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Internet, how I love thee.

30 Jul

I love the internet. I can’t imagine what people did before its advent. I asked my mum the other day, and she told me they mostly played with their pet dinosaurs and dodged incoming meteorites. When I asked how they shared recipes, I got a demonstration on how to chisel on stone tablets. There might have also been some weight lifting exercises tossed in there. I don’t know, it was all a blur.

Just kidding, my mom is not that old. Now, my grandma on the other hand… (Just kidding, Grandma!) As a matter of fact, my mom is pretty young for a mother, I think. And she’s cute. Want to see?

Ickle Mum and Lucas

This was at my older brother’s commissioning ceremony. He’s roughly 6’6″, no joke. Funny story: before I met my college roommate, we were friends on facebook and I had as my profile picture a picture of me and Lucas at my graduation. Now, I’m tall (5’10”), but Lucas is significantly taller (about 8″ taller). My roommate did not know how freakishly tall my older brother is, and assumed he was average guy height. Which meant she thought that I was SUPER short, and was very surprised to see me walk in the room. Especially because not only was I taller than she expected, I was a couple of inches taller than her!

Maybe you had to be there.

The point I’m trying to make is I love my mom. I love my older brother (especially when he buys me stuff). And I love my college roommate, though we had not known each other before rooming together. I also love the internet. You can find anything and anyone. You can connect with people you would have never heard of and you have access to all kinds of resources. The cupcakes I made for this post illustrate that. I was reading through one of the blogs I check daily, and I followed a link from that blog to another, and then another. I don’t remember where I started, but after about 5 blogs and a couple of articles, I stumbled upon Glory’s blog: Glorious Treats. She had made some beautiful hydrangea cupcakes, with a technique where she layered two different colored frostings in one piping bag to add dimension and reality to her cupcakes. I opted for something a little simpler, and used her chocolate cupcake recipe and her AMAZING recipe for cream cheese frosting.

I added 2 Tbs blackberry jelly and 1/2 tsp raspberry extract for the frosting and it was absolutely the best frosting I have ever tasted. Bar none. The jelly dyed the frosting a very pretty purple, but didn’t give it a noticeable flavor. The raspberry extract added just the perfect amount of flavor needed. And the mix between the two berry flavorings produced a wonderful, subtle, complex, and overall stunningly delicious frosting.

I brought some of these cupcakes to work to make them love me. And I gave some away to one of my mom’s friends. She’s the one who gave me the Kitchen Aid, so I like to keep her well supplied with pastries and other baked goods.

Speaking of Kitchen Aids, check this puppy out!

Amazon sells Kitchen Aid decals! They’re made by FlameKA.com and there’s a lot of other decals, such as flames, available. But I’m got my eye on this decal set. I was a history major, after all. Though the more intense history buffs out there mentioned that these decals are slightly off in some aspect or another. But I can’t find it in me to care. After all, I can make my useful, but very bland looking, stand mixer look like a WWII plane! I’m pumped!!

And seriously, where would you have found something like that before the internet?

This is Sarah, over and out.

Happy Fifth of July!

5 Jul

I hope you all had a lovely fourth of July! My family and I were invited to a picnic, but we couldn’t find the place. So we ended up stopping for pizza and calling it a day. It was actually very nice. The weather was beautiful, we were all getting along, and the whole atmosphere was laid back. The picnic may have been fun, I don’t know, but I never argue with just hanging out. I don’t need to do a whole lot to enjoy myself.

Speaking of enjoying myself, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I bet you didn’t know that. It’s because of all the history surrounding the 4th of July. I’m a history major and stuff like this makes my heart go pitter-patter. I took a class in college called the American Revolution and it was really interesting to get a feel for the times and the mood of the people. I always knew it was a huge deal that we challenged Britain for our independence, but it’s one thing to know that years after the fact and it’s another to read the writings of people from that time and to understand just how large and terrifying their actions were. A whole nation was flat-out committing treason, and even those committed to the cause were still uneasy over the fact. I won’t go into details and bore you, especially because, though I love history, there’s no denying that sometimes this class was just boring. But there is a lot of intriguing information out there if you take the chance to look beyond what you’re spoonfed in 8th grade American history.

And speaking of spoonfed (how about my segue ways today, huh?!), this is what I fed my family for dessert.

A boring , tipsy, slightly melted cake. Hooray.

NOT!!

It’s a FREEDOM CAKE! Or at least that’s what I’m calling it. My favorite layer is the blue on the bottom. Isn’t it such a pretty color? It was something of a nightmare to make, so I’m really happy with how it turned out. But it was very delicious, especially with a glass of milk. I liked the icing, which is the first time I’ve made buttercream. It gives me hope that later cakes will be better and better, if this attempt turned out so well.

Here’s the recipe, in case you want to give it a go. It’s not really bad. The reason it was a nightmare for me was because I was making this at 10 PM, and I had to crack a coconut. Then I heard a kitten crying, so I had to go kitten hunting, which put me way behind schedule. I’m guessing your night won’t go like that.  So do not be intimidated by this dessert. (WordPress wants me to change this to desert. Not the same thing at all.)

Coconut Cake

Recipe from Baked Bree, who got it from Cooking Light.

Ingredients:

12 ounces cake flour sifted (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cups softened butter
1 cup warm coconut milk (from 1 small coconut or Goya brand coconut water)
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large egg whites

Directions:

1.  Lightly coat (3) 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray or grease them, then line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Combine 12 ounces cake flour, baking powder, and salt, whisk well.

3. Place 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter in a large bowl beat with a mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and creamy.

4. Add flour mixture and coconut water alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Add in vanilla.

6. At this point, you can start preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

7. Beat egg whites on high speed until foamy.  Add 2 Tablespoons sugar, one Tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.  Be careful to not overbeat.

8. Carefully, fold your egg whites into the cake batter.

9. If you are going to dye your batter, split the batter into separate bowls. You will need one bowl for each color. I got about 2 cups of batter in each of the three bowls I was using. Carefully and gently fold in your food dyes until desired color is reached.

10. Pour the batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on a rack.  If you do not have three pans, fill the pans you do have, cook and cool them according to directions, and then wash and reuse a pan for the remaining batter.

Buttercream Icing

Also from Baked Bree

Ingredients:

3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Using the whisk attachment mix together the sugar and butter.  When it is combined, beat on medium and beat for 3 minutes.  Add in the vanilla and enough cream to get a nice spreadable consistency.  Beat for another minute.

Who wants cookies?

14 Jun

If politicians handed out these cookies instead of false promises, not only would the world be a better place, they would win the election in a landslide! If men proposed with these cookies instead of diamond rings, marriages would never end. These cookies can cause blind men to see, the deaf to hear, and men to ask for directions.

However, don’t expect these cookies to turn rowdy teenage boys into young gentlemen who clean up your kitchen without being threatened or bribed. Just sayin’. You can expect a lot out of these cookies, but you can’t expect miracles.

So what kind of cookies are these? Chocolate chip, of course.

I’m not really sure why this batch of cookies turned out so flat. The good news is that the taste was not affected! On the contrary, some in my family (cough Mum cough) might argue that the flavor was even better. These were buttery and crisp and delicate and delicious. And the brothers sure scarfed them down. This was about half the cookies the recipe made, and even these are no longer in existence (and I made these cookies last night). The secret ingredient? Besides butter, of course. And brown sugar. And Nielsen-Massey vanilla. The secret ingredient is toffee chips.

You read that right. Toffee chips. You add about half a bag to the batter, and then bake the cookies for 11 minutes or longer (the higher end of the time frame for these babies). This allows the toffee chips to melt, and adds a nice dimension to the cookies. And “nice dimension” is putting it mildly. My vocabulary is failing me right now, and I cannot put into words just how much this simple addition contributes to the overall cookie. You’ll just have to make it yourself. And then come back and try to describe how the toffee chips rocked your world. Ha! Not so easy, is it?

Be careful though. If you don’t bake them long enough, the toffee chips don’t melt and you don’t get the right effect. I’m sure it’s still delicious. But it’s not how I like my cookies, and we all know the end goal here is to be just like me. Am I right? Huh? Huh? Fine, whatever. I was just kidding anyway. About being exactly like me, not about non-melted toffee chips. I don’t kid around about my cookies. Life lesson.

Without further ado, Chocolate Chip Cookies! (From The All-American Cookie Book)

Ingredients:

– 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
– 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
– 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– half a bag chocolate chips or chocolate chunks. Or a whole bag. Go crazy.
– half a bag toffee chips.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheets or spray with nonstick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar, and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Taste. Sigh with happiness.

4. Adds the eggs and vanilla and beat until evenly incorporated.

5. Beat in the flour mixture.

6. Stir in the chocolate and toffee chips until evenly incorporated. (Are you noticing a theme here?)

7. Drop the dough onto the baking sheets by heaping measuring tablespoonfuls, spacing about 2 inches apart.

8. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 11 or so minutes, or until golden brown all over and slightly darker at the edges. You want those toffee chips melted!

Hello beautiful! How YOU doin'?

Bake these and distribute them. You’ll make friends and influence people. All without reading that book. Now who said I don’t help my friends out? That’s right, nobody.

Chocolate Cake and Secrets

11 Jun

Secret #1: The other day I spent $15 (with shipping) on vanilla extract. You read that right. FIFTEEN. DOLLARS. Am I going insane? How can a person spend that much on 4 ounces of vanilla extract? Well, you see, it was Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract.

“Finest Quality” is right! Not only did I get a fancy glass bottle and pretty label, I got the Rolls-Royce of the vanilla extract world. You want to know another secret? I was insane not to buy it sooner. You won’t believe the difference this vanilla makes! I’ve got an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that I love. It makes the greatest cookie ever. And this vanilla catapulted it from great to astoundingly delicious. It was like heaven in a hand-held, two bite raisin-y package. I’m not kidding. This is my new secret weapon. I can’t wait to see how it tastes in sugar cookies!

However, instead of sugar cookies, the very first thing I made with this vanilla was chocolate cake. Ghirardelli chocolate cake. From scratch.

It involved a LOT of brown sugar and butter. So naturally, it was delicious.

Pretty unassuming for such a rich, yet light cake. Light as a pillow!

Wait a minute… Maybe not that light.

That, by the way, is one of my brothers. He’s about 8 feet tall and 100 pounds. You know the type. And he’s the only one out of us 5 kids that is a blonde. Yet he has darker eyebrows than I do. Psh, genetics! I’ll never figure it out.

Super Fancy Ultra Delicious Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

– 1 stick unsalted butter
– 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (I used Swan’s Down. This is actually the recipe from the back of that box)
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch layer pans.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth.

3. Add brown sugar and eggs. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in vanilla and chocolate, then baking soda and salt.

5. Add flour alternately with sour cream, beating until smooth.

6. Pour in boiling water, stirring with spoon until blended.

7. Pour batter into layer pans and bake about 30 minutes or until done. Cool completely.

*Note: if you’re in a hurry, you can put the cakes into the freezer to cool them down quickly. I did that for about 10 minutes and they were cool enough to frost.

Super Fancy Ultra Delicious Ghirardelli Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

– 6 Tbsp butter, softened
– 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
– 1/2 Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa
– 1/3 cup milk
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. In bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, mix powdered sugar and cocoa.

3. Blend sugar mixture with butter alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth.

4. Blend in vanilla.

You want to know my most shameful secret? I am not the biggest fan of cakes. I don’t actually really like them. Give me a cookie any day! Or a brownie, or chocolate, or hard candy, or… You get the picture. I have to really be in the mood for cake to eat more than a couple forkfuls. Or it has to be especially good cake. And this cake? I would eat a second piece. In my book, there’s no higher praise. Enjoy!

Spring Sugar Cookies!

25 Apr

Ok, I’m late on the Easter sugar cookie train. Very, very late, I know. But that also means I got my Easter cookie cutters and sugar on sale. Woo hoo! And even though they’re “Easter,” they make the transition to “Spring” very easily.

I’m very happy with how these cookies turned out. I read somewhere that instead of waiting for the outline to dry, you should go ahead and flood the cookie right after piping the outline. That way there’s not that obvious line around the icing. And I must say, I think that little tip makes my cookies look so much better.

On top of that, I did a pretty simple design that I think is absolutely adorable. Sometimes, simpler is just better. Behold:

Here’s a little closer look:

Look at their little bunny tails!! Aren’t they precious? I found these guys on one of the cookie blogs I read, Cookie Crazie. It’s basically the most brilliant idea ever, because you don’t have to mess with decorating a face or anything. Plus it’s unexpected, which I think just makes it all the more fun!

I did do some other cookies too, tulips and butterflies. These are my prettiest:

I didn’t have a whole lot of cookies to ice this time around. I decorated several with just sprinkles instead of royal icing, and my family ate kind of a lot of the undecorated cookies. I guess I’ve been depriving them of sugar cookies/cookies in general these days. Must remedy that.

Also, I’m teething and it’s painful. My wisdom teeth are coming in. Ouch! I know, this has no relevance to the post or really anything. But let me tell you, I feel for those poor babies growing all those teeth instead of the two I’m dealing with. Now, I’m off to gnaw on some ice and whine about it.

Au revoir!

Marshmallows, smarshmallows

11 Apr

Marshmallows! Delicious, pillowy, fluffy… things. Seriously. What the heck is a marshmallow and where did they come from? I made them a couple of weeks ago, and they are super easy – they contain only four necessary ingredients: gelatin, corn syrup, sugar, and water. The rest is flavorings and colorings. But who decided to mix those four and whip the living daylights out of them? Same people who decided letting milk curdle and sit unrefrigerated for several months was a good idea, I guess. I mean, I completely agree with them, both the marshmallow and the cheese inventors. But still.

On nom nom

Right, so the point of all this rambling is that I made marshmallows, and they were good. So now I’m going to share the recipe, and send you all to go forth and whip some gelatin and corn syrup until they beg for mercy.

Courtesy of Alton Brown, my favorite Food Network chef. But with some tips from Nancy Baggett. Though her honey marshmallows were not my favorite, she had some good tips on making the process easier.

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You will also need about 1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar, about 1 1/2 cups toasted coconut or 1 cup colored sugar to coat the outsides.

Also: marshmallows are like a blank slate. Feel free to add food coloring and/or different extracts for a fun new marshmallow!

Directions:

Line a 9-by-13 inch baking dish with wax paper (or parchment paper), allowing the paper to overhand the ends by about 1 inch. Evenly coat the paper with nonstick spray. Like this:

Tear off another sheet of wax or parchment paper. Lightly grease this piece, or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside. This will be used to cover the marshmallow mixture.

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

Gelatin? Not attractive.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, turn up the heat and bring to a full boil, stirring. Boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.

Whip it! Whip it good.

Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. Also add the food coloring if you are using.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Cover the marshmallows with the piece of prepared wax or parchment paper. Press down and use the paper to push the marshmallow around evenly. Allow the marshmallows to sit for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

See the marshmallow mixture sandwiched between the paper?

Turn the marshmallow out onto a cutting board and peel away the wax paper. Cut the marshmallow slab into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the powdered sugar or lightly greased kitchen shears. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the powdered sugar, or roll in the toasted coconut or colored sugar. Expect to make a mess.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

You know what’s really good? Homemade hot chocolate (none of the Swiss Miss stuff!) topped with homemade marshmallows and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Hi!

29 Mar

I hope you all had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day. We definitely did, complete with corned beef and cabbage and friends! Two of my college buddies were here for their spring break, and we did a lot of eating out, while my family was left to fend for themselves. Nice, right? But things are back to normal, and I’ve got delicious pictures for you!

I have not been photographing everything I make. Bad Sarah! So the goodies you see here are but a small sampling of what has been cooking in my kitchen.

Homemade marshmallows covered in toasted coconut. So tasty. And so much better than the store-bought ones.

Shamrock cookies! I piped the shamrocks separately on a plastic bag, let them dry, and then placed them on the wet flooded icing.

Soft pretzels! Made from scratch! Isn’t it beautiful?! And it was totally delicious.

In addition, we made chocolate chip cookies, some kind of butterscotch-caramel pots de creme, and maybe something else? I don’t remember. It’s been a while.

So there you go. Maybe someday in the near future I’ll stop being a bum and post recipes/post more regularly. Time will tell.

Ciao!