Tag Archives: Dessert

Busy, busy, busy

13 Mar

I’m taking a few classes at the community college (Painting and Spanish. Woo hoo!) and have a part-time job that keeps my busy. But that’s not what I’m referring to in the title of this post. No, shockingly enough for a food blogger, I’ve been kept busy with cooking and baking! (That was sarcasm, folks. I know it doesn’t always come across well on the internet, but it was.)

What have I been up to, you ask?

On Thursday, I made marshmallows. They are pink and just the cutest things you have ever seen! They also taste pretty strongly of honey. I’m not the biggest fan, so I’m going to try again. But they were astonishingly easy to make. I was fascinated by the gelatin. What a weird substance. It was gel-like (perhaps obvious, since it is gelatin), and kind of springy and just strange.

Today (Saturday), I made orange-basil creme brulee. It’s for dessert, so I can’t give a verdict on it yet, but I’m pretty excited. My Flavor Bible tells me that orange+basil+sugar=great combination! I’m also cooking a meatloaf that is smelling pretty good. After dinner, I’ll mix up some of my famous chocolate chip cookies. My little brother calls them “Ecstasy Cookies,” ecstasy in this case meaning “rapturous delight” and not “hallucinogenic drug.”

And tomorrow I’m going to be making soft pretzels, from scratch, and another batch of marshmallows. They’re going to be green this time. And maybe I’ll mix up some sugar cookie batter.

Plus, I’ve also been having cravings for cupcakes. Perhaps they’ll show up in there somewhere this weekend.

Busy, yes?

Alas, my little brother has taken my digital camera with him on a trip, so I can’t actually share pictures of any of these goodies with you as of yet. But I will take pictures just as soon as I can, provided anything is still left by the time the bro shows up. And I’ll post recipes too, in the coming days. I tweaked my creme brulee recipe (I feel like a proper chef!), and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the best chocolate chip cookies known to mankind.

But just so you don’t feel cheated, here’s a picture of the last creme brulee batch I made:

This was before I broiled it and it turned ugly; before I pulled it out of the oven and dropped it on the ground, spilling luscious almond scented custard all over the floor and breaking my heart; and before I ran out and bought my propane torch. This unsuspecting custard just doesn’t know the horrible future lurking around the corner…

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Snow and Brownies

17 Feb

Hello faithful readers!
I got my laptop back, rescued from the grave. It had some kind of monster virus, but the computer people were able to wipe it clean and then reload all my pictures and documents back on. I don’t know how they did it, but I’m glad they knew what they were doing!

While my laptop was at the computer hospital for the week, it snowed and I made brownies. The snow arrived on Friday. I went with my three little brothers to watch The Lightning Thief and when we got out snow was falling. So we headed home and hunkered down for the weekend.

Friday night - view from the front of the house

See it coming down? It was really a beautiful sight, especially under the lamp posts when the light illuminated the snow falling all around. On Saturday morning, the backyard was especially pretty.

It was breathtaking. I was up early Saturday, when everything was quiet, and blanketed with snow. It was a really nice moment.

At some point this weekend, in between taking pictures of snow, I made brownies. I’m in the cake-y brownie fan club, not the fudge-y brownie fan club. Having brownie stick to the roof of my mouth and impair my speaking ability doesn’t really do it for me. I’ve got a tried-and-true recipe for exactly the kind of brownie I like, and I got it off the back of those cocoa canisters ages ago. How handy is that? And completely switching topics, you know how people enjoy the edges of the brownies the most? Some websites have started to sell “all-edge” brownies pans, with a wall-like thing zig-zagging through the pan so all the brownies pieces have edges. My solution to the brownie serving and edge problem is to bake them in muffin tins. Then you get the perfect two-bite brownie, with a ring of edge. And of course, it’s cake-y inside. Behold:

No crumbs, no arguing over who has the bigger piece. And delicious, to boot!

I was so pleased with myself when I first thought this up, and now I rarely bake brownies any other way. Muffin tins or bust!

Here’s the recipe I use:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp butter (REAL butter! I’m serious.)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla.
Beat in eggs. Blend in cocoa.
Stir in flour and nuts.
Bake in greased 8×8 pan for 30-35 minutes or in greased muffin tins for 30 minutes. (I wouldn’t recommend using cupcake liners because they get greasy)

It’s a pretty easy and straightforward recipe. And you can switch things up too. One time I used orange extract instead of vanilla, and enjoyed the result. You could try other extracts or nuts to mix things up. Or you can stick with the basics. It’s always a favorite around here.

Ciao!

Come Back to Texas!

3 Feb

“Before you lose your accent
And forget all about the Lone Star State
There’s a seat for you at the rodeo
And I’ve got every slow dance saved
Besides the Mexican food sucks north of here anyway.”

Have you heard that song, by Bowling for Soup? It’s called Come Back to Texas (obviously) and I love it a lot. I especially love the line about the Mexican food, because ain’t that the truth!

I went to college in Texas. For three glorious years I lived in San Antonio, visited the Riverwalk, drove to Austin, drove to Dallas, unintentionally avoided Houston, fell in love with Fredericksburg, hiked in the hill country, marveled at the lightning storms and cried a ton when I left. I called up my brother, sobbing my eyes out (when he was hanging out with his girlfriend’s family. Awkward, I’m sure.) when my roommate moved out. He had to convince me that yes, I really did want to graduate, I had a good future in store for me, and besides, it didn’t matter if I changed my mind and wanted to stay in school for another 10 years, I’d completed and passed all the coursework, so I was graduating whether I walked the stage or not. (Woah, long sentence!) Keep in mind that about a year earlier, I had called this same brother and told him I was quitting school and I hated it and there was nothing nobody could do to stop me. Except talk me into not quitting, which is what he did. Kind of a 180 to go from threatening to quit to never wanting to leave. But I never claimed to be a logical, sane person. And I missed my friends something fierce even after only one day without them. I’m tearing up just remembering it.

I love that song, I love my friends, and I especially love Texas. Like madly. I’d say it’s my favorite state but I am strongly loyal to North Carolina and would never betray her for another. But Texas is a close second. So perhaps it’s no surprise that I have a cookie cutter shaped like that great state. And I use it often.

And I grin like a fool the entire time I’m baking and decorating these cookies. Every time. Have I mentioned I love Texas?

You will notice a few things are out of place. First off, there’s a heart. “What gives?” you might ask. Well, in my family, sugar cookies with very little frosting are shunned. It’s a harsh world for a (partially) naked sugar cookie. I can almost guarantee this heart will still be there long after all the other cookies I’ve made are gone. Non-frosted sugar cookies are like the fat kid in gym class, always picked last.

And then there’s this guy:

Where in the world is West Texas?

This one had problems letting go of the cookie sheet. And lost West Texas as a result. I’m not sure that’s too big of a deal though. What is in West Texas? I thought maybe El Paso was on that westernmost tip, but google maps isn’t showing it. Poor El Paso. It always got a bad rap from the Texans I knew and now it’s not even on the map! But I colored this guy red because, well, I wanted to. And also it’s kind of like it was bleeding. And because Texas is a red state (versus a blue state. But you knew that). But mostly because I wanted to.

What a wash-out.

This one I frosted the other day, then decided the colors were too pale and used the icing on the heart cookies instead. And I was right, just look at the difference:

Much better! These are such fun cookies.  Every time I bake them, I take pictures on my phone and send them to my Texas friends. They’re probably tired of getting the same text all the time, but I will never stop. Because it makes me happy. Let’s look at them again, shall we?

Oooh! Ahh!

Texas, I love you.

She’s got heart.

31 Jan

Today, I whipped up some sugar cookies.  I used royal icing, which dries to a very hard finish. I’ll be able to stack these cookies when they dry. I was originally frosting different cookies, but I switched to hearts after I mixed the icing. As a result, my heart cookies are kind of patriotic. Pastel-y, but patriotic.

Something does not belong in this picture. Can you find it?

I’ve got a lone Lone Star State cookie up in the corner. That’s what I was working on, but the icing colors turned out too light for the effect I was going for. I’m fixing that tomorrow, so keep your eye out for them!

As a result, though, my heart cookies aren’t so much Valentine’s Day hearts as they are the hearts of enthusiastic Americans. They are rather tastier than American hearts, as I’m sure you can well imagine.

I’m pretty happy with them. Aren’t they cute?

Coming tomorrow (or maybe Tuesday, but I’m aiming for tomorrow): TEXAS COOKIES!! That was basically the best cookie cutter purchase I’ve ever made.

Food for the dogs.

29 Jan

Today, I made puppy chow. I got the recipe and idea while scoping out foodgawker.com, basically my favorite website ever. The Savory Sweet Life had posted about it and I bookmarked it to make at a later date. That date has arrived! Puppy chow is chex cereal covered in chocolate chips and peanut butter, covered in powdered sugar. It is super quick and easy to make, and contains only six ingredients!

First you take chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter, and you dump them in a bowl together. So far, so good.

Then you melt them.

Mmmm... Doesn't that look good! Or not.

Then you stir everything together and add vanilla. Everything’s better when you add vanilla. Speaking of which, I’ve got a couple of vanilla beans that some of my brothers gave to me for my birthday. I need to make something with them. But I feel so special having them. Like “Haha, I have vanilla beans and you don’t! Don’t you feel inadequate?!” Maybe when I finish admiring how they look in my cabinet, I’ll make something nice. But in the meantime, I’ll open my spice cabinet a couple of times a day and just stare contentedly at the beans. Life is good.

Or it’s super tame. Man, I need to get out more.

Back to business! You combine all that melty goodness with the chex cereal and you get this:

While this ultimately resulted in deliciousness of the highest order, I think next time I make it, I’m going to either increase the amount of chocolate-y coating stuff, or decrease the amount of cereal. I like my puppy chow with a thick coating of heart-attack inducing fun! None of this light, pansy coating. “Go big or go home,” I always say. And since I’m already home, I guess that just leaves “Go big.”

Still, once it’s coated in powdered sugar and its flaws are hidden to the world, this puppy chow looks mighty tasty!

Huh? Huh? What’d I tell you? I wouldn’t turn up my nose at that!

The recipe is from Savory Sweet Life.

Ingredients:
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
9 cups chex cereal (I used corn chex, and next time I will use less than 9 cups. Maybe 7 or 8 cups.)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 1-gallon ziplock bags

Dump the first three ingredients into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds and then stir until smooth. Add the vanilla. Dump it all over the chex (which should be in a big bowl at this point). Mix. Divide the chocolate-y chex in between the two bags. Add 3/4 cups powdered sugar to each bag and stir to coat.  It’s that easy!

Bala…. Bac… Bat… That honey thing.

28 Jan

Yes folks, today I made baklava. Baklava, for those who have never heard of it, is a delicious Greek dessert. It has flaky thin layers of dough, pecans and walnuts that spill out from the center, and honey. Lots and lots of honey. Actually, it’s mind-boggling (the dessert itself, not the amount of honey). When you look at it you have to wonder how the thing was made (or maybe it’s just me?). I mean, if it flakes apart when you touch it, how in the world did the cook make it?! Well, pretty easily actually.

There are four base ingredients: phyllo dough (super thin dough, found with the frozen desserts), nuts (I use pecans and walnuts), cinnamon, and butter. And you layer the ingredients. Just as I said: Easy peasy!

This is what it will look like with the ingredients layered.

Nothing special, right? Not yet. The next step is to cut the baklava. You can make the pieces as small or large as you like. But remember, if you cut big pieces, you only need to eat one before you feel satisfied. And doesn’t it sound better to say virtuously, “I only had one piece of baklava” instead of “Yeah, I had five pieces of baklava,” even if it is the same amount?

Cut baklava. Check!

Now you toss it in the oven and move on to the really important stuff, the honey sauce! And actually, there’s not a whole lot of honey in there. Just half a cup.

Honey, I'm home!

Haha. “Honey, I’m home!” Get it? Because there’s honey! I crack myself up.

The honey simmers while the baklava cooks. The scent fills the house while you walk around telling people what a great chef you are because you’re making baklava and doesn’t it smell divine? And if you have brothers like mine, they respond, “Ew, smells gross! Hey, have you ever been punched in the face?!” And then you can say “Have YOU ever been punched in the face? And no baklava for you!” And then groveling commences. Sometimes. Depending on how good the house smells. I tell you, it’s a compliment of the highest order when these guys tell you dinner or dessert was delicious. Given the sarcastic household I live in, if they can be moved to saying they enjoyed the meal, you know you’re on to something!

But back to the magic. And it is magic when these two components merge. Glorious, fragrant, delectable magic. Check it out:

Beautiful!

I assure you, it’s more attractive in person. And it has a great personality.

Yum!

This is what I imagine the “land of milk and honey” would look like, if you can imagine this as land stretching into the distance. Squint your eyes, maybe that will help.

Mine, all mine!

I ate this directly after taking the picture. You should be jealous.

Easy, delicious, and impressive. You can get this in a restaurant, where they charge $2 for a piece this size (ok, maybe a little bigger, but not much), or you can make it at home and have major bragging rights, plus several servings of yummy goodness. And because this is chock full of nuts and honey, I like to claim it’s good for you.

This recipe comes from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough
1 lb chopped nuts
1 cup melted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
2. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit in pan (I don’t do that, but you might have to. It’s quite possible that I’m not using a 9×13 pan. Who knows.) Cover phyllo dough with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work.
3. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly (I find it’s easiest to wear surgical gloves and just do everything with your hands. Get in there and get all buttery!). Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
4. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, then two more sheets of dough, butter, nuts, etc. Two layers or dough should be between each layer of butter and nuts, until you get to the top. The top layer should be about 6-8 sheets deep.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds or squares, all the way to the bottom of the pan.
6. Bake for 50 minutes.
7. Make sauce while baklava is baking: Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes. When done, turn stove off and let sauce sit until baklava is finished.
8. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Or not.

Apparently this freezes well, but I’ve never actually had opportunity to test it.