home, take care of my kids, and cook dinner. I also like to go to the gym.
What made you apply for a job here?
I started at One Girl Cookies during the first holiday season and had so much fun that I kept working here. I enjoy it because it's so different.
What are some of your past jobs?
I used to work for a jeweler in Rockefeller Center. I was in charge of transporting all the diamonds around New York City, it was so scary!
What did you study in school?
I went to school in Mexico for cosmetology. I actually really enjoy giving manicures and pedicures... but only to my friends!
When it comes to snacks, do you prefer sweet or savory?
Both! Nothing too sweet, though.