Last weekend, I just was craving a little bit of PB&J and PB and chocolate.  I’m not one to just stick my finger in a jar of peanut butter and eat it plain; I just wanted a tiny taste of it.  Preferably with a classic food pairing and a glass of non-dairy milk.  haha

Shop for Spooky Halloween Treats @ Beau-coup.com

Vin is a big PB guy so I just decided to make PB print cookies:  PB cookie dough with either a pointer finger or thumb print, and then filled the impression with either grape jelly or this dangerously amazing Jif Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut spread.  I’m not supposed to be eating any of the above, but I really wanted a little, itsy, bitsy bit…  and my reasoning was that Vin would like it, too, and I could bring them into work to share with friends.  =P

They came out so cute and tasty looking that I ended up eating 2 of each (oops).  Hey man, they were fresh from the oven and perfectly soft and chewy.  I gave Vin a few and packaged the rest in the fridge, estimating that I made about 36+ cookies.

Shutterfly Photo Books

I brought a small container of cookies to work to give my friend Diane.  It just so happened that on that day, I had just picked up molds of my teeth.  I had impressions taken a week before to get custom trays of my chompers for nighttime teeth grinding and gnashing purposes; the dentist was going to toss the molds so I asked if I could take them  =D  I displayed the molds on my desk and told D to come up and check them out, and she and I happened to have this silly idea to make a little movie of my “teeth” terrorizing and chomping down on a cookie.  D had fortuitously saved one last cookie, so our little project was definitely meant to be.

Given where we work we had access to a lot of video cameras and editing equipment, but given my position, using them for our goofy project would be a terrible idea.  haha  We decided that we would just take photos with my smartphone and use my little desk lamp to provide staged lighting (gotta love fluorescent office lights).  This was done during our lunch break and took all of 10 minutes; we both staged the props, I took the photos and D did the lighting.  She also strategically ate the cookie so the bite marks and crumbs were perfect.  ‘Twas was hilarious genius, it was.

Me: We’re like weird 5-year-olds with this idea.

D: No, we’re like normal 5-year-olds!

Me: This is true.

=)

That night I went home and put it together in MS Paint.  (This may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve been using MS Paint for ALL the beautiful baking related collages on this site.  *gasp*)  Et voila… our perfectly shot, beautifully edited, thoroughly developed, emotionally driven story with high tech special effects entitled “The Plight of the Cookie”:

The teeth and the cookie

 

Clip it!

I made THE ultimate summertime cupcakes, the kind you want on a nice sunny day to have at a family BBQ, babies are playing outside, disposable plates and plastic silverware are out, and flies are trying to get at your food.  Super light margarita cupcakes spiked with just enough tequila and lime-flavored tangy frosting are the perfect way to end your meal.  My inspiration: this huge tub of margarita mix I bought when I must have been completely out of it b/c I can’t have citrusy stuff or alcohol right now anyway.  But just b/c I can’t enjoy it doesn’t mean everyone else can’t.

A beautiful bevy of boozed up baked goods.

I wanted to make these for a while and had to wait for a legitimately nice summer day.  The weather this year has been a roller coaster ride: a couple extremely warm days in February and March and a crapload of chilly, rainy days in May.  So this weekend was perfect.  Originally, I had planned to make them for the T-house mega party on Saturday to celebrate Vin’s mom’s retirement, his sister’s birthday, and Father’s Day, but since we were out late on Friday night Johnny Prime style, I didn’t have any time to bake and make fresh frosting.  But after getting a good night’s sleep after Saturday’s festivities, I woke up and started getting my things together to bake and make citrusy icing.

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First thing’s first…  I WANTED to work on making gum paste flowers last weekend, but I spent a week reeling with excitement after seeing my steak cake featured on Yummly.  You probably already know about it b/c I spammed the crap out of everyone I knew to look @ the April Fool’s Yummly article showcasing cakes that looked like savory food  =)  I wouldn’t have known about it if my site didn’t send me emails to notify me regarding pingbacks and comments.  I received an email just as I was packing up my stuff @ work on Thursday, March 29 to go meet Vin for dinner, and it said that some site had linked my steak post.  I clicked the link and it took a couple minutes to register that I was looking @ a hugely popular food site and that third one down, right under Duff Goldman’s/Ace of Cake’s bag o’ bagels cake, was MY steak cake.  Initial reaction: “Wait. *gasp* Is that–holy f*cking sh*t my cake! That’s my cake! Oh my God! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” =D

Here's a screenshot for those of you who are too lazy to click the link... or if you've seen it I'm going to make you look @ it again anyway <3

The weekend came and I was still on a super giddy high about the cake feature. I had a couple baking orders for old coworker friends: one was for chocolate cupcakes with swirled pink and blue frosting for a relative’s birthday party (I threw in some hand piped rose minis for the hell of it); the other was for a red velvet cake with cream cheese for another friend’s birthday (actually on April Fool’s Day!) and I was just really happy to be able to see them in person and share the fun news.  And I was honored some of my F&F gave me props on their Facebook pages and told their F&F about it.  I was even kind of offered an assistant pastry chef position!  Unfortunately, the pay doesn’t come close to my day job, so sadly, I had to pass on that.  I was just thrilled and humbled to have this kind of recognition =)

Pink and blue swirl for V's grandmother's birthday and a frosting rose for good measure. I asked L if he happened to take any pics of the red velvet and cream cheese cake and he said he and his staff "dove right in" as soon as they smelled the frosting. hahaha

 

This past weekend, Vin and I celebrated Easter with his family.  It was a madhouse with the food and the babies all over the place and the weather was so nice… tons o’ fun in the sun on Sunday.  I spent the last few weeks trying to decide WTF to make for dessert and nothing really special came to mind.  My cousin T suggested I make a Peep cake but I wasn’t feeling the idea (or “fillin’ it” as they say on ABDC).  The day before Easter rolled around and I was like, “I GUESS I’ll make macarons…?”  Vin and I were out most of the day on Saturday on a photo excursion, and by the time we got home, we were pooped.  I took a nap and didn’t start measuring the almond flour and weighing egg whites until… ohhhh… I don’t know… 130 am Saturday night/Sunday morning.

A nest of Easter rabbit macarons

I saw some holiday dessert ideas and wanted to try making the macs in the shape of bunny rabbits.  It got really annoying trying to pipe the ears because the more I handled the egg-almond-sugar mixture, the more “liquid” it became.  My first attempts @ bunnies came out so much better than the blobular final attempts.  After I while, I just gave up on piping bunny shapes and just made circles.

I put lighter colored tiny blobs on some of the circles so they’d look like fluffy rabbit tails.  HOWEVER, they seemed to resemble other things, mostly b/c I wasn’t thinking @ 2 am and should have used food coloring to dye the mix another color.  Seriously, I looked @ the tray after I took them out of the oven and there were rows of what looked like boobs and just thought, “… oh sh*t.”  I was too tired to make more tails in another color so I just kept them anyway.  And I’d like to keep my site relatively PG soooo… please keep your comments to yourselves about the baked bunny backsides.  =D

A close up of the cute faces and the... uh, tails.

Anyway, I was getting fed up with having to individually place all the sprinkles on the rabbit faces with tweezers and they’d either fall off or sink into the cookie, so I ended up with only a handful of rabbits.  Vin asked if they were Asian Easter bunnies b/c he thought the top whiskers were eyes.  haha   (I JUST remembered I have eyeball sprinkles I could have used; they would look more freakish than cute though b/c the eyeballs are pretty big…)  I used double chocolate frosting as the filling and sandwiched the salvageable bunny faces with the nipple-like tails and put them into the fridge so I wouldn’t have to look @ them.

For some reason, I wasn’t sure if this batch of macarons came out right and I was concerned they were overbaked (they ended up being perfectly fine; I just worry too much), so I decided to bring back up desserts if the macs were a complete flop.  Remember the extra chocolate mini cupcakes I put in the freezer from the 1920s charity event that I said I’d save for a rainy day?  I felt like it was practically pouring in my kitchen last night.  I took out the rest of the mini chocolate cupcakes and the mini red velvet cupcakes left over from last week’s baking order and used the rest of the pink, blue, and cream cheese frosting to put different designs and swirls on each cupcake.

Blue vanilla-rum blossoms on mini chocolate cupcakes

I did a basic swirl of blue for a bunch of them and thought it looked kinda “blah” and plain for Easter, so I mixed a little green frosting (blue –> green = easy!) and piped some leaves and tweezered on some edible beads to make them look more like springtime flowers.  I piped pink frosting on the rest of the chocolate minis and started to place white sugar beds on them, but then I got sick of tweezing them on one by one so I left the rest.  And the red velvet minis? I piped the cream cheese frosting on @ factory machine speed just so I could be done with all this and catch some Z’s.  haha

Red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese and chocolate mini cupcakes with pink vanilla-rum frosting

Since special occasions call for special displays, I took brought my prized cake stands to Easter dinner (my precious–es…).  One of my cousins gave me this beautiful light blue plate that had little birds on it and it was absolutely perfect for spring.  I showcased the macaron bunnies and round cookies atop a cushion of festive yellow “grass”.  The pink-chocolate mini cupcakes and the red velvet ones were stacked on my glass tiers, and the flower-like blue minis were placed on the white ceramic stand Vin’s mom gave me.  After spending so much time on these, dessert was the last thing I wanted to look @, but I’m glad Vin’s fam liked them.  The plate of macs I brought was practically empty by the end of dinner.  I had some extra macaron cookies (I was extra critical and called them “rejects”) and decided to whip up some peanut butter frosting and use some leftover chocolate icing.  The result? Reese’s macs.  They were oh-so-tasty and I had quite a few leftover (I can only forcefeed Vin so much dessert) so I brought them in for my new work buddies.  It was a win-win situation for all; I got my fridge space back and people are now obligated to be nice to me when I audit them b/c I gave them delicious baked goods.  (Juuuuust kidding!)  =D

Platters of all my Easter goodies!

But yeah, next Easter I think I should just make a basic Peep cake so I can actually get some sleep before the fun festivities. =)

 

**Vin took all the really nice pics… thanks baby!  <3

Bacon cornbread with Sriracha & truffle salt butter

A few weeks ago, my cousin and I were griping about how certain foods have become ridiculous fads.  I was rolling my eyes about how Sriracha sauce was EVERYWHERE as a go-to ingredient and was seen in every other cooking show like it had JUST been discovered, and my cousin was disgusted with the bacon-everything craze and how it abuses the privilege of enjoying bacon.  It got to the point where we tried to think of the craziest food product that contained the most overhyped ingredients, and we came up with: truffle and bacon bread with artisanal cheese and ramps topped with Sriracha crème fraîche with a side of foie gras and a cupcake (ok, that last one hit home a little, but I agree; it’s totally trendy  hahaha).  As my cousin said, “I love those things independently, but together, it’s grotesque.”

These look fancy enough to be served at a trendy restaurant. Let’s see who steals this snack… watch, it’ll be on “Top Chef” or “Chopped” or something soon  =P

All our bitching aside, I didn’t have any orders this weekend so I had some free time to experiment and decided to basically make a grotesque concoction of our fad food pet peeves… well, minus the ramps (they don’t exist in the ‘burbs of LI), the crème fraîche (I COULD have made it @ home, but it would have taken a couple days and I didn’t feel like waiting when I could just watch the “South Park” episode  instead), foie gras (see explanation for “ramps” above… Vin and I were overjoyed to have found bone marrow a few times @ the supermarket but it’s not a readily available product), and the cupcake (I hadn’t baked cakes since Vin’s steak cake and unfortunately we had to throw out the leftovers.  Like steak, cake and fondant don’t last forever).  I ended up making cornbread mixed with bacon and Vermont white cheddar cheese (aged… in our fridge) with Sriracha butter and truffle-seasoned salt (yes, it’s a knock-off, but truffles are wicked expensive and if anyone wants to buy me one, be my guest).  And the kicker is… “grotesque” ended up looking AND tasting pretty good.  I made different variations of it: one with the elegant swirl of spicy orange-hued butter topped with a bacon crisp, and the other had chopped candied bacon bits sprinkled on it.  I only had a square of cornbread and bacon since any more would be pushing it and I’d be back in the hospital, but it really wasn’t too bad with the light hint of brown sugar.  Vin said it was pretty tasty, too.  Either way, the Sriracha butter was surprisingly delicious.  That stuff is a keeper.  And I can say that b/c I’ve pretty much been eating Sriracha w/Viet food since I was born and I keep a stockpile of it in our basement.  Like butter, I’d get antsy if we were ever down to the last bottle.  haha 

Toffee and chocolate cake cookie bars

I actually wanted to make something more elaborate like macarons or a specialty cake this weekend, but I had a migraine yesterday and my head was pounding too much to prep in advance for major baking projects.  I still felt the cloudiness in my head and had bouts of “fuzzy vision” today, but I had to bake SOMETHING.  Yet I felt the trendy cornbread was too quick and easy, so I rummaged up some dark chocolate and crushed Heath bar cookies, but baked them in the same square-shaped pan as the cornbread (I really like this shape) so it came out a bit more like cake.  Two baked items in one afternoon… not too shabby, eh?

 

Close up of my fondant flowers

I took last weekend off to visit my cousin in DC and we indulged in Viet food and ogled watched “Thor.”  Both activities were quite awesome.  =)  And since the silly “Rapture” didn’t happen this weekend (or, I just wasn’t taken), I baked salted caramel & candied bacon brownies.  Because it was a relatively easy order (OK, OK… so “easy” is subjective; I meant I didn’t really have to use the big stand mixer for this one since I had made the caramel frosting in advance and brownies require manual wooden spoon stirring), I did a quickie personal project afterward =)  It’s not like I have extra free time; I did 3 loads of laundry in-between baking and playing with food coloring (see below)… it was just that I didn’t feel like dusting or vacuuming.  haha

Candied bacon & salted caramel brownies

After I cooked, candied and chopped the bacon, frosted the caramel icing, and sprinkled pink Hawaiian sea salt on the brownies, I neatly packaged the brownies in a pink cake box.  The in-between steps required a lot of hand-washing since I was running up and down the stairs loading/unloading the washer/dryer and getting cocoa or bacon grease on clothes would be the end of the world (pun!).  But since this really didn’t require a lot of time or agonizing decorating compared to my other baking projects, I wanted to try a simple fondant design.

The entire random design

I had seen cherry blossoms on fondant cakes, and it seemed pretty and easy enough, so I did a haphazard riff on buds/blooms/branches on fondant.  While I caught up on “The Office” (man, it’s not the same without Steve Carrell) and “SNL” (I have newfound respect for Justin Timberlake), I alternated from kneading little individual balls of brown, green, yellow and white fondant with scrubbing my hands raw before touching the laundry.   It’s not like I have ADD (@ least I don’t think I do?), but I just need to do something with my hands sometimes.  And due to the aggravation of my adoring husband, I can’t really sit still for long. This was just a way to wind down while still being productive or I would have gone to bed wired, still thinking about my mile long “to do” list.  This was just practice, I guess.  I don’t really have proper tools for fondant yet… just a rolling pin and a couple shape cutouts of circles and leaves.  I shaped the branches by hand (they looked like worms) and punched out green leaves with metal cutters.  The odd experimental flowers were made from circles I formed into buds or had taken a knife to and cut tiny slices out of to look like four-petaled blooms.  To make them look more “unique”, I put a blue sugar bead as the pistil.  The finished design didn’t look half bad for an entirely-fondant decoration… maybe next time I’ll actually try decorating this on layered cakes (or stacked boxes that will end up LOOKING like cakes).

Stay tuned for next week’s baking adventure: Vin’s birthday cake  <3

**Pictures to follow later. 

I didn’t have time to make macarons last night as intended, so I was determined to stay up and bake them tonight.  This time, I made three different kinds of cookies (vanilla, chocolate, and coffee) and TONS of fillings: caramel icing, Nutella, strawberry spread, coconut frosting, candied bacon, Bailey’s mint icing, peanut butter frosting, tiramisu cream… the permutations are endless.  Thanks to our mini fridge/freezer in the basement, I was able to make these fillings in advance and store them… otherwise I’d have boring PBJ macarons to blog about again. 

Originally, I wanted to make Snickers-flavored macarons: chocolate cookies with peanut butter and caramel filling.  But then I thought of more combinations… like chocolate or vanilla cookie with candied bacon and caramel… or coffee cookie with Bailey’s frosting… or coffee cookie with tiramisu filling and cocoa… or… chocolate cookie with peanut butter frosting… or coconut cookie and pineapple filling… or I could go on, but let’s be reasonable here.  It’s 330 am.  It’s a time consuming process as it is with one cookie flavor and 2 fillings, so baking 100+ cookies in small batches and 234892 icing combos pushed my limit.  I wasn’t able to frost all the cookies and use all the fillings I wanted because I decided I needed to get to bed @ some point.  Watch, I’ll wake up bright and early @ 5 am and not have puffy eyes and be fine in the morning but crash @ 2 in the afternoon @ my desk.  hahaha

This time, the macaron-making posed a bit of a challenge since I had an off-amount of egg white (about 7 and 1/3 or 1/2 eggs… don’t ask) so I had to do some calculations to figure out how many grams of sugar and ground-up almonds I needed to maintain proper proportions for the recipe.  I have a feeling I was a little off in my math or I mixed the eggs two seconds too long because the first batches were trial and error.  Again.  Which shouldn’t have happened since this is my third time making macarons.  I should be able to make these in my sleep (I guess baking @ 2 am is pretty close to sleeptime).  After some tweaking with the temperature and timing, I THINK I was able to fix it and not butcher all the cookies.  Since it’s way too late to get Vin’s opinion, I tried a bite of each flavor and conceded that they came out all right, some batches better than others, but let’s put it this way: all of them will be eaten and enjoyed  =)

I packed a container for Vin’s lunch with one of each macaron: one coffee and Bailey’s mint cookie, one chocolate cookie with peanut butter and caramel frosting with Nutella, and one vanilla cookie with salted caramel icing and candied bacon.  Let’s see what my taste tester says about the cookies tomorrow!  Hopefully the reaction will be positive so he can take better photos with his camera…

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”  =)