Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halfway Bars + Riding in Elevators

I spend a lot of time riding in elevators. Not because I'm some sort of elevator enthusiast, more so because I live on the 7th floor of my dorm and I'm not dedicated enough to go up all those stairs. What's so fascinating about these somewhat claustrophobic spaces? Why are there lists and lists of weird things to do in elevators?

You meet a lot of characters in the elevator. As I rode up to my room last weekend after hanging out with friends, I was accompanied by a very happy looking girl and her male companion.
      "Can you just hit seve-oh. Okay," I stammered as the girl leaned against the wall and pushed all the buttons.
     "Really sorry," the guy apologized as he reprimanded the girl, the way a parent would to a small child. After a moment of painful silence, he spoke again.
     "Hey, do you know there are ghosts on this campus?" he said mischievously. The tipsy girl stared at him in shock and began to wail.
     "Why would you SAY that? Oh my gosh, I'm SO afraid of ghosts!" We spent the rest of the mercifully short ride in silence, the girl crouched in the corner behind the guy.

I'm so glad I was carrying a plate of cookie remains. It gave me something to busy my hands with so I wouldn't have to wring them in anguish, hoping the girl wouldn't puke or pass out. In my humble opinion, baking is a far superior alternative to partying. And these halfway bars were excellent. A shortbread crust is topped with chocolate chips and brown sugar meringue. Yay for textures and toasty marshmallow! Have a safe Halloween all you crazy college kids.

Halfway Bars

adapted slightly from Cast Sugar 

2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, separated
2 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp. water
7oz. milk or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks/bits

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift together flour, salt, soda, and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, beaten egg yolks, water, and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Spread in greased oblong pan, and sprinkle chocolate bits on top of this mixture.

Beat egg whites and mix with 1 cup brown sugar, to soft peak stage. Spread thinly on top of chocolate bits and cover completely with waxed paper, having it touch the egg-white mixture. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into squares when cooled

Monday, October 24, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Lentil Soup

Yay, it's Secret Recipe Club time again! This month I was assigned to GeorgieCakes. She's Greek, but currently resides in the US, so her blog is full of Greek recipes. Check her out ^_^

Guess what I wear as a hat?

Since I haven't done something savory for a while, I decided to check out the lentil soup recipe. I considered baklava, but I was afraid. Maybe some other time. Soup is quick, tasty, and something I can make my family for dinner. I'm not sure why I like lentil soup, it's mushy and brown with somewhat unidentifiable ingredients. Usually turned off by that sort of thing. But I'm not. Ah, the great mysteries of my life. 

I decided to leave out the roasted garlic, for two reasons. 1. The family's not a huge fan of the taste and 2. I was too lazy to roast a head of garlic. If you like it, go for it! Joy the Baker does a great post on how to do it. Also, you'll probably want to add more than 4 cups of stock. Mine absorbed the liquid really quickly.

Lentil Soup
adapted from GeorgieCakes

2 Cups of Lentils
2 Cups of water
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Medium Onion
3-4 cloves Garlic
2 Bay Leaves
3 Stalks of Celery
3 Carrots
¼ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Pepper
4 Cups Chicken Stock (I had equal parts stock and water. Lower sodium, y'know)
2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

In a sauce pan combine water, lentils and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, drain and set aside. In your stockpot add olive oil, salt, pepper, heat for 2 minutes, then add chopped onions and crushed garlic, browning for 10 minutes. Prepare the celery and carrots by cutting into small pieces, add to stock pot to sear along with olive oil, onions and garlic for 5 minutes.
Take the lentils (do not rinse) add to stock pot, allow to heat with  vegetables and oil for 2 to 3 minutes so lentils absorb all the flavors. Finally add the chicken stock mixing all the ingredients, simmer for 45 minutes and serve.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pink Snowball Cake

Not really sure if I've made this clear, but I'm not really a pink girl. AS a kid I was a proud tomboy, often the only female at boy birthday parties and a fierce rejector of dresses. Heck, I once told the neighbor kid to punch me in the stomach just to prove how strong I was. Yep. 

I've definitely toned it down since then, but I still feel more at ease around males compared to females, get pretty tuckered out by shopping excursions, and would much rather play video games than watch something with the word Liar, Gossip or Vampire in the title. I'm gonna stop now before I make any more stereotypes, haha. 

Point I'm trying to make is...I made a pink, fluffy, girly cake and you should be surprised. It's pretty, and totally not my original idea. Sprinkle Bakes is a total genius and makes me want to be fancy and bake pink things. And that is something to be impressed with.

 Pink Snowball Cake
(This cake is modeled after those Hostess Snoball thingies you can buy at convenience stores. Mine didn't turn out as hemisphery looking as I wanted, so I'd recommend using a 2 qt bowl, nothing larger)


6 tbsp. cocoa

6 tbsp hot water
1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tbsp)
1 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
½ cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 2 quart heat-proof bowl (stainless or pyrex) with shortening and lightly flour. Set aside.
Whisk together cocoa and hot water.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour mixture into a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer until mixture has cooled enough to add the eggs without scrambling them.

Add eggs, vanilla, and then cocoa mixture.  Beat until well combined.  Reduce mixer speed and add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream.

Pour into greased bowl and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean.  Let cool slightly. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, then turn out onto a cake stand or serving tray lined with wax paper strips. Let cool completely.  Cut the dome of the cake off about 1/3 of the way down from the top.  With your fingers, press to make an indentation in the middle of the base of the cake.  This will make room for the marshmallow filling without wasting any cake.

 1 lb unsalted butter, softened
1 16 oz. jar marshmallow cream
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 generous cup sweetened flaked coconut 
 Pink soft gel food color

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy.  Add marshmallow cream and beat again, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed.  When thoroughly combined, remove 1 cup of the white mixture and place in the center of the cut cake.  Place the top of the cake over the marshmallow center and line up the edges as best as possible.

Add the 1 cup of confectioners' sugar to the remaining frosting.  Mix well. Use a small dab of pink food coloring to tint the frosting pastel pink.  Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl so no white streaks remain.  Frost cake with an offset spatula. 

In a medium bowl, tint coconut with a drop of pink gel food coloring.  Mix well - you can use a fork but I found my fingers did a much better job.  Coat frosted cake with pink coconut.  Remove wax paper strips from underneath the cake and tidy up the serving plate edges if coconut remnants are present.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vanilla Pastry Cream

Five hours is a long time to drive by yourself. I'm on a long weekend break, and for the week leading up to my departure, I kind of obsessed about possible ways I could die on this drive home. I have car related anxieties. But they're justifiable. But I made it home without incident! Huzzah! It required a lot of singing loudly and off key to keep myself from getting bored, but that was to be expected. Upon arrival, I scarfed down some food, then started going through the cabinets for baking supplies. That itch had to be scratched immediately. 

I'd been craving macaronage since that's just impossible to do at school, and I wanted a filling that would use the leftover egg yolks. Vanilla pastry cream it was! Once you get the hang of it, pastry cream is really easy and versatile. You can use it to fill cream puffs and eclairs, boston cream pie (cupcakes), mix it with whipped cream and pipe it into strawberries...yum.

It was a good fit to pair with macarons, but the thing is, I don't really have enough people to eat all of them...ah, the one possible downside of baking at home. I'm starting to get that baking itch again. C'mon, it's been a whole day since I made these!

If you want swirly macaron shells, dip a skewer in gel food coloring and swirl it around in the batter a bit. 

Vanilla Pastry Cream
from Sugar Baby

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Beat eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy.
In a heavy saucier over medium-high heat, bring the milk and cream to a boil.
Carefully pour the hot mixture into the egg mixture. (very carefully and turn the mixer to low, but you will need to keep it mixing while pouring)
Scrape the bowl down and keep mixing for another minute.
Pour the mixture back into the same saucier (but cleaned).
Over medium-high heat, whisk the mixture until it gets thick like mayonnaise. (it seems to happen all at once, so don’t stop mixing or step away)
If you want, sieve the mixture into a bowl to make sure its completely smooth.
Cover with plastic wrap (touch wrap to the cream) and place in fridge until you’re ready to use.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The King of Brownies

Haven't been here for a whole week...sorry sorry. I may or may not have been trapped in a pile of leaves, unable to reach my computer. I'll let you decide for yourself. 
Let me introduce you to my good friend, Parchment Paper

Let's talk brownies. When's the last time you just had a really killer brownie? No pumpkin, no cheesecake-y swirl, no peanut butter, just a brownie. It's been a while for me. It's easy for the simple things to seem...boring. But they're not! Boring and reliable are two totally different things.

Mgp]asuhgd. Ah. Best brownies of my life, not even kidding. The Baked Brownie has been circulating around the internet for I don't know how long. They're good. Really good. Good enough to have a centerfold spread in Oprah's magazine, apparently. If you're more into the cake-y brownie, you should probably look somewhere else. But c'mon...who likes cake-y brownies more than fudgeish ones? No one, that's who. Just joking. I'm just going to leave you to make these now, it's more important for you to eat brownies than listen to me blather on my blog :) 

The Baked Brownie
from Baked

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. Put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Glazed Pumpkin Cookies

Why is it that this year is so much busier than last? I guess that sophomore year is kind of...a preparing year? As a freshman, you're still trying to figure out how to live by yourself, write a college paper, choose a major, etc. But as a sophomore, I have all that stuff figured out (mostly anyway) and my time is spent investigating summer internships and study abroad options, tutoring in the writing center, managing dues and grants and expenses as a club treasurer...and I still have to study and have friends (this list is not in order of importance, by the way, haha. I love you friends!).

Ahhh, a can opener. No more can stabbing for me!
How do I have time to bake? To be honest, I'm not really sure. I suppose you make time for the things that are important to you. But whenever I have an hour or so to sit down and make something, I feel this guilty twinge in the back of my head. Are you forgetting to do some homework? Is there studying you could be getting ahead on?

Sometimes you just have to ignore that voice in your head. If you don't make time for yourself to do what you love, you'll go crazy, or burn out. Don't spread yourself too thin. And speaking of spreading something thin...these cookies have icing! Which you...have to spread...okay, never mind. Seriously, if you're into a fluffy cookie that almost has a cake like texture, you should totally make these. And they go fast, so you don't have to take too much time out of your super busy schedules to make them. Eat them outside with a cup of chai. Enjoy the pretty leaves before they're gone. Here's to slowing down :)

 Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
from All Recipes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.
  4. To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Boiled Peanuts

Can we talk about boiled peanuts? I do not understand. Maybe southerners are genetically predisposed to like them? Of course I had to find out more, and with the help of my semi-southern friend, I entered the world of peanut boiling! There's even a song.

Before...(is this not a great peanut picture?) 

Let me tell you facts about boiled peanuts. All you have to do is take "raw" peanuts in their shells, put them in a pot covered with water, and throw some salt in there. Then boil them. For hours and hours until they turn mushy and gross looking. A bill has been signed making boiled peanuts the official snack food of South Carolina. Boiled peanuts have four times the antioxidants of normal peanuts cause the nutrients are drawn out of the shell and into the nut. Healthy! Boiled peanuts are enjoyed in Vietnam, China, India, and many other countries. 

Ugly. Bad picture, sorry.
The verdict? They were....good. But weird. Slippery. Kinda briny tasting. I don't think we cooked them long enough, cause they didn't have that mushy texture I've heard is characteristic of them, but hey, I'm an amateur. And after a while they got rather addicting, surprisingly. If you want to try for yourself, grab a pound of peanuts in their shells and a 1/4 cup of salt, and put them in a big pot filled with water. Boil for at least three hours and enjoy! Speaking in an exaggerated southern accent while eating is pretty required.