Monday, December 6, 2010

We Have Wee Dogs, Marilyn, and Silly Walks!

I'm going to skip the long explanation in regards to my (rather lengthy) absence, and just say simply that I've been incredibly, very sick the last several months. And while I'm not out of the woods yet, I'm am better for the time being.

So, what has the old Scone Gunman been up to, craft-wise? Not much until recently.

I should have been working on crafting Christmas gifts at least a month ago, but the health thing kept me away. However, this past week I finally gathered up some strength, borrowed a dash of motivation, and got cracking on gifts.

One of them flopped. We won't talk about that one, okay?

I have four or five gifts in various stages of undress. Mostly finished but needing something like, say, a frame. I squandered valuable gift-crafting time by starting an embroidery for myself:

I'm a bad person. Wait- redemption!

For my mother's birthday (which also happens to be this month), I embroidered her dog. As in, I embroidered a picture. I didn't embroider *on* the dog.

The tag is embroidered with the initials 'PL', because the dog's name is Penny Lane. It's modified from a Gina Matarazzo pattern.

And for my mother's...boyfriend? Partner? For the guy my mother lives with (that'll do), who happens to be a Monty Python fan (like myself), I stitched the Ministry of Silly Walks plaque:

One of those 'just add a frame' deals.

Is there more? Oh, Cthulhu help you, yes! I've been a crafting fool. In the next day or so I'll post some of my other finished projects, like the prettyful pink neck warmer I also made for my mumsy, as well as my handy dandy, homemade Christmas cards.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's Alive! And So Am I!

It's been a bit since my last post. Despite rumors to the contrary, I have not fallen from the curve of the earth. As I know everyone out there understands all too well, life sometimes finds a way to insert its own special brand of commercial interruption.

Me, I've been dealing with health issues, which have kept me from my most beloved-est baking. These issues should not have interfered with crafting, but I must confess to an extreme case of laziness. As much as I want to pull out some embroidery or cross-stitch, there's something about the idea of actually going to my working basket and picking out a project that seems more daunting than...well, something daunting.

And while I'm confessing (I've got the Catholics beat on this, I think), I should tell you that what I have been doing is so very, very important. Okay, so I've been glutting myself on Buffy via Netflix. But it could be important. Maybe. I'll figure out how and get back to you.

Until I'm back up and running at a normal pace again, I'll leave you with a couple pictures of one of my current projects. It's a free-form sampler that I have no direction for at all. I'm just seeing where the floss takes me, having fun experimenting with new stitches along the way. Although, I've thus far only used French knots and ribbed spiderweb stitch.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chainmail Belly Dance Belt

No one will ever accuse me of being a hand model. Between the baking burns, constant OCD hand washing, and working with chainmail, I officially have the worlds ugliest, roughest hands. No joke. My husband can confirm. We're talking wicked witch territory here.

But in the end it's worth it, because my family gets delicious baked goods, my therapist is still in business, and I get awesome chainmail pieces like this one.

All it took was a bag of jump rings, two kinds of pliers, calloused hands, focus, and a Buffy marathon.

Of course, it doesn't have to be for belly dancers only (although that's what I'll use it for). It could be worn to the Ren Faire, for LARP, or just because it's awesome.

This is my first chainmail adventure. You see, last Christmas our oldest son decided he wanted to learn to make chainmail armor. Being wondiferous parents, me an my husband bought him a very large bag of jump rings. He was very excited about them. So excited that he never did anything with them, deciding it was too hard. Or too boring. I'm not clear on that one.

Seeing that pricey bag of metal sitting there not living up to it's potential got me itching (the mosquitoes are bad this time of year). I should go online, research the history of chainmail, study patterns and refference until I have a solid, sound knowledge base.

Or I'd just grab some pliers and start putting rings together.

And I have to say that I'm very pleased with the final result, and that I've developed a love for this particular craft.

Even if my hands hate me for it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


It's a sugar cookie. No, it's a snickerdoodle. It's neither! It's both!

It's a sugardoodle!

I've been making these for a long time now, and I've been holding out on you. Grown-ups can be so cruel.

What these cookies are (besides one of my favorite cookies, ever) is a sugar cookie/snickerdoodle hybrid (I guess you already sussed that one out, huh?). And it's really so good, if I haven't already told you that. My memory fails.

They're really good. Sugary but not too sweet, cinnamon-y without being overbearing, just crisp enough around the edges and soft and chewy inside.

They're really good. You should make them.

(makes about 4 dozen)

1 1/3 c unsalted  butter
1 1/2 c  sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat you oven to 350 degrees (f) and parchment a baking sheet(s).

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one well before adding the next. Mix in vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then mix with the wet ingredients. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the 3 Tbsp of sugar and cinnamon.

Measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough, roll into the cinnamon/sugar mixture, place on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to set on sheet for a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool.

These will stay soft and chewy and perfect for about 5 days in an airtight container of some sort. They'll keep much longer, but won't taste as good after 5 days.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I'm going to tell you a secret. If you add fruit and oatmeal to anything, anything, even if it contains two whole sticks of butter and nearly two cups of sugar, you can then call it healthy and feel very good about yourself and your superior self control.

Or, you can pretend, at least.

So maybe they're not exactly healthy, though they do have some healthy components. But who cares? These cookies are mighty tasty, and that's all me and my taste buds need to know.

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
(makes about 2 1/2 dozen)

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
1 c light or dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 c old fashioned rolled oats
1 c dried sour cherries (chopped)
3/4 c chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate)

Preheat your oven to 350 (f) and line your baking skeet(s) with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then stir in the rolled oats. Finally, mix in the cherries and chocolate chips.

Drop by 1 1/2 tablespoonfulls onto the baking sheet and cook 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to set up on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool.

Notes: You can, of course, customize this recipe until the cows come home (and if you've never had cows, that could be a lot of customizing). Add nuts, peanut butter chips, different fruit, coconut, you name it. You can also easily increase the amount of fruit added.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Belgian Waffles

I'll drive you nuts repeating myself, and I know you and everyone else out there already knows, but I'll risk your ire. I love breakfast foods.

There, I said it. Again.

I eat breakfast every day, usually more than once. Sure, there's the typical morning breakfast, but what would the day be without a "light snack" like egg-in-a-hole? Or an impromptu batch of French toast at 8:00 at night?

It would be a day not truly lived, is what.

What I've been missing (sorely) are waffles. I've been wanting a waffle iron for a while now, and, if you wish hard enough (and it's your birthday and your husband loves you and puts up with your food geekery) you'll wake up one fine Tuesday morning with UPS at your door holding a box with another box inside. And in that last box is a waffle iron.

And it was good.

So I had to jump in right away. I removed the waffle iron from its box immediately, gave it a washing, and then set to work making waffle batter.

So maybe I'm no expert yet, but my first batch (what you see in the picture) came out beautifully, tasted fantastic, and is currently freezing very well.

After some experimenting, I'll return with a recipe I find fit to share. Until then, here's the recipes I used: AllRecipes Waffles I.

Soft Pretzels

 He's a fatty, the little Brando, but I love him anyway

I have a confession. Come closer.

Closer. I don't want anyone else to hear.

Ok, here it is. I love soft pretzels, and for years...

I bought the frozen kind in the big blue box. You know the ones.

I'm ashamed. Deeply. But I've changed! Repented! I have seen the light (inside my oven. Before it burned out). I've been making my own soft pretzels for about a year now, and could never, ever go back to "those" pretzels.

These are very similar to that iconic pretzel you can buy in the mall, the one that goes perfectly with a large Orange Julius (and I have the recipe for that, also! Thank you FN magazine).

The key to the recipe is the baking soda bath. Really crucial. Skip it, and you'll have nothing more than plain white bread twisted into a pretzel shape. And that's no fun. And your children won't love you as much anymore if you try to pass it off on them. You'll get evil looks, I promise.

Don't skip it.

You know what else I love about these? You can freeze them. You can make up a big batch, wrap them individually, and then freeze them for later.

I love freezing delicious things for later.

Soft Pretzels
(makes a dozen)

1 1/2 cup warm water (about 115 f)
4 tsp yeast*
1/2 c plus 1 Tbsp sugar (divided)
5 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil

For baking soda bath:
1 qt hot water
1/4 c baking soda

Kosher salt (optional)

In a large cup or bowl, proof the yeast with the 1 1/2 c warm water and 1 Tbsp sugar for 10 minutes. While that's proofing, sift together the flour, salt, and 1/2 c sugar. Add the yeast mixture and oil to the dry ingredients and stir until the dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 6-8 minutes.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap until doubled, 1-2 hours (the warmer it is in your home, the faster the yeast will rise).

Once the dough has doubled, preheat your oven to 450 (f) and start the quart of water barely simmering in a pan on the stove. Turn the dough out to de-gas it. Cut into 12 equal pieces (cut in half, then each half in half, then cut those four pieces into three equal pieces). Roll each piece into a thin rope (about 20" long), and then shape into a pretzel. Prepare racks for drainage (I use cooling racks). Add the baking soda to the water and give it a quick stir. Add each pretzel to the water (1-3 at a time, depending on the size of your pan) and let soak there for about 15 seconds (they'll float to the top). Remove and let drain for a few minutes on the rack.

Place the pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake for 8-9 minutes, until golden brown.

*I always fail to mention that when I list yeast as an ingredient, I use the standard Fleischman's active dry yeast (not instant).

Notes: You can do quite a lot with these. Melt some butter and then brush it on the tops of the pretzels when you take them out of the oven (you'll never look back). Sprinkle on some rosemary, or some cinnamon sugar. Go nuts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Plum Jam Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing too new here, as I've already posted my cinnamon roll recipe (see Sandwich Bread and Cinnamon Rolls From One Batch of Dough). This time I decided I'd follow The Pioneer Woman's* lead (who was following Deb of Smitten Kitchen's* lead) and add some jam to them. Plum jam, specifically, which is one of my favorite types of jam.

If you haven't had it, you should remedy that. Like, five minutes ago.

And in other news, I've been saying it over on the Twitter for a few weeks now, but I will soon (really. No, really) post my snickerdoodles recipe. If you've never heard me go on and on about them on Twitter (and if you haven't, lucky you), snickerdoodles are just about my favorite cookie. They're simple and perfect.

I make them way too often. You should too.

*These two women, by the way, are so amazing that if you don't start following them religiously (if you don't already), I will hunt you down and give you a bare-assed spanking. The fact that they were in the same kitchen together without creating a rip in the space-time continuum by virtue of their combined awesomeness alone is astounding.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Delightful Scones

Because scones can only be delightful, m'right?

So, with a name like 'The Scone Gunman', you'd think I'd have posted more scone recipes by now.

It's true that I'll shove just about any baked good into my pie hole without a second thought. However, that isn't the case with scones. I'm pickier about those tasty little dandies. Some scones are just too dry, and some scones are no more than small cakes pretending to be scones (and they should be prosecuted for identity theft, the crafty jerks).

I've been using the same scone recipe for a long time now, as it was just about perfect for my tastes. But I tried something a little different with them today, and thank Cthulhu, I'm glad I did! These are my new go-to, basic scones.

 See, scones don't have to be triangular. In fact, they prefer circular. Fact.

Now, don't make the mistake of taking "basic" to mean boring or bland. I assure you the contrary is the case! By basic, I mean without backup singers like chocolate chips or blueberries. These are utterly fantastic all alone, with just a bit of butter or jam, if you're so inclined.

However, they won't mind some company (they told me as much). Throw in those chocolate chips or blueberries, or maybe lemon or raspberries or rosemary. Go to town!

The Scone Gunman's Delightful Scones
(Makes about 10 scones)

2 1/2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 c sugar
1 (generous) tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1&1/2 stick) salted butter (very cold and cubed)
1/4 c plus 1 1/2 Tbsp milk

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (f) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the first 4 ingredients together, then cut in the butter until the mixture becomes crumbly (a food processor makes this quick and easy). Slowly add the milk until the dough comes together. Cut the dough into 10 separate pieces (I use an ice cream scoop for this) and space evenly on your cookie sheet. Bake 14-18 minutes. Once removed from oven, allow to set up on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Muffins for Dinner?

Yes, loaded corn muffins!

You see, if you're ever in a situation where your husband has taken pork chops from the freezer for dinner, and you decide to make corn muffins to go with it, only to later find out that what your husband took out wasn't pork chops at all because you fail at labeling anything ever, and now you have no dinner, don't worry, because you had that corn muffin idea.

But you're going to make it better. Hell, you're going to make a meal of them!

What you do it use your (my) favorite modified corn muffin recipe, and throw in all those small amounts of leftover crap (and I mean crap in the best, most delicious way possible) you've got lurking in your fridge. Like when you made pizza the other night and used all of the Canadian bacon minus four or five slices, and about a quarter of a package of pepperoni from that same pizza. And remember that sharp cheddar you grated for last night's tacos? There's still some of that in there.

So while we're doing a fantastic job of spiffying up our corn muffins, let's take it a bit further. We'll throw in some freshly grated parmesan (because it should be in everything. Everything), jalapenos, some ground smoked chipotle, and garlic powder.

And we'll call it delicious. And it will be so.

Mountain Out of A Molehill Corn Muffins
(Makes a dozen muffins)

1 c plus 3 Tbsp corn meal
1 c all purpose flour
1/3 plus 3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked chipotle pepper
2 tsp garlic powde1 large egg (beaten well)
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 c milk
1 c finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 c finely grated parmesan cheese
1/3 c chopped Canadian bacon
1/3 c chopped pepperoni
2-3 Tbsp chopped jalapenos

Perheat your oven to 400 degrees (f) and grease a standard muffin tin (or line it with papers).

Sift together the first 7 ingredients . Add the egg, oil, and milk, and whisk until just combined. Add both cheeses, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, and jalapenos, and whisk until just incorporated. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes. Serve them warm.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Roundup: Perfect Pancakes, Chocolate Cookies, and Homemade Ice Creams

Where have I gone to? Did I disappear? Of course not. Who would be writing this? Silly.

It's been one of those weeks. You know, those weeks, where everything conspires to trip you up. If it wasn't tornadoes it was Boy Scout mayhem, and if it wasn't Boy Scout Mayhem it was the appearance of a moderately inconvenient cold. Oh, week, what is up with you?

None of this derailed me from my typical baking/cooking path, but it did limit my endeavors to those that were of the simpler variety. While simple is delicious and nothing went screwy on me, it was just nothing to really write about.

Except for the pancakes.

Oh, my little thimblekins, I did perfect my pancake recipe. You'll thank me, you will. They are light and fluffy and moist and delicious and perfect. All true. I don't have a picture of them, but you will make them and you will see the light and you won't care one bit about pictures.

The Scone Gunman's Killer Aim Pancakes
(Makes about 9 pancakes)

1 3/4 c flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
1 1/4 c milk
2 eggs

Preheat a non-stick pan or griddle for at least 5 minutes over medium heat before you put the pancakes on.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, then whisk in the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth (but don't over-mix). Drop by the 1/4 to 1/2 cupful (I use an ice cream scoop) into the preheated pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Tip: pancakes are ready to flip when they get bubbles on the top and are just set around the edges.


In other news, we got an ice cream maker, which tickles me pink. My first go at it I made mint chocolate chunk, which is fantastic, even though very basic. My second go was a simple but very rich chocolate ice cream. This one isn't lasting very long, I'm afraid. Yesterday I made chocolate cookies (this recipe, sans chips and walnuts, and my god are they soft!)so I could make chocolate chocolate ice cream sandwiches.

They are awfully good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big, Fat, Moist Brownies

Alright, so there's two camps when it comes to brownies: those who like theirs rich and fudgey, and those who like it more cake-like. I personally love a fudgier brownie, but these here fall somewhere in between, which makes them a good go-to brownie.

These have a frosting, although you certainly don't need to use it. Actually, next time I make these I'll omit that part. They're so dense and rich, the frosting doesn't really add anything.

Food o' del Mundo's Million $$$ Brownies (ingredients kept the same, I tinkered with the instructions)
(Makes 9-12 brownies, depending on how you slice them. Adapted from here)

1 c butter (melted)
1 c flour
2 c sugar
3/4 c dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting (slightly modified):
1/2 c butter
3 1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f) and grease a 9"x13" baking pan (I couldn't find mine, so used a 9"x9" and increased the baking time by 10 minutes).

Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Set on a wire rack (pan and all) to cool.

Make the frosting: Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the remaining ingredients, whisking until smooth and thickened. Pour over still-warm brownies. Allow the frosting to set before slicing.

Tips: For easy removal and slicing, line your pan with foil (before greasing). When the brownies have cooled, simply lift them from the pan using the foil. This makes slicing and serving a breeze. To cut the brownies cleanly, heat your knife under hot running water, wipe off the moisture, and then cut. Repeat as necessary.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Gift: Embroidered Kid's Writing

If I had any good sense, I would have taken a pic before framing it.

For my mom's Mother's Day gift, I had all three of my kids (12, 6, and 2) write something on some fabric and then I embroidered over it. I used a modified satin stitch to really get the feeling of kid's handwriting. And let me tell you, embroidering all wonky-like is not as easy as it may seem!

All the kids chose their own colors, except my youngest. I chose for him, because he's small and I own him.

A somewhat better shot of the detail:

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Knock Your Socks Off Apple Cake

Although I love all the creatures of the dessert kingdom, I admit to being just a bit biased when it comes to fruit desserts. Apples in particular (and peaches. Oh, and plums. I should stop). Since I had a bag of Granny Smith's sitting around looking beautiful and lonely, I knew this cake was in the cards.

This is a very moist cake. And delicious. Did I mention it's actually quite freaking fantastic? With fresh whipped cream? Forget about it. Boy. Too good for it's own...good. I guess what I'm driving at is that it's so good I can't stop thinking about it. I feel like Hollywood from the movie Mannequin, when he describes how the doughnuts call to him.

"Hollywood! Come and get me, Hollywood!"

Yes, that.

Knock Your Socks Off Apple Cake
(Makes one 9" cake adapted from Food Tale)

1 1/2 c sugar (divided)
1/2 c unsalted butter (softened), plus more for greasing the pan
1 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
8ox cream cheese (softened)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon (divided)
2 1/2 c tart apples (peeled and coarsely chopped)
1/2 a medium sized tart apple (peeled and sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (f) and grease a 9" springform pan (you could also use a round cake pan).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, 1 1/4 c sugar, and cream cheese. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, making sure they're well incorporated after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 2 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Combine the wet and dry mixtures until just incorporated. Fold in the chopped apples and pour into the greased pan.

In another bowl, combine the 1/4 c sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, then toss the sliced apples in the mixture to coat. Arrange the sliced apples on top of the batter.

Bake four about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean (make sure you're not hitting an apple. You don't want to over-cook it). Cool on a wire rack and serve with fresh whipped cream, powdered sugar, or sliced apples.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It' A Jungle In Here...

Spring. It is sprung, and I can't keep myself away from the greenery. Having a greenhouse right next door isn't helping the situation (or my wallet), but who could meaningfully balk about a house and patio full of gorgeous plants? It won't be this girl.

I've shocked myself by not killing any of the (numerous) flora we've brought into out home over the last weeks. I'm vigilant about looking up every plant we get, making sure I give it the amount of sun and water it likes best.

Grab your machete and pith helmet as I take you on a tour of our makeshift nursery...

Black magic elephant ears (left) and black eyed Susans

Trailing jade that looks as if it's trying to escape.



Majestic palm

Don't want to forget the big fake tree over there in the corner

These are just some of my plants. I'm always getting more. It's a sickness.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Locked and Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies

Like everyone else out there, I've been on the hunt for "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" since birth (or thereabouts). One cookie will have a trait I love, but lack something in a different department, and another cookie will have that very thing but lack some other crucial trait. What's a girl to do?

Frankenstein her own recipe, of course.

Naturally, there is no one universal "perfect cookie". Maybe you like yours thin and crisp, while your best friend likes hers fat and chewy. I like mine loaded with chocolate chips, while others are more conservative with the chips.

These cookies lean more toward the soft, chewy side, and certainly aren't shy with the chocolate. I also add what I consider to be the game-stopper: cinnamon. Just enough to give it a spicy mystery, but not so much that it screams "Hey, there's cinnamon here!". Because cookies can do that.

The Scone Gunman's Locked and Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 4 dozen)

1 c butter (softened)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
1 heaping tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 c (about 1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 (f). Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes with a hand mixer). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Sift in flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by the tablespoonful onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit on the sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Raspberry Crumb Cake

It's nearing grocery shopping time again, which means it's nearing time to clean out the fridge and freezer. I have a few too many packages of frozen fruit, so whatever I was going to make next would need to make good use of at least some of those.  Being particularly fond of raspberries, they were the obvious choice. And seeing as how I don't make cake nearly often enough, that was obvious choice the second.

And can I just say that this is, hands down, the best cake I've ever made? Of course I can, it's my blog.

It's absolutely brilliant topped with freshly-whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, although smart money has me shoveling this into my gob straight from the pan without ceremony.

Raspberry Crumb Cake
(Makes one 9" round cake adapted from lululu)

3 c flour plus 2 Tbsp for coating raspberries (if frozen)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c buttermilk*
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c unsalted butter (cold and cubed)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (melted)
2 c frozen raspberries (fresh can be used, but leave out the 2 Tbsp extra flour)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f) and grease a 9" round cake pan (I used a springform).

Mix together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla, then set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the first four ingredients for a few seconds until combined. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Remove one cup of this mixture and set aside for the topping.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Toss the raspberries in the 2 Tbsp flour and carefully fold into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Add the 2 Tbsp melted butter to the 1 cup of reserved flour mixture and stir with a fork until nice and crumbly. Sprinkle over the batter and then bake in the oven for 60-70 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (make sure you're not hitting a raspberry). Tent the pan if the top browns too fast.

Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

*As always, if you don't have buttermilk on hand (as I never do) you can make your own by pouring 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar (I much prefer lemon juice for this) in a 1 c measuring cup, and then fill it to the top with regular milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then use as you need it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chocolate-Glazed Baked Chocolate Doughnuts

I could tell you that I made baked doughnuts because they're easier, or healthier. But I would be a liar. The truth is that I'm am a terrible frier-of-things. Ok, so maybe fritters don't hate me, and my French fries came out pretty good, but my track record isn't even as good as 50/50, so when I even think of heating oil I get the cold sweats. And if I were really being truthful (hey, why not?), I'd tell you that my real problem is in not owning a thermometer, which invariably leaves me with smoking oil or oil that isn't hot enough.

You'd think I'd invest in a thermometer by now.

But back to the sweet at hand. Doughnuts! Baked doughnuts. Not as good as fried, I'll admit, but I wouldn't kick them out of bed for being crumby. And not just any baked doughnut, but chocolate doughnuts covered in a chocolate glaze.

And who could have a problem with that?

Baked Chocolate Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze
(Makes 18)

3 c all purpose flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 c buttermilk*
2 Tbsp milk
1 stick unsalted butter (melted)
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f). Sift together the first four ingredients. Add the eggs, buttermilk, milk, and butter. Stir well, but don't over-mix. Add the cocoa powder. Spoon batter into a lightly greased doughnut pan, filling them just barely halfway (they'll rise a decent amount). Cook for 11-13 minutes, until a fork inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove immediately to cool on a wire rack.

* If you don't have buttermilk on hand (and I never do), make your own by pouring 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup, and then filling to the top with milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then use as needed.

For the chocolate glaze:
3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (cubed)
2 Tbsp milk

Heat all of the ingredients in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Dip the tops of your doughnuts into the glaze and enjoy!

The Postman Only Rings Once

 A tiny adorable pink rolling pin and a Kaiser black steel springform pan? Yes, please.

My great-grandmother (we'll call her Granny Gunman) has lived most of her life in the kitchen. When I was growing up, I never ate macaroni and cheese from a box, or pre-made anything. If I wanted mac & cheese, she would break out the elbow macaroni and start grating cheese (of course, I couldn't appreciate that then. I wanted neon orange powdered cheese in a package!). She's the kind of person who will wake the rooster clanging pots and pans around in the kitchen, and she never visits anyone empty handed.

Cooking and baking is an integral part of who she is.

Sadly, several years ago she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Her vision got worse and worse until, now, she's nearly blind. This would hit anyone hard, but moreso Granny Gunman because she has always been a fiercely self-sufficient person. One of the harshest consequences of losing her vision was the increasing inability to cook.

Which brings me to today's post.

The mailman (that's not very PC, is it? Mail carrier? Postal technician? Screw it) brought me a couple large boxes today from Granny Gunman. And what was in them?

Doughnut pans, muffin top pans, muffin pan, springform pans, tart and tartlette pans, loaf pans, copper molds, rolling pins, bundt pans, cookie cutters, measuring cups and spoons, pastry wheels, turnover/empanada press, Pyrex loaf pan, square cake pan, huge loaf pan, cooling racks, and a lot more.

It's Granny Gunman's arsenal, and she passed it on to me.

To say that I was excited when I saw all the goods would be an understatement. A billion recipes I didn't have the equipment for flashed through my mind. Tartlettes? Baked doughnuts? A baked cheesecake?

Just you wait to see what I have in store for you. And I have Granny Gunman to thank for it all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In Bloom

After this morning's breakfast of perfectly amazingly splendiferous fluffy pancakes with strawberry-lime jam, me and my better half (no, not my left side, although it is awfully lovely today) decided to take our youngest son out and head down to the local nursery. Although I don't have much room (3 bedroom townhouse with just a teeny tiny spot calling itself a porch) I felt the need for more flora.

Earlier this week we bought a tomato plant, begonias, and a bitty cute one whose name I can't remember (situated right in front of the geraniums). This time I grabbed a jalapeno and bell pepper plant, verbena, geraniums, and coleus.

Ah, and this mind-blowingly gorgeous fuchsia...

And we'll be heading back to the nursery again soon, because they have some beautiful, large indoor tropical plants for a great price. Now, if I only had a backyard.

Perfect Fluffy Pancakes with Strawberry Lime Jam

It's pretty cocky to call something you made yourself "perfect", isn't it? Tough, because these are amazing. Just as I was thinking it, my husband commented that these were the best pancakes he had ever eaten. I really couldn't agree more.

And what could make these pancakes...perfecter...more perfect? Fresh jam! Did you see that one coming? I must admit that I have never made jam before. It's kind of embarrassing and ridiculous, given that I eat jam every single day and that (as I've already confessed in an earlier post) my pantry is chock full of store-bought jams. How could I possibly not make it? Truthfully, it seemed a little intimidating. I'll bake the hell out of something, but once I'm confronted by the dreaded stove top, I freeze up.

Me and my stove's top are not BFFs.

But then I happened across a post on dandysugar for strawberry-lime quick jam, immediately became irrationally driven, and promptly called my husband in order to change his shopping list to nix jam and add strawberries. 

I could not believe how easy it was. I couldn't believe I had put off for so long what would wind up being love at first bite. 

Perfect Fluffy Pancakes
(makes 8, adapted from this)

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
1 1/4 c milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp butter (melted)
Preheat a lightly greased pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, sift together the first four ingredients. Add the last three and mix by hand with a whisk or fork until smooth (if you over-mix, they will cease to be light and fluffy and perfect). Drop by 1/4 cups (I used an ice cream scoop) into the pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Strawberry-Lime Quick Jam 
(makes about 1 1/2 cups, adapted from dandysugar, adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 quart hulled strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
In a food processor, process strawberries until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large skillet and stir in sugar and lime juice. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until jam is thickened and bubbles completely cover surface, 9 to 10 minutes (mine actually took more like 20 minutes). Transfer jam to a jar and let cool to room temperature. (To store, seal jar and refrigerate, up to 5 days).

Now that you have pancakes and jam, break out the powdered sugar, butter, syrup, strawberries, or whatever you like on your pancakes, and maybe whip up some bacon to accompany.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches

You see those? They're better than they look. No, really. They're the sort of thing that you'd steal from the plate of your small child when she isn't looking.

Not that I did that.

Oats, chocolate, peanut butter. If there were a key lime pie shoved in there somewhere I'd be in heaven.

Chocolate-covered oatmeal peanut butter sandwich cookies
(makes about 2 dozen sandwiches, adapted from this)

1 1/2 c. AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c butter (2 sticks, softened)
1 c peanut butter (I used creamy, but crunchy would work)
1 c white sugar
1 c  brown sugar (light or dark, packed)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c  quick cooking oats

6 Tbsp butter (softened)
2 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (crunchy here might affect the end result)
5 Tbsp heavy cream

12oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (typically one whole bag. I like Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips)
3 Tbsp shortening (like Crisco. I really hate using it, but it's important for the chocolate to set. Butter won't work, unfortunately).

Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (sifting insures they're fully mixed together). In a separate bowl cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each one thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat. Add the oats and mix thoroughly. Drop by the tablespoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten to about 1/4"with a spatula (make sure to flatten, otherwise they won't make very good sandwich bases).

Cook for about 10 minutes (they may not look done, but take them out). Let them sit on the sheet for about 5 minutes (they will finish cooking by sitting on the hot sheet) and then transfer them to a wire cooling rack (no cooling rack= soggy bottoms).

Make the filling: Beat all the ingredients together. That's all. Neat, right?

Make the chocolate:
Using a double boiler to melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring well. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Assembling your cookies:
Make sure your cookies are completely cooled, or your filing will just melt.

Use a tablespoon to put a glob of the filling in the center of a cookie (remember, the bottoms of the cookies should face the inside). Place a cookie on top and gently smoosh down. This will distribute the filling more evenly than spreading the filling will. You could also use a pastry bag.

Use a pastry bag (or a Ziploc with a small snip of corner cut off) to pipe the chocolate on top. Alternately, you could just dip one half of the cookie or the entire top in the chocolate.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strawberry Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

There's a lot of talk come Spring about what everyone loves this time of year, be it strawberries, or just lighter, fruitier fare in general (and I'm guilty of it). What's lost in the shuffle are those things that are perfectly fantastic any time of year. Like chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake, blueberry muffins.

Or shortbread.

Shortbread is brilliant because, if done right, it's rich and still has the ability to melt in your mouth. It's also incredibly versatile. Extracts can be added (orange and lemon are favorites of mine), as can cocoa powder to satisfy the chocolate lovers. Shortbread also makes the perfect vehicle for jam, in the form of thumbprint cookies.

At any given time my pantry is packed with a variety of jams and preserves that are waiting go be marched to their, glories, inside one baked good or another. I used three different flavors in this most recent batch: strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry. Any jam/preserve will work. In fact, I've got an imported quince jam that's practically begging for consumption.

Just you wait, quince.

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies
(makes 5 dozen cookies)

2 c unsalted butter (softened)
1 c confectioner's sugar
4 c flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Jam (or jams) of your choice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f).

Use your handheld mixer to cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add the vanilla extract and salt. Switch to a whisk, and slowly add the flour by hand (if you over-mix it, the shortbread will be tough).

Roll the dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your thumb (hence, the name) to make an impression in each ball. Spoon your jam into the wells, and then bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are just slightly golden and the jam bubbles.

Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to sit on the sheet for 3-5 minutes before removing them to cool on a wire rack.

Tip: don't eat these before they've cooled completely, or you'll burn the holy hell out of your mouth. I hear.

5 dozen cookies may sound like a lot, but these aren't big, and they're so light it feels like you haven't eaten anything. They go very quickly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Chimera

(me and this thing had words when it came time to plate)

AKA the Spinal Tap. Because it's cranked up to 11. Let's just jump right in with a layer-by-layer breakdown, starting form the ground up:

Layer 1: Chocolate chip cookie crust
Layer 2: Chocolate cheesecake
Layer 3: Chocolate ganache
Layer 4: Chocolate mousse

Garnished with chocolate shavings.

Truthfully, this thing is ridiculous. It's all of my favorite desserts crammed into one dish. It's too much chocolate. Who needs this much chocolate? I think I saw a tear in my husband's eye when he tasted this.

I'm not going to tell you that this is an easy or practical dessert (although the cheesecake layer is no bake). It's definitely a special occasion treat, and you're essentially making four different desserts. But if you pull it off, I swear people will build golden shrines in your honor.

The Chimera
(Serves a lot)

First, you're going to need a deep dish pie plate. This won't work in a wimpy everyday pie plate. It weighs as much as my firstborn as it is.

For the cookie crust:
3 c chocolate chip cookie crumbs (you can buy the cookies, but if you're going to do this, you might as well go all out and make some)
3 Tbsp butter (melted)

For the chocolate cheesecake:
2 1/2 packages of cream cheese (softened)
2/3 c sugar
1 c heavy whipping cream (whipped)
1 c cocoa powder

For the ganache:
2/3 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c heavy cream

For the mousse:
Slightly more than 2/3 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c water (divided)
3 eggs yolks
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 c heavy whipping cream (whipped

Make the cookie crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (f). Mix the cookie crumbs and melted butter well. Press into the bottom and sides of the pie plate and bake 5 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder until light and smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour over the cooled cookie crust and smooth it out (you want a level base for the next layer).

Make the ganache:
Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it boils, remove immediately and pour over chocolate chips. Stir until blended well and smooth. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then pour over cheesecake layer. At this point, you'll need to keep the pie/monstrosity in the fridge when it's not being assembled.

Make the mousse:
Heat the chocolate, butter, and 1/4 cup of water in a double boiler until everything is melted and smooth. allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes. While that's cooling, whisk egg yolks, 1/4 cup of water, and sugar briskly over low heat for about a minute and a half, until the mixture reaches about 165 degrees. Whisk it in to the chocolate mixture and set in the fridge to cool for about 10 minutes (you want ti to be roughly room temperature). Carefully fold in the whipped cream, then pour over the ganache layer of the dessert, smoothing it out.

You can reserve some of the mousse (as I did) to pipe some decorations around the edges. You can also dust the top with cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar, or shave chocolate on top. You can also top with fresh berries. There's a lot you can do with this.

Let it set in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

As large and absurd as this dessert is, it does not last long. Eat it while you can.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From One Batch of Dough: Sandwich Bread and Raspberry Cinnamon Rolls

As I was making my usual loaf of sandwich bread the other day, it occurred to me that the recipe I was using could be working a lot harder for me. I'm a devotee of Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible. Her White Mountain bread is my go-to loaf for delicious, everyday sandwich bread. It's a moist, springy loaf enriched with honey, butter, and milk.

And I believed it could damn well be a fantastic cinnamon roll dough.

The recipe makes two loaves, meaning that instead of having a loaf leftover a day or two later (which, while still terrific, will inevitably begin drying out and losing its glamour), I could be using that extra dough as dessert, cutting my day's efforts in half. Win.

I prepared everything as usual, keeping the ingredients the same as always, letting the dough go through its first rise. However, when it came time to cut the dough in twain, while dough #1 was prepared as usual and put in a loaf pan to rise, dough #2 was rolled out and dolled up as one typically dandies up a cinnamon roll.

I make my dough slightly different than the book calls for, so the recipe you're seeing is a slightly modified one.

White Sandwich Bread and Raspberry Cinnamon Rolls from One Batch of Dough
(Makes one loaf of bread and 12 cinnamon rolls)

For the doughs:
3/4 c warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp butter (melted)
1 c milk (warmed to about 110 degrees)
6-6/12 c all purpose flour* (divided)

For the cinnamon roll filling:
3/4 c packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 c butter (softened)
2 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

For the cinnamon roll icing:
1 (8oz) package of cream cheese (softened)
3/4 c raspberry preserves
1/3 c confectioner's sugar

I typically use bread flour for this dough, but either can be used so I opted for all purpose here as I feel it's the better flour for cinnamon rolls.

Make the master dough:
Put yeast and sugar in the warm water, swirl gently with your finger, and let proof for 10 minutes (it should get nice and foamy in that time). While that's proofing...

Mix together the honey, salt, butter, milk. Add 1 cup of the flout and mix until it's smooth and creamy. Add the yeast mixture and stir well.

Add the remaining flour until it's all incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (this takes me about 10-12 minutes, but I'm exceptionally weak of body. If you're anyone stronger than a 3 year-old girl, you'll probably only need 5-7 minutes).

Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray (canola has no flavor, which is what I use), place your dough in it, give the top of the dough a light spray, then loosely cover it with plastic wrap (you don't want air to get in and dry it out, but you also want air to be able to escape). Allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours (dough rises slower in cold temperatures).

Test your dough to see if it's ready: gently poke your finger into the dough. If the indentation stays put, it's ready. If it springs back quickly, it needs more time to rise.

Once your dough has risen, turn it out onto your work surface and cut it 60/40 (so one piece is slightly larger than the other). Put the smaller piece aside. We're going to work the loaf first.

Gently pat the dough out until it a rectangle roughly 16" by 6". Be very careful, you don't want to tear it or pop the air bubbles in it. You'll have a brick of bread otherwise. Bring both the left and right ends into the center (the long way), then roll it up tightly jelly roll style. Pinch the seam and ends together to close, then place the dough in a greased 9"x5" loaf pan. Again, loosely cover with plastic wrap.

Now we'll work the cinnamon rolls.

Take the half of the dough you set aside and roll it out to a roughly 16" by 10" rectangle. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together well. Coat the dough with the softened butter, leaving an inch along one long side clean (to seal), and then sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture on top. Roll it up jelly roll style, cut it in half, then cut each half in half, and then each piece in thirds (you can make fewer cuts to get bigger rolls). Make sure you use a sharp serrated knife, as you don't want to have to use a lot of pressure, which will make the filling ooze out. Put the rolls in a lightly greased 9" square or round baking dish and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Wait 20-30 minutes, then preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Let both the bread loaf and the rolls sit until almost doubled. Put the loaf and the rolls in the oven.

The rolls will cook 15-25 minutes, until golden brown.
The bread will cook for 45 minutes.

Tip: If the crust of your loaf or rolls starts getting too brown and it's not yet close to being done, tent it with foil (loosely place a sheet of foil over the top).

Tip: If you experience an issue with the filling oozing out of your rolls, when they're finished cooking allow them to cool for 5 minutes, then flip the pan over onto a piece of foil laid on your counter or table. The filling with drip back into them.

Take the rolls out and set them (pan and all) on a wire cooling rack (so the air can circulate all around it, otherwise the bottom will stay very hot, possibly causing them to overcook). When the bread is done, turn it out of the loaf pan and lay it on it's side on a wire cooling rack right away. Resist the urge to cut into the loaf until it's completely cooled (cutting into it before then can toughen the crumb).

While the rolls are cooling, make the icing: Beat together all of the ingredients, then slather over the rolls while they're still warm, but not hot.

Serve the rolls warm, and if they last keep them in the fridge and reheat in a warm oven as needed.

Store the bread in either a cloth or plastic bread bag. It will keep for 3-7 days, depending on the humidity level of your home. You can also freeze the cooked loaves.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Raspberry Lemonade Scones

 I make a lot of desserts. Typically, I make something every day. However, I only eat about half of those because I'm a bit picky. I'm honestly only a half-assed chocolate lover, but the rest of my family (like everyone else in the world) adores chocolate. So I make a lot of chocolate desserts. And as much as I love the heavy, spicy desserts that Fall and Winter bring, the light and fruity treats that are abundant this time of year are my personal favorite. What could be better than a cold glass of raspberry lemonade when the weather turns hot?

You knew the answer would be raspberry lemonade scones, didn't you? You're sharp.

These took all of 10 minutes to put together. I made them in between making my breakfast and kneading today's bread. These are sweet and tangy and full of scone-y deliciousness. There's lemon juice and whole raspberries in the scone, which are then topped off with a tart lemon glaze. I use unsalted butter here to give them a slightly lighter, softer crumb, and use just a small amount of lemon extract for a bit of edge. I really want the flavors here to come from the fresh ingredients.

Raspberry Lemonade Drop Scones
(Makes 12 scones)

1 c sour cream or plain yogurt, minus 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 c all purpose flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 c unsalted butter (chilled and cubed)
1 egg
 1 1/2 c raspberries (if using frozen don't thaw first)

3/4 c confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl mix the sour cream (or yogurt, whichever you're using) with the baking soda and set aside. Make sure you do this first so the baking soda has time to act on the sour cream/yogurt (it will change the consistency, making it fluffier). Next, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the chilled butter, then add the sour cream mixture, egg, lemon juice and lemon extract. Mix until just combined. Finally, fold in the raspberries (take the dough out of your food processor first if you're using one).

Use an ice cream scoop (or a 1/4 c measuring cup) to drop the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. When they're done, transfer them to a wire cooling rack.

To make the glaze: combine the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice over medium-low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool and thicken slightly before drizzling or brushing over cooled scones.

What The Hell-o Kitty?

Finished this Hello Kitty embroidery for my daughter last night. It was super quick, but I ran into more than one problem while doing it. The fabric was just too thin and had a bit too much give for as many strands as I was working with (all 6).

Nonetheless my daughter loves it, which is what counts.

I admit to getting lazy and copping out on the eyes. Instead of doing satin stitch on them, as I had originally planned, I used some buttons. Unfortunately, the buttons you see are the smallest I had, making poor HK a bit demented looking.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookies

Don't mind if I do.

Earlier this morning I was working on my latest recipe (which I'm hoping is going to rock harder than Hendrix), one that has a ganache layer (yes, layers.Mmm...). I had some leftover ganache, and I just happened to notice that I had some chocolate chip cookies leftover from the day before yesterday.

A light bulb went off. A big, wide-assed light bulb. I had to combine their powers. Wonder Twin powers, activate!

Thus, these chocolate-covered chocolate chip cookies were born into my loving arms. I promptly ate them.

I have about a million and one chocolate chip cookie recipes. It's one of those things that, I swear, there is no one holy grail recipe for. One day I want a fat, chewy cookie, and the next I was something wafer-thin and crisp. My most recent favorite recipe for these is Melanie's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies, which you can find at The Sisters Cafe blog.

But there really is no wrong cookie for a chocolate bath. You can use whatever recipe tickles your biscuit. However, I am particular about my ganache, so I'm including my recipe, which I've tweaked to my pleasure over time.

Fantastico Chocolate Ganache
(coats a hell of a lot of cookies)

Slightly more than 3/4 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli for this)
1 c heavy cream
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt (table salt will be too salty)

Make it: Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just boils (if you let it keep boiling and it will boil over quickly. Don't leave it). Immediately pour it over the chocolate chips in the bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Let it cool for a bit, until it's just somewhat warmer than room temperature.

Now you're free to drown your cookies, which haven't done anything to you, you cruel bastard. You can pop the cookies into the freezer for 10-15 minutes so they'll set up quickly. I like to keep mine in the fridge after this to keep the ganache nice and firm.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Curried Devild Eggs with Parmesan Frico

I love eggs. Honest to Cthulhu, I love eggs. I am the Bubba Gump of eggs. I love scrambled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs, eggs get the picture.

But I especially love deviled eggs.

Not only are they delicious, not only are they fantastically customizable, they are also criminally easy. Nonetheless, many people have run afoul (ha, fowl) of these appetizing concoctions. They get hard, rubbery whites. Grey or green sulfur-stenched yolks. All too common problems that are easily avoided by not doing the one thing that is the ruin of all hard-boiled eggs: over cooking.

The recipe below includes the fool-proof method of egg boiling known by all egg-boiling champs. The frico is optional, or you could opt to use a different cheese. I just have an unhealthy obsession with fresh parmesan.

Curried Deviled Eggs with Frico
(makes 12 deviled egg halves)

For the eggs:
6 eggs
1/2 c mayo (not Miracle Whip or "salad dressing")
4 Tbsp dijon mustard
4 Tbsp chopped dill pickles
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp red curry powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
6 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (for the frico)

Make the eggs: Put eggs in a medium sized saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to a boil on the stove and then remove from the heat immediately. Cover the pot and let the eggs sit for 12-15 minutes. Cool and peel. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Seth those aside.

Make the filling: Combine the mayo, mustard, pickles, onion and garlic powder, paprika, curry powder, black pepper, parmesan cheese, and eggs yolks in a bowl and mix very well. Spoon this mixture into your waiting egg vessels.

Make the frico: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment lined baking sheet drop the parmesan cheese by the tablespoonful, making sure each one is spread nice and thin (otherwise it won't get crisp). Cook for 3-5 minutes, but watch it carefully! Frico goes from perfect to burned in the blink of an eye.

Remove the frico from the sheet while still on the parchment, but be very careful that it doesn't break. Cool on a wire rack (still on the parchment). Once they're cool, remove them from the parchment and cut each round in half. Place a half on each deviled egg.

At this point, you could share them, or maybe serve them to guests. I prefer to eat them all myself while huddled in the corner of my kitchen. But whatever works for you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Viennese Strawberry Cake and Freshly Whipped Cream

Last week my grocer started carrying some of the best looking strawberries I've seen in a while (ok, it's been a while since I've seen fresh strawberries). I love strawberries and eagerly await that time of year when they're fresh and abundant. So when I saw them in the store, I knew I had to make something with them. A lot of something's with them.

I saw a recipe for Viennese plum cake in Taste of Home's comfort food issue and knew right away I wanted to make it, but decided I would use strawberries instead.

It is so good, the sweet embodiment of the coming of Summer. Yes, it's that good.

You could use frozen strawberries for this, but I think the better option would be to simply substitute a fresh seasonal fruit. This cake will work with just about anything, and is really so simple to make. I topped mine with some freshly whipped cream (recipe included) and sliced strawberries.

Viennese Strawberry Cake
(Adapted from Taste of Home's Viennese Plum Cake)
(Serves 8)

For the Cake:
1/2 c butter (softened)
1/2 c plus 2 Tbsp sugar (divided)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt (table salt will be too salty, so if you use it only use 1/4 tsp)
3 c sliced fresh strawberries
1 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c very cold butter (cubed)

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy whipping cream
Scant 1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Prep: let the eggs sit at room temperature for about a half an hour before you begin. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9"x9" baking dish (glass works best here, if you've got it)

Make the cake:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then sift once more. In another bowl, cream the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat until light and fluffy 4-5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Pour into the baking dish. Top with the sliced strawberries, then sprinkle the 2 Tbsp of sugar and the cinnamon over the top.

Make the topping.
Sift together the flour and the sugar, then cut in the very cold butter until it looks like coarse crumbs (it doesn't have to look very pretty or completely uniform).

Sprinkle over the top of the unbaked cake, then put it in the oven to cook for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown (as with anything else, if your top is getting too brown before your cake is finished, loosely cover the dish with a piece of foil).

Once finished, transfer your cake (in the dish, don't try to take it out) to a wire cooling rack.

Make the whipped cream:
With the whisk attachment on a hand or stand mixer (or just a regular whisk powered by you), whip the cream until nearly stiff. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue whisking until stiff.

Put it all together: Slice off squares of your cake and top with the whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Watch how fast it goes and wish you'd made more.

Baking Isn't For...NSFW Cross Stitch

It's a truth spelled out in lovingly stitched "X"s, and evidenced by the burn scars peppering my prematurely gnarled hands (it's true, the hands in my pics are not the hands of Baba Yaga herownself). And it's just as much an encouragement to my culinary-minded son (12 year old boys love this kind of stuff, obviously) as it is a reminder to me to run my hands under some cold water and soldier on.

Baking thug life!


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