Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and sweets: Cannolis, butterscotch cupcakes and lime pie

My senior year of high school, I had to do a book report on a book on the AP list. I chose "Pride and Prejudice" because I'd always heard so much about it. I still have the copy I read; it looks like it's sprouted sticky notes. I marked all these different themes in it for my paper, but I remember I also had to read it with a dictionary in the other hand. I'd never seen the word condescend used as a verb, among many other older words. The other day, I found out my new phone has a Kindle on it, and decided to read the book again. I'd forgotten how wonderful the story is! Elizabeth kicks ass, Miss Bingley is truly despicable, Mr. Darcy grows on you, Mr. Wickham's favor recedes. It bears mentioning that "Pride and Prejudice" is one of my top 3 movies, too, and it's funny that I pick up when quotes were moved to different characters. But the feeling of the story stayed the same. But I'm proud of myself; this time I don't need a dictionary! I'd forgotten why I loved the story, but I'm happy to say it's a top 3 book as well. Very satisfying.

One of my baking goals was a cannoli. After having one with my mom in NYC, and having her say she'd never seen one before (totally not true, as proven by her friend Merilee), Aunt Betty and I decided to make them soon after I got back. For these, we used a cinnamon cannoli shell recipe that we made in my pizzelle maker. It was kind of assembly-line style, with me cooking the shells and Aunt Betty holding them in the circular shape. Inside we did a ricotta-sugar mixture, with chocolate chips and pecans. They were excellent. Also, this completed one of my baking goals for this year. Woo hoo!

Another NYC-inspired dessert, one of the best sweets I had up there was a butterscotch cupcake from Crumbs. The cake was vanilla but the icing itself was flavored with butterscotch. That can be a pretty overpowering flavor, but just in the icing was perfect. For this one I used my favorite yellow cake recipe with the butterscotch icing from this cupcake recipe. It meant making butterscotch from scratch, like browned butter plus brown sugar and cream and all that. I think I might have a new frosting! (P.S. - submitted this over at Hoosier Homemade's Cupcake Tuesday!)

Then a few days ago Aunt Betty sent me a recipe for this lime pie. It was a little different, because the crust had toasted pecans in it. The filling was super easy: lime juice, lime zest, cream cheese and sugar. Lemme tell you though, I found all my hangnails squeezing those limes. Ouch! It took a while for this to set, but it was a great citrus-y pie. Even though it's cold and rainy outside, I refuse to think it's almost spring!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' challenge: Yeasted meringue coffee cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

I must admit, I'm not much of a coffee cake person. Actually, I'm not much of a sweets-in-the-morning person. Surprising, I know, given my affinity for sweets at all other times of the day, but morning is just too damn early for something sweet. That's why Aunt Betty and I made this in the afternoon.

After making this, you know, I might just eat it in the morning some day. What made it so awesome? The meringue inside. This is made by rolling out the dough into a rectangle and then spreading a meringue filling, topping it with chocolate and pecans (or walnuts) and rolling it up like a jelly roll. Then into a ring, some slits and another rise. Look it that gooey filling in there. Yum.

My one problem was rolling it up into the ring and having filling squeeze out, but ultimately it ended up good. And really, how nice does it need to look when it tasted so good?!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hopeful for spring: lemon whipping cream pound cake, homemade Tagalongs and my belated St. Patrick's Day cupcakes

Sometimes, I can be ornery. I blame my dad, but mostly my grandparents for that. A few weeks ago, my dad and Cathie were in Washington, D.C. One of their many stops was to Arlington, where they found the grave of my grandpa's friend Shorty. That's Grandpa, in the middle of that picture. He was ridiculously ornery, but I think his friends were worse. Apparently one time, Shorty sent my grandpa a telegram that said "Help." This was during the war when Shorty was back in LA and my grandpa in Utah on a base. So what did my grandpa do? Loaded up one of their B-24s (think big fat bomber) and picked him up in Los Angeles. Didn't even shut down the airplane, he just ran to it while it was running and entered through the bomb bay. I can't even imagine what merited that sort of pickup, but I suppose I'll never know! I love hearing stories like that about my family. Not only does it show that my grandpa had a sense of humor, but he was fiercely loyal. I can admire that.

It's been a while since I've written a regular blog post. So I have a backup of stuff I've made. First, late I know, is my St. Patrick's Day cupcakes. I made green velvet cupcakes (simply edited with green food coloring) with a cream cheese icing. These were my first hi-hat cupcakes, even though I posted the baby shower ones first. The icing has to be chilly, and you dip them in candy melt. These were awesome. Best of all, they got glowing reviews from a coworker's son. He said they broke a record — the record for best cupcake ever. Previously held by the Thin Mint cupcakes. Adorable.

In anticipation of spring, I decided to make this lemon whipping cream pound cake at Aunt Betty's last week. When we were reading through the recipe, we realized there was no leavening. Now, I know a pound cake is generally heavy. But so heavy it doesn't rise at all? So we looked at comparable recipes and they said we needed baking powder. Well, we added some, and part of the cake fell anyway. Who the heck knows what happened. But, the nice thing about bundts is that they're baked upside-down. No mistakes to be seen here! With a nice, tart lemon glaze on top, this was a perfect hint of spring.

And everyone knows how awesome Girl Scout cookie season is. So I knew I had to make these homemade tagalongs when I saw them. They're a little difficult, in the sense that even when you get the cookie in the middle made, dipping them with peanut butter into the chocolate is hard. Peanut butter is sticky, in case everyone didn't know that :) And to be really tagalong-like, they need to be refrigerated so the chocolate doesn't stick to the parchment paper when they're done. What made these cookies extra special though? I got to give them to my cousin Jon on his birthday, which also happened to be the day he proposed to his wonderful girlfriend, Katie. Can't wait for her to be a part of the family! She's gonna fit right in.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's a boy! Baby shower cupcakes

One of my best friends Sarah is having a baby. She's my first close friend who's gotten married, gotten pregnant and is really starting a family. Sarah and I were close friends throughout college, when she was dating my friend Matt, who was on the newspaper with me.

This is my Kansan group. Well, really only one of them. There are different generations of the newspaper I'm close with, but I was really happy to get to see them Sunday. They're the kinds of friends I know I'll have forever, no matter how long we go without seeing each other.

Because Sarah (and baby David!) was the guest of honor, she chose the flavors for the night. Yellow cake with chocolate icing with a candy coating in baby boy colors — blue and green. That's Sarah enjoying one of it! We all had a great time together, and it was a successful shower.

Even the part where Justin digs through a diaper to discover what kind of candy that is. Also, I've uploaded these cupcakes to Hoosier Homemade's Cupcake Tuesday. Just an FYI :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

100 cupcakes later...

So this is what 100 cupcakes looks like. Well, 102, but who's counting? These are shark attack cupcakes, which I made for KZoo's shark week on campus.

I'd made shark attack cupcakes once before, when Erin and Jodi came to town. What is a shark attack, you ask? It's a berry-lemonadey drink from the Sandbar, which includes some grenadine in a plastic shark to mimic blood in a shark attack.

So these cupcakes are a lemon cake that is then brushed with a wildberry drink mixer (nonalcoholic of course!) topped with a grenadine swiss meringue buttercream.

I've never made this many cupcakes at once before, and lemme tell ya, it was hard to rotate them through my kitchen. Thank goodness Kelly was there to help! They used a LOT of egg whites, which left all these yolks. I'm thinking some sort of custard to use them up. I also felt like I had a thin layer of sugar all over me when I finished.

So here are the cupcakes, being sold on campus (thanks Debbie for the picture!). Debbie, from the Sandbar, wrote about the cupcakes on the Sandbar's blog too. I was so happy to do these!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Selection Sunday

I'm hoping for another 2008. How awesome would that be? Love me some Jayhawk basketball.

Five stores, three bags of candy melts, eight bags of eyes and a fair number of hours today were spent on these cake pops.

Figured they were perfect for March Madness. Plus, we're Big 12 tournament and conference champs. What better reason to celebrate?

I based this idea off of Bakerella's Big Bird cake pops. Dip a pop in red candy melts, then cover candy corn (with the ends cut off to make them shorter) in yellow melt. Attach the eyes and beaks with candy melt, and draw on the eyebrows with melt. Draw on nostrils and a smile with an edible marker. A blue bow and there you have it! Beak'em Hawks!

Als0, this was a baking goal of mine the last two times I set them. Finally succeeded! And probably not again for a very long time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A New York minute

Last week, I spent a few days in NYC with my mom. That is, after I got past my almost 5-hour delay on Frontier that was caused by weather but then airline error. Whatever. I got a voucher, so that's nice.

We had a couple days there, days we spent walking/cabbing all over the city seeing cool stuff. A lot of it was food-related, but a lot wasn't. Like this awesome Barbie foosball table at FAO Schwarz. Price tag? $25K. Supposedly because there were only 10 name. I think some scissors and glue could do relatively the same thing.

We just stumbled on a Crumbs Cupcakes on our way to Fifth Avenue. There were SO many choices, like cookie dough, Irish cream and the whopping blackbottom cheesecake brownie, complete with 1090 calories. Yikes! I got that butterscotch one right at the front, which was a vanilla cake with butterscotch frosting and chips. Definitely tasty, and not overwhelming.

I ate it in Bryant Park, where Fashion Week used to be. It had beautiful trees, a great juxtaposition to the skyscrapers behind it.

We spent a fair amount of time on Fifth Avenue, and like I said, spent some time in FAO Schwarz. If I were a child, I would be in heaven. Three floors of toys, ranging from Sesame Street stuffed animals dressed in New York outfits (I may or may not have gotten Cookie Monster dressed in an NYPD uniform) to Harry Potter toys to the giant piano from "Big." On my way out, I saw this wall of Muppets near a station where you can make your own Muppet. If only I had $100 to just waste on this sort of thing. It made me think of my friend Spencer, though, who does puppetry as a profession. So neat. I think I might go watch Muppet Treasure Island now...

We eventually made our way to Dylan's Candy Bar, which has the coolest stairs ever. It's kind of like a little slice of heaven. Every candy imaginable is in this store...I could spend a long time there.

Then we headed down to Serendipity 3 on Lauren's recommendation. The place was very hole-in-the-wall, with lots of Tiffany-style lamps hanging up. The place is famous for its frozen hot chocolate, but we went for the sundae, New York-style, instead: the Forbidden Broadway Sundae. Chocolate blackout cake, vanilla ice cream and yummy hot fudge. No, we did not finish it. Later that day we met Mary down in Soho for dinner and Asher for drinks. Great time seeing both.

We visited Jackie O the next day at the Met. I love me some Warhol.

Then we headed down to Little Italy per on my boss's suggestion. Dennis said to go to this place, Positano, in the heart of Little Italy. It was legitimately the best pasta I'd ever had. Vodka penne? Awesome. Finished the whole plate, and I NEVER do that when I eat.

Then on down the street, after a quick shop at a street vendor, to La Bella Ferrara, another place Dennis said to go. He said the cannoli was the best he'd ever tasted, but the whole spread was pretty darn impressive.

But I followed Dennis's suggestion and got the cannoli (which, I'd like to point out, is a dessert my mother had never heard of. Really). It was also amazing. Perfectly fried outer part, great pastry cream inside. Mmmmm.

Then we walked a few blocks north to Papabubble, a place I saw on Food Network's "Kid in a Candy Store." It was so worth the walk. Look at all those different kinds of candies!

They were making candy when we were there. They combine the different stripes into one big log, which they keep on the reddish table, which is warmed to keep the candy malleable. They were putting it through that machine to cut it, which if I remember correctly is the only machine they use for candy.

This is what they ended up with: strawberry-flavored candy. I got a container of various flavors, and it's already gone. Now if only they had one of these in Kansas.

While we were walking in Little Italy, we saw some observant kitties. Had to take a photo, of course.

We also made the trek to Mood Fabrics, which is a place "Project Runway" devotees know well. It's where designers on the show shop, and it was three floors of fabric goodness. Definitely amazing.

Last on the list was Broadway, and we went to see "Wicked." I'd seen it before in Chicago, but nothing beats Broadway, and this show held true to form. This is the stage before the show, which is easily one of the best I've ever seen. No one makes mistakes on Broadway.

All in all, it was a pretty fun trip. We covered a lot of ground in a couple days, and ended up with very sore feet at the end!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Week away

Sorry I've been gone this week, but I've been in a wonderful place, seeing things like this:

And this:

And this:

And don't worry, plenty of treats too. I will be back next week with more pictures of my trip.
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