Thursday, February 24, 2011

English Muffins.

If you can pour pancake batter onto a hot griddle, you can make English muffins. I promise you... it's that easy.

I was skeptical at first. When recipes call for yeast and kneading and setting things aside to rise, I get nervous. 

Also I'm an impatient person. Shocking, I know.

But I wanted to bake something new and exciting, something without chocolate or butter or layers of sugary buttercream frosting.

I was watching Biggest Loser at the time. 
Plus this recipe calls for 10 minutes of kneading. 

By hand. 

That counts as exercise, right?

After you let the dough do its thing, it really is simple as tossing them on a griddle and then in the oven for a few extra minutes.

They poof up...
And get golden brown...
And make everything smell like warm, baking bread. I wish I could take a picture of how good my kitchen smelled.
And, if you're lucky, some will come out looking like snarky ninja turtles.
 Feel free to add butter when Jillian's not looking.  

English Muffins

2 1/4 cup bread flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk + 1/4 cup

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add shortening and 3/4 cup buttermilk and mix. Add the extra 1/4 cup buttermilk a little at a time until the dough comes together.

Knead dough by hand for 10 minutes or in a stand mixer for 8 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead the last minute by hand. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Oil a medium bowl or your largest measuring cup and add dough. Turn to coat in oil. Let sit (preferably somewhere warm) until doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll dough out on a floured surface until about 1/2-inch thick. Using a round, 3-inch biscuit counter, cut out muffins and place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray with oil and sprinkle with more cornmeal. 
Cover with plastic wrap and let the muffins rise for about an hour. Again, they rise faster if they're placed somewhere warm.

Heat a griddle to medium heat and preheat oven to 350°F. Add 3 or 4 muffins to the griddle and cook for 5 minutes on each side. When done, place on baking sheet in oven to bake for 6-8 minutes (I baked mine for 6 minutes and they were still a little doughy in the centers. A few minutes longer would've made them perfect). While these are baking, cook the remaining muffins on the griddle and then in the oven. Allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cool. 

Makes 7 English muffins.

Source: Barely adapted from Wilde in the Kitchen.   

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Perfect Birthday & Valentine's Weekend.

Has purple tulips.
Professions of love.
Pink cake batter pancakes.

Picnics in the park.


Pink tulips.


Dinner with family.


Boys who help bake.
Boys who help bake these.
Teddy bears hidden in the car. 

... energy drinks hidden everywhere

3D movies. About gnomes.

More purple tulips!
Getting dressed fancy.

Splitting white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

... stealing all the whipped cream off this cheesecake.


Stealing kisses.

Singing Glee songs at the top of your lungs & not caring.

More wine.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Ganache Truffles.

Need a last minute Valentine's treat? 

After my failtastic attempt at making fancy heart-shaped truffles this Valentine's Day, I was left with two different sort of ganache fillings in my refrigerator, one batch made with a teaspoon of espresso powder for mocha truffles and the other with ground almonds, vanilla, and cocoa powder for a rich almondy truffle. 

And they were just waiting to be eaten with a spoon. 
For breakfast.

So dangerous.

Instead, I rolled the ganache in cocoa powder and a crushed Hershey chocolate bar. Instant truffles! I love when mistakes work out.

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Printable Recipe

Chocolate Truffles
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon espresso or mocha powder, optional

Chocolate Almond Truffles
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder

Whatever you fancy rolling the truffles in (cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, toasted chopped nuts, coconut, ground chocolate bars, etc.)

Place the chocolate, heavy cream, and sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high power until mixture is warm to the touch, about 20-30 seconds. Whisk until smooth and place bowl in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes or until firm enough to scoop out and roll into balls.

Use a melon baller or a teaspoon to scoop out ganache and roll into balls. Roll in desired topping. Eat for breakfast, preferably with white wine, cheesecake, and somebody you love.

Tip: Store truffles in the refrigerator to keep firm.

Source: Idea from Joy of Baking.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mini Chocolate Chip Love Sandwiches.

I've never been one of those girls who hates Valentine's Day. I unashamedly love all the pink and the flowers and the teddy bears and having an excuse to bake heart-shaped things while watching The Notebook
I made these bite-size chocolate chip cookie sandwiches for my boyfriend this past week. 
Because I love him. 

And he loves chocolate chip cookies.
And because I really wanted to use these:

Thankfully they didn't explode all over my kitchen like certain other Valentine treats. 
Aren't they cute?

Since my boyfriend's not too big on super-sugary frostings, I filled them with a marshmallow creme filling for a whoopie pie recipe instead of a buttercream frosting. 
And, of course, I tinted it pink. 
Happy Valentine's Day! 

Mini Chocolate Chip Love Sandwiches

Printable Recipe

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/3 cups Marshmallow Fluff or marshmallow creme
1/4 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream together the shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the shortening mixture in batches, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop out dough and roll into 3/4 or 1-inch balls. Place on a greased baking sheet two inches apart and bake for 9 minutes, or until done.

When the cookies are cool, make the filling. Beat together the butter, shortening, sugar, and marshmallow fluff until well combined. 

Dissolve the salt in the water and add to the marshmallow mixture. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth.

If tinting the filling, carefully drop food coloring in and beat until color is evenly distributed and the color desired. 

Pipe or spread filling onto the flat side of a cookie and press a second cookie on top, twisting it a little to squeeze some of the frosting out of the sides. Then roll the sides in sprinkles!

Source: Idea from Sing For Your Supper. Cookie filling recipe from The Novice Chef Blog.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles.

This Valentine's Day, I attempted to use my new Wilton candy molds to make fancypants heart-shaped truffles and chocolate-covered Oreos. I bought candy melts in all the proper colors (red, pink, white, and dark chocolate), whipped up three different truffle fillings (peanut butter pretzel, chocolate mocha, and chocolate almond), and got to work.

I'm hoping practice makes perfect because the results were not pretty. The candy melts would melt and the squeeze bottles wouldn't squeeze and an hour later, I'd only manage to make 6 Oreos and explode red chocolate all over the kitchen.

Needless to say... I gave up soon after that. Which worked in my favor, because then these happened.
Peanut butter pretzel truffles. They're addictive. They taste like a crunchy peanut butter cup. 

I don't know if you know this, but I love peanut butter cups

Make them this Valentine's Day if you need something fast, easy, and stress-free that doesn't involve exploding chocolate everywhere.

Also: It's my birthday! I'm 24! 

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup crushed pretzels 
Dark chocolate candy melts (or chocolate chips) 

Crush pretzels and mix in a small bowl with the peanut butter. Refrigererate for 20-30 minutes or until set enough to easily roll into balls.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Roll peanut butter into 1-inch balls and set on baking sheet. Freeze until hard. 

Melt chocolate and dip the peanut butter balls in chocolate, shaking off the excess chocolate.. Set on wax paper and return to freezer until set.

Source: How Sweet It Is

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meeting the Pioneer Woman!

Somebody pinch me. Yesterday still doesn't feel real. 
Yesterday Ree Drummond was at The Grove in LA signing books for her Black Heels book tour. I've been looking forward to this day for months. Apparently my birthday is on Friday? I wouldn't know... I've been more excited about meeting my favorite blogger.
I stumbled onto her blog last summer while trying to find a recipe for chocolate sheet cake and, like thousands of others, was instantly drawn in by her down-to-earth writing and stories of  life in the country (cowboys still exist!), her sense of humor, and, of course, her beautiful photography and delicious food. The last thing I ever thought was that I'd end up with this fire lit under me to learn how to make things like homemade cinnamon bread or pound cake. These days I actually wear an apron when I'm feeling particularly domestic. I get excited about measuring cups. I take pictures of food and I blog. What has happened.

I blame Ree. 

After changing my outfit fifteen times, I hit the freeway. LA is three hours from my house. Side note? Thank God for GPS.
It was a beautiful day too and reminded me why I'm still a Southern California girl at heart. Lots of blue and palm trees and ocean. 

I made it to The Grove around 2...
... and stared at this three-story Barnes & Noble in awe for at least seven minutes.
I only wanted my cookbook signed and after much confusion & disagreement with the improperly informed customer service at the bookstore ("It's just a book signing. There's not going to be very many people here."), was told that I couldn't have a wristband & would have to wait in the stand-by line. 

As it turns out, they ran out of wristbands soon after that anyway, so nearly everybody who wasn't there at 9 AM to claim a colored wristband was put in stand-by. Since Ree had promised to stay until every last book was signed, I wasn't too worried. It's all about the experience and anticipation. It would be a letdown to be the first person through and then that's it... it's over.

Since I had two and a half hours to fill until we needed to start lining up, I spent the afternoon walking around The Grove... which if we're being honest, resembles Main Street at Disneyland. 
There were even magic fountains!
My goal was to find the Wonderland Bakery, but I guess I didn't walk far enough cuz I never did find it. 

I did however find this bakery, which made me giggle. 
Another one of my favorite bloggers mentions this store in a lot of her posts. Can I just say that this is a new favorite? If it's possible to register here, I will find a way to immediately be engaged. They sell everything... mini doughnut pans, scone pans, extracts I've never even heard of, even Easter bunny-shaped whoopie pie pans! I'm not joking.
And when I walked past this door, it took all of my willpower not to slip inside it. I felt like I'd found the entrance to Narnia. There were even chefs outfits! I want a chef outfit.
This brought out the little girl in me. I loved American Girl growing up. I had the magazine subscription until at least middle school and the Kirsten doll, whom I've just googled & discovered has been retired. Boo.
At 4:30, I headed back to Barnes & Noble. The signing didn't start until 6, but they were already lining everybody up on the third floor. The stand-byers were lined up on the second floor. 
While I waited in animal nonfiction, it suddenly hit me that I hadn't eaten anything since that morning. With all the waiting & standing around, I won't lie... I got a little grumpy. 
Then about an hour later, a group on the other side of the railing screamed, "REE!!!!!" and that's when the excitement hit. What cheesecake? Apparently she had walked right through the middle of the store & we'd all missed her. 
Another hour later and they moved us up to the third floor and what with all the women and the excitement and the Christina Aguilera being blasted, it felt like one big slumber party. Minus the bleary eyes, hurting feet, and all the books.

Around 8:30... I can finally see her!
It was nearly my turn and all of a sudden I felt like I was back in high school about to give that presentation on Greek mythology that I definitely wasn't prepared for. My fingers got icy-cold like they do when I'm nervous and I briefly considered fleeing.
Watching her with everyone else, she was so friendly and warm. She took the time to talk with every person and answered questions and never stopped smiling or laughing, even when people brought up entire stacks of books for her to sign. She really is exactly as she appears on her blog.

And then it was my turn! The minute I started walking towards her I must have lost the filter between my brain and my mouth because instead of thinking, "I'M SO EXCITED"... I actually said it. To which she laughed and said I was adorable and had me schooch in for a picture. 

As she was signing my book, a thousand thoughts blew through my mind. You're so pretty. Your mini orange muffins are delicious. You inspired me to learn how to bake. Don't judge me, but I've never made your cinnamon rolls. I love your blog. How do you do your hair? I want to be you when I grow up.

Before I could fumble all of this into a sentence, she asked me if I was from around there and I told her no. She asked where I was from & had never heard of my town before so she said, "Is that like west of here? Where is it?" And for a complete second I was so starstruck, with my hands shaking & everything, that I forgot where I was and very intelligently said, "Where am I again? Oh right. LA. North. It's north of here." 

I'm just brilliant like that.

More smalltalk and smiles, nothing ever very intelligent on my part, and then she handed me my book and I left. I was on a Ree-high for at least twenty minutes. It's a wonder I didn't fall down the escalator.
Best day ever.

In the meantime, my cookbook's been stolen/read/bookmarked by my parents. My mom is demanding to know what happens after Ree & her husband met & fell in love and so far they've demanded decided we need to try Marlboro Man's favorite sandwich, the spicy pulled pork, and her macaroni & cheese.  

But first...
I think you know.