Baking, Uncategorized

Goodbye Vacation

Winter break is officially over after this weekend, and I don’t know if I’m ready to get back to the grind quite yet. This break hasn’t been as productive as I wanted it to be, especially in the book-reading department. I had a list of books I wanted to get through, but I just couldn’t make it through all of them. I was only able to finish The Cupcake Diaries series (a cute little kids series from Simon Spotlight) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Oh my, The Night Circus was absolutely amazing. It actually took me a bit less than two weeks to read it, but it was worth every second. I had been itching to read it since August, but timing was never right and The Strand never had a used copy available.  I finally got my hands on a copy, though. When I first heard about this book months ago, I believed it to be a YA novel, but then I read that the author is very adamant about the fact that it is not. The length of time it took me to read it is also a testament to the fact that it is very much a work of adult fiction; I can usually get through a considerably long YA book in a matter of a weekend, but The Night Circus has so many details and intricacies to it that I was forced to slow down in order to even try to take it all in. The tendency to jump between years in each chapter was a bit troubling at first, but by the end of the book I was able to get the timeline straight.This book is definitely something I would not hesitate to read again, because I am sure that I missed at least a few things, especially in my moments when I was half-asleep reading. The characters are well-developed and the plot is not so predictable that reading becomes boring.

I’m also in love with the book’s physical design. If I may say, it’s very classy. The jacket is wonderful with its black, white, and red coloring (the same palate as the circus itself), and the actual cover is beautiful with silver designs inlaid on a black background. I’m a sucker for a beautifully designed book, and these colors all come together in a wonderful way. The only way to describe it is that it’s classy, pure and simple.

Okay, enough about The Night Circus. On to my most recent batches of doughnuts!

Unfortunately I have no pictures of my improved chocolate doughnuts. They were just too good to wait for natural lighting so I could take proper pictures. Instead, I just have the recipe I came up with, which was inspired the Lara Ferroni recipe I used before.

Baked Dark Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

*Makes 9 delicious doughnuts*

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                           3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              5 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate, shaved/chopped

Steps:

1.) Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a doughnut pan with non-stick spray.

2.) Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda so it is all evenly incorporated.

3.) Add the sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir to evenly incorporate.

4.) Add the melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and egg to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

5.) Carefully stir in the finely chopped chocolate.

6.) Fill each doughnut well 1/2 to 3/4 full. I used a spoon. Don’t overfill the wells, or the holes will get baked over. That would be sad.

7.) Bake for about 8 minutes, until the doughnuts spring back when touched. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

8.) Once cooled, glaze if desired (1 cup powdered sugar, slowly add buttermilk or milk until it reaches your desired consistency, add a splash of vanilla).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The doughnut-making didn’t stop there. I made those ones a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist making one more batch of doughnuts this morning. But this time I went with the Baked Glazed Doughnuts from Iowa Girl Eats, and I spruced them up with a dark chocolate glaze. I love me some dark chocolate!

I followed the recipe for the most part, but instead of using the cinnamon it called for, I replaced it with my new favorite baking spice: nutmeg! I used a little more than 1/4 teaspoon of that glorious doughnut spice.

For the chocolate glaze, I shaved 3 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate. Then I added about a teaspoon of milk and melted it all in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Then I mixed it vigorously to melt the remaining bits. I added 1 cup of powdered sugar and a bit more milk to the chocolate and mixed it all together until smooth. As it was there was a distinction between the chocolate and powdered sugar, so I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Perfection!

I cooled the doughnuts before dipping the tops in the chocolate glaze. Then I put them aside to further cool and set up. I may or may not have put each doughnut in one of the wells from my muffin top pan. A normal plate was too small to fit all six doughnuts, but the six over-sized wells were a perfect fit. It was fate.

I only hope I’ll be able to share the remaining doughnuts with my three roommates and a friend who are coming back to the city tonight. But if not, it’ll be a great excuse to make them again. The glaze really is perfection. I could swim in a vat of it. I especially like how it sets up and becomes a thin but fudgey blanket over the doughnuts. Yum!

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Baking

Baked Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts

Last year I was crazy busy beyond belief, and I can’t say that I’m sorry 2011 is over. This semester seems like it will be a bit calmer, but I have to say that I’m definitely going to miss interning at Little Simon. My time there was such an experience and I learned so much that I can actually apply to my future career. But, new year, new endeavors, new experiences. Bring it on!

Speaking of new things, I ordered a doughnut pan during winter break and broke it in this morning. I have been looking for the perfect recipe with which to christen this pan, and Lara Ferroni’s Baked Chocolate Doughnuts fit the bill perfectly. Everything came together very quickly and easily. I had to substitute milk and vinegar for the buttermilk, and I don’t think the final results suffered one bit. I also replaced the yogurt with my “buttermilk,” as I’m not sure if Greek yogurt would have worked properly in this recipe.

With these doughnuts, I finally did realize that it IS the nutmeg that MAKES the doughnut taste. I’m coming around to this particular spice, especially with this recipe.

I didn’t use my buttermilk substitute for the glaze, but I think it works with just plain old milk. I did add a bit more milk than I should have, so I didn’t get the thicker glaze/frosting that Lara’s had. It’s fine though. This one reminds me more of the Dunkin Donuts glaze.

When I next make chocolate doughnuts, I think I might use my brand new dark cocoa powder. I would like to have a chocolate-ier flavor, more akin to a chocolate cake/cupcake. I know that pretty much defeats the purpose of making doughnuts–I mean, why not just make cake–but I want to somehow replicate the DD’s chocolate glazed doughnuts. So good!

I think next week I’ll try a plain vanilla doughnut and jazz it up with a chocolate glaze. After that, the options are absolutely endless. Reese’s Cup Doughnuts, anyone?

Baking

Lemon, Lemon, CHOCOLATE!

It’s closing in on the end of the semester, and do you know what that means? It means I like to bake more than study. I’ve had this urge to make almost EVERYTHING I’ve seen on baking blogs, and it finally got to be too much and I cracked. And I baked. More than I should have. It’s not like this desire was just an “Oh, yum, that would be a great thing to bake. I should try it sometime.” No, it’s been more like “You. Must. Bake. Me. Now. And. Forget. About. Homework!” And this reaction hasn’t just been about one thing, which makes it even worse. Fortunately I think it’s subsided for a brief moment right now, and hopefully I can get through this next week without one of those attacks.

The first thing I absolutely HAD to make was the Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake from Two Peas and Their Pod. I saw it on their blog before spring break, and I was dying to make it, if only because I had ricotta cheese I didn’t want to go to waste. Surprisingly, the ricotta survived in the fridge past spring break and I was finally able to make it last week. Either that or the urge just took way, way, over and I no longer had a choice in the matter.

I may have been a bit delayed in taking pictures of this cake. . . . About half of it was gone by this time, which is understandable, because it was SO DARN GOOD. You see the shininess on top of the cake? I made a glaze with the juice of one of the zested lemons and some powdered sugar. SO DARN GOOD. I also poked a bunch of holes in the top of the cake to let the glaze seep down inside.

I happened to get some batter on my finger before baking, and so I tried it. I wanted to stop right there and eat the batter with  a spoon it was so good. I’m actually surprised that most of it made it into the loaf pan. I showed great self restraint ;).

Though I should have just eaten all the batter, because the baking process was a horror. I guess I still don’t “know”  my loaf pan, because I followed the directions and put it in at 350 when I should have lowered it to 325 after other things have come out too browned. I took the cake out at one point to cover it in foil, and I ended up burning the fleshy point where my thumb meets my palm. OW!

I also should have known that eyeballing leavening agents (aka baking powder) in an actual spoon is not a good idea. It’s not much fault though, I HAD to. You see, the measuring spoons were buried under a MOUNTAIN of my suitemates’ dirty dishes in the sink. There was no way I could physically get to them. And as a result, my cake collapsed in on itself. It didn’t affect the taste or outward appearance, but once you sliced into it you could see the effects. My cake looked like one of the blocks the kiddies play with at school.

From now on I will use measuring spoons, no matter how deep they’re buried. Lesson learned.

I must be on a lemon kick or something, because even after that cake I still wanted MORE LEMON. I was looking around online for kicks and giggles and I found this Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream on Recipe Girl. I’ve made and loved blueberry/lemon things before, so I knew this would be great to make.

The blueberry cake is delicious. I’ll probably make it again and not even use the buttercream, just so I can have a pure blueberry taste. LOVE.

Thankfully there was no collapsing this time around, and it baked up wonderfully. I did turn the oven down to 325 to prevent it from over-browning/baking, which proved to be a very good idea. You see? I’m learning :).

I was so impatient to eat this cake that I started frosting it before it was at room temperature. Whoops! The buttercream started melting as I was smoothing it across the top, but that was nothing a little fridge time couldn’t fix.

I also took some pictures of the view from my window after this little photo shoot. I’m glad I did.

And here’s one from as I’m posting. The weather looks really nice, even if the sky isn’t completely blue and cloudless.

And finally, as the last part of the title indicates, CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! I haven’t gone back to my simple roots and made chocolate chip cookies in ages. I thought it was about time to do so on Thursday.

Perfect. I could have had a lot more cookies (not all are pictured here), but that self-restraint from the pound cake flew out the window and I devoured the cookie dough. Whoops! It was well worth it though. I forgot how much I love and missed these cookies. Sometimes this urge to bake has some pretty good results beyond yummy creations. It’s always nice to make something nostalgic and that can bring up fond memories.

Baking

I’ve Been Waiting So Long For This Morning

I’ve been dying to make cinnamon rolls ever since August, but my sad kitchen situation has prevented me from doing so. My lack of counter space makes it hard to roll out dough, and I’m not about to roll it out on my disgusting, porous wooden tables. I wouldn’t do that in my own home, let alone in a college dorm. . . . Who knows what has been put on those tables before, and I certainly don’t want to know. My only option for dough-rolling was to clear off the small counter and scrub it like I’ve never scrubbed before. I was suitably satisfied with my scrubbing abilities afterward, so I felt fine doing it there. All I can say is why did it take me until today to clean the counter? I LOVE my cinnamon roll recipe, and if it wasn’t so unhealthy, I would love to make it more often. As it is, I haven’t made them since July, and I probably won’t make them again until Thanksgiving or Christmas when I’m home with my family. At least then I won’t be required to eat them all by myself. Because that’s such a hard job ;).

They turned out so wonderfully. I took some reviewers’ advice and turned them out into another pan so that all the filling could seep from the bottom of the pan and back into the rolls. Usually it all collects in the bottom and some goes to waste, but this way it can all be consumed, which makes for a very happy me. I also made a cream cheese glaze/frosting to top them off, and I must say it is delicious. Slightly tangy from the cream cheese, but not too tangy, and just runny enough that it can soak into the rolls and go down the sides. My last attempt at it was really frosting-y and thick, but I think this time resulted in the perfect glaze.

Yummy perfection in gooey roll form.

In addition to cinnamon rolls this morning, the quiet and solitude in my suite last night resulted in a delicious home made chocolate pudding. I tried making pudding from scratch before, but it just didn’t turn out as well as I anticipated. Since no one was home, I was able to take my time and slowly bring the pudding mixture to a boil to thicken it. Most recipes generally call for corn starch to be used as a thickener, but I had to substitute in flour, and I was pleased with the results. I also added some chocolate chips in order to give it a deeper chocolate taste, since I don’t like to rely on cocoa powder as the sole chocolate source. I’m definitely going to make this recipe again, keeping my alterations of course. I just wish I had some cool whip or something to make it into a mousse. It’s a very rich pudding, which is surprising, since I made it with skim milk. Goodness knows how it would have turned out with whole milk. It would most certainly be a glorious chocolate death.

Baking

Baking Go Leor

It seems I’ve been remiss in posting about what I bake. Classes, exams, and utter exhaustion haven’t completely kept me from baking, but for some reason it’s kept me from posting.

Let’s see if I can remember everything. . . .

I made something called a “French Breakfast Puff”, which is basically a baked doughnut hole. I didn’t follow the recipe and presentation suggestions exactly, but I thought they were still very yummy. They must have been, since they were all gone within a couple of days.

There have also been brownies. LOTS AND LOTS of brownies. But somehow I only managed to take a photo of one of the batches. These ones were good. They could have been better if I had taken them out of the oven a couple minutes sooner, but I made the glaze that the recipe suggested, and it really helped to moisten them up.

The second batch of brownies I made were AMAZING. They got the approval of a friend who very much prefers boxed brownie mixes. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of them. I had kept meaning to, but they just kind of disappeared before I got the chance.

I also tried my hand at a baked mac and cheese recently. It was a good start, but for future mac and cheese endeavors, I need MORE CHEESE. You would think that cheddar, Parmesan, cottage, and  mozzarella cheese would be enough, but I think I need to up the cheddar cheese because it wasn’t quite gooey enough. I’ll try again sooner rather than later, seeing as how I still have cheese left and I don’t want it to spoil. Note to self: buy ricotta cheese, too.

The other day while I was procrastinating in my mid-term studying, I made “granola bars”. I put them in quotes because they’re not really granola bars, but more like a granola cake of sorts. They still taste really good, but I need to have something to drink with them because, while they’re not dry, they make me really thirsty. I added chopped up chocolate chunks, raisins, and peanut butter to them, even though the recipe only called for mini chocolate chips. I had been craving a raisin-y something, so I figured why not, and hey, peanut butter goes GREAT with both of those things. I only have a few left, so I really should get on that whole picture-taking thing soon.