Saturday, January 17, 2009

Computers Are Stupid

Mine crashed again. Yes, I know. But it's old! I can't help it. One day, in the very distant future, I'll have enough money to buy a new one. Until then, I will deal with this one. I'm not sure how long it's going to take. Wish me luck, alright?

Anyways, this also coincides with me running out of old recipes to to share and a new wave of pantry cooking, so you're not missing out on much. I've got cans of junk in my pantry from years ago, so I'm going to try and use them up. That and I want to learn how to make a few things from scratch, so this is a good opportunity for that. And, you know, save money. So it's all good. Except that I'm going a little crazy without my best electronic friend. I promise to keep you all updated if I make anything new though. Be back soon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas Baking: Round 1

I promise all this was done on time. I'm just a little slow telling you all about it. Round 1 was for friends and my dude's dad and step mom. This year, I decided to spare myself a little. I tend to go all out for my once a year marathon baking and end up stressing myself out. Pared down, I settled on two types of cookies, one truffle, and marshmallows. This was much easier. This also marks the year that I wised up and bought a cookie scoop for the truffles and cookies.

Truffles are a snap to make and always my biggest head turner. This year, I made Ina's hazelnut truffles. It finally gave me an excuse to buy a bottle of Frangelico (Love that bottle!). The snag was that I couldn't for the life of me find hazelnuts down here. Small bother though, because I just used toasted, chopped almonds and dark chocolate cocoa powder instead. They turned out really well. I think next year I want to either try these or try my hand at making a more traditional covered ganache.

Cookies were a cinch. I resurrected my almond spritz cookies from last year and actually used the right nozzle combo to get, wait for it... shapes! Or one shape, because I was pressed for time and didn't want to mess with changing the nozzle. I tried to use the plastic press, but couldn't figure out how to get non-mushed cookies, so I resorted to my metal baby.

My new cookie recipe this year came from... drum roll please. Smitten Kitchen. I love to surprise people. Anyway, Deb said they've made it multiple times because they have a high chocolate to dough ratio. What do I think? Overall: good. Very chocolaty but they were too crunchy for me and I think they're missing a little something. Everyone else liked them though, and that's what counts.

The piece du resistance, however, was another go at marshmallows. Remember my last attempt? Aside from a healthy dose of drama, my biggest mistake was not coating the dish well enough for the marshmallows to, you know, not cling for dear life. I was prepared this time.

Oh my god. SO SOFT. It was what I imagined most people feel like when caressing a newborn. So pillowy soft and pliable. Except not nearly as creepy. This was one of the most satisfying recipes I've ever worked with. With just a little nudge, they came out of my resting dish in a single sheet. Cut them up and massage more cornstarch and powdered sugar into them. And when I say massage, I mean I might have fondled them and cooed. It was that awesome. The only trouble I had was after the fact. I wanted to artistically dip them in melted dark and peppermint white chocolate. I didn't dip so much as smear. Still, points for intent.

Of course, it didn't occur to me until afterwards that I don't really like marshmallows.

The last recipe was a spice pound cake. (It doesn't hurt that you get the recipe from a comic strip) I usually like to make something more substantial that goes alongside the cookie tin. This year, I had some ingredients to use up and this fit the ticket. I made them in mini-loaf tins for individual giving. This messed up my cook time a bit, and resulted in some overflow onto the sheet pan I brilliantly placed under the tins, but it all came out pretty well. And judging from the spill, I'm going to make these again. Not too sweet and enough spice to make it interesting. I want a slice with some coffee. Also good for the morning after the merriment comedown.

With everything done, I packed them all in tins and set off to play Santa. Not bad for a two day session. Four new recipes, a glorious second chance, and five holiday treats to fatten friends. Of course, I didn't leave any for myself, so I've got a few desserts on the list for me. Later.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More Baked Mac

Yeah, I'm still searching for it. How many things am I on a quest for now? Mac and cheese and chicken salad. Maybe more but I can't think of them right now. The only part I hate about making these recipes is grating all that cheese. See, I'm one of those people who refuses to buy more expensive grated cheese that doesn't have the same quality offerings. Luckily, my dude took care of that. And the cleaning. And most of the measuring. Did I mention I'm the kitchen tyrant?

I think my favorite part of this recipe was the simple bread croutons. They don't hold up well reheated, but right out of the oven they add a wonderful buttery kick to it. However, there wasn't enough cheese. I mean, sure, roughly 6 cups but psht. There's still a ton of noodles to cover with all that cheese. I used a mix of sharp white cheddar and a little more yellow cheddar for the bulk of it. My "secondary" cheese was grated romano. It just lacked a decent amount of flavor and I know it can't all be blamed on my choice of cheese.

I was also hoping that with two people, we could eat the massive amount of macaroni and cheese I created. It's still there. Like, lots of it. Good, but there's so much of it. Plus, pre-boiling noodles? At least 3 pans? No. There's better out there. Sorry, Martha. You're just not cutting it for me today. However, if you'd like to give it a go, I found this recipe via (3 guesses) Smitten Kitchen.