Wednesday, September 30, 2009

thoughts from this week

1. Mexican mush: my new favorite comfort food creation! After being on quite a Mexican kick over the past few weeks (I ate at Peppers for lunch and dinner of the same day--and got the chimichange both times!) I wanted to "re-create" one of my favorite parts of the meal. After eating my chimichanga (YUM) I love to mix together the beans, rice, and leftover condiments (guacamole, salsa, sour cream, & queso) and then scoop it up with chips. So I went to the store and bought mexican rice and refried beans and salsa & guacamole & queso and chips and it is so freakin yummy! (Note: this is also a good meal for clearing up your sinuses) Yes, it is lazy and unhealthy, but oh so delicious when one is feeling sick.

2. My pets are lazy

This is pretty much all they do.

3. Apparently I am not giving them enough water.

Butch has taken to drinking out of the rain bucket, and sometimes jumps into the bathtub to lick water out of the drain. yuck. (but look at that big fat belly hanging down! heehee!)

4. I think I need a new washer & dryer...for some reason my clothes are all shrinking!

Wait, what??? Are you suggesting that maybe it is from all the baking and mexican mush???? hmm....

strawberries & cream puff pastry tart

5. I got a very special compliment on my baking this week--I had thrown together a slightly modified version of this pumpkin roll recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod for one of hubs' friends and the guy's mother in law ate some and said I must have some Mennonite in me in order to bake so well! She ordered one for Thanksgiving, and said it is the best pumpkin roll she ever had! (sadly, I was in such a hurry that I didn't get a picture before he took it over to them)

6. I found this:

at TJ Maxx today and just know that it was designed just for me--I mean, a cupcake TEAPOT!?!? amazing! It is now sitting on my shelf at work to make me happy when I see it.

7. It is officially fall!!!! The weather is getting nippy, I am loving the spicy smells and pumpkins all over, some of the leaves are already changing, and tomorrow it will be October! Now if only the "first frost" would hurry up and get here so hubs will move back into our bedroom again! (he sleeps better in the other room due to his allergies)

8. For some reason, tonight I really feel aware that I am a grown up now. Not sure why. Just interesting.

9. I have signed up to become a Scentsy consultant. It's like candles, but without the flame or burning hot wax, and you can pick out super cute warmers and easily change out the scent bars. My mother-in-law bought me one of the warmers & scent bricks for my birthday, and everyone who walks into my office talks about how great it smells and asked where they could get them. The start up fee and order requirements are low, so I figured it would be a fun thing to do while I'm on my hiatus from Creative Memories--and there are no other consultants in this area! I don't have my personal site up yet, but let me know if you're interested b/c it's a really great product!

10. I thought that I was going crazy, b/c every night before bed I would set the alarm on my ipod dock, and then every morning the ipod power symbol was on and the alarm symbol was off, and of course I wasn't waking up on time. (thankfully, the pets seem to have built-in alarms to get up at 6:45 so I have only been a little late getting ready). I told hubs about it b/c this morning I actually saw that the alarm symbol was on at 6:25, yet it still did not go off. He looked at it, and I had somehow changed the settings! So instead of the alarm beeping, it was set to start playing music on the ipod, but since I keep forgetting the ipod at work there is nothing to play! oh me oh my. Sad that I couldn't figure this out myself!

11. Hubs will be 26 this week! I have to plan some treats for him--he's tired of all the fancy-schmancy stuff and just wants plain white cake w/white icing, and brownie batter from a mix. Silly boy.

12. Butch snores very loudly.

13. I have injured my wrist from lifting my new favorite water bottle!

It holds 64 oz. of water which almost gets me through the day, but it gets really really heavy!
(on a side note for sure to look at your water bottle's washing instructions before sticking them in the dishwasher! I had a pink version of this bottle that I stuck in the dishwasher, and the heat completely warped to top so I couldn't use it at all! Thankfully, I saw on Erin's blog that they had them at Kohl's (we bought the same bottles within the same week!--just at different places) and I rushed there and bought the last one that they had. If there had been more, I totally would have bought all that they had b/c it's so freaking awesome!

14. I've realized that my tastes are changing. I had some cheap milk chocolate at work today and for the first time was really put off by the sugaryness of it. Then I got some tater tots w/my lunch today, and the grease from the frying made me feel really weird. I used to LOVE fried things from Sonic, but I guess not anymore! (and that is definitely a good thing)


I threw my Sonic bag from lunch in the trash--not the floorboard ;)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate-crunched Caramel Tart

For this week's TWD post, Carla of Chocolate Moosey chose the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart from pages 355-357 of BFMHTY.

Well, I can't offer a review of this yet, b/c I haven't tried it, but I enjoyed making it! It was my first time making homemade caramel and it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be!

I made the tart dough last night, but didn't read far enough through the recipe to where it instructed not to mold so much that the dough "loses it's crumbly texture" oops...I totally kneaded it until it was like normal pie dough... but from the bits that I have sneaked a taste of, it still seems crumbly.

I used a smaller tart pan, so my caramel/peanut layer was thicker than I think it should have been, but from my licks of the spoon I think that's not a bad thing.

i also had WAY too much ganache due to my smaller size, but my co-workers aren't huge on dark chocolate, so I think the ratio will be more to their liking this way.

topped w/a few more honey-roasted peanuts

Also, I have broken the rule about serving it the same day, and am refrigerating this overnight and then letting it come up to temp at work tomorrow for everyone to eat. Hopefully it will still be good!

I will update tomorrow, hopefully with a picture of a tart slice and review of the finished product!

Be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see how the other bakers did, and check out Carla's blog for the recipe. Thanks for another great challenge!
Update: the verdict is in--the tart is a hit! All my co-workers have enjoyed it and commented on how rich it is (I mean really, if I had included the full amount of chocolate it would have been crazy!). I think I should have decreased the amount of tart dough I used considering that I had a smaller pan, b/c it was very hard to cut, and the corners were super-thick, but it tasted just like shortbread and was so yummy! I didn't lose the crumbly texture despite my over-mixing. I have a picture, though not a good one, that I will post tonight.

Monday, September 28, 2009

my not so secret shame (for you holly)

So you may not know this, but I am a slob. Yes, I bake all kinds of things and am crafty, but cleaning and maintaining the house is not something that I enjoy. I do clean my kitchen every night (a necessity--especially now that I am selling some baked goods), but that's about it...and the parts of my home that are not "common areas" very rarely get done.

But nowhere am I as much of a slob as in my car. For some reason, I just never clean it out! This isn't helped by the fact that I feel the need to recycle every scrap of clean paper or cardboard that I come across, so while some people would just throw it all out at the gas station or something, I want to sort and recycle what I can! (I talked to a co-worker about this today and she reminded me that that is what the people on the "hoarder" shows do...uh oh)

So now, for all the world to see....I am going to reveal the horrid mess that car.

The floorboard on under the passenger seat...yes, the trash is level with the car seat. This front area is where I "store" my bags from fast food lunches, the little order thingies from inside magazines that I tear out when I'm reading them, some shopping bags, and whatever else I throw down there...

And...the back seat. Upon my partial cleaning of this area I found a coffeemaker (we don't drink coffee, but a lot of my recipes call for it so I figured it would be a good thing to have), several baking dishes, a few cookbooks, some soda, several books, two vests that belong to little boys that are patients at my office (they left them at my house when coming to meet butch), and some scarves.

My goal for last weekend was to clean the car. At 10:00 on Sunday night I realized that I had not accomplished this goal, so in a spurt of energy, I ran to the car and used some of the grocery bags in a box to clear out the front seat, and part of the back seat.

These two bags contain the trash from the front floorboard. I did sort them to recycle, and counted the Sonic bags that I found. You know that episode of the Office where Michael gets Ryan to help him clean out his car b/c he thinks he is going to give the "hot girl" (played by Amy Adams) a ride home? While cleaning it Ryan asks "How many Filet-O-Fish did you eat?!?!?!" and Michael replies that it was over a several month time period. Well, remember that this is over several months when I tell you that I found 13 Sonic bags (I usually eat Sonic once a week or every other week, so that is at least 3 months!!) *shame*

This is the box I used to clean a bit of the back seat out, but it is not remotely finished (remember, I didn't start until 10:00 pm, and I go to bed early!)

Now...for the reveal......

drumroll please

Ta-da!!!'s still dirty...but the junk is out, and remember that this little car is from 1989!!! Considering how rarely I take the time to clean it, it could be a lot worse!
No picture of the backseat for now, as it is still a wreck....but maybe one day...we can hope!

One more story before I hit the sack for the night. Hubs asked me to get some BBQ sauce when I was going to the grocery today. He said that he didn't particularly want the Kraft brand, but regardless of the brand, he really wanted me to get a honey barbecue sauce.


is what I brought home.

That's right. It's Kraft, & NOT Honey BBQ. I failed on both requests. But the thing is, I looked at all the sauces and didn't see a Honey BBQ that looked good that was not Kraft, so I decided to get the Kraft version of Honey BBQ. I swear that I put it in my cart, and somehow it magically turned into Sweet & Spicy Chipotle!! I did not realize this until I had unloaded my bags and was moseying around the kitchen and hubs came in and said "Oh, you got Kraft?" to which I explained that I didn't see any non-Kraft Honey BBQ so that is what I got. I didn't understand until he showed it to me. *smacks forehead*

Oh well, we got a laugh out of it and he said he'll be fine with it. I swear I'm losing my mind! I keep making deliberate intentions to do things and being sure that I have done them, but then I haven't (like leaving my ipod at work or my grocery list at home). My brain is broken!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Puff pastry and Vol-au-vents

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

So, as I previously posted, I had decided not to make this recipe, but after seeing everyone else's posts and hearing that it was actually fairly easy, I could not resist! This recipe actually is pretty easy. I had some issues w/the dough tearing as I was rolling it out and a little butter oozage, but it wasn't too crazy.

after my last turn of the dough

cut out shapes

stacked w/the egg wash

For my fillings, I decided to stick on the sweet side with sweetened whipped cream and strawberries, homemade lemon curd that I had recently made, and some nutella that I have been slowly eating out of the jar w/a spoon. (shame)

nutella filling (I left the whipped cream and strawberries to the side b/c I knew that hubs wouldn't try it with any topping...he was not super impressed w/them--said that the puff pastry "didn't really taste like anything." boo on him.)

plain whipped cream w/strawberries in front, and lemon curd w/cream & strawberries in the back

side view

and top view

I was very pleased with these! They weren't too hard and look really special. I didn't get as much height as some of the other bakers, which I attribute to not refrigerating enough between turns, but all in all this was a fairly easy challenge with a "wow" factor! Thanks so much to Steph for picking this one!


The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!” Wink

Puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée) is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should make our own at least once in awhile, right? Kitchens should be getting cooler in the northern hemisphere, and are hopefully still cool-ish in the sourthern hempisphere, so I’m hoping you will all join me in making homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard’s recipe, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. With our homemade puff we’ll be forming vols-au-vent cases to fill with anything we chose.

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Once we have our puff pastry dough made and chilled, we are going to roll and form a portion of it into vols-au-vent, which are little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. I chose vols-au-vent specifically because I think they do a beautiful job of showing off the hundreds of flaky layers in the homemade puff. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés, the choice is yours. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions. If you are stumped for ideas for your filling(s), a quick on-line search or a glance at a traditional French cookbook will give you plenty of things to consider. I have photos of the ones I made near the bottom of this post.

Mandatory parts of the challenge: You must make Michel Richard’s recipe for puff pastry (as seen below), and form at least part of it into vols-au-vent (instructions below).

Optional parts of the challenge: You may make your vols-au-vent large or small, and may fill them with whatever you choose (savory or sweet).

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.


Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.


Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).


You can find lots more general tips for making puff pastry on-line, including here:

I encourage everyone to watch the on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book:

Daring Bakers...vol au vents to come

So, I had decided to opt out of this months challenge due to being sick and needing rest and not wanting to spend hours w/my rolling pin....but then I started seeing everyone else's challenges and what can I say? I got pastry envy! So I will be doing them today...not sure if posting will be ready in time...but I will be a daring baker!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What a week (or two...)

The past few weeks have been absolutely insane! In the nearly nine years that I have worked at the doctor's office, I have never seen a September this crazy! Of course we have the H1N1 flu making everyone sick, but we've had TONS of respiratory viruses, infections, and who-knows-what else. We've had crazy staffing issues between some employee turnover, new hire training, and illnesses...oh I'm exhausted. I've been sick for nearly 3 weeks now (different from my normal CFS/fibro stuff) thankfully my flu test was negative, but I have had a miserable cough, fever, sore throat, and congestion as well as headaches and just plain misery. I've been on prescriptions including a Zpac, Tessalon pearls, mucinex, a prescription cough medicine, inhaler, and a steroid shot and nothing is working!!! Oh it's frustrating. The fever is at least gone, but the cough & congestion just won't leave.

In spite of all the sickness, I have had 2 cake orders in the past few weeks (two cakes for each order) as well as some pies for work. The first order was my first ever for someone who I did not know at all. The lady works w/my sister-in-law and needed some cakes for a surprise birthday party for her sister, and I had committed to doing it several weeks prior. The week of the order I kept seeing my doctors and getting tested for flu and everything else...trying to do anything to feel better, but it was not working. I finally called the customer after seeing my doctor on Friday and in the middle of a coughing fit--I told her that I was still up for doing the cake and didn't have the flu, but wanted her to be prepared for the fact that I was sick. After discussing it for a while and promising to wear a mask and gloves while doing the cake, she said she would be okay with it as long as I was up for it. I baked the cakes and left them to cool overnight, and then the nextr morning I actually felt better! I decorated the cakes, one a music theme and the other chocolate w/purple dots and writing, and then delivered them. It must have been a burst of adreneline, b/c as soon as I finished the cakes I went into a coughing fit again and felt just as bad for the next several days...but I got them done! And she loved them!

the music themed cake--white cake w/white buttercream. the piano keys are fondant and the rest is piped icing.

side -ish view of the music cake

chocolate cake w/chocolate icing and shades of purple writing (it looks blue in the picture...but it really was purple!)

My other cake order for the week was birthday cakes for my husband's aunt. She lives in an adult care home that has many residents with diabetes, so in addition to a chocolate cake decorated for her birthday, they ordered a sugar free cake! I was honestly terrified of that, but my mother-in-law told me about some diabetic-friendly cakes made with a cake mix and can of diet soda. Now, I always make my cakes and icings from scratch, but decided to use this method due to the type of the cake, and the fact that my health was not condusive to trying several different sugar substitute cake recipes over the weeks leading up to the order! I decided to go with a strawberry cake mix and diet lemon-lime soda (I really wanted to use a diet cream soda but could not find one ANYWHERE) and a few whipped egg whites. Then for the "icing" I mixed cream cheese with sugar free vanilla pudding (prepared w/milk), sugar free strawberry jello, and lite cool whip, then I topped it w/a few strawberries. I am very sensitive to artificial sweeteners, but I must admit that for a sugar free cake it was really good! They said both the cakes were hits and some people took my cards for the future, so yay!

chocolate birthday cake

sugar free strawberry cake w/cream cheese "icing"

Also, between my coughing and hubs' allergies, we haven't slept in the same room in two weeks! I feel sad and lonely. :( He is filming and editing so much that bedtime was our only time together, so it's sad. He said that he will come back to the bedroom "after the first frost" b/c that's when his allergies should get better. boo.

Now I'm trying to clean the house a bit while also dog-sitting for my parents (butch and autumn are CRAZY together) and trying to rest and recouperate a bit as well. (I treated myself to a pedicure yesterday!) Here's hoping the next few weeks get better!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: cottage cheese puffletts

So, despite the instructions on the site to "be patient" and let the dough chill and all that fun stuff, I was not in the patient dough-making mood after the crazyness with my health and the office, so these are a mess. I didn't even bother trying to form them. i just rolled them out between my pastry mat and some wax paper, dropped a dollup of jam on them, and folded, rolled, or squished the dough together. Oh well. I knew these would just be for me so I made a small batch.

So how were they? umm....delicious! The dough is just right (though it did not puff at all...I really don't get the name of these...). I like the tanginess f/m the cottage cheese and it went really well with the raspberry jam that I had in the fridge. (maybeI like it so much b/c one of my favorite guilty pleasure snacks is cream cheese & jam on ritz crackers).

I honestly could have eaten the whole plate of these things. they were so good right out of the oven. I don't think that the rolling out process was worth it though...i'm not sure how these could be done better...maybe more like slice-and-bakes? Or even molded into tartlets in a mini muffin tin?

Monday, September 21, 2009

do you know what is delicious when you are sick and the weather is getting cooler? tomato soup and a homemade grilled cheese sandwich (but with lots of different cheeses...) yum....

just thought you should know.

i wish i had a picture, but i haven't made it yet--i just got the craving!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I am "this woman"

So yesterday I commented on a post on a Christian marriage blog that really hits home for me...and apparently my comment was so extreme that the author of the blog devoted an entire post to trying to help! Here's a link to the discussion if you're interested--I would love any other ideas!

Can you Help This Woman?

In other very sad news, we have had to sleep in different rooms for the past several nights due to my sickness!!! That plus his working so much this week has made me very sad. :( Hopefully we'll get some time together this weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD: flaky apple turnovers

This week for TWD Julie, of Someone's in the Kitchen chose Flaky Apple Turnovers from pages 316-317 of BFMHTY. Since I was already making cupcakes, and had been ridiculously lazy over the weekend, I cut the recipe into 1/4 since Dorie noted that these are best the night of, and it would only be me and the hubs. I still got like 10 little turnovers, and cut shapes out of the remaining dough and baked it sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and dotted with butter--YUM!!

I am very proud to say, that with all the baking challenges that I have done in the past month, these are the only things that hubs has actually tried, and he LOVED them.

Butchy wanted to eat some too, but I did not share (she did lick the cream cheese icing bowl for the cupcakes later though...)

Thanks for the challenge Julie!

MSC: Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

For this month's (and my first!) Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club challenge, Tracey from Tracey's Culinary Adventures chose the Zucchini Spice Cupcakes on page 44.

As usual, I waited until the very last minute to make these, and almost ended up not doing it. I work at a pediatrician's office and it has been CRAZY with flu (type A, which is assumed to be H1N1, aka swine flu). I had been fighting a sore throat and cough and slight fever over the weekend and by the end of the afternoon I was aching all over. So I had asked one of our sweet nurses to run a flu test on me just to check, and thankfully it was negative. I should have taken the night to rest, but instead I was on my feet making last minute cupcakes and apple turnovers for TWD, and dinner for my hubs.

Thankfully, this recipe is super easy to throw together!

I thought that these were great--reminded me a lot of carrot cake. The spice is wonderful for this transition into fall!! And the cream cheese icing? to die for!

Thanks to Tracey for picking a great recipe, and to Betty for letting me into the group!

Monday, September 14, 2009

"taste makes waist" and other randoms

i love to bake...this we all know. as my favorite apron (from my dear friend & co-worker, crystal) says "taste makes waist" and that is true. i had a serious fight with myself at the grocery the other day. i wanted to buy doughnuts. the "good" me won, but tonight it lost and ate lots of the flaky pastry and cream cheese icing from the two challenges that will be posted tomorrow. i'm not sure how to reconcile the side of me that wants to be healthy and in shape, and the side of me that wants to do nothing but bake. but i can't do just one or the other because it's not good! help!! for sure, selling baked goods helps a bit, but all these baking challenges means i still have lots of extra stuff. i don't want to quit them though, b/c i am learning to do so much more and push myself out of my baking "comfort zone"

my hormone therapy has sent my into premature hot flashes. i'm waking up with night sweats every night and burning up when hubs thinks it's cold! i will never be in balance...bah.

last week i made strawberry cupcakes

and cheesecake w/strawberry sauce for work.

yum yum yum! the cheesecake was Dorie's recipe and it rose super high, and then fell--probably b/c i did not bother with the water bath for it to "luxuriate in for an hour" didn't have time. oh well, it still tasted great! and i made a paula deen strawberry sauce to top it.

super high cheesecake

kitty is a peeping tom...
tomcat that is

butchy pouts when i ignore her to read magazines

sometimes she resorts to blocking the view