Tuesday, August 18, 2009

cupcake pops!

so i've made them a number of times before, but this is the first time i've documented it: bakerella's cupcake pops! they're delicious and sweet and a little time consuming but so worth it, because people love them. i'm not going to recount the steps, as bakerella has fantastic instructions on her site (there's even a video!), and if you look through what she has you'll see some for nearly every occasion. anyway, here they are:

this is the ooey, gooey stage of the process: mixing the cake with the icing. your hands get full of cake, but it's also delicious to lick off. eric helped me with this stage, i think he found it weird.

so bakerella is real good about using cookie cutters and forms for the shapes, whereas i kind of roll ball/oval type shapes and hope for the best. then after they've hardened in the freezer dip the bottom half in the melted candy melts and then insert the stick, all on wax paper. also, it helps to dip the stick in the candy melts first, as not doing so can sometimes lead to poor adhesion.

i like to buy plain old white candy melts and then add in my own colors, i think it's a little more fun.

a finished product drying, out of focus and everything! woot!

the whole bunch. note: styrofoam blocks work perfectly for drying, because it's sturdy yet also very easy to make new holes.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

scrumptious blueberry muffins

it's been awhile, i know. and so i'm about to assault the blog with a number of posts. mainly, i'm procrastinating. i'm supposed to be packing right now. and i don't want to. hence, blog posts. a few weeks ago, i felt like baking, and happened to have picked up some blueberries at the store. so i went with blueberry muffins. so i took to tastespotting.com and, after perusing the recipes, settled upon this recipe via the bitten word. what i liked about it was that it was different from most in that you cook some of the blueberries first and then end up with more blueberry flavor throughout. only thing is that somehow mine ended up way more purple than bitten word's, but they were still delicious. so here are the pics, followed as usual by the recipe.

cooking the blueberries on the stovetop. warning: whatever spoon you use is most likely to turn a bluish purple, so choose wisely.

the ever easy dry ingredient stage

adding the milk. i'm a skim drinking, but in baking you can't hold back. full fat all the way.

folding in some of the blueberries

in the muffin tin, ready to go in the oven. or are they?

deliciously goopy blueberries on top of the muffins. but wait, they're still not ready...

delicious goopy blueberries swirled throughout the muffins... notice how purple they are.

and of course topped with a sugar/lemon zest mixture. in reprospect, i should have done more of a crumble topping.

so many dishes to clean while they were baking!

mmmm hot, oozy and delicious. really enjoyed this receipe.


Lemon-Sugar Topping

1/3 cup (21/3 ounces) sugar
teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon


2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over
1 1/8 cups (8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (see note)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Note: If buttermilk is unavailable, substitute 3/4 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk.

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.

2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

4. Following photos above, use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Our preferred brands of frozen blueberries are Wyman’s and Cascadian Farm.
Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, substituting 2 cups frozen berries for fresh. Cook 1 cup berries as directed in step 2. Rinse remaining cup berries under cold water and dry well. In step 3, toss dried berries in flour mixture before adding egg mixture. Proceed with recipe from step 4 as directed.

Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, omitting Lemon-Sugar Topping. Prepare streusel by combining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, pinch table salt, and ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (3½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour in small bowl. Drizzle with 5 tablespoons warm, melted unsalted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened and mixture forms large chunks with some pea-sized pieces throughout. Proceed with recipe as directed, sprinkling streusel topping over muffins before baking.

Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, omitting Lemon-Sugar Topping. Add 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest to egg mixture in step 3. Proceed with recipe as directed, sprinkling 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar over muffins before baking. While muffins cool, whisk together 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1½ tablespoons orange juice until smooth. Drizzle each cooled muffin with 2 teaspoons glaze before serving.

Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, omitting Lemon-Sugar Topping. In step 1, combine 1/3 cup finely ground almonds and 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar; set aside. In step 3, add 1/3 cup finely ground almonds to flour mixture. Proceed with recipe as directed, adding 1 teaspoon almond extract with vanilla extract in step 3 and sprinkling almond topping over muffins before baking.


1. MAKE BERRY JAM Cook half of fresh blueberries into thick jam to concentrate their flavor and eliminate excess moisture.


Stir 1 cup of fresh blueberries into batter to provide juicy bursts in every bite.


Scoop batter into muffin pans, completely filling cups.


Place 1 teaspoon of cooled berry jam in center of each batter-filled cup, pushing it below surface.


Using chopstick or skewer, swirl jam to spread berry flavor throughout.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

hello from the heeb.

So Christine has been rockstar about posting her photos of her creations, but I've got to be honest: Love to cook, but I get too into it sometimes and forget to photograph. My bad, yo.

However, being the Heeb on the site, I found it only appropriate to share the BEST BRISKET RECIPE EVER (cue the echo).

It's called 'My Mother's Brisket' and ran in the December 1995 issue of Gourmet:

Now, here is what it says you need:

a 5- to 6-pound first-cut beef brisket
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 5 cups or 3 pounds)
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, or to taste, minced
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably Hungarian
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

I won't go into showing how it's prepped, but I will tell you what I did differently:

1. You so don't need that much oil just enough to coat the bottom of your cooking device, since you get some delicious melted fat to grease it all up.
2. I dumped a few cans of plain tomatoe sauce and cheap red wine on the brisket, and every time I checked on that bad boy, I'd move it around a bit, perhaps flip it, and then dump more of the booze/sauce as I saw fit (or could find in my cabinet) to keep the brisket moist.

Apparently this is one of those dishes you can't mess up. So, with that, I say to you good luck!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

i have officially decided upon a favorite cuisine.

i love thai food. i do. especially after having been in thailand for 2 weeks. i really think that i could eat it everyday. and thus i decided to take my love to the next level and attempt what is probably the best known thai dish: pad thai. so i took to tastespotting to search for a great (and relatively easy) recipe. after perusing a few, i decided upon chocolate shaving's pad thai recipe. and i have to say, i loved it. it was rather fantastic and delicious, and i highly recommend it. and plan on using it many, many more times. as always, recipe to follow the pics. oh and as an aside, i would like to take this opportunity to thank my mother for gifting me with a wok a few years ago that i then schlepped back to the states from germany.

soaking the rice noodles.

chicken, garlic, and eggs cooking in the wok. in this part, i changed the recipe and used 2 eggs instead of the designated 3. i just felt like 3 seemed like a lot of egg, and i was very pleased with the outcome.

cooking the noodles, sprouts, and onion in the wok (in the sauce mixture).

everything heating up together.

the final product, garnished with (somewhat) chopped peanuts and a lime wedge. i did not add cilantro as the recipe calls for, only because i did not have any. i did however add chilli flakes, because i like a little spice in my life. delicious!

Classic Pad Thai with Chicken and Tofu (serves 4)
Banh Pho Rice Noodles 1/2 lb or enough for 4 people
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 chicken breasts
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 cup of cubed, firm tofu
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons of Tamarind Paste, soaked in 2-3 tablespoons of warm water for 10 minutes
1/2 cup bean sprouts
4 spring onions, green and white parts roughly chopped

To Garnish:
One handful of chopped coriander
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
1 lime, quartered

Prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking, as the stir fry process goes quite quickly. Soak the noodles in warm water for 20-25 minutes prior to cooking. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and mix in a bowl with the sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the fish sauce and soy sauce. Strain the tamarind mixture and add it to this bowl as well. In a third bowl, beat the three eggs lightly and reserve.

Heat a wok on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and the garlic. Stir fry for about a minute or just until the garlic browns. Add the chicken and allow it to sear for about 30-seconds, and stir fry for an additional 1-2 minutes to cook. Add the tofu cubes and sear them as well for 1-2 minutes. Pour over the egg mixture and allow it to set for 2-3 minutes. Carefully break up the egg with a wooden spoon. Remove the egg and chicken mixture from the wok and reserve.

Rinse the wok and place back over high heat. Add the remaining one tablespoon of oil, and, when it is hot, add the drained noodles. Allow them to fry for about a minute. Add the tamarind and soy sauce mixture and stir. Add the bean sprouts and green onions and stir the mixture for another 30 seconds. Add back the chicken and tofu, cook for another couple minutes and serve with coriander, peanuts, and lime wedges. Enjoy!

mmmm strawberries....

i returned from my fantastic thai vacation just in time for 4th of july, and decided to give pioneer woman's strawberry shortcake cake a whirl for the party i was invited to. and man was it delicious. i pretty much stuck to her recipe (which i'll also include at the end of the post), the exception being that i used a 9" round baking pan instead of 8" because that was what i had. here we go:

mixing the sour cream in.... it may not look delicious yet, but just you wait

in the cake pan. remember, i used 9", and it seemed alright to me.

cooling on the rack. apparently it's normal that it turns this brown on the outside, as it was rather delicious on the inside.

making the frosting. i sifted in 1.5 lbs of confectioners sugar. eep.

the recipe calls to cut the cake in half and make a layer cake. i tried to be all precise about the cutting and even used a ruler and toothpick guides, but i still ended up with one half seriously thinner than the other. this i'm going to go ahead and blame on the fact that when the cake was baking it ended up with a relatively sunken in center, hence messing up my accuracy in halving the cake. next time, i might just split the batter between two 9" cakes so i don't have to deal with the cutting.

the other way i altered the recipe: i don't know if i overused the strawberries, or if using a 9" instead of an 8" pan made that much of a difference, but whatever the case i doubled the amount of strawberries in the recipe. when i began spreading the first pound of strawberries (shown here soaking in the sugar) on the bottom layer, it just didn't seem to be enough. good thing i had bought a 2nd pound of strawberries at the store!

the top of the cake, full of strawberries. now imagine half that amount. not enough strawberries, right?

beginning to spread the delicious cream cheese frosting...

almost done...

viola! strawberry shortcake cake, a la the pioneer woman.

and here's her recipe:

Strawberry Shortcake Cake


1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 pound cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pound strawberries

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch.
Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.
Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no longer jiggly like my bottom. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

Stem strawberries and slice them in half from bottom to top. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoons sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

Make icing: combine cream cheese, 2 sticks butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.

Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 cup around the sides.

Leave plain OR garnish with strawberry halves.

IMPORTANT: Cake is best when served slightly cool. The butter content in the icing will cause it to soften at room temperature. For best results, store in the fridge!

** please take note and store in the fridge. i forgot to, and ended up with a sticky, gooey syrup on the counter as the strawberry juice oozed out**

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

i baked my first cheesecake the other day, and i have to say it was real delicious. i used a recipe from my "baking bible," baker's illustrated. i was a little shocked at just how much cream cheese goes into a cheesecake, but it was real good. the graham cracker crust really makes it incredible. i found that it's real important to keep an eye on the cake while it's baking, because mine ended up cracking a bit across the middle, which according to the book means that the eggs overcooked a bit while it was cooling. also make sure that it is refrigerated long enough before cutting into it; i would advise at least four hours, which is an hour longer than the minimum that they recommend. when i cut it at about 3 hours or so the center was not firm enough, as the piece i cut out was a bit goopy in the center. also keep in mind that this is not a short process - it takes a long time to bake it, as you'll see. 90 minutes or so in the oven at 200 degrees. i definitely recommend this recipe though. pics first, then i'll post the recipe.

look at all that cream cheese!

mixing all those gobs of cream cheese... still a ways to go!

looking much better, just about ready to go into the springform pan

the finished product, cooling on a wire rack before heading into the fridge

New York Cheesecake
Graham Cracker Crust:
5 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter (extra tblspn for greasing pan)
8 whole graham crackers broken into rough pieces and processed in a food processor until fine
1 tablespoon sugar

2.5 lbs. cream cheese, cut approximately into 1 inch chunks, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks plus 6 large eggs, at room temperature

For the crust:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325. Brush bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter. Combine the graham cracker crumbs with sugar in a medium bowl, and then add the 5 tablespoons melted butter and toss it with a fork until it is evenly moistened. Press the mixture evenly in the pan bottom; it helps to use the bottom of a measuring cup for the center and then a spoon for the outer edges. Bake the crust until it becomes fragrant and begins to brown, about 12 - 13 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.
For the filling:
Increase the oven temperature to 500. In the bowl of a standard mixer, beat the cream cheese and medium-low speed for about 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add salt and about half the sugar and beat again at medium-low speed for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl again and then add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla and beat at a low speed until it is combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl, then add the egg yolks and beat at medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl and add the eggs 2 at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions.
Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon melted butter. Set the springform pan on a rimmed baing sheet (to catch any spills if pan leaks), and pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 500. WITHOUT opening the oven door, turn the oven temperature down to 200 and bake until an instant thermometer stuck into the cheesecake reads 150, about 1.5 hours. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, about 2.5 to 3 hours. Run a paring knife between the cake and the pan sides (to prevent cracking as the cake continues to cool), and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours. To unmold the cheesecake, remove the sides of the pan, and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

a purpose, of some sort

we're baking. and cooking. and sharing recipes with each other and with you. just delicious things that we try from cookbooks and some of the awesome cooking and baking blogs that are out there on the interweb. we'll try to include some pictures, maybe tweak the recipes a little, and some tips too. i have a feeling there might be more baking than cooking (at least from me), but who knows. bon appetit!