Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 2011--The Lost Month

Please don't ask me what I did this month. I might tell you. And then you'll be sorry. I know there was a lot of driving, a little Disneyland, a wedding, a little Christmas, and lot of illness. Plus a bunch more stuff. Even with all of that I baked (but obviously didn't diligently blog about or photograph):

2 loaves of Whole Wheat Bread

Still to bake before this wild month ends:

challah (for egg nog french toast, naturally)

Hopefully the addition of these last two projects will bring health to our house in time for the new year.

TGIP Rating--Chocolate Whoopie Pies--which I didn't even blog about in detail--KEEPER. They turn out more perfectly when baked at sea level than they do at my altitude. Which means I need to make some alterations. Which I will. Because they are super delicious. I prefer them mini-sized. Regular size is kind of like a giant, super-sweet hamburger. Which sounds good in theory, but in reality is JUST TOO MUCH.

Next up: Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake. There's nothing not good about this recipe. I can't wait to try it.

P.S. Santa brought me this for Christmas. I was a better girl than I even realized this year! Double the ovens means double the baking. Or the same amount of baking in half the time. I'm thinking, if nothing else, I can bake a pie and a loaf of bread at the same time. Which is good for everyone.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cream Puffs

I don't know how it is that I haven't blogged about these yet. I guess I haven't made them in a few years. But they are one of my favorites from childhood. And in spite of the fact that they are SUPER EASY to make, they are also impressive and people think you are magical when you make them. The Pie Queen used to make big ones filled with pudding. I like to make little ones. Mostly because they remind me of this...

I've always made them with chocolate filling (see below), but decided to try a couple of different things this time, namely Raspberry Whipped Cream and Caramel Whipped Cream. And they were incredibly delicious. The caramel is probably my new favorite substance on planet earth. I am thinking of more and more things I can put it on for eating. It's not particularly easy to make. I'll give you this hint: the caramel will seize up when you pour the cream in. It just will. But put the whole thing back on the burner and keep stirring and the caramel will dissolve into the hot cream and you will be so happy you were patient about it.

Here's the recipe:

Cream Puffs *click here for printable version*
(yield approx. 10 large or 40 small)

½ c. butter
1 c. water
⅛ tsp. salt
1 c. flour
4 eggs

In medium saucepan combine butter, water, and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate.

Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes. (I put mine in the stand mixer with the whisk attachment at this point, but you can beat with a wooden spoon, the old-fashioned way if you want) Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown (30-35 minutes). Cool and split to remove uncooked inside. Then fill and replace top.

Note: For mini puffs, drop batter by heaping teaspoons and bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown.

Do not split when cool. Make filling and fill pastry bag with medium-hole tip. Insert tip of bag into bottom of puff and fill.

Chocolate Filling:

Whip 4 T sugar and 5 T unsweetened cocoa (or more, to taste) into 1 quart of heavy whipping cream until stiff.

I stabilize my cream when it's part of a dessert that's going to be sitting in the fridge for a while. Use 2 tsp. of powdered milk per 1 cup of cream, and just whip it in when you are whipping the cream.

Oh, and P.S. the Chocolate Filling recipe makes A LOT. Probably as much as you would need to fill 10 of the large-size puffs, but too much for 40 small. Adjust as you see fit. And the recipes for raspberry and caramel each only fill about 20 small puffs. You might want to quadruple the caramel recipe just because you will want to eat it by the spoonful. Or stick your head right in the mixing bowl and lick your way out. Was that TMI?

TGIP Rating--Cream Puffs--KEEPER. I've kept it since childhood and will always come back to it as a comfort dessert. Probably more often now that I've discovered the Caramel Whipped Cream.

Next up: I'm baking treats for my niece's wedding reception in mid-December. I told her I'd make sample batches for her and her fiancée to try. So, that's going to mean small batches of Candy Cookies and Chocolate Whoopie Pies (I'm making miniatures). Both recipes by BAKED. Of course.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Piespiration

"Thanksgiving is one percent perspiration, ninety-nine percent piespiration." -spiker

I'm not making anything new this year. I'm making these, by request:

(I know, NOT a pie. But we decided it is, in fact, socially acceptable to have cake at one's Thanksgiving feast.)

More piespiration for you (click on pictures to go to posts that contain recipes):

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Fun reading. Literal food for thought.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Pie But Pie

No, I'm not making pie right now. That's next week. But I'm sharing with you this brilliant quote about pie. If you get...well, any Sunday paper probably...this was in last weekend's Parade section:

Regarding a University of Indianapolis debate over which greater served mankind, pie or ice cream, a 1902 New York Times editorial wrote:

"Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of the changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished. It is a significant historical fact that England's glory was greatest in the days when her gallant sons ate pie."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies may soon become my "go to" dessert for taking to parties, potlucks, people who need cheering up, etc. There's none of that pesky VEGETARIANS DON'T EAT LARD business that happens when I show up with a regular pie. There's a million different kinds of whoopie pies. AND, they're delicious. And fun. And cute. And filled with nostalgia (and cream cheese frosting). Okay, so there's butter and eggs and cream cheese, so vegans can't eat them. But, sheesh. Also, their name contains the word whoopie. And the word PIE. So.

And these particular whoopie pies (from the first BAKED book) are delicious. Easy. Quick (if you're not making a million). And delicious. Did I mention that? Fall-ish. Spicy. Creamy. A little sticky, if I'm being honest. But I think that's the pumpkin at work. It seems like everything that contains pumpkin (bread, muffins) is sticky. Right? Because the cookie part wasn't underdone. It was cakey and moist.

And the filling was tangy and sweet (but not overly).

They were so good I got at least one marriage proposal! I can't remember, there might have been two.

TGIP Rating--Pumpkin Whoopie Pies--KEEPER. Another dessert that I have to find a way to make every Fall.

Next up: I found this recipe for Brown Sugar Oat Scones a while back. The blogger is someone who lives in my area. I'm going to try them because they sound like sweet, yummy, hearty Fall fare. And it's that time.
EDIT: No, I'm not making scones. I have a birthday celebration, a bridal shower, and other events coming up before Thanksgiving. I don't know what I'm making for any of them yet. Maybe cheesecake. Maybe cream puffs. Maybe teeny tiny whoopie pies. Assuredly, anything BUT pie.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Midweek Sightings: Halloween Edition

Saw these at my local Whole Foods. And bought them. Obviously. Most clever pumpkin decoration I ever saw. And the ghosties--I think their eyes are made out of chocolate covered sunflower seeds! They're so cute I almost don't care what they taste like. Almost. Lucky me--they are delicious. The chocolate cake is a little bitter, like a sour cream cake, which I love. And a good ratio of frosting to cake. And also, SPOOKY CATS! IN FRONT OF FULL MOONS! So cute!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting

Happy Birthday to my Prima! (2 days ago)

She's not a particularly spooky kid, but the past few years she's embraced the fact that her birthday is in the same month as Halloween and she's asked for Halloween-themed cakes. This year was a little different--she was more interested in the flavor of the cake than the decorations. 12-year old brain waves, I'm saying. She likes the combination of pumpkin and chocolate, so I took components of two other recipes and mashed them together. The Pumpkin Cupcakes were really pretty delicious (that was me surprised, because this isn't one of my usual recipe sources--the only alteration I made to the recipe was in baking time, baked each batch of cupcakes for 20 minutes). Light tasting, not muffin-y at all. Which actually turned out to be a little bit of a problem because the Fudge Frosting (a recipe I've used before) was pretty rich and the cupcakes couldn't really compete. The pumpkin got...well...overpowered by the chocolate. Not always (or necessarily) a bad thing. But, I would have liked for them to have been evenly matched. If I were to make something like this again, I would make a milk chocolate frosting. I think that would match the pumpkin flavor without being too much.

TGIP Rating--Pumpkin Cupcakes--KEEPER. A super easy, but not heavy, fall treat. Probably also yummy with the cream cheese frosting in the recipe. Will have to try.

Next up: EVEN MORE pumpkin. One of the few recipes I never tried in the first BAKED book is the Pumpkin Whoopie Cookies. I'm on it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Hazelnuts

This. Is the easiest "fancy" cake you'll ever make. Here's persuasion: I made it while drinking (which is also why there's only one photo...I...forgot to take pix). A lot. With friends who are awesomely distracting. So, if I can do that, you can make it while sober and undistracted. You can find the recipe here.

This. Is also about the best way to usher in Fall. Spicy, pumpkin-y, nutty. So so delicious. Before it's refrigerated (which it will have to be if you don't eat it all in one sitting), the cake is fluffy and light and has a perfect texture (it gets a little more dense BUT STILL DELICIOUS after refrigeration). The frosting is lovely. A little tangy, a little sweet. To tell you the truth I have no idea how much powdered sugar I added, I just kept adding until the consistency looked "right". So. But the best part. The candied hazelnuts. I didn't do them exactly right. Didn't let the sugar boil long enough to dissolve, so it was still a little grainy. And yet still amazing. Spicy and crunchy. And stayed crunchy after refrigeration. Amazingly good. Truly.

TGIP Rating--PCCw/CCF&CH (it's a long name for a recipe, right?!)--KEEPER. I will make this again. And probably often. Maybe even for our Thanksgiving dessert extravaganza. Notes for ME: a half recipe of frosting was perfect for 3-layers; next time do the candied hazelnuts RIGHT. A note for YOU: DO toast your spices. Even if only to make your house smell delicious for two days.

Next up: More pumpkin. Prima has requested Pumpkin Cupcakes with Fudge Frosting for her birthday (12!). So, I'm on the hunt for a good pumpkin cake (not pumpkin carrot) recipe. If you have one, fling it my way. And I want it to be cake-y, not muffin-y.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rhubarb Pie

Looks like a celery pie, right? Rhubarb is a strange creature. I've somehow managed to avoid it my entire life until now, thinking it would be gross. I was so wrong. I still think it's a weird fruit (?) vegetable (?). What is it anyway? And do people ever do anything with it other than make pie? Seriously, I'm asking.

Thing is, most of the time when you encounter rhubarb in a pie, it's paired with strawberry. I don't like baked strawberries. I just don't. Baking takes all of the love out of them and they become these shriveled up tiny things. So, I've never been tempted at all to try that combination. Shriveled strawberries and some sort of weird pink celery baked together in a pie? Mmm, no thanks.

But rhubarb on its own, I thought that sounded appealing. And it's kind of pretty, isn't it?

What I didn't expect was the flavor. I tried a little piece of it raw just to see what it tastes like. I would recommend NOT trying that yourself. Any moisture that has ever been or will ever be in my body was immediately obliterated by that thing. But, baked? In a pie? With sugar and lemon zest? A whole different story. It's a little tart, a little sweet. Tastes like something lemony and refreshing and summery. I loved it. I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe from my new Pie and Pastry Bible. Lovely. Easy and perfect. Here's a link where someone else posted the recipe, and BONUS, directions for how to make a lattice crust, which I opted not to do this time.

And, I'm happy to report that even though I vowed not to make another pie until we were well and truly into Autumn, my pie crust mojo is back.

Beautiful. Tender and flaky. I'm working on spending more time with my crust edges. Making sure they look beautiful, but also have the right thickness. I still have some work to do on that but I'm getting there. And I am discovering that refrigerating the pie for at least 30 minutes once it's ready to go in the oven really does prevent the shrinkage problem. *crossing fingers* At least so far. Incidentally, in the Beranbaum book, she has several different pie crust recipes using different kinds of fat, including duck fat. I might have to give some of those a try.

TGIP Rating--Rhubarb Pie--KEEPER. Rhubarb, I'm your newest fan. And maybe now that I'm no longer afraid of you I'll try a cherry rhubarb pie.

Next up: Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Hazelnuts--if I can get my friend Jonny to come bake with me. Time for Fall baking!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

S'mores Bars

Yum. But we're not there yet. Closer. Much closer than this. But not quite there. Here's the recipe. You will no doubt be surprised to hear that my problem with this recipe was the dark chocolate.

It was too much. Were you suprised? It was delicious, no question, but I felt like it overpowered the toasty marshmallow flavor. I worked hard with my little kitchen torch to get each and every marshmallow perfectly toasted.

So to have that flavor completely masked by the dark chocolate was a little disappointing.

Other than that small problem, these are lovely. The graham cracker layer is the perfect thickness. The cocoa krispies add a crunchiness that is sort of hard to place, but just right. And the marshmallows. You know, they're marshmallows, what could possibly be bad about them?

I actually ended up using a whole bag of mini marshmallows, not just 4 cups. I used 2 cups in the chocolate mixture and the rest of the bag on top. Otherwise it would have been pretty sparse up there.

I can't help but wonder if it's possible to get that real s'mores flavor with anything other than a real s'more. A friend sent me this link with lots of other possibilities to explore. Try them and let me know what you think. Or perhaps I'll just bookmark it and try one of those recipes next summer when I do my (apparently) annual "I didn't have time for enough campfires this summer!" post.

TGIP Rating--S'mores Bars--KEEPER. Next time I'll try it with milk chocolate. I know. But that's what a s'more tastes like to me--plain old Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars.

Next up: Rhubarb found. Pie imminent.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Midweek Ruminations: 2 (or maybe 3) Things

Thing 1--I said I was going to make Cinnamon Zucchini Muffins next. And I did. I just neglected to take any pictures as documentary proof. So, you'll have to trust me that they were amazingly delicious. Mostly because of these tasty little morsels:

And, that link may be your best way to find them. We visited several different grocery stores looking for them, found them on maybe the 5th or 6th. Were they worth the hunt? OH YES. And now I'm trying to think of other ways I could use them. In pancakes? Yes. In Snickerdoodles? Why not?! And now that I know where to find them, I'm set!

Thing 2--Remember these sweet little babyangels from my Wine Cake post?

I have, for a while now, been occasionally checking ebay and Etsy to see if anyone was selling a set, and SUCCESS! A complete set, in perfect condition, still in their original box.

I think they're a little smaller in scale than The Pie Queen's, and will therefore require skinnier candles, but still! Aren't they the cutest things you ever saw?!

I can't wait for an opportunity to use them.

Thing 3--Sometimes I am a cupcake whore. Somebody gave me one of these at work yesterday:

(from Mrs. Backer's Bakery in Salt Lake City) and it made my day in ways you can't even imagine. They're not the best cupcakes on the planet. But they're certainly not the worst. And it was JUST what I needed. So my message to you is this: if you have a cupcake to spare, give it to someone who looks like they need a cupcake, you have no idea how happy you might make them.

Who am I kidding? Is there any such things as a SPARE cupcake? No. Except in my office, apparently. Weird.

Next up: I had a magical summer doing this. The only problem is that nightly rehearsals leave little time for summer evening campfires or...more specifically...s'mores. So. Before Labor Day comes and shuts the door on summer, I'm making a s'mor-ish dessert. Nothing complicated or fancy. But it looks so yummy to me, I have to try it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fresh Blaspberry Pie

I intended to bake a rhubarb pie this week. All rhubarb, no strawberries, no cherries. Just rhubarb. Because my friend Dan issued the challenge. And it was his birthday. But, silly me, having never worked with rhubarb before AT ALL, I didn't realize it's out of season right now. And when rhubarb is out of season it is apparently not available ANYWHERE. So. I made this instead. Partially because a stylish birdie told me Dan likes berry pies. And partially because he's my favorite BLASPhemer. And I could make a clever pie name for him--BLASPberry. It works for me even if it doesn't for you.

And to tell you the truth, I didn't taste this pie. I tasted a little bit of the filling as I made the pie, but that was about it. I liked what I tasted. I liked the way the lemon zest sort of accentuates the other flavors. Not too sweet, just right in the "glaze" department. I heard reports that the pie was good, but I can't confirm that first hand. You'll have to make it and tell me what you think. Because I'm not making it again anytime soon. But only because I've had enough heat-induced pie crust trauma this summer to last me a couple of years. So I vow to make no more pies until Autumn comes. For real. Not that fake Autumn that we sometimes get in September only to return to over-90-degree weather. Real Autumn that comes in October and brings crunchy, smoky, brownish, spicy things with it.

Anyway, here's the recipe:

Fresh Blaspberry Pie *click here for printable version*

1 baked 9 inch crust, cooled
1 c. sugar
16 oz fresh blueberries
18 oz fresh raspberries
2/3 c. water
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/3 c. water
½ tsp lemon zest
Whipped cream

Crush 4 oz of the blueberries and 6 oz of the raspberries together. They don’t have to be crushed too finely, some chunks are fine. Mix the sugar and crushed berries together with the ⅔ cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Mix cornstarch and ⅓ cup water to make a slurry. Add to the sugar and berry mixture and cook over medium low heat until thickened, stirring almost constantly. Stir in lemon zest. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Mix remaining berries together and place in cooled pie crust. Pour sauce over fresh berries. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Top with whipped cream.

From what I can tell...

TGIP Rating--Fresh Blaspberry Pie--KEEPER. Although, I have to admit, I'm partial to the regular, old Fresh Raspberry Pie. When rhubarb is back in season, I WILL make a pure rhubarb pie for Dan. Somebody set an alarm for me, or something.

Next up: Cinnamon Zucchini Muffins. You know you're about to have 25 pounds more zucchini than you know what to do with.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

TGIP Field Trip: So Cupcake

Looks pretty. Brightly colored, etc. Tastes like crap. Seriously. Overly sweet. I couldn't taste anything but sugar. The key lime cupcake tasted exactly like the red velvet, WHA?! The shop was dark and dingy. I was decidedly unimpressed. Note to cupcake shops: The Sweet Tooth Fairy's in town, you need to step up your game.

TGIP Rating--So Cupcake--NEVER AGAIN. I had to go to The Sweet Tooth Fairy 2 days later to wash the taste and memory out of my mouth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coconut Cream Pie

This is a work in progress. Which may require several more tries to reach perfection. I don't think anyone in my house is going to complain about that. Once perfection is reached, I'll post the recipe. In the meantime, know this: liquor does, in fact, make an already flaky pie crust even more flaky and doesn't change the taste. So, that's good to know. Enjoy some pretty.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birthday Prezzies

My people take such good care of me. Seriously. Beautiful cookbooks with all sort of new recipes for me to try!

Look at these pies and tarts. So gorgeous and delicious looking.

Pie contest in a box! Who will take me on?

Marble rolling pin! Put it in the fridge for a 1/2 hour before rolling pie dough and the chill makes rolling easier (especially in these ridiculously hot summer months).

And this teeny tiny pie necklace! Have you ever seen anything so adorable?

Birthdays are awesome!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

French Apple Tart

It's my birthday. Shh. I don't actually usually tell people that. Not because I'm one of those women with an "age thing". The number of my age doesn't bother me. The wrinkle and sag of my age does, but that's something I can't hide. So. I'm telling you it's my birthday because you'll need to know that I'm not, as it turns out, making my own birthday cake. not on my side these days. But, I do have a fantastic husband who promised me a selection of cupcakes from The Sweet Tooth Fairy. That'll do.

I was going to make a Coconut Cream Pie this week. Truth is, I was going to make a French Silk Pie, a French Apple Tart, and a Coconut Cream Pie. But I succeeded only in the first two. My stomach/brain had other plans for me on Sunday. Coconut Cream Pie next time.

Here's the recipe I used for the French Apple Tart (you already have my recipe for French Silk Pie). It's from Baking with Julia, a series I loved watching and a book I love to use for recipes. This recipe is by Leslie Mackie. I used my own pie crust recipe, but tried to make it vegetarian, since I was taking the dessert to a party.

Bad idea. Lard is my friend. Lard is your friend. Embrace it, even if you're a veg. Seriously, even if you eat as many pies as I do each year (which you don't), you'd end up eating over the course of the year probably less than 1 cup of lard. That will not kill you! I promise. I might never make a vegetarian pie crust again. It's just so hard to work with. Blugh. It all turned out okay, but caused me no end of grief.

Anyway, I like this tart. It's not earth-moving, but it's yummy. I used quite a bit of lemon juice in it because I really dislike how apple desserts can so easily be overly sweet.

I think I found a good balance with this. It's pretty. It's yummy. With an easier to manage crust, it would be a super simple tart. Except for this one small (and weird) thing: I had to bake the tart at least twice (probably closer to 3 times) as long as the recipe says in order for my apples to turn dark brown.

Trust, I checked my oven temperature. It was just getting nowhere. And I had sliced my apples thin enough that I really thought they'd brown in no time. Maybe that was the problem? Maybe they were too thin? Next time, I might try a hotter oven. Or maybe not place the tart pan on another pan--I didn't experience any dripping anyway, so I don't really understand the point of that.

TGIP Rating--French Apple Tart--Yummy but had some mysterious baking problems. Still trying to decide whether or not I like this better than a good, old-fashioned apple pie...

Next up: Coconut Cream Pie. For real this time. Still planning to try a little something different with my pie crust. Still using lard. Let's not get too crazy now.