Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best of 2008

So much was packed into 2008 that I can hardly believe it's over. Since everyone seems to do a "Best of...", I thought I could do one of my own... about my stuff.... I hardly ever toot my own horn since I normally think my horn sucks, but this year I did make some of my favorite things....

Best Feet: This was for my bestest childhood friend Dee... for her baby Breanna. This is my favorite shot of the cake, baby feet... I know weird but they are so cute I can't even stand it. You can see the rest of the cake here, its cute too.

Best Nose: This was a cake where the client just let me roll with an idea and I secretly wanted to keep it because I adored all the little figures. My favorite shot of the Baby Safari cake was of the elephant crate, if you look really close, there's peanuts.. hehe... loved it!

Best Surprise: This was for my son Skylor. The best part wasn't really the cake itself but that me, my honey, grandma, grandpa and his cousin all got on a plane to Sacramento to surprise him for his 16th Birthday with this cake in tow.... I've never seen anyone so shocked and surprised about anything in my whole life. For him the best day ever!

Best Propose: I love this cake because it was for my Wedding. I knew everything that was wrong with it and it was so far from finished and so far from perfect its not even funny but I love it because I finally married my honey this year on 8-8-08 after he proposed god knows how many years ago.....

Monday, December 29, 2008

Crust-o-licious

Making pies for the holidays have become a bit of a monotonous project for me. So when my co-worker asked for me to make a special crust on hers I was actually excited to make something as simple as an apple pie.

The crust was cut with small scalloped cutter and layered starting at the bottom and sticking them together using an egg wash. Its a little extra work but its so beautiful. It made the crust look even more flaky and the inevitable gaps between some of the pieces leave natural steam vents.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Savory Sweetness

This is truly an odd combo for candied nuts but it really works together in nutty harmony. I'm clearly on a Martha kick the last few days.....I think I've been watching to much Tivo.

Stuff is a pain to find on her website so I don't even have the patience to go find the link again for you guys so here is the recipe below.

Spiced Maple Glazed Pecans
Martha Stewart
  • 1 lb. Pecans and/or Walnuts
  • 3 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp. Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Chopped Thyme
  • 1 tsp. Coarse Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Mix everything together in a big bowl and spread out onto a lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, stir a bit if you like in between to keep them from sticking together. Cool and store at room temp for up to a week, if they stick around that long.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yiihoo...howdy howdy howdy...

This post is really about Cowboy cookies but my mind works in mysterious ways and the cookies reminded me of one of my favorite movies from when my kids were little, The Rescuers Down Under. I loved every character from Ms. Bianca teetering on the edge of snootville but in a lovable sort of way to the big bad monitor lizard Joanna and her egg snatching hi-jinks.

One of my very favorite scenes was when Frank the little frilled lizard gets stuck riding on Joanna's back cowboy style. You can check out the (grainy) classic Disney hilarity here. And find the recipe for these fantastic cookies here. Both the cookies and the movie are a must, trust me on this one.

TWD: Buttery Apricot Jam Cookies

Heather over at Randomosity and the Girl chose Buttery Jam Cookies for this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie. I probably would have never ventured to make these cookies because they just sounded weird and I wasn't at all hopeful that they would be good so I'm surprised that I really like them.

I made mine with the suggested Apricot Jam and scooped them into little itty bitty cookies then slathered the bottom with melted white chocolate. They are cakey and buttery and the white chocolate and ginger give it a little kick, yum!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolate Crackles

Mine no looka like Martha's... but they's damn tasty.... like brownie bites with a crunchy exterior. Excellent beginning for this book.

Truth be told I'm a cheater and maybe this is why this is the only cookie out of the dozen I baked that looked even vaguely like the ones in the book. When I got to the part of the recipe that said I had to divide this super sticky dough into 4 equal pieces then wrap it and chill it for 2 hours...then divide those into blah blah blah.. it got a little too 'Martha' for me and I used my own method.

I scooped these little guys with my smallest scoop and chilled them in the freezer. I think the frozen dough was too cold and didn't allow the surface to spread and crack properly, which is usually what happens to me, freezing brings on the wonky. I am saving the rest of the dough to bake off closer to Christmas time, I will make sure they are only fridge cold and see if that makes a difference because I don't like fussy recipes. All that dividing would make me not want to make these again no matter how tasty they are. I can't wait to see how other people who baked along got on with these, bound to be equally as tasty.

Bake-alongers: Megan's came out perfectly perfect check them out here if you want to see what they are supposed to look like.
Susan was in the midst of making hers when she was hit oven troubles. Sorry your oven is not cooperating! She was kind enough to post the recipe on her blog. Update: Susan's honey got her oven running and hers came out picture perfect.
Natalie's batch came out a little flatter than mine but still beautiful and delicious looking, I can imagine hers with a little ice cream smooshed in the center.
Fit Chick got her batch posted and they are gorgeous too! I'm convinced I've done something wrong to mine. Oh well, I will have to make more! There's no shortage of volunteers to eat the mistakes around here.

It's amazing that everyone has a different outcome. This is why I love baking with others to see how theirs turn out and to see the little twists everyone lends to their baking.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seems Im not the only one....

Megan has a problem too!
Megan said...

So pick a recipe, as long as it's not too nutty (no pun intended) and I'll make it with you - I have the same problem, and I've been staring at all the books this month wondering what to make. As if belonging to 6 different baking/cooking groups isn't enough!


Alright Megan, how bout some Chocolate Crackles pg 68 or Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies pg 163? Both look equally appealing..... an no nuts!

Update: Megan picked
Chocolate Crackles pg 68, posting on Monday... if anyone else wants to join in.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

I must admit it, I have a problem


Well I have a few problems but honestly way to many to discuss.

Two struck me today and I must admit it and join Cook Book Buyers Anonymous if there is such a thing. Work is stressful like always but doubly so in the last few months, so at lunch I did a little shopping therapy... my first problem. Admittedly shopping therapy in today's economy is not a good habit. As I was perusing the scattered shelves at Marshall's I spy Martha Stewart's Cookies book. I have a slew of cook books of all sorts, some that I never cracked open past the day of purchase.... my second problem. But of course I have to have it, and of course I think that I'm getting a good deal at $16.99 its cheaper on Amazon by 52 cents but I didn't have to pay shipping so :P

I shall here and now vow to make at least 3 or 4 of the recipes contained in this book, just so I don't feel so bad... cookies make everything better right? Ah well there's an admitted third problem right there.... blogs are so therapeutic.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies

Being as I was behind with my Tuesdays with Dorie recipes, I did a little super baking on Sunday and made the Linzers and Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies, the this weeks selection chosen by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein. (Not to mention the non-TWD related maple cornmeal biscuits and the banana bread.)

I was quickly running low on regular AP flour with all this baking so I decided to use 1/2 whole wheat 1/2 cake flour. Since I didn't want these to be particularly Christmasy (there's ample time for that later this month) I added in some lemon zest and rolled the dough into a log and popped it into the fridge to chill. I sliced them about 1/4 inch thick & baked til golden around the edges. As they cooled I mixed up the juice from the lemon that I zested with some powdered sugar to make a glaze. I dipped each cooled cookie into the glaze and left them to dry.

These were a little questionable on the day they were baked, they seemed too hard, probably from the whole wheat flour but the next day, they were super yummy. I'm assuming a little of the moisture from the glaze helped to make these the right texture. I'll have to give this recipe a try with regular AP to see how it turns out because it was a simple easy dough to make.

TWD: Linzer Sables

I'm a week behind on my Tuesday with Dorie recipes, but not officially because we get a bit of a reprieve this month and get to choose whichever recipe we want to make from the December list (Linzer Sables, Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies, Buttery Jam Cookies, Real Butterscotch Pudding & Tall and Creamy Cheesecake) as long as we post them on Tuesday.....it is Tuesday's with Dorie after all. I think this is a great gift from the powers that be, because who knows how nutty this month will turn out hopefully I get a chance to make them all.

So today I made the Linzer Sables, two ways. I shoulda done Linzer Sables, three ways just to be all Top Chef about it but we know they suck at desserts anyway so lets not bring the cookies down to that level. Rude but so true....

The first were rolled out to 1/4 inch thickness and then cut out from the chilled dough, baked off cooled then filled with dark chocolate spread from Cost Plus and dusted liberally with powdered sugar. These were ok with the dark chocolate but a little on the bland side, I think the lack of sugar in both the cookie and the filling did these in.


The others were rolled into balls and filled with apricot preserves like you would do with thumbprint cookies, baked off and dusted with powdered sugar. The jam did the trick this time and lent the bit of sweetness the cookie dough needed. I would probably leave out the little smidge of ground cloves if I made these again, for some reason the clove always puts me off a bit.

This recipe was chosen Dennis over at Living the Life, you can find the full recipe there if your so inclined to make these yourself.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

No you can't eat the whole loaf by yourself....

I've had to utter these words many times after making this recipe for Banana Bread, mostly to my oldest son. As mentioned in a previous post, it's a tried and true recipe and family & co-worker favorite. I'm kind of surprised I hadn't posted about it before because I make it all the time.

I think everyone's kitchen is frequented by the beautifully ripe turned suddenly funky bunch of bananas. Unless you have a 6 month old around, no one is going to eat those bad boys, so its best to scrounge up the other ingredients and make some banana bread. My excuse today and almost every time I make it... the oven was already on.

Banana Bread ~ Betty Crocker's Cookbook circa 1987
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Butter, softened
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Banana, mashed *I never measure this I just throw 3 or 4
  • 1/3 cup Orange Juice (or water)
  • 1 2/3 cup A/P Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 cup Nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease the bottom of a loaf pan. Mix sugar and butter until fluffy and stir in eggs one at a time. Mix in the mashed banana and orange juice. Whisk together all the remaining dry ingredients, including the chopped nuts and slowly incorporate into the wet mix until no dry bits remain. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake until golden brown.

You can also top off the loaf with some regular granulated or turbanado sugar before baking to get a nice glisten on the top of loaf. This can take quite awhile to bake and will get quite dark but make sure the tester comes out clean before removing it from the oven.

Maple-Cornmeal Drop Biscuits

The weather is a bit chilly today here in So. Cal. 68˚ degrees! Brrr....

Ok so its not cold by any real standard, shoot I'm wearing shorts and the front door is wide open. Even still the ever so slight dip in the temperature and the overcast day makes me want to bake. So when I woke up we started the day the cholesterol way and had Maple Cornmeal Biscuits with Honey butter and Bacon.

These biscuits were so yummy with the crunchy nuggets of cornmeal and the melty honey butter on top. They have a little sweetness from the maple syrup, but they could have taken on some gravy anyway and been super delicious. You can find this recipe on page 24 of Baking from My Home to Yours. This is my favorite sort of recipe for the morning too, no machinery involved, just your oven a bowl and a fork. I did get a little carried away and used a big scoop and made some big biscuits but a smaller version would do just fine as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust

Every year my little bro makes pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, but for some reason my mom still asks me to bring a dessert...maybe just so I feel useful because everyone would be happy with just the pumpkin.

This year I was asked to bring pumpkin cheesecakes, one Splenda-rized version (top photo) for my dad, and one regular (bottom photo) for everyone else.

Gingersnap Pumpkin Cheesecake ~ Splenda.com
Marble Pumpkin Cheesecake ~ Epicurious.com

Both cheesecakes got rave reviews and will find a permanent place in my cook book. The amazing crusts were both made with old fashioned gingersnaps & graham crackers, one with real sugar and one with granulated splenda, I tried to steal my honey's crust but he wouldn't fall for it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Pies

Over at Tuesdays with Dorie its Twofer Pie week chosen by Vivi at La Casserole Carree but I had to make a Threefer with a Tart chaser. All in all seven pies for the folks at work nice enough to contribute to my holiday fund by buying their Thanksgiving pies from moi.

Double Crust Apple Pie~ Fresh Granny Smiths from the farmers market this weekend. Tossed with sugar & spices, surrounded by flaky pie crust a la Martha.
Pumpkin Chiffon~ Fluffy pumpkin filling, way better than the traditional pumpkin pie. I hated making this pie when I was in school because I would always get a crap grade...mastered by making this every year since graduating.
Chocolate Cream Pie~ Chocolatie goodness in a buttery chocolate crust. Sadly we had extra filling leftover, my honey has to eat the leftover, I had to twist his arm but he's gonna do it. Way to take one for the team baby!
Lemon Meringue Tart~ Pate Sucree filled with tart lemony custard, topped with swirls of French Meringue.

I got a little carried away and put meringue on everything because I figure it might hold up better than whipped cream, its fricken tasty and I was having way to much fun torching things. I think I better hit the hay, the leaves on the pies are starting to look like turkeys to me.....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Banana Butterscotch Muffins

Redemption from the last two TWD episodes is necessary and what better to wipe away the memories of Garlic Kugelhopf and Chocolatey Rice Soup than a recipe from Nigela Express.

I saw this recipe over the weekend when I was browsing my vastly underused cookbook collection but for once in my life I didn't have any super ripe bananas in the house...go figure. I bought some bananas on Sunday, they were super green but two days is all I could wait. I suggest that you let them get riper if you make this recipe. It was good, don't get me wrong, we almost ate them all already... but riper bananas would make them that much better.

Banana Butterscotch Muffins ~Nigela Express Page 262

  • 1/2 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 2 e. Whole Eggs
  • 1 2/3 c. AP Flour
  • 1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 1/4 c. Mashed Bananas
  • 1 c. Butterscotch Chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a 12 cup muffin pan. Measure the oil into a large glass measuring cup and beat in the eggs. Put the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix in the oil/egg mixture. Mash in the bananas and fold in the butterscotch chips. Scoop into the muffin tins and bake for 15/20 minutes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TWD: Arborio Rice....Soup?

Isabelle over at Les Gourmandises d' Isa gave us the opportunity to transform some pearly Arborio Rice into rice pudding.

Uh yeah this didn't turn out as expected..... I got a bowl of chocolately ricey soup. My honey said it smelled like horchata.... hehe. I couldn't even bring myself to post the soupage, it was truly gross to look at so I will spare you.

Even though I managed to wreck this simple recipe there were many over at Tuesday's with Dorie that created rice pudding bliss.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TWD: Pain in the Kugelhopf

I thought this Kugelhopf was meant to be... really I did. See I was at the thrift store looking for teacup sets for a project and I happened to find a beautiful kugelhopf pan so I thought it was destiny. Of course a regular bunt pan would suffice but the kugelhopf pan has more swirly decorative bits so I couldn't pass it up for $5 bucks now could I?

On Saturday laundry loomed in great heaping piles and the weeks collection of Tivo called my name so I started the dough fairly late in the day. I opted for the overnight rest in the fridge and turned my microwave into a mini proofer in the morning to let the dough take on its final rise. This dough being very airy baked up fairly quick. The new (though slightly used) kugelhopf pan did not disappoint. Out of the oven and on with the melted butter and liberal dusting of powdered sugar. I cut a few slices for me and my honey to taste test. I think it was OK- nothing to waste two days of prep on. My honey says it tastes "old." I immediately think, could my slightly used pan make an old slice of bread, dang I scrubbed that thing twice!? "Yeah old, kinda like garlic?" Eh? What the heck? Thinking he's just addle brained on a Sunday afternoon I slice another piece and take a good whiff. Yup GARLIC! Apparently even though you don't smell garlic on your pastry brush it still could be lingering and ruin your two days of baking... oh well at least it wasn't the pan.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dimply Pluot Cake

Years ago when they started pushing this funky looking fruit as dinosaur eggs I brushed them off as a marketing ploy to get moms to buy weird genetically mutated fruit that probably didn't taste very good. Turns out that pluots are sorta strange but oh so fantastic and tasty if you know where to get them. Not at your local overpriced megamarket where almost every fruit takes on a mealy tasteless pallor but at the farmers market.

You have to literally elbow your way past the old guy that thinks he's entitled to man handle every last luscious pluot before you get any, but its worth it and if your smart enough you will wake up earlier the next weekend to get first dibs....ha! Take that old dude! Sadly enough I think pluot season is over, I used the last few we had to make this tasty cake. The made this over at Tuesdays with Dorie back in September, before I was a member of the group.

I can imagine making this cake with just about any fruit to top it off, it was delicious with the pluots. I would also make it with a crumb topping like a coffee cake too. Its quick to whip up and stays moist with crispy buttery edges and the cardamom gives it a nice interesting kick. Its not to sweet so it was good for dessert and for breakfast.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TWD: Rugelach

Its about 7:45pm on a Tuesday, this is the latest I've gotten done with my Tuesdays with Dorie recipe so far. I usually bake on Saturday or Sunday, when I'm happy and not burdened by the usual mess, stress and unpredictability of work. In my opinion work stress makes me a crap baker so I almost skipped this week. But I had to fight the urge and try the Rugelach chosen by Grace over at Piggy's Cooking Journal because they sound too good to miss.

I came home during lunch to whip up the dough that has to chill for at least 2 hours before you roll up these little guys. The dough is a beautifully smooth pastry that baked up in crispy layers and from what I read on other TWDers blogs its pretty versatile too. I filled mine with seedless Boysenberry preserves, walnuts and bittersweet chocolate. The preserves mixed with chocolate create this extra bitter flavor that lingers along the sides of your tongue in a very good way. Definitely worth the effort. Oh yeah I forgot to say last night, if you try this recipe yourself head over to Piggy's Cooking Journal, she has it posted there, thanks Grace!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

YWP: Pies as a Fashion Statement!

In my ignorance of blog baking challenges, I though that the first challenge over at You Want Pies With That? was a hard one until I saw challenge two, Pies as a Fashion Statement! Honestly I almost skipped it because in my life, fashion statements stop at what's clean in the dryer.

Like most girls I do have a penchant for shoes.....from cool tennies to high heels, but how does that translate to pie? Besides no one would ever call my shoe choices fashionable, they teeters more on the far side of strange. I love patterns and colors and usually have to stop myself from buying shoes that couldn't possibly go with anything in my closet. Still shoes and pies don't go no matter how I tried to spin it. So I threw out the shoes or more like hid them in the back of my closet with the others and applied my love of patterns and colors to the crust.

I wanted to create sort of a batik fabric look, so I used patchwork cutters to pattern the crust and then painted it with food coloring. I was surprised at how bright the crust remained, I imagined it fading while baking, I might try this technique to gussy up my holiday pies. For the inside we found some beautiful Arkansas Black Apples at the farmers market on Saturday. I had high hopes because the apples, before baking they were so good, but when baked up they had a weird texture that I didn't care for. I think if I ever find them around for purchase again, I would rather eat them fresh from the core than bake them up again. Either way the pies were more beauty that substance and isn't that sorta fashiony?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

When I saw this recipe for Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream in an early October edition of Gourmet I took it as my chance to use up a box of Ibarra Mexican Chocolate in my cupboard for quite awhile now. I love the interesting flavor but its a pain in the arse to be honest. The chopping of the chocolate and digging out a sauce pan to warm the milk.... it's all a messy process, especially when you grew up making watery instant hot cocoa with the dehydrated little marshmallows inside. However much hot chocolate is not worth my time, home made ice cream is always worth the effort, so I got to work early this morning to make sure we had it all frozen for dessert.

Of course I had to tweek the recipe a little to accommodate what I had in the house. I used only 3 disks of chocolate when it asked for 3 1/2 and instead of half & half I used 2 cups whole milk plus 1 3/4 cup cream. Not a rebellious change of course and it came out fantastic. It's got a bit of a gritty texture and a mellow chocolate taste.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

In lieu of something new.... I resurrect a cake from Halloween past.

The Grim Reaper cake is by far one of my favorite cakes to date. Because it was a donation cake for the boy scouts to raffle off to raise some cold hard cash, I got to make whatever I wanted.

If you want to see some details of the cake you can head over to my website by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nut Job

I remember when I was a kid my mom had two favorite treats that she would tend to keep to herself. You know a secret stash unsuitable for ankle biters like us. Peanut brittle and Good & Plenty, of which the latter I could live without because licorice is one of those things that doesn't agree with me. I once snuck into the stash and proceeded to covertly chew the candy coating off the little buggers. Alas the outside being as thin as it was would always give way to licorice flavored tar-like centers before I could get any satisfying amount of the candy shell down my little gullet. Whenever my mom would share (never finding the holy grail of brittle myself) some of her brittle with us it was such a treat.
Now that I got skills (probably in my own mind) to make brittle on my own I usually throw in Cashews instead of peanuts, you know cuz their fancy and make up an extra batch to spread the love.

Small Batch Nut Brittle~Double it up if you want to share with your kids.

  • 8 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 oz. Corn Syrup
  • 4 oz. Water
  • 1 c. Nuts
  • 1 oz. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt

In a large heavy sauce pot combine sugar, water & corn syrup and cook to a light amber color. Add in the nuts and cook until it becomes darker amber in color, remove from the heat and add in butter, vanilla, salt & baking soda. Stir to combine and spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and stretch it to thin it out and break it up a bit. Allow to cool completely and break into bite size pieces.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

I make cupcakes from time to time, but I have to confess that I don't really like cupcakes (shhh...don't tell anyone). They quickly became the bane of my existence at CSCA. My chef instructor loved to have buffets you see, and our class being Patisserie & Baking students were tasked with creating the dessert buffet, which in theory sounds fun because who doesn't love dessert. But while the other Culinary students slaved away on interesting exotic dishes from Mexico or Morocco we had to make cupcakes.... lots and lots of cupcakes. And not pretty beautiful interesting cupcakes.... just the boring run of the mill make sure you crank out 10 dozen stat sort. This buffet of burden actually did teach me one thing that I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise.... I could never work in a commercial bakery, in my mind it would be akin to working in the post office, a never ending assault of cupcakes that would eventually make me go postal. A little while after graduating from Pastry school, a friend of one of my classmates got in contact with me to do their wedding cake and wouldn't you know it they wanted cupcakes! When they uttered these words a vision of my classmate laughing maniacally flashed before my eyes...bwahaha.... call Nicole, she lloooovveesss making cupcakes!

I thought of many a reason not to make the recipe chosen by Clara at I Heart Food 4 Thought, from it being 90 degrees outside to several reports of these cupcakes being on the dry side over at the Tuesdays with Dorie blog. I put my cupcake issues aside and made them anyway...mostly because my honey is grouchy, and maybe a chocolate chocolate cupcake will put him in a better mood... I added extra chocolate chips in the batter just in case. They turned out pretty good, very crumbly but not dry, maybe leaving two whole eggs instead of the 1 yolk 1 whole egg per the recipe will keep the crumb intact. The recipe for the glaze was stingy at best, I would surely make a double batch next time because there was just barely enough to coat each cupcake in a very thin layer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The One With Phoebe's Cookies

If your a fan of the show Friend's you know of the episode where Monica diligently dissects the lost cookie recipe of Phoebe's grandma, only to find out later they were just (insert bad french accent) "Nesleetolhause".

I've been craving home made Nestle Tollhouse Cookies since Christmas of 2007, I even included them on my wish list to Santa. Nestle chocolate chips are not on my usual shopping list but a few months ago me and my honey succumbed to the allure of the giant yellow bag from Costco and they've been calling me ever since.

I haven't made this recipe measure by measure since I was about 12 years old (my family would argue that I never measured whilst baking, my cookies were and still are affectionately called hockey pucks by my dad). I think I miss the tang of the inevitable miss measure of baking soda. Or the extra saltiness you get from using margarine because we would never have such exotic ingredients as unsalted butter in our house. Or maybe sometimes cookies are just better when your 12....

Monday, October 20, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

I would have waited all night too if I knew such tasty morsels were to be had.... I can't even remember if they ever saw the great pumpkin in this movie (I just remember all the waiting) but I do know that this weeks Tuesday's with Dorie recipe has certainly appeased the pumpkin gods.

I used the organic pumpkin puree from TJs and threw in some walnuts, but skipped the raisins. I'm so glad that I did because raisins in muffins give me the heebie jeebies. I also skipped the sunflower seed topping and added a little sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top instead, but will probably be a little more liberal next time.

Thanks to Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp! for the fantastic pick (you can go over to her site for the full recipe). I will definitely be making them again in the very near future.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bacon & Asiago Cheese Scones

In an attempt to redeem myself after some horrifyingly bad biscuits I made a few weeks ago (I think the pastry flour had gone south for the winter or something) I decided this morning to whip up some Scones. Using what we had in the fridge as motivation I created these super tasty Bacon Asiago Cheese Scones... and consequently tried not to eat them all. My honey is probably taking a scone induced nap as we speak.

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. AP Flour
  • 1 oz. Corn Meal
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper
  • 2 oz. Unsalted Butter - Cold
  • 1 ea. Whole Egg
  • 4.5 oz. Whole Milk (variable)
  • 5 ea. Slices of Bacon - Cooked, cooled & crumbled
  • 2 oz. Aged Asiago Cheese- grated

Preheat your oven to 350 and prep a sheet pan with parchment sprayed with a bit of olive oil.

Measure and mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, cut in butter until the butter is about the size of peas. Use a fork to mix in the egg its gonna get sticky and anything else will be useless in a second... mix in the milk until the mixture comes together but it not slumpy or overly wet (you may not need the entire 4.5 oz depending on humidity etc.). Mix in the Bacon and cheese, use a scoop to portion out the scones onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown all the way around.

*I used Asiago cheese slices from TJs, so I just cut the slices into a fine dice. But

Monday, October 13, 2008

TWD: Cranberry Almond Biscotti

This weeks recipe of choice on Tuesday's with Dorie is Lenox Almond Biscotti. Typically found in a plastic wrapper at our local Starbucks, they are always in need of a severe dunking before they are even edible not the case with the homemade version.

These were surprisingly simple to make with few ingredients (so few that I added some dried cranberries) but the twice baked cookie didn't quite agree with my impatient lazy side so adjustment had to be made.
  • Your supposed to divide the sticky batter into two nicely shaped logs...I didn't, I just left one big loaf so I have super-sized biscotti.
  • Bake until lightly golden and cool for 30 minutes....a whole 30 minutes, you got to be kidding me! So I waited for 10 tops before slicing.
  • Stand them up like a marching band.... eh? do what now? I didn't exactly know what that meant so they went back onto the baking sheet to crisp up.
For not following the directions, they came out pretty just the same. I can't wait to see how the other bakers faired on the whole marching band business, yes it actually says that in the directions. This are so much better than thier plastic wrapped cousins. The crunchy texture achieved from the cornmeal is so agreeable that I have to get them out of the house before I eat them all. Yum!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

YWP: I Love that Movie! Part 2

Polar Express Pie

A cool pepperminty chocolate layer paired with a layer of soft creamy milk chocolate in a Sugar Cookie crust.

Crust:
Bake some of your favorite sugar cookie recipe or use store bought cookies. Process them into fine crumbs in a food processor. Mix approx 8-10 oz (depending on your pie pan size) with about 2 oz. of butter. Press mixture into the sides and bottom of the pan and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Filling:
16 oz. Whole Milk
4 oz. Granulated Sugar
1 ea. Egg Yolk
1 ea. Whole Egg
1.25 oz. Cornstarch
2 oz. Milk Chocolate
2 oz. Peppermint Chocolate Chips*
4 oz. Heavy Cream
1 oz. Powdered Sugar

Optional to garnish:
Chantilly Cream
Shaved Chocolate

In a heavy sauce pan bring milk and 1/2 sugar to a scald. In a heat proof bowl, whisk together remaining sugar, eggs and cornstarch. Pour about 1/2 of the scalded milk into egg mixture, to temper. Pour back into the pan and cook until thickened. Pour 1/2 (approx. 11 oz) into a bowl with the milk chocolate and 1/2 into a different bowl with the peppermint chocolate. Mix each until the chips are completely combined and the mixture is completely smooth. Cover milk chocolate mixture with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is touching the surface of the filling so that it doesn't form a skin. Pour peppermint chocolate directly into the prepared pie crust, smoothing into an even layer, cover with plastic wrap. Put into fridge to cool and set. Whip heavy cream and powdered sugar to stiff peaks and fold into milk chocolate when it has cooled sufficiently. Spread evenly over the peppermint layer. Cover with plastic and chill overnight. Decorate with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

*I used York Peppermint Patty Premier Baking chips, I don't know where you could get these, I've looked online and can't even find them on the Hersey's website. You could probably sub in other peppermint flavored chips or reg. dark chocolate with a bit of peppermint oil.

YWP: I Love that Movie! Part 1

I joined another dessert inspired group called You Want Pies With That? Who doesn't like pie and who doesn't love a good challenge right?

First challenge ever is a tough one "I Love that Movie!" aka Movie inspired pie. Movies with pie in the title.... American Pie, gross! Movies with pies in them..... Sweeney Todd, double gross!! Having to change my thought pattern immediately; I tried to think of movies I loved first, then a pie I could create. Totally drew a blank, no inspiration, boo!

So of course I ask a few friends, swiftly dodging the aforementioned pie themes. My honey suggests Pineapple Express. Eh? How does that inspire a pie? I've never seen the movie but I know for sure it has NOTHING to do with Pineapples, but I could make this work. Pineapple pie sounds good.... never seen the movie but still love the name just the same. Dammit, do I create a themed pie on a movie I don't love?! (I know way to much angst over a pie) Then it came to me as I was drifting off to sleep as many things do Polar Express.

Its chilling away in the fridge, posting can only happen on the 8th.... Why the 8th? Well, Pi = 3.14. 3+1+4=8. (Trust me I didn't know this before I joined the group)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dark Chocolate Cherry Pecan Cookies

We were at Trader Joes today and my honey wanted to buy some cookies. How rude! He has a perfectly good pastry chef at home and he wants to BUY cookies! It's a drizzly rainy perfect for baking kind of weekend so I said I would make some.

I took a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe but filled them with dark chocolate covered cherries (cut in 1/2) and toasted chopped pecans.

This recipe is definitely a keeper and I must say they were way better than the hockey pucks in a plastic tub he was trying to sneak into the cart.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chocolate Stout Cake

I'm not a beer drinker, and have never in my life taken a sip of a deep heady stout. But when I saw this recipe it sounded so strange I had to try it, beer drinker or not.

You start by melting the butter, stout and cocoa which fills your house with a fabulous chocolatie beery smell unlike any beer I've ever smelled. This would be perfect to whip up on a chilly autumn night of which I was devoid of in the crisp 99 degree fall weather of good ol' So. Cal.

This cocoa, stout, butter slurry is cooled a bit then mixed into eggs and sour cream. Then the dry ingredients are mixed in until just incorporated. I think this quick mix of dry at the end and the sour cream give this a super moist texture because there isn't much time for the gluten to develop in the batter. Everything scooped into cupcake pans and baked up to a fluffy glistening finish.

However tasty they looked, I was scared even try it and since my dogs can't talk, I waited for my honey to come home and try it first. He says it rivals his most favoritest chocolate cake! You can smell the stout but you can't really taste it, and I'm not sure that anyone will even know if I didn't tell them. I'll test that theory on the guinea pigs at work tomorrow....I hope all the alcohol is cooked out ;)

I can call myself a stout fan now....as long as its mixed up with loads of Valrohna cocoa, butter and loads of sugar.

Monday, September 29, 2008

TWD: Creme Brulee

This is my first week participating in Tuesdays with Dorie, the main reason why I started this blog in the first place. Since leaving school I mostly make cakes and the dreaded sugar cookie, so joining up with the people over at TWD is hopefully a way to challenge my skills or at least keep me fresh with new techniques.

Case in point, I haven't made any creme brulee since the custard course in school. The method on this recipe had me re-reading it several times looking for the words water bath... but it was no where to be found. Nice!

It did make a sad amount, very shallow as you can see from the photos and I only used 4 ramekins when the recipe called for 6, maybe mine were on the larger side I dunno. Because the brulee was so shallow when I torched the tops (with my decidedly crappy arse torch) it heated up the custard underneath fairly quickly so as you can see there isn't a really nice caramel top on there, but it was tasty ;)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sometimes all you get is a big sink of dirty dishes...

I've made allot of banana bread in my life... and I always use the same recipe from a trusty crusty cookbook that has been around since I was a little kiddo. Everyone seems to love it, a few people (you know who you are) ask me to make it weekly and my oldest son can eat an entire loaf in a few short hours if I let him.

In my quest to possibly expand on my banana bread repertoire, I was lured in by a beautifully delicious photo of a Black and White Banana Loaf from my new cookbook. During my mise en place I diligently weight all the ingredients with the thought that this recipe was going to rival my tried and true and it would be easier to weight than measure next time.

Delicious smells of chocolate, banana and the holiday season (probably the nutmeg) wafted from the kitchen. Finally out of the oven, I set it aside to cool for a bit until the cross your fingers moment of turning it out. Tap, tap, tap a bit its not budging... tap some more, nothing but crumbs, slam it on the counter and 1/4 of the loaf comes out of the pan! Crap! All is not lost because even if its not purdy its sure to be tasty because its smells awesome. I give it a taste... sick! What a strange combo of flavors! Chocolate covered bananas are good! What the hell... I think the nutmeg, lemon zest and rum did this in.... now that I see all those words together, I don't know what I was thinking, actually kinda makes my stomach turn a bit.

Hot Pink Electic G

The cake is done! Woot! I'm very happy with how it turned out. I was disappointed with the guitar strings, because the neck had to be removable I chose to pipe the strings on (I had planned on using wire, inedible but cool). Piping a straight line over approx. 28 inches of uneven terrain is quite the task. Because the neck portion stepped down, I decided to stop there and pipe the neck separately. At 11pm after a long day of work and a very long evening of caking I found myself wondering "uh where do these wires go?". My honey said just tell them it needs to be tuned....he's so helpful :P

I learned a few things during this project:

  • Red Velvet Cake is fricken fantastic, esp. when you get the recipe from a true southern girl.
  • Its easy to kneed room temp. fondant esp. when the room temp is about 90, but room temp. fondant isn't your friend unless you like fondant that rips really easy.
  • 80's Music can get stuck in your head for several days if you happen to look at the sheet music too many times, trust me there isn't much of anything that can drown out Hungry Like a Wolf by Duran Duran.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How to hold your neck up....

So as I mentioned in the first post, I had to make the neck of the guitar removable. I created a holder doohicky that was made of styro and foamcore and glued that bad boy down to the display board. A bit on the hideous side but it works and the neck slides in easily.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stacks of Red Velvet

I'm not to keen on using recipes that I haven't tried in the past for a paying customer, it makes me super nervous because I don't know how said recipe is going to react to being stack or sliced into shapes that are often times unusual for cake (ie. not round/square).

In the case of the Guitar cake, I had two Red Velvet recipes in mind, and I had planned on trying them both out the week before. But alas my PD (procrastination disease) kicked in and before I knew it, it was time to bake the cake.

I thought the best course of action was to use the recipe straight from a fellow caker and true southerner (and lets not forget the 40 years of family testing to boot). Knox says "Upon first taste in the mouth, the true red velvet should have somewhat of a "bite" to it, almost imperceptible." Although I couldn't use the traditional Marykay Icing the cake was fricken fantasic. I had to throw away the heaps of scraps last night so that I wouldn't nibble on them as I finished the cake.

Monday, September 22, 2008

One Guitar neck...check!

I think this is the first time that I've done some serious planning and sketching of things to make sure that all the parts and pieces are to scale. Although the final guitar won't be 1:1 I wanted all the pieces to look like they were part of the same cake and this only happens with planning... which I hate to do. Planning makes me procrastinate. So I'm further behind in the project than expected but rather happy with things so far.
I think everything I make eventually becomes a little cartoony. I usually run with the cartoon look maybe because its easier for things to not be exactly how they should be. I know it's cake so it can never be an exact replica so I think I need to fight the cartoon on this one to see how close I can get it.

Study of the Electric Guitar

I was recently asked to recreate this electric guitar for a sweet 16 b-day in pink.

As with most of my cakes, I'm winging it (fake it 'til you make it right) even though there are so many great examples of guitar cakes on the intranet, its not very clear how to make one. Even after seeing it done by the team at Ace of Cakes or the amazing stand up version done by the Cake Girls, I still can't grasp how all the fabulousness is actually achieved.

And to throw a big wrench into my task, I have to make the neck removable. Because the cake it going to be red velvet with cream cheese icing and it will need to be refrigerated (and I can't fit a 30 inch cake in my fridge, and I doubt the customer will either), I have to create some contraption that will allow the customer to slide the neck into place after its been delivered (scary!).