Sunday, September 28, 2008

Maple Cookies: Grade A Deliciousness

Maple Cookies: Grade A Deliciousness! Grade A deliciousness, because maple syrup can be Grade A and....? Not clever? Nevermind.

I like maple. I especially like those little maple syrup candies that dissolve in your mouth and ggjklfljg, so good. I think they're at least 99% sugar and therefor you increase your likelihood to get cavities and diabetes about a billion fold with each delicious, pancreas crippling bite. Worth it? Probably.

So continuing with my obsession with autumn treats, I decided to go with something maple flavored. A glazed maple sugar cookie appealed to me because I envisioned a glaze quite like those maple candies. I don't usually like sugar cookies much because they tend to be bland or lemon flavored. Or bland and lemon flavored. Mmm, bland and yet tasting slightly of window cleaner? No thanks.

I remembered the other reason I don't like sugar cookies while I was making this recipe. They take SO LONG to make. I am not skilled in the practice of delayed gratification, I want my cookies to be over and done with in 30 minutes, not 5 hours. And I even made Joe roll them out for me. However, these are pretty good and I would make them again. In fact, I will make them again because I have half the batch of dough frozen right now. I didn't look at the recipe closely and only realized how many cookies the recipe would make when I read the direction to add 4 cups of flour. So after making the dough, I immediately froze half of it, thinking there was no way we would go through that many cookies.

Well, I was wrong. By the time I had finished making all the cookies, Joe and BJ had devoured half of them. They get a boy stamp of approval, apparently. A girl stamp too. I don't like my cookies too crispy and preferred the cookies that were a bit thicker and softer. And the frosting really is delicious, very much like my beloved maple candies. The cookies definitely need the frosting, the cookies are okay without it but outstanding with it.

I'm glad I only made half the batch though, I was sick and tired of rolling out, stamping, baking and frosting cookies by the time this was over. My last batch is very sad looking, with the icing just sort of slopped over. But who cares, the boys will just eat them all tomorrow before lapsing into a diabetic coma.

A word about the icing: I didn't have any powdered sugar and was too lazy to go buy some. I tried to fudge it by blending sugar and cornstarch in the food processor and while it fooled me, it clearly did not fool the icing. My icing crystallized and would not smooth out no matter what. But clearly my fault and still tasted delicious. That's why the cookies in the photo are unfrosted-- the iced ones weren't as pretty. And it's my blog and I can do what I want, bwa ha ha!

Recipe from foodtv:

Maple Cookies


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Heavy cream
Maple Glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple sugar
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter


In a medium bowl, cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar and continue to beat. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, maple extract, and maple syrup, and beat until light and fluffy.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Thoroughly blend into the butter mixture. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll the dough out 1/4-inch thick. With a drinking glass, cut out cookies and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the cookies with heavy cream. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the maple glaze. Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until it just reaches the boiling point. Brush or dip the tops of the cookies in the maple glaze while still hot. Let cool. These taste better the next day.


And oh, that brush the top with cream thing? Not necessary. I experimented and brushed a few with cream and they came out weird and crackly on the top with no difference in taste once they were glazed. So I didn't brush any of the rest of them with cream, it's just an extra step and the extra fat grams squeezed in there don't make a difference so why bother?

Can't vouch for the taste better the next day thing, I haven't eaten another today. But they were pretty darn good last night!

Taking a break from fall treats, I think Joe will murder me if I make another spiced dessert. Also, I'm out of cinnamon. Maybe something with bananas? Suggest away.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Magic No-Pumpkin Pumpkin Muffins

At midnight on weekends, normal college students party it up. But it has long been proven that I am not normal. I find Friday at midnight a perfect baking time. Don't you? I haven't made muffins this semester yet and settled on muffins.

I like bran muffins. I started making them last year when I was watching my girlish figure and have since developed some pretty delicious bran muffin hybrids. This is probably my favorite recipe, I first made them this summer and did a double take when I ate the first one. It tastes like a pumpkin muffin. It contains no pumpkin. It is magic.

It’s probably all the cinnamon in it, really. Or the fairy dust…

Even if you don’t think they taste like pumpkin, they’re pretty darn good and super healthy to boot. Loads of fiber and low fat. They’re lightly sweet, which makes them good for breakfast or a snack or for hiding if your roommate’s bed. What?

Magic No-Pumpkin Pumpkin Muffins:


1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup whole bran cereal or bran flakes
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups whole wheat flour (depending on how thick your batter is, this can be reduced to ¾ cup, I added too much water too my bran mixture so I added some more flour)
½ cup all purpose flour
(tasting these cold, they could maybe use a little molasses)


1. In a small bowl, combine the bran and oats and cover with the boiling water. Set aside for 10 minutes to let the bran-oat mix absorb the water. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Meanwhile cream the sugar and butter together until smooth. Add the eggs and beat until light in color.
3. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to the mixture to combine.
4. Add bran-oat mixture and mix to combine.
5. Add the flours, mix just until lumpy-- you don't want to overmix.
6. Line muffin tin with muffin liners or spray with oil. Fill 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes.

Viola! I think this is one of those recipes in which the fat (butter) could successfully be replaced with applesauce, I'll try it and post the results. As you may have guessed by the picture, these are good with apple butter. And don't be freaked out by the sugar-free label on my apple butter, there's no weird sugar substitutes in it, just no added sugar. I've been curious about making my own apple butter but the good people at Patterson Farm make some good apple butter without me lifting a finger so that may not happen for awhile.

Speaking of, Joe and I went to Patterson Farm to go apple picking last weekend. I am absolutely delighted by fruit trees, there are no fruiting trees in Alaska (beside a few sour crab apples and chokecherries, which would probably kill you) so fruit growing on trees is quite the magical concept to me. I about died when I went to California for the first time. "THERE IS FRUIT ON THAT TREE, LOOK! LOOK! A LEMON!" Anyways. We picked 5 lbs of apples on Sunday and I had all sorts of plans for baking them. And then we ate them all by Thursday. At least we binge on healthy things, I guess. I love apples.

Next up: maple leaf sugar cookies. I saw a tree with yellow leaves today so I feel justified in my baking autumn-y treats. Also, I have a test next Thursday and I have to de-stress somehow, I see a lot of baked goods in my future. I apologize, waist line.

p.s I met a man named Freginal. As in, a combination of Frank and Reginal. So awesome.

Friday, September 26, 2008

White Chocolate Strawberry Cake

Sort of. One of my goals this year is to become craftier and to learn how to sew and knit. My sister works at Chronicle Books, which makes lots of awesome craft kits and I not so subtly hinted that I would love some and lo and behold, I got The Softie Kit for my birthday.

So cute! The kit with a bunch of patterns and the material to make one softie, which are basically whimsical stuffed animals. This week, I buckled down and decided to make the easiest pattern, a cake.

It took me an embarrassingly long time, at least 3 hours. My stitching is far from perfect and I now realize I could’ve stuffed it a lot more. However, considering I haven’t sewn a thing since 7th grade home-ec class, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

By the way, here are the things I remember about home-ec (which wasn’t called home-ec but something equally lame like “Life Skills”) are:
1) Making a hand-sewn blue and black lizard stuffed animal that I named Skittle Dwarf. The reason eludes me.
2) In the cooking section of the class, the group next to me had apparently never seen fractions before and was totally confused by the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I distinctly remember, “Miss? The recipe calls for 3 or 4 cups of flour. So which is it? 3 or 4?” to which our teacher said, “….You mean ¾ cup?” And then we had a substitute teacher for awhile.

I sewed a good deal of the cake on our living room ‘video game’ couch, which used to sit next to the wall like a normal couch but is now sitting diagonally across the living room, a foot away from the TV so we can properly fry our brains. The boys bought an HDTV and a playstation, which is now the bane of my existence because I can’t figure out how to work it half the time when I need to watch The Girls Next Door and the other half of the time the boys are playing games in which they kill half-naked cyborg women.

So anyways, BJ was sitting on one side of the couch, playing the Kill Stuff Including Cyborg Hotties game, in which one of the main characters is named Liquid Ocelot. I’m not kidding, I can’t make this stuff up. And I was sitting on the other side of the couch, making a felt cake. BJ would occasionally say things like, “Damn, how did they SEE me?!” while I would say thing like, “Damn, why can’t I make a French knot?!”

Contrast. It makes life more interesting.

Also, I lost the pom-pom I was supposed to use as a ‘cherry’ on top of the cake and I just went outside to ask if anybody had seen it. “What the hell is a pom-pom?” asked BJ. “You know. Those fluffy things? They make the little Easter chicks out of them?” Blank stare and long pause. “No idea what you’re talking about. I think pom-poms must be an Alaskan thing.” BJ decided before turning back to kill people.

I made the cherry out of pink thread instead.

Real baked goodies this weekend, we ate all the biscotti!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Gingersnap Biscotti Experiment

I can sort of justify craving colder weather flavors like ginger and pumpkin. Though in Cleveland the temperatures are still in the mid-70’s and 99% of the trees are still full and green, I’m an Alaskan girl. And in Alaska, fall starts in mid-September and lasts for about 36 hours before all the leaves fall off the trees in one pathetic FLOMP and the temperature drops to the 40’s. Snow is pretty much guaranteed by Halloween, where it will stay til April or so. Therefore, although I wore a miniskirt today, my Alaskan bones are demanding warm, comforting winter-y/fall foods. And I must obey.

Or maybe I just like an excuse to eat gingerbread in September. The world may never know.

So I decided I wanted to make something gingersnap-y or gingerbread-y, but I’ve made gingersnaps. I’ve made gingerbread. I’m over them. Well, not really, but I wanted to make something I’d never made before and I decided a gingersnap biscotti sounded mighty tasty, despite the fact that I’ve never made biscotti and couldn’t find a recipe for a gingerbread-y biscotti. After looking at some recipes, I decided to make my own up to fulfill my current sugar fix.

By some miracle, the biscotti turned out well despite the fact that I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. One of my biscotti ‘loaves’ was a bit thin and came out a little bit too crispy, next time I'll make them a bit thicker to compensate. However, Joe gobbled them down regardless so I guess they weren’t too bad. Biscotti was not hard at all to make, I was pleasantly surprised.

I thought about making some sort of glaze or dip for them but decided to leave it. The only combination I thought of that would be good with gingersnaps would be a white chocolate lemon glaze but I’m not a big lemon-dessert person. They were plenty good without it, though Joe did whip up a batch of whipped cream to drown a bunch of biscotti in and said it was marvelous. But unless you are unable to gain weight like Joe, this may not be the best practice.

My next experiment will be making pumpkin pie spiced biscotti, which may be more of a challenge. But a delicious one!

Recipe: (adapted from a Cooks Illustrated biscotti recipe and various gingersnap recipes)


2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Sift first eight ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Whisk sugar and eggs in a large bowl to a light lemon color; stir in vanilla extract and molasses. Sift dry ingredients over egg mixture, then fold in until dough is just combined.
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Halve dough and turn each portion onto an oiled cookie sheet covered with parchment. Using floured hands, quickly stretch each portion of dough into a rough 13-by-2-inch log, placing them about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Pat each dough shape to smooth it. Bake, turning pan once, until loaves are golden and just beginning to crack on top, about 35 minutes.
4. Cool the loaves for 10 minutes; lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Cut each loaf diagonally into 3/8-inch slices with a serrated knife. Lay the slices about 1/2-inch apart on the cookie sheet, cut side up, and return them to the oven. Bake, turning over each cookie halfway through baking, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer biscotti to wire rack and cool completely. Biscotti can be stored in an airtight container for at least 1 month.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Miss you, Teddy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sophie's 21st Birthday Extravaganza + Mini Peach Upside Down Cakes

This past Saturday was my 21st birthday. Tres exciting, though I have little to no interest in alcohol for the following reasons:
1) Family history of alcoholism. In the past, various people would offer me various alcoholic drinks to see if I liked them but upon tasting them I would immediately think, “Mm, this tastes like sadness and betrayal.” Besides my deep-set associations with alcohol (or perhaps because of) I just don’t like how 99% of alcoholic beverages taste*.
* One of the few exceptions to this rule is amaretto, because it tastes like cookies. I think you’d go into a diabetic coma before getting drunk off of amaretto but I do like the taste.
2) Four fun words: gastroesophageal reflux disease. Oh wait, that’s 3 words. I’ve had GERD since I was a wee one and it basically means that the stomach acid that is supposed to stay in my stomach and digest food climbs up my throat into my esophagus and tries to digest my throat as well. I imagine the acid as kind of a Gollum character, where I claw at my throat and yell, “BACK! BACK WHERE YOU BELONG!” and the Gollum-acid snarls, “I wants it, I must have the precioussssss.” The precious being, apparently, the delicious sweet and tender flesh of my esophagus.

The Gollum-acid is mostly subdued by my pills, but technically I’m supposed to abstain from a variety of fun things that irritate my condition/Gollum. These things include citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, cigarettes and, yes, alcohol. For the large part, I ignore all that (sans cigarettes) and laugh heartily at my doctor while I eat meals of oranges, chocolate, tea and curries. Obviously not mixed together. But alcohol does truly seem to rip apart my digestive system, even small amounts leave me huddled in pain and nausea as my stomach seemingly tries to escape from my body.

So obviously, I very rarely have been tempted to drink. Which is why it was a bad idea to succumb to peer pressure and get dragged to a bar at midnight on my 21st birthday. BJ was at the house when Joe and I got back from a Jewish Orthodox Shabbot (more on that in another entry) with a few people and it was decided that we would all go to the local bar to celebrate my birthday. Various people bought me shots. After I took the first one, BJ turned to me and said cheerfully, “Cheers! Bye, Sophie! See you in a couple days!”

Which is fairly accurate. I’m a small gal, 5’0, and my alcohol threshold is pretty miniscule. So 4 shots and 45 minutes later I was stumbling around, hugging everybody and telling them how much I adored them, despite the fact that normally touching people gives me the heebie jeebies. “I loooooove you, Brian. I loooooove you, Sam. I looooove you, girl whose name I don’t know. Group hug!”

Glasses Crew! I'm on the far right. Despite what this picture implies, I don't know the other two too well. Um..

And then I went to bed.

I walked out of my room the next morning, one eye squinted shut, right as BJ was saying to Joe, “How’s Sophie doing?” He took one look at me and laughed, to which I said, “Why is your voice so loud?” I spent the next several hours in a fetal postion, laying very still while my internal organs screamed, “WHY? WHY?”

Joe eventually forced some soup and mint tea into me and I felt much better afterward, though I never want to see alcohol ever again. We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurant and shared a delicious meal. Except we over estimated the amount of food and ended up having no room for dessert. Bummer. With no birthday cake at home, my birthday seemed incomplete.

Sunday I planned to make my own birthday cake. I had the recipe picked out and the oven preheated when my best friend called me to meet me downstairs, where she gave me two dozen cupcakes. Aww. Obviously I didn’t need more desserts so I pushed the recipe aside, but still itching to make cake.

Katie made me cupcakes!

Tuesday I finally had my chance. I settled on peach upside down mini cakes, as I happened to have a few peaches lying around. I have this thing with peaches though. I love the flavor but apparently I’m a total failure at picking good peaches, which makes me sad because I usually pride myself in picking good fruit. But a lot of the time, the peaches I pick are mealy, mushy and tasteless on the inside. What gives, devil peaches? Stop sucking.

So lo and behold, 3 out of the 4 peaches I bought were of the mealy, mushy, tasteless variety, which really slayed me. The first peach I cut was perfect. The next sucked. No problem, I thought, I have backups. And then the backup sucked. And the backup to the backup sucked. I had a small peach graveyard by the time I was done and I wanted to die or murder a peach tree.
Luckily, the one gloriously unsucky peach I had stretched to fill 3 ramekins. One of the peaches didn’t suck quite as much as it’s loser cousins and I managed to get a couple slices for the 4th cake but that one would just have to be stingy on the peaches.

No candles but it was my birthday cake, GOT IT?

They were delicious, even the stingy one. I thought the cake bit could be improved upon some but that may have been my fault: the last second I realized I had forgot to add the sugar and had to add it after I had mixed everything else. It wasn’t bad by any means though, and the topping was delicious. Thank you, one unsucky peach. I also think it would be good with pears, but I kind of think anything would be good with pears. Nectarines, peaches less finicky cousin, would also be good here.

Recipe from Alton Brown, Food TV


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 medium peaches, peeled
1-ounce finely chopped crystallized ginger, approximately 3 tablespoons
2.5 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide 2 tablespoons of the butter between 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside. Evenly divide the brown sugar between the ramekins; sprinkling it into the bottoms of the dishes. Cut each peach into 12 to 14 pieces. Lay the peaches on top of the sugar; evenly dividing them between the dishes and sprinkle with the ginger. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combine. Pour the batter over the peaches; dividing the mixture evenly between the dishes. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from the oven to a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each dish and turn upside down onto a serving plate. Repeat with each cake. Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.


The only thing I did differently was leave out the ginger, since we didn't have any and I'm not a huge fan anyway. I sprinkled cinnamon on top of the peach slices instead. I thought it was plenty sweet without whipped cream or ice cream but I wouldn't have served them with either anyways, since I don't like them. I know, what? Who doesn't like ice cream? Just leave it be, my dislike for ice cream is probably the sole reason why I'm not 300 lbs... yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pretzels of Rage and Judging Eyes

A certain stupid boy did something terribly mean to a certain a girl and I want to stab him in the jugular. But since I'm thousands of miles away from said stupid boy and because murder is generally frowned upon, I had to get out my frustrations other ways. Baking soothes my soul, especially baked goods that have to be kneaded, as you can frantically punch, stab, and beat the lump of dough all while pretending its somebody's face. All the fun with less jail time. I decided on pretzels, pretzels of rage.

Pretzels and a decorative beer I stole from Joe. I don't like beer but it belongs, okay?

I went to Austria this summer and fell in love with the Austrian pretzels. Unlike American pretzels, these were chewy with a thick crust, not soft and fluffy. I've made pretzels once before but the recipe was just so so, more like mediocre bread in pretzel shapes. But since getting back, I've been determined to make pretzels like I had in Austria and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

After some research, I found out that Austrian and German pretzels get their distinctive chew by boiling the dough briefly in a solution of water and lye before baking. Yikes. Apparently their is food grade lye but I had no idea where to get it and I knew my hypochondriac boyfriend would have a panic attack if I used it. He would eat them, sure, but then google, "cancer + lye" for weeks and I would never hear the end of it. Besides, considering that I nearly burned off my toes while making caramel, I'm sure there would be some disastrous incident if I got my hands on some lye. So the lye thing would be a no go.

I was too lazy to look up the chemistry behind it but something about the basic (as in, opposite of acidic) nature of lye makes the pretzels have a delicious crunchy shell. I eventually stumbled on recipes that used baking soda, another base, in the place of the lye. Brilliant! Unless I managed to dump the baking soda directly into my eye, this would be much easier and less dangerous.

Recipe from


1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

They turned out reeeeeally good and pretty close to the real thing. The recipe was pretty easy, despite the fact that I don't have much experience with bread. The hardest part was shaping them, since you can roll out dough super thin and then have it spring back to a giant blob the moment you let go. So my pretzels were a bit on the big boned side but still delicoius.

The recipe only made 8 pretzels so I suspect they won't make it through tonight. I say 'only' 8 because last night Joe and BJ ate 5 tacos each so 8 pretzels is the equivalent of a light snack for them. They are less like boys and more like garbage disposals.

Speaking of BJ, I have been accused of giving him 'judging eyes'. This started last year, when Brain would announce to us that he was going to go get drunk despite the fact that it was 2:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday/he had a test the next day/his liver was begging for mercy, etc. Instead of saying anything to him every time he did this, I would just give him a look, which he dubbed my judging eyes. I wish I didn't, but apparently I can't help it. And anyways, Brian's liver will thank my judging eyes someday.

Last night, pre-pretzels and still filled with rage, I was ranting and raving to Joe and BJ about the stupid boy and how I would totally give him the worst judging eyes ever if he was around. This followed:
BJ: You could take a picture of yourself with the judge-inist eyes ever and send it to him.
Me: I don't even know what my judging eyes look like.
BJ: Go in the mirror and practice. You'll know you're doing it right when you start to feel self-concious about your actions.

*judging eyes*

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mini Boston Cream Pies-- be still, my heart

After last night's caramel fiasco, I wrapped my two crispy toes in gauze and surgical tape so that they now resemble mummified cocktail sausages. It makes walking easier, since one of my heat blisters is conveniently in between my toes. Last night pre-bandaging I was waddling around with my toes spread out as far as possible at all times to avoid blister-toe contact so blister-pillowy gauze contact was a vast improvement.

However, I quickly realized that my sausage toes were in no way going to fit into shoes, I would be stuck with sandals until my toes heal. Which is fine since it has been freakishly hot around here and the temperature is supposed to stay around 80 for at least the next week. However, that means I couldn't wear my spiffy pumas, my standard working out shoes. I also realized that because of the blister on the palm of my hand, lifting weights wasn't an option either. All I had planned for the day was working out so I was kind of a loss of what to do.

Joe was at Sweeney Todd call backs (he got the part of Tobias!) for many hours and after observing Brian stumbling out his room bleary eyed at 2:30 pm, it was clear he was too hungover to think, let alone amuse me. I was right, he then collapsed six inches from the tv, limbs sprawled out and very possibly drooling while he watched TV in the dark for the next several hours. I would have to amuse myself.

By baking, obviously.

The Prettiest of All

I scanned the contents of our fridge, which weren't dire but were lacking key baking elements, such as eggs. I scoped out some of my favorite vegan blogs for recipe ideas and eventually settled on the idea of making a boston cream pie. Except I have this thing about minature desserts so I decided to make minature boston cream pies, cupcake style. I was pleased. I eventually found an okay looking non-vegan recipe and settled on that, tweaked to make cupcakes.

I did end up waddling to the co-op across the street when I discovered we had no vanilla extract, which was alarming. Joe just told me that he's sure we had some but whatever, now we have two bottles and I'll never have to walk to the co-op with bandaged sausage feet ever again. I was planning on making eggless custard, since we only had one egg left, but since I was at the store I just went ahead and bought some more. God knows we'll use them. Joe made two boxes of pasta and it was consumed by the two boys in 36 hours, food does not last long in this house.

Recipe: (from


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons hot water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 9 inch round cake pan.
  2. Beat the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, 3/4 cup milk, shortening, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla at low speed, scraping bowl constantly for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally for 3 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.
  4. To Make The Cream Filling: In a 2 quart saucepan, mix 1/3 cup of the sugar, the cornstarch and salt. Stir in the milk gradually and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir at least 1/2 of the mixture slowly into the egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the 2 teaspoons vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. To Make Chocolate Glaze: Heat the chocolate and butter or margarine over low heat until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners' sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the water, one teaspoon at a time, until glaze is of desired consistency.
Changes I made: butter instead of shortening (ew), an extra egg yolk in the cake batter, a splash more vanilla in the cake batter. I didn't have powdered sugar so I just melted some bittersweet chocolate, butter and milk together to make a ganache.

The cupcakes turned out well. Instead of making two big cakes, I made 12 cupcakes. To assemble, I split the cupcakes in half, made a thumb print in the bottom slice and filled the depression with the custard, then spread a moderatly thin layer of custard over the entire base. Plopped the top bake on and drizzled with chocolate ganache glaze. I did end up having extra custard, which I kept to serve on the side, or just to eat plain.

What to do with a dozen cupcakes? Luckily, BJ happened to invite a bunch of his friends over that night, and it is not hard to convince a bunch of 21 year old boys to eat a batch of fresh cupcakes. "Oh, if you insist..." they said, while gobbling them down. Nobody would eat the pretty one pictured though. "Stop that! Put that down, you can't eat that one. It's the pretty one." It was revered, the holy cupcake.

I think Joe ate it eventually.

I have a few left, maybe four, but I think the three of us will be able to polish them off easily.

The boys stayed around for awhile playing video games (something along the lines of Death Iron Metal Smash 3: Killing People is Badass) so the next few hours I was hearing things like:
"Brian, put on the zombie mask!"
"No, BJ, you should put on the scientist's disguise now... with the zombie mask!!"
"Watch out for the snake! STAB THE SNAKE!! STAB IT!"
"Why did the snake say, 'R.Snake'?"
"For rattlesnake, stupid."
"No, the crab said, 'R.Crab'. And what's that, genuis? A rattle crab?"
"I hate rattle crabs..."

Living with college aged boys is a blast. But at least I can pawn off all my butter laden treats on them.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Roasted Honey Pears in Raspberry Caramel Sauce or: How to Get Third Degrees Burns on Your Foot while Baking!

This blog may kill me. I will be disfigured horribly by leaving my arm in the Kitchen Aid while trying to cream butter and sugar. Pie crust dough will come alive into a vengeful blob of buttery goodness and attack my face. These would sound like ridiculous, stupid ideas had I not given myself third degree burns on my feet today while making honey roasted pears.

Before I get to that though: the pears. They ripened under my watchful eye and I ate a few raw. Blissful. One tasted like a raspberry, which was a bit weird, but not bad—pear-raspberry crossbreed? Awesome idea, nature. When most of the pears were ripe, I knew exactly what I was going to make: honey roasted pears in caramel sauce. The recipe was from The Sweet Life, a dessert book my dad gave me that I can’t stop looking at despite the fact that every recipe uses obscene amounts of butter. Unsurprisingly (and unfortunately), everything I’ve baked from there is amazing.

Nekkid pears... pear porn?

The recipe itself is pretty easy, it just takes forever to make. Basically, you peel some pears, plop them in a roasting dish and pour sugar, honey, water into the pan, adding a couple strips of lemon zest. Pop them into a freakishly hot over (425 degrees) and rotate them for an hour and a half, the last 45 minutes basting them with the caramel that has formed in the bottom of the pan.

I didn’t have much trouble with the recipe and didn’t burn myself once during the process, that joyful event came later. I will say the pears were hard to rotate when they were soft and the approximate temperature as molten lava. I took to carefully grabbing the stems and dragging them around that way, the tongs and spatula seemed to squish them too much.

The one problem I had was that the sauce that formed became too dark, which is really my fault, I was using smaller and fewer pears than the recipe called for and shouldn’t have left them in the oven as long as the recipe called for. The pears were fine but the caramel tasted burnt. No problem, I thought, I’ll just whip up a batch of caramel to serve them with.

And therein began the problem. Sugar in pan. Okay, check. Sugar browning, double check. Add some butter. No prob, I was made for this. Add a bunch of cream to thin it out. Alright. Add some raspberry preserves for extra deliciousness. I managed all that without a singed hair.
There were some sugar crystals in the caramel so I was stirring the caramel vigorously to incorporate it. I took the spoon out of the pan to transfer to the little drip catcher plate thing. And then I dripped 400 degree caramel all over my foot.

Alright, I exaggerate a tad. I don't know how hot it was, candy thermometers are for the weak. Also, I don't think we own one. The caramel was probably only around 200-250 degrees. Only.

I instantly crumpled onto the kitchen floor in agony. I desperately tried to peel the caramel off my foot and then proceeded to burn my hand with the residual—but still extraordinarily hot— molten sugar. Obviously in shock, I was more worried about the state of the caramel and proceeded to simultaneously stick my left foot and hand under cold water in the sink while turning my right side to stir the caramel on the stove. I’m glad my roommate was too engrossed in video games to walk in at that moment because if he had laughed, I probably would’ve mauled him. So great, third degree burns on my foot and hand. Fucking caramel. I honestly don’t swear (unless, say, I’ve just poured a 400 degree sticky liquid all over my extremities) so you can take that to heart.

Caramel Action Shot

The pears are freaking amazing though, nearly worth it. And my improved and deadly raspberry caramel sauce was heavenly. BJ—roommate—declared while practically licking the bowl that the pears were delicious, “like crack”. To which I said, “I know. They better be.” And then I stuck a 2 lb bag of frozen corn on my heat-blistered spattered foot.

I hate you. I love you.

So stay tuned for my next baking adventure, where I may or may not lose an eye!