Friday, February 26, 2010

Number 46: Snickerdoodle cupcakes

I love it when my hands smell like cinnamon. It always reminds me of this poem.  And Christmas. And learning how to bake.

On another note: Chicago Restaurant Week, Caliterra Bar and Grill, Shirley Temple for me and Roy Rogers for Boyfriend, Steak Oscar and an extra Bailey's Bomb dessert for Roomie. I feel like a well-fed kid.

Snickerdoodle mini cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Number 45: Vanilla honey ice cream

Apologies for the lacking photos. Ice cream is difficult to photograph, especially when an ice cream scooper is not available. Also, churning during the day is almost impossible due to crazy lazy schedules.

Super easy, nice and clean, with a floral aftertaste. Save your good vanilla beans and honey for this one.

Vanilla honey ice cream

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Number 44: Bavarian sugar cookies (?)

Have you heard of Bavarian sugar cookies? Apparently they're from Stranger than Fiction, which I did not watch. But if these really are Bavarian sugar cookies, as raspberri cupcakes says they are, they are amazing. She calls them crack cookies because you just can't stop eating them, and I agree. Except in our room, guac is our crack.

Moving on.

So Roomie is kinda awesome because yesterday we ran out of sugar. And  I was somewhat down and nothing really cheers me up like baking something good. So Roomie hopped over to M's room and stole (read: borrowed and will never return) his sugar. We'll just buy him some more.

I've been eying these cookies for a while, so after some annoying conversions, we made them. We decided to use my porcupine cookie cutter, of course. And today, while photographing, I tried to recreate Rilo Kiley's "It's a Hit" music video.

Rilo Kiley -It's a Hit
Uploaded by Alexander_Band. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Okay enough of that. Here it is! The recipe is halved (except for the frosting so you can pile it on if you like) and adapted to US measurements.

Bavarian sugar cookies
adapted from raspberri cupcakes

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Number 43: Roasted pear

Econ midterm: Ugh.
Discussion: Bleh
Lunch: Doughnut, chips and latte (I know, awful)

A roasted pear would be much appreciated now, but alas, I made it last night whilst studying for the midterm which I bombed this afternoon. It was a small treat for the worn-down.

Roasted pear
serve with caramel sauce

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Number 42: Bittersweet chocolate mousse with raspberry puree

Let's start this one with the score. Mousse: 75, Jess: 25.

Here's the story. Boyfriend and I celebrated V-day early because we have nonexistent lives (read: work, homework and reading) today. His job: Paella. Mine: Something chocolate-y with fruit.

Naturally, I went for the classic chocolate mousse, adding on a raspberry puree. And this being our first V-day celebration, I wanted to be fancy.

Originally I was planning on chocolate, pear and honey, but eh. I wanted something reddish. Sure, raspberries aren't in season, but chocolate-covered strawberries are the rage for romance and they're only in season during the summer.

I was choosing between Martha Stewart's bittersweet chocolate mousse recipe and tartelette's chocolate, honey and pear and milk chocolate mousse, and since I wanted to be fancy, I decided to go with the latter, halving the recipe and making it all chocolate. Boyfriend loves honey, so I was attracted to this recipe which didn't use any sugar.

But this recipe called for gelatin. I hate gelatin. It scares me. You just add it and everything becomes sticky or stiff and stays that way. Most of the time, the gelatin doesn't dissolve like it should. Or it clumps together in whipped cream. Obviously, I'm still a novice at using gelatin.

So this time the gelatin didn't dissolve in the microwave like it should've. So I made two batches of gelatin and the resulting mixture was super stiff. Made for a difficult mousse. Not necessarily homogeneous (yuck).

Nevertheless, I charged forward. In went the chocolate. Except I spent such a long time on the syrup that the melted chocolate had begun to solidify. I ended up with bits of chocolate in the mousse, which didn't look appetizing (but it was!) So I melted more chocolate, added it in, dropped the mousse into ramekins and smoothed it over with the back of a spoon.

The raspberry puree was nice and smooth, although the color was bright pink and looked quite ridiculous next to the medium brown of the mousse. I was hoping for a deeper brown, but ah well. Such is life. Take what you can, right?

It turned out fairly decent - Boyfriend wasn't much of a fan because it was quite bitter (bittersweet chocolate...of course) and he's more of a milk chocolate person. Maybe I should have stuck with the pear and chocolate mousse, but for my first attempt I suppose it was worth it. So why is it mousse: 0.75, Jess: 0.25? Well, the mousse almost beat me, and I almost had to throw it away, but in the end it was edible and quite good. Rave reviews from everyone but Boyfriend (who is my best and harshest critic, next to my mom)

Perhaps it's mousse: 75, Jess: 125?

Bittersweet chocolate mousse with raspberry puree
sweetened with honey
mousse adapted from Tartelette

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Number 41: Fleur de sel caramels

My favorite candy bar when I was a kid was the Milky Way bar. Mostly because of the caramel. So in honor of that, as well as some caramel cravings amongst the inhabitants of room 214, I decided to try my hand at real caramel.

Salted caramel ice cream
was already on my "Success List," but real caramel, I discovered, is a lot more time consuming. I was reading sections of Andrea Dworkin's "Intercourse" (oh, gender theory) in front of the stove for at least an hour.

The difficulty was somewhat multiplied by the fact that I did not bring my candy thermometer from home. Fortunately, the recipe called for the caramel to be cooked until firm-ball stage, something which can be realized without a thermometer. No need for fanciness in this dorm.

To check the cooking process, I simply dipped a wooden spoon into the cooking caramel every 10 minutes or so. Then I would run the spoon under a trickle of cold water to see how it reacted. If the caramel was easily washed away, it was definitely not ready. If the caramel moved but gathered somewhat, it was at soft-ball stage. If the caramel stuck onto the spoon but didn't move or gather, I scraped it off and rolled it into a ball. Usually this means it's pretty much done, but if you want a firmer caramel, wait a little longer and start noticing the hardness of the caramel when cold. Ours turned out a bit soft, so we store them in the fridge for a firmer texture.

It's pretty annoying, actually. Simple, but repetitive, so if you do have a candy thermometer, use it. It'll make life easier.

So enjoy! Take a night to make these, and sprinkle with sea salt before wrapping. The best part is the zing of the salt against the creamy caramel.

Fleur de sel caramels
adapted from vanilla & lace

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Number 40: Plain jane macarons with semisweet chocolate ganache

Yes. It's true. I have made macarons in the dorm kitchen.

I suppose that's not such a big accomplishment, but it is to me. An oven without a viewing window is damn annoying when you're trying to see if the feet have formed yet.
But I did it -- moderately successfully. Brought my coffee grinder all the way from California to do this, and afte
r finding myself with four egg whites left over from eclairs, I decided I was ready.

I let the egg whites age in the fridge for four days (Pierre Hermes recommends five, from what I've read). I bought whole almonds, powdered sugar, and cream for the ganache.
This time I decided to try a classic macarons without food coloring and a semisweet chocolate ganache - start simple until I get it perfect, and then branch out.

It worked, somewhat. A total of three trays went into the oven. Batch #1 came out nicely, although I'm afraid I didn't tap all the air out so there's an air bubble between the shell and chewy filling. Still tasty. Batch #2 was burnt, although when I cracked them in half there was no air bubble --- strange. Batch #3 was the middle child -- slightly burnt but still edible.

So here they are! The recipe, based on the Italian method, is posted with the specifics for a dorm kitchen, just for any NU students out there. Also, expect sea salt caramels --- made in a dorm kitchen, and without a candy thermometer. That's right. No thermometer.

P.S. Boyfriend has the stomach flu. I have a cold. Roomie's got a headache. What a sad picture.

Classic macarons
with semisweet chocolate ganache
adapted from Food & Wine and David Lebovitz