Sunday, November 8, 2009

SMS: Cranberry Pear Muffins with Ginger Crumble Topping

I am back! Yay, after spending most of the day cleaning my new house (boo) I finally got to bake in it! Yippee. I am so happy to be back with SMS, I baked with a big grin on my face the whole time. This week's recipe is Cranberry Pear Muffins with Ginger Crumble Topping chosen by Jennifer of Maple N'Cornbread. Old habits are hard to break, so even though I thought I could use this fresh start to do things a little ahead of time, no dice, and so the muffins are still warm, no tasters yet, and bad lighting. Oh well. They sure smell delicious. And, I ended up making 24, since I didn't read the recipe carefully and didn't realize that it called for a 1/2 batch of the crumble (also true to form) and so instead of waste the extra crumble, I just made another batch since I had left over of everything else as well.

My Mother-in-Law (who is AWESOME) and her boyfriend and her good friend are in town and have been here for almost two weeks. It's been great to have them (she and her BF are French) so we've been treated to some amazing French home cooking and house improvements (Maurice is a Jack of All Trades, a wonder really). I hope they like these American treats. They are very strict about having breakfast every morning with coffee sitting down at the table - so weird! I suspect these will fit the bill. I'll let you know - I made one batch dairy free with soy creamer and soy milk and dairy free margarine so I could try them, as I love cranberry muffins.

Check out the other SMS'rs too, their muffins look great!

Friday, November 6, 2009

OMG it's been tooo long

Wow, what do you say when you have been absent for sooooo long? I'm sorry, please keep reading my blog, I won't let this happen again ..... By way of background, otherwise known as excuse, here's my story - if anyone will either bother to read this anymore! September: we submit our 5th bid on a house in the East Bay (Northern Cali), and we are accepted!!!!! This, after months and months and months of spending the very little free time we had looking at tons and tons of houses with our great agent, Warren Lei of Caldwell Banker, and being outbid (thankfully) on a few houses. Our new home:

As you homeowners know, bid acceptance is the first step, then inspections, contingencies, mortgage, escrow, etc. Thankfully, everything went well and without a hitch. We closed just in time for me throw my good friend Ashley, who introduced me to my husband (i.e. forever in debt) a 30th birthday party at my empty house. The theme throughout this whole saga is that my work as a corporate attorney as been INSANE. So, I get home from work at 11PM the day before the party and stay up 3am baking a cheesecake (her request) and cupcakes and making her present (we all went in on a vacation package, I set up a registry, and then made cards for each component of the vacation). I must say, it is crazy to try and throw a party in an empty house, I mean, at the time the guests were scheduled to arrive I was at the harware store learning that the grill I bought had to be partially disassembled and then reassembled at the party in order for us to cook dinner!!!! Thank goodness for her boyfriend Mark, rockstar, as my hubby was in Nicaragua when we closed (meaning I spent three hours siging the paperwork for both of us with a power of attorney).

Immediately after the party, I get to work on making the house my own - with my good friend Auburn's guidance and help, we start the ambitious task of painting several rooms. Insanity. Two nights during the week I don't make it back to the house until 10PM and THEN start to paint, like a crazy person.

So, hubby returns from Nicaragua, and instead of finding our apartment all packed up, because work was CRAZY, I have done nothing (did I mention how I worked super late and then painted the house alone?). So, we have 4 days to move our apartment filled with 4 years worth of $%@@. It takes almost every waking moment of those four days - one of which I worked full time. Sleep deprivation, what is that? Huh, what? I'm confused.

We finally make it, get all moved in, and then... WE HAVE TO UNPACK. My dad and sister are scheduled to visit to help, so that gives good motivation to push. And then they come and help tremendously with so many things, buying a couch, putting up pictures, planting plants, etc. So, unpacking, hosting, shopping, and oh yeah, did I mention how I WORK ALL THE TIME? Well, for the month of October I did - spending more nights taking a few hours nap on the couch in my new home office (which I do love) then in my bed. So, what this means is - NO BAKING IN MY WONDERFUL NEW KITCHEN. Can you say torture? a weird twist of fate? Sucky is what I say.

Ok, so I am almost done with this big o'le long explanation. The other thing, I joined the committee for my hubby's non-profit, blueEnergy's, fundraiser. So, in my spare time (the very little that I have between my crazy lawyer hours, new house, new commute, I devote to obtaining/soliciting and planning for the silent auction. It ended up being a successful mission thus far, event still to come, but we have put together quite an action. So, that is my story. Not really have anything to do with baking. Apart from one super late night making 10 dozen cupcakes for my husband's work event, not much baking at all. But, I feel the tide is turning. I will be joining back in SMS this weekend - and deeply apologize to all SMS members for my absence, and thank Karen soooooo muuuuchh. So, if you are still reading after all this, and can find it in your heart to keep on reading, I thank you so very much. I will be making the blog rounds this weekend and can't wait to see what you all have been up to.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

SMS: Fresh Peach Muffins

Short and sweet post, running out the door for a weekend retreat in the mountains, no cell or blackberry reception, so nice. Anyhow, I made these muffins back when we made the strawberry rubarb jam, which I made again last night to take on our trip! This week's SMS recipe is Fresh Peach Muffins chosen by JoVonn of the Givens Chronicles. She's a Georgia Peach, so she choose this recipe. I made it dairy free with soy creamer and it worked great. Peach flavor is mild, but the mufins were overall very good. Check out the other SMS baker's here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SMS: Caramel Apple Banana Bread

Another banana bundt cake. While I didn't taste this one (dairy), so can't give you a great comparison with the TWD Banana Bundt Cake, this sure smelled heavenly and got rave reviews from my Father's work. This week's recipe was chosen by Joy of Hot Oven Warm Heart. She is super sweet and says she is new to blogging, but if you look at her pictures and her posts, I am not to convinced - so beautiful. Really glad Joy was able to join SMS, she is a great addition and writes such thoughtful comments. Great pick Joy! You can get the recipe from here blog HERE. It was slightly more involved with having to chop and carmelize the apple pieces, but my dad swore it was worth it - for him! And it was a bundt because I was baking at my parent's house and they did not have a loaf pan, so there you go. Check out the other creative SMS bloggers HERE.

As an aside, I know I have mentioned serveral times this summer that things are hectic - and apologized for my derelic commenting - well hectic hit a new high last week, some good some bad. So, trying to stay above water and will make the rounds as soon as I can. Thanks so much for still commenting on my blog - you are such terrific supporters.

P.s. please excuse the I-phone photo.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

SMS: Amaretto Truffles

Taking a tiny break from my fun-filled weekend of work, work, work, to bring you this week's SMS recipe: Truffles. Actually, it was hazelnut truffles, but I didn't have any hazelnuts. But I did have tons of almonds, and Disaronno and amaretti cookies - and so, there you go, Amaretto Truffles. The Hazelnut Truffles was chosen by Annie of Living Life Foodcariously. The recipe can be found on her blog HERE.

So, to work with what I had, I substituted toasted almonds for the hazelnuts, Disaronno for the Frangelico, and rolled the truffles in crushed amaretti cookies. Instead of adding 1 1/2 cups of chopped nuts to the truffles, I opted for about 1/2 a cup instead. I wanted there to be some nuts, but I didnt want that to overpower the chocolate. Mathias thought it was just the right balance. This was my first time making truffles, and it was so easy. I am so glad I tried these - great easy party treats. And the flavor combinations are endless. Thanks for picking these Annie.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

Ohhhhh man these were DELICIOUS. This post is a little overdue, I made these amazing cinnamon rolls from The Bread Baker's Apprentice while we were on vacation in Hawaii in May. I bought this book in hopes of joining the BBA group, but I can barely keep up with TWD and SMS and Cake Slice. So, I have the book, and when I can, I will try some of those amazing recipes that I have seen all over many lovely blogs. But I just had to try these, and despite sub-optimal baking conditions in the condo (no oven thermometer!!), these turned out AMAZING. I can't wait to do them again - although they do take some coordination to time them well for morning treats. I am not going to post the recipe here since the BBA group is not doing that, but here is a LINK to a post that has an adapted recipe of these rolls (looks pretty close to me).

And, just because this blog is a little bit of an on-line journal for me, below are some fun pictures from our amazing trip. Thanks again William and Locey.

Monday, August 10, 2009

SMS: Snickerdoodles

Well, a day late. What can I say ... the truth? My father drove to SF from LA on Friday to buy this car for my mom, and they needed someone to drive the car home - since my sister who came along is only 14. So I volunteered, and by the time we got home to LA, I went straight to bed. Cookies were made, pictures taken, but no energy.

This week's SMS recipe was the well-loved snickerdoodles - my hubby's favorite. Luckily, Spike of Spike Bakes helped us all out and agreed to host last minute and chose snickerdoodles. You can get the recipe HERE. My usual go-to recipe I use is Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles - which uses shortening and doesn't require a chill in the fridge like the SMS recipe. Well I'd say these came out just as good as my trusty standard, they were gobbled up by my hubby and family. My sister said they were the best cookies she ever had. So, give them a try.
Thanks Spike for hosting and thanks Dad and Pam for the feedback and the photos.

Baby Shower Treats

So, a good friend of mine from my beloved school Berkeley is having a baby in September! So excited for a new golden baby bear. Her shower was last weekend, and I volunteered - ok practically begged - to make cute baby shower treats. I was just dying to use my onsie cookie cutter.

Luckilly for me, she took me up on the offer. I decided to make decorated sugar cookies as favors and cupcakes for the shower itself. The mother-to-be doesn't like chocolate, and until my recent discovery of my love of chocolate - we bonded in our non-chocolate freakiness. So chocolate cupcakes were out. I decided on two well-loved staples - strawberry (see below) and triple lemon. Although, this time, I did a little twist to my favorite strawberry cupcake recipe.

Taking inspiration from the amazing Strawberry Ruby Grapefruit Preserves we made for SMS, I decided to make Strawberry Grapefruit cupcakes by added the zest of 1/2 a grapefruit to the batter, and about 1 tsp of grapefruit zest to the strawberries in my mini-prep food processor when making the strawberry puree for the buttercream frosting. I couldn't taste these, but they were well loved. And they smelled great.

And, then I made onsie sugar cookies in pale yellow and green because they are going the suprise gender route - which I could never do. Kudos to them. My sweet hubby helped me with filling the cookies with the flood icing. Sooo sweet. I really liked how they turned out. I really like making decorated sugar cookies, but oh, they really are a lot of work.

Strawberry Grapefruit Cupcakes

adapted from Cooking with Amy

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 large egg
6 ounces strawberry yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced
grated zest of 1/2 grapefruit

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. With an electric hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg, yogurt and vanilla, and grapefruit zest, blending until smooth.

2. Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl and blend, then fold in the strawberries.

3. Divide the mixture equally between the 12 paper-lined cupcake cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

4. Beat together butter, powdered sugar, and mashed strawberry in medium-size bowl until creamy and smooth. Chill frosting for 15 minutes or until thick. Frost cupcakes with a spatula.Yield: 12 servings

Sprinkles Strawberry Frosting

2 sticks (½ lb) unsalted butter, firm but not cold
1/8 tsp kosher salt
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp pureed fresh strawberries
1 tsp grated zest of a grapefruit

Put strawberries and grapefruit zest in a food processor and blend until you have a puree

Beat butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffyReduce speed and gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat until incorporatedAdd vanilla and strawberry puree and mix until blended. Do not overmix, or the frosting will incorporate too much air. The consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice-cream.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Coconut Chai Blondies

I am proud of these babies. Not a recipe from one of my baking groups, not a copycat post from one of my favorite bloggers, not from a cookbook (well not entirely). Nope my rare attempt at creativity. And it worked! I have this great tea that I got from Cost Plus that is coconut chai tea. It is super yummy. After making the amazing Chai Cake with the Cake Slice Bakers, I was inspired to make more chai treats - I love chai. So, I thought I would try to make a coconut chai bar cookie/blondie. Boy am I glad I did, these are amazing.

I started, where else, with my favorite baking book - From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and her Chewy Chunky Blondies Recipe and then added chai spices, coconut, macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips. This is really a great combo. My co-workers gobbled these up. They were actually meant for my dear Berkeley college friends for movie night on Thursday, but I got stuck at work and didn't leave until around mid-night, so at that point I was too tired to deliver these goods, so work was in for a treat on Friday. One of my co-workers actually yelped pretty loud when he saw them, had two and raved about them. How about that for some positive work feedback? And Bartlet street - these are coming your way soon, I promise.


Coconut Chai Blondies

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter or dairy free margarine (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macademia nuts
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven the 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and put it on a baking sheet (you can also line the pan with foil and spray the foil, this helps to remove the blondies when done)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, or until well incorporated. Add the eggs one by one, beating for one minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula stir in the white chocolate chips, macademia nuts and coconut. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and use the spatula to even the top as best you can.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife instered into the center fo the blondies comes out clean. The blondies should pull away from the sides of the pan a little and the top should be a nice honey brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes before turning the blondies out onto another rack. Inver onto a rack and cool the blondies to room temperature right side up.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

TWD: Banana Bundt Cake

I'm baaaack. Ah TWD, how I missed the. What a crazy July - and so many lactose desserts. This week's Banana Bundt Cake was perfect for my return. Hubby and I love banana bread, and I can easily make this lactose free with margarine and yogurt. And, it was chosen by one of my favorite bloggers who I have a major blog crush on and wish, o, wish I could be half as talented as. None other than Mary of The Food Librarian. You can find this amazing recipe HERE.

So, I was a tad on the late side with this one - still true to my procrastinating TWD form - so we just tested this cake while it was still steaming hot. It was really good. I know it will only get better with a good night's rest (as Dorie mentions in the book) because that will give the banana flavor time to develop more. So, can't wait for breakfast. I added 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cardamon for a little kick. Those flavors are subtle and don't over power the banana. Another great Dorie recipe. Man I love this cookbook.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SMS: Strawberry Grapefruit Preserves

Well, this week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays just made me so happy to have started this group. I must admit, sometimes life gets way to hectic and I do get a tad stressed about finding time to keep up with my baking blogging groups. But it is soooo worth it, and this week's recipe of Strawberry Grapefruit Preserves chosen by the marvelous Margot of Effort to Deliciousness is the perfect example. This is my first full-fledged preserve experience and it won't be my last. This was simple to make, made the house smell delicious and was out of this world. I swear, the best darn preserves I have tasted (I may be a tad biased, I'll admit). It is just the right amount of sweet and tart - and relies upon apples for the pectin so no artificial geletin (my Jewish grandparents - may they rest in peace - would be pleased). I HIGHLY recommend making this - and if you don't and you happen to see me around christmas time, well, then you may just be getting your own jar!

You can get the recipe HERE and check out how all the other talented SMS bakers fared and paired this weeks recipe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Cake Slice: Marbled Blueberry Lemon Butter Cake

So ... I managed to make this month's tripple layer cake for the Cake Slice group on-time this month and will have also posted on time- whoo hooo! This month's selection was Marbled Blueberry Lemon Cake which called for homemake blueberry preserves. It was fun to make - and a real crowd pleaser. And boy did we have a crowd. We headed back to the Delta to Mr. and Mr. Anderson's house for some more water play and great food. They loved the Pina Colada cake so I wanted to bring them something they would equally enjoy. Luckily, OE (their son) told me Mr. A loves blueberries - so this cake worked out perfectly. I was a hit and as you can see I barely got a chance to take a photo of a slice before it was all gone.

So, if you want to make this delicious cake, you should buy the awesome Sky High book, or you can check out a Printable Recipe graciously posted by marvelous Monica of Lick the Bowl Good

I also did a little holiday baking for the weekend. Since I had missed out on making decorated sugar cookies for both Valentine's day and Easter, I was determined to make some for 4th of July. So determined, that I stayed up until 3:00 AM to make these cookies (there were more, but my fatigue prevented me from taking a lot of photos) and more!

I also made more babka after LOVING the ones I made with my dear friend Elyse of Elyse's Confectionary Creations who I am probably not the only one who misses her dearly. This photo is actually one of the ones we made together - no photos of the two loaves I made for the 4th (it was late) but these ones were equally as good - delicious. I highly recommend you checking our Elyse's (our - I never got around to posting, boo) post on this delicious dessert challah .

And, finally, I also brought some of the Baked Monster Cookies I had made before. Why so much you ask? Well, we were invading the Anderson's with quite a crew - 13 of us to be exact - so I wanted to come with plenty of sweets for this motley crew. And every last crumb was eaten! That's always a baker's true delight.

And.... it was a special occasion (in addition to the federal holiday). It was my dear hubby's 31st birthday. And a very special friend from work gave me this FANTASTIC, AMAZING, 3 liter bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel (hubby's fav) to celebrate the occasion. Thanks SO VERY much Rollin.

As you can see, hubby was quite pleased with his gift - as were the rest of us who shared in the many glasses this beloved vessel bestowed upon us this happy 4th of July.

The next morning, we had a nice birthday brunch at the waterside Rusty Porthole, which is "known" in the hood for its biscuits and gravy (picture below). It was a great start to our next adventure - we drove up to Klammath CA later that day for a 2 day white water rafting trip. Thanks again Mr. and Mrs. A and OE for the FABULOUS time on the island.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

SMS: Whole Orange Poppyseed Cake

Man o man, it's been a long time since I have had the time to pay attention to this blog of mine. I am sorry that I have neglected my beloved blog, but mostly sorry that I have also neglected to visit and comment on my blogging friend's sites. I will be making the rounds this week to catch up and see what you baking geniuses have been up to. July started off with and AMAZING vacation and I returned last Monday night to a whole host of work stuff and other commitments, so just now getting back to my normal hectic life!

So, short and sweet. This weeks SMS recipe is whole orange poppyseed cake chosen by Melissa of Lulu the Baker. You can get the recipe HERE. I just made this cake (its 11:30PM on Sunday night) so its still sitting on the table and I don't have any tasting notes as a result. But...sounds like my fellow SMS bakers really liked this cake. What I can tell you is that it was SUPER easy to make - most of the time is baking/waiting time, and it smells fantastic. As the name explains, this cake uses an entire whole orange - peel and rind and all. Wish I could taste it but I will live vicariously through others for now. I would like to try this without the poppyseeds and with dark chocolate chunks - what do you think?

Thanks Melissa for picking and hosting this week and thanks Karen from Karen's Cookies Cakes and More for helping me with admin stuff while I was traveling and thanks to all you faithful SMS bakers for your patience while I was out. I am back for a long while now. See you next Sunday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

Ahh Tuesday with Dorie again. I missed you. This weeks recipe was the Perfect Party Cake chosen by Carol of Mix..Mix...Stir..Stir. You can find the recipe for this beloved cake on her site - so go check it out (her cake is awesome). To compensate for the last post which was SUPER long (thank you Cassie) I will make this short and sweet (and because I am working on baking 100 cupcakes right now!). I made this cake for a partner's wife's birthday a while back. I started out making another recipe, but when i dropped that cake and ruined it - at about 10:30 PM - and had to start over - I switched to my faithful Dorie. No inside pictures since this was how it left my super cautious (this time around) hands. But, word was that it was exactly what the birthday girl wanted. A success I say. I will definately give this another try - and you should too!

Big Fun Cupcake Order

So, a while back, I hinted at a big large cupcake order that kept me up till 3 AM. Well, I am finally sharing with you the fruits of my labor. A partner at my office has the cutest sweetest daughter and they were hosting a tea party mid-week for 30 or so of her friends (plus their moms). I was asked to make the cupcakes to fit their blue and white color theme. I was super excited. Like many of you (do I have any non-baking blogger readers, doubtful) I just love any opportunity to bake.

A long while ago I had bought cupcake boxes from BRP Box Shop - a great buy. I have been using them for a long time now - love them. My sweetie pie assistant - who must have washed the dishes at least 6 times - also helped me by making labels for the boxes with my logo, blog, email and cupcake flavors. He was a champ - thanks baby.

I planned ahead - at least as far as the decorations went. I made the flowers using royal icing and my large flower tip. I had bought a flower nail head (is that what it is called?) and tried to make roses, but that didn't work out. I really need a wilton class - why is their NO Michaels or JoAnn's in San Francisco - seriously Internet do they think only people that live in the burbs want to be crafty? I don't think so.

My biggest plan ahead challenge was making butterflies out of candy melts. I got the idea from the book Hello Cupcake. I was lucky enough to get this book for my birthday from my awesome longtime friend Ashley R. (who may in fact be my only non-baker reader). Thanks Ashley. This is a great book. The first few butterflies - I don't want to talk about it. After failing on my roses, I was seriously distraught. But, I was determined to prevail.

The biggest problem that I was having with these was the fact that by the time I filled in the blue, the chocolate outline had dried which did not allow me to do the nice streaking. I was also having problems with the candy hardening in the zip lock bag and causing clotting, which made the candy melts shoot out when I applied more pressure to unclog the bag. Bad news bears.

I put my thinking cap on, and realized that what I needed was to keep the candy warm so it would stay nice and liquid. The solution? My heating pad. I took the cover off, put a paper towel on to of the pad, set the setting to low and layed the candy filled bags on top. IT WORKED! Like a charm. The candy stayed nice and melted the whole time it took me to make a dozen butterflies. Yay! In the end, I was very proud of my butterflies.

As for flavors. I went simple - considering I didn't start baking until 9PM. That was not planning ahead. I wanted to start early, I really did. But, I ended up heading over to the east bay to sign an offer on a house -which we didn't get - booo urns. Seriously (yes I say that alot), but the housing market in the east bay is brutal right now. So, late start it was. And, that meant vanilla vanilla, vanilla chocolate, chocolate vanilla, and very lemon lemon.

I did have a major failure on that epic baking night. I tried to make the Cake Slice Chai Cake into cupcake - cause hey, it was a tea party. So, I made the recipe as usual, poured the batter 3/4 full into my beautiful baking cups. And... they totally overflowed and filled the top of the cupcake pan - and I mean filled. There really was no salvaging. So, great cake, but not so great as cupcakes, at least for me.

Well, this is the end of the epic post about the epic baking night. Hope you enjoyed the pictures.