Archive for June, 2011

Favorite Shots: Rat Poison

This is probably what I will have to use on them varmints that live in the pumphouse at camp. Is it a problem that I am working at a summer camp, and I’m scared of spiders and owls? Probably. An owl flew right in front of my car the other nigh, and my heart stopped beating for a full four seconds.

The U of M has cool things at it, like elements and dead cockroaches.  You should go to college there.

Cheerio,

L

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Pipe Dream #38: To Inflate Cake – White Cupcakes


I made cupcakes for a family gathering. I believe it was the first time I had specifically been asked to make something for “the family.” I was pretty much honored. I made chocolate cupcakes with a one bowl recipe that I’ve linked six dozen times with a leftover praline pecan filling (recipe soon to come), and a new white cake recipe with lemon filling.

This particular white cake recipe requires that you whip the egg whites separately from the rest of the batter and then “fold them in.” I’ll talk about “fewlding in” some other time. I don’t exactly believe in it. Anyway, you can’t stir them in a ton or else they’ll deflate and yer cake’ll be flat. So they say. You can see the recipe below for more detail.

I started out on the chocolate with just one layer of petals. They begged for more frosting. I obliged them.

Packaging and moving was something of a hassle because I didn’t have my cupcake carrier, but thankfully they arrived in one piece. I need to think of a way around my cheapskatedness and order real cardboard cupcake holders for mass transportation.

See the weirdness of the frosting on the lemon ones? That is because I somehow interpreted the ‘ounces’ as ‘tablespoons’ in my other favorite frosting recipe. For your reference, there are 3 tablespoons to one ounce. FYI. JIST in case ewe wanted to know it. Because I didn’t.

My auntie even had this little stand to put ’em on. Oh for cute.

Even though the frosting was more corrupted than the CIA in the third season of Alias (abc’s amazing spy thriller that I was addicted to long before my family got Netflix), at least  someone ate them. P.S. Isn’t she just the most beautiful thing alive? Pretty sissy, playse come visit me soon.

And they were well received.

Be happy,

Lauren

White Cake

Adapted from JoyofBaking

2 large eggs separated

1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup room temperature butter

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract (if you want)

1/2 cup milk

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Separate the eggs, placing the whites into one container and the yolks into another. Let come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 8in pans, or in my case, cupcake tins.  Normally I use PAM, but this recipe really calls for the butter and flour method, which is actually pretty effective.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and creamy, about 1 minute.  Add 3/4 cup of sugar (reserving the rest) and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Now add egg yolks, one at a time, until completely incorporated.  Add vanilla and almond extract until combined, about 30 seconds.

Now add the flour mixture and milk.  Starting with the flour, add 1/3 of the mixture and mix until incorporated.  Now add 1/2 milk mixture, mix until combined.  Add half the remaining flour, combine.  Now add the rest of your milk and combine.  Add remaining 1/3 of your flour mixture, and mix until just combined.  This whole process should take less then 2 minutes.

In a separate clean bowl with clean whisk attachment, whip eggs whites until foamy then add the cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks occur, and then gradually add in your remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Take a rubber spatula and fold the eggs whites into the cake batter.  Make sure they are fully incorporated, but do not over stir the batter, as you do not want the eggs to deflate.

Put batter into prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Pipe Dream #37: To Be A Storm Chaser


I have only seen clouds like this one other time in my life. They’re mesmerizingly ethereal. I’m not sure what conditions create these kinds of clouds. Maybe tornadoes. I think there was one that night. P.S. I have problems keeping up with current events. The tsunami in Japan this year? I didn’t know about that until a couple days after it happened. And I’m a PR major.

These clouds are kind of like James. He’s all like, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” I mean, they’re sort of like that. Storms in life, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, all that. In the case of these clouds, the tornado storm is producing something super beautiful.

To me, it would be worth chasing tornadoes to catch a glimpse of these clouds. They’re worth it. So unique and captivating. I wish I was more willing to chase figurative storms, knowing that experiencing them would produce faith and perseverance in my life.

I’ll work on it. Or at least, if I don’t chase them yet, I’ll complain less about current life-storms. For example, the toilets I find plugged on a weekly basis. Oh camp. Thank you for producing a wealth of perseverance in a great multitude of people over the years.

I like clouds,

Lauren

I Got It Right: White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I have made approximately 17 of these. It is my go to cheesecake, far better than the peanut butter cup cheesecake.

I don’t have any picture perfect shots of this cheesecake. You know, like perfectly crumbless slivers that belong on The Cheesecake Factory website. You’ll just have to take my word that this cheesecake is perfect. Vanilla-y and rich.

Before we begin, here are a few tips for this recipe:

1) Make sure you use a Ghiradelli White Chocolate Bar for the mousse. Don’t use Ghiradelli white chocolate chips or, heaven forbid, Tollhouse white chocolate chips. I realize that I sound like a total food snob right now; usually I hate it when people are like, “The finest quality chocolate is a must.” First of all, they are lying, and second, it alienates people who live in small towns. In the case of this cheesecake however, high quality chocolate is the only thing that works. I’ve tried every possible way of getting around it.

2) Lining your pan with aluminum makes everything in life easier. Well, mostly it just makes getting your cheesecake out of the pan easier.

3) These cheesecakes freeze really well. I made the twelve for the grad party over a 2 week span. You just have to let the cheesecake cool after it is fully baked, spread on the mousse and stick the whole pan in the freezer to firm up. After an hour or two, you can remove the cheesecake from its pan, leaving the aluminum on the bottom. Triple wrap with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to eat. Cutting the cheesecake while it is still partly frozen will make your slices clean, so feel free to remove the cheesecake from the freezer as close to serving time as you want.

4) The original recipe has whipped cream for the top. For the sake of time and presentation, I decided not to include it for the party, but it is phenom. We used a number of different fruit toppings instead, which made for a more colorful, fun presentation. (See my favorite cheesecake shot from the party below. Colorful. Fun.)

5) Another confession, I didn’t use vanilla beans. I just added an extra tablespoon or two of vanilla extract. I’ve made it both ways, and each is yummy. The flecks of vanilla bean are like that girl at the party who keeps giggling at some guy’s joke long after everyone else is done laughing–cute, but highly unnecessary.

Here is some nice sliced cake. If you look real close, you can see that heavenly layer of white chocolate mousse. Another bonus, because you spread the layer of mousse on top of the cake after it is baked, you don’t have to worry about cracks in your cheesecake!

I’m all about the word ‘bonus,’

L

White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Adapted from TGIF’s recipe which I found on Facebook.

CRUST:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Crush the graham crackers. Mix in the sugar. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then stir in the melted butter. Line a springform pan with non-stick foil. Press graham crackers into the pan. Bake at 375º for 8 minutes or until edges are slightly brown. Remove and let cool.

CHEESECAKE:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
vanilla beans from one pod

Combine cream cheese, sour cream, corn starch and sugar, mix until sugar is dissolved. Add butter, vanilla and beans, blend until smooth. Don’t overmix.

Bake at 350F 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 1 hour.

WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE:
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
4 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
4 ounces white chocolate baking squares, melted

In a cold mixing bowl beat cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Put this in a bowl in the fridge. Don’t wash your mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese in it, until fluffy. Add the white chocolate and beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream.

VANILLA BEAN WHIPPED CREAM:

1 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
Beans from one vanilla pod

In cold mixing bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add powdered sugar and then vanilla beans, beating until stiff peaks form.

After the cheesecake has cooled spread the mousse evenly on top. Refrigerate for about an hour then spread the whipped cream on top. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

Favorite Shots: Sugar Bowl

For some reason, the green and yellow in this shot really strikes me. I shot it with my aperture wide open, so the focus is really narrow, but I like it that way. It gives the sugar bowl a dreamy quality. Sugar should always have a dreamy quality, obviously.

Dreaming of sugar plums,

L

Pipe Dream #36: To Be Like Willy Wonka – Sea Anemone Cupcakes

I think I’ve told you before about my family’s newfound Netflix craze. My parents had never had cable before, so getting Netflix was kind of a big deal.

You get no…You get NO…YOU GET NO COMM-ER-CIALS. Name that movie musical.

There were entire seasons of all these old cable shows uploaded on Netflix. People had been raving for years about shows like Stargate SG-1 and Deadliest Catch while we lived on in blissful ignorance, content with the standard network television offerings. I don’t regret this; it was probably good that we weren’t exposed to more media. And I particularly do not regret never seeing Spongebob Squarepants (that was such a great sentence). Sew annoying. I know I just probably lost about 50 percent of my subscribers, but I have to be honest about Spongebob.

Anyway, Cake Boss is the first show my family ever got addicted to on Netflix. Everyone would sit for a couple hours (that’s four episodes!) every day until we finished every season. The lobster pastries! The fondant! The Italian family drama! It is irresistible.

Weirdly, I don’t think we watched it because we’re so into baking or anything. It’s more the idea that the massive, realistic cakes the bakery makes are totally edible. It’s like every kid’s ultimate dream come true: that Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory would be a real place. Who didn’t want to eat those edible daffodil teacups while singing strangely atonal phrases about abstract ideas?

These cupcakes turned out to be Valastro-esque kind of by accident. They started out looking like this:

Cute, yeah? I am really happy about the little golden balls I bought to put on the top which may or may not be illegal in some states, but not Europe! so I’m not going to worry. But I felt the needed something more…

So I dyed some extra frosting and added leetle decorations.

In their little aqua holder, I thought they looked particularly like little sea creatures, hence sea anemone cupcakes. Edible anemones!

And I was pretty happy with them. It felt like the most creative thing I’d done in forever.

Try using a combination of piping tips to decorate your next cupcakes. It’s easy, and the presentation is impressive.

“Nil deperandum, dear lady. Across the desert lies the promised land. Goodbye, Mrs. Gloop. Adieu! Auf wiedersehen. Gesundheit. Farewell,”

L

P.S. I used a one-bowl chocolate cake recipe, and the really good piping frosting I found. Bonus, I filled these babies with some leftover peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Divine.

Pipe Dream #35: To Control The Weather

Remember when I asked you to pipe up and tell me your favorite cheesecake flavors because I was trying to plan for my sissy’s grad party?

Well, in the weeks before the party, I realized that making several flavors of cheesecake might be a bit much for my nerves. In order to avoid all the flutterings and spasms (name that movie), I decided to make one cheesecake. A white chocolate vanilla bean cheesecake, for which the recipe will follow in a few days. Also concerning my nerves, the weather was supposed to be crappy. I woke up, peeked outside the window, saw the sunlight and praised the Lord out loud. Amen for sun.

More on that later. Much more. In the meantime, please note the cuteness of cutenesses graduation sign that I made for Waynes. I think I might love it more than she does. I poured my soul and a pint of blood into making it. No kidding–I sliced my finger something awful. Word to the wise, don’t use razors to cut thick cardboard when you are super angry because your sister used all of your sour cream after you had been out to the grocery store for hours that day and had no patience to return so you could make twelve cheesecakes.

Whatever. I’m over it. Moving on…

My dear mother was the real mastermind behind the party. I was just there to facilitate things and ply people with third helpings of cheesecake.

She made several toppings for the cheesecake, the star of which was the strawberry rhubarb compote fresh from the garden. Rhubarb, the spice of life.

And there is the skinny minny herself, standing at “the shrine.” The shrine is our name for the obscenely decked out table that houses the sum of her life’s accomplishments. Girl is loaded. My mother was good enough to put my college graduation photo on the back corner of the table about halfway through the party. I will probably forever live in Waynes’ shadow.

P.S. That dress is a Calvin Klein silk that I got for three dollars at the Salvation Army. That place is a veritable trove.

There were drinks. Namely, coffee. Iced ou non.

To write love in her coffee ice cubes. We mixed in cream with coffee and then put in pre-frozen coffee cubes to keep it undiluted. We like our coffee strong he-ah.

There was also pop. I just like this shot. Hi Wades.

And here is what you have all been waiting for. Vanilla cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and a layer of white chocolate mousse. Ooh baby.

We had a bin filled with ice to store them on until they were nabbed. The quickness of the nabbing made the ice almost unnecessary.

I have titled this shot “Fulfillment.” This cheesecake is as it should be.

All in all, the grad party was a great success. Much love to my Auntie, without whom I never would have managed. Congratulations, sister! I am excited to see where your life leads. You can check out her blog at measuredsunrise.wordpress.com.

May your life be filled with free grad party food,

L


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