Tag Archives | birthday

Homemade Samoas! Happy Birthday, Maura!

Picture 1

I used to challenge my younger sister to popsicle eating contests when we were kids.

“I bet I can eat my popsicle faster than you can!” I’d say, and she would totally buy it. Maura would risk a cold headache and chattering teeth to finish her popsicle first. Me? My intention was never to “win.” I’d slurp mine as slowly as I could, enjoying every sweet, dripping lick I had left while Maura looked sadly on with nothing but an empty stick and a sticky face. I pretty much did it just to torture her.

If you ask her, I’m sure she’s got plenty of similar stories about all the crummy things I did to her in our childhood, since I was older and had the advantage of experience and overactive imagination on my side. (Maura, I am really, really sorry that I tricked you into giving me your favorite troll doll. And also that I made you switch Popples with me because yours was way cuter).

Despite it all (don’t worry, she gave as good as she got), my sister is one of my dearest friends and makes me laugh like no one else can. Her scathing wit and sharp insight make for the best phone conversations, her sense of style is impeccable and enviable, and she inspires me constantly with her creativity and perseverance. I am proud to have her in my life, as both a sister and a friend.

So when she requested homemade Girl Scout cookies for her birthday this year, I didn’t bat an eyelash (I also totally kept several of them for myself).

Homemade Samoa


Shortbread Cookies:

2 Cups flour
1 cup of butter (softened)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Cup powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Add flour and salt to form a dough. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to roughly 1/8th of an inch and use cookie cutters or the rim of a glass to cut cookies into the traditional ringed shapes (Sprinkle counter liberally with powdered sugar to prevent sticking). Bake on parchment paper for 8-10 minutes or until bottoms are just golden and tops are still pale. Let cool completely.


Coconut Topping:

1 lb sweetened shredded coconut
1 stick butter
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast coconut until lightly golden brown, flipping several times to prevent burning.

Make a caramel sauce (CAUTION: SUGAR WILL BE EXTREMELY HOT!): Melt sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over steady, medium-low heat–whisking constantly–until amber-colored. Add butter. When all the butter has melted remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the cream (the caramel will froth violently, just keep stirring).

Set aside 1/2 Cup of caramel sauce, and combine the rest with the toasted coconut.

To Assemble:

Brush the tops of cooled cookies with caramel, then spread the caramel coconut mixture on top and allow to set completely. Melt some high-quality dark chocolate in a double-boiler and dip the bottom of each cookie in the melted chocolate. Pipe chocolate stripes across the top of the cookies with a piping bag or a ziploc with the corners cut off.






A very happy 26th birthday to my little sister, Maura. I hope the cookies were just want you wanted! I love you!


Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Food

Love = Laminated Dough


Traditions are important–birthday traditions even more so. In my house the very best birthday tradition is that you get to eat whatever you want. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated my birthday with a traditional frosted cake.  Infancy, perhaps. For me? Cheesecake all the way. I’m a loyalist, too, so it’s cheesecake every single year. Sometimes I’ll switch the flavor up a bit–plain cheesecake, raspberry swirl, salted caramel, whatever strikes my fancy.

My birthday isn’t until July, though, so cheesecake will have to wait. (Sorry. Didn’t mean to get your hopes up, there).

David’s birthday was in March, though, and he definitely knew what he wanted:

Croissants. I love croissants. I love the girl who bakes croissants. And she must love me–otherwise, why would she make them for me? They were damn good.

One of our annual traditions is making a food item for one another on their birthday. I think the initiation of the tradition happened when I made fresh Cod with sun-dried tomato tartar sauce (at the end of the night I found out Kelly doesn’t like sun-dried tomatoes…or tartar sauce) and fresh fava and jalapeno salad (she doesn’t like beans either). She enjoyed the meal and in subsequent years began baking for me on my birthday. She’s an excellent baker.

Kelly had previously mentioned (numerous times) that she had always wanted to make croissants. So why not provide an opportunity?

This year, when she asked what I wanted I immediately replied “marzipan croissants”. Hell yeah. When I lived in Germany, I used to go to this bakery for breakfast whenever I had class in the schloss. I used to get two things: a warm marzipan croissant and a warm ham and cheese croissant.  So damn good. The only issue: what’s marzipan? Well, in Germany it’s almond paste. An almond paste that by law (yes, by law, much like the Reinheitsgebot) is two parts ground almond to one part sugar, only additional flavoring allowed being rosewater. Apparently here, Kelly discovered, marzipan is a type of almond dough. More for baking independently or as part of cake, than stuffing pastry. After some additional research on both sides, we agreed that Kelly would make an almond paste then.

As such we spent the better part of my birthday proper sitting around the house, relaxing and every few hours beating butter or folding and rolling dough with butter. It was a fun, long process. But worthwhile. The almond paste was spectacular by itself. Baked into homemade croissant: amazing.

So. Croissants. From scratch. What had I gotten myself into?

Croissants are a lengthy ordeal centered on something terrifying called “laminated dough.” Essentially, that means that you make a dough and layer it with butter about a thousand times. When you put the croissants in the oven the butter melts, leaving flaky pockets behind. Mmmm.


I’d never made a laminated dough before, and they’re rumored to be pretty high maintenance. Keep the butter and your work surfaces cold! Work fast and roll out accurately! Don’t panic!

Luckily there’s a built-in step in the croissant-making process to help you get out all your fear and anxiety. Beating the butter!

  1. This is the first video I ever took with my phone, and it shows. Apparently it doesn’t reorient itself the way the regular camera does?
  2. “Pasturized” butter. Obviously, the butter is pasturized! What I meant to say is that the butter was made using milk from pasture-fed cows. David thinks this mix-up is hilarious.
  3. Unintentional cleavage shot. Sorry!

After that, things just seemed to fall into place…

















The verdict?

The very best part is that David had the brilliant idea to freeze the shaped croissants before the rise. That means we have a whole stockpile of croissants in our freezer and we can just take them out, thaw, rise, and bake ’em, and have fresh, homemade croissants on a whim! As a matter of fact, we had some for breakfast this morning. DELICIOUS.

Happy, happy birthday, my love! Hope your croissants are everything you wished for! I am so excited and also terrified to see what you’ll request next year…


I have to say that making these was a blast. Time-consuming? Yes, but not nearly as scary as I thought they’d be. Rather than try to detail the process here, I’m going to redirect you to Julie’s excellent tutorials at Willow Bird Baking.

I’ve been reading her blog for over a year. She issued a croissant challenge to all of her readers, and without  her encouragement and painstaking instructions and photo tutorials, I wouldn’t have known where to begin. If you want to make croissants look through all of her amazing suggestions and success stories and get in the kitchen:


I made my own almond paste using this recipe:

And then used that to make almond pastry cream:

(I also used the orange vanilla simple syrup in that recipe to glaze the croissants before baking so the almond slices would stick to the top).

Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Food

Happy Birthday, Dad!


My dad and I share a sweet tooth. When he started bemoaning the fact that he had to read all my facebook status updates about the delicious things I was baking without getting to taste them, I promised that I’d ship him some baked goods for his birthday.

I’ve never shipped food before, so I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to send. Cookies seem like the obvious choice. Simple. Not messy. Easy to transport.

But I wasn’t really feeling it. It didn’t seem special enough. Cookies aren’t birthday-ish.

When I was a kid, we always had those snack cakes around the house. Little Debbie’s, Drake’s, Hostess. So I figured, why not mimic one of those? So I decided to make Ring Dings from scratch for my Dad’s birthday.

It was a little complicated. Ok, a lot complicated. But I was up for the challenge.  Want to see?



















Happy Birthday, Daddy! I love you!

Posted by on February 25, 2010 in Food