Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: doughnuts!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

You might remember, but when I came up with my baking goals, doughnuts were on the list. Since then, I've made them. Twice. This challenge was my third. They're not hard, per se, but getting the frying right has proven to be pretty testy. All three times I've been at Aunt Betty's, and thank goodness, or I would have failed miserably. First was regular doughnuts with a chocolate glaze and sprinkles. Good, but the oil was too hot. Second was apple cider doughnuts, heavy enough to weigh you down but oh-so-good.

Anyway, I thought it was funny when this Daring Baker challenge came out, because I'd just made some doughnuts. But it can never hurt to try to perfect them! So for these doughnuts, we went with a basic yeast dough for light, yummy doughnuts. I used my doughnut cutter I bought while visiting Mary in NYC last fall. It makes slightly bigger doughnuts than most places call for, but it's super easy to use!

Like I said earlier, the frying part is a lot harder than it looks. The temperature of the oil jumps all over the place, and too hot and they get a lot heavier. These, though, were our best attempt yet. They were light and fluffy and wonderful. We put a maple glaze on top — maple is easily my favorite fall flavor! A few Halloween sprinkles, and we had a great fall treat. At like 4 p.m. Which seems like a weird time for doughnuts, but whatever.

So I'm curious now to see what our next challenge is, and if it will be something else I've recently made or something totally outside of my comfort zone. I might have to actually make these some time for a morning treat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Homecoming, cookies and an alcoholic-ish cupcake

This weekend was my first homecoming where I wasn't a student. I'm not sure it counts as homecoming, really, when I still live here, but whatever. I never realized how many people came back for the game, but it's actually a fairly big deal for some. My friend Megan came back from Chicago, and downtown was just packed with people. Thing is, we completely suck at football this year, so there didn't seem to be a point to go to the game. We've been outscored something crazy so far, like in the last three games: 159 from the other teams, 24 from KU. Apparently by the fourth quarter, there was hardly anyone in the stands. That's why I didn't go to begin with :) Is it basketball season yet? Anyway, by the time I move away, I hope we've improved at least a teeny bit so that I can enjoy coming back to Lawrence and going to the game.

I've had a fairly low-key week, baking-wise. My name was in the paper a little while ago, and for once it wasn't for a story I wrote. Every week the sports guys pick six games, and then have some silly question they answer too. For the K-State game, the question was what was their favorite cookie. One said chocolate chip cookies made by me and sports copy editor Nikki. I felt famous :) So I had to make some! Nothing glamorous, but I can tell that I've gotten better even at things as simple as chocolate chip cookies.

Then, I was going through Foodgawker and found mudslide cupcakes. It's been a while since I've seen a recipe on it and wanted to make it immediately, but these fit the bill. I sort of suck at following recipes, though, so I deviated from this a bit. I made Martha Stewart's devil's food cupcakes instead of the chocolate ones in this recipe...mainly because I forgot to buy coffee. When they were finished, I poked holes in them and soaked them in Kahlua. Then Kelly helped me with the icing, which was almost a disaster. It's based off egg whites and cooking them over a bowl of simmering water...point is, it can be tricky. And hot. But it came out yummy. The brown icing was chocolate Kahlua and the white was Bailey's. The alcohol didn't really come through, in the end. But I think people still liked them :)

Then, for some reason, I was craving a classic. These aren't the prettiest cookies you'll ever see. But they're something I made with my mom when I was younger and they are unbelievable, if you like butterscotch. And they're pretty much solid sugar. Where can you go wrong? :) I have no idea where this recipe came from, but they're super easy (and no-bake!).

Butterscotch Cookies
1 pkg. butterscotch chips
1 c. small marshmallows
½ c. peanut butter
small can chow mein noodles

Melt butterscotch chips over low heat. Add peanut butter. Stir. Add marshmallows. Stir together (fast). Add noodles (don’t use entire can) and stir.

So yeah, that easy. They get pretty hot and you have to form the cookies pretty quickly, so that's always a little interesting. Pop them in the fridge when you're done, and you've got a tasty cookie. Edit: I asked my mom where she got the recipe for these cookies. Turns out they're from her high school Spanish teacher in good ol' Claflin, Kansas (you don't know where that is...look it up)! Thought that was pretty cool. :)

That's all I've made this week, so nothing too out there. I've been lacking inspiration lately for what I want to make, so we'll see if this next week brings anything interesting. A last note, I wrote a story this week that I really enjoyed. It was about the restoration of a historic church in town. I did multimedia to go with it too, and it ended up on the front page. It's definitely one I will use as a clip at some point! And it's always nice when sources call and e-mail after the story runs to tell you it was good. That's what happened here. Yippee!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three sweets and a shift

Sometimes, when I write this blog, I have a hard time remembering what's been going on during the last week. I find myself measuring my days in the crime or accidents I've covered while working my job, or the stories I've written recently. Or friends who have visited. My friend Taylor and I haven't had corresponding days off since graduating, until last week. It was nice to catch up with him, and go out for my friend Tim's birthday as well. Also, last Tuesday was my Aunt Betty's birthday. Which meant baking, of course!

See, when I have a couple days off, I tend to go over there and bake for hours on end. Generally it's stuff that's a bit harder than I try on my own, because she's done so much more than me. One of those things is the Joy of Cooking angel food cake. I've never made one before — it took 11 egg whites! Can you believe that? It seems it's basically a meringue with enough flour mixed in to make it a cake. Aunt Betty wanted a birthday cake, and this was it. A lemon glaze on top, and it was super tasty.

Also on the list was using the cookie press she got me for my birthday. The pumpkin shape seemed like a good place to start, you know, with the fall season and all. It's basically a sugar almond cookie extruded through a sort of gun-type thing. Once we figured out how to work it (after a couple YouTube videos) we were good to go! I'm thinking these will make good Christmas gifts later, with red- and green-tinted dough and the Christmas tree shape.

Later in the week, I worked dayside and got some awesome news — I got switched to an earlier shift! No more vampire living for me. Except that's not entirely true, since I'm up writing this at like 5:30 a.m. Maybe I still have some adjusting to do. Anyway, it means more writing and multimedia, which is exactly the kind of stuff I like doing. The other day I got to write about a former dairy farm that is being renovated for use by KU, which is totally my type of thing. I love old family histories like that. I've got another historical story coming up, and I'm pretty excited to work on it!

Point is, my shift came about because of a larger shift in our company. It's being restructured, and Friday was my last day working with some of my coworkers. So we celebrate with cupcakes, of course! Kelly helped me make the cupcakes, which we made half chocolate and half yellow to signify the split. Okay, I have to admit, I used boxed mix for the yellow. It's the first time I've used boxed mix for a cupcake in I don't know how long, but I was fricking exhausted and didn't want to go back to the store for a measly carton of buttermilk. So I used the box. Whatever. Anyway, I think they turned out cute, what with the Halloween decorations.

So now I'm off to finish the rest of my new work week, filled with interviews and hopefully fewer car wrecks (it's been a crazy couple week with those). Oh, one last thing, I saw the bar band for the first time ever on Wednesday at the Sandbar. It's a group of guys who play a bunch of typical band songs and the KU fight song and all that, and it was great. Too bad our football team totally blew it the next day. But it did make me excited for two things: 1) basketball season and 2) my friends visiting for the upcoming KU vs. Colorado game. Who cares if we'll probably lose? I get to tailgate! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Zombies and another birthday

First things first, there's another birthday to be celebrated. As of October 9, this blog is a year old. I can't believe it! I feel like I only recently started really thinking about it regularly. Strange to know that...especially because I started this as sort of a whim, as an I-should-start-a-blog-because-I'm-a-journalist thing. Luckily, I've moved past that and now it sort of gives me goals, which, if you know me, you know I definitely need now that I don't have school.

It's been a really tough week. More specifically, a tough day at work. I know people complain regularly about how journalism is all grim and dreary and all bad news. I'm not one who subscribes to that line of thought, and I like reading and writing the good and the bad. But the other night, I got my first real taste of how depressing the world can be. In one shift, I had a triple-fatality accident and a shooting. On top of all that, I was pretty darn tired. The accident was especially tough to deal with because it reminded me of my own high school friend who died last year in a car accident. A dear friend of mine knew the family from the other day, and it tore me up knowing how it was affecting her. Listening to the scanner can bring up some pretty depressing stuff sometimes too. Needless to say, yesterday I got out of bed and went shopping and to dinner with a friend at work. Last night was my Friday, and today I get to do a day of baking with my aunt. So that will make it all better! It hit me yesterday how quickly the world changes, and sometimes I have to be there to cover it. But the coverage is important too, I think. I'll spare you the thinking behind that.

This silly Kansas weather has yet to decide if it's fall yet. Last week the temperature got up into the 80s and almost hit 90 — in October! I'm waiting for the week when it goes from 70 one day to 30 the next. That's about par for the course here. Nonetheless, most of my desserts will be Halloween- or fall-themed for a while, because I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. The other day I just craved some Brenna Brownies, so I made them (they were so aptly named this by the Kansan staff). I love how easy they are. I didn't even share them, except with Kelly. Sometimes I think it's okay to be selfish :)

A few days ago, there was a zombie walk downtown. Yup, about 300 people fully decked out in blood and gore and lots of makeup staggered down Mass. The eccentricities of this town are always interesting. Anyway, I had blood splatter wrappers and little bone sprinkles, so I thought zombie cupcakes would be a good idea. A quick yellow cake with red sprinkles mixed in (you know, more blood) and a basic buttercream with a red streak and I was set! My stupid carrier let them all fall over in the car (which sort of defeats its purpose!), but if there are any cupcakes that can be less than perfect, I think zombies fall into that category.

Then came the sour cream chocolate bundt cake. I've had this on my list for a while now, and I'm totally glad I made it. It was super moist and just a little powdered sugar on top was the perfect addition. I'm not a chocolate person by nature, but this was definitely good. When I brought it to work, I needed to bring a gallon of milk with it I think.

So now it's the weekend. My goals are to bake some awesome treats with my aunt, go out with some friends, and take my new pretty camera out to get some shots of the trees changing. There are some really pretty reddish orange trees right now, and I don't want to miss them. Because right now, all I've got on my camera are food photos and cat photos like that one. I think I need some more subject material!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Birthday baking and some Halloween treats

I now have four distinct periods of my life: grade/middle school, high school, college/Kansan and work. I was lucky enough to see people from all four times on Saturday for my birthday. It was an absolute blast, and I saw some people I hadn't in years. There might have been a little drinking involved too, but hey, it was my birthday! Dad and Cathie came to town and then we went out to dinner. Later, it was the customary trip to the Sandbar and Louises. It was great fun. More on that later, though.

I think that once places start displaying their Halloween goods for baking, it's okay for me to start making Halloween treats. Even if that means it's the last week of September. That's what I did last week, at least. They put out lime green candy melts — lime green people! If you know anything about me, you know I had to buy them right then and make the cake pops I'd been wanting to make again. Green with Halloween-ish sprinkles. I tried yellow cake this time. Not too shabby, but red velvet is definitely still my favorite. Now I just have to take that next step and start making shapes out of them...intimidating.

Also, a fun fact about me is that I get suckered in by advertising easily. If I see an ad on TV for some tasty food, I will generally start craving it. And if I walk by a bag of new Halloween Oreos in the grocery store, I'm going to buy them. And make mini Oreo cheesecakes. These are SO good and I forget how much I like them between the times I make them. But I've stocked up on fall-y cupcake liners, so it seemed like a good use for them. I'm going to have to go into cupcake overdrive to use up all those liners though.

Then there was my birthday cake. I debated for a while if I should make my own, but I figured if I could make an ice cream cake for my mom and for my ex-boyfriend, then I could make one for myself. Plus, Kelly helped, so it wasn't totally me! I went for my favorite yellow cake-turned-funfetti layered with cheesecake ice cream from Cold Stone (with more sprinkles and graham crumbs mixed in), fudge and Oreo crumbles. Kelly made the green icing for the cake. Altogether, totally yummy. And I still have some in my freezer up for grabs....

Like I said, it was a great bday weekend. A few snapshots:

My friend Jennifer came all the way from Manhattan just for my birthday celebration (that's her on the left)! On the right is my friend Elizabeth, who's still local but I don't see that often. The tiara was courtesy of the Sandbar.

I also saw some high school friends, including Marshall on the far left. Haven't seen him in a few years either. I don't have that many pictures from the night, but it was a great time!

The day after my birthday, Kelly and I drove down to St. Louis to see Vampire Weekend in concert and also visit my cousin. It was an AMAZING concert. They were so good live, it was like listening to their album.

Last but not least, for graduation, I was supposed to get a dog. Seems unrelated, yes? Well, the dog plan fell through, so on my birthday, my dad gave me my graduation present: a new Canon SLR camera!! Needless to say, I was SUPER excited! Now I can actually take decent pictures for my blog, and of life in general. Oh, and cat pictures, because that's what I'm best at :) I haven't had too much time to play with it yet, but I have gotten some great photos. Case in point: Melvin being obnoxious. I can't wait to mess with it more!
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