Home Sweet Home

It’s happened! I’m officially an apartment renter! No longer a dormer! Is this real life? Seriously, am I a legit adult now? Do I actually have to pay for utilities now? No more lights for me, haha! I still don’t fully believe it. I may not have a publishing job yet, but I love my tutoring work and I start a new babysitting gig next week. My life is now work, work, work, and not school, school, school. For the first time in seventeen years. It’s been an adjustment, but I think I can manage. That ever-present knot in my stomach is ever-so-slowly going away, but if only things would stop popping up to make it suddenly reappear.

The best part about this place is definitely the kitchen (sorry roomies!). So much counter space! So many cabinets! Today I had to open every single cabinet in order to find the dishes. I’ll learn my way around soon enough. I can’t wait to start baking. I can just imagine all the delicious things that will be made and shared here. Soon. I just need to restock ALL of my baking ingredients. Which will happen. Sometime.

In the meantime, I want to move away from food shopping in Manhattan. Of course I’ll still get cabinet items and such from Trader Joe’s, but I want to start getting my produce in the neighborhood. A goal I have is to try to shop less frequently at chains, and to push myself out of my comfort zone by checking out local stores and restaurants.

I walked over to The Angel’s Fruit Market after work today, and I was very pleased with their selection, price point, and staff. I scoped out some items in the front of their store and determined that was the quick sale area, because everything was about half the price of the same items inside. When I have a particular recipe in mind–or want to eat an entire pint of strawberries in one evening ($0.99/pint, OMG!!)–I think I’ll pick stuff from this area. I moved into the store and there was so much produce! I took a lap around first to see what I might want, and then I grabbed a basket and commenced filling.

I wanted to buy everything I saw. I think this store will be a great excuse to try new things. There was a large variety of familiar and unfamiliar items, and I might try out one new thing each time I go. I know I want to go back tomorrow in order to get carrots to put in a salad, and maybe I’ll get an apple or two.

While I was browsing, I determined that some items were still cheaper at Trader Joe’s. I guess I’ll continue to buy my bananas and baby spinach there for the time being. My relocation is actually a really bad thing since TJ’s is right on my way home, and now I’ll have an unlimited Metrocard . . . uh oh! I’m going to need to show some restraint, or else I’ll be popping in there way too often. At least I have to walk a few blocks out of my way to get to The Angel. And it’s a $10 limit on credit cards, so I’m restricting pop-ins to cash only, which I almost never have on hand.

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A Very, Very Happy “Chocolate Overdose Cake” Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my 21st birthday, and I celebrated by going to class all day, coming home and napping, doing homework, and watching the first disc of The Tenth Kingdom. I fell asleep before 1am and didn’t even consume my first legal drink. I know, I’m SUCH a party animal. My birthday wasn’t all boring though, because the night before I went to the Hellogoodbye concert with one of my friends, and it was AMAZING.

Yes, we were on the side, but it was still great, nonetheless.

Because my week has been so hectic and short on free-time, and because I knew back in January that it would be like that, when I first went back to work I told my teacher that I would not be coming in on this date. I chose to designate this day as my “Epic 21st Birthday Cake Baking Extravaganza” day (I just named it that today). This way I could relax and actually enjoy the process, even though I didn’t know what I would be making at the time.

Enter the Chocolate Overdose Cake I found on Beantown Baker’s blog.

This cake has been by no means inexpensive for me to bake. I would not have been so bad if I already had a springform pan, but at least I have one now (although I would have liked for it to be deeper, oh well). I think I’ve spent nearly $30 on supplies for this, but I already know it will be worth every single penny.

I started this process by taping all of my ingredients/instructions/timings to the cabinet doors to keep them in sight, but out of the way. Then I cleared off the counter and moved everything to the tables. There’s so little counter space here that it just wouldn’t have been possible to make the cake with everything still out.

With my iPod playing my Damian and Keith playlist, the extravaganza began.

I started with the brownie layer, so I put some water on to simmer and sifted together the dry ingredients while waiting.

Note the green highlighter I’m using to cross out ingredients and steps on my printed out recipe. I’m so prepared.

Then I chopped up the unsweetened chocolate until it was rather fine. When they say unsweetened, they really mean unsweetened, because I got some on my fingers and tried it. No thank you. I won’t be doing that again.

Then I put the butter and chocolate into a bowl to put over the simmering water in order to melt it down and make it super smooth.

Then I added the sugar and mixed it all together. Then I prepared the springform pan to let the chocolate cool for a bit before I added the eggs.

Next came the dry ingredients.

Bit by bit I mixed it all together.

Until it looked like this and was ready for the pan.

Then it went into the oven for about 30 minutes and I commenced washing my bowls and utensils so I’d be ready to make the cake part. When I stuck a fork in them to see if they were done, I did as any normal person would do, and ate the moist brownie crumbs that came out with the fork. Oh My God. It was absolutely HEAVENLY. I cannot wait to dig into that layer of my cake. I’ll probably have to make these brownies just by themselves sometime.

I started prepping ingredients for the next part while the brownies were still in the oven.

I chopped more unsweetened chocolate.

This time into large-ish chunks.

I didn’t actually chop on top of the simmering water. This position just had better lighting and was less blurry.

Then there was more dry ingredient sifting.

Now the chocolate, cocoa and water melting/mixing could begin.

Once I added the sugar it looked much better and mixed much easier.

Then I mixed the buttermilk and vanilla and set it aside.

Out came the hand mixer so I could mix the eggs and sugar until it was all nice and fluffy.

I was amazed when I took a couple of pictures with the flash on as I was mixing because I swear the mixer is on in both of them. It doesn’t even look like the beaters are moving in the second picture. Aren’t I easily amused.

For some reason I failed to take pictures of mixing everything together, but it really just wasn’t that interesting. I added the chocolate to the eggs and sugar and alternated adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk/vanilla mixture.

Then everything went into the prepared cake pan to bake for nearly 40 minutes. The recipe said 30 minutes, but I guess my oven is colder so it took longer than expected.

After the cake was out and the dishes were washed again, it was time for a break to let everything completely cool before I started on the mousse. At this time I also put a bowl, my whisk, and the beaters in the freezer because they’re supposed to be “well-chilled.” I figured about 2 hours would be enough time in the freezer.

I had a slight mishap while making the mousse. I didn’t look at the recipe and so I poured both pints of heavy cream into my bowl. As I was whipping it, I kept thinking “This is so much mousse for the middle of the cake.” And then I remembered that I only needed ONE pint of it. *sigh*. At least I remembered before it got completely whipped and the chocolate was added. I just took out half and put it in a bowl so I could use it for the ganache later. I also failed to photograph the mousse-making process, but it was just melting chocolate, whipping cream and adding them together.

The I assembled the cake in the springform pan, covered it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for an hour.

The ganache came together very nicely, even given the slightly whipped consistency of the cream. Most of the air came out of it after it was brought to a boil and then taken off the heat, so thank goodness my lack of attention to detail did not have any ill effects.

I have never used to much chocolate in one day. Let’s tally it all up: 5 1-ounce Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 6 4-ounce bars of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate. That’s about 30 ounces of chocolate, which is nearly 2 POUNDS! Paired with the sugar in this cake, it’s sure to be a rich chocolate coma and sweet sugar rush to remember.

Doesn’t that look SO good already? I wanted to eat it then and there, even without the ganache.

Dripping and oozing down.

Boy did I make a big mess.

I let it chill in the fridge for about an hour and a half to set up and for the ganache to harden a bit.

STRAWBERRY TIME!

I am happy with my ganache-ing skills and especially pleased that the cake is nice and flat and as straight as I could ask for. I’ll be sure to make another post detailing the demolition of this delicious-looking (and hopefully wonderful tasting) cake.

Now it’s all wrapped up to chill in the fridge until tomorrow afternoon when I can finally dig in with some friends. It’s going to be a long, long night. . . .

At this point–and before having even tasted the final product–I think I can honestly say that this is one of the creations I’m most proud of making. It may have taken me from 10am to 7:30pm, but I would happily make this again and again, as long as I do not have to rush the process. This was the best birthday-cake-making day I could have asked for.

Nook, Nook, Nook!

I obviously can’t be left alone to my own devices in an empty dorm with a semi-stocked kitchen and crafting stash. Ever since I got back I have parked myself in the common room, watching CSI marathons and creating. The first night back I made the cake, yesterday I made a cozy for my Nook, and today I made mini donut muffins (a post about those later) and started a new crochet project that I’m really excited about. Having the kitchen and common room to myself for this short period of time has allowed me to get some final creative projects completed before classes start and I no longer have time to do things for fun.

My epic fail of a trip to Michael’s before I came back was with the intention of finding materials to make a case/cozy for the Nook Color I received at Christmas. I was looking online for inspiration for the style, and I certainly found some creative and absolutely adorable ideas, but I ultimately settled on a simple fabric and felt slip case. It took about three hours and a ripped apart and re-sewn seam, but I’m delighted with the final product.

I did have a small bit of white fleece left in my stash, but it wasn’t enough to line the whole cozy. I compromised and only used it on the side which would be touching the screen, so as to provide some extra softness. I’m not too worried about scratching the screen because I have a protector sheet on it, but the extra cushioning gives me some additional peace of mind when I know this will be spending a considerable amount of time in my backpack. For the other piece of lining, I just used some white felt.

In the end I think it was a good idea for only the front to be fleece because, with the added thickness paired with my measurement “skills”, the cozy would not have been big enough. As it is, it’s a tight fit, and I’m hoping that, over time, things will stretch a bit so that I don’t have to fight with it as much as the first couple of times. It’s manageable right now, and at least I know my Nook won’t accidentally be falling or slipping out of its new home.

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.

The Return of Baking!!

I’m happy now. My kitchen is fully functional, my room is finally organized for the most part, and I’m spending today inside because it’s perfect rainy weather for that kind of thing.

In celebration of finally having salt and other basic baking ingredients, I made scones this morning. I’m so glad to have a kitchen again and to be able to create things. May I present, SCONE MOUNTAIN!