Friday the hubby and my middle liddle sister and I (and my dog) drove to the north shore of New Orleans to visit mom and our whole family. It's rare that mom and all her girls are in the same place at the same time so it was really exciting. To kick off the weekend we "celebrated." Ok, to be fair, we celebrated the whole time but that's just how we are.
After shrimp creole, ribs, bread and wine for dinner we played a game of cards. Playing 'Phase 10' while eating popcorn and or ice cream is a family tradition. We top of this great ritual with some sort of judgment impairing liquid, irish whiskey in this case. After all of this my littlest sister asked for cookies. (Doesn't she have beautiful eyes?) In our collective weakened state this seemed like a really good idea. She asked my middle liddle sister to make them for her. My hubby, btw, had already snuck off to bed.
Middle liddle decided that she needed a shower. She told us that if we collected all of the ingredients on the island she would bake for us after her shower. Littlest and I busied ourselves with finding oatmeal and flour and chocolate chips and other flavorings that made sense. I warmed up the eggs under luke warm water and set the butter out. Then I stood there staring at all these things that desperately wanted to be cookies and decided that it was cruel to make them wait. So I started measuring and pouring and mixing. Middle liddle showed up just before they went into the oven and laughed at my impatience.
Mom was fast asleep. I'm surprised we didn't wake her up with all of our mixing, giggling and baking noises. Biggest little sister was on the south shore visiting with friends she hadn't seen in months. As the cookies were coming out of the oven (4 batches? maybe only 3, who knows) we gobbled up nice warm cookies. I put two on a plate and took them up to sleeping hubby. He didn't seem too happy to see me, or them, but he must have enjoyed them because when I finally went to bed his plate was all clean and waiting for me on the nightstand.
The remaining cookies (there were plenty!) served as back up treats for the two family parties on Saturday. There were enough left that each sister could have a care package for their respective treks home.
(These are the recipe from the Quaker oatmeal top with chocolate chips instead of raisins plus a little nutmeg and something else which I have since forgotten, ooops.)
Thursday I made Challah for a friend who was coming into town (and then didn't). Of all the breads I've made this was hubby's favorite so I made a loaf for home too. We had a weekend trip to New Orleans planned so I made a loaf for that too. Yep, I made 3 loaves of Challah. The dough rising over the bowl in the morning was quite entertaining.
After making the dough and letting it rise slowly in the fridge over night I divided it into the 3 parts and braided each one.
bread about to be braided looks like half an octopus
a little bit braided
Then they got an egg wash and rose for an hour.
egg wash 1
After an hour they got another egg wash and some poppy seeds. Then they rose for another hour before getting baked.
egg wash 2
And then they were all beautiful and ready to eat!
Today I'm doing crazy amounts of secretarial work to try to make up for driving to New Orleans tomorrow. WOO HOO! I'm going to New Orleans. I'm also baking 3 loaves of challah today. One to take with us, one for hubby and I and one for a friend who is coming into town on Monday. Our loaf and his will spend the weekend in the freezer.
Also .... a group is getting together on Twitter to do the Top Chef Just Desserts elimination challenges! That's going to be so much fun. I'm looking forward to having someone else's ideas to work from and to really push myself. Squeeeeee!
Today was kind of a crummy day. I'm nursing a back injury. Some people who I called for my somewhat secretarial job YELLED at me because they were mad at a whole different company. I couldn't workout (see back injury.) All together that made for a less than desirable day until .....
Hubby came home from work and checked the mail. "Hey babe, did you order something?" Well, I did order a pound of organic cinnamon from herbalcom but that doesn't look like a pound of cinnamon. I bravely used a pen to open the very well taped legal size envelope and I found pretty pink tissue paper inside with something a little cupcakey looking beneath it. I showed that tissue paper no mercy as I dug to find the cutest cupcake apron in the world nestled within! One of you, my dear darling readers, has sent me a cupcake apron and I love it! I love you too btw. Not only did you send me an awesome apron but you single handedly (maybe you used two hands, I can't be sure) fixed my crummy day. Thank you, awesome person!
Since I am not done up, made up or fixed up in any way right now you'll have to admire the apron on it's own. I promise to provide pictures of it in action soon!
A friend gave me the 'Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking' book. He attended and he doesn't bake. That just works in my favor! Remember after pie-tons I said I wanted to make a "real" apple pie? Well, this is it.
This was my second attempt at homemade pie crust. It turned out MUCH better than my first. I used the enriched pie crust recipe because I was so afraid of it falling apart and the egg seemed like a good fix. The crust had to sit in the fridge before using but then it rolled out beautifully. I didn't want a plain top crust but I didn't feel like weaving either. I saw on someone else's blog (I forget who, I'm sorry) that they had cut the dough into flowers and laid them on top. This seemed like a good and fun solution so I went with it. I really like the way it turned out.
While I was rolling out the dough, making shapes and doing other randomness my sister was making the insides, the pie guts if you will. Hubby loves walnuts with his baked apples so we went with the "and walnut" variation. The apples cooked on the stove with butter and sugar and all kinds of goodness. Even tho my sister entirely handled this part of making the pie she claims "I stirred." Hahaha, she stirred also.
After letting the pie guts cool for a bit we poured them into the bottom crust and topped it with our shapes. That was fun. Toward the end of the baking time I made some whipped cream (not pictured) and prepared myself mentally for the yumminess that was on the way. We managed to wait until it was cooler than piping hot before we ate, still hot enough to melt the cream on contact. This pie was everything I'd hoped an apple pie could be but with a crunch of walnuts to top it off. Enjoy.
Once a month I drive down to Austin to meet up with some friends. About half of them are vegans which leaves me challenged for what to bring. I'm allergic to soy so all the normal vegan substitutions don't work for me. Taking the time to bake something I can't eat, pack it up and bring it with me kinda sucks. One of my friends has been helping me find Kelli-safe, vegan options. Thank you, Em. These cookie bars are based on the strawberry bars I've made before but with a couple of changes. These received the approval of vegans and carnivores alike. And this time, boys and girls, I'm including a recipe. Please enjoy.
Kelli-safe Vegan Raspberry Cookie Bars
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup Earth Balance Soy-free margarine
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (these contain a little soy, but not enough to kill me)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 375. Line a 8x12 or 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the sugars and whisk again. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until it's all mashed up. Stir in the oats. Press 3/4 of the mixture into baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes.
Spread the jam evenly over the cookie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips on the jam. Mix almonds into the remaining flour mixture and sprinkle over chocolate chips. Pat down gently. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Let cool in the pan. Lift out of the pan by lifting edges of parchment. Slice and enjoy.
Friday night, in anticipation of a giant meal I would be making with my sister, I made buttermilk biscuits. I had planned a rotisserie chicken in my Baby Foreman along with mashed potatoes, green peas and apple pie. Hubby reminded me that he would need gravy. Since I don't like gravy I tend to forget that other people do. I figured if he needed gravy he probably need biscuits too. They go together from what I understand.
My brain flashed to a page in Bake Wise and something about grace and biscuits. So, Friday night, I made Shirley Corriher's "Touch-of-Grace" Southern Biscuits. I love the way she describes things in her recipes. When talking about the dough she says "it should be a wet mess." Haha, good to know that if I am staring at a wet mess I'm doing something right!
I followed her clear instructions carefully and ended up with a dish of beautiful pre-baked biscuits. Shaping each one felt like playing with floured Gak . I found it very entertaining and I may have giggled here and there. When they were almost done baking I melted a little salted butter to brush on top of them (even though the recipe says to use unsalted.)
Once they were brushed WELL with butter I moved quickly through the invert, reinvert and separate steps so that I could get to the best step of all .... BUTTER AND EAT! I tried the first bite dry. I suppose I should say "without additional butter." There is nothing dry about these biscuits at all. They're light and tender and juicy. I tried the next bite with a little butter. It melted joyfully into the little holes. I ate the rest of my first biscuit the way I love biscuits best, with butter and jam. A little glop of blackberry jam on a biscuit is heaven if you ask me. They also became breakfast Saturday morning, a side for dinner Saturday night and a snack for hubby on Sunday. I highly recommend making, and eating, these often!
I am completely blaming the hubby for this one. This was another late night impulse control challenge. I was telling him how I'd been thinking about hand held apple pies. He decided that this was a great idea but they should be shaped like won tons and then fried. He dubbed them "pie-tons."
On a side note, I have a t-shirt that says "even the bad ideas are bigger in Texas." It is, naturally, referring to the bad ideas that disguise themselves as good ideas. They're fun or tempting in some way. This is one of those. Haha. It seemed like such a great idea. Just make some pie dough (which I've never done from scratch before), bake up some apples, plop them down on the dough, seal them up and fry! Bingo, done. Right? No. Don't get me wrong, they tasted GREAT, but they were a pain.
I chopped up two jazz apples and a giant fuji. I dropped those into an 8x8 dish then sprinkled them with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, a few toffee chips and a little flour. I added some lemon juice and stirred it all up using the messy hands method. Finally I topped all that with some butter and put the dish into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. These tasted amazing! Way to wing it me!
I had to search through several pie dough recipes before I could find one for which I had all the stuff. Oh, I've gone shopping now and I have plenty of ingredients for impulsive treats. I found a recipe that was simple enough. Sadly I read two days later that if I cut the fat down too small my crust will not be as smooth. That would have been really helpful info before hand. Oh well, I know now. It rolled out kinda ok at first but as the flour started to vanish from my rolling pin it started sticking more and more.
Once the oil was hot a little spoonful of apple went into each square of dough, which I'd cut with a pizza wheel. They fried up easily enough. Since I'd already baked the apples I didn't have to worry about them cooking in the oil, this step was just to cook the dough. I watched them attentively. So attentively in fact that I didn't notice hubby sneaking with the camera. This was late, like 11:45pm, so please forgive the fact that I look like I'm ready for bed .... because I was.
When they were all done I plated them for picture time and then served them up. I will be the first to admit that they are ugly as sin. To me they kinda look like some sort of poisonous sea creature waiting to attack. The crust wasn't ideal. I need to work the fat in less and either use a dough that's meant to be fried or bake them. I vote for baking because the grease made them heavy, too heavy really. Their saving grace was the flavor. They tasted like delightful little pies. We each had two and each pie-ton was 2 or 3 bites. They were so good, I could have eaten more but all that grease convinced me to stop early!
Tomorrow night my sister and I are making a good comfort food dinner. Rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes (I make the BEST mashed potatoes on earth), green peas and an apple, walnut pie .... BAKED. Making these little bundles of grease and yum made me want a "real" apple pie. Since I haven't made the hubby a pie yet this year I figured this was as good a time as any. We'll post pics for your entertainment. Until then, enjoy pie-tons.
I know "The Need For Impulse Control" may seem like an odd title but here's why .......
Saturday night hubby and I were having a typical Saturday night, like ya do. Suddenly I proclaimed "WE NEED BROWNIES!!!" Mind you, this is pretty late on Saturday night. As soon as the oven was set to pre-heat I checked a recipe, checked the pantry, checked another recipe, checked the fridge. This went on for about 4 or 5 recipes before I found one for which I had all the ingredients. I promptly buttered a pan, mix up everything and popped them in the oven. Soon that intoxicating "something yummy is baking in the oven" smell hit me and I desperately needed ice cream to go on top of these brownies.
For a moment I contemplated sending the hubby to the grocery with very strict instructions to bring back the best brownie topping ice cream he could find. Poor hubby was already dealing with an insane baking wife late at night so I tried to figure out how I could spare him. AH! There was heavy cream in my fridge that only had 2 days left before it was destined for the drain. I stashed a bowl and a whisk in the freezer and waited out the longest 5 minutes of the day. Out they came and in went the cream and I whisked and whisked and whisked until my arm fell off, then I whisked with my left arm. I soon remembered that famous quote from Princess Bride. "I'm not left handed!" So I started whisking with my right again (it had grown back by this time). When I had whipped cream I add a little superfine sugar and then whisked some more.
Beep went the oven, BROWNIE TIME! But they had to cool, at least a little. I didn't wait very long before I cut into them and asked the hubby if he wanted a side, the center or a corner. Is there a more important question in brownie serving? I think not. I topped his corner with a big, healthy glop of whipped cream and got him a fork. Apparently this is how you make a man happy while he's playing WoW. Turns out it's also how you make his game friends jealous, double wife points! I served myself next and sat down to the most satisfying, whipped cream topped brownie I could remember.
And that is why I need impulse control. From now on I vow to only bake on days (or nights) that end in Y.
I've decided that I need a fewcuteaprons. It's not like I don't have 2 already but a baker needs a whole wardrobe of them. With the way flour and powdered sugar fly and take over the world, I always look a mess in the kitchen. Add to that my propensity for wiping my hands on my apron, jeans or shirt ... I'm usually a lot closer to a disaster.
I've also decided that I need a newdigitalcamera. I've been using a point and shoot digital for my pics on here. I have a few WONDERFUL film SLRs that I love more than chocolate covered cherries but they aren't very conducive to taking pics of food and getting them edited and up in a timely manner. They're for fine art, black and white, silver printing ... mmmmmm, silver printing, my long lost love.
Ok ok, I keep saying "need" and it's probably closer to "want." "Need" just sounds so much more convincing, don't you think?
These go with the Amaretto Orange Cake Balls that I made for a friend's party. I wanted her to have a little variety and I wanted to try out an idea. I think the idea is good but needs work to get to a really workable point. The finished product tasted good but good isn't good enough. I wanted them to taste spectacular. These will most definitely be on my menu, so to speak, because I think the idea and the flavor combinations are really solid .... it's just the details that need work.
First of all, the cupcake itself was a big let down! I used a recipe from a book that I will not name because it has let me down time and again. If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all, right? These were the driest cupcakes in the history of mankind. They had about a drop more moisture than sand. Not beach sand either, I'm talking about desert sand. Fortunately I had planned a soaking syrup for them. I made a syrup from water, sugar, amaretto and orange juice and dipped each one in this and then let them dry in a warm oven. (The syrup made them very soggy initially.)
The next let down wasn't as bad. I made a white chocolate ganache and intended to drizzle it on top. I started with 2 ounces of heavy cream and 3 ounces of white chocolate. That was way thinner than I'd hoped. Sadly, that was all the white chocolate I had so I was forced to just go with it. Next time I'll start with .5 ounce of cream and 3 ounces of white chocolate and thin it from there if needed. Instead of drizzling I dipped the cupcakes. Within a minute of being dipped each one had ganache running down the sides and puddling up under them. Since foil cups had been employed this was an easy enough clean up and more of an annoyance than anything else.
Finally, I topped the minis with chocolate sprinkles to visually tie them in with the cake balls. I had 2 more than I needed of each treat so I ate one of each, for taste testing purposes of course. The cake balls were AMAZING! The cupcakes, as I mentioned, were just "good." With the other extra I left the hubby a pretty little plate that was waiting on the counter for him when he arrived home from work. He agreed that the cake balls were much better than the cupcakes and he enjoyed the shot of amaretto.
WHAT I LEARNED AND WHAT I'LL DO DIFFERENTLY:
this cupcake recipe SUCKS! (oops, that wasn't nice)
I will write my own vanilla cupcake recipe with help from Shirley's math
white chocolate is dramatically thinner than milk or dark chocolate
I will not underestimate the thinness of white chocolate in a ganache
there needs to be more flavor in the cake itself
I will add orange zest to the cupcake batter?
I will poke little holes in the cupcakes so the ganache can work down into them
I will add the amaretto to the ganache and skip the soaking syrup
I will make a bigger batch so there are more "leftovers" ;-)
I woke up too early this morning and then had trouble getting back to sleep. Not so much trouble as I just didn't get back to sleep at all. Even all snuggled in my cozy bed with kitties on my chest, arm and feet sleep was evil and evasive. What happens to the brain when sleep won't happen? Cupcake dreams! I think I've formulated the perfect method for S'Mores Cupcakes. I hadn't planned to bake cupcakes again just yet but this weekend it may be inevitable. I dreamed of the perfect placement for each component, where to put the graham cracker, how to incorporate the marshmallow and what types of chocolate I would use. My brain even went so far as to decide which order I will need to prepare each part.
Once I had the S'Mores Cupcakes all planned out and perfect I drifted right off to sleep. That's what you were expecting to read isn't it? Of course that's not what happened! Instead I moved on to Rumfetti Cake. Oh yes! That's funfetti with rum. Is it crazy or is it perfect? I'm not sure but I have a feeling I'll find out soon. I'm thinking funfetti cake, from scratch, brushed with a rum infused soaking syrup then filled and topped with a rum infused buttercream. Sometime between now and the time I actually make it I might spruce that up a little more but for now that's the idea. Oh! Oh! Coconut in the frosting!? I think maybe yes.
After that I pretty much gave up on sleep, got up and worked out. Maybe now that both of those are all worked out and planned I can sleep like a rock tonight. If not, I'll let you know what I dream of tonight.
Every now and then I get asked how to make cake balls. For the longest time I didn't know either but after a little quick reading I gave it a try. Actually, the first time I encountered cake balls was also the first time I made them. I thought that today I'd give you a tutorial with the cake balls a friend asked me to make last week. She wanted some of my "21 and Over" cake balls but left the flavor choices up to me. I guess she trusted me since she'd previously ordered Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes from me. Ok, here we go ... here's how you make cake balls ......
Gather your ingredients. Having everything ready to go will keep you moving along and will save you from discovering, after you've begun, that you're missing something important. You'll need cupcakes or cake tops or some form of cake, something to moisten the cake, any flavoring you want to add, something to coat them in and, if you want, some decorations. As you can see I used cupcakes (vanilla) for my cake. I flavored them with orange zest and moistened them with Di Saranno and heavy cream. Then I coated them in dark chocolate candy melts and topped them with a little white chocolate ganache and chocolate sprinkles.
Now you'll mash up your cake. Use a fork, a potato smasher, your fingers or any other mashing instrument that strikes your fancy. (For the record, my sister has informed me that if my hands are going to be in pictures I need to keep my nails manicured. Sorry sis.) Once your cake is all mashed up you add your flavor and wet ingredients. Your flavor could also come from your wet ingredients. You can use icing, cream, citrus zest, liquor, milk, melted butter, extracts or just about anything. Add small amounts at a time! After every addition mash it around some more to mix it all in and then take a little bit in your hand and try to form it into a ball. As soon as it holds its shape stop adding liquid. If you add too much liquid the balls won't hold together. You can, of course, correct this by adding more cake. Nothing is ever harmed by adding more cake, right?
Next, you form it all into balls. If you care about size being consistent use something to measure. I pressed my mixture into a tablespoon. Otherwise just grab a hunk of cake and go for it. Place balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, allowing space between them. Stash your baking sheet in the freezer for at least an hour. They can wait here for you as long as you need them to. If you are busy and need to come back to them tomorrow it's no big deal. They'll wait.
Here comes the fun part, one of the fun parts anyways. Melt some chocolate or any other flavored coating you'd like to use. I've just been going with the microwave method lately. It's faster and I don't overheat my chocolate this way. For easy dipping break the center two tines out of a plastic fork and keep a second fork handy. Use the fork with the missing tines to lower the ball into the chocolate, roll it around and remove it. Tap off the excess on the side of the bowl an then return the cake ball to the parchment paper. If it seems to really like the fork you can use the second fork to ease it off. You may want to decorate them before your coating dries. Things like sprinkles or coconut will stick to wet coating easier than to dry coating. At this point I let mine rest while I made some white chocolate ganache and let it thicken up. Then I drizzled it over the cake balls and then added chocolate sprinkles.
Now comes the most important step. I am not kidding here. This step is vitally important and can not be skipped or tampered with in any way. Are you ready? Here it comes. Enjoy your cake balls! If you are making them for someone else you still need to taste one for quality control. As long as you're tasting one you may as well have a few. You can always make more for your friend.