Saturday, November 30, 2013

Graduating from iPhone to A Real Camera

Dear baking world,

I am getting into serious relationship with my blog. I am tired of the cruddy iPhone pictures and I know if I don't take my pictures seriously, no one will take my blog seriously.

So I downloaded the free trial of Lightroom 5 today and I grabbed my mom's camera. The final step was something to take pictures of. Thankfully, it was my sister's birthday yesterday, so I frosted and decorated a lovely chocolate cake. And there's also my gluten free sister who needed a gluten free cake so lots of options in a beautifully lit kitchen!

Here are the results. I was screaming. More to come soon!

As for the recipes themselves, they were boxed cakes. (I know, I know) BUT the chocolate cake was the Cake Boss's boxed chocolate cake so fingers crossed it lives up to homemade. The gluten free one was pretty good, but as is usual with gluten free, it was a little dry.


This one was awesome because I edited out a light reflection on the table and you can't even tell! (I think I am way too excited by all of this.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Poundcake

Dear baking world,

So recently I've been craving poundcake, but not just ANY poundcake. I wanted pumpkin poundcake. 'Tis the season right? (What I mean by "'tis the season" is that I have too many cans of pumpkin sitting around and I need to use it up before it's post-Thanksgiving, and then it's inappropriate to make anything pumpkin because everyone is sick of it. I digress.)

So what is poundcake? Poundcake is traditionally a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, a pound of eggs and a pound of flour. However, nobody has time for a five pound cake, so today the recipe usually calls for equal ounces. Not only does poundcake literally have pounds of everything, but it also has no chemical leavening. As a result, the baker must whip the butter and the sugar to create air bubbles that act as leavening.

The recipe I used wasn't a traditional poundcake. A common complaint about poundcake is it's sweetness. I found a recipe that includes cream cheese to add a bit of pizzazz and bitterness to the recipe. In addition, instead of all white sugar, I used 2/3 brown sugar because brown sugar is a tenderizer and adds a special caramely flavor that I thought would match well with the pumpkin. And finally, I split the batch between two pans and added cranberries to the second. (Because why not.) (Also, I halved the recipe because I had mini loaf pans and no bundt pan, which is far too fancy for me and my college sized kitchen, but if you want to use a bundt pan, double the recipe below.)

After I baked them for over an hour, I took them out and let them cool. I could barely wait to cut one open (cue salivation here.) When I took the first bite, the result was so multi-layered I almost burst into a soliloquy about the different flavors that exploded in my mouth. First, the subtle hint of brown sugar. Then, the crash of a slightly bitter cream cheese. And finally, pumpkin, oh sweet pumpkin + cloves and ginger and cinnamon! What fun.

The cranberry poundcake was slightly different. Cranberry tends to overpower any other flavor around it, so I lost the subtleties of the non-cranberry bread, but I love the added cranberry that I won't complain.

So here's the recipe and give it a whirl. It's definitely worth it.


Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brown Sugar Poundcake
(Cranberries optional)
1 1/2 cups flour
3 large eggs
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Measure out flour and place in a separate bowl. Measure out eggs and place in a separate bowl as well. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. Cream with the sugars for at least 3 minutes. (This is where the whipping comes in.)

Then add the pumpkin, spices and salt. Finally, alternate between the flour and eggs, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Separate into two bread pans (or double the recipe and make a bundt cake.)

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Monster Cookies

Dear baking world,

 When I realized I hadn't baked for my gluten free little sister in weeks, and she might not have had a proper baked good in that same amount of time, panic set in. I couldn't deprive her of delicious sweets. Her sad comment of "I won't get to eat good desserts again" echoed in my head and I knew I had to make something extra delicious.

The answer? Flourless peanut butter cookies with oatmeal and chocolate chips. What a delicious combination.

My question for these cookies was, "How do you work?" There is no flour or butter in the recipe. As far as cookies go, these aren't terrible for you. So, what is the science behind flourless cookies? Well, the peanut butter acts in a multitude of ways. First, peanut butter is full of delicious oils, which make it so high in calories. These oils act in the place of butter. Second, peanut butter is extremely high in protein. In a flour cookies, the gluten in the flour acts as the protein, but gluten isn't as important in cookies as it is in cake. (If you don't have proper gluten formation in cake, your cake will be a large, globby puddle.) So in these cookies, the peanut butter's protein acts as a semi-efficient gluten.

These cookies were positively delicious. I may have under baked them, but I am a believer that under baked chocolate chip cookies set and cool off and then they're perfect. (Do not under bake Snickerdoodle cookies. They're horrendous.) (I'm also a bit of a chronic under baker because my mom is a chronic over baker and I think I'm trying to compensate for some latent fears/anxiety about browned cookies.)

Monstrous Gluten Free Cookies

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (chunky is the key. It adds so much flavor.)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
dash of vanilla
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking soda
dash of salt
1/2 cup oatmeal
chocolate chips (as much or as little as you'd like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, cream peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. Add the oatmeal, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add in chocolate chips. Scoop onto parchment paper lined cooking sheet in desired size. (I did a large scoop because I like big chocolate chip cookies.) Bake for 10-12 minutes. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fruit Puree Meets November: Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Dear baking world, 

Sorry about two posts in two days. It can only mean two things: exam week and procrastination. (The exam is tomorrow about mammals if anybody was wondering/cares.)

What a crazy week. I interviewed to work at a camp this summer where I would teach kids how to bake. What better job could I ask for!? I've already started mentally planning lessons (What kind of flour does what?! What is the difference between oil and butter?! The necessary vanilla cupcake!!!), but I'm trying not to count my chickens before they hatch, but I want to count, I really do. 

Any who, here is a recipe I've been hankering to make for a few weeks. Nothing reminds me of fall more than applesauce. My parents make homemade applesauce every fall and frankly it's the only thing I've been eating for every meal these past three weeks. (They gave me a bunch.)

This recipe is a special one and there is a teaching moment here. First, there is very little butter in this recipe. Why? Because applesauce, or any fruit purée (which is why fall is such a great time to make "healthy" desserts) act as an oil replacement. They also make the baked good really moist (My roommate, through a large bite, says, "These are so moist!" There's some proof if you needed any). I still need to try out avocado (ole!) and tomato (WHAT?! But seriously.) 

Second, these babies are better when they're refrigerated overnight. Their main flavor comes from their spices, a heady/seductive/mind-boggling blend of ginger, clover and cinnamon. In order for these spices to take hold, they must sit overnight.

When I whipped up the frosting this afternoon and threw one of these down the hatch was probably one of the best moments of my day. I've missed you, cupcakes, I really have. (Dumps cookies, which I've been dating/making for the past month and I'm not exactly sure why.) The only criticism I have is not enough spice. I followed what the recipe asked for, but I wanted a little more cinnamon and a little more cloves.

So lather on the cream cheese frosting, take a bite and sit back as the flavors of fall, captured in this unassuming little cupcake, flood your senses. MMMM!!! It made me happy, too. 

Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes
yield 12

half stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (although I accidentally used cinnamon and it made no difference taste wise.)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves

Cream together butter, sugar and the vanilla for 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well. Add the applesauce. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. At low speed, add the dry to the wet ingredients until just incorporated. Split evenly amongst the 12 cups. They won't be huge cupcakes, but they pack quite a punch.

(With a tablespoon of cream cheese frosting, these cupcakes come in at about 166 calories, so throw a few back if you must. I know I did.)

Cream cheese frosting
1 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. butter
dash of milk
dash of vanilla
powdered sugar to your liking
dash of cinnamon

Cream the cream cheese, butter, milk. Add vanilla to taste. Add powdered sugar to desired thickness. Throw in a little bit of cinnamon. (See, frosting is not an exact science.)

Ignore my weirdly colored pinky.

Mmmm I also made this beauty for dinner. It was delicious.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Experimental Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Dear Baking World,

Yes, yes, I know every baking blogger insists on posting a chocolate chip cookie recipe. But this recipe is a total experiment and I had no idea how it would turn out. 

I wanted to take the Paradise Bakery Sugar Cookie and with a few neat tricks, turn it into a bonafide chocolate chip cookie recipe. (I see where this trend is going. I'm going to start using this sugar cookie as my base for everything and every one is going to want to kill me and my paradise-ical cookies.) Would the cookie retain its delicious texture? Would it make a crappy chocolate chip cookie but an excellent/out of this world sugar cookie? These were the questions that lingered in my brain as I whipped these cookies together.

So, basics of a chocolate chip cookie that sugar cookies don't have. They typically use brown sugar instead of white. So that was the first swap. Second, I needed to up the caramely factor, so I put in some molasses. And most obviously, I put in chocolate chips. Because I thought the dough was flavorless, I threw in some granulated sugar for good measure. Also, I halved the recipe and because the original only contained one egg, I put a whole egg in the halved recipe. This shouldn't have a ton of effect, but more eggs increases the fluffiness of the cookie because it is a binder.

They turned out great. I had to undercook them because when they cool off, they get too hard (see "hockey pucks.") So I took them out right when the edges started to brown.

But anyways, these were super yummy. Not your typical "chewy on the outside, soft on the inside" type deal, but they were definitely hard to stop eating.

Experimental Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups shortening
1 Tbsp. molasses
1/2 cup butter
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sugars, shortening, butter and molasses. Add the egg. In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Bake for max ten minutes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Modern Pop Music

Dear Baking World,

I know this has nothing to do with baking, but maybe it does because I love music and I love baking and therefore they are connected. I just have recently been thinking about why I've started to hate pop music, even though I used to be the biggest fan. I wanted to articulate it mainly because I'm frustrated and disappointed in the pop community.

If anybody knows me well, they know that I have a rather overzealous love for Lady Gaga. Not just love. Admiration. I admire her drive and her focus and her ability to connect with her fans. Basically I think she's a goddess. She not only can sing like an angel, but she can perform as well.

Her latest album, ARTPOP, is coming out in a week. I've kept a close eye on this album. I've listen to the singles she's put out from it, amongst them "Applause" and "Do What U Want." Nothing clicked with me. None of the songs had the same magic that "Bad Romance" or "Poker Face" had, the kind of power where you play the song on repeat for six weeks straight. (Not that I know this from experience.) 

I would argue that Lady Gaga's older music still had rather worldly lyrics, but these songs seem like pure fluff surrounded by choruses that I can't sing to. On Friday, she released "Dope" off her album. My faith in Gaga returned: this song was everything that I loved about her. Simple, beautiful, heartbreaking. The main instrumentals was piano and later on in the song some electronic bass that sounds amazing. And then I streamed her album in full on iTunes radio and my heart plummeted. "Dope" was not only a stand out, it was the only song on the album that wasn't overdone and over-produced.

And it isn't just Gaga. Remember the good old days of Katy Perry and her punk pop album full of drums and electric guitars? Well, her latest album showcases very little guitar and drums, but rather relies heavily on electronic production. Her voice is clear and beautiful, but the songs aren't nearly as fun and sing-able as her older music. 

So, is this the direction that pop music is going? Gaga and Katy released these albums a month apart but "Do What U Want" could easily have fit amongst Katy's other tracks. My main beef with pop music is that these women are extremely talented. Lady Gaga can sing like no other pop star in the industry. So why is she squandering her voice on overproduced electro-pop? 

I think that pop music needs to go back to basics. Look at the rise of Mumford & Sons. Why do people love their music so much? It's because it involves classic instruments with beautiful, enveloping lyrics. They went back to basics. My advice to pop stars: if you want people to respect you and your music, try to go back to the roots. I think everyone could apply "going back to the roots" to their lives, but I really think pop stars need it too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Mormor's Famous Diamond Cookies

Dear Baking World,

Today I am posting a coveted family recipe. I remember when my mom made her cookbook, she put the Diamond Cookie recipe in it and we had to lie about it because my grandmother (we call her Mormor) is so nuts about this recipe.

Well, turns out that she whipped this baby together one day up at the cabin on a whim and they stuck. As in everyone who eats this cookie falls into a deep coma and then arises to shout, "THESE ARE THE BEST COOKIES! CAN I HAVE THE RECIPE!" And my Mormor will shout back, "No!" but my mom still handed out the recipe anyways. The secret ingredient? Lyle's Golden Syrup, which is a British thing and my Mormor is cool enough that she bakes with it.

I know it's probably breaking every granddaughter code in the book, but I'm going to post this recipe because I love it and the rest of the world should love it too.

Here they are, as a sort of testament to my grandmother's baking genius and me hoping that I inherited a bit of it.

A note: I understand why she guarded this recipe. It was hers and she came up with it. Hey, I'm guilty of hoarding recipes. Like when I discovered my perfect vanilla cupcakes, I almost didn't tell anybody the secret step.

Mormor's Diamond Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. Lyle's Golden Syrup
2 tsp. vanilla sugar

Cream butter and sugar only until blended. Put in the rest of the ingredients and mix. Then roll the dough into long hot dogs. Bake for 10-12, but do not under bake. Make sure the edges are a nice golden brown. Let them cool for about a minute and then cut them into the diamond shape. Enjoy!