Foodporn: I do it right

We had another birthday come up, well it actually happened in May – I’m behind on my posts.

I stopped by the Faux-Bf’s cubicle one day and we started talking about baking. He actually asked about my cheesecake recipe, which I willingly gave him. At least I gave him the basic idea, I don’t want him to actually know because then what excuse will I have to talk to him? He joked that I should bring cheesecake in every day, homeboy doesn’t even like cheese cake but he eats it up when I bring it. Anyway, we started talking about cookies and how I really don’t know how to make them, well I know how to make them, they just don’t really come out right. I started talking about this cheat recipe that a coworker of ours gave me for Christmas. This will probably be the only kind of cookie that I’ll ever make and the great thing about it is that it’s pretty versatile.cookies, cake batter, cake mix

So here goes;
1 box of cake mix
1 stick of butter (or 1/4 cup of vegetable oil)
2 eggs (or 1 banana = same thing)

I also added mini chocolate chips, white chocolate chunks and some cocoa powder in there. I wanted to make these vegan because the girl who originally gave me the recipe said she’d never actually tied them. I always feel bad when some of the ladies can’t eat what I bring in because it has animal products, so I’m trying to make more vegan things, and as a plus I found out that most cake mixes are actually vegan/vegetarian friendly. Actually a lot of icings are also vegan/veg friendly – fun fact of the day.

I ended up making 2 boxes of cookies which came out to almost 4 dozen cookies. Pretty much enough to feed the team, IT and some of finance (and then some). They came out really good, not as ‘cake’ like as the first time I made them but maybe that has to do with the alternate ingredients. I’ll have to try again using the eggs and butter.

Sadly though, faux-boyfriend didn’t get any, although he did stop by to chat and say he’d stop by later for actual cookies.

Along with the cookies there was a birthday celebration, I’ll usually ask the birthday person if there’s anything specific they want and this time it was strawberry cheesecake. So I did what I always do the day before; hit up the grocery store and pray to the baking Gods that my oven will work.

I bought 2 pints of strawberries; 1 for a topping and 1 for the preserves. Yes, I made preserves and they were fucking amazing – considering I didn’t use a recipe. I just cut up the strawberries and put them in a pan with a 3/4 cup of sugar, a bit of water and some corn starch. (I looked this up later and learned that there’s no need for the water, but whatever, it worked.) I let the preserves cool while I made the cheesecake. Once I was ready to bake it I poured half of the batter in the pan. Spooned in some preserves and then poured in the rest of the cheesecake batter. More preserves on top and then swirly swirl with a knife.

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I let that cool overnight in the fridge. Cut up the remaining pint of strawberries and packed them away. The last time I did this the topping all fell apart on the way to work so I decided to just do that part at work right before we cut it up.  The only problem with this is that the strawberry slices were a little “limp” the next day. Not a huge issue but it looked better when they were freshly sliced. I brushed on some preserves on top and added three blueberries in the center to complete the flower. Ta-da!

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All in all it came out pretty good, but I may be a bit biased about that… all I know is everyone loved it. (Not to mention this is when faux-bf confessed his serious like of my cheesecake – despite not normally being a fan of cheesecake).

Another win, if you ask me!

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The Vegan Challenge; Cake stories

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Last week was kind of busy. We had a birthday party and a baby shower type thing going on and I willingly volunteered to bring cake, or something. I decided to give myself a bit of a challenge and make a vegan cake. If all went well then I’d make TWO vegan cakes, but after searching the internet for a recipe that didn’t require me to soak, puree anything (or a trip to a fancy expensive all organic grass-fed shmancy place). It took a while, but I found one and actually it didn’t require me to spend any money because the recipe called for things I already had. (Score!).

So here you have it, a vegan recipe for chocolate cake;

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour **
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 cup water

**It turned out that I didn’t have all-purpose flour, so I substituted Cake Flour instead. I think this may have changed things a bit but I won’t really know until I try to make it again with regular flower. All in all though it wasn’t half bad, the only complaint I have with this recipe is that it really only makes enough batter for one 9″ round cake pan. I had originally planned to make a two layer cake and when all was said and done it turned out to be a small cake. Because of this I thought it’d be better to just make this for home – so I whipped together some chocolate ganache and covered that baby up!

imageSince I decided to keep this one for the house I had to make another one, only this time it wouldn’t be vegan because I used up all of my cake flour. Did you know that a lot of cake mixes are vegan? Neither did I, until I did some reading. I went into the pantry and found a box of chocolate cake mix, opted to substitute the eggs with a mixture of baking powder, vinegar and water. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, until I realized 45 minutes in that the oven had turned off and was ice-cold. (Doh!) Needless to say I didn’t take a cake to work that next morning, much to the disappointment of my coworkers. So that meant someone had to go out and buy store-bought cupcakes. I realize now that I really do love homemade things over store-bought.

imageWhen I got home that evening I had to do it all over again, provided the oven decided to actually work. Thankfully it did. This time I decided to just make the whole thing from scratch (I ended up picking up more cake flour). Unfortunately this one was not (at all) Vegan. I was reminded how amazing this recipe is and that I should use it more often.

So here you have it, the Swan’s Down 1-2-3-4 Cake;

3 cups Swans Down Cake Flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

I kind of goofed on this and put the flour in with the eggs, prior to mixing in the eggs. The batter turned out to be a bit grainy since I mixed in the eggs at the wrong time, but from what I can tell it didn’t make that huge of a difference. I also omitted the Almond extract simply because I didn’t have any.

 wpid-20140402_193442.jpgSince this was for a baby shower type event I decided to try to make a zebra cake (with blue batter instead of black). I don’t think I’ve ever used food coloring for a cake, so it was interesting. Unfortunately once it was cooked the blue looked more like green and the plain looked more yellow than white. Which makes me wonder wth people put in cake batter to make it so white. Maybe no egg yolks? Butter isn’t that bad, especially when whipped with sugar. I’ll have to look into that for future experiments.

Since I had the left over cake from the night before (which my amazing mother was able to cook while I was at work), I decided to turn that into cake balls. I’d never made those, more because I just didn’t want to and I thought it was harder than it actually is. It’s not hard, by the way, and I encourage people to try it. Luckily the cake I had was pretty moist so I didn’t have to add in a ton of icing, if anything I think I added about a tablespoon of icing. The other reason that I never made cake balls is because any time I’ve eaten them they’ve been entirely way too sweet. Apparently this is one of the mistakes that people make, adding too much icing. I did have to remind myself to tell people that the cake itself was vegan, there was a bit of cream in the ganache. No one seemed to mind that though so I guess it didn’t really matter.  

wpid-20140402_211152.jpgI also tried to make vegan icing for the cake, I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t really make icing. And I’m OK with that… because this was a complete disaster;

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

So you’re supposed to start out by creaming the margarine, that was all fine and dandy. Then I added in the sugar, margarine is pretty soft so I didn’t have an issue mixing in the sugar like I do with regular butter. When using regular butter I end up over working it and it looks a bit grainy, that wasn’t the case with the margarine. My problem was when I added in the coconut milk. I’m not sure if it was the particular coconut milk that I was using or just my inability to make simple things… but as I was mixing it started to get really grainy and oily. As I was waiting for the cake to bake I set this mess aside. When I came back to it later it looked absolutely awful. I gave up on that and went with some store-bought icing (again, did you know that most of these are vegan as well!?).

wpid-c360_2014-04-02-23-12-32-231.jpgA few hours later, I put this baby together! I swear I will decorate a cake with something other than the star tip, I just love the way the roses look. I clearly need some work on the whole decorating part, but I will admit that I am getting better at it.

Something more to add to the “gotta learn this shit” list.

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Door to Door Sales Woman?

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The office had a big St. Patrick’s day pot luck, the week before one of the ladies that usually helps set these type of events came looking for me with a “delicious” recipe. I’ve built a bit of a reputation for myself in the office as being able to make really good cheesecakes, among a few other things, so she thought it’d be a good idea for me to bring something in. I was actually debating on whether or not I wanted to, but more if I would have the money and time to do it considering things aren’t all rosy on my end. She’s pretty persuasive, so I said I’d think about it.

I don’t mind baking for work, I actually like it but what I don’t like is being pressured into doing it. So Saturday afternoon I ended up at the grocery store picking up supplies for a new recipe (not the one she suggested though, because really it didn’t sound all that good to me! lol). Needless to say I didn’t end up taking any thing in on Monday morning because I had some technical difficulties. Instead, I brought it in on Wednesday, I altered the recipe a bit since St. Patrick’s day had passed. Originally it was supposed to be a green mint flavored cheesecake, I’m personally not a fan of mint flavors so I left that out. I did, however, have some Bailey’s coffee creamer left over from the Guinness cake I made earlier this month.

I’ve always gotten compliments on things that I’ve brought in and I’ve had several people suggest that I open my own business and after a few years I think I’m going to do it. There’s a lot to do still but I have always wanted to open my own business, I just thought it would be a catering business first. The BFF and I have been talking about this the last couple of days and I just need to make sure that I don’t let all of the official things hold me back. Which is very possible, lol one of my biggest fears is failure and I really am my own worst critic. I’ve mentioned that before somewhere in this blog, but hey check out the “food” category and take a look at what I’ve done before. (^_~)

My challenge right now is figuring out how to price this thing, I don’t want to under-estimate the costs but I also don’t want to ask for too much. I’m letting this be my big problem, I think if I start to think about everything else that I have to do I’ll freak myself out. We’ll see how this all turns out…

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Drunken Cakes and Hello Kitty Cubicles

We had a new Director of Accounts start, she’s only been here a few weeks but lucky her we had time to a) find out her birthday was coming up and b) plan for it! The girls and I decided to go with a Hello Kitty goes to Harvard theme since the DoA is a Harvard grad and well… we’re just silly about birthdays. 🙂 I thought this was a good excuse to make a cake since I’d found a recipe for an Irish Car Bomb Cake.

INGREDIENTS
Cake:

    • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2/3 cup sour cream
Ganache:
    • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)
Frosting:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8″ cake pans with parchment circles on the bottom.
    2. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
    3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
    4. Add the stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter evenly among the two cake pans. Bake the cake for 20 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes longer. Cool cakes on a rack completely.
Make the ganache:
    1. Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature and until thickened a bit.
Make the frosting:
 – Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl using a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
 – Enjoy!

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It’s a pretty simple recipe which is always a plus, the only thing that I had difficulty on is the butter cream icing. I have tried making it a few times and I’m pretty sure it came out once. I mean I still use it because it’s edible but it’s not as smooth as a regular butter cream. I seem to be overworking the butter so it becomes a bit grainy. Also… the recipe for the ganache has a step involving butter… but I didn’t see where the quantity was listed and I tried looking up other recipes for ganache but didn’t see any there either. Either way the ganache came out awesome. I should note, however, that if you’re going to use this in a cake you’ll want to let the cake sit at room temperature for a bit before cutting as this ganache turns into a chocolate bar when cold and can be hard to cut through and the cake can be a bit stiff. Still… a really good recipe and I will be making this again with a few adaptations.

Everyone seemed to really like it and no one seemed to mind that it had any whiskey in it. So that’s good, I was a bit nervous about that since we were at work and all. I did use Bailey’s Irish Creamer, I’m not a huge fan of Bailey’s but the creamer doesn’t taste the same without that kick of liquor.

Go Me for making a good cake and earning brownie points with the DoA (and the rest of the team)!!!

Here are some pictures of her cubicle… it was way cute.

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We have another birthday coming up in a few weeks…. the thinking caps have been put on and we’re already trying to come up with a theme.  I would like to go back to doing things like this, but sometimes that takes a bit more planning and effort, on everyone’s part. 1101789461443802301013

Life is an Ongoing Lesson

Cheesecake with a sour cream icing, strawberries and blueberries.

Cheesecake with a sour cream icing, strawberries and blueberries.

I used to think that it wouldn’t be half bad to be a life long student, I had a cousin who spent a good chunk of his adult life in college. He’s relatively well-rounded and he’s obviously learned a lot during that time. (I should clarify that while he did spend more than the average amount of time in college, it wasn’t so much that he did poorly, but more that there was so much that he wanted to learn.)

That’s not to say that I gave up on cooking, obviously if you’ve followed along you’d have seen the food posts I make from time to time. Sadly I don’t have as much free time as I once did and am unable to cook everything that I want! So here I am, learning to cook things on my own, with the help of cookbooks, the internet and family/friends. It’s amazing how much there is to learn, and all the while figuring out what I’m good at and when I can admit that the grocery store (or restaurant) can probably do it way better. But I’ll continue to practice and feed those around me willing enough to eat it. So far I haven’t had too many complaints, unless of course they’re just being nice and don’t want to hurt my feelings. Which reminds me, I have to start planning some snacks because there are some birthdays coming up soon and I owe some people edible gifts.

Steak dinner; with mushroom medley, asparagus and buttered polenta.

Steak dinner; with mushroom medley, asparagus and buttered polenta.

What is the one thing you wish you knew how to do? Or something that you’ve been meaning to learn but maybe just haven’t had the time? What are you waiting for, get on it and start learning something. Me… I’ll have to go through the massive list of foods that I want to make and start actually doing it. I’ll post recipes from time to time and progress reports. Something new for 2014 perhaps! Fatten up the masses. I’m sure they’ll enjoy it, at least I’d like to think that they will. We’ll see!

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Happy Birthday vs The Boston Cream

I have the house to myself for a few days and for some reason that always puts me in the mood to bake, probably because it gives me something to do with myself. I lucked out because we were celebrating a coworker’s birthday so I had a reason to bake, and people to eat it all so that I wouldn’t! This particular coworker and I always seem to fight over the Boston Cream donut whenever someone brings in a dozen (I’m usually the one that wins) so I decided to make some Boston Cream CUPCAKES. I thought I had a recipe saved on Pinterest but I was proven wrong, so I did a bit of research and settled on this recipe.

I LOVE to bake (and cook in general) but I’m always a bit self-conscious about it, especially when I’m doing it for someone else, for a special occasion. I usually try something when I’m done making it and if I don’t like it, well then it doesn’t go to its destination. ha Even if I’ve spent hours (and sometimes it does take me hours) I’ll start all over. I wouldn’t want to serve something that doesn’t taste good. Would you?

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All things needed for tasty treats.

I started with the filling. I’m not really a pudding person, especially vanilla pudding, but this stuff was amazing! Not to mention the fact that it was pretty simple to make and quick.  Once I put the filling in the fridge to thicken I moved on to the ganache. I think if anything these two things are good to know for future reference. The filling is thick enough that I can probably use it in a layered cake and you can never go wrong with chocolate ganache. In my experience it’s easier to make than icing since you have to be careful not to over mix icing (specifically butter cream). 

 I actually scooped out more than just the cone that was recommended so that I could use more filling, because really that’s the best part of the donut! The recipe only made a dozen cupcakes and I didn’t have enough of everything in order to make a second batch so I mixed a box of chocolate cake mix. This did not end well (and like I said if it’s not good it doesn’t go out). When the instructions tell you to only fill the cupcake liner 3/4 you should fill it 3/4, otherwise you end up with these massive soppy things. I tried to figure out a way to salvage the cupcakes but it just became a big mess. Also, I tried to omit the oil thinking I’d make them “healthier” so I used light sour cream (at the suggestion of the internet) but the batter was watery so I let them cook longer, my oven is always about 5 minutes off anyway. I mixed up a box of vanilla cake mix and ended up with two dozen extra cup cakes topped with the chocolate ganache. All in all the cupcakes came out really good, I thought the Boston Cream cupcakes were a little dense but that may just be because I mixed it too much. I’ll have to try again and see how they turn out. 

The celebration was a success, unfortunately my coworker is the only male in a 12 person team so his cubicle was decorated with a pink princess theme. He took it all like a champ, I mean he got some cupcakes out of the deal so who wouldn’t!

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The final product; Boston Cream cupcakes

I like how this recipe turned out and hopefully I’ll find a reason to make them again some time.  I mean, I still have people asking me to make Irish Car Bomb cupcakes so, I’m sure these will happen again.  From what I can tell they were really good, unless of course everyone was lying to me. (^_^)

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I saw it on the internet

I’m not entirely sure where it came from but I had a huge craving for cheddar broccoli soup. So I did what I normally do in situations like this… I consulted Pinterest! Lucky I didn’t have to really look because I already had it pinned on one of boards. I used this recipe as a guide, with a few alterations because I didn’t have everything.

2/3 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon (powder form)
1 small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups milk
1/3 bag shredded cheddar cheese
Salt/pepper
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
3 cups chopped broccoli

1) mixed water, bullion, onion, garlic, broccoli and cook until vegetables are tender.
2) in soup pan melt the butter and then add the flour. Stir repeatedly and cook a couple of minutes (mixture starts to smell almost nutty when ready.)
3) slowly whisk in the milk, stirring until it starts to thicken.
4) add in the chicken sick and vegetables. Stir until fully incorporated.
5) add in cheese and mix in.
6) season to taste and stir until desired consistency.

And BOOM, delicious cheddar broccoli soup!
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