Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Video Post: Yeasty Bidness

Update: While this video uploaded, I decided to throw caution to the wind and use the original yeast. Only time (and the next blogpost) will tell whether that was a good decision

**Also, for those of you who are interested in such things, you too can ask Kate all about yeast at her blog, The Domestic Empress.

***Update to the Update (3:45pm): Evan asked the question that Kate didn't think to and now I've figured out just what went wrong. Turns out I was waiting for Rapid Rise yeast to do something that it does not (and should not) do. Had I tossed Active Dry yeast into the warm water, I would have gotten all the recognizable bells and whistles. So will my dough rise? Will my bagels turn out? Still to be determined... stay tuned!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'll get by with a little help from my readers

I'm looking at the week ahead of me, and I've come to a very serious conclusion. I will need to bake. And I will need to bake something complicated. With yeast. You see... this week I will be conducting...

29 conferences, actually. 3 students in each. Spread over 5 days.

So, do me a favor, will ya?

Check out the poll on the right side of the blog there, and make this one decision for me. On Wednesday, I will check the poll, shop accordingly, and bake my stress away. Your options are:

1. Cranberry Walnut Bagels: I've been planning and putting these off for weeks, but the recipe promises to be like Panera's Pink Ribbon bagel (my favorite ever!).

2. Soft Pretzels: Sounds basic, so I'll make a sweet and a savory version.

3. Savory Braided Bread: I haven't decided exactly what will be tucked inside yet, but there will be animal of some sort.

Go! Vote! (No log-in required.) The poll will close Wednesday at noon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Baby for Breakfast?

Good grief, did this week get busy.

Going back to school after Spring Break was enough of a task, but add in a visiting friend, countless student essays, and the most beautiful weather Smalltown has seen in a while and I was... a busy (tired) girl. For all these reasons, I still have not gotten dressed in real clothes yet today. And it's 3:42pm.

Let's just say that Frankie said "Relax" and today I listened.

You, of course, know that this means a brilliant homemade breakfast. While still in bed this morning, I pulled my laptop in to join me and started nosing around for something new. What I found was...

The Dutch Baby

A Dutch Baby is a large, custardy pancake that is baked in a skillet. Sounds good, right?

Well, it is. I followed the Baking Bites recipe for a Browned Butter Dutch Baby Pancake. It took just about five minutes to put the batter together. And since my oven runs hot, it took only 15 minutes to bake at 425.

It came out looking very souffle. Just as the recipe explained, the Dutch baby fell as soon as it left the oven but it didn't fall far.

There are many options for topping a Dutch baby. Like a pancake, a Dutch baby can be finished off with powdered sugar, fruit, whipped cream, any number of syrups, or really anything you can imagine. I'm sure there is someone out there who would appreciate a Dutch baby with peanut butter on it. I'm just not that person.

I didn't have any fresh fruit, so I drizzled my Dutch baby with maple syrup. It was really delicious, and I'm still in awe of how perfectly it turned out the first time. Sure the top is immaculate and golden, but look at that bottom... I will never make another one like this again. I just know it.

But I'm going to try.

(And I'll top that one with strawberries & cream.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday: 3 Pin-Up Looks I Wish I Could Rock

1. We'll start subtly with the Just Teasing Tights that raise eyebrows among the educated and observant.

2. And then there's the Rainbow Road Wedge that is adorable in its primary color palette and its coy peep toe.

3. For the piece de resistance...The Veronica Two Piece is a bathing suit for the woman who knows exactly what she's working with.

I can tell you right now that this lady does not wear flip flops on the beach.

God bless the pin-up.

For those curious or just plain braver than I, you can find these looks and many more fantastic, vintage, hipstery bits at ModCloth. Just be warned that you'll probably spend hours and some money there.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dessert-on-Dessert Action

Today I made a pie.

A sweet, traditional, unassuming pie.

Or did I?

Of course I didn't. You know me better than that by now, don't you?

What I actually made was... well... this.

A cookie cake pie. Or, as I've begun to call it, The Peter, Paul, and Mary.

(Yeah, yeah, just hear me out. I also wanted to call this the Britney, the Circus, or the Threesome, but Peter, Paul, and Mary just seemed classier.)

I'll explain this open-minded, party all-the-time dessert from the ground up. You can make this entire dessert from frozen bits and box mixes if you want. I believe Cakespy was the original poster, but Kitchen Koala has also made it and I followed her confetti cake recipe for my pie.

It's fairly simple. Start with a pie crust (I used a frozen one... because I had it) and add a layer of cookie dough to the bottom (I used a mix... because I had it). Cover the cookie dough with cake batter and bake the whole thing at 350 degrees for 35 minutes to an hour. I've seen different times recommended, but I've also seen squidgier versions of this pie. I baked mine for between 50 and 55 minutes, until the cake tester came out clean. This way, my cake was fully cooked and it didn't fall when it cooled. Perfection.

Where I diverged from my cookie cake pie predecessors was in the topping. Cakespy used vanilla buttercream and Kitchen Koala used a cream cheese icing. How-ev-er, this was far too sweet a prospect for me. I love sweet, but even I have to draw the line somewhere.

So I topped my pie with Julia Child's Italian Meringue and popped it under the broiler for a minute or so. The meringue is light as air and allows the pie crust, chocolate chip cookie, and vanilla almond confetti cake flavors to shine. You got all that, right?

I hope so. Because having all these fantastic flavors all in one bite is an amazing experience.

If the word "mouthgasm" doesn't mean anything to you, then make this pie, eat a slice, and call me later.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blueberry Pancakes with a Crunchy Twist

Recently, I ate an amazing brunch at J. Christopher's in Savannah. My life was changed a little bit by what they call "Blueberry Crunchcakes." The menu describes these wholesome gems as their "delicious blueberry pancakes made with crunchy granola mixed in," and that just seemed way too simple to not try to duplicate at home. My version isn't perfect... but it's definitely something I'll make again.

I started with my go-to pancake recipe:

I cup of water
1 egg
2T canola oil

1 cup flour
4T buttermilk powder
1t baking powder
1/4t baking soda
1/4t salt

For these crunchcakes I added a glug (no, I can't be more specific) of vanilla extract to the wet. I also smashed up a bunch of Kashi granola cereal and pulled some frozen blueberries out of the freezer.

My workstation, clockwise from top: water boiling for much needed coffee, skillet of fantastic squareness, canola oil and silicon brush for surface of skillet of fantastic squareness, frozen blueberries, crushed granola.

Now this picture is more of a tease and, I guess, a hurdle to those who just look at the pictures without reading the text. Because... well... the process that you see laid out so carefully here... well... failed. Sprinkling granola on the griddle before topping it with batter, blueberries, and more granola results in burned granola on the top of the pancake. Hmph. So, I learned that only having crunchies on one side (the bottom side once flipped) was better than having crunchies on both top and bottom, half of them burned black.

Like I said before, my attempt at Blueberry Crunchcakes was successful only to a point. The pancakes were tasty and the granola provided a textural contrast that pancakes don't usually have. However, J. Christopher's Blueberry Crunchcakes were better, and given the chance, you should try them for yourself.

That said, I am not going to complain about saying good morning to something this gorgeous.

(And, no, I don't know how I managed to line up four blueberries in four different pancakes and slice directly through all of them. If you asked me to do it again, I wouldn't be able to.)

Now for some honesty and a question: I love breakfast and brunch foods soooo much, but even writing this post felt like deja vu. I think I need some new material... What is your favorite breakfast or brunch food?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday: Saddle Shoes

**Note: Week of Wardrobe will be posted the first Wednesday of the month. All other Wednesdays, I'll post something related to my wardrobe (because I just love writing about myself, let's be honest).**

This past week, a new pair of shoes arrived at my door. For the moment at least, they complete me. So, I wrote a poem for my new loves. And not just any type of poem... a sestina: six sestets and a tercet, all ending with the same six words in a different order each time.

Make sense? Of course not. Just enjoy...

Perfect Pairing: A Sestina on Saddle Shoes

Some uneducated types might call them “shoes”
But to me this pair is a whole lot closer to love.
If you’ll allow me a minute to explain in fierce
Detail, I’ll try to make it not feel like school.
The non-slip soles are rubber but the sides are black.
The white toe and laces are truly things of beauty.

And sure, fine, I get that when it comes to beauty
Everything is up to the beholder, but when shoes
Are the beholden, then things are a bit more black
And white. (The same cannot be said for our friend love
Who comes in more colors than an elementary school
Coloring page that can only be described as fierce.)

But back to my new footwear. What makes them so fierce
Is their crazy attempt to redefine what counts as beauty.
Many people would pair these babies with a school
Uniform or perhaps even relegate these classic shoes
To a poodle skirted Halloween costume. Luckily, I love
Wearing things others wouldn’t. And they’re black.

If there is any color with which one can risk, it’s black.
Show me a way to wear this color and look fierce
Instead of uninspired or drab and I'll be in love.
This slimming shade gets a bad rap when it comes to beauty
Because it’s considered safe, I guess. But my shoes
Are not at all safe. They’re actually too cool for school.

“Wait a minute,” you say, “don’t you wear them to school?”
Yes! I do! And with pride. Because these little black
and white diddies are so much more than a pair of shoes.
I put these things on in the morning and I feel fierce
Immediately. I know that my day will bring freedom, beauty,
truth, and (sing it if you know it, my bohemians!) love.

The best part is, I really do believe in a thing called love.
And though I don’t believe they teach it to you in school,
I do think it’s something you have to learn. The beauty
of this whole thing is that though at times it seems black
bleak, you can find l.o.v.e. hidden in an especially fierce
especially epic, non-slip, non-marking soled pair of shoes.

Exhibit A: While neither beauty nor really even love
was my topic, saddle shoes ended up playing school
with my cold, black heart. So. Ridiculously. Fierce.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Asparagus + Goat Cheese = Pizza?

My kingdom for more counter space!

I guess this will always be the complaint, no matter how much surface area I have to work with. But seriously... I need more room.

Especially when throwing leftovers together to make mini pizzas. Because... one... really can't... have enough... room when building pizzas? Idk... let me just stop here and give you the lowdown. told me to use my goat cheese and asparagus in either a quesadilla (no good without tortillas) or a pizza. So I built my pizzas on some EarthGrains Thin Buns and just tried to use as many of my perishables as possible.

From the bottom:

+ Thin Bun
+ Drizzle of olive oil
+ Parmesan cheese (Might have been a bit moldy... In an I-am-my-father's-daughter moment, I said, "eh... some people would pay more for that" and used it anyway. Judge if you want.)
+ Sliced cherry tomatoes
+ Chopped fresh asparagus
+ Chunks of goat cheese
+ Shake of red pepper flakes
+ Crumbled, fried facon (holla!)

Since the thin buns are already cooked, it's just about heating the toppings through. About 10 minutes at 350 will do the trick.

Mmmmmm... So good. Goat cheese makes my mouth happier than many other things, so I knew I'd like this pizza. What I didn't expect was just how much those fresh tomatoes would step up in a sauce-less situation. And while real bacon might have been a stronger counterpoint to the health stacked on that pizza, the facon was crunchy and close enough for my purposes.

AND today while I was napping on the futon, I think I heard Dr. Oz say something about how meal had to be colorful to be balanced and healthy. And just try to tell me these minis are boring.

That's right. You can't. I win again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's 5:00 Somewhere...

but it's Spring Break here!

When I collected the last annotated bibliography and fled campus this afternoon, I felt extremely entitled to a moment of supreme relaxation. I got home, put on the pjs, and grabbed my laptop. The plan was to take a nap after nosing around the interwebs a bit, but when I got settled in with the laptop I realized I wanted a glass of water.

However... when I approached the refrigerator, what jumped out was this...

Good thing I know that a traditional margarita is made with a 3:2:1 ratio of tequila:triple sec or cointreau:lime juice. The unit I used was the good ol' tablespoon or the equivalent of half an ounce.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that one of these happened too.

But look at it! It's hideous! See that hole in it?! I couldn't possibly serve that to aaaaanyone. So... it had to be done.

Ugh... Maybe it's because I even teach in my sleep these days, but I swear I can see you blogensteins raising your hands. Let me do my best to head you off at the pass.

No, you didn't miss my explanation of the mystery sweet above. And yes, when I'm good and ready, I'll tell you exactly what that sweet is, how you can make it, and what percentage of your grade will be docked if you make it but turn it in late.

Um... sorry... I think I'm going to take that nap now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Week of Wardrobe Wednesday: Let's See How Long This Lasts...

Well, dangit.

Not only did you guys like the Week of Wardrobe post, many of you said it should be a weekly feature. Weekly? WEEKLY? Do you not know how much pressure that is?!

Let's just think about this, shall we? I can't have off days. I can't ignore the laundry pile growing in my closet. I can't wear the same shirt two Tuesdays in a row. I can't wear one pair of jeans an entire week. I can't teach in a white t-shirt and an oversized (not in the good way) sweater because I just couldn't care less that day. I can't have a bad hair day, for goodness sake, without you guys knowing.

But... then again... it is probably a good idea for me to be slightly more on top of my appearance on a regular basis. Like I said in the title of this post, let's just see how long this lasts.


Sushi Night. Has nothing to do with my preppenstein get-up, but Sushi Night is a good thing to look forward to mid-week. Never mind that I don't care for sushi. The company is good.


After teaching one class, I came home and shed the teacher costume (no, I didn't photograph it, nor do I remember what it was) and did some dishes. I think I made a panini too...


I'm proud of this outfit that saw me through a faculty retreat, lunch and shopping downtown with friends, and a cupcakery visit. (That's right... Back in the Day!)


Inspired by Friday's shopping, I tried to put together something cute and hipster. I finally decided that if I were going to clash, I should do it purposefully. This is the only explanation I can give you for the navy + black + pink + red situation.


Don't have anything witty or of interest to say about this outfit. The jeans are secondhand and pinstriped. The hoody has cartoon exclamation points on it. And the flats are floral. That's three patterns, but somehow I consider this outfit to be more neutral than most of mine.


This outfit says, "But of course I'll be at Mrs. Habersham's garden party. Anyone who is anyone will make an appearance." This picture says, "Shoot, did it really beep three times already..."


I love this shirt for two reasons. Those reasons are: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Lady Gaga in... anything poofy sleeved and rouched.

I'd also like to apologize for the open trashcan, the spread eagle KitchenAid (I swear she's usually more demure), and the open cabinet. You see... I was baking for sanity. That seems to be happening more often lately.

Well... that's my Week of Wardrobe. You can check out Kate's week here. Sooo what's the verdict?

Are ya bored yet?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back in the Day Bakery, Savannah

I really should have titled this post, "BEWARE the eerie cell phone pics!!!" Consider it so titled.

Anyway... a story for you.

Last week three young, attractive, meeting-weary composition instructors found themselves loosed on the sidewalks of Savannah. After working off a comforting Irish pub lunch with some disheartening window shopping, the girls needed some sweet. Insert a smart phone, a rainbow costume, a parking citation, one boyfriend on a bike, and a set of keys locked in a trunk, and cupcakes were the only logical fix.

With a little help from that smart phone, the girls made their way across town to Back in the Day Bakery. There they were greeted by another trio of ladies sporting skirts and aprons and offering cupcakes, breads, sandwiches, and all manner of hot and cold beverages.

The take? Red velvet and cappuccino (not pictured), Chocolate Heaven and hot chocolate, and Milk Chocolate and milk.

One of our ladies realized too late that the combination of a Chocolate Heaven cupcake and a poured version of the same was far too sweet an undertaking. Another left behind her milk chocolate icing when not even a full glass of milk could balance the sugar.

Our third miss powered through her red flavored (eh...) cupcake by taking frequent breaks and long sips of her piping hot cappuccino.

Though perhaps unprepared for the magnitude at which their call for sugar would be met, the girls left Back in the Day feeling full, contented, and slightly buzzed. A good time was had by all.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for. But... if you wish for a sweet, all-American, buttercreamed cupcake... and you're in Savannah... go to Back in the Day Bakery. The ambience, friendly service, and tasty treats will not disappoint. For the record... the rosemary focaccia is excellent for cutting the sweet, so I have to assume their savory sandwiches are equally good.

Oh, and keep an eye open for Paula too. She's got to be around there somewhere...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Panini is the New Cupcake

My name is Amanda and I'm a panini-holic.

Sigh. It feels better just to say it, actually.

But I'm serious. Take good ingredients and smash them between two pieces of bread for 3-4 minutes and they become something entirely different. A vacation. An escape. A drug.

And I'm hooked.

So here's the latest in my panini adventures...

The Boston Mass

You'll need:

An apple
Cheddar cheese
Honey mustard

Here's another thing I love about paninis...the ease of assembly. For this one, you'll need to slice the cheese and apple, but that's it.

Spread honey mustard on both pieces of bread. Layer apples, cheese, and more apples on one slice and then cap it with the other.

After a quick 4 minutes in the press on medium heat...

a new panini is born.

And it's a good one. The apple & cheese pairing is not new (hence the Boston Mass monacre), so if you like that flavor combo you'll love it toasted up in sandwich form. The honey mustard may seem like an odd choice of spread but it really isn't. It's just tangy enough to counter the sweetness of the apple and richness of the cheddar. Mmm... I wish I had slowly eaten it as wrote this post like I planned instead of scarfing in the first couple of sentences.

Ah, well. There are worse things.

And, yes, I have started naming my paninis. I figure it's easier to do as I go along than to try to come up with all of them at once when I open my paninis-by-day, drinks-by-night, cupcakes-all-hours bakery... bar... thing.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to bring you a new panini each weekend. Sound good?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Margarita Cupcakes

I make a lot of cupcakes. You've seen some of them.

Some of you lucky b-i-t-c-h-es have gotten to taste them. And some of you that have tasted them with me probably realized that I'm pretty critical of my favorite little treats. There is always something I could have done better. Baking time, amount of sugar in the icing, flavor composition... it usually needs tweaking. It's not often that I'm impressed by my own baked goods.

That said...

I'm impressed with these Margarita Cupcakes.

They are white as can be and pretty boring to look at, but my goodness are they flavorful. And they certainly should be... most of the liquid in the batter is margarita mix, tequila, and triple sec. When lime zest and a white cake mix join this party, there really shouldn't be any more questions about whether these cupcakes are winners.

I made these suckers for a Girls' Night (that I hosted?!?) and they went over well. I mean really well. There was some sighing. And moaning. And one girl said she didn't want the cupcake to end. And... since they are minis and 3 actually make up one regular cupcake... I don't think any of us really policed ourselves.

I also didn't police myself Sunday when I had three of these suckers for breakfast and another two with dinner. Luckily, I was only left with five after I sent each of the girls away with a plate Saturday night.

Anyway... you don't care about that... you're interested in this: Margarita Cupcakes by In Mama Joe's Shadow. I followed the cake recipe exactly, but I did not make the icing suggested here. I mistakenly tossed the leftover margarita mix after I made the batter and I forgot to pick up lime juice while running my errands. So while the girls chatted about pregnancy tests and zebra masks at the kitchen table, I whipped up a quick lime cream cheese icing with one stick of butter, one block of cream cheese, and lime juice, zest, and powdered sugar... all to taste.

Fabulous. I wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Salmon Panini of Dreams

We haven't been together long, by my panini press and I have had some great times together. The press' coming out party involved pound cake, Nutella, and a banana, but most days she and I stick to more basic faire. Grilled cheese with pepper jack, toast for egg sandwiches, that sort of thing.

Since I bought the press though, I've been dying to find a recipe for a jaw-droppingly good, hot, flavorful panini. You know... like the ones you get at bakeries and coffee shops.

Well... dear readers... I found it.

The Jaw-Dropper

My source,, called this the Grilled Smoked Salmon Panini with Red Onion Ribbons, but that is just boring. And not quite what I made anyway.

Okay, there are two things you need to make in advance when you plan to make a Jaw-Dropper. Marinated onions and a killer cheese spread.

To marinate the onions...

Whisk up 1T vinegar (I used Apple Cider), 2T lemon juice, 2t mustard, and 1t minced garlic. Add 3T olive oil while whisking continually. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss one thinly sliced red onion (or whatever onion you have) and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

For the spread...

Mix up 4 oz. cream cheese, 2 oz. goat cheese, 1/4t pepper, 1T lemon juice, and 1t mustard.

To build the sandwich...

Spread the... um... spread... on both sides of the bread.

Add a layer of canned boneless skinless salmon and press it into the cheese.

Top the salmon with marinated onion.

Close the sandwich up, grill it for 3 minutes on the medium setting and voila.

This sandwich made all my panini dreams come true. Salmon is a much milder canned fish than it's cousin, the tuna. Combined with my jams, cheese of goat and cream, this sandwich is a total winner. The spread is creamy and the onions are snappy, tangy bits of goodness.

I will say that the recipe called for things that I didn't have and therefore didn't use. Things like lemon jest, capers, spinach, green onion, and ciabatta. So... head over to BigOven's recipe (linked above) to read what this sandwich was really meant to be. However, if, like me, your cabinets are somewhat bare and you don't mind your panini being a bit pale, then take my version of the recipe and run with it!

And... the best thing about having made this panini tonight is...

I'm set and ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Leftovers FTW!