Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Kitchen Equipment!

It's not even Christmas yet and I've received a couple of really nice presents from friends.
The first is this pretty cookbook stand.

And I was really lucky that one of my husbands' friends wanted to rid his apartment of this:

Unbelievable! It was really great to use both presents to make a sour cream, browned butter ginger coffee cake for Christmas brunch! Stay tuned for that picture.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint Brownies

Merry Christmas! Or as Stephanie Miller says Happy Christma-Hana-Kwanza-ka!

This fudgy brownie recipe is part of my Christmas dessert rotation. I made this a few years back and thought it would make a perfect gift to the office holiday party this year. You can get the recipe here.

I haven't posted in quite some time. I got a second job that kept me busy pretty much every weekend in November, so no time for baking. I think I baked something for Thanksgiving, but I can't remember what.

I also just finished finals for culinary school. We made mother sauces (bechamel, espagnole, etc.), vinaigrettes, soups, and put together a full plate: chicken breast, one starch and two veggies. I did pretty well and got A's in all my classes. I'm looking forward to next semester.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

If you haven't noticed from this and the last post, I love anything that's chocolate with hazelnut. I also love well-made biscotti; my first post on this blog was cranberry/pistachio biscotti.

I made these because I had a cookie craving, and also because my in-laws were coming to visit. I used a Smitten Kitchen recipe again, and will be back there another time to try out the fig and walnut biscotti.

I have been working in the TSOB, trying to make tuiles, which are very thin 'tile' cookies. I haven't gotten them to work yet; not sure if I'm cooking them too long or not getting them thin enough. I've tried twice now, so hopefully third time's a charm.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hazelnut Ganache Tart with Sea Salt

My husband's friend invited us over for dinner last night with the stipulation that I bring a dessert. However I only found out about the dessert request about 3 hours before we were supposed to go over. So I looked for something quick and picked this yummy tart from Real Simple (recipe here.)

When our friend bit into it he asked, "Where do you get chocolate like this?" I explained that you just add hot cream to finely chopped (good quality) chocolate and there you go.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gingersnap Cherry Cheesecake

I made this beautiful cheesecake for a friend's party last weekend. And actually, my friend was my first paying customer. He wanted something to celebrate fall, and even though this leans toward Christmas, I had been waiting awhile to try out this cheesecake recipe. I had been saving this recipe from Real Simple since last year's November issue. You can find the recipe here.

I also had quite an adventure for the other dessert I made him. I tried making a baumkuchen cake, or "tree-ring" cake, which is a recipe in TSOB. Mine didn't turn out though; I think I overbeat the eggs and/or lost some of the airiness of the batter when I folded in the flour. I'll have to try that one again soon.

Well, I only noticed this error a few hours before the party! So I quickly went looking for a quick pumpkin recipe, so I could stay within the fall theme. I went to Smitten Kitchen and found this recipe for pumpkin brownie bars. They were a huge hit according to my friend. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baklava Cupcake

Last week I went Madison's one and only place dedicated to cupcakes - Daisy Cafe and Cakecupery- for the first time. It opened 2 years ago, but because it was on the other side of town, I didn't really get to it. But now, I go to school on the other side of town, so I dropped by to see how the cupcakes measured up.

This baklava cupcake was pretty good. I was leaning toward a mocha one, but decided to try something unusual. I think it was the sprinkled pistachios that hooked me. When you bite into the cupcake, you reach a really yummy layer of honey-pistachio filling. I only wish the cake of the cupcake was better. It was dry and seemed like it was made from a box. I'd still give the cupcake a B, and would come back to see what else they come up with and also to try their breakfast.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Epic Lava Cake

My birthday was yesterday, so of course, I made a birthday cake. One of the blogs I adore is Smitten Kitchen, and it has a wealth of cake recipes. I fell in love with the picture of the chocolate peanut butter cake. My cake didn't turn out as pretty, but it was certainly fun to make. This cake is the moistest I've ever had because it includes sour cream, oil, water, and eggs. I was lucky enough to have some fresh duck eggs this time, again from another co-worker of my husband.

I do have to put a warning on this cake. It is the heaviest piece of cake you'll ever eat too. I could barely finish a small piece of it, which is not normal for me. The recipe can be found here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cream Puffs with Chocolate Whipped Cream

Cream puffs to me are state fair food. Back when my family used to go to the fair, we all had to have one, every year. And being the Dairy State, they were oh so good. So I was really hoping that my first batch would be just as great as those I'd had in my childhood.

As I went through the pâte à choux recipe in TSOB (the cream puff dough), I was a bit doubtful that the mashed potato-looking dough in the pan would come out of the oven as a light, airy biscuit.

But they turned out perfect. Aesthetically, not so much, but man were they good! Now I can make eclairs, profiteroles, etc. But next, I'm going to move on to a fried version and try to make a chocolate banana beignet!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School!

I start culinary school this Thursday!!! I am so excited (see the three exclamations). It's going to be a bit of a rough transition to go back to school after 5 years, but I'm so happy. The chef jacket is so cool, like being in a real restaurant. I'll be posting here way more sporadically, but I intend to keep baking from time to time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Almond Chocolate Chip Torta

You know when you buy a cookbook, and it sits on your shelf untouched? Well, sadly that's what happened to my copy of Lidia Bastianich's "Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy" for about the past six months. It's a beautiful book; more than just a cookbook, with pictures and descriptions of the many regions of Italy. The problem for me is most recipes seem to have exotic ingredients or take way longer than a weeknight meal should take.

I decided to give the book another shot, especially since I wanted to do some more baking. I found this recipe and the only weird ingredient I had to search out was almond meal. After searching my regular store, which had almost every other kind of flour and meal, I found some at Whole Paycheck, oops, Whole Foods.

The cake was pretty good; I couldn't really get over the cornbread-like texture of the cake to say it was great. I hope if you pick up the book, you like it better than I did!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Caramel Sauce

Another long gaps between posts. I finished the HP books, and am now on to watching all the movies. Also, I've been away on a vacation this past weekend. So, to make it up, and show I'm not incredibly lazy, I've got two posts for today.

This ice cream and sauce was what you only wish you could get when you ordered an ice cream sundae at most places! The ice cream was so rich, and was more like a custard. I also used a whole vanilla bean, which by itself, makes this whole recipe worth it! The sauce is again that amazing creamy caramel I made awhile back, but even better because of the chocolate.

What a great way to (almost) end summer!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Blueberry Scones

I haven't posted anything in a while because I've been immersed in the Harry Potter books. I'd never read any beyond the first three, and decided I wanted to catch up. And man, are those books huge! One's a 900-pager!

Anyways, to ease back into things, I whipped up this batch of scones for breakfast. I was meaning to use fresh, whole currants from our CSA, but I'd let them sit for two weeks and they weren't that good. I used a decent recipe from Whole Foods.

Next up: on to the vanilla sauce, for real this time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lemon Cheesecake

This last lemon dessert is the best, in my opinion. That's because not even the tart lemon curd can make me dislike my cheesecake!

I feel I have a great handle on making lemon curd now. I will not be moving on to creme brulee, because I don't want to buy multiple ramekins right now. Instead, I'll be trying my hand at Bavarian cream!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lemon Ice Cream

I wanted to make this ice cream because it was a variation on the lemon curd used for the lemon bars. I was really happy I did, because this time around I bought a fine-mesh strainer to run the curd through. It kept the large peels of lemon zest out, and the bits of egg that had slightly overcooked. The result was a really beautiful yellow cream, that I could imagine stuffing a doughnut with. Unfortunately, I didn't get a nice picture of it, because I made the ice cream at night, and night pictures of food aren't that appetizing.

I tried the ice cream a bit and it's like a really smooth version of lemon ice that you'd get at a ballpark. The bit of dried ginger I added was undetectable. It probably would have been more pronounced if I had used ginger juice, which is what was called for.

Only one more lemon dessert to go, and then I'll get to try creme brulee!

Friday, July 22, 2011

School Time!

Today I came home to find my new books for school had arrived! In the fall, I'll be starting culinary school at the local technical college. I've already cracked open the Professional Cooking book a bit and it's really in-depth.

While I'm really excited about this next step in my life, I'm a bit sad I'll be doing less baking. So I'll have to spend August going through what I really want to do in TSOB.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lemon Bars

Lemon curd is darned easy compared to caramel. I think the only mistake that one could make would be to end up with scrambled eggs because of high heat.

I am not a fan of lemon desserts, and this recipe didn't make me a convert either. Others liked them just fine, especially for their lemon-y-ness.

I'm still going to make a couple other lemon curd recipes: the master curd recipe to combine with whip cream to top a plain cheesecake, and then some lemon-ginger ice cream.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake

I HAD to make this cake, which is from Bon Appetit's July 2011 issue. As the magazine says, it's a twist on a pineapple upside-down cake. The combination of the blackberries and orange zest with the yellow cake batter was very delicious.

I was also lucky enough to be able to use fresh eggs from one of my husband's co-workers, who keeps chickens in the backyard. Nothing better than that!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caramel Souffle

You guys, I finally did it! I mastered both caramel and souffle tonight!

I achieved the perfect caramel color/temperature, then made it into a creamy sauce by adding hot cream, creme fraiche, sugar and a bit of lemon juice. I love TSOB, because this creamy caramel is far better than any milk caramel you can buy in the store. It will be fun making this as part of my next turtle cheesecake in the future!

I also didn't mess up the souffle this time. Last time, I went by the time in the book, rather than what my nose was telling me. I must have a really hot oven because it only took half the time recommended.

So now with caramel mastered, I can go on to the next chapter: lemon curd!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Caramel Ice Cream

Ice cream is a great way to enjoy the 4th! My husband and I enjoyed this caramel ice cream from TSOB while watching fireworks that were outside our window. I have to say that I couldn't really taste the caramel, mostly because of the added amaretto and lemon juice the recipe called for. Not that it wasn't good, but just that I couldn't get past those flavors.

Caramel is still really hard for me to master. In fact, take a look at my first attempt for this recipe:
I knew I had burnt the caramel, yet I still went through the whole recipe, thinking that the other flavors and cream would fix the burned caramel. Nope.

Even when I did get a good caramel color for this recipe, I waited too long bringing my milk and cream to a simmer before I could add it to the caramel, which made my caramel almost too hard to blend with the milk and cream!

I guess I'll have to keep practicing. Up next: caramel souffle. Hopefully this one turns out better than the chocolate one!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hazelnut Brittle

The next chapter in the book is caramel. Caramel is not easy at all. In fact, I burnt my first batch. Again, my electric stovetop is an old piece of garbage and is way too hot. Ah, the joys of apartment living.

There I was, with my new candy thermometer, waiting for it to heat up to 350. Well, problem was that half of the pot started turning darker than the other half, because of the bad burner.

So on round two, I was extra careful not to let it get too hot and also to move it around so that one side didn't get hotter than the other. The result; the light caramel you see in the picture. Add toasted hazelnuts, let it cool on a buttered sheet of parchment paper, and boom, you have brittle. I got it to bend into this cool roll before cracking it into a bunch of pieces.

Next up: making caramel ice cream to put the brittle in!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chocolate Soufflé

So this is my first failed attempt, I'm sad to say. I had everything going right but then I left it in the oven for a bit too long. I was only going by the time TSOB said. My oven must be too hot. I had checked on it while it was cooking, and I saw the famous rise, but I kept it going. Then I started to smell that it was burning. Oops.

I'll try have to try this one again another time, but not soon. I've had enough chocolate with whipped eggs for now. On to something new.

Frozen Chocolate Parfait

This is my first creation from TSOB!

When you think of parfait, you don't think of a brick of aerated chocolate, right? Well, this is what the French call parfait. And man, is it good.

You basically make a custard and fold it into creamy chocolate and then freeze it. Ms. Yard's version in the book adds espresso, and lots of it. The finished product then is a very caffeinated fudgesicle minus the stick. It might also make a good middle between two cookies as an ice cream sandwich. Maybe something to try another time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Kitchen Equipment!

I am usually not a shopper who likes to browse. But not when it comes to buying food or kitchen equipment. Today I needed to buy this candy thermometer and souffle dish for a couple recipes in "The Secrets of Baking," or "TSOB" from now on.

I was more than happy to have an excuse to go to Orange Tree Imports. It's a local store that has quality cookware and a few specialty food items, as well as soaps, candles, cards, etc. They also have cooking classes.

I can't wait to try my hand at a souffle!

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

My husband and I recently returned from our vacation in Italy. I had randomly bought Bon Appetit to read on the plane, and fittingly, it was their Italy issue. Of all the recipes in the issue, I wanted to try biscotti the most. I finally made it last night.

They were like no cookie I've ever made before, both in preparation and flavor. The biscotti has no butter, but veggie oil instead. It treats sugar like a solid, keeping it with the flour rather than mixing it with oil and eggs like most recipes. Then it calls for both lemon and orange zest and also almond and vanilla extracts! The smells were amazing.

I did hate a couple things about this recipe though. Shelling a whole bag of pistachios was not so fun. Also waiting hand and foot on the cookies was annoying. 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there for an hour and a half. It was worth it though. It transported me back to Italy, just a tiny bit. I want to make other biscotti; chocolate hazelnut and another with fig for starters. Next time, I'll have to get some sweet wine for dipping, although coffee is good too!