The Sweetest Week- Ever.

There were some pretty incredible and edible things going on in blog world this week.  Here are a few of my favorite sweet treats!

Food Rocks Man made the most beautiful Blanc Manger with Strawberries and Sponge Cake.  It  looks light, delicate and flawless.  I love the way he took an great Dorie Greenspan recipe and made it his own.  He rocks.  I can’t lie.

Mevrouw Cupcake made rustic Buttermilk Biscuits.  The picture literally made my mouth water.  Throw in some butter and jam and I’d be set for life.  Seriously… for life.  Mari says it’s the only biscuit recipe I’ll ever need, and from the looks of the photo, I’m inclined to believe her. 

Holly at Phemomenon put together a dangerous combination-  Raspberry Spiked Brownies and Vanilla Frozen Custard.  The dark chocolate brownies are dotted with fresh raspberries and the vanilla ice cream is too rich to be called ice cream,  so Holly calls it a frozen custard.  Heaven!  My reason #78 to get out of bed in the morning- warm brownies and vanilla ice cream, so clearly this entry was one of my favorites.

Thanks for the great recipes and inspiration.  It’s a sweet life!

Yes, there’s pie under all that goodness.

Ok everyone… take a deep breath.  It’s time for pie!

This beast of a pie is Peabody’s Grandmother’s Lime Conspiracy Pie with marshmallows.

It is a result of the convergence of several things in my mind and in my pantry.

A friend mentioned a pie topped with tiny colorful marshmallows.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  On the same day, Peabody posted a recipe for the most amazing and bizarre lime jello salad.  The fruity marshmallows were on sale at the grocery and the rest of the ingredients practically jumped out of the pantry.  I put everything on hold.  I just had to make this pie.

And then, this pie took on a life of it’s own.  I felt like Dr Frankenstein, except my pie didn’t learn compassion or love.  Nonetheless it sat there in my fridge with it’s colorful marshmallows and sweet oozing topping, practically begging to be touched up and gawked at.  And what a camera whore… don’t even get me started on that!

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Low-Fat Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Remember those Low Fat Chocolate Muffins I was working on last week?  Well I’ve found a winner!  These Two Bite Chocolate Chunk Muffins are sure to satisfy that nagging chocolate craving.  Now, if you have a craving for something like… I dunno… dark chocolate cheesecake with extra thick hot fudge, then I suggest you kindly decline one of these muffins and go find that cheesecake.  That sounds like a no nonsense craving.  But if a light, chocolatey bite is just what you need, then these will certainly do the trick.

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What’s the best salt for baking?

It’s possible that you’ve never even considered the question of salt, but salt in an essential component in baking.  Sure, you may only add 1/2 a teaspoon at a time to your baked goods, but don’t take salt for granted!  Salt accentuates the flavor of bakes goods.  It particularly enhances the flavors of butter, and flour, and salt works wonders in a recipe with chocolate!

In bread baking, salt helps the gluten hold more water and carbon dioxide.  Did you know that it also creates a stronger and tighter crumb.

There are three major types of salt in stores.  How do you choose?

Jump on over, let’s talk salt!

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Granola Bar Experiment Turned Ooey Gooey Breakfast Cereal

It all started out so beautiful and promising- with diced dried fruit, wholesome nuts and old-fashioned oats. I was my day away from the bakery, and I thought I’d use my kitchen to experiment with homemade granola bars. I seem to have trouble eating normally, standing on my feet all day, working in front of a mixing bowl. I notice that I’ll turn occasional bites of dough into a meal. To help solve my intake dilemma, I thought I’d make granola bars to have on hand when hunger strikes but break time does not.I had the greatest of intentions, and the stickiest of results. Read more

Strawberry Ricotta Cupcakes

This morning I started the day thinking about Easter as a child.  It was the holiday as exciting as Christmas.  There were personalized Easter baskets filled with candies and chocolates on a bed of fake plastic grass.  There was always some sort of delicious ham and potato meal  And the Easter egg hunt.  Oh… the hunt!  The hunt is the sole reason I could sit through church is my Easter dress, itchy tights and Sunday shoes.  It was my little sister and I tearing through the house and backyard trying to find as many plastic eggs as we could.  It was brutal, and there was no mercy.  Flower beds were trampled, the house cat was scared from its house, tears were shed… it was the hunt, and it was serious.  The coveted Easter eggs to find of the hunt were the silent one.  Silent?  Yes!  Without the rattle of little chocolate candies, we knew  those particular eggs were filled with cash.  Oh how my sister and I would fight for those eggs.  Thinking about it now,  I have to shake my head at what greedy little children we must have been. Read more

Corn and Orange- the muffin

Can I get away with calling this an Easter muffin?  Easter bunnies eat corn.  Don’t they?  Well, if they existed, they’d eat corn… right?

Didn’t Bugs Bunny eat corn?  No, that was carrots.  Oh crap.  It was carrots, not corn.  And here I am with Corn and Orange Muffins on Easter weekend.

I’ll admit, this is a little awkward.

And now I just feel silly. Carrots. Not corn.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I often find myself with several bags of chocolate chips roaming freely in my cabinets. Today I found large milk chocolate chips, mini semi-sweet chips and white chocolate chips. When I bake cookies, I usually chop chocolate from a large bar of good chocolate, so it’s strange that I would find so many varieties of chips in my life. Well, life gave me chips, and I made cookies. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

I’ll be the first to admit that I have gotten prematurely excited about strawberry season.  I’ve already played with strawberry sugar paper, and here I am with strawberry ice cream.  It’s not even April! Strawberries aren’t at their peak flavor yet, but I see baskets of them in every market I visit.  I just can’t help myself, so I buy and I bake.  I should tell you now-  it’s going to be a long berry season.  Long, glorious and delicious!

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Baker’s Day Off

I took a day away from the kitchen yesterday, yet still found myself with a cupcake in hand.  It figures-I’m never too far away from a sweet treat, whether it’s baked by me or one of my favorite Los Angeles bakeries.

This mini chocolate raspberry cupcake is from Vanilla Bake Shop in Santa Monica.  It’s a chocolate cupcake with raspberry jam filling and a dark chocolate ganache frosting.  There seemed to be more jam than cake in this cupcake, but the frosting was thick, rich and incredibly delicious.

Vanilla Bake Shop has the most darling array of mini cupcakes.  This is called Mom’s Birthday Cake.  It’s delicious, with golden cake and buttery chocolate frosting. All in flavors remind me of  something that would come out of my Dad’s oven- banana cake, red velvet cake, spiced carrot cake.  All the options are apporachable, and elevated with a clean and hip design.    Good things are happening at Vanilla, and at $5 for 3 mini cupcakes, these treats feel like a pretty sweet deal.

Besides cupcakes, I found the most delicious (oh how I wish they were edible) bath confections.

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Apricot Cornmeal Cookies

Slice and bake sugar cookies are so much fun to play around with. If you can dream it up, you can throw it in sugar cookies. This time around I chose sweet dried apricots and cornmeal for crunch.

I always have a log of sugar cookie dough stashed in the freezer for those moments when I need a quick birthday gift. Note about me: I terrible at remembering birthdays. I absolutely LOVE birthdays, but selfishly, only seem to remember my own. I’m pretty sure this makes me a jerk. For this, I am sorry.

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Cream Cheese Frosting 101

These are simple Lemon Scented Buttermilk Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting, decorated with fondant flowers and edible pearls.

Cream cheese frosting is one of my favorite toppings for cakes and cupcakes!  From citrus scented cakes, to rich chocolate cupcakes, cream cheese frosting is a decadent and versatile cake topping.

Cream cheese frosting is also fairly easy to make.  But what happens when cream cheese frosting goes wrong?

Have you ever found yourself with a mixing bowl full of curdled cream cheese frosting?  Ugh! How frustrating!  It’s more than frustrating… it’s an outrage, and I’m here to get to the bottom of it.

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Hello, Spring. Hello, Figs!

Spring has sprung and figs are growing! Their season is still a few months away, but I had to get a picture of these budding beauties in my friend’s backyard.

It’s possible that you may not understand my deep affection for figs. They are my favorite food, without hesitation. Figs are divine. Cosmic. They can do no wrong. Have you ever had a fresh fig? A bite into a good fig simultaneously sends three sign to my brain- sweet. purple. love. Call me crazy, but figs just have a hold on me.

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How to Frost a Cake- in 10 pictures.

Frosting a two layer cake doesn’t have to be daunting.  You don’t have to be a math genius, or an abundantly creative person.  It’s just cake!  You’ll just need a plane cake, some frosting, a smile on your face, and a few basic kitchen supplies.

Ok, the smile is optional, but it generally helps.

Make the jump and let’s frost a cake!

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Red Velvet Whopper- the cupcake

How do I describe the taste of Red Velvet cake?  Well, it’s not vanilla cake,  but it’s certainly not all chocolate.  Red Velvet cake, for lack of a more creative vocabulary, tastes like sweet red cake.  Without rich and decadent frosting, this cake is light, moist, quite tasty and yes, red.  My favorite Red Velvet cake is relentlessly smothered in brown sugar cream cheese frosting.  The recipe for both just a jump away.

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Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie Cake

The title to both this post and this dessert is a little hum drum.  Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie Cake… it just doesn’t set off fireworks in my head.  And frankly, I always feel a bit off put when apostrophes are in strange places (here I am considering s’ strange).  I was an English major in college, and I still just feel put out with the apostrophe after the s.  I actually have to think about the Pie Cake, and who, and how many Grandmothers it belongs to.  It’s a lot. I know!  Well let’s just clear things up right now and say that this Apple Pie Cake belongs to many Russian Grandmothers.  That’s what the whole s’ was trying to tell us.

I would also like to informally change the name of this recipe to The Apple Pie Cake that belongs to Many Russian Grandmothers.  I don’t think Dorie will mind.

Grammar lesson, over.

Recipe and more cake talk after the big jump.

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Honey Pistachio Biscotti

With these Honey Pistachio Biscotti, I would like a do-over.  Please and thank you.  You know what a do-over is: another chance, a big pink eraser for life, apple Z on a Mac.  See, this biscotti recipe called for dried cranberries to accompany the pistachios.  Cranberries would have been lovely, right?  Well I was completely out, and couldn’t muster up the gumption to get to the store to buy any.  Well that was a mistake, and as mention before, I would like a do-over.

Here are a few other things I would like a do-over on… since I’m here-

-Dressing up as an Old Granny for Halloween when I was 17.  That was the year when all the female costumes got a little more risque.  I didn’t get the memo that French maid and slutty witch were in fashion, and it was just awkward.  Who wants an Old Granny at a Halloween party?  I think it was my Mom’s idea.  Do-over please.

– Cheating on a spelling test when I was in 5th grade.  I was a horrible cheater and would have done better on the test if I had just tried myself.

-Not telling Hayden, my first crush that I was was dreamy eyed over him.  Those were back in the days when my bangs were doing strange things with hairspray… yea.  Do-over on both the secret crush and the bangs please.

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The Sweetest Week Ever- Cakes

The Whopper.  The Red Velvet Whopper is a three layer red velvet cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting.  The sides are decorated with dried red velvet cake crumbs and royal blue dots.  She’s a beauty.  But this post isn’ really about the Whopper, it’s about all of the beautiful cakes in blog land this week.  Here are a few of my favorites!

 Amanda of Slow Like Honey made a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Cups on the inside and outside.  It’s outta control.  I think it might be criminal.  Amanda’s got a great site, fun pictures, and she loves Fionna Apple as much as I do.

Gigi of Gigi Cakes made a Banana Dunce De Leche Cake!  Think banana bread with deliciously sweet caramel and mascarpone icing.  It’s inspired!  Gigi’s is one of my favorite sites, her treats are always perfectly gorgeous! 

Deeba of Passionate About Baking created a Chocolate Orange Almond Gateau!  Her cake decoration style is very unique, and just a delight!  She posts everyday and always has great stories about her adventures in the kitchen feeding her kiddies. 

It’s been another sweet week!  Now get in that kitchen and make some cakes! 


Ode to my Bench Knife

I’m not a kitchen equipment junkie.  I more of a kitchen minimalist.  I really couldn’t do without just a few things:  stainless steel mixing bowls, my darling Kitchen Aid, a cast iron skillet, and good metal measuring cupshigh temperature spatulas and my brilliant bench knife.

Don’t have a bench knife?  Well you should!  A bench knife is a 3-inch by 6- inch smooth piece of metal topped with a molded plastic or wood gripping handle. Don’t be fooled by the name, the edge of this piece of metal isn’t sharp like a  cutting knife, but it can still work its way around the kitchen.  It’s great for dividing dough, slicing refrigerator cookies and leveling off measured ingredients like flour and baking soda.  Some bench knives have measurements in inches along the cutting edge.  How handy is that!?   It’s also great for cleaning off counters and tables that might have bits of dough or flour on them.  It’s a simple and efficient tool that can be used as many ways as you can think up!  It’s a real gem!

Cinnamon Rolls- Sugar and Spice

I have a confession to make.  It’s about cinnamon rolls.  I love these gooey little treats to pieces, but I only eat the center. That’s it, just the center coil.  Why?  That’s where all the goodness is!  I see the rest of the cinnamon roll as protection for the precious, beyond delicious center.  I always feel wasteful, but someone always comes along and gladly eat the shamelessly discarded scraps.

Recently McDonalds came out with a dessert that tries to simulate the center cinnamon roll euphoria.  Without openly admitting that I’ve actually enjoyed something from McDonalds, I will say that this dessert (which I think only costs a dollar) is served warm, and full of cinnamon and tenderness… and lots of sweet white frosting type stuff.  I won’t say it’s delicious, but I will say this: warm, cinnamon, sweet, 2:30am, 24 hour drive through, plastic fork, disposable container, no dishes, no evidence.

But if you have the time and inclination, these cinnamon rolls are a dream.

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