Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pistachio & Apricot Muffins

Lorrie gave me a new book last week called 500 Cupcakes: The Only Cupcake Compendium You'll Ever Need. We saw this at Borders earlier while looking for a cookbook for a gift and thought it was interesting. So Lorrie's mom was visiting us last week but she was leaving Sunday morning. Early Sunday morning, like before the paper even gets there early. I thought it would be nice to make her some muffins to eat on her trip. 500 Cupcakesnot only has cupcake recipes but also muffins (the author considers them a subset of cupcakes. Whatever.) Lorrie likes pistachio nuts so I thought the Pistachio and Apricot Muffin recipe on page 274 might be a good recipe to try.

It wasn't. The recipe calls for 4 cups of self-rising flour, dried apricots (though soaked in brandy and then drained), sugar, and pistachio nuts versus a small amount of butter, buttermilk, and a couple of eggs. Mixing the batter was like mixing paste, very tough. Still I got it to the point where it was just mixed and into the pan. Once baked they were dry, a little heavy, and the flour overpowered the ingredients. Not horrible mind you, they were edible but they weren't the apricoty-pistachio goodness I was hoping for.

That said, I think this can be the basis for a good recipe. I will go through and see if I can improve the recipe. I looked around in the book and this seems to be the only one so far that called for that much flour so I haven't given up on the book.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

National Boss Day 2006 - Part Three - Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I had half of the dough left from the cutouts. We had decided to do cutout cars to go along with two's and zero's and decorate them all the same. But as I was wiping down everything after I finished the dough and was waiting for it to chill, inspiration struck me. I remembered a recipe towards the back of the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion book for peanut butter filling. Open up the book and on page 466, there it was. So I whipped up a quick batch of the filling. When it came time to roll the dough and cut the cookies, I changed it up from the previous cutouts. The car cutout was about two inches high by four inches long so it was a decent sized cookie. However I rolled it to a thickness of a about an eighth of an inch this time. I didn't want to end up with a really tall cookie sandwich. Interesting note, I expected the baking times between these cookies and the other cutouts to be different. This was not the case, the baking times were similar. I suspect it was because the amount of dough in each type of cookie was roughly the same. Once the cookies were cooled a bit I started making the sandwiches. I rolled the filling out to about an eighth inch thick and cut out the car shape using the cookie cutter and then put it between two cookies. That's it, simple. These turned out really good. I loved how they tasted. Biting into them caused a peanut butter explosion of flavor in your mouth without being tooth achingly sweet. These were the most popular items out of the three I made.

Here are a couple pictures of the final product in its packaging.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

National Boss Day 2006 - Part Two - Cutout Cookies

Tuesday night while Lorrie and her mother wrapped the NASCAR chocolate lollipops, I started making the dough for cookies. The theme we had going was NASCAR and Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot car. The last thing I wanted to incorporate was some of the favorite flavors of Lorrie's boss. Peanut butter was suggested. I had seen a recipe for peanut butter cutouts on page 100 of the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion book and decided to make those. A great choice! These cookies ended up tasting wonderfully. Cookies that could be shaped, have a good flavor, and didn't need a ton of decorating were ideal in this situation. The first half of the dough I made was used to make two-by-two inch cutouts of two's and zero's, the number of Tony Stewart's car. The cookies were about a quarter inch thick and I believe I ended up with about forty to fifty of them. We debated various ways of decorating them but ended up just using a simple coating of orange sugar. I believe this was a wise choice because fondant or frosting would have been too much for these cookies. They had a nice peanut butter taste and something more sugary like frosting on them would have been overkill. Too many flavors competing for attention in the mouth.

National Boss Day 2006 - Part One - Chocolate

Monday was National Boss Day. Hurry, it's not too late to get him/her something. OK, maybe it is. Anyway, Lorrie and her coworkers wanted to get their boss a little something so Lorrie and I came up with some different options to create. The theme was NASCAR and her boss' favorite driver, Tony Stewart. This gave us the colors to work with: white, orange, and brown. You may recognize these as the colors of Home Depot, which is the major sponsor of the #20 car Tony drives. So we had the theme and colors, we then decided to do something in chocolate and a couple of cookies.

First, the chocolates. I had done some chocolate work last Christmas and I enjoyed it immensely. I wanted to try something in this area again. So while we're shopping, we found the molds for NASCAR type cars. The molds even included a place for the lollipop stick so we went with that. We grabbed two of them. I had some white candy coating and dark chocolate already so we picked up some of the orange candy coating. The orange was pretty close to the Home Depot orange so it worked out great and I didn't have to worry about color matching. This was pretty simple to do. Melt the chocolate/candy coating, put the stick in the mold, and pour. Since I could only make ten candies at any one time, I didn't bring out the double boiler. I used some ceramic bowls that hold heat well and I could put a handful of the candy discs in at one time. I used the microwave to melt everything but I did it on a low setting and stopping frequently to stir and make sure it wasn't getting too hot. I did screw up once with the white and forgot to decrease the power setting and it didn't burn really but formed brown crystal-like things. I scraped that batch and cleaned everything and started again so it didn't hurt anything. I didn't like the fact the molds alternated which direction the stick went but its possible this mold was not intended for chocolate. I used a small spatula to scrape the molds so it worked fine. I can't say it was hard work either. Melting took a couple of minutes, pouring took about two minutes, waiting about five minutes to scrape the molds and then about an hour in the fridge waiting for them to set. Lorrie and her mother wrapped them in plastic and attached flags to a few. We ended up with about 45 of them. I think they turned out well.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

English Toffee

Cooking For Engineer's has a English Toffee recipe I wanted to try. I plan on doing more with toffee plus other candies and brittles around Christmas so I wanted to experiment a little bit. This is the second time I've made a candy this week so I figure it was good practice and more reinforcement on how the whole candy making process works. I varied a little bit from the recipe. OK, I forgot to add the salt but I still thought it turned out pretty good. The chocolate layer is a tad thin as well but I was eyeballing it, I probably should have measured out the chips. Also their method uses a silicon mat or says to use wax paper, I used aluminum foil which worked just fine. The picture on the right is my batch, the one on the left is from the Cooking For Engineer's site.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

Snow White Caramel Apples

I saw this and knew I had to try making it. The recipe is available at tartelette and is relatively easy to make, its just sugar, lemon juice, and water. This is my first time using my candy thermometer and working with sugar like this. I think it turned out pretty good. Here is a picture of my apples (I know, I need practice taking pictures of food).
By the way, check out tartelette, lots of great ideas and food!

Found via Slashfood

Friday, October 06, 2006

Long Winter Cupcakes

Check out these incredibly delicious looking cupcakes! Called Long Winter Cupcakes, these renamed apple spice cupcakes use apple pie filling ((or stewed apples) and spices commonly found in pumpkin pie and topped off with a cinnamon cream cheese icing. I can't wait to try these! Also, I think the recipes given lend themselves to other fruits such as pumpkin (obviously) but also pears. One warning, the blog shimelle.com is based out of England so the recipes are written in grams and Celsius so there may be some conversion involved.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

NordicWare Stadium Pan

New from NordicWare is the Platinum Series Cast Aluminum StadiumBundt pan. Perfect for that football get together or race day celebration. 9 cup capacity, cast aluminum, non-stick surface, limited lifetime warranty. Very cool!