Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm a Rockstar!

My crazy has a name now: Master Baker's Rockstar of the Month. I'm not sure if I should be proud or ashamed that my insanity has attracted attention. Still, you should totally go check out all the entries, and the real winner of the Easter Candy challenge. They absolutely made me droooooool.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mrs. Johnson's Tomato Soup

Professor Johnson is one of the things I'll miss about W&L Law. He has hosted a weekly student Bible study in his home for who-knows-how-long. And for just as long, his wife has provided amazing food for the students who come to that Wednesday night Bible study. One of my all-time favorites is her tomato soup. She graciously shared her recipe with a few of us, and since I have had scheduling conflicts for the last year and have been unable to enjoy her wonderful food, I thought her tomato soup with grilled cheese sounded like the perfect exam nourishment. In reality, it is much more nutritious than I expected considering how creamy and delicious it is!

Mrs. Johnson's Tomato Soup

1 med. onion
2 cans of diced tomatos
1 large can of evaporated milk
1 large(r) can of tomato juice
2 sticks margerine
2 Tbs parsley
garlic salt to taste
1/2 - 2 cups flour

Saute onion in butter.
Add flour to make a paste.
Add milk slowly, until creamy
Add other ingredients. Heat.
Add water to desired consistency.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Laura Bush Cookies

I can't help it; I think Laura Bush is incredible. She's dignified and beautiful, and has all of the grace that I only wish I had. However, you don't have to like her in order to appreciate these amazing cookies!

Each Presidential election year, Family Circle magazine has a bake-off between the first lady candidates. 4 years ago, Laura Bush's recipe was definitely the landslide favorite! Her recipe has become one of my go-to recipes. It's traditional with a kick, and I think it's perfect (at least, it is with a few changes)!

Laura Bush Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies (with a couple Red Kitchen Aid changes)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups quick oats (not old-fashioned)
1-2 cups chopped walnuts
1 packages (11.5 ounces) chocolate chunks (~3 cups)
1-2 cups dried sour cherries

Heat oven to 350°.

With electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars.
Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla.
Add flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and oats; slowly beat until blended.
Stir in walnuts, chocolate and cherries.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Makes about 8 dozen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kiss Law School Goodbye Cookies

I wanted to make a special favor for my end-of-law-school potluck. I was pretty sure that some sort of sugar cookie was the way to go, but had a little trouble coming up with something until I started pawing through the cookie cutters I had lying around. The moment I saw the lips, I was certain of it! I wanted to do kissing law school goodbye cookies for everyone!

I used the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook recipe, because it's my go-to book when I'm focused on presentation. It was the first time I've ever made/used royal icing, and there was definitely plenty of trial and error, and error, and error, as I tried to get the consistency right for flooding (basically piping the icing on, so that it looks like it was spread). I ended up having to make a second batch of the icing in order to ice all of my cookies. Next time I would definitely make them a day ahead, just to make sure to give the icing plenty of time to set. In the end though, I was very happy with the results.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Banana Cream Pie

I finally got to break open my new food processor! It was one of my favorite Christmas presents, but I hadn't found the right recipe yet. It was finally used to make the nutty crust of this banana cream pie from NPR.

I thought it would be a good pie to use for the Master Baker challenge - the theme this month was vanilla, and I thought that was a good excuse to try a recipe with whole vanilla beans.

I'm also a huge fan of the candied pecans on top. My guests were picking the pecans off and nibbling on them. They were delicious. I almost left them off, thinking that they'd be too much, but I've absolutely glad that I went ahead and made them.

The pudding was a new experience for me, but it was much easier to make than I feared from the directions, and it actually went quite quickly. The directions are blissfully thorough, and warn you ahead of time.

Nut Pastry Pie Dough
Makes one 8- to 10- inch single crust.

1/2 cup finely chopped, raw, unsalted walnuts
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten

FOOD PROCESSOR METHOD: In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the nuts, flour, sugar and salt until just combined. Add the butter and egg and pulse until the dough balls on the blades. Remove the dough and shape it into a ball. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

HAND METHOD: Put the nuts in a medium bowl with the flour, sugar and salt. Mix well. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles dry cookie dough. Mix in the egg to moisten the dough. Shape the dough into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Press dough into the bottom of a pie pan, cover with parchment paper and pie weights, and parbake at 350 degrees, for 20 minutes. Let cool.

Vanilla Pudding
Makes 3 cups.

2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/2 cup sugar, divided
tiny pinch salt
1/2 cup egg yolks (about 6 yolks)
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed

In a large, heavy, non-reactive saucepan (aluminum reacts and will cause a pudding to turn dingy grey), combine the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the vanilla bean and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch until smooth.
Have the whisk, a ladle and a large glass or ceramic dish handy. Heat the milk mixture in the saucepan until it just comes to a boil, whisking it a bit as it gets steamy. When you see the first bubbles boiling up, take the pan off the heat and place it on a potholder next to the egg mixture. (To make life a little easier on yourself, put the egg bowl on the right if you're right-handed, or on the left if you're left-handed. Use your stronger arm to whisk; use your weaker arm to ladle the hot milk.
During the next steps, stir constantly or the eggs will coagulate and you'll have scrambled eggs.This is quick work.Take a ladleful of hot milk and pour it in a thin stream into the eggs, whisking constantly. Continue stirring, and add a few more ladlefuls of hot milk to the eggs in the same way.The tempered eggs are now ready to add back into the hot milk.
To do this, whisk the hot milk constantly and pour the tempered eggs in slowly. When fully combined, put this mixture back on the stove top over medium heat and continue to whisk constantly.The mixture should be ready to come back to a boil very quickly.When the custard nears the consistency of pudding, take very short pauses in stirring to look for signs of a bubble surfacing (it is more like a single volcanic blurp). Don't look too closely, or you'll risk getting spattered with hot pudding. Just stir, pause briefly, stir, and so on.
When you see the first blurp, remove the pan from the heat immediately and whisk in the cubes of butter.Whisk until fully combined and immediately pour the pudding into a large glass or ceramic dish to cool it down. While the pudding is still very hot, stretch plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding. Smooth out any air pockets to make the pudding airtight. This will prevent a skin or condensation from forming on top of the pudding. Refrigerate the pudding until completely cold — at least 4 hours.

Stir the cold pudding and retrieve the vanilla bean. Squeeze out the excess seeds (those little black specks) in the interior of the pod with your thumb and forefinger — pinch and slide your fingers down the length of the bean, freeing the black seeds as you go. Do this with each half of the bean, returning as many seeds as possible to the pudding. Stir the pudding again and pour it into the crust. Smooth the top with a spatula.

Candied Nuts
Makes 2 cups candied nuts.

1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons whiskey
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups raw unsalted pecans or walnuts

These look like glossy versions of the original nut, but they are robust with candied flavors. Use any kind of honey — clover is fine — because the vanilla and whiskey dominate the flavor anyway.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
In a large bowl, mix together the honey, whiskey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Add the nuts and mix well.
Spread the coated nuts on a large well-greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Stir and scrape them up every 5 minutes with a spatula and return the pan to the oven until the nuts smell good and are deep glossy brown. Be careful not to burn them.
Remove the pan from the oven and scrape the nuts up with a spatula occasionally as they are cooling or they'll stick together and to the sheet.
When the nuts are cool, dry, and set, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

And Finally ... the Pie!
Makes one 9-inch single-crust pie.

3 cups vanilla pudding (page XX)
pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie, blind-baked
4 to 5 medium-size ripe bananas
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed
lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
candied pecans or walnuts

Select ripe bananas without any sign of spots or green near the stem.
Slice the bananas ¼ inch thick to get about 4 cups and immediately toss them in the lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Stir in the sour cream gently. Layer the coated bananas in the pie crust, and flatten them gently.
Layer the pudding on top and smooth it with a spatula.
Refrigerate the pie, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours before cutting.
Serve wedges of pie cold with Candied Pecans; their salty accent is quite nice next to the custard and bananas. Store loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Earth Day Cupcakes

Here is the idea: Anyone can grow mint! Seriously, it's practically impossible to kill, and it thrives easily. It also can grom from cuttings. SO, I thought, make a cupcake that provides pretty much everything needed to start an herb garden. It has the pot and the mint - just eat the cupcake and throw in some dirt and water.

I did get to make the Earth Day cupcakes, and I'm quite happy with the way they turned out! I used a Chocylit recipe for the rich chocolate cupcakes and for mint buttercream icing, and it was delicious. The cupcake itself was almost more like a brownie. I used the mint extract for the flavoring of the icing, and it was good, but I think I might use creme de minthe next time, just because. The recipe below reflects my minor charges, such as the addition of food coloring, the use of locally available ingredients, changes in cooking time for the flower pots, etc.

Chocolate Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven
2-100 gram bars of Hershey 60% cocao
3 sticks butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
8 eggs
1-1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
(24 mini flowerpots)
1. line flowerpots with parchment and place on a baking sheet.
2. break up chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
3. add butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. stir until chocolate melts and butter is combined.
4. remove from heat and stir in sugar. let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
5. beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes.
6. add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each
7. sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until blended.
8. scoop into lined flowerpots and bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mint Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon all natural peppermint extract
1 tube of green gel food coloring

1. beat butter until creamy, scrape bowl.
2. add 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar, milk, peppermint extract, and food coloring, beat until combined.
3. add more powdered sugar as needed to get piping consistency.
4. pipe on icing.
4. top with a sprig of mint

Friday, April 18, 2008

Kissing Law School Goodbye

I attended my last class of law school today. In celebration, I had people over last night for a pot luck/game night. We played Catch Phrase like only lawyers can, with lots of yelling, fighting over rules, and insistence that both teams were equally inconvenienced. It's funny - as 1Ls, we were very aware that we were starting to make lame law jokes in every conversation; now, the legal termanology has become such a part of our vernacular that we don't even notice any more. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

The party was fun, and I enjoyed having people over. And I enjoyed baking and cooking. Roasts are fun and easy. My kitchen was completely destoyed over and over, but is pretty much back to normal now.

Martha Stewart Cheesecake

I have made this cheesecake before, but I've always had to make two out of one recipe because it is intended for a 10" springform pan (and frankly, is a little too much, even for that), and I haven't had one. I finally found a 10" pan at T.J. Maxx, and was super-excited to try it out. It even had a glass bottom, that I thought that would be great, because it would be even prettier for serving.

HOWEVER, I'm not the brightest, and I was cooking about 10 things at once. I set the cheesecake on the stove and turned on a burner for something else. Apparently, I turned the wrong burner on though, and I shattered the glass. Oops.

At any rate, after scraping off the glass, I was left with a great (giant) cheesecake from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. I'm pretty sure it must be healthy, what with the 7 packages of cream cheese. ;)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Coming soon:

I swear!
Earth Day cupcakes (mint and chocolate)
THE party favors (to be revealed)
banana cream pie
et. al.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cupcake Hero Ponderings - Earthday

This month's theme for cupcake hero is Earth Day. I was really stumped by this one, and was desperate for inspiration until I found it! I was looking at the finalists for Martha Stewart's cutest cupcake contest, and it clicked. Someone submitted a cupcake in a mini terracotta pot, with an actual green plant sticking out of it!

I think I'm going to do a mint chocolate cupcake with a sprig of mint 'growing' out of it. The mint can either be eaten or planted, because mint grows really easily from cuttings! It's like a (single) herb garden in a cupcake! I think it'll be cute... and the mint icing will already be green, so it'll make great grass. I think I'll try it both with green mint grass and with crushed oreos over it to look more like dirt. We'll have to see.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cosmo cupcakes

I love alcohol, pink, and sugar, so these were a must! I found a blog (which unfortunately appears to be have been abandoned) that is exclusively cocktail-based cupcake recipes, and I really wanted to try the cosmos. I was invited to a crawfish boil this weekend and promised to bring baked goodies. I took the rice krispy treats and these, and they were a real hit!

I thought I'd go ahead and reprint the recipe here for your convenience.


For Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of triple sec
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For Frosting:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
A stick of room temperature butter
2 tablespoons of sweetened lime juice (such as roses)
1 tablespoon of milk
A few drops of red food coloring
1 lime for garnish

Be especially careful not to open the oven during the first 20 minutes of baking as it will increase the chances of your cupcakes falling flat on their butts. This recipe has a little extra weight on top also due to the cranberries so just trust me on this one and keep your sticky fingers off the oven door for the first twenty minutes. The cupcakes when done should be golden brown and irresistible looking. (I know one of mine never made it to the frosting stage!)

For Cake:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and give it a quick stir to combine. Place eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat on medium with an electric mixer until light and foamy. About 2 minutes. Melt butter (about 1min in microwave) and pour over eggs and sugar whilst beating. Add triple sec to eggs, sugar and butter mixture then turn mixer to low. Add half the dry ingredients to the mixer. Add milk and orange juice Add remaining dry ingredients. Continue mixing until remaining dry ingredients are combined (no more than a minute) being careful not to over mix the batter. Immediately divide batter equally among the 12 cupcake liners. I like to use an ice cream scoop to do this. Helps keep each cupcake uniform size. Sprinkle a little pinch of cranberries on top of each filled liner and put in hot oven immediately. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean, with no crumbs. Place on a baking sheet to cool.
When cupcakes are completely cooled you can begin to make the frosting.Place 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, salt and butter in a bowl and cream together using a stand or electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer to low, add half of the remaining confectioners’ sugar, the lime juice and milk, then the remaining half of the sugar. Turn mixer to high and beat until fluffy and of piping consistency. Add food coloring until the color of the frosting looks similar to Barbie pink Frost cooled cupcakes in your favorite way Garnish with a slice of lime

Rice Krispy Treats

Yumm! I don't know why, but this simple dessert always makes me happy. Perhaps it has something to do with never having these kinds of sugary snacks when I was growing up.

I added the remainer of a bag of chocolate chips, and a bag of chocolate chunks that were lying around. ...because chocolate is good. I also was a little short on rice krispies, since I was just trying to use up what was left of a giant box of rice krispies after making the Easter treats. I went ahead and used as much marshmallow fluff as I normally would, because I love gooey treats!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Giant Cupcake!

I finally got a chance to use my new pan! One of my friends has a birthday tomorrow, so we went out to lunch (and shopping) to celebrate. I thought this sounded like a great excuse to bake a giant cupcake, so out came the pan!

I have a few recipes that I've been looking forward to trying out, but everyone else seems certain that red velvet is the way to go. After weaseling out of making little red velvet cupcakes for tomorrow, I felt that I did have to give in to the birthday girl's request today. So... I tried a new recipe. I can usually depend on Southern Living not to lead me astray (because they believe in butter as much as I do), so I went with one of their recipes. Because of the shape of the giant cupcake pan, I had to leave it in the oven for a little over an hour and a half. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, since it was so deep, but I still would be happier if it would cook more quickly! I'm impatient. I also used the Southern Living recipe for cream cheese icing. I was afraid that I would need more than one batch of the icing, but I think it was actually a bit more than I needed, with the shape of the cake. The icing was also a little less sweet, and a little softer than I might normally make, but I was happy with it. I imagine that t could have made it a bit stiffer and sweeter by adding more powdered sugar, but frankly, it sounded like too much work.

Tomorrow, it's regular-sized cupcakes and rice krispy treats!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

flowerpot cupcakes

I am honestly refraining from baking until I turn in this paper, but I did have to whip up some quick cake mix cupcakes so that I could decorate them for the Martha Stewart cupcake contest. I had to get this out of my head while I could still submit it. ;)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Master Baker March Challenge Roundup

I loved making all the Easter treats! I suppose that I have more than a little streak of competitiveness. While I am normally quite lazy, a competition moves me to action pretty quickly. Master Baker's March contest is a great example! Here are all the treats that I made with the theme ingredient: Easter Candy!

S'more Peep Bars

Mini Cadbury Nest Eggs

...Just posting this makes me want to bake more!