Hello blog, I’m Emerald Thunder! It’s nice to meet you.

Wow, now didn’t I fall of the face of the earth? It’s been SO long. It’s now the END of March, spring break has been over for a long time, the CT promo trips are over, and I’m gearing up for the end of the semester and all of my final papers. I’ve also made a few yummy things and just haven’t gotten around to/had time to blog about them.

Another thing, my baking bonanzas are failing miserably. I’ve only blogged about ONE of them so far. . . . Yeah. . . . I’ve done the pomegranate white chocolate chip cookies, the Oreo Cupcakes, and the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, but their photos are still waiting impatiently on my memory card. I really need to post them. Soon.

Here’s what else I’ve been up to in the past month:

MACARONI AND CHEESE!!!

It was so super cheesy before I baked it. I think I kept it in the oven a bit too long, and so it dried out. I added some extra milk to my bowl and it turned out okay. I made this again last week and decided against baking it (also because I was just so hungry, haha). Much better that way. Maybe next time I’ll put it in the oven for like 5 minutes. I don’t need a crispy crust on it, so 5 minutes should be sufficient.

This is what happens when you’re making mac and cheese and not paying attention to which way you’re flailing your arms.

Burnt to a black crisp pasta has such a wonderful and fragrant smell. From now on, the box will ALWAYS be closed unless I am pouring the pasta into the pot of water. But it’s okay, this story had a happy ending.

BROWNIES!!!

I absolutely love the Best Cocoa Brownies recipe on Une Gamine dans la Cuisine. It’s been my go-to recipes for a few months now, granted with a few alterations in the form of an extra egg and a bunch of chocolate chips melted into the batter. This time, however, I forgot to add the chips to the batter, and so I just sprinkled some on top. I think I might just stick with doing that, as they were still super amazing without the added chocolate.

And some yogurt-covered pretzels that worked okay, but I don’t think I’ll try to make them again. This version didn’t even come CLOSE to the terrible-for-you store-bought ones. I wanted that, but I failed in creating it. Oh well.

And a sneak peek for the Irish Car Bomb Cupcake Bonanza

I didn’t make all of the batter into cupcakes (there was SO MUCH BATTER), so I poured the leftover into a 9×13 pan and baked it into a cake. Then I topped it with green buttercream for St. Patrick’s Day.

I planned on using my shamrock cookie cutter on this cake, but it just didn’t work out well. The cookie cutter was just too small and the cake was just too thick. So I cut it into small squares instead.

And finally, POPCORN.

I admit, I had no part in making the popcorn besides watching and laughing at my jumpy friend’s expense.

 

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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.

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 Triumphant Return of Miss Homemade!

When I’m bored or stressed, I bake. It’s not just that I decide “Hey, I’m not doing anything and that sure looks like a good recipe.” No, it’s more like “OMG, I’m SO BORED/STRESSED! MUST! BAKE! YUMMY! TREATS!” I get something in my head to bake, and I can’t get rid of the need until I make it. Like during this winter break, I’ve been doing absolutely nothing, and so I want nothing more than to be able to make something, even though I already made SO much stuff last week and nothing else is needed because I’m still not off that sugar high. But the nagging feeling persists and I can’t get rid of it until I make something. For instance, last night I wanted to make pudding/mousse, but I had no heavy cream or butter, so I couldn’t. I was devastated. Well, maybe not devastated, but I was super annoyed and rather sad. So today that feeling persisted, and while I was reading one of the many baking blogs I frequent, I came upon something so simple that my parents couldn’t possibly refuse it. It was just enough like baking that it would suffice and satisfy my craving for *something*. I thought I had all the ingredients already, so I didn’t check before I started, but it turns out I didn’t. I didn’t have the most crucial thing at the most crucial time, and I thought all was lost.

This simplest of simple things I wanted to make was the No Bake Cheesecake recipe I found on Grace’s Sweet Life. I thought it couldn’t get any simpler, because I wouldn’t have to deal with baking and letting the cheesecake sit and hope it wouldn’t crack and disappoint me. I halved the recipe because I only had one package of cream cheese, and I’m glad I did because we wouldn’t have been able to finish them all if I made twelve cupcake-size ones or a whole cheesecake, so I made six cupcake-size ones, and they’re just the perfect little portions and so will be gone tomorrow.

When I got to the part that says to add the Cool Whip to the cream cheese and powdered sugar mixture, I thought all was going to be fine and dandy because I thought my father didn’t take the Cool Whip with him to my aunt’s New Year’s Eve party the night before, because who puts Cool Whip on pecan pie (which I made yesterday with a crust from scratch, but I forgot to take pictures)? But NO, he DID take it, and so I was Cool Whip-less. I somehow got my mother to go to the store for me and get it, but don’t ask me how the heck that happened, because I’m not even too sure why she agreed when I figured this would be something she wouldn’t eat, because of the Cool Whip contents. I’m not going to question it though, because she went, and I was able to finish my cheesecakes. I did have to add some cocoa powder to her’s though, because she doesn’t like plain cheesecake. I must say though, the cocoa powder addition made it pretty tasty, and slightly less tart (yes, I ate the remainder out of the little bowl I mixed her’s in).

I also made a little chocolate sauce to spoon on top of the cheesecakes, and I even stirred some into a little bit of the remaining Cool Whip for a chocolate-y addition. Yum. I just wish I had my sifter here so that I could have strained the cocoa powder and chocolate chip chunks out of the sauce so that it would have been velvety smooth.

Waiting for these minis to set in the fridge was very painful. All the while when I was playing Wii Bowling with my parents I just wanted to dive in and eat one. But the wait was well worth it. Tada!

Yeah, yeah, I know I still need to work on my presentation. Oh well. At least it looked and tasted yummy.

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.