Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Beginner’s Guide to Cake Decorating

I’m good at baking, but bad at decorating, so it’s been pointed out to me before (by Steven) that my cupcakes and cakes tend to look like they were made by a child. WELL THIS CHILD JUST TOOK A CLASS IN CAKE DECORATING FOOL. Online, but still.

To test out my new skills, I decided to try out all my different piping tips on a batch of cupcakes:
20171017_162616

I also made a Halloween cake for my book club (this maaay have been back in October, whatever).

Much neater and flatter than I usually manage.

Much neater and flatter than I usually manage.

Inside it's Halloween funfetti

Inside it’s Halloween funfetti

Previously: Pole Dancing
Next: Soap Making

So Steven can make croissants now

Steven got this Craftsy course on croissant making on Black Friday. Making croissants is finicky and takes a long time, so of course Steven loves it.

Croissants take a lot of butter, yo

Croissants take a lot of butter, yo

Usually, Steven has trouble making doughs and I end up swooping in to save the day, but not this time:

The outfit must have helped

The outfit must have helped

The process involves a lot of folding your sheet of butter into your dough:

Yeah, that top square is all butter

Yeah, that top square is all butter

Of course you have to measure to get everything precise

Of course you have to measure to get everything precise

Rolling pin action!

Rolling pin action!

Finally, after much toil, they started to look like croissants:

Laaaaaaaadies

Laaaaaaaadies

Unfortunately, he had to leave them proofing to go to orchestra practice:

Hella professional proofing set up

Hella professional proofing set up

So it was left to me to actually get them in the oven:

Steven trusts me too much

Steven trusts me too much

Luckily, my part wasn’t that hard, and they turned out beautifully:

Perfection

Perfection

The insides are just the right flaky consistency:

We each did our part

We each did our part

Next time: Pain au Chocolat/I die of joy

The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge: French Macarons

After hearing that delicious French macarons are “the ultimate kitchen challenge,” you’d better believe I was ready to pick up that gauntlet and use it to punch baking in the face. My opponent was Steven, because everyone else I texted about it has lives. FOOLS.

Here’s a picture of what French macarons are supposed to look like:

If you do it right, and are fancy enough to have this many flavors

If you do it right, and are fancy enough to have this many flavors

They’re a delicious mixture of crispy outside, cakey inside, with different kinds of ganache/coulis/whatever fancy filling in between. They’re also, hands down, the hardest cookie to make. Even this youtube tutorial, which is a “foolproof” method trying to convince you that YES YOU CAN, admits that. And that one little mistake can make all your work for naught. These cookies are finicky as hell. The batter has to be mixed to just the right consistency–my recipe even specified the approximate number of spatula turns in an attempt to guide me that still didn’t work–and then it’s piped out onto a cookie sheet and baked at just the right temperature. After reading a few online tutorials, all of which began with something along the lines of “Okay, I’ve tried this five times, and here’s what I’ve got so far…” I started to think that maybe I had started trashtalking a little too early. Regardless, I powered through.

My macaron game face

My macaron game face

The first step (in my recipe at least) was to sift together the almond flour and the powdered sugar. I had a long argument with our food processor, but finally, after covering most of the kitchen in sugar, ended up with this:

So far so good, except for the mess

So far so good, except for the mess

Apparently it has to be as powdery and fine a consistency as possible, or else. Next step, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. I think this step was my eventual downfall:

Next time (lol) I will turn the mixer up higher

Next time (lol) I will turn the mixer up higher

My biggest mistake, looking back, was that my egg whites weren’t stiff enough. So when I reached the crucial step of combining the ingredients–but only just enough OH GOD IS IT OVERMIXED OR UNDERMIXED WHAT IS HAPPENING–the batter was too runny. So when I piped it out (or tried to–another battle with a kitchen apparatus ending in stalemate) I got blobby puddles:

Ehhhhh it's probably fine

Ehhhhh it’s probably fine

At this point, I was pretty sure all was lost, but I was going to put them in the oven anyway, because whatever. Though the recipe was supposed to be for 24 macarons (therefore 48 cookies), I ended up baking about 18 after said battle with pastry piper. Probably because they were thinner than called for, they ended up a little more golden than they should:

Crispy

Crispy

Plus, the tops of many of them had separated from the still-gooey bottoms, which were stuck to the parchment paper like glue:

Nice try

Nice try

Undaunted, I whipped up the lemon mascarpone filling:

So lemony

So lemony

And assembled what macarons I could from the cookies I could salvage:

The grand total

The grand total

Then I put them in the fridge since one of the tutorials I read said they needed 24 hours to mature. I was pretty sure I had lost, but wouldn’t know until Steven tried his recipe later.

He’d done way more research than me (I spent more time assembling my power playlist), and he started so strong. His egg whites were definitely whipped to perfect peaks.

His were chocolate, but he dyed them pink

His were chocolate, but he dyed them pink

His piped beautifully too:

I knew I was doomed

I knew I was doomed

And, though they’d changed color after coming out of the oven, they still looked great:

Ugh

Ugh

Some chocolate ganache filling and they seemed to be the perfect macarons:

I was pretty mad, not going to lie

I was pretty mad, not going to lie

BUT THEN, after maturing in the fridge, his were still hard as rocks and crunchy, not at all the consistency a true macaron should be. While mine were few in number and a little weird-looking and thin, at least they had the crunchy outside and soft insides that make macarons so delicious. Plus, mine were super lemony, his favorite flavor (not cheating–he could have picked any flavor too). So, with complete astonishment, we agreed that I was the true winner of THE ULTIMATE KITCHEN CHALLENGE!

clapping

Although we were both far from perfect. And while I’m content to never try that again (too much work for too little pay off), Steven is all set for more experimentation. As you probably could have guessed.

Lembas

My penpal sent me a recipe for lembas that she found on tumblr! I was pretty excited to see if one small could “fill the stomach of a grown man.”

Unfortunately I didn't have any giant leaves to wrap it in

Unfortunately I didn’t have any giant leaves to wrap it in

The process was pretty straightforward, except I needed more cream than the recipe called for. I also added more cinnamon, and it still is only lightly spiced, so if I do it again I may add even more. Like most shortbready type recipes, the only annoying part is mixing in the cold butter with a pastry cutter, but I’m a pro at that. Then you roll it out and cut it into squares:

Only a few ended up actually being perfect squares, but the ugly ones will taste better because they've got more to prove

Only a few ended up actually being perfect squares, but the ugly ones will taste better because they’ve got more to prove

And after 12 minutes of baking time:

Silicone baking mats ftw

Silicone baking mats ftw

These are pretty good, although definitely not as nutritious as their LOTR counterpart. They’re halfway between a scone and a cookie, with a crunchy outside and soft inside.

Next time, with more cinnamon!

Next time, with more cinnamon!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
2.5 cups flour
1 tbl baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (I added at least 2)
1/2 tsp hoeny
2/3 cup heavy cream (probably closer to 1 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions
Preheat oven to 425F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and mix well with pastry cutter. Then add the sugar and cinnamon. Add cream, honey, and vanilla, and stir until dough forms, adding more cream or flour for consistency.

Roll the dough out about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch squares and transfer to cookie sheet. Criss-cross each square from corner to corner with a knife lightly, not cutting through the dough.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until dough is set and light golden.

Cookbooks: Extra Credit

Last weekend I knew I wanted to knock the book of ice cream recipes that came with our ice cream maker off my cookbook list. Every time I use the ice cream maker we have, I’m shocked by how easy it is.

This thing was not pricey, but is completely amazing. I recommend it 100%

This thing was not pricey, but is completely amazing. I recommend it 100%

I decided to make the cream cheese ice cream… but it was almost TOO easy, you know? With this thing, you mix the ingredients together in a bowl or whatever, then chill them for a few hours. Then take the bowl of the ice cream maker out of the freezer (where it lives), hook it up, pour the stuff in, and let it go for like 20 minutes. Then you have soft serve! You can then freeze for longer if you don’t like soft serve for some freakish reason. Or if, like me, you decide to make red velvet ice cream sandwiches!

Ice cream goes in a cake pan to firm up so that I can cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter

Ice cream goes in a cake pan to firm up so that I can cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter

After making up the cookie dough and chilling it in the fridge overnight, I rolled it out and cut out cookies with the biscuit cutter:

I thought this step would be the hardest, but it was way easy compared to rolling out pie crust (which I am of course a pro at)

I thought this step would be the hardest, but it was way easy compared to rolling out pie crust (which I am, of course, a pro at)

Then you chill those guys on the baking sheets for awhile and stick them in the oven. They don’t take long.

Cookies!! Wait till they get to room temperature before putting them in the freezer too

Cookies!! Wait till they get to room temperature before putting them in the freezer too

After everything has been frozen to satisfaction, it’s assembly time!! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of this because I had to work fast so the ice cream didn’t melt. Using the same biscuit cutter, you just press out rounds of the ice cream sheet and smoosh them between two cookies. Then Steven was in charge of wrapping them in plastic wrap.

Now they are just waiting in our freezer!! Happy summer!

Now they are just waiting in our freezer!! Happy summer!

The cookbook project is now at 69% completion because I (well, Steven) got through The Ultimate Book of Cocktails the same day! He’s way better at mixology than me.

Planter's Punch: Steven version

Planter’s Punch: Steven version

According to the book, “This long, refreshing, old colonial drink originates from the sugar plantations that are dotted throughout the West Indian islands.”

1 measure/1.5 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 measure/1.5 tbsp orange juice
2 measures/3 tbsp dark rum (we always use KRAKEN, because that name. And it’s delicious)
0.5 measure/2 tsp grenadine (Steven uses the juice from a can of maraschino cherries. Because we’re classy)
dash of bitters
soda water of lemonade, chilled

Steven is more of a gin fan (to me, it tastes like Fresca that hates you) so for himself he made this:

Horse's Neck!

Horse’s Neck!

Apparently: “The name derives from the shape of the lemon rind that hangs in the glass.”

1 lemon
2 measures/3 tbsp gin
dry ginger ale

Cut the entire rind from a lemon, spiral-fashion. Dangle it from the rim of a tall glass so that it hangs down inside. (I think Steven skipped this step because it was too annoying even though it is the whole point lol)
Add cracked ice and the gin, and then top up with ginger ale. You can also add a dash of bitters if the mood takes you (see? this book is awesome).

"Let me take a picture of your process"

“Let me take a picture of your process”

November Apology

It’s time again for my annual November Apology for being bad at updating. I like to blame NaNoWriMo for this, but recent evidence suggests the problem goes further back. For instance, of the 14 years I’ve kept a journal, November is easily my least prolific month. May, the month during which I’ve written the most entries, has twice as many.

Of course I made a chart, do you even know me?

In fact, of the seven days on which I have never written a journal entry, 3 (or 43%) are in November:

Also a bunch of them are on the 6th for some reason.

So clearly this problem dates back to 1998, way before I ever heard of NaNoWriMo. Incidentally, since I know you’re curious, the date I’ve written the most journal entries (7) on, is a tie between February 6th and October 17th:

Anyway, this year is my 5th doing NaNoWriMo, so it’s a little less exciting. I write a lot, so I’m pretty good at churning out the required word limit every day. I decided to try to spice things up by writing a Pick Your Own Adventure novel, complete with so many grisly death scenes. This is more complicated and confusing, but actually makes it easier to write a lot of words. I’m already three days ahead.

The green bar is James

He was ahead of me, until the third day, and then never regained his lead. YOU CAN DO IT JAMES JUST GOTTA BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! In case you don’t remember why this is important:

Come on, James, if you can learn the Hoedown Throwdown, you can do this

Anyway, in the meantime, I managed to make a peach slump:

Peach and berry!

Slumps are kind of weird. I like that they don’t require an oven, and therefore seem like less work, but the way the biscuit topping is steamed in the pot on top of the fruit instead of baked gives it a weird consistency that Steven hated and I was just kind of meh about. Probably will not be slumping it again!

Also, this is the tree outside my window right now!!!

Fall!!! I love you!!!

So, yeah, I have stuff going on. Expect reports on how I am still MASTER OF MY OWN THANKSGIVING soon!

Pandowdy!!

This week at the library I got a book called Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. I was pretty excited to learn what the heck a “grunt” is! And also to make something besides pie. I mean, I still love pie, but you’ve got to branch out into pie-like things once in awhile.

If, like me, you were confused about the difference between a crisp and a cobbler, I’ve made a handy chart:

Next time I think I’m going to make a grunt or slump because it’s the only kind you cook on the stove!! But for today, the Pear Raspberry Pandowdy:

Delicious!!!!

A pandowdy doesn’t have a bottom crust, and the top part if more like a giant sweet biscuit than the pastry you’re used to in pies. I found it much easier to put together than a pie, probably because it doesn’t require any rolling pin action: you make the biscuit dough, and then press it out to the desired shape and size. I really like how it turned out when baked though! The top layer is crunchy and delicious, while underneath there are the soft, flaky layers of a biscuit. The only weird part was how watery the fruit filling became:

Oh, pears, you always thwart my cornstarch

But, whatever, it’s all going in your stomach anyways. Baking raspberries make the kitchen smell amazing, and the extra juiciness tastes all the better on some vanilla ice cream!! Pandowdy conclusion: I am definitely a fan!

Recipe: Read the rest of this entry »

Cookie dough oreo brownies: my baking one-upmanship finally goes too far

Yesterday was super cold, but who wants to turn on the heat when it’s just going to be 60 again tomorrow? Make up your mind, weather!

Anyway, I decided baking something would be the tastiest way to keep warm, so I decided to try to make this ridiculous thing. Like clothing and parfaits, it’s all about layering:

First a layer of cookie dough, the best foundation for any project

It’s pretty basic chocolate chip cookie dough, except I also added some butterscotch chips because that is how we Ladds roll. We see chocolate chips, we just add some butterscotch for chip diversity. And deliciousness. I have never once regretted it, and I suggest you open your heart and embrace a similar multi-chipism in your own life.

Layer 2 is made of Oreos, patted down a little for safety

Buying Oreos has gotten kind of complicated–there are all these different kinds now! Frosting flavors, different kinds of cookie, a cake kind… I just used regular.

Layer 3: brownie batter!

Like a sticky hug that just glops over the top! Then it goes in the oven (375 degrees) for 25 minutes and you get this magicness:

Hello!

It may actually prove lethal. Lethally delicious

This recipe was easy. The only annoying part was cleaning out my mixing bowl twice. But totally worth it because these cookie dough oreo brownies will cure whatever ails you! Except maybe diabetes.

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