Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I've been Memed!!

Sweet Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Piece of Cake was kind enough to Meme me, and I can't tell you how excited I am. I've been curious at to how people get memed and no longer have to wonder. (These are the rules: 1. Link to your tagger and post these rules. 2. Share 5 facts about yourself 3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them). 4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.)

So I now have to list 5 facts about me, and then pass my meme tag along :)

Fun Fact #1: When I was a sophomore in high school I broke my arm in cheerleading, and now permanently have two plates and thirteen screws...and no I do not set of the metal detectors :)

Fun Fact #2: I desperately want to be Giada de Laurentiis when I grow up.

Fun Fact #3: I am addicted to reality tv, and have everything from Survivor to Apprentice to The Hills (just to name a few) set up on my Tivo so that I NEVER, NEVER miss an episode!

Fun Fact #4: I am currently applying for my Master's in Education, starting in the fall...which hopefully doesn't affect my blogging!

Fun Fact #5: Do not ever leave an unattended dessert around me! I'll eat it :)

And now that you know a little about me, lets find out a little about
-Baking Soda at Bake My Day
-Jenny at Jenny Bakes
-Helen of Tartelette
-Brooke of Cookie Jar
-Jennifer and Oliver at Chocolate Shavings

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Will Make You Pucker!

I must admit when I saw this month's Daring Bakers Challenge I was a little relieved! Lemon Meringue Pie...totally doable! I've made crust before, even some form of pie custard and I've definitely made meringue, so I figured I had this challenge in the bag! And what a better way to start the New Year than with a light, refreshing, make ya crave for warmer weather pie!

So one cold January day, hours before the Packers were set to play the Giants, in what was to be one of the most upsetting days of my life (sorry Packers:0( ) I set out to complete my DB Challenge. As I went to print out the recipe I was curious to see other DB's experiences and after reading some of the posts I was a little nervous. Many DB's were having trouble with the custard and meringue being too runny and ruining their crust. But I calmy read and re-read the instructions and just decided "To heck with it...if it's runny then oh well".

I got together all of my crust ingredients, which came together easily in my food processor, which made me very excited. I eagerly placed my crust into it's new glass pie plate home, and tried to give it a little decorative edge...which totally didn't work. Carefully poured my pie weights in, to reveal a "clink,clink,clink" sound that got my heart beating in excitement, and sent the shell off the the oven. When The shell came out I couldn't help but to snag an edge of the crust, which was soo good I was totally ready to get eat the crust by itself. It was so light and flakey and really reminded me of a sugar cookie...I know right! What could be better than a sugar cookie crust!

With the crust set off to the side to cool I got to work on the custard. I was sure to watch the boiling points of my custard, not want to over cook it and completely ruin my pie. So at the sign of the first bubbles (thanks to Tartelette's advice) I turned off my flame. I was in shock at how thick the mixture was, but at how much yummy lemon zing it had from the fresh squeezed lemons! The baby chick yellow of the custard had me mesmerized for a few moments day dreaming of the warm weather that is soon to come. Whoa snap out of it Steph!

My creamy custard was poured into it's golden brown pie shell and left to cool for a few hours. Those few hours gave me time to watch my Patriots go on to be champions and left me contemplating the fate of the upcoming Packers game. With my family glued to the T.V. in suspense of Brett Favre's future I was beginning to hear comments about my pie. "Maybe if we had some pie to distract us from the game this wouldn't be so bad!" And that was my hint that it was time to make the meringue. My family is not very patient when it comes to dessert, as you can tell.

The clear egg whites sat in the silver Kitcheaid bowl ready to be whipped into stiff peaks, and so they were. Within minutes I had transformed clear mookey liquid into a thick, white peaky pillow. Not waisting a second I plopped my meringue on top of my pie, using my spatula to create some outrageously pointy peaks, gave my pie a good luck blessing and shoved her in the oven.

"Beep, Beep...Beep, Beep" the oven was calling my name! With one last prayer I opened the oven door and literally jumped for joy.Sitting in front of my was the most gorgeous Lemon Meringue Pie I had ever seen. The peaks were a mocha brown but the base of the meringue had kept it's winter white color. With the family pressing my for their pie I cut into the billowing mountain tops with out much time for it to rest.

As the knife slowly pulled out the very first slice, I held my breath. And to my amazement I just cut a perfect piece of pie. The entire slice came out perfectly, as if I had been making Lemon Meringue Pie from the moment I was born! Words cannot describe to you the sense of accomplishment that I had felt. Not to mention that the taste of this pie was one of the best I've had. Even my boyfriend, who hates Lemon Meringue couldn't help but eat the entire slice that had been handed to him.

Daring Baker's Lemon Meringue Pie Challenge: A Success!!!

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Mmm...doughnuts" ~Homer Simpson

When I saw that Peabody from Culinary Concoctions and Helen of Tartelette had decided to throw a "Time to Make the Doughnuts" blogging event I had no choice but to participate. I had never made homemade doughnuts before, and have actually been craving a good doughnut for quite some time, so I figured what better time than now! So off I went in search of an easy...non yeast...doughnut recipe (I'm still terrified to work with yeast!) After looking for a few days I came across an interesting recipe on Epicurious' website.

The doughnut was called Maple-Glazed Sour Cream Doughnut with Sugared Walnut Streusel, it was love at first read! There was no yeast at all, the recipe sounded very simple and the flavor combination left my lips smacking in anticipation. So that was it my recipe hunt had ended!

With the sun barely peeking over the mountains and gloomy snow clouds covering the wintry morning sky, it was time to fry up some doughnuts. Right away my kitchen was letting off the aroma of breakfast, and I had only made the dough for my fried little treats. It was the orange zest in the dough that awakened my family's nose giving them their morning hunger pains.

My dough was ready in about 5 minutes, but need to rest for an hour. So while the dough was nestled in the corner staying warm, I got to work on the streusel which was also very, very easy! The recipe calls for walnuts, but I had pecans, so that's what i used. And who doesn't love cinnamon sugared pecans in the morning? By baking them in the oven the streusel gets a really nice crunch to it, which also brings out the flavor of the pecans. I had to force myself to quit eating the topping, it was so good!

Finally the hour had passed and I cranked the blue flame under the Le Crueset to "High"...time to rock and roll! With my doughnuts cut into typical doughnut shaped I carefully lowered batches of orange specked doughnuts into the hot oil. For a second there I could've sworn the oil was saying "Snap, Crackle, Pop", cementing the idea of fresh doughnuts for breakfast into my head.

When the puffed doughnuts had their summer glow it was time to retrieve them from their boiling hot swimming pool...which I had become quite envious of. Here I was standing in warm pajamas trying to keep my feet from freezing on the cold as ice tile, while my doughnuts were basking away in the heat, turning their skin from eggshell white to summer golden brown...bastards. Little did they know I would get my revenge!

Out of the hot oil the doughnuts dried off on some paper towels. I got a paper bag and dumped some cinnamon and sugar in it and quickly tossed the hot doughnuts holes into the bag. Shake, shake, shake, shake...and out they came covered in white crystals, smelling heavenly. The doughnuts were dunked into the maple glaze (twice, just to make sure they were good and coated) and then covered in the crunchy streusel.

With the doughnut process complete it was time to taste my creations, and let me just say "You can't eat just one". These doughnuts were so good! They had the texture of cake doughnuts and the glaze gave the doughnuts just enough flavor without being overwhelming, but it was the struesel that really brought home the flavor. My family was so happy to wake up on a Sunday morning and have outrageously good, but not too sweet homemade, hot, crisp doughnuts. And to make sure everybody had something they could eat I left a few doughnuts just plain, and a few with just the maple can get a little picky as to what toppings are on her doughunts :)

Thanks Peabody and Helen for a great blogging event!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

By George I Think I've Got It!

I think I'm starting to get the hang of cake decorating! At first, what seemed like a daunting task, how now become some sort of happy chaos in my life! When a close friend (Michelle) called and said that it was her daughter's birthday and she'd like me to make Niki a cake I have to admit I was a little nervous.

The theme of Niki's birthday party was "Death of a Teen Idol", which was this huge murder mystery plot. Each girl that was coming to the party was e-mailed her "character" a week in advance, and she was to come dressed and in character to the party. The party, which was an entire day's event would have a horrendous murder, where one of the party attendants was the killer, and the whole idea of the party was to find out who the killer was.

Seeing as how the party was based around a murder, Michelle wanted a graveyard cake. So at first my mind was reeling with ideas. I'd have a spooky tree and crows and tombstones, maybe even a skeleton...Whoa, whoa, whoa...I suddenly realized that my cake was starting to sound more like a Halloween cake than a birthday cake. So back to the drawing board I went.

I started with a "Death by Chocolate" cake, which was probably one of the best chocolate cakes I've made! When I was shaping the cake I couldn't resist and had a bite of the "throw away" pieces, and I almost died! Pure chocolate bliss. I then covered the cake in chocolate frosting...of course! Now to the decorating. I knew I wanted tombstones but I didn't want the cake to look gothic, which is where the green grass (which is actually food colored coconut) came in. My tombstones are made out of Milano cookies, the pebbles are chocolate covered raisins and the tress...well they're fake. I said I think I got it, not that I was a cake decorating pro. With my planning I realized that writing Happy Birthday across coconut was going to be a little challenging, so I decided to make a dirt path for my message, which is made out of crushed chocolate graham crackers.

Overall I think this cake came out pretty good! Michelle flipped when she saw it, which is something I wasn't expecting. I still looks a little amateurish, but hey practice makes perfect, so I guess I'll stick to practicing :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Movin', Movin', Movin'

Well the time has come...My once little bright yellow fuzzy wings have transformed into elegant white wind soarers! As I walk to the edge of my comfy, familiar nest I look back to my parents and feel a little remorse, I think about my childhood and all my family memories that were created in this warm, soothing, never-wanna-leave nest. But then I look out at the horizon and know that I am ready.
My once little chickadee body is ready to take flight, spread my wings and begin a new chapter of my life. All of my fluffy down has shed away, leaving a more mature, responsible version of my childish self.

And while I am still very scared to take the plunge, I know that my parents taught me well and I will have no problem sailing peacefully into the horizonal future. Yes, I am ready to fly the coop!!

I found a quaint little apartment right by the river, surrounded by trees and overlooking the beautiful Sandia Mountains. And while this chickadee has decided to move out from the house, she is not far from the warm-hearted parents! Which, is one piece of comfort for my know reeling mind.

After paying my damage deposit and filing out my application I had a huge sense of joy engulf my body...a place of my decorate, live and create lasting memories...I don't know if I've ever been so excited!

With moving also comes change though, and sadly enough my oven in the apartment will be nothing like the oven at my parents house. But after a few goes with the smaller, more antique oven I think I'll be back to producing some scrumptious sweets. So to hold me over until then I decided to make a few goodies while I still have the "spoiled girl" oven! My Mocha-Toffee Cheesecakes came out so sinfully delicious that I had to force myself not to eat another bite! But with that creamy mocha cheesecake oozing at you, how can you resist?

Adapted from Cooking Light
36 commercial prebaked miniature phyllo dough shells (I used a premade pie crust)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon hot water
1 teaspoon Kahlúa (coffee-flavored liqueur)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 tablespoons toffee bits (such as Skor)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 1 phyllo shell into each of 36 miniature muffin cups. (I used regular sized muffin pan)
Combine coffee granules, hot water, and Kahlúa in a small bowl. Place coffee mixture, sugar, and the next 5 ingredients (sugar through egg) in a food processor; process until smooth. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each shell; discard the remaining filling. Sprinkle cheesecakes evenly with toffee bits.
Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until set. Remove from pans, and cool on a wire rack.

The other goodie that I made was moist Double Chocolate Cupcakes. With no frosting on them, I was skeptical as to whether or not I would like them but the added chocolate chips to the batter really intensify and satisfy my chocolate tooth! And the came out so light and airy, not crumbly, which is always good!

Adapted from Cooking Light
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup egg substitute (I used two regular eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup 1% low-fat buttermilk
1 1/4 ounces dark (70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped (I used a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 3 minutes). Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in chocolate. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with muffin cup liners. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

When Life Knocks You Down, Have Pie!!

It's funny how each of us choose to deal with life's mishaps. For some people they journal, for others they open themselves up to friends, for me I turn to dessert. There's something about dessert that is so comforting to me. The aroma, the taste, the texture, the amazing combinations of flavor, all appeal to my sense and turn a horrible day into sweet sorrow :) Dessert will listen to all of my problems and never once judge me or correct me, dessert agrees that I am always right and offers me it's shoulder to lean on.

But it is that sense of comfort from dessert that I find so mind boggling! I mean even after writing the ways in which dessert offers me comfort and solace I still find it hard to believe that food has that kind of effect on people. The effect of becoming your best friend when dessert can't even talk. How is it that I trust dessert with so many of my secrets and feelings, but am too afraid to share them with people that I've known my whole life? Or when I feel all alone in this big world that dessert can turn it around, making me feel instead that I am on top of a little bitty world?

Maybe I will never know what it is about dessert that draws me in so close, and maybe I don't need to. If a slice of pie makes me happy, then by gosh I'm gonna have it! So here's to finding happiness in the New Year, however that maybe!

And to kick off my year of joy and happiness I turned to an amazing recipe from Epicurious for a Triple Berry Pie with Crumb Topping. Suddenly the holiday blues melted away and I was reminded of the warmth of the sun shining on my face in the midst of summer. My feet gently sweeping across the prickly spears of green grass, while relaxing with a nice glass of cool ice tea. I'm telling you, this pie took me to the wonderful days of summer that I am so longing for, and was allowed to escape to for a few blissful moments!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Friend in need!

It's 12:30 in the morning and my best friend is in hysterics! Her and her boyfriend (of 3 years) just broke up and she desperately needed someone to talk to. The second we hung up I knew that I needed to make my dear friend Annmarie a "Hate Your Boyfriend" dessert. I immediately started looking around for a recipe. I knew I wanted to make something chocolaty, because chocolate is definitely recommended in relieving the pain of a broken heart, but I didn't know what kind of chocolate item I wanted to make...until I saw it!

This glorious masterpiece came is thanks in part to Peabody and it's called "Chocolate Crunch Slice". This is the richest, most decadent "get over your boyfriend" piece of chocolate you will ever have! It's basically melted chocolate, cream, butter and Oreos! How easy is that? And since I wanted to show my compassion for my totally amazing friend I decided to put my chocolate slice in some Hesrhey Kisses molds that I've had lying around in my cupboard. These Kisses will totally knock your socks off! Peabody's recipe called for dark chocolate but I used milk chocolate, and they were still very, very rich, but oh so satisfying. (Eating these are great post break up or pre-period, but not recommended before a dentist appointment :0) ). And they're such a cinch to make, how could you not want to try them?

In giving this to my friend, I just wanted her to know how much I care about her and that she truly deserves the most scrumptious kisses everyday, so forget the dumbie that let her go and look forward to the real Mr. Right, because I know he's out there for her! So to all those girls out there looking for love, don't give up...have a kiss!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Oh my god!!

"Uum...Steph...look who it is! I think that's Bobby Flay" was the only thing my mom had to say while in Chelsea Market in NYC. And you know what...she was right!! I turned around and my mouth dropped, standing right there in front of me was Bobby Flay, a man who I watch almost on a daily basis on the Food Network. I felt like such a retard, because there I was just starting at him, as he slowly walked by me. My stare must have been recognizable, because he quickly caught on to my gawking and came over to say hi. I has no idea what to do at this point, and suddenly the only thing that came out of my mouth was, "I watch you everyday! Can I take a picture with you!!!" I know, pitiful. Typical celebrity awe that makes you say the dumbest things EVER! Not to mention that it had been snowing and raining that day, so my hair was all crapped out!!! But he kindly and luckily said yes to our photo moment! Just wish I could've talked him into letting me go up to the Food Network Kitchens with him.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Bloggers! It's hard to believe that we have headed into the year of 2008! It seems like just yesterday I was a young fifteen year old, begging my parents to let me go out with my friends to celebrate the new millennium, and now here I am, eight years later wondering where time went!

Oh, well no time to dwell on what was...because I've got a lot planned for this upcoming year. After searching through many different options of "what to be when i grow up", I think I have finally decided! My plan is to go back to school in the fall and get my Master's in Education and become a High School English teacher. Which I am so excited about!

But don't get scared! I of course will need sweet treats to get me through my time back at school, so I have also resolved to bake and blog more than I currently do. I am a frequent guest to Peabody's blog and am so jealous of here seemingly weekly posting of outrageous baked goods. So I have decided, with Peabody as my role model, to be more adventurous in my baking and blog more than twice a month :)

With that being said I wanted to share with you my special New Year's Eve treats. The first is a recipe that I found on, which uses a packaged chocolate chip cookie dough mix. These goodies are known as Luscious Layer Bars and will totally knock your socks off!

The chocolate chip cookies are the base to the butterscotch, chocolate, coconut, pecan, white chocolate topping. Similar to Seven Layer Bars, these bars are so moist and gooey, and full of sweet, sweet flavor! When I took these bad boys out of the oven I just couldn't resist, I got a spoon and dug out the corner, revealing a melty, oozy, warmly soft morsel, which I immediately devoured!

These second little gooey I made was a mini cheesecake which I found on the Pillsbury Website. (who has time, with drinking and staying up late, to actually make recipes from scratch!) These scrumptious cheesecakes are called Black Forest Cheesecake Desert Cups, which are so easy to make.

My favorite part of the recipe is that the base of the cheesecake is actually packaged brownie mix. I'm a huge brownie fan, so I was very very satisfied when I saw that on the recipe list. The brownie is then topped with a creamy chocolate cheesecake, and covered with cherry pie filling!
Need I say more?

All it takes is one bite of this cheesecake to turn your world upside down!! Happy New Year everybody and may 2008 be the best year yet!!

Holiday Hangover!

I feel awful for leaving the blogging world hanging, but with the holidays, and my trip to New York City I was left with no time for blogging, but I'm back and ready to blog, blog, blog!

I know we're well past Christmas, but I had to post this beautiful cake I made. It's an Eggnog Layer Cake that melted my heart! I'm usually not a big fan of eggnog, but I decided to give this recipe a whirl and thank goodness I did! I have never had a moister cake in my life, thanks to whole cup of eggnog that gets mixed into the batter :) The cake is also lightened by beating egg whites and gently folding them into the cake batter.

This was also one of my most successful attempts with a butter cream frosting, usually my butter kinda curdles up, but not this time. The frosting was so smooth and creamy that it brought tears to my eyes.

And with the cake being so light and not overbearing, I unfortunately ate way more cake than necessary, but I guess that was the holidays are all about! Sorry to post this so late in the holiday season, but if you're looking for a great cake, with a unique flavor this Eggnog Layer Cake from Holiday Baking is just the thing!