Sunday, February 28, 2010

Girl's Day Out!

Weather has been stormy and sunny... bouts of rain, followed by clear blue skies. Nice yet annoying. And thankfully, this Sunday was a beautiful day to hang out with the girls!

So while we skipped out this time on the whole "girls night out" debauchery, we still had a great time enjoying dessert & afternoon tea at Paris in a Cup in Old Towne Orange.

House Tea Blend - Passionberry something something (I forget.)

Fresh Berry Compote with Brown Sugar and Creme Fraiche

Afterward, we perused the antique stores around that Orange Circle area...
One store definitely stood out from the rest, Heavenly Hostess. 1 - It's not antiques. 2 - There was pink on the windows.
Upon walking inside, immediately you are punched in the face by the cuteness and fullness of the place! This was my favorite table... since it had all kinds of cake/cupcake/baking stuff! I have a thing for fully-packed displays. But then I also drool over super chic and modern simplistic displays. I guess I love it all!

The prime highlight of the shop is the amazingly gorgeous and cute aprons with accompanying kitchen towels and potholders. Check out the website for these! (Yes, very girly but so cute!)

A new love: scones

Granted, I've only made a few different recipes... but I am in love with the ease and simplicity(give or take) of making scones!

Maybe its the geometric triangles that I get to cut into a huge slab of dough...
or the fact that I get to use my hands to knead and shape the dough...
or maybe just the warm acceptance of everyone ooh-ing and aah-ing at scones. Fancy!

Plus, I get to use ingredients that I already have, and I even get to use stuff I've been meaning to use up (ahem - heavy cream).

So - back to the scones. Michelle of Brown Eyed Baker posted recently a walk down memory lane... which led me to this recipe!

However, even though for once I actually had enough heavy cream (Thanks Costco!), I ran out of dark chocolate chips!! That's a first. So I just threw in a mix of whatever opened bags of chocolate chips I had lying around... white, mini, semisweet, milk...
This dough was SUCH a joy to knead and shape. I was almost giddy.

And this near giddyness led me to sprinkling on some happy colorful sugars! It's so innocent and sweet... like rainbow sprinkles on a doughnut. If you don't like that, then sorry - we can't be friends. (Just kidding, please be my friend.)

My scones however didn't seem to brown on the top... that was disappointing. It came out pale and bleached looking. Hmmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

French Style Yogurt Cake - Take 2

I've made this before... but since I had a lemon lying around, I decided to make something to use it up! I couldn't find the recipe I had originally wanted to make with the last lemon, so I just flipped through some of the older stuff and came upon this!

Recipe from Orangette... French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
and this time instead of the ground almonds on top (I don't even know where that came from back then!), I added in the lemon zest and made the lemon glaze.

It came out very "domed". Hmmm. (And I think I over baked it a bit too)
I enjoyed it warm... not as much cold. Definitely something I would enjoy with a hot cocoa or latte.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pumpkin Scones!

My second attempt at making scones...
and I must say, practice does make perfect. Ok, well not perfect - but a vast improvement.

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze from Brown Eyed Baker
This recipe definitely came together nicely... AND I got to use that last can of pumpkin sitting around since the Holidays.
Although the cutting and shape could still use some work... at least I didn't have a massive amount of dough stuck to every possible surface.

Oh, and I had so much fun with the DOUBLE icing. I slathered the scones with the plain icing. Then went bananas flinging the spiced icing back and forth over them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake

I've made something similiar, but with plums - and no caramel. And kinda different. Ok anyways.

You know how you go to buy groceries and stand in line looking at the magazines displayed? I have this really bad habit of just picking up a cooking/baking mag just because there's something yummy on the cover. And sometimes I get tricked. But I happened to pick up a special issue of The Best of Fine Cooking - Sweet Cakes. Lots of yummy recipes!

The first that caught my eye - since I happened to have bosc pears in the fridge - was this Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake.

2 Medium Bosc Pears (approx 1lb)
Basic Caramel (recipe to follow)
2 oz unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Basic Caramel
1C Granulated Sugar
0.25tsp fresh lemon juice
0.25C cold water

6.75oz unbleached AP flour
1.75tsp baking powder
0.5tsp ground ginger
0.5tsp ground cinnamon
.25tsp table salt
0.5C whole milk
1.5tsp vanilla extract
4oz. unsalted butter, softened
1C packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

In a buttered 9in round pan, line bottom with parchment and butter that as well.
Cut and slice your pears lengthwise. Line them prettily around the bottom of the pan.

Make the caramel(see below for directions). Once it has turned into a medium amber, add in the pieces of butter, mixing after each addition.
Then pour over the pears.

For the batter, sift dry ingredients. Mix together milk and vanilla. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Then add brown sugar to butter and beat until lightened in color and texture. Then add in eggs, one at a time. Mixing well after each addition. Then alternate 5 times adding in dry ingredients and wet - starting and ending with the dry. Mix each time only until incorporated i.e. don't overmix. Scrape down bowl, mix one last time, then dollop over the pear/caramel top. It was a pretty fluffy batter for me! I also noticed some extra liquid in the pan - must have been front the heat of the caramel and the pears.

Definitely something to dollop, not pour out. Smooth carefully and put into preheated oven at 350.

Bake for 35-45 min until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack - let cool 10 min. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Then invert onto plate (careful! hot!).
Enjoy warm or at room temp.

Basic Caramel

Fill a measuring cup halfway with water and put a pastry brush in it. Use this to wash down sides of pot to prevent crystalization.
Stir sugar, lemon juice and cold water together. Heat to a boil. Don't forget to brush down sides of pot. Mixture will start to color (5 to 8 min.) Swirl the pot to even out color and prevent sugar from burning in isolated spots. Continue to cook until it turns medium amber. Changes very quickly!

Really light and fluffy cake!! A little too cinnamony I think... very much like a coffee cake.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More V-day treats!

I did lots of baking last night. I had a big order to fill for a friend to give to her hubby!
And of course, I had to make her a treat box too!
Contents include: strawberry rice crispy treats, sea salt chocolate chip cookies, chocolate doxie cutout cookies, PB brownies, pretzel brownies, and classic brownies!

Strawberry Rice Crispies - recpie right off the bag!
3T Butter, 1 Bag Marshmallows (I used the strawberry flavored - since you know, V-day needs pink and hearts and crap like that), 6C Rice Crispy Cereal.
Melt then mix then cut!

Pretzel Brownies - just add in crushed pretzels to your favorite brownie recipe!

Doxie Cutouts

I used the Chocolate Linzer Cookie recipe from King Arthur Flour.
Then for the markings, I just smushed some pieces of cookie dough from the choc chip cookies I was making and just did a quick roll over the dough before cutting out the shapes.

And of course, I got fab stuff too!

Assortment of goodies from Trader Joe's - instant pudding, brownies, soba noodles, chocolate and candy!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day(barf)

OH VALENTINE'S DAY. are you gone YET?
One of my least favorite holidays... some years are marked by crazy drama, some years pass by unnoticed... but damn it, it's still so much fun - with all the baking and the cards and the candy.
And by cards, I mean those fun little kid ones that come in boxes, ready for a "To:" and "From:" and a sticker. That's it. Ok, maybe a candy to go with that.

So while this year, I still hate V-day with a passion... I still needed to do fun kid stuff!

Goodie bags filled with candy, Spongebob cards, Madagascar Penguin cards, Carebears cards, and Hello Kitty cards!

And some ginger matcha scones for some super special people!

I found this post-it on my desk earlier this week...

Wouldn't YOU bake up another batch of scones just for this boy?
(He's 10? I forget.) So sweet!
>>His text back via mom's phone (mom = my coworker):

"Hey Jen tha(n)ks for the scones they are great, they taste like they came from a gourmet breakfast place. Derek"

Props, of course, go to Ila - creator of this well-received treat!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Croissant Chocolate Nutella Bread Pudding

Nutella Bread Pudding from JustJennRecipes...

with just minor tweaks.

Used mini croissants.
Baked in a 9x12 glass baking dish.
Used 3/4C of heavy cream, and 2-1/4C of milk.
Tossed a handful of chocolate chips on top.

Came out delicious! Just looks a bit funky...
I'll definitely be making more bread pudding, but with regular bread next time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Epiphany

I will be the first to admit that, yes, I'm a rather angry and cynical individual relatively often. More often as of late. Long days at work, little sleep, road rage are GENERALLY the culprits, as I'm sure it is for many of you out there. And one would think that an hour+ long workouts after work would provide some sort of stress release. But, maybe it's making it worse? So, after that bout of brownie baking this past weekend... I've decided to just bake when the world (and my mood) is poopoo.

Today was another one of those poopoo days. (Surprise surprise.)
So, I decided to make Ila's ginger matcha scones since I didn't get to try any from the bake sale.

And, uh, Ila's are definitely prettier than mine. I think I need to practice...

The actual prep and mixing of ingredients was easy peasy... but holy crap - when she says "sticky batter" it is INSANE sticky. (or maybe I just don't make things like this enough).
And of course, it later dawned on me as I was washing the dishes that... hmmm... maybe I shoulda added a BIT more flour? *shrugs*

Needless to say, the cutting into triangles and getting the scones onto the baking pan was challenging. I started to get the hang of it... but alas, not QUITE the shape I was going for.

Oh, and how amazing is my drizzling skill? CRAZY good right? Yeah. I need to work on that too.

These baked up smelling amazing! First the lemon hits you, then you get the slight "spicyness" of the ginger... mmmmmm. I really wanted to eat one right out of the oven... so fragrant and warm... mmmmmMMMMM.

Mixing up a batch of cookies and scooping the dough out on the sheet pans with a spring-loaded scooper is like child's play compared to what I did today. Well, not that bad. But man... what a sticky mess! I feel like there was so much dough gone to waste being stuck on everything.
And yes. It did make me feel better to bake tonight. Semi-success/Almost-fail and all.