Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So A Lot Has Happened

Dearest Readers, if I still have any.

Please accept my most sincere apologies for my almost 2 years without posting. A lot has happened since my last post. Most importantly, a Fat Kitten was born. And turned 1. It's been quite an adventure from pregnancy to having a 1 year old and because of that, my kitchen has been neglected.

That is until her birthday rolled around!!! At last a reason to bake again! A reason that wasn't just "because" and one that I couldn't claim exhaustion and get out of. And it reminded me how much I love to bake and how much I've missed it.

I got to try two things that I had never done before. I made homemade fondant and I made my first ever from scratch cake!

I know you know about fondant. That beautiful sculpting/colored/3D decoration making stuff that tastes like sugared chalk. Not this fondant. This was made with two wonderful ingredients. Melted marshmallows and powdered sugar. Edible and fun to work with. I was absolutely terrified.

I used the recipe from Bake at 350 and it was so ridiculously easy I embarrassed myself with how scared I was. The only thing I hated was having to coat everything (hands included) with Crisco so I could work with the fondant dough.

The cake was a recipe I found here. I just Googled "chocolate cake" and tried the one that was the least intimidating. Yes, I admit it, after almost 2 years I was afraid to bake again. It's not like this was baking for the fun of it. It was for Fat Kitten's first birthday! I had to make it as perfect as I could.

So I made the fondant about 2 weeks before I needed to do anything with it. Just to make sure that I could do is successfully. Imagine my surprise when it was less than dramatic when I made it. The cakes (yes, more than one - 4 to be exact) were made the Friday before FK's birthday party. I also cut out all of the fondant shapes that I needed that night. Let's just say... it was a looooooooooong night.

The finished product was chocolate layer cake with chocolate pudding filling. I frosted using ~gasp~ canned frosting that I tinted pint. I cut out fondant polka dots and made fondant Minnie Mouse silhouettes. For bows on the Minnies I used heart shaped sprinkles.

Imagine my happiness when people asked me what bakery we got the cake from. I was surprised. I was thrilled. I blushed.

Here is the finished product. We ended up with a rectangle cake and a round cake. The round ended up coming home with us.

Now I admit, my Minnie's look a little wonky and my polka dots are all over the place on the round cake. But all in all, I'm thrilled with how they turned out.

Here are the recipes.

16oz bag of mini marshmallows
3tbs of water
2lbs of powdered sugar

Grease everything you're going to use (including your kneading surface) with Crisco. You will regret it if you don't. In a large greased microwaveable bowl, melt the marshmallows with the water. Do it in 30 second increments until the marshmallows are melted. Be sure to stir after each interval.

Reserve approximately 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar. Dump the rest into your greased mixer bowl. Be sure to grease the paddle of your mixer. Add the melted marshmallows into the sugar. Beat until a dough forms.

Dump everything from the mixing bowl on to a clean and greased surface. If there are any crumbs be sure to include them in what you dump out. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth. Be sure your hands are greased as you are kneading the dough.

You can divide and tint your dough. Whatever fondant you're not working with at the time cover to keep it from drying out. When you're finished and have left overs form a ball and coat with Crisco. Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and store in a zip-top bag. I let mine rest for 24 hours on the counter. Then into the fridge it went.

When you want to use your fondant again just take it out of the fridge, pop it into the microwave for about 30 seconds and then re-knead it to get it warmed and ready to go again.

"Perfect" Chocolate Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9" round cake pans or one 9x13 rectangular pan with parchment paper and grease the pans (bottom and sides) well.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla, and oil. Using a hand mixer, beat for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan(s) evenly.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly after inserting into the middle of the cake. Slide a knife around the edges of the cakes and flip out on to a cooling rack.

For the filling I used boxed pudding.

Welcome back, dear readers. Here's to a new year, a new adventure, and new recipes.

Love and purrs,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Passover Desserts That Don't Taste Like Cardboard

Even though this one was made with matzah. Surprisingly, it's one of the desserts that I'll even eat.

Passover has many memories for me. Mostly of horrible mixes that had I eaten the box they came in I would have enjoyed more. Don't even get me started on the year my mother bought the kosher for Passover "bread" mix. I still have nightmares.

At any rate, if you want the skinny on the Passover story, rent a copy of "The Ten Commandments" and watch up to the crossing of the Red Sea. That's the story in a nutshell. A really long nutshell. Like 3 hours of Charlton Heston chewing on the pyramids. But Yul Brenner is all kinds of hot in the film so it's well worth the watch.

My mother-in-law gave me a fantastic cook book of Jewish cooking and stories from each of the contributers. "Cooking Jewish - 532 Great Recipes From The Rabinowitz Family" has a vast aray of tried and true recipes for a wide variety of holidays and just daily cooking. The following recipe is from this book but it was altered slightly by my mother-in-law. Her recipes have yet to steer me wrong.

First you gather your ingredients:

Lay your matzah boards on a cookie sheet. I used 4 as that is what fit on my cookie sheet. My mother-in-law was able to get 5 - 5 1/2 on her sheet. She also has a bigger oven than I do.

You bring to a boil 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter.

Stir frequently. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer until it's a thick syrup.

Once the toffee is done spread it on your matzah boards.

I could have gone a little thicker on the toffee. Live and learn, right?

Stick the tray into a 450 degree oven and bake for about 4 minutes or until the toffee is brown(er) and bubbly(er).

When the boards come out of the oven, spread a bag of chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet. My mother-in-law added a little dark chocolate to her's).

Stick the tray back in the oven for about a minute. Just to get the chips nice and melty. Take the tray out of the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes until the chips are melted enough to spread.

Schmere the chocolate around to coat each board. Resist the urge to stick your fingers in - it's still hot.

I melted some milk chocolate chips and drizzled it all over the boards. Mostly for decorative purposes. It did help the taste. Honestly, there is no such thing as too much chocolate.

And I added a little spring time flare. It seemed appropriate since the weather is gorgeous and I've been walking around in short sleeves. Plus I had extra daisy sprinkles. A quick sprinkle of the daisies and a generous pinch of Fleu De Sel (sea salt) and you're ready to let it cool and then munch!

So even though this particular dessert is made with something that tastes like cardboard when eaten on its own, dress it with toffee and chocolate and it's really pretty tasty.

Matzah Toffee (page 590 "Cooking Jewish" - adjustments by Mother-In-Law FatCat)

1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup light or brown sugar
1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
milk chocolate chips
fleur de sel

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place matzah boards on a cookie sheet. Mix together in a sauce pan the butter and the brown sugar. Bring to a boil stirring frequently. Once it boils, let it bubble another 3-4 minutes until thick and syrupy.

Spread over the matzah boards thickly. Place in the oven for 4 minutes or until the toffee is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and spread the semi-sweet chips over the boards. Stick it back in the oven for another minute.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes until the chips are melty and spreadable. Evenly spread over the boards. Melt the milk chocolate chips and drizzle over the boards. Sprinkle on the fleur de sel and the decorations and let cool.

You can refrigerate to help harden more quickly.


Happy Passover,


Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

Let's just say, life has exploded in the last few weeks which is why I haven't been baking. And there was that gingerbread catastrophe that I wouldn't subject anyone to. I'm still so embarrassed.

The weather is turning nice (as rain pours down outside the window), trees are in bud and the flowers are blossoming. What better way to celebrate than with some sort of blossom cookie?

My friend S provided me with this recipe. She was right, it's quick, easy and a hit. Generally speaking, I rely on others' opinions on my baking as I find it difficult to eat something I spent a lot of time on. These I eat. And I don't want to share. But I will. Only with my husband.

First you gather your supplies.

Empty the sweetened condensed milk into a mixing bowl

Add in the peanut butter

Add vanilla. Mix with a hand mixer.

Add in 1 cup of the Bisquick and mix. Warning: Use of a hand mixer or a wooden spoon is unwise. The dough crept up my beaters and stuck to my spoon. Best mixing instruments you have are at the ends of your arms. Get those hands dirty!!

Here's what it looks like when it's completely combined and ready to be formed.

Roll into roughly 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in some sugar.

Place on cookie sheet and bake. (wow that's a terrible photo! Sorry about that)


Unwrap them and keep them at the ready. You'll need to wield the Kiss quickly when the time comes.

When the cookies come out of the oven, press a kiss into the center of each one. Move them to a cooling rack and try to not sample any until they're cool. I have the burns on the roof of my mouth as proof that you want to wait.

Enjoy these little Peanut Butter Blossoms and celebrate Spring!

1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups bisquick
1 tsp Vanilla
Hershey's Kisses

Mix can of sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and peanut butter. Add in Bisquick. Mix with your hands until dough is formed. Roll dough into 1" balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes (9 worked perfectly for me). When the cookies come out of the oven and are still hot, press in an unwrapped Kiss into the center of the cookie. Move to a cooling rack.

I have no idea how long these can last. I'm betting they won't make it through the week in my house.

Can anyone explain why I'm getting April Showers in March?


Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Less Conversation

Well, no, not really. A little more conversation with these sweet treats.

I have very fond memories of elementary school Valentine's day and receiving lollipops, chocolate, and most importantly - Necco Conversation Sweethearts. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, here's a picture:

For the first time in years, I didn't go out and buy a giant bag of these (I'm waiting for February 15th when they go on 75% off), but I was certainly inspired by them.

For Hanukkah I received a gift card to use however I wanted. I opted to get these:

There is little better than 101 plastic cookie cutters. They make me happy. They make cookie baking fun. They make my little heart sing. Or something cliche like that.

In this batch of cookie cutters there are hearts. Hmmm.... Valentine's day.... Conversation Hearts.... Conversation Heart Cookies!!!!!!!

I used the sugar cookie and royal icing recipes that I used during the holiday cookie extravaganza.

I made my dough, chilled it, and rolled it out. Then I got to do the fun part of cutting the cookies. I love getting new cookie cutters!
So cute.

I baked the cookies and they came out perfectly. I'm finally getting this whole timing thing down. It's not as easy as it seems.

Seriously, aren't they adorable?

After they cooled, it was time to get decorating. I whipped up some royal icing and divided it into 3 different bowls. I made each bowl a different color. Pink, Green and Yellow. I put some of the icing into my decorating squeeze bottles and added an appropriate piping tip. The bottles look like these (note: these are not my bottles - just similar.)

I divided the cookies into colors (22 each) and piped out a border on each one.
And I let them sit to harden. This part takes a while.

When the borders were hardened it was time to thin out the remaining icing by adding 2 tablespoons of water. Some people use milk. I chose the path that was closest. With the thinned out icing I  "flooded" the cookies. I squeezed out a pool of icing and spread it with a toothpick.

And I left them to harden. Again - this take a looong time. 

So I watched late night TV. Reruns of Sex and The City, Seinfeld, and whatever infomercials were on. They're not the same without Billy Mayes yelling at you to "BUY THIS PRODUCT!!!"

As soon as the icing was dried, I pulled out my trusty edible ink pens:

And got to work. I took a handful of Conversation Heart sayings and wrote them on my cookies. The original idea was to do this with icing but at 2am I wasn't about to whip up another batch of royal icing. So edible ink it was.

This Valentine's Day, don't say it with a card or flowers. Say it with a cookie.


Happy Valentine's Day!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

King Me - I win!!

Last night I tried Checkerboard Cookies. It was a surprisingly simple recipe with results that look complicated. The only reason it was time consuming (and it really wasn't) was because the dough needed to be chilled twice.

I was a little nervous trying these. I always get nervous when I try something that "looks scary" and these were pretty intimidating. Just looking at their alternating pattern and the fact that I needed to mess around with two different flavored doughs out of the same batch. How was I going to do that?! I only have 1 mixer!

Luckily it wasn't as terrifying as I had made to be in my head. It required 1 mixer, 2 bowls, and a wooden spoon. Easy. Chocolate-Vanilla Checkerboards were on their way!

I divided the initial dough into two equal parts

To one bowl, I added and additional teaspoon of vanilla extract. To the other I added 1 ounce of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder.

Then I flattened each dough into a squarish-circle, wrapped it in plastic wrap and set them in the fridge to firm up a bit.

Once the dough was chilled I pulled it out and sliced each one into 6 strips. Then each strip was rolled into a snake roughly the same length and width. Remember, I said roughly.

Then I started layering. Vanilla, chocolate, vanilla. Squished together. Brushed with some foamy egg white. Chocolate, vanilla, chocolate. Brushed with egg white. Squished together. I repeated this until all of my snakes were attached. I did not brush the top layer with egg white.

When everything was layered I trimmed the ends so that they were even.

Wrapped it up in plastic wrap and it went back into the fridge to firm up.

An hour later it came out of the cold and on to a cutting board. With a really sharp knife I cut 1/4" thick cookies.


I baked them at 350 degrees for 11 minutes and ended up with a lovely cookie.


The recipe:

1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped then melted
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
1 large egg, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. About 3 minutes in the mixer. Add the egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Gradually add this to the mixture in the mixer.

Melt the chopped semi-sweet chocolate. I used the microwave but the original recipe called for the use of a double boiler. Let it cool a little.

When the dough is combined, divide it into 2 equal parts. In one part add 1 teaspoon of vanilla - I used a wooden spoon to mix the vanilla. In the other bowl add the melted (and slightly cooled) chocolate and the cocoa powder. I used the mixer for the chocolate dough.

Take the divided parts and form as close to a square as you can. Wrap them separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate no less than 45 minutes.

Cut the chilled dough into 6 strips (you'll end up with a total of 12 strips) and roll each strip into a snake roughly 7 inches long.

Beat the egg white with a fork or a small whisk until foamy.

Start layering your strips, 3 per layer, in alternating fashion (Chocolate, vanilla, chocolate). Smoosh them together so they stick to each other. Brush lightly with the egg white. Continue this layering process, alternating the colors so you get a checkerboard look. Do not brush the top layer with the egg white.

Trim your layered dough so that the ends are all the same. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and return to the fridge. Let it chill for no less than an hour.

Remove from the fridge and cut 1/4" cookies with a sharp knife. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before moving them to a rack to completely cool.

Store in an airtight container.

Now who is up for a little game of checkers?