It doesn’t have to be perfect

I have 17 drafts of blog posts waiting.  Waiting for pictures.  Waiting for editing.  Waiting for the right time to post.  Waiting to post them until I get back into this blogging thing (ha!, what a method for inaction).  Waiting for perfection I suppose.  I need to stop waiting for perfection, for time/skill/effort of perfection (also, download and upload photos in a more timely manner).  And so goes this short, incomplete, blog post.

I’m baking.  September hit hard today, grey and rainy.  Frankly I wasn’t ready for summer to end, I think I was still waiting for it to begin.  Somehow I feel I missed most of summer, I missed too many farmer’s market visits, I missed freezing pint upon pint of berries.  All I seem to see is missed stuff, not all the amazing things I did this summer.  If I had a better inner spin-doctor I’d be telling you about the 3 camping trips (no rain!, well on the 2nd and 3rd trips), the trips to the beach and lounging on the sand reading, the trips to see far away friends and family, our weekly grilled pizza… instead I think of all my missed opportunities (and fight the urge to go dig for photos illustrating this charmed life).  But back to baking.  Baking makes dreary days better.  But nearly every week (save the rare 90+ F degree heat waves) I think, I should bake bread, and I don’t.  I mean sure there is the no-knead bread (made it once or twice but somehow timing that seems more daunting that your standard 2 rises), and I do have quite the fondness for beer bread (such a good way to use up bottles of beer we don’t like) but whenever I buy yeasted bread at the grocery store and every time I see a blogger mention baking bread I have a tinge of guilt.  I should be doing that.  It’s not a fear of yeast or kneading, growing up my mom even went through a multi-year period of baking all of our bread and I helped, I remember the progression was tasty but dense bricks to light, reliable sturdy sandwich bread .  I even remember tackling a 10 (?) clove yeasted garlic bread, shaped as a garlic head no less, sometime in junior high all by myself.  And I make yeasted pizza dough on a regular basis.  But somehow, getting my act together to make a yeasted vehicle for toast and jam just doesn’t happen.

Can I institute a weekly savory baking session?  We shall see.  I think Mondays will be that day, and until about 7:30 pm I thought today was Monday.  But screw the yeast;  I don’t have to bake yeast bread (I hope I do though), I even have 3 lackluster bottles of beer in the pantry that need to be used.  To start, I went easy and tried this whole wheat-molasses bread that caught my eye today.  It just came out of the oven a couple of minutes ago.  I’ll let you know how well it works with jam (maybe even with a picture, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

edited to add: I wasn’t crazy about this bread, it was simply too molasses-y for me.
Whole-wheat molasses bread

September 7, 2010. Tags: , , . Cooking, Thoughts. 3 comments.

Baking

Two cookies down and two more to go, plus the peppermint bark I haven't started yet.  But really all I want to do is go to sleep.  Which means that even though I feel like I should make a fifth type of cookie I won't.  For whatever reason I didn't have my cookie baking mojo going this year (scratch that I didn't have any holiday mojo).  I kept browsing through my various Martha Stewart Cookie special issues (2001 & 2006) seeing new cookies I wanted to try.  But I mail most of these cookies to family, and they have opinions on what they like too, not to mention some of the fabulous looking cookies don't strike me as good choices to arrive via USPS.

To keep things interesting but stable I try to balance the favorites (Mexican Wedding Cakes aka Snowballs and Spritz) with new recipes.  Right now one of those "new" recipes, Lemon Scented Ginger Almond Crisps, is in the oven.  I've been wanting to try this recipe for several years now but kept finding myself short one ingredient; by sheer luck I had all of them on hand today.  I also made Spiced Biscotti from The New Best Recipe, it struck me as very similar to a lost recipe of mine.

Also, taking a cue from a few blogs I read around thanksgiving I started a christmas cookie and candy spreadsheet to track what I bake, the actual yields (I got 58 cookies instead of the stated 36 with my Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies recipe) and a second worksheet that has an ingredient break-down to aid pre-holiday grocery shopping in future years.  Hopefully this also means I won't loose another recipe if it becomes a recipient's favorite.

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December 18, 2007. Tags: , , . Thoughts. 2 comments.

Lemon Muffins

My aunt made a really yummy granola-like muffins for me while I was staying at her house.  The recipe came from a Cooking Light article on various baked goods.  I flipped through the magazine while there and found this recipe for Lemon-Scented Olive Oil Muffins and I thought of this yummy olive oil I recently feel in love with from TJs (about 6 or 7 dollars a bottle, dark glass bottle, used to indicate olive origin).

Frankly I didn't notice the olive oil in the muffin, but they were nice and moist (2 tablespoons of oil, 1/2 cup of sour cream they should be) without the glaze, even yummier with the glaze.  And they weren't overly sweet like some lemon baked goods.  All in all I do recommend seeing if your local public library has the January/February 2006 issue of Cooking Light to take a look (unless of course your public library has a habit of chucking magazines more than 12 months old).

Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream*
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind (it is about 1-2 lemons worth)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons milk*
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 large egg white
muffin tin paper liners*

Preheat the oven to 350F, prep 9 muffins tins with liners.  Mix the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium sized bowl.  Whisk together the wet ingredients (sour cream though egg white) in a small bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir until just moistened.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or a #24 scoop, which is 3 tablespoons according to its package) fill the muffin tins (the recipe claimed it would make 10 muffins, using the scoop I barley made 9).  Bake for 25 minutes (the muffins should barely be golden and will spring back when touched).  Let them cool then top with 1 teaspoon of glaze per muffin.

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Whisk everything together in a small bowl until smooth.  These quantities are what the original recipe called for but I'd recommend cutting the recipe in half or thirds (but I'd leave the lemon zest as is because can you have too much lemon zest) since I had a lot of glaze leftover.

*notes:  the original recipe called for fat-free dairy products, I used what I had on hand.  It also called for cooking spray but I used paper liners.  And speaking of paper liners, I picked up some unbleached paper muffin tin liners and my muffins don't actually stick to them as they did the pastel colored liners I used to buy.

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July 6, 2007. Tags: , , , . Thoughts. Leave a comment.

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had a bag of white chocolate chips from Trader Joe's in the pantry, I also have a huge amount of dried, sweetened cranberries in the pantry (these are a pantry staple IMO).  Chocolate Chips from TJs don't come with recipes on the back, so I checked a bag of ghiradelli chips while I was out shopping to jog my memory.  Then when I got home, in a 'was it baking soda or baking powder?' panic, I checked my Better Homes & Garden's New Cook Book recipe, then out of curiosity my Kitchen Aid mixer booklet.

I didn't follow any of the recipes, this is what I decided to do:
Cranberry White-Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag white chocolate chips (make sure a main ingredient is cocoa butter)
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
extra granulate sugar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Cream the butter and shortening, add the sugar and beat untill smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  In a small bowl whisk the dry ingredients together, gradually add them to the wet ingredients then mix in the chips and cranberries.  Scoop cookie batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (for easy clean-up) about 1 1/2"-2" apart.  I use a cookie scoop that holds about 1 tablespoon of dough when slightly overfilled (officially it holds 2 teaspoons).  Bake for 9 minutes (my oven kept getting up to 400F so ymmv).  Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. 

Optional step:  Roll your dough into balls, then roll into the extra granulated sugar before baking.  This gives the cookies a nice glisten and even, rounded appearance.  I only did this with the last 5 cookies but now that I've eaten both a rolled and unrolled version, I might have to go with the extra step whenever I have the time.

I swear this recipe made 85 cookies (I didn't snack on any cookie dough!) but maybe it was 65 cookies.  I was able to fit 20 cookies on each of my 12 x 17 cookie sheets.  And I think I did 4 batches of 20 plus the remaining 5 cookies.  I also just reused the parchment paper on each cookie sheet (I bake cookie sheets one at a time, letting one sheet cool and re-filling it while the other is in the oven).  I also want to experiment with my flour, fat and liquid contents to get a fluffier, chewy cookie.

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February 15, 2007. Tags: , . Thoughts. Leave a comment.

Citrus-Basil Cupcakes

I am a regular reader of Cupcake Bakeshop and keep meaning to try baking one (or all) of her recipes.  When I saw the Cupcake Round-up I actually wasn't planning on joining in, I was certain I couldn't come up with a worthy idea.  And even if I did, I'm not really comfortable making my own recipes for baked goods.  Then I noticed on Vanilla Garlic  that modifying published recipes is okay as long as we attribute.  So I hope I followed the rules and that I didn't subconsciously copy someone else's already published idea.

I dream of the day I get to eat Basil Ice Cream again and then I remembered a drink I had recently made of citrus juices (definitely lime and something else), ginger, gin and basil.  Aha, my cupcake… if I can manage to make basil frosting.  I have only had the chance to make this once, so I will let you know what I did and then what I want to do differently next time because I do I think I want to try making them again and some people seemed to really like them.  Please note, while I talk about this cupcake from the cupcake up, if I do it again I'd start with the frosting first (and really before that the frosting's flavored syrup).

The cupcake:  My goal was a lime-ginger cupcake, my result was more like a general citrusy cupcake.  After looking over several recipes I decided to start with Chockylit's Grapefruit-pomegranate cupcake, switching lime juice for the grapefruit and doubling the zest like she recommended for her original cupcake.  When I tasted my lime juice it just seemed entirely too tart (that cocktail definitely wasn't just lime juice) so I tried an equal amount of fresh orange juice and that seemed better.

Citrus Cupcakes (modified from Cupcake Bakeshop's Grapefruit cupcakes), makes 24+ cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 1/2 orange)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 1/2 limes)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice (about a small thumb sized knob)
1 tablespoon lime zest (about 3 limes)

Preheat your oven to 350F and prep your muffin tins.

Prep the limes by washing them (you will be eating that zest).  Zest the limes first (if you don't have a citrus zester, I must say it rocks), then squeeze the juice out of them into a bowl, fish out any offending seeds.  Squeeze the orange juice into a seperate bowl.  The get ginger juice I peeled and grated the ginger, then squeezed out all the juice into a small (teeny tiny) bowl.  I used about 1 tablespoon of grated ginger to yield about a teaspoon of juice.  Measure these liquids out so they are ready to go.

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

5. Add the milk then the zest to your prepped juices. (A note on the liquids: I first added the juices into a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup, then added the ginger juice.  At that point I think I actually had closer to 5/8 a cup of these liquids and then topped it off with milk.)
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the milk/juice mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
10. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
11. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

I baked my cupcakes for 22 minutes and think they came out ever so slightly overdone, but that could be due to the spill-over effect caused by overfilling the tins.  Chockylit noted that the batter will do this (somehow I missed that when reading through the recipe) and I found that my batter could have made a few more than 24 cupcakes if I had the tins for it and not overfilled them in the first place.  I also want to let everyone know that Chockylit's verbal instructions were so concise and easy to understand that I lifted them from her site, cut the non-pertinent sections and italicized them so you know what are her words and what are mine.

Next time:  I will add more ginger (maybe a tablespoon) and fill each cupcake less.

The frosting: While I looked at a lot of frosting recipes I don't think I followed any particular recipe and can call this my own.  I do recommend making the frosting first and letting it sit (in the fridge perhaps) while baking the cupcakes if you want to serve the cupcakes soon after frosting them.  The basil flavor is much more apparent after sitting (barely present when first made, sort of present a few hours later, next day yessirree this is basil frosting).

Basil Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
6 oz butter, softened
1 tablespoon basil syrup*
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup minced fresh basil

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until well incorporated and fluffy.  Add the basil syrup.  Add one cup of powdered sugar, scrapping the bowl between cups.  Finally mix in the fresh basil.  Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

The frosting was a dilema, how to get that basil flavor in there?  Could I make basil sugar?  Probably not.  So then I checked a few basil ice cream recipes (Food Network, EpicuriousAccidental Hedonist, The Noisy KitchenThe BBC).  Generally the basil was steeped in the cream.  I also checked this frosting thread on Ask Metafilter.  Eventually I decided that a cream-cheese base would provide the creaminess and somehow I'd make a basil simple syrup and use than instead of vanilla.  I looked at cream cheese recipes in Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (11th ed.), The New Best Recipe, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (Reader's Digest ed, c1980), Martha Stewart Living 2002 Annual Recipes, my KitchenAid stand mixer booklet, and a few on Cupcake Bakeshop.

While I was looking for proportions for simple syrup I found a recipe for mint syrup in Martha Stewart Living 2002 Annual Recipes.  I decided to make a full batch of simply syrup and a half batch of basil syrup.

Simple Syrup II from Martha Stewart Living 2002 Annual Recipes (page 185, it hails from the August 2002 MSL issue)

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Prep an ice bath for the syrup.  Place sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pan on medium-high heat.  Stir often until the sugar has dissovled (should take about 4 minutes).  Pour into a container in the ice bath.  Store in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Basil Syrup adapated from Mint Syrup recipe in Martha Stewart Living 2002 Annual Recipes (page 184)

1 cup packed fresh bail leaves
3/8 cup simply syrup II

Put the basil and syrup in a blender and blend until smooth.  Let it sit for 10 minutes, then strain with a fine mesh strainer into a small clean jar.  You will need to smoosh the puree to get all the liquid out of it.  Skim the foamy stuff off the top of the syrup.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Next time:  Make the frosting first, then make the cupcakes.

Ta Da

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January 26, 2007. Tags: , , . Thoughts. 12 comments.

I needed a treat

But first.  TheHusband just gave Dog some ice cream.  That man spoils our dog entirely too much, at least the ice cream was put in his food bowl and announced "cookie" (our Treat word).  But you can't complain too much about a man who brings you ice cream.  And despite trying to be on a baking binge, I needed a treat.

Um yeah.  I can never get this darn WYSIWIG formatting to work the way I want.  Anyway.  I finally dug out the Christmas CDs.  I think this is it and of course I'm going through all of them tonight.  I have made Cranberry-Nut Bread courtesy of The New Best Recipe. And Mexican Wedding Cakes (although the cookbook insists on calling them Sandies) from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (affectionately known in my household as "the red checked one").  Next up is the batter for Chocolate-Black Pepper Cookies from the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies 2005 issue.  I haven't made these before and hope they turn-out well.

Generally speaking I'm a big fan of holiday ideas and cookie recipes from Martha Stewart (or should I say Omnimedia).  But this years special cookie issue (via Everyday Food) was just a little too familiar.  Oh well.  I have enough recipes waiting on the "to try" list.

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December 14, 2006. Tags: . Thoughts. Leave a comment.