Archive | July, 2010

Move Over Little Debbie

30 Jul

I would like to start this post by saying that I have absolutely, hands-down, without-a-doubt, the best mom of all time. When I went to visit  her last weekend, she gave me a red Kitchen Aid mixer! Those of you who are reading this probably already read this news on facebook, but I’m so excited about it that I had to share the good news again. 🙂
That being said, I don’t have the slightest clue why she used to buy Little Debbie snack cakes for my sisters and I when we were growing up. Well, I guess I do know. We all loved them. But that was exactly where the problem was. Undoubtedly, if a carton of Little Debbies made it home from the grocery store, it would only be a couple of days (if not hours!) before the box was nearly devoured. Just before the last pre-packaged sugar-high was plucked from the box, there would certainly be an argument about which sister ate the most, who hadn’t had her fair share, and who should get the last one. If it was Zebra Cakes in question, Jessica and I might as well have not even wasted our breath. Kasi was the queen of Zebra Cakes, and you better not think she was going to share the last one either! If the treats in question were Star Crunches, I could usually hold my own.  Nutty Bars? Forget it. Dad always ate and/or hid the box of those before we could even get into an argument. Anyways, enough story telling. 🙂 I honestly haven’t had any Little Debbies in quite some time now, probably because I’ve been baking so much and I’d rather eat something fresh. Lucky for me, I found a recipe the other day which provided a win-win solution to this dilemma. 🙂 I’d never even heard of a homemade Oatmeal Cream Pie, but as soon as I did….I knew I would be trying it soon. 🙂 Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.howtoeatacupcake.net/2010/07/oatmeal-cream-pies.html

Now, this recipe called for an ingredient that I’d never used before: unflavored gelatin. But when it comes to baking, I love trying new things.

Like many baking recipes, the first step is to cream butter and sugar. In this case, brown sugar. YUM. Also add the eggs at this point.

The flour, salt, and baking powder need to be sifted together so that they can become all nice and cozy together. Then add the sifted mixture to the bowl, as well as the cinnamon and oats.

After that, I stirred together the boiling water and baking soda. I’ve never done this before in a recipe, but I was guessing it would fizz (although I’m still not sure what effect this fizz  has on the recipe). I was right! I tried to get a picture of this in action, but it started to die down quickly and I wanted to make sure I stirred it in before it all went away. So here was a picture that I shot quickly. You can still see just a little of the baking powder in action towards the top of the picture.

After stirring this together, it was time to drop the dough onto a cookie sheet. I left plenty of room around the edges of each cookie, because I wasn’t sure how much these would spread while baking.

Good thing I did! The cookies looked huge when I turned on the oven light to check on them. This next picture was honestly just a little experiment. I wanted to take a picture of the cookies while they were baking, but wasn’t sure how it would turn out with the oven light and the camera flash. Worked pretty well, if I do say so myself. 🙂

Here they are just out of the oven. At this point, the kitchen was smelling pretty fabulous. The oatmeal and cinnamon were turning into little bites of edible, magical goodness.

Now, to make the filling. I didn’t take a picture of the unflavored gelatin, but you all know what jello looks like. It’s the same, except without color. I’m sure you can use your imagination to figure out what clear jello looks like. 🙂 Onto the stove goes sugar, light corn syrup, and water. This is looking a little odd. Not like anything I’ve ever made before, but I trust it will all work out in the end.

After boiling for 30 seconds, it is removed from the heat and the gelatin gets added to the mixture. Once it was dissolved, I poured the liquid into my mixing bowl with some vanilla. Here’s what it looks like at this stage:

After being mixed for about 5 minutes, this awkward looking goop had turned into a beautiful, fluffy cloud of stickiness.

The marshmallow cream is almost finished. 🙂 Add a little powdered sugar and vegetable shortening, and you’re all done. Wow, this recipe was time-consuming! By this time I was more than ready to smear some of the filling between two of the cookies and see what the fuss was all about.

Delicious! The only issue I had with these: the outer edges of the cookies were just a little too hard. I’m guessing that I just baked them a little too long. I’ll tweak that a little for next time. For now, I thought the perfect solution would be to just use a cookie cutter to cut out the center of the cookie, which was more moist. Believe it or not, I don’t even own a round cookie cutter!

*Note to self: Make a trip to Hobby Lobby to buy round cookie cutters.*

*Second note to self: Consider making the aforementioned trip to Hobby Lobby while Eric is at work. Sometimes we don’t agree on what is a baking want, and what is a baking need. Of course, since I consider over 50% of the items on the baking aisle as absolute necessities….maybe I can see his point * 😀

I decided to just take out my bag of cookie cutters and decide what shape would work ok, since round wasn’t an option. The heart seemed to be about the right size, so I used that. And it actually turned out quite cute. 🙂

Random thought for the day: What was your favorite snack cake growing up?

The End. 🙂

I have a problem….

23 Jul

…I tend to watch lots of cake shows on TV and then think that I can make all kinds of amazing cakes that look like theirs. I forget that I don’t have as much training, experience, and equipment that they do. I see some of the techniques that they use and think…..”Oh! I can do that!” I also see lots of fantastic cakes on my favorite website, cakecentral.com. And again, I think that I can make my very own cake that looks just like the ones I see. Well…..sometimes I attempt to replicate their fabulous creations and my cakes don’t quite turn out the way that I had envisioned.

So….today, I’m going to show you my latest attempt to replicate a cake that I saw on cakecentral.com. The front even ended up looking quite nice. 🙂 The back of the cake…..well…..we won’t go there. I’ll just say that there was one rather large tear in the fondant, so it became obvious very quickly that I would have to make that the back side. 🙂 Overall, it was a good learning experience. I used a few techniques that I liked and I thought were successful, and I realized which of the techniques I still need to practice more. LOTS more. 🙂

So come along with me on a journey to make a 3-D Diet Coke Can cake. 🙂 Those of you who know me well already know that it’s my favorite drink. And you also know that decorating cake is my favorite hobby. So….it just made sense to me to put the two together. Except that it didn’t really make sense to turn a cake into something that has the word “diet” on it, but that’s ok. 🙂 Here’s how it all worked, but keep in mind that you’re seeing the “good” side of the cake. I’m not going to post any pictures of the back of the cake because it was not pretty.

First, I stacked 4 layers of cake (each one was a 6″ round). I made these layers with batter that I had left over from other cakes, so there are 2 layers of yellow and 2 layers of strawberry. But I kind of liked that….it ended up being 1 cake with 2 different flavors.

The next step was to carve the top just a little. I don’t really have experience with carving, so I didn’t want to try to do too much and mess it up. But I wanted to carve just a little off the top to make the top of the can look realistic.

The next step was to “crumb coat” it, or “dirty ice” the cake. Which basically means that I iced the cake with buttercream so that I could later cover it with fondant. Since this layer of icing won’t be showing on the final cake, it’s ok if there are a few crumbs in the icing. So it can look a little “dirty.” Since this was a pretty tall cake, I had to use a LOT of icing to get it all covered. But there was still a little buttercream leftover so that I could lick the bowl. 😉 You can’t ever skip that step. Licking the icing bowl is *crucial* to cake decorating. 🙂

Now it’s time for the fondant. I colored the fondant grey to match the color of a Diet Coke can. I accidentally added a little too much black food coloring though, so it was a darker shade than what I was going for. But…..once you add in the color you can’t really take it back out. So I had to settle. Next time, I’ll mix in the coloring in smaller amounts so I don’t get it too dark. This color actually made me think of an elephant, especially the back of the cake where it was all wrinkled. Too bad I wasn’t trying to make an elephant; it would have been perfect. 😉

Next I rolled out some fondant and cut out a shape for the pop tab to go on top of the can. This was actually one of my favorite parts. I think it turned out looking pretty realistic, so it added a nice detail. Not that I’m bragging or anything. 😛

At this point I painted the fondant with “silver luster dust.” It’s an edible, sparkly dust that gives the cake a shiny appearance. I don’t think the pictures do the shine justice. In real life, the cake had a very nice metallic look. Just what I was hoping for! I also added the pop tab and a rim to the top of the can, and started piping on the logo.

After that, all I had left to do was to finish piping the logo and paint luster dust on the details that I’d added on top. Besides the pop tab, the logo was my favorite part. I think it came out really well. It made me smile. 🙂 And of course, it made me want to drink a Diet Coke. 🙂 Here are 2 shots of the finished cake.

So….if/when I make this kind of cake again, I know of a few things that I would do the same and a few things that I would do differently. I was a little disappointed that the cake didn’t look like the masterpieces on cakecentral.com…….but overall I think I can count it as a good learning experience. And of course…..even though the back of the cake looked ridiculous, it still tasted good. 🙂

Random Thought for the Day: The Braves are leading their division by 7 games. This makes me very happy 🙂 Oh and, have a fantastic weekend.

The End. 🙂

They say it’s healthy to eat fruit everyday…..so I’m glad someone invented Banana Nut Bread :)

16 Jul

Truth be told, I really like fruit. Veggies, now that’s a different story. Yuck. But I’d gladly eat fruit anyday, and just about any kind. It’s a wonderful thing when something that is healthy for you also tastes good. 🙂 The problem is…..fruit can also be used to bake things that aren’t as good for you….and the end product tastes even better than the fruit by itself. So, I wouldn’t recommend getting your *entire* daily amount of fruits from baked goods…..but I can’t guarantee that I practice what I preach. 🙂

Those of you who know me well know that I make a lot of cakes. Even though they generally turn out to be very tasty, sometimes I can get almost tired of cake. (Did you notice that I said *almost* tired of cake? Ok. 🙂 Just checking). When that happens, I start craving something else sweet instead. One day when I was baking a Hummingbird Cake, I could smell all of the bananas, walnuts, and cinnamon in the batter and I really wanted a piece of it when it came out of the oven. Problem was, I was baking it for someone else. But then I started thinking…..although those flavors are sending a nearly intoxicating aroma swirling around in the kitchen…..I’m kind of in the mood for something besides cake. What else has those flavors? And then it hit me: Banana Nut Bread. I couldn’t remember ever making my own, so I knew I didn’t have a recipe for it anywhere. That’s when I turned to my trusty old friend, allrecipes.com. After skimming through several different recipes I settled on one that had great reviews, but still tweaked it a little to match my tastes (and also what I had available in the fridge). 🙂 If you want the original recipe, you can search on allrecipes.com for “Janet’s Rich Banana Bread.” At the bottom of this post, I’ll include my tweaked version. 🙂

First thing first: bananas. You want to make sure that you use bananas that have a little brown on them. If they are still bright yellow, they won’t be as soft and won’t create the texture you want. Mine could have probabably used an extra day to ripen a little more, but I’d already waited 2 days, and everytime I saw them on the counter I wanted to start baking right away. So once I started to spot a little brown, I gave in. 🙂

The first thing you’ll want to do is mash 3 bananas. I used my potato masher, which I’ve used for potatoes a grand total of twice. I realized that I’m not very talented when it comes to homemade mashed potatoes, but I’d be willing to bet that I’ll use it more for bananas than potatoes, once it’s all said and done. 🙂 If you don’t have one of these nifty gadgets, you can just use a fork.

Next, you mix 1/2 cup of melted butter and 1 cup of sugar. At this point, it doesn’t look too much like a bread mixture of any kind…..

….but that’s ok because we’re about to thicken it up a little. Mix in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then, in a seperate bowl sift together 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.  The texture is looking more like what I expected at this point.

Last step: fold in 1/3 cup of sour cream, 1/2 chopped walnuts, and the mashed bananas. How easy is that? That’s what I like about this bread (besides being delicious). No bread machine. No kneading. No mixer. I like simple stuff. 🙂

Here it is, all ready to go in the oven. Somehow, I had imagined that the mixture would look darker at this point. Any banana bread I’ve ever had has been a dark brown color. Since this was the first time I’d tried this recipe, I was hoping that it would taste as good as it smelled, and that it would somehow magically change colors in the oven.

And it did! After baking for an hour, it came out all nice and dark. I was VERY tempted to cut into it right away….but instead I let it cool first. Waiting for something to cool is always the hardest part!

After it cooled on a cooling rack, I sliced it and it looked all nice and pretty. 🙂 And it tasted just as good as it looked!

Since Eric doesn’t like banana bread, I had the whole loaf to myself. I did give a couple of pieces away to friends, but I was greedy and kept most of it. 🙂 I decided to try to freeze a few slices and see it would freeze well and still taste good after thawing out. That way, I could bake one loaf of bread and then freeze it to enjoy it several times later. 🙂  I had a game plan. I would thaw it out after it had been frozen for 2 weeks. I figured at that point I would be able to decide whether it would freeze well and keep for later, or if I should just eat/share any future loafs right away. The problem was, everytime I opened my freezer the frozen slices were calling my name! 🙂 After 5 days, I couldn’t take it any longer. I took the bread out of the freezer and let it thaw to room temperature. 🙂 Still yummy! So I know for sure that it will freeze for a few days. Beyond that, I have no idea. 🙂 In all honesty……I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to keep it frozen too much longer than that anyways.

Here’s the full recipe:

3 bananas

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Optional extras: raisins, chocolate chips

Prehead oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas in a medium bowl. In a seperate bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a seperate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Fold in the sour cream, walnuts, and bananas. Bake in a greasted 9×5 loaf pan for 60 minutes.

Random thought for the day: I got to see my new classroom for the first time yesterday afternoon! The teacher who was in the room last year retired, and since she wouldn’t need her materials anymore, she left tons of cool supplies in the room for me! There are lots of books, scissors, glue, markers, construction paper, popsicle sticks, tissue paper, and bulletin board pieces for every month of the year! I can’t wait to put it all to good use. And……there is even an electronic whiteboard in my room!!! I turned it on today, but didn’t figure out how to use it yet. 😉 Apparently it has to be hooked to the computer, and I don’t have a login yet to get onto the computer. But that will be taken care of in just a couple of weeks. I’m so excited! 😀

I’m here! :)

9 Jul

Today I am being productive. I am trying out a cheesecake recipe for the first time, and I’m also finally getting around to creating this blog. Now, when I say trying cheesecake for the first time, I mean the first time ever making a *real* cheesecake. Not the no-bake, stir-and-stick-it-in-the-fridge type deal. I bought a springform pan quite some time ago, but never got around to trying the real deal. Actually, I was a little nervous. I’ve heard cheesecakes are very delicate, and crack very easily. Also, I’ve heard that they don’t look quite done when you take them out of the oven, but that’s ok because they keep cooking as they cool. So how am I supposed to know when it’s ready to be taken out of the oven? How do I know when it’s done if it doesn’t look like it is? For a little while, these concerns stopped me from trying to conquer the delicious cheesecake.  But my friends, today is the day. 🙂

I found a recipe on one of my favorite baking websites (www.bakerella.com), bought all of the ingredients, and here is what happened…..

I started by making the graham cracker crust. It smelled good in the kitchen from the very beginning, with the melted butter being stirred into graham cracker crumbs. Yum.

Then I mixed together the filling. This recipe calls for 4 packs of cream cheese. That’s a lot! I guess that’s why it’s called CHEESEcake though, right? 🙂 After adding all of the ingredients, my mixing bowl was quite full. If you ever try this recipe, I’d suggest using the largest mixing bowl you own.

I would like to take a moment to point out my stylish measuring cups. 🙂 They were a wedding present from my Aunt Derinda. They are not only my favorite color, but also Paula Deen brand. I really like them. So thanks again, Aunt Derinda. 😀

Ok, enough of that. 🙂 When I poured the filling into the pan, I was worried it wouldn’t hold it all! It did, but just barely. I hope cheesecakes don’t rise much when they are baking, like regular cakes do. I don’t want to have a mess in my oven! But like I said, this is my first cheesecake, and there’s only one way to find out.

Into the oven it goes! After baking and cooling it had to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Bummer! I was ready to try it right away. It was only noon when it came out of the oven, so letting it cool overnight seemed like an eternity!

P.S. It did have a crack in it, but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to make a difference in the taste, so that’s ok.

The next morning, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I’d already waited 72.000 seconds! What torture! So….I did the only thing I knew to do when a cheesecake was sitting in the fridge…..I ate a slice for breakfast. 🙂 I’m guessing it doesn’t count as a balanced breakfast, but it was too tempting. And wow, was it yummy! I can’t believe I took so long so try a cheesecake. I know I’ll be making this many, many times in the future. To make it look even prettier, I drizzled a little chocolate ganache on the top (I just happened to have some leftover from a cake I made). Once the cheesecake is sliced, there isn’t any evidence whatsoever of a crack in the middle. 🙂 Or, even if you’d like to keep the entire cheesecake intact to serve it at a party or something, you could just cover up the crack with a nice strawberry filling. No one ever has to know. 😉

Tah dah! I made cheesecake. And you should too. 🙂

Here’s the recipe, in case any of you are interested. Also,I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to bake cheesecakes in a waterbath, to prevent cracking and promote even baking. But…..I don’t own a roasting pan, so I didn’t  have anything large enough to hold the springform pan my cheesecake was in. If I did though, I would try it. What could it hurt?

Cheesecake

2.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

4 (8oz.) packages cream cheese
1.5 cups sugar
3 Tbsp flour
5 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar.
  • Stir in melted butter until moistened.
  • Pour the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan (3 inches tall). Press the crumbs into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the pan.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.
  • To make the cheesecake filling, cream the sugar, cream cheese and flour with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy.
  • On medium low, add eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition.
  • On low, add sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla just until combined.
  • Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 325.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool completely to room temperature.
  • Chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Last but not least, I would like to leave you with a random thought for today. Friday Night Lights is a great show. One of my favorites. And it comes on tonight 🙂 I’m so excited. If you haven’t checked it out, I would highly suggest it. 🙂 Anyone else a fan? If so, who is your favorite character?

The End.