Sunday, August 31, 2008


yeah yeah, it's been forever since my last post. that would be because alex and i went to the delaware beaches monday-thursday and then i had to move in. it took waaay longer than i thought it would and i just finished last night. granted, i was in senior fellow meetings from 9-4 on friday, but still. that's a lot of moving in.

and the worst part is that i cannot find a kitchen in our building! i don't think it has one and now i'm sad :[. thank goodness alex has a house. i saw it for the first time the other day and man oh man, you can definitely tell four guys live there. looks like i'm going to have to play maid before i can play chef.

ok, let's rewind. remember how i did that post about paciugo gelato? well they saw it! elyse and i went in there last saturday and they started calling us their "favorite bloggers". i have no idea how they found it, but i'm really excited that they did :] we got to talk to brittny, the manager [who is totally sweet, but also delightfully spunky], and her mom and when they found out i was leaving for school, they hooked it up and gave me a paciugo t-shirt [which i am currently wearing]. they also let me special request a flavor for the next day! [i chose s'mores, and they also made my favorite: mediterranean sea salt caramel].

on our way out, we saw alonzo bodden, the winner of last comic standing season 3. i introduced myself and offered to buy him a gelato and he accepted! so we went back in to paciugo for the 3rd time that night and bought him a coffee. he hung out for a little and we talked with the lovely paciugo ladies. then we took some pictures and i got an autograph. it was a really great night :]

so as a "thank you" to paciugo for all their generosity, i baked some cappuccino biscotti and brought it in along with some jam. in return, i got a free gelato. yay!

cappuccino biscotti
[from joy of baking]

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Toast hazelnuts for 10 - 15 minutes or until the skins start to blister. Remove from oven and place hazelnuts in a clean towel and let steam for about 5 minutes. Then briskly rub the towel back and forth to remove the skins of the hazelnuts. Let cool and then coarsely chop. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract. Set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spices, and espresso powder until combined. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms, adding the chopped nuts and chocolate chips about halfway through. With floured hands divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll each half of dough into a log about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Transfer logs to the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 3 inches apart, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch (logs will spread during baking). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

On a cutting board, with a serrated knife, cut each log crosswise, on the diagonal, into 3/4 inch slices. Arrange the slices on the baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 24 biscotti.

we ended up going back again that same day and i got the cioccolata con gelato ["rich and silky, italian-style hot chocolate infused with your favorite gelato flavors"] with the peanut butter chocolate swirl. it was amaaaazing and a perfect end to my last night in california.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

the jam plan

MONICA: I needed a plan, a plan to get over my man. What's the opposite of man? Jam.
-Friends (The One with the Jam)

yesterday was the best day ever. woke up all early and hit up the farmer's market for some fresh california fruit...the kind that i won't be able to find in delaware. the plan? to make it last all winter. and make everyone jealous of my exclusive fruit stock. it's the jam plan.

what's a fruit you can't find in delaware? pluots! the lovechild of a plum and an apricot, the pluot has a variation of flavors, all with really cute names. cotton candy. flavorosa. sweet treat. watermelon. i ended up getting flavor king and dapple dandy [which i thought was called apple dandy...which i like better, so i'm going to pretend i put that on the labels on purpose].

you can't rep california's summer fruit selection without strawberries and peaches :]

even though i've never done jam before, i kinda ignored the directions i found because a) i only wanted a couple jars of each kind [who needs 9 jars of strawberry jam?! honestly] and b) there were no instructions for pluot jam. so i decided to pioneer this feat on my own. i mean, seriously, what's the worst that could happen? if it was too thick, i'd use it for baking. if it was too soupy? pour it on pancakes! that's my kind of mistake ;]

so here's what i ended up doing...sweet and simple. [ps: i don't like lemons, so i used lime juice instead. it made the jam slightly sweeter, which is how i like it.]

pluot jam

3 cup pitted and sliced pluots
3-4 cups Splenda [or sugar, if you like it like that]
2 Tbsp lime juice [or lemon, if you're normal]
1/2 packet of pectin [2 Tbsp i think]

1. Place a small bowl in the freezer.

2. Wash the jars in the dishwasher to sterilize or boil for 10 min in a large pot with a couple inches of water above the top of the jars. The jars should be placed on a little rack inside the jar (or some jar bands tied together) to keep them from direct heat. Keep the jars hot until ready to use.

3. Cover lids with a couple inches of water in a small saucepan and heat, without boiling while you prepare the jam.

4. Simmer the pluots with a 2-3 Tbsp of water for 5 minutes.

5. Combine pluots with lime juice in a wok or large, deep frying pan over med to med-high heat. Gradually stir in pectin. Let come to a hard boil.

6. Add Splenda and stir to dissolve. Keep stirring until the color deepens, most water evaporates, and mixture begins to thicken.

7. Take the bowl out of the freezer. Scoop a little of the jam into the cold bowl and wait like 30 seconds. This will show you the consistency of the jam. If thick enough to your liking, turn off heat and proceed to step 8. If it is still thin and runny, keep stirring and repeat a few minutes later.

8. Skim off foam into the bowl. Carefully remove jars from the pot, using tongs or a jar lifter, and set them on a towel on the counter [putting hot jars on a cool counter can cause them to break!]. Using a ladle and/or a jar funnel, pour jam into jars, leaving about 1/8th inch at the top. Wipe off any jam that split on the jar, especially around the rim.

9. Carefully remove lids from the saucepan and center on jars. Screw on the bands tightly. Put the jars back into the large pot and bring to a gentle boil. Process for 10 minutes.

10. Carefully remove them and set them on the towel. Leave for 12 hours or overnight. Then press on the center of the lids. If they don't move, they are sealed. If they pop up and down, reprocess using a new lid.

strawberry and/or peach jam

3 cups sliced strawberries and/or peaches
1 cup Splenda
2 Tbsp lime juice

Follow steps 1-3, above.

Combine fruit with lime juice in a wok or large, deep frying pan over med to med-high heat. Let come to a hard boil.

Follow steps 6-10, above.

CHANDLER: Hey, Joe, I gotta ask. The girl from the Xerox place buck naked (holds up one hand), or, or a big tub of jam. (holds up the other hand)
JOEY: Put your hands together.
MONICA: Joey, take your time with that. That's my last batch.
JOEY: No more jam?!
RACHEL: Well, what happened to your jam plan?
MONICA: I figured out I need to charge seventeen bucks a jar just to break even. So, I've got a new plan now. Babies.
CHANDLER: Well, your gonna need much bigger jars.

homemade jam + fresh bread from the farmer's market
= yumm :]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

cookie carnival: august

two more of my managers are leaving for a different victoria's secret. that calls for two different baked goods.

this was the perfect opportunity to try out the recipe for this month's cookie carnival - chocolate hazelnut biscotti. considering the recipe says it yield 4 dozen, i was kinda waiting for an outlet to unload all that biscotti on. the recipe was pretty straightforward and i'd say that the hardest part was finding the hazelnuts. it's not that they're hard to come by, it's just that i typically can only find them in teeny tiny packages...and i kinda needed a lot. they were worth it though and they added a nice nutty flavor to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate. if i do these again, though, i would probably omit the whole hazelnuts and just add some more ground up ones. just personal preference though :]

i like this picture because you can really see the bits of ground-up hazelnuts. also, you can see how i left them kinda soft on the insides. i know, i know, biscotti is supposed to be crispy and stuff. but isn't that because it's supposed to be dunked in coffee or something? i'm more of a ice blended frap kinda i left them a little softer.

somehow i only got like two dozen out of these. probably because i didn't slice them thin enough. it was hard to slice them thin with all those whole hazelnuts in there! oh well, it was the perfect amount considering i still had one more baked good to put in the box.

[ps: if you wanna join the cookie carnival, visit the clean plate club.]

so for treat #2, i wanted to use up some of the frozen berries that i got from trader joe's a while ago [before i remembered that i can't really eat a whole bag of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries]. i came across a recipe for whole grain blueberry buckle on baking bites and decided it would work with the mix of berries. and hurrah hurrah...i think i actually liked this better with the mix. the pink from the raspberries blended with the blue and purple from the other berries to make a really pretty, colorful batter. these pictures don't really do it justice because the flash washed out all the color and the no-flash made them look green :[ so use your imagination.

chocolate hazelnut biscotti
[from Bon App├ętit]

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted, husked
3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Grind 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts in processor. Set aside. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Beat butter and sugar in another large bowl to blend. Add eggs and vanilla and almond extracts and beat until well blended. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in 1 cup whole toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips and 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece on baking sheet into 2 1/2-inch-wide by 14-inch-long log. Place logs on prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart (logs will spread during baking). Bake until logs feel firm when tops are gently pressed, about 35 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Using long wide spatula, transfer baked logs to cutting board. Using serrated knife, cut warm logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Then put them back in the oven to get them as crispy as you'd like.

whole grain mixed berry buckle
[from baking bites]

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups mixed berries (fresh or frozen)

1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
2 tbsp butter, very soft

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square (or 9-inch square) baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in melted butter, milk, egg and vanilla extract. Stir well, mixing until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in blueberries and pour into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, make the topping. Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in butter until mixture is crumbly and sand-like. Sprinkle evenly over batter.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 20-30 minutes before serving. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

all together and ready to go :]

Thursday, August 21, 2008


i am in love. i had only had gelato one time [at a cute place in santa monica called angelato] before my sister and i came across paciugo gelato in hermosa beach. that was less than a week ago and we've been back like 4 or 5 times.

they have a ridiculous amount of flavors and they change them up everyday. here are my top 5 favorite flavors [so far]:
mediterranean sea salt caramel
crunchy chocolate swirl
toasted coconut
tre vaniglie

and they also offer sorbetti, gelato shakes, coffee drinks, and affogato. elyse and i ended up going twice in one night and she tried a cappuccino con gelato the second time. i had a taste and it was absolutely amazing.

add in the unlimited free samples, cheap prices, friendly staff, great location, convenient hours and the fact that they pass no judgment on us for being heifers and you've got yourself a winner.

beautiful disaster

can you believe the summer is almost over? i'm leaving on monday! on one hand i really don't want to leave because there is so much i still haven't done yet that i really wanted to....but on the other hand, i miss my boyfriend, my friends, swing dancing...and i'm ready to go back. it's frustrating having your life split onto opposite sides of the country.

actually yesterday was my last scheduled day at work. granted, i'm on-call today and tomorrow...but seeing as how i didn't know if i'd be in again, i brought good-bye cupcakes yesterday. everyone loved them and said they looked cute [one of my managers actually said they looked "gourmet"], which was especially flattering considering how badly they started out.

it was my first time using those paper cup things rather than muffin liners and i made the mistake of filling them 2/3 full. yep, every single one overflowed.

disaster. oh, and it gets worse. i quickly realized that because the overflow had crusted around the ring of the paper cups, i couldn't get them off! which meant that i had to cut every single one of those stupid things off of the [what i hoped would be] salvageable cupcakes. yes, it took awhile.

once i freed them from their cages, they actually didn't look too bad. the were perfectly circle shaped and the sides looked moist. almost as if i took a circle cookie cutter to a cake. the tops, though. those weren't looking so delicious.

yay for frosting!

i'd say i did a pretty good job considering i had never done piping before :] and here you can see why they needed the frosting so bad. notice how the tops are all crooked and unlevely [when there is no right word, make one up].

in the end, i was kinda proud of them. i got a lot of compliments on them [both on the taste and the appearance] and, after trying one myself, i decided that they were the best ones i've ever made. the cake was moist and not overpoweringly chocolaty. the frosting was smooth and slightly sweet. there was just the right amount of it to compliment the cake and i'd say it was a pretty good balance. yay for success!

the recipes were mixed and matched from baking bites. i'm realizing that i do a lot of stuff from that site. if you haven't been there, you have to check it out...great stuff. i'm posting my variations of the recipes, but you can click the links for the original ones [in their original uses].

Devil's Food Cupcakes
[from baking bites]

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-oz dark chocolate
1 cup water, boiling

Preheat the oven to 350F and line two 12-cup muffin tins.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add half of flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla extract, followed by the addition of the rest of the flour mix. Stir well between each addition and mix until no streaks of flour remain.

Stir the cocoa powder and the dark chocolate into the boiling water (easiest in a large measuring cup). Pour chocolate water into the rest of the batter and stir until uniform.

Evenly distribute batter into prepared baking cups. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Rotate the pans after about 8 minutes.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
[from baking bites]

4-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1-oz dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp milk
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese, butter and melted chocolate. Beat in vanilla and milk, then add in the confectioners’ sugar gradually until the frosting reaches your desired consistency (make it a bit stiffer if you wish to pipe it onto the cupcakes instead of spreading it with a knife).

Transfer to a ziploc bag fitted with a narrow tip and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

lionel richie got a boob job!

i had the strangest dream last night. my mom and i were in a cvs and she came out of the bathroom ranting and raving "you'll never believe it! lionel richie got a boob job!" i started cracking up and was like "ma, lionel richie?" and she just said "oh, i mean alicia keys. alicia keys got a boob job! can you believe it?!" i woke up laughing.

anyway, back to the cooking. i came across this recipe and decided i had to try it just based on the name. i would have done them a lot sooner but safflower oil is hard to come by!

shake your bun-buns
[from have cake, will travel]

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup bread flour
1 t sea salt
2 T light brown sugar, packed
1 package instant yeast
2 T warm water
2 T safflower oil
1 cup unwsweetened soymilk
2 T sesame seeds or poppy seeds, for decoration [optional]

in a medium bowl, whisk warm water with yeast. let sit for 10 minutes.

if your soymilk was in the fridge, heat it up without boiling for about a minute in your microwave. add to yeast preparation once its ready, along with oil. whisk some more.

in another bowl, whisk together flours, salt, and sugar. add to yeast preparation and stir well, using your hands once it’s hard to do so with your spoon. knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. cover with plastic wrap, let rise for 1 hour.

make 4-6 buns out of the dough. place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. cover with a damp towel, let rise for 1 hour in a warm, draft-free place.

lightly brush buns with water, add sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top before sliding them into the oven, if you choose to. preheat oven to 375F, bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. let cool on a rack.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

boys ruin things

today i found out my friend's boyfriend broke up with her :[ so to cheer her up, i baked her a cake.

well, actually, two. i had some oreos leftover from the last batch of brownies that i tried out so i decided to make oreo cake.

the first was made using my new wilton "tasty-fill" mini cake pan set. this allowed me to bake the cake in two pieces that had little wells in their centers.

see what i mean? here you can see the two pieces, the mini bundt in the back, and the pieces i cut off to level the cakes. i filled the wells with a chocolate ganache, refrigerated a bit, and turned one on top of the other [so that the two wells were put together in the middle of the cake]. then i frosted the cake with a homemade vanilla buttercream frosting and decorated with crushed oreos.

i had leftover batter so i got to use my mini bundt cake pan. i topped this one with a chocolate glaze and some more crushed oreos.

both the cake and the frosting turned out really well and tasted really yummy. kinda comfort-foody...exactly what i was looking for. ashley enjoyed it until tristin accidentally stuck her leg in the cake, got frosting all over her pants, and somehow got hair stuck on the glaze. oh well, at least she has a second cake :]

both recipes are from baking bites.

Oreo Cupcakes

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cups crushed oreo cookies (10 cookies)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 24 muffin cups with baking cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract, then beat in the egg whites one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Working in 4 or 5 additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the sugar mixture. Keep the mixer on low speed while you do this. When just combined, stir in the crushed oreos. Spoon batter evenly into muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350F, until a toothpick comes out clean (a few chocolate cookie crumbs are fine, but not batter). Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. Store in an airtight container if not serving the same day.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Note: If you only have a 12-cup muffin tin, the batter will not suffer from sitting around for a few minutes while the first batch bakes. Just be sure to let the pan cool completely before filling it up again.

Variation: To make plain vanilla cupcakes, simply omit the oreos. You might end up with only about 18 cupcakes, but as long as you fill the tins about 2/3 full, the baking time will be the same.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat, with an electric mixer, until frosting is creamy, 3-5 minutes.

Frost cupcakes with frosting using a butter knife or offset spatula. Add as much or as little frosting as desired. If making oreo cupcakes, garnish with additional chunks of Oreo.

Monday, August 11, 2008

starbucks in a cake

yesterday i found out that one of my managers is leaving victoria's secret to work at aeropostale. considering that she was the one who hired me [twice, actually], i felt i owed her a little "thank you". and what better way to say "thank you" [or "i love you", "im sorry", or "good luck!" for that matter] than baked goods?! besides, i was looking for an opportunity to try out my new mini bundt cake pan.

so i decided to use a cupcake recipe and quarter it so that i wouldn't have too much extra batter. i actually ended up having the perfect amount and only had to level off the pan a teensy bit after the cake rose during baking. worked out fine and both my sister and i got to sample the part i cut off [and we both approved]. even though the recipe was just labeled as "chocolate cupcakes", the coffee flavor was definitely present [although not overpowering] so i decided to call this a chocolate mocha bundt cake.

it needed a little pretty on top so i used another recipe off the same site for a caramel glaze. i also sampled that and it was really yummy. i think it went with the mocha flavor nicely [kinda reminded me of a caramel frap from starbucks].

you can't really tell from the picture, but the cake was only about 3 1/2" in cute!

i brought it to her today and she was soo excited! she literally jumped up and down. made my day :]

here are the amounts i used for my mini cake. the original recipes can be found by clicking the links.

mini chocolate mocha bundt cake
[from baking bites]

1/4 plus 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/2tsp instant coffee powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
tiny pinch sea salt
scant 1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup canola oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease mini bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa power, instant coffee powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, canola oil and vanilla extract. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely before drizzling with glaze.

caramel glaze
[from baking bites]

1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup milk
pinch sea salt
1/2 plus 1/8 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, milk and salt. Bring to a boil and boil for about two minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in powdered sugar. Frosting should be somewhat thick, but not stiff.

Drizzle over cake.