Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cookies!

So for Christmas, Pat and Courtney got us a Silpat. Pat said that it would change my life. Well, I know what a Silpat is supposed to do and it sounded to me like the same thing that my Pampered Chef Stoneware Bar Pan was supposed to do. Non-stick, even baking, best cookies ever. So I put them up head to head on Sunday morning and made two batches of cookies. The first batch was White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies (recipe found here) and the second batch was White Chip Chocolate Cookies found on the back of the Toll House bag of white chocolate chips (and here).
Now I was going to post pictures of the top and bottom of each batch Silpat vs. Bar Pan, but honestly they came out almost exactly the same. The bar pan *did* cook a little more evenly, the bottom was done *exactly* the same amount as the top (one of the things that PC boasts is that food cooks at the same time all around) and the Silpat had the bottoms a tiny bit more done than the tops. Both Chris and I preferred the Silpat doneness, the little crisp on the edges was really nice but the middles were still soft and gooey.

Silpat top:
Silpat bottom:

Ok now I just feel bad and have to post the PC cookies too. Sorry about the bad lighting on the next one but it just wasn't working for me.

PC top:
PC bottom:On to the chocolate cookies!

Silpat top:
Silpat bottom:

PC top:
PC bottom:
So now you can see that they are pretty much the same. That said, I am in LOVE with the Silpat. It doesn't say on the PC website but the Bar Pan must weigh like 6lbs. I'm constantly worried about dropping it and honestly, its a little to hard on my wrist to carry it one handed, which makes it really hard to hold the pan and shut the oven. The Silpat weighs... I dunno... 4oz? maybe? Bar Pan: hard to store. Silpat: currently rolled up inside of a paper towel tube on the shelf. (Thanks btw to whoever blogged that a few weeks ago, I can't remember who but its a great tip) Both products are non-stick (I've cooked bacon a few times in my Bar Pan so its got a nice coat on it) but the Silpat seemed to be better at it. The PC cookies got a little squished from the spatula when I was moving them to the cooling rack. The Silpat cookies were perfectly round.

The winner? Silpat, hands down. I am so happy with it. If you make cookies, even once a year, you should get one (or two!) of these. It is totally worth it. I'm thinking about getting another one.

As a side note, if you like White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies, make that recipe! They were seriously some of the best Chris and I have ever had. And that is a favorite cookie for both of us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Were Christmas'd SO HARD!

That's what our friend Pat told us the other day. He sent Chris a message that said 'I Christmas'd you SO HARD!' And it's true, we were. Now I'm not trying to brag or anything, and try not to get too jealous now, but here's what my Mom got us for Christmas:
Uh yeah... I've wanted one of those since I was like 12. It's so beautiful, even covered in flour like it is in the pic :P I've already made another loaf of Challah Bread and two cakes.

The first cake was for our friend Vina's birthday. It was a red velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and homemade cannoli cream in the middle. Yes, I did say homemade cannoli cream. One of our friends gave us the recipe a while ago and I forgot (I know! How could I?!) that we had it. Let me just say, YUM!

The second cake was for our Potluck at work. It was a Chocolate Guinness Cake with Chocolate Ganache and yep, you guessed it, cannoli cream. (It made two pounds! I couldn't waste it!) I can't tell you how well the cannoli went with this cake. Oh. My. God. It was perfectly balanced between sweet and spicy (there's cinnamon in the cannoli cream). I put the absolute thinnest layer of ganache that I could to avoid making it too rich. I'm talking less than 1/8" thick.
I dusted cocoa powder on the top for some decoration but by the time I got to work it had seeped into the ganache. I think it may have made it better.
Ok that's not the most appetizing picture ever but that's because the leftover cake has been in the fridge since Monday and I forgot to take a slice picture until tonight (Thursday). I don't care, it's still delicious (of course, I had to eat the slice :P)


Back to being Christmas'd so hard:

These are gifts that some of our friends got us. Pat and Courtney got us the Silpat and the 8" chef's knife. Tom got Chris the CIA cookbook and me The Cake Book. Wow. Just wow. Awesome gifts. We are so excited to use all of them.

Now, not all of our awesome gifts were of the cooking nature....

If you read my other blog We Cook Together, you may already know that we are HUGE Giants fans. Anthony got us these awesome jerseys! Brandon Jacobs (27) for Chris and Eli Manning (10) for me. We already wore them on Sunday :)

I can't wait to use everything!!! And of course we are going to have to whip up some yummy goodies for everyone :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Handmade Challah Bread


We were having my uncle and his girlfriend over for dinner last night and I decided to make some homemade Challah. I got this recipe from the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. I don't have a stand mixer so I made this by hand. 15 minutes of kneading dough is very good therapy!


After its first proof (2 hours) you form the loaf and then let it proof for another 45 minutes. I don't know if you can really tell but the loaf in the above picture is much smaller than the one below (after proof).

It only bakes for 30 minutes and comes out so beautiful!


I have to say that this has been my proudest moment baking. I made a delicious loaf of bread, by hand, for the first time. I really just want to run back to the kitchen and make more!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pumpkin Ginger Crème Carmel



Chris and I were going to have dinner at my uncle and his girlfriend's house a few weeks ago and I said that I would bring dessert. I decided that I wanted to have something autumnal. So I went searching through my many, varied cookbooks. A while ago I had subscription to Food & Wine and they randomly sent me a cookbook. I took a look at it and tossed it aside because I thought that Food & Wine's Best of the Best was going to be the best recipes from Food & Wine from that year and I already had all the recipes in the magazines taking up space on my shelf. Well, I pulled it down to see if I could find anything in there since I haven't looked in it and most of my Food & Wines got tossed when we moved. It turns out that it is the 100 best recipes from the top 27 cookbooks published in the year 2000. Wow. It's awesome.


So I found a recipe for Pumpkin Ginger Crème Carmel that is from the cookbook The Olives Dessert Table. It called for eight 5-ounce ramekins but I only have 8-ounce ramekins so I made 6. I think I should have left them in a little longer because they were a little soft.


I decided to decorate them with Pepperidge Farm Gingermen.


This one had a broken leg. I ate him so he wouldn't feel bad about it.


Looked mushy but tasted yummy.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Saturday seemed to be the first day of fall that I could really enjoy. I opened up the windows and let the cool air in. I sat in the recliner and had a cup of hot tea. I was just thinking of the season, the leaves, the crisp air. It got me started on all things fall.

My favorite fall icon is the pumpkin. I love everything about it. It's shape, the warm orange color, the flavor, the smell. I especially love pumpkin when used in baked goods. So as soon as I realized that I had some pumpkin purée in the pantry, I went in search of a recipe. Now this took quite some time. I own a pumpkin cookbook. There are many websites dedicated to pumpkins. Many people seem to think they have the best recipe for pumpkin x. I settled finally on this recipe (second one down on the page) from the Pumpkin Patch website.

This recipe had promise. The ingredient list looked great and contained things that were already in my kitchen. It was easy to make. It smelled wonderful baking. It tasted....meh. There was definitely too much nutmeg going on here. I would cut it down to a scant teaspoon instead of the tablespoon requested. It was so over powering. There is no pumpkin, no chocolate, no pecans... just nutmeg. Its a beautiful bread. Golden. Moist. Just too much nutmeg.

Changes I made to the recipe:
1) I used pecans instead of walnuts
2) I used apple cider instead of water
3) I didn't have enough veg. oil so I used 3/4 c oil and 1/4 c melted butter.
4) I probably used a little more than 1c of choco chips because I wanted to finish off the last bit I had. I used a mix of Hershey's Special Dark chips and Ghirardelli Bittersweet chips.
5) I do not own three loaf pans. I have one. So I used one loaf pan and one Bundt pan. Came out great. I did lower the oven temp because my pans are dark. (325° for the first 45 min then to 300° for the last 15 min)

I will definately be making this again, but with the change to the nutmeg. I was thinking of using pumpkin pie spice mix instead of the nutmeg and cinnamon. I'll have to play with it a little to see how it comes out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chocolate Guinness Cake II


On Friday, we had our friend, Anthony, over for dinner. To make dinner even better, I decided to make Chocolate Guinness Cake with "Bailey's" Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. Anthony's brother, Mike, joined us for dessert after he got out of work. It was fantastic and so delicious. So much so, that we brought the rest to The Guy's house the next day for fear of eating the whole thing by ourselves!

There's nothing quite like three guys telling you how awesome you are through mouthfuls of chocolate cake :P

Things I did differently this time around were:

1) I used Guinness Stout instead of Draught (the first time the store didn't have Stout). I liked it both ways but this way was creamier and richer as opposed to the breadiness of the first Chocolate Guinness Cake.

2) The addition of the Bailey's Buttercream. It was so good. Not too sweet and the flavors went together perfectly. This buttercream is very thin and will need to be put in the fridge if you are going to use it on the outside of the cake.

3) Chocolate Ganache on the outside. This is not the same Ganache recipe I used for the first attempt. This one is much better, smoother and tastier. I decided to pour the Ganache and let it run down the sides however it wanted as opposed to trying to cover the whole cake. I did this because I didn't want the richness of the Ganache to overwhelm the cake. It worked exactly as I wanted.

**Edit on 8.30.08 to answer Danny's comment**

Danny said: "wow! what's the difference in taste between this one and the red velvet cake from my birthday?"on August 28, 2008 at 2:40 PM

This cake is different from the red velvet cake in that it is much moister and has a definite chocolate flavor. The red velvet is smooth when you eat it but it doesn't quite melt in your mouth the way this one does and it has a very nice flavor but it is hard to discern exactly what that flavor is other than to say it taste like red velvet cake, it's not vanilla, it's not chocolate, it's ???. I really am not a chocolate cake person. I think it is usually okay at best. Bare that in mind when I tell you that this is my favorite cake. It's not too rich, it's not overbearing, the texture is amazing, you are not sick of it by the end of the slice like most chocolate cakes. In terms of how hard they are to make, I would say the red velvet is harder, but not by much.

**end edit**

Here's how it came together:

Guinness and Butter in a pot on the stove:


Lining the pans with parchment paper (notice that I saved the butter wrappers to butter the pans with):


When the beer starts to boil you add the chocolate (mmmm):


Whisk until smooth!


All of the dry ingredients combined and mixed in a bowl:

Beat the eggs with the sour cream:


Until foamy:


Mix it all together and you get yummy cake batter:


Enough to fill 3 9 inch round pans very nicely:

Next is the buttercream:

Remember to scrape down the bowl!


I don't buy Bailey's Irish Cream, I buy Emmet's because its just as good and cheaper:


The buttercream was a little soft, I think because of the temperature in the kitchen:


I didn't really care because it was going in the cake, not on top:


Delicious with a glass of milk!


The buttercream started oozing out after I cut the cake:

Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe found on epicurious.com
Bailey's Buttercream recipe found on The Cupcakery Blog
Ganache recipe from Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lemon Poppy Bread

This recipe is by Emeril Lagasse. I found it here on foodnetwork.com. It was very easy, I had most of the ingredients in the house and even though it is technically a muffin recipe it worked very nicely as a quick bread with a little extra time in the oven. The only ingredients you may not keep regularly in your pantry would be the buttermilk, which I had due to another recipe use, and the poppy seeds, which I found very easily in the spice aisle of Waldbaum's (our local supermarket).

I made this in my stoneware loaf pan. It came out perfect. Moist, golden, not too heavy. Chris loved it. I hated it. I don't know if it was the buttermilk or too much lemon or what but there was a very sour-ish taste that I just did not enjoy. It wasn't tart, it was sour. (my buttermilk is fine, it's only a few days old, smells good) I really wanted to like it, I generally love lemon poppy bread/muffins, but this one I just did not like one bit. I think next time I will try to substitute the buttermilk or try a different recipe entirely. I chose this one because it did not involve plain yogurt, of which I have none. If you like the flavor of buttermilk, by all means, make this recipe. It really came out looking and smelling wonderful.

Anyway, back to the kitchen.....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cupcakes? No, Cupcake Cake!


We went over our neighbors' house for a little barbecue and I decided to make Gâteau À L'Orange (orange spongecake) Cupcakes with Crème Pâtissière (custard filling) and Crème Au Beurre (butter cream) flavored with Eau De Rose (rosewater). If the French didn't tip you off, I got all the recipes from Julia Child's book 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' (40th Anniversary Edition).

On a side note: if you do not have this book, you should buy it. It's excellent. There are tips and directions for everything from buying the right produce to how to use a knife effectively to how to perform seemingly hard culinary feats with ease (such as Soufflé and Roux). It is a teaching book, meaning sometimes it sounds like a textbook, but the directions are so explicit that you can't help but cook a delicious meal.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog...

So Julia's spongecake is supposed to be just that, cake. I decided to try it as cupcakes. Everything went very well, except that I left them in the oven too long, waiting for the tops to be golden brown while the bottoms burned. I thought 'oh no. what do I do? make a new batch? not bring cupcakes?!' Then I was hit with a very clever plan. I would make a cupcake cake!


Since only the very bottoms were burned I was able, with the help of Chris and Danny, to slice off the burnt part and have left the very delicious and nicely cooked tops of the cupcakes. I inverted 9 of them and placed them in a pyrex square dish, spooned over my custard, topped with right-side-up cupcake tops and then iced each cupcake with the Rosewater Butter Cream.


The verdict?

Cake? delicious!
Custard? delicious!
Buttercream? tastes like soap! ew.

It may not have come out very beautiful, but it sure was yummy (once you scraped off that icky pink stuff, what was I thinking with that color?).

So, they weren't the beautiful masterpieces that I envisioned when I started.... so what? This is the lesson of 'you can't always be perfect and sometimes that's ok'.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes



This weekend we were invited to our friends' house for a cookout in honor of her Mom visiting. I decided to make something new that I had never made before. I have been playing around with what flavors I wanted to try out and how I would decorate them. The inspiration for these came from the classic orange/vanilla creamsicle. Another big part of the deciding factors for these cuppies were the fact that I have not gotten to play with my new flower cutter or veiner at all since they arrived about three weeks ago in the mail from A & H Cake Design (and a special thanks to Louise from CakeJournal for telling us which cutters/veiners she uses!).


Anyway they turned out fabulous! The cake was light and fluffy with just enough orange flavor. I just used a regular lemon chiffon recipe and substituted orange for anything lemon and low acid orange juice for the water. The icing (adapted from this recipe on epicurious.com) was delicious and not too sweet (I used less butter and less sugar and more vanilla than recommended).

They were perfect for our first cookout of the season and I cannot wait to try some more of my ideas for flavors!

Anyway, back to the kitchen!