Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fudge success!

One of our most-anticipated treats at Christmas time is my mother-in-law's creamy and delicious chocolate fudge.

While I experiment in the kitchen all of the time, fudge is not something I've ever tried. Paging through their new Star Wars cookbook (yes, they have two Star Wars cookbooks), the kiddos found a recipe for May the Fudge Be With You, and insisted we try it. In the recipe, it talks about stirring the fudge until it goes from glossy to dull, but I had no idea what that meant or how long it would take. I stirred it for a minute or two, and then poured it into the pan.

Now that I know better, it is not a surprise that the fudge never set, and while tasty, it had a grainy texture.

A short time later, Joanna mentioned Celia's tutorial on fudge, and I decided to try it. Celia actually has two tutorials; I studied them both, but tried the chocolate recipe.

With Celia's detailed, helpful instructions and pictures, it became very clear why my first attempt didn't turn out, and I finally realized what it means for fudge to "snap" and turn from glossy to dull. Clearly I didn't mix for nearly long enough. And clearly I was not patient enough.

Happily, it worked! Thanks, Celia. :) I can now make a delicious and creamy fudge, and I can't wait to try other flavors.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pizza rolls

I've talked before about hubby's love of frozen processed foods. One of his favorite things to do is to walk through the frozen food aisle in the grocery store and drool over the frozen foods...in the hopes that I'll say, "Oh, I can make those!" It worked for taquitos. :)

On Super Bowl Sunday, hubby really wanted pizza rolls, so I decided to try them.
There weren't as many recipes as I thought there'd be, and most of them just used regular pizza dough and seemed like mini calzones, or used wonton wrappers which didn't seem like the right consistency. But then I found this article, which described the process of perfecting the pizza roll.

I made the dough as described, using my pasta roller to get the dough nice and thin. For the filling, I used our normal homemade pizza sauce, mixed with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. I plopped a bit of filling every couple inches on the pieces of dough, used a pizza cutter to separate them, and then pinched them together.

We tried them both ways, fried in oil and baked in the oven. Do I even need to say which tasted better?

I'm not a big fan of fried foods, but even I couldn't stop eating these. These took forever and were kind of a pain to make, especially for how few the recipe made. But they were delicious, and I know hubby would be thrilled if I ever made them again!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lego cake & a mother's love

I'm not sure how, but somehow, my little guy is turning six. When I asked him several weeks ago what kind of cake he wanted for his (first ever!) friend birthday party, he responded with, "A weapon's case with weapons on it like a sword and shield and ax." ??! No idea where this stuff comes from. When I explained that that probably wasn't likely, he decided, "How about a blue six-studded Lego block?" Hm...well, that I could probably do.

I did some research, but couldn't find much, until I stumbled on this article from the Kitchn: How to make an anatomically correct Lego cake. I was really impressed with the math and research that went into it...but I wasn't that concerned with the precise measurements of my cake. The one piece of advice I did take was the idea of using mini-muffins for the studs of the Legos.

Following my friend Di's lead, instead of making a sheet cake and trying to slice it in half horizontally, I decided to bake the cake in two jelly roll pans. I was nervous that a 9x13 wouldn't be big enough (we were expecting up to 20 people, depending on how many parents stayed at the party), and then I found two 15.5"x10.5" pans. Perfect!

I settled on Dorie's devil's food cake (you can find the recipe here), remembering that it was sturdy, moist, and yummy the last time I made it. I made a full recipe, divided into the two jelly roll pans, plus 18 mini muffins.

I asked the little guy what kind of frosting he wanted in between the layers, and he decided on chocolate. Knowing how rich the cake was, I wanted a light chocolate frosting and found this recipe, which was just the thing. Unfortunately, I only had one stick of butter at room temperature, so I made a half recipe; I wish I would've had a bit more, but it was enough to make a thin layer in between the cake layers.

Looking for a stable, easy-to-color frosting, with a light taste and texture that wouldn't compete with the chocolates, I decided to try seven-minute frosting. I used ATK's recipe, adding blue food coloring with the vanilla at the end. I was impressed with how easy the frosting was to make, and as promised, it tasted very marshmallowy, and was a huge hit. As I tried to frost each individual stud without getting too many crumbs in the frosting, I said to my little guy, "This is proof of a mother's love." :)

The cake was a huge hit; even I couldn't think of any "it's good but"s. My mom, brother, and sister couldn't stop raving, and the little guy begged and begged for a second piece (I didn't cave). When I asked the birthday boy if the cake lived up to his expectations, he said, "It was perfectly excellent."

Dorie's black and white chocolate birthday cake

It was recently my 37th birthday! I think I've posted before about the fact that, being the cake baker in the family, I frequently passed my birthday without birthday cake. A few years ago, I finally complained to my hubby, and he started buying me an ice cream cake, one of my favorite treats.
Last year, I decided I wanted to make my own birthday treat, and I made cupcakes with my girl. This year, I decided I wanted to make myself a fancy cake. I paged through my cookbooks, finally settling on Dorie's black and white chocolate cake, a yellow buttermilk cake filled with dark chocolate cream and frosted with white chocolate whipped cream.

I made a half recipe, using my two 6" round pans. After reading some commentary about the recipe, I decided to make 3/4 of the whipped cream recipe to be sure I'd have enough to frost the entire cake. The cake was a bit of a process, but I baked the cake and made the chocolate cream a day early, so it wasn't too overwhelming. I was also careful to take advantage of our deep freeze, freezing the cake layers before frosting and freezing it after the crumb coat. It worked beautifully, and was a delicious and fancy way to celebrate my birthday with my favorite people. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What I've been up to: a mishmash

Oh, my, has it really been that long?! One post in October, zero in November, a few in December, and one in the first six weeks of the new year.

The funny reason that I've been so absent (besides the normal full-time-working-mother with a partner with a broken kneecap complaints of being busy) is actually technology. My work computer (my only computer) was ancient in technological terms: seven years old, too old to run our grading program, too old to accept any updates, too old to find the internet. I stopped bringing it home, instead relying on my iPad and iPhone, both of which I love and am addicted to, but neither of which is great for typing. And thus, no blogging.

Happily, when our building tech committee reviewed the applications for new computers, they chose me! And last Friday, my new computer was delivered. It is amazing: it not only finds the internet, but even jumps from site to site in seconds. Beautiful. So I'm hoping to get back into the swing of blogging...while it sometimes feels like a chore, I've missed writing about cooking and recording my baking adventures...and mostly, talking to like-minded food bloggers about food. :)

A couple of weekends ago, I tried these cinnamon roll muffins from Tracey's site. I liked the idea of cinnamon rolls that could be made on a moment's notice, as they are frequently requested here, and the kids are not always happy to hear that cinnamon roll dough takes a while. These muffins were incredibly quick. The kiddos weren't sure about them at first, but the dozen disappeared in a weekend, so I guess they were a hit. Even knowing ahead of time that they would be biscuit-like, I still missed the cinnamon roll texture, so I'll probably stick to the real thing in the future.

Although I haven't been blogging, I've still been talking to my Twitter pals, and I jumped on board when several people were baking these Asiago bagels from KAF a few weeks ago. I made them for bookclub, and they were a hit, although (no big surprise) the kiddos didn't like them. I am not a big cheesy bread person, so they weren't my favorite either, but it's always fun to try a new bagel recipe.

My friend Rebecca tweeted about these pretzel rolls a while ago; they are a favorite at her house. She talked about how easy they were to make, and how delicious they were. I asked for the recipe, but it took forever for me to try them. This Monday, the kiddos and I had the day off from school. We had some big plans, but ended up spending the entire day playing in our pjs, and I finally had a chance to try the pretzel rolls. As promised, they were easy, and had a delightful pretzely flavor and light, fluffy texture. Hubby and I loved them. We weren't able to finish them, so he brought them to school this morning, and I heard they were an absolute hit with his first block students.

I also made these scones for breakfast, subbing in strawberries for the raspberries, and adding a handful of white chocolate chips. I really think these are the best scones I've ever had, so incredibly moist. I baked one tray the first morning and froze the rest. They have provided us with a delightful breakfast treat on two other mornings, and I already have plans to bake another batch.

Finally, we've been reading a lot of Harry Potter around here, and after reading about the delicious butterbeer, I decided we had to try it. I found a bunch of recipes online, but eventually settled on this one, which is apparently served at Disney, and which (apparently) JK Rowling says tastes the way she imagines butterbeer tastes. I used the not-so-simple recipe at the bottom of the article, subbing in vanilla extract for the rum extract. Fun to make and fun to sip, but holy moly was it ever sweet! No one could have more than a sip or two at a time.

And that's the start of what I've been up to! I'm hoping to get up some other posts over the next few days...and hoping that will get me back into the swing of things. We shall see!