Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake..sort of


This week's TWD.. I haven't said that in a while! was perfect in time for the holidays. It wasn't very tall because I halved the recipe and baked it in a 9x9 square pan, but it was very creamy! Instead of using the springform, I used a 9x9 square pan so I could bake it in a waterbath without having leakage problems. I totally forgot about the waterbath though so that totally defeated the purpose of not using springform. I was in a huge rush to bake it and have it properly chilled because I decided the morning of Christmas eve that I would bring it over for dinner after seeing Nancy from the Dogs Eat the Crumbs do her informative post for TWD (I love how she looks for other sources when she bakes). Luckily, cheesecake isn't one of those desserts where I have to worry about the crumb changing from soft and fluffy to dense and dry within a couple or hours and can be just thrown in the fridge without messing up the texture. I've tried storing regular cakes wrapped in plastic on the counter overnight, fridge and freezer, but everytime it changes for the worse so I have to make cakes fresh unless if it's chocolate, which actually improves in flavour overtime without sacrificing texture. The whole 'crumb getting even tighter' in the freezer thing doesn't seem to work for me and neither does wrapping the cake before it is completely cool to seal in the texture because that just turns the cake wet and heavy.

Anyway, back to the cheesecake that my family raved about.. I was so excited! I replaced a block of cream cheese with the low fat kind because full fat cheesecake is a little too rich. Cheesecakes are the only kind of dessert that doesn't stress me out because they always turn out delicious no matter which recipe you use.. maybe except for hyper low fat variations. After making cheesecakes with a handmixer, stand mixer and the food processor, I would have to say that the food processor is the quickest and always ensures the smoothest texture. There's barely any scraping involved too! Originally, I wasn't going to make a topping and just serve it plain, the way cheesecakes should be in my opinion, but when I opened the oven door, it looked like something hit it.. badly because there were cracks (huge ones) everywhere! I decided to cover it up with lemon curd instead of whipped cream because we didn't exactly need anymore cream. I don't think I've had real lemon curd before because this was amazing! If this is what the filling is supposed to taste like in lemon meringue pie, then I might actually love it. I love how with each addition of fat (butter then heavy cream), it just gets yummier and more luscious!

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Thanks to Anne of Anne Strawberry for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Lemon Curd
Cook's Illustrated

1/3 cup juice from 2 lemons
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
(I added 1/2 tsp of lemon zest for extra lemon flavour)

FOR THE LEMON CURD: While cheesecake bakes, heat lemon juice in small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolk in medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon juice into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to spoon, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in cold butter until incorporated; stir in cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour curd through fine-mesh strainer into small nonreactive bowl. Cover surface of curd directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spritz Cookies

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I never thought I would like a butter cookie, after all.. there's no brown sugar or chocolate. 6 cookies later, I realized that I've just never had a good butter cookie, one that is flaky and melt in your mouth. These were absolutely amazing!! I still can't believe I had 6, but I had to.. for 'testing purposes'. 1 extra minute in the oven can make a difference in texture or dryness so I baked at 10, 11 and 12 minutes to see if there would be any. Cookies straight out of the oven and completely cool also differ texturally. It's the texture of a completely cool cookie that actually matters, since cookies don't stay warm forever (if only!). So in the end, I had no choice but to eat 3 straight from the oven at 10, 11, 12 mins and 3 completely cool at each of those time points. 12 minutes was perfect in my oven because the edges were crisp, but at 10 minutes, there was a more melt in your mouth centre.

As enjoyable as these were in the moment, I suffered from major butter overload. After my little cookie splurge, I was craving broccoli and tomatoes! I can't help it, but everytime I try a new recipe I want to find the best possible version. I've had to force myself to accept that airbake pans are the best (although most people don't like them) because there are only so many test cookies I can eat! I find that they're better than jelly rolls because every single batch of cookies I bake on a jelly roll turns out dry with burnt bottoms yet a raw top, but it could be my particular jelly roll pan. Maybe it's time I get a Goldtouch one from William Sonoma. The Goldtouch pans are actually made by Chicago Metallic, which I love because cakes seems to bake up more evenly and leveled. If only it wasn't so difficult to find them and Amazon actually shipped to Canada.

I don't think I would've tried these if it wasn't for the piping part. Piping out cookie dough makes me feel all professional.. haha. It was a lot harder to squeeze the dough out of the bag than I anticipated. I better not wake up with arm pains tomorrow! I think it's time to add a cookie press to the baking gadget collection. I'm making these again tomorrow for Christmas in the almond variation, but other than that I still haven't decided what else to bake yet.. there are just way too many yummy desserts!

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Spritz Cookies
Cook's Illustrated

Makes about 6 dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies

1 large egg yolk 
1 tablespoon heavy cream 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened (about 70 degrees)
2/3 cup sugar (about 4-3/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt 
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. In small bowl, beat yolk, cream, and vanilla with fork until combined; set aside.
2. In standing mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With mixer running at medium speed, add yolk/cream mixture and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. With mixer running at low speed, gradually beat in flour until combined. Scrape down bowl and give final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain.
3. If using cookie press to form cookies, follow manufacturer's instructions to fill press; if using pastry bag, follow illustrations 1 through 3 below to fill bag. Press or pipe cookies onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1-1/2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet until just warm, 10 to 15 minutes; using metal spatula, transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

almond variation: Grind 1/2 cup sliced almonds and 2 tablespoons flour called for in the spritz recipe until powdery and evenly fine; combine almond mixture with remaining flour. Follow recipe for spritz, substituting 3/4 teaspoon almond extract for vanilla.
lemon variation: add 1 teaspoon lemon juice to yolk/cream mixture in step 1 and add 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest to butter along with sugar and salt in step 2.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies... Finally!!

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Exams are over!! This cookie dough has been sitting in my fridge for a long, long time.. well not really, but I wasn't expecting it would take me 3 weeks to finally bake it. I didn't think to wrap it tightly and put it in a ziplock bag so there was the slightest bit of freezer burn.. ick. Freezer burn or not, sugar cookies are still not my favourite. I think it's because they're kind of tasteless. I'd rather save the calories for a really good CCC! The truth is, the only sugar cookies I like are the ready to bake Pillsbury Easter and Christmas cookies. It kinda hurts me to say I love frozen cookie dough over homemade, but the texture is so addicting!

Thanks to Ulrike of Ulrike for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Granola Bars

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Is it possible to not like a granola bar? Granola or granola bars are definitely some of the most addicting snacks! I mean, it's practically 'healthy' right.. so it doesn't matter when you've eaten so much you can't believe you've consumed 2 cups or cereal, 2.5 cups of oatmeal, 1/2 cup of peanut butter, 1/2 cup of sugar...and the list goes on! I hope no one does the calorie count because I don't want to know. After searching for what feels like forever to find the perfect granola recipe (I know there isn't a perfect recipe, but CI convinces me otherwise), I finally decided to try the chewy peanut butter granola bars from the savory notebook.

Now before any of you freak when you see the amount of corn syrup, I don't think there can be substitutions for it this time. I've made granola with maple syrup and honey before and even though it was really good, the 'freshness' factor just wasn't there.. I'm not talking about staleness, but I was missing the perfect balance of crisp, crunch yet chewy. I do feel a tad guilty about using so much corn syrup so if anyone knows a good substitution, please let me know!

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I made a few modifications..suprisingly..considering I'm usually one of those 'must follow the recipe to the word' people. Since we had lots of Kashi cereal that no one was eating, I substituted that for the puffed brown rice which I didn't have anyway. It added a really nice crunch and was a great way to get rid of it. I also added extra oats because I like my bars really oaty. I reduced the raisins because 1 cup was just way too raisiny, but I would definitely not omit all of it because they just add amazing texture and chewiness. Next time I'm definitely throwing in 1/4 cup of sesame seeds that I forgot this time. Although, I really don't think there should be a next time because this stuff is just way too addicting unless if I have a good excuse.. like getting rid of cereal!

Granola Bars
Adapted from The Savory Notebook

3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (toasted in a 350ยบ oven for 5-8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant - 350 tends to burn for me so I reduced to 200)
2 cups puffed brown rice cereal/(I used Kashi)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I just used regular PB)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Toast peanuts, pumpkin seeds, oats, cereal in oven at 200F for 15 min then pour in a large bowl with dried fruit

Whisk the peanut butter, brown sugar, light corn syrup and salt in a medium microwavable bowl and heat on high until mixture is bubbling, about 1 to 2 minutes. (I actually did this over the stove top over medium heat because the microwave tends to dry things out)

Pour peanut butter/sugar mixture into the large bowl and mix thoroughly

Press the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. (If mixture is sticky, use a bit of cooking spray on your hands or coat a piece of wax paper with cooking spray and use the paper to help you press the mixture into the pan.) I don't use cooking spray because that stuff freaks me out for some reason, but I found that lining the pan with aluminum was the best because parchment moves around too much)

Let bars cool for 1 hour before cutting into bars.

Makes about 16 bars.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

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These were by far the best vanilla cupcakes I've ever made. I originally saw these on Martha. There's something about her and how she talks to her guests that annoys me, but when cupcakes are being made, how can I not watch? During the segment, I noticed that Martha likes to turn her machine up to a higher speed and aerate the batter for a little while (a long while to me). Other than Dories Perfect party cake, I've never done that. Maybe that's why I have bouts of over/undermixing, a perfect combination.. that is if you want something with a weird texture. Luckily, the problem is only mostly in white cakes and sometimes muffins (but I'm getting better!). These were the first vanilla cupcakes I've made in a really long time. I was having so many failed attempts that I decided bake stuff that wouldn't yet again be thrown away. After seeing Clara's vanilla cupcakes (actually.. lemon cupcakes), she totally convinced me into baking cupcakes again. Plus, her progress picks were totally tempting me! I actually made these weeks ago, but didn't have time to write about them til now.. when I really should be studying for final exams!


8 hours later, I wouldn't say these were still amazing, but considering all the other times I made vanilla cupcakes, these were still the best. It's crazy how the texture changed from nice and fluffy to dense and slight crumbly.. WHY!?!? Even though I didn`t get to cream the butter, sugar and eggs (my favourite part), reverse creaming definitely produces a more tender, fluffy and airy crumb. Too bad these cupcakes weren't able to retain their cake mix-like texture hours later. As for the frosting, there was no way I was taking the icing sugar route and make Billy's vanilla frosting.. well sort of. I used the left over frosting from the DB challenge (my icing sugar-SMBC frosting duo). I'm definitely making these cupcakes again, but try it with more milk to hopefully keep them moist.

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Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes about 30 cupcakes.
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I used 1.5 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (I added 2 extra tablespoons of milk because some said these cupcakes were dry)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 minutes (17 to 20 minutes. )
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake


I went into this month's DB challenge a little nervous (suprising?). We were basically making a white cake (with caramel).. something that has never turned out right for me! Either I'm looking for all the wrong things, I can't bake vanilla cakes or something is seriously wrong with every recipe I've tried. It annoys me insanely everytime I waste a perfectly gorgeous butter/sugar/egg emulsion. Luckily, this recipe was a little more forgiving and I was able to get away with even a not so pretty batter. That was such a relief considering the streak of caramel I had on the top of some cupcakes. Actually, it was more like a streak of caramel sugar crystals. Since I made the caramel sauce in advance, I had to microwave it to get it flowing again. The only problem is when the ever so slightly warm caramel hits the cool butter, you get melting butter and sugar crystals! Luckily, it all came together after the eggs were added, even though there were streaks of crystalized caramel.

Now for the tricky part, alternating dry and wet. If there's anything that's emphasized in virtually all recipes it is 'don't overmix'. To me, that translates into don't mix at all, or something close to that. To give you an idea of what I do, I add the flour at stir and stop the machine immediately so I can start pouring the milk, then I start the machine to add the next batch of flour and stop the machine to dump the rest of the milk followed by the rest of the flour. As I'm typing this out, I'm starting to realize how silly it sounds.. between the 10 seconds the machine is actually stiring, no wonder why I have patches of flour in some areas and puddles of liquid in others. Yet, I still get the feeling that if I let the machine run, I'm overmixing!


As for the frosting, as soon as I saw powdered sugar, it was already a warning for me. It's hard enough for me to eat frosting, but when there's powdered sugar involved, that's a signal for pasty, grainy or it may be a stretch to say this, but uncooked flour. How can I explain this better.. you know the taste and feel of a sauce or pie with added flour that isn't cooked through, well the raw flour taste is what I'm talking about. I wish there was a way to cook the cornstarch in powdered sugar, maybe then it will be less pasty.. but who knows I could be totally wrong with that theory I have! I started off slowly and gradually added the sugar starting with 1 cup and stopping when I got to 1.5 cups (how could this possibly take 4 cups of sugar!). There was no way I could handle any more sweetness, but the frosting was so liquidy, I was left with an icing. I decided to make a half batch of SMBC to frost the cupcakes I was serving to people and use this icing for the challenge. I ended up combining the two frostings and made a powdered-SMBC frosting duo. It was nowhere near as melt in your mouth as SMBC, but it covered up the pastiness of the icing. Everyone seemed to love the frosting, but I was really happy about the cake. It was really moist even the next day and suprisingly soft considering that all purpose flour was used. I can't wait for next month's challege.. I hope it's something sweet!

Thanks to Dolores of Chronicals in Culinary Curosity and her co hosts Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food for this month's SWEET DB challenge!

Here's a link to the original recipe Caramel Cake by Shuna Fish Lydon

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No TWD: Smitten Apple Cake


Sorry, no TWD this week. I love pumpkin, but even with scaling down and everything, I would be the only person in my family to eat it the pie. Plus, our thanksgiving already passed so instead I have something I've been dying to try since I saw it at Smitten Kitchen. It was only a matter of time before I knew I would make this. It just looked too good and how could I not make something loaded with apples! We actually had a whole bag of over ripe apples (which wouldn't ever happen at my house) that my aunt gave us. Whenever neighbours or family members ever have overripe apples or bananas, they get sent over to our house for apple pie or banana bread! If they're going to get wasted, we may as well make something good out of it! For some reason, when I read pour half the batter, I ended up pouring half the apples instead of the batter so the apples ended up on the bottom. It must have been those insanely gorgeous photos Deb from Smitten Kitchen takes. All I could think about was that apple topping, only except I envisioned that it was on the bottom instead.

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I only made half the recipe, since it's the first time I've ever made apple cake. It also doesn't help when the only high capacity pan you have is a bundt. Muffin tins or 9 inch pans are my favourite to use because baking time is sped up by a lot. Who really wants to wait 1 hour for something to bake? I probably wouldn't be able to concentrate during the long baking time! This cake was really good and moist. Next time I'm definitely adding more apples though because mine did not look as apple-y.

This will be my final installment of pictures taken with the cell phone! I found my charger a while ago and these are the last of the cell phone pics! Speaking of electronics, I've noticed how dirty my laptop has gotten from all my baking. The other day in class, I was a little embarassed when I opened it up and I noticed some flour scattered on the screen, sugar in the keyboard and random stains. Normally, I take really good care of my stuff.. you should see my recipe books. Dorie's is always far from the baking site on a stool when I complete my TWD challenges, but my laptop on the other hand takes center spot, surrounded by ingredients. A book can be replaced, a computer.. well, not so easily.

Smitten Kitchen
Mom’s Apple Cake

6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar (I used 1.5 cups)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


There was finally some serious ripening of bananas.. about time! My family should really stop eating bananas so I can bake more banana bread.. haha. Initially, I was going to bake peanut butter banana bread, but after the whole peanut butter pumpkin bread situation that didn't go so well, I decided to make some good old fashioned banana bread with chocolate chips. I ended up bringing some to school, since I didn't exactly need another excuse to eat chocolate. It turns out that banana bread is not as popular as I thought or maybe I just picked a bunch of banana bread haters. Who says 'no thank you' to banana bread?!?!

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I used my usual banana bread recipe from Cook's illustrated. Since I'm into the whole fluffy baking thing, I creamed the butter and sugar instead of melting it. This was the first time I made this particular recipe this way and it did produce a softer crumb...YAY! On the other hand, there were a lot more dishes to be done (well, actually just the paddle and the mixing bowl..haha)

Banana Bread
Cook's Illustrated, The New Best Recipe

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/4 cups walnuts, chopped coarse
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and walnuts together in a large bowl; set aside.

4. Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

5. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Rice Pudding


Rice pudding... the sound of those 2 words together somehow grosses me out a little. Maybe it's because I'm used to eating rice in a non dessert way or because boiled milk isn't something I really like and the whole milk, sugar, rice combination, well... that's pushing me a little into the nervousness territory. Even with bread pudding, it took me a while to get used to the thought of sweet milk soaked into bread. If that's not bad enough, I'm a dry cereal eater.. I just can't mix milk with anything! Something must be wrong with me.. haha.

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Why so many spoon shots? Well, I was trying my best to hide my rice soup. It was totally my fault for not using arborio rice and replacing it with brown. As much as I would love to buy an entire bag of arborio rice to use 1/4 cup of it (and I wouldn't considering I halved this recipe), I decided to go with brown. Plus, my other rice alternative was jasmine and you can imagine how gross that would've turned out, since jasmine rice does not hold its shape well through all that boiling. Out of all the desserts I've made, this one has definitely been the healthiest. A great source of fibre and calcium.. with no butter or any added fat, what can be better?! I'm so glad this was picked because I'm totally over my rice pudding fears.. I love rice pudding!!

Thanks to Isabelle of Les gourmandises d'Isa for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

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Rice soup!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread

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There was still some leftover pumpkin puree left in the freezer, but instead of making yet another batch of pumpkin muffins, I wanted to try something new. By something new, I was going to make the muffin recipe in a loaf pan, except add something better.. peanut butter. I love peanut butter so much I would like to think it goes with everything, but I guess there are times when well... it doesn't. I hate to admit it, but this is one of those times. There was just way too much competition going on with the pumpkin and the peanut butter, I don't even know what I was tasting! The best part about using peanut butter was I could totally eliminate the butter and use just two tablespoons of oil. Occasionaly, I see other bloggers use just one or two tablespoons of oil and always wondered how that would turn out. I mean, it's hard enough sometimes trying to get full fat desserts to work, think about how much harder it must be to do low fat baking! Since I had all that peanut butter going in, technically it wasn't low fat, but I guess I have to start somewhere.


The quick bread ended up being something totally different from what I usually make. It was actually the first time I branched out from a recipe and changed things up a bit. I also skipped the whole mixer thing and folded everything by hand. Too bad no one in my family liked the flavour combination, but I thought it was still good. The best part was I didn't end up with something overmixed considering I went mixer-less.. hmm.. I guess those folding skills are improving! Maybe I should've thrown in some chocolate chips, since everything seems to taste better with chocolate! If you're still into regular pumpkin baked goods, you should definitely tryout this recipe from CI. Just replace the peanut butter and oil with 8 tablespoons of melted butter.

I still can't find my camera charger and I think I'm going to go crazy if I have to continue taking pictures with my phone!

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Pumpkin Nut Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups pumpkin, mashed (or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F
1. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt in a bowl
2. Whisk peanut butter, oil, eggs, sugar in a bowl
3. Mix pumpkin puree with wet ingredients
4. Combine dry ingredients with wet being careful not to overmix
5. Pour batter in 9 x 5 inch loaf pan
6. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with a few crumbs attached
7. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TWD: Kugelhopf

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I love it when TWD challenges use equipment I don't already have because it gives me an excuse to buy a new pan or baking gadgets. The thing is, even if I wanted to buy a Kugelhopf pan, I'm pretty sure the stores around me don't carry one. I'm lucky if they carry stuff other than Wilton or Baker's Secret sometimes! Luckily, I had the time last weekend because the initial rise time was nowhere near 1.5 hours... it was more like 4 hours! Waiting for this thing to rise reminded me of when we used to take family trips and my brother and I would constantly ask if we were there yet.. except in this case, I was wondering, has this finally doubled in size yet.

The KA was making some pretty weird noises during the kneading process. I didn't even end up using the medium high speed and stopped the machine before the recommended times. If I ever broke the KA, I would probably cry! Instead of boiling water for the raisins, I just microwaved them in a cup with a splash of water to save time and clean up. I have a love-hate relationship with raisins... love them in oatmeal cookies and bread, not too crazy about them in quick breads and muffins. I think putting the Kugelhopf in the fridge was a bad decision because the dough never ended up rising as nicely as it did initally (and I was so proud when I saw it so puffy even though it took a long time). I had to put the pan on top of the heater in my room to get it to rise... 4 hours later it rose, well sort of. I was going turn the oven to 200F then off and throw the dough in there, but I wanted to keep it covered with saran wrap and a towel so it wouldn't dry out. After that foam fire I had last year in the oven, I wasn't going to leave plastic wrap and a towel into the oven even if it was shut off. A fellow TWDer suggested I put the pan ontop of the stove so I put the pan ontop of the toaster oven when I was warming up my bagel. The dough finally rose (8+ hours + refrigeration later)! It also solved my drying out issue and I didn't have to put things that don't belong in the oven, in the oven.

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Overall, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would considering all the time put into it. I guess that's not too suprising considering I don't really like croissants and these were croissant-tasting to me. I find croissants too flaky and buttery.. the very reason why people actually them.. haha. I'm glad this recipe was chosen though because it was quite the baking experience! I hope I can find my charger soon because taking these pics took forever!

Thanks to Yolanda of The all-purpose girl for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Awards! and Tagged!

I received a few rewards, but didn't get a chance to thank everyone.. thanks! Sorry, about this really long post, but here we go..

Thanks Shari from A whisk blog for

I've decided to pass this award to bloggers who have seriously always made my day whenever I stop by their blogs.

Adam from baking with dynamite. He's just too awesome! I can't never stop laughing whenever I drop by Adam's blog. Seriously, where does he come up with all those jokes?

Carla from chocolate moosey. She is always there to listen to me stress and ramble on about stuff.. haha I love how she always cooks such delicious meals for dinner instead of settling for college food.

Dee from choos and chews. She is one amazing writer. Her wit totally shines through her posts and is always entertaining. She is really encouraging and kind.. I always look forward from hearing from Dee.

Liz from veggiegirlvegan. She was actually the part of the reason I got over my fear and started a blog. When I first started reading blogs, there was always a nice and encouraging comment form veggiegirl. My first comment was from her! Her veganized and now gluten free baking (not to mention her multitasking) always amazes me.

Pamela from cookies with boys. I love her stories about her boys and her husband going to the gym. She's always baking yummy cookies!

Thanks Audrey from food from books and Dee from choos and chews for

I'm passing this one to:

1. The food librarian
2. Amber of of chocolate and mangoes
3. Soni from sugarcraft by soni
4. Amy Ruth of amy ruth bakes
5. salute to sanity

Amy Ruth of Amy Ruth Bakes gave me

I'm passing this to:

1. Cate from fresh from cate's kitchen
2. Lucy from teen baker
3. Jamie from my baking addiction
4. Clara from iheartfood4thought
5. Natalie of snooky doodle cakes

Thanks Katherine from smokey mountain cafe for giving me

I'm passing this to:

Mary ann from meet me in the kitchen
Bridgett of la bella cook
Cathy of the tortefeasor
Audrey of food from books
Shari from A whisk blog

And if you're still with me, I've also been tagged by Carla and Silverrock.

7 things about me..

1. I've fractured 3 bones (left wrist, right wrist and right foot) and they've happened 6 years after another. Hopefully I won't break anything when I'm 23!

2. I am really shy.

3. I love trying new foods, give me anything and I'll eat it.

4. I get stressed way too easily (if you havn't figured that one out already!)

5. I love the sound of chocolate chips pouring into a mixing bowl.

6. I have a horrible sense of direction and would be lost, literally without a GPS.

7. I am obsessed with figure skating. They should really broadcast it more and it is a sport!

I guess since I was tagged twice I share another 7 things.

1. I love apples. I eat like 3 a day!

2. I love grocery shopping.

3. I love the smell of new cars. It's all chemical, but it's so yummy.

4. I've gained 5 pounds since I started blogging and at 5'2, that is a lot!

5. My favourite flavour of icecream is vanilla.

6. I have an obsession with cereal, especially Quaker's oat squares. The last time I went to Michigan, I bought a box and suprisingly, it tastes different.

7. I love holiday anything, commericals, music, Christmas trees.. I can never get too much!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake - Cupcake Style


I didn't have some sort of memory lapse and make the chocolate chocolate cupcakes for the second week in a row. There just wasn't enough time to make the rugalagh for TWD... I hope you guys don't stop reading! Last week, it was my friend's birthday so I decided to bake her cupcakes. She hasn't had anything I baked recently, since I put her through my rigorous chocolate chip cookie testing last year...haha Those were the days when only the batter tasted good while the baked result resembled something more like a hockey puck. It wasn’t until I stumbled on Cook’s Illustrated last Christmas when my desserts were finally edible. Not to mention, I also started to measure properly and stir the dry ingredients so that I wouldn’t end up with a cake that tasted soapy and bitter. Even though some may find CI to be a little annoying because they tend to focus on only one particular way of doing things and can put a limit on the creativity, I think they lay down the basics really well for an inexperienced baker. It also helps keep paranoid bakers like me from thinking too much and to just go with it. If I’m given too many choices, I’ll probably never end up baking anything! It’s kind of like when there are 2 parking spots in front of me and I end up parking in both. I hope you guys don’t take this to be a sign of a bad driver.. haha.. it’s just that I am that indecisive.

Earlier in the year during the PBS telethon, CI featured the old fashioned chocolate cake, which looked absolutely irresistible! I actually decided to bake a cupcake version of this recipe one hour before leaving for school. I even thought I could multitask and whip the eggs and sugar while measuring out the dry ingredients. It wasn’t until I tasted the batter when I realized I forgot to add salt! Luckily, I used salted butter, but there was still something that was definitely lacking. Thank god people eat with their eyes and seem to have some sort of obsession with frosting. I’m not usually into frostings other than whipped cream or cream cheese, but swiss meringue buttercream on the other hand, actually I should say, this SMBC from Cassie’s How to Eat a Cupcake is definitely worth the calories. It was simply melt in your mouth and creamy without coming off as tasting like a stick of butter. To help boost the flavour of the almost salt-less chocolate cake, I made a coffee flavoured frosting and used salted butter... hoping that the salt in the frosting would compensate.

After school, I made the frosting, but totally forgot that I wasn't bringing these until the next day. I wasn't into the idea of making people sick so I put the frosting in the fridge all ready to go in a piping bag. I was totally not expecting a lumpy curdled frosting the next day after I let the frosting come to room temperature. It was really gross and there was brown liquid from the coffee and vanilla separating out. Instead of taking out the mixer, somehow I thought I could hand whip this curdled mess into frosting again with my cake spatula. Well, after some vigorous mixing it was not coming together, but I already spent so much time on it, I didn't want to give in and take out the mixer. Then, it was almost like magic and the frosting came together. I could have easily avoided this whole mess had I just frosted the cupcakes and stored them in the fridge. But, no, my overly paranoid self was afraid that refridgeration would unfluffify the cake. I also wouldn't have to deal with the aftereffects of arm pain from all that hand mixing.. haha I know.. very embarassing!

The reaction? Well, the first thing people commented on was how amazing the frosting was, but the cake part was really good too. How can a cake made without salt taste good? I guess it’s true, a cake is simply a vehicle for frosting. This has officially taken over the place of Dorie's devil’s food white out cake as my favourite chocolate cake, mostly because of its texture. My friend actually ate 3 in one sitting! I'm not even going to mention how much butter was in the frosting alone, but then again, birthdays are only once a year. Sorry for the bad pics again, but I have no idea where my camera charger is so I took these with my cell phone.

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Adapted from Cassie's How to eat a Cupcake
* I used salted butter to compensate for the lack of salt in my cake (it wasn't too salty because it was coffee flavoured, but I definitely wouldn't use salted butter for vanilla frosting)
* I increased the amount of butter by 1/2 a stick because the frosting was still really soft
* I added 2 teaspoons of instant coffee

Makes about 4 cups (enough to frost 24 cupcakes)

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup (2.5 sticks) salted butter, at room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee

Put egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).
Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; dissolve instant coffee in vanilla and pour mixture into mixing bowl and continue beating 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Pizza


Would I dare miss another round of DB.. NO! I'll admit, I was really close to skipping another month, but the guilt was starting to build. Plus, there really shouldn't be an excuse.. I mean, we only have a month to complete the challege. I remember not too long ago when I couldn't believe that people who joined DB weren't completing their challenges. I even volunteered to check blogs for those who weren't participating... oh my, how things have turned around. I guess it's a good thing I didn't end up becoming a blog checker for incomplete DB challenges or it would have been just a tad embarassing. Since I had the slightest urge to skip yet another month of DB until the very last minute, I didn't think of any cool toppings. With nothing except for zuchinni and canned pineapple, I just had to use both. I guess if I was going for something different, leftover pumpkin puree could do, but that would just be nasty.. at least I think.

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This was the second time I made pizza dough, but it was really different from the first time. I prefer how the dough in this recipe rests in the fridge overnight. That meant I wouldn't spend the day wondering how much longer it would take the yeast to work or poke at it every so often. I made my own pizza sauce using a can of diced tomatoes, some crushed garlic, basil and sugar.

Tossing the dough, that sounded like fun and it was except that I didn't exactly do it. I wanted to, but just as I slipped the dough over my knuckles and that in itself was extremely difficult to do, the dough was stretching.. a lot! Maybe there was too much liquid, but this was sticky and stretchy. There was no way, this could make it without tearing. Realistically, I don't think it was even possible to toss it at all because of how quickly it was stretching.

DBpizza (4)

I only have one pizza pan, so I decided to bake one using a nine inch cake pan. That way I could have one thin and one thick crust pizza. Both were good, but if you haven't noticed, I forgot the cheese on the thick crust. Yep, that's what happens when you're in a rush. Sorry for the bad pictures, but I was trying to get these taken before my battery died on me. Thanks to Rosa for such a fun challenge. I think next time I make pizza dough, I'm going to try and find a food processor type recipe. It would totally save me 5 minutes of freaking out while the KA bounces around the counter and makes funny noises, which I have to admit is the slightest bit heartbreaking. I can't imagine what would happen if my standing mixer broke down on me. I guess I'll just have to run over to costco and get that professional one that is even bigger than the artisan!

Rosa included a gluten free version too!
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

DBpizza (2)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

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So my cupcakes didn't exactly turnout looking too pretty and I would rather not show it in its entirety because it's a little sad when the domed tops dome the other way. Anyways, it feels great to be baking ahead of schedule.. haha. I was definitely excited for this recipe and it wasn't because of the obvious reason.. chocolate. It's because chocolate cake recipes are generally more forgiving when it comes to overmixing and dryness. White cakes can be so disappointing in the texture department. They use just as much, if not more butter and not to mention cake flour! Could it be the cocoa powder, the buttermilk or the boiling water that most recipes use? Sometimes I'm just tempted to make a chocolate cake recipe minus the chocolate to see if I can get a moist and tender white cake.

Other than the sinking, the recipe turned out pretty well, although I wish there was just a bit more chocolate flavour. Some TWDers mentioned that their cupcakes turned out dry and how it might have to do with proper flour measurements. What really is one cup of flour anyway? I guess it can be whatever you want it to be.. 5oz (CI), 4.8oz (Dorie). For me, I spoon the flour into a measuring cup then give it a little shake at the midway point to settle the flour (which I think you're actually not supposed to do) and then spoon the rest in with a final sweep using a knife. That usually gets me at or just a little off 5oz. I really should be using a scale, but sometimes I get a little lazy, which is suprising since I'm always worrying (a little too much!) about stuff like proper measurement, mixing times, baking times and temperatures. I won't even tell you how I reacted when I found out that my liquid measuring cups were all different! You would think that at least within a brand that they'd be consistent, but that is not the case with my Pyrex ones.

cupcakechocolate (2)

My cupcakes ended up pretty moist, but I pulled them out a lot earlier than the 22-25 mins suggested. Then again, I still got 12 cupcakes using my large sized cookie scoop after halving the recipe. Most cupcake recipes I make finish in my oven at 17 minutes, but these were done at 14. Once the wonderful smell of chocolate started to come out of the oven, I checked the cupcakes with a toothpick and pulled them out when there were a few (maybe 2) mini moist crumbs attached. I ate one while it was still burning hot and it was really nice and fluffy. As they cooled, the texture totally changed and it became more brownie like, which is still good, but fluffy is better! I guess I should've left them in for the usual 17 minutes I normally do, since they remoistened so much.
Thanks to Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Ok, this is a little embarassing and I couldn't stop laughing when I saw them, but this is what happened.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins


I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since my last post, since I've been checking other super cool blogs and since I've last baked!! I missed Tuesday, so I guess Thursday will count as my TWD. It has definitely been a crazy two weeks with test after test and assignment after assignment. The year always starts off slow and then bam! you're hit with a million things to do and wishing for just one more hour... then I would be able cram a whole new chapter in... haha. I've pretty much been loading up my brain for each test and then letting it all out after to make room for the next round of stuff. Today, I ended my day with my 6-9pm lab after having finished 4 tests and 3 assigments since last Thursday and even though I didn't get home until 10, I just had to bake. Nothing could stop me, not even a very sleep deprived brain and body. Other than chocolate chip cookies, I couldn't think of anything easier to whip up. Maybe it's been a little too long, but something did not turn out right with my chocolate chip cookies, the dough was definitely stiffer than usual.. where did all the liquid go? I only poured 3/4 cups of melted butter with the flour, surely it didn't all get absorbed! Anyway.. maybe I'll save the rest for a chocolate chip cookie post, back to the pumpkin muffins!!

I actually made these on the Friday before the real TWD so technically I haven't been 2 weeks without baking, but it sure feels like it. I've never had pumpkin in any dessert other than pumpkin pie and honestly, I've never been able to eat more than a bite of pumpkin pie without feeling a little (actually a lot) grossed out. To be fair, those pies were storebought and I'm sure nothing beats homemade.. as with practically every baked good. As usual, I cut down the recipe to half except when it came to adding the pumpkin, I totally forgot and added the full amount! I guess I'll never know what these are supposed to really taste like unless I made them again and based on my experience with these, I don't think I should ever bake with pumpkin again. These were incrediably addicting, espeically with the blend of spices that let the pumpkin flavour come through. These have definitely climbed up the to top of my ranks for muffins, but I should probably try out the original recipe for a real test.

muffinspumpkin (3)

When I first got into baking, muffins were definitely one of the first things I wanted to try. Maybe it was those cute muffin liners or the ease with which those food network chefs make folding 'look' (not true for me.. I'm scared of folding!). I can't tell you how many muffins went into the trash before I almost wanted to quit altogether and forget about muffins. Then there was the whole debate about what is a muffin. Are they just a cupcake in disguise or really something healthier and breakfasty type? I used to be obsessed with reading recipes and looking at the different ratios of liquid to flour to fat and it actually killed me whenever I found muffin recipes that were really just cupcake recipes with a few blueberries thrown in. It's kind of the same thing I have with the whole bundt cake, pound cake issue. Sometimes I get so overly caught up with little details it literally takes me forever to decide on what to bake... I know.. how crazy! That's why I have TWD to help me decide every week.

These were actually the first muffins I made using the creaming method and is definitely how I'm making all my muffins from now on. The whole 'is it a muffin, it is a cupcake' issue may not be totally resolved, but I'm definitely leaning towards towards the light and fluffy style over the dense kind. Plus, who doesn't like watching the beautiful butter-sugar-egg emulsion! These were actually still a little dense, with double the amount of pumpkin that went in, but there was also a fluffy quality to it. Actually, they were kind of creamy in a melt in your mouth kind of way with a super tender crumb.. a little unexpected but I loved it! I wasn't too sure about raisins, but many TWDers mentioned that they really enjoyed it so I added half raisins and half craisins. When I cut a muffin in half I couldn't believe my eyes.. was there a flour pocket in the middle!! No, it was just flour stuck to the raisins I premixed with the flour to avoid folding altogether with my never gentle technique. phew!

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Thanks to Kelly of Sounding of my Barbaric Gulp for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TWD: Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

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I've decided to make the most of my Monday and Wednesday mornings before classes and spend it baking. Not only do I get to start the day with something yummy, but also with something I love doing! Instead of waiting until the last minute like last week, I started on the caramel topped peanut cake on Wednesday morning so I could bring it to school. This was really exciting because I'm always talking about my baking, but never actually shared (other than to family or neighbours) because I am afraid it's not good enough and would like to be spared the embarassment. After several rounds of TWD, I would have to say that my confidence has definitely improved.

I didn't have peanuts, so I stirred in cashews into my first non-soupy caramal sauce. I made a cupcake style version of the full recipe (that's right, I actually made the full recipe) and was anticipating with great excitment as I watched the cake rise in the oven (yes, I actually do that). Something about seeing the batter transform from a liquidy smooth batter into an actual cake makes me feel good. Anyway, despite my high hopes, something must have gone terribly wrong because these did not taste right. First, the texture was weird (springy and chewier than my ususal chocolate cakes) and the flavour was off. It had the slightest soapy aftertaste and no chocolate flavour. Could it be that I've been so used to halving my recipes that I halved the chocolate without knowing? I have no idea what went wrong, but with the clock ticking and batter still left in the bowl, I had to either bake and pray (secretly hoping that somehow only the batter on the top was messed up) or dump it out.


So what do you do when you're left with a chocolate batter that tastes like a regular cake with a hint of chocolate flavour? You add cocoa powder. There was no way I could incorporate cocoa without over mixing so I decided to turn the brownie cake into a cookie. Cookies seem to be a little more forgiving to overmixing. Plus, if anyone askes, these are supposed to be chewy cookies! Suprisingly, the cookie version turned out a lot better, but instead of leaving it there, I decided to turn them into whoppie pies! By the time I was all finished, it was running late so I had to leave without taking pictures of my completed cookie sandwiches. I got home and was left with nothing, not even a half whoppie pie to snap at! Overall, a not so good TWD turned out to be a lot of fun especially with the tranformation of the original brownie cake turned cookie turned whoppie pie.

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So these didn't exactly have the height of a normal whoppie pie with the extreme flattness of them.

Thanks to Tammy of Wee treats by Tammy for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: Creme Brulee


This week's TWD reminded me of the o-so-familar feeling I get on many occasions when I have an assignment due soon and I still haven't started. I almost wanted to skip creme brulee and with no ramekins or a torch, it was as if all the excuses were going my way. Then I realized that blogging is all about trying new things and this was definitely something I've always wanted to try. The best part about this recipe was how quickly it all came together and the easy clean up after. It's nice when you're not faced with a sinkload of dishes waiting to be done and all you want to do is dig into your dessert so that you can make even more dirty dishes.

Since I don't have ramekins, I used a mini oven safe pyrex bowl, which was perfect for my 1/5 version of the original. Rather than turn the oven on for a mini serving, I used the toaster oven. I know.. we have a difficult enough time with figuring out if our regular ovens are accurate and here I am using the toaster oven! With no blow torch, I just sprinkled some brown sugar on top and turned the broiler on. I'm sure this dessert tastes wonderful. I guess I'll find out tomorrow when it's chilled since I started making this 8:00 pm on Mon while watching Gossip Girl (I can't help it, I'm addicted to that show!)

Thanks to Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Raspberry-Lime Muffins


Every time I bake a batch of muffins, I always say that it will be my final batch. It's not because they are just too delicious that I can't stop eating one after another, but instead it is the other way around. I would like to believe that I'm just not a muffin person, but I think it has more to do with my folding technique. The weird part is that my quick breads turn out fine and they use essentially the same 'dump the wet into dry and fold until combined' method. My problem is everytime I make actual muffins vs quick breads I get so overly cautious with overmixing that I end up undermixing. With almost every batch I bake, there is always one unlucky person who ends up biting into a flour pocket and trust me.. that is embarassing!

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After seeing Kevin from Closet Cooking post on raspberry lime muffins, I just had to make them even though I only had frozen berries. Using the base of CI's best blueberry muffin recipe, I swapped the raspberries for the blueberries and added lime zest only. I didn't use lime juice in case the added acidity might throw the balance off and I end up with an overly large crumb. For the first time ever, I used oil instead of butter in my muffins to see if it would make a difference on the texture. I enjoyed the extra moisture the oil provided and suprisingly I didn't really miss the butter flavour. The best part was that they weren't as crumbly or dry the next day, but it's nothing 15 seconds in the microwave can't fix.

Lately, my non stick pans havn't been as good and I actually had to grease my muffin tin. A good tip I learned from Nigella is to save the butter wrappers in the fridge and use them to grease the pan before throwing them out. I find this cleaner, faster, easier and it saves you butter! The only thing is it tends to leave a thinner film of butter than using your fingers so you need to make sure it is greased well enough.

Best Blueberry Muffin Recipe
I substituted:
* oil for the butter
* raspberries for the blueberries
* added the zest of one lime (this was not enough and will add more next time)

Monday, September 22, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum (Peach) Cake


This week's TWD was actually perfect, just in time for my mom's birthday! Like me, she isn't too into frostings unless of course it's whipped cream. I actually loved making this cake because of how satiny smooth the whipped butter, sugar, egg and oil mixture came together. It was so pretty I almost didn't want to add the flour. Instead of plums, I decided to use peaches since last time the pluots were a little sour for my liking. Before adding the peaches, I followed CI's advice to cook them in a pan first to release some of the juices and ensure that the fruit is properly cooked through. Even though I overbaked this by mistake, I enjoyed this version better than CI's flavourwise and texturally. The rustic plum cake was more cookie like whereas this was more coffee cake like.

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I couldn't believe the difference orange zest can make in a baked good and I think I'm going to start adding more of it whenever I bake. This was so delicious, I kind of wish I didn't halve the recipe. My mom and I could have eaten the entire loaf ourselves, but it was late so I put it away before we could devour the entire thing. Plus, I always like to leave some for the next day because I'm curious to see how the texture changes. Sorry for the weird colour of my cake, but we just couldn't wait until the morning to slice into it. Stupid yellow light bulbs and no natural lighting!

Thanks to Michelle of Bake-En for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her blog and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!


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