Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vanilla Tuile Cones with Lemon Curd or Sophie Can't Coddle Eggs

I was excited to participate in this month's Daring Bakers Challenge, especially since I wasn't able to participate last month. Last month the challenge was to make this crazy eight layer, frozen-mousse-plus-a-billion-other-pieces French cake. Between finals and the holidays/vacation, it just could not happen.

Here's the standard Daring Bakers blurb o' the month:
This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

This challenge was to make tuiles (Is that the plural of tuile? Let's pretend.) and pair them with something light of our own choosing. Originally I wanted to make sorbet but I don't have an ice cream machine and making your own sorbet looked kind of dicey. We had some grapefruits that had been hanging around for weeks so I decided to make grapefruit curd. Curd is kind of like a thin citrus pudding-y jam you can spread on just about anything. It's kinda sweet but kinda tart and kinda thick but kinda thin. I'm not very good at describing things, clearly. It's a good thing I decided not to major in English. "The book was kinda good and was about things and stuff. The end."

To make the grapefruit curd I heat up the juice of one ruby red grapefruit and the juice of a half a lemon over a make shift double boiler. While the citrus was warming, I beat three eggs with 1/4 cup a sugar. Then I tempered the egg-sugar mixture with some of the citrus juice to warm the eggs up without curdling. Added the egg mixture to the citrus and beat until thick and coated the back of the spoon. Took the mixture off heat, beat in 2 Tbsp butter and the most of the zest of the grapefruit. Viola! Grapefruit curd!

Except I only got it to work on the third time and wasted six eggs before I got it right. Our new stove is incredibly hot and no matter how carefully I tempered the eggs, they curdled. This drove me bonkers as I've made pudding/lemon curd/panna cotta etc only three trillion times successfully and suddenly the eggs would not bend to my will as per usual. Joe suggested the double boiler which helped a lot. He also beat the hell out the mixture and was probably more successful than me with my puny, stick like arms.

The tuiles were more successful, the most tricky thing about the tuiles is getting them the right thickness. Too thick and they'll be chewy, too thin and they'll burn up. You also have to shape them pretty much immediately after baking, which singed off the pads of my fingers.

I exaggerate, I still have fingerprints.

I used a slightly different recipe than the one given but lots of people had success with this recipe and it is pretty close to what I did:

Vanilla Tuiles


¼ cup ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
½ cup ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
dash of vanilla extract
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour


Preheat over to 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. If using a stencil, press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter (I used the back of a spoon to make circles). Leave some room in between your shapes.

Bake cookies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

Anyways, once I singed my fingers off rolling the burning hot cookies into cones, I stuffed a bunch of grapefruit curd into a ziplock bagged, cut off the tip and pipped the curd into the cooled cones. Cooled cones. Sounds like a crappy reggae band. Maybe only because it sounds slightly similar to the fabulous movie Cool Runnings.

Joe told me to make just half a batch of cookies and then I fed him one and he shouted, "I WANT A THOUSAND." He later said they're the best thing I've ever made so I must file this away in the 'makes the boyfriend happy' file. Other things that make Joe happy include beating things in a mortar and pestle, Pokemon and opera. He has a wide range of interest.

Next up: yogurt panna cotta and coconut walnut butterscotch bars.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Valentine's Soup

Sometimes I make real food. Real food is defined by having less than 1/4 cup of sugar in the recipe. I actually cook quite a lot but because I don't find it that interesting and usually just throw stuff in a pot until it tastes good, so I don't post my lunches or dinners here. Except this one, 'cause it was pretty: beet soup!

I'm not really picky at all but up until recently I didn't like beets. I tried some of my dad's pickled beets ages ago and thought he was crazy. Then I sat next to a kid in high school who was obsessed with beets and would eat them for lunch. He called them Nature's Candy. I thought he was weird. Well, he was weird, but beets were the least of his problems. Hi, Chris!

I don't really know what changed my mind, I don't have a defining beet moment. But I do live with two boys, one who is a gourmet foodie and one who is a human garbage disposal. So I end up trying a lot of new foods. And now I'm kind of obsessed with beets, which is unfortunate for all of my bodily secretions.

For this soup, I roasted six small beets until tender and then whizzed them up with vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar, lemon and plain yogurt. I chilled it, then I topped it with a swirl of plain yogurt, chopped raw onion and parsley, which I think you really need to balance the sweetness of the beets. It was really good and light, though it was a bit scary to eat since I knew it could stain anything within a five mile radius. On the other hand, maybe I'll make again for Valentine's day because it's pink. I'm pretty excited for Valentine's day because I'm going to make a GIANT cupcake with my new GIANT cupcake pan.

I have heart palpitations just thinking about it, it's sooo awesome. Joe got it for me for Christmas-Hanukkah. I don't actually know what I'm doing for Joe for Valentine's day, my brain is too full of ideas for GIANT CUPCAKES.

Tomorrow I unveil January's Daring Bakers Challenge!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lazy Cookies

Coming from vacation in Hawaii to school in Cleveland blew my brains and I haven't been able to focus since school started. Or I have been able to focus but my focus has been on getting really good at having panic attacks. I don't know if my insurance covers therapy but it does cover Xanax!

So I haven't been baking much at all the last few weeks. But I've been having insane cravings for those no-bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies, which is weird since I think I've had them once in my life. Today I was feeling a bit less like pulling out all my hair while hyperventilating in a corner so I decided to make some of those no-bake cookies.

They're good but not as good as the ones I had before. These guys were a bit crumbly, probably because I cut the sugar in the recipe since I knew the full amount would be too sweet for me (I know, scary right?). The problem is, they're still a bit on the sweet side and I don't know how to bind them better and give them a better texture without using the full amount of sugar. Oh well. They certainly fulfilled my chocolate-peanut butter-oat craving and I'm hoping BJ's friends will eat the rest of them tonight while drunk. (Update: Brian just announced that he's eaten half of them. Excellent.)

No Bake Cookies


  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, cocoa, milk and margarine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, peanut butter and oats.
  2. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Allow cookies to cool for at least 1 hour. Store in an airtight container.

I used butter instead of margarine, smooth peanut butter instead of chunky, halved the sugar and used half quick cooking oats and half regular rolled oats. I only had quick cooking by accident, quick cooking oats freak me out. They do that thing that instant oatmeal does when it turns into oatmeal glue instead of oatmeal. I didn't realize until a few years ago that oatmeal doesn't have to be scary and gelatinous, you just need to cook real oats! And then I proceeded to eat oatmeal every day for two years before burning out and never wanting to eat it again. I'm slowly getting back into it though, I just mix it up with cornmeal and cream of wheat.

And now you know more about my breakfast habits than you ever wanted to know. Good.

In other news, the other day I was having a bad mental health day, I think that was the same day I sent Joe a text message that read in part, "kill me, kill me, kill me". I was in my room while Brian and Joe were playing video games. I yawned a monstrous, terrifying high-pitched yawn and I heard Brian whisper to Joe, "Did you hear that? I think we have a wolf loose in the apartment." and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry because I was so pumped full of feelings.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bread Time!

Some people make New Years Resolutions about losing weight, spending less money, or stopping a disgusting habit, such as chewing and subsequently eating your nails which you know drives your crazy girlfriend to the brink of insanity. Ahem. I, on the other hand, make resolutions about baking. My goal this year is to get good at making bread. And also to finally make it through A Random Walk Down Wall Street so that I can learn to invest my nonexistent money. But I won't actually HAVE any money until I pay off my student loans (insert panicked, hysterical laughter) so I figure the bread thing is more important.

I've never made a standard loaf 'o bread so I decided to go that route first. I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated which promised to produce a from-scratch loaf in just two hours, which was a big motivating factor. One reason I don't bake much bread is because it takes so very, painfully long and I'm an instant gratification person. I want my bread now, not 12 hours from now!


1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 1/4 cups bread flour , plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup milk , warm (110 degrees)
1/3 cup water , warm (110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 package rapid-rise yeast (also called instant yeast)


  1. Bring 1/2 cup water to boil in small saucepan, slowly whisk in cornmeal. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 1 minute.

  2. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.

  3. Mix cornmeal mixture, flour, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix milk, butter, honey, and yeast in 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

  4. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

  5. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in the pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Finally, place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

  6. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.

  7. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

And the recipe delivered, despite my usual lack of sense. I failed to realize we didn't have butter until I was supposed to add it. I used olive oil instead. I also used all purpose flour since we didn't have bread flour. I'm curious to see how much of a difference the bread flour makes, that shall be my next enthralling experiment. We also ran out of milk (rice milk, actually) so I used more water plus some buttermilk powder instead.

I thought it could maybe use a touch more salt? Then again, this is supposed to be a pretty basic bread for sandwiches and such. The only other problem I had was that the bottom of my bread was a bit soggy when I took it out of the loaf pan. But I had let it cool for hours while I was at class so that may be my own fault. Still good though and tastes especially good toasted. And it really did only take about 2 hours. I'll play around with this recipe some more, it supplies a good basic loaf without too much fuss. Approved!

See my toaster in the background? It toasts toast and cooks eggs at the SAME TIME. I don't really use the egg portion, usually only BJ does, but it's still pretty awesome, no? Next I'll teach it to do the dishes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Random Walk to Waterfall

(I go back to Cleveland tonight, leaving sweet, sweet Hawaii behind. Since we haven't been at our apartment for a month, there's no perishables so baked goods will be held off a while. Here's a story instead)

So Joe tricked me into going a horrible hike by telling me that there was a 400-foot waterfall at the end. Alaska has a few post ice melt trickles down mountains but no bona fide waterfalls. Cleveland? Lacking in the waterfall department (and the cleanliness department, among other things). So I'm pretty excited about waterfalls, enough to be badgered into waking up at 5 am to drive three hours on the world's tiniest, twistiest, most nausea-inducing piece of pavement known to man. Oh yes, and since you're driving up a mountain you are also driving on the cliff edge of the tiniest, twistiest road. The bony hand of death beckons you the entire trip, which would be frightening if you weren't busy trying to keep from throwing up all of your internal organs. Screw death, I think I just felt my gallbladder make a break for it.

Banyan tree that wants to eat your soul

I've always had the tendency to get motion sick but because of my demonic acid reflux disease, I'm often nauseous for no apparent reason for days at a time. This actually happened the last two days, where each and every smell made me curl up and die. Joe would lean down to kiss me or bend down to TALK to me with his I-consumed-armagnac-and-wine-hours-prior breath and I would spend the next 15 minutes dry-heaving in a corner. Usually when I eat well and get enough sleep, I can skip the nausea. Which brings us to point two: in order to make it in and out of the hike, we woke at 5:30 am. And my stomach did not like that, no, not at all. I was immediatly nauseaous. Which brings us to point three: an hour and a half into the drive, we reached twisty, windy road time. So besides having woken up nauseaous I now had double duty nausea: useless stomach induced and motion sickness induced.

Joe climbs bamboo

I spent the next three hours slumped over in the passenger seat, trying not to redecorate the interior of the car in front of Joe's brother and cousins who were contained in the back seat. The boys made a few stops to stretch their legs but if you've ever been intensely nauseous, you know the best plan of action is to stay as still as possible because the Stomach Gods do not like movement and you will be severely punished if you change positions. So I stayed slumped against the window and telepathically tried to kill the boys were yelling about how awesome the view outside was. One of Joe's cousins, Josh, came back to the car where we had the following deep conversation:
Josh: So how are you feeling, Sophie?
Josh: ...that good, huh?

I managed to sleep for five minutes before we arrived at the park entrance, which appeased the Stomach Gods and my nausea abated a bit. But it was not a piece of cake from this point either. Point four: I asked Joe prior to the hike if my favorite silver gladiator sandals I bought at Payless would be adequate for the hike. "Sure, the whole thing is boarded!" he assured me. What he meant, apparently, was that the last quarter mile is intermittently boarded. The first hour you trudge uphill through a muddy path. It's not super intense or anything but not the cake walk Joe made it out to be and my shoes definitely were not appropriate. But it's not like the other shoe choices I had (snow boots or clogs) were any better. So I spent the better half of two hours ankle deep in mud, willing my shoes to hold together.


The waterfall WAS spectacular but I was also spectacularly muddy, insect bitten and moderately pissed off. I like waterfalls and hiking and all but couldn't decide if it was worth driving on Death Road to Nausea Town followed by Crap Hike in Inappropriate Footwear on Muddy, Definitely-Not-Boarded Trail. Thankfully the hike down, being downhill, went by a lot faster. Until we came to Point five: my sandals finally give out and break. Which isn't that surprising, given that I bought them for $15 which means they were assembled by Chinese orphans out of .5 cents of material. But it still sucked and I did the rest of the hike barefoot and hoped that squishy thing I just stepped on wasn't poisonous.

Me vs Waterfall

To his credit, Joe was horrified and offered to carry me down, which I denied since we both would've died when he inevitably slipped. I did let him carry me from the water fountain back at the trail start back to the car after I spent five minutes with my feet in the sink, washing off caked on mud. And I did accept a phenergan, an anti-nausea drug, to control nausea on the way back down, which I didn't take on the way up because it makes you PASS OUT. Had I taken it on the way up, I probably would've wandered off mid-hike to curl up in some bushes for a quick 14-hour nap.

And it was probably a good thing that I was knocked unconscious immediately afterwards because I was quite cheerful when I awoke, the whole hike seemed just part of a hideous nightmare. Also, Joe promised to buy me new sandals, which he did. I picked out some cute croc flats. I think the moral of this story is that I need to start systematically breaking things on hikes when I want new things.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Silver and White

Sorry about writing about you on the internet, Emily. I am that creepy person who writes about people on her blog.

Recently I was invited to Emily's annual Silver and White birthday party. Emily was my best friend throughout elementary school and she loved Sailor Moon and Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals. In, what, fourth or fifth grade?, she forced about 30 of our chums to put on a live, very sad, reenactment of Cats and then tortured me by keeping the VHS recording of the performance for years. She'll probably play it my wedding and I'll cry. If I never have to see myself in a white stretch body suit dancing awkwardly to The Magical Mr.Mistoffelees it will be too soon.

We dressed up as Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World one Halloween. I was Garth but had to stay glued to Emily's side, otherwise in my blonde mullet wig, ripped jeans and flannel shirt, people assumed I was going as a lumberjack or poorly dressed lesbian. Another Halloween she suggested we go as cross dressers, so we all wore gaudy dresses, stuffed our bras and drew on five o'clock shadows. I would go over to her house and gorge myself on Wonder bread, which my parents never bought because it could survive an atomic blast unharmed, and she would come over to my house and complain that our water tasted like garlic. Though we were both shy, Emily drew people to her in a way I didn't and had hysteric bursts of confidence. She was the pretty one, the cheerleader. In middle school I got tired of her boyfriends calling me to ask advice. We started to drift apart then and drifted even farther apart in high school when I stopped hanging out with the popular queen bees. Or maybe they slowly rejected me, I don't really know what happened.

But despite all that, I still felt close to Emily, like some sort of basic understanding remained between us. And I'd like to think that she felt the same way, as she continued to invite me to every birthday party she ever had. And I would go, the awkward sober one in a sea of drunken pretty people.

Last year I missed her birthday for the first time since fourth grade. Emily turned 21 this year and since this may be the last birthday party she has in Alaska, I had to go. I bought her vodka and carefully placed a handful of Haribo gummi bears, her favorite, in the bottle. I showed up early since parties full of people I don't know make me nervous. Though we're not close, it never seemed weird to see her again. But than people started pouring in by the drunken truckload and I had to load up on cheap wine to keep from panicking. I clung to Emily but that became sort of fruitless when there are 150 people in the room.

The highlights of the evening were:
1. Being hit on and called 'Sarah' by a baseball player who clearly didn't talk to me in high school
2. Having the following conversation with another high school acquaintance:
Me: So what do you do these days?
Him: I get drunk!
Me: Oh. Um...
Him: I get drunk like a lot! Like every day!

I won't even need to go to a high school reunion at this rate.

I did get to see a ton of people I genuinely like and haven't seen in a couple years, so that was nice. There's a big difference between avoiding the huge baseball player who is drooling on me and telling me how good I look now and finding my old scrabble partner at the party, who upon seeing me yells, "SOPHIE! YOU FUCKING SUCK AT SCRABBLE!" and I get to yell back, "ONLY BECAUSE YOU CHEATED! YOU AND YOUR 'HAZE' ON TRIPLE WORD SCORES EVERY GAME! IT'S UNNATURAL!"

Joe picked me up at midnight. I was Cinderella, if Cinderella had social anxiety instead of glass slippers.

I still love Emily though. One Saturday morning in eighth grade, I was sitting serenely on the couch, eating cereal and watching TV when my dad waltzed in and announced, "Your mother and I are separating. Also, we're moving." Then he walked away. I was too stunned, milk slowly migrating out of my mouth, to do much of anything, let alone yell what I was thinking which was, "THANKS DAD. NICE CHAT. HAPPY SATURDAY MORNING TO YOU TOO." Emily was the one I told first, in a restaurant bathroom on her birthday, no less. Emily introduced Joe and I and then was around every time we had a major relationship crisis: senior year in October when Joe drunkingly kissed another girl. Senior year in January when Joe dumped me in Taco King, just as I was lifting the first glorious forkful of gordita to my lips. God, senior year was AWESOME. Unfortunately, Emily seemed to pop up only when Joe was being a real asshole and wasn't around the rest of the time. Consequently, she seems a little suspicious of Joe now, a little protective. Which is kind of nice, really. You want somebody to be looking out for your best interests, who thinks they know what's best for you because they understand you at your core.

I still consider her a friend.

Emily, Josh (who I've known since 6th grade) and me, clutching my tumbler of wine with a vice-like gripe