Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

I've been a busy girl. A friend of mine with whom I often travel for work called me a couple weeks ago to see if I'd be interested in a baking job. For 15 dozen cookies. Sure, I said. Great. Absolutely.

Now, I've baked a lot of cookies. I've decorated a lot of cookies. However, my royal icing experience has been entirely limited to those breast cancer cookies a couple months ago. I thought it would be quick and easy--outline, flood, decorate, no problem. Ha. I am definitely a buttercream girl through and through. Royal icing in large quantities is a messy slow process for me! I learned a lot, and have been operating on less than five hours of sleep every night this week. Tomorrow, I might just sleep until noon. There was one point this week where I'm pretty sure every flat surface of my dining room was covered with a layer of green trees--like my very own confectionery forest, that smelled almost nauseatingly sweet when one walked in the room.

There are 14 dozen cookies with royal icing, plus a dozen with my usual buttercream. Since I don't have any elves to help me decorate my cookies, in the future, I think the cost of said cookies is going to be a touch higher than I charged this time, purely because the time commitment and frustration/exhaustion factor was significantly higher than anticipated. But they are pretty, aren't they?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Bourbon Cream Cheese Filling

Oh, fall. How I love you, with your abundance of squash. We picked up a couple pie pumpkins last weekend (along with acorn and butternut squashes) at Hurley Farms in Indian Lake. This one pumpkin produced some pumpkin risotto, a half dozen whoopie pies, and a 3" pumpkin cheesecake for the two of us. The pumpkin whoopie pies were for a friend's birthday--a friend who has a love for pumpkin as deep as I do. The recipe was an adapted recipe from How to Eat a Cupcake. She halved the recipe when she made it; I quartered it. I also made the frosting extra-special for my friend; instead of a standard cream cheese frosting, I made a maple-bourbon cream cheese frosting, which appeals to pretty much his entire flavor palate (and mine--the frosting was SO good)

The proportions are mine, with the original proportions in parenthesis.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Makes 14 cookies (7 pies if you can stand to wait until they are cool to taste that pumpkiny goodness)

5/8 cup all-purpose flour (2 3/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (2 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (1 tsp)
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon (4 1/2 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (1 1/2 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (1 1/2 tsp)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (1/2 tsp)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp (2 1/2 sticks)
1/4 cup sugar (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon molasses (3 Tbsp)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (2 tsp)
1 large eggs (4)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) (1 1/4 cups)
1 oz buttermilk (1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk dry ingredients (except sugar) together in a medium bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, molasses and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add pumpkin puree.
Mix in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating until just combined.
Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls (I used a number 24 ice cream scoop) onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart, leaving enough room for dough to spread.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Cool completely on wire racks before filling.

Maple-Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting (my own recipe)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1-2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more if needed
a bit of vanilla extract
a bit of maple extract
a good glug of bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)

Blend cream cheese and butter until smooth and well combined. Add in 1 cup sugar and flavorings. Blend until combined. Add additional powdered sugar, a little at a time, until frosting becomes stiff enough to not run off the cookies. Taste for flavor, and adjust if necessary.

Spoon a good amount of frosting on half of the pies (or pipe on with a pastry bag), an squish a second pie on top. Place in the fridge for a while to let the frosting firm up some more. Then enjoy. Mmm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

One thing I've probably never said here is how lucky I am to not only have a job in this economy, but to love my job and work for a place whose mission matches up so well with my own values. Working for a college certainly has its ups and downs, but the sense of community at my alma mater and employer is exemplary. There are a great number of big and little things that happen across campus that give me warm, fuzzy feelings routinely, and this month's Cookies for the Cure event is no exception. October is breast cancer awareness month, and in addition to a great number of awareness activities, our Wellness Council decided to ask faculty and staff to donate cookies, wrapped in baggies tied with pink ribbon. Every Wednesday, they then sell these cookies during the lunch hour, and donate all the proceeds. It's a bake sale to save boobs! I love it!

I thought this was a prime opportunity to try a different cookie recipe. I say "opportunity" because no one in particular would be eating these cookies. I've been wanting to try my hand at decorating with royal icing, but if I brought these decorated sugar cookies anywhere, a number of people would be pretty miffed since I'm always told my frosting (buttercream) is the best part, and that the cookies are merely a vehicle for the frosting. I figured charity was as good a reason as any to try out a new recipe, though, so I hit up Martha. I used her basic sugar cookie recipe and royal icing recipes. Of course, with minor alterations: I halved both recipes, and flavored the icing.

Frankly, I thought the icing was terrible at first. I tried using vanilla extract, and didn't think that improved the taste, so I then added almond extract until it was palatable. I then put a dab on a broken cookie, and ate them together. Better, for sure, but I wasn't sold. I decorated two cookies, and let them dry. I then force-fed them to Carolyn, my official taste-tester. And, she liked them. So I tried another. And, after the icing hardens, it actually does taste better. I still wasn't 100% sold, so I took some to a family game night, and observed reactions. When one game night attendee broke one in half in an effort to "be good," and immediately went back for the other half (which someone else had already eaten!), I figured I had done ok. Although the designs I did were very simple for my first shot, I was pleased with the effect of royal icing, was eventually happy with the taste, and will definitely use it again.

A the very least, the people selling them at work liked them. Maybe it'll drum up some holiday business for me?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

Mmm...fall. There are a number of things about fall I look forward to, including the ever changing colors of the leaves, pumpkin beers, Halloween, and apple desserts. My CSA has been keeping us in apples and pears for the last several weeks--so many that we can hardly keep up. In celebration of my dad's and brother-in-law's October birthdays, I made a caramel apple cheesecake. The singular inspiration being all the apples in my house, and the desire to make something other than apple pie. I couldn't find a recipe that was exactly what I wanted; Not Quite Nigella's came closest in terms what I was visualizing, but fell short of my exact expectations (I used my own cheesecake recipe, made it less sweet, I wanted more apples...). Like most dabbling food bloggers out there, I simply used the recipe as a jumping off point, and embellished. Here's the recipe, as I butchered it:

Several large handfuls of vanilla wafers (I used the fun color minis, but I'm sure that's irrelevant)
6 tablespoons butter

Blend in food processor until it come together. Press into bottom of springform pan, and bake for 10 minutes or so until it's kinda firm and not going to float away when you add filling.

Apple Layer:
2 tablespoons butter
3 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly (I used three different varieties)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
glug maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a touch of powdered ginger
a touch of all spice
a touch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cornstarch

Saute apples with butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup until there is liquid from the apples in the pan. Add spices and cornstarch, continuing to cook over medium heat until apples are soft but not mushy, and there is a nice syrup. Smoothly layer onto cooked crust.

3- 8 oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Whip cream cheese and sugar in electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated before adding the next one. In a small bowl, combine the cream and flour, stirring until smooth. Add to cream cheese mixture, along with vanilla bean paste. Mix until smooth and well blended. Pour slowly on top of apples (be careful here so you don't dislodge the apples).

Bake in a water bath for about 55 minutes at 325. Center should be set but jiggly when you pull it out. Cool, the refrigerate until serving. Right before serving, top with caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream

Melt butter and brown sugar together over medium heat, until it boils. Cook for several minutes until mixture is thick and fragrant (like, say, caramel!). Add cream, and stir until combined. If your cream is cold, it may seize the caramel mixture and bubble furiously. Just keep stirring over the heat until it comes together. Cool until ready to top cheesecake.

By all accounts, this dessert was a hit, and nearly every one stuffed themselves with an entire slice, even after a rather filling dinner. Pardon the poor quality of the photo--it was taken with my cell phone camera, since I was at my parents' house.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Allie and the Giant Rainbow Cupcake

I pretty much demanded the Wilton Giant Cupcake pan for my birthday this year, and my niece's second birthday was the time to try it out. (I think I might have even begged to be allowed to make the cake, before I owned the pan.) For size perspective, see photo op with the normal-sized cupcakes. I had lots of ideas for how to make the cupcake, since decorating options are unlimited. I knew I didn't want to frost the bottom part, because I wanted the ridges of the pan to be obvious. I also knew I wanted a lot of color for the cake. Enter idea to try out not only my first ever cake in this pan, but my first ever attempt at a rainbow cake. Who needs to try things one at a time? Not me!

The mother of the birthday girl had said she wanted chocolate cake, though, so the top of the cake is chocolate. The birthday girl herself is a big fan of candy. I actually bought Mike and Ikes to use as giant sprinkles, but that didn't work out because they were a tropical variety of the candy, and the colors were pastel. Not what I was going for in this cake, but I'll definitely use them in the future. Besides, Jules loves M&Ms.

Now, this cake was not without it's own small disasters. I wanted a deep chocolate cake--something like a devil's food cake. After a lot of searching the internets, I decided on Hershey's Black Magic cake (which I've never made). Verdict: delicious, if you like impossibly spongy, soft cake. That can't stand the weight of itself, never mind of frosting. The normal-sized cupcakes were fine, but the giant cupcake top? Fell to pieces! I was so irritated that I didn't even take pictures. I promptly Googled "sturdy chocolate cake" and eventually decided on the Wilton recipe that came with the pan. Brilliant.

Now, about the rainbow-ing. I made a basic white cake recipe, because I wanted the colors to be pure, so there were no egg yolks involved (bonus: using up the million egg whites I always have leftover from all my ice cream making). Since I was pretty sure chocolate and rainbow cake would not bake at remotely the same pace, I made them separately, filling the opposite side of the pan with water. The rainbow cake. Baked. For. Forever. Seriously, I think it was more than 90 minutes. However, what came out was lovely and dense and very tasty. So I can't complain. (The cupcakes from the same batch were much lighter; the density is probably a result of the over-stirring to add the color, the waterbath next to it, and the temperature). I baked it at a very low temperature, because I wanted to avoid too much goldening on the outside, so that the colors would still be vivid. It was moderately successful, although I did trim at some of the ridges to brighten it up. Since I didn't frost it, I poked several holes into the bottom, and filled it with frosting, just to ensure it wouldn't be dry. And because everyone loves frosting.

Then I simply topped with the (second) chocolate cake, with a layer of frosting-glue between them. I gave the top a crumb coating, then finished with frosting swirls and M&Ms. The birthday girl herself wasn't too into it, but the adults at the party seemed pleased. Me? I can't wait to make the cake again...I have so many more ideas for it!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Candied Bacon

By now, you've undoubtedly noticed my affinity not only for ice cream, but my enormous crush on David Lebovitz. I often tell people that I could be a vegetarian, except that I love bacon too much. (In truth, I'm not anything close to a vegetarian, except that I can go days without eating meat and not really notice.) Bacon, however, is a serious food-love, second only to ice cream. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Bacon in desserts is very trendy right now: bacon cupcakes, bacon donuts, bacon chocolate. And David has a recipe for candied bacon ice cream. I've been wanting to try it for months, but last night, I finally did it.

Now, because I can't leave any recipe well enough alone, I made a number of changes. You should check out David's original recipe before making any decisions.

For the candied bacon:
5 strips bacon
about 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
maple syrup (my addition)

Now, I halved the recipe for the ice cream. Except I didn't halve the bacon. I figured I'd want to nibble on the extra. I was actually concerned that if I didn't make extra, I'd eat it all and leave none for the ice cream. It was a good decision, as you'll see at the end of the post.

My ice cream, perhaps due to the changes I made, tastes like a great breakfast of french toast and bacon. This is probably due more to the fact that the french toast I make is very much custard based, and I use vanilla, Navan, maple and cinnamon when I make it. I don't know that everyone would feel this way--it's more that it tastes like my french toast than french toast in general, I think.

For the ice cream custard:
1 tablespoon butter plus salt if not salted butter
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
squeeze of maple syrup (my addition)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup cream
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Navan (my addition, David recommends rum or whiskey)
a couple drops of vanilla bean paste
a tiny pinch of cinnamon

To candy the bacon, turn the oven to 375 and lay the strips of bacon in a baking dish, and top with brown sugar. Drizzle with maple syrup to taste. Bake for 12-16 minutes, occasionally flipping the bacon strips over and dragging them through the syrupy liquid. Continue to bake until dark and done-looking. Remove from oven, and lay on a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray. (At this point, I stuck the strips in the freezer to cool faster). Once cool, chop into small pieces. You want them fairly small, or else they really get stuck in the teeth.

To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, maple syrup to taste, and the milk. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved, and mixture is not quite boiling. Pour the cream into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually temper them with the brown sugar mixture, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon, if using.

Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.

I did have plenty of left over candied bacon, and decided to make some chocolates with it. By this time, it was getting late, so I was rather lazy. I didn't temper the chocolate, so you'll notice it's not shiny. I also didn't use any molds. I simply melted a combination of semisweet and milk chocolates in a double boiled, and stirred in about 1 1/2 strips of diced candied bacon. I then spread the bacon-chocolate mixture on waxed paper in two distinct portions. I sprinkled the first with the remaining bacon and a bit of fleur de sel. I topped the other portion with finely chopped smoked almonds. Once cooled, I broke it into pieces. I actually prefer the one topped with smoked almonds--the smokiness of the almonds brings out the smokiness of the bacon in a fabulous way.

I have to admit, I will probably make more candied bacon. It's delicious, and I'm already thinking of other ways to use it...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day

August 8th is known as "Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day." The entire month of August, however, is an exercise in creativity when it comes to zucchini--baked, fried, grilled, turned into muffins and bread--as this crop starts to pop up everywhere. Earlier in the summer, in my eagerness, I actually bought myself zucchini from a farmer's market. However, at this point, there is no reason to pay for the vegetable. In spite of my utter lack of green thumb, pretty much every person I know is growing zucchini, and leaving it in the most unusual of places: back porches, on top of the communal microwave at work, in boxes outside empty classrooms at the university where I work.

My mom had some pretty spectacular zucchini bread the last time I saw her, and when I asked her for the recipe, I promptly got a scanned copy directly from the old Lazarus cookbook. I even followed the recipe for the most part, except I had three cups of zucchini, rather than 2 1/2. I made one loaf of bread, and 12 muffins. The muffins were great right out of the oven, but became sticky after a day or two. As an aside, mom doesn't peel her zucchini, and it gives the bread pleasant green specks. For some reason I peeled mine, but it's definitely not necessary.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All American Apple...Dumpling

I've been in and out a lot lately, but haven't been an active blogger, have I? I have good excuses: for one, I haven't been baking much. I've been setting personal records for cooking dinner multiple nights a week, though. Between the CSA and Carolyn's dad's garden, I've had plenty of fresh veggies to play with every week. Since I hate letting things go to waste, I've been cooking more often than not, instead of going out to dinner. Another good excuse, for July at least, is that I was on vacation for ten days, and packing for vacation takes a lot of effort.

In any case, I'm back. This was my third night making dinner this week (out of three nights!), and I had been thinking about making a dessert for us in addition to my diligent dinner duties. When we picked up today's CSA box, it included a variety of firm, sweet yellow apples I was informed were good for baking. Apple dumplings are a summer favorite, reminding me of the days of riverfront festivals in Cuyahoga Falls, wandering by the river during late weekend hours with my best friends. Irish Fest? Italian Fest? Rockin' at the River? Have an apple dumpling.

My apple dumping recipe is a very loose adaptation from the old standby:

I make my own pie crust, core and peel the apples, and stuff them with a mixture of white and brown sugar, cinnamon and top with a pat of batter before wrapping them in the pie crust.

For the sauce, I boil a combination of about a cup of water, 1/2 cup sugar, a blob of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove. I reduce it to a syrup, pour it over the crust-covered apples, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. I topped tonight's with hearts instead of stars, but I didn't get around to pictures. These are actually from last year:

Although most people insist one needs to measure precisely for baking, that's not really my method. Some things, like pie crust, I know by look and feel, more than using measuring cups. When it comes to the syrup in this recipe, I just keep tasting and adjusting until it seems right, and I'd encourage you to do the same!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Red Wine Rhubarb Compote with Vanilla Ice Cream

Jackie brought me more rhubarb this week, and after last week's disaster I wasn't sure I was emotionally prepared to make another pie just yet. However, in my obsession with all recipes David Lebovitz, and my lack of familiarity with rhubarb, I went with a tried and true favorite ingredient: red wine. Since I decided to make this red wine rhubarb compote, I needed to whip up some ice cream to have with it. I have generally had a prejudice against Philadelphia style ice cream. I have always loved frozen custard style ice creams so much that when I began my ice cream making less than a year ago, I never bothered making any without egg yolks. I have actually altered Philadelphia style ice cream recipes to turn them into custards. Tonight, though, I wanted something fast, and not to bother with excessive cooking and cooling times. I had red wine rhubarb compote to consume! I made very small portions of both the ice cream and the compote--just enough for one dessert for two; however, the recipes are the full-sized portions. And so, I bring you one of the most simple, and delicious ice creams I can imagine, paired with a flavorful, rich, and spicy compote:

Philadelphia Style Vanilla Ice Cream:

3 cups cream
3/4 cup sugar
vanilla bean paste to taste (I used very little, to really let the cream shine)

Heat up one cup of cream on the stove and dissolve sugar. Add vanilla, and the rest of the cream. Once cooled, add to ice cream maker. (I didn't really let it cool. My ice cream maker is tough, and stood up quite well).

Red Wine Rhubarb Compote (I butchered this, and you should seek out the original recipe):

2 cups red wine (I used an inexpensive Little Penguin Shiraz that I've become fond of)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 small cinnamon stick
several whole cloves
1 pound rhubarb, cut into small pieces

As my sister would say, throw it in a pot and cook it. After the rhubarb was poached, I removed it, and continued to reduce the wine to a thin syrup. I had a difficult time trying to find and remove the cloves, so I would probably use ground cloves in the future.

I didn't even let the ice cream firm up in the freezer. I scooped it from the maker into a bowl, topped with rhubarb, and served with two spoons. :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strawberry-Rhubarb Disaster

Today, after work, I eagerly got to my baking. I had made the pie crust yesterday, and got right to business rolling the dough, making the filling, designing a lovely steam-vent pattern on the top crust. I baked it. It was beautiful. It was golden. Puffed, with juicy drips of jam visible between the sparkles of sugar.

From the oven, I walked into my dining room to set it on the cooling rack. Inches from the cooling rack, I felt disaster looming: the butter from the crust had made the pie plate slippery, and it shot from my silicone-mitted hand, skidded off the table, and tumbled to the floor, onto our beige carpet. Yes, that's a sandal in the lower right corner.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't salvage the parts that landed on top. And you know what? It's fantastic.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cherry Pie-let

One of my fabulous coworkers brought me about a half quart of cherries this week, along with a bunch of rhubarb from her backyard (thanks, Jackie!). Carolyn was pretty eager for cherry pie, although there weren't quite enough cherries for a whole pie. Instead, I used a small rectangular dish, and half a recipe for pie crust--what I refer to as a pie-let. Carolyn generally likes all of her pies to have a streusel topping rather than a second crust, so that's what I did, even though the recipe calls for a double crust pie. I got the recipe from a book that is, apparently, not easy to find anymore: Lisa Yockelson's A Country Baking Treasury: Pies, Cakes, Cookies. I'm pretty sure one of my aunts gave me the book more than ten years ago, but it's still my go-to book for pies.

The basic recipe, which I cut by about a third for this mini-pie:

Two pie crusts--one for the bottom, one for the top
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground mace (I omitted this, because I didn't have it, and used a touch of nutmeg)
5 cups sour cherries, pitted
2 tbl sour cherry syrup (made of boiled down cherries, water and sugar)
2 tbl butter
egg white for washing crust
sanding sugar for crust

Line pie plate with one crust and refrigerate. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. Toss in cherries, and syrup, then pour cherries into bottom crust. Dot top with butter, and top with second crust. Brush on egg white, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Cut steam vents, and bake at 425 for 25 minutes, then reduce to 350 for another 25 minutes.

If you want to make a streusel topping instead, like I did, combine the following in the food processor:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 tbl butter, cut into chunks
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

This makes a nice crumbly topping great on pie and muffins.

Stay tuned for something with rhubarb!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Throwing Scones in Glass Houses

Scones. Scones are probably the baked treat my family most often expects of me. My mom always loved scones, and at a young age, I made it my mission to make her the perfect version. At least twelve or thirteen years later, I don’t ever even look at a recipe. Very loosely, here are the proportions:

3 cups flour
1/3 – 2/3 cups sugar
1 ½ tbl baking powder
1 stick butter, cold
3 eggs
3 oz. evaporated milk

Combine the dry ingredients, and cut in the butter, as for pie crust. I keep the butter pea-sized. Use the amount of sugar to taste—sometimes I like it sweeter, sometimes less so. Whisk the eggs and milk, and add to the dry ingredients, being careful not to overwork. Pat it into whatever shape you want, and cut into whatever size you want. See how precise I am? Usually, I’ll pat the dough into a square about ¾ inch thick, and cut into nine squares, then cut the squares into triangles. Like this:

Bake in the oven, usually around 325, for 15 minutes or so. This really varies, depending on your oven, and how many you are making. They are done when they smell fantastic, and are a golden brown.

This recipe is very versatile. When making it for my family, or to freeze, I’ll actually quadruple it. I like doing that, because then it uses a dozen eggs, a full pound of butter, and a full 12 ounce can of evaporated milk. It seems strangely satisfying to me when that happens, but it makes A LOT of scones.
Changes to this recipe are simple to make. For example, last night, I only made 1/3 of the recipe, to make nine scones for breakfast. I used a moderate amount of sugar, used cream in place of the evaporated milk, added blueberries to the dry ingredients, vanilla to the eggs mixture, and patted together VERY carefully so as to not crush the berries. I then stuck it in the fridge over night, cut them this morning, brushed them with cream, and added sanding sugar to make them sparkle, and put them in the oven cold.

I sometimes will top them with cinnamon streusel, use chocolate chips, or fill a layer with a little jam. The recipe also does well in more savory adaptations; reduce the sugar, add garlic powder and cheddar, and you have a pretty tasty cheddar garlic scone. Add some rosemary, sea salt and asiago or parmesan, and it goes great with soup. You can also replace the evaporated milk with not only cream, but buttermilk or regular milk, to make slightly healthier.

Enjoy, and be creative!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Berries and Bubbles!

It's raining in central Ohio this morning. Really raining. Rain makes me want to do a lot of things, including skip the gym, and spend some extra time in the kitchen. Which is why, at 7:30 this morning, I decided to put that champaign in my refrigerator to good use. It's been there since New Year's, after all.

When I walked into the kitchen this morning, the entire room smelled like a strawberry patch. Two quarts of fresh strawberries is a lot for us to eat, even though we've had them plain, with angel foodcake, and now dipped in chocolate (another bit of the morning's productivity). I had some simple syrup already prepared, so it took about ten minutes to put together my strawberry-champaign sorbet. I grabbed a handful or two of strawberries, hulled them, and tossed them in food processor until they were totally smooth. Then I added in just a touch of simple syrup, because they were already plenty sweet. I pushed the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds, added several glugs of rose champaign, and poured it on into my ice cream maker.

Nothing starts the morning like a little berries and bubbles!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

CSA Share: Day 1

After a lot of reading about the benefits of local produce, I decided back in January that we would join a CSA this year. If you're not familiar with what a CSA, or community supported agriculture group is, the basic idea is that you pre-purchase "shares" from a local farm. You pay upfront, in the beginning of a growing season, and pick up the freshest veggies you've ever had when they come in season. Every CSA works a little differently, and you can find the best options for you at Local Harvest. Local harvest is where I found The Wayward Seed, and several other nearby options. I sent emails to the farms I liked, and after communicating with the farmers, chose the one that suited me best. The truth is, I just found The Wayward Seed to be very personable, eager to answer my questions as an ignorant newbie in the CSA world, and I was very impressed with the beautiful photos on the website. I started pretty small this year, and am only getting a single-person share of vegetables, and of fruits, every other week.

What I really loved about the idea of joining a CSA, in addition to the positive impact it has on the local farming economy and the environment (not to mention the high quality of the food!), was that I didn't get a choice in the vegetables I get every week. I love to cook, but like most people, I get in a rut. I buy the same things over and over, and don't venture too far out of what I know how to cook. I was assured, however, that I'd get recipes for the more obscure produce each week, and that the flavors and quality would be the best around. And you know what? They are!

Here's what I got today:

A tour of the veggies, from the upper left, clockwise around the strawberries: braising greens, hakurei turnips, fresh cilantro, white radishes, evergreen hearty scallions, and red pac choi.

When I picked up the goods, they talked me through each vegetable, and gave cooking and storage suggestions. They also encouraged me to go through and taste each element of the braising greens mix, because it was a variety of greens, including mustard greens and several other things I can't remember; I'm so glad I did this! I don't know greens very well, and a couple were surprisingly peppery, but delicious raw. And so, for dinner tonight, I grilled chicken breasts that I marinated in olive oil, garlic, cilantro and lime juice, and I roasted a combination of the turnips, braising greens, and red potatoes. The turnips were amazing! They were quite tasty before they were cooked--sweet and crunchy--but after they were cooked, they were soft, buttery and slightly caramelized. I really wish I had more! I only used about half of the greens, and definitely am looking forward to using up the rest later this week. The taste combination is quite unique, and, much to my pleasure, all new for me.

And the strawberries? Let me just tell you, you can smell them from five feet away, and my fingers would be dyed red right now if I hadn't stopped myself from eating an entire quart...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Double Chocolate Creme Brulee

I haven't exactly been consistent in updates, have I? I know I have yet to share any recipes or pictures for scones, which given the blog's name, probably should have been the first post. Hopefully, this creme brulee recipe will help you forgive me. Also, to all of you who voted for my cupcake, THANK YOU!

The book the recipe comes from is Lou Seibert Pappas' Creme Brulee. This is my first and only creme brulee cookbook, and I highly recommend it. I've been making the vanilla bean brulee for at least two years now, and this was actually my first time making any of the other recipes. However, I'll be coming back for more very soon. Overall, these weren't too sweet, and much of the sweetness came from the burnt sugar top. As a lover of all things custard, I'd make it again. Like, next week?

Double Chocolate Creme Brulee (with my changes in purple and italics)
(I halved the recipe and made three servings, and the directions are butchered. The original used too many words!)

2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus extra for topping (I prefer to use raw sugar for my topping, but regular sugar works)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped*
1 tablespoon brandy (I used Navan, which is a vanilla cognac)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped*
1 tablespoon Kahlua (I used hazelnut Kahlua I bought in Mexico)

Preheat oven to 275. Heat cream in a small saucepan until bubble form around the edges. Whisk sugar and egg yolks until sugar is dissolved. Temper yolks into cream, and stir in vanilla. Put white chocolate in a small bowl, and add half of the cream mixture. Stir until chocolate is melted, then add cognac. To the cream mixture left in the pan: add bittersweet chocolate, and stir until chocolate is melted, then add Kahlua.

Place flan dishes in a baking pan, and divide the white chocolate mixture among the dishes. Let cool, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to cool and set . Also, put the bittersweet chocolate mixture in the fridge. After custards are cool and set, spoon bittersweet chocolate custard into white chocolate custard, and swirl with a fork. (Umm, I stuck them in the freezer for 30 minutes, then proceeded. I was in a time crunch. They didn't swirl especially well, so you should probably actually follow this step. They more turned light brown, but not very well mixed and a little streaky. Oops).

Place the baking dish of custards in the oven, and pour warm water into the baking dish so that it comes half way up the sides of the custard cups. Bake for 30-40 minutes until custard is set. The centers should jiggle just a little when done.

Cool, then refrigerate for at least two hours. (I cooled all the way but never refrigerated. I break rules). Before serving, evenly sprinkle sugar over the top, and have fun with your little blowtorch.

*Please, please, please use good quality chocolate here! When chocolate is the primary flavor in custard, you don't want to go with some generic chocolate chips from Giant Eagle(no offense, Giant Eagle...I heart you). For both the white and bittersweet, I used E. Guittard.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Perfect Summer Cupcake: Entry for the 2nd Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup

The real reason my interest in this blog surged over this past weekend was the 2nd Annual Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup: a joint project between Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious that I had to enter. I love ice cream. I bake a lot of cupcakes. Perfect match! I've never entered a baking contest before, but if I'm honest with myself, it's only fitting that these two blogs initiate me. I first found Cupcake Project a year ago--during this contest--when I was looking for some cupcake recipe ideas. I quickly got sucked into the whirlwind that is food blogging, and was obviously attracted to Scoopalicious, being the avid ice cream lover that I am. And so, without further ado...

The Perfect Summer Cupcake: a strawberry cupcake with a ring of white balsamic buttercream, finished with strawberry-basil swirl ice cream.

This cupcake IS summer for me. One of my favorite drinks all summer long is a strawberry martini I make, with strawberry infused vodka, and a basil simple syrup. That drink was my inspirations for this cupcake. The fresh strawberries in the cupcake create a "sunken" center in the cupcake, a perfect bowl for a scoop of ice cream. In addition to the fresh tastes of the strawberries and basil, I wanted some tang to balance the sweetness. I love pretty much anything sweet and balsamic-y, but this frosting came out better than I hoped. It was a bit of a risk, but I replaced some of the cream in my favorite buttercream recipe with a small amount of white balsamic vinegar. I chose to use the vinegar straight, and not make it a glaze first; this was definitely the right choice, because the tart fruitiness prevents the frosting from being too sweet. As a side note, if you've never tried white balsamic, I highly suggest you give it a shot. It's fruitier than dark balsamic, and is, for my money, fantastic on any salad involving goat cheese.

This cupcake idea was the perfect excuse to try out my idea for swirling together strawberry and basil ice creams. I had never made either (nor had I ever swirled together two flavors), but I will definitely make it again! I was a little uncertain about making the basil ice cream, but I loved a fresh mint ice cream I made several months ago, and I'm a bigger fan of basil than I am of mint. I can see some room for improvement on my strawberry ice cream, mainly in consistency. It's harder than I like, especially next to the perfect smooth texture of the basil ice cream, but that can be fixed with a little more creme de cassis, and perhaps cooking down the strawberries to get out some of the water that turns to ice when frozen. The creme de cassis will be my first adjustment, though. I only used about two tablespoons, and, when it doubt, "add more booze" is a good mantra in my ice cream making.

The cupcake has received high accolades from its tasters, with the most prominent compliment being that the frosting was, "the best frosting [I've] ever made." Not bad, for my first attempt at a contest! Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

This morning, as I made a a baked french toast (using up stale cinnamon rolls!), I realized I was craving a more savory baked good. So, I turned to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book for a basic biscuit recipe. I altered it quite a bit, because I wanted a cheddar garlic biscuit, I didn't have buttermilk, and I didn't want to feed a crowd.

The original recipe is the Biscuits Supreme, but this recipe includes my alterations, and my process. I'm a pretty simplistic baker, and take quite a few short cuts, so the instructions are probably briefer than those offered in the book.

1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp garlic powder
6 tbl cold butter, cut in chunks.
1 c cheddar cheese, finely grated
1/4 c milk
1/4 c heavy cream, plus more as needed

1. Preheat oven to 350. In bowl of food processor, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and garlic powder. Pulse to combine.
2. Add chunks of butter, pulsing 5-8 times until butter is worked in, and the size of small peas. Don't over-pulse.
3. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and stir in cheese. Add milk and cream, stirring just to combine. Dough should be slightly damp, and look like it would drop off of a spoon, but hold its shape. If you need more liquid, use a little extra cream.
4. Using an ice cream scoop, drop the cookies 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. I used a BIG size 12 ice cream scoop for super biscuits, and got nine.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your biscuits. Mine ended up about 4" in diameter.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Ice Cream Post

When it comes to sweets, my own personal obsession is with the creamy and the frozen. I love ice cream more than any other food on earth. I live in Ohio, where winter temperatures are consistently below freezing, and yet you can find me on any January night snuggled on the couch, decked out in sweatpants and three blankets, with a bowl of ice cream in my hand. It's a little sick, really. Although I haven't been posting here since I starting turning out so many treats, I always intended to, so there are plenty of pictures!

Over the last six months, my interest in churning my own ice cream--and inventing my own flavors--has become a pretty serious hobby. The obsession began with when Scoopalicious posted this recipe for Milk Chocolate Guinness Ice Cream. I fell in love with David Lebovitz, and haven't looked back.

Berry Merlot Sorbet: a sweet, sultry sorbet that was quick and easy, but I could never get enough of. I pushed the limits of physics with the sheer amount of wine, but it was worth the slight melty texture.

Lemon Sherbet: tangy and smooth, I was a little concerned that the lemon juice would curdle the milk and cream combination, and it looked pretty ugly before I froze it. However, once frozen, the liquid emulsified, and I was pleased with the results. I used some left over raspberries to make a bright, rich sauce to complement the tartness of the sherbet.

Next, I tackled one of my own favorites from a local ice cream shop, Salty Caramel: I bought fleur de sel just for this occasion (though I have found many, many other uses for it!). This is the richest, sweetest, saltiest, and most addictive of all flavors I've made. I can't get enough.

And, finally, Rocky Road: I mostly made this flavor because I was intrigued by making the tiny homemade marshmallows in David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop. The ice cream ended up becoming a favorite, perfectly combining chocolate ice cream (which I never liked before making it myself!), especially with the chewy little marshmallows and toasted almonds.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Really, I Bake

Wow, I started this blog in December after becoming so addicted to other food blogs. I kept thinking that I make enough fun things to share them on the web, right? It's true--I've even been taking pictures--but it's hard to take the time to post everything. I'll try to be more dedicated. To that end, I'll share some pictures I took a while ago, for cupcakes I did for a baby shower.

These are Chocolate cupcakes, filled with a white chocolate cream cheese and topped with fresh raspberry buttercream.

Two Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes 2

Two Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

This cupcake is a fresh strawberry cupcake, filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream, and topped with vanilla bean frosting.

Strawberry Cupcake