Monday, November 24, 2008

About Lauren

in the words of What Posessed Me:

Because nothing really important actually happens until you discuss, analyze and evaluate it on the phone with the friend you love.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lazy Saturday = cookies

I actually had a Saturday free to catch up on things! So, of course, I accomplished very little that actually needed to be done. Although I do have baking planned for Thanksgiving, I just wasn't feeling it today. Instead, I was craving chocolate chip cookies!

I stuck to the basic recipe from the bag of Nestle semisweet chips. However, I realized after most of the batter had come together that the bag of chips I thought I had was actually Ghirardelli bittersweet morsels. So, in went the better part of a bag of bittersweet, and about 1/8 cup of semisweet chips. I was a little worried that I wouldn't like the darker chocolate in my traditional comfort food, but I love it! And it has the fantastic side effect of satisfying me after just one (or two) cookie(s)! I've noticed that with dark chocolate bars - I just need a bite, and it satisfies my chocolate craving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chocolate Chess Pie help

One of the secretaries in my office mentioned yesterday that she was craving pie. And then I talked to my mom about Thanksgiving plans. She's actually taking over hostess duties this year (for the first time), and we were talking about the menu and how I could help. I was delegated bread duty and some sort of chocolate pie duty. Perfect!

I haven't ever made a chocolate chess pie, but I wanted to try it out. Clearly, the answer was to do a dry run of the pie last night and bring it into work, and then, once I proved that it was the most amazing pie ever, use the recipe again for Thanksgiving dinner. Perfect, right?

Only, the pie is not perfect. The crust is (it's Dorie's perfect crust). But the filling ... some thing's not right. It doesn't seem done. Here's the recipe I used from (which I should have known better than to trust), chosen largely because I had all of these ingredients already:

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9" pastry shell

Melt butter with chocolate.
In a mixing bowl, combine chocolate and butter mixture with sugar, flour, salt, milk, eggs, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer for 5 to 6 minutes.
Pour filling into prepared pastry shell; bake at 350° for 35 to 45 minutes, until set.

And that's what I did! I checked it at 35 minutes, and it didn't look done, so I left it for the last 10 minutes. I assumed that it must be done - I don't do a lot of pie, so I wasn't sure how to tell if it was set. The top is solid, and even cracked, but the inside just isn't quite set, especially at the center of the pie.

Do you have a no-fail chocolate chess pie recipe? Did I do something wrong with this one?

Monday, November 17, 2008

An open letter

To bloggers who only publish truncated feeds:

Please stop. Really. At least publish one feed with everything. I love bloglines because I don't have to hop between blogs to read everything. It makes me sad when I see that you've posted, but I have to burden my poor, tired from too much blog-stalking fingers and click over for each of your posts. I'm lazy. Please take that into consideration. Thanks!

Hugs and Kisses,

Mr. Lover's cake

Mr. L celebrated his birthday last month, and of course, I was quick to offer to make a cake for him. He's usually pretty good about not keeping sweets around the house, and he's a bit of a foodie, so I thought he'd jump at the chance to have a made-to-order, made from scratch cake for his birthday. Not so much. I underestimated the power of nostalgia. The order I got was for one boxed mix yellow cake with canned chocolate frosting. He didn't even want any fun decorations like sprinkles! So, he got one ugly sheet cake. But yeah, there is something incredibly comforting and Delicious about a classic box cake. I liked it too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

I know that this is looked down on in the legal profession (and most other professions as well), but I am not above giving a bribe. There. I said it. My future as a member of the judiciary just went down in flames on blogger.

In exchange for the purchase of some tickets to a Junior League event that I'm supposed to sell, I gave a co-worker cookies. I did. She asked for oatmeal cookies, and I delivered - just a little quid pro quo.

I found the perfect recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook - perfect because it didn't require any ingredients that I didn't have in my pantry.* And it called for plenty of nutmeg (or maybe I just put in more than it called for since I don't really measure spices), and it was good.

*As it turns out, I was actually about a cup short on oatmeal, and ended up running to the store anyway to get some more. Of course, this would have happened with any recipe, since the standard seems to be 3 cups of oatmeal (in spite of the fact that the standard container of oatmeal has 5 cups!). And I still forgot to add the second cup, and had to guess at how much to add to the remaining batter after I put the first batch in (which is about when I realized that the reason the batter seemed too runny was that it was missing 1/3 of the oatmeal). Still, a pretty good recipe.

co-worker's birthday

One of the secretaries that I work with is celebrating her birthday, and I was honored that the other secretaries thought of me when planning cupcakes for her! After some subtle interrogation by another co-worker, we established that she needed pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I found a promising recipe (or three) in a cookbook that was a recent gift from a good friend (Ok, really, a GREAT friend) - the Texas State Fair cookbook. I trust a Texan cookbook.

I used elements from a couple of different recipes. I did half all according to the one recipe - a pumpkin spice cake with a crumble topping (although I didn't half the topping). For the other half, I used that same cake recipe, and stole a marscapone spice frosting recipe from another spice cake recipe in the same cookbook. (The recipe called for baking one cake, in a spring form pan, so I adjusted the cooking time down to adjust for the size difference. Also, the recipe made one thick batter, so I had to kind of smoosh the batter down into the cups as best I could.) The frosting is to die for - Next time, I might do both the topping and the icing on every cupcake. They are both delish, and I don't think they'd really compete the way I was afraid that they would.

Finally, I used a few of the left-over chocolate wafers and some leftover royal icing from the monogram cookies, and spelled out her name and set them on top of the cupcakes. *
Here they are, boxed and ready for the trip to work!

* For some reason, people are always suprised at what I have "just lying around" my place. Yes, I do typically have the makings of at least one kind of cookie in my pantry, and yes, right now I have homemade marshmallow fondant and royal icing in my fridge. What's so odd about that?! I'm sure most bakers have something ready to go at most times! (No, I didn't have extra pumpkin puree lying around... but now I do!)

Monogram Cookies

I got an order for a dozen monogram cookies for a wedding coming up this weekend. I love that she was using them for her OOT bags! How cute! She wanted me to try to put the date on them too, but it was just too much to fit on the cookie, unfortunately. Nonetheless, I think they look adorable with just their initials! (And I'm proud of her for following the traditional rules on not using the married monogram until after the actual wedding.) These are definitely some of my favorite cookies to make!

I tried new packaging on this one, and I think I like it a lot. It's very earth-friendly, and custom-fit to the size of the cookies! I lined the cookies up in two stacks, and then rolled the stacks into brown packaging paper (aha - brown paper packages!). I added a sticker to hold it together, and then put the two rolls in the box, side by side. The scrunched ends held the cookies in place in the shipping box, so I didn't need to add any extra packing material. And the cookies against each other hold them tight while they ship. The only things that could hurt these guys would be an incredibly heavy package thrown on top of them (please, USPS, don't do that!).

I've been busy, I swear

Finally, a long overdue update on what I've been up to! Because, yes, I finally uploaded pictures!

I have been baking (though not as much, lately), and I have tons to report - monogram cookies for OOT bags, oatmeal cookie bribes, and cupcakes! Stay tuned.