Archive for April, 2011

Pipe Dream #15: To Be A Microwave Maven

A few days ago, I softened butter just right. Sometimes, I get lazy and don’t soften things as I should. In light of this, I have decided to post a full-blown tutorial. I  know. And you’re saying, “It has been done so many times, Lauren! Why don’t you just leave it to the pros, like Pioneer Woman?”
To which I say, I can blog a tutorial if I want to. So read on, unless you are now engrossed in PW’s website. I really should do an ode to PW at some point, I try enough of her sa-weet recipes.
The following is my general procedure when softening butter in The Apartment Microwave:
I keep the butter in it’s wrapping. If you don’t melt the butter, the wrapper actually keeps the butter in pretty well, makes for less cleanup later and (bonus!), it won’t blow up in the microwave like aluminum foil or forks. Did you know it is bad news to put forks in the microwave? It is. I’ve never done that before.
I could mess around with power levels on the microwave, but I’m too lazy, so I just keep it at 100 percent and set the timer for 30 seconds. Depending on the amount of butter you use, you might need to use more or less time. In this case, I used two sticks.
Let the microwave run for about 5 seconds–just in case! Then poke the butter.
Does it feel soft? No? Then flip the butter to another side to guard against melty spots, and let it go for another five seconds. Keep flipping and poking until the butter yields a a bit but is not melted.
This maybe seems a little tedious, but I guess it is less tedious than staring at a stick of butter for a couple hours, waiting for it to lose its refrigerator memory.
Note: I when R and I went up north last time, we found a book from the 80s all about cooking in microwaves. Pot roast, brownies, jello salad. You name it, it was in there. I’m real real sorry I don’t have a picture; it was priceless. Super weird, though. Please never bake a cake in the microwave.
Other side note: I realize that this post should be titled “What Do You Think I Am, Lauren–Stupid?” You probably know how to use a microwave. I just needed a little boost today. At least I can say that I have achieved one of my pipe dreams–to be a microwave maven.
Carry on,
Lauren
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Favorite Shots: 150 Birdies

This picture was shot right near my house. I printed out a 10×13 and hung it in an enormous new frame from Target that I got at a thrift store for $4. I love thrift stores. The janky Salvation Army by my house was recently revamped. And I’m so happy about that.

A couple more of my recent finds:

Ok, quick summary of this post:

Birdies, thrift stores, shoes. Good.

Over and out,

L

Pipe Dream #14: To Be Little Debbie – Oatmeal Cream Pies with Cinnamon Buttercream

Because butter is such a prized commodity in my house, and I use it so often, I try and do a little research before I dive into a new recipe. For example, I could google ‘vanilla cupcakes recipe’ and the first link might be moist and flavorful, or it could be a total bust. No one likes a dry, vanilla-less vanilla cupcake.

Instead of just printing off the first recipe to meet mine eyes, I usually poke around a bit, read comments, compare ingredients, that sort of thing. In the end, I can either find a recipe that is perfect, or I can adjust a decent recipe to be as I think it should be (which as we know, could be not so great, but we’ll just pretend I have brilliant baking ideas all the time).

In the case of these oatmeal cream pies, which were slapped together very quickly on a Monday morning, I did not do the proper research. They were good, but the cookie was not as soft as I would have liked. No one complained about the cinnamon buttercream, though. That was real good. It was a little different, you know? Not your average Little Debbie cream filling. It was very whippED.

Which pleased me and the b stud girlies.

I don’t eat all these by myself. Usually,

L

Oatmeal Cream Pies with Cinnamon Buttercream

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

For the cookies:
1-¼ cup Flour
1-½ cup Old Fashioned Oats
½ teaspoons Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
1 stick Butter, Softened
¾ cups Packed Brown Sugar
1 whole Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For the buttercream:
3 cups Powdered Sugar
1 stick Butter, Softened
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Milk

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and mix until smooth, then add the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Bake 1 Tablespoon-sized (or a bit smaller; mine were a bit large) balls of dough on a lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool while preparing the filling.

For the filling, cream together the powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add the cinnamon, vanilla extract and milk and whip on high speed for five minutes until very light and fluffy.

To prepare cream pies, the original recipe uses a piping bag to dole out the frosting. I used a spoon. Not as pretty, but not the worst, and I’m all for not cleaning out another piping tip.

Pipe Dream #13: To Be An Art Major

I’m not exactly an artist. I mean, I’m not an art major from the U of M. And if I became one, it would mean that I’ve been mocking myself for the last three years. And heaven knows I could never mock myself.  … :]

No, I am a PR major. Linear, inside the box. An ISFJ. I am working on developing my creative side. The side that can envision weirdness and beauty and then execute it. I get jealous of people who have vision, like my roommate. She is a real artist.


So many of my photos edits are just heightened contrast and saturation followed by a quick sharpen. That’s fine mostly–some things are just as awesome in real life as they appear.


Anyway, I tried putting creative energy into the edits here. I walk a fine line, I know. To become West Bank may never happen for me, but I can dream, eh?

I wore my lace-up boots today,

L

Pipe Dream #12: To Blog Fruits In Season – Blood Orange Cupcakes

Another citrus cake post, Lauren? Yes.

I like the idea of blood oranges more than I like blood oranges. This is likely due to the fact that I have never had a really good blood orange. They are only in season for about two weeks. Don’t let your neighborhood Rainbow deceive you–I know they carry them from December to July. But somehow, one in three blood oranges I buy looks like this on the inside, when they should look more, well, bloody.

That is not my hand, by the way. My nails are nubs compared to that slender elegance.

Also, I just decided that I don’t mind that “blood oranges” sounds kind of gory. It’s romantic.

Anyway, as in other posts where I’ve blogged about seasonal recipes, I regret to admit that this one is not in season either. But you can’t blame me, right? Not when blood oranges have a two-week season?

These cupcakes were an experiment. A fabulous experiment. I got the idea partly from seeing blood oranges at the grocer, which triggered memories of eating those chocolate oranges at Christmas. Do you remember those? My dad always used to make a big production out of SMACKing them on the table so they would break up into slices and then dole them out ceremoniously. (We’re never dramatic ever.) I was always fascinated at how the individual slices could have molding like a real orange.

So, my logical mind thought, “Well, we already know that chocolate and orange pair well together–let’s do blood orange and chocolate.” And I acted on my thought, to the general pleasure of my roommates and The Downstairs Girls.

I used my standard one-bowl chocolate cupcake recipe, a mint version of which you can find here. Instead of mint extract or vanilla, I added in the orange zest. The blood orange flavor was delicate and unique–so worth a try. I tried it the next week with a Cara Cara orange, and my palate didn’t quite flare up the same way, but they were still good. You could adapt it to any type of orange you have on hand.

Enjoy this eight months from now…

L

Chocolate Blood Orange Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon blood orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and zest, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

For the frosting:

3 cups of powdered sugar
1 stick of butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk or cream
2 tablespoons blood orange juice
1 teaspoon blood orange zest

Beat butter and powdered sugar together until well-mixed. Ad 1 tablespoon of milk, the juice and the zest and beat on high until light and fluffy (three or four minutes). If the frosting is too thick, add more milk, a little at a time, and beat until incorporated.

Favorite Shots: The Farmer’s Market

I’m not a gardener. But if I were,  I would plant heirloom tomatoes. They are the prettiest, and I feel like I am somehow more wholesome and artful when I eat them. Someday, I will plant them, wash them, and eat them in the sunshine under an arbor filled with nearly-ripe grapes. Ok. Well maybe.

Oh farmer’s market, how I dream of your fresh eggplant. My roommate says this shot is stereotypical. I say, “I was there. It was real life.”

“Soon and very soon!” you call to me.

I like fresh,

L

Pipe Dream #11: To Be A Good Steward – Clementine Cake

I’m not as eco-conscious as I would like to believe. I live in America, for one thing. And I don’t flip out if I forget to recycle my egg cartons, for another. But I do try, sometimes. Like with this cake, for example. It is my concession to the “green trend.”

This cake is super interesting because it uses whole clementines. You boil ’em for a couple hours before pureeing them mixing them with ground almonds as a base. Please forgive the following over-saturated picture from my old camera…

Making this cake made me feel like I was a Native American using ev-er-y part of the mammoth I had just killed. Except I didn’t kill a mammoth. And I didn’t build a house out of the cake I made. I ate it for breakfast.

Clementines are not in season anymore, I don’t think. But! blueberries are. And they are part of this recipe in a small way. Hope that’s all right. You can save this up ’til next Christmas. It’s permalinked.

Happy breakfasting,

L

P.S. It’s Easter in a few days. I didn’t make anything in advance like all the cool bloggers who have themed or traditional recipes for you to make before holidays. Ummm sorry.

Good Steward Clementine Cake

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

4 to 5 clementines (slightly less than 1 pound total weight)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain. When cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Then finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor or by hand (I processed them.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (I used two 9 inch cake pans instead. It worked fine. I think I used more than five clementines, which is probably why I had so much batter.)

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 50 minutes (keep checking, it depends on your pan), when a skewer will come out clean; you might have to cover the cake with foil after about 20 to 30 minutes to stop the top from over-browning.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan and dust it with powdered sugar or make a glaze. Top with whatever fruit you have on hand. Or not. Or maybe whipped cream? Do what you like.


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