Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Pie

I know that Thanksgiving is a foodie's favorite holiday since the entire celebration revolves around food. However, it's probably one of my least favorites because it's not something my family really celebrated all out when I was growing up. Lately, I also feel as though much of the preparation and cooking lands on my shoulders, and turkeys and mashed potatoes are really not my thing.
So this year, we ordered dinner. Really. Purdue University's dining services makes turkeys along with all the trimmings to order. So for $30, we got enough turkey, gravy, stuffing, organic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecans, sweet corn souffle, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls to feed 3 people for 3 days. And it was all very good.
Brothers in law
You'll notice that the list of food does not include desert. You can order desert if you like, but baking is definitely a joy of mine, so I thought I would make apple pie.
Peeling Apples
I even got help peeling the apples! I sliced them nice and thin, maybe 1/8 of an inch thick? Maybe thinner.
Apples Slices
Mixed them in a bowl with about 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice (my husband does not like cinnamon, and I do feel it's overused myself) and about a tablespoon of cornstarch. I let them sit for at least an hour until they're soft and pliable. I pull out the ready made pie dough, stick it in the pie place, and start laying out the apple slices.
Placing slicesPlacing around
Start of the pieKeep adding slices
I save the thinnest, softest slices for the middle because I roll up a single slice up on itself.
Finish the center
Then dot the pie with butter (two tablespoons is all you need) and it goes in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes.
Baked to perfection
Ta da! Desert is ready. But after the huge dinner we had, we only had enough room for tiny little slivers. With ice cream, of course.
Tiny sliver after big dinner

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cranberry Upside-down Deliciousness

Do you read smitten kitchen? Because I do. A lot. Like, I check it everyday. Recently, Deb posted a recipe for cranberry upside-down cake that looked so delicious that I had to make it. Then, yesterday morning, I watched an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they made an apple upside-down cake (different spellings for different folks). The recipe is hidden for non-members, but you can still watch the video.
Super close up cranberry upsidown cake
Well, after a day of prelim writing yesterday (I hit 1000 words in one day, and I am rather happy with that), I decided to reward myself with some tasty baking. So I made this cake with Smitten Kitchen's topping (caramel and cranberries) and America's Test Kitchen's cake, but I substituted vanilla yogurt for the sour cream because that is what I had on hand. Cook's illustrated recently told me not to do that, but whatever, I don't care, I did it anyway. OMG this was so good.
Getter further away from the cranberries.
First, while I was making it, I though, are we really going to eat a whole cake ourselves, just the two of us? So we asked some friends if they wanted us to bring them a slice. Thank goodness they said no because we would have had to share! In one night, this is how much we ate:
Eaten! So good.
So, I think it'll be gone by tomorrow. It reminds me of a cake that my mom used to make, only better. Way way better. I think I'm going to have a slice for lunch. And then, back to the prelims. One a couple more thousand words!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cookies to Forgive and Unwind

I have not been posting recently because I am in the midst of my prelims. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, preliminary exams are a series of tests that a graduate student must complete and defend in order to move on to writing a dissertation. Fun, right? It's pretty time consuming and stressful on its own, but add it to a schedule full of teaching, fundraising for the grad student association (we've got T-shirts!), and general living-life stuff (um, long overdue dentist appointments anyone?), it's basically taken over any free time.
This whole being busy thing may have led me to totally forget about an appointmetI made just days earlier with one of my committee members. It's never good to stand up people who are way more important and well established than you are. So, to make up for it, I thought I would make some cookies, because people always seem to like my cookies. And for good reason, they are very tasty.
Almond Chocolate Cookies3
I have been working on this recipe for over 3 years now. I took Alton Brown's Chewy recipe, some random flax-seed cookie recipe I found before I even knew that food blogs existed, and just started playing with the amounts and proportions and all these things. Well, I think I have perfected them.
Almond Chocolate Cookies2
The secret is really getting them out of the oven earlier than you would think, and then cooling them on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.
Almond Chocolate Cookies1
Well, after I made some for my committee member, I realized that I had finally perfected the recipe, and had to make another batch for us to eat. We've been holding back, only eating 2 or 3 each day, and they've held up for a week now, and are still deliciously chewy, despite sitting in a jar that is nowhere near air-tight. Making these is definitely enjoyable, but eating them is even better. Perfect for consumption after writing my 3 hour prelim question about the ecological rationality of biased conflict responses.

Wet ingredients:
1 stick butter, melted and cooled (or, use that Smart Balance half butter omega-3 stuff)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat four
1/2 cup oatmeal, ground (I use a coffee grinder for this)
1/4 cup flax meal (I grind my own, again in the coffee grinder)
1/4 cup almond meal (you can find it at Trader Joe's, or grind your own)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

I do all this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but you can mix it all by hand with a wooden spoon, or whatever sturdy instrument you prefer.

1. Adjust racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine butter and sugar
3. Add all other wet ingredients
4. Combine all dry ingredients
5. Slowly (but really, it doesn't need to be that slow) incorporate the dry ingredients to the wet
6. Add chocolate chips
7. Scoop large tablespoonfuls of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart
8. Bake 8 to 9 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through cooking. (You could also bake one sheet at a time.)
9. Cookies should look slightly underdone. Cool baking sheets on cooling rack for 10 minutes.
10. Move cookies directly to cooling racks until room temperature, or eat right away.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Leek Tartelettes

About six years ago, I did not know what a leek looked like. I knew that they tasted good in soup, but I had never seen a full fledged fresh leek. They basically look like giant green onions.
They are really much tastier, though, and very mild. My aunt Nadia made a leek tarte, and I absolutely fell in love. What's even better, though, is mini leek tartelettes. They're such fun and easy finger food. I chop up the leeks, whites and light greens only. (Use the dark stuff for stock.)
You've got to rinse them, otherwise there's nothing but nasty sand in your food.
Then cook 'em up in a big frying pan. If you want you can add bacon. Very delicious combination. If I don't have many leeks, I'll sometimes also add some onion. Stay away from the garlic, though, because leeks have such a subtle taste.

Then with a wide glass, can, or other round object, trace and cut out as many circles as you can.Put each dough circle into your muffin tin, and fill halfway with cooked leeks.Then fill up each cup with a roughly half and half combination of eggs and dairy. I tend to combine heavy cream, half and half, and fat free milk to get a sort of full-fat milk equivalent, but if you want to just use low-fat milk, or just cream, that's fine too. It depends how creamy you want your tartelettes to be.
Finally bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, and you've got the perfect appetizer, or light dinner with a couple on each plate and a side of salad.
Apparently there's a booth at our farmer's market that should be getting leeks again soon! Strange season, but I'll take them. Maybe I'll make soup.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Almond Update

In the search for a mightily almondy cake, I stopped by David Lebovitz' blog which includes a lovely and simple almond cake recipe.
almond cake
It includes almond paste, which I was worried I would not be able to find in the middle of the Midwest. Since I moved to Indiana, there are many little things that are harder to find, so I typically assume the worst. Lo and behold, Meijer super-stores offer Solo almond paste, right in the baking isle along with all those other pre-made pie fillings. I have never used one of those, but I assume they're terrible (there I go with the worst, again).

In any case, I tried making his recipe with cake flour in a 9-inch layer pan instead of a cake pan, so I had enough left-over batter for 10-cupcakes.
Did I say ten? I meant eight. Just ignore that open wrapper at the top there. I also only baked the cupcakes for about 45 minutes, and the cake for 55 minutes. I think I could have left the layer cake in for longer.
The actual cake did "sigh" as David so nicely puts it. Maybe "totally collapsed into itself" would be more accurate.
Mind you, this thing had domed up about twice as high as it is in this picture. Ah well. I filled in the sad crevice with chocolate butter-cream frosting, so it was a happy crevice. Unfortunately, we ate the entire thing before I could take a picture. Here are the remaining cupcakes.
Overall, the flavor is very almondy. The texture is pretty light, though, totally unlike a pound cake. So the search for an almond pound cake recipe is still on. Let me know if you find one!

Almond Cake Recipe
Adapted from David Lebovitz

265g white granulated sugar
1 - 8 oz can almond paste
140g unbleached cake flour (David's recipe calls for one cup of flour. I measured my 140g, and found that I had between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of flour. So that's what I used.)
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Pre-heat oven to 325ºF. Grease, flour, and line with parchment a 9" layer cake pan. Put paper liners in muffin tin.
2. In food processor, process the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of flour. Process for about 15 seconds, until the texture is sandy.
3. Add butter and extracts, and process until the texture is fluffy, about 30 seconds.
4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before adding the next.
5. In a small bowl, combine rest of the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add half this mixture to food processor, and use short bursts to incorporate it, making sure not to overmix.
6. Add rest of flour mixture, and again use short bursts to incorporate flour.
7. Pour about 2/3 of batter into prepared cake pan. Place about 1/3 cup of batter into each prepared cupcake liner.
8. Bake cupcakes for about 45 minutes, and cake for 50 to 60 minutes.
9. Let cool on rack. (I removed the cupcakes immediately, but let the cake cool in its pan for about an hour or more.)

Chocolate Butter-cream Frosting
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1/3 cup of white granulated sugar
6 tablespoons of egg whites (I use leftovers, but it's about 2 large egg whites)
pinch table salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1.5 sticks (6 oz) butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

[Note: You can do triple use with a pot of boiling water. First use it to melt the chocolate double boiler style. Then use it to warm up the egg whites while whipping. Then, cook your linguine with kale in there for dinner. Num. Don't forget the garlic!]

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, salt and lemon juice in stand mixer bowl. (The salt and lemon juice stabilize the egg whites and help them fluff up)
2. Over a pot of simmering water, whisk the ingredients constantly for about 3 minutes until egg whites are all frothy (and the temp is about 150ºF).
3. Place the bowl back in your stand mixer with whisk attachment, and and beat mixture on medium (I used level 6 out of 10) for about 2 minutes, or until it's fluffy. America's test kitchen says like shaving foam, but I have never seen shaving foam look like my egg whites do. More importantly, the egg whites should have cooled so when you touch your bowl it's warm rather than hot.
4. Add the room temp butter, one piece at a time.
5. Add vanilla extract.
6. Add melted chocolate.
[Note: Make sure to keep scraping the sides of the bowl down as you keep adding ingredients.]
7. Increase mixer speed to medium-high (I went all the way up to 8/10) and mix until light and fluffy. This took mine a few minutes. Actually, I stuck the whole thing in the fridge for about a half hour, and then beat it again. My chocolate was not completely cooled though, so you might not have to do that.

Finally, assemble your cake/cupcakes by slathering as much frosting as you can on each baked good. By the way, this frosting is very creamy, but not very sweet, so piling it on tastes lovely without hurting your teeth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Elusive Almondy-ness

Last week, I ate the most delicious almond pound cake I have ever had. It might have been the only almond pound cake I had ever had, but I would even venture to say that this was the best pound cake I had ever had. It all started when my good pals John and Lisa got engaged.
How friggin cute are they. Lisa asked me to be a bridesmaid, and John asked my husband Nick to be his groomsman, and of course we both accepted. Lisa has to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. She is the kind of girl who really likes you before she even meets you. This also seems to translate into her cake preferences; if it's cake, she likes it. So, she invited me to the cake tasting because I am not the nicest person anyone has ever met, and I certainly do not whole heartedly embrace all cake as delicious. In fact, I have very discriminating tastes. Fondant? I don't think so. All purpose flour in angel food? What's the matter with you!? Imitation vanilla flavoring? Not on your life!
So last week, Lisa, John and I headed over to "Classic Cakes" in Carmel, IN, and tasted some cake. And after a taste of their almond pound cake, I demanded that the couple include this flavor in the most important four-tier-cake of their lives! They happily obliged, so all ended well. But now, all I can think about is delicious almond pound cake. I quickly looked for a recipe, and found one on America's Test Kitchen. I made it and brought it to a dinner party. Our friends rather liked it.
However, I can not recommend the recipe. It's a smidge dry, but that might just have been because I didn't bake it in a loaf pan. More importantly, it's boring. The only almond aspects involved are a couple teaspoons of almond extract and some slivered almonds on top. There was no bold almondy goodness explosion in your mouth! So I'm on the lookout for a good almond pound cake recipe. I'm going to try out a few more, and let you know what works best. Almonds, here I come!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Farmer's Market Morning

Boy oh boy do I love the farmer's market. Here's my catch this week:
Tell me that is not some beautiful looking produce. And I got a super deal on the apples! I ran out of money (because everything looked so good!) and only had $2 left. I told the lovely people at the apple booth that I would give them all I had left for their best sweet eating apples, and the woman knocked off $.25 per pound making my apples $1/lb.
I can't wait to eat all of this stuff! So good.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm back!

Not that anyone missed me, but you know, a girl can dream. It's back to my adventures in academia, crafts and cooking. Maybe I should change it to academia, baking, and crafts so I could get back to the ABCs. Maybe that's too corny.
Classes started a week ago, and already I feel like I'm falling behind in my lesson plans. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't heavily procrastinate, so I'll just keep it up and write out my lessons for tomorrow, well, tomorrow. Today I have more wedding thank-you cards to send and hangers to start painting.
I'm also looking forward to canning our garden's tomatoes. My officemate is loaning me her canning equipment, and I can't wait to have fresh garden tomato sauce in December! I'll keep you posted on how that goes.
Until then, I leave you (empty internet space) with my favorite honeymoon photo. Aren't we just the cutest?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not blogging now

Just in case anyone ever reads this, I had no intentions of anyone actually reading my blog until I started up my etsy shop ( However, I'm thinking that I won't start selling anything until this summer, seeing as I'm trying to take classes, teach classes, do research, publish, plan a wedding, cook regularly & healthily, and make millions of DIY wedding crafts right now, making and selling hangers and the like is just not going to happen for another 5-6 months. So, when that happens I will post here again. Until then, if you are a random straggler who was accidentally stumbled upon my blog, go ahead and find something more interesting to look at until August 2010. I'll be back then.