Monday, August 31, 2009

Flavor-of-the-Month: Pucker Up!

Bake at 350

Something magical happens when you introduce an acidic ingredient to sweetened condensed milk: it transforms and takes on a wonderful custardy texture. Home cooks have relied upon this reaction for years, using it as the basis for wonderful desserts such as lemon icebox pie and key lime pie. For this month's Flavor-of-the-Month round up hosted by Bake at 350, I knew I wanted to make one of those two pies in keeping with the theme of "Pucker up!" (Come to think of it, they would've worked for last month's pie theme as well!) A trip to my local grocer helped hone my decision: limes were on sale for 10 cents each. Lemons were 49 cents. Guess which one I picked?

Head on over to Bake at 350 to check out all the Flavor-of-the-Month entries!

So far I've seen three major schools of thought when it comes to preparing key lime pie:

  1. Traditional- egg yolks, lime juice (preferably Key Lime), and condensed milk are whisked together and poured into a crust to chill and set. This crust is usually graham cracker.
  2. Baked - egg yolks, lime juice, and condensed milk are whisked together and poured into a crust to bake and set.
  3. Pasteurized, unbaked - egg yolks and lime juice are heated to a 160°F to neutralize any nasties that might be lurking. Mixture is cooled, then combined with condensed milk and poured into a crust to chill and set.

I picked option #3 for safety reasons (though people have been doing it the uncooked way for decades without any ill effects) and because it preserves more of the traditional texture of the pie compared to the baked version.

(Key) Lime Pie

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, Key limes if ya got 'em
  • Grated zest of one lime
  • 1 or 2 drops green food coloring, if desired*
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • Crust - graham cracker or shortbread, ready-made or homemade
  • Whipped topping - real cream, non-dairy, or from an aerosol can!

*The regular liquid kind you use to dye Easter eggs with, not the super-intense Americolor® gels I love so much!

This first portion is optional. One of my biggest fears is accidentally giving someone food poisoning, so I'm gonna go ahead and do it. In the top of a double-boiler set-up, whisk egg yolks, lime juice, and lime zest together until blended. Heat mixture, whisking steadily, until it reaches 160°F. Strain mixture into a small bowl, and cool over an ice bath. Stir in food coloring, if desired. Purists may scoff at this, but since I strained out the zest, there weren't any visual cues that the pie was lime and not lemon or some other flavor.

Whisk condensed milk into egg and lime mixture until thickened. Pour into crust and refrigerate for several hours before serving with whipped topping.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Passing the Torch

Newer isn't always better when it comes to baking gadgets...

My mom's measuring spoons, acquired many moons ago, passed on to me when I was 18.

I was almost seduced by the sparkle from a measuring spoon set at Sur la Table in Houston last weekend, drawn in by its narrow profile and inclusion of the elusive 1/8 teaspoon measure. Armed with a "$10 off your purchase" coupon, the $12.95 price tag was much easier to stomach. In my hands their shininess and heft were tempting, and the appeal of digging their slim spoons into narrow jars was almost too much. Until I remembered how much I loved the set I had at home. Lightweight yet durable, with spoons too big to fit into most of my spice jars, they served my mom well in the height of her baking days--while she was pregnant with me! ♥

A tidy little nutmeg grater, possibly as old as my mom's measuring spoons, passed on to me last weekend by the very generous Ms. Betty.

I’d been looking for an old-timey nutmeg grater for some time now, having been introduced to such a gadget by the Emeril Live show. A tiny little grater? With a cubby hole to store a nutmeg? What could be cuter?!? I was determined to find one at Sur la Table, but alas…they didn’t have any of that type (despite the salesman’s claims that he “might have seen one in the clearance bins a few days ago”). As luck would have it, I left Houston with an even better nutmeg grater than I could have hoped for: an honest-to-goodness, well-used-and-cared-for, vintage nutmeg grater from my weekend host. Thanks, Ms. Betty!

I was also lucky enough to come home on Sunday with a bunch of well-speckled bananas, and even luckier to find out that very same day that September’s Cupcake Hero theme is…BANANAS! Stay tuned to see my entry for the event hosted by Clara over at I ♥ Cuppycakes!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to be Distracting at the Lunch Table

  1. Pull out a delicious (still fresh!) sandwich roll you baked on Sunday (it is now Wednesday).
  2. Proceed to assemble your colorful sandwich on said roll.
  3. Consume sandwich, all the while declaring how delicious it is.
  4. Bask in the envy of your lunch mates.
Want to make your co-workers jealous? Click here for the sandwich roll recipe. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Glorious Morning with the King...

...Arthur, that is. Of King Arthur Flour fame. Look what we made:

Click here for the recipe. My muffin pans must be smaller than the ones in the King Arthur Flour Test Kitchens, because I ended up with 18 muffins instead of 12. Use your judgement when filling up your muffin cups--they should be nearly full, about ¼" to the brim.

What's a morning glory muffin, you ask? Well...they're basically a breakfast form of the most amped-up version of carrot cake you can imagine. Chock-full of wholesome ingredients, they're quite satisfying and probably the most perfect morning fuel you can eat on-the-go. Here's a quick run-down of what's stashed inside:
  • whole wheat flour: fiber + whole grain goodness
  • grated carrots: fiber + beta carotene + sweetness
  • grated apples: cholesterol-reducing pectin (fiber) + sweetness
  • raisins: fiber + antioxidants + sweetness
  • walnuts: omega-3 fatty acids + crunch
  • coconut: fiber + texture + sweetness
  • sunflower seeds/wheat germ: vitamin E + crunch/texture
  • eggs: protein + amino acids + choline
  • canola oil: omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) + lower saturated fat
  • orange juice: vitamin C + flavor
  • pineapple (in some versions): vitamin C + flavor + texture
That's quite some list, you say? Crazy as it may sound, I actually had every ingredient in my pantry and fridge except the apple and carrots. It does take some effort to throw these muffins together, but the result is well worth your time. Tasty, portable, and hunger-smashing! And they can be yours too! Make them.

Monday, August 17, 2009

If at First You Don't Succeed...

...try, try again. After not one but TWO epic fails with King Arthur's Tender White Cake recipe, I accepted defeat and started looking for other options. Experienced baker that I am (ha!), I will attribute the massive overflow and weird goopiness to ingredient substitution rather than user error. Sorry, but my local grocer stocks neither Queen Guinevere Cake Flour nor KAF's new Unbleached Cake Flour Blend. I guess regular grocery store cake flour was too pedestrian for use in a King Arthur recipe. My dreams of plush, pristine white cupcakes topped with a cookie-flecked icing will just have to go unfulfilled for the moment. Dark chocolate cupcakes, however, are another story.

A word about doubling or tripling this recipe: Don't do it. Because these cupcakes get their poof from the vinegar and baking soda reaction (with some help from baking powder), you'll want to get these babies in the oven post-haste! You'll see what I'm talking about when you mix up your own batch--there's a heck of a lot of bubbling going on, so don't waste time trying to fill up 24 or 36 muffin cups. Make a single batch (12 cupcakes) at a time, and mix up more batter when your first batch is almost ready to come out of the oven. I made three batches, which sounds like a lot of trouble but took no time at all. These are so easy you don't even need eggs or a fancy-schmancy mixer--a whisk will get the job done just fine.

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes (adapted from VCTOTW)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • cup Hershey's® Special Dark™ cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Cookies & Cream frosting, recipe below
  • 1 pkg. chocolate sandwich cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and place 12 paper liners in a muffin pan.
  2. Combine milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside to curdle. Meanwhile, sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in separate bowl.
  3. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla to milk mixture, whisking until foamy.
  4. Add half of dry ingredients to wet mixture. Whisk until combined. Add remainder of dry ingredients, and whisk until combined (some small lumps might remain, but that's okay).
  5. Pour batter into 12 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full. It might look like it's too much batter, but they'll be fine. Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until cakes test done. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Cupcakes might shrink a bit while cooling.

Cookies & Cream Frosting (makes enough for 36 cupcakes)

  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tbl. heavy cream
  • 6 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed finely
  1. With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar to creamed mixture in 4 additions, beating well and scraping bowl after each addition. Beat for a minute or so once all the sugar has been added.
  3. Add vanilla extract and 2 Tbl. heavy cream, beating until combined. Add remaining cream as needed, depending on desired texture. Beat frosting for several minutes, until fluffy. Fold in crushed cookies.

To assemble cupcakes, use a medium cookie scoop to portion out scoops of frosting. Top frosting mounds with a chocolate sandwich cookie, pressing down to spread frosting out to edges of cupcake. I used a store brand cookie containing 43 cookies per pack, which ended up being the perfect amount: 36 for cupcake tops, 6 for the frosting, and 1 for the baker! Not bad :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bake Sale Tip: Colorful Items Sell

We had a great turnout today for Game Day of the Games of Acadiana. Thanks to everyone who came out and supported the Games; all proceeds go to the Miles Perret Cancer Center. A popular attraction at the Games is "Mama T's Bake Sale," which I have participated in the last three years. I wanted to offer something a little different this year, something eye-catching among the masses of chocolate chip cookies. And did my items sell? You betcha!

I modified the Easy Monster Cookie I previously made, using less chocolate and fortifying it with raisins and peanuts in an effort to make such a gargantuan cookie more wholesome. I wanted to name it "Trail Mix Cookie," but with peanut allergies so common these days I went the safer route and labelled them "Peanut Monster Cookies." Gotta declare them allergens!

Jumbo rainbow cupcakes in two versions, inspired by the crafty gals over at Our Best Bites:

You could say that I had all the little princesses in mind when I mixed up the pastel rainbow batch. Sugar and spice, and everything nice- that's what little girls are made of. I'd like to think "everything nice" is code for "rainbows, hearts, and unicorns." And glitter.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

*Added 08/12/09: Today is the 70th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz! I think I'll have to watch it tonight :)

Oh, how I do love The Wizard of Oz. Rainbows. Gingham. Pigtails. And a pair of fabulous red shoes. As long as I can remember, I've wanted to dress up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for Halloween. Wanted to, but never have (there's time yet for that!). I wish I could say that that beloved character is my namesake, but I must sadly report that it's far more likely Olympic gold-medalist figure skater Dorothy Hamill who inspired my parents. Still cool, I suppose.

Anyway, I recently stumbled across this fantastic rainbow cake over at "Conversations with a Cupcake" (love the name!), and I just KNEW I had to make it. Six layers? Each a different color and flavor? From real fruits? Come on, tell me YOU wouldn't be hooked too. This is the perfect, all-around, all-occasion party cake. Don't believe me? Let me count the ways:
  1. Wizard of Oz party, naturally
  2. Noah's Ark party for Bible camp, CCD, etc.
  3. Baby shower Noah's Ark theme, if you go for the pastel route
  4. Little girl's birthday or Easter- pastel works here, too
  5. St. Patrick's Day Party - garnish with gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins!
  6. "Coming out" party - a most fabulous addition! :D
  7. Circus or carnival party - decorate with animal crackers
  8. 80's theme/Rainbow Brite Party (remember her? Or Lisa Frank?)
  9. Monthly office birthdays - with so many colors, you're sure to please all the birthday gals and guys!
  10. I could go on and on, but you get the idea!
Here's a shot of all the fruits gathered up before the party. Don't they look dreamy? (Thanks, Photoshop® Elements!)

I know what you're probably thinking--this cake will cost way too much $$$ to make! Fresh berries, when not in season here in South Louisiana, can run you up a pretty dollar. $4.00 for a half-pint of blackberries? No thank you sir! (I'm not lucky enough to have or know someone who has blackberry bushes growing on their property.) How about the freezer section of your local mega-mart?

I was fully prepared to be met with disappointment upon opening my berry mix, bracing myself to find a bag of mostly strawberries. Instead I was greeted with an equal mix of all four berries. What an unexpected and wonderful surprise! Sorry I doubted you, Great Value® brand. Nice packaging too--looks like Wal-Mart's stepping it up!

Here's a link to the recipe again. Now go run out and make one for your next party. Don't wait for a special occasion...every day is a celebration! ♥


  • This cake is tall. I mean really, REALLY tall. Six inches of rainbow glory, tall. Plan accordingly for storage purposes, or use a bigger diameter pan. Or level off the layers to make them flatter. Enjoy rainbow cake scraps before your party guests arrive.
  • Mashing up the berries a bit will improve cake texture. Unless big soggy bites of exploded berries are your thang.

  • If you can find it, Americolor® food color gel will make things easier. The colors seem to be more intense than Wilton® colors, so just a few drops from the squeeze bottle will do ya!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bakers of Acadiana, Unite!

Mark your calendars! The Games of Acadiana Annual Game Day will be held this year on Saturday, August 15th at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana. You know what that means, don't you? It's time once again for Mama T's Bake Sale! Click here to sign up as a volunteer baker. While you're at it, register to volunteer in some other area as well. The more the merrier! See you on Game Day!
The Games of Acadiana was founded in 2001 for the sole purpose of
funding and supporting Miles Perret Cancer Services. The Games consists of Game Day and a series of Stand Alone events.

Game Day, the major event of our season, will be on Saturday, August 15, 2009, at the Cajundome in Lafayette. It will have over 40 fun filled Game Day events for participants to showcase athletic, scholarly, musical, culinary and just plain wacky talents. Admission to Game Day is free, but donations are always welcomed.

How does The Games raise money?
Two ways. First, we enlist local businesses and individuals to generously sponsor each Game Day event and each Stand Alone event. Second, we also accept admission fees (from Stand Alone events) and donations, small and large, from our participants and supporters.

Who decides how the money raised will be spent?
The Board of Miles Perret Cancer Services, which is comprised of a group of individuals from the medical, business, and philanthropic community of Acadiana. The Board is guided in these decisions by a group of medical professionals with the knowledge of the causes, prevention, and treatment of cancer, as well as the needs of cancer patients and their families.


100th Post (Now with Rainbows! ♥)

Not too long ago I made a colorful treat known as Broken Glass Jell-O. Remember? You may also recall that I failed to include grape/violet/purple in the mix, no? This new and improved version is more properly rainbow-colored, though again I've snubbed indigo. Poor indigo. Not many people remember to invite you to the party. If only you were more easily distinguished from blue and violet...
A word of caution if you plan to make this according to my previous recipe: be careful with how much white layer you add to your pan. I had forgotten how perilously full my pan was during my first run, so I had some spillage issues while transporting the whole mess (literally!) to the fridge to firm up. Keep in mind that adding another color to the mix will increase the volume of gelatin cubes by at least 1¼ cups. Either decrease the amount of boiling water to 2 cups (down from 2½ cups), or hold back when pouring the white layer over your cubes. The excess can be poured into a bowl for a deliciously creamy, vaguely coconutty treat later.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Getting Closer to Pillowy Roll Perfection

Knead. Rise. Punch. Rise. Shape. Bake. Drool. Eat. Faint.

I sure am glad I gave The Cupcake Project's rolls another shot. Opting for the all-white flour option definitely yielded better results than last time, and using a 9x13" pan instead of individual muffin cups made for softer rolls. You know that sparkly happy feeling you get when you get to pull apart piping hot, deliciously soft, yeasty rolls? *squeal* Yeah...

Next time I'll probably make smaller rolls...say, 16 or 18 instead of 12? That would probably be a more appropriate size to serve with dinner, instead of FOR dinner like I just did.