June 9, 2012

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April 4, 2012

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

I thought it would be fun to dye some eggs naturally this year. It's amazing what you can do with items in your refrigerator or pantry. I decided to try Turmeric, brewed Coffee, and Red Wine Vinegar. They all turned out lovely and since eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the morning is a regular occurrence of mine... eating a pretty hard boiled egg is even better. 

How to hard boil an egg:
Fill a medium pot with eggs and cover with about one inch of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let stand for ten minutes and put in an ice bath. Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. 

I have no specific recipe for the dyes I used. I added 1 tsp of vinegar to the coffee and used about 3 C water and 2 T of turmeric and 1 tsp vinegar for the yellow eggs. I like how bright they turned out with speckles, but I also really like the grayish-purple the red wine vinegar created. Check out Bon Appetit for some guidelines on other natural dyes.  

If you're not into chicken eggs, try Martha's Chocolate Truffle Eggs even though they are so gorgeous you won't want to eat them. Oh, who am I kidding, any kind of chocolate no matter how pretty must be eaten immediately! Happy Easter and Happy Egg Dyeing. 

March 28, 2012

Red Velvet Cake

I have a hard time passing up an opportunity to make someone a birthday cake, especially when that someone is a friend I've known for almost ten years. And even better, that someone really really likes my baking.
People have very different reactions to red velvet cake. Every time I mention it to one of my friends, she immediately quotes Steel Magnolias "... people are gonna be hacking into this poor animal and it'll look like its bleeding to death!" which she can do surprisingly well. And though these cupcakes were not tiny armadillos with gray icing, they were pretty tasty. Others have an aversion to using large amounts of food coloring and use beet powder to tint the cake, and some just stick with no food coloring since a true red velvet is not actually red (it's an ugly brownish color from the cocoa powder in the recipe). I like a red cake myself piled high with cream cheese frostingbut tend to alternate with regular buttercream depending on who I'm baking for. Both are delicious accompaniments to this lovely cake. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

March 1, 2012

Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream

Today I was assured, "It's soooo good." This is possibly one of the most unhealthy desserts I've made in a while, but who am I kidding - all dessert should be unhealthy! I'm referring to the most decadent chocolate ice cream with brownie chunks. Mmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it... silky chocolate ice cream with loads of pecan-studded, fudgey brownies. I had to keep myself from eating some every night this week. I left most of the ice cream for Michael and my father in law (visiting SF for a nerd conference as he likes to say) but I did cut myself a rather large slice of brownie one of those nights. Shhh, don't tell.

I've told you before how I adore David Lebovits. He's witty and silly and an incredible writer. This time, I made his basic chocolate ice cream recipe and added some brownies (another recipe of his). If you have an ice cream machine, I highly recommend his book, The Perfect Scoop. It has so many different recipes I can read for hours without making a decision. A while back I posted a Pumpkin Ice Cream and a Mint Ice Cream, both originating from his cookbook - both delicious.

The Chocolate Ice Cream is no where near low-fat and it contains both cocoa powder and dark chocolate. I changed it to dark chocolate instead of bittersweet/semisweet which by definition is hard to decipher. Dark chocolate may have less sugar and more chocolate"liquor" than bittersweet which is somewhere near this definition but probably contains more milk or sugar. Some brands may try and trick you, but a true dark chocolate should be at least 60% and my personal preference is 72%. Anything less and your ice cream will be very sweet. I used dark chocolate for the brownies too, making this a sophisticated ice cream I suppose. The brownies stayed deliciously chewy after freezing and alone are one of the best brownies I've had in a while.

Chocolate Ice Cream
Adapted (very slightly) from The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz
3 T cocoa powder
2 C heavy cream divided
3/4 C sugar
pinch of kosher salt or sea salt
5 oz dark chocolate chopped
5 egg yolks
1 C whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

Warm one cup of cream and cocoa powder in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, pour over the chocolate pieces and stir with a spatula until melted. Set a strainer over the top of this bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and prepare a bowl for an ice bath. 

Rinse the saucepan and add the remaining 1 C cream, and sugar over medium heat. Once warm, pour into the egg yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Return the pan the burner with the eggy mix and cook over medium heat (stir constantly with a heatproof spatule) until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. To test, run your finger along the spoon vertically. If the custard runs back over your swipe, keep cooking. If not, it's ready. Pour through the strainer into the chocolate mix. Stir over an ice bath until cooled. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours until the mix is very cold. If you let it go overnight your ice cream will have a pudding consistency and be quick to churn. DL says to whisk it until you can pour it into the machine but I did not and the ice cream was still tasty. Whisking just lends itself to a more airy ice cream, mine was a little more dense. 

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's recommendation. 

Chocolate Pecan Brownies
Adapted (very slightly) from The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz
1/2 C butter
4oz dark chocolate chopped
1 scant C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C flour
pinch of kosher salt
1 C chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line an 8 inch square pan with foil. Spray the foil and set aside. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until melted. Add the sugar and then the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and stir, then the flour. Stir until the flour is just incorporated and add the salt and nuts. 

To toast the nuts, sprinkle them into a dry pan and cook on medium heat until they become fragrant or taste like you want them to (my preferred method for checking doneness). 

Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Mine came out at 27 and I could have taken them out just a bit earlier. Cool in the pan. Remove the foil with the brownies and set on a cutting board. Chop the brownies into little pieces and refrigerate until your ice cream has churned. You'll want about 2 cups roughly chopped for the ice cream and the rest is up to you. 

February 23, 2012

Feed the Birds

Last year I obsessed about getting a humming bird feeder. It happened after a strange encounter in my garden with a little green hummingbird. I was watering my plants with a big hose and the tiny bird (we'll call him Ruby since I believe he was a Ruby-Throated hummingbird) flew under the hose and stared at the water for a while. Ruby was literally hovering about five inches below my hand. I didn't know what to do so I just kept the hose where it was. He eventually flew up and stared at me eye to eye. He stayed there for another 20 seconds and then promptly flew away. I felt a little like Cinderella (she had bird friends) and then I decided he was trying to deliver a message "I need some nectar and these plants aren't working for me!"

So I bought a cute little feeder and have been mother to a variety of hummingbirds since. I did my research and found that the red hummingbird food they sell everywhere is not good for their digestive tracts; no one likes red dye #40. The Lovely Lady Baker would have it no other way than to make some food from scratch each week. It's incredibly simple and I know I'm not going to kill any birds. Now, if I could just get rid of those pigeons...

Hummingbird Nectar
1 part sugar to 4 parts water

I started making 1/2 C sugar and 2 C water so that I could store it in my fridge and not have to make it as frequently.

Pour sugar and water into a heavy bottom small saucepan. Turn the heat on medium-high. If you have a gas stove, a good rule of thumb is to turn the fire up enough so that the flames are as wide as the pot but don't go up the sides. Bring to a light boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for one week. Replace as needed.

February 8, 2012

30 is the new 29

I know a lot of people born in 1982 and you know what that means... they will all be turning 30 this year. Thirty is a big deal. People have extravagant parties and destination parties and I happen to be going to two before May. I'm also happy to report I was born in '83. There is still time! Apparently I need to start planning something amazing. Oh, and I'll need to begin my list of Thirty before Thirty (the 30 things you want to accomplish before you turn thirty). Until then, I'll keep baking you cakes!

Heed these words of wisdom from Lucille Ball, "The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age." HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all my 30-somethings and a pre-happy birthday to those of you who will soon be thirty (aka my sister!).

Cakes worthy of a 30th Birthday Celebration

December 21, 2011

Merry Merry Gingerbread Men

I wish there was a magical recipe generator that combined the best recipes on one website... then I would waste less time looking through hundreds of recipes! Until this exists, I will trust a tried and true method... asking friends. My friend Nicole suggested I make a recipe for gingerbread cookies from Not Without Salt (a fantastic blog by the way). Nicole and I would make a mean baking duo if we lived in the same city again....

When I read through the recipe I was nervous about the amount of black pepper. I like spiced cookies, but was a little unsure of spicy cookies. Nicole assured me they were great, so in the end I used about half of the black pepper called for just to be sure. I made gingerbread cookies for a dinner party we had with some friends. I thought it would be fun to decorate them all together and it was! I'd like to make this into a tradition, decorating cookies that is, no matter who comes to the table. Traditions give meaning to otherwise meaningless baking and I think creating a tradition of gingerbread cookie decorating would be great.

(I added only 1 tsp of black pepper)

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