Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bread 6/26

A few posts ago, okay maybe more than a few, we made pretzels.  For these pretzels, we had to purchase bread flour.  So when you have bread flour, you make bread.  We have never made bread before and have only used yeast once before on the pretzels.  Our family friend almost always brings this excellent dill dip and bread at family functions.  So we picked a recipe for soft white bread and made dill dip too.

The bread recipe can be found here and the dill dip can be found here.

With this recipe, there are only a few a ingredients but it calls for patience and lots of it. The dough is kneaded for 8 to 10 minutes, which is an arm workout too.

Then it needs to rise to double its size after it is mixed (about 20 mins) and again after it is put in the pan before it is baked (about 20 mins again).  We didn't measure if it was exactly double in size but we when you can say "wow that is bigger," it' a good indicator.  If you need something to entertain you while you wait, this is what we have been laughing about of late. Yeast rises best in 80 - 85 degrees.  To get this temperature, cooks illustrated recommends heating the oven to 200 degrees for ten minutes and then turn it off and put your dough in the oven in a non metallic bowl.

We baked the bread for 40 mins according to the recipe said but didn't keep as close of an eye on it like we should so our bread came out a little bit burned on the edges.  We would recommend to start checking your bread at 30 mins or so and when the bread becomes brown, take it out.

The smell of baking bread is soooo good.  It is smells like down home goodness.  I am not sure that makes sense but you bake it and let us know what you think it smells like.

Here is the lovely bread with dill dip.  mmm mmm mmm

Lessons learned: Don't get too involved watching "Justified" and think that your bread isn't going to burn.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trivial Pursuit Pie 6/16

Sara and I were lucky enough to host a Hasbro Game night through a website called House Party. We signed up and they sent us the new edition of Trivial Pursuit before it's available in stores. They also sent Taboo, Electronic catch phrase and a whole bunch of crackers. We were most excited about the TP game called Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It. What's neat about this game is that you can bet on the other players, whether they'll get it right or wrong. Then, you can use those points to buy a piece of the pie or help you in the final round. It makes it a lot of fun.  This is where we got the inspiration for this week's baking project.
Hasbro calls it a wedge, we (and everyone else we know) calls it a piece of the pie. So, we made pie. This time it's cherry pie. We couldn't decide which kind to make though. The latest issue of cook's illustrated has a recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie (WARNING: you may get that Poison song stuck in your head) but we also had 2 jars of Morello Cherries which we understand can be hard to find but are the best for making Traditional Cherry Pie. So, we made both.

We wanted to try the Cook's Illustrated Pie crust recipe because it had vodka in it and we found that interesting. We don't think we'll ever make it again though because it was a real pain. Make the dough, refrigerate it, put it in the pie tins, refrigerate it, put the filling in, freeze it, then finally bake it. It was good but we wouldn't say that it was worth all the extra effort. 
The filling however was a different matter. It came out quite thick and appealing. 

We used thawed frozen sweet cherries. CI had a specific brand in mind but we only found one kind at the store and this wasn't it. They were just fine.  Their recipe also called for a little bit of bourbon and that was exciting as well. Both fillings called for tapioca but CI's was ground first...don't know what difference it makes. 
The recipe for the Traditional Cherry Pie was from Here are the ingredients:
  • 4 cups drained morello cherries, juice reserved 
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/3 cups juice (reserved from cherries)
  • They also use food coloring but we didn't see the point. 

Mix it all together and it's done. This is very simple but as you can see from the picture, it's also very juicy. We found it a bit worrisome.
Here are the pies with the crust:

(Left is the CI Sweet Cherry, Right is the FN Classic Cherry)

You can see that the Food Network pie is overflowing with juices but the Cook's Illustrated pie is perfectly set. We would have to see if they survive the oven but first decorations!

We took leftover pie crust dough and dyed it to correspond with the wedge pieces in the new trivial pursuit game. The plan was to lay it over the crust as big pie pieces but the dough wasn't cooperating after being handled so much in the dyeing process so we scaled it down to game piece size.

We we proud of our artwork so into the heat they went.

Sweet Cherry Pie came out perfect as expected.

The Classic Cherry survived as well. 
Everyone at the party had small pieces of both to tell us which they liked the best. We were a bit surprised by the results. It seems that although the sweet cherry filling was appreciated, it was unexpected. It seems that out board gamers were more accustomed to the classic cherry flavor and happy to have enjoyed a pie that was of quality and that they were used to. We'd make it again.

Lessons learned: You shouldn't mess with the classics. Also, if your oven is enough for 2 pies, but your baking sheet (to catch the drippings) isn't, try 2 baking sheets. Otherwise you may end up like a mess like us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcome Baby Oliver 6/10

Our cousin Bryan and his wife Katie welcomed a new member of the family last week. Oliver was born on June 2nd and to celebrate, we made Carrot Cake cupcakes. Now, how does that relate you might ask. Well, these baby carrot cakes were made with carrot baby food.

This is a technique that we've been wanting to try and the arrival of Oliver was a perfect opportunity. Katie has been an avid supporter of this blog so we dedicate this post to her and her new family.
The recipe was taken from Now, when the recipe is for cake and we want to make cupcakes, we get a little apprehensive. It took making quite a few of each to understand the difference but there is one very big one and the conversion of a recipe from one to the other can be a crap shoot. Why you ask? Because a cupcake is finger food and a cake is fork food. Can you imagine trying to eat a piece of cake with your fingers? It would all fall apart. And conversely eating a cupcake with a fork just seems ridiculous. We took the risk with this recipe because the reviews said that the cake was moist and dense and others had had success with the conversion. SPOILER ALERT: We did too. :o)
Here's what you need for the cake:

  • 2 cups white sugar (we used 1 1/2 cups white, 1/2 cup of brown) 
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 (4.5 ounce) jars carrot baby food
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Preheat to 350. Put your cupcake papers in the tins. Combine the sugars and oil in a large bowl and beat well.

(Yes, it's a lot of oil)

Add the eggs, baby food and vanilla. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the sifted flour, salt, baking soda and the spices. Enjoy the smell. Combine it all together and beat well. Fill the papers 3/4 full.

  • We found that this recipe makes 20 cupcakes so we had 4 empty spots. We put a little water in these to make sure the pan didn't warp. It's not likely that it will but we wanted to be safe. Speaking of which, we only advise doing this if you are extra careful not to get the hot water spilled onto you or your freshly baked goodies.

And now for the frosting. Most carrot cake recipes use a cream cheese frosting. We don't disagree. The recipe for this frosting is the easiest yet:
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1 tblspn of vanilla
4 cups of confectioner's sugar
Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixer till fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar leave the mixer running till smooth.
Even though these are made with baby food, Oliver obviously can't eat them yet. And I know some people are turned off by the idea of baby food in adult food but the ingredients in the baby food are carrots and water. Nothing else and nothing to worry about baking with. We wanted to make them into cupcakes because #1 Katie loves cupcakes, and #2 we thought they would be easier to ship. Katie and Bryan live in the Bay Area and we are in Los Angeles. We won't get to see them till next month and that's just too long. It just is.
We found these little boxes to help us get the cakes to them. They're called Cup-a-Cake and you can get them here.

We froze the cupcakes Wednesday night and then overnighted them the next day. They should be getting them today. We hope they enjoy them and welcome Oliver!

Lessons learned: Hopefully shipping works... We will add shredded carrots to the batter next time. The flavor is good but could be more carrot-y.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Veggie Pot Pie 6/3

We've been thinking about doing Pot Pie for a while.  Well, the time has come. The Pot Pie that we are most familiar with is Chicken Pot Pie from Marie Callendar's. This savory salty meal was one of our favorite microwave meals growing up. This time we did it for real and this time it was a bit healthier with loads of vegetables.
We decided to do Veggie Pot Pie because I (Erin) am a vegetarian during the week. To most people this sounds very odd. I make a few exceptions during the week but for the most part, I stick to it. You'll notice that the few meat dishes on this blog were made on weekends. I do it because it lowered my cholesterol by about 60 points. I've stuck to it for over 2 years now and I am very pleased with how I feel. I have a hard time with the idea of giving it up completely. The rest of my family, as with most Americans have a very meat based diet. We get together mostly on weekends and then my dietary differences aren't a problem. It's a great diet for me but not every diet works for everyone when it comes to lowering cholesterol. There are studies out there that state that diet doesn't have much effect on cholesterol but I found that it worked for me. As long as you're making sure you still get your protein, I would consider it a part of a healthy and green lifestyle.
Now on to the Pot Pie. Sara researched the recipes while I was at Jury Duty and then sent them to me via email. I knew from the Apple Pie and the Cornish Pasties that the dough would need to be chilled. So I only opened that recipe and made it before Sara got home. This did not work out so well...

I didn't realize that the filling was for a lot more crust than I made. Oops! To be fair, did not explain this issue either. The dough recipe should have been doubled and that was not noted. Problem solving explained later. Here's what it should have been.
4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tspn salt
1 1/3 cup of shortening
12 tblspn cold water
All that went into the food processor. I kneaded it a little and then split it in 2, wrapped it in saran wrap and refrigerated it.
Then came the vegetables.

I happen to not like mushrooms so we omitted those and added another stalk of celery and some more green beans. Our version of the recipe ingredients is:
2 tblspn of olive oil (for frying up the onion and garlic, then veggies)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic (instead of 1)
2 large carrots, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 stalks of celery (instead of 2)
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 1/2 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tblspn cornstarch
2 tblspn soy sauce
1 tblspn thyme

The oven was preheated to 425 and then we got to chopping. It seems like a lot of chopping but it wasn't so bad, especially since there are two of us.  If you don't want to chop, you can always break out the food processor.
We mixed together the soy sauce, cornstarch and a 1/4 cup of water.
The olive oil went into a large skillet and then we cooked the onions and garlic for about 3-5 minutes.  Then, the rest of the veggies went in along with vegetable broth.
In went the cornstarch mixture. We then sprinkled on a layer of salt, a layer of pepper and a layer of thyme. Mixed that all in and brought it to a boil, turned down to a simmer and let it all cook till the vegetables were just tender.

The dough was rolled out and that's when we discovered that there wasn't enough of it. There was supposed to be enough to line and cover an 7 x 11 baking dish but we couldn't see it stretching that far especially since we only have an 8 x 13. We didn't have time to make more because of the time needed to chill it so, we improvised. We brought out a 9 x 9 baking dish and used that instead. 

We had a lot of "insides" left over so we cooked up a cup of rice to eat it with. We had enough to go around of the actual pot pie so we had the "insides" for lunch the next day but there went another one of our baking mishaps...survived.

We found it to be a very yummy and filling dinner. Next time, we'll either double the dough part of halve the veggies but at least no food was wasted this time. We feel that it makes a good vegetarian dish and meat isn't missed. But because we used vegetable shortening, dare I say that it is a vegan dish? 

Lessons learned: The first time you make a recipe, there's going to be something to learn. Since that's all we do on this blog, there's lots of things we'd do better next time. Maybe that's an idea for next year...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Anniversary Cake 5/31

Sorry, this is late. Haven't had much time to write up the post but here it is now. Enjoy!

Ellen is our sister and Monday was her 2 year Wedding Anniversary. Their wedding was a great event and all of the planning and preparations went smoothly except for one thing... the cake. Ellen and Brandon decided that their favorite cake is Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Simple. Classic. Tasty. Erin insists that this is birthday cake but what you want on your wedding day is what you should get. You would think that this is a very easy thing to find at a bakery but you would be wrong just like we were. We went to over a half dozen bakeries around the Los Angeles area and they all felt that Yellow Cake and White Cake or Vanilla cake was the same thing. After hearing this a lot, we decided that maybe we didn't know something that they did so we scheduled a few tastings or should we say disappointments. Listen up bakeries; the customer is always right. First off a yellow cake should at least be yellow. Its just sad knowing that what you're about to taste and waste calories on is just not what you're looking for. Second, what makes the cake yellow is not food coloring, its egg yolk.

Yolk that adds the richness of flavor and that density that when combined with the sweet vanilla flavor brings you back to your childhood. Is that too much to ask?
We eventually did find a great bakery: Ms. Ruby's Bakery in Inglewood. She apparently specializes in Red Velvet Cake and Fried Chicken but her Yellow Cake is also amazing and the prices were VERY reasonable.
Flash forward 2 years and we're on a Yellow Cake mission again, this time to make it ourselves. We found a great recipe at Smitten Kitchen. Erin would like it noted that Deb at Smitten Kitchen thinks this is birthday cake too but here we turn it into... Anniversary Cake, ta da!
We really liked the use of parchment paper and greasing the pans with Baking Pam. That stuff smells soo good!

Voila! Beautiful!

And then there's the frosting.
We are big fans of this frosting because it's so easy. You put all the ingredients in the food processor and you're done. It's very cool.

These recipes can be found at the link above for Smitten Kitchen. The frosting is the Instant Fudge Frosting. The cake and the frosting taste great with a glass of milk.

Lessons learned: There's no harm is trying to do something better than a box mix. There was no disappointment with this cake. We might try for a more custardy flavor next time though. Maybe we'll add an extra egg yolk...