I was having trouble deciding what to bring for Thanksgiving @ my in-laws’; there were just too many tasty things I wanted to make and it was tough to narrow it down to one item.  I couldn’t choose between making an appetizer/side dish or a dessert so on Wednesday morning (just before Vin’s nephew #3 was born!) I opted to make both: a savory monkey bread to go with the meal and brownies with salted caramel frosting topped with chopped bacon and pecans.  Yes, I said “bacon” and “brownies” in the same dessert.  If you really think about it, it is the perfect “crave satisfying” food: salty, crunchy, chewy, sweet, or as one of my aunts says, the bacon caramel brownies make up “three of my favorite food groups!”

I hit up Stop & Shop to get some last minute ingredients for my baking creations and I didn’t start prepping till 10 pm.  Yes, it’s becoming a bad habit this late night baking thing… but the macarons were a spur-of-the-moment/late night idea and they turned out wonderfully so I was kind of hoping my last-minute preparation of contributions for the big family dinner would come out well, too.  I made the brownies first, and while they were in the oven I dumped a ton of sugar and butter into a pot on the stove for the caramel.  This would take a while to heat up, so I chopped up some pecans and minced slices of cooked bacon into itsy bitsy little pieces and popped them in the toaster oven for a bit, just to bring out the crunchy goodness.  After the caramel cooled, I whipped in some cream and I have to say, this is one of my favorite frostings.  It was super light and fluffy and was JUST right with the sweet, chewy chocolate from the brownie, the solid crunchiness from the nuts, the all-around perfection of bacon, and a light dusting of sea salt and cocoa powder.  I know… bacon + anything is getting played out and everyone and their mom knows it from watching any food show or scanning the menus of hot, trendy restaurants, but 1) I love bacon; 2) I’m making this dessert so I can do it any way I please; and 3) the family really liked them.  I get that the combination of flavors would be an unusual and new concept for some, so for those that wanted to play it safe, I left out the bacon sprinkles on some of the pieces.  *sigh*  Oh well, more bacon for me!

Yeah, so the brownies were good, but the bread was the star of the show.  You may be familiar with monkey bread as more of a dessert item with brown sugar and honey and nuts… but this was a savory monkey bread with spices, grated cheese and a Paula Deen-approved amount of butter for added deliciousness.  I made this on Thanksgiving morning because I still wanted it to be warm when we brought it to Vin’s parents’.  We left it in the car for a bit while we met his sister’s new baby @ the hospital (he’s sooooo cute!) and the entire car smelled awesome when we came back.  Seriously, we were drooling the whole ride to the T house and couldn’t wait to break into the bread.  If I could patent that smell into an air freshener I totally would.  You’d be ruined if you were on the Atkins or some carb-counting diet and got a whiff of this, for sure.  hahaha

Brought the bread into the house @ 130 pm.
This is what it looked like @ 133 pm between the 4 of us.

And it tasted as good as it looked. After flipping it onto a large plate, Vin and his parents and I ripped off pieces and tried it, and we couldn’t stop eating it.  It was simple to make and it was such a huge hit!  By the end of the evening, there was just one little piece left, and mind you I used THREE pounds of dough for this bread.  I’m most definitely making this again for Christmas Eve, if not sooner  =)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

This past weekend we went upstate to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with my extended family and Katie and her cute babies (traveling next weekend would have been hellish so the off-holiday party was a brilliant idea).  My little brother (I made a Pikachu cake for his graduation) is obsessed with pie for some reason, so I suggested that we make our pineapple coconut pie (aka “PCP”) for dessert and he was psyched.  We made this for Easter after finding a recipe for pineapple pie and completely tweaked it to include condensed milk and coconut and made fresh whipped cream for topping =)  My bro and I made two pies (somehow I ended up doing most of the work while he was scraping for the last remnants of the sweetened condensed milk can), but unfortunately no pics were taken before the first one was devoured and I can guarantee by now that between my dad and my brother, the second pie is long gone.  haha  Oh well.  I’ll have to make it again @ some point.

A macaron is awesome because it’s really light and yet part of it is a bit like a chewy cookie with filling.  I love meringues, and the consistency of a macaron is just fun to eat.  I like them, but they’re not my favorite dessert.  My husband, on the other hand, seems to have fallen in love.  Vin has been very subtly hinting that I make macarons ever since I brought him a sampling from Macaron Cafe.  (His clues ranged from “I found all these websites that have macaron recipes and just emailed you”… “Where do we get almond flour… does Stop n Shop have it? What about Michael’s? Are you sure? I bet you didn’t even look!” … “You know you have to let the egg whites sit for a while in the fridge”… to blatantly telling me, his family and my family: “Screw cupcakes… you should just make macarons!” haha)  I WAS interested in trying my hand at it, so I bought a coffee/spice grinder to make almond “flour” and separated and whisked eggs and took out the sil-pats.  It was kind of silly of me to decide to do this @ 11 pm on a Monday night, but I just didn’t want to watch TV or go to bed just yet (again, my reasoning of making a bigger mess instead seemed completely logical @ the time) and made 4 trays of macarons.

This experiment was very Goldilocks-like to say the least.  The recipe said to put them in the oven for 10 minutes @ 325. Knowing my temperamental inferno of an oven tends to run hot, I set it closer to 300.  Somehow, I was able to burn the bottoms yet not fully cook them.  There goes one batch.  The second set was in for less time @ the same temp and came out better but not so great, and the third and fourth batches were more acceptable @ lower heat and less time.  I took a small bite of one and I THINK it kind of tasted like the macarons I bought?  I needed a second opinion, and unfortunately my taste tester was already fast asleep. I whipped up some peanut butter frosting and slathered it on half the edible macarons, and alternated with Ferrero Nutella - 26.5 oz and strawberry jam for the other halves.  I packed a container for Vin’s snack tomorrow and hopefully he’ll enjoy the objects of his obsession  =P

Eventually I’ll have to make another attempt @ this and try to make different flavors.  Goldilocks, out.

Update 11/23: Vin had a couple macarons this morning and said, “they were delicious baby!!” and “the texture was perfect.”  He brought some into work and his co-workers (I was told some of them are French) said they loved them and said, “Wow, she did well for her first time!”  To which I thought “TWSS and merci”  =)

A repeat customer requested carrot cake cupcakes for this weekend.  I used to not like eating carrot cake at all, but I guess that’s because most of the carrot cakes I’ve had from stores or restaurants were too dry or too sweet or too SOMETHING.  Since I started baking things from scratch, I’ve made carrot cake twice, and not to pat myself on the shoulder or anything, but carrot cake doesn’t taste gross anymore.  =D

Carrot cake used to be pretty up there with red velvet in the “pain in the @ss to make” category because we didn’t have a legit food processor so it used to be pretty annoying to peel and hand grate all the carrots for this. We bought a “Ninja” chopper/snow maker/blender/etc and it’s not too bad.  I still had a helper hand grate half the carrots though (thanks, baby!) and added a mix of secret ingredients that weren’t in the original recipe.

As I was spooning the mixture into the cupcake pans, the texture and color reminded me of vomit.  See for yourself.  Who knew it this would soon be something so delicious and appetizing! MMMMmmm… yummy…

Since I wasn’t sure how long it would take to bake these babies, I kept checking the first batch.  I know, I know… constantly opening and closing the oven isn’t good and I did my best to only take quick peeks so the cakes would rise properly.  I got lucky that I didn’t over or under bake the cupcakes and I got the timing down to a science.  I was on a roll and made over 4 dozen cupcakes, but towards the end I got sloppy.  I started getting careless and grazed the side of my arm on the open oven door and now have a lovely 2″ burn on my forearm.  =(

While the cupcakes cooled, I made fresh cream cheese frosting.  We had gone to Costco and got a three-pound block of Philly cream cheese and I went through a pound of butter no sweat (hellooooo, Paula Deen!).  I guess I was so used to the scent of carrot and spices that I wasn’t affected by the inviting, perfect-for-fall odor of cake wafting through the house, but Vin was!  He said the house smelled awwwwesome and kept asking if I had tried any yet.  I saw him eyeballing the cupcakes and told him to go ahead and crack one open so I could check to make sure it cooked OK.  He said they were perfectly moist and tasty!  Yayyy!

A quick swirl of frosting and neatly placed mouse-brain sized pecan finishes the perfect carrot cake cupcake!

This is one way of killing two birds with one stone… giving your parents an awesome birthday present and giving me business @ the same time.  hahaha  My friend Danny wanted to order a birthday cake for his parents (what a sweet son he is!) and was open to any ideas. So I asked what his parents liked: what kind of cake (one likes vanilla, the other likes chocolate cake), what frosting flavors (vanilla and chocolate-raspberry), what colors they liked (green and yellow)… so I had this wild, ambitious idea to make a checkerboard cake instead of making one boring layer of chocolate, one blah layer of vanilla…

On the outside, this is a normal 9″ three-layer cake with my trademark roses in yellow (I really should learn how to make other things out of frosting  haha) and basic border design in green with standard white vanilla icing and freehand “Happy Birthday” in yellow.  (My apologies to Danny’s parents; “Mom + Dad” didn’t fit after I wrote “Birthday”.)  However, on the inside, this baby is CRAZY awesome.  Once you slice it, you’ll see a delectable raspberry-chocolate frosting in-between layers of…  a checkerboard made of cake!  Not too shabby, eh? EH?  =)

I was SO glad Danny’s family liked this!  ¡Feliz cumpleaños, Senor y Senora V!

 A friend heard that I made pineapple upside down cakes in cupcake form and placed an order for a dozen.  Now, I can’t just make 12 cupcakes.  It’s like… only performing a third of a classical masterpiece such as, say…  “Liebestraume” and leaving it at that.  Nooo… I made extra batter, more caramel and opened another can of pineapple slices.  Plus, I wanted to try out a few of the new pans I just bought.  By the time I was done with the oven, I had made 12 regular sized pineapple cupcakes, 12 mini pineapple cupcakes, 8 mini rectangular pineapple cake loaves, 12 square pineapple cupcakes and for sh*ts and giggles, a legit 9″ pineapple upside down cake.  All of which I had to carefully flip over, and I’m quite proud of myself because nothing stuck or broke apart. (The first time I made upside down cake a few months ago … I wasn’t as successful, and mind you, mini pineapple cupcakes are friggin’ delicate.)  I had Vin try one of the mini pineapple cake bites and we split a mini loaf…  they were awesome!  I admit that I would have liked to put more coconut flavoring and powder in, but I refrained, as my friend didn’t want too much coconut flavor in the cake and the customer is always right.  But like I said, they were still delicious and I got a message saying my friend already ate 3 of his 12 cupcakes within 30 minutes of delivery. And that he couldn’t stop.  I mean, I can’t prevent you from having more than one, but it ain’t my fault if you get sick from eating too many of my cupcakes!  =)

P.S.    My new cake pans!  –>