31 March 2011 § Leave a comment
About a month ago…or on the 8th of March, so almost a month ago, i celebrated Mardi Gras. No one knew what it was, where I live. The celebration is generally a New Orleans’s tradition, so few others anticipate this day. I’ve never been to New Orleans, nor do I know anyone from there – I have no connection whatsoever to New Orleans and its lifestyle, but I love Mardi Gras. It’s my kind of holiday – another name for it is Fat Tuesday, where you literally eat regardless of all restrictions you had structured for a healthy diet.
I know the New Orleans people eat King Cake during this festival time – which is what I baked in the above picture. It is essentially a cinnamon roll, braided and decorated with yellow, green, and purple sprinkles over the icing. There are specific recipes for it, but I just decided to use a cinnamon roll recipe and braid it instead of proceeding to cut it into rolls. I just wanted to try a cinnamon roll recipe I had found but also make a King Cake. In each King Cake there is a tiny plastic baby for some reason – tradition is, whoever gets the baby in their slice of cake has to supply the next King Cake. As far as I understand, the King Cake is eaten at little parties every Friday during festival time. What the exact duration of the entire holiday is? I’ve no clue.
There seem to be a lot of drinking and and just simply gorging of food – carnivals through the streets, screaming people, excited children, happy drunks, women showing more skin than most non-New Orleanians are accustomed to in a city, and just the usual holiday festivities. I would love to travel to new Orleans sometime just to experience Mardi Gras.
Oh, and I love the masks that people wear! Like during Christmas, people wear Santa hats, during Mardi Gras they wear beautiful masks that revolve around the theme colors of gold, purple, and green and most have feathers attached to their mask as well. Beads. I promise – it’s bead necklace galore in New Orleans on this particular day – its crazy! Big beaded necklaces and ordinary ones – necklaces with little masks on them too.
I have never properly celebrated this day – just about twice I believe buts its become my third, maybe fourth, favorite holiday. The first being Christmas – second, Halloween – and third and fourth is between the Forth of July and Mardi Gras.
I am simply fascinated with this holiday.
8 January 2011 § Leave a comment
Muffins just look healthier than cupcakes, mostly because the cupcake is topped with frosting. Muffins are eaten most routinely in the mornings or as snacks throughout the day. Cupcakes are eaten after a meal, sometimes lunch, often times dinner. Although, of course, that doesn’t apply for me. I eat cupcakes for breakfast. I eat cupcakes as snacks. I squeeze in muffins whenever I can. I lead a hazardous lifestyle.
Not every day though. Not every day.
I’m actually quite dull.
Muffins may seem dull in comparison to cupcakes – but are they? Personal opinion. The most I know is that muffins and cupcakes are generally the same – in the sense that grandmothers from mom’s and dad’s sides are alike. They’re related.
Muffins are more dense which probably come from more flour or heavier flour while cupcakes are fluffier and made of cake flour or less flour. Or something. Theory: If the more dense something is, then it is worth more calories. One thing leads to another and so muffins are the fatties.
The thing is, don’t go into the new year with resolutions for a healthy diet and grab a muffin for a bite. Have a cupcake instead.
Only this post has to do with muffins because I realize that I’ve found a recipe for it. If I were to choose between a muffin and a cupcake, I’d choose the cupcake. I don’t often buy muffins in bakeries – especially at the French pastry shops where there are so many options other than the plain old muffins.
Unless that is, of course, they’re really good. Like these ones.
Chocolate Chip Muffins
Winter 2006 issue of Fine Cooking dedicated to Chocolate.
Note: I don’t recall finding the muffins sweet enough – or perhaps I just don’t remember correctly. I didn’t use the glaze, but I read that it was very sweet with it. Also, I omitted the nuts.
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (use unbleached if you have it)
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
For the glaze (optional):
3 cups icing sugar
6 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and place a rack in the centre of the oven. Lightly oil the top of a 12-cup muffin tin or spray with cooking spray. Line with muffin cups (it’s best to use grease-proof ones if you can find them).
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda salt, and sugar.
In a bowl, whisk together the butter, whole milk, sour cream, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently combine using a rubber spatula. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t overmix or your muffins will be too dense. Don’t worry if the batter seems lumpy or if there are still some flour streaks.
Add the chocolate chips and fold in quickly, again being careful not to overmix.
Distribute the batter among the muffin cups. Mound the better up in the centre of each cup. It will rise above the rim of the muffin cup by as much as an inch. (Yes, you read it right; these are big muffins. Don’t worry about them over spilling – they will grow as they are meant to.)
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The muffins will be golden and will spring back when pressed lightly. As an extra test, insert a toothpick into the centre of a muffin. If it comes out clean, the muffins are ready.
Remove the muffin tin to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. With a knife, separate the muffins evenly and then gently lift them out of the tins. Let them continue cooling on the rack.
Glaze if desired.
Yields 12 large muffins
10 December 2010 § Leave a comment
I stumbled across a website featuring cake pops …cute I thought, but I didn’t make any of them. Every so often I would visit the site again until one day, looking through the recipe index, I found cupcake bites. ADORABLE.
They are, simply, petite chocolate covered bite-sized cake. You can eat the entire thing without needing to peel off a cupcake wrapper, and they’re just so dainty looking.
Not only was it eye-pleasing but a fairly simple recipe as well. So, I figured I should give it a go. Even after that decision, it was a while before I was actually able to make any since I couldn’t find the right candy mold. I read that the Wilton peanut butter candy molds were too shallow and didn’t work out well. I finally made me purchase at Make ‘n Mold, after much time and tedious searching. I bought two, as with one, it would only take too long to finish making all the cupcake bites! Besides, they’re decently priced: http://www.makenmold.com/ItemDetail.aspx?cmd=local&item=5223
I’ve already made these twice, but I’ve only taken photos of the first trial. The only difference between the two is the colors and that I used a cake box mix the first time around (to get the gist of what it should look like and turn out to be like) and the second time, I used a red velvet from scratch recipe – and cream cheese frosting from scratch as well. For a cake recipe from scratch, just half it if it produces two 9-inched cake layers – you only need on for these, and trust me, it makes a lot. I always have cake left over even after I use up all my chocolate for the cupcake bites.
“So, if you’re a first-time cake baller/cupcake popper, you may want to start with a cake mix and ready-made frosting. (These proportions work right for me everytime.) Then, you can try with your favorite cake and frosting recipe once you see how the proportions and texture should come out. Here’s what you do:”
Easy Cupcake Bites
1 box cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (or candy melts for cupcake bottom)
Colored Candy Melts(for cupcake top)
Candy Cup Mold
Sprinkles and m&ms or anything else for decoration
- After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl. (The texture should be fine/fluffy)
- Using the back of a large spoon, mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
- Roll mixture into quarter size balls (make sure they are smaller in diameter than that of your candy mold) and lay on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
- Chill in the freezer for a few minutes, until they are slightly firm, not frozen.
- Melt chocolate bark and candy melts in microwave per directions on package.
- Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, fill each mold cavity with a small amount of chocolate. Sorry, I didn’t think to measure how much. But as soon as you fill the cavity, go ahead and place one of your rolled balls into it. Carefully push it down until the force causes the chocolate to push up and fill in around the sides of the ball. You may have to experiment with a couple to get the right amount. Stop pushing once the chocolate reaches the top edge.
- Place the mold tray filled with cupcakes in the freezer for just a few minutes to let the chocolate set. Remove and then gently pull up on the cake ball top to release from candy mold.
- Now, holding the bottom of the cupcake, dip the top in another color of melted chocolate.
27 August 2010 § 2 Comments
As a child I never liked bananas – they didn’t suit my tastes although I was an avid eater of many other fruits (though I have been told that banana is in fact an herb and not a fruit…my sources are not reliable and I’ve never dwelled upon it enough to research about it). A few years ago, or maybe even less, I found that I only was opposed to ripe bananas, the perfectly yellow, verging towards little brown spots within a day or two, ideal bananas for eating. I like them perhaps a few days before they reach that state, right after they lose the green phase in which they feel slightly starchy and rubbery in the aftertaste of eating a banana too un-ripened. They ought to be still firm and only slightly green on the edges for me to allow myself to eat them. Most would disagree with this manner in eating bananas but I suppose a lifetime of being forced to eat mushy ripened bananas as entirely ruptured my taste for bananas. Once they reach the state in which I no longer care to eat them, I leave them to brown as much as I dare. Then I bake.
Often times I find that the banana bread recipes I bake are lacking in a small unknown quality of which would make them taste like store-bought, professionally baked banana bread. Others were too dense or tasteless. In some I actually could taste that there was too much flour. Again I resorted to a recipe on the back of my flour bag although I was still skeptical. It makes for a banana bread that fulfills that missing bit in all my other banana breads. Although I was not blown away, I was glad I had finally produced a tasteful banana bread. With a few additions or adjustments, I’m sure it would be even more amazing. I would recommend this as a beginner’s recipe; it’s really not too shabby. Only thing is, I baked them quite a while ago and I can’t quite remember my first reactions to them.
Notes: I read that if you have extra bananas that didn’t fit into your recipe for any banana treat or if you don’t have enough bananas to bake, all you need to do is mash them up and store them individually in ziploc bags and freeze them until your decide to bake with them again or when you’ve finally acquired the appropriate amount of brown bananas to bake with.
Also, larger bananas are sweeter than smaller ones – or so I was told by my mom. And of course, as many already know, the browner and more ripened you allow your bananas to get, the sweeter and overall better your baked good will turn out to be.
To hasten the ripening process of bananas, place them in a paper brown bag with an apple or tomato and seal it closed. The ethylene gas emitted from the apple or tomato encourages the ripening of the bananas and the paper bag traps the gas inside. The bananas should ripen with the course of 24 hours. I suppose if you add more than one apple there would be more ethylene gas but I can’t say for sure. I don’t experiment apples and their ethylene gases.
To peel bananas without leaving behind the stringy bits, start at the end of the banana (where it was not once attached to the bunch) and give it a squeeze between your fingers (imagine a compass and the respective labels of north south and so on and pinch the end of the banana from north/south, then again from east/west … I couldn’t think of a better way to describe pinching the end of the banana) twice. Proceed to peel the banana from that same end. It’s also how monkeys peel them, if you ever wondered.
Banana Bread Recipe – courtesy of Gold Medal Flour
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium bananas)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped nuts, if desired
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottoms of 2 (8×4 inch) loaf pans or 1 (9×5 inch) loaf pan.
- In a large blow, mix sugar and butter. Add eggs, bananas, buttermilk and vanilla; beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and nuts until just moistened (don’t you dare overmix – this will only lead to a miserably lousy, dense brick of a banana bread). Pour batter into pans.*
- Bake 8 inch loaves for 1 hour or 9 inch loaf for 1 hour and 15 minutes, that is until the toothpick comes out clean after inserted into the center of the bread. Cool for 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool for about 1 hour before slicing.
*When I bake banana bread the edges often bake faster than the middle would, thus the edges would harden and burn by the time the center is entirely baked. To fix this, I allow for the bread to bake until the top is golden brown (but not at all ready to take out) and I cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to keep it from browning further while still in the oven baking. Don’t take the loaf out, just simply open the open the quickly bend the foil over the curved dome of the bread, making sure all the sides are covered. Don’t worry about sealing it down or smoothing it over tightly, it’s unnecessary.
Yields 2 loaves (16 slices each)
19 July 2010 § 1 Comment
My camera sucks, basically.
I love Wetzel Pretzels. The Sinful Cinnamon ones and the salted ones and even the unsalted ones. But I love mostly the Almond Crunch pretzels. SO good.
Though what I have is not a Wetzel Pretzel recipe, but an Auntie Annie’s one. I reckon I’ve tried an Auntie Annie’s pretzel once before, only don’t remember the actual taste. It could be because it wasn’t a great pretzel and the taste simply wasn’t memorable, or more likely, I just can’t recall it. I’m sure it ranks up there with Wetzel Prezels.
As I was in a rush and possibly even in a bad mood, I didn’t take as much care in baking these pretzels. I’ve made them several times before and I distinctly remember vey much enjoying them (several years ago), but now I wasn’t as tempted to eat the entire batch. Perhaps it was because they didn’t have the ideal Almond Crunch topping that I now prefer. Nevertheless, they tasted great and they would have tasted even better if I stretched the pretzels out to the proper length and mayhaps gave more atention to baking them.
Recipe from Top Secret Recipes:
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
by Todd Wilbur
The first Auntie Anne’s pretzel store opened in 1988 in the heart of pretzel country — a Pennsylvanian Amish farmers’ market. Over 500 stores later, Auntie Anne’s is one of the most requested secret clone recipes on the Internet. Many of the recipes passed around the Web require bread flour, and some use honey as a sweetener. But, by analyzing the Auntie Anne’s home pretzel-making kit in the secret underground laboratory we can determine a better solution for recreating the delicious mall treats than any other recipe out there. For the best quality dough, all-purpose flour is what you need. And powdered sugar can be used to perfectly sweeten the stuff. Take your pick from salted pretzels, or the cinnamon/sugar coated kind, and crank the oven up real hot.
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon yeast
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (I wonder if it would taste better if one used sweet butter instead of oil?)
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup baking soda
Cinnamon Topping –
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Salt Topping –
1/4 cup butter, melted
kosher or pretzel salt
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl or cup. Let it sit for a few minutes.
- Combine flour, powdered sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add water with yeast and vegetable oil. Stir with a spoon and then use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Dough will be nice and smooth when it’s ready. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and, and store it in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
- When dough has risen, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Make a bath for the pretzels by combining the baking soda with the warm water and stir until baking soda is mostly dissolved.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 8 even portions. Roll each portion on a flat non-floured surface until it is about 3 feet long. Pick up both ends of the dough and give it a little spin so the middle of the dough spins around once. Lay the dough down with the loop nearest to you. Fold the ends down toward you and pinch to attach them to the bottom of the loop. The twist should be in the middle.
- Holding the pinched ends, dip each pretzel into the bath solution. Put each pretzel on a paper towel for a moment to blot the excess liquid. Arrange the pretzels on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. If you want salt, sprinkle pretzels with kosher or pretzel salt. Don’t salt any pretzels you plan to coat with cinnamon/sugar. You will likely have to use two baking sheets, and be sure to bake them separately. Bake the pretzels for 4 minutes, then spin the pan halfway around and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the pretzels are golden brown.
- Remove the pretzels from the oven, and let them cool for a couple minutes. If you want to eat some now, brush them with melted butter first, if desired, before serving. If you want the cinnamon/sugar coating make it by combining the 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the unsalted pretzels you plan to coat with a generous amount of melted butter. Sprinkle a heavy coating of the cinnamon/sugar onto the entire surface of the pretzels over a plate. Munch out. (TopSecretRecipes.com)
Yields 8 Pretzels
I’ve stumbled across a almond crunch topping that I’ve not tried yet but it seems respectable, especially with the addition of honey. I’ll use it the next time I make pretzels, unless I find something better:
Almond Crunch Topping:
1/2 lb Butter
2 Tbsp Honey
1/2 c chopped almonds
While still hot, brush with melted butter and honey. Sprinkle with white and brown
sugar (approx. half and half mixture)and chopped almonds.
*But now that I look at it, I’d probably put the almonds through a food processor until the desired size, then pix them with the sugars and honey (and probably some butter for the taste and to make them slightly less sticky, and considering taste, I’d also add a pinch of salt) and roast them slightly in the oven. I assume the sugars are going to melt and form a solid form, which would harden, so I’d put it back in the processor once it’s cooled.
Well, maybe honey isn’t the best idea as it would make it more sticky than necessary. So, what I would do is simply combine the sugars, butter, salt, and ground almonds – then roast them in the oven until golden brown, or until it looks similar to what the almond topping ought to look like.
10 July 2010 § Leave a comment
What exactly is success when you aren’t entirely thrilled? Nothing but indifference. Finally, finally I baked a brownie. Sounds easy to most, no doubt, except for the fact that there’s an uncertain hiccup in my baking performance concerning brownies. At first I thought it was simply the fact that I could not bake with cocoa powder, I could fix that. Real chocolate tastes better anyway. True as that was, it didn’t deliverer. Perhaps it was the recipe? I can find a better one. Nope, strike two. You see the thing is, I was looking at the situation at a wrong angle. I figured it out, the problem was me. I just couldn’t bake a brownie; the talent simply wasn’t in me. For several years I tried my hand at recipe after recipe (it only took years as I quit experimenting after so many failures, one only can stand a certain amount of disappointment) and as it was, they would turn out lumpy, bland, dry, dense, flour-tasting, and not-at-all-brownie-like. I would often resort to the box mix kind, until one horrible afternoon when even that failed. How? A most baffling mystery. I was given a bit of grief for that, and for good reason. I was jinxed. Just yesterday I produced a thick and dry brownie which tasted just wrong and felt like an uncomfortable burden in your stomach after you ate it, which is saying something as I only tried a crumb. It didn’t look good to eat, so I had another unsuspecting taster take a bite at it and sure enough, it was misery in the form of a brownie. I suppose it is partially my fault as I didn’t follow the recipe exactly…but when I did do exactly as the recipe instructed for the other failure brownie recipes, they all turned out bad anyways. I just then applied my long dwelled upon law: if the batter tastes lousy, then so shall the baked batter. And that batter tasted lacking in chocolate. I did what one would do in such a situation, I loaded the batter up with two variations of cocoa powder and more melted chocolate, only later deciding it was far too dry and adding two more eggs, a splash of vegetable oil (not that it was part of the recipe but simply because the box mixes used it) and a touch of vanilla. Also a bit more of baking powder, as I assumed it would need more. All added in the wrong order, the brownie was bound to turn out wrong in every way possible. I tossed them out the next morning (today). Surely, I was destined to a life without my own homemade brownies. Whether it be because I was feeling bold or simply just bored, I found another brownie recipe and gave it a go. The day after I baked the last brownie. It would be my last attempt before letting the brownie baking end for several more months. I realized something as it baked in the oven, I could smell it baking. I couldn’t smell the ones I baked yesterday, as it was pointed out to me. Could anyone be more surprised when it actually tasted like an average brownie? A simple, moist, chewy (on the edges), thick and deeply chocolaty, ordinary brownie. It looked like a brownie, and tasted like one too. I was thrilled, for a time. Now I only feel ill, perhaps because I ate one bite too many. I can’t even look at another brownie, I might puke. Success, but only just.
I’ll post both brownie recipes later. It’s 5:07am and I want to try once more at going to bed. My stomach won’t let me sleep as I must. I’m sure the first is just as great, only my own instincts aren’t to be trusted although I tend to listen to them blindly anyhow. They look fantastic in the picture of how they were meant to turn out as. The second recipe is the one I shall keep, my only acknowledgeable brownie recipe.
(Photo belonging to: everylastcookie.blogspot.com )
But as I did not follow the recipe, mines turned out horribly and as I don’t have them anymore, I can’t take a picture of them, thus I will instead say: I can’t bear to post my own photo next to this brownie as mines is just pathethic and sad. Which is why they’re in the garbage bin. This ideal brownie does the recipe more justice than my own. Anyways, who whouldn’t want to try this recipe after seeing a picture like this?
Double Chocolate Brownies (Martha Stweart):
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 6 ounces coarsely chopped good-quality semisweet chocolate
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside.
- Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until butter and chocolate are melted. Let cool slightly.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside.
- Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated.
- Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out brownies; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder (I omitted)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 cups chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan
- In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
- While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
- Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.
- Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
- Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan.
- Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.
Yeilds two dozen brownies.