Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Getting Nervous

June 17, 2010

I have a lot of baking to do in the next week and a half!

Monday is Iron Cupcake, so Sunday afternoon and evening will be spent baking and decorating 12 dozen mini cupcakes!

Tuesday evening I will be baking a few cupcakes to take to my friend when I go to visit her new baby on Wednesday.

Saturday I am baking 10 dozen (full size) cupcakes for the wedding of two friends. This will be started on Thursday evening. I’m nervous about this because, even though the flavors are going to be simple, I have no idea about the logistics of baking 10 dozen cupcakes! I feel like it won’t be that hard, but a couple of weeks ago I baked 5 dozen, and it took me well over 8 hours to do all the baking and decorating.

The decorating on those 5 dozen, however, was a little more complicated. But cute! Check these out:

Fortunately I just have to make these 10 dozen look pretty. Swirly frosting, maybe some sugar pearls, but nothing as intense as marzipan ladybugs!

Then, of course, after the cupcakes are done I have to find the energy to party at the wedding! I hope I can do that, because it is sure to be a fun tonight.

I’m nervous because this is a lot of baking! I was hoping to spend most of the week prepping. Cleaning my kitchen, getting all my supplies purchased and in order and ready to go. Now I’ll have to do that a little quicker than planned. I will post pictures when it’s all done. And maybe of the tornado that sweeps through my kitchen.

In other news, David and I are trying to plan our wedding. BUT we’re so confused by all the options! Right now we’re not even sure WHERE we want to get married- locally, or in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas sounds like FUN, and it would combine a honeymoon into one trip. We’d get married on a Friday night, and then spend the weekend in a nice suite. It wouldn’t be eloping, because we would still be inviting a lot of people to join us. But of course, some people won’t, because it is expensive.

That means the biggest pro of the in-town option is that all our family and friends could be there. We’d have a party back in town if we got married in Vegas, but it wouldn’t be the same. Sure, my parents and a few friends would join us in Vegas, but what about people like my grandparents? Vegas hold no particular appeal to them and the airfare would put a huge burden on them. So they wouldn’t be there. Can I handle that? I’m not sure. What about aunts and uncles that have watched me grow up? Will I just ditch them? What about friends who would LOVE to come, but really can’t afford it with their student loans and their rent payments? Is it fair to ask them to come, knowing that it will set them back, or they won’t be able to?

Just because Vegas is fun?

Baking 10 dozen cupcakes is going to be much easier than planning this wedding.

Is This Thing On?

February 24, 2010

It’s sad that I had just finished writing about Las Vegas on here, and have already been back for a second visit. I miss my blog! I think it’s about to turn more into a baking and cooking blog, because there is TONS going on in that department.

It’s almost impossible to recap the last few months, so I’ll just talk about things as they come up. In the meantime, here’s my favorite latest creation:


Pistachio Petit-Four cake!

I’ll be back soon!

Friday!

June 5, 2009

I have to thank my blog for calming my irrational fear of my weight loss. I gained a bunch of weight back over the holidays, and have been painfully bereft of motivation to get back on the diet and exercise train. About a month ago I finally found it again and have been going strong on South Beach again. I’ve been doing a good job and was going crazy when I saw how slow the weight was dropping off. But looking back to my blog entries from a year ago, I’m only a couple pounds behind where I was then. Last year I lost about 10 pounds in the first month, and now I’m only at about 7. That’s not too bad, and it’s enough to keep me going.

It’s so much easier to eat healthy in the summer (almost summer). Fruits and vegetables are beautifully in season and lighter foods and cooking styles are so much more appetizing.

I would define myself as more of a winter person, but there’s something about the reemergence of life all around me and the sun and warmth that makes me feel alive and optimistic.

This weekend I hope to tackle and finish a HUGE uncluttering project in my house. Our front room, aka one of our three bedrooms, is currently a disaster. You can’t even walk in there. It’s about half our stuff that was shoved in there upon move-in, and half David’s dad’s stuff that he couldn’t take while he was working on his new house. But now there is reason to get it cleaned out, and I am looking forward to it! I say this about every other week, but I really want to get our house to the awesome-level. Cleaned, organized, decluttered. It needs it, and it would make me much happier. Hopefully this will be the big first step that can kick me into some spring (summer?) cleaning.

My baking addiction is still going strong. I’m entering a cupcake competitionon Saturday and just baked about 4 dozen cupcakes last night in preparation. I also signed up to be a member of the Just Baking blog group, so I’ll be sure to talk about when my first post goes up! I successfully made macarons a couple weeks ago, and they were delicious and quite possibly my newest obsession. I’ll post some pictures soon.

TGIF! I will be enjoying the weekend by going to David’s play, Noises Off, twice. You should too! I mean, not twice, but you should go. It’s hilarious.

No Excuses

March 6, 2009

So there’s no point in trying to make up for lost time here. I haven’t had a real post in close to three months. That’s crazy. I miss my blog. I haven’t been as good at uploading pictures and whiny entries with no pictures are pretty booooring.

Okay, let’s recap a little bit:
I totally went off the South Beach way of life over the holidays. Like WAAAAYYYY off. Like, gained back a lot of weight. It was not happy, but all the delicious food I ate was happy. And all the wonderful baking that I did was really pretty awesome. But now I’m back on the wagon. I’ve been pretty good the last couple of weeks, even though I’ve been sick a lot. It’s hard to find the energy to eat healthy when you’re sick. But I’ve managed, and I’m getting close to the weight I was when I fell off the wagon. Once I get back to that weight (180-ish) I will be really happy and vow to make it much closer to my goal weight by the time Christmas comes this year.

Baking: My enemy and my love.
I love baking. I can’t get over it. I love trying out new recipes. I love when something comes out more perfect than anything you can buy in a store. I love the way it makes my house smell. I love everything about it. Except for the fact that I want to eat ALL OF IT. Not just in a “quality control” way before I send it off to coworkers. As in, I would like to put a cake in front of me and eat it for each meal of each day.

And so, on that cake note, I took a cake decorating class! It’s the Wilton Course, offered at Michael’s. This was Course 1. It was pretty cool! I’ve been wanting to learn about actual decorating and how to make certain designs. I had a really nice instructor and got to take it with my friend and her mom. We had a great time and we still actually learned some stuff.

The first class was easy. The teacher told us about the stuff we’d learn and gave us tips on cakes and icing. She showed us some basic stuff that we’d be learning in class 2. We had to bring a cake that was frosted for Class 2, the next week. An excuse to try out a new cake recipe? Yes please!! I will post my recipes soon.

We started by learning some basic maneuvers with a pastry bag. The Wilton method is very structured and the teacher did a good job of making it interesting. She did cheat a little bit by showing us the whole rose the first day. I was so happy with this. The Wilton book says you are supposed to learn a little bit each class, and then put it all together at the final class. I think that’s dumb. This way we got three classes (and three weeks) to practice the rose before the final cake.

I feel like my roses at my first class were the best. My frosting was a little stiff, and I overcompensated at the next classes, where it was a little thin.

One of my first roses:

At the end of class, we got time to decorate our cakes using the techniques we learned that day.

I used the zig-zag border, roses, writing, and stars.

For the second class, we could bring cupcakes instead of a cake. I opted to do that, so I could practice all the techniques, without the final product looking too crazy.

We learned more shapes and how to use more tips and worked more on our roses. We learned grapes!

And we practiced our roses some more.

We also learned shell borders and drop flowers. I tried to use all our techniques on my cupcakes. They looked bright and vibrant:

For our final class, I actually considered using a box mix because of time. But I decided to stress myself out and try out Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake. It was beautiful and delicious and made my kitchen smell amazing. And, including frosting and my variation to the filling, used 4.5 sticks of butter. Like I said, amazing.

This was my first time making a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and I had zero problems! I was kind of surprised, but I’m not going to question it. It is my new favorite frosting.

Ready for class:

We learned leaves and sweet peas and vines and got a long time to decorate our final cakes in class. My frosting wasn’t perfect for roses, again, but I managed quite well.

My final cake:

I used roses, leaves, shells, sweet peas and vines. Here’s a good shot with the sides:

And a close up of my roses (and leaves). Not perfect, but I understand the theory:

And my luscious layers. Instead of just layering it with buttercream and raspberry jam, I made a lemon curd, and folded that into some of the buttercream to put between the cake layers.

While only 6 of my cupcakes got consumed at work, over half of this cake was devoured, so I think this is a winning recipe!

I can’t wait to start Course Two, though it will have to wait until April. I’d be missing a class due to Las Vegas (OMGINTENDAYS!!!!) so I had to skip out on March.

I love this stuff! I feel more determined than ever to some how, some way, some time, make a little money on the side from my baking adventures. If only to offset the cost of ingredients! In the meantime, I’m cutting back my baking. I’m going to try to bake only for certain occasions, and not JUST because I saw a super awesome recipe that I NEEEEEED to make right this moment. That should help my wallet and my waistline. Which is good, because just thinking about that last cake made me gain some weight.

Love

December 12, 2008

kitchen-aid

Calling My Name

December 8, 2008

After baking all afternoon on Saturday, I was a little burned out on Sunday. I had planned on MORE baking, but just couldn’t bring myself to do dishes and gather ingredients and head over to my mom’s house to use her mixer. So I didn’t.

But today is a new day and even though I’m at work, I hear these calling my name from my kitchen.


(PS. Isn’t my oven and kitchen floor HOTT?)

Those would be 50 pound bags of flour and sugar. Sandy bought them from Costco for us to split. I have already made quite the dent in the flour.

That’s a lot of flour. And I love it. If only I had enough butter to last the rest of the month. Next time butter is on sale at Pick N Save, I honestly might buy about 20 pounds of it. I’ve gone through 5 or 6 pounds in two months!

I am enjoying baking SO MUCH. If I’m lucky, I will have my very own stand mixer this week. And come January I will actually have free time! Which means more goodies. Especially in the form of cupcakes, my second true love.

756 servings? Is that all?

Sweet Cheese Puffs

December 7, 2008

When I first saw the name of the recipe, I kind of turned up my nose. Sweet cheese? I thought of the cheddar spread that comes in a tub. Plus sugar. But then I read it, and of course, it’s cream cheese, which is very delicious in sweet applications. And the description sounded dreamy- “like cheesecake wrapped in rich flaky pastry.” Ok, I’m sold! You should be too. It’s not the fastest recipe, but it’s not hard at all.

I thought I might have overworked the pastry, which is made with butter and sour cream, but it was beautifully flaky and tender. Oh, and delicious! If I can make these, so can you.

I made these again this weekend for a Christmas party. I set them on the table and they were attacked. I took off my coat and got a drink, and then I got a marriage proposal. They’re that good. Sorry Sandy, I didn’t mean to steal your wife.

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You start by cutting chilled butter into flour and salt. Sour cream is added and you eventually work the mixture into a dough, and divide it into three equal pieces. Plan this step ahead, because it will need to chill. I find it easiest to make this dough one day ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

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Then comes the filling. I was super excited to use my new zester for the first time. It worked so nicely I could have zested lemons all day. Some lemon zest and vanilla go into a food processor with cream cheese, sugar, and an egg.
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The result smells (and tastes) so good that part of you might want to eat it straight out of the bowl. But trust me! It gets even better.
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The pastry squares are rolled out very thinly and then trimmed into mini squares.
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You’re almost there! The filling is scooped in and folded into a “beggars purse” type of shape.
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Opposite corners are brought together and just lightly pinched to stay shut. These will partially blossom open in the oven, and it will be fantastic to look at and eat.
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After another short chill, they go into the oven and your kitchen will start to smell incredible. After 20-30 minutes, and they take on a lovely golden color, you can remove them and try to wait until they cool to pop one in your mouth. Good luck.

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Pastry Ingredients:
2 cups (280 grams) unsifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (5 ounces) sour cream (I used full fat)

1. Put the flour and salt into a large bowl, stir to combine. Scatter the butter slices over the flour and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture consists of particles that vary in size from small peas to bread crumbs.

2. Stir in the sour cream with a fork. The pastry will seem very dry because sour cream is thick and doesn’t disperse easily. Keep stirring until combined, then use your hands to manipulate the dough into a ball.

3. Divide the pastry dough into three equal pieces. Shape each into a 5-inch square, about 5/8 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 4 hours.

Cream Cheese Filling
Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 large egg
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

This filling is pretty easy. Process all the filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides once or twice.

Assembly:
1. Remove one pastry square from refrigerator. Set aside for 10 minutes before rolling it. On a floured surface, roll the pastry into a rectangle less than 1/8 inch thick. With a ruler and pastry wheel (I used a tape measure and pizza cutter) trim the ragged edges; then measure and cut the pastry into 3 inch squares.

2. Lay the pastry squares across the top of ungreased 12-cup miniature muffin pans, centering each square over one cup. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on each square; then bring opposite corners to the center, and press lightly to seal. This process will also ease the pastry into each cup. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll and shape the remaining pastry squares in the same fashion.

3. Adjust rack to lower third of oven; preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Bake two to three pans at a time for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until pastries are light brown. Remove pan from oven to a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove pastries from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

DECORATION: Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving at room temperature.

If not serving the same day baked, stack undecorated pastries in an airtight sturdy plastic container and freeze up to 2 weeks. To serve, reheat to freshen in a 325 degree F oven for about 7 to 12 minutes, or until warm. Cool slightly, then sprinkle with the powdered sugar.

From Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker

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Oh Dear Blog

December 5, 2008

I haven’t forgotten about you. But apparently it has been so long that wordpress has changed its format yet again. It is not for lack of material to share, but lack of time.

I have some incredible recipes to share. Even some that can’t be found on the internets! I could talk about Thanksgiving or the fantastic weekend that followed. I could talk about the play that I’m in or about how tough work is.

If only there was time.

This month my weekdays will go like this:
5:45: Wake up
6:30: Leave the house
7:00: Start work
4:00: Leave work
5:00: Make dinner
6:00: Leave for rehearsal
9:30: Get home and collapse into bed and try to fall asleep immediately

Weekends will be full of shows or parties, which are fun, but I could barely find time to celebrate my own birthday. Woe is me.

I did get paid today and my paycheck included a bit of overtime, so that was nice.

I’m glad that gas has lowered in price because coffee just became an almost daily necessity.

Hopefully I can find some time to upload pictures and share my yummy holiday recipes so far. Because they were delicious.

In the meantime… 6 DAYS UNTIL MY BIRTHDAY!!

TRY IT

November 20, 2008

David and I have been having stressful, rotten times at work lately. Yesterday his bad day outweighed mine, and so I took care of stuff and let him chill. I was productive and washed a ton of dirty dishes that had taken over our kitchen, and then I baked, which was so relaxing to me, even though it took a while. I’ll post more details if I remember to take pictures of the final product, but TRY THIS.

I wanted to try out this Vodka Pie Crust from Cooks Illustrated, but I didn’t want to make a whole pie. So I combined the crust with the recipe for the apple pocket pies. Pie crust seems kind of advanced and scary to me, but trust me, this was SO EASY. I had heard this crust could be kind of sticky, so I was worried when mine was on the dry and crumbly side. And when I rolled it out, I saw some huge chunks of butter that I didn’t see on Smitten’s blog entry, because I have a crappy pastry cutter. But I went with it, and hoped for the best. O.M.G. AWESOME! I don’t know if I can choose a favorite between this crust or the pastry from the original pocket-pie recipe, but I think this one was definitely flakier. It totally melts in your mouth. O.M.G.

I am thinking about making an apple pie to take to Thanksgiving, but I’ve been hesitant because my mom makes awesome pie crust (she totally goes for it and uses lard) and I sometimes wonder why I should try to perfect the already-perfected. So I tried this crust just to see which crust I would use if I made a whole pie. I was hoping for a clear winner, but I don’t know!!

I think I would like this vodka crust better for a whole pie, but the other crust is good for the mini pies? I don’t know! Maybe I’ll just have to make both again and have a side-by-side taste test. Any testing volunteers?

Frosting

November 6, 2008

There is no comparison to homemade frosting. I have bought, used, and eaten frosting in a can, but it’s not the same. I wouldn’t attempt frosting without an electric mixer, but a handheld mixer should work just as well as a stand mixer. Your arm might get tired, though. Frosting is also great because it is EASY. SOOO EASY! You can start with a recipe, but the amounts are all a little variable. It’s easy to add flavors or other ingredients, and still have a stable frosting. So, by “popular” demand (and my own memory)…

Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
(Please note that when making this, we did not actually measure anything. We kept drizzling in Nutella until it tasted “Nutella-y” enough. It turned into frosting with a silky, slightly gooey, creamy, “soft peak” texture.
Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese (cold/cool)
4 TBSP (half stick) of butter (room temperature)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (sifted before adding would be nice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella
1-2 TBSP milk

Directions:
Blend together cream cheese and butter on medium speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add in powdered sugar. <You could stop here for a plain old cream cheese frosting.> Check texture after two cups. If frosting seems spreadable, gradually add in Nutella. Beat for about a minute to fluff it up. After Nutella is added you may need to add more powdered sugar and/or a little milk to reach a thick, creamy, frosting consistency. I added almost another cup of powdered sugar after the Nutella.

VARIATIONS:
I didn’t do any of these, but it could be yummy!
-Before adding the powdered sugar, add about a half cup of unsweetened cocoa powder for a really chocolatey flavor.
-Instead of milk, add a couple tablespoons of Kahlua or other coffee liquor.
-Add finely chopped hazelnuts at the very end.
-Do they make hazelnut extract? If so, use that instead of vanilla. YUM.

I’ll be honest. I would make this frosting even if I had nothing to frost. One doesn’t need an excuse to consume anything when Nutella goodness is involved.

Here’s another Nutella frostingrecipe that I found online.

Here’s my favorite(so far) easy buttercream frosting. You can add different flavors or some cocoa powder and melted chocolate. You can usually fix a runny frosting by adding more powdered sugar, and fix a too-thick one with a little milk.