Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Birthday Butterflies

I'm not a big birthday party person, I'm usually content with a small family dinner or something similar. On the other hand, I was excited to bake something awesome for myself. A few people asked if Joe was going to make me cake and that honestly hadn't occurred to me, perhaps because one time Joe me pancakes that were curdled, undercooked and filled with kiwi slices.

He's gotten much better at baking since but I just enjoy doing it. I also found out around the same time that my pilates teacher was putting on a benefit for her dance company the day of my birthday. I decided to make something for her benefit that I could also use as my birthday dessert.

Joe gave me Hello, Cupcake! for Christmas last year and while I've flipped through it many times, I never had an occasion to make any of the cupcakes. A benefit and my birthday seemed like it warranted some special cupcakes so I looked through it again and decided on butterfly cupcakes. Basically, you pipe chocolate into the shape of a butterfly onto parchment paper and let them harden. Except its really hard and takes 900 hours.

I knew the butterflies would take forever so I started making them about a week before I baked the cupcakes. I traced butterfly outlines onto parchment paper, filled pipping bags with chocolate and then traced my outlines. Then I used colored chocolate to fill in the outline and used a chopstick to pull the outline into the wing for a swirly design.

I actually found this quite enjoyable and relaxing but I am odd that way. I spent quite a few nights happily pipping butterflies on the living room table. And I may or may not have been half nude and watching Project Runway at the time. Completely normal behavior.

Two days before my birthday, I made vanilla bean buttercream, which is pretty much the best thing you will ever put in your mouth. Joe came up with the ingenious idea of buying vanilla beans off of amazon.com and now we have loads of vanilla beans that I put in everything.

The day before I baked chocolate cupcakes. I've been searching for a good go to chocolate cake recipe and this one was pretty close. I thought it could be a tad more moist but baking them a little less might solve that. They would also be better with fancy cocoa powder, I just used Hershey's. AKA cocoa powder for college students.

My birthday cupcake with 22 on the wings. I'm very clever that way.

The morning of my birthday, I whipped up the buttercream and frosted and decorated the cupcakes. Then I loaded them onto a cookie sheet and prayed that I wouldn't drop them. I may have murdered somebody if that had happened. Transporting was also difficult because it was still hot at that time so my poor chocolate butterflies began to wilt a bit in the car. I eventually settled on blasting the air conditioner and sacrificing bodily heat for the butterflies.

Everybody loved them but thought I was nuts for making chocolate butterflies. Can't win them all!

And because I am that crazy, I would make them again but maybe out of something more stable than chocolate. Like steel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puff pastry? FML.

When September's Daring Baker's challenge was revealed, my heart stopped. I starred at it for awhile. Then I texted Joe:
Me: Aaarrrgh! This month's challenge: puff pastry.
Joe: That blows.

Puff pastry is one thing I've always said is not worth making and it truly never occurred to me to attempt it. I had looked at the process and laughed. I work with puff pastry, oh I don't know, NEVER. I don't really like it. I'm not a big fan of crispy, buttery things. Potato chips? No. Pie crust? No. Puff pastry? You get the idea. I almost decided not to do the challenge... but I then I did. I'm a strange creature.

Blurb'o the month:

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!”

The process was not as bad as I thought. Hard? Not really. Time consuming? Um yeah. Then again, I made the recipe in one day and it could be easily split up throughout a couple days.

I think my croissant making class also helped, since at least somewhere in the back of my reptile mind the phrase 'butter package' made sense to me.

I saw this picture three weeks after I took it said, "Wow, there's so much butter in puff pastry that it looks like a slab of butter!" and then I realized: this IS a slab of butter. I beat this out with a rolling pin before folding it into the dough.

Like so.

Apparently I got tired of coating my camera in butter and flour because the next picture I took is this one, hours after the last photo.


I filled my little puff pastry baskets with vanilla bean pastry cream and blueberries and served them at my weekly Top Chef party. Which isn't really a party at all, it mostly consists of my boyfriend, my best friend and me watching Top Chef and eating. I wasn't a fan of the recipe I used for the pastry cream and had to alter it a lot to make the texture smooth and not starchy. However, Katie declared her undying love for it and was about ready to bathe in it so I guess it was a success.

I thought about captioning this photo with: Desserts are like wounds. The best kinds are the ones the ooze. And that's what happens to your mind after working in a hospital for four years.

I made half the recipe of puff pastry and baked about 1/4 of the dough I prepared. I had a few baskets left over after Top Chef night but neither Joe or I ate them and I ended up throwing them away. The rest of the pastry sits in my freezer and I'm sure Joe will do something with it someday. But I just don't care enough about puff pastry to make it again. I'm glad I made it though, it made me feel like a baking superstar! Which I am, obviously.

Excuse me, somebody hasn't had their slice of humble pie today. Humble puff pastry? Har. I won't post the recipes used because this post is already about nine years long.

As usual, I look forward to next month's challenge, though I hope it's something I like a little more!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I've gone crackers for crackers!

Thanks for the baking suggestions, I will definitely take some of your guys suggestions in the next couple months! In the meantime, before I got any suggestions, I asked Joe what I should make. And he wanted (wait for it, wait for it!) crackers. Again.

So I did a little digging to find a yummy cracker recipe and eventually came upon Ina Garten's recipe for Parmesan black pepper crackers. We usually have a big ol' hunk of Parmesan in our fridge and the idea was Joe approved so I settled on those.

These, like other cracker recipes I've tried, were pretty easy. Except for the part when I was half way done mixing when I asked Joe were the flour was and he says, "Oh, we're out of flour." Are you kidding me? Just a minor detail, we just don't have the most essential ingredient. Not worth mentioning. I go a little nuts when I'm baking, you see, don't upset me in the middle of baking or I will be forced to take out your eyes.

Parmesan Black Pepper Crackers by Ina Garten


  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the Parmesan, flour, salt, thyme and pepper and combine.

Dump the dough on a lightly floured board and roll into a 13-inch long log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 22 minutes.


But then we went shopping and all was better and Joe got to keep his eyes. What was I saying? Oh yes, the recipe was easy. The only thing was the mixture was super crumbly, even after I added a little more water to the dough. The log was next to impossible to cut without falling apart everywhere. However, once I let it warm up it was much easier to handle.

Yes, I made a few heart shaped one because I am just that corny.

These were more like savory shortbread than crackers but they were still quite tasty. They would be really good for party snacks/appetizers whatever. I think Joe likes less buttery crackers but he still gobbled them up in no time.

Next time: birthday goodies!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Real food time: roasted veggies!

So I do cook real food on occasion. And the ingredients don't even consist of only flour, sugar and butter! I saw on the news today that a bear broke into a house and ate a container of brown sugar, a box of Cocopuffs and a quart of ice cream before crawling out a window. And I was all, "Me and that bear would get along just fine." I'll capture him, feed him baked goods and we'll live in harmony. I'll name him Norman.

Anyway, I rarely post my savory dishes since what I cook is pretty slap dash and made up. However, I was bored the other day and this is a pretty standard dish of mine so here you go. Roasted veggies.

Before roasting

I've become pretty obsessed with roasting things. It's A) Super easy. You slice things up, crank up the oven and leave it in the oven until it looks done or you get impatient and B) nine times out of ten, its super delicious. I do this most often with vegetable but fruits can also be tasty. Baked apples, anyone? I eat those a lot. I was making one over the summer and my brother asked, "What's that? Can I have one?" and I replied, "A baked apple, of course. We are obviously not related. I'll make you one if you take a shower." The joys of living with a teenage boy.

I usually just pull out whatever we happen to have around and this time it was onion, squash, mushrooms and carrots. The biggest thing I've learned about roasting veggies is to cut them into similar sized chunks so that they all cook at the same pace. Otherwise you'll have burnt mushrooms and raw squash and we are aiming for edible here.

After roasting

So 1) cut veggies into roughly the same sizes. 2) Transfer veggies to a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil, mostly for easy clean up factor because I'm lazy. 4) season the veggies. I spray the veggies with cooking spray to get a nice even coating that way. Then I sprinkle on salt, pepper and cayenne. 5) Pop into a hot oven (I usually go 400 for most veggie mixes) and bake until the veggies are soft and nicely browned. Again, this varies for different veggie mixes but at least 20 minutes for most batches.

Ta da! You can finish them off with a little fresh herbs (I used parsley here) or grated cheese, whatever you like.

Okay, baking suggestion time. What should I make next? All Joe wants is crackers.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tiramisu trifle... sorta

My latest means of choosing recipe includes turning to Joe and asking, "What should I bake next?" This time he answered tiramisu.

Joe had invited Brian over for dinner so I had a good excuse to make the tiramisu that day, since I knew BJ cannot resist my baked goods. Sam and Monica, who went with us to the Medieval fair, also ended up coming over later so I got to force feed numerous people. I love feeding people. I think I may have been a Jewish grandmother in a past life.

So I hadn't made tiramisu before because it's not my favorite thing in the world. Sponge cake soaked in coffee and liqueur layered with pudding-like marscrapone also spiked with coffee and booze. Maybe it's the coffee (after my brief obsession with skinny caramel lattes, I'm back to feeling fairly 'meh' about coffee) or the booze (I'll spare you the truly epic history of alcoholism in the family) but it's never something I reach for. But hey, better to have baked goods laying around that I don't want to eat, right?

Because I was bored that day, I decided to make the sponge cake from scratch. I also forgot that you can buy lady fingers like a normal person who doesn't want to spend two hours in the kitchen. I also decided that I would use a glass bowl for presentation and make a kind of tiramisu trifle instead of assembling it in a pan. This was a good idea in theory but looked really crappy when I tried to take pictures of it. Shoot. So ignore that this looks like something a cat might throw up because it was really pretty delicious.

I used Giada's recipe for tiramisu because I trust her. She's just so good looking, how can anything she say be lies? If you want to make your own sponge cake, I used this recipe.


  • *6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups strong espresso, cooled
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum
  • 24 packaged ladyfingers
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish


In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.

In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso for only 5 seconds. Letting the ladyfingers soak too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, breaking them in half if necessary in order to fit the bottom.

Spread evenly 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.

Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.

Before serving, sprinkle with chocolate shavings.


Brian ate about five portions and then had trouble moving so I considered the tiramisu a success.

Then Monica had to leave and the boys realized they have never subjected me to the horrors that is playing Worms with a bunch of boys. In Worms, each player has a team of worms that tries to kill the other teams of worms with a variety of bizarre weapons that are impossible to operate. In my modest opinion, anyway. I don't play video games like, ever so it was a sight to see.

It went a little like this:


And then I collapse into the couch face down and stab random buttons without looking. And I have so much natural skill at video games that I still won.

Beginners luck apparently, Joe forced me to play later and it was a catastrophe.