Thank goodness Christmas is done and over with!  I was on a baking binge for the past week.  I just couldn’t stop making SOMETHING and I made almost one item a day.  Insane!  I feel like confectioner’s sugar, flour, and butter are seeping out of my pores.  I think I need to detox now.

 

For Christmas eve dinner @ the T house I made another Bundt loaf of savory monkey bread.  Personally, I think it came out better for Thanksgiving because I used more butter.  Seriously, what was I thinking trying to cut down on the butter for Christmas?  It was still good.  There was about half the loaf left by the time the 14 of us were done eating.  Vin and I packed up some leftovers but left the bread for Mom T.  I can easily make some @ home for us (more on this below) and she loved it the most, so it’s the least I could do  =)

 

I brought over the eggnog crème brûlées for Christmas eve dessert and they were a hit. Vin helped me torch the sugar just before serving and went around telling everyone to eat them and basically shoved the ramekins in their faces.  (Aww… my #1 fan  <3)  I introduced one of my brothers-in-law to it since he had never had crème brûlée before, and another one was raving about it all night (then again, he and Vin had a lot of scotch so it could have been the liquor talking  hahaha). I didn’t try any during Christmas eve, but today I had a little bit of the last ramekin we saved.  The custard consistency was perfect and the flavor of my improvised eggnog was on the money.  It was so money it was like Guy Fieri and his permanent sunglasses tan.  Now, what other flavors can I infuse into the next batch of crème brûlée… HHHMMMmmmm…

 

So I lied and broke out mixer again before New Year’s.  Poor baby.  The little monster probably thinks I hate it because I’m so abusive.  Whatever.  It’s still protected by the warranty and I needed to make frosting.  I still had plenty of leftover chocolate cupcakes and we were going to make rounds to see other family, so I decided to whip up frosting and quickly ice two dozen cupcakes and a dozen minis.  I have a tendency to rummage and be impulsive, so on a whim, I made Bailey’s mint-flavored frosting.  Yes, you read that correctly: Bailey’s.  With mint.  And it was delicious!  I swirled it on the cupcakes and sprinkled some red/green/white sugar on top and voila!  Instant awesome desserts.  We brought a dozen to each of Vin’s sisters’ houses.  I have to say, I always like watching everyone’s reactions when they eat my baked goods because I always worry it doesn’t come out well or they don’t like it, so when people say, “This is the best chocolate cupcake I’ve ever had!” or “The frosting is perfect!” or “Oh my God I’m soooo full but I ate the whole thing it was so good!”… I just love it!  It’s all I need.  As long as I have fans who like eating my baked goods, I’ll keep having fun  =)

The view from our front porch @ 8 pm
Today is the day after Christmas and it’s been snowing alllll day.  It’s coming down hard and it’s so windy the house is creaking… like there’s someone walking around in the attic *shudder!*  We had the fire going today, and I made more savory monkey bread just for the two of us.  This time, I added crushed red pepper for some kick and Vin chopped up some green olives and pimentos to incorporate in the bread.  And I used smaller square pans.  And more butter =P  They came out flawless this time.  There’s a wonderful crust along the edges but a fantastic chewiness inside and the flavor of the olives just takes it to another level.  I wasn’t intending on baking today, but it was nice to have the oven on the warm the house.  Or… smoke up the house because the butter bubbled over and burned in the bottom of the oven, which made smoke come out and the detector to go off and Vin laugh @ me and ask, “What is going on in there?”  hahaha  Oooops.  Either way, the kitchen smells awesome.
The roaring fireplace in our sick living room.

Right now Vin is playing with his Christmas present.  Let’s hope it doesn’t fritz out on him or I’d be pissed.  And I don’t even know where to start with mine.  It’s a crazy awesome machine that’s “1) a very mysterious and powerful device and 2) its mystery is only exceeded by its power”. (Ten points if you know where that’s from. Hint: it’s my favorite movie.)  I think I’m going to let it sit in the box for a while (you can even see it on the left in the pic of our living room) and let the idea of my owning a crazy Cricut Cake machine fester.  I don’t even know where to start with this.  It’s like… if I take it out, it’ll force me to go to the next step: using fondant.  That’s unknown territory I’m not quite ready for yet…

It’s 4 am.  Why no, I haven’t slept yet.  This is the second night in a row I’ve been up past 2.  Part of me wonders if it’s worth it to even “nap” since I have to get up in about 90 minutes to get ready for work because I don’t feel that tired @ all…

Today’s order was for a friend’s Christmas party with her family.  I offered to make fancier flavor combinations, but my friend decided that she wanted chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and red and green holiday sprinkles, half of which would have raspberry icing filling.  Since my taste tester went to bed by midnight, I broke off a small piece of a cupcake and I have to say, I’ve outdone myself.  Really.  These ones taste even better than the ones I made on Saturday and they’re SUPER light and fluffy and chocolately and moist.  What can I say?  I completely amaze myself sometimes. =)

Honestly, this really shouldn’t have taken as long as it did because I had made the frosting in advance and the designs were relatively simple.  I think I just kept getting sidetracked trying to clean this in the midst of doing that.  And then I didn’t want to use Vin’s camera(s) without asking because… well, you just don’t come between a man and his camera settings, so I spent some time trying to take cell phone pics so please bear with the crappiness of the photos.  Oh wait… it was the sprinkle placement, too.  I was too meticulous in artistically hand dropping individual sprinkles at first (above: note the pure perfection of the mini cupcakes. See how each sprinkle is gently nestled in the creamy swoops and swirls of the frosting and how the red ball sprinkles are strategically cradled in the slightly-off center arrangement… I digress), and then finally it was like, “Oh my God it’s 3 am WTF.” And THEN, I had to make room in my fridge.  There are still cupcakes from this past weekend, leftover food, TONS of sauces and condiments taking up space, and the eggnog crème brûlée ramekins from last night’s late baking episode (I would have posted a shot of the nice caramel top, but I seem to have used all of my sugar for this evening’s cupcakes…  however, Vin had one and said it was great, so that’s a relief!)… somehow, I made room for it all.

 Anyway, I think I should get some shut eye.  My mixer is on vacation till next week; too bad the oven still has to work overtime.  I’m making another loaf of savory monkey bread for Christmas @ the T house.  Speaking of Christmas, I know you’re wondering, “Hmmm, what can I get Katherine?”  Well, fret no more.  You still have a couple days to get me something, and I could always use sugar, unsalted butter, and tasteless red food coloring.  Thank you in advance  <3   Of course, if you’re really busy with last minute Christmas things, I guess I’ll understand.  You can just make it up to me for my birthday in 3 weeks. hahaha


Merry Christmas everyone!

I had planned to make crème brûlée @ some point this week but wasn’t sure when I would have the time.  Of course inspiration randomly bit me in the @ss as I was staring out the window on the LIRR, on my way home from a late evening out with a girl friend.  By “late” I mean the night ended @ 8:50 pm. On a work night.  OOOoooohhhh… totally girls gone wild, right?  hahaha  Anyway, after Vin picked me up and I put away the dishes to make room for the ones in the overflowing sink, I noticed that he was “photo-ing”.  And the “Inception” soundtrack was playing.  And I took this to be my cue to get started on the crème brûlée because the aforementioned “photo-ing” (a.k.a. “photo editing”) would take some time.  @ 11:40 pm.  On a work night.  I wasn’t feeling like I wanted to make the same old crème brûlée, which, I’ve made plenty of times before since it’s Vin’s favorite dessert. So after taking out the separated egg yolks (the whites are for macarons!), I came across imitation rum extract while rummaging through my random flavors.  I figured I might as well take a shot @ making something slightly different and thought eggnog would be perfect!  A splash of “rum” here, a dash of nutmeg there, a hint of cinnamon…. I sipped a taste and the flavors were pretty spot on.  And from what I gather, the actual recipe for eggnog is very similar to the pre-oven crème brûlée mixture anyway.  I filled the ramekins to the brim and the delicious holiday smell of ‘nog wafted from the oven.  


Right now the ramekins are cooling in the fridge.  I’ll have to post a picture of the actual brûlée’d caramel top tomorrow (err… later today) before we eat it.  Why not now?  It’s almost 2 in the morning and I’m in no mood for sugar now and… it’s a work night.  This midnight-insomnia baking is getting a bit out of hand…

Update 12/26/10: click here for a shot of a torched crème brûlée serving.


I had overly ambitious plans for myself this weekend: chocolate cupcakes for an order for a Christmas party and to bring in to work, macarons, crème brûlée, and I really wanted to make an edible Christmas tree out of frosting.  Not a big one, maybe 5-6″ or so.  I know, pretty modest dreams, right?  

I intended to get a start on this Friday night and bake all the cupcakes, but I didn’t feel so hot and needed sleep.  Bright and early Saturday morning, I got up and cleared out the kitchen counters so I could make an even bigger mess.  I’ve learned several things from this weekend’s baking episode: 
1) My KitchenAid monster can handle over 3 batches of cake mix, which translates to approximately 5 dozen regular cupcakes and 10 dozen mini cupcakes; 
2) I’m completely in the zone when I’m baking. Don’t sneak up on me or I’ll have a heart attack.  I didn’t hear Vin behind me while I was measuring ingredients and when he said, “How’s it going?” I almost screamed/fainted/spilled milk everywhere; 
3) I’ve realized I get a little nervous and antsy when there is less than 3 pounds of butter in my fridge or freezer @ all times.  This worries me for some reason.  Luckily, Stop & Shop had butter on sale and I stocked up and the world is @ peace again… for now;
4) Now that I have all the basic supplies I need, I think I have this thing down to a science; trays went in and out of the oven in an efficient, orderly, military-like fashion and I’m so awesome @ filling cupcake liners now that not a smudge of batter dripped onto the cake trays.  None. Nada. Zip.  Those babies stayed spotless during my baking frenzy and as silly as it sounds, I’m damned proud about this feat because my equipment will stay nicer longer… plus, I don’t have to spend all this time cleaning and scraping the burnt crud off the trays.  haha 

So the request was for chocolate cupcakes with peppermint frosting and crushed candy cane topping.  I honestly was worried that the frosting would end up tasting like toothpaste (kinda gross to eat), but Mr. Taste Tester said it was fine.  I ended up baking exactly 128 mini and 60 regular chocolate cupcakes that were pretty darn light and fluffy.  My only concern was the food coloring; once I added the red (two containers worth), I noticed a tinge of bitterness, but eaten with the cake and peppermint candy… it came out all right.  Initially, these were going to be topped with chopped candy canes but I was worried they’d crack everyone’s teeth, so I took out the Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender, Chopper and Ice Crusher and processed the hard candies into a powdery dust.  These ended up tasting and looking pretty good!

Bringing these into the office…
I only needed about 3 dozen for the Christmas party order.  The reason I made so many extra ones?  I’m giving them out on Monday as “thank you” gifts for my co-workers.  I won’t get into specifics about my day job, but I kind of-sometimes-occasionally-possibly, um… harass people for reports and information all day.  And I’m actually a really sweet and funny girl, but when it comes to work, I will hound you down and call and email and bug you until the job’s done and done well, dammit.  These cupcakes are my way of saying “Thank you SO much for all the help you’ve given in the past year and hopefully I won’t be @ the top of your sh*tlist for 2011!”  As you can see, I’ve bugged a lot of people.  I may have to bring in more on Tuesday…  =P

I think the crème brûlée and macarons will have to wait for tomorrow… plus, on Wednesday I have to bake again for another Christmas order: Raspberry frosting-filled chocolate cupcakes!

I stayed up late last night to make tiramisu.  I felt like it was a half-assed effort and that I did not do right by my favorite dessert because… I didn’t use legit ladyfingers.  I resorted to using these gluten-free ladyfingers because the regular kind just did NOT exist at the supermarket.  Which is kind of insane since there are pizzerias and Italian restaurants every 2 blocks, and tiramisu is an Italian dessert… so you’d think that ladyfingers would be a common find.  Nope.  These organic, gluten-free cookies were way overpriced and taste like Styrofoam.  I still went through with making the egg-sugar-mascarpone filling and hand-shaved chocolate for the small Tupperware-sized trial run of my caffeine + booze-filled dessert. 

It ended up tasting better than it looked.  Vin actually liked it (SCORE when my non-sweet tooth husband likes a dessert other than creme brulee!) because the filling tasted great.  I’m glad I didn’t completely butcher this thing!  Next time, I’m going to make my own savoiardi* from scratch.  Tiramisu take two will be SO much better, I promise!

*biscuits à la cuillère or boudoirs or ladyfingers