Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year, New Adventures...or Baking Weekend #1

I have to confess - I really don't like to bake. However, when I saw the book Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes by Lisa Yockelson I was so intrigued, I added it to my Christmas wish list.  Lo and behold, my parents saw fit to gift this beautiful book to me, and so begins our journey.

I really enjoyed both the book and the movie Julie & Julia and was inspired to embark on a similar adventure with my book.  I'm hoping to spend most weekends this year baking one recipe from this book and I'll share my adventures.

The first recipe in the book is titled "Forever Brownies" and if you're anything like me, a recipe that has three different kinds of chocolate in it can't be bad. Only having experienced baking boxed brownies, the list of ingredients was a little daunting - 3 different chocolates and 2 kinds of flour plus all the other ingredients - where did Ms. Yockelson come up with this?

Confession #1 - I do not own a sifter.  Instead of sifting twice onto waxed paper like the recipe calls for (also do not currently have waxed paper on hand), I put all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and stirred really good with a whisk.  Hopefully that's sufficient...

Next came all of the melting (butter and chocolate, separate in the picture below - turns out this is fantastically luscious looking mixture when completely combined - and mixing.

Eggs were gently stirred, then combined with sugar.  Confession #2 - I do not have superfine sugar in the house - also required by the recipe - hopefully standard issue will do.

Melted chocolate and butter were added, then the dry ingredients and voila, batter complete - note chocolate on mixer - my had to have after wedding from our Kohl's registry is no longer countertop art.

I was so excited after I got this into the pan that I forgot to take a picture before I put it in the oven. (The pan was purchased yesterday at Marshall's for $4.99, there will probably be several more of these kinds of purchases this year, since I also don't own a bundt pan and other things I'm sure extra fancy baking requires.)  I did taste test before these went in the oven and the batter is absolutely to die for.  Nothing like the watery stuff you get when you make brownies from a box.  It's velvety, chocolatey, and just sweet enough.  If it was whipped more it would be a delightful mousse, except for the raw eggs anyway...

The brownies are now out of the oven and cooling on the rack before heading to the refrigerator for four hours.  It's going to be torture to wait  to taste them, that's for sure, but I'm sure worth every second.

Next up... "A Noble Marzipan Cake" This is terrifying since I have no idea where I might find marzipan, let alone good marzipan in the Upstate of SC.  If anyone has ideas, please let me know :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Aftermath...

Where does time go?  My husband and I made our trek north to PA for the holidays and spent a wonderful, if hectic, week visiting family and friends.  Oh, and there was also a stop in Buffalo for a hockey game - our shared passion.  I could probably write a separate blog just discussing our love for all things Sabres, but I digress.

I'll take a step back and recap all the madness that led up to the holiday.  As previously mentioned, I baked.  I never bake.  I learned that Hello Dolly bars are possibly the easiest cookie in the world to make (and also one of my hubby's favorites).  I also made some chocolate mint shortbread bars and chocolate mint meringues.  All of the above will stay in next year's cookie repertoire. (Read no rolling pins and minimal flour all over my counters.)

I also made several things, some successful, others not so much.  For the immediate family, I made Dutch Apple Jam and Pickled Cabbage & Peppers.

I also made the gift bags that these were packaged in...

I'll stop here.  Note to self, while sewing gift bags is economical, it is hugely time consuming.  I made seven large bags and 17 small ones for apple jam to give to friends.

This cut into my sewing time for monster backpacks and the should have been cute stuffed horse for our nieces and nephew.  I succeeded in completing one monster backpack, which became my niece Keely's birthday present.  Next year Piper and Maddox are on the list for their own.

I won't even get into the horse.  It should have been a perfectly sweet little equine, but came out looking like a cross between a hippo and a giraffe.  I cut this from a pattern and followed instructions.  Not sure what went wrong, but it became a dog toy, which was promptly slobbered on, tossed in the air, and unstuffed.

Speaking of dogs, I also made dog biscuits.  We have friends and family with allergic pets and I found a super easy recipe that uses peanut butter, oats, honey, water and low-sodium bullion.  These things were a huge hit, despite the fact that I had to replace the honey with molasses after exploding the honey all over the microwave (who knew 20 seconds was too long).

We came home to South Carolina on the 30th, and spent a laid-back New Year's Eve at our friends Mike & Katie's home.  This year's highlight may have been Alicia's sparkler twirling during/after the big fireworks.  That and the campfire.  Oh, and Katie's homemade marshmallows with chocolate fondue and goat cheese crostini with pear & rosemary jam.  I could have eaten them all.

New Year's Day started with breakfast in bed for me and was followed by a traditional "northern" New Year's meal (kielbasa, sauerkraut, pierogies...) at Kate and Dave's house.

If the rest of 2012 follows the way it started, we're in for another fantastic year.