Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cupcakes, cupcakes and cupcakes

I hate airport security. I'm sure everyone else does too. But seriously, shoes and jackets off (which leaves me shoeless most of the time), then you rush through the line so you don't hold it up, then have to slow back down again to gather everything up again. Ugh.

Obviously, I flew this weekend. I went to Grand Rapids to visit my mom. Seems a bit weird that I'd go north at this time of year instead of south, but whatever works. I got to meet her new kitty, Salem, who is really cute. And visit her other kitty and dog. You all think I'm an animal person, but you haven't met my mom. Believe me.

I spent most of my time up there doing homework, but I did manage to get in some baking. I'm a little concerned that my baking time is going to go way down in the next couple weeks. Actually, I know it is. I have a major test this week (in a theory class, with material that goes WAY over my head), a major test next week, have to start writing my project, start designing the yearbook, and a laundry list of other things to do. I'm also going to Manhattan this weekend for my first experience with Fake Patty's. I figure I promised a friend I'd visit sometime, so might as well make it this weekend. Then spring break in Vegas — can't wait!!

But I've been making cupcakes again recently. I've done two rounds of Contemporary Feminist Political Theory Birthday Cupcakes. Both girls wanted chocolate cupcakes with regular frosting, so I made Martha's Devil's Food cupcakes. They have sour cream in them, which makes them especially rich and yummy. For Elise, I made red frosting, and I've started using icing tips. I'm getting better, but my cupcakes still look a little wonky sometimes. But they definitely look better than just slopping on the icing (photo courtesy my wonderful food photographer Tanner Grubbs). Then I also made the same kind of cupcakes for Elizabeth, but left the icing white and used pretty Easter sprinkles. Ultimately, I don't really care about many holidays themselves, but I love the decorations (and sprinkles!) holidays bring.

While in Grand Rapids, I usually go clothes shopping with my mom (I got these shoes this time), this trip also had a large focus on specialty food shopping. One place, Martha's Vineyard, had a whole bunch of unique beers, wines and foods. I got Drew a six-pack of local beers, all with awesome labels. Another place, Russo's, is more of a grocery store, although we got some wine there too. There I found Marsala for tiramisu cupcakes and graham flour for s'mores cupcakes. My suitcase coming home was pretty darn heavy, because I got a bottle of specialty vodka too.

While I was there, though, I decided to try a recipe I've been wanting to for a while: malted milk cupcakes. They're basically dark chocolate cupcakes (with sour cream again, I promise it's not gross but actually makes them yummy!) with malted milk powder mixed in. I'm a big Whopper girl, or in this season, Robin's Eggs girl. I prefer not to buy them that often, otherwise I eat too many at once and make myself sick. But a cupcake version sounded too good not to do. Something I realized is that I've become very accustomed to my stand mixer. My mom doesn't have one, and I'd forgotten how much I dislike hand mixers when you have to mix for a long time. My stand mixer spoils me. :) But anyway, I didn't taste that much of malt in the cupcakes, so when I made the frosting, I mixed in more malt powder. They were pretty tasty. I will be making them again.

We'll see how much time I have to bake this week or next. I'm not sure I'll even have time to use it as a stress-reliever, no matter how much I need it. Sigh. Senior year isn't supposed to be this stressful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Red velvet and tractor generators

I find that the farther into the semester I get, the less I want to do. I kind of just want to sleep. Things I managed to do this weekend: margaritas at Salty with Mark, Allison and crew, a little bit of homework, bake cookies, go to a KU game, hang out with Mark and crew before they leave, bake a cake with my cousin's daughter, bake cheesecake, get a stomachache, get a fever. Sounds like a lot I suppose, now looking at it.

Drew, Billy and I went to Salty Iguana on Friday to meet Mark and everyone he was with, but we had to wait more than an hour because they got in a little wreck. Margaritas helped make up that extra time though. I went home to do reading for classes and made basic chocolate chip and M&M cookies. Classic.

The next day was lunch at Dempsey's with everyone and the KU game. I think the truffle fries might be one of my favorite foods when I eat out. Then was KU vs. Iowa State. We seem to only play to the level of the people we're playing, so the games always stay uncomfortably close. Fun time though. Then everyone just hung out. AC and Julie were in town from Kansas City to go to the game and see Mark, and Matthias, our friend in the Air Force, is in town for two weeks. We haven't seen him since he graduated two years ago. Good times.

Sunday morning, I went over to my aunt's house, where my cousin and her daughter were visiting. We made Joy of Cooking's red velvet cake (heart-shaped for Valentine's Day) with Martha Stewart's cream cheese frosting. A mixing of mediums, if you will. I guess I'm getting more into cakes. Probably time to get more cake decorating stuff. Anyway, it was REALLY red. And really tasty. My aunt started telling stories of being sneaky and sometimes obnoxious in college, like when the girls in the dorm room below her started bothering her.

We started talking about funny stories, which makes me think of one of my favorite family stories. My grandpa was a farm boy and went to camp one summer. For whatever reason (perhaps it's a sign of the times) he brought along a tractor generator. The kid in the bunk above him was a preacher's son, apparently an annoying kid. So before they went to bed, my grandpa and one of his friends stitched the kid's sheets with copper wire. After the kid went to sleep, they hooked up the wire to the generator and ZING! the kid was shocked. They heard his head hit the ceiling. Then he'd go back to sleep, and a little while later they'd shock him again. They did it all night until morning. The kid woke up, and started talking about this crazy dream he had. He'd thought he'd been struck by lightning. My grandpa was kind of ornery :). That's him in the picture, when he was in the Army Air Corps. Ornery and military.

Anyway, after Aunt Betty's came Valentine's Day stuff. Originally, I was planning to make three kinds of ravioli for a sampler kind of thing, but I just didn't have the energy. So we just did steak and scalloped potatoes, with little personal cheesecakes for dessert. Drew's mom got me these mini heart-shaped springform pans that had a recipe for cheesecake on the back. Then I made a pineapple sauce to go on top, a la Emeril Lagasse. I actually put the sauce through the food processor so it wasn't giant chunks of pineapple.

My next goal is rainbow cake, which Kelly sent me the link to. I can't wait! I wonder if it dyes your tongue a weird color...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Five-layer ice cream cake

Man, I'm tired. I've hit that frustration point in the semester, as in I'm already weeding out homework and trying to stop myself from skipping half my classes. It's a bit early for that, but senioritis is in full swing. It's not just that though. I've got an internship, a big project to work on and a yearbook to do, PLUS that whole job search thing. No big deal. Hah! Very big deal.

I was going to bake last night. I really felt like baking, but could not come up with what I wanted to do. I had a big interview to do, then cooked dinner, and as it got later and later I realized it wasn't going to happen. I'm finding my brain is shutting off a lot earlier than usual because I'm getting up earlier every day. Ugh. So no cookies last night. Tonight perhaps? Depends, once again, on how another interview for my project goes.

But I did make the ice cream cake. It succeeded! Easily one of the things I'm most proud of. It was Drew's 23rd birthday. Got him a gift certificate for our spring break trip to Vegas (which could NOT come fast enough), 23 balloons and this cake. I tried to combine all things he likes most. Made two nine-inch rounds of yellow cake from scratch, which turned out excellent. I added in sprinkles to make them homemade funfetti. Then, bought Cold Stone's cake batter ice cream with cookie dough mixed in, Drew's favorite. I had to let it melt and then spread it in one of the cake pans lined with plastic wrap. Then you're supposed to let it freeze. I was impatient, however, and didn't let it freeze for that long. If I did it again, I'd let it go overnight. But I didn't. So as I was putting together the cake, it started melting. The layers went, from bottom, yellow funfetti cake, ice cream, Oreo crumbles (took out the cream from the middle and food processed them), hot fudge, cake. I really wanted to get the fudge and crumbles in there like the Dairy Queen ice cream cakes. But those don't have cake, and I wanted cake. Most of the other ice cream cake recipes had cake and ice cream but no cookies and fudge. So I combined them.

As I was saying, the cake started melting. I stuck it back in the freezer as fast as possible and left it there over night, where it sank a bit more and sort of looked like a floppy hamburger. But by morning it was frozen solid, and I could actually cut off all the melted part and make it look relatively circular again. Then, for frosting, I had whipped cream that I put blue food coloring in. I think real frosting on top of this would put you into a diabetic coma after one bite. Anyway, I iced the cake and the put a couple of cookie crumbles on top, and voila! I had an ice cream cake, 5 layers and all. And it was quite yummy. Not a bad birthday present.

A couple days ago I went for the much easier sweet: The perennial Hershey's kiss cookie. You know, the one with the Kiss on top of a peanut butter cookie. I'd never made them before, but they're amazing. Especially a couple minutes out of the oven. Plus, there was chocolate left over. Love it.

Mark is in town this weekend from Chicago with Allison. Should be a fun time. The next few weekends are pretty booked, between him, Erin in town, me visiting Mom, Fake Patty's with Keane and then Spring Break. Wonder when I'll get my homework done. Meh.

As a last note, a book recommendation for you all. I'm working on a project about the 1960s and '70s, and I'm reading this fascinating book about all the hippies from Lawrence and their crazy drugged-out stories. It's called "Cows Are Freaky When They Look at You." It's got excellent short stories from a time I don't really understand. And it's hysterical. I got my copy at The Raven. It's totally worth it for when you need to stop reading whatever awful textbook you have at night but aren't tired enough to sleep.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mobbing the brownies

Well I'm officially overwhelmed with schoolwork and all the stuff I'm doing. So naturally I decide to blog. Specifically, I'm setting a goal for myself to blog once per week. We'll see if it keeps up.

It's birthday time right now. Last weekend Drew and I went to KC to celebrate his mom's birthday. Technically, her birthday was more than a week ago, but she and Drew's dad went to St. John's. So jealous. Anyway, we ate at Blue Koi (which has like the best dumplings ever!). Then we watched the KU-K-state game and drove home, where I made Snickerdoodle cupcakes. See, I've made a variation before for my Fourth of July baking bonanza. But I'd never made Martha's version, and I think we all know how much I like Martha's recipes. This was also my first baked item using the beater blade, a special mixer attachment for my KitchenAid that scrapes the edges of the bowl while it's mixing. I can't tell you how excited I was to get this! Originally I bought it on a trip to Nebraska Furniture Mart after lunch with Tara, but I managed to buy one that didn't fit my machine. Judging from a bin of opened and discounted mixers, a lot of other people have too. But yes, I get unnaturally excited about attachments for my mixer. ANYWAY, Weston has been bugging me about snickerdoodle cupcakes forever, but I don't really like carrying cupcakes around campus, so only wanted to bring them up on a Sunday. The recipe calls for some weird meringue-like frosting, but I'm more of a buttercream type of lady, so I went with a cinnamon buttercream frosting instead. The finished product, which are light and fluffy because you beat the hell out of the butter for the batter, actually include five sticks of buttter between the cakes and frosting. That's why they tasted SO good. Butter makes everything better. Drew really liked them, as did Weston, and also Drew's roommate.

I was definitely late to my class Monday. I think it's going to be one of those weeks. It's a class where you have to get there right at 9 a.m. and take a quiz. If you're late, you get 1 out of 5 points for writing down your name. I'm always super tired, though, and often get bored. Traffic was naturally bad and I got behind two super slow vehicles on the way to campus, so got up to campus at like 8:59. So I just didn't go. Apparently I've entered the close-to-completely-apathetic stage of my senior year. Grades don't matter, right? ;) No, I know they do. But sometimes productivity rules. This morning, sleep ruled. I skipped my second class of the semester, during which apparently we didn't even do what we were supposed to. Sigh. I'm currently researching an in-depth project, assigning out projects for our yearbook and interning at the local paper.

I'm noticing this is leaving very little time. Naturally, last night I filled that time with baking a new recipe. My friend Emily pointed out the blog Smitten Kitchen to me, specifically this peanut butter brownie. It's kind of a cakey-blondieish brownie. Lots of peanut butter and chocolate chips. On top is a dark chocolate ganache (I made double what they said; didn't use it all but definitely liked it with more than the recipe called for). So I brought these in to the newsroom today, and I think my pan literally got mobbed. Taylor had to hold it up high above everyone so I could cut them. I think it's safe to say people liked them, and I got my professional blog photographer, Tanner Grubbs, to take the photo again mid-pan.

My next project is going to be for Drew's birthday, which is this Friday. He turns 23. We're all going out, obviously. His mom made him cookie cake, a holiday staple at their house. So I'm considering making (or attempting to make) ice cream cake. Drew only reads sports blogs so I'm safe to say that on here. But if you know him, don't tell him. I'm thinking of getting his favorite ice cream combo from Cold Stone (cake batter with cookie dough mixed in) and putting it with some kind of cake, although I'm not what flavor to make the cake part of it. I'm going to have to research how to make this kind of thing too. If I can't figure it out, I guess we'll eat ice cream with cookie dough AND cake chunks mixed in.
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