Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tastes like home

It's amazing how just a subtle wafting through the air of just one particular food can transport me back to my childhood. The smell of apple pie, that buttery crust, those tart apples are one of many olfactory stimulis that reminds me of simpler times. My mom was a great apple pie baker and my grandma also baked pies, but what I remember the most was how she would cut off the excess crust, spread the little remnants with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and roll them into pinwheels for us. Sometimes she would even let us put them in our little oven, which made them extra special. After a busy weekend of grading and readying garage for gym equipment I needed some comforting.

My mom's recipe:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. shortening
5 T water
Cut with pastry cutter until dough forms. Roll dough out
onto floured surface until big enough to cover pie pan. Crimp edges and
prick inside pie w/ fork. sprinkle bottom w/1T flour and some cinnamon.

5-6 granny smith apples peeled and  sliced.

Place sliced apples in crust and press down to even w/hands.

streusel topping:

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. margarine
Cut w/ pastry cutter until crumbly(I admit I usually eventually
use my hands.) Pour struesel over apples and press down gently.

Bake at 400 for 35-40 min or until golden brown.

I paired my slice with some Dreyers vanilla bean ice cream(and bold coffee)  and it added just the right amount of sweet to those tart granny smiths.
Bon Appetit!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lalalala. . . .LEMON!

Although, it's been a busy weekend, four hours of grading: check, three dogs to groomer: check, 90 gallon fishtank emptied and refilled by my DH: check, and  storage shed purchased and under construction as I type: . . . . . check,  I decided to check my citrus trees and I hit the jackpot. Not only did I have ripe lemons and oranges, but I had a bounty and my lemons are ginormous. Ripe lemons on the tree=lemon bars for the win!

I got the recipe from the Food Network's Ina Garten, and tweaked to my liking:


For the crust:

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, (mine took 29 minutes, but I think it's hotter than the temp. sometimes)until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

shortbread crust:

 Lemon bars are naturally not very yellow unless you add yellow food coloring to the filling.
 When you take them out of the oven the filling will jiggle a little; if you wait until the filling sets it will be too rubbery  upon cooling. Don't worry the filling will set in a couple hours. We like our lemon bars to make your mouth pucker, so I cut back on the sugar and they were indeed tart and tasty.  Until next time, adieu.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From bliss. . . . . to this.

So, I have come to the conclusion if I wait until I bake again to blog, it may be a while. I'm trying to keep myself from hyperventilating as we speak because my husband in his infinite wisdom has decided to upgrade fishtanks and anyone who has ever worked with fishtanks knows what that means (puddles of water everywhere) and if you know my husband (Mike) you would know that not only his office which always look like a tornado hit it and missed every other room in the process, but now every other room in the house is suffering the after-effects. The fish tank was delivered yesterday and this is day two. I tried to tell him this is wreaking havoc on my OCD, so he took some boxes downstairs, but it will be several days before everything is back to semi-normal.
Just frazzled.
Two weeks ago I was basking in the bliss of winter break and because of the  non-stop rain, I enjoyed cuddling up with the dogs with a cup of hot cocoa. Now, I'm two weeks back to work, with a heap of grading beckoning to me, and not only is the house turned upside down, but I start some on the job admin training this week, which means working through my preps. to get some job experience under my belt before seriously deciding to apply for an open position. I'm a little freaked out about leaving the known stress of (classroom chaos and grading) to a new adventure in administration.  Mike says I thrive on being over-productive and he knows me better than he thinks, but I'd like to go back to those quieter moments on occasion., I I could please.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cake Decorating Amnesia


So, I lied, but it was a white lie, because I was trained as a cake decorator for Ralphs and Vons respectively, but that was many moons ago and I don't really consider it formal training because the cakes came to us  premade along  with most of their baked goods. Anyways, this was my first attempt in  a long while to reintegrate into cake decorating (my daughter asked  me to make my grandson a cake and I couldn't refuse him)  and I don't know that I can say it's just like riding a bike, because I have forgotten a lot, for starters, I'm lacking the proper tools. I own a cake turntable and a few assorted icing tips, but if I'm going to continue doing cakes I will need to purchase some more tools of the trade, like a cake  comb and  cake cutter.
 In addition, this was my first time working with fondant and I must say my daughter did most of the work (she's an ace of Cakes junkie), who says you can't get an educated from the boob tube. Anyways, it was easier to work with than I thought. I bought a fondant roller, but I could have used a fondant mat and paint brush to smooth the fondant, but parchment and our fingers sufficed this time. 
The cake icing is chocolate buttercream and we used chocolate fudge for the piping. The bed is made from rice crispy treats covered with pre-colored fondant. w/e also used the fondant to make the stars(hand-cut) and the ball, blocks and etcha- sketch on the side of the bed (you could see the rice crispy treat, so we had to improvise. I got the cake toppers from Ebay as a set. I got the original idea form here:
For the alien cupcakes I got neon green food coloring, mentos for the eyes, black gel for the pupils and mouth, green sour twists for the antenae, and sour rips and a fondant leaf cutter for the ears and I got the original idea from here

 I will post the recipes and my comments for the cake and icings at  a later time.
In addition to the cake we made some alien cupcakes since there will be approximately 30 guests at my grandson's Birthday partry and a quarter sheet will only feed 15-20.

Monday, January 3, 2011

back to the drawing board

Gah, the cake is too dry, so I'm going to try the Birthday cake recipe on SmittenKitten. It wasn't a complete fail, though as the buttercream icing with melted bittersweet chocolate instead of cocoa powder was pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself. Here's the recipe, which I got from William's Sonoma:


  • 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Put the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler set over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners' sugar, butter, the 6 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then reduce the speed to low. Add the chocolate and beat until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute more.

If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.
I only used about 51/2 cups of powdered sugar and it was enough to fill, ice and border a 9" two layer cake.

Trial run

So I have scoured the web looking for the perfect yellow cake from scratch (which I will post if the cake meets my approval) for my grandson's birthday. So I found one and did a trial run today and the cake looks delicious. My usual go to blogs like Cakerella and Smitten Kitten called for ingredients I didn't have on hand and I wanted to do a trial run before baking his cake on Saturday. If this cake is not moist enough I will go to the experts and try a  cake with buttermilk or try a sugar spray, but I was being lazy and going for simple and this one fit the bill.