Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The bane of my existance, candied orange peels

I have a newfound respect for people who regularly candy orange peels.

I love candied orange peels almost more than I love Mr. O. Seriously.

However, after hours and hours of labor to make homemade candied orange peels, I might just be buying them from the market from now on.

I added corn syrup because many recipes complain of stirring orange peels and crystallization process - this eliminates that problem and allows for stirring.

Even with all the labor.... they are so good.

Candied orange peels

makes a lot
6 oranges
5 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
one cup water
1/2 cup corn syrup

Cut the oranges in half and juice them.

Remove the pulp from the oranges, leaving the rind and pith. Slice orange rinds into 1/4" thick slices. I would recommend a santoku because the skin tends to fight back and usually gets scored instead of cut.

Boil orange peels three times in boiling water for 30 minutes each time. (This removes the bitterness, from what they say.)

Drain peels one final time. In pot, combine 5c sugar, 1/2 c corn syrup and 1c water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. When mixture starts boiling, add orange peels. Allow to cook until pith is transluscent (most recipes say 30 minutes - for me and my big oranges, it was more like an hour and a half).

Remove peels from sugar syrup. Roll in sugar and allow to air dry on parchment for 4-5 hours.

Peppermint bark

I was lazy and so this peppermint bark didn't come out as pretty as it could have, but it was tasty anyway.

It really, really helps this recipe if you have room in your fridge for the baking sheet or, conversely, a really cold balcony where you can set the baking sheets for 30 minutes.

Peppermint bark

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate
12 oz milk chocolate
peppermint candies

rolling pin

Unwrap peppermint candies and place in a plastic bag that can be zipped. Find a hard surface and beat the everloving hell out of the peppermint candies with the rolling pin so that they make nice small shards of pepperminty goodness. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange semisweet chocolate on the silpat in the center of the mat. Carefully place in oven and watch it melt (but don't let it burn).

Mixture is ready when a spatula easily spreads the melted chips.

Take the pan out of the oven and spread the chocolate to the edges of the mat as evenly as possible. Set in fridge (or outside) to cool.

Meanwhile, place white chocolate in a double boiler and melt the chips. When the semisweet chocolate is cooled, spread white chocolate mixture over the top of the semisweet chocolate. Get those peppermint shards ready and sprinkle away, carefully pressing into the mixture. Cool again.

Break into pieces and serve. Makes a lot.

Honeycomb Toffee

My school didn't do this experiment when we were growing up. Blame it on the under-compensated, overworked teachers who were afraid to let children near flames and hot sugar.

However, it sure is fun now. I can't recommend highly enough sifting your baking soda and stirring QUICKLY before sloshing the mixture onto a Silpat (or parchment paper might work, I suppose).

Also, be ready to clean your pan for the fifteen minutes that it takes this candy to harden. I think that they should use this stuff to adhere concrete blocks together!

Honeycomb candy always comes out tasting a little burnt instead of caramel-like. Any one else have this problem?

Honeycomb candy
Makes enough for four gift baskets

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tb corn syrup
1 tb baking soda

Combine first three ingredients in pan until mixture turns lightly golden yellow. Quickly stir in baking soda and marvel as the mixture frothes. It might be a good time to make sure your pan fits 3x the mixture comfortably before you do this step. Pour mixture quickly onto a prepared baking sheet with silpat or other non-sticky underside. Toffee will cool in about fifteen minutes. Break apart and enjoy!

I'm back!

Sorry for that giant, gaping hole of a break, ya'll. School caught up with me. On the other hand, now that school is done, I have some free time with which to photograph and more importantly, to make holiday baskets for friends and loved ones.

I think this may be Mr. O's favorite time of the year because of the amount of sugar that enters and exits my kitchen.

Now, on to candy recipes... some old, some new, some good, some definitely test runs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Light(er) desserts: Peach Crisp

As much as I would love to make pie-crust or otherwise butter-based fruit cobbler every day, I find that if I make desserts that are made out of better ingredients I can

a) eat more of them and
b) not feel so bad about making them very often.

Enter Peach or Apple or Blueberry or (insert fruit here) Crisp.

Fruit Crisp

2-3 lbs fruit, cut into bite-size pieces
1 c oatmeal
1/4 to 1/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 stick butter

Place fruit in a 8x8" pan. Mix oatmeal, brown sugar and cinnamon together. Either melt butter or, if you're lazy like me, slice butter thin and throw it on top. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until fruit is soft (my peaches were rock-hard.)

....and top with Cool-Whip.

Yes, I said it. I'm sorry. At least one person reading this blog has just turned their head away from this post in complete disgust. Cool Whip was an integral part of my childhood and even while watching a very disturbing movie about corn I can't help but notice the Cool Whip was delish.

Lots of love (and lots of dessert, even for breakfast),

Vanilla Fig Jam

Vanilla Fig Jam

Mr. O and I headed to Costco the other day to stock up on things like bulk meat, 12 pounds of baking soda (um?) and of course, dried cherries. I made the mistake of heading into the produce section; first because it was freezing, and second because I found a two-pound carton of fresh figs for $6.98 where other figs were $8 for a pound at the local grocery store. I jumped on the opportunity to try fresh figs (as my previous encounters had been ten years ago in the 'Newton' form. Figs and goat cheese are good, but figs go soft quickly. Enter fig jam! I had no pectin so I had to improvise and go old-school.

Vanilla Fig Jam

a scant less than 2 lbs figs, almost too ripe
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c water
2 vanilla beans, seeds removed and scraped into pan
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Cut figs into 1 cm-size pieces. Add to rest of ingredients and simmer/keep on low heat for two hours or until jam-like consistency. Try not to eat the entire spoon when you put it in your mouth. Freeze in small containers and use throughout winter.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

50th post - Potato Mash

Happy 50th post! That's a lot of food.

Today, I present to you one of my favorite foods in the world: mashed potatoes.

This particular variant features caramelized onions, sour cream and lots of love. My secret? The Black and Decker drill hand mixer.

Now, off to start a new semester.

Mint Julep cupcakes (with white chocolate frosting and no less than two kinds of alcohol)

A few months back, a graduate school cohort of mine had to move away. (She was going to work for the Library of Congress - boo hoo on having to move, right?)

Thankfully, most librarians seem to also be foodies. Or at least, they really love to cook.

I got a lot of alcohol that I wouldn't normally drink (along with some ingredients like pomegranate molasses that I still haven't figured out what to make of.)

Another good friend of mine moved away to California a short while ago and, since she seriously shares my passion for cooking, I ended up with a fridge full of condiments which have gone to good use.

But then, I started thinking. I have all this alcohol from the last person. What am I going to do when someone else moves? I'm like a veritable shelter for unwanted condiments whose owners were moving away. Sniff! But at this rate, I will be up to my eyeballs in awesome stuff before I can make anything out of it.

The large bottle of creme de menthe patiently sat in the back of my (1 foot square) liquor cabinet. It stared. "Drink me. You'll love it." But I had a strong feeling that creme de menthe has to be taken in doses.

Mint julep cupcakes to the rescue!

I added a lot of alcohol to these twelve cupcakes. And then, since the alcohol was taken out by baking, I doused them in some Jack Daniels I've been steeping with vanilla beans.

And I added some green food coloring, because the creme de menthe left them a wussy pastel green.

Well, they sure were potent.

As you all may have noticed, I take my pictures outside. My balcony afforded a particularly pleasant and green day, so I thought the cupcakes could use a more natural green than the food coloring inundated in their beings.

Cupcake recipe here, from Cooking and Booking. Frosting recipe here. Also add about 1/2 to 1 tb Jack Daniels after cooled and before frosting.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Apartment Therapy Contest!

Hello all -

I have entered into the kitchn's Best Lick 2008 Ice Cream Contest! Please go vote for my entry here.

I'll bake you something good if you vote, promise.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Coconut Lavender Mambo!

I love potlucks.

I also love bringing food to potlucks.

These are my favorite potluck food because they're different, but as long as people love coconut they end up loving them. Actually, my absolute favorite might be funeral potatoes but I can't bring myself to blog about those.

Something's really wrong with me, and I think these cupcakes smell like bacon until you frost them. They get this really nice crunchy top on the cupcake and it makes me happy like some people are made happy by crushing leaves under their feet.

Most of all, I love potlucks because I get to use one of my favorite things in the world - my Cupcake Courier - Lemongrass that was received as a wonderful birthday gift by a fellow cupcake enthusiast and good friend.

Recipe for coconut lavender cupcakes from Never Bashful with Butter, to whom I am totally and utterly indebted because this recipe is in the lifetime recipe book.

Road Trip: Fredericksburg Bakery, Fredericksburg, TX (otherwise entitled How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lose my Packing)

Sorry I've been absent this summer, folks. First I got a job, and then I experienced a lot of discomfort and eventually got my wisdom teeth out last week. Unless you really want lunettes' smashing recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie or possibly Packaged Pudding, you've been out of luck.

One of the neat things about my job this summer is I have the opportunity to road trip across Texas. This means that I get to eat at a lot of neat places, and I happened to bring my camera along on the last one (but not the macro lens, damnit!)

An early-morning pit stop led us to the Fredericksburg Bakery on Main Street in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Now, this is where the wisdom teeth come in. After eating nothing but smoothies for a few days, I still managed to have some complications where I needed packing placed in my teeth. I lost the packing while devouring the first solid food I'd really had in about five days.

It was so worth it.

The Fredericksburg Bakery contains a huge display case full of all sorts of German-themed and otherwise sugary baked goods. I got the cream cheese cinnamon roll, which had raisins and pecans (again, stupid choice) packed in. It was incredible, maybe even life-altering--but that may be the Vicodin talking.

Also available is an assortment of fudge and Blue-Bell Ice Cream.

Cash or check only, but even my face-sized cinnamon roll was only $3.

Fredericksburg is really a foodie masochist's paradise. You could easily gain ten pounds over one weekend, and it's on my 'to do' list of Texas stops along with a trip here.

Flavor Two: Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes - The Box Mix Experiment

You see how the frosting's kind of flipping you off?

That's how this cupcake tastes.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Boxcakes, part 1

My sister lovingly spends her time trying to get me to post her pictures on my blog. She's a dear.

She sent a boxed cupcake mix she got from World Market from Cobblestone Kitchen. The three-pack of cupcakes promises 12 cupcakes each of lemon poppyseed, strawberry and chocolate caramel, each with frosting! It's almost too good to be true.

In interest of my ever-growing love of poppyseeds and my desire to find them somewhere locally, I decided to make the lemon poppyseed for work today. My coworkers loved them, but I had some problems.

1) 3/4 cup of what basically amounts to powdered sugar is not enough to frost twelve cupcakes.
2) There was not enough lemon. On a business trip a few days ago, I had the MOST LEMONY muffins ever and they ruined me for the week.
3) When the frosting did come together after I added an additional cup of sugar to the 4 tbsp shortening, the resulting picture did not look like this:

It instead looked slightly like spackle.

They were still pretty tasty, though. Just not homemade. Coworkers described the frosting as 'crunchy' and very sweet. I've yet to figure out why these need frosting in the first place, but the strawberry and chocolate should do better in that arena.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you! Mr. O and I were at the grocer the other day and he found these darling wrappers! How could I resist?

I need to get out more, huh?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sticky situations

I am so, so bad.

I started this blog in response to graduate school. My hobby list that first month included things like 'reading eight hundred pages on library collecting policies' and 'staring at my computer in hopes it would generate a 10,000 word paper'. I didn't have any social life, and this blog was a way for me to keep up with people I know and to show them that I'm still alive.

Well, summer happened. With summer comes a full-time job. That means I have time to see old friends, watch movies and other various and sundry things that one can do when the work week is only forty hours long.

And I neglected you, dear reader. I am sorry.

Here's my attempt at coming back. For a certain social occasion tonight, I threw in some thick, dark blackstrap molasses from McCutcheon's and prayed that my oft-neglected powdered ginger still had some kick, adding a bit more than the recipe called for.

These are spicy-good. When they come out of the oven, they are very soft but they harden up quickly once on the drying rack.

Mmm, spice.

"Blue Eyes" Blue Ribbon Gingersnaps
Marjorie Johnson's recipe, from Picky Palate

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup sugar (for dipping)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cream shortening, brown sugar, molasses and egg in large bowl. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, blending until mixed. Dough can be chilled for easy handling.

3. Shape the dough into balls the size of whole walnuts. Roll balls in sugar, place on baking sheet. Bake 8-9 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool on sheet one minute before transferring to rack.

Makes 3-4 dozen.

Thanks, Picky Palate!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Triple chocolate pudding

There isn't too much of a good thing, right?

My first recipe book is almost always Google. However, with the recent influx in grocery prices and as a Victim of a Natural Disaster (tm), I was trying to make do with what I had in the fridge instead of going out and buying more. Let's just say I have come upon a chocolate inheritance of sorts. About four bags' worth of eating chocolate.

The first time I made this recipe, I used 2% milk, half a bag of Hershey's Kisses (Mr. O hates dark chocolate - the nerve!) and maybe a scant less than 1/4 cup cornstarch (for all the baking I do, I'm still not exact sometimes). It turned out like a very strong chocolate milk. I don't think I waited long enough. Actually, I waited a really long time for it to set but it just didn't. I swear, I stirred and stirred to no avail.

The second time I made it, I used a heaping 1/4 cup of cornstarch, 2% milk, 1/8 cup cocoa, 1/2 package Dove Dark chocolate pieces and 1/2 package Hershey's Kisses. No sugar needed in this recipe - the processed chocolate takes care of that.

The result was thick, luxurious and quite possibly deadly. Those humidity drops are the result of cold pudding meets humid Southern air. Also happens on iced tea glasses (which is why double-barreled glasses are a gift from God).

Silky Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from smitten kitchen who adapted hers from John Scharffenberger, via Wednesday Chef
(I know, this is getting a bit ridiculous)

Serves 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
5 oz Hershey's kisses, unwrapped
5 oz Dove dark chocolate, unwrapped
1/8 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, cocoa, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. (note: I love substituting this bowl over a medium saucepan. Thanks, mom!) Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Place into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes. Lick the ladle. Lick the bowl. Note it's 9:00 in the morning. Feel moderately sick, but slightly giddy from the sugar high.

3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Snag in Plans

Hello, dear reader.

I have hit a bit of a snag.

I was caught in the middle of a small natural disaster which left me without electricity for three days.

All my food was pretty much ruined, save for the kindness of a few friends who housed the contents of my fridge for the last four days. My freezer was a huge disaster by the end.

I'm going to spend the next few weeks getting my stock in order again, but until then it's definitely going to be slim pickings on this blog.

And, in case you're wondering, renters' insurance does not cover food loss.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lemon Meringue Puffs

Those Meyer lemons, they've been sitting in my fridge for weeks.

I've been starting at them with trepidation. "Tell me!", I bellowed at their delicate pores. "Give me a sign!"

Well, I got invited to a dinner party and just happened to half the other half of that puff pastry dough from what - oh, goodness, over two months ago. This is where I realize that my freezer hides many dark secrets, for me to find upon moving out of my digs.

Lest the Meyer lemons go dead on me, I mixed them with a couple of regular lemons to make norecipe's Meyer Lemon Curd. I could eat it with a spoon for breakfast. It was my first time making lemon curd and oh my goodness, it was good! I thought it wasn't going to come together but then it finally did. (Sticking the candy thermometer in the pan was enough to bring it up to 170 and quell my fears that it would never thicken). If only eating a stick of butter wasn't so bad for you, I'm certain this would replace my cereal in the morning.

p.s. Lemon curd starts to melt when it is hot and humid where you are photographing. It does not make a difference in the final taste, however.

Lemon Meringue Puff Pastry Bites

Serves 6

1 sheet puff pastry dough
1 recipe Meyer lemon curd
2 egg whites
Cream of tartar
2 tb sugar

Muffin pan
Rolling pin

Let puff pastry dough thaw. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out to about 10" x 18". Cut into twelve pieces and shape into muffin tins (lightly greased). Bake at 400 for twelve minutes or until golden brown.

Once the puffs come out of the oven, make a hole in the center of the puffs by using the back of a spoon to create a cave for your lemon curd. Let the puffs cool completely.

Meanwhile, make meringues: egg whites at room temperature, add about 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and have a go at it with the mixer. When peaks form, add sugar slowly.

When the puffs have cooled, add lemon curd to center. Pipe meringue on top and blowtorch it until well-done.

Refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Attack of the Mutant Frosting

Ah, the end of the semester!

This sort of glorious accomplishment calls for something special, like Ina Garten's carrot cake cupcakes. Instead of, you know, eating my carrots this week, I decided to turn them into something sweet to celebrate the end of another busy semester.

I subbed about 75 percent of the oil for unsweetened applesauce to no ill effects. In addition, I always add more cinnamon that she calls for - you can't tell there's a ton in the end due to all the strong flavors imparted by the baked carrot.

Now, when it came to the frosting, holy smokes. After I beat my first mixer to death early in this blog, I acquired a small powerhouse of a hand mixer. When they say it's a Black and Decker, you should expect it to behave like a Black and Decker might. It beats the everloving snot out of everything (at 250 watts plus a power boost for those finicky candies, it should!) and definitely can cut through some not-quite-room-temperature cream cheese.

In fact, the frosting beat its way up the beaters like some kind of possessed sugar tornado. I had to add some liquid to coax the bulbous mess off the top of the beaters and back into the bowl. Alas, I ran out of powdered sugar and my frosting came out less than stiff in the end, but the consumers of the cupcakes didn't mind much.

Recipe, from Ina Garten and the Food Network website, here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Presto, Pasta

After a long week of writing papers, sometimes settling down to a bowl of pasta just feels so right.

I had an entire day set aside for roasting garlic with my new toy earlier this year, so I've been enjoying the fruits of my labors (and the lack of garlic smell permeating every pore of my kitchen) ever since. The Roasted Garlic Express actually works really well for those of us who live alone and don't turn on the oven very often (both for heat and economical reasons). The resulting roasted garlic was frozen into cubes and comes in way handy for instances like this.

Pasta with prosciutto, roasted garlic and (long-awaited) asparagus. Top with cheese and enjoy! Y'all can figure out how to do that, right? :)