Friday, February 5

It's been over a year

...since I last updated this blog. So much has happened in that time:

1. I went gluten-free, but not without several missteps and false starts. I'm still struggling, but I feel so much better when I stick to my guns on that one.

2. I finished grad school. After a seemingly endless process, I completed everything that makes me a bona fide master.

3. I moved to California. Actually, it's only been 2 weeks since I landed. It's terrifying and exciting and the focus of my next few posts, I'm sure...

4. Millions of other tiny and huge things that I couldn't possibly enumerate here.

It's been a really tumultuous year, but really wonderful at the same time. I feel like I have actually learned a lot of valuable lessons and met some amazing people. Though some may curse it, I say hooray for 2009!!!

Unfortunately, though I have what must be a million pictures on Facebook over the past year, my camera broke tragically somewhere between Ohio and California and I'm relying exclusively upon my iPhone for my photographic needs. This usually doesn't work well, as flash and zoom features are nonexistent. I suppose you can only ask for so much. In any case, I'll try to make up for custom visual shortcomings by including links and as many pictures as I can muster...

Wednesday, January 14

Shamefully unscientific...

These cupcakes (coconut with chocolate chip frosting) were made for a friend of mine, and former partner for a project in a past class.  I owed him cupcakes for about a month and a half and finally delivered.  He ate all five in one day so I think he must've liked them a little...

In any case, my method for these was shamefully unscientific.  I used a coconut cake recipe as the base and went freeform after that.  Note that I neither recorded which recipe I used, where it came from, or what I added to it.  It did involve a lot of coconut milk and shredded coconut added to the batter though.  Maybe a little more salt next time to bring out the flavor?  

For the frosting, I used my old standby - "enough" milk, confectioner's sugar, butter, and vanilla to make a spreadable frosting.  This time, though, I ground chocolate chips (in my lovely pink blender) to mix in.  The idea was that it would turn out smooth but speckled, like those Neiman Marcus cookies whose recipe turns up in your inbox every now and then (usually from your aunt or your mom or your secretary)...I think the overall result was a little messy, even if it was pure deliciousness (a word I've been using quite often).  

I think tonight I make coconut macaroons, given that I have a lot of coconut left.  My fellow grad students will devour anything left out for them in the office...(I'm not free of blame either - I'm responsible for the rabid consumption of the candied almonds that were in there last week). 

Sunday, January 11

Cream Puffs

Since starting this blog, I've been incredibly lax about posting...while I can't promise that the general posting laziness is at an end (it actually probably isn't, given that this is my thesis-writing quarter), here's something new.  

After being woken up by my upstairs neighbor this morning around 8 (she seems to think that continually moving furniture around by sliding across the hardwood floor is an acceptable morning pastime - I disagree), I was faced with the choice of starting my research or making something delicious.  How could deliciousness ever lose to productivity?

This being my very first foray into cream puffery, I decided to forgo any flavor twists and to go straight for the classic - pâte à choux with a vanilla pastry cream filling.  I used Martha Stewart's cream puff recipe but altered it to make about a third as many.  Looking back, I wish I would've documented every step (and really, every misstep) with photos, but as it stands I only have a photo of the shells cooling - I'll take pictures of the filling tonight...

I started by preparing the pâte à choux , which seemed to go off without a hitch, until I baked them and nearly half of the shells had deflated not long after I took them out of the oven.  my first thought was that the shells had gone too quickly from the hot air of the oven to the cool air of the kitchen (one of the windows was open from an earlier grilled cheese accident...).  My theory seems to be confirmed by notes from Jacques Pépin's recipe on Chef's Story but other people's discussions of the problem led me to believe that the shells that collapsed hadn't been browned enough in the oven.  

In any case, as the shells set in the freezer and then baked, I made the pastry cream.  Another first.  It was a little lumpy, I think from not being whisked enough while it cooked.  After straining it twice, it's acceptable, but I've learned another lesson: never stop stirring.  

In all, only about four of the total six shells were worth filling, which is perfect, as I plan to take them to a friend's house tonight.  No one I know is having a very good week and I think my girl friends will appreciate a little extra dessert tonight.  

Wednesday, December 17

In lieu of anything substantive...

Sunday, August 10


I completely forgot to post my cookies from last Sunday, so I'll do that here quickly before I post tonight's (vegan!) ones later this week...

I made these cakey chocolate cookies with strawberry buttercream.  At first, I didn't like the cookies - they needed more of a kick - but as they absorbed  juice from the fresh strawberries over the course of the evening, they tasted much better.  I think the next tim
e I make them, I'll add a couple of tablespoons of fruit juice to the recipe. Probably strawberry or other berry juice - something with lots of acid...  

The cookie recipe*:

2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup buttermilk substitute**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla (again, until light and fluffy).  in a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  In 5 additions, alternately add buttermilk and dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture.  

Drop cookie dough in 1/4 cup portions onto cookie sheets, leaving about 2" between the cookies.  Bake 12-15 minutes, or until cookie springs back when lightly touched at the center.  

Remove after a moment and let cool on cooling rack.  

*This recipe is loosely adapted from
**Not a huge fan of buttermilk, I never buy it, even for baking.  Adding 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar to milk (enough to equal 1/3 cup) works quite nicely.  
The frosting recipe*

3 tbs. strawberry puree**
1 cup cold butter
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (give or take)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat together butter, puree and vanilla.  Gradually add confectioner's sugar until desired consistency is achieved.  

*This recipe graciously shared by Sprinkles Cupcakes, via
**Theirs called for 1 cup of sliced strawberries, to be pureed in the food processor or blender.  I don't have a food processor, and my blender wouldn't puree such a small amount.  After adding several more berries, I had a nice puree, but also far too much of it.  I beat the rest of it with some confectioner's sugar and spread it on some whole-wheat bread.  It was really delicious!  

When the cookies were cooled and the frosting prepared, I frosted each cookie and garnished with strawberry halves.  Looking at the photos, I would probably have added more sugar, just to make a stiffer frosting.  These look a little too gloppy.  

Wednesday, July 30

a digression from the usual baking chat

Today, I took my first-ever [successful] foray into cable knitting. It's nothing fancy, just a few turns, but I'm so completely excited about it. I really do feel like I can knit anything now!
On another note, I bought the cutest tee-shirt from my local vegan bakery, Pattycake. Their cookies and cupcakes are seriously divine - I can definitely appreciate how they've mastered both fluffy cakes and more hearty peanut butter-oatmeal cookies (to say nothing of everything else in between). It's only a few miles from my house, so I think I go there a bit more than I should (oops!). In any case, they just printed shirts and I figured it was absolutely n
ecessary that I get one.

Here are the photos I borrowed from Pattycake's Facebook page
(I bought the pink version):

So long for now. I have some knitting and German homework to do before Project Runway starts at 9.

really hope the whiny lady who loves leather goes home.

Sunday, July 20

I promise....

to be a bit better about posting from now on.

For this evening's installment of the weekly Sunday movie night Aaron and I host, I decided to make Billy's Vanilla Vanilla cupcakes (courtesy of Martha, topped with White Chocolate Buttercream frosting (from Jen's Genuine Life) - pictures forthcoming. I've used Billy's recipe before and I can say that it works quite well, whether you use the full recipe or half it, for a more manageable number of cupcakes.

My movie night guests are rather divided, in terms of their tastes for sweets. Cupcakes aren't always the favorites with those [boys] who aren't crazy about intense desserts. Thus, when I do make cupcakes (or really anything with frosting), I usually decide to go all out. Besides, any leftovers can always come to school with me - leaving them in the graduate student lounge usually produces an empty plate at the end of the day.

In any case, the frosting I made is a "true" buttercream and is, by anyone's standard, quite serious. The white chocolate seemed like just the right amount of richness for my sweets-loving friends, so I decided to go for it. The end result is fabulous and creamy, but I did have to tweak the recipe to make the frosting stiff enough to spread thickly. This didn't surprise me, as I feel as though I always have to add a bit more confectioner's sugar (in this case, just under half a cup). It's surprising that anyone can ever quantify the necessary ingredients enough to produce a recipe, really. I usually wing it with my frosting and glazing recipes, but the addition of melted chocolate gave me pause.

You can see from the pictures that the frosting is a bit grainy. This is because the chocolate hadn't cooled completely when I added it to the butter. Parts solidified and sort of splintered while I beat the ingredients together. I figure I'll just tell my guests that the cupcakes are topped with a "vanilla buttercream with white chocolate flake." They'll buy it, I'm sure... Otherwise, though, the flavor is delicious and I have to give Jen (of Jen's Genuine Life) a lot of credit.

update: I took the movie night leftovers to my sister's birthday party a day or so later, and they disappeared about an hour after we got there. Success!