Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Checking in...

Hi, foodie friends!

I just thought I'd drop in and say "Hello!" I hate how distant I've become over the last few weeks (or has it been months)? I started out with such grand ideas of what I would write and post on my blog and I just haven't made the time for it. I'm hoping that I have gotten settled into enough of a routine to start back up regularly soon.

I'm in the middle of making my first biscuit roulade. My cutie pie son has requested a light saber birthday cake for Friday at the bowling alley. He turns 6 this week!! He lost his first tooth last week!! Yikes - these days are flying too quickly. I'll post photos of the finished cake. I'm not sure how detailed I'm going to be. It may end up just being a red log - I'm hoping he'll be able to use his imagination to turn it into a light saber if it does turn out more like a log. It was really fun to bake the cake - it's nothing more than eggs, flour, cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar - no leaveners or butter. It rolled up beautifully without cracking. When I finish it, I'll try to write a bit more about it. I will definitely try making another one. The Christmas yule log has interested me for a while and now I've made one of the basic components, so I will have to give it a try in December.

I really miss baking and cooking! I've chosen to put my time in the kitchen aside while I'm working full-time because I think it's going to be short-term. However, as the days and weeks roll on, I'm realizing that I need to make time for it. I made some pasta last night for dinner with tuna, feta, lemon zest, and wilted spinach. The pasta was made from scratch with my fun pasta attachment. I want to try making it again with some of my herbs.


Pictured above is a delicious cookie that I made a few months ago. My mom has treated me to several cooking classes and we took one years ago that offered this as the dessert. I haven't made it again until now. They are so good. If you love cinnamon lattes, you'll love these. They're called Coffee Pecan Meringues. Here's the recipe:

Coffee Pecan Meringues
from Roosters cooking class, Greensboro, NC

Pecan Meringues
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar, divided
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup pecans, ground
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Coffee Filling
4 egg yolks (preferably pasteurized)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup very strong coffee
2 sticks butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons dark rum

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.

For the meringues, beat the egg whites with the salt on medium speed until white and opaque. Increase the speed to maximum and beat in half of the sugar in a streams, continuing to beat until the egg whites are very firm, but not dry. Combine the remaining sugar, the ground pecans, cinnamon and cornstarch and fold into the egg whites.

Pipe 3-inch fingers on paper-lined pans with a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tube. Bake the fingers about 25 minutes, until golden and fairly dry. They burn easily.

For the buttercream, whisk the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk in the coffee, then the sugar. Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk until thickened. Beat by machine on medium speed until cold. Beat in the butter in 5 or 6 additions, then the rum.

Line up half of fingers on a clean, paper-lined pan, rounded side down. Pipe a line of the buttercream on each finger, then top with the remaining fingers, flat side down. Turn the coupled fingers sideways and pipe a rosette of the buttercream on each. Sprinkle the rosette with the chopped pecans and dust very lightly with confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Birthday Cuppycakes

I made some cupcakes for Benjamin's mock birthday party at school last Friday. He has a summer birthday, so his thoughtful teachers offered to let him celebrate with his preschool friends a few weeks early. I made white cupcakes with a delicious vanilla frosting, both from The Cake Bible. If you have read my posts before, you know I've been going through a phase with this book!


Here is the recipe for the Neoclassic Buttercream. It's so smooth and easy to frost and is wonderfully delicious. I altered it a bit and omitted one stick of butter. My children find the frostings from the cookbook not sweet enough, and so, I tried to accomodate their tastes with this one tweak. I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt and also left out the liqueur. I sampled a bit of it with amaretto, and I loved it. I hope to have a grown-up affair where I can use the amaretto! The texture of this frosting is so unlike the grocery store variety - silky smooth with no Crisco aftertaste lingering on your tongue. If you've got the time to try it, please do! I used Davidson's pasteurized eggs so that salmonella wasn't an issue.

Decorating the cupcakes was so much fun! I bought a new box of parchment triangles. I folded up a bag and used my new 1M decorating tip. It made beautiful swirls! I just can't get enough cake decorating - I need some more birthdays to celebrate!!

Let me know if you decide to try the frosting!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I thought I'd quickly share some photos and a recipe for some yummy Cinnamon Rolls!


They are really easy to make in the bread machine - the dough is ready to be rolled after about an hour and a half.


Somewhere recently, I read a tip to brush an egg, rather than butter, on the dough because the egg holds on better to the filling, preventing it from leaking out the tops and bottoms of the rolls. I found it to work quite well.


After rolling, filling, and cutting them, I cover them with plastic wrap and pop them in the fridge overnight. Then, I set my oven to turn on early in the morning and I bake the rolls as soon as I get out of bed. To prevent the inner rolls from staying gooey and the outer ones from over-baking, I've started putting them into smaller baking pans. Every roll is on the perimeter this way and gets done evenly.

They're ready for a delicious breakfast!


I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, a great go-to site for almost any recipe. In the most recent making of these rolls, I was out of vanilla pudding mix, which I'm a little opposed to using anyway, and so I added an extra splash of vanilla and a good sprinkling of sugar to the dough. I figured that is all the pudding mix adds. My children and husband go bonkers over these - and me, too, but I have to exercise some restraint!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hi, foodie friends!

I'm going to have to take a break from the blog for a few weeks while I prepare a corporate tax return. I have been working away from home and will continue to for another month or so. Please sign up for a subscription to my blog, so you'll know when I've posted again! I really want to do a better job of updating it in the future, but life is getting wild here!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade Mayonnaise

I have always wanted to try my hand at homemade mayonnaise. I've heard that it is so much different than store-bought and much better tasting. So, now that I've got a carton of Davidson's Pasteurized Eggs in my fridge, I decided it was time to give it a try. One of my friends asked me to bring vegetables over for dinner last weekend. I don't usually "do" vegetables for dinner parties, but it was a great chance for me to create an artistic display with a mayonnaise dip.

I had fun picking out the vegetables - they always look so gorgeous in their stacks at the market. So, I chose asparagus, broccoli, radishes, carrots with their tops still on (a special request from my daughter), grape tomatoes, and a purple cabbage which I prepared as a bowl for the dip - a beautiful range of colors, I decided.


I blanched the asparagus and broccoli because I love the crispness with no raw taste. I let them sit for a couple of minutes in boiling water and then transferred them to my clean sink filled with ice water.

Do any of you ever start to get over-confident when cooking or baking? From what I've read over the years, mayonnaise can be a little tricky to make. To start, you whisk a couple of eggs together and then, v-e-r-y slowly, add oil, whisking quickly all the while. So, I whisked my eggs and then poured the oil from a Pyrex measuring cup, drop by drop, at first, and then started adding it in a trickle. I was feeling pretty confident - I was creating a beautiful, smooth emulsion of eggs and oil. I had to stop to rest a couple of times because I was so busy whisking. Initially, I had planned to do this in the food processor, but the eggs got flung to the sides of the bowl, so the blade wasn't even coming into contact with them, so I had to do it by hand.

It was really fun watching the emulsion come together. I stopped to look at the measuring cup to see how much oil was left and was disappointed to see I had only added about a third of the entire amount. My whisking arm was getting a little weak. But, I started trickling again, and then, because it was coming together so well, I turned the trickle into a bit heavier stream. Suddenly, because my whisk wasn't keeping pace with the heavier addition, the smooth, creamy mixture suddenly turned into a bowl of oil with some eggs mixed in. My mayonnaise had broken. Aarrgh. I had been feeling a little too proud of myself. I tried to dump the broken mess into the processor to see if I could revive it, even tried adding another egg as the directions suggested if the mixture broke, but I ended up pouring the mess down the sink and starting over. (Don't tell my plumber...)

The second time around, my poor little arm was even more tired!! But, the whisking had to go on! I was determined not to let the mayonnaise beat me. This time, I drip-dripped as slowly as I could manage, and hardly let it trickle even when I knew it was safe. I tried whisking with my left hand and pouring with my right, but that wasn't very smooth. Finally, I trickled the whole portion of oil into the eggs and it was a beautiful, creamy, smooth mayonnaise! Per the recipe, I added vinegar, salt, pepper, pimentos, mustard, garlic, and green onions. It turned out quite tasty. I think I'll try it again soon and make it right the first time around so I don't wear myself out!

Pimento Mayonnaise
Adapted from The Frog Commissary Cookbook

Makes 1 3/4 cups

2 egg yolks
1 1/3 c. corn oil
3 T. vinegar or lemon juice
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. pepper
2 T. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. finely chopped pimentos, drained well
2 T. finely chopped scallions
1/2 t. minced garlic

Whisk the egg yolks until light-colored. Measure out the oil into a container suitable for controlled pouring, and very gradually (almost drop by drop) add about 1/3 of the oil to the yolks while continuously beating so that the mixture begins to emulsify and thicken properly. At this point, you can begin adding the rest of the oil in a thin trickle, working up to a gradual stream at the end. Your mayonnaise should now be thick, smooth, and glossy. Beat in the vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard, pimentos, scallions, and garlic. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately. It will keep for about two weeks.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

World Peace Cookies

I love spring! We've got beautiful pink and white dogwoods blooming all over our yard, and several beautiful pale pink azaleas are showing off as well. The grass is greening up and the birds are starting to chirp early, early in the morning. I heard them before the sun was up this morning. My sweet children have been bringing blossoms to me to put in a vase beside my computer. We have all needed a dose of warmer weather and a chance to run and play outside in the sun!

Some new "cyber-friends" and I enjoyed a chance to try out the World Peace cookie recipe from a Dorie Greenspan cookbook. The recipe was featured on the Cookbook Habit blog back in February and you can find it by scrolling down on this webpage. These three friends and I made our cookies yesterday and agreed to review the recipe and post photos of the cookies today. One of my friends has a blog here - check up her review, too!


For those of you who like salty and sweet, this cookie will scratch your itch! I love the combination of the two - I think sweet tastes much sweeter when there is a little salty to balance it. The cookie is a shortbread cookie with no eggs. I've made shortbread before, but never slowed down to realize that I wasn't adding eggs. So, I suppose that the omission of eggs adds to the crumbly texture of the cookies.

This recipe results in a deliciously chocolate-y flavor. I suggest using the mini-sized chips called for in the recipe. I used standard-sized chips because they're what I had on hand. The mini chips would surely have made the dough much easier to slice. I had to work hard to keep the cookies from crumbling too much because of the larger chips.

The combination of salty and sweet reminds me of a posting on Orangette with a New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe calling for a sprinkling of sea salt on top. Those were good, too - I made them a few months ago and my husband loved them.

Back to the World Peace cookies. They were really easy to make. Cream butter and sugar, add dry ingredients, stir in chocolate chips, roll into a log, refrigerate overnight, and slice and bake! The only hard part was the slicing, but, as I wrote above, I imagine mini-chips would solve that dilemma.

I'm off to watch a Netflix movie that has been waiting on me for weeks - I've been too busy baking cupcakes and cookies to slow down to watch it. My husband wants me to get on with it because he's got some movies in the queue that he's ready to watch. I love movies! Maybe I should go pop some popcorn. Speaking of popcorn, remind me to share my two yummy popcorn recipes soon...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Springtime Cupcakes

I've been a busy baking bee since my last post! I have made another chocolate cake, two different chocolate frostings, two yellow cupcake recipes, AND a new vanilla frosting recipe. It's been fun to compare the flavors and textures of each recipe. I made and frosted cupcakes for a neighborhood Easter egg hunt. This frosting is amazing!! It's called Silk Meringue Buttercream and is from my latest fave, The Cake Bible. The recipe is a combination of crème anglaise and Italian Meringue Buttercream. The final product is wonderful - I had a hard time not diving into the bowl. I'm not usually a frosting lover, but this frosting is almost good enough to serve alone!


Also, since my last post, I finished my Wilton Cake Decorating Course 1. Here's a photo of my final cake:

2009 03005

I had so much fun making the roses. I came home and tried making them with a cooked buttercream frosting and had much better success than with the prescribed Crisco frosting from my class. Last night, I made a few more roses and have them tucked away in the freezer for some special cake to come in the future.

2009 03011

I'm done with testing cakes for a few days now. Next time, maybe I'll post something savory!