Friday, October 26, 2012

Show (Megan)

The most wonderful terrifying thing has happened to me.

I have a show!

Nov. 2 at Sora's Asian Dining. The show is part of the Gallery Stroll that happens on first Friday's.

I'm really nervous so the more people I know that come the better. The emphasis of it will be many of my ceramic pieces, hopefully with a few glass as well. I'm going to keep it clean and uncomplicated. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cast Iron Skillet Apple Crisp (Caroline)

I used a 9" cast iron skillet for this batch of apple crisp. If you choose to do the same, or to use an 8" pan, halve the recipe below. If using a 9"x13", make the full batch.

I recommend a variety of apples from the list below. Around here (Utah), I think the best places for produce are Winco, "whole"/organic food grocers, and the local farmer's markets. Winco is cheap, the whole/organic grocers tends to have higher quality, locally grown, organic, etc. produce, and the farmer's markets have the best of both worlds-- local, usually organic, and cheap. 
  • Pink Lady
  • Gala
  • Fuji
  • Golden Delicious
  • Granny Smith
  • Honeycrisp

The first time I used this recipe, I made it with Jazz apples, left out the liquid, and it was a bit dry, and the apples went slightly mushy. I had the best results with this recipe when I used some locally grown Golden Delicious and Pink Lady apples and I used homemade apple cider as the liquid instead of water. With the batch in the pictures, I only used Granny Smith (because I have a TON from when we went to the farmer's market and I don't like to eat them plain). The problem with this was that I think the Granny Smith's released more water while they were baking than the other varieties of apples. So, if you use Granny Smith, I recommend leaving out the extra water that this recipe calls for. 

Also, I like spices. So, I'd say I'm liberal when I'm adding spices to my apple crisp. Feel free to adjust the measurements of spices depending on your taste. 


For the apple filling: 

8-10 medium/large apples, peeled, cored, sliced thinly (I usually get 16 slices out of 1 apple)
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 - 1/2 c water or apple juice or apple cider 

For the crisp topping: 

1 c brown sugar
1 c all purpose flour
1 c oats (I use rolled, but quick oats should be fine, too)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c melted butter

 While I'm slicing my apples, I like to keep the finished slices in a large bowl with enough water to cover all of the slices and a teaspoon or two of lemon juice. This keeps the apples from turning brown while I mix up the other ingredients. When I'm ready for the apples, I drain them and place them in the pan.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 c sugar, 1 tbsp flour, and your spices.

In another bowl, combine 1 c of flour, brown sugar, and oats, along with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir them together, then mix in 1/2 c (one whole cube) of melted butter. 

Keep it chunky.

Take your sugar and spice mixture and sprinkle it evenly over your apples, then pour the water/apple cider/juice over the top. 

Sprinkle the crisp on top, bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes (depending on the thickness of your apple slices) and enjoy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

White Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream (Caroline)

Not all cupcakes made from a boxed mix are equal, so here are some tips for getting good cupcakes from a boxed cake mix, or even cupcakes that you make from scratch

Whip the cake mix. Don't over-whip it, but when I use my kitchen-aid, I whip it on med/high for about 30 seconds and then turn the power to the highest setting for about 10 seconds. 

Use cupcake liners. I made cupcakes without liners once... 

Fill your cupcake liners evenly. This is hard. It took me forever to get the hang of this, but this is how you get cupcakes that puff up above the liners juuuust a bit without overflowing. Like I said in my last post, I usually get 18 cupcakes per box. So if the number you end up with isn't within the 16-20 range, your cupcakes are probably going to be too big or too small. The box says to fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full, but I fill mine closer to 3/4. To see if you have more batter in one liner than in another, get on your knees or squat down and look at the cupcakes from more of a horizontal perspective. From this perspective, it's a lot easier to see how much empty/full space you have in each cupcake liner. 

I bake my cupcakes closer 325 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than the 350 that the box recommends. 

Don't open the oven while your cupcakes are baking until after they've baked for about 15-18 minutes at least. If you open the oven before then, you risk cupcake craters. 

Set your timer for 15 minutes. Check your cupcakes. Bake for only 1 or 2 minutes at a time from then until they're how you want them. For these white cupcakes I made last week, I left the first pan in for 18 minutes and they got a bit dark around the edges, but and I took the second pan out after 16 minutes and the tops were still gorgeous and white and hadn't started browning yet. This is how I think white cake should be. 

Remove cupcakes from your cupcake pan to keep them from continuing to bake after you've taken them out of the oven. If you took your cupcakes out slightly early, this isn't a big deal, but if you took them out when they were just on the brink of being too overdone, then you'll want to remove them from the pan. If I'm feeling invincible, I just used my hands, but usually I take two spoon to lift each cupcake out. 

Lemon Buttercream: 

Just following up the last cupcake post with a lemon variation on my butter-cream recipe. It's the same recipe as the butter-cream I used on the butterfly cupcakes, I just added 2 tsp fresh lemon juice and a little more powdered sugar (like half a cup-ish) to compensate for the extra liquid. This turned out to not be quite lemony enough for me, so next time I think I'll try adding some lemon zest and a little more lemon juice. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes, Chocolate Butterflies, and Buttercream Frosting (Caroline)

I have been perusing baking blogs like a maniac over the last few months and have discovered a few things. One, it's good to look at multiple recipes of the same dish and look at reviewers comments to see if anyone has actually tried the recipe, and if they have, then read what they thought. On a lot of sites, especially, you'll get reviewers who will tell you what they changed about the recipe to fit their taste. If you seem to have similar taste, you now know what changes to make without having to take the time (and ingredients) to go through the process yourself. Two, it is recipe-blogging law that you must post an anecdote intermittent with pictures of your cooking/baking process and/or finished product. It doesn't matter if the story has nothing to do with cooking/baking, but it usually does.

Here's the thing. I bake on a whim. Very rarely will I think ahead of time, "Oh, I should take pictures of myself cooking/baking so I can blog about it!" It just doesn't happen. I'm trying to get better at it because, as a teenager, one of my favorite things to do was post polymer clay tutorials. Not everyone pays attention when you show them something that you did, but I discovered that showing people how to do what I did drew a lot of traffic and it made me feel good that literally hundreds of people were seeking my advice because I'd established myself as a polymer-clay Yoda. 

I love baking. I think I will love writing about baking. I also love taking pictures. I can't really say that I love photography because I'm not that serious about it, but I think I can capture a decent shot when I really want to. That being said, my baking/cooking pictures will be crappy. A) I bake at night, so, no natural light, which is what I think makes good pictures. B) Most of the pictures I take are with my phone because my camera's in the other room and I'm just that lazy. C) My kitchen gets really messy while I bake. 

Here goes. 

Two weekends ago, I made some cupcakes for Megan's birthday. They had chocolate butterflies on them. Despite my anxieties, I had a lot of fun doing this. The technique took a few tries to really get the hang of. Melting the chocolate was probably the most stressful thing for me on this one.

Of course, this was something I had seen on Pinterest and shown to Mel and Meg, who loves butterflies and whose birthday was nigh at hand. The butterflies are just melting chocolates. I was trying to find out if white melting chocolates could be dyed and apparently they can, but I just used blue chocolates that I found at a local store. If you're going to dye white chocolates, apparently liquid food coloring does not work. It "freezes up" the chocolate. You can use gel and powder. Let me know how it goes. 

The cupcakes are just a strawberry boxed cake mix. Generally, I like making the cupcakes from scratch, but when I'm doing more complicates frostings/decorations, I'll make the cake simple by using a mix so I don't get burned out just making the cake. Also, I have NEVER gotten 24 cupcakes out of a box of cake mix. It's usually about 18 cupcakes, or in this case, 12 cupcakes and one very skinny and slightly burnt round cake (as seen on the far left). Woops.

Piping frosting onto cupcakes is one of my favorite things, like, ever. And for this project specifically, I was justified in buying some new baking materials. Namely an 18" featherweight pastry bag and some tips to go with it. I used an open star tip (#1M) for these cupcakes.

For the chocolate butterflies you'll need: 

Melting chocolates of your choices in color
  • Like I said, if you can't find colored melting chocolates, you can use white and add powdered or gel food coloring, not liquid. 

White non-pareils
  • aka little round white sprinkles. These really do give the butterflies the finishing touch. 

Baking parchment or wax paper
Zip-lock bags and/or a small pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (I used a #5)

To make the chocolate butterflies: 

1. Print this out (or draw your own) and put it under your parchment paper. The size should be about 3.25" from the top of the left wing to the bottom of the right wing, but you can change the size, of course. I don't have a pattern for this, but you'll need to pipe bodies for your butterflies, too. If you draw your own, use a marker or something that's easy to see through your parchment paper. 

2. Melt the chocolate. Since you'll be melting two different kinds of chocolate, you'll need to use either two different zip-lock bags in the microwave at 10/15 second intervals until melted, or two double boilers, or two metal/glass bowls on top of pots with a few inches of simmering water. 

3. Spoon some of each color into separate zip-lock bags or pastry bags. 

4. If using a zip-lock bag, cut a tiny hole in one corner and trace the outline of the butterfly wing with whichever chocolate you want. You can outline two wings at a time, you just risk the chocolate hardening before you can fill both in, depending on how slowly you're working. 

4. Fill in the outline, then take a toothpick and gently, slightly swirl the chocolate together, just to give it some detail. 

5. Give them a few sprinkles then let them cool! 


For the frosting: 

1 c. (2 sticks) of softened butter 
  • Like I said, I bake on a whim. I rarely have time to soften the butter the slow way, so I leave the cubes in the wrapper and pop them in the microwave at 7 second intervals, turning the butter from side to side every 7 seconds. Do this just until the butter feels soft, but if it starts to feel squishy, it's probably starting to melt. 
  • If you use unsalted butter you'll need to add about 1/4 tsp of salt 

2 cups of sifted powdered sugar

  • The sifting isn't absolutely necessary, but I find that it makes for a smoother frosting. I have a small wire mesh strainer with a handle that I use for sifting and it works great. 
1 tsp vanilla 
2 tbsp heavy cream

To make the frosting: 

1. Beat the butter in your kitchen-aid with the paddle attachment until it's smooth. 10 seconds or so. 

2. Add the powdered sugar half of a cup at a time while the butter is still mixing on the lowest setting. 

3. Once all the powdered sugar is in, scrape the bowl down, mix it just a little more, then add the cream and vanilla and beat it on med/high until it's fluffy. 

4. Fill your pastry bag. The trick I use for this tricky part is to hold the pastry bag in one hand, and I hold it just above the tip, then fold the rest of the bag down and over my hand/arm. I scoop the frosting right on top of the pastry bag like ice cream on a cone, then let it drop through my hand as I put more and more frosting in. 

5. Frost those cupcakes! 


Place the wings on the cupcakes, just a little bit apart. Place the bodies between the wings and the antennae on top. And you're done! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Honest (Megan)

One of the coolest things in my life this summer has been my little sister taking a french college class. The best part is being able to spend a lunch break together every day.

These photos sum up her personality pretty well.

Not scared to be her honest self and make funny faces. I love that they're almost always followed by a good throw your head back laugh.

I love going on an adventure with her almost every day. For 7-11 day we went and got free slurpees (featured above)
We ate them at a local park, and found at least 20 turtles hanging out in the water. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Filled Cupcakes--Baby Shower (Melanie)

So I've seen these on Pinterest, of course, and I wanted to try to make them as practice for later showers. I didn't have my pastry syringe to put the pudding in the middle. (I'm not a big fan of frosting everywhere, so I put pudding in the center)

I haven't learned how to make puffy cupcakes yet...

This is vanilla pudding with blue food coloring. A little too
much food coloring though!

Cut the center out with a steak knife concentrically, like you 
would cut a pumpkin. 

Put a spoonful of pudding in the middle.

Cut the cake piece in half.

Put the top half back on and squish it a little bit. 

This is the tip I used for the frosting.

Beautiful cupcake! You can't see any blue! So when 
everyone bites into it it's a surprise! 

Good luck!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cheesecake Factory (Melanie)

One of my very favorite places to go out to eat is The Cheesecake Factory. I was craving their Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, so for my birthday Chad took me there. 

The beautiful brown bread. Yummm!

My strawberry lemonade. I thought it was very pretty.

Chad got the Jamaican Jerk Chicken or something like that. 
It was really good (he let me try some), but I wouldn't want 
a whole plate of it. He absolutely loved it though.

He's so excited to eat, I wouldn't let him until I took pictures.

And...My cheese steak sandwich and sweet potato fries! My
mouth is watering just thinking of it. Go to The Cheesecake Factory 
if you've never been before. It's a bit more on the spendy side, but it's
soo delicious.