Archive for March, 2009

24
Mar
09

salted caramel

I’ve been wanting to make salted caramel cupcakes ever since I saw this recipe on cupcakeblog.  This past Christmas one of my friends gave me a jar of fleur de sel so I made some salted caramels and salted caramel cupcakes for her birthday.

salted caramel gift

I originally planned to make the salted caramels in Chocolate Obsession which are covered in tempered chocolate and splinkled with fleur de sel.  Then I saw this recipe for chocolate salted caramels on Gourmet.  These had the chocolate mixed into the caramel and I could avoid trying to temper chocolate for now.  I read through a lot of the reviews, trying to make sure I didn’t end up with caramels that were too soft or too hard.

making caramelIt seemed like most of the reviewers had different temperatures that worked for them so I decided not to rely on temperature alone.  In addition to temperature, I also spooned small amounts of the caramel mixture into an ice water bath to see how it set up.  I’m glad I did it this way because the temperature at which I stopped the caramel was different from the temperature in the recipe.  The caramels were perfect but then hardened a few days later so I had to put a warning on my gift tag that the caramels needed to be microwaved for a few seconds.

salted caramels I ended up with an extra treat after making the salted chocolate caramels.  Instead of filling the caramel covered pot with water to get all the gooey caramel off, I filled it with milk and enjoyed a salted caramel hot chocolate.  I couldn’t waste all that good stuff!

When it was time to make the cupcakes, I couldn’t decide on what kind of chocolate cupcakes I wanted to pair with the salted caramel frosting so I made 2 batches: one batch of the chocolate cupcakes from cupcakeblog and another batch from a different recipe.

chocolate cupakes

In the end, I decided to go with the darker, more delicate chocolate cupcakes.

salted caramel cupcakes

I froze and cut up some of the extra salted caramel to place on top of the cupcakes just like chockylit had but after a few minutes it was melted and runny.  I didn’t want to leave it like that so I cut up some of the chocolate salted caramels and stuck them on.  These cupcakes were really good – I can’t wait to make them again!

22
Mar
09

brown butter brown sugar shorties

A few weeks ago I tried some brown butter cookies from a local company.  They were a little pricey ($3 for 3 small cookies), but H and I both thought they were pretty good.  I decided to search for cookie recipe that would be similar and came across this recipe for brown butter brown sugar shorties on smittenkitchen.  I had seen this post before and couldn’t believe I had just passed over it.  Now that I had a brown butter cookie craving I just had to make it.

brown butter bits
brown butter bits

creamed brown butter and brown sugar
creamed brown butter and brown sugar
rolled in raw sugar
rolled in raw sugar
baked
baked

They didn’t come out looking exactly like the ones on smittenkitchen, but they were still delicious.  Some people who commented on her website said that they flattened and spread out so I wasn’t too surprised.  I was grateful for the warning she posted at the end of the recipe – otherwise the flattened cookies would’ve been a bummer.  These were really easy to make and I’ve decided to keep tweaking the recipe until I get the texture that I want.  I’ve since made 2 additional batches which I’ll have to post later, but I have to say that the smell of browned butter and brown sugar is becoming one of my favorite things.

12
Mar
09

rustic dinner rolls

The same weekend that I tried to make croissants, I also prepared a mini comfort meal for some friends who just had a baby.  It was a very busy Saturday.  H and I ran errands while the croissant dough tried to rise and I didn’t get started on the mini meal until almost 6pm.  We stayed up until almost 2 am (he watched movies on his xbox while I listened from the kitchen).  It’s funny b/c the only time I really ever stay up that late is when I’m baking.   I made hearty chicken noodle soup, rustic dinner rolls, and classic brownies – all recipes from Cooks Illustrated.  It seemed like the perfect comfort meal for a cold, rainy weekend.  The rustic dinner rolls came out much better than my croissants.  Maybe it was because I had started them much later when the heater and stove had been running already for a few hours.

I was very pleased with how they turned out.  I love the crunchy outside and chewy, soft inside.  And they freeze well!  I will definitely be making these again – maybe I’ll just make dinner rolls from now on instead of buying them.  Oh, the chicken soup and brownies were tasty, too!

12
Mar
09

chocolate croissants

I’ve been wanting to try to make puff pastry ever since I saw this cool demo on Artisan Sweets.  She makes it look so easy!   I haven’t made puff pastry yet, but I *tried* to make croissants a few weeks ago.  My real agenda was to make chocolate croissants because I had been craving them ever since I had one in San Francisco.  I make enough sugary, buttery things at home so I usually refrain from buying myself croissants.   I actually don’t know why I choose to refrain from them – it’s not like I really refrain from eating cupcakes and other things.   It’s not that I don’t like them that much.  When I was in college, I worked at a coffee shop and I had no problem eating them whenever I wanted – plain, chocolate, ham and cheese, bear claws – any kind, any time of today.  But that was how many years ago now?  That was when I was actually active and ran around campus all day.  I have a desk job now and sit on my behind for 8 hours a day.  I try to exercise “regularly”, but for me “regularly” usually ends up being once a week so I have to refrain from something…right?

I was fascinated by the folding, turning, and rolling of the puff pastry demo and I figured croissant dough would be fairly similar.  Plus, I had splurged on some Plugra european butter after I won a $25 shopping spree at Trader Joe’s and I have tons of chocolate and yeast that I need to use so I decided to just do it.  I read a review that the recipe in Baking with Julia was very rich so I went with the recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II.  (Did I ever mention that I love Julia Child?  I started watching her show before I started kindergarten!)

This was quite a process, but I was adequately forewarned, “The minimum time required for making croissants is 11 to 12 hours.” It actually took about 36 hours before I actually baked them.  Something was wrong right from the beginning.  I don’t know if my yeast wasn’t fresh enough (it wasn’t expired yet) or if my house was too cold.  I think it’s the latter.  The recipe said that the dough needed to rest at about 72 degrees for about 3 hours to rise 3.5 times its original volume.  Well, mine sat in my 65 degree kitchen for  almost 8 hours and it only rose 2.5 times its original volume.  I had all kinds of problems – rolling my dough out to the correct size, “smearing” the cold butter onto the flattened dough, shaping the dough, accidentally par cooking the shaped croissants in a warm oven (I was trying to help them rise)…

The croissants came out spongy instead of flaky and they were very buttery even though I had used the minimum amount of butter called for.  I have to say though that I didn’t think they were that bad for my first attempt and they did hit the spot.  I’ve eaten a couple more croissants since this trial, examining what a “real” croissant should look like and how it should taste.  (I kind of use that as my excuse – experiencing them will help me next time I try to make them, right?)

05
Mar
09

valentine’s day

H and I visited my family after our San Francisco trip.  I usually make breakfast when we visit and I decided to make a vday breakfast – heart shaped eggs, banana pancakes, and bacon.

Valentine's BreakfastMy sister has been asking me to make these inside out peanut butter cups  so I made these, too.

inside out peanut butter cups

05
Mar
09

san francisco

H tried to surprise me with a trip to San Francisco to see Wicked for my birthday/valentine’s day.  I kind of figured it out a few weeks before when he told me that I needed to request a few days off from work.  I’d hinted at wanting to see the musical a few months before when I found out it was going to be in SF.  We really liked the show and would probably watch it again sometime – although I told H that maybe we should see a matinee next time.  I’m kind of known for falling asleep when I watch movies or even live shows at night.  I never actually fell asleep during the show, but I have to admit that there was a few times when my eyes started closing… wicked

We had fun walking around and being touristy, despite the cold I came down with right before we went on vacation.  We got really lucky that it didn’t rain during the day –  that would have been miserable.   The day after the show we walked around the city.  We started with breakfast at Tad’s Steakhouse.  It was just ok, a normal breakfast.  Our day got off to a later start than I had planned and it was close to our hotel.  We walked around a bit afterwards and then headed down to the Ferry Building where we did a lot of sampling.Ferry Building

We started at Miette where I admired the pastries and cake stands.

Miette

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