Tuesday, November 27, 2012

3-Ingredient Cardamom Hot Chocolate

I got this idea at work today while making chai macaroons -- just regular macaroons dipped in chocolate with a hint of cardamom. I needed to taste the chocolate in order to see if I'd added enough cardamom and, oh my, was it delicious! I then started to taste (and taste and taste) the chocolate. To make sure it was just right, of course.

Cardamom might just be my favorite spice, but I'd never realized how good it was with chocolate. So I made this right after work. It's easy to make with a fancy coffee shop result.

This recipe makes enough for one person. Feel free to double (or triple) the recipe for more people or if you just want a bigger serving all for yourself (I admit, I would've done this if I'd had more milk in the house).

3-Ingredient Cardamom Hot Chocolate:

1 cup soy milk
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. cardamom (or to taste)

Heat soy milk over medium heat. Add chocolate chips and whisk until melted. Add cardamom and continue whisking until smooth and nice and hot. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 serving

I don't have a photo of the hot chocolate, because it was gone so fast, but I do have one of our resident beagle. In this particular photo he is sniffing the petits fours I was trying to get a photo of on the porch. Hence the desperation in his eyes.

I am looking into setting up a "photography studio" in the cat room (where the kitties get some peace and quiet from the dogs). Since we live in a basement apartment that gets little sunlight, I might need to use artificial lighting. Or the windowsills. We'll see.

Before I forget: Pumpkin Churros. You want to make these.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Petits Fours

To sum petits fours up in a sentence: A lot of work, a lot of yum. OK, that's not a sentence. Add a "they're" and a "but" in there.

I've been wanting to make petits fours forever. I'm the classic little sister who's constantly trying to fill her beautiful, independent, successful sister's shoes. And my older sister loves petits fours. For as long as I can remember, my mom always got a dozen or two petits fours from St. Louis' beloved Jewish bakery, Pratzel's, for her birthday. When Pratzel's closed right in time for my sister's 30th birthday, I jumped at the opportunity to wow her with my baking skills, remembering that Lauren Ulm had posted a recipe -- a very complicated one, might I add -- on her blog, Vegan Yum Yum. Into the kitchen I went...

Two trials later, here they are! (Well, up there they are.) These babies are complicated and just as difficult as they seem. Lauren does a great job of documenting the process on her post, but I'm going to add some tips below. Just some things I learned along the way, twice.

  • I don't recommend adapting the recipe at all. (Believe me. I tried and it sucked.) The only thing I will allow you to change is the flavor of jam. But raspberry tastes pretty darn good with the drizzle of chocolate on top.
  • I'd find a ruler and actually measure your jelly roll pan, if you're not entirely sure of the size. Don't guess, because it will affect the thickness of your cake, which you are going to have to cut in half horizontally. You don't want it too thin.
  • Just like Lauren says in her post, you want to be very, very careful when cutting the cake rectangles in half horizontally. Go as slow as you need to and make sure to keep your knife level so you are cutting even pieces. And don't cut yourself. (Honestly, I had Dyl do all of the cutting. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but he was an art and photography major and is very meticulous.)
  • I know I said above not to adapt the recipe at all, but I left out the marzipan. I didn't have it and didn't feel like going to the store again. I would use it next time, but if you really hate marzipan or something, you can leave it out. (I think the marzipan helps to maintain a nice, even top, though, so your end result might suffer.)
  • Even if you've just taken your candy thermometer out of its package (like I did), make sure to calibrate it first. Make sure the thermometer reads 100C or 212F in boiling water. If it's a few degrees off, record that so you know when your thermometer has reached 238 exactly when boiling the fondant. I didn't do this the first time around and my fondant turned into the consistency of maple candy. Hard as a rock. When I calibrated it, I realize it was 4F degrees off.
  • When you've calibrated your thermometer and are ready to cook the fondant, I turned the heat to medium to begin with and went no higher. It's very important that you don't overheat the fondant or it will harden to the consistency of candy. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down a little and let the temp. reach 238, then immediately remove from heat and pour into the food processor.
  • Also regarding the fondant: I highly recommend using the fondant immediately after you let it cool to 140 and blend it in the food processor for 2-3 minutes. Make sure to have your cake squares cut and ready to go by the time you start processing the fondant. Then pour it into a bowl and immediately start dipping. Then you don't have to worry about heating it up again and burning yourself, bla bla bla. It's just easier this way.
  • Dipping the cake squares is the hardest part. At this point, you've done a lot of work and you don't want all of that work to go to waste. Use the photos on Lauren's petits fours post and this video on Sprinkle Bakes (aren't Heather's petits fours so pretty?) for guidance. I gripped the squares using my forefinger and thumb, quickly dunked each side in the fondant, placed it on the cooling rack and spooned more fondant on the top. Keep a clean wet, cloth and a dry cloth nearby to clean and dry your hands off in between squares, because the cake is sticky and might stick to your hands.
  • Make sure to spoon the fondant on each square right after it's been dunked. The fondant sets quickly and if you wait to spoon all of the squares after dunking all of the squares, the fondant will have set already and you won't have a smooth top.
  • After you've dipped and spooned the fondant on your cake squares and let the fondant dry on the cooling rack, make sure to use a knife to remove the cakes from the cooling rack. The fondant will have stuck to the rack and you'll break the cakes if you don't use a knife.
  • Even though there's jam in the cake, I don't recommend storing these in the fridge. (Just make sure to eat them within a few days. That shouldn't be hard.) I stored some in the fridge overnight and the fondant got really moist and the jam layers started seeping out, so you could see the jam through the fondant. They also don't taste as good with the fondant wet like that. The ones that I stored at room temperature overnight taste great and the fondant is a perfect consistency. I'll report back how the ones that were stored in the fridge taste when they've come back to room temperature.
I think that's it? If I think of anything else, I'll add it. Happy Petits Fours-ing!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The King

Here's the updated photo. I took the poorly lit one down to save your eyes the sight!

I realize this photo is pretty bad, but it's 6:15 pm in the middle of November in Michigan and I'm too lazy to bust out the lamps. So, there! I will save the good-looking cupcakes for tomorrow so I can take a few photos on the porch in the sunlight and I'll add the best one up there. This recipe came from Bake and Destroy and is called Vegan Elvis Comeback Special Cupcake. How awesome is that? And it tastes good too! Dyl claims it's the best cupcake I've made yet. My peanut butter buttercream was really thick and heavy (again, possibly due to my homemade powdered sugar -- buy powdered sugar at the store already, woman!), so I could only manage to pipe little stars on top of the cupcake. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to get all of that peanut butter buttercream out of my reusable pastry bag, but, by golly, I'll try.

Here's a YouTube video of one of my personal favorite songs from the Comeback Concert. And here's my and Dyl's almost wedding song. (Leave it up to us to pick the most depressing wedding song in the world.) We ended up going to the courthouse, but I think it stills counts. And here's my favorite song written about Elvis. I could do this forever!

Oh, P.S. My Lana is getting surgery tomorrow (gettin' spayed). Please send good wishes to her and her worried mama.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!


Did you vote? I did. So far today I've worked a 7 hour shift, voted, eaten 1 1/2 cupcakes, pumpkin hummus and tortilla chips and captured that photo you see above. Apparently you can get a lot done when you wake up at 4:30 a.m. I also had a really awesome dream. It involved $3 lap dances. That's all I'm going to say.

For a long time I've been interested in starting my own bakery. I'm clearly at the cupcakes part of the recipe testing, so get ready for cupcakes and cupcakes and cupcakes. The cupcake you see above is an Apple Spice Cupcake with Caramel Penuche Frosting. Apparently "penuche" is pronounced "pu-noo-chee," which I find kind of funny. You can find the recipe over here.

And for your Election Day enjoyment, I hand-picked some American-themed songs. Go ahead and have an impromptu dance party.

American Girl
Born in the U.S.A.
Young Americans
American Pie

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Friday Taco Night

I had to work at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning so there was no going out on Friday night, but I did make things more special than a regular weeknight by making tacos! I even made homemade tortillas (really easy) and cashew queso. And the best part is that the leftovers lasted the whole weekend. I only just finished off the tortillas and lentil taco filling for breakfast this morning (I'm weird and eat savory things for breakfast). Here are all of the recipes I used, in case you want to have a taco-filled weekend too!

Ancho Lentil Taco Filling
Cashew Queso
Homemade Tortillas
Plus some store-bought salsa and tortilla chips to complete the meal

Don't forget to make nachos with the tortilla chips and cashew queso. You won't be sorry.

There was also some of this going on:

And this:

They're not sad. They just want tacos.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Very First Pastry Bag

The first pic up there was taken on my porch this morning (thank you, landlord, for the brand new turquoise paint!), the second last night in my apartment with the same crummy camera phone. What a difference good lighting makes!

I went to Hobby Lobby tonight and bought my very first pastry bag and decorating tip (1M, if you were wondering). I was going for a rose design, but the buttercream I made was really gritty and un-buttercream-like, more sugar cube-like due to my failed attempt at homemade powdered sugar and I think that made for a sup-par buttercream to make fancy patterns with. Better luck (and buttercream, hopefully) next time. I can't wait to buy more tips! I opted for a reusable bag so I won't have to keep buying (and wasting) more. I'm on the lookout for a great vegan buttercream frosting that holds shape well. If you have the recipe, let me know. Oh, and I used the chocolate cake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and the vanilla buttercream recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking (which I'm sure is a great recipe when using real powdered sugar).

P.S. Check out how awesome this Neopolitan Rose Cake from i am baker is (and there's also a tutorial on making roses over there too).

Now I am off to cuddle with the kitties because all that sugar is making me sick.