Archive for the 'Me' Category

FAIL WEEK: Prom 2014


When this is what your idea of fun is, and then you make a joke and no one gets it. FAIL WEEK 2014! Also, PROM 2014! Yesssss.


Pipe Dream #223: To Stop Impressing Myself with Myself – Dream Nectarine Brown Butter Upside Down Cake

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Please let this be my morning sunrise always. Well, fake morning sunrise, as I took these pics in the afternoon. But don’t it look like a sun and flowers? Only the best way of waking? Can’t get over it.

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My love of this cake was extreme. I mean, look at the fruit. Juiciest of nectarines, brownest of toasty beurre, caramelized of of tastiest sugar. And it was pretty. And it was easy. And it was easy to make it pretty. Upside down cakes rule.

For the longest time, I thought the only upside down cakes that existed were pineapple upside down cakes. You know, like the ones with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries? Turns out, you can make an upside cake with just about any fruit. It’s the American version of a tarte tatin.

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These pictures. I am impressing myself with my own self. Stop.

Perhaps I should give more credit where credit is due. God, thank you for PERFECT RIPE FRUIT and FINE MOTOR SKILLS and also DIFFERENT COLORS and THIS CAKE RECIPE and BROWN BUTTER.

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Make sure you bake the cake long enough, ’til the top is a deep golden brown. I kept testing it, but my tester kept pulling up batter. Oddly, when I tested it at the end in a different spot (still near the middle), it came up with nothing. So try that, see what works. Perhaps it depends on how juicy your nectarines are.

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Flip and serve. Because of the butter/sugar layer on the bottom of the pan, this baby will fall out onto a serving platter like a dream. Again, upside down cakes rule. For breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.

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Good morning,


Nectarine Brown Butter Upside Down Cake

Adapted from Damndelicious

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
4 nectarines, sliced into 1 1/2-inch thick wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the butter foams, stirring occasionally until it turns golden brown and starts to smell nutty. Scrape up all the bits from the bottom, and set aside to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, 4 tablespoons of the browned butter and the eggs. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the bottom of a cast iron skillet or 9-inch cake pan, swirling the pan until the bottom and sides are well coated. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter. Arrange the nectarine slices on top in a single layer. Scoop the batter evenly over the nectarines, smoothing out the top.

Place into oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and turn upside down onto a serving plate. Serve immediately or serve at room temperature.

Pipe Dream #200: To Not Bust the Seams – Blueberry Bourbon Bread Pudding (and Fogo de Chao)

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My family took me out for dinner this year for my birthday. It was kind of a deal because a) everyone was home, b) it was a birthday and c) we were going to Fogo de Chao, a schwank Brazilian steakhouse buffet.
Now, my family doesn’t go out to eat all that often, especially to super nice places.
If we do, it’s mostly hole-in-the-wall foreign food adventures or this scenario: “Hey, wanna meet me at DQ? My body will die if I do not get an Oreo Brownie Earthquake in ten minutes.”
Or even this one: “It was Friday night, and I was alone and feeling sorry for myself, so I ordered Hot Wok. I saved you a single bite of the curried beef.”
Eating out is a rare and special occasion that is only indulged every so often, and never at impeccably-serviced, four-star, romantically-lit, all-out establishments. Hence, it was kind of a deal, and mid-way through the meal, I was kind of nervous.
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Why were you so nervous, Lauren? You don’t normally get freaked out by food. What could possibly be so scary about eating a celebration meal with your family?
I will tell you the answer, but first, let me just tell you how Fogo de Chao works so that you can better understand me.
The meal begins with these cheesy puffs of dough, kind of like a Brazilian popover. These are replaced frequently throughout the meal, an endless supply of fresh-baked biscuit-y goodness.
The buns are followed by an introduction to the salad bar, which was pretty much a massive charcuterie selection, followed by pasta salads, bright, roasted vegetables and of course, 15 different types lettuce, dressings and more bread. The team-style (read: omniscient) wait staff advised us to “go light” on the salad bar. This was nearly impossible to me, as it was basically everything that is my favorite.
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Following the salad bar, we received several side dishes to be eaten along with the main course. There were caramelized plantains, fried polenta and garlic mashed potatoes. Along with this, a little circular card was delivered, one side red, one side green.
After you plow through your “salad,” the real decadence begins. As soon as you flip your card from stop to go, the table is swarmed with smiling gauchos hawking 17 (repeat, 17) different types of prepared meats. I was so overwhelmed and distracted by the flurry of activity the first time this occurred that my plate was next to bursting with bacon-wrapped filet mignon, chicken legs and beef ancho before I hastily flipped my card.
And as soon as I did, they were gone. Poof! And we were left to muse through a plate of medium-rare protein and rarer conversation. Same song, second verse. Same song third verse.
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So I was not nervous about being in a schmancy restaurant (the waiter told us the gauchos kept asking when they could go back to the “princess table”) or even about eating too much (the night was clearly a write-off). I was actually nervous that my dress was going to bust. It was all fine and well while I was seated; I don’t think I realized how full I was. But upon standing, I teetered about nervously in my 4-inch stilettos, trying not to move my arms, lest the seams on my vintage cocktail dress give way to a dangerously full midsection. A girl’s gotta watch those vintage seams. They’re del-ic-ate.
Somehow we all made it to the car, and groaned/giggled the entire way home to try and express our mixed rapture and internal discomfort. Given the final bill, it is likely my family will never go out to eat again in this century, but oh heavens, it was fun.
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The point of this whole story is that the next day, I came home and made this bread pudding, which is an extremely indulgent breakfast for dinner. Crusty artisan bread in a pool of custard, dotted with blueberries and laced with a rich, bourbon cream sauce…could dinner really get any better? And I barely even cared because I was wearing sweats and an old t shirt. Laaaaaaze.

Feel free to make this ahead of time if you wish. Assemble the skillet, let rest in the fridge overnight, then bake in the morning for a wonderfully boozy brunch addition.

P.s. This is an appropriate recipe for my 200th pipe dream! That’s pretty crazy to me. Think of all the weird dreams I haven’t shared with you! Ha. Girl’s got a lot of dreams.

Eat well, my dears,
Bread pudding elsewhere:
Blueberry Bourbon Bread Pudding
Inspired by Pink Patisserie
8 ounces crusty French bread, sliced in 1/2″ slices
heaping 1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter one side of each bread slice. Place the butter side down in a 9″ cast iron skillet. Whisk together the sugar, eggs, cream, milk, whiskey and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle the blueberries and nutmeg over the top of the bread slices, then and pour the custard mixture over the bread.
Press the bread into the custard mixture so that it soaks up as much of the custard as possible. Cover with foil, and let rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the pudding is golden brown on top and the bread has absorbed the liquid. If you find the pudding starts to brown too much, cover with foil for the remainder of the baking time. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with a generous swath of bourbon sauce (below).
Bourbon Sauce
Adapted from Pink Patisserie
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
scant 1/4 cup sugar
scant 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup bourbon, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter

Whisk the cream, milk and sugar together in a medium saucepan.  Combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the whiskey in a small bowl, and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add this to the milk mixture in the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking continually until the sauce begins to thicken, about five minutes.  Remove from heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup whiskey, the salt and the butter.  Serve hot over the pudding.

Pipe Dream #192: To GET THAT

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The greatest  compliment to receive as a photographer is that my subjects look natural. Capturing real smiles is my joy. It is that moment of satisfaction where you just know you got it right and you can move on. Next pose, next subject, next joke. It’s better than baking a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Because a still can only catch one second of a real person, it can be tricky to coax out a smile and record it on film at the same time. So getting one means that I am not so horrendously unfunny and that I still am maintaining my fine motor skills.



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Pipe Dream #169: To Live Life With Regrets – Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

salted cookie bars 4

Do you ever have regrets? I know some people who are like, “I have no regrets. I just want to live my life with no regrets.”

And I am amazed because I don’t believe them. Now, come on, it’s a nice idea and all, but there is no possible way you’ve never done something regrettable, or caused someone else regret. Then you would be perfect and the Gospel wouldn’t be true, and I know that the Gospel is true (mostly because I know you’re not perfect? Haha, jokes. But it’s ok, me neither.).

What they are actually saying is, “Yeah, I’ve made mistakes, but I’m not going to dwell on them, because they’re already done, and it would cause me pain to think about them.”

Welp, hello regrets, I actually like you and your pain. Regrets mean that I am a regular person. Regrets mean that I have actually lived on the edge. And having real regrets makes me a wiser and more compassionate person. Every time I experience regret, it reminds me not to make the same mistakes. I’m all for living with regrets.

But I like being free of them. I’m not all about living with guilt, but that is a different story for a different day. For now, you will just have to forgive me for not using enough caramel in the following recipe of awesome.

Soapbox removed, commence baking.

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First off, brown butter. Totally not regrettable.

salted cookie bars 1

Second off, chocolate chip cookie dough, with liberal chips. Also, highly unregrettable.

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Then, caramel. This is where I am experiencing a little bit of remorse.I was trying to use up some leftover caramels, but I didn’t really have enough to make the texture/flavor stand out. Don’t get me wrong, it was still there, but if I’m stuffing cookies, I’m all about go big or go home.

Double your caramel. I didn’t. I had regrets.

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Next, liberal sea salt, of the flaky variety. No scruples to be had.

Then bake at 325 and pose away. I got a little carried away, I’ll admit. But they were so photogenic, I couldn’t resist.

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Piled  on plates.salted cookie bars 5

Stacked in towers.

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Wrapped in parchment.

This is one for the books, guys.

Free from regret,


Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, browned
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
6 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped (or more, mine was skimpy)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and scraping up the bits on the bottom until the butter is amber-colored and smells nutty. Set this aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Mix together the cooled browned butter and sugars until well-combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Combine the caramels and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until the caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds for about 2 minutes total.

Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Pour the hot caramel over the cookie dough and spread evenly with a spatula, leaving some empty space around the edges. Sprinkle the caramel with the kosher salt, then drop the remaining cookie dough in spoonfuls over the caramel and gently press in the rest of the dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional salt.

Bake the cookie bars for 25 minutes, or until the bars are light golden, but don’t overbake. Cool the bars on a wire rack to room temperature, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the caramel layer to set. Leftovers will keep in at room temperature.

False Favorite Shots: The Fourth Dimension

This is not actually a particularly favorite shot, but I just wanted to show you the cool filter I discovered. It is like I am being pulled into the fourth dimension or something. It’s like Star Trek.

Also, hooray for 60 degree days in November. Whatta life.


Pipe Dream #148: To Not Nitpick My Baking So Much – Coffee & Walnut Traybake

She’s at it again. The Great British Bakeoff cookbook was calling. This cake jumped out at me when I first paged through, partly because walnuts are delish and partly because I thought it would be feasible to attempt making this for 200 people. My other option with walnuts was the Coffee & Walnut Battenburg, but if you’ve ever seen a battenburg, you can imagine my disinterest in the idea of making that for a crowd.
Even after I left school, though, I still thought it sounded good. And besides, what is a “traybake” even? I assume it is what we in the States call a “sheet cake.”
Overall, it was a pretty ok cake. I thought it was a little lacking in the moisture department, but everyone at work raved it, so it’s possible that, as with cookies, I have pretty specific tastes when it comes to moist-ocity/underbaking. Another aspect of its okay-ness: I made the icing a bit too thin. It worked out all right, but I would have preferred a more swirly type icing.
Thank you for listening to me about how I could have done things right. It is therapeutic for me.
Coffee and Walnut Traybake
225 grams butter, softened
225 grams light brown sugar
275 grams self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water, cooled
75 grams chopped walnuts
For the icing
75 grams butter, softened
225 grams sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk or cream
2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water, cooled
Walnut halves, broken roughly

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)/ 160 degrees/gas mark 4. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan, and line the base with parchment. Grease the parchment.

Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the sugar and beat well until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Fold in the flour and coffee liquid. When combined, fold in the walnuts.

Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed.

Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Let cool 20 minutes on a wire rack before turning the cake out. Let cool completely.

To make the icing, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Add the warm melted butter, coffee and milk. Stir until smooth. My frosting was a bit too thin, so you may want to reduce the amount of milk you add. Let sit until it is a bit more firm, then swirl over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the walnut pieces, and leave until firm.

Keeps in an airtight container for 4 days.

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