Sunday, December 23, 2007

I am a Daring Baker....

I am a Daring Baker. I have joined the ranks of those who dare to bake something each month that is a little out of the comfort range. Each month we are given our assignment and a deadline. We then bake away and, on the designated day, post about the entire baking experience. This month, we are baking a Yule Log. A genoise cake, filled, rolled and frosted with buttercream. And no Yule Log is complete without the mushroom garnishment--either made of meringue or marzipan. I have looked forward to this challenge since it was issued. I have dreamt of the filling I would use--this is one of the few variables in the Yule Log equation allowed. I finally settled on the flavors last night and made my last minute purchases. I will have a Chocolate Genoise, filled with Raspberry Whipped Cream and frosted with a Chocolate Buttercream. I had made the Meringue Mushrooms Friday night with my sister and fellow DB'er, Julie (found at
I went into the kitchen just now to bake my chocolate genoise and decided to be an even more Daring Baker. I am daring to wait until Christmas Day to make my Yule Log. I am too tired from delivering gifts to friends today to begin the baking process. Plus, I want the Yule Log to be served on Christmas Day and just don't have room in the fridge to keep it until then.
So I dare to wait to bake until I am a little more ready to give it my full attention. I hope that this isn't considered too much of a faux pas in the Daring Baker world. I am committing now to complete January's challenge early in the month. But sometimes a little sanity is more important than chocolate Yule Log. (I really must not be feeling well to have those words cross my mind--nothing is ever more important than chocolate!).
I was going to post photos of the process of making my Meringue Mushrooms. I still haven't assembled them. Julie took the photos and loaded them to my computer, but I don't know where she saved them. She will be here for Christmas, so until then, imagine the most marvelous meringue mushrooms you've ever seen. They pale in comparison to ours. :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Daring Baker

I have joined Daring Bakers--an online community of bakers who get a monthly challenge and then bake and blog about it. Tomorrow I find out December's assignment and I am excited. But, for all you not-so-Daring's out there, I cannot let you in on the top-secret recipe until the assigned date to post. Check back often...I still have to post on my Thanksgiving dinner results. And you DON'T want to miss out on the baked good o' the month!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thinking Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a week away and I am stressing out a little bit. I start a new job on Monday, so I think I need to have most of my shopping done before I start. Darrell and I got an invite to go to a friend's home for Thanksgiving dinner, but I really enjoy making (and eating) all my usual foods. It just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving if I don't have the dinner I make. Ok, if my mom or anyone in my family makes the dinner, it still feels the same, because we have the same things. But a friend. Not quite. So we will join some friends for dessert and we can call it all good.

So here is my Thanksgiving Dinner, as planned so far.
*Turkey breast, brined and smoked on the grill--oh so tender this way!
*Mashed potatoes--Yukon golds with butter and sour cream (I will use light sour cream to cut a couple of calories)
*Cornbread stuffing. I will make the stuffing on Tuesday probably to give it time to dry out. I need to remember to make less than I think I need since I usually end up with way too much!
*Turkey gravy. I'm AWFUL at making gravy. This year I will try to make some from turkey (or chicken) stock from a box. I will have some packaged, just-add-water-mix handy though, just in case.
*Green beans with shallots, bacon and either almonds or sesame seeds.
*Candied yams. Or I may just bake a sweet potato to save a calorie or two and because Darrell doesn't care for the yam/sweet potato.
*Cranberry sauce. I intend to make my own this year. Still trying to decide on the recipe to use. Do I go with simple (cranberries, sugar and water) or complex (orange juice/zest, nuts, etc)?
*Rolls. Homemade. Hot. MMMMM.

For dessert, I want to make:
*Pumpkin Pie. I have been waiting a very long time for this. Last year I made a tragic mistake and bought it from Costco. It seemed like in years past, it was as good as homemade. Not last year. In the time it took to wander the Costco while they baked a fresh batch, I could have made one at home and loved it.
*Deep Dish Apple Pie. I seriously wanted only one pie this year-pumpkin. Until I got a copy of Cook's Illustrated, in which they describe how to make the perfect DDAP. It sounds so yummy that I have to make it.
*I will, of course, make some whipped cream. With just the right amount of sugar and vanilla. Perfect to add to either pie.
*And because Darrell doesn't like pie, I will make the dessert of his choice. It will probably be white cake from a mix and white frosting from the tub. This is one of his favorite desserts. The cake is pretty good. It's the frosting that I can't stand. But it is his dessert and I don't have to eat any of it, since I will have more than enough of my own.

I do have some other foods that I want sometime between now and the end of the year:
Pumpkin bread
Cranberry nut bread
Pretzel jello salad
Almost any pumpkin dessert

We'll see what happens.

I will post more about what I end up making and how everything turns out. I will share any recipes I use and hope that I don't end up the size of a Buick.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chocolate Chip Chookies

Ok, so I made chocolate chip cookies--I decided to try to get a little creative with the name since the cookie isn't the most creative. I LOVE chocolate chip cookies! I can't seem to get enough of them. Tonight after eating dinner, I couldn't think of anything else but chocolate chip cookies. Warm and oozy from the oven. Since I am trying (rather unsuccessfully thus far) to eat healthier, I tried to talk myself out of making the cookies. I thought that I could run over to Safeway and get one cookie. Ok, well probably more than one cookie, but far fewer than a whole batch. And since Darrell is no friend of the baked good, I knew I would eat way too many cookies if I made them. But I didn't want to go to Safeway a second time today. And even though their bakery produces a good cookie, it wouldn't be the same. So I broke down. The good news is, I only made half a batch. I make a modified Toll House recipe. Here is the recipe that makes a half batch. Which is perfect for when I am jonesing for A cookie and not 5773 cookies.

Stephanie's Chocolate Chip Chookies

1 stick of butter*
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg**
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips***

Preheat oven to 325. Beat butter until smooth and creamy; add sugars and cream until light (in Color and Texture) and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat for about 5 minutes. The texture should look a lot like a butter cream frosting. Add flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add chocolate chips.

Drop in large blobs (about 1/4 cup) on ungreased and cool cookie sheet. Bake in oven for 15-16 minutes for a light cookie and 18-20 minutes for a darker cookie. Allow to rest on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes and transfer to a cooling rack (yeah, right--eat quickly).

*Butter should be at room temperature. I was in a rush and the butter had been in the freezer. I let it sit out for about 30 minutes and then microwaved it for 15 seconds. This seemed to be perfect. You want it so it is no longer cold, but not melted. I think I read that this will help make an emulsion. (Thank you Alton Brown!).

**Egg should also be at room temperature. I don't have a shortcut for this--definitely NOT the microwave. I guess you could place the egg in some room temperature (or slightly) warmer water. I have not tried this and cannot, as of yet, recommend this. I may get more desperate in the future, so stay tuned. Again, I believe this helps with the emulsion and creaming of the wet ingredients.

***Semi-sweet, bittersweet or dark chocolate are all options here. Milk chocolate is NOT! It is too sweet and not quite right. In addition to chocolate chips, you can use chunks or large pieces broken from a larger bar. I guess Dark M&M's are another option. Try to avoid the mini-chips or too small of pieces, as they don't give you the right texture.

I always use 2-3 times the amount of vanilla called for--it helps the chocolate stand out from the cookie. I also really like to taste a little bit of salt, so I use 1.5 times the amount called for in typical recipes.

Although I didn't put any nuts or additional add-ins to these cookies, I do think they can add something extra. I hate walnuts--they don't taste that good and always give me canker sores, so I can't recommend them. I do like pecans or even macadamia nuts. Another yummy option is dried cranberries. Dried cherries would probably be good, but I am picky and won't try them. (P.S. -Darrell and I are both extremely picky and there are so many things that one of us loves and the other hates--it's a wonder we ever decide on something to eat!).

I usually need to eat 2 cookies right away and then am good to go. I will then wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge. If I don't think I will make the rest of the cookies by the next day, I then wrap it in foil and place in the freezer. Out of the fridge, the dough takes another 1-2 minutes to cook; out of the freezer, if you can cut it into chunks, it takes about 3-5 minutes longer. I try not to eat too much of the dough prior to cooking--not because I am afraid of salmonella or food poisoning. Once, in college, I ate so much dough, I couldn't eat the cookies I made. I don't want to get to that point again. Not yet, at least.

Happy baking!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

This is my blog....

This is my blog on food.