from scratch

butter pecan layer cake

I can’t even believe it friends.

Brooklyn Homemaker turns three years old this weekend!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

They grow up so fast!
Sniff.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year has been sort of crazy with the whole Maxwell’s thing and all the time I’ve had to spend away from Brooklyn Homemaker, and I’m so thrilled to finally be getting back into the swing of things just in time to celebrate my anniversary!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I probably said this last year too, but I never would have believed you if you’d told me three years ago that I would have started doing this and kept with it for three whole years.
When I first started I didn’t even have a real camera, and for the first few months I shot all of my photos on my iPhone in my dimly lit kitchen at weird, unflattering angles. If you’d told me three years ago that I would not only get a real camera, but also get pretty good at figuring out how to use it, I definitely would have had my doubts.
If you’d have told me that some of my photos would be even half as good as the ones I spent hours drooling over on Pinterest, or that people would actually want to pin my photos and recipes for themselves, I probably would have laughed in your face!
If you’d have told me that people would actually want to cook my recipes, and would enjoy them enough to share with their friends and families, I’d have been absolutely floored!
Naaahhhhhh! No friggin’ way!!!

I still wake up sometimes and want to pinch myself.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It seems like I start having these thoughts around the same time every year, as my blog anniversary approaches, about all the things I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come. The friendships and bonds I’ve built, the skills I’ve gained, and how my goals and priorities have changed over these past few years.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is definitely a time to for reflection, a time for appreciation, and a time to be grateful. Perhaps most importantly though, it’s a time for cake!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The idea of this cake was a bit of a throw back to the very first cake that inspired this whole blogging adventure, the Aunt Sassy Cake from Baked.

I knew I wanted to make another big ass fancy celebration cake filled with nuts and covered in a velvety icing, but I didn’t want to just make the same cake all over again.
I did that already! haha!

I thought that a play on the Aunt Sassy Cake with a fun, autumnal twist would be a great way to pay homage to the cake that started it all, while also making it feel little more seasonally appropriate this time of year.

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I played with a few ideas in my head, but the inspiration really came when I was flipping through the channels one day and happened to catch a few minutes of Jeopardy.

When my sister and I were little, we used to spend a lot of time at our grandmother’s house. If we’d stay after dinner, we’d sit next to grandma on the couch and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and if we were good, grandma would fix us a bowl of ice cream.

Thing is, at the time I hated the ice cream flavors she tended to keep in the house. All I wanted was chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip, but grandma usually only had maple walnut or butter pecan. Garbage ice creams in the eyes of a child, and ones that i lovingly referred to as old lady flavors in my teen years.
As I got a little older I finally learned to appreciate those “old lady” flavors, and eventually I even learned to love them.
These days I can’t get enough of them, and even get into trouble with Russell when I come home from the store with a pint of butter pecan, when he’d have preferred chocolate, or maybe mint chocolate chip!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

With butter pecan in mind, I decided to go for a tender pecan layer cake, and I opted to brown the butter to amp up the nutty flavor. Browning butter only takes about 10 minutes with some stirring and a watchful eye, and it adds an incredibly rich, earthy, nutty flavor to regular everyday unsalted butter. It has such an amazing flavor that I decided to brown a little extra to mix into some silky Swiss Meringue Buttercream I wanted to use to ice the cake.

To make things even richer, and fancier, and prettier, I went ahead and drizzled the whole kit and kaboodle in some heavenly homemade caramel with a splash of (optional) bourbon.

This cake is the freakin bomb. Perfect for fall. It could even work as an elegant alternative to pecan pie at Thanksgiving!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

It’s been a wild ride so far, and hopefully this is just the beginning.

I’m so honored and grateful for all of you guys out there. I’m so so luck to have so many amazing friends out there in the world who have been so encouraging and engaging through everything that I’ve done so far. I’m looking forward to many more recipes and posts and years ahead, and I hope you’ll all be along for the ride too!

Love you guys! Thanks for everything!

butter pecan layer cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Butter Pecan Layer Cake with Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Brown Butter
(Make ahead if possible)

4 sticks of unsalted butter

Melt butter in a large stainless steel (or light colored) sauce pan over low to medium heat. As the water cooks out, the butter will sizzle a lot. Stir frequently with a silicone spatula.

Once the butter starts to foam, usually about 5 minutes in, you want to watch it very carefully so it doesn’t burn. You’ll also want to use your spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan often. This will promote even browning and help prevent the milk solids from sticking to the pan as they brown. They’re delicious so you want them in your finished butter, and if they do stick they’ll be a pain in the butt to clean.

The foam may make it hard to see, but as you stir you’ll begin to see the milk solids in the butter begin to turn brown. Once the milk solids are brown and the butter smells toasty and nutty, you’re done! Immediately pour the butter, milk solids & all, into a heatproof dish to prevent it from further cooking. The milk solids can go from nutty and golden to black and burnt in less than a minute!

For the recipes below, you want the butter to be soft, but you don’t want to use the butter while it’s still hot and melted. Refrigerate the butter until solid, then let it soften at room temperature. If you want to make it ahead, it’ll keep for a long time if stored in an airtight container.
Butter contains a good amount of water which cooks off when you brown it, so after browning your 4 sticks of butter won’t measure 2 cups. Since the cake and the icing require the same amount of butter, I just say 1/2 the brown butter in each recipe for simplicities sake.


Brown Butter Pecan Cake
Adapted from Cooking Classy

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup whole pecan pieces for decorating (optional)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1/4 cup peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for icing)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pecans, toss to coat, and cook until slightly browned and fragrant, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or dish to stop cooking and set aside to cool. If using whole pieces for decorating, separate them from the chopped pecans and reserve for later.

Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, butter parchment paper and then lightly dust pans with flour shaking out excess. Set pans aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butters and sugars together until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, adding in vanilla with the last egg.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined, then add in 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix just until combined. Repeat alternating flour and buttermilk, ending with the final 1/3 of the flour. Remove the bowl from your mixer and fold in pecans until they’re evenly distributed. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared baking pans, using a kitchen scale for accuracy if desired.
Bake in preheated oven 25 – 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool for 10 to 15 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife around edges of the pans to ensure the cakes are loosened, and invert them onto the racks to cool completely.


Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Minimalist Baker

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons, or 1/2 stick)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional)
pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat, gently swirling the pan (not stirring) to combine. Simmer (not stirring) for about 15 minutes or until a rich amber color is reached. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slightly toasty aroma. Once the sugar starts to go from clear to golden, watch it very closely as it can go from perfect to burnt in under a minute. If you want to use a thermometer, cook until the sugar reaches 350 degrees.
Remove the pan from heat and slowly stir or whisk in the butter. It will bubble up a lot so be careful. Once the butter is combined, repeat the process with the cream. Then add the bourbon and salt stir or whisk to combine.
Place the pan back over the heat and simmer for another minute or two while stirring continuously.
Remove from heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes before pouring into a heat-safe dish or jar to cool to the touch. Then close or cover the container and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely before use. Any leftover caramel (I didn’t have much) can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for several weeks.


Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

6 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
remaining 1/2 of the brown butter (will be a bit shy of 1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and a small amount lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of fat or grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Place egg whites, sugars, and salt into the bowl and whisk gently but continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites reach between 150 and 160 degrees F.
Attach the bowl to your mixer and use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites on high speed until thick, glossy peaks form and the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce speed to medium-low. Add butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. The meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added, don’t worry. Once all the butter is added, beat until the icing is smooth and silky, usually about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the vanilla and beat on low just until combined.

If the buttercream curdles, don’t worry! Just keep mixing and it will come back to smooth.
If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate the bowl for about 15 or 20 minutes before mixing again with the paddle attachment until it comes together.


Assemble cake:

Remove parchment from each layer, and trim the domed tops off with a cake leveler or sharp bread knife if necessary. Flat layers will definitely result in a much prettier & more professional looking finished cake. My cakes didn’t dome much, so you may not need to do this step. Make sure the layers are completely cool (or cold) before you proceed.

If you’re not serving the cake the same day it’s baked, I recommend you brush each layer of cake with two or three tablespoons of simple syrup before assembly to keep it nice and moist for days. Just heat 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water together until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Place first layer on a cake stand, serving platter, or cardboard cake round. Top with roughly 1/4 of your icing (about one generous cup), and spread the icing out with an offset icing spatula, in as even and level a layer as possible. Place the next layer on top and check from above and from multiple angles to make sure it’s stacked perfectly centered with the layer below, and that it’s flat and level. Adjust if necessary.
Add another 1/4 of the icing, smooth it out, add the top layer, and check and adjust if necessary.

Using another 1/4 of your icing, spread a thin layer of icing over top and sides of cake with an icing spatula. I like to start at the top and slowly work my way down the sides. Be sure to fill in any gaps between layers and make the sides and top is as smooth and flat as possible. This thin layer of icing is referred to as the “crumb coat” and is meant to seal in any crumbs so they’re not seen in your final layer of icing. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to an hour to set the icing before you proceed.
Spread the remaining icing evenly over top and sides of cake, trying to get as smooth a surface as possible.

Top the cake with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the cooled caramel sauce, carefully and evenly drizzling some down the sides.
If desired, top the finished cake with the optional 1/3 cup of toasted whole pecans from above.

This cake is best the day it’s baked, but will keep well in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 2 days, if the weather is not too hot or humid. Otherwise, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If refrigerated, you’ll need to let it come up to room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

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bourbon ginger pumpkin pie

There’s just something about pumpkin pie.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was a kid I was completely obsessed with pumpkin pie and had a really hard time understanding why we only ate it at Thanksgiving and not, say, every single day of the year.

My grandmother would always make her pies a day ahead and stash them in her sewing room, usually one of the coolest rooms in the house, to rest until after dinner on turkey day. She always covered them with an oversized square of waxed paper, and when no one was looking I’d sneak into the sewing room, close the door behind me, and lift the paper up and just stare at those pies.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I knew I couldn’t eat them until after dinner, but that didn’t stop me from just standing there taking in their earthy, homey aroma. I was tempted but I never touched them. I just wanted to look.

Of course, once dinner was over wild horses couldn’t have kept me from tearing into those rich, earthy, custardy pies.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was trying to decide what to serve for my fakesgiving dinner, the pumpkin pie was the menu item I had the most trouble with.

I think that my love for pumpkin pie was clouding my judgement. I wanted to do something sort of elevated and innovative, but I just couldn’t make up my mind. I took to pinterest to soak up some inspiration, and quickly realized that anyone who has ever posted a recipe on the internet has their own way of making pumpkin pie, and that any and every type of dessert ever invented and has had pumpkin and spice added to it at some point.

Just try typing the words “pumpkin dessert” into the search bar on pinterest. I dare you. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin custards, pumpkin flans, pumpkin trifles, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream served inside a hollowed out pumpkin…

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

My head spinning, I moved on from pinterest and decided to check some of my favorite food blogs and websites for ideas. Eventually I stumbled across an entire opinion thread on serving these fancy pants pumpkin desserts for Thanksgiving.

Someone had written to say that he was invited by some foodie friends to a Thanksgiving potluck and he was in charge of the pumpkin pie. He wanted to impress his friends and take pumpkin pie to the next level, and was asking for some help with ideas and inspiration.  (sound familiar?)
The answers he got back were a total surprise to me, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

Everyone was basically saying either:
A) just make a damn pumpkin pie because that’s all people really want to eat anyway.
or
B) go ahead and make your fancy pants “elevated” pumpkin dessert, but you should make a damn pumpkin pie too and bring both, because that’s all people really want to eat anyway.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, I tossed all the recipes for pumpkin tarts and custards and trifles out the window, and started thinking about why I was so enamored with Grandma’s pumpkin pie in the first place. It was all about the buttery crust, the earthy sweet pumpkin, the warm spices, and the rich creamy custard. Why complicate things?

Of course I did want to do something just a little special with my pie this year, but was looking for a subtle twist on the classics rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Just a touch of (totally optional) bourbon and some grated fresh ginger was all I needed to take things to the next level.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I also thought it would be fun to make some more work for myself by roasting my own sugar pumpkins instead of using canned. To save some time and a few dishes I tried mashing the pumpkin flesh rather than completely pureeing it in the food processor. You guys. Don’t do this. Just puree your pumpkin. (Or use canned)

When I started mixing in the rest of the ingredients, I realized that my pumpkin was kind of lumpy and had some strands of fiber in it.  Not wanting to end up with a funky lumpy pie filling, I decided to toss the entire bowl into the food processor to smooth it out. What I didn’t realize was that doing this would also whip the cream in my filling and make it sort of frothy. While the texture of the filling wasn’t changed, it did make the top of the pie look sort of funky and pitted. Not a big deal really, just a little funny looking.

A few days later I read online that in a blind taste test, most people preferred the taste and texture of pies made with canned pumpkin puree over homemade. Ugh. Whatever.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whether you decide to roast your own pumpkins or reach for the can, this pumpkin pie is everything you could ever want in a Thanksgiving pie. Rich, thick, creamy, custardy, earthy, & warmly spiced. A little slice of heaven with a buttery flaky crust.

Because I don’t usually keep evaporated milk in the house, the filling is made completely from scratch, using only eggs and cream and milk instead of evaporated or condensed milk for the base of the custard. A splash of  bourbon adds a touch of warmth and depth without necessarily making it taste “boozey”, and using grated fresh ginger adds an edge of zingy heat that you wouldn’t otherwise get. When sliced and served a few of our friends noticed the hint of bourbon, others the touch of ginger, and others still didn’t notice anything until I told them. Neither of these flavors is overpowering, nor do they really change or alter the flavor profile of the classic pie everyone is craving on Thanksgiving day. If you’re looking for a classic pumpkin pie with a subtle something extra, this is the recipe for you.

bourbon ginger pumpkin pie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Bourbon Ginger Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

1 single pie crust * see note
2 cups (or 15oz can) pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 and 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons bourbon whiskey (or rum would work too)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425F.
Roll out pie crust and gently transfer to a 9.5″ or deep dish pie dish (** see note). Trim and crimp the edges and freeze the crust for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Fit the crust with a large square of parchment paper and fill the dish with pie weights, dried beans, or even pennies. Bake the crust at 425 for about 15 minutes or until the crust is set and the edges are beginning to brown. This is called blind baking the pie shell. For more info, the Kitchn has a great tutorial.

If you have any leftover dough from trimming and want to get fancy, you can use a cookie cutter or pastry stamp to create fall leaves for decoration. This is totally unnecessary but kind of fancy and fun. Cut the leaves out and bake on a parchment lined sheet pan in the same oven as the pie crust for about 10 minutes. You want them cooked through and nicely browned, but not burned. They won’t really brown any further once you add them to the pie filling.

Let the leaves and the pie shell cool and turn the oven down to 375F.

For the filling:
Whisk or stir the pumpkin, eggs, and brown sugar together until combined. Add all remaining ingredients and whisk vigorously until everything is well combined.

Pour filling into the pre-baked shell. Bake until the center is almost set, about 55-60 minutes or so. It’s okay if a small part of the very center is still wobbly, it’ll continue to cook and set as it cools. After about 25 or 30 minutes of baking, Add the pre-baked fall leaves if desired.

Cool completely before serving. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes:
*You can use any recipe you like, or even a store bought crust, but I think all butter crusts have the best flavor. I used my favorite crust recipe, but it makes two single crusts so you can freeze one, make another pie, or use the other for your maple walnut pie.

**If you don’t have a 9.5″ or deep dish pan, you’ll likely have a bit too much filling. Do not overfill or it may run and drip. Any extra can be baked separately in ramekins if necessary.

chicken tortilla soup

When I was in college my mom sent me a DVD of a movie called Tortilla Soup, and to this day I still don’t really know why.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was really into cooking even then, and I was taking a few culinary courses for my degree, but as far as I understand it my love of cooking was reason enough for Mom to think I’d LOVE a movie about soup. She’d apparently rented it, liked it, and since it was about cooking, thought I’d like it too. Rather than telling me to rent it for myself though, she bought a copy and mailed it to me.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’d never heard of the film, and having lived a pretty culturally sheltered life, I’d never heard of the soup either. It took me a while to get around to actually watching it, and when I did I found it pretty unremarkable. I liked it okay, and I told mom so, but I never watched it again and today I have little memory of what it was even about (besides soup).

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few years ago, when I started my first recipe based pinterest board, I started seeing recipes pop up for this soup that I’d largely forgotten all about. Suddenly my interest in the soup (but not the film) was sparked anew. The only problem was that whenever I clicked on any of the recipes, most of them called for loads of canned ingredients and seasoning packets and other fun concoctions loaded with sodium. While the idea of the soup sounded good, the recipes I was seeing never looked good enough to bother.

Then, earlier this summer the siren song of New York’s Green Markets got the better of me and I suddenly found myself wanting to put sweet corn and tomatoes and peppers in everything. It seemed like the time was just right and I needed to finally make it happen. I searched the internets for tortilla soup FROM SCATCH (I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do this before) and finally found one that sounded great.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

The first recipe I tried was overflowing with tons of vegetables and only called for one canned ingredient: crushed tomatoes. I know it’s tomato season right now but I really hate peeling them so I’ll save the fresh ones for tomato sandwiches and reach for the can when it comes to soups.

Anyway, this soup was absolutely delicious but the torn corn tortillas used for thickening didn’t break down enough for me and just seemed kind soggy and weird. I mentioned this to a friend who, unbeknownst to me, turned out to be a tortilla soup connoisseur. She told me that she’d recently learned the trick to making what was now her favorite “authentic” tortilla soup. I assumed this would be some time tested family recipe handed down through generations and just passed on to her by her great aunt, but when I asked for the recipe instead of a stained and faded recipe card she sent me an email with a link. A link to a recipe from ABC’s “The Chew”.
Say what?

The main difference here is that rather than just tearing and tossing the tortillas in to the soup to break down and thicken, they’re ground up in a blender with some stock and onions. That would definitely solve the soggy tortilla chunk issue, and would probably make for a thicker soup, so I decided to give it a go. If it was good enough for my friend, it was good enough for me.

Rather than just using the recipe as is though, I decided to just steal the thickening technique and use it along with all the fresh veggies from my first recipe.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Oh boy oh boy. This recipe sure is a keeper. I definitely see why someone might want to make this in the slow cooker in the dead of winter using a bunch of canned goods and salt, but you’ll never beat how amazing this soup can be when made with super fresh ingredients in the height of summer. By the way, this is a perfect way to put some of your end-of-summer produce to good use.

The soup itself is rich, hearty, and loaded with fresh vegetables. The broth is thick and tomatoey, with just a touch of heat from the jalapeño. A squeeze of fresh lime juice and sprinkle of chopped cilantro really add a wonderful brightness to everything.

I know most people like to finish tortilla soup with grated cheese and sour cream, but I think a few slices of ripe creamy avocado are all that’s needed to make this soup feel rich and decadent. Of course, the crunch of a few crispy tortilla strips can’t hurt either.

chicken tortilla soup from scratch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from “The Chew”

olive oil
2 to 3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed with a sharp knife
2 medium bell peppers, seeded and diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
4 carrots, sliced into thin disks
Salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, divided
9 to 10 corn tortillas, divided
6 cups of chicken stock
one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 to 3 cups of pulled or cubed cooked chicken
lime wedges
avocado

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil a large heavy bottom stock pot or dutch oven. Add corn kernels, celery, carrot, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes. or until vegetables are beginning to soften and get some color in the pan. Transfer to a bowl and set aside, scraping everything out of the pan.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan and add onion, garlic, jalapeño, & cumin. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves and sauté for 5 minutes more, or until onions are soft and translucent.

Scrape onion mixture into the pitcher of a powerful blender and add about 1 cup of chicken stock and 3 to 4 torn up corn tortillas (depending on how thick you want the soup). Purée the mixture until well blended and free of lumps. Transfer back to the pan and heat until it bubbles and just begins to thicken. Add crushed tomato, chicken stock, and cooked vegetables from before. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cooked chicken and cook for 10 minutes more.

While soup simmers you can make your tortilla strips by slicing 6 remaining tortillas into strips and crisping in a cast iron skillet over high heat with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir very frequently and try to promote even browning. Once well browned and crisp transfer to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Alternatively, you could just crunch up a few tortilla chips.

Serve the soup with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a sprinkle of torn cilantro leaves, a few cubes or slices or avocado, and a few tortilla strips.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus

When I was a teenager hummus was a unknown and totally exotic foreign food.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

Those years were recent enough that I probably should have know what hummus was, but I grew up far enough upstate as to be rather isolated from the food trends and cultural open-mindedness of the big city.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

In the 90s in Auburn, NY, the closest most people ever got to experiencing foods from other cultures was Chinese take out or one of the many MANY old school Italian restaurants.

Or maybe Taco Bell.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I entered high school I met a whole new group of friends; among them were the punks, hippies, goths, skate boarders, hacky sackers, vegetarians, and vegans of the alterna-teen umbrella. Falling in with a different crowd meant hearing new music, having new adventures, and experiencing new foods.

Sushi! Indian! Falafel! So new! So Exciting!

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

One of my favorite discoveries was hummus.

Growing up with staunchly American cuisine and lots of convenience foods, Hummus was completely foreign and exotic to me. It was simply bursting with unfamiliar spices and bold flavors that I’d never encountered before my teen years. Even the texture was new to me, and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

I still remember the first time I tried to get my mom to buy some for me in the grocery store and she had no idea what the heck it was or why in the world I’d want to eat it.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

One of my favorite things about hummus even today is how versatile it can be. It makes a great dip at parties, a delicious spread on a sandwich, and even works as a side dish or major part of a meal. One of our favorite things to do when we make our own hummus is to thinly slice, marinate, and broil some chicken breast and serve it alongside some sliced cucumbers, grilled pita wedges, and giant bowl of hummus for dipping.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

There are many different ways to make hummus and just as many flavors you can blend into it. Personally, I prefer a classic approach with lemon, garlic, and cumin. I also like to take the extra step of soaking and boiling dried chickpeas rather than using canned. I think dried chickpeas have a slightly cleaner flavor and make it much easier to control the amount salt you add.

This recipe can be made thick and chunky, or creamy and smooth, depending on how long you process everything. I myself like to let the food processor whir and whir until the hummus is unbelievably smooth and silky. While it’s really traditional to serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil, I like to add some extra in while it’s pureed for even more velvety creaminess.

While the flavors in this recipe are very traditional, I like to turn up the volume and add a little bit extra lemon and garlic to make sure they really shine through. If you’re not as big a fan of raw garlic, feel free to skip one or two of the cloves.

garlicy lemony creamy classic hummus | Brooklyn Homemaker

Classic Creamy Hummus

  • Servings: makes about 3 or 4 cups
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1 cup dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup tahini
juice of 2 to 3 lemons
3 to 4 cloves of garlic (less if preferred)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving

Wash the chickpeas three or four times, or until they don’t cloud the water when submerged. Check for stones and other non-chickpea debris.

Soak the chickpeas in clean water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda for at least 8 hours or overnight. Wash and drain them, and soak again in new clean water for a two or three more hours. The grains should be almost double their original size.

Wash and drain the chickpeas once more and put them in a large pot. Cover with water and add remaining baking soda and NO salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the grains are tender enough to be easily smooshed between two fingers. It should take about an hour to an hour and a half. As they cook some foam may form on the water and skins may rise to the top. Try your best to skim off as much of the foam and as many of the skins as possible. The fewer skins you have the creamier and smoother your hummus will be. Once finished, drain them and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

Let the chickpeas cool for a bit before adding to a food processor. Pulse them a few times before adding the remaining ingredients and processing until you get the desired texture. I like mine super smooth and creamy so I just let it go for a bit, but if you like yours chunkier just pulse it until it comes together in a thick chunky paste. If the Humus is too thick, add some of the cooking water or some more lemon juice or olive oil. Try to get it a bit thinner than the consistency you desire, as it will thicken a bit once it’s refrigerated. Check for seasoning, and if you’re happy with the levels of salt, cumin, garlic, and lemon, you’re done!

Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and some chopped parsley if desired.

This recipe recipe doubles very easily, but you do not need to double the amount of baking soda used for either soaking or cooking.