Archive for January, 2012

Pipe Dream #83: To Git Some GT – Chocolate Fondue

At school, we are assigned these “family groups.” They’re pretty sweet because they let you get to know a small group a little better than the rest of the students. Probably the staff just wants to make sure you have friends. So we pray, play Four On A Couch, practice walking through the Old Testament with hand signs. (We are so fly.)

Anyway, we also have GT. For all of you who were not privy to my friendship prior to 2005, GT stands for “Good Times.” Now, in classic Urban Dictionary style, I will give you an appropriate use of this phrase:

Paolo: “Hey, Gwenyth, remember that one time we were standing in line for dinner?”

Gwenyth: “GT, GT.” *nods and smiles*

Simple and expressive, yeah? You can have it for free. :] And don’t even complain that I am giving you the most useful two letters ever and not a KitchenAid. It’s not like I’m getting paid to write this blog. I can’t give away any prizes except extremely culturally relevant phrases and the occasional bad analogy.

One of our recent good times was hanging out at Graih’s. She is our family “mom,” and also the housekeeper of the school. In case you were wondering, “Dad” is the graphic designer/PR person. We’ve had good chats. Anyway, we played UNO with a bunch of crazy Belgian and German rules thrown in, and THEN we had chocolate fondue.

Here’s how we contrived et:

First, we melted 300 grams of “Milk chocolate flavour cake covering” in a saucepan. I’m guessing this is kind of like the chocolate candy melts you can get in the baking aisle for dipping pretzels and things. Either way, it wasn’t super high quality chocolate, but it still tasted lovely.

Next we added about half a can of evaporated milk to the chocolate.

There were no measurements required because Graih said it was really more about getting the right consistency for dipping, so add as you like.


Then we chopped up millions of fruits to dip in the chocolate. It was a fantastic fruit spread. And there were marshmallows. They were even pink, some of them.

And I loved it. Plus, we had some good bonding time. In my family at home, we have to kiss everyone at the table if we drop our fruit in the fondue. I didn’t make these people do that, but I did suggest it. Awkward GT.

With brain and stomach filled,


Chocolate Fondue

by Graih

300 g chocolate melting pieces

1/2 can evaporated milk

various fruits and definitely marshmallows

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, being careful not to burn it. Add in the evaporated milk until the chocolate reaches desired consistency. Submerge fruit and transfer directly to your mouth.

Favorite Shots: Smile Upon Me

This post is heavy on some geeky history, so if you’re here to see some frou frou cupcakes, think again. You have been warned.

When I visited Germany in December, one of  the neat historical places we stopped was Nürnberg Castle. It was kind of like a time share property for the Holy Roman Empire. Visiting dignitaries would stay there if they were passing through, and all the local nobles would donate their best furniture to deck out the castle. After the emperor (or whoever was staying) left, all the furniture would be returned.

The castle had a 50 meter well dug straight into sandstone (it probably took them ten years), but the most interesting part to me was the double chapel. It is called a “double” chapel because there were two levels, the main level for the nobles, and the lower level for the peasants. There was no direct access to the lower level (which is literally beneath the feet of the upper class) because the nobility thought it horrible to associate at all with the lower class. There was only a big hole in the floor through which the peasants could hear what was going on above them. It is thought that this practice was the beginning of the phrase “to hear mass.”

Technically, though, this is a triple chapel. The above shot was taken from a landing made specially for the emperor, above the nobility level. You can see the face of Christ above the archway there? When viewed from the peasant level, he looks like he is frowning. When viewed from the nobility level, he has a straight face. And when viewed from the emperor level, he is smiling. So weird! But what interesting architecture.

Sidenote: this whole situation is so far from how the church is supposed to function. Jesus loves everyone the same, and no one has limited access to him.

Someday this will all be made right,



Pipe Dream #82: To Stand Out

Seriously, all the Germans at my school are super beautiful. They all have gorgeously distinct features, and it makes them stand out from the rest of us drab North Americans. :] Katharina is no exception to the rule. Besides that, she is super fun and has a model face. It was a joy to take pictures of her. Enjoy!


Pipe Dream #60: To Bake In Large Quantity – Brown Sugar Pound Cakes With Browned Butter Glaze, Revisited

Ok, I made these once before.  But hear me out. First of all, these are so good that they deserve six posts on this one blog. Second, they mark an important event in my life: they are still letting me BAKE here. Here at the school. For 200 people. Every few weeks. So I really am fulfilling one of my pipe dreams!

I have no idea how it came about in the first place except that I prayed and then chopped vegetables for two weeks before hesitantly asking “couldibakesomethingoncesinceiworkedinakitchenlikethisallsummerandihavethisblogyouseeandineedsomemorematerialforitandpleasewontyouletme?” …  They hesitantly said I might, so I decided to do something I knew I could do well, lest I bung up errthing and be booted out of the kitchen forever for wasting precious foodstuffs and making the entire population go without dessert for one night.

Actually, probs no one would have minded a bunged-up dessert since we’ve been doing two-a-days for the past few months. And I don’t mean football practices.

Also, I don’t know why I was so a-feared. Look at these people. They are very nice people and very helpful.

The key to making any recipe in a mixer as huge as this one is to constantly scrape the bowl down. Seriously, you can’t scrape down the bowl enough. And all the times that the original recipe gives for things like beating (i.e. beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about four minutes) need to be bumped way up because of the large quantities. I was pretty nervous, so I did more scraping down than usual. I didn’t regret it.

It took me and Kate the entire afternoon to bake and frost these babies, but eventually, we brought ‘em out. Even I was surprised by the enthusiastic reception they inspired. Apparently, everyone has been craving frosting. The British don’t use a lot of it; they use custard. Custard this, custard that. Everywhere, custard. I usually opt out. It’s a texture thing.

Anyway, I was super pleased to sit back and watch everyone eating their cupcake, eyes widening in rapturous delight as they realized that brown butter makes everything better. It reminded me of home and why I like baking so much. I mean, why I like baking besides eating cake and frosting. You thought there was no other reason, did you?

For everything there is a season,


Brown Sugar Pound Cakes with Brown Butter Glaze

adapted from Martha Stewart

For the cupcakes:

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the glaze:

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Reduce speed to low. Mix any remaining wet ingredients in a bowl if needed. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

To make the glaze:

Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour butter into a bowl, leaving sediment behind.

Add sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk to butter, and stir until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more milk. Use immediately. Sometimes when I use brown butter glazes, I find that the butter separates out a little bit. I don’t know why this is. Sorry.

Favorite Shots: England Bakes

Many restaurants in Britain have pretty average fare as far as baked goods are concerned. If you come into a pub or cafe around closing time, you can usually see a film of plastic wrap covering yesterday’s carrot cake for tomorrow’s customers. It’s like their attitude is, “I made this cake from scratch, and Imma dang well keep it around ‘til you eat it. Don’t disappoint me, now!”

The thing is, no one really minds. It is still awesome carrot cake, even if it is a few days running. Plus, they serve it on a cute plate, and no one can say anything against a nice looking piece of cake. This cake was real good. The icing was orange-scented. My friend bought it, but I decided against it, fearing it would make me pine for the fabulous carrot cake a while back. Seriously, I can taste that cake right now. If I wasn’t afraid of gutting up my fingers grating carrots, I would go make that right now. P.S. Did I tell you I nicked my thumb knuckle peeling butternut squash in October? Which gives me scars on every finger but the middle one on my left hand.

At least I still have blue blood,


Pipe Dream #81: To Divide Nine Sometimes

There is this concept in photography called the rule of thirds. Basically, it says that photos have more tension and visual interest if the subject is not in the middle of the frame. (You can read more about it on wikipedia, if you want.) I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this rule and realize that my natural tendency is to take off-center photos, or crop them that way.

Sometimes, I intentionally take a shot in the center of the frame so I can get it perfectly focused, knowing I can crop it later,  like I did with the one above.

Sometimes, though, I really like centered shots. They make a statement. Bam. This is a cow.

Bam. This is my face. Right in the middle there.

So this rule is supposed to be the ideal, but I don’t always like the rules. I like ideals, but sometimes the ideal is the ordinary.

Extra ordinary,


Pipe Dream #80: To Only Be As Integrious As Is Practical – S’mores Bars

I have been meaning to make these bars for a long time. “Bars”—the general term for anything baked in a 9×13 pan that is not a cake—are so classic Midwest, and s’mores are so dear to my heart. Having eaten these bars a number of times before at camp, I thought making them would be a highly palate-rewarding cinch. I was wrong, mostly.

I once told you that the key to baking is under-baking. While this is still a true statement, my dear Reader may note that I am sometimes prone to taking my own integrity a little too far. In the case of these bars, I took my own rule of thumb a bit past its purpose. I underbaked them.  By a lot. I was still getting used to the Celsius conversion convection oven, ok? Say ‘Celcius conversion convection’ five times fast.

But! Up from the ashes grew the roses of success (name that movie)! They still turned out to be super fabulous because my commanding officer told me I could put them over some spare clotted cream vanilla ice cream they had in the freezer. P.S. “Clotted cream” ice cream just means “really creamy ice cream.” It was awesome. Scooping 200 portions also gave me carpal tunnel, but that is another story for another day.

The dough was extremely sticky and hard to spread.  Megan, my lovely helper, was far better at spreading it than I. It is likely that I did not put enough dough in each pan, as the bars were a little thinner than I remember them. My calculations are all out of whack. I don’t know what I’m doing. Also, in my fluster I grabbed margarine, not butter. Someone please help me.

I would have preferred to have a few more chocolate chips and marshmallows to spread. Half of the marshmallows melted because they were weird English marshmallows, but they usually puff up and brown nicely.

The final result was similar to cookie dough ice cream with marshmallow sauce, which, as we all know, is the best possible thing you could be eating on a Wednesday night.

Hello, my love. It is so nice to know you.


S’mores Bars

Adapted from camp

Makes two 9 x 13 pan full of bars, or one large 2” jelly roll pan.

2 2/3 cup white sugar

1 3/4 cup butter

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups chocolate chips (mini chips, preferably)

5 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray pan with non-stick spray (or you can butter the pan).

Blend sugar and butter until blended. Add eggs, beating until well mixed and creamy. Add the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt and mix until well blended.

Spread dough in pan and bake for approximately 10 minutes until set. And really, do bake it 10 minutes or suffer my fate. Bad news. Sprinkle chocolate chips, then mini marshmallows over the dough and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until marshmallows are puffed and slightly brown.

Cool and cut into bars. You may find it helpful to spray your knife with non-stick spray so the marshmallows don’t stick to it.

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