Tuesday, July 28, 2009

when life gives you lemons...

make lemon bars! then kick it up a notch by brulee'ing the top!

Bruleed Lemon Bars from justJENN
I've been eyeing this recipe FOREVER. A co-worked brought in lemons from her yard... and the rest is history.

The crust was yummy. Maybe I coulda baked it for a few min longer for more crisp. But it was a-ok in my book!

The filling didn't set up as I thought it should... I wasn't sure if it would set as it cooled, and I didn't want to overbake. So, it is more like a lemon tart rather than a lemon bar since you have to knife and fork it. But edible!

Note to self: don't sugar all the way to the edges... no bueno caramelized sugar on pan.

Monday, July 27, 2009



Spent the weekend hopping from store to store, checking out the "sales"... then I went online, and hmm'd and haww'd over the factory refurb models. And decided to go for it. With shipping and tax, it still came in under the in-store costs with discounts/sales. Needless to say, I'm uber excited and dreaming up all the wonderful things I can make! Happy early birthday to me! (This could also be looked at as the equivalent of an old man purchasing a ferrari during his midlife crisis... since I've been having my quarter-life crisis for oh, I don't know, a whole year now.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cream and Puffs

I concluded my cookie madness this week (well, thumbprint cookies anyways). Went out with a bang: making once more the always appreciated jam thumbprint cookies. Two batches of two recipes... one final "taste test"... and these favorites are now "retired" and resting in my repertoire of baked deliciousness.

SO - to bring the next challenges forward... I am adventuring into pastries... starting with Cream Puffs. Oo Laa Laa~

Making Pate a Choux would have definitely been easier if I had the right equipment. Electric beaters don't really compare to having a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. I mean, seriously.

Pate a Choux/Cream Puff Paste
1C Water
1C Milk
2 Sticks Butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
2.75C Flour
8 Eggs

Combine water, milk, butter, salt and sugar in a large sauce pan - stir until butter is melted and almost boiling. Dump all sifted flour in to the hot mix at once, stirring constantly, until the paste is smooth and slightly shiny and pulls away from the side of the pot. (Once the flour went into the mix, that all came together right quick. Then I think it REALLY started to cook so I dumped it out pretty fast.)
In a large mixing bowl, mix dough on low speed to help cool it down. This is where it got tricky with only the electric beaters. The paste was THICK already. Add in eggs one by one, making sure the dough is smooth before adding the next egg. Consistency should be soft enough to pipe, but firm enough to hold its shape. Pretty much that was fine. Just so thick it was killing my mixer, and my arms.
I wasn't sure if this would yield the same results, so I was pretty pessimistic about the end product.

Pipe. And once again, my non-good piping skills punch me in the face. These look like comical turds.
Brush down the peaks.
Smooth it all out. (I skipped this, obviously.)
Bake at 400.
After its puffed up (after about 10-15min), open oven to let steam out and puffs to dry out.
Done after 25-30min with a even deep brown color and firm feel.

Creme Patissiere/Pastry Cream
2C Milk
7T Sugar
7T Cornstarch
7T Sugar (again)
4 Eggs (or 9 Yolks) - I did whole eggs
2T Butter
Vanilla - Bean or 1tsp extract - I did extract

Combine milk and 7T sugar, vanilla bean if using. Bring to simmer.
Combine other 7T sugar and cornstarch until homogenous.
Whisk eggs until smooth. Add to sugar+cornstarch mix. Mix until smooth.
Temper hot milk+sugar mixture with egg mixture.
Pour into pot and whisk whisk whisk!!!
Seems like nothing is happening, but after a while, if you blink, HOLY CRAP! it becomes solid. Kind of scary actually how quickly it changes consistency.
So once it is "custard-like", pour into another bowl and mix in softened butter. Add vanilla extract if didn't use the bean.
If lumpy, push through a strainer.
Place plastic right onto of custard and chill.

I made this the day before - the whole process was simple and pretty fast that I didn't document. It is a pretty gelatinous custard... a bit firmer than pudding. But still creamy and smooth. YUM!

And again, my gluttonous nature has me over filling these poor suckers.
I played with the baking time, so you see the darker brown and the lighter brown here too.

Overall, this was a success for me. Edible? Check.

I was about to have an "episode" when the pate a choux went in the oven for 10 min and didn't do ANYTHING. I was envisioning having to figure out what to do with the un-puffing dough. Then they started to "sweat" and began to grow. PHEW.

Next time: Vanilla Bean. Using a stand mixer. Work better with oven.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Oodles of snickerdoodles

Holiday weekends are so nice... there's actually TIME to get things done!

So even though I wasn't ambitious enough to make pate a choux and pastry cream... I did bake something a bit simpler.

From Cookies by Pamela Clark, I made more cookies! Snickerdoodles!

The last batch I made, the dough was still chilled since I took it right out of the fridge before rolling in the cinnamon sugar. They poofed up nicely... but then, it was like a cookie bubble. A hollow crater, so to speak. Plus I over baked them. Oopsies.

And of course, since I was able to be out and about, I stopped by Ranch 99 and picked up some "comfort foods".
They labeled this a "Leek Pie", but from what I've always known it to be... I think it better translates to Chive Pocket. MMMMmmm GOOD. A relatively oily pocket stuffed with chives, eggs, vermicelli... crispy edges and a warmed inside. Such a guilty indulgence.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The 4th

I made Garlic Butter Pepper Shrimp for my contribution of our BBQ festivities.
It's actually from the awesome cookbook from Sam the Cooking Guy.

Very easy:

Eat shrimp. Eat bread dipped in butter.


And for the sweet treats: I made cookies. (Surprise surprise.)
From one of my new cookie books [Indulgence Cookies by Cristabel Martin], Chocolate Chip cookies...
so easy, and so delish. and came out beautiful (i.e. they didn't sink)

.5C unsalted butter
1c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1T milk
1.75C AP Flour
1t baking powder
1.5C bittersweet choc. chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add rest of the wet ingredient. Mix to combine.
Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix. Stir in chocolate chips.
Bake at 350.
Yielded 28 cookies.

The chocolate chip cookies were my back up. Good thing too since my initial cookie selection was a complete and utter failure.

Cool Whip Cookies with Pineapple

Easy to make. I still had a tub of cool whip to use up, so I figured I would give this recipe another try.
8oz Tub of cool whip
1 box of cake mix (any flavor you want)
1 egg
Powdered sugar for rolling
Combine and bake at 350 for 10-12 min.
(I've made it before with chocolate cake and white/lemon cake - those came out great!)

This time I used pineapple cake mix. That was probably big error #1. Then I added in some diced up pineapple and a bit of juice. Probably error #2. The "dough" was more like a thick batter that I couldn't really shape into a ball to roll in powdered sugar - like the recipe actually says to. So I just plopped them down on the cookie sheets. They baked up no prob... like mini cakes... texture was ok. It was mainly the flavor that was a FAIL. So, note to self. Nay on pineapple cake mix cookies.