Baking

My First Night Back

I made it back Saturday mid-afternoon, and for once my parents were able to find a parking spot near my dorm. We unloaded, unpacked, and parted ways, leaving me to my own devices in my empty suite. That empty suite could only mean one thing–BAKING! My baking cabinet was suitably stocked, and I got to it very quickly. I combed through my bookmarked recipes and settled upon a Dorie Greenspan recipe I found as a Tuesdays with Dorie entry on Amy Ruth Bakes: the Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake. I had been eying this cake for some time, but I didn’t have a proper loaf pan to bake it in, before now. A couple of weeks ago I went and bought some glass mixing bowls, a loaf pan, a muffin tin, and a round cake pan. When I got back, I realized that as my bake-ware collection is slowly being completed, my kitchen is quickly running out of storage space. It’s like a puzzle–this can go here, that can go there, but that can’t go there, so where will it go? My only answer is I don’t know. Thank goodness I’m so tall, because I’ve been able to use the space on top of the cabinets because no one else can reach or has shown the desire to stand on a chair to reach up there.

Generally I am skeptical of recipes that only call for cocoa powder, because it doesn’t give me as satisfying a chocolate taste as it would if I used melted chocolate. I usually add additional chocolate to those recipes, but for some reason I didn’t want to this time. Search me for as to why; I have plenty of chocolate chips I could have used.

I’m not sure what the actual consistency of the cake batter is supposed to be, but mine was as light and airy as a mousse. Granted I had to make a last second substitution because, silly me, I forgot I didn’t have any eggs. Instead, for each egg I needed, I mixed together 2 Tablespoons of water, 1 Tablespoon of oil, and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. I really need to start checking for every single ingredient before I even think about beginning anything. I wonder if the substitution had any effect on the batter. I’ll have to find out by making this again sometime, but after everything is mixed as the recipe states, I’m going to add some melted chocolate.

The cake baked up beautifully in my new pan. A couple of corners were darker than the rest, but what can you do. I think I took the cake out at the perfect time, because when I cut it it was super moist.

It was a painfully long wait for it to cool down to semi-room temperature, and I probably should have waited longer, but it was getting late, I was exhausted, and I wanted a piece of cake gosh darn it. I miraculously had just enough raspberry jam for the filling. Next time I might try it with strawberry and add a little more because the flavor wasn’t as noticeable as I would have liked.

I also had just enough sour cream left to make the frosting. I had never before used only melted chocolate and sour cream as a frosting, and I thought it was an odd combination at first. It’s actually surprisingly good. I like the tang the sour cream adds.

The next thing I need to add to my kitchen collection is a long, flat plate for cakes. I know the cake sunk a bit from my poking a hole in it during the baking process to check it, but the plate just exacerbates that and does nothing to add to its levelness. I know that’s a nit-picky thing to notice, but when I think of loaf cakes, I think of long, flat, level cakes, and this attempt does not quite fit that profile in my opinion.

It’s not my best frosting job ever, and it doesn’t exactly match the “dressy” in the title, but the frosting was a bit tough to deal with because it was so warm and melty. I could have waited for it to cool a bit, but again, it was late and I wanted cake.

Doesn’t it look super yummy?

You can just barely see the raspberry jam between the three layers.

Upon taking my first bite, I was surprised that it actually tasted good. I was fearing that the lack of eggs was going to result in disaster in terms of taste, but I was pleasantly surprised. The cake was moist and rich, even without the additional chocolate in the batter. It’s okay in terms of chocolate taste, but not quite as satisfying as other recipes I’ve made. I’m still not a fan of the color of the cake, but once again, I’m becoming extremely nit-picky.

One final note about this cake. It’s definitely NOT a one-bowl cake. Thank goodness for my new mixing bowls, because I ended up using 1 bowl for the wet ingredients, 1 bowl for the dry ingredients, 1 bowl to make the filling, 1 bowl and one pot of simmering water to make the frosting, my 1/2 cup and 1/3 cup measuring cups, measuring spoons, the loaf pan, a hand mixer, a spoonula, a fork, a knife, two plates, and a spatula to make it. That’s a lot of dishes, and I finally got them all washed.

Overall this cake was a success, and I’m definitely going to make it again, albeit with a few alterations to suit my palate and aesthetics.

Baking

A Forced “Little Miss Semi-Homemade” Holiday

Those last few days of school nearly killed me. I can’t believe I survived, but I didn’t get through it entirely unscathed. I was dying with my lack of food supplies, and so I couldn’t relieve my building stress through baking. Note to self for next semester: NEVER run out of eggs or milk during finals–it only results in frustration and sadness. I couldn’t make ANYTHING I wanted to make, and so my stress levels just built up and I eventually just shut down and avoided the looming papers and exams for a while.

But now I’m back home and there’s a blizzard outside. . . . Oh yeah, snow just make everything better *sarcasm*. At least I got to avoid snow for the first few days back. One of the first things that greeted me when I stepped in the door was my list of desserts my father was *letting* me make for our Christmas parties. Yes, that’s right, the desserts he was *letting* me make. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with that. I was even less thrilled when my mother then said that I has to be “Little Miss Semi-Homemade” this year. I was even less happy with that restriction.

So on my list of “approved desserts” I had chocolate chip cookies, a Jell-o cake, and a chocolate pudding pie. I had nothing against the cookies, but the cake was from a box and the pie was with a store-bought graham cracker crust and instant pudding mix. Again, I have nothing against people who use these, but I don’t enjoy using them anymore. Now that I have the resources and ability to make things entirely from scratch, I want to keep exploring and seeing what else I’m capable of baking well. Doing it my way does not take much longer, nor is it much messier, than making things from a box, but my parents just don’t understand that. They’re fully content with suppressing my creativity and encouraging a manner of baking that no longer gives me any enjoyment whatsoever. If anything, being told what to make and how to make it just irritates me beyond belief and makes me not want to do it. Is this my teenage rebellion belatedly manifesting itself in my baking?

In any event, I made their desserts and still got yelled by my mother for making a mess. I just can’t win with her. I made her desserts as directed and still got yelled at.

For some reason no one even touched the pudding pie. Not even my mother, the person I made it FOR. I could have made it a mousse pie. Thanks a lot, mom.

At least I got to make whipped cream, even if no one but me enjoyed it. They were certainly missing out by not eating it, though.

While my parents were out at the store in the afternoon, I managed to sneak in one scratch yellow cupcake batch with chocolate buttercream frosting. I had to put my foot down on the frosting front, even though my parents got home before the cupcakes were done or frosted, and so I made the buttercream right under their noses. Look how well they went over. I started the events with twelve cupcakes and two bundts, and all that remained was one cupcake and one bundt. Homemade for the win!

Even as I was baking, my father didn’t think there would be enough, so he wanted to add a pecan pie and another chocolate pudding pie (which would have thankfully been from scratch). I was going to make the pecan pie during the break between our two family parties, but that never happened, and it wasn’t even needed. My father’s side of the family is large-ish, and so there were about 18 people here (and 4 people were actually missing), and my father expected there to not be nearly enough food or dessert, but he was definitely wrong about that. There were meatballs, kielbasa in this strange grape jelly/chili sauce sauce, Velveeta mac and cheese, a spiral ham, shrimp, chips and veggies and dip, my aunt’s beans, another aunt’s “crabbies” and her yummy mini chicken salad sandwiches, another aunt’s teryaki chicken wings and such, scallops wrapped in bacon, a quiche, and probably something else I’m forgetting. Then there were a few of my remaining cupcakes and cookies, my pudding pie, my Jell-o cake, and some store-bought cupcakes my cousin brought because he didn’t know what to bring.

There was just so much food on Christmas Eve because in the afternoon we had hosted my mother’s side of the family (just 9 of us total). So much food, so much sugar, way too much family, and entirely too many leftovers. A cupcake and a mini Bundt, more than half the Jell-o cake, the entire pudding pie and it’s accompanying whipped cream, and more than half my cousin’s cupcakes remained after everyone left. Needless to say, the eating will continue for a few more days than expected.

In other news, I think Fishy rather enjoyed his first Christmas and his first Christmas present.

Baking

Thanksgiving Baking

So basically I dropped off the face of the blogging earth for a while. I’ve been completely overwhelmed with school work, work, and thinking about all my final assignments these past couple of weeks that I just haven’t had the energy or will to post anything. Here’s a recap of my Thanksgiving creations.

Originally I wanted to make something really elaborate over break, but unfortunately my parents shot me down about that, and what would have been the point in making something wonderful if no one was going to eat/appreciate it. Instead they just wanted plain old boring chocolate chip cookies and a yellow cake–from a BOX . . . I guess they didn’t get the memo about my new-found hatred of boxed, chemical-laden, artificial box mixes. Now I know they work for those who don’t have the time/patience/ability/ingredients/whatever to make a cake from scratch–and I don’t think any less of those people for using this option–but now that I’ve been exploring the baking world more thoroughly, I never want to have to resort to boxes again because I’ve found such delicious and simple from-scratch recipes. I love trying out new ones, adding different flavors/more chocolate to them, and seeing how they turn out. Not all of them are rave successes, but it’s those slight flops that help me to learn what I want out of a recipe.

In any event, I–with the excuse of not having enough vegetable oil for both cookies AND a cake–managed to make a simple batch of yellow cupcakes for my father’s birthday. This attempt falls under the slight flop category, because I didn’t have the cake flour the recipe called for, and as a result, it was a very crumby cupcake (I know, bad pun). I think that if I had used the cake flour, the crumbs would have been much smaller and the cupcakes would not have fallen apart so easily (and I think having liners for the tin would have helped in that department as well, because they stuck like CRAZY and were difficult to get out).

Unfortunately, I also didn’t have nearly enough powdered sugar to make a fluffy buttercream frosting, so I had to used a tub of dense chocolate frosting instead *shudders at the memory*. It was such a light cupcake, and the heavy frosting just overwhelmed the poor dears, not to mention the chemical/artificial taste from it that I could not get out of my mouth. Again, no disrespect to those who use store-bought frosting, but I just don’t like the stuff anymore now that I try to do things from scratch as often as possible.

Overall they were good cupcakes, but I just need to institute a couple of changes, and they’ll be GREAT cupcakes. (My mother also shot down putting sprinkles on top because she hates them *sigh*.)

Before the cupcakes, I attempted a version of peanut butter/caramel/chocolate/shortbread bars (yes, like the candy bar, but with peanut butter). Again, a good attempt, but rather flawed in execution. The shortbread crust was nice and golden brown, but it wouldn’t come out of the pan; the caramel was slightly overcooked; and I destroyed the ganache topping by accident. I just don’t think I was meant to make these at this time. I ended up just taking everything else out of the pan and leaving the crust behind, resulting in hunks of thick chocolate and oozy caramel, with a thin layer of peanut butter on top.

Yeah, not exactly the prettiest thing I’ve ever attempted.

Finally, came my cookies. Finally, something turned out well. Thank goodness. I must say, this was probably the best-looking batch I’ve made in a while. They were soft and chewy, but not too much so. The perfect combination of soft and crunchy in all the right places.

A post about my creations from today will be coming up next. I’m sure I’ll need to procrastinate again really soon.

Baking, Crafting

Involuntary Thoreau Break

Uh, yeah . . . okay. . . . I really think certain features of my dorm suite need to be altered, for instance, thicker walls would be nice, or even having the gaps between certain “walls” and the ceiling being filled in. Please, I’m begging you! I’ll pay for it to happen, just make it happen! I DON’T need to be hearing these conversations in the middle of my Thoreau reading; it’s hard enough to concentrate in complete silence, so the addition of these “conversations” is just not working for me. I really wish I could find earplugs that actually worked.

Okay, well, on to happier news. I made a really yummy macaroni and cheese tonight. Well, actually, it was rotini and cheese because I don’t have any macaroni at the moment. I like using rotini just fine though, so I might not even bother getting macaroni in the future. I don’t have the slightest clue how much cheese I put in this thing . . . but it was a lot. There was shredded cheddar cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, small curd cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, plus some sour cream and a small amount of butter/flour roux with milk. I basically tried to use up all my cheeses from my last mac and cheese attempt, and I mostly did. I also had ground beef defrosted in the fridge that I needed to use, so I browned that up and tossed it in to add something else to the mix. A dash of salt and pepper completed the gooey mix, and a sprinkle of Parmesan completed the pan.

I baked it in the oven at 375 for a little over half an hour, and when I went out to check on it, it was sizzling . . . perhaps I should have drained the ground beef better, since the leftover grease was reacting with the insane amounts of gooey cheese. I took it out and let it rest on top of the stove, where it continued to sizzle. . . .

Since this wasn’t my actual dinner for the night, I only sampled a couple bites, but from what I tasted I’m a fan of this “throw random amounts in a bowl all willy nilly” approach. I don’t think it would always work, but in this instance it was a big success. There is a greater cheese to rotini ratio than my previous attempt, which is very important to me as a mac and cheese fan. I just hope I can replicate this result when I next try my hand at it.

In other baking news, my spooky ghosty cake was a hit at Folk Group on Monday night. We managed to eat most of it, which was good, since I hadn’t even cut into it yet (even though I made it Friday night) and I didn’t want it to just sit and become stale. All that remains of the little ghosty is a small bit of his little ghosty head, which was supposed to be eaten by my roommate and her boyfriend, but for some reason wasn’t.

In crafting news, I NEED to finish knitting up a scarf I started this summer. It’s starting to get really cold here, and this scarf is promising to be super warm and comfy once it’s finished. I just need to dig up that pattern to remember how to do it.

Baking, Celtic Thunder

Such a Spooky Halloween . . . BOO!!

Where is my Halloween Spirit this year? Oh, I know, it got replaced with Christmas Spirit, thanks to the CT Christmas album that I’ve been listening to in rotation with Ryan’s. Needless to say, I haven’t made any cute Halloween decorations, bought any candy, or watched the 13 Nights of Halloween. Alas. But I did make a spooky ghost cake tonight, since it’ll be my only time with the kitchen for the next couple of days. Oh the joys of living with four other people and their social lives. . . .

I tried out a new recipe for this cake. The title led me to believe dark chocolate would be involved, but it only called for cocoa powder for some reason, and no melted chocolate at all, dark or otherwise. I baked it up in a 9×13 pan and then I attempted to cut it into a cute little ghost shape. It’s somewhat wonky, but cute nonetheless. I just wish I hadn’t accidentally added too much milk to the buttercream–it’s not nearly fluffy or set up enough for my taste; it ran right off the sides and down into the pan. If only I hadn’t run out of powdered sugar. I knew I should have bought more at Trader Joe’s when I went two weeks ago. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Isn’t it a spooky little ghosty?

2:30AM EDIT: Oh yeah, gotta love the joys of living with suitemates with too active and rather disrespectful/unreasonable social lives. At least I already decided I was going to stay up late . . . because it looks like I’m not going to be able to sleep anytime in the near future. . . . It’s not like I was at work from 8am-7pm or anything and wanted to sleep by 3am. . . .

Baking

A Long Time Coming

Last week I went home for the first time since January, and I must say, I was FREEZING in my house. I’m just not used to being in air-conditioned places for long periods of time, so I spent a lot of time under a blanket. One good thing about the cooler indoor temperatures was that I was able to bake without personally baking. I started off slowly, with just a double batch of my chocolate chip cookies to bring to a reunion lunch the next day.

Then, on the morning of the lunch I made some cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese icing, but they didn’t last for very long, hence the lack of a picture. However, they didn’t look very different from the ones I made for Midnight Breakfast, so that picture will work just fine.

The next night I wanted to make a cake, but I changed my mind and settled on cupcakes and a vanilla buttercream frosting.

I do wonder what my parents have done with all the treats I left at home. Have they eaten them all? Let them go stale?

Baking

Catching Up

This past week has been insanely busy, thanks to finals and work, which means it was the PERFECT time to bake up a storm. Right? Well, that’s what happened. There was the bread and cake from Sunday, but then it just continued.

Tuesday was the school-sponsored "Midnight Breakfast", and I have learned my lesson and won’t be frequenting that event again, partially because it’s held so far from my dorm. So, like last semester, I took matters into my own hands and created a wonderful Midnight Breakfast for myself and my suitemates. Unlike the food from my school, this breakfast was actually hot and GOOD. Rather than cold waffles/pancakes/bacon/dry muffins, my creations consisted of homemade cinnamon rolls with copious amounts of frosting, pancakes, blueberry sauce, strawberries, whipped cream, nutella, and scrambled eggs. I know it wasn’t a wonderful cross-section of the breakfast world, but any more and we wouldn’t have been able to move or study.

The cinnamon rolls made the kitchen smell heavenly when they were in the oven; so much cinnamon-y goodness. The pancakes decided to be extremely temperamental, and so only a couple of them cooked up nice and evenly golden. 

  

 

Thursday morning prompted the baking of lemon blueberry scones, and the first batch was okay, nothing amazing. If I hadn’t been in a rush to get to an exam I would have baked them for a couple minutes longer to get them a bit browner. When I finally got around to baking up the rest of the batter, it had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, and so they turned out more akin to fortune cookies in respect to their taste. All in all, this scone-venture was a failure. I think i need to make one more batch so I don’t end on a bad scone note. 

I admit I didn’t make this cake. One of the secretaries at the school I work at bought it for the little party we had for my last day there. It was a pretty little cake, but once I saw the ingredients list it became much less pretty. I think I’m becoming a bit of a baking purist. But it’s the thought that counts, and it’s not like I’m going to hold this against her, partially because it was such a cute little cake.

Tomorrow, I’ll be baking up a cake for my suitemates’ graduation, so I need to start thinking about what it’s going to be and what it’s going to look like. Hopefully it’ll turn out well.