Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I was at the grocery store to pick up chicken thighs to make Sticky Lemon Chicken (which by the way was super delicious and so easy even I couldn't screw it up!) when I noticed that roasting chickens were on sale. What a delicious way to celebrate my sister/roommate leaving for four days (she is going to the Canadian Nationals of Synchronized Skating in Oshawa and won't be back until Sunday) leaving my boyfriend and I gloriously alone. It was also a good excuse to have leftovers for the rest of the week, and a chicken carcass to make soup with this weekend! So, I picked up a a chicken, some yukon gold potatoes, green beans, garlic, lemon, etc. and planned out a fabulous dinner, which would've been 10 times more fabulous had I two ovens, or more time (the boyfriend got last minute hockey tickets right behind the visitor's net, row 2!). Or at least one oven that was capable of retaining more than 70% of its heat. Anyway, it was tasty and I'll definitely be reusing all of the recipes I used, listed at the end of the post.

To top off the delightful home-cooked meal I was preparing, I thought, what better than fresh, homemade apple pie! Now, I know my crusts need work, but I have never had someone complain about my pie filling... so I decided to make a galette. Just like pie but half the work? I am SO there! Plus, I had just spent a good 20 minutes drooling over this recipe and accompanying photos at A Finger in Every Pie.

I used her pastry recipe, but substituted the shortening for butter. I also used all-purpose flour instead of pastry flour which I haven't done since my first pie. I'm attributing the attrociousness of this pastry crust to those to alterations, not the recipe itself. I may give it another try next time I make a galette... which, aside from the diasterous crust, was fantastically easy, and totally delicious topped with a scoop of Nesle's Real Dairy Natural Vanilla... though I would've loved to have had homemade ice cream, there was just no time. I had a lot of left over apples, but I also prepared 6 apples instead of 5. I froze the extras to use for apple crisp at a future date.

Pi Day Apple Galette
Pi Crust
1.5 c. flour
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
8 T. unsalted butter
2 T. shortening (I replaced the shortening with more butter... bad idea).
2 T. vodka with 1 T. water and 3 ice cubes. (I didn't understand this bit... am I supposed to let the icecubes melt and then add them also? That's what I did...)

Process flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until cornmealy and there are still some small, pea-sized pieces of butter and shortening. Empty mixture into medium bowl. Sprinkle vodka/water over mixture. With rubber spatula or your hand, use folding motion to mix, pressing dough until it just clumps together. Flatten dough into a 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate at least 45 minutes, up to 2 days.

Pi Apples
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled cored and sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1 t. grated lemon zest
3 T. sugar
1 T Calvados (Research led me to believe you can substitute with brandy if you have some... I didn't so I used Triple Sec, but I bet amaretto would go great)
1 t. cornstarch (I just realised I completely forgot the cornstarch.... Oops! It turned out anyway; the amaretti really do their job well!)
4 T. apricot jam/preserves
6 hard amaretti cookies, crushed into rubble
2 T. butter
Crystal sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F. Toss apples with zest, sugar and Calvados. Roll out pie crust into a 15-16" circle on a piece of parchment paper. Slide paper and rolled out crust onto a rimless baking sheet. Spread apricot jam in a circle in the center, leaving a one-and-a-half to two-inch border for folding up over the apples. Sprinkle jam with crushed amaretti. Arrange the apples over amaretti in concentric circles. Add the cornstarch to the liquid left in the apple bowl and sitr until dissolved; drizzle this over the apples until it disappears. Dot the apples with bits of butter and fold up and pleat the crus to make a nice rim around the apples. Brush crust with cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes in the bottom third of the oven. Rotate the tart and bake for another 30 minutes in the top third of the oven, until the pastry is golden brown, the apple juices are bubbling nicely and the apples yield tenderly to a knife point. Cool for a while, and serve while still warm.

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken:
I sliced up half lemon and cut 8 garlic cloves in half. I then slid these under the skin in various places. I squeezed the rest of the lemon juice onto the chicken, and shoved the remains into the chicken's cavity with some rosemary and some more garlic. Then I sprinkled the bird with rosemary, salt, and pepper. I let the chicken sit in the fridge (uncovered, despite my sister's misgivings) for an hour so the skin could dry so it would get nice and crispy in the oven. Next time I roast a chicken I'm going to use a larger roaster, and more garlic and rosemary. It was roasted at 350F for the first half, 450F for the second half (because of temperature differences between baking the galette and the potatoes. This is where the second oven would've come in REAL handy).

Tasty Green Beans
  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Melt margarine in a large saucepan over high heat. Mixing well, add green beans, onions and garlic. Stir in soy sauce. While stirring, add bouillon and water. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes (20 minutes was too long for mine - 15 would've been plenty). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Oven Roasted Potatoes
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I omitted these as I dislike them and don't have any)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, basil, marjoram, dill weed, thyme, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir in potatoes until evenly coated. Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.
My potatoes were super crispy: I used a glass pan lined with parchment paper, and I tossed the potatoes with the olive oil 45 minutes before they went into the oven - I have no idea if either of these things contributed, and won't know until I try this recipe again!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Root Beer!

Alright, alright.  I don't normally bake this much, but its reading week so I have some spare time on my hands.  On tonights agenda: Root Beer cupcakes.

Now, the idea struck me for root beer cupcakes when I was first reading about cola cupcakes on Bakerella's blog.  I didn't think to google them at that point, so came up with my own recipe, which was... okay at best, though not my worst attempt at creating a recipe.  I basically took the coca-cola cake recipe and combined it with the guiness cupcake recipe I used earlier this week, replacing the guiness/cola with root beer and root beer schnapps.  Like I said, they were okay.  I overbaked them slightly, and they have too much  baking soda, but with a dollop of vanilla icing, you can't hardly notice.  They needed more root beer flavour, however, so I set out via the world wide google and came across a couple of fantastic cupcake blogs with root beer recipes.  After settling on one that appeared to be simple, and easy to follow, I set to work.  I lacked root beer extract so I replaced it with schnapps.  Aside from that, they are quite good.  I still wish the root beer flavour was stronger, but that would probably be fixed by using root beer extract, or maybe doubling the amount of schnapps I used, or creating a reduction or something.  I'm not that talented yet, however.

After making the frosting (I made the Vanilla Bean ButterCream as suggested) I came to two very stunning realizations:

1.  Salted butter is not for icing
2.  Do not buy vanilla beans online via e-bay

My sister insists it tastes like ice cream.  I can only taste sweetened, vaguely vanilla-flavoured butter.  I am going to try researching a way to turn whipped cream into icing, but I want it to be denser than whipped cream.  And taste like my boyfriend's homemade vanilla bourbon ice cream.  Is that so much to ask, really?

Yes, I am that lucky that my boyfriend is not only sexy and well dressed but he also cooks and makes confections!  Not to mention spoiles me R-O-T-T-E-N!

Root Beer Cupcakes (Originally from BitterSweet)

makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 C rootbeer soda
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 t rootbeer extract
  • 1 1/3 C flour
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  1. Combine the soda and vinegar and let stand for a few minutes.
  2. Add in the sugar and oil, whisking vigorously until slightly frothy.
  3. Integrate your extracts, and gently introduce the flour, along with the baking powder / soda, and salt, being careful not to over mix.
  4. Fill cupcake liners approximately 3/4 of the way to the top.
  5. Bake at 350 F for about 18 - 22 minutes.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting Recipe

  • 1 1/2 C confectioners' sugar (add more until it reaches your preferred consistency)
  • 1/2 C butter (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (add more to taste)  (I used vanilla bean seeds right out of the pod)
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Mix together sugar and butter until they are blended and creamy. Add vanilla bean paste and milk and continue to beat for another minute. If desired, add more vanilla bean paste to taste, or more confectioners' sugar to make it stiffer.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chocolate Guiness Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

My foray into the baking-blog world all started by my own obsession with wedding dresses.  Which then led to wedding cakes.  Which then led me to Cake Wrecks, which led me to Bakerella, and then to several other blogs which I now read religiously, most especially when they involve some kind of baked good.  All of this has led me to the discovery of several cake/cupcake recipes that I have been dying to try, including this one from Pinch My Salt which is the first one I decided to try.  (Up next week Cola Cupcakes, and Red Velvet Cake balls).

I made a couple of changes to it because of availability of ingredients.  Namely I didn't want to buy a 6 pack of Guiness (I can't drink much of it) and my local liquor store was out of singles, but had some singles of Road Dog Porter, which is dark and malty and worked quite well, I think, though it definitely lacks the chocolate undertones present in most stouts.   I also used Liberte Méditterranée Moka yoghurt in place of plain.  It was on sale at Safeway, and how could I possibly go wrong with a mere 8.5%MF?  Plus I figured the coffee flavour would support the chocolatey nature of these cupcakes.  Asside from those two small alternations, I stayed true to the recipe.  Oh, and my eggs were right out of the fridge (not room temperature) and it still worked wonderfully.

As for the flavour... well, the cupcakes were very moist once cooled.  The day after they seemed to have dried out a tad and gotten a bit denser, but I have several very good reasons to believe that the container they were in was not in fact air tight.  This is definitely not an ordinary chocolate cupcake - they have a complex flavour, and while the stout/porter is noticible, its subtle and not a sharp stick to the tastebuds overpowering everything.Oh, and I only used 3.5 cups of icing sugar instead of 4 for the icing because Edmont
on is so dry this time of year.  I actually had to give the icing two tries.  The first time I wasn't incorporating enough icing sugar at a time and I over beat it.  It turned into this runny mess with the consistency of warm yoghurt... not suitible for cupcakes but I couldn't let all that creamy cheese deliciousness go to waste so it is now sitting in my freezer until such a time as I make cinnamon buns (AKA, next week).  I plan to use it like the milk/icing sugar glazes a lot of grocery store cinnamon buns have on them, except when you bite in - Surprise! cream cheesey delight!  I can't wait.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes (from Pinch My Salt)

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain, thick yogurt, at room temperature
6 oz. dark stout, at room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with cupcake papers; spray the whole thing, cupcake papers and all, with nonstick spray. Set aside.
3. Melt butter in microwave or on stovetop, then set aside.
3. In a large bowl, preferably with a pouring spout, whisk together eggs and yogurt. Add beer and vanilla whisk until well combined.
4. Sift all the dry ingredients together (cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon) into a separate bowl.
5. Add about a third of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and using a hand mixer, blend well. Add the rest of the flour mixture, a third at a time, mixing well after each addition. When all ingredients are blended, add the melted butter then continue mixing until very well combined.
6. Pour batter into the twelve cups, filling each only about 3/4 full.
7. Bake on center rack of the preheated 350 degree oven and for approximately 25 minutes.
8. When cupcakes are done (toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake will come out clean), remove the pan to a wire rack.  Let cool for ten minutes then remove cupcakes from pan and let them cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Altered Apple of my Pie

Back in October I promised a friend of mine I'd bake her an apple pie. I did, actually, bake her a pie but my sister/roommate decided she'd eat some of it without asking (before it was done cooling no less!) and I haven't had the time since to put it together. Marilee's birthday was last week and so I am baking her a pie as a belated birthday present (And 'cause I said I'd bake her a pie, and I am a woman of my word!) I don't often bake pies. Its not that I don't like them, I just find they take a lot of time and I'm a busy lady. Oh, and fresh fruit is really quite expensive in Alberta, Canada, in the dead of winter, especially for a student budget. Sure, I could cut some corners and use pre-prepared canned pie filling... but what's the point of baking if its not from scratch!
Because I am so busy, I like to do my pies in two or three phases. On Monday, I prepared my pastry. I usually make the pastry first - as long as its tightly wrapped in plastic it comes to no harm sitting in the fridge for a couple of days. This is the pastry recipe I used; its a slightly altered version of this recipe.

Pie Pastry
2 cups flour - I normally use pastry flour, but all purpose works just fine as long as you're gentle.
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup vegetable shortening (can substitute butter, or mix and match)
100ml water (roughly 7 tbsp)

Sift together flour, salt, and sugar. Using a fork or a pastry cutter (or your fingers, if you're feeling ambitious) blend shortening and flour mixture until it forms fine crumbs and no chunks of shortening remain. Add the water a little at a time, tossing mixture with a fork until the dough starts to form balls about the size of a golfball, or larger - depending on humidity you might not need all of the water. You can also replace some or all of the water with the liquor of your choice. I have used spiced rum and Grand Marnier; both yielded fantastic results. Using alcohol also prevents gluten molecules from aligning, which is what causes pastry to become tough, so using alcohol allows you to be rougher with the dough while still giving a tender crumb.

Split dough in half and form each half into a disc (this makes rolling them out later slightly less work). Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use, for up to 3 days. Dough can be frozen but it will be softer coming out of the freezer than it was going in, so I'd recommend adding a bit of extra flour, or leaving out a tablespoon of water.

Once you're ready to use the dough, I find it easiest to roll it out on lightly floured waxed paper for easy transfer to pie tin.  I'm working on learning how to roll the dough around my rolling pin and move it that way, but for now, waxed paper works well.  Roll the larger of your two discs until it is several inches larger in diameter than your pie dish.  Place in pie dish, and leave the edges hanging over.  As you can see below, I didn't do a great job of this.  Really, this was  a terrible endevour all around.

Yesterday I started the filling by peeling and slicing 3.5lbs of apples and tossing with 1 tbsp of lemon juice. I added 1/4 cup sugar, tossed to coat and transfered apples to a large collander over a bowl to reserve the liquid that results and refridgerate for 2-24 hours. Tossing the apples with sugar causes them to give up some of their water so that when they are baked they have less water to lose and do not decrease as much in volume. To finish the apple filling, I use an altered version of Alton Brown's recipe from his show Good Eats. I've had to alter it because neither Apple Jack (the liquor) nor apple jelly are readily available in Edmonton. I searched no less than 10 different grocery stores, including two specialty stores and the farmers market and apple jelly was no where to be found so I gave up.

Altered Alton Brown Pie Filling
3-4 lbs apples, peeled, cored and sliced. You can use any variety (or combination) you'd like. I like using Granny Smith mixed with something sweeter - Jonagold, Gala, or Ambrosia. This pie has 2.5lbs of Granny smith, and just over 1 lb of Ambrosia.
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Toss collapsed apples with the rest of the ingredients:
another 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs tapioca starch
(AKA tapioca flour. You can also use minit-tapioca but the pearl shape might affect the texture of your filling).2 tbs apple juice + liquid collected from collapsing the apples

Once apples are well coated, layer them in your pie shell starting at the inside and working your
 way out, making sure the center is piled higher than the outside.  Having a pie bird helps at this point because you can just pile the apples around the bird!  And he's so darn cute.  Pour any remaining liquid into the shell, and put on the lid.  That is, the top pie crust.

Bake at 400F on the lowest rack for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes turn temperature down to 350F and bake for another 20 minutes.  Remove pie from oven and let cool for 8 hours.  The long cooling period allows the filling to set so you don't get a runny mess.

As you can see, after cooling, my pie is ugly as sin.  
Even though I collapse my apples, I just can't get that top crust to look purdy.  My boyfriend suggested it might be my lack of a wash for the top crust.  Maybe he's right, or maybe I'm just not cut out to make pies.  I guess only time/more pies will tell.

Apparently, though ugly, it was extremely delicious,  Marilee ate over half of it in one sitting, AND some of the chocolate stout cupcakes I made!

Friday, February 13, 2009


I've been baking pretty much my entire life, but it wasn't until last year that I started taking it seriously. Or more seriously, anyway. I bake mostly things that travel easily: muffins, cupcakes, cookies. Brownies don't last long in my house either, especially my Mexican Spice Brownies with creamy chocolate buttercream frosting.

I take a scientific approach to baking, probably be cause science has been ingrained in me from a young age (Dad was a power engineer until he met my mom, mom is a math teacher). This is intended to be my notebook - my scientific log book, if you will - of my baking adventures.