Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chocolate Gelato!

I'm feeling a little woozy after having an old filling replaced and a small cavity filled at the dentist's office.  They gave me two painkiller shots, and I still felt the drilling a little!  Not very fun.

So, because my cloudy brain can't write much right now, I'm going to concentrate on baking up something new for you tonight, and for now I'll provide you with this rich demo of chocolate gelato I first posted in November of 2007.  This is a blog named after that sweet treat, after all, so I ought to post something gelato-related before too much time passes. Who said you can't make ice cream in winter?

I felt like making ice cream and I had some cream in the fridge, so this is what happens when I get inspired and I happen to have the right ingredients. :-)

Cooking the custard:

Melting the chocolate:


Nice and glossy! And no, the spoon isn't that close to the camera, that's Grandma's larger-than-life humongous trusty wooden spoon.
Next ice cream variation on the list: creme brulee!

I just realized I never did make that creme brulee ice cream... maybe this November of this year would be a good time!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mini Doughnuts

Tuesday did not go as planned.

At work, we had a mini-crisis with transaction processing in the financial system, and somehow we in the Budget Office ended up being the ones to fix it.  Not I.T.  Not Accounting. Us.  Oh, I forgot to mention that it's our fiscal year-end, and the fix was urgent because it was holding up an entire check batch.  In Accounting.

Very, very stressful morning, noon, and afternoon.  I had dropped off my car that morning to get the front brakes worked on, and so I had to leave to pick it up in the middle of the day.  Then I had to jet out early so I could go to an eye appointment at 3:30, where I was overcharged for the second year in a row on a procedure I firmly believe is not necessary, considering my old eye doctor never did it the whole time I went to him. 

After work and the eye appointment, I met up with some friends to go mountain biking in the foothills.  I bought my mountain bike just this past spring and I've never had it tuned, so I wasn't surprised that the hills were giving me trouble.  My gears didn't seem to be switching very well, and the climbs were just... hard.  I fell a few times and waited for traffic to pass, thinking I know my legs are sore from CrossFit yesterday, but come on, don't be such a wimp!  You've been biking before, you should be able to do this. By the time I caught up with Catherine and Yvette at the top of the hill, it was time for a rest.  I looked down at my back tire and it was almost completely flat.  Well no wonder!  We got some air in it with Yvette's little hand pump, and it was enough to get me within walking distance of a parking lot.  Yvette rode down to the car and came back to pick up my bike and give me a ride back to my apartment.  Mountain biking fail.

What is this blog about?  Baking?  Oh yeah.

SO.  Came home and Catherine and I ended up hanging out for the rest of the evening.  Our friend Suzanne had lent me her mini doughnut pan (I had future experimentation in mind... namely this), which was sitting on my table.  We both looked at it and had a great idea.  Homemade hot chocolate and doughnuts.  Success.  I have no pictures of the hot chocolate.  It was beautiful, though.  The doughnut recipe provided with the pan needs some tweaking.  The texture was light and fluffy, more like muffins than my idea of doughnuts.  I'm thinking of trying a pound cake recipe next, to get that dense cake doughnut feel.

Mini doughnuts with maple and Nutella glazes

Doughnuts (or plain muffins)
2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. butter, melted, plus more for pan
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325°. Brush doughnut pan with melted butter.  Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.  Add butter, eggs, milk, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Stir just under blended. Fill each doughnut hole 1/2 to 2/3 full, no more. Bake 8 minutes and cool slightly before removing from pan.  Dip in glaze of choice (maple, Nutella, chocolate), or melted butter and cinnamon & sugar.
Makes 36 mini doughnuts.

Eat well!


Once again, the bars were gone before I had a chance to take a good picture!  I guess that just means they were tasty. 
I call these IKEA bars because I made them using a jar of Swedish lingonberry jam instead of the raspberry jam called for in the original recipe.  I also omitted the walnuts, even though I think they would have been fantastic, because the initial audience included a person who is allergic to nuts.  Boo.  They ended up going to my co-workers, who enjoy nuts in baked goods as much as I do, but that was not the original plan.
The base is a simple graham cracker and butter crust, and there is a strong relationship to magic bars since these incorporate sweetened condensed milk.  Overall, this recipe is too sweet for my taste (oh the adult day has finally come when those words can leave my mouth!), but I really love the idea of using jam in baking. I am the proud owner of a fabulous jar of prized huckleberry jam that I bought in McCall this summer, and I've been using it to top Greek yogurt and walnuts (very very good).  I'm not sure there's enough left to make a panful of anything with it, but I might be able to stretch it just enough to become something interesting.  We'll see.  I will, of course, let you know -pronto- if anything huckleberry-related occurs in my kitchen.
Eat well!

Monday, October 11, 2010

What to do with a plethora of plums

Why... make plum cake! 

Two years ago, I visited my friend MaryEllen.  It was early autumn, just around the time it is right now, and as we stepped outside to get some of that fresh fall air, she asked if I would like some plums.  "Sure," I said, not sure from where exactly she was going to pull these plums.  Turns out her grandpa's tree next door was completely overloaded with the little purple fruits.  Clearly, it needed assistance.  And so we got to helping.  We had such a great afternoon picking plums in the sunshine.  I went home with several bags, by that time unsure of myself, and what exactly I would do with all these plums.

Fast forward to October 2010.  I opened my little, very full, apartment-size freezer and decided that I had to do something about its sorry state of affairs.  Out come the packages of beef, out come the containers of soup stock, and from the very back... an old yogurt container with only black marker on the lid to give a clue to the contents.  "Unsweetened pureed plums".  Hmm... do 2-year-old containers of frozen plums even taste good any more?  I wanted to find out.

I let the container thaw in my fridge for a couple days (um... a few days - life is busy!) and finally peeked inside.  I saw perfectly thawed, juicy deep purple plum sauce.  A little spoonful was pleasantly received and I was off to Google to inquire about recipes.  After a little poking here and there, and discovering many recipes requiring sliced plums, whole plums, and halved plums, I finally came across one on an obscure science fiction blog (of all things!) calling for plum puree.  Looking Glass Plum Cake paired with homemade caramel fit the bill.

So sorry I don't have more pictures, but it was sliced up so quickly at work, this is all I got.  Take my word for it - it was delicious.  It even had that nice crisp crust that comes from buttering your pan with real butter.  If you somehow end up with as many plums as I did again this season, and you are at your wit's end and decide to stew and puree a boxful, this will be your go-to dessert.

Eat well!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Remnants of summer

A while ago I bought a box of saltine crackers; you know, one of those boxes with 4 plastic sleeves inside.  I only used 1 sleeve for the project at hand (meatballs), and I've been trying to keep my pantry clutter-free, so I had to think up another use for the rest of the crackers.  Enter Mom.  She always has good ideas for miscellaneous things.

She told me that my grandma used to make a treat called graham cracker cookies, or cracker candy, or cracker treats... something along those lines.  It seems like Grandma's generation cooked by instinct rather than a recipe, which explains why some homemade foods don't really have a name.  This is one of those foods.  So simple, it barely needs a recipe, and yet I never would have thought to throw this together.

What I didn't have in graham cracker ownership, I had in saltines.  Lots of saltines.  Which were about to get smothered by homemade caramel and chocolate. 

Saltine candy

Grandma's cracker candy
Graham crackers or saltines (about one sleeve)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
2 Hershey bars or 1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Line a pan with parchment paper and crackers in a single layer.  Bring butter and sugar to boil for 2 minutes, add salt and vanilla (also can add nuts at this point, or save to sprinkle on top at the end) and pour over crackers. Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes (or microwave on high for 2 minutes).  Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over top, wait a few minutes and smooth with an offset spatula.  Chill in fridge and break apart.  Can be frozen.

This is going to be a multi-use post, since I was cleaning out some photo folders, and I couldn't resist showing you the picture below.  My friend Stacy's family raises cherries in Oregon, and a few usually make their way to me (oh joy!).  I love, repeat love, fresh cherries.  Yeah, like make-yourself-sick-on-them every season type of love.  This is the first year I've tried freezing them (because I've never had leftovers before!).  I hand-pitted them with a paper clip (not recommended except for those too cheap to purchase an actual cherry pitter) and laid them out to freeze on a cookie sheet.  They are now safely tucked away for future use, probably in February when I need a reminder that summer really does exist. 

Look at these beauties!

Eat well!