Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Glutony

Prepare yourself, for in this entry I actually prepare real food! As in, not dessert! Well, there's dessert as well but also savory food! I do actually cook dinner quite a lot. Really. Don't look at me like that.

Before we get to that, however... I had a semi-traumatic, Halloween appropriate experience at the doctor's office the other day, Halloween actually, that I need to vent about.

The appointment itself was fine, I really like my doctor and she's always really helpful and nice. She ordered a bunch of blood work to be done for my weird medical problems (my hands have been going numb, basically). No prob. I'm an easy stick and have no issues with needles or blood, I actually like both of them. I seriously considered a profession in piercing before I realized I could go into nursing and stab people for much better pay and get praised for my kind spirit, etc. I love giving shots, doing IVs and I want to be in anesthesia eventually so I can hang out in surgery all day. So to be clear: I'm not freaked out by blood and needles.

The nurse comes in to draw my blood, has me sit up on the examination table in case I pass out and what not. Stabs me, no biggie. And then blood starts gushing out of my arm all over everything, which, you know, is generally not supposed to happen. The nurse was kind of freaking out, as I would be too if my patient started bleeding copiously, and I'm trying to be helpful and hand her the tubes she needs so she can finish up before I lose all my blood supply. I don't know if it was something wrong with me, the tools or her technique but I certainly didn't want her to try again so I figured the best plan of action was to get it over as quickly as possible.

After taking out the needle and putting pressure on my wound, I stopped bleeding and washed off my bloody arm so everything was honky dory, although the table I was on looked like somebody had just been murdered. Appropriately decorated for Halloween, I guess.

But seriously, what if I did have issues with blood? The nurse was lucky it was me and not, say, Joe’s brother who would’ve passed out even if he had taken sedating drugs before hand and there was no extra blood. I rewarded myself afterward with an overpriced caramel latte. I actually 'reward' myself with those quite a lot lately with different justifications. Calcium! Right? I need to keep my bones strong, etc etc.

After fulfilling my blood and gore requirements for Halloween, I fulfilled the costume requirement by dressing up as Alice in Wonderland and going to work. Then it was home to prep for Joe's Halloween Birthday Extravaganza Dinner, which included:
- pepitas, two ways
- pumpkin soup served in mini roasted pumpkin
- pomegranate pear salad in balsamic vinaigrette
- rosemary bread
- trifle (layered mix of whipped brown butter vanilla birthday cake, chocolate raspberry pudding and berries)

I did some of the prep last night, defrosting the berries (no fresh to be found, unfortunately), making the birthday cake for the trifle and washing preparing the pumpkins. I decided to make pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds) for snacking and topping the soup with so I wrestled with the stringy guts of the pumpkins and then boiled the pepitas in salted water. That way, the salt penetrates the seeds evenly and you don’t need to oil and salt them to death. The next day I tossed the pepitas in an egg white and seasoned them: half with garlic powder and the rest with garam masala. Then I baked them at 350 for about 20 minutes. Since I soaked them in salt before, they didn't need any extra salt at all, really. Neat trick.

Next I worked on the pudding for the trifle, which was basically chocolate pudding that I added left over berry juice and chambord, raspberry liquor, to make a chocolate-berry pudding. It has a LOT of cornstarch in it, so it's very thick. I wanted this for the trifle but if you're just making it for everyday, you may way to cut back on the cornstarch some.


* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 3 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 2 3/4 cups milk (I used soy milk)
* 1/4 cup berry juice
* 1 or 2 Tbsp Chambord
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk, chambord and berry juice, if using. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Add some of the warm pudding to the egg yolk and and the pudding-yolk mixture to the pudding and stir for 1 minute. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.


The whipped brown butter birthday cake recipe I got from The Sweet Life, my favorite dessert cookbook ever. I can't find the recipe online and since I'm too lazy too type it at the moment, you'll have to wait on that. Delicious though, I love brown butter in desserts, it makes anything taste like english toffee, which is totally okay in my book. I think may have over done my cake a bit, as it was a bit dry, but it was fine in the trifle, I just drizzled some more chambord and berry juice over it.

After I had most of the trifle stuff done, I worked on the bread. The bread recipe threw me off, I had to add at least a cup and a half more flour than it called for to make the dough the right texture. I haven't made much bread myself but I've seen my dad make about a billion loaves and I know that after beating the flour and liquids together, the dough shouldn't be the consistency of soup. After I added more flour it came out fine but I only had enough rosemary for the original recipe, it could've used more rosemary flavor. But oh well! Considering I've only a few loaves of bread, I was pretty happy with how this came out.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 loaves


* 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
* 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon whole leaves
* 1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
* 1 cup whole wheat flour


1. Stir together yeast and the warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 7 minutes.
2. Add 3/4 cup water, the olive oil, sugar, salt, chopped rosemary, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, and the whole-wheat flour to bowl. Fit mixer with the dough hook; mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Raise speed to medium-high; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Shape dough into a ball, and transfer to oiled bowl. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Punch down the dough; let rest, covered, 15 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide in half.
5. Roll one piece into an 11-inch-long loaf. Gently twist dough to create contours, then tuck ends underneath. Transfer to a baking sheet. Press half the rosemary leaves into loaf. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.
6. Loosely cover baking sheet with plastic wrap, and let loaves rise slightly in a warm, draft-free spot 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
7. Dust loaves with remaining teaspoon all-purpose flour. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


While the bread was doing its thing, I worked on the salad. I planned on a spinach pomegranate salad but the spinach at the store looked pretty pitiful and possibly full of exotic diseases. So I just used a bag of mixed lettuce. Dark greens would've worked much better but c'est la vie. I added some thinly sliced red onion and some pears I saw at the store and couldn't resist because of my love affair with pears. They weren't quite ripe so I roasted them in the oven, which I'm totally doing to every pear I buy from now on. Roasting them hides any imperfections they have and made my slightly unripe pears soft and sweet. Drool.

Salad isn't very photogenic

I used a balsamic vinaigrette based on this recipe from the food network:


* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
* 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup olive oil


Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the optional sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.


I did cut back a lot on the olive oil and used only about 1/4 cup but that's my preference, really.

Is that it? Oh, the soup! I roasted a few mini pumpkins, which I had gutted the night before, for about an hour and while they roasted I made the soup. No recipe, since soup is one thing I feel comfortable improvising. Here's what I know I did: tossed tons of garlic, onion, leek, a little red pepper in some olive oil til everything was nice and soft. Threw some rosemary, thyme and sage at the end. Added a few cups water and two small cans of pureed pumpkin. Added a bunch of vegetable bouillon. Chopped up one huge sweet potato and two small potatoes and added to soup to soften. Finished with some balsamic vinegar, garam masala, brown sugar, a touch of cream and butter. Salt and pepper and more herbs to taste. Something like that.

I originally planned on using the pumpkins as individual serving dishes but the small suckers fit tons of soup in them. Still looked cool though, which was the main function of the pumpkin vessel. I washed them out after dinner was done and may puree them. Or something.

I served the trifles in random glassware we have acquired, layering chunks of cake with pudding and berries. They looked neat.

Oh, what was that? You want a closer look because they look so delicious? If you insist.

Mmm. Overall, I made way too much food but was pleased with how everything turned out. So much so that I ate approximately 12 tons of everything and have ordered Brian to eat the remaining cake. My blood sugar, it cries. But it's Halloween so... okay, there is no excuse really, the treadmill beckons me. But it was worth it.

Nothing for a few days until I successfully beg people to eat all this food. But my mom's birthday is coming up and I promised her I would do a blog entry for her since I can't be there to bake for her in person. It's a surprise though, you'll have to check back!

Three cookies to everybody who read all that.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How many cookies can we cram into one recipe?

I had some overripe frozen bananas chillin' (most literally) in my freezer, left over from the banana butterscotch cupcakes. The banana butterscotch cupcakes are seriously good, by the way. One of BJ's friends, Sam, whom I especially like to feed because he always gives me lots of compliments on my baked goods, said something like, "These probe pleasure centers in my brain that I was never aware I had."

See why I like to feed him?

So anyways, I needed to figure out something to do with the rest of the bananas. I've made plenty of banana bread and banana muffins so I was on the lookout for something different. I settled on a recipe from Martha Stewart's website, which is a great place to turn for unique ideas. The recipe was for banana cookies, kind of in between a chocolate chip cookie and banana bread. Sign me up!

These originally called for walnuts as well, which I thought I had but didn't. Or couldn't find, it's quite possible that I just couldn't find them in the black hole that is my kitchen. But anyways, they were fine without them, the recipe also had oatmeal in them which made them taste nutty regardless.

I really liked these. I added an extra banana and I still felt like the banana flavor could be stronger so I added some sliced bananas on the last few batches. The bananas oxidize and turn ugly but they taste better with the extra boost of banana flavor, I think. I ate two just to be sure. For scientific purposes only, obviously. Next time, I'll probably leave out the chocolate because it overwhelmed the banana a bit and banana oatmeal cookies sound pretty good on their own, no?

Also, I must make small cookies because I always get tons more than the recipe calls for. The recipe said it would make 3 dozen cookies but I came out with at least 4.5 dozen. Yikes. I'll try to feed some to my coworker tomorrow.

Recipe from


Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.
  2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.

So according to the storage instructions, I have two days to consume 50+ cookies. Excellent.

Tomorrow is Joe's birthday so I'm prepping for that as well. Our school's production of Sweeney Todd opened today and Joe is playing Toby, one of the main rolls. He's been crazy busy rehearsing the last couple of weeks so I'm going to make him an extra awesome meal for his birthday since he was so nice to me when I was stressed around midterms. Not only was I stressed, I took it all out on Joe. I think an appropriate description of my behavior would be, oh, monstrous psycho bitch? So sorry, Joe, here's a cake...?

Lots more on that tomorrow after I make everything. His dessert will be a trifle consisting of a brown butter vanilla birthday cake, chocolate berry pudding, layered with mixed berries. Dinner too but that's top secret at the moment!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

1 down, 100 to go!

For the first time since this semester started, I don't have a million things to do and I'm kind of at a loss of what to do. I mean, I COULD be doing things but nothing is critical. So I did about a billion loads of laundry today, made vegetarian shepard's pie and then decided to make a cookie recipe from my new cookie magazine. If you recall, it has 101 cookie recipes and I'm determined to make them all.

I chose chocolate souffle cookies fire because they looked easy and since they are basically a modified meringue cookie, they're moderately healthy. Okay, not healthy but not generally artery clogging either.

And um, make these immediately! I loved these. Besides being almost stupidly easy, they're delicious. They have a crunchy, meringue-like shell with a chewy, airy middle. Major yum.

So I'm glad the first recipe I made out of the magazine was a success since I have 100 more recipes to make.


6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg whites, at room temp
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup finely chopped walnuts


Position oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350. Lightly grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment.

Melt the chocolate and set aside. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. With the beaters running, gradually add the vanilla and sugar until the egg whites hold stiff peaks but don’t look dry. Pour the nuts and melted chocolate over the whipped whites. Gently fold the mixture with a large rubber spatula, trying not to deflate the egg whites, until the color is just uniform. Immediately drop level measuring tsp. of the batter onto the baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between the cookies. Bake until the cookies are shiny and cracked, 10-12 minutes; they should be firm on the outside but still gooey inside when you press them. Slide the parchment liners onto racks or use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks and let cool completely.


I didn't have any walnuts and decided not to add any other nuts, though I think these would be really good with almond extract and some chopped almonds. But they are delish as is. Also, I dusted mine with powdered sugar because mine were a bit ugly and powdered sugar is a great camouflage. Sophie's amateur decorating tip #1. The next time I make these guys (because I certainly will make them again) I'll try pipping them onto the cookie sheets because they really keep they're shape when they're baked so the ones I kind of sloped on the pan (which was most of them) stayed their ugly selves. But oh well.

Since I don't have much else to say about this recipe, besides that it is fab fab fab and Brian and Joe need to eat them immediately so I don't eat all of them, let's talk about how my brain doesn't work sometimes.

My brain sometimes has trouble sorting out what I'm trying to say and what I'm doing. I have two exceedingly embarrassing examples:
1. Joe and I were at a bookstore once and Joe told me something (I don't remember what because I was so horrified at what happened next) while I was focused on looking through books. So I replied to whatever he said with, "Good job, Book." That's right, I didn't call my boyfriend of 4 years by his name, which you would think would be thoroughly ingrained in my brain by now, but by the object I was looking at. As soon as it dawned on me that I had just called my boyfriend Book, I looked up from the book, exclaimed, "Oh my god, I just called you Book!" and then I dashed away. It must have been an alarming sight for bystanders.
2. This one makes even less sense. Joe and I were watching Lilo and Stitch a couple months ago because we are thoroughly lame when I wanted Joe to pass me the glass of water. At that time, the scene of the movie showed Lilo on the beach. I turned to Joe with every intention of saying, "Can you pass me the water, please?" but instead I said, "Sand?"

How my brain confused 'Please pass the water' with 'Sand' I cannot explain. Early alzheimers, perhaps.

Also, I chopped off a bunch of hair yesterday and dyed it a bit lighter, yay.

Oh so many more baking adventures this week!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Banana Butterscotch Stress Relief

My week of midterm hell is finally over so I can now emerge from study-cave and return to baking and blogging. The natural light, oh how it burns. Midterms actually went better than expected. Expected being I fail everything and than have a stroke. I really work myself into a panic, see. But it leads me to study harder so hey.

Here's me destressing in Chicago after (most) of my midterms:

And here's how I was coping:
Don't worry, midterms didn't drive me to drink. But this year was the first year I could get a drink at the bar at the Hancock Building and bloody marys are one of the few mixed drinks I like, mostly because the spicy tomato juice mixture hides the alcohol and I'm a wuss. Joe and I went to Sam's, a giant alcohol warehouse in Chicago that Joe has been drooling over and I wandered around bored for awhile and ended up buying some salted caramels and preserved pears. Leave it to me to find the sweet gourmet goodies hidden in the corner in a giant warehouse.

Anyways. Midterms.

Most of the not-failing-everything-and-having-a-stroke can be credited to my statistics tutor, whom I now owe my first born child. Stats has been kind of a hit or miss class for me, either I get the material instantly or have absolutely no idea what's going on. The midterm was on four chapters, two of which I felt confident in, one of which I was hazy on and the final one I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Obviously I'm not that strong in math but I did quickly realize that having an understanding of 2 out of 4 chapters would leave me with a 50% on the midterm. Que panic attacks and some frantic e-mails to the tutor. A few marathon sessions with the tutor and I aced the midterm. Well, not really but an 87% when I would've otherwise failed is pretty good, no? The points I missed were stupid, there was actually one question I got right, looked back on, and changed my answer. ARGH.

In any case, now that midterms are over I finally got around to making the banana butterscotch cupcakes my sister recommended, which have been on my 'to-make' list for awhile now. I love butterscotch and a banana/butterscotch combo sounded delish.

The recipe was from this Chronicle book, which I definitely want to buy now. I LOVED the cake recipe, it came out light, fluffy with an almost caramelized top. I really dig the banana butterscotch combination, though next time I may try subbing brown sugar in for at least part of the regular sugar to see if I can make the banana cake a bit more buttescotchy on it's own, rather than banana cake studded with butterscotch flavor from the chips.

I was going to be mean and not give out the recipe because A) I felt bad giving out the recipe from a cookbook I don't even own and B) all I had was scanned pages of the recipe and I was too lazy to type it up. But a quick search on the interwebz turned up a few blogs that had already ripped off the recipe so I don't feel bad giving it out. They did it first! Blame them!

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 medium bananas, broken into pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup butterscotch chips

Icing Ingredients:
1/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cupcake Directions:
Preheat oven to 350:
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy.
Add banana and mix well.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each of them.
Add vanilla and beat for one minute.
Add half flour and mix well.
Add buttermilk and mix well.
Add remaining flour and mix well.
Stir in butterscotch chips.
Spoon batter into greased cupcake pan or paper liners.
Fill cups to about 1/4 inch below top of liner or pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until cupcakes pass toothpick test.
Place on cooling rack until cool.

Icing directions:
Over low heat add brown sugar and half and half.
Stir often until brown sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and bring to a boil.
Boil for 1 minute, stirring often.
Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate until cool to the touch (about 45 min.)
In large bowl beat butter and powdered sugar until it is smooth.
Add vanilla and brown sugar mixture.
Mix until smooth and creamy.

Using a small spatula, top banana cupcakes with 1.5 Tbsp. of frosting.

The only substitution I made was rice rice milk instead of the half and half in the frosting, which I know sounds totally awful but we didn't have any half-and-half and we never have real milk either since I don't like it so we buy soy or rice milk instead. Whenever Joe pouts about me being vegetarian, I just tell him he can be glad I'm not vegan since I was born not liking meat, eggs or milk. Still haven't taken the plunge to veganism though.

Despite the weird sub, I liked the frosting recipe too but honestly I'm not a huge frosting person, at least American style with butter and powdered sugar. I'm a frosting snob and I much prefer French buttercream but I couldn't be bothered to make any, so I just left half the batch unfrosted for me. The frosting tasted like caramel to me, not butterscotch, but it's not like a caramel frosted banana butterscotch cupcake was a bad thing.

And oh, update on the cassata cake: once I got over hating the cake, I tasted it and it was indeed good. Brian can also vouch for that, since I think he ate 90% of it. He told me I'm banned from making another cassata cake for at least a month while he tries to lose weight. Which is a bummer for me, since a large part of the Sophie Weight Loss Plan is baking whatever I want, eating one and then pawning the rest off on other people, primarily Brian and Joe. It works, I've lost 15 lbs at the expense of others waistlines. Sorry, guys.

Next up: Halloween goodies and birthday goodies! And oh, ps: I bought a holiday cookie magazine special with 101 cookie recipes and have decided to make it a goal to bake every cookie recipe in it. What can I say, it seemed like a good idea when I was stressed. So expect lots of cookies in the near future.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Apology Cake. Or: The Cake That Nearly Gave Me a Stroke

So on Thursday morning I accidentally deleted Brian's half-finished philosophy paper. I felt horrible and told him I would make him a cake. It's kind of a long story.


Our apartment has electrical issues. I don't really get the details but I do know that a Russian electrician was at our apartment for hours, saying things like, "So if you touch zees? And you also touch zees at zee same time? You will, how do you say... die?" And then we had to change our electrical outlets to two pronged ones for some reason. I also know that on one side of the apartment (the kitchen, the guest room, the dining room and the bathroom) you can't use more than one electrical appliance at a time without the power shutting off. Want to microwave breakfast and have the coffee maker on at the same time? Too bad.

On Thursday morning, I discovered that the outlet next to the bathroom must be on the same breaker as well because the power shut off when I tried to turn on the electrical kettle and use the hair dryer at the same time. So I moseyed over to the circuit breaker, which is a good two feet above my head. I squinted to look for the kitchen switch and then blindly reached up to reset it. But I wasn't wearing my contacts yet so I hit the one next to it, which powers my room, BJ's room and the living room. And consequently turned off BJ's computer that had his unsaved philosophy paper on it.

I felt horrible, even though he should've saved it or finished it before the morning it was due. So I apologized and told him I would make him a casatta cake to make up for it, which he's been asking me to do anyway. And in return, BJ agreed not to punch me in the face. A fair trade.

It took me a few days to get around to making, mostly because I'd never had cassata cake before. Cassata cake is just an Italian wedding cake, so there are tons of variations, mostly centering around sponge cake, fruit and ricotta-cream filling, like they put in cannolas (which, apparently, is the plural of cannoli). None of this information was really useful to me though, as I've never made sponge cake and couldn't remember what cannoli filling tastes like. I don't like cannolis/cannolas, crunchy cookies don't do it for me. Just accept it and move on.

Luckily, we live right by Little Italy, a little Italian neighborhood that happens to house Corbo's, an Italian bakery that specializes in the kind of cassata cake BJ likes. So Joe picked me up a slice of their cake, you know, purely for research purposes.

The sponge cake was light but more substantial than angel food cake. The whipped cream was, well, whipped cream. My favorite part was the ricotta cream and strawberries sandwiched between layers, I could eat just that with a spoon.

So I after I knew what each component was supposed to taste like, I set out to make the entire cake. Here's how a normal person bakes cassata cake: make sponge make. Make ricotta cream. Make whipped cream. Cut some strawberries up and toss them in sugar. Cut cake in half, fill with ricotta cream and strawberries. Plop the over layer on top. Frost with whipped cream. Top with more strawberries. Voila.

Pretty straight forward. But I was already pretty stressed so here's how I made it: Make sponge cake. Do probability equations that make your head explode for 45 minutes. Take out sponge cake 20 minutes early because it's pretty brown and a knife comes out clean. Curse when it deflates a little. Make ricotta cream. Make whipped cream. Cut strawberries. Realize that you need more whipped cream. Overbeat the rest of whipped cream, rendering it useless. Curse some more. Throw some butter in the Kitchen Aid to make an impromptu butter cream. Curse as all the butter flies out of Kitchen Aid when turned on. Collect the butter and pretend it's still sanitary. Throw in some powdered sugar, covering the rest of the kitchen in a fine mist. Scrape the whipped cream off the cake because the new frosting won't stick to whipped cream. Try to disguise the fact that the cake is a lopsided mess with lots of frosting and almonds. Try not to cry when the refrigerator door crushes a section of the cake. Clean up the battle ground that is the kitchen. Go do more statistics problems whilst trying not have a panic attack.

See? Easy.

How does it taste? Beats me, I haven't tried it. I don't even want to look at it anymore.

The I'm-Sorry-I-Deleted-Your-Philosophy-Paper Stroke Inducing Cake

At least it didn't turn out too hideous, I think I would've had to kill myself. But I was determined.

Here are the components I used (or tried to use):

Sponge Cake, adapted from


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Separate the eggs. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar gradually. Add water, almond and vanilla extracts. Beat in flour.
  2. In another bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add cream of tartar and salt. Beat mixture until whites are stiff, but not until they are dry. Fold this whipped mixture into yolk mixture.
  3. Pour batter into an ungreased 9 inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for one hour, or until done.(Don't you love the baking directions? Bake one hour, or until done. Um, great, thanks for that helpful hint. And the whole ungreased pan thing? Can't see where that would work. I had a feeling it would stick so I sprayed the pan down and it still stuck like crazy.)

Ricotta Cream


2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar (can add more or less depending on desired sweetness level)
2 Tbsp amaretto
1 tsp almond extract


Beat all ingredient until smooth, set aside.


Whipped Cream Icing


  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tbsp amaretto
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin


  1. Whip cream with confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form. Add amaretto and almond extract. Dissolve gelatin in water over low heat. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then whip into cream until stiff peaks form.

Sugared Strawberries:


1. Cut strawberries (I used about 3 lbs) into slices, sprinkle about 1 Tbsp sugar over them and toss to coat. Let sit at least 5 minutes.

To assemble:

Cool sponge cake, unmold out of pan. Cut cake in half and spread on a layer of the ricotta cream. Layer half the strawberries over the cream, cover with other half of cake. Frost with whipped cream icing and cover with the remaining strawberries. If you wish, cover the sides of the cake with crushed almonds.

Wish me luck on midterms, I may or may not kill myself by the time the week is up. Argh. Here's proof that I'm going insane:
It's a hair mustache!! Hahaha... ha?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Great Pumpkin Pie Biscotti Experiment

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti: Round One Results:

I played around with making pumpkin pie biscotti recently and had pretty good results. The recipe needs to be tweaked some but not much. Basically, it wasn't as magically delicious as the gingerbread biscotti experiment. But that was kind of a fluke. The baking gods were shining their delicious light on me that night. But even without being bathed in rays of magical delicousness, I'm pretty happy with the results. I was worried that the pumpkin flavor wouldn't come through but hooray, it did! Mostly, the recipe needs more spice and the biscotti loaves came out way soft and were hard to slice. Still, I was pretty happy with the results: a spicy, pumpkin-y biscotti reminiscent of pumpkin pie.

Here's the recipe based on what I would do NEXT time so make at your own risk. But I'm pretty confident this recipe will turn out than my original.


2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup pumpkin
1 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 pumpkin. 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.

I'll play with the new recipe later on but I want to move on to bigger and better things. Like strawberries. I go on fruit runs to the local farmer's market once a week to restock my fruit supply. I'm obsessed with fruit and am constantly restocking my always dwindling supply of apples, bananas, grapes and whatever else I can find. Luckily, this market is often ridiculously cheap. They were selling quarts of strawberries for .42 cents a box. Is that not delicious craziness?! I think I had some heart palpitations upon seeing the price. So right now I have way too many strawberries in my fridge. But I couldn't pass them up. My plans for them right now are sandwiching the strawberries in a trifle with vanilla brown butter cake and chocolate pudding. BJ has been begging me to make a cassata cake, which I've never had but he insists has strawberries in it. From his rambling, drooling descriptions, he makes it out to be the best thing ever. And hey, I'm never one to turn down a reason to make a cake.

Who knows if I'll actually get this done. Midterms are soon and I really should be locked in a small room for the next week. But everybody needs balance, right? My balance is baking. Sweet, soothing baking. Except for pie. Whenever I bake pie, I am mere seconds away from having a brain aneurysm at all times. But I plan on making an apple pie soon-ish also so I'm sure you'll hear much more about that later. If I survive.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

And now for something completely different.

In non-baking news, I ended up getting another tattoo today. I wasn't planning on getting the tattoo for a few weeks, I just visited to shop to check it out and talk to an artist about what I wanted and when I could get it done. But the universe had other plans. Surprise, an artist had an appointment canceled the exact time I walked in. I knew what I wanted, had pictures for reference with me and Sarah Palin gave the good citizens of Alaska an extra $1200 for energy expenses. I don't drive, so tattoo it is, thanks Palin! Maybe I'll donate the rest to Barack Obama. You're cute, Palin, but you say 'betcha' way too much and the thought of you being president gives me the heebie jeebies. I like your glasses though so no hard feelings.

Right. So the artist drew up the design I wanted while I went to go scarf down some food really quickly to avoid passing out. I came back, he redrew the design a couple more times to please me, bless him. I'm usually not picky but hey, this is going to be on my body the rest of my life, I better love it, not just like it.

My first tattoo was an image from The Little Prince. This picture, to be exact:

And here's a horrible picture of that image on my ribs. It's hard to take a picture of your side, okay?
I wanted similar birds flying in a flock up my opposite hip, because I have this thing for symmetry when it comes to tattoos. So I gave Eric the picture from The Little Prince to get a sense of the birds and included another five dozen pictures of other flocks of birds, just in case he wasn't familiar with what one looked like. Be prepared. I used to be a Girl Scout, you know. I'm not exactly sure this is what my Girl Scout leader had in mind (may she rest in peace) but she didn't specify. Sorry, Sherri. I hope they have plenty of TaB soda for you in heaven.

Here's what I came out with an hour and a half later. Again, excuse the weird angle and such. I should really have another person take these.

Yes, that's the shower in the background. And notice that there's a window in the shower. And when you open the window, you look out into the fire escape stairs, where people regularly walk up and down. Creepy, right? It freaks me out, why would you install a rape-window?

Sorry, am I making any sense? All my endorphins are zapped and I'm tired.

I'm really happy with how it turned out and I'd eventually like Eric to touch up my other side, it's a bit sad looking now, especially when compared to the fresh tattoo.

In baking news, butterscotch-banana cupcakes are on their way, I'm just waiting for a bunch of bananas to get all disgusting and black since that's when they're the best for baking. In the mean time, I'll be experimenting with making pumpkin pie biscotti in the next day or two. Wish me luck!