Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cupcake Weekend

We had two parties this weekend.  That meant I got to get my bake on.

Two different kinds of cupcakes were in order.

The first - Lemon with Vanilla Bean Frosting
1 lemon cake mix (replace the water with buttermilk, but leave the rest of the ingredients the same)
1 package lemon instant pudding
1 cup sour cream

The icing was just a basic butter cream but I borrowed some Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste from a friend and oh my!  Heaven on a cloud

2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 tbsp milk
2 and 1/2 teaspoons bean paste
4 cups powdered sugar (approximate)

The finished product was beautiful and I was completely in awe of the little vanilla bean flakes. Definitely gave the treats a gourmet feel.
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The second cupcake I've made before, but it was yummy as well - chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.
The cake was also from a mix with 1 cup of sour cream, 1 package of chocolate instant pudding and buttermilk instead of water.

Peanut Butter Frosting
2 sticks butter, soft
1 and 1/2 c. peanut butter
2 tbsp milk
4 cup powdered sugar

This is enough frosting for about 30 cupcakes so you'll have left over. You can just eat it with a spoon, a spatula, or like I did...straight out of the piping bag.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Croissants, Round 3 - call them conquered

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After stewing all weekend, trying to figure out how Round Two went bad, I got up Monday morning and invented my own recipe. I realized I had a few challenges, the worst of which was altitude. Baking at a high altitude always requires a recipe modification and I'd made none to Julia's croissants.

So, I took matters into my own hands and invented my own recipe. I doubled the yeast, switched from regular unbleached/bread flour to cake flour, and doubled the butter. As soon as I saw my dough rising on the stove my hopes were high.

Throughout the day and I chilled and rolled and chilled and rolled I said silent prayers to the french croissant spirits to bless my pastries. Once I got all 12 rolled out and ready to proof I ran away. It was like waiting for the results of a pregnancy test. Seriously - that dramatic.

I hid upstairs for an hour and when it was time to gently lay them in the oven, I came downstairs, smelled the goodness that is bread dough, and walked over to the the oven to take a peek on top.

They were puffy. They looked soft and lovely. I was a bit excited. So excited in fact that I sat on one of the kids little red chairs in front of the over with the light on for 13 minutes while my little babies baked.

As I pulled them out of the oven I was near tears. They smelled better than anything I had ever smelled. They looked flaky. They looked perfect. I grabbed one by the corner and lifted it.....light as a feather.

Croissants were conquered!

The final test was to taste one. Now, I've never eaten a hot out of the oven croissant in my life and let me tell you, it was a little piece of heaven melting in my mouth.

I was told, by my three year old assistant that, "mommy, these are the best croissants I've ever eaten!"

By damn, I think he's right.

Now I just have to figure out how to do it again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Croissants, round two

Okay -

The first round of Julia Child croissants sort of blew up in my face. In the end, all I made were rolls.

I resolved for Round Two to do things a bit differently.
1 - do a flour mix instead of straight up bread flour
2 - follow the chill times exactly
3 - be nicer and a bit softer in my rolling of the dough

You see, I realized that not only did I beat the dough up, I also didn't use enough butter. I doubled the recipe but didn't double the butter. What a dork!

Fast forward to this past weekend and Round Two.
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I painstakingly followed the directions. I was soft and delicate and used enough butter. Everything seemed to be going really well. The dough seemed to be working in my favor. I pulled the lovely beauties out of the oven. They looked right. They smelled right.

They were all wrong.

I was devastated. The outside was beautiful and crisp and brown but the inside was...a roll. No fluffy and flaky layers of croissant and butter. Instead, I just had french tasting rolls. They were yummy, but not quite right.

It was sad. I almost cried. Instead, I sat down at the computer and tried to figure out what went wrong. I read dozens of recipes and watched videos on YouTube of chefs and french bakeries making these delicate little treats.

A few things became clear.
1 - high altitude is a bugger
2 - i needed more yeast - the croissants just aren't rising enough
3 - more butter! double, in fact.
4 - different flour - cake flour
5 - patience and love

Faced with yet another failure in the bread department (oh, Julia. Why is it so hard?) I am determined to continue the fight (the 9 hour fight) and end up with something any real french baker would be proud of.

It may take me the rest of my life.

But, when I woke up this morning, only one thing was on my mind. Today is the only day I have to try Round three this week and right now, as I type, a dozen reformed croissants (you see I invented my own recipe this morning) are proofing on the stove.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A few thoughts on salads

I didn't eat my first salad until I was 21 years old. I was a super picky eater, afraid of vegetables and things that grew in the ground. I thought lettuce tasted like dirt. But, on a trip with a teacher friend of mine I had to suck it up and eat lettuce.

And I liked it.

I still like salads - and can't ever figure out why they are always so much better at a restaurant or for take out than at home. Real food, that I cook for my family is generally always as good or better than something we'd go out and buy. But a salad - that's a tough one.

Yesterday though, I gave it the old salad try...twice.

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For lunch?
Romaine lettuce
Croutons
Crispy shallots
Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil as a dressing

Garlic bread

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For dinner?
Butter leaf lettuce
Shredded Carrots
Sun dried tomatoes
Green Onions
Wonton Strips
Grilled steak

Balsamic and Olive Oil


Both were yummy...

Monday, October 18, 2010

It was a weekend of food

On Friday it was Ross' dad's birthday. I fixed a birthday dinner.

The only thing I took a picture of was the molten chocolate cakes. yum.
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On Sunday we celebrated my mom's birthday with a Mexican fiesta.
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Chicken enchiladas, beef empanadas and a whole lot of other stuff.

Today was my mom's actual birthday and I made her a treat. The chocolate icing was absolute heaven.
homemade chocolate icing

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trial and Error - Croissants, the first try

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There are a few reasons I'll divulge at a later date, but I've decided to try my hand at croissants.

Yes, the authentic french kind.

Full of butter.

Melt in your mouth.

Bread is not my friend.  Every single time I've tried to follow a bread recipe it doesn't work.

Same thing for my croissants.  I tried this recipe - the authentic Julia Child one and, well, they were yummy.  But my croissants were just delicately shaped rolls.  No layers.  No flake.  No oui oui!

But, I'll try again this weekend, too.