Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TWD: You're A Hot Mess, Chewy Chunky Blondies

Aaaaahhhhhh we've just moved and my entire life is in cardboard boxes. I am a woman of order and am not handling this transition well. My new kitchen, while it has potential for baking greatness, is currently a hot mess:

You know what else was a hot mess? These Chewy, Chunky Blondies:

A few weeks ago I thought I would be awesome and do some baking in advance, so I made these blondies late one night. After the recommended 40 minutes of baking, they were nowhere near done. I gave them another 10. Nope, but they were getting quite the tan in the oven. How about another 10 minutes? They had a lustrous, oven-kissed sheen and seemed to pass the knife test, so I took them out and hoped for the best.

But instead of the best, I ended up with gooey, under-baked innards. Wah-waaaah.

The truth is, these were ugly as sin but tasted pretty good! I'm a fan of the very underbaked chocolate chip cookie, and these were like that on steroids, so it kind of worked for me. I added toffee chips, toasted pecans, and coconut, and I could see these being awesome had I, you know, actually finished baking them. We still enjoyed them warm, with whipped cream:

I didn't feel like I could share them with anyone, being basically raw dough and all, so sadly most of them ended up in the trash. I'd be willing to try this recipe again, though, because it seems to have potential. I haven't been able to keep up with the TWD chatter--did this happen to anyone else, or am I a special underbaking snowflake?


Monday, July 19, 2010

Putting the "Feh" in Fennel Ice Cream

So because of moving shenanigans and general mayhem, I didn't make this week's TWD recipe. However, I DO have a recent (non)baking (non)adventure to share with you!

If you have ever heard the worlds "Fennel Ice Cream" and thought to yourself, "Blerg! Never the twain shall meet!" you would be so, so right. However, I am not endowed with your brains, and I got tricked into thinking I would enjoy it. Fennel. And ice cream. Cohabitating in one dish. Think about that.

It all started when I read a post on Orangette praising fennel ice cream. Now, you should know that I'm not too much of a bandwagon-jumper. To wit:

  • I didn't see an episode of Seinfeld until the show ended and it was well into syndication
  • My first (and only) ipod was a gift from someone else
  • I still haven't read any of the Twilight books or seen the movies

However, this Orangette posting was persuasive on the charms of fennel ice cream. The word "bewitching" was used. The words "best ice cream" were used. I learned that Smitten Kitchen had also raved about this ice cream, and it had unanimous, four-fork, 100% rave ratings on epicurious. I tried to resist, but I am only one woman, and I can only be so strong.

Fennel ice cream. I was sold...

...until I tasted it. The only way to describe it would be "quite fennelly." It was woodsy and savory, but not in a good way. Maybe I had the world's strongest fennel seeds, maybe my palate is too pedestrian, but I found myself wanting to stuff this ice cream in a sausage and serve it with some marinara. Fennel indeed.

In all fairness, it was better with some basil-balsamic strawberries, and the husband actually liked it more than I did. But still. It's a long hot summer, there are plenty of other ice cream fish in the sea.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Fun in the Sun cake

Meet Shelby.

Shelby & I go way back. In fact, I knew her when she was just a twinkle in her parents' eyes, back when I was making these butterfly cupcakes for her mom's baby shower. Shelby & I are tight.
So how else to celebrate her first birthday but with an adorable Shelby-sized cake? Her party was a big barbecue at a park by the beach, so I made a "Fun in the Sun"-themed cake.
I'd intended the sun to balance on a wire from the top of the cake, but after an hour of transport in a hot car, that just wasn't happening. Plan B, with the sun sitting right on top, ended up working out okay.
My favorite part was making the little bugs to go around the cake. The ladybugs were made of (old) gumpaste and two of them MELTED on the trip over. No joke! Something about the sun through the windshield liquified them. I'm just glad nothing worse happened.
The other bugs were fondant and fortunately they held together fine. I couldn't decide which I liked the best, the snail...
or the bees. The cake was mostly for Shelby to destroy, so I made matching mini cupcakes for the guests. We had chocolate on chocolate...
and strawberry with vanilla buttercream.

And what did the guest of honor think? After tentatively pawing at the cake for a few moments, she figured out the deal and dove in with gusto. A girl after my own heart!


Monday, July 12, 2010

TWD: Brrrrrownies

Oh, it has been a day. A day mostly consisting of me making like a Tasmanian devil in my kitchen, trying to get ahead on work for the candy site and a few other side projects because--dum dum DUM--we're moving in less than 2 weeks! Aaaaaah! (Spoiler alert: the new kitchen is SO much bigger than my current one, and I'm super psyched to cook in a space larger than a postage stamp. I've never tried it, but I imagine being able to fully extend both arms in your kitchen might be nice.)

Anyhow, today was a big blur of baking, cooking, throwing away THREE batches of one particular candy recipe because I have the Bad Touch and kept messing it up, eating way more sugar than is healthy for one person, and photographing all the results.

All of which is to say, these peppermint patty brownies were sadly just another face in the crowd. I know I tasted them, but I think I burnt my sugar receptors off with my all-candy diet, because they didn't make a huge impression.

The thing is, they're everything I usually love. Super dense and fudgy in the middle! Darkly chocolatey! And full of minty pockets! All of my favorite things!

I cut up the pan and, after photographing them and giving one an exploratory nibble, I froze the rest to enjoy later. I'm sure they're amazing, and I'm looking forward to tasting them after, say, a bowl of vegetables, or a nice healthy sandwich.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

TWD: Tarte Noire

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession.

For this week's TWD recipe, the tres chic Tarte Noire, I confess that I did not make the ganache filling the recipe called for. Instead, I used some ganache I had left over from these Honey Truffles.

The honey ganache was quite sweet, so I did everything I could think of to add interest and layers of flavor. I stirred in just a few shakes of cinnamon and cayenne to deepen the taste. I lined the bottom of the tart shells with caramelized salted pistachios. I topped the tarts with a hefty pinch of quality sea salt, and finished them with a billowing spoonful of lightly sweetened vanilla cream.

These may not have been true to the Tarte Noire recipe, but they were still heavenly. At room temperature, the shell was crisp and buttery, the nuts crunchy, and the ganache silky smooth and melting in the mouth.

On second thought, don't forgive me, because I regret nothing. Nothing! I would do it all again in a heartbeat, only next time the chocolate will be even darker, the spices stronger, the portions larger. And there might be raspberries on the side. Amen.