Friday, December 18, 2009

Homemade English Muffins

I've been doing a lot of baking lately....not a whole lot of posting.

To prove it...I bring you...English muffins...from scratch.

You may be' makes those and you can buy them in the grocery isle.

But if you have ever had the pleasure of a homemade English muffin, like I did from the Model Bakery in St. Helena, California you too would be on a wild man hunt for something so lovely as a homemade english muffin.

I try not to knock package foods...well all the time...but the truth is...they stink. In fact, most times they are garbage. To prove it, try these and taste them against store bought. It's the difference between eating a piece of heaven and a piece of shoe leather. Its your choice..and we all know...we all get to make our own choices in this country.

But if you are truly looking for something amazing and like nothing you have ever had...make these. I will tell you, they are easy. Mix general ingredients you most likely have at home: flour, water, yeast, milk, etc and you are on your way. The only thing is, you must have a bit of patience as you do with all bread making since it needs rising time. As far as hands on time? Barely any. You measure, mix. Wait. Roll, cut out round shapes. Wait-rise. Bake/fry. Eat. Anyone can do that, wouldnt you say?

I made the entire says it yeilds 18. I got less but I made mine a bit bigger than the directions. I also froze a half dozen of these after their last rising. Instead of cooking them, I put them in the freezer on the cookie sheet. Then after they were frozen I wrapped them up in individual freezer bags. Hopefully they will work for another morning!

I ate myself into an English muffin the next few days and decided instead of allowing any of these go to waste...I made them into mini pizzas (like I remembered from Nursury school) and also into little garlic toasts. The sky is the limit....

I used a recipe from Allrecipes. Click here for the recipe. Next time I will have to check out the one from The Bread Biblem still waiting for it's return to my public library.

Enjoy---I know I certainly did.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

I let my pregnancy cravings get the best of me one afternoon and decided it was a good idea to make not only one kind of cupcake...but two (see my anniversary cupcake).

As luck would have it, I had to go to a gym opening that evening, and I told my trainer I would bring a dessert. (I know...who brings a dessert to a gym opening besides me?) But regardless, he was grateful. Plus, maybe he 'gained' a few clients ;)

My thoughts were that I would just make mini cupcakes. That way, people are more apt to pick them up and eat them because they are small. I think the problem was that many people ate five minis which add up to about one full cupcake but whose counting anyways? Not me!

I think I have had chocolate peanut butter cupcakes on the brain for months, but have not taken the plunge to make them until now. To add decadence to the pot, I added mini peanut butter cups to the batter of each mini cupcake. I had a weak moment in the check out isle at Trader Joe. Why do I feel like I have a lot of these so called 'weak moments' lately? Why can't I crave things like vegetables or something? Anyway...

So the cupcakes are my go to cupcake--deep, rich, chocolately, and crumble in your mouth moist. I have never found another chocolate cake recipe to live up to this one. (And I have made my fair share). Just before I pop the cupcakes in the oven, I throw in the mini peanut butter cup to the top of each one. Mine sank to the bottom--even adding the candy to the top. I think you could remedy this in two ways. One: toss the pb cups in flour then add them. OR Two: toss the pb cups in half way. Honestly, its up to you. I'm not sure if either would work, and I cannot be bothered to open my oven and hang my head in to add morsels in while my face burns. If anyone has a good suggestion--feel free to share ;)

The frosting is a fluffy peanut butter and I must say the perfect compliment to this chocolate cake. Its derived from Martha Stewart and forgive me as I am posting the alteration from memory. Sometimes...not always a great thing. The good news is, you can play with this frosting to your taste. I happened to want something 'less peanut butter' and more frosting with a side of peanut butter.

Enjoy! I know I did!

For the cupcake recipe, click here.
-Alterations: none except adding a mini peanut butter cup to the top of the unbaked cupcake. I also cut the recipe in half which still made almost 40 minis!

For the peanut butter frosting recipe, click here.
-Alterations: I cut the peanut butter down, added more cream cheese, and more confectioners sugar. Don't forget to top the cake with another peanut butter cup!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

POM Ice Cream

Sorry guys, no TWD this week. I'm hoping to catch up next week!

Last month, the wonderful folks at POM sent me a huge box of POM samples to try new recipes with. While I was super excited for the venture of trying new things...I have to admit...I love free stuff!

I was a bit at a loss though, when I received the box. Not because I wouldnt be able consume it, believe me, I drink my weight in the stuff so that wouldn't be the problem. You see, I've been suffering from major pregnancy brain and my creative mojo just isn't what it was! So I enlisted my cousin Lisa because she is into cooking and always has great cooking ideas. So after she rattled off a few ideas....I set on my way.

My first stop was pomegranate ice cream, or should I call it POM ice cream. Now, just hear me out on this one. I know the people at POM probably had high hopes for 'healthy' recipes. But, sometimes its fun to venture out and have fun with something healthy. Desserts need antioxidants too, don't they??

And if you are on a holiday diet, I get it. Stay tuned because I do and have been working on some great healthy options as well!

For now, I give you my homemade POM ice cream. Something so creamy, so amazing, your friends/family/guests --whatever --won't believe you made it.

And if you aren't familiar with the health benefits of POM--you really should check it out. I was blown away with the statistics.

POM Ice Cream
Recipe by: Cafe Coco

1 cup POM juice reduced to 1/4 cup (reduced, see directions)
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Start off by reducing 1 cup of POM juice in a small heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Bring it to a soft boil and keep an eye on it so that it reduces down to 1/4 cup. It should be somewhat thick and syrupy. Let it cool. In fact, refrigerate it and mix this into the ice cream mixture when cold.
2. Whisk together milk, cream, half and half, vanilla, sugar, and POM juice reduction. Whisk until the sugar dissolves.
3. Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturers instructions. I churned mine for about 25 minutes in a Cuisinart.
4. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and store in the freezer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes with Cinnamon Mascarpone

Fall is my favorite time of year for cooking. I love the savory smells that come wafting out of the kitchen, and I love snacking on anything pumpkin.

Yesterday was my baby shower, and after assembling every piece of baby gear and unpacking all the gifts, my husband and I were looking for a nice treat for breakfast. Instead of getting myself together to make it out to breakfast, I decided it would be a good time for me to bust out this humungous can of pumpkin puree I had sitting in my pantry...and make some pumpkin pancakes.

These turned out much better than I thought they would. To be honest, I probably have about 5 pumpkin pancake recipes in my cookbooks (who am I kidding...I'm certain I have more). But the truth is, I can never be bothered in the wee hours of the morning to do any such research especially when I have a serious growling belly. I found this recipe on Allrecipes, but changed it up a bit and then added my own twist. I have to say, these turned out much better than expected and it was certainly the fall treat we had been waiting for.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Recipe derived from Allrecipes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup Buttermilk plus 3 tablespoons

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil/canola oil

Cinnamon Mascarpone

Recipe by: Cafe Coco


1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions for the pancakes:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg. Then add the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vegetable oil, and whisk together until combined.
  3. Pour the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and gently fold in with a rubber spatula just until blended (you don’t want to over mix). It should be slightly thick and not runny. If the batter is still too thick, just add a tablespoon of buttermilk at a time.
  4. Turn on skillet, once it’s hot, add a tablespoon or more to coat the pan. Cook pancakes about 2 minutes a side--or until brown and crispy.
  5. Serve with a tablespoon of cinnamon mascarpone and maple syrup. Serve immediately.
Directions for the Cinnamon Mascarpone:
1. Mix together cinnamon and mascarpone in a small bowl until combined.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy 1 Year Blogiversary!

Actually--I'm delayed--2 months!

Have you ever been in a deep sleep, to be awoken by "CRAP! I FORGOT!" I had one of those "oh crap" moments last week. I got up, checked the blog and sure enough, I missed my own blogiversary. How on earth did that happen? I could have sworn I started late fall.

A well, all is forgiven.

Since starting this blog, I lost my job, gained some new ones, went on fabulous trips, and found out I was about to become a mother for the first time. So this past year has been very life changing for me!

Last week, while watching Food Network, I saw a commercial for funfetti. I quit buying boxed cakes a long time ago because I have so many great 'from scratch' recipes but for some reason, this commercial got the best of me and all I could think about was making funfetti. (I am pregnant after all and sometimes when you want something, there is no changing your mind). After posting my desire on Facebook, I got several laughs. After recieving a suggestion of just making it myself, I figured, 'yea, I can do that'.

What better way to celebrate a year of greatness other than homemade funfetti?

I loved these cupcakes. I used my 'go to' yellow cake recipe derived from The Joy of Baking and the frosting is my alteration from Martha Stewart's "Cupcakes" book.

Cupcake Recipe:
(I halved the recipe and got about 36 mini cupcakes. I baked them for about 10 minutes)

Yellow Buttermilk cake
Recipe derived from “Joy of Cooking”

Dry Ingredients whisk together and set aside:
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (I used regular all-purpose and it worked just fine)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla powder (you can omit this if you cannot find it)

Cream Mixture:
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar

Whisk together lightly and set aside:
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Cup Buttermilk

Fold in ingredients:
1/2 cup Jimmies (sprinkles)

1. Cream butter with paddle attachment until creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Then, gradually beat in the eggs/vanilla mixture. Beat for about 2 minutes.
2. On the lowest speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 parts ending with the flour. Fold in sprinkles.
3. Pour batter into (2) 8-inch round cake pans lined with parchment on the bottom or greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

1 1/2 unsalted room temperature butter
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. With a mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add cream cheese and beat until fluffy.
2. Reduce spead of mixer, add confectioners sugar and vanilla. Mix until the sugar is incorporated, then increase speed of mixer and beat until fluffy. About 5 minutes.
3. Can be refrigerated for up to 10 days.
4. Put into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes (or cake).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps

It's TWD again! Em from The Repressed Pastry Chef is our host, so if you are interested in the recipe, be sure to head over to her page!

The best part about November's TWD is that we can bake any of the four recipes--in any order. So be sure to check out TWD's blog roll to see what everyone else is up to!

I happen to love fruit crisps of any kind in the fall. I'm pretty sure its one of my husband's favorites too--because that is usually something he eyes on a menu besides cake or ice cream.

I actually made these yesterday for dinner at my neighbors, but last minute plans to change to a sushi restaurant had them left behind in the refrigerator. So tonight, I was excited that these were all put together just waiting to be popped in the oven.

To be honest, if you are looking for a QUICK dessert on a week night, this is definitely a winner. I put this together in less than 20 minutes....that included peeling and chopping the apples. It's so incredibly easy...which I love!

The only change I made was omitting the coconut because I used all mine up for a German chocolate cake a few weeks ago for my Grandma's 80th Birthday party.

Pair these up with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or eat them all by themselves. Any way you choose, you can't go wrong, this was totally amazing!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWD: Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

To make life easier on all us TWD'rs, the month of November, we get to actually pick the order of the 4 recipes. This weeks TWD (at least for me) is Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies.

When I read the November roster I picked these cookies first. Mainly because I have been craving gingersnaps and I figured this would be very close (well in reality they are gingersnaps). I made these along with peanut butter cookies on Halloween since my husband has been asking me to make those. I have always had good luck with Dorie's cookies so I figured we would be in for a real treat. (get it...trick or treat......yea....lame I know).

The molasses cookies were very easy to put together, they just need some freezing/chill time. I baked half my dough, the other half, I saved for later. (I'm in to freezing cookie batter now so that I always have some ready to go--you know, for EMERGENCIES).

The only difficulty I had with these were that they spread together despite keeping ample space between them. These were good, very molasses-y. The only thing is, I really like mine chewy and prefer the old time-y "Joy of Cooking" recipe that I made last fall. But if you are looking for one with a crunch ending with chewy, this would be your cookie. These would be great broken up over ice cream or even mixed in with some savory dishes like pumpkin ravioli. hmmm...I think I have an idea.....

Stay tuned for the rest of this months fabulous fall desserts that us TWD bakers will be whipping up. Don't forget to check out TWD's blogroll to see what the other bakers are up to.

A special thanks to our host, Pamela from Cookies with Boys for the Sugar Topped Molasses Spice Cookies. For the recipe head over to her page!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TWD: Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte

I actually planned for this TWD...and wasn't scurrying on Tuesday to complete it. Thank goodness, because this one needs cooling time AND setting time.

I read the recipe several times, and even doing that....I accidentally melted ALL the chocolate so I just added more chunks in the end. More chocolate never hurt anyone? I also added the mascarpone too soon to the mousse, however I don't think it really affected it. I left out the Kirsch because...don't throw anything at me but...I don't really know what it is? I know its an alcohol but do you go to the liquor counter and say "Yea, I want a bottle of your Kirsch". I'm not the liquor buyer of the house--I'm more of the beer/wine girl. But now that I'm expecting--I figured it might be best to leave out the booze? I just added more preserves to compensate. I also halved this recipe since my husband is still working off a cold and no one wants to come over!

I really enjoyed this recipe. I like fudge brownies and tortes so this was right up my ally. This, in essence, IS a brownie--a very fudgy one. I think the best part was the fact that it had cherries in it. While reading--I wasn't quite sure I would want/like the cherries (as did many of the other bakers) but I really did not find the cherry flavor to be over powering at all. In fact it was a nice change. My favorite part was the mascarpone mousse on top! Truly heavenly and added richness to the dessert.

I would definitely make this again!

Thank you to April from Short+Rose for hosting this week! For the recipe, be sure to head over to her page. You can also check out the other bakers from TWD's blogroll!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Yes, I am late late late for this one. I wanted to make these early, but I was going out of town. Then when I returned from town, I of course didn't have the sweet potato I needed plus I had a sick husband on the loose and we all know how sick husbands are. So better late than never...

So Sunday morning, I decided was great time to make these. Plus, I wanted to make them with some gravy and eggs. I know, probably not what Dorie had in mind for these 'tea' biscuits, but I will tell you...they were an amazing alternative.

I REALLY enjoyed these biscuits. They were easy to put together and the flavor was so sweet and different from a regular biscuit. I will definitely make these again--in fact I saved half the biscuits to freeze so that I could eat them at a later time.

I did make a few changes. Im notorious for 'skimming' a recipe. Which is never a good thing. I saw that the recipe called for 'canned' sweet potato--I bought pureed sweet potato. The recipe called for TWO 15oz. cans. I only had ONE. The good news--the pureed sweet potato actually yields more just because it doesn't have the syrup that needs to be poured out. In fact, I needed to add more flour because my dough was too sticky. I also used half shortening, half butter because my grandma always told me to use shortening in biscuits.

I ended up letting these biscuits sit at room temp for about 30 minutes before throwing them in the oven because I was monkeying around trying to season my cast iron skillet. I think letting these sit was key for me---because my biscuits were not too flat like some of the other bakers complained about. Either mine rose because they had time to sit--OR I just rolled mine out thicker. One of the two. These are definitely a 'denser' biscuit.

These paired well with bacon gravy and eggs this morning--I think the salt / sweet combo was amazing. I will have to try these a bit later with some honey and some tea. We all loved them--including 'baby M' who has been kicking me like crazy ever since.

Thanks to Erin of Prudence Pennywise for hosting this week! For the recipe, head over to her page!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spaghetti Made with Spaghetti Squash

If anything about pregnancy that changed me, it has been my taste buds. I always had this inclination that pregnant woman craved meat. This theory has been proved so wrong in my case. If anything, I have reverted back to what I knew and loved as a child. And that is carbs. Carbs ALL the way.

But since becoming an adult, I became more mindful of my carb intake, and so these last few months have been heaven on a stick for me because if I feel like eating carbs...I'm eating the carbs.

I found this recipe in Fine Cooking Magazines (a fabulous magazine by the way) and I was pretty intrigued by the fact that you could substitute spaghetti squash for spaghetti noodles. I figured this was some dirty trick--somewhat like the trick whole wheat pasta plays on you. Its all fine and good--until the grit from the whole wheat kinda ruins it for you. At least, that is how it is for me unless I can find a strong sauce to stand up to the whole wheat. (Don't get me wrong--I don't want to get down on whole wheat pasta--its really not a bad thing. It's loaded with protein so I try to choke it down on the general occasion).

But spaghetti squash? This is no bait and switch. I swear. It's quite pleasant actually and it's a great way to get in some extra vegetables while cutting the carbs! I will so make this again and again.

For the recipe-check out Fine Cooking's website!
(I didn't make too many changes except cut down on the onion--and as you can see in the photo--I have to keep the onion pieces large so my husband can pull them out since he can't eat them. )

Friday, October 16, 2009

Guy Fieri Roadshow opens November 17th!

I don’t normally ‘promote’ events on my blog but I was asked very nicely so here we go!

My husband and I are huge fans of Guy Fieri from Guy’s Big Bite on the Food Network. I like him because he has great recipes while my husband likes him because he’s no ‘foo foo’ chef PLUS he’s super fun to watch. Lets face it...Guy is a “guy’s guy”.

In fact, ever since his “Diner’s Drive-in’s and Dives” show aired, we have been avid watchers (although I will say do NOT watch this show on an empty stomach!). Now, whenever we travel, we make a point to Google his show and the city we visit just to see if there were any restaurants he had featured on his show. So far, we have made it to three of the restaurants! All have been a hit.

Our most recent visit--Bette's Oceanview Diner in Berkley, California

I ordered the pancakes, my husband ordered their version of eggs benedict

On top of Guys’ three TV shows, he has now ventured out doing live cooking/rock n’ roll style events called ‘The Guy Fieri Roadshow’! Each show will feature Hayden “Woody” Wood, an Australian Bartender de jour, a local chef from each city, and then Guy himself will cook and entertain you for the main event.

The tour starts November 17, and ticket sales are through Ticketmaster now. If you are from the Detroit area--our show is December 4 at the Masonic Temple where ticket prices start at $28.

Check out the site for a show near you, I bet it will be a ton of fun--most certainly so for all my foodie friends!

I’m crossing my fingers for a press pass--so that I can give you the full detailed review of the event!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cinnamon Banana Nutella Crepes

One of my favorite Sunday past times during the months of May-October is the Farmer's Market. First off, I love supporting our locals. Secondly, I absolutely love fresh fresh fruits and vegetables (I plant my own vegetable garden but growing in 'tubs' just isn't working out so well).

A few Sunday's ago while browsing the market, I was dealing with some serious hunger management issues and made a b-line for the crepe station. I quickly ran down the list of possibilities and settled on Nutella Banana Crepes. I love crepes, but I never in a million years would have thought to put Nutella in them. And this is coming from a girl who polished off an entire jar of Nutella upon returning from Italy this past May in about a week.

Now to be fair, I changed the recipe to make it my own. I make crepes at home quite a bit because they are so simple to make and I just love throwing fruit in them. I literally had breakfast on the table in less than 20 minutes. That includes prep time and half the clean up. I'm mighty slow--so you may be able to get it there in less time.


**Tip: Don’t get discouraged if your first crepe is a flop, that is pretty common. Discard (or eat it with your fingers at the stove) and start again.

Cinnamon Banana Nutella Crepes

Crepes Recipe:
Recipe derived from

1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Filling Recipe:
2 oz. Cream Cheese
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (you can just use cream cheese if that is all you have)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 Bananas sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon Nutella hazelnut spread for each crepe


For the Crepes:
In a medium sized bowl, lightly beat the eggs with milk and water. Add flour, salt and butter and mix until combined (just until all the lumps are out). The batter will be thin.

Heat a small non-stick skillet on medium high heat (about 8in. in diameter). You need this to be small because the crepe batter is VERY thin and will spread to the end of the pan. Spray with cooking spray. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the skillet. Spread the batter around in a circular motion. The crepe should pull away from the sides but you can help it a bit with a flexible spatula. Flip once it begins to brown. Brown the other side, and plate the crepe with filling.

For the Filling:
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until well combined.

For Assembly:
Top each crepe with the Nutella first (the warmth will help this spread a bit easier), then spoon on the creme mixture, then the bananas and fold each side up and over. Serve with warmed maple syrup and an extra sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

I saw this on the baking roster for TWD and knew I wanted to make them. But for some reason, my brain doesn't turn on until late Monday or Tuesday to remind me with Dorie is due...and you have done nothing! Thank heavens that the latest recipes have been simple and I can make them last minute! Like these muffins!

I've actually been on a muffin kick lately, maybe its because I am pregnant and look forward to breakfast and this breaks me out of my cereal routine. Plus, skipping any type of meal/snack is no longer an option. (Not that I would ever skip a meal anyway!)

These come together in literally minutes (I made them while I was in the middle of making homemade rolls so they take little effort, and time). I was a bit concerned with the butter content. There is a TON of butter. And for a muffin, I would like to see something a bit on the lighter side. I heard about a few of the other bakers using yogurt as a substitute--and I am thinking I may have to adopt that for next time. I stuck to the exact recipe for this one, minus the lemon zest because someone must have stolen all my lemons!

BUT- these muffins are over the top GOOD! I took one bite and was in heaven. Moist cake, crunchy caramelized top. This is a true treat and I bet would taste wonderful with tea.

A big thank you to Kayte from Grandma's Kitchen Table for hosting this week. You can visit her page for the recipe. Don't forget to check out all the other bakers from TWD that bake every Tuesday from Dorie Greenspan's book: "Baking From My Home to Yours"--they are always creative and changing up the recipe which is nice for a variation or two. It also looks like Ms. Dorie herself even baked with us this week--what a treat!

Next weeks TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sweet Potato Sage Gnocchi with Roasted Chesnuts

I think my problem lately is that I am categorizing cooking as a 'chore'. What I realized is that, I haven't been using my creativity....I've just been going through the motions of getting dinner on the table.

Sometimes it's just easy to make my 'go-to' recipes, because I don't even have to think. And since I seem to share a brain with the baby occupying my womb--sometimes it is totally necessary not to have to think if it means getting dinner on the table, period.

But yesterday was different. I grabbed a stack of neglected Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines and flipped through them. I was immediately drawn to the sweet potato gnocchi. I bit my lip, looked at the clock, and started calculating 'time'. How much time do I have...and how much time does this stuff take? And I INSANE?

Rewind a few years ago when I attempted to make gnocchi. Me: so naive and excited to do it. I spent 2 hours preparing it....only to end the night crying on my kitchen floor like a baby when the little gnocchi's completely dissolved in the pot while cooking into a wet mashed potato mess. (I know this seen may seem familiar to MANY of you, especially if you saw "Julie and Julia". I was in tears of laughter during the seen where Julia was crying on her kitchen floor after dropping a chicken...because that has been me. Several times.)
I am not oblivious to mishaps in the kitchen. But, I can't live in fear of trying things that I have failed. And I certainly cannot live in fear of making homemade pasta forever. To be honest, I have been telling myself for months to try it again. Ever since we were in Italy this past May I've been craving homemade gnocchi. (Its basically what I ordered at every restaurant in every flavor, shape, size)

Sweet potato gnocchi, Lake Maggiore, Italy

So I reasoned with myself. SOMEONE knows how to make gnocchi. Not EVERY recipe is going to be a bust or it wouldn't get published. Besides what did I really have to lose, if its a total disaster, I would just order a pizza.

The reality of gnocchi:
1. It's very cheap to make--potatoes, flour, and egg...'nuff said.
2. It's very much like playing with play-dough. Who doesn't like to play with their food?
3. Surprisingly it doesn't make a huge mess--it can be contained to a sheet pan.
4. Once rolled, uncooked gnocchi can be frozen for later use--for a SUPER quick dinner.

The gnocchi verdict:
The end result was a perfectly moist tender gnocchi. The hint of sage and nutmeg was the perfect fall flavor. And chestnut? Wonderful. Its something I have never tried and amazed I have waited this long. (Although I did have 3 people at my local market hunting them down for me).

My personal tips:
1. Keep an eye on the boiling pot of gnocchi. Mine didn't need 3 minutes to cook, it probably took half that time. Just wait for them to float to the top. Then scoop them out.

2. Use a good quality unsalted butter. If you can find an unsalted European butter such as Plugura, Irish butter etc, the taste will be so much better. The butter sauce is the star of the show--so be sure to use a good quality ingredient. (Always buy unsalted butter--salted butter as a general rule is a lesser quality product. Companies use the salt to mask impurities in the butter and taste. You can always add salt later).

3. I added a tablespoon of cream...just for added flavor.

Check out this fool proof recipe from Gourmet. I am so sad to see the magazine close!

Process of gnocchi:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mum Flowers and Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I've had a real Martha Stewart kind of day, literally.

Last month my fellow cake decorating friend Shannon, bought me Martha's Cupcakes book as a birthday gift. While I only drooled over the photos when I leafed through it, I just knew that when we got together at our next 'decorating practice' session that I would certainly have to try at least one of the recipes.

Fast forward to last night.

As nature would have it, I looked through the book the night before she was to come over. Which would be fine if all I had to do was look at the book--but I was supposed to make the icing and the cupcakes before she would arrive at my house at 12 noon the next day. oops!

I quickly tried to narrow down a recipe that wouldn't require me to make a trip to the store. I typically have a fully stocked pantry but since I have been lax in the cooking department lately, there were a few items I was out of--like cake flour. Cake flour just happens to be what all Martha's cupcakes have in common.

Honestly, there is a conversion for cake flour for all purpose flour, but at 8pm last night, I couldn't be bothered. I just used all-purpose flour for these cakes but I am thinking next time--I may want to follow the recipe for that because I think the cakes turned out a bit too dense. I used buttermilk instead of the milk and if you really are looking for flavor, my advice is add more cinnamon and possibly some other spices (cloves, nutmeg?)

These cupcakes weren't bad. Not my favorite and definitely something I could make improvements on. BUT the concept of a snickerdoodle cupcake? Divine! Especially for fall!

To top it off, I used Martha's Swiss meringue buttercream. Normally, I will ONLY make my 'go to' Italian meringue buttercream, but I really wanted to just see how Martha's was. Afterall, this was just for a practice round of decorating cupcakes anyway.

I must say, BOTH of us were pleasantly surprised over the taste of the Swiss meringue. It seemed more flavorful than the Italian meringue....more buttery. What's even better? It's a great frosting for piping out mums! (forget the Wilton buttercream I had prepared--that was getting us nowhere!!)

I so wish I got a picture of us--eating leftover frosting with a spoon.

As Martha would say "It's a good thing".

For the recipe:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Crunch Tart

This weeks TWD is hosted by Carla of Chocolate Moosey. Be sure to check out her page for the recipe!
I am suffering from sever pregnancy brain--its just not working! I made the TWD recipe for next week (stay tuned for the split level pudding) and while I was dealing with my mis-haps from that--I slowly realized that I had made the wrong recipe! OOPS! So today while juggling about 100 other tasks, I somehow made pastry dough, homemade caramel, and ganache.
Believe it or not, this tart was rather simple and straight forward to make. I've made Dorie's sweet tart dough many times and its very easy and always good. The caramel directions scared me--Dorie says that it will splatter but mine didnt seem to do that. Here I was, armed to my neck in pot holders, long sleeves, and a splatter guard--just to be sure I wasn't struck with 3rd degree burns. Luckily, I came out unscathed and it came together in minutes.
The ganache--well what could be easier to make than ganache? I know some of the other bakers were left with a lot of left over ganache, but I had just enough to fill my tart (to the brim of course).

The final verdict: It was rich, smooth and delicious. I really enjoyed the salty sweet taste of this and will definately make this again.

TWD on its WAY!

Can I claim Preg-o brain this week????

I made NEXT weeks TWD, that didnt go off without a hitch. So while I am mending that...I am in the process of making the chocolate crunch tart (plus clearing out the baby's room). Stay will be here....I swear...


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

While recovering from my red eye flight from Napa I still had yet to make this weeks TWD. I saw these on the roster at the beginning of the month and made a mental note that I would 'for sure' be making them. Well, it ended up that I made these literally last minute--not taking into account I needed to chill the dough for 3 hours. Hence, the horrible lighting in the photos and late post.

Regardless, these were delicious! I was so happy I participated. I cut the recipe in half because the recipe yielded 48 cookies! For a pregnant woman with no self control when it comes to sweets, I figured it would be best. I'm not quite sure how this would have yielded 48 cookies--because even cut in half I was only at best able to produce 12. Its possible I didn't roll my dough out thin enough, but any thinner and I wasn't able to pull the dough off the wax. I decided to make the 6 tonight and freeze the other 6 for later. (Because even 12 cookies for one night is WAY too many and Dorie says that these are best eaten the day of baking).

My father in law ended up stopping by to quiz me about baby names (his new favorite task) and all 6 cookies dissapeared out of the oven, barely making a photo op (and I'm sorry but I had hands reaching for these immediately and these were the best I could do in the poor dark lighting).

My point: these are great cookies and fairly easy to make despite the dough being a bit tricky to work with due to the 'stick' factor. I used wax paper to roll the dough out, but still found myself rolling out, then sticking back into the fridge to cool and then cutting and transferring to the sheet pan. I used fresh cherry preserves from a wonderful market in Traverse City, MI. The flavor is unexpected, and nothing what I would expect from cottage cheese! These really taste like pastry dough to me--and more of a turnover and not a cookie. I just happen to love turnovers!

I would definitely make these again and I am interested to try these maybe in a savory fashion!

Thanks so much to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for hosting this week! Be sure to stop by her page for the recipe and also don't forget to check out Tuesday with Dorie's (TWD) blog roll to see what all the other lovely bakers were up to.