Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dear Lindz,

You'll never guess what I made.
Give up?
I'll tell you.
Mascarpone ice-cream.
Yum.

I found the recipe on a great website called Not Eating Out in New York. The results are pretty fantastic, and now that you're opening your wedding gifts (like that gorgeous ice-cream maker), you can make it too! The recipe is as follows:

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup mascarpone
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until fluffy and lighter in color. Set aside. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan and just bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

While beating the egg yolk mixture, pour in a small spoonful of the hot milk mixture and continue to beat. Repeat process with a larger spoonful, while beating, then repeat (be careful not to spill any of the milk mixture like I did). Next, scoop all the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture. Return heat to medium-low. Cook about 8-10 minutes longer, stirring frequently with a spatula to scrape all corners of the bottom of the pot. Do not let boil. The custard should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but have no lumps.

Chill the custard 4 hours or overnight. Whisk in the mascarpone and vanilla until smooth in texture. Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to churn into ice cream. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze.

If you can resist the temptation, the flavor of the mascarpone is more pronounced after a few days in the freezer. And it is especially yummy when you add tiramisu inspired ingredients like cocoa powder and *a-hem* chopped ladyfingers.



Loves!
Megs

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dear Lindz,

All I can say is - LOVES!


*BIG hug*,
Megs

Alex's birthday

Dear Megs,

So, this may be a long blog...I have lots of news and pictures. Just a warning. Also, your whoopie pies are gorgeous. I *did* grow up on them, but the frosting is a funny question. I do think they are probably better with buttercream frosting, but the traditional frosting is wetter and lighter than a buttercream. Alex says it's almost like twinkie frosting, but I'm not sure I can follow him down that road.

So, Alex's party was nice, and I spent the first half of the day in frenzied preparation for the surprise party I had planned - Mediterranean inspired dinner, cake, ice cream, the works. Then I lopped the tip of my right index finger off and spent the rest of the day in the emergency room. We had pizza at the party, and I bought 2 tiny cakes from Two Fat Cats, which is where our wedding came from. Red Velvet and German Chocolate.


The cake I had made was only half completed, so I decided when I got home to make half a cake. It was beautiful; I wish I had had the presence of mind to take a picture of it last night, but I had lost a lot of blood and was not thinking clearly.


This was a regular genoise yellow cake, and I made a pink grapefruit curd filling with blueberries and a pg buttercream frosting. It was very good. Here are all three together:


I had managed to make the tabouleh part of the dinner, and we had that as a prelude to the pizza, with cheese and olives. Anyone who loves tabouleh should never buy it again. It is very easy to make and SO yummy fresh. If anyone care for a (n approximate) recipe let me know.


Despite my weakened state, I let Alex sleep late this morning (his actual birthday) and made a lovely breakfast of blueberry pancakes, which we ate with pink grapefruit curd instead of syrup. It was thoroughly gorgeous. I used this insane recipe from The Cotton Country Collection, a junior league cookbook from Monroe, LA, and my favorite and most oft-used cookbook. It calls for 2 TABLESPOONS of baking powder. These shits are fluffy.


As for my finger, we had just opened some wedding gifts; the offending article was the Henckel's hollow blade 5 inch santoku knife. It's a great knife. There was not even a whisper of resistance when it cut off the end of my finger and part of the nail. *sigh* I'm a dumbass.


Love,

Linz

Let's make whoopie!

Dear Lindz,

Earlier this week, the New York Times profiled one of my favorite treats, the whoopie pie.  I'd be lying if I said I grew up with them (as I suspect you did), but I've been making and loving whoopie pies for about a year now.  I can't get enough of them because, unlike cupcakes, whoopie pies have the perfect ratio of frosting and cake in every bite.  Yum.

Anyway, the article prompted me to make a batch for my parents' visit on Friday.  Here's a picture of the result:



I developed my own recipe for the raspberry buttercream frosting, but used Martha's recipe for the cake:

The Pie/Cookie/Cake
1 3/4 cups all purpose flower
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt (I recommend using table salt instead)
1 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

You know the drill - sift together the dry in a separate bowel, cream the butter/shortening and sugars, add the egg, add half the dry, add the milk and vanilla, add the remaining dry.  Spoon rounded tablespoons of the batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake in a 375 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies spring back when lightly touched.  Cool on wire racks.

The Frosting
1 cup of frozen raspberries
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1tsp vanilla extract
1 pound box of confectioner's sugar

Puree the raspberries and strain out the seeds.  Mix the raspberry puree, butter, and vanilla.  Slowly add the confectioner's sugar until you reach the desired consistency (I used the whole box).

Please tell Alex I say, "Happy Birthday!"  And PLEASE post pictures of THE CAKE.

Loves!
Megs

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BACON!

Dear Linds,

Wish you were here . . .

 

Loves,
me

BACON!

Dear Megs,

http://www.baconsalt.com/

!!!

Loves!

L

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dear Lindz,

Our weekend upstate was good, but it didn't include enough cooking!  I'm itchin' to go to CT and make bacon cookies or pulled pork or gnocchi.  All of which are on my to-do list.  Here's a picture of my brother-in-law and me during my most recent trip home:



My sister bought an entire branch (?) of brussels sprouts at the store, so Andrew and I decided to help my mother overcome her lifelong distaste for the little cabbage.  My mother loved it, but Molly was wholly uninterested in the process:



As to Alex's cake, I think all of your ideas sound great.  I tend towards the traditional, so I would probably make a blackberry filling or use Cook's Illustrated's recipe for foolproof chocolate frosting (I can email it to you).  The recipe is pretty basic, but the results are impressive (the secret is corn syrup because it creates a beautifully glossy frosting that doesn't harden or deflate) .  I wish I could celebrate with you!

Loves!
ME

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dear Megs,

Alex has requested a yellow cake for his birthday, but as to frosting, he has said I should "surprise him." Should I put some poo in there? That would surprise him.

No, really. Ideas for jazzing it up? I had been planning a flourless chocolate with bacon praline crumble, blueberries, and whipped cream, but that will have to be for another day. I was also going to make a skull and crossbones stencil and confectioner's it on there (he's turning 40), but that, too, will wait. Anything over 40 is fair game for fatalistic symbolism, if you ask me. I'll probably feel different about that in 8 years or so, though...

How was upstate? Miss you, and LOVES!

L

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PS Your "poor" pickles look beautiful, and so do the cookies. When I use my cookie cutter, the messages will no doubt be rude. :)

Third time's the charm

Dear Megs,

I believe I have perfected the Orange Mocha Cupcake. Perhaps this is ridiculous; I'm sure there already exists a perfectly lovely recipe for this exact thing. That said, I made this up and am terribly proud of myself. Before I get into that, though, here are some new things in my life that brightened up this rainy day for me.


So, the cupcakes. This time I followed the rules. I was foolish not to do so before, as I think I overmixed the batter. These guys are light and airy - almost too light, if there is such a thing. They just melt in your mouth. The flavor is not as chocolaty as #2, but a little more mocha-y than #1. A lovely balance. I decided on dark chocolate ganache to frost, which is not only a less in-your-face flavor than buttercream, but is also SHINY!



Orange Mocha Cupcakes 3

2c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 c cocoa
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c oj
2 t instant coffee
1/2 c oil
1 t vanilla
1 c cream
1 T orange zest

1) pre-heat oven to 350
2) whisk dry ingredients (minus sugar) together.
3) cream butter and sugar; add eggs and vanilla.
4) dissolve instant espresso in OJ. on low speed, mix dry indredients into wet, alternating flour mixture with oil/oj/milk. stir in zest.
5) bake in standard muffin tins for 20 minutes.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dear Linds,

Here's a poor picture of my poor pickles. The first bite was good (to be honest, it was a little exciting), but the aftertaste of the vinegar was too strong. Maybe next time I'll buy good vinegar and ingredients that are "supposed" to go together.

Moving on - Tonight I made some of my very yummy butter cookies for Justin's mom's birthday. They say "HAPPY BDAY," and I bought her a cookie cutter to go with them (she expressed that she wanted one after my "MERRY XMAS" cookies this December). Do you ever use the one I sent you? You should. It's fun. When I'm not making them for other people I like to write little messages like "EAT ME" or "BITE ME." I know it's childish, but I've always been a sucker for a good pun. . . I'll probably make you some that say "CONGRATS" when you finish your orals. I hope this one will do for now:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dear Megs,

Well, you are just going to have to make Justin do it for you, because I want pictures of those pickles.

We did not make ravioli...yet. That's for after the orals.

Today I bought this book, which holds the secrets to the science of baking. First thing I'll read, um, after the orals. And then I will be queen.

Loves!

L
P.S.  Did you make ravioli too?  I think I see a press in your photo.
Dear Linds,

Your cupcakes are beautiful!  I must apologize because I am unable to document my own culinary adventure (I'm borrowing J's computer and he restricted my access to iPhoto).  I was feeling a little sour this weekend, so I decided to make something that matched my mood - pickles!  I sifted through a handful of recipes, but had to make up my own because I'm too lazy to go out and buy ingredients not already in my cupboard.  

To make the pickles, I first washed and quartered one pound of kirby cucumbers.  I removed some of their excess moisture content by "sweating" them for about an hour.  I then boiled 1.5 cups white vinegar with 1T dill weed, 1T kosher salt, 1T black peppercorns, .5T mustard seed, and 4 cloves of garlic.  After about three minutes of simmering, I poured the mixture over the cucumbers and added half a cup of ice to help cool it down.

I'll let you know how they taste after a few days in the fridge.  

Loves!
Megs


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Orange Mocha 2


Dear Megs,

I tried again. This time, instead of powdered cocoa, I used unsweetened baking chocolate. I also added oil, and another egg. The result was a sublime, but dense, boucher sort of dessert. Way richer than a cupcake should be, and denser. But still delicious and worth making. More chocolaty, and less espresso flavor; the flavor of the first try was nicer, actually, unless you want a real chocolate punch and aren't going for the true mocha flavor.


Moist and rich, but crumbly and not cakelike as a cupcake should be. Still really worth eating. Very chocolaty. The espresso flavor will probably make its comeback in this dessert tomorrow or the next day, but by then the density will have consolidated. The orange flavor remained gentle, but noticeable, and lovely. Next try I think I'll go back to cocoa, and just add oil. I'll update. Oh, and also, I may try leaving out the baking soda. Here's the new recipe for these (and by the way, I made a dark chocolate buttercream frosting, but if I make these again, I'll probably go for a VERY dark ganache frosting):

Orange Mocha 2

1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/4 c oj
1/2 c espresso
6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1/3 c oil
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
2 T vinegar
1/2 t salt
2+ c cake flour
1 T orange zest

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dear Megs,

Is it sad that I'm
really excited about the new vacuum cleaner I bought today?

Loves,

L

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear Megs,

Alex pronounced for the chocolate frosting. He said it had a unifying effect on the other flavors that the vanilla did not have, though I still think the vanilla is prettier.

By the way, I'm going to keep making this recipe until it's perfect. Next time I'll try chocolate squares instead of cocoa, and milk and oil. I don't think it needs a whole nother stick of butter. But I'll find out.

Loves!

L

Orange Mocha Cupcakes

So, after much facebook input on these little guys, i decided to ice half of them with vanilla and half with chocolate. The flavor of the cake is really nice and subtle, but you can see even in the pictures that they are a bit dry. Does that mean an extra stick of butter was required? Or milk? The liquids I did use were thin ones: espresso and orange juice. I must have needed something with a little more staying power.

That said, I congratulate myself on a fine first effort. Plus, I like taking pictures of little armies of cupcakes, marching forth.

Here's the recipe I made up, but if you make this, add lard or butter or something.

Orange Mocha Cupcakes

1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/4 c oj
1/2 c espresso
1/2 c cocoa
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
2 T vinegar
1/2 t salt
2 c cake flour
1 T orange zest

1) There is a cake protocol to follow, but I didn't do it because I'm lazy. Here's my way: Preheat to 350. Mix wet ingredients together while espresso is brewing.
2) Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients.
3) Add espresso. Mix.
4) Bake.
5) I used regular old buttercream frosting, and the recipe is on the side of every box of confectioner's sugar, so I needn't repeat it here.
Dear Linds,

I think Bubby was on to something ~ real womanhood requires roasting. It's not difficult, but we rarely do it. Why do you think that is? Is it fear of ruining a $10 ingredient? The time involved? Lack of a family to consume it? At least Jim Purdue is doing something to help the roasterphobic.

Now. The shoes. I think we should make a matching superhero themed apron, take some photos, and declare you the blog mascot. What do you think?

Loves!
Meg

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dear Megs,

Tonight I used my crock pot for the first time! Bubby gave it to me a few years back, after I met Alex, when, having decided that since I'd caught myself a man I was now worthy of real womanhood, she started giving me all kinds of kitchen gifts. Crock pot, meat grinder (for good Jewish chopped liver), garlic press, etc. I am astonished by how easy and marvelous it was. I have never made a roast before, and now I shall never stop making them. Lovely. I took a picture but it sucked. I need a big light. Anyway, I made drop biscuits to go with the roast and Alex whipped up a gravy while I poured myself some wine and finished my chapter in Disruptive Acts: The New Woman in Fin-de-Si├Ęcle France, by Mary Louise Roberts. She's a great cultural historian, and her books are really interesting.

Speaking of astonished, I can't imagine how you have refrained from commenting on the SHOES.

Loves,

L

The Shoes


I told you they were ridiculous:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dear Megs,

Hm. Impressive baked goods for a family of foodies. Well, maybe a dessert that looks pretty and has to be built, like these FAB shortbread cookies I made once, maybe topped with lemon curd and fresh raspberries? With lavender, somehow? Or the lemon loves? Or, Sugar Plum Blog (she is great) has lots of recipes for truffles. They seem easy but they're really beautiful. And then again, nothing beats PIE. Or flourless chocolate cake with sour mash whipped cream...

So, today I was thinking about how if we are going to be real food bloggers, we have to make our own recipes, as you said. I never have done this with baked goods; I'm a recipe follower. So I decided to see if I could make banana bread - good banana bread - with no recipe. It worked, and it's good! Banana bread is not something I ever make, so I feel this means I have some fundamental grasp of what baking is all about. Next I will try cake, but I realize now that making up a recipe maybe doesn't mean much, because there are only so many different ways to make a cake. The basic kind, I mean.

I won't bother posting the recipe I wrote, because, as a New York Times columnist who was trashing Gwyneth Paltrow's blog put it, who needs another recipe for banana bread? But here's the pic; if it seems to be floating it's because apparently you can't photograph food at night and I had to stick it right under a lamp.

Loves!

L

Dear Linds,

Of course you must unpack immediately.  I've always given my apartments a good cleaning during finals week, so it seems perfectly reasonable that you should have to unpack a house in anticipation of your orals.  If you need any home organization ideas, you might want to check out Ikea Hacker.  There are a number of why-would-you-waste-your-time-on-that projects, but there are some real gems as well.

I'm eager to try out Martha's recipe - with salt.  But I'm still on the fence about recipes that call for a sprinkling prior to baking.  Although the crystalline bits enhance the flavor and make you feel just the right amount of pretentious, I don't know if I like it.  Last week, for instance, I made some crisp oatmeal cookies and sprinkled half the batch with sea salt before putting them in the oven.  While the shiny little crystals were pretty appealing (I mean, who doesn't like sparkles?), I forgot to pay attention to the butter and oats.   That is, I was eating the cookies for the salt. . .  



Now I need a bit of advice.  I am going to a friend/former boss/current co-worker's home for dinner this week, and I'd like to bring something.  He's a bit of a wine aficionado, so I'd prefer to bake instead.  What is a safe, but impressive crowd pleaser for a family of foodies??

I miss you.

Love,
Meg

Monday, March 2, 2009

New shoes

PS I surpassed myself in shoe ridiculousness today, which is really saying something. I'll post a pic when I can dig my camera out of the wreckage.

xo

L
Dear Megs,

Unpacking is proceeding apace. I know I said I was basically going to leave it unfinished until after the orals, but I just can't. Alex and I are both working during the day and house-ing at night. We've totally rearranged and GOD! how many books we have! I mean, I knew this, but still. That all said, once we're done it'll really look like grownups live here; I'm very excited. However, unpacking all the bejillions of books makes me realize how well read I actually am - and feel all the stupider for it because I don't seem to remember shit.

As for coffee cake, I thought your cake was delicious. I think you're right that they are usually less cake-y, but that was a really good go at it as far as I'm concerned. I recently made a lemon coffee cake from a Martha Stewart recipe, but I didn't use Meyer lemons, and there was something weird about it. I detected a chemical-y aftertaste that my mom didn't notice until I mentioned it, but then did. Also, Martha (yes, we're on a first name basis since she went to the slammer) calls for coarse salt in the topping but I found that that produced these strange pockets of saltiness that were mildly unpleasant. It is not impossible that I simply did it wrong; advice would be appreciated. I would add a picture, but, despite the weird aftertaste, the cake did not last long.

One good thing about moving: I saw a lot of you last week. I miss you.

Loves!

Linz

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dear Linds,

Today is your first official day in Maine.  I hope that you and Alex take a break from unpacking and do something special to mark the occasion.

Here's a picture of the coffee cake I made for moving day:



It was good, but, as I said yesterday, a little too dry and cake-y for my taste.  Do you have a fave coffee cake recipe?  I suspect I'll be trying this again in the near future. 

Loves,
Meg