Monday, June 30, 2008

The first 25

So, I was told that once you hit 100 posts on a blog, you are suppose to write 100 things about yourself. Well, I thought "But Carrie, at the rate you are going, it will be a while before you get to 100 posts and I am sure the world is just dying to know random, useless things about you." And then I answered myself and said "You're right. Today is the day to be a rebel. Why not post 25 things about yourself. Then, after the next 25 posts, you can post 25 more". I thought about it. A LOT. Really, this would mean breaking a "rule", so lots of thought went into it. Well, as you can see - I threw caution to the wind and here you are. The first 25 of 100 random, useless things you could care less about, about Carrie.

  1. I am 31 yrs old (they can't all be exciting facts)
  2. I don't like scary movies
  3. I sing in the shower
  4. You know those free address labels charities send out? Well, I think its wrong to use them unless you donate to the charity.
  5. My kitchen appliances are either male or female. (the blender is a she, the food processor a he)
  6. Some of the appliances have names.
  7. My mom made the best oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips and I have tried numerous times to make them and they always fail. That really bothers me.
  8. I look just like my mom (its nearly creepy), which I cherish about 99.5% of the time.
  9. I think I would have give Donna Reed and June Cleaver a run for their money back in the day.
  10. I have an older brother, a stepbrother and a stepsister.
  11. I don't like my food to touch on my plate. (I have heard it all before - I know it all goes to the same place, blah blah blah blah blah. I just don't like it all to touch)
  12. I don't eat chicken wings, drumsticks etc., if it is on the bone. I make Jim carve the turkey and pull roast chicken from the bone before its served. I can't even watch.
  13. I think its impossible to be too nice.
  14. I don't like birds. Birds are basically rats with wings. They creep me out. I think they are scary, gross, and carry diseases. Just typing that makes me uncomfortable.
  15. I don't like clowns. Pretty much the same as 14, minus the disease part. Thats a little harsh and I can't really prove it.
  16. I can't dance or sing to save my life, but take me anywhere there is karoake, and look out people.
  17. I cry at TV shows and movies that I have seen several times.
  18. I sometimes TIVO shows, fast forward to see what happens at the end and then go back and watch the rest of the show.
  19. The first thing I remember baking is Christmas cookies with my mom and brother. Peanut Butter Blossoms (I was stuck unwrapping the Hershey Kisses), Nut Cups, and TeaCakes. I remember it vividly. Every detail.
  20. My second is baking heart shaped cookies to take to school for my birthday celebration with my Grandma Laura. (she is the one on the right in the picture)
  21. My Grandma Foxie taught me how to make jam not too long ago. It was one of the most fun days I have had. Now, however, Drew is addicted and we are trying to find a strawberry jam recovery center. (she also makes the best salsa in the world - family rifts have broken out over who gets the first jar) she is the one on the left in the picture.
  22. I have an odd obsession with coffee mugs. I love them and I have to stop myself from buying them all the time.
  23. I am also obsessed with purses and bags. This one is not so strange. Jim gets freebies from meetings and stuff that he goes to for work. He knows better than to refuse a free bag I don't need and will probably never use.
  24. I laugh at my own jokes
  25. I HATE being scared (no scary movies, haunted houses, etc....), but I like to scare other people. Twisted, I know!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Learning a new language

I can now say four things in French

La Bete Noire (that's 1) -
I found this recipe in Bon Appetit (that's 2). They describe it as "A phenomenal take on a classic flourless chocolate cake that lives up to its translation, "The Black Beast."

The picture looked amazing and I knew I had to try this one. The recipe looks a little complicated, and it definitely requires a bit more work that other desserts. I was up for the challenge, and after reading it through and actually preparing it, I found the recipe was not quite a complicated as it seemed. Don't be afraid!

There are not a lot of ingredients, however, you are going to need quite a bit of chocolate. 26oz to be exact.
If you are worried about taking out a small loan for all that chocolate - Fear Not!
Any semi-sweet (Nestle Tollhouse chips) or bitter-sweet chocolate will do. Our grocery (Publix) carries Nestle, their own store brand, and Ghirardelli chocolate chips and squares. I decided to go with bitter-sweet Ghirardelli. My tastebuds said MERCI! (that's 3).

La Bete Noire

1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar

9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced
18 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs

1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped


For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. (whisk quickly - you're not going for chocolate scrambled eggs) Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.

Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 - 55 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.

For ganache:
Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cake still in pan. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release sides. Cut cake into wedges and serve with whipped cream.

I made my own whipped cream. It is easy to make and tastes so much better than store bought.

Fresh Whipped Cream
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
3 T sugar
1 t vanilla

Whisk until soft peaks form.

By the way...I know I said I can say four things in French and if you were keeping track, I only listed three. That was not a mistake. The fourth word I know was taught to me recently, and although I don't know exactly what it means, I know can't be good. When someone tells you to say something and then laughs, you can pretty much bet it isn't nice. And since I don't swear in English, you better believe I won't be swearing in French either.

Dutch Baby

This morning, I drug myself out of bed, stumbled to the kitchen, fumbled around making coffee and in my haze threw some stuff together and came up with this:

OK....most of that was a complete lie.
A) I was planning on making this for a few days, I even spent $11 at Target on the iron skillet to cook it in.
B) I am actually a total morning person. Its my favorite time of the day!

Before we begin, lets learn a little bit about the Dutch Baby. Wikipedia (which I need to note is a free online encyclopedia anyone can update) explains the dutch baby as this:
A Dutch baby pancake, sometimes called a German pancake, is a sweet breakfast dish. It is thought by some that the "Dutch" moniker refers to the group of German-American immigrants known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, where "Dutch" is a corruption of the German autonym "deutsch".

This was so darn good and didn't need syrup or butter. Just the squeeze of lemon and powdered sugar. Plus it was easy!

I do want to share three notes on the recipe
1) The iron skillet isn't a must. You can use any 10-11in OVEN SAFE skillet (watch the handles) or 2 6inch oven safe skillets. After making it, I realized a pie plate would probably even work, however, I wouldn't know for sure. For me, spending the $11 on it was not a huge deal. I will now try and find more recipes to make that require one. If you don't have or want to buy one, just try one of the options above. I would imagine everyone has a pie plate.
2) In all my research on the recipe, one thing that varied was the half&half. Some called for milk, a lot said half and half and others said to use whole milk. We are Soy Milk (Silk) drinkers here and I needed half and half for another recipe, so I just went with it. If I didn't have it on hand, I probably would have tried it with the Silk. Go with what works.
3) You don't have to use a blender, but it does make easy work of getting out all of the lumps. If your blender is nursing a hangover from all the margaritas it made the night before, just whisk away until the lumps are gone from the batter

Forgive the blender...she isn't use to be up so early!
These guys however, are ready to go! So FEW ingredients, such a delightful breakfast!

Now for the fun part. The recipe! This very easy recipe with few indgredients that you probably already have on hand.
Preheat the oven to 425.
  • 2 T butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup half and half***

  • Lemon cut into wedges
  • Powdered Sugar

  • Place butter in skillet and place in oven to melt. Remove from oven and brush the melted butter so sides and bottom of pan are covered.
  • Place eggs in blender, pulse on low until blended
  • Add flour and half and half and blend on low until well combined and not lumpy
  • Pour mixture into skillet over melted butter
  • Bake 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown (watch it crawl up the edges of the pan)
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar, then sprinkle with squeeze of lemon to taste.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.
The Dutch Baby will puff up and out the sides of the pan. I took a picture of this part way through the process, and realized my oven needs cleaned so I refuse to show that picture. Once you pull out the dutch baby and sprinkle with sugar and lemon it fall slightly.

The Dutch Baby before its final touch...powdered sugar and lemon

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More of the latest cake

Some patience, some fondant, and a little bit of love....

Last night was the completion of Course 3 in the Wilton Cake Decorating Courses. We touched on fondant and learned how to make a rose using it, which is what you see covering my cake. The instruction was to bring two cakes - one 6in and one 10in, along with some roses. I spent an afternoon over the weekend making fondant roses, and here is that final cake.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wait for it....

So, I began with these...

Which I created into these....

Took this sad looking cake...

Covered it with fondant....

And put it all together - For this!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.....

But -
Give him a can of beer, and you have dinner for two!

The chicken is blushing.....

I took a small break from dinner duties and let Jim work his magic. And magical it was.

Beer Can Chicken
(or soda can chicken)
There is no set way to do this, but here is what Jim did

One 31/2 - 4lb chicken
One can of beer (you can use soda as well - cola or lemon lime will do)
One small whole onion OR potato
Seasoning Rub - We used McCormick Montreal Chicken
One aluminum, disposable pie plate

We have a beer can chicken rack that I picked up at Linens and Things for about $5. It is a metal contraption that has three legs and a support for the can of beer.

Rinse your chicken
Empty half of the can of beer into the pie plate...NOT your tummy!
Place can with remaining beer in the rack.
Generously rub chicken with butter and seasoning rub outside, as well as the inner cavity.
Place chicken down over the beer can on the rack.
Place the potato or onion in the neck cavity to seal in vapors.
Place the pie plate with beer on the grill. Place chicken and rack in plate. Cook for 2 hours until skin is dark and very crisp.

We have a charcoal grill and Jim allowed the coals to get hot, slid them around to form a ring around the pie plate and added a few charcoals every 30 minutes to keep it hot. As you can see in the picture, the top rack is removed and the chicken is down with the pie plate sitting on the base rack where the charcoal sits.

According to the chicken rack packaging if you have a gas gril, place the chicken on left side of grill and set the right side burner to low-medium.

When done, CAREFULLY remove, secure the base with a hot pad and gently lift chicken from rack. careful here, there is REALLY hot beer in the can.

I served this with roasted red skin potatoes and cucumber salad

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fondant Fun

This is my cake from last weeks class. It is a layer cake using 2 8in square cake pans (see last post for tips and preparing cake for layering and frosting).

After frosting, I then covered it with white rolled fondant. The bow, curlicues, and flower are all from Wilton rolled fondant as well. Fondant is like play dough. It is loads of fun and opens up new ideas for creating cakes.

Hope you like it!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Be prepared to be amazed.

I would like to share with you all the best $2.99 I have spent in a long time. It is called a cake leveler. I happened upon it in the cake aisle at Michaels Arts and Crafts, and my cake decorating life hasn't been the same since that day.

So, you bake a cake, take it out of the oven and it looks like this:

But you don't want this. You want the cake to be nice and level and smooth so you can layer it and frost it, and make it pretty.

That is where the $2.99 leveler comes in. The leveler is a curved base bar with a piece of wire that runs across. There are little notches on each side of the bar so you raise and lower the wire depending on the desired height of your cake. So, you set the height, gently saw across

And then you have a nice flat stackable, frostable top. (More on the icing dam to follow)

When you bake a layer cake and want to fill it (I like to use pudding). You can create an "icing dam" around the edge. This will keep the filling from oozing out the sides as you frost and layer your cake.

Have fun!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

You want a cupcake? I'm gonna need to see some ID

Hey there cupcake...You come here often? (That Guinness is a smooth talker.)

So, a cupcake walks into a bar, the bartender says "sorry we don't serve food here".

OK, I'm done. Really.

This weekend I wanted to bake something different. Not new necessarily, because I experiment a lot with baking, just different.

My biggest issue with baking is coming up with my own, original recipes (although, the malted cookies turned out pretty well). I nearly entered a large scale cooking contest until I read that a requirement was submitting 50 original recipes. I stopped right in my tracks and declined to enter.

I bake because of the science of it, and because there are "rules". In general, you have to follow the "rules" or recipe when you bake, otherwise, you end up with bread that doesn't rise or cakes that fall apart. I enjoy recipes, because I am a rule follower, always, and not just in baking. If the sign says don't walk - I don't walk. The speed limit is not a friendly guide, its the limit, and I count every item in my basket before entering the express 10 items or less lane. You get the point. Those of you that know me, could probably agree that given certain "things" that have happened in my life, perhaps the baking thing is for the control aspect. I don't know, and now I am really getting off track.

What I am trying to get to is that even though I like to try new things, I have yet to allow myself to really experiment, and for now use recipes from blogs, cookbooks and websites for my inspiration. And after searching and searching on Saturday, I found this weekends creation. Let me tell you people.....Wowsers!

I found my inspiration from Anna at Cookie Madness (see link to her site on sidebar). She made a Chocolate Stout Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting, which I made into cupcakes rather than a whole cake. You can adapt a cake recipe to cupcakes by simply forgoing the bake time called for in the cake recipe and baking your cupcakes for 17-20 minutes.

This tasted great and worked well because I got to use some of my malted milk powder that I bought on a whim and Jim ended up with the 5 leftover bottles of Guinness since the recipe only requires a cup of stout. Win-Win!

Follow the link if you want to try it.

I posted a picture for this part of the frosting recipe:
Melt chocolate and half of the brown sugar together in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler. Let cool slightly.

If you don't have a double boiler (I don't), just use a bowl that sets in the pot and allows room below for the simmering water and allow the sugar and chocolate to slowly melt. If you don't follow this or the double boiler method, you will scorch the chocolate.

Here they are. Guinness and Cake..4-ever

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Paying up

Anyone that knows me well, knows I don't gamble. The few rare times I have been to a casino, I parked it in front of a nickel slot. In my opinion the chance of walking away with more than you came with isn't worth it. I could think of a lot of ways to spend $100 (trust me people, I know how to stretch a dollar), but lay it on the line in hopes of walking away with more than you started with is just plain silly to me. That being said, I am willing to make a friendly wager now and again. This time I lost and what I owe is cookies. Mwahahahahaha (that's my evil laugh) - its a win win for me. If I won, well, I won, and losing means - OH NO!, I have to bake. BTW-If that last run on sentence made you cringe, you should know that there are plenty more where that came from!

The bet was on American Idol. We each picked a contestant and whoever went the farthest won. I picked Brooke White, after David Archueleta was already picked. Its seem that "ladies before gentlemen" is not honored in Canada, because my pal Derek picked David before I had a chance to choose. The nerve.

The winnings included Double Peanut Butter cookies (I posted those previously), M&M cookies, and lemon crinkles. As I was making the lemon crinkles, it occurred to me that I have not yet shared this trusty, easy, and oh so good recipe with you all. Or you one, since it seems no one reads this darn blog.

By the way, please forgive the lack of the peanut butter cookie in the picture. Those don't last long around here. As a matter of fact, I had to pry them from Jims death grip to mail to my Canadian pal.

Lemon Crinkles
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or 1t of lemon extract)
  • Zest of one lemon (omit if using extract)
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, and lemon juice until well blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners' sugar. Roll them around until they're lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet. ***Note - I prefer to refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes and then roll into balls before rolling in powdered sugar.
  3. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes in the preheated oven. The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.
You can vary this recipe by switching up the cake mix and extract flavors - Be creative!
*Chocolate cake mix and one teaspoon almond extract
*Strawberry cake mix and one teaspoon vanilla extract
*Chocolate cake mix and one teaspoon peppermint extract

P.S. - Don't you love that plate! Thanks Grandma!