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I ❤️ Cookies & Cookie Cutters

maple and oak cookie cutters Who doesn’t love cookies? There is something for everyone – simple shortbread, fudgy chocolate Crackle Cookies, spicy ginger cookies– all conveniently portioned so you can enjoy one or three. Unlike making a cake that requires a commitment, a few minutes of spinning ingredients in a food processor can yield cookie dough that can be scooped, frozen, and baked when the mood strikes. If you are lucky, your son and husband haven’t eaten them straight from the freezer before you have a chance to bake them for yourself!

When my kids were little, I found plenty of holidays or special occasions to bake cookies – to use fun shapes and decorate with colorful frostings: big sugar cookie mittens with their names piped on them; animal-shaped cookies with colorful hair and dots for eyes; ginger cookies decorated to hang on the Christmas tree or to eat.

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Laminates: What’s Old is New Again

 

Diane_Burcz_Interior_Design_Bronze_LogoMany of our modern materials have been lucky accidents and laminate is no exception. In the early 1900s, Formica became a brand while searching for a new insulation for wiring. Layers of paper were tightly pressed together, i.e., laminated, to form thin, rigid sheets that were then adhered to a wood substrate. By the late 1920s, new printing techniques provided a way to print texture and colors onto the laminates.

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My Interior Design Journey: Living Design Laboratories

Diane Burcz headshotBefore I began practicing interior design, I had another career (in addition to being a wife and mother). After I earned my MBA at Carnegie Mellon where I met my husband, Doug, I worked for NCR in HR and Corporate Benefit Planning.

Why interior design? My family and I have moved a lot and I’ve had the opportunity – born of necessity – to use my own homes as living design laboratories. Whether a temporary apartment or a home, I understand about customizing spaces to fit the aesthetic and needs of my family. I’ve been able to use my own homes – whether a 1970s home in Boulder, a 1920s Prairie Style home in Berkeley, or a 1940s mid-century modern home in Newton – as design laboratories that help me relate to my clients. They are like puzzles to solve – whether big or small. Of course, when we moved, I was always on the look-out for fixer-uppers – the reason for the temporary apartments!

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Open & Designing: Moving forward in a difficult time

 

While gazing into my 2020 design trends crystal ball, I definitely did not see this coming! Warm woods, natural materials, and interesting lighting being used in interiors, yes. Meeting with clients virtually rather than physically in their homes, nope.

Working RemotelyFortunately, thanks to virtual technology, I can work remotely on your interior design projects. Planning and design are key elements in any renovation. Listening to your goals and understanding how you use your space helps me to design a space that works best for you and your family. While we are all safe at home realizing all the ways our spaces could be improved, it’s a good time to move forward on those long-imagined projects.

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Scandinavian Holiday & Any Time Baking from My Kitchen

 

Growing up in northern Minnesota, Christmas meant lefse, krumkake, rosettes, and the thinnest ginger cookies (my mom’s favorite). My mother’s family is Swedish and my paternal grandmother, Norwegian. Both of my grandmothers were lefse bakers. Lefse is a thin Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes and flour. It is typically eaten spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

My mother continued the Christmas-time lefse making tradition by teaching her own grandkids to make it, not in Minnesota but in Pennsylvania where we eventually moved. It was a great way to sLefse Swedish bakinghare her family’s story to a captivated audience of grandkids all waiting their turn to use the long wood turning stick to flip the lefse on the hot griddle.

My own kids are young adults now. I am grateful that they are skilled cooks and that they want to spend time with me in the kitchen. As our family has gotten smaller and more geographically dispersed, our time together in the kitchen, whether making dinner on the weekends or lefse at Christmas, makes us feel closer to our larger family. There is something about the taste of special foods that makes the family connection stronger.

Lefse

2 C riced Russett potatoes – about 1 large potato 1⁄4 C melted unsalted butter
2 t salt or to tasteMaking+Lefse+Swedish+Baking+Diane+Burcz+Interior+Design_Baking+Blog
2 t sugar

1⁄4 C heavy cream
1 C all-purpose flour, more as needed

Clean and poke the skin of the potato and bake at 400 degrees until tender. While still warm, spoon the potato flesh into a bowl and use a ricer to remove any lumps.

Add the remaining four ingredients and mix until blended. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours or overnight.

Add 1 cup of floor to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into 8 balls and chill thoroughly – preferably overnight.

Heat a non-stick griddle to 500 degrees. Roll out each ball on a floured surface and poke the surface lightly with a fork. Place the lefse on the griddle until golden brown blisters form. Then turn to cook the other side until blisters form. Stack on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm.

Notes: After my son did some online research of lefse recipes, we decided to try baking the Russett potatoes in the oven rather than boil the potatoes (from Chef John’s recipe on Allrecipes.com).

We ate the warm lefse spread with butter and sugar or raspberry jam. My son rolled thin-sliced ham in his lefse.

More Than a Hobby

Maybe it’s all the baking that I did at Christmas with my grandmothers and my mom when I was a kid, but people who know me know that I love to bake. Not just at the holidays but all year long. To me, there is almost no occasion that is not improved with warm, melty chocolate chip cookies (“CCCs”) or home-made pretzels soft and warm from the oven – perfect for movie nights.

Swedish+Almond+Coffee+Cake+Baked+by+Diane+Burcz+Diane+Burcz+Interior+Design

My daughter and I will often share recipes that we read and put them on our “to-bake” list. And the kids and I often reminisce about our favorite bakeries from places we’ve lived or visited – the lemon poppy seed cookies with the hard layer of perfectly smooth white glaze at The Beanery – our neighborhood coffee shop – in Berkeley. The shortbread cookies at Spruce Confections in Boulder – so simple but so sublime! Of course, once we begin to reminisce, we must satisfy our craving!

Since I had Scandinavian baking on my mind for the holidays, this Swedish Almond Coffeecake recipe from King Arthur Flour caught my eye and went to the top of the “to-bake” list. We were lucky enough to visit Sweden several years ago and the filling in this Almond Coffeecake reminded me of the mazariner – small pastry tarts with almond filling covered in glaze sold at coffee shops in Stockholm. I love anything with almonds and decided to use the ground almonds rather than the almond flour to more closely resemble the mazariner that I remembered. I even managed to make the twists as described in the recipe. Even if it looked a little messy at first, its appearance was improved after proofing (yeast is very forgiving like that).

It was perfect with coffee for Sunday brunch with my family.

In case you are wondering, mazariner are now at the top of my “to-bake” list. In fact, shortly after returning from our vacation in Sweden, I searched for the small oval tins used for the tarts that we ate in Stockholm. I didn’t find the ovals but purchased a tin with round tart shapes instead. I think it’s time to finally try that pan!

French Sablés

These are French sablés – simple butter cookies that can be flavored with a variety of spices or left plain. So far, I’ve made them with cardamom and orange zest (front), and lemon zest (back). These are perfect to keep in the freezer to slice as needed. To keep the round shape, roll in crystal sugar and then encase in plastic wrap before sliding inside an empty paper towel tube.

Homemade+Sables+Diane+Burcz+Interior+Design

I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Baking” and followed her variation for lemon sablés to infuse the sugar with orange flavor:

Orange Sablés with Cardamom

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1⁄2 C granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
3⁄4 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted

3⁄4 t ground cardamom (or to taste)
1⁄2 t salt, preferable fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature 2 C all-purpose flour
Course sugar

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and very creamy. Using your fingers, rub the zest of the orange into the granulated sugar until the sugar is moist and aromatic, then add this to the confectioner’s sugar, salt and butter. Beat until well blended. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the egg yolks, beating until incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk the cardamom into the flour. Turn off the mixer and add the flour, and pulse on low speed to slowly incorporate the flour. Once incorporated, beat the flour for about 30 seconds more until the dough is uniformly moist. If flour remains at the bottom of the bowl or the sides, use a rubber spatula to work the rest of the flour into the dough. You want to work the dough as little as possible.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece of dough into a log about 9 inches long and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. You can use the plastic wrap to help shape the logs. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or freeze up to 2 months.

When ready to bake, set the oven for 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk an egg yolk until it is smooth and brush the sides of the log with the egg yolk to hold the granulated, crystal or colored sugar to the sides of the cookies. Cut into slices 1⁄4 inch to 1⁄2” thick and bake for 17 to 20 minutes or just until lightly golden on the edges.

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