Monday, June 29, 2009

Welcome Back Breakfast

There is a word for the mental ability to read words and understand shapes that are partially covered or missing. Sadly... I don't remember that word.

Anyway... how is your that ability?

If you're particuarly jazzy with the fill-in-the-blanks capability, you see that the plate reads "It's Your Special Day!"

My mom picked this plate up somewhere when me and my brother and sister were young. She only bought the one and honestly, one is enough. Special days aren't special if you have to share them with your little brother.

Today was my sister's Special Day. She's been on a missions trip on the Navajo reservation in Arizona for the last ten days. Last night when she got in she requested a frittata breakfast before she crashed.

I figured that my jobless self could manage getting up at a reasonable hour, grocery shopping, and whipping up a tasty breakfast. To go with the frittata, I picked up some fresh strawberries and my sister's favorite strawberry cream cheese fruit dip. It was... delish. I'm sad it's gone.

A frittata is the easiest cooked breakfast food to pull together in the morning, and you can really put whatever you want in there. Here's what I made today:

Jessica's Pepper and Onion Welcome Back Frittata

1/2 sweet onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
bit of olive oil
6 eggs
splash of milk
salt & pepper
1/3 cup cheddar cheese
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese

Roughly chop half an onion and half of each bell pepper. Heat a medium skillet to Medium High heat, add a turn of olive oil, and then toss in the onions and peppers. Be careful not to let the oil splatter on you when you add in the veg. It can ruin a shirt; I'm just sayin.

While the onions and peppers are browning, crack 6 eggs into a bowl. Sometimes I only use half of the yolks but today I used all of them. It is a special day, after all. Add a splash of milk to the eggs and then beat them a little bit with a fork. Salt and pepper to taste.

Turn on the oven to broil at this point.

When the onions and peppers are browned to perfection, pour the egg mixture over the veg. Leave the egg alone for about a minute to let it start to set up. Drop about half of the cheese into the egg. Then work around the edge with your spatula, letting the liquid egg run under the frittata and set again. I also break through the middle of the frittata so the egg can slide under the bottom there too.

Once the egg looks almost set, still jiggly on top but setting up from the bottom, put it into the oven under the broiler. Remember to wrap the skillet handle with foil if it isn't ovensafe. Now... watch it! It will burn faster than you can blink.

The egg will puff up a bit as it cooks through. Once it looks cooked but just before it browns, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Once the cheese browns, you're done!

Take that baby out, slice it up, and enjoy!

Sometimes I brown my veggies with a little bit of garlic and/or throw herbs into the frittata. You really can't go wrong with a frittata.

And... I like to eat the leftovers with ketchup. There. I said it.

Now go forth and breakfast!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Yesterday I mentioned my trip to Fresh Market. Now, I can tell you that I bought these ingredients while I was there:

Almond extract, slivered almonds, and Lingonberry preserves. All ready for their big debut in this month's Daring Baker's Bakewell Tart challenge.

This traditional British tart recipe came to us in gram and ounce measurements, so I pulled out the Weight Watchers scale. Ironic, isn't it? :)

Anyway... this Bakewell Tart is made up of three components: a shortcrust pastry, a fruit preserve, and an almond based pudding called frangipane.

The shortcrust dough has to be made first.

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

I did all that just fine. Grating a stick of butter was an interesting experience, but it worked out brilliantly. However... I'm clearly not practiced in the art of rolling out pastry dough.

Doesn't this look like a continent of some sort?

Based on some others' reviews of the recipe, I froze the rolled out and ready shortcrust for about a half hour before I continued with the next layers. This keeps the crust from getting soggy.

While the shortcrust chilled in the freezer, I prepared the frangipane.

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Mmmm... frangy. o_0

Now that the frangipane is ready and the crust is nice and chilled, it's time to assemble the troops. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 400 degrees now too.

In a Bakewell tart, the jam or preserves go down in a thin layer right on top of the crust. Many Daring Bakers made their own jams, but I chose to use the Lingonberry preserves I found at Fresh Market. I don't know why I end up getting nostalgic at Daring Baker times, but two summers ago my roommates and I fell in love with all things Lingonberry. IKEA sold Lingonberry concentrate in vats and we always had a pitcher made up in our refrigerator. When we made the trip to IKEA, we made sure to have the Swedish meatballs that are served with a little bit of lingonberry preserves on the side. Mmm... brilliant flavor combination. In fact... well... let me just try to maintain focus here.

The Lingonberry preserves were thin enough that I didn't need to heat them at all in order to spread them out. If your jam or preserves are thick and sticky, you may want to warm them just a bit.

Once the jam is on, dump the frangipane on top and spread it out to the sides. I think that this frangipane ended up smooshing my lingonberry goodness out to the edges of my tart, but I don't really know what I could have done differently. It looks like that happens to a lot of DB's tarts.

And that's it! Put the whole deal in the oven for 25 minutes and then (without removing it from the oven) sprinkle a few almonds on top and bake it for 5 more minutes.

Voila! A Bakewell Tart.

Patience was not my strong suit today and I ended up cutting the tart a bit prematurely. My frangipane was still a bit "squidgy" and some of it gooed out. However... when I cut my brother's peice a few minutes later, it was already firming up a bit more.

See? It's not quite so messy.

I had not tasted a Bakewell tart before the one I made today. So I don't really know what to compare it to.

My brother thinks the Bakewell tart might have been the original inspiration for Pop-Tarts. The flavor of the lingonberry and the shortcrust could actually support that. I'm just thrilled that my brother tried it!

Here's what I think: The crust was wonderful and perfect. It makes me want to make all kinds of tarts and pies and crumbles just so I can use that crust. The lingonberries were great, as usual, and they pair well with the almond flavor. The frangipane is... interesting. It's not really the sponge-like cake I was expecting but I'm not sure that I didn't undercook it because of the squidgyness. Or maybe I just didn't wait long enough for it to firm up.

Overall, it was a fun challenge. The challenge components were fairly simple to put together, and if I can figure out what went wrong with mine, I'm sure this would be an easily adaptable treat for holidays and parties.

***The recipe bits of this blog came straight from the challenge recipe posted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and AnneMarie of Ambrosia and Nectar.***

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fresh Market Cupcake Review

We just recently had a Fresh Market open up down the street. I toured the place with my aunt a week or so ago and we were impressed for sure. They have everything in there but I was most impressed by the huge bakery section. They have loaves upon loaves of fresh bread and tons of cakes and pies available whole or by the slice. Their dessert case is a thing of beauty.

I could go on, but I don't think you are really interested. :)


Anyway, I went back today to get some ingredients for the Daring Baker fiasco that is going down tonight.

And that's when I saw them. Cupcakes for 99 cents.

Well... there really is no need to even try to refuse a cupcake at that price.

So I picked one out (the options were this chocolate cake with an Oreo on top or the same chocolate cake with white icing and red and blue sprinkles) and brought it home to share with the brother.

And, you know what, it was okay. I was expecting a dry cake but it really wasn't. It tasted very much like a devil's food cake mix and the icing was very storebought smooth. The overall taste was sweet. And storebought. But in a cake pinch, it will do.

I decided that I was eating it because it was there, but my brother summed it up perfectly. He said "I think I'm doing the same thing. I'm eating it because it's here and I don't feel like driving to Dairy Queen to get something else that is sweet but better."

Here here, little brother.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Traveling Cupcakes

For the first time since last summer, I made cupcakes on the road.

It's always weird baking in someone else's kitchen. The stuff is different and it's in different places. The ingredients may or may not be there, and timing is always a little bit tricky. And slower.

But despite all of that, this particular group of friends needed cupcakes. And when my friends need cupcakes, I really just can't refuse them.

So around 11pm after about 4 hours on the road, we started to pull our ingredients and kitchenwares together. We ended up being one egg short but we did find Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla; those things definitely even each other out in my mind.

What kind of cupcakes did we make?

That's an interesting question. Flavorwise, these cupcakes were the rich chocolate cake of the Hot Fudge Cake cupcakes paired with a raspberry buttercream and topped with a raspberry puree. We called them...

Sexual Chocolate cupcakes. If you are as lost as I was when it comes to that phrase, then Wikipedia it. Apparently it is the name of a band in Coming to America. Beyond that reference there are 11 other explanations for the phrase "Sexual Chocolate", some of my favorites being a weightlifter's nickname, Alanis Morissette's backing band, and an actual brand of chocolate produced in Berlin.

Makes sense now, right?

Well... whether it does or not, these cupcakes were pretty good. Since it was quite late by the time we finished baking them and making the icing, they didn't all get iced. And even fewer of them ended up with the puree. So they were half-assed but still tasty. The raspberry buttercream was really sweet because we didn't have any milk but that actually worked because the puree was so tart. All things considered, I'd say the cupcakes were good for on-the-road cupcakes.

See how highly my tired self recommends them?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wilton Course 1 Finale

I'm just running through the graduations these days. My four week Wilton cake decorating course finished today with a bang.

Like every other week, I was required to bring my own cake in to decorate. But... yesterday I made bread pudding and I half-prepped some sticky buns for my brother's birthday and... I was just tired of baking.

So I...

dumped out a yellow cake mix

poured a can of soda over it

watched it do its science fair thing for a minute and then mixed it up. The cakes (two 8" round) baked for thirty minutes exactly and after turning them out, I walked away for the evening.

I iced the two layer cake at around 11pm with a tub and a half of cream cheese icing. I'm not trying to win any prizes here... I'm just trying to half-assedly do my homework. :)

I got up this morning at 7:35am to...

make this mess

and these roses. They are still a little cabbage-y with their jagged edges, but I'm getting there. I think I need to tend to my tip a little.

I thought I gave myself enough time this morning to get going and get everything together and ready, but I came to a conclusion. No matter what time I get up and begin the prep, I will always be just on time to class. At least I'm that.

And... an hour later... I left Michael's with this beauty!

What my cake lacks in homemade baking/icing it makes up for in classy Wilton-method decoration. This design is called the bouquet something-or-other, but I'm sure you don't really need to know that.

And while I'm okay with my roses, I am in love with my sweet peas. Those are the little flowers around the bottom of the cake. They are so easy to make and they work every time. Such fun.

And just in case you are wondering, I signed up for Course 2 today. Me and my classmates got a super sweet deal and ended up getting Course 2 for a whopping $12.50! CanNOT refuse that.

Course 2 is all about flowers and borders, so you can look forward to seeing more of my awkward practice this July.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Bread Pudding

I'll be straight with you... this is a rerun recipe.

But I think you should check out this post for a number of reasons.

First: This is an easy, easy bread pudding.

Go to PioneerWoman to get the fully illustrated recipe.

This is what it looks like before baking.

You've hopefully already noticed the second reason that you should pay attention to this blog.

The pictures!

One of my friends messed with my camera for about 3 minutes this week and - lo and behold - my camera is now taking better pictures of food. Of course. I should have known it was operator error.

And this is what it looks like after the 55-70 minute bake.

This bread pudding is like none other that I've had. When I told my mom what my dad wanted for Father's Day she said, "ew... I don't like soggy bread" but... honestly... who does?

This bread pudding is anything but soggy bread. The Pioneer Woman instructs bakers to cobblestone the bread in the dish. That way, the bread isn't all layered up and soaking in the pudding juices. Since there is only one layer of bread with the liquid poured down over it, the bread absorbs the liquid from the bottom up as it bakes. Result.

And then... to rocket this bread pudding into dessert heaven, the Pioneer Woman tops her bread pudding with a fabulous whiskey cream sauce.

Mmm... This bread pudding is flavored mostly by vanilla and the whiskey cream sauce. There is not even a pinch of cinnamon in the dish. Isn't that refreshing?

I think so.

My dad was very pleased with the bread pudding. My mom, even though she was anxious at first, admitted the bread pudding was good but she could do without the whiskey in the sauce. I took a couple of pieces over to my bread pudding-loving grandparents and I haven't heard from them yet. No news is good news? :)

Happy Father's Day, all!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Hello Kitty Birthday

A while back, I filled out the 8 Things meme and listed kid birthday party cupcakes on my list of wishes. Well... somebody paid attention and my wish was fulfilled this week.

My friend Gianna is turning 3 and her mom asked me to whip up some cupcakes for the occasion.

And what did Cutie pic for her 3rd birthday party theme?

Hello Kitty!

In talking with the birthday girl's mom, we decided to do a bunch of cupcakes and one mini cake that Gianna could eat, share, look at, smash, throw, etc. I loved that idea because a mini cake would allow me to write a traditional birthday message - that just seemed necessary, I guess.

So I thought through several decoration options, and I got excited about little white cupcakes with offset bows and a cake with Hello Kitty on it. But... then... I struck that, reversed it, and came up with...

Hello Kitty cupcakes

and one cake with an offset bow.

For the cake, I played it safe and consulted Anne Byrn's Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor again. :) [I want to make an "Anne Byrn is my Homegirl" t-shirt. Have I mentioned that?] Anyway... I made the cake from her White-on-White cupcake recipe.

I made two batches and divided each batch in half. I took the four bowls of batter and dyed them the green, blue, pink, and white of the party decorations.

I dropped the batters in randomly by spoonfulls until the cupcakes were about 2/3 full. Then I lightly swirled the batter in each cup with a toothpick. That little swirl makes the batter look a little less Partridge Family bus and a little more tie-dyed and random.

I did the same thing on a larger scale in the 6" mini layer pans.

Sadly... the cake baked up more pastel than I intended so it was more the idea of the party colors than the actual colors themselves. No big deal really. Technicolor cake is a little bit frightening anyway. :)

Ooops... sorry Kitty.

I'm pleased to report that the cupcakes were a big hit. The cake was soft and a little bit rich and the icing (Wilton method, obvi) was professional bakery delicious.

I'm told the party-goers enjoyed them and that there was no leftover cake beyond the first day.

Most importantly, this birthday girl thinks I "did a good job." :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Zombie Love Cake

Q: How do the undead declare their love?

A: Just like the rest of us.

With well chosen words... on a cake.

With hearts around the side.

This is my idea of practice with lettering and stenciling. I guess I'm not your average Wilton pupil.

The quote was taken from Return of the Living Dead.

Q: Why are zombies so often wearing ties?