Thursday, December 23, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - December 2010

The 2010 December Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie's Baking. She chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend's family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinharts book....and Martha Stewart's demonstration.

I was especially excited for this month's DB challenge, being December and all. Many in the group, including myself, were afraid it would be fruit cake. Though stollen, a German Christmas bread, contains fruit and nuts, it's bread, not that nasty rum soaked door stop of a cake.

Having never made stollen before, I stuck pretty close to the original recipe, using raisins, orange scented dried cranberries, candied citrus peel, and almonds. Be warned: this makes quite a hunk of dough. As you can see, my regular wooden rolling pin was no match, and I had to break out my 20" pin I use for fondant. When all was said and done, the dough, when rolled out completely, was larger than the 20" pin! Part of the challenge was to shape the dough like a wreath. This was a lovely touch for the holiday season. To top it all off, the bread is traditionally coated in alternating layers of melted butter and powdered sugar -- 3 layers each. I figured one fairly generous layer of butter and sugar would be more than enough, and it most certainly was.

This recipe is definitely a keeper, but only for company, 'cause this thing was huge (I baked it on a 16" pizza pan)!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - Nvember 2010

The 2010 November Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers' to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi's Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Though I make many things from scratch, I had never made any type of pie crust. I'd heard enough horror stories, and decided it wasn't worth the fuss. Especially since I'm not really a pie kind of girl. For this month's challenge, we were to make pasta frolla, as sweet pie/tart dough, and shape it into a crostata, an Italian tart. The filling was up to the baker, and I immediately knew I wanted to use Dorie Greenspan's recipe for almond cream. Just before receiving the challenge, I'd been reading DG's Baking, and it sounded amazing. I paired the almond cream with cherry preserves. Not a bad filling, but entirely too sweet! Yes, too sweet, even for me! The Artist thought is was good and ate nearly the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge - October 2010

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I was very excited about this challenge, looking to kick it up a notch from the National Doughnut Day adventure. At The Artist's request, I got things rolling with chocolate doughnuts.

They looked pretty good, but the dough was pretty gooey, so when I went to fry them, they formed a battered crust on the outside. They also got a bit burned, so the outsides were very crispy. I don't fry all that often, and it showed with this challenge. redeem myself, I went out to Sur La Table and bought a mini doughnut pan. This pan baked up the cutest little pumpkin doughnuts! Much tastier, and much easier. The doughnuts bake up in only five minutes. You're never far from doughnuts with this pan.

I quickly dusted the pumpkin doughnuts with cinnamon sugar. Soft and yummy, it's way too easy to eat a whole dozen; especially when they're only about an inch wide =).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No Knead to Exagerrate

Hmmm...Remember in the spring, wen I was quite intrigued by the books Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes s Day? Well, not so much, anymore. At the time, I was willing to accept the books' premise: You could make perfectly good bread by stirring a few things together, and wait for it to rise WITH NO KNEADING.

Not anymore. I was making pumpkin pie brioche from Healthy Bread, and after nearly 2 hours, all I had was a dry-ish scraggly looling lump of dough that had not risen at all. Something told me to knead it, though the authors adamantly tell you in their books not to do so. What could it hurt? Kneading it would either improve it, or leave me with the same scraggly lump of dough. Still mindful of the authors' warning, I lightly kneaded for a minute or two, then covered it with plastic wrap. I swear I could see it start to rise immediately. I left it there for about half an hour, poked it. Rolled it out , spread with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter...shaped it into cinnamon rolls....let them proof....popped them into the over for 20 minutes. These were awesome!

I have to admit, while I absolutely love cooking and baking, bread baking had never been my forte, so...these books seemed to cut out the middleman (kneading). The resulting flavor was OK, but kind of hard and dry if any more than 20 minutes out of the oven. And not much to look at, either. My loaves were higher than a cracker, but not as lofty as a full loaf of bread. As a result, I haven't made much more than pizza dough since spring.

After my kneading experiment, I had full, pillowy rolls that were still a nice, soft texture. I'm now a believer in kneading!

BUT -- to the artisans of the Bread in 5 'knead' to exaggerate your techniques to sell a book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall is in the Air

Ahhh, fall. There's something about fall and 'fall' foods, like pumpkin. I've never picked a pumpkin, been to a pumpkin patch, or carved a jack o' lantern, but I love pumpkin baked goods -- muffins, bread, cake, donuts, etc. I had the better part of a can of pure pumpkin in the fridge (leftover from the DB doughnut challenge), and was trying to figure out how to use it. So, my eyes were peeled for any pumpkin goodies that sounded interesting. After seeing a few similar posts, I decided that pumpkin cinnamon rolls were in order.

To go the easy route, I chose the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Brioche from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. (This recipe was the lynchpin in my Healthy Bread in 5 rant from a few posts back.)

For the filling, I threw together some brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkled it on to the dough after smearing it with a smidge of butter -- sorry, no measurements!

Let the sliced rolls rise, bake, and voila!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge - Sept 2010

The September 2010 Daring Baker's Challenge was hosted by Mandy of "What the Fruitcake?!" Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and the Joy of Baking.

While sugar cookies are not a new challenge for me, the theme of the cookies was "September". Hmmmm, what does 'September' mean? I thought of bushel baskets of leaves, acorns, and apples. Red ones, and green ones, and caramel covered ones!

I wanted to add to the September/apple theme, I wanted to make an apple-y flavored cookie -- something like cinnamon sugar cookies with apple filling. Sounded good, but I made sandwich cookies with a fall spice buttercream instead.

My first DAring Baker challenge was a lot of fun, and if I do say so myself, was a success! CAn't wait for the October challenge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bagel BLTs

Continuing on my bread baking journey, I decided to try my hand at bagels!

Modifying a recipe from Cooking Light, I made whole wheat 'everything' bagels. And what to do with them once they were done? Well, bacon makes everything better. So,....Bagel BLTs!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Homemade hot sauce

We are hot sauce junkies at our house. We keep a couple of types on hand at all times, because you never know what you might want to put it on. But, i the grand scheme of things, hot sauce is kind of expensive. So, jackpot bingo when I saw this post in the New York Times! I made immediate plans to make it after a trip to the DeKalb Farmer's Market. I was ready to throw every pepper they had into the pot!

For the first try, I held back and tried to stick to the recipe. They only had 3 red habaneros peppers (all the rest were green -- I figured they wouldn't be hot), so I subbed in 2 serrano peppers. Three red and three green habaneros plus 2 serrano peppers cost me all of 26 cents! Can't beat that with a stick.

Right now, I'm on day 2 of the 3 day setting process. I am SOOOOOOOOOO ready to taste the final product. Of course, I did sneak a taste when it came off the stove. It definitely had some zip. I don't know if the wait period is going to increase the flavor, mellow it out, or what. Tomorrow's going to be taco night --- a perfect time to crack this baby open!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My First Cake Order

Yeah! I just completed my first ever cake order! 200 red velvet wedding cupcakes!

How do you bake 17 dozen cupcakes in a regular home kitchen without losing your mind?


1. Set a schedule. Each day before the wedding, I accomplished a different task. For example, two weeks ahead of time, I did a test run with the giant cupcake (Remember "Chris and the Giant Cupcake"?). One week before, I molded the giant cupcake wrapper out of fondant and left it to dry. On Thursday, I made 15 or so pounds of cream cheese frosting. On Friday, I did all the baking. And on Saturday, I decorated and delivered the cupcakes.

2. Be flexible. My original plan was to use an idea from Hello, Cupcake! to use a large freezer bag to portion out the batter evenly. Well, it worked great for the first two batches. When I went to pick up the bag to fill the next batch, the bag had a gazillion holes in it. (NOTE: Red velvet cake contains vinegar. Not much, but enough to completely eat through a freezer bag in 15 minutes.)

I also planned to speed things along by baking 2 trays at a time. My oven is much colder on the bottom than the top. The cupcakes didn't bake evenly, so I resorted to one pan at a time.

3. Be organized. The weekend before the wedding, I portioned out all of my dry ingredients into my own little cake mixes. On baking day, I laid out everything in sets. Unfortunately, this didn't prevent me from forgetting the vanilla extract in the first 3 dozen cupcakes. OOPS!

All in all, I think the cupcakes turned out great, and the bride was pleased. I look forward to the future when I have a professional grade kitchen and a truck or van -- squeezing 200 cupcakes into the back of a Nissan worked, but it took some doing.

The finished product:

And the happy couple, perched upon their giant cupcake:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chris and the Giant Cupcake

Now, who doesn't love a cupcake? And even if you could pass on a cute little bite size cupcake, could you really pass up a GIANT cupcake? I surely can't. Neither could The Artist. He appears to be spellbound.....

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's Doughnut Day!

Today is National Doughnut Day! At least two of your local doughnut shops are giving away free doughnuts today, and I had every intention of getting one. But, life gets in the way...

I was THIS close to making a 30 min trip to get one measly free doughnut when I remembered my latest bookstore bargain table find: Snack Cakes for Dummies. I'm no dummy, but it's a nifty little book, especially for $3.99. And just as I was headed out the door to snag my freebie, I remembered that this book had an entire chapter on doughnuts.

A totally impromptu experiment. I wanted to make Devil's Food Doughnuts, cocoa powder (No idea how that happened. I always have cocoa powder on the shelf). So I turned the page, and there were buttermilk doughnuts. Luckily, they required the same amount of flour (I only had half of the amount needed of that. Note to self: go grocery shopping) that I had already measured out, and proceeded to make half a batch of buttermilk doughnut holes. Actually, sour cream doughnut holes, because I didn't have any buttermilk, and the 2% was expired.

Whipped up a batch of doughnut ...dough? batter? stuff? and fried it up (BTW, used up the last of the canola oil, too).

Some got tossed in powdered sugar, and for the rest, I whipped up an impromptu lemon glaze. I may not have flour or milk, but do actually have 6 lbs. of confectioner's sugar, and that is no exaggeration!

At first bite, I didn't feel too impressed. They definitely weren't Krispy Kreme, but they weren't the frosted bread of Dunkin' Donuts, either. Not too bad, as you can see by the nearly empty plate below:
Enjoy the doughnuts. I'm off to the grocery store.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Playing Catch Up

Sorry for not posting more regularly. The spring semester was busy, to say the least. Because we obviously had to eat, I made things, but somehow never got around to posting.

So, here's a quick "Semester in Review" of things I've made lately.

Birthday cake for a neighbor:

Barbecue chicken braid:
Homemade buttercream fondant on a cookie:

Deep dish pizza:

Trying out a new cake recipe as cupcakes:

Happy caking!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Do you remember one of Martin Lawrence's catchphrases: "DANG, GINA!"? Well, after trying this Memphis Mud Pie reipe, that's all I could say. Especially since it came from Gina Neely of Down Hone with the Neely's. I'm so glad the semester is over...I haven't gotten to watch them in forever.

This pie has it all: Oreo crust, chocolate brownie like filling, nuts, whipped cream, and a scoop of ice cream made it even better! Enjoy!!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pita Pita Pita!

See those? Those are homemade pita pockets, fresh from the oven. I made them using a recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This has got to be my new favorite cookbook (or book). Everything tastes great. Though I wish they'd mentioned the use of vital wheat gluten in this book. I had to go digging in their second book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, to grab that little nugget. I'll save that for another post.

I've been on a Mediterranean kick lately, and wanted to create the yumminess without the expense of going out. Artisan Bread and Cooking Light to the rescue. Homemade pita stuffed with spicy chicken shawarma, bhaba ghanouj and tabbouleh. I made the pita, The Artist made the chicken shawarma.

It's not cake, but it was good!

Happy Easter

No Easter treats for us this weekend, but I did make a quick red velvet cake for dear friends in town for a mini vacay!

We forgot to take pictures before it was cut!
Enjoy the day with your friends and family.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baker's Bread Basket

Have you ever had the pleasure of eating a slice of fresh, home baked bread? Have you ever thought about making it yourself? Probably not...the measuring, sifting, kneading, rising, doubling, punching...that's a lot of work.

Well, that's all about to change. In Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, a physician/home cook pairs up with a pastry chef to create a volume of easy peasy bread recipes that can be whipped up in five minutes, and stored in the fridge for two weeks. With minimal prep and only a little planning, you can have fresh baked bread!

I'd been waiting for this book from the library, and it became available just in time for Spring Break!

My first experiment was with the classic, simple, and straight forward Boule. We planned to have homemade pizza for dinner on Friday, and I thought this would be a good way to test the dough. Of course, I had to "test" it before pizza night. So, I grabbed a glob of dough, thinned it out, and threw it in a frying pan -- my version of flat bread.

IT WAS GOOD! Alright, we're on to something. Pizza time.

Oops. Don't try to be a professional baker at home unless you have professional tools. I tried to follow their directions and heat the heat the oven to 550, sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza stone (I used the back of a cookie sheet), then transfer the dough to the extremely hot pizza stone. Don't try this if you don't have a pizza peel, or your dough has holes in it.

My dough wrinkled as I was laying it out, and it became a funky, twisted branched dough blob. But, I baked it anyway, and it was great. It would have made the perfect pizza crust...chewy, crispy...Sigh. But never fear, dinner was still a few hours away, so I whipped up a batch of Olive Oil Dough. It sounded more pizza worthy, AND IT WAS!

I also made Buttermilk Cinnamon Raisin Bread. Maybe I'm too used to commercially produced bread, this looked like a loaf of ciabatta. Don't get me wrong. I looove ciabatta. But I was expecting a big fluffy loaf of bread.
However, don't let the outside fool ya. This bread was awesome -- way better than the dry, fluffy, mashable stuff from the grocery store.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Coming Soon!

Hi all,

Going away for the weekend, but when I come back, I've got plans...As it will be Spring Break, I'll have time to try some things: French toast cupcakes, 5 minute Artisan bread, cake balls, and cookies for a friend! STAY TUNED.....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy V-day! I hope you got to spend today with the one you love. If you're unattached: love yourself, and live it up.

The Artist has got to be the BEST husband ever. We usually don't have a big whoop to do on Valentine's Day. We met on FEbruary 7th, so usually celebrate our love sometime in between. But this year we celebrated V-day on V-day, and he cooked for me! He does cook from time to time, but today, he went all out!

Teriyaki Chicken Wings....

Shrimp Kebabs....

Rib-eye Steaks....

Garlic Mashed Potatoes...

and Broccoli... (we needed something green)

And it was all absolutely delicious. Completely from scratch (he even roasted garlic). With no help from me. I was quite impressed.

But, what is Valentine's Day without a little bit of chocolate? Or a few strawberries? OK,...a lot of chocolate. And Nutella. And strawberries. And almonds.

I introduce to you my favorite new cake: Chocolate with Nutella Buttercream!!! (Sorry, red velvet) Coated in sliced almonds, and topped with the biggest strawberries I've ever seen (This is only a 6" round cake, BTW)

They were so big, I couldn't help but dip them in chocolate too!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who Needs Flowers?

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

I just had to show off these super cute, super easy cookie creations! Yesterday, I had a cookie demo at Michael's. Valentine's cookies was the theme, and to drum up business for future classes, I decided to feature a cookie blossom. What, you ask, is a cookie blossom? Well, keep reading....

First, there are sugar cookies baked onto sticks...

Naked cookies aren't exactly blog worthy, sooo....we had to get all dressed up. CUTE.

Wrapped and ready to go...

Tucked into a cute V-Day bucket.

If you're in the Atlanta area and want to learn how to make these yourself, I will be holding a two session cookie blossom class in late March. Send an email ( to get on the mailing list for more details.

Friday, February 5, 2010's been awhile

WOW. Well, a belated Happy New Year to everyone! I just realized today that I haven't posted in a while. I didn't realize that I hadn't posted since Thanksgiving. I haven't had a whole lot of time, but here a few photos to get you up to date:

Another shot of Thanksgiving's Red Vevlvet Cake, featuring a basketweave design on top.

And, making their debut appearance on my blog.....(drumroll, please).... COOKIES! Even better, CHRISTMAS Cookies. I made these for a Wilton Cookie Exchange Demo. My first time really doing color flow work, but I think they were quite cute. If you're into cute cookies, check out my new fave sweets blog: Bakeat350.

Here's another rendition of the Oreo Cookies and Cream Cake. This is the first cake (or first anything, actually) that I ever made for my inlaws. It was my contribution to the New Year's Eve festivities. After The Artist, his brother and his dad got to it, half was gone before anyone else even saw it! I also made a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting to take to The Artist's Grandma's house for New Year's Day. She gave everyone a chance to get a slice. BUT, after a polite amount of time had passed, she hid what was left in the back of the fridge! Must have been good..hee hee.

That's it for now, but I'll be back soon. Valentine's cookies are in the oven as I type! Stay tuned.

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