Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Baking Clubs and Broomstick Guitars

So far my blog is pretty lame. It's been a lot of, "one day I made this, and then some people ate it". Well, this is all about to change. First, I get to bake my first Tuesdays with Dorie project this weekend!. I ordered my book, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan on Amazon last week and got all stressed out that I wouldn't get it in time before the first challenge, and then I would get kicked out of the club before I even got started, etc, etc. So, I went to the library to get myself a copy to hold me over until I get mine from Amazon. Holy cow! No wonder you chose this baking book! It's SO accesible. All the recipes look amazing. Dorie's writing is so encouraging and interesting, and I don't feel patronized for having to look up words in the glossary.

I'm super excited about the next two recipes. I was a little nervous, but banana bread is one of my favs (and I've got a stash or frozen ones right now) and the chocolate/marbling twist will be the perfect challenge to start with. I'm making it Saturday and can't wait.

Even more exciting is I'm starting a quick little high-altitute baking course this weekend and next at a great place I found in the Highlands, Generous Servings. Yay, baking class!

I actually did a ton of baking last weekend, none of which I documented. Oops. A couple failed brownie attempts. The first because the reciped SUCKed, the second because I started eating all of it straight out of the pan which was getting out of control, so it went down the trash chute.

We started our first baking club last weekend from work also. We made-up a contest that whoever finished thier call list at work first got to pick what we baked. Lemon cake it was. I also made some snickerdoodles because I'd never made them before. My apartment has never smelled so good. Our co-workers love baking club because they get to eat the products of our labor on Monday morning. They are definitely starting to get spoiled. One of my managers pouted all day because there weren't any chocolate chips in the goodies. He'd walk by my desk and whisper, "chocolate chips, chocolate chips". Spoiled.

On another note:

I love Wall-E because he's not a morning person either.

And I wish every weekend was Harry and the Potters concert weekend!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Blueberry Muffins Heaven is Made Of

...Or at least when my dad made them they were. My dad made these this spring for a family brunch and that's exactly what I thought when I took a bite: "Heaven must be made of these muffins". The recipe is from "The Best of America's Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2008". The chefs from Cook's magazine tested all the classics over and over to make the best and most flawless recipes. No wonder they were so good. I wanted to attempt these last weekend, and was a little nervous, remembering how delicious they were the first time around. Like I said before, it's always good to cook with my parents because they show me all sorts of handy tricks. I should have baked these in my dad's kitchen because he would've reminded me to use Alton Brown's high-altitude adjustments which I thinks takes these muffins from yummy to heavenly.

Here's the streusel topping post-mixing. This is the best smelling part of the whole recipe!

Uh-oh. I followed all the rules and my batter still turned blue!

Half-time. I somehow managed to make Smurf muffins.

Right out of the oven. Not so blue anymore- phew!

There are some very important rules America's Test Kitchen outlines to make these muffins their absolute best: 1)Use frozen berries rather than fresh. They will have more flavor. They have to be frozen until the last second and tossed in flour to prevent them from sinking in the batter. If they thaw they will turn your batter blue. My batter turned blue, but I keep them frozen the whole time, I swear! I've got a big bag of dried blueberries for the next go around to see if that works any better.
2)Use only the directed amount of blueberries; too many will add too much moisture and make the muffins soggy.
3)Fold berries just when dry and wet ingredients combine. If you add them too early it turns the batter blue (maybe that was my problem). Too late and you can over mix the batter and make it tough.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2008: May 2008


*1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
*1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
*1/2 tsp granulated sugar
*pinch of salt
*7 Tbs unsalted butter, metled

Muffins :
*1 large egg
*1 tsp vanilla extract
*1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
*1 tsp grated lemon zest
*4 Tbs unsalted butter, metled and cooled slightly
*1/2 cup buttermilk
*2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
*1 Tbs baking powder
*1/2 tsp salt
*1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

For the Streusel:

Combine the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Drizzle with the melted butter and toss with a fork until evenly moistened and the mixture forms large chunks, with some pea-sized throughout.

For the Muffins:

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the over to 375 degrees. Spray a standard muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk the egg in a medium bowl until pale and evenly combined, about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla, sugar, and zest and whisk vigorously until thick, about 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk in the melted butter; add the buttermilk and whisk until combined. Reserve 1 Tbs flour. Whisk the remaining flour, the baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Fold in the egg mixture until nearly combined. Toss the blueberries with the reserved 1 Tbs flour and fold into the batter until just combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups and top with the streusel. Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few crumbs attached, 23 to 27 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking. Cool the muffins in the tin for 20 minutes, then carefully transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Yummy! I love me some freshly baked carbs!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cereal and Gluten-Free Cupcakes

Not one of the most serious of baking endeavors, but certinaly one of the most fun and worth documenting anyways.

Music to bake to: Franz Ferdinad.
Drink to bake with: Cherry Coke Bacardi Slurpee.

It all started with a visit to the Shoppe. ( I just read about this place in the new 5280 the day before. It's a cupcake, coffee, cereal shop; all three of my favorite things! My bff and I had to go check it out stat, especially since they advertised a gluten-free cupcake for my gluten-free friend. I had the best cereal of my life called Eff'in Nuts (honey-nut cheerios with walnuts and peanut butter chips) and a cup of coffee the size of my head. I didn't try any of the scrumptious looking gluten-ey cupcakes, but the gluten-free cupcake left something to be desired. The cupcake was more like mousse fudge molded into the shape of a cupcake.

So, not having satisfied our gluten-free cupcake desire, we headed to Whole Foods to buy some gluten-free cake mix and make our own. We went for the 365 brand of chocolate cake. This is my favorite brand of gluten-free baking mixes. The brownies are killer. No really. Best brownie mix ever- in all of brownie mixes. The cake mix isn't as good as the brownie mix, but at least our cupcakes resembled actual cakes.

Here's what the finished products looked like. Gluten-free cakes don't rise quite the same as gluten-filled cakes.

Doty showing what serious work gluten-free cupcakes are.

Ahhh... perfect Saturday afternoon activity.

We attempted to make vanilla frosting, but frosting is my biggest area of improvement. I added way too much milk (soy, which I don't think I should try in frosting again) that no amount of powdered sugar could correct. Overall, with my delcious bowl of cereal from the cereal cafe and taking gluten-free cupcakes into our own hands, I would say the afternoon was a huge success!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Baking Blog: The Beginning

I can't stop baking. This spring I even packed 5 dozen cookies in my carry-on bag leaving about just enough room for my toothbrush and a shirt when I went to visit my old HSM 29 pals. I show my affection with baked goods. And after going through a crazy insurance season at my new grown-up office job, baking is the one activity that reminds me how to take my time and I relax. Now that I have my new pink KitchenAid mixer this obsession has reached a whole new level. After months and months of google-ing recipes and cooking tips I decided I finally needed to start a baking blog of my own. I'm really good at making some things, and still learning with others. Here's the start of the documentaion of my baked good adventures. I'll mess up a lot, and it might not always look pretty, but there is for sure going to be a lot of tasty recipes.

Here's a pic of my new mixer in all of it's pink glory. The first thing I made with it was Kahlua-Chocolate Cupcakes at my mom's house as soon as we got it from the store. (They're wrapped up in the foil). It's good to bake with my mom because she always has things to teach me. She showed me how to make a killer meringue for the cupcake batter. I don't have the recipe, but I'll have to make sure to get it next time I take a visit home because they were delicious!

Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chip cookies were next. I took them to work in a pink Victoria's Secret box and they were a hit! The recipe was straight out of the KitchenAid mixer book and I just added the chocolate chip part. Everything's better with some chocolate chips.