Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

My 2nd round with the Daring Bakers.

Well I know this recipe is difficult and I saw a lot of people were having problems with it so I thought uh, oh maybe I should start now so if I screw it up I have time to try again before the posting day.

So I reach into the fridge to get the butter out to let it start to soften. The butter is towards the back of the shelf so I am reaching back to get it when my arm brushes against the orange juice. Well the orange juice bottle fell and the cap of the bottle broke and orange juice splattered everywhere. I mean everywhere. This is how my adventure started.

I cleaned up the mess and put the butter in the bowl of my stand mixer to soften. I add the flour and figure I'll let it sit until it softens. That's when I realized I could do that in another bowl and make the yeast dough in the mixer while the butter is softening. So I transfer it out and start the dough. That went relatively smoothly. I had cardamom seeds so I ground those up for this. My milk was a couple days past the sell by date but it smelled OK I guess. At that point I wasn't going to run out and get milk so I figured it would be fine.

I ended up needing close to a half a cup more flour than the recipe called for because the dough was uber sticky. I kept adding flour until it pulled away from the sides of the mixer, like any regular yeast dough. Hopefully that was the right thing to do.

The dough looked OK so I put it on a layer of plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to cool while I played with the butter. Nothing much exciting happened there. I got the dough out start rolling it out and to start laminating it. It resisted the rolling but I had 2 layers of plastic wrap so in the end I won. I put the butter on and did the first turn. It looks like a lot of butter.

It sat in the fridge for a half an hour and I did the next turn. The butter seeped out in a lot of places but yay for plastic wrap saving the day and I got all the butter to stay in somewhere. I did the 3rd turn and decided i needed to go to bed. I figured letting it firm up overnight might help the butter firm up more and make the 4th turn easier to keep the butter in.

I split the dough and went to roll it out to make the braid. It ended up ridiculously thin and I was still a few inches under the 15x20 they said. My pan is only 14x18 anyway so that's as far as I could go. With all the rolling the butter ended up softening up a bit so I put the whole thing back in the fridge before braiding. Well I tried to braid a bit and realized that was failing miserably so I stuck it in the fridge with the hopes that would help. It did. Yay I had a good idea and it actually worked.

So I finish braiding it. It's almost 9 at night on Thursday at which point I realize this isn't really a good stopping point because the elderberry jam that I decided was going to be my filling was starting to seep out between the strands of the braid. I was going to have to proof it and bake it that night.

The proofing is supposed to take 2 hours at 90 degrees and more if it is colder. While I was glad it wasn't 90 degrees in my apt for my comfort, this was not good for my braid, especially since I wanted to get to sleep not too late that night. I decided to proof it in the oven. I put the pan in the oven and turned the oven on at 150 for like 5 minutes. Then I turned the oven off and let it sit without opening the oven.

In hindsight that was a stupid idea. With all the butter and all that was in there it was a really stupid idea. This is the pool of butter it was sitting in when I opened up the oven an hour later. See? Not my brightest moment. And the pan and oven were still warm so obviously that 150 degree thing didn't work out so well.

Well everything was already in it so there was no point in tossing it now. I brushed some of the butter that seeped out onto the top, sprinkled with sugar and into the 400 degree oven it went.

So the butter and the jam seeped out horribly. It's not awful, just not like really good. The bottom ended up soaked in the butter and jam that seeped out which made it kinda hard and almost crisp-cookie like. The top still had some of that flaky doughy-ness to it, I think like the whole thing was supposed to.

The cardamom and orange flavors are very unique. They have a very distinc taste without being overpowering. Just sort of perfumey or something like that. I'll leave the flowery descriptions to people who do that stuff well.

Although I wasn't thrilled with it, apparently my coworkers were. I brought it in at 7:40, sent an email at 7:55 and the whole thing was gone at 8:10. I think they were excited about the elderberries.

So I used the rest of the dough to make 2 smaller braids. I learned, at least a little this time. I made another elderberry one and a cream cheese filled one. To roll it out, I dusted the surface with flour, which helped keep it from sticking too badly to the plastic wrap I had on it. Then pull the edge of the braid up enough to try to keep the filling in. That worked with the elderberry one, the cream cheese one... I hadn't learned yet.

The elderberry filling, again was just the elderberry jam. The cream cheese one I fudged the filling. I had some cream cheese. For some reason I had thought it was OK to freeze cream cheese... not so much. It was a bit grainy and runny but I figured it'll be inside the pastry (ha!) so as long as it tastes OK it'll be fine. I added some sugar and lemon juice and put it in the braid. It started seeping out pretty much right away but I thought, oh well, better that than the butter from my first attempt.

See the seepage? The elderberry one, on the otherhand looked pretty good.

Well I forgot the whole egg wash thing... again... but they still came out OK. I also forgot to sprinkle on the almonds I wanted on the cream cheese one... I thought of it as I set it on the cooling rack.

The elderberry one is kind of pretty, except the part where I realized the towel I was using to take the pan out of the oven was slightly damp.... One of these days I will learn not to dry my hands on the towel I am using to fish stuff out of the oven..... The cream cheese one will still taste good, hopefully...

Overall, I don't think this recipe is all that difficult... not any more difficult than my cinnamon buns, anyway. Sure there's some waiting and chilling of dough but there is always other stuff to do around the house when the dough is chilling.

Here is the original recipe... obviously I failed at following parts of it but I got the gist anyway.

“Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Parmesan Chicken

Our next recipe with Barefoot Bloggers was Parmesan Chicken. This was another one I saw on Food Network but never quite got around to making.

With everything going on, I wasn't sure when I would get a chance to make the recipe and write my post so I did it at the first opportunity I could find. It was in the 90's for days and it was just too hot for me to turn anything on that produced heat in my kitchen. It rained and it cooled down a bit, so I jumped on the opportunity to make this and a batch of brownies. I've done the brownies so we'll focus on the Parmesan Chicken.

For the salad greens I used baby spinach and strawberries. The other stuff just didn't look good when I went shopping so that's what I got. The strawberries are local Lancaster county strawberries and they looked really good this weekend so I got 3 quarts. So everything has strawberries in it right now.

Since I had shredded Parmesan, I chopped it up a bit so that it wouldn't be big long pieces and added it to the bread crumbs.

Rather than pound the chicken I took the breasts and cut them into thin pieces. Each breast gave me about 3 thin pieces, parallel to the counter when you lay the breast out. This is also easier to handle because the pieces are smaller, rather than when you pound it thin it ends up being the size of your pan and it's awkward to flip.

The method is a pretty standard breading method: flour, egg, bread crumbs.

My presentation is a bit... different... because I made it to be taken to work for lunch. The spinach, strawberries and dressing are each packed separately to be put together when I eat and the chicken is wrapped in foil so I can warm it in the toaster oven and put everything together. So much better than one of those frozen Healthy Choice or whatever meals that lotsa people at work eats.

Parmesan Chicken by Ina Garten

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil
Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Frozen Lemonade Pie and Popsicles

After napping away most of the day, I got up and decided to make something. I wanted something easy and cold. The frozen lemonade pie I made for Pi Day was pretty good so I decided to make that. I am not sure why, possibly because I didn't thaw the Cool Whip and beat it up a bit trying to mix it in and I didn't chill the sweetened condensed milk, but it didn't make as much as last time. Last time I filled the pie shell plus I had a bunch left over. This time I just filled the pie shell. I filled it more than last time but still, I guess I lost some of the volume on the Cool Whip.

Frozen Lemonade Pie

From Down Home with the Neely's

1 graham cracker crust
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
1 (12 ounce) container whip topping, thawed
1 (6 fluid ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, keep frozen

In a medium bowl, add chilled sweetened condensed milk and cool whip and fold gently. Add frozen lemonade and continue to gently fold. Do not let the mixture become soupy. Pour mixture into the pie crust and freeze overnight.

You could garnish and all that stuff that people on TV and other fancy chefs do but this is a 10 second recipe like this.

I also wanted to make popsicles. I tried to buy popsicle molds but I couldn't find any so I decided to use an ice cube tray and toothpicks and call them mini popsicles. Well I think it worked out OK. They are kinda hard to get out of the ice cube tray but they hold to the toothpick pretty well so I managed to force the first one out. We will see how the rest of them go.

They are even relatively healthy (relative to all the other stuff I make so I don't know if anyone else would call them healthy but that's OK).

Mixed Berry Popsicles
I read something along these lines somewhere but I couldn't find it if I actually cared enough to look. This is barely a recipe.

8 oz vanilla yogurt
assorted mixed berries
sugar to taste

Strain the yogurt by lining a sieve with a paper towel and put the yogurt in it and let it sit for about an hour. Mash the berries up and add some sugar if you like. I used a handful of raspberries, a couple tablespoons of elderberry jam and about a tablespoon of sugar. Mix in the strained yogurt. Pour into molds. Freeze. Eat.

Can you tell it was a hot day?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Strawberry Lemon Cake

Well I hadn't baked anything all week. And I had some strawberries that are really good but were getting close to going bad because I got them a week and a half ago. And I had some left over buttercream just sitting in the fridge. What does that add up to? Lemon Strawberry cake!

I just used a yellow cake mix and substituted half of the water with lemon juice. I split it into 4 8" cake rounds so that I'd have 4 layers (although the stupid layers are not level and they kind of fell apart as I tried to assemble the cake and frost it. I sliced up the strawberries really thin and put them between each layer. When I put the top layer on, I frosted the whole thing with the left over buttercream that I let sit out and get to room temperature and then topped with strawberry slices. Yay. Easy to make and good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deep Dish Pizza

I'm not sure this is blog worthy because the crust came out dry, bland and a little sourdough-y.

For future reference, actually check the baking temperature for a recipe rather than assuming it's 350 like it is for most things. Also, actually follow the recipe and drizzle with olive oil. That would have helped with the dryness too.

The crust could have used some salt. I suspect that is the reason for the blandness.

I made the dough for the crust several days before I used it and had it in the fridge. When I took it out of the fridge the dough felt hard and dead so I left it sit on the counter for a couple hours to reach room temperature and to let it rise again. I kind of knew something wasn't quite right because I could smell a bit of sourness then. Ah well. Maybe I'll fix it next time.

I would not push the crust up the sides of the pan. First of all, it just doesn't work. I tried to push it up with the toppings hoping that would force the dough to stay but it just shrank back and then the toppings were like 2 inches from the edge and when those rose while it was baking you ended up with massively dry huge crust on the outside. Bleh. It'll rise enough to give you that deep dish type crust without trying to push it up the sides. But the recipe told me to. I swear.

Here's a pic of my dry bland creation.

Deep Dish Pizza
I should reference where I got this recipe but I am too lazy to walk to the kitchen and see. Also, I am going.

This recipe makes 2 9" pizzas. It could easily be halved.

1 lb hot italian sausage
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
a sprinkling of parmesan cheese
a few tablespoons olive oil
1 recipe deep dish pie crust, below

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Brown the sausage in a pan and drain.
Oil 2 9" pans. I used a springform and a cast iron skillet.
Press the dough into the pans.
Press the mozzarella into the dough
Spread the tomatoes over the cheese
Top with browned sausage.
Sprinkle parmesan over the top followed by the olive oil.
Bake for 45 mins or until crispy and browned.


2 packs yeast
2 cups warm water (I used room temperature, it was 95 degrees that day)
1/2 cup cornmeal
5 1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix yeast into the water and get rid of any clumps. I did it all with the dough hook on my stand mixer. Add oils, cornmeal and about half of the flour. Mix for about 10 minutes (maybe I didn't have enough gluten formation with the dough hook rather than the paddle or something?). Add the rest of the flour and mix for a few more minutes. Dump into a large oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise about an hour until doubled in volume. Punch down and allow to rise again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marriott's Suck

I am confused as to why Marriott is supposed to be a high end hotel. Sure, they have fancy dressers and lights, but how often do you actually use the dresser? Most of the time I'm going for a day or 2. I'm impressed if I actually take everything out of the bag, let along put it in the dresser.

Anyway, they charge extra for internet, they charge extra for breakfast, they don't have a fridge in the room, their beds are so freakin hard, the pillows are not comfortable at all, the comforter just isn't very warm, the bathroom is tiny and smelled funny.

Needless to say, I am cranky and whiny. I didn't get a good night's sleep.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Pasta, Pesto and Peas

So this is my first official Barefoot Bloggers post. I think this will actually complement the Daring Bakers nicely because it will force me to make some real food too, rather than just insane baked goods.

I started making everything when I realized the nuts I had in the freezer were walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds but no pine nuts so I just used walnuts in the recipe and didn't add them whole to the final pasta.

I used cavatappi, also known as cellantani. That is the best shape pasta ever. I have boxes and boxes of it. I can eat them just boiled with a little butter and salt. They are so easy to pick up they are great as finger food. Well this recipe isn't really intended to be finger food probably but I like finger food. I guess with sauce on it, maybe it's a bit messy for finger food but as far as I am concerned it's good finger food.

I also used shredded parmesan because it was that, the green can stuff or spend forever grating parmesan. The shredded is an Aldi's thing that I'm pretty happy with. I pretty much always have a container of it in my fridge now and it's sooo much easier than grating it myself.

I approximately halved the pesto recipe since I don't really thing I have a use for 4 cups of pesto. This is an approximation of what I did. I don't follow recipes very well.

It came out OK. I think I under seasoned it. I never measure salt and pepper so it's hard to say. Here's a really crappy pic of it. It was too hot for me to put any sort of effort into this. I was going to leave it without a pic because it's just way too hot here for me to do anything.

Pasta Pesto and Peas
based off of this recipe by Ina Garten

1 pound cavatappi pasta
1 1/2 cups pesto, see below
1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 cups good mayonnaise, see below
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice.

Put some of this in a large bowl to toss the pasta in. Cook the pasta according to the box until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the pesto. Cool to room temperature.

Add the mayonnaise to the rest of the pesto and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Copyright, 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All rights reserved

1/4 cup walnuts
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignoli, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

based off of Alton Brown's recipe

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 cup oil

In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolk and dry ingredients. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a separate bowl then thoroughly whisk half into the yolk mixture. Start whisking briskly, then start adding the oil a few drops at a time until the liquid seems to thicken and lighten a bit, (which means you've got an emulsion on your hands). Once you reach that point you can relax your arm a little (but just a little) and increase the oil flow to a constant (albeit thin) stream. Once half of the oil is in add the rest of the lemon juice mixture.
Continue whisking until all of the oil is incorporated.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


So there was a baby shower that I was invited to this weekend. I don't know much about babies and I don't do the cutsy little things that are generally associated with babies. But I figured I'd go to this baby shower.

So I went to get a gift. I opted for a gift card. It keeps things simple and they can get what they actually want rather than have some random crap that I chose because I figured I needed something.

But I figured just handing them a gift card wasn't quite the right thing. So I go to get a card. So I go to the baby section of cards. And they have cards just for baby showers so I figure one of those would be appropriate. So I pick up the first card and it was something really cheesy. So then I go to the next card, also really cheesy. I proceed through the whole section and even looked at some It's a girl cards before I gave up. This was the solution I came up with.

In case you can't read it, it says 'I couldn't find a card that didn't make me gag so I came up with this solution. -Eva'. I put the gift card inside. They laughed when they saw it.

I brought a cake and pasta dish. The pasta will be posted later. The cake was a chocolate cake mix with the same buttercream as from the opera cake post except with some strawberry jelly mixed in. I also made it pink because they are having a girl. That's as close as I get to baby stuff. I tried to decorate it with raspberries to draw a pic but it didn't work out so well. I know, I suck at decorating cakes or really anything where you are aiming for pretty. This is it packed up in a box to take over with the pasta salad underneath. It's not pretty but it tastes good.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stupid Shoes

So I have been informed that girls are supposed to wear shoes. And flip flops, sneakers and Sketcher's style shoes are not acceptable. But not like heels and supposedly something I can walk in without falling on my face. Which is suspicious because I have enough trouble walking barefoot let along with something oddly shaped on my foot. And not wicked witch of the west either.

I was rather perplexed. I've always worn my Sketcher's type shoe as my nice shoe. So I go to Boscov's in search of these supposed shoes. Well I found something. I don't know if they count. I'm still figuring that out.

So this is the shoe I got. And my lovely foot.

It's got a slight heel but it's not one of those pointy things and it's not all wicked witch of the west and I think I can walk in them. But are these considered 'shoes' and like nice shoes? It's hard to tell from the pic but they are leather and black. So at least I didn't have to deviate from normal there.

So the shoes were a hair big in the store so the lady gave me a few insert things to put in the shoe to make them fit better. One goes down at the toe, I got that one but then there is this other one. She said you peel off the back and stick it on the back of your heel but I can't figure out how.

So this is a pic of the thing. It's tapered. So does it go on the back of the heel or under heel? If it goes under the heel it's a bit long for just under the heel. If it goes on the back then does the tapered end go on the inner side and the fat part on the outside? Or does it go vertical and maybe I cut the top since it would stick out of the shoe? Or do I move it down so part of it goes under the heel?

Ugh, I don't understand. Why can't I just wear Sketcher's again?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Barefoot Blogger: Ghetto Herbed Baked Eggs

Well I joined the Barefoot bloggers after this first one was done so I figure I can butcher it and no one will be too upset. I really Sandra Lee'd it. But the recipe looked good and I needed dinner. So here goes nothing.

I cooked it for 7 minutes based on peoples' comments that at 5 the yolks were completely uncooked. Well my yolks were cooked through completely and the whites were a bit rubbery so next time I think I'll stick with the 5. This is such a simple recipe and my method doesn't require like any special ingredients that aren't always in my fridge and it's really quick so it'll be a good go to dinner. It's supposed to served with bread and a salad or something but this is totally a I don't have any food and I'm feeling lazy and don't feel like doing major cooking right now meal so having a salad and bread that is not stale is not very likely. Maybe in the future I'll do it in my toaster oven so I can see it cooking and I can tell better how close to done it is.

I swirled the butter around the dish a bit before adding the eggs so the egg wouldn't stick to it. It makes for easier clean up later but I think other people didn't do it and it lets the egg cling to the side and gives it more height or whatever. I'd rather have easy clean up.

Flavor wise, pretty simple but good. The garlic and the cheese stood out a lot but that's just a matter of how much I sprinkled on. This could work with other combos of seasonings and cheeses too to give some variety (or clean out the spices/fridge, whatever you prefer to call it). I think I may add some seasoning in to the butter before pouring the eggs in next time to get them more incorporated into the eggs.

Ghetto Herbed Baked Eggs

Put a small pat of butter in a 1 cup pyrex ramekin. (There is supposed to be cream but I didn't have any so like I said, I Sandra Lee'd it)
Turn the broiler on and put the dish under the broiler until it bubbles.
Take it out of the broiler and do the next steps quickly so the ramekin doesn't cool.
Crack 2 eggs into the ramekin.
Crack some italian seasoning mix in your hands and sprinkle italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese on top of the eggs.
Broil for 5-6 minutes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Maple Baklava

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning for no good reason. Well maybe because I went to bed at 7PM but I've slept for longer than that before. Anyway, so I got up at 4:30 I think because I had to pee though I can't remember now. I downed a few glasses of water because I was really thirsty, maybe that's why I woke up in the first place and then I couldn't decide what to do.

Well, I couldn't make the Parmesan chicken because I hadn't gotten the chicken and it didn't seem quite right at 5AM. I couldn't make the Pasta, Pesto and Peas because I hadn't gotten the spinach and I forget what else yet. I didn't want to make burgers because it was too early. I thought about making the cake or the frosting that I was planning on making for Wednesday but I think it's too early. I'll wait until Tuesday, at least for the frosting so I don't have to wait for it to sit out and soften up and run into the issues I ran into with the opera cake.

That's when I thought of the baklava. The phyllo dough was in the freezer and I'd gotten walnuts the day before so I was all set. I've been wanting to make baklava for a while now. It's so yummy and flaky and sweet and all sorts of good. I had saved a few recipes because I wasn't sure which I wanted to go with for it. Apparently it's incredibly simple too! So at 6AM on Sunday I started to make baklava. It's better than something that requires the mixer on high or the food processor when it's warm enough for me (and all the other people in my building) to have the windows open but no A/C yet.

I used walnuts. I think pistachios are more traditional but I had walnuts. You could use anything you want to really.

A box of phyllo dough comes with 2 packs in it, each with 24 sheets, which is perfect so you can make this twice. I think my next thing will be spanokopita, which is just like this except instead of the nuts mix and syrup, you fill it with spinach and cheese. This is so easy and cuts so cleanly I am excited.

Maple Baklava
(based off this recipe from Slashfood)

1 pack of phyllo dough (half of a box)
4 cups chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter

1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Melt the butter in a bowl. This will be used for brushing the phyllo dough.
Mix the nuts, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside.
Brush a 9x13 pyrex baking pan with butter.
Keep the phyllo dough covered with a damp paper towel while you are working so they don't dry out. Don't put anything on top of the paper towel or else it will stick to the phyllo dough.
Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough down and brush with butter. Repeat 7 more times for 8 sheets.
Pour half of the nut mix on and spread evenly.
Put down a sheet of phyllo dough and brush with butter. Repeat 7 more times.
Put the rest of the nuts on top.
Put down a sheet of phyllo dough and brush with butter. Repeat 7 more times.
Cut it into diamond shapes if you want, or whatever shape you want it to be when you serve it. The phyllo gets really crisp so you have to cut it now or it'll fall apart if you try to after you bake it.
Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 mins.
Reduce heat to 300 and bake for another 20-30 mins.

Heat the maple syrup, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon in a bowl for about a minute in the microwave until everything loosens up and mix well.
Pour over the hot pan from the oven.
Allow to cool (at least a little) before eating.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mocha Ice Cream

I made some coffee ice cream a bit ago, I forget when. It was not too long before my fridge died. For some reason I didn't feel I needed to look at a recipe to see how much coffee to use. I had my standard base, so I figured I'd just throw some coffee in. Well ... it's very... coffee. I used 5 tablespoons of coffee grinds as opposed to most recipes call for 2. And for some reason I didn't think I needed to hard core strain out the grinds. I just used a regular sieve but you could see flecks of coffee bits all through it.

Needless to say, I wasn't very happy with it. Maybe that's why I didn't blog about it. I melted it down to strain and rechurn it. I tried to put it through a paper filter but that didn't work. I guess the surface tension is just too high on the thickened cream to let it get through the filter. At first I thought it would get through, just slowly so I left it sitting in the fridge overnight. It didn't work. So I strained it with my french press. That still didn't get all the grinds out but it's much better now.

I lost quite a bit of the ice cream to the filters and to the french press. I had some chocolate ice cream that wasn't the freshest in the freezer so I decided to melt that in too, rechurn it and call it mocha. I'm pretty happy with it now. The coffee flavor is kinda smack you in the face and wake you up wow coffee but there's enough sugar and fat and chocolate in there to make it good.

So here's my recipe, sorta.

Mocha Ice Cream

4 cups half and half
5 tbsp coarse ground coffee
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
a few hefty scoops of chocolate ice cream

Heat the half and half, coffee and sugar in a pan on medium low, just until it reaches a simmer.
Put the egg yolks in a bowl.
When the coffee mixture reaches a simmer, slowly add to egg yolks to temper the yolks.
Pour the mixture back in the pan.
Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.
Strain through a french press and pour into a bowl.
Stir in chocolate ice cream and mix until smooth.
Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Churn in your ice cream maker.
Put it in a container and let it hard set overnight.

Barefoot Bloggers!

I have joined the Barefoot Bloggers! No that doesn't mean I'm walking around barefoot all the time, that's just a coincidence. They make Ina Garten's (aka the Barefoot Contessa) recipes and blog about them twice a month. My first post will be 6/12. Though I am considering doing a retroactive post about their first recipe, herbed baked eggs.... sneaky, I know....