armadillas


Of hearts and stomachs

The other day I decided I wanted to open up a bakery. Of course, this is not the first time I got such a whim up my butt and it certainly will not be the last time. I constantly waver between pursuing a career in food or a career in academia (along with careers in writing or nutrition or agriculture). This idea of a bakery was triggered by two things. The first is a book I’m currently reading, The Baker’s Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks. I find it very easy to get caught up in a character’s life, to escape into fiction for a couple hours. Before you know it, I’m romanticizing driving to work late in the night, setting a playlist on my iPod long after most people have gone to bed, and digging my fingers into flour until the wee hours of the morning. I suppose the book spurred on my early morning decision to type become a baker into my search bar. That’s how I discovered bloombakeshop.com, with its quaint and simple design. After reading the owner’s story of how she left the pharmaceutical world for a world of dough and entrepreneurship, I immediately wanted to jump on the band wagon. I’m pretty sure the tantalizing pictures of whoopie pies under her menu page helped with this sudden inspiration.

With origins in the Amish/German communities of the American north east, whoopie pies are traditionally made with a chocolate cookie cake and vanilla cream filling. We all know how I feel about chocolate, so I wanted to make a pumpkin whoopie pie with a -get this- lemon cream filling. It may sound like a strange combination to some (cough cough), but you’d be surprised what flavors can fuse together. Like Chinese and Mexican. Don’t knock it!


Unfortunately, the only store within walking distance (got to get my exercise somehow!) did not carry pumpkin puree, so I had to change my game plan. On my way home, walking up and down the streets for a little added cardio, a recipe began to form in my head. Why not make a tiramisu whoopie pie? With a hint of lemon! That way there’s coffee, there’s chocolate, there’s lemon, and there’s vanilla. Everyone is happy!

So I set about doing a little research, comparing recipes I found online and in cookbooks, and eventually came up with a pretty satisfactory recipe of my own. You know, as a child I wasn’t really much of a whoopie pie sort of person. It goes back to the not caring a lot for chocolate thing. But now as an adult inclined to spend a good chunk of my time in the kitchen, I have the freedom to experiment and these little babies have been calling my name going on a week now. Fortunately, it only takes one to satisfy the craving. Otherwise I’d probably be the size of a hippo! Remember, the great thing about baking is sharing! Send your goods over to a neighbor. Maybe you even have a cute, single neighbor. You find the heart through the stomach folks! Now, my whoopies are more cakey and less cookie-like. Just so you know.

Psst…feel free to ignore my chicken scratch. We do not live in an era of penmanship. My grandmother is quite ashamed

Ingredients:

Batter

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter milk

Orange Creme

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese or mascarpone, softened
  • 4 tbs butter, softened too
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp rum/Marsala (optional)

Quick tip! If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (which, who does?), it’s super easy to make. Put a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar into you measuring cup. Fill the rest with your milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Your milk will begin to look chunky- don’t panic!

Preheat over to 350 degrees. I always forget to do this step first. It really does save time to remember. We’re going to make the batter first. In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar

Once that’s done, crack in your egg and add the vanilla. Mmm I still have some homemade vanilla leftover from someone’s Nana…but I’m running low!

It won’t kill any of us to take a little taste. We’re lookin’ for a nice creamy consistency. Hey! It kinda looks like peanut butter. Eh, or smooth almond butter

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Mix mix mix!

By now, your milk will be nice and curdled. Not being  a professional, I don’t know if that’s really what happened between our milk and lemon juice. I’m just guessing. Definitely looks more like a divorce than a marriage, though! In an alternating fashion, pour milk and flour mixture into the batter

Look at the chunks!

Time for more tasting! I won’t tell if you don’t… Dollop batter onto a greased (or nonstick) cookie sheet with an ice cream scoop. Mine isn’t the clickedy kind. That would be most helpful in my kitchen

Bake your dollops for 10-12 minutes. Repeat until all your batter has disappeared! Let cookies/cakes/whateveryouwannacallthem cool on counter

In the meantime, we can make the orange cream filling! Originally, I was going to make a plain and simple vanilla filling. Then I got the urge to add some lemon. Addict, remember? But then I discovered some orange extract chillin’ in my spice cabinet and decided what the heck! So, take your softened cheese and butter and give them a nice little whirl with your mixer/beater in a bowl

Go ahead and add the vanilla and orange. If you have orange zest, that would be fantastic! At this point, you can go ahead and mix in your rum. All I had on hand was whiskey and wine, neither of which I felt would make a good contribution to my orange cream. No alcohol for us today. Finally, mix in your powdered sugar. Do this a little at a time if you don’t want it to suddenly cloud up into the air and get all over you

Oh boy! I think that was my favorite  part. Of course, another taste test is in order. We got this under control. No bad flavors are going to sneak into this kitchen! Put the filling into the fridge for a spell to help give it some extra body

Almost done! Now that the cookies are cool and the creme is stiff, time to assemble. We’re going to make use of our Ziplocs again. Make a piping bag and swirl the filling onto half of the cookies

Then top it off with the rest of the cookies. Ahhh! We now have a nice little cake sandwich aka a whoopie pie (black moon, gob, big fat oreo, etc)

Enjoy! And don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors. I’m dying to make one with a mint creme! Or perhaps a vanilla cookie with a berry creme for summer. Possibilities. They never get old.

Tijuana


Advertisements

If you could only see the beast you made of me

Those are the opening lines to a song I’m listening to right now. If you’ve never heard of Florence + The Machine, I highly recommend that you check ’em out. A friend of mine introduced me to this indie band a couple years ago and ever since I have kept their songs close at ear on my iPod. Aside from enjoying the music itself, I find the lyrics to be very powerful.  Howl is one of my favorite songs because the lyrics seem so primeval to me. When I listen to it, I feel like I’m hearing an ancient story, a tale of ritual and sacrifice, of longing, lust, and betrayal. Maybe that’s not what they were aiming for. I’m a folklore enthusiast so perhaps my interpretation is a little off, but hey- that’s the beauty of art in all it’s forms.

If you could only see the beast you made of me. Beastly. I feel like that at times. In fact, just last week I was quite disagreeable. I was grumpy, irritable, and down right unpleasant. I blame the moon. She hung plump in the night sky, full as a belly, and wooed me into a state of irrationality. Fortunately, the moon has waned and I’ve returned to my usual amiable self. Thanks to last night’s date-dinner, I’m in a rather loving mood. Do you know what goes well with that sort of mood? Chocolate (said in a throaty acento venezolano)

As a show of my appreciation for that oh-so-yummy lasagna, when I got up this morning I decided to try and make Candice Kumai’s Pretty Delicious Peanut Butter Cups. When I say pretty delicious, I do mean delicioso. For once, I did not alter the recipe, though I have some pretty groovy ideas for next time. Like using dark chocolate. Truth be told, I’ve never been much into chocolate. I always chose vanilla from those giant Neapolitan tubs of ice cream my great grandma kept in her freezer. But I do recognize the lovely qualities that chocolate possesses and every girl needs a chunk of darkness every once in awhile. So, next time I will use deep dark decadent chocolate instead. I might even test out crunchy peanut butter. But in the meantime, recipe courtesy Candice Kumai.

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice crispy cereal
  • Butter
  • powdered sugar

Easy peasy!

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, about 12 ounces. You could do this in the microwave I suppose, but that takes the fun out of using a double boiler. As you can see, mine is very fancy. Seriously, all you need is a pot of boiling water and a bowl that fits on top

Before you know it your chocolate chips will go from this:

To this. So silky and smooth!

Now the fun, messy part. Paint your cupcake tins! I bought mini ones. Some things are better in miniature

I forgot I had smaller paint brushes and tried painting the tins with a considerably large silicone brush. Eventually, I gave up and used a spoon instead. Whatever gets the job done! Am I right or am I right?

Once you have all your tins painted, line them in a muffin pan and go stick them in the fridge for 10 minutes. This is a good time to have a slice of leftover lasagna before you make the filling. Yum. Oh yeah, and there will be leftover chocolate. We need that for later!

Okay, now for the filling. Take your peanut butter (I used almost 1 1/2 cups) and your butter (1 tbs) and put it in a pot over medium heat. Let cook down, stirring, until nice and sleek.

Add rice cereal (about 1 cup) and powdered sugar (1/4-1/3 cup). Mix it all up! Remove from heat

You chocolate painted cupcake tins should be ready by this point. Take them out of the fridge and spoon filling into each cup, about a teaspoon or so (I think I put some emphasis on the so part). You can always go back and add more once all your cups have some of the filling in them

Finally, we are going to take all that leftover chocolate and pipe it over the filling. I don’t have any pipping bags, so I just use ziplocs. Very easy to do

My piping isn’t all that pretty…but I was running out of chocolate! I had to make it last. Good thing I didn’t snack on those chips before I melted them down

All done! Put your finished product back in the fridge for about 30 minutes and serve. These would make a lovely gift for someone I’m sure. Or just a perfect treat for yourself. In my case, it’s a very big thank you!

Très mignon!

Tijuana


Chai Town

Do you know what I’m craving? Some good ol’ chai. I know, I know. Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about a nice warm, cozy cup of chai. It’s summer for goodness sake! It must be 80 degrees outside, 90 inside (we’re playing conservative and haven’t kicked the air-conditioner  on yet) and the humidity is playing havoc with my hair. I suppose I could whip up a soothing glass of iced chai. I much prefer my chai iced anyway. But that just will not do right now. You see, I don’t think it’s the chai at all that I’m craving. I think what I’m really missing right now is the crisp, cool weather that won’t be back again until October. That is, if we don’t have another mild winter (I really need to move to a place where it snows on the regular)! I’m pretty much melting here as I type, longing for cooler temps which would make drinking a hot cup of chai most appropriate. With a slice of spice cake. How about roasted marshmallows over a roaring fire in the den? I’m a December baby. Winter is in my blood folks.

Ah, this was a wonderful fall day. Look at the nice mule

Fortunately, I know the perfect remedy for my sudden autumn nostalgia that won’t involve pouring scalding liquid down my esophagus on this late May day. Cookies! Oh, and I’m not saying just any cookie. No ma’am, I’m talking chai cookies! Mmm won’t that be nice with a frosty glass pitcher of milk. I can taste it already.

Of course, it seems there aren’t very many cookie recipes out there that include chai concentrate. Pumpkin cookies with chai icing, yes. It just so happens that I’m plum out of pumpkin…and I really want some yummy chai please. So we’ll just have to cross our fingers and create our own recipe, thank you kindly.

No problem (or so she says…dun dun duuuuuuun)! So, some ingredients, yes? Dos tazas de harina, un huevo grande, una cuchardita de vainilla…Oh wait! Got Spanish on the brain, haha.

Ingredients en anglais:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice (for autumn’s sake!)
  • 1 stick buttuh (to clarify, that is butter in a husky southern drawl)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp chai concentrate (I might have accidentally spilled a few extra tablespoons in there)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees please. Mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and baking soda in one bowl. Cream together sugar and room temperature buttuh in another bowl. Then add egg, vanilla, chai concentrate, and if you’re anything like me, extra chai concentrate.

Now you can add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Taste as you please before covering your bowl and popping it in the fridge for a bit. Go ahead and relax while you fantasize about your cookies just crying to be baked up.

Two minutes later

Five minutes later

Eleven minutes later

 How long before 30 minutes again…?

Seventeen minutes later

Twenty-five minutes is plenty of time! Some chocolate chips fell into my batter.

Spoon spoonfuls of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet (I understand if you end up eating a quarter of the batter. It happens to the best of us. It’s okay). Bake for 12 minutes or until the cookie looks like it might be done. Let cool and repeat!

Now, since this was the first time I ever made this recipe there is, of course, room for improvement. But my friends all seemed to like these little babies so we’ll file them away in my recipe book. Next time I think I might cut out the sugar and double the brown sugar. You know, just to play around a bit.

Enjoy!

Tijuana