Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: Creme Brulee

I've had creme brulee twice in my whole entire life. The first time being last October and the last time being a couple weeks ago. It was totally not what I expected the first time I had it, it was okay, but it wasn't as rich and creamy as I had imagined creme brulee being. The next time I had it, it was better than the first, but not like knock me out of my socks good.

So, when Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake chose Creme Brulee for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, I was psyched! Now I could see what REAL creme brulee is supposed to taste like.

I went on a bit of a mission to find a cheap creme brulee set. I went to all the usual suspect stores for discounted bakeware... Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx.... none of them had one (though if you're looking for butter warmers, rest assured, all three places had about 1500 sets). I did find a set at Target for 19.99 and luckily I happened to notice on the box that it did not include the torch fuel which was sitting right next to it for an additional 4.99. So, for $25+ tax, I opted out of the fancy schmancy cookware and went old school. I told my self, if I like this recipe... I'll ask for a set for christmas (although, to be honest... I've asked for a set for the past 5 christmases and have yet to get one).

The recipe was super freaking easy. I mean, besides the fact that it literally took like 15 minutes for my milk and cream to get to the boiling point (is it just me or does cream not always take forever to almost boil. ugh. what is it's problem?), it was one of the easiest recipes we've done in TWD. Even the waiting on the milk to boil didn't bother me.... I think it was the aroma from the vanilla in the sugar and egg yolks that I had sitting next to me... it like lulled me into a strange calm.

Even the old school broiling in ramekins (not creme brulee dishes) was easy. I just had to let it do it's thing for a little while. I used my ceramic pie dish filled up with some ice water to get the creme brulee under the broiler. A' la....

I didn't get the burned, broiled, caramel color on top... but I did get the lightly crunchy shell.

Final verdict? This is FREAKING awesome. I mean, now I get it. I finally get what the big hoopla over creme brulee is. But, I can assure you I won't be ordering this in a restaurant again. Especially since it's so easy to make at home and so much better!
Velvety smooth and creamy... this is a definte keeper. Creme Brulee set... here I come!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chocolate Sheet Cake... Pioneer Woman Style.

Chocolate cake. Mmmmmm.
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Mmmmmm.

I love chocolate cake. I mean... I love chocolate, by itself. But I love chocolate cake much, much more. And chocolate sheet cake is a different kind of chocolate cake... because it's got a sweeter, thinner icing that is almost as thick as the actual cake itself.

I had been eyeing this recipe for chocolate sheet cake for awhile and when I finally decided to make it, I opted to halve the recipe and bake it in a little glass casserole dish, so the cake part was actually a little thicker than a normal sheet cake.... but, that's fine by me, because this cake was super moist.

The only issue I had with this cake was the flavor lacked "umph." And afterwards, as I was looking over the recipe I realized that was due to an error on my part.... the recipe calls for SALTED butter, not unsalted butter. So... if you are going to use unsalted butter, be sure to add some salt, because that will take this recipe from good to excellent.

This cake is easy to make and would be a crowd pleaser (or a one person pleaser like it turned out to be for me).

Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever.

** Recipe Note... I used half dark cocoa and half regular cocoa in the recipe. Sometimes I think regular cocoa's color makes baked goods look... I dunno... dull.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum Cake.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Michelle at Bake-en. She chose the Dimply Plum Cake.

This cake was an experiment in substitutions for me. First off... my grocery store had peaches on sale, so I opted to follow my pocketbook instead of the recipe and picked up some peaches. Little did I know that they were sale because they were shitty. Pretty and red on the outside... hard as a rock and flavorless on the inside. Awesome.

I also attempted to make this recipe healthier... I used white whole wheat flour and applesauce instead of oil. And instead of brown sugar, I used the Splenda Brown Sugar. These substitutions worked out great!

I also substituted cinnamon instead of cardamom (what the heck is cardamom???) and almond extract instead of vanilla. Those two substitutions.... ehhhh.. not so great. This cake would have been awesome if I nixed the cinnamon and used vanilla instead of almond extract. As it was, it was pretty good... but the almond extract was wayyyyy overpowering and the cinnamon... ehhh.. I just wasn't feeling it.

It was a good cake, though... and I'll likely try it again with actual plums.

I halved the recipe and came out with one mini loaf pan.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Peanut Butter Cookies

My life these past couple of weeks has been crazy. And it's mainly because of work. We are working our asses off trying to get some things wrapped up before Bossman (my dad is my boss for those of you who don't know) goes on his 15 day Mediterranean cruise. We're all stressed and snappy and that makes for a work environment where the tension is almost paralyzing.

I don't get stressed out easily. I try to keep my eye on the "big picture" in life and I apply the philosophy of "overall impact" to all those potential stressful moments in life. For instance... I find myself always asking myself... "is this even going to matter in 6 months? 1 year? etc?" If not... then it's not worth getting worked up over. It works... Well... most of the time, it works.

Even if I'm telling myself I'm not stressed... my body does things that shows me that I am and reminds that I need to just chillax. All week, I've wanted to sleep in, I'm generally fatigued and quiet, my neck and shoulders are in knots and my appetite is non-existent for real food... but raging for sweets and junk food.

Last week, I came home one night and all I could think about was peanut butter. And then I thought about trying a new peanut butter cookie recipe. But I wavered, because I didn't want to wind up standing in the kitchen all night. My couch was calling me... and when the couch calls... I answer.

So, I pulled out a recipe that I had made awhile back... it's so easy with so few ingredients. There's no butter or flour in the recipe and the cookies come out perfect. Crunchy, crumbly, and yet soft all at the same time. I threw in some chocolate chips (why not?) and in about 15 minutes flat, I had delicious peanut butter cookies that made me feel...

...a lot better. I'm sure there are better peanut butter cookie recipes out there... but for the ease and simplicity of this recipe... it's hard to beat.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TWD; Chocolate Chunkers

Mine and Dorie's relationship is a complicated one. (and by the term "relationship" I mean our imaginary one). I've decided that it's very similiar to the relationship I had with my favorite high school teacher, Ms. Clark.

Ms. Clark was my Latin teacher and the whole first year of Latin, we didn't get along. I didn't like her... she didn't like me. Most of the kids in Latin 1 were deathly afraid of Ms. Clark. She had a very no-nonsense demeanor and didn't seem to be the "joking" type. She was such a hard ass that year, but, unlike my peers, I stood up to her and I got the C's and D's in class to prove it. I was stubborn... and spent more time trying to break her in class than I did actually listening to the lessons.

Eventually, though... we gained a mutual respect for each other. I'm not sure how it happened, but it just happened. And it turns out... we were really similiar types of people and I suspect... back when she had been a teenager, she was much like me... an instigator. By the time I had graduated, I had gone through to Latin 4 and deemed Ms. Clark my favorite teacher. She was awesome! It just took us a little bit of time to get the headbutting out of the way.

I feel this way about Mrs. Greenspan, sometimes. I am so grateful to be apart of a group like Tuesdays With Dorie where I get to try out all of her wonderful recipes. And while I don't always like how the recipes turn out. I always find them interesting, easy to follow and with each one completed, I feel like I get a little closer to domestic goddessness. But, sometimes I find myself going into a recipe for the week, the same way I walked into Latin 1. With a chip on my shoulder. Hmph. Raisins and chocolate? Who needs it? Hmph. Conjugation and Declension? Who needs it? And then I have to take a moment and shake out my cynical, teenager attitude and be the mature adult that I am and remember, that I'm trying all these recipes to grow as a baker. And honestly, sometimes it's even better if I don't like the recipes... then I'm not tempted to eat the whole thing myself!

I have nothing but respect for Dorie. But, full disclosure here: I was NOT excited about this week's recipe. Raisins and chocolate??? (okay, you already know how I feel about that) Apricots and chocolate? (I just threw up in my mouth a little). But instead of going into this recipe with a chip on my shoulder... I lightened up and went into the recipe excited for another week, even if it wasn't something that I could salivate over.

This week's recipe was Chocolate Chunkers chosen by Claudia of Fool for Food. These cookies are basically tons and tons of chocolate with some dried fruit and nuts thrown in for variety. I subbed dried cherries for the raisins or apricots (which was what the recipe called for) and omitted the nuts entirely.

These cookies, despite my hesitation turned out really well. They are almost like a brownie cookie. Loaded with chocolate, they are so freaking rich, that I can only eat a little at a time and a HUGE glass of milk is required. They're good! Surprisingly, so!

The moral of this boring, long-winded diatribe... is sometimes you just have to open your mind up a little in life (and baking) to get a full experience. It's worth it.

Check out Claudia's blog for the recipe.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Key Lime Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

Stephanie and I have been best friends since the sixth grade. It was the first week of middle school and while we had the lunch class (Mr. Brown's Math Class) together, we had our own set of friends that had already been established in elementary school. So, one day (burrito day), somehow the two of us ended up at the end of the cafeteria line and by the time we got out... the tables where our friends were sitting were completely full. We kind of hesitantly looked around... both of us contemplating the embarrassment of having to sit alone for lunch and somehow (the details are fuzzy) we ended up sitting together at the end of a long table that had some 7th and 8th graders at it. And that was all it took.

We took to each other immediately. We were very similiar... we both liked books and movies, both a little shy and nerdy, both boy crazy and awkward. Luckily, we outgrew the awkwardness... all the other similiarities are still mostly the same though.

We grew up and remained the best of friends. We went to different colleges and even though we were 500 miles apart, and we might not talk for 3-4 weeks at time, nothing was ever different. We always picked back up where we left off. After college, we lived together for a year... it was funny, because it was something that we always said we'd do when we were in middle school. It wasn't quite as glamourous as we had imagined it would be, but it was still really fun.

We've had our ups and downs... in life and in our friendship, but we've always remained there for each other and I know we always will.

So when Steph moved to Oregon back in July... a little piece of me went with her. I've never been more than a long car ride away from her and though I'm not worried at all that the geographical distance will translate into relationship distance (because it won't), it's just sad that I can't call her up anymore for some assisted retail therapy when some stupid boy has done something... well... stupid. We can't meet up at Mellow Mushroom for some pizza, or go to breakfast or brunch on Sundays... Sure... I can do these things without her, but it's not the same. It's not the food or the shopping that I miss... it's the company.

Steph's birthday was August 22nd and this was the first time she's been away for her birthday. Luckily, she had made plans to come into town a couple weekends after... (this past weekend) for a long weekend to visit with her family and friends. She and I made a plan to go to our 10 year high school reunion on Saturday night and she would spend the night with me that night and we'd hang out together on Sunday. It was the perfect plan... I knew immediately that I'd want to make her a mini-cake for her birthday, since I didn't think that cookies shipped across the country in August would be very tasty once opened... I would just wait until she was here last Saturday and make a cake!

Picking a recipe for her was pretty easy... I know that she loves Key Lime. And initially I thought about a key lime pie. Except... she makes a really good key lime pie... So, I found this recipe from Paula Deen for a Key Lime Cake. I quartered the recipe and made a mini-cake. It came out pretty well, although, we both agreed that a cream cheese frosting would have been better. Also, the sugar sprinkles annoyed the crap out of me. They were so crunchy and hard. I will definitely leave sprinkles off cakes from now on...

As far as the texture of the cake went... I thought this cake had a great texture! It wasn't too dry or dense (like a lot of white cakes I make turn out to be). And it definitely had a full key lime flavor to it. Cream cheese frosting would have made this cake awesome.

Happy Birthday Steph! I love you and miss you!

Key Lime Cake with White Chocolate Frosting
Paula Deen (I found it on recipezaar)

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons key lime zest
3 eggs
1/4 cup key lime juice, fresh
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

White Chocolate Frosting
6 (1 ounce) white chocolate baking squares
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 340. Grease and flour 3 (9 inch) cake pans.

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and lime zest at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in juice until combined.
In medium bowl, combine cake flour and baking soda; sift. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour evenly into prepared pants, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread white chocolate frosting in between layers, and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with Key lime wedges, if desired.

White Chocolate Frosting:.

In medium bowl, combine chocolate an dcream. Microwave on high in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted and smooth (about 1-1/2 minutes total); let cool completely.

In large bowl, combine white chocolate mixture, butter, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar until fluffy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

This is a redux recipe for me. Last year sometime, I started seeing these cookies on other blogs and I thought... wow... now that's an exciting cookie. What a great idea, right? Chocolate and malt in a cookie? I expected this wonderful chewy explosion of malty chocolatey goodness in my mouth but instead I wound up with gummy hardness in my teeth. They didn't taste chocolate-y enough, they didn't taste malt-y enough. Basically... they were merely a figment of what I thought a true malted chocolate chip cookie could be. Sigh.

So, when Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie I looked at this as an opportunity to make this cookie work. Maybe I did something wrong the first time?

I remember when I first bought Dorie's book and I was skimming through it, I noticed that the pictures she had of these particularly cookies didn't look anything like my first attempt (which I had made from a printed out recipe from a blog). So, i started thinking about what I needed to do to make my cookies better. First, I decided to lower the oven temperature. I felt like the malt in the cookies hardened too much initially and secondly, I decided to use dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of regular. Maybe that would boost the chocolate flavor.

These ideas in mind, I started to whip these cookies up. I wanted to pre-heat my oven while I was mixing the cookies and when I looked in the book I didn't see an oven temperature listed. I looked and looked and finally decided that it must be an error. There was no oven temperature listed. Hmph. I pulled out the old recipe that I had printed out from the internet and it listed 350 as the temperature (but, I wonder... how did they know?) so I decided that that was a safe temperature to start from and with my decision to lower the original temperature, I set my oven to 325 degrees.

These cookies are easy to make.

Well, except for chopping up the Whoppers. Jeez. That's time consuming alright.. Especially when you end up eating every third or fourth Whopper and especially when your Whoppers are wrapped in packages of 3. So, you have to open a new wrapper every 3rd Whopper. (Do yourself a favor and buy the box of whoppers and not the candy bar bag).

I also decided to pop the dough in the fridge for about 10 minutes before I put them in the oven. I just thought that maybe firming up the dough a bit would make for a sturdier cookie.

These cookies turned out much better this time around. They are chewy (not gummy) and they are definitely prettier than my earlier attempt. These are like a grown up malt cookie. It's like... they are too salty or something. Maybe I should have upped the sugar since I used dark cocoa. So, if you like a slightly salty chocolate cookie, you'd probably like these. For sugar fiends like myself, though... they still didn't live up to my original expectations. (Aside from the texture and the whoppers, I barely tasted malt!)

Check out Rachel's Blog for the recipe!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I've arrived...

Woo hoo.. check me OUT. I just got a freaking award!
Lori over at Luscious Food just gave me an award! Thanks Lori! She has a great blog with awesome pics, you should definitely go check her out.
I think we are supposed to like perpetuate the award by giving it away to others, but it's too hard for me to pick just a few blogs, because there are sooooo many awesome ones!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

TWD: Chunky Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

I realize that I've gone on and on about how much I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. It's the ultimate in sweet and salty. So, I expected to LOVE these cookies chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. Unfortunately, I did not love these cookies.

First complaint: Not enough peanut butter. When you name a recipe and the first words in the recipe are PEANUT BUTTER, I expect to be able to taste peanut butter when I bite into the dish. Could I taste peanut butter? Nope. I mean, why add the freaking peanut butter if you can't taste it? It's not like it's a health food or something...

Second complaint: Too much other shit thrown into the cookie recipe, like cinnamon and nutmeg. Now, if you know me (and I think you do by now), you know that I don't like nutmeg, so of course I eliminated that ingredient (thank god), but against my better judgement, I did throw in the cinnamon. I mean, I love cinnamon! I thought it sounded a bit odd to go with chocolate chips and peanut butter, but whatever I didn't want to rebel too much. But, I should have gone with my first instinct. I mean, these cookies are like cinnamon chocolate cookies. That's all you can taste, cinnamon and chocolate. It actually made me wish that I had subbed raisins for chocolate chips (shocking, I know)! I mean... the cinnamon is so powerful in this recipe and I think it's probably one of the main reasons that you can't taste the peanut butter.

So, yeah, these cookies are edible and everything and the texture is great... but I'm just not a fan of cinnamon with chocolate and peanut butter. Now, if you love cinnamon and chocolate, give these cookies or try, or sub raisins for the chocolate chips. But, if you're looking for a delicious peanut buttery, chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie try these, they're delicious (but I'd still add more peanut butter to that recipe, too).