Friday, May 29, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

Mmmmm biscuits! Visit Christy Jordan's Southern Plate blog for a VERY handy tutorial on how to make your own buttermilk biscuits. Three ingredients. That's it! So easy, you just HAVE to make some for dinner tonight.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Ah, Filet-O-Fish®, how I love thee! My steady companion during Lent and quiet sidekick the rest of the year, you bring me both joy and sorrow. You are tasty, and yet you taunt me with your silly half-slice of cheese. Why, oh why, do you satisfy while leaving me yearning for that missing half of melty American cheese?

It's no surprise that I'm a big fan of this most delicious and unhealthy sandwich, so it's only fitting that I would try to memorialize it as a cake in honor of my co-worker's birthday. He is also quite the avid fan of Filet-O-Fish®, maybe even more so than I am!

Here's a breakdown of the components (from the top down):

  • Cream cheese icing
  • Cake baked in a shallow 2 qt. oven-proof bowl
  • "Tartar Sauce" made of icing and chopped green & white candy disks
  • Cream cheese icing
  • Uniced cake, baked in 9x13" pan, center cut out to fit
  • More icing
  • "Cheese" made from candy melt ganache*
  • Iced round 8" cake

*Chop 3 oz. orange candy disks and melt with about 1 Tbl. cream. Pour onto a parchment covered baking sheet and refrigerate. When nearly firm, cut out rectangle shape. Leave on parchment, but discard the excess trimmings. Put back in fridge until needed. When ready to assemble, invert the firm 'cheese' onto the iced bottom 'bun' and peel off parchment. As it reaches room temperature, it will soften and droop a bit. Cool!

Things to try next time:

  1. Use more batter in the bowl, and bake separately from other cakes. Glass browns baked goods more quickly than metal pans, so lower oven temp. by 25°F. Duh, I knew this but wasn't thinking.

  2. Make the bottom bun in a 9" round pan for a more proportional finished product. My filet overfloweth!

Donkey Bars v.1.0

The internet is a dangerous place. Especially if you're like me and browse food blogs during your lunch break. With so many sources for inspiration, it's hard not to be overcome by the dizzying array of goodies out there. Should I make brownies? How about chocolate chip cookies? Or cheesecake? I haven't made cheesecake in ages. I know! I'll MAKE THEM ALL. Thus was born the "donkey bar," so named for how absolutely redonkulous (yet tasty!) they are. They're not perfect by any means, since I simply mashed together four different things. Version 2.0 promises to be much more eye-appealing. Stay tuned!

Donkey Bars Adapted from The Internet

  • 1 box brownie mix (9x13" pan size), plus
  • eggs, oil, water called for on the box
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 oz. unsalted butter (can use less)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13" pan with a foil or parchment paper sling (not vital, but will make life easier). Prepare brownie mix according to box directions. Spread into pan. For this round, I chose to follow the "cakey brownie" variation (which generally just means adding an extra egg) and swapped out half of the oil with applesauce...because I was feeling guilty about what I was about to create. And because I didn't want to chance an oil slick on my donkey bottoms. Next time I will probably not go for the cakey variation. Adding the extra egg made the brownie batter a bit too loose to hold the subsequent layers.

Blend cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth. Try not to over beat. Carefully pour on top of brownie batter. Since my brownie batter was very liquidy, my cream cheese layer began swirling with the brownie layer upon contact. Which isn't a bad thing if you're making cheesecake swirled brownies, but I was aiming for defined layers.

Top cream cheese layer with chocolate chip cookie dough. Here's where I went wrong: First, I purchased the 'break and bake' squares. These were hard (duh, they need to be so you can break them apart) and didn't expand while baking. Second, I pushed them into the batter. For a nice chocolate chip cookie layer I suggest buying a softer dough log, slicing it, then laying it gently on top of the cream cheese.

Bake at 350°F until done. I didn't do a very good job of keeping track of how long this monster took to bake, but I would estimate somewhere between 40-50 minutes. Check your brownie box directions, then add some time onto that. You did just add two additional layers, after all. Use your judgement. I trust you :)

Cool completely. Then melt 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate with 4 oz. unsalted butter and spread over top of bars. I will use less butter next time to make top layer a bit more firm. Maybe 2 or 3 oz.? Either that or double the amount of chocolate. Haven't decided yet. Cut into small bars (at least 36-these are quite an experience!) once chocolate sets.

Feeling really ambitious? Make your own brownie batter and chocolate chip cookie dough. You'll need a brownie recipe written for a 9x13" pan and about 1 lb. of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Gelatin Overload

What could be better after a meal of boiled crawfish than a bowl full of light, refreshing gelatin to cleanse your palate? How about some fancy Jell-O? 'Cause why do something "regular" when you can do it "fancy?" And did I mention how much I love rainbows? Rainbows are, by nature, fancy. Some might say "tacky," but that's fine by me. This dessert walks that fine line.

Fancy Rainbow Jello Adapted from The Food Librarian
  • 5 (3 oz.) boxes gelatin in assorted colors
  • 5 cups boiling water, divided

The night before: Dissolve each box of gelatin separately in 1 cup of boiling water. Stir well to dissolve completely, about 2 minutes. Pour each flavor into its own container and refrigerate until firm. It is helpful to have some plastic resealable tubs for this, so you can stack them in your fridge.

Ingredients for the next day:

  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (like Knox®)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 cups boiling water
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 oz. can coconut milk (regular or lite)

Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over 1 cup of cold water in a medium-large bowl. (I used the metal bowl of my stand mixer for this) Let sit for a few minutes to allow the gelatin to absorb water and bloom. Add sugar and the 2-1/2 cups boiling water to the bloomed gelatin and stir to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. Try not to lick the spoon. Set aside to cool while you:

Spray a 9x13" dish (a clear glass one gives you and your guests a sneak preview) with non-stick spray. Wipe down with a paper towel to distribute and absorb some of the spray. You don't want greasy jello!

Remove flavored gelatins from refrigerator and cube into smallish pieces, about 1/2". Layer into prepared baking dish. You can mix them if you'd like, but I didn't want to risk breaking any pieces and having mini rainbow shrapnel all over. Your choice. Make sure your gelatin-condensed milk-coconut milk mixture is close to room temperature, then pour over rainbow cubes in the 9x13" dish. (If the mixture is still hot or warm, wait a bit so you don't melt the already firmed gelatin cubes.) Stash the whole thing in the fridge and chill until firm. Cut into 1" pieces, smile, and enjoy!


1. Sure, it's pretty. But what does it taste like? Won't it taste bad with all those different flavors mixed?

Good question. It pretty much tastes like DELICIOUSNESS. And no, all those flavors don't taste bad together. Ever heard of fruit punch???

2. zOMG!?!?! Do you know bad for you this is? I know there are food purists out there who might be freaking out about the whole mess of artificial colors and flavors I've jammed into this one dessert. So before you shout, "I would never serve my child that much artificially colored/flavored food," I have three words for you: DON'T. MAKE. IT. No one's forcing you. And relax a bit, will ya? It's not like the rest of us plan to eat this every day.

3. But I hate coconut! Can I still make this?

Yes! Just use something else such as: milk, soy milk, evaporated milk (but it will be more off-white), half-and-half. Whatever floats your boat. Water would work too, but for the overall look of the dessert I would choose something opaque and whitish.

4. Hey wait a minute!?! You said you liked rainbows! Where's indigo and violet?

Oh...busted. Violet or "grape" jello will definitely make an appearance next time I make this. Maybe not indigo though. Sorry.

5. This takes too long! Who has the time to plan ahead and then cut up all that jello? Don't you have a life?

No. But thanks for reminding me :'(

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

It's crawfish season here in south Louisiana, and boy oh boy are the good times a rollin'. Last Friday our company sponsored a crawfish boil for its employees, and as usual I was eager to jump in with a dessert offering. With the memory of last year's pucker-inducing lemon cupcakes still burning in my mind, I was only after one thing: redemption.

Mini Lemon Cupcakes Yields about 5 dozen
  • 18.25 oz. box Betty Crocker® Lemon Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 box (4-serving size) lemon gelatin
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place paper liners into mini muffin pans.
Combine lemon gelatin and boiling water in a 1-cup glass measuring cup or bowl. Stir for 2 minutes to dissolve gelatin. Add butter pieces and stir until melted. (Clever trick alert! This cools down the gelatin mixture to a reasonable working temperature while simultaneously transforming the butter into a liquid state. Thermodynamics is kewl.) In a separate medium/largish bowl beat the eggs, sour cream, and lemon extract until blended. Add cake mix and gelatin/butter mixture. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds or so. Scrape bowl down, then increase mixer speed to medium and beat for another 2 minutes. Batter will be very thick.
Portion batter into paper-lined mini muffin tins and bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, or until cake tests done. Remove to wire racks to cool and repeat with remaining batter. Cool cupcakes completely before glazing with:
  • 1 can of ready-made lemon frosting
Heat frosting in microwaveable bowl for 10-15 seconds, until liquid. (Tips: Keep your eye on it while it heats, because the frosting melts almost instantly. Don't melt the whole can at once, because it will start to set up before you've had the chance to dip all the cupcakes. I worked with about 1/4 of the can at a time.) If desired, top cupcakes with a candy crawfish decor before the glaze sets up. You can find red candy coating disks at any craft/hobby store. I got my crawfish mold locally, but you can buy them from CK online (hint: they are normally labelled as "lobsters").

And the verdict? It's tough to say. Many of my co-workers began the day with intentions of "eating my weight in crawfish," leaving little room for dessert. Our dessert table was positively buckling under the weight of brownies, walnut brownies, lemon gooey butter cake bars, mini lemon cupcakes, aaaand... about 4 gallons of ice cream.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Lemon Poppy Crumble Cakes

They're crumb-diddly-umptious! So the crumb topping didn't work out as planned (I imagined the entire top would remain covered in crumbs during baking--I was wrong!) and the texture was more 'muffin' than 'cupcake', but who cares? Wait a minute!?!? Have I just invented the cupffin??? Or muffcake?

Lemon Poppy Crumb Cakes
  • 18.25 oz. box White Cake Mix (I used Betty Crocker®)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • grated zest from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • crumb topping, recipe below
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 12-cup muffin pans or place paper liners in pans. Combine all ingredients except poppy seeds and crumb topping and blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl down, then increase mixer speed to medium and continue beating for 2 minutes. Blend in poppy seeds. Batter will be very thick.
Portion batter into 20-22 greased or paper-lined muffin cups and top with crumb topping. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or until cake tests done and topping is lightly golden brown.
  • Crumb topping: recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • grated zest of one lemon, optional
Combine melted butter, sugars, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Fold in flour. When cool enough to handle, use hands to break into pieces. This looks like a lot of crumbs, but they will cover the cupcakes nicely. (I rolled some of mine into balls but that ended up producing cupcakes that looked like more like something from Katamari Damacy! The cupffin/muffcake you see pictured above is the result of me breaking apart my crumb balls into jagged pieces after watching the first pan bake up very Bumble Ball-esque.)