Monday, March 31, 2008

TWD - Gooey Chocolate Cakes

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, (a weekly bake & blog event) Lemon Tartlet, a girl after my own tart heart chose Gooey Chocolate Cakes.

Early in the week, I noticed that some folks were having trouble getting their cakes to "goo". I took their advice and shaved a minute off the baking time. Mine were a bit squishy in the center but goo they did not.

They were, as most Dorie recipes, totally tasty even for this non-chocolate lover. Dorie recommended using chocolate that you like so I used half the bitter sweet (60% cocoa) left over from something else and half semi-sweet chocolate. The combo was perfect and went great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

My only complaint was that this recipe made six little cakes that were to be eaten right away. I had a long and busy week and was not going to have company over the weekend. Since it's just hubs and I, we ended up wrapping the remaining cakes and will eat them up for dessert this week. (However, Weds is hubs bday so he gets to choose his treat.)

I'll definitely make these again but will do it when we have company. Thanks Lemon Tartlet for a great choice! Head on over to TWD (just click on my badge to the right) and see how goo'd the other bakers did this week.

PS I apologize for my terrible pictures this week. I think I took them with my eyes closed. I was so tired!

Gooey Chocolate Cakes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, (4 ounces coarsely chopped, 1 ounce very finely chopped)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogeneous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Note to self

Hey Rach -

When required to spend the afternoon and evening doing schoolwork, do not - I repeat - do not ingest 8,000 calories and half a bottle of champagne for brunch. Such over indulgences result in extra long naps and a slight headache.


PS Writing blogs about aforementioned activities doesn't help your school work get done any faster, missy!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's for dinner?

It's been a while since I blogged about a meal. I'm still cooking but I've just been making things on the regular rotation - nothing blog worthy. So, I'm looking for something amazing to make this weekend.

Can you help, dear reader? Will you link me to something amazing to make? Shellfish is out but pretty much anything else goes!

I thank you in advance!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eggscellent Tuesday night

On the way home from meeting my pals CB and Alanna for dinner last night I get a call.

Hubs: Are you almost home?
Me: Yes, I’m on [our street].
Hubs: Good, I’m coming downstairs. There are still four Easter Eggs out there.
Me: Okaaaay?

I hung up and immediately thought, “My husband has lost his mind.”

It turns out that hubs been reading a
neighborhood blog hosted by a local artists. Apparently, the blogger and friends hosted an Easter Egg hunt where egg finders log in the eggs they find which then unlocks pieces of a puzzle. Pretty cool, right? I guess he’d mentioned the hunt to me over the weekend but I was busy with work, school, baking etc and thought nothing of it. It must be nice to have a two week spring break and time for such frivolity.

Anyway, we went searching last night at 9:00 pm for the last four eggs and we found them all! Meet the four (plus three hubs found on Sunday).

Rocker - found hanging at the local record shop

Smokie - found hanging at the "Sevie". Guess he needed more Parliaments.

Eyeball Spider - found trying to buy surf gear. Too bad the shop closed 3 years ago!

Cloudy - Hanging by the shops and catching a breather on the fence post.

Stripey Blue - Found relaxing in a planter on Grand.

Psychedelic - Chilling with the Magicians (those that hang in planters, at least).

Googly - Found mutilated near the bank. Poor guy's innards were down the street!

So cool! I am now obsessed with Carlsbad Crawl and can’t wait for next year’s egg hunt. YAY!

Side note: Notice my eggs are poised on a shot glass. Yeah, I'm too hard core for egg cups.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Mom's been busy.

Wow! Can you believe that in the few short weeks since the ol' blog got a face lift that I've received 1,000 hits! I would send my mom flowers and thank her for refreshing the screen every 15 seconds but ... Sitemeter measures daily unique hits and separate page views. So, that's 1,000 separate daily views in the last month. To some of my more experienced blogger friends, 1,000 hits may be child's play but for this baby blogger, that's the big time!

TWD - Caramel Flan

I’ve been flanning to write this update all day but I didn’t take a real lunch at work and I can’t do any blogging on the clock. So…better late than never, right kids?

Pretty much every TWD entry thus far has required that I purchase some sort of kitchen gadget in order to prepare the recipe. I’m not complaining; I love to buy kitchen gadgets. However, I wasn’t sure I’d like flan and I have no room for a roasting pan so I figured I’d do the smaller portion version. However, I also own no ramekins and while I know I’d use them, I didn’t feel like buying them yesterday. I was feeling tired, especially after the meeting we had with hubs friend who sales life insurance ::yawn:: and I told myself I’d only make the recipe if I had what I needed at home. I had exactly 5 eggs, exactly the right amount of cream and 8 foil cupcake liners. So, I was in.

I used the liners and a 9x13 pan to make my flan. The only bad thing was that I could have used a few more liners and ended up tossing out some of the liquefied custard since I had no other proper container once the liners were full. Bummer, since I really liked how this recipe turned out. Will I make this every week? Nope. Will I make it once in a while? Heck yeah!

Before yesterday I knew the following about flan:
My Poppy liked to eat it. (He also liked to eat tapioca so that’s not really a good thing)
It jiggles.
It has eggs in it.
You can get a tummy ache if you eat the flan from Panchos.

What I know about flan today:
It is pretty easy to make.
People have strong feelings about flan.
It has a silky smooth texture and a hint of vanilla.
I like it!

Thanks to Steph at
A Whisk and a Spoon for choosing this week. Plan to flan and check out what how other TWD peeps fared this week.

My camera died while downloading pics so I only got the preparation ones. Come back later tonight for the money shot. The picture is now up^^.

For the Caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp watersquirt of fresh lemon juice

For the Flan
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

Notice the uneven portions.

To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

Leftover and trashed :(

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don't worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

So cute.

I need this. For reals!

My half-birthday is coming up on April 11. Just saying...

TWD - Flan Plan

Flan's chilling in the fridge. I'm taking it to work and will update at lunch. Have a great day ya'll!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fun weekend!

The hubs and I are heading to OC today to hang with his grandparents. They are pretty much the cutest grandparents ever. Then tomorrow, we head to LA to celebrate my BFF's birthday. We are going to have so much fun!

Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A-B-C - It's easy as 1-2-3

I got tagged by CB for another meme. This time, we learne our ABC's.

A- Attached or Single? Attached!
B- Best Friend? I am lucky to have more than one BFF.
C- Cake or Pie? That's really tough…Cake.
D- Day of Choice? I used to hate Tuesdays, now I love them! (Thanks TWD!)
E- Essential Item? Contacts. I'm blind as a bat with out them.
F- Favorite Color? Green then orange
G- Gummy Bears or Worms? Either, as long as they are sour.
H- Hometown? Euless, Texas
I- Favorite Indulgence? Spa treatments (Rare but amazing!)
J- January or July? July! I love summertime. It's also my wedding month. Hurray for 1st anniversary coming up.
K- Kids? In a few years
L- Life isn't complete without? Hubs, diet coke, and cheese
M- Marriage date? 7/14/07
N- Number of brothers and sisters? I am the oldest of 7 in a big blended family
O- Oranges or Apples? Oranges, for sure. (Tangerines are even better!)
P- Phobias and Fears? The creepy windmills by Palm Springs. Scary movies – hate them!
R- Reason to smile? Way too many to list. I'm a happy kind of girl.
S- Season of choice? Summer. I also love fall but we don't really have on in San Diego
T- Tag three people?
Natalie, BB, Andrea, (I changed to three instead of five since three starts with a "T"
U- Unknown fact about me? I have several double jointed joints.
V- Vegetable? I love pretty much all veggies. I'm not a fan of peas or brussel sprouts but I can tolerate them. I heart broccoli!
W- Worst Habit? Procrastination!!!
X-ray or Ultrasound? Ultrasound. My chiro uses it on my back. It feels a m a z i n g.
Y- Your favorite food? Cheese, ice cream, popcorn, pretty much everything.
Z- Zodiac Sign? Lovely Libra.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cupcake Hero - S'more cupcakes!

When I read that this month's ingredient for Cupcake Hero was marshmallow, I new that I had to make a s'more cupcake. I also knew that lots of other people would probably make s'more, so I made sure not to peek at any other entries (expect for my two buddies that I knew weren't making s'mores).

Since this is my first CH and I know the competition is fierce, I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't win. Besides, I know who the real winner is. (hint: my tummy)

A graham cupcake with melty chocolate filling, marshmallow fluff for frosting - toasted (natch) with a must have piece of Hershey's on top brought this childhood treat home in a whole new way though I tried to stay true to the original s'more - messy, sticky, and yummy! One word - todiefor!

Graham Cupcakes ( Adapted from Vanilla Garlic)
Makes 12-14 cupcakes / 350 F oven

1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of milk
1 cup of flour
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (I made 1/4 of them more coarse than her recipe)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Make the cupcakes - Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until well creamed. Add the sugar and mix for 3 minutes using a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to beat for 30 seconds for each egg.

Place graham crackers in a food processor and process until you have varying size crumbs and powder. Sift together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, and salt.

Add about 1/4 of the mixture to the butter mixture, then add some of the milk. Continue to add the ingredients in a dry-wet-dry method, ending with the dry. Continue to mix until just combined. Spoon into cupcake papers and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 F oven or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Chocolate sauce (filling or topping) from Cupcakes!
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
9 ounces (1 1/2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and butter over low heat until the cream is hot and the butter has melted. The mixture should form tiny bubbles and measure 175 F on a thermometer; do not let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate chips, and let them sit in the hot cream for 30 seconds to soften. Add the vanilla and whisk the sauce until it is smooth and all of the chocolate has melted.

Let the sauce sit while the cupcake cools so it can thicken up a bit. Then, using a small, sharp knife, cut out a cone shaped section for the top center of each cupcake. Fill hole with filling.

Put the top back on. You may have to remove some of the cupcake 'cone'. I won't tell if you eat it. The cupcakes are so yummy just on their own!

One jar of marshmallow fluff.

Load up a decorating bag with fluff and pipe on the topping. Using a creme brulee tool (or another fire source) toast the topping to taste. I like mine very lightly toasted, as you can see from the photo.

Note: Don't just try to spoon on the topping. It's so thick and sticky, it just globs everywhere. Don't ask me how I know this. I just do.

Top with a piece of Hershey's, more graham cracker crumbs or let the cupcake go nekkid. Serve immediately.

The end result of these cupcakes were amazing! The hubs loved them and took them to school the next day. The marshmallow topping got a little runny by then so definitely top, toast and enjoy right away.

Hurray for my first successful Cupcake Hero entry! Now I can read all the updates about CH that I've been ignoring until I got mine posted. Good luck all!

My only casualty was my icing tip. The garbage disposal ate it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TWD - Raisin Brioche Snails

This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe was chosen by Peabody and boy did she pick a doozie! I think this was the most number of steps I've ever taken to bake something. There was multiple stages of rising, cream from scratch, fire and booze - all the things needed for a big win or a big disaster. It was challenging, yet totally fun.

Thankfully, my snails were a success. Sweet, but not too sweet. I stuck with Dorie's directions except that I substituted golden raisins for the dark ones (though she didn't really specify other than 'moist'*).

The hubs and I ate several of the snails and I took the rest to work. They went over well but I did get a suggestion of more cinnamon next time. I think that could be arranged! One other change for next time would be to bake for the full amount of time. I got nervous when they started browning right away and think I may not have let them cook quite long enough. Oh well, lesson learned!

The other half of the dough wasn't wasted but you'll have to wait to see what I Doried up with it.

Be sure to check out the other TWD folks and see how they fared this week. Thanks for reading!

*I hate the word moist.

Brioche Raisin Snails
1 cup moist, plump raisins (Yes, I left in the raisins)
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves(page 48), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)
1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (page 448)

For The Optional Glaze
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.

Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves
2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm
For The Glaze
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

One more day of waiting....

The hubs is on spring break and we spent the evening running various errands. I got a new photo taken so that I can finalize the name change on my passport before our summer trip to Europe.

We went to BevMo. Hello, 5cent sale! I heart wine.

Then, we went to the cell phone store and I got a new cell phone. It's a fancy one (anything is fancy compared to my old POS) and I love it. I just have to see if my work IT dept can sync it all up so I can get to my work calendar easily when away from my desk. Oh yeah, I can also email and surf the 'net now. I am sooo living in the 2000's now!

Then, we went to Barnes and Noble and got a cool book on Ireland. (see above summer vacation reference.) All in all, a good evening. However, it didn't leave much time for CH or TWD updates. Ugh!

I guess I'll posting tomorrow, maybe from my phone if I can figure it out!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So excited!

I've been dying to enter the Cupcake Hero contest for months now and I finally had the time and inspiration to enter. I'm too pooped to write it up right now (CH and TWD baking today) so you'll have to wait until tomorrow. But, it was really, really good - if I do so myself!

'til tomorrow...


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inequality among fruit! I demand justice!

This just occurred to me…
Cherries + sunshine = dried cherries
Peaches + sunshine = dried peaches
Mango + sunshine = dried mango

Why are dried grapes called raisins when other dried fruits are just called their regular names with “dried” in front? Could it be that raisins are gross while other dried fruits are yummola? Now, dried cranberries are called Craisins but that’s just the brand name. All other brands call them dried cranberries. If anyone could enlighten me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

TWD - Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake

Once again, I participated in the weekly Tuesday's with Dorie baking group challenge. This week, Natalie from Burned Bits chose our assignment, a simply sweet, not-quite-pie, not-quite-cake filled with apple-y goodness.

I have to say that I was especially excited about this one as the hubs grandparents were from Russia. I never met his Grandpa. But, Grandma Marina was one of the sweetest ladies I've ever met. She told hubs years ago that she was praying for him to find a nice wife and I was happy for her to know we were engaged before she passed away a little over a year ago, just a couple weeks shy of turning 90. I'm sure she was watching our wedding from the best seat in the house! xoxo!

I took this weeks scrumptious treat to a Girls' Day Out and all my lady friends told me how tasty it was. They are too kind, especially since I didn't do so well with my first attempt at the 'apple peeler/corer/slicer' and there were a few, um, hard parts mixed in the cinnamonny sweetness. I suppose I had to add a little something extra as I omitted the raisins. I'm a fan of them in salad or even alone but baked and mushy, they do not rock my socks. So, Ms. Sunmaid is still chillin' in my pantry. (Haha! I say pantry as if were anything more than two tiny shelves in my cupboard.)

The dough, oh the dough, it made just the tastiest crust. I wasn't surprised to read that Dorie suggests using it to make cookies. Just sweet enough and the perfect consistancy. It really was a Pie-Cake. Crazy!

The pie-cake that wasn't devoured at the get together was gobbled up by the hubs or myself with in 24 hours. I think we liked it! He gave it a solid A. Very nice. :)
Try this one. It's a keeper.

Anyway, on to the recipe and photos. All recipe variations are noted in bold.

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome) (I used all Fugi)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar (I used a bit more)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used a bit more)

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

A little lumpy, but super yummy!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Picnic update

What a fun day I had! I met up with about 15 ladies for a "Girl's Day Out." We went to the park for a potluck picnic with kite flying and bubble making. My kite was Barbie with a pink squiggly tail. So fun! You'll have to wait until Tuesday to read about my potluck contribution. ;)

After lunch, we headed over to the bowling alley and rolled a game or two. I almost broke my highest score of 70! Maybe next time I can get a 100. That would be soo cool!

After bowling, we headed over to Starbucks for a frosty cold bevie. Finally, we ended the day by seeing the movie Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It was super cute and starred one of my newest favorite actors, Lee Pace a.k.a the pie-maker. Amy Adams was adorable, as usual.
I ate way too much food today and am seriously tuckered out! Gotta love good food, good friends and good times.

Fierce update

The winners of the Fierce Cupcake Contest were announced early this morning. (Waking up early = not fierce!) I was the recipient of the Tickity Tack Tranny Mess Award. For full details, check out my pal CB's site.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Waiting game = not fierce

I still haven't heard if my cupcake is deemed "fierce" by cupcake queen CB and ferosh princess Andrea. I guess if I were really fierce, I wouldn't care. But, I do. Can't someone just tell me?!

PS. Mr Cuppycakes, did my offer letter get lost in the mail? Didn't you like my review?

What to make?

I'm going to a potluck picnic this weekend. What should I make to take? I know that drinks, paper goods, and utensils are provided. I'm thinking my TWD recipe for this week could be good but I'm not sure...


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

So F'ing Fierce!

My good friend CB of IheartCuppycakes fame, who also shares my passion for all things Project Runway decided to host a Fierce Cupcake Challenge in honor of the show finale airing this Wednesday. I was like, "Biitch, it is on!" ::insert finger snaps::
My first attempt resulted in a big tranny mess up in my kitchen. The look was gawd-awful-hideous, AKA short, fat, and just NOT layered enough. Sooo not ferosh! So, I sent this cupcake back to diet school (learn how to barf girl!) and continued on in my quest for ultimate fierciocity.

Tranny mess in my kitchen. Whuut?!
My ultimate results were fan-freaking-tastic, natch since I am one ferosh biitch. I totally rocked my couture cupcake, though I skipped the bluefly accessory wall as this beaut stands alone. ::insert hair flip::
The icing is Royal, as in RICH, biitches! The inside is lemon, as if anyone cares what's on the inside. Everyone knows it's how you look on the outside that matters. Anyway, the outside is F'ing Fierce (notice the capitals? Yeah, I thought so.) Besides, how could I stay a 2/4 if I ate a cupcake? Helllo!
So, I hope everyone enjoys life in the loser lane. Because there is only room for one diva cupcake and that's me, er, I mean MINE.

So hot!

The gawd-awful-hideousness starts to train for the next contest.

TWD - Snickery Squares

Snickery dickery dock, I lost a fight with the clock.

Well, this week I just plain ran out of time. Between work, school, and other life commitments I decided not to complete the TWD challenge this week. I'm sure the Snickery Squares would have been really tasty but I just can't do it this time around. However, feel free to check out the other Tuesday's with Dorie bakers and see what they snickered up this week!

See ya'll next week for Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake. (I'm already dreaming of it!)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Letter to "Big Red" my LG phone

Dear Big Red,

You've got some 'splaining to do. I thought we had a deal. I pay you a frillion dollars a month and you do the following:

  • Ring when people call me
  • Keep the call connected until I (or the person I am talking to) ends the call
  • Alert me promptly when I receive a message, whether it be voice or text
  • Hold a charge for a reasonable amount of time

Now, I'd like to discuss all of these items with you. You see, I haven't been hearing you ring when people call me. Yes, sometimes I put you on silent or vibrate mode and I completely understand when you don't ring during those times. In fact, I appreciate it as I am usually in a meeting, at work, or otherwise can't be disturbed. (Side note: I'd include watching a movie at the theatre here but apparently turning off your cell phone isn't required at the movies anymore. Ugh.) But I'm talking about the times you let me down. Yes, you've let me down. I really need you to ring when people call me. Seriously, ringing when people call is kind of big deal to me. I've heard mention of "service areas" and "dead pockets" but I frankly don't really care about your trials and tribulations. I just need you to ring when my peeps call, OK?

Next, I'd like to discuss your inability to keep the call connected once I've actually heard it ring. Why, oh why do you randomly hang up on people? It's beyond annoying. And why do you choose to abruptly end the call right in the middle of the best part!? I think you must have a radar for the juicy details (which is unfortunate as you could be using this energy to pick up signals in aforementioned dead spots). The worst part is once a call is dropped, then I spend the next 10 minutes calling the person back and getting their voicemail and having them do the same until one of us finally texts the other to say. "CALL ME BACK!"

This leads me to my third complaint of the day. For the love of Pete, I need my dang text messages and voice mails. Yes, I understand you like to deliver them hours, even days late. However, this is just not acceptable. It's not even close enough for government work. Trust me, I should know.

Lastly, I'm going to replace you soon. You've already "burned out" two batteries and are working on your third. I really think this is a bit excessive. None of my other technological gadgets burn through their juice as quickly as you do. I'm starting to think you are an addict and I may just have to dump you off and let you have some "me time" with the other POS phones. I'm not sure why, but I have an expectation that your battery should last more that 2.5 minutes and that I shouldn't have to be tethered to a car charger or plug in the wall while I talk to my friends about celebrity gossip. It's called a wireless phone, after all.

In conclusion, I've decided that I hate you. You don't deliver what you promise and you never even apologize. So, I have decided that I am dumping you for a younger, hotter version of yourself. I need some new ear candy and you are just too old and creaky to do it for me anymore. We've had some good times, babe. Remember the time my sister texted me all the perverted texts in one day. Gosh, that was great. But that was our history and well I need to make a future -- with someone else.

See ya!


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Weekend wrap up.

This weekend was over in a blink and I didn't cook or bake anything homemade. The only thing I made was some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls this morning and that doesn't count as homemade. Thankfully, the hubs has pretty simple taste and is handy in the kitchen so we didn't starve this weekend!

Highlights of the weekend include:
LEGOLAND for work event
Writing a paper
Taking an exam
Watching The Darjeeling Limited
Starring at my knitting project rather than working on it
Hanging with hubs*

So, there was really little or no time for cooking and baking. Sadly, I think I may have to skip TWD this week because I have a big work event tomorrow and seriously doubt I'm going to have the energy to snickery up some squares when I get home. Is it wrong that I'm not a Snickers fan? Twix, yes. Snickers, not so much.

Hope you all have a wonderful week. I'm still hoping to get my cupcake done for the Fierce Cupcake Contest. I'll keep you posted!

*This item was the best.

EDIT-- I have no idea what the chick in this picture is all about. CB told me to have more pics my blog so I Googled "busy" and this is what I got. I do like how she's wearing a one shoulder top. A friend of mine calls these "Galactica" tops. I think that's hilarous!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I brake for popcorn.

I'm a pretty big popcorn fan. When I lived alone I would often eat popcorn for dinner. I prefer it from the big professional poppers like at the fair but it's hard to get that carnival taste at home (not to mention that it isn't served by a carny). Occasionally, I'll buy a bag of popcorn while I shop at Target but even that is still second best. However, I have found the single best microwave popcorn that you will ever encounter. I've actually been eating it for several years but just realized tonight, while popping up a bag for movie-at-home-night with the hubs, that I hadn't shared this find with my friends.

Pop Secret Homestyle microwave popcorn is, by far, the best microwave popcorn that you can find anywhere. All other kinds of microwave popcorn are just a tease to me now that I've found the best. It has the perfect ratio of butter and salt. Seriously, kids it's damn good. My only complaint is that I can only find 3 bag boxes of it. I know it's not healthy, especially with that oil they use in microwave popcorn so I've slowed down on how often I eat it. I love this popcorn.