Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' challenge: Candy!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

I have to admit, this is my most favorite challenge in the last few months. There are so many options with candy, and yet I don't make it often because it's pretty challenging with temperatures and stuff. This is citrus paté de know how I love my citrus! Basically it's homemade gummy candy. I don't like picking just one citrus, so this is lemon-lime-orange. Basically, this uses pectin to set, which I've never used before. It also has applesauce, which naturally has pectin. When we were cooking it (which took forever), I was worried the apple flavor wouldn't cook out, but it did! I want to try this again, for sure. Maybe in winter, when I'm dreaming of warm weather.

And these are chocolate hazelnut truffles. No fresh hazelnuts that we could find at this time of year, but we followed a recipe Daring Bakers provided and made hazelnut praline, kind of like peanut brittle with hazelnuts. You crunch that up in the food processor, mix it with the ganache for the center. After that chills, roll it up and coat it with crushed hazelnut, and we have truffles. They were a-maz-ing. My only problem with the challenge was I didn't have time to try making everything I wanted to! There was a recipe for honeycomb candy and filled bon-bons. I want to do filled chocolates for sure, but need to come up with a good filling that's not caramel. Ideas?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Slice of summer: Peach galette, Mississippi mud pie and scones

I'm not sure I've ever mentioned my love of Muppets. Disney movies, sure, but Muppets are right up there. I still remember seeing Muppets in Space in theaters with my mom as a kid, and seeing a friend from school. I think she was super sick, and I remember being really nervous I'd catch her cold. Anyway, I own all the Muppet movies on DVD, and I have always especially loved Muppet Treasure Island. A few years ago, they came out with Muppet Wizard of Oz, and honestly, it kind of sucked. So the November release of The Muppets, complete with Amy Adams, Jason Segal and a new soundtrack of covers of Muppet song, is pretty exciting. The music video for OK Go's cover of the Muppet Show theme song is outstanding. And the Fray's cover of Mahna Mahna is amazing too. So tonight, I start rewatching Muppet movies. So there, another facet of my dorkiness is revealed :)

Ever seen cinnamon chips at a grocery store? If you like them, and you do, I suggest picking up multiple bags of them, like I did this weekend. There's only one store in Lawrence I've seen that has them, and Aunt Betty and I went there for that and chocolate wafer cookies. It's worth it, though, for these cream scones. Cinnamon chips and pecans are perfect, and they aren't too heavy. Good thing I'm stocked up for future batches. This recipe was given to me by a local rep from the sheriff's office, and it's the best (and easiest) scone I've ever had.

I feel like I always want to make fruit desserts, but by the time I figure out what I want to make, the best fruit is out of season. So I was glad when Aunt Betty suggested we make this peach galette, a pretty easy dessert for how pretty it looks. Pastry is my least favorite thing in baking, I think, but luckily, with a galette, you're okay leaving it less-than-perfect. After all, a crooked crust doesn't affect the taste!

And continuing to make my way through Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts book, we decided to make Mississippi mud pie. Apparently it collapses when you take a slice, but I guess it's based off mud, right? True to form, though, every pie out of that book has been excellent so far. I'm thinking of making the chocolate cream pie over Labor Day weekend for when I visit Mom up north. That, and some very chocolate-y cupcakes. Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy birthday Julia! Chocolate almond cake, orange cream meringues and Hefeweizen cupcakes

So Tuesday was a big day for me. I'm not one to talk too much about personal stuff online; I like to separate that stuff from the Internet. But I just hit a year of being single, and I have to say, I never thought it would happen. Neither did anyone in my family or friends, you can ask! See, I've been a serial long-term dater, and dated two different guys over a six-year period before this. But this year has been the greatest yet. I've put a lot more into this blog. I've spent more time with family. I've moved. I've started a new job, a wonderful job. I've decorated my apartment. And, as Cathie said, I've spent a lot of time discovering who I am. Cliched, maybe, but true. Here's to seeing what the next year brings!

Speaking of special days, Monday was a special day too. It was Julia Child's birthday! Well, it would have been at least. She would have been 99. Last year I made her chocolate almond cake to celebrate. I haven't made anything from Mastering the Art of French Cooking since then, although I officially have a Dutch oven and can make boeuf bourguignon when it gets cold again. But I figured the perfect way to celebrate her birthday this year was to make the same chocolate almond cake because it was SO good. And the Biz Journal staff thought so too!

I hadn't baked all week, actually, and then in the last few days I went on a binge. Meringues are something I love, for some reason. They're so darn simple and they melt in your mouth. I made this spiral style last year for Christmas because it was in the holiday version edition of Food Network Magazine. Then recently, Aunt Betty and I made flavored meringue kisses, and my favorite was the orange cream ones. So I combined them and made orange cream swirls the other day.

Then I ran across this recipe for Hefeweizen cupcakes. I love wheat and German beers, so it seemed perfect. It's a beer cupcake with a malt and beer glaze. To be honest, I thought they were a little weird, although I'm not sure what I was expecting. I might need to make them again without the glaze and with a real frosting, lemon-y maybe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

C is for...Canada? Cherry limeade cupcakes, citrus cake pops and cookies

My stepsister Katie visited last weekend. Well, technically she visited all last week, but she stopped in KC on Sunday. It was fun to introduce her to my new city, and just see her in general. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, which is pretty darn far away (and plane tickets are expensive!). Technically, I'm an only child. But when my dad remarried almost a decade ago, I inherited a step-sister and step-brother, Katie and Justin. Even though I hadn't seen Katie in more than a year, we had a great time that day, going to City Market and shopping for as long as we could stand what my phone told me felt like 111 degrees that day. Stupid Kansas. We also lounged around and watched wedding reality TV shoes. So even though she came into my life around my teenage years, it's pretty darn cool to have an older sister!

Katie requested a baked good for her visit, and Dad chimed in that he thought I should make cake pops (I think he just wanted me to make those so she could take some home to him!). With these, I tried something new: citrus flavors. I've only made basic flavors so far for cake pops, like yellow cake, chocolate and red velvet. For these, I did lemon cake with a frosting to which I added lemon and lime juices. Being a citrus fanatic myself, I loved them. Katie liked them too, and I heard reports from out West that Dad and Cathie enjoyed them. Mission accomplished!

So this picture kind of cheats. I actually made cookies twice, and this is a combo of both recipes. First (the smaller cookies) were my favorite all-brown sugar chocolate chip cookies. I actually found these really great semi-sweet and white chocolate swirl chips, which made for a great twist on the cookies. The other cookies were my favorite peanut butter cookies from Smitten Kitchen. Always a winner and always nice, soft cookies.

I've been making fewer cupcakes than normal. It may not seem that way on here, but Kelly's cupcakes I made weeks ago and hadn't gotten around to posting them. We've had crazy hot temperatures in Kansas lately, but it finally started cooling off lately. Cherry limeades are one of my favorite summer drinks...or anytime drinks. I made these last summer, but lemme tell you, this year's cherry limeade cupcakes were WAY better. If I remember correctly, I used grenadine in the frosting last year. This year, it was maraschino cherry-flavored. With the lime syrup brushed over the already lime-flavored cupcakes, they're flavor-packed. Someone at work even said they were the best treat yet. Success!

(Posted on Hoosier Homemade's Cupcake Tuesday.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Birthday and bad TV: German chocolate cupcakes, cream puffs and ginger ale

Confession of the week: I watch bad TV. Like, really, really bad TV. Ask my friends. One of the things I enjoy about coming home from work is turning on some Real Housewives show and turning off my brain. That's not to say I don't enjoy good TV too; I'm still working through the Wire, enjoy rewatching Firefly, etc. But sometimes, it's just nice to not have to think about my entertainment. Right now, I'm watching the Bachelorette, which all in all seems like such a terrible thing to put yourself through (being on the show, not watching it, although that's a close second). Who could ever possibly think that going from not knowing to being engaged to someone after like five dates in beautiful foreign locations is a good idea? Only to be followed by months of not seeing each other while the show airs? Terrible, terrible idea. But mindless entertainment.

One of my last times baking with Aunt Betty, we tried some nice desserts good for hot, hot weather. Which, by the way, it felt like 109 degrees one time when I checked today. One was cream puffs, which I've always wanted to make. To make them, we made Joy of Cooking's pâte à choux, which makes the outer shell thingy. Then you pull out its innards and fill it with vanilla whipped cream. They're a little messy, yes, but very tasty bites.

Another thing we made that day was homemade ginger ale. Granted, it's not baking, but you do cook down the ginger into a syrup, so I'm counting it. Aunt Betty LOVES ginger, so when I saw this recipe for the soda, I knew we had to make it. It was pretty simple, and the soda was great. It had quite a bite to it once you mixed it with soda water, but was a nice refreshing drink.

And for this week's cupcake, we have a very special kind that I hate. It was Kelly's 21st birthday a couple weeks ago, which was quite the event. She loves german chocolate, and I HATE coconut, but it was her birthday, so I made her german chocolate cupcakes. I used Martha Stewart's recipe but edited it a little. I made the cake as is, and the frosting as well, but used the frosting as a filling (I like pretty piped cupcakes so I wanted a prettier frosting). On top, I put Smitten Kitchen's easy fudge frosting. They were well-received, although I can't say I tried them. Nope, no coconut for me!
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