Saturday, March 23, 2013

Coconut Macaroons

So it's meant to be Spring and yet it continues to snow. Despite the fact that Passover and Easter are upon us, there's still snow on the ground. So sad. Due to complicated family connections, I recognize both holidays. This weekend I will find myself at a nice relaxed family Seder as opposed to the formal events we attended as kids. I really enjoyed going to Seder with family and friends but as a kid, it took forever and you can't eat for awhile and then when you think it's over it's not and then you're still hungry. Clearly a whiny child. But I do remember there was jello and coconut macaroons.

All the ingredients. Simplicity.
And so, for our chill Seder, I made some macaroons based on the Barefoot Contessa's recipe. I was surprised at how easy these were to make. I envisioned condensed milk as being the evaporated milk you use in pies. Fortunately I actually read the labels this time and they are next to each other in the aisle. It looks like pudding actually. I think the only thing I did 'wrong' was I didn't have the eggs at room temperature when I beat the egg whites. But it clearly didn't matter because they are delicious! So simple, so quick.

Egg whites on the left and coconut-condensed milk mix on the right.

And for extra deliciousness, some chocolate.
Part two of this short and sweet post: book review! I was wandering through a used bookstore the other day and I came across Let Us Eat Cake. It sounded interesting with recipes and stories about cooking. Written by a restaurant critic, it chronicles her memories of food starting when she was a little girl and watching her mother in the kitchen. And then it moves through her life and learning to cook, the ups and downs of relationships and friends. I thought it was a good mix of food experimentation (complete with recipes), the changing role of women and the importance of friendship. I feel like she just saved me 30 years of figuring out what's important in life. It is non-fiction so pretty much an autobiography but with a focus on how she grew up (not just from kid to adult). I want to lend my copy to friends but I also want the recipes. One day it will join my recipe books and I will make the Husband Catching Cake because it's pure chocolate. Yup, now you're curious.
Compliments of Amazon

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Carbomb Cupcakes

Today is the day that the world becomes Irish. Although, given it's a Sunday, everyone has been Irish all weekend long! Technically the celebrations in my life started on Friday with an Irish inspired bake-off at work. I missed the actual event but submitted my entry nonetheless.

Guinness and butter, an excellent combination.
I have now officially had an Irish carbomb once. But I've had the cupcake variety about a half dozen times. I had to test my creation before submitting it to a contest, duh. I have not reached the point in baking expertise to invent recipes but this one was pretty great.

Three alcohols: Guinness, whiskey and Bailey's. Delicious. Say "Guinness chocolate cake with a chocolate whiskey ganache and Bailey's frosting" three times fast. As always, there's a twist. I woke up early one day to make the cupcakes so I could frost them in the evening (I guess that defeats my excuse of not being able to get up early to go to the gym). Evening arrives, I dig out little holes for the ganache using tongs and proceed to gather my ingredients for the filling. Now, I haven't fully unpacked my baking supplies so digging through a box of spices and various chocolates commenced. I knew there was a reason to buy that Ghiradelli chocolate bar! But it was only half of the bittersweet chocolate I needed. No worries, chocolate is chocolate so I pulled out the unsweetened chocolate too, that will work, right? Well there wasn't enough of that either so then I pulled out the one square of semi-sweet chocolate I had left. Cue Googling to determine if you can exchange unsweetened for bittersweet. Good news, you can! The translation is not 1:1 so the two unsweetened squares were sufficient. Except I put it next to the semi-sweet square...wrapped in the same paper and otherwise unmarked as to if it was sweet or not. Well, I'm still not sure I used the right one but into the pot they all went to make a hodge podge of hopefully accurate ganache.

Check out all that ganache
Now, baking competitions are serious business. In my head I had all these great plans of how to decorate the cupcakes. Arranged as a rainbow with gold cupcakes at the end, a field of shamrocks and gold cupcakes. Then I remembered that I have no decorating talent so was left with some green frosting and shamrocks on top. But wait! There was that one time I made gold snitches which means gold spray is among the spices. Yes, I sprayed cupcakes because I made gold snitches for a Harry Potter party. And yes, I can say that with a straight face.

This is the extent to which I can make icing pretty
I'm not sure of the competition verdict but I do know that they were a hit among my guinea pigs (aka: roommates, friends and coworkers). And they were festive and a worthy late night snack during the weekend of Irish festivities.
The final product!
Go forth and be merry Irishmen and women! And find a nice Irish blessing to go with your Guinness.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Since most of the people who read this blog find it from my facebook page, you probably already know that I moved! Hence the lack of posts, moving takes time and of course it also involved packing my baking pans. So. Many. Baking. Pans. And spices, lots of spices. It kind of felt like Toy Story when all the toys get a moving buddy so they don't get lost. Miraculously, nothing got lost or broken! At least I don't think I lost anything but I guess I wouldn't really know.
A real oven! It doesn't smell bad and it fits real pans!
At any rate, in honor of this big life change and move, the theme of this post is all about recycling. And nostalgia. Chocolate chip cookies are a staple of my childhood. Yes, I love oatmeal raisin cookies and I love making crazy things like Orange Gingerbread Cake but chocolate cookies have this safe childhood feeling about them. And they're easy to make. Unless you're me and your brain is fried from moving and you decide to half the recipe like a good girl which means you read the recipe too fast and you dig for spices and you pull out the wrong baking powder/soda container.

I halved the recipe but then I ate lots of cookie dough too, just for good measure.
So yeah, I accidentally added baking powder instead of baking soda, something I quickly realized (it may have been the other way around but you get the idea). And of course it looks the same as flour so it's unclear where it is in the mixture. Solution? Scoop off the top layer of flour/mystery ingredient. It seems to have worked because the cookies are delicious. And hopefully my roommate is now aware of things to come.

Om nom cookies!!!!
Now, as for recycling, I count this recipe as recycled because it's a classic. But if you find yourself doing some spring cleaning, here are some helpful hints on where to recycle stuff:
  • Best Buy- they pretty much recycle everything electronic, and then some! They have a recycling kiosk in front where you can drop off household items like old batteries, plastic bags, CD's and the like. But you can also bring in cameras, mp3 players, cell phones, tv's, computers and probably anything else that they currently sell. So I recycled my batteries, old software, ancient TV's and camera with a broken screen. And grocery stores usually have a plastic bag recycling bin. The only downside is now I have VHS tapes and no VHS player...
  • Verizon- you can take your old cell phones here too and sometimes you get a rebate. This did not happen for me because my phones were old and broken anyways. Plus, if your phone works, they donate it to a help line for women in dangerous/bad domestic situations so they have a way to call for help.
  • Apple- I took my broken iPod to Apple to recycle and surprise! If you recycle your iPod, you get 10% off a new one. But only on the day you recycle it. Also, sad fact: my iPod was listed as 'vintage'.
  • Goodwill- You can donate lots of stuff here. Basically anything. You get a tax deduction too but you'll have to estimate the value of what you've donated.
  • Salvation Army- You can also donate stuff here or if you have furniture, you can call them to pick it up. Tax deduction apply here too. For the record, there are employment policies that I don't agree with here but sometimes it's the only way to help someone and/or not throw away perfectly good items. 
I hope to make more delicious foods soon and post more often but I also resolved to Instagram a lot and I checked my progress today--not going so well.

Get excited though, my office is rumored to have a St. Patrick's Day bake-off. Challenge accepted.