Sunday, December 27, 2009

DB: Gingerbread House

Would you believe that I started this gingerbread house two weeks ago, but only put it together last night and decorated it this morning? Well, you should.

I seriously waited two weeks between baking the pieces and putting them together. It really shouldn't have taken me that long, but I just hit a baking slump. Do you ever get those? Where something just goes terribly wrong in the kitchen, and you're afraid to go back for fear of more failure? Well, I do, and I did. But I think I'm alright now. I did some baking this weekend, and it went well. I think I'm back on the horse. How stinky that it happened after all the fun of Christmas baking. Way to go, brain.

Anywho, the December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Fudge Treats

I have had the hardest time finding marshmallows, or marshalades as I usually call them (it's a Homestar Runner thing), while I've been here. I just can't seem to find them anywhere. But luckily, I've got connections. Usually, when somebody goes home or to another country, I solict their help in getting me baking ingredients. So when my friend Will went to Kuwait, I asked for marshmallows, and he brought me back a sack full of them! Hooray! I was so glad and so excited. Now I could make these tempting treats.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TWD: Cafe Volcano Cookies

These were some weirdy cookies for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, chosen by Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making Candied Ginger

Jacob hates ginger. Jacob abhors ginger. Jacob wants to beat ginger up and bury him in the ground under 6 feet of dirt.

Jacob used to have some serious stomach problems when he was younger, and the doctor said the remedy was to eat a piece of fresh ginger every day. So he had to choke down pieces of ginger daily, and I guess it scarred him. He hates the thought of eating ginger, even if it's wrapped in a thick coating of sugar.

So guess what I made?

Aren't I just the most loving-est wife you have ever known?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables

These cookies smell so familiar. They smell just like the cookies that you get in the Christmas tins, the butter cookies that always come in the little paper cases. It was really nice making something that was so familiar and that reminded me of Christmas, which is perfect for this time of year.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara, where you can find the recipe.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chocolate Fudge Truffles

I'm on a roll. Literally. For some reason, I felt the need to make three different types of ball-shaped treats. The first were these bundt balls. And these were the second.

I've been in a really fudgey mood lately, meaning, I want to make me some fudge. And this is so confusing to me. I don't like fudge. I think it's too sweet to be really enjoyable, but I still have really wanted to make it. Weird, huh? But I'm a woman, can't I explain that away with hormones or something?

Well, whatever the reason for this strange desire, it was there. And as always, I gave in. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

DB: Cannolo

Last month, I didn't get the Daring Bakers Challenge completed in time...I was disappointed. And I was determined to get this one done on time. I so did. :)

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TWD: All-in-one Holiday Bundt Balls

This week for Tuesdays with Dorie, I made the All-in-one Holiday Bundt Cake, chosen by Britin of the Nitty Britty.

I know. This does not look like a bundt. You're right, but believe it or not, it did start off that way.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sophia's Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream

Let me tell you about my job.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cake Balls Gone Turkey!

So I saw these pictures from this blog featured on, and I just had to try it for myself.

I wanted an excuse to make cake balls anyway because it just wasn't right for the people of Libya to not partake in the wonderful delights of cake ball-ness.

So I set of to make these little gems. But like everything I do here, things have to be just a little different. I just can't seem to make a recipe here just like I did in the states. But I guess it's good because it forces me to expand my culinary repertoire. They actually do have cake mixes here, Betty Crocker brand, too. But they don't have cans of icing. So I had to do some tweaking on that.

I always like a moist cake ball, so I thought a more liquidy icing would work nicely in these balls. I found the recipe listed below, and I thought it would be nice fit with my yellow cake. I think it turned out pretty well, but it wasn't exactly like cake balls made at home. They reminded me of Texas Sheet Cake, because the icing is very similar in taste.

I tried my hand at decorating these in the turkey fashion, and they came out alright. I think I could have done a little better if I had given it a little more thought. I also think it would have been better if I had some actual candy coloring. Icing coloring just doesn't color chocolate (or bark) as well. So my colors were off. But I wanted to use candy instead of royal icing because I'm not a huge fan of royal icing. I thought, the more candy coating, the better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TWD: Cran (Raisin) Apple Crisps

I have often said that I was going to halve a recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, but I would never remember to actually do it. Ladies and gentlemen, I did it this time! This may seem like nothing for most of you, but I think it's important to celebrate the little victories. It's the same reason that when I have a lot to do, I make a very detailed to-do list. And by detailed, I mean, instead of do the laundry, I say, sort the clothes, wash the clothes, dry the clothes, fold the clothes, put the clothes away, and so on. I do this because I like the feeling of having accomplished something and being able to cross it off of my list. It's so rewarding to me to double triple quadruple cross-out items on my enormously long to-do list. So you know what--I'm going to celebrate this small victory. :)

The TWD I picked for this week was Cran-Apple Crisps, which was originally chosen by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef. Be sure to check out her site for the recipe.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Heart Waffles!

I used to make waffles all the time while I was in college. It was my go-to meal when I didn't like what was being served in the cafeteria. They were always good, and they were something I knew that I wouldn't mind eating or wouldn't give me stomach problems. I used to eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and when there weren't any good desserts, waffles it was. A topping of ice cream and chocolate syrup you had a dessert fit to split...and you better because those things were filling and surely overflowing with unnecessary calories.

But nevertheless, I still love waffles. They are so great in that they are pre-prepared for syrup and butter and other lovely toppings. But now, I never make them, mostly because I have never owned a waffle iron.

Monday, November 9, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Cookies

I know it has been a really long time since I last posted. I would love to say that I have been out saving the world, solving world hunger (but telling no you know the quote?), or something honorable like that.

Nope, not been doing that. Instead I've been celebrating my and my hubby's birthday!

My birthday was on October 28th, and my husband's was on November 2nd. So to celebrate our birthdays, my husband was so wonderful and took me to Florence, Italy! We spent 9 glorious days exploring the Tuscan area and just plain enjoying ourselves.

And then we came back, but my mind was not quite out of vacation mode. I really wanted to get back in the kitchen, but most of me just wanted to get back in bed. Was is it about vacations that makes it relaxing and tiring at the same time? Crazy.

But I'm back and baking. And I have every intention of making up the TWD and DB that I missed. I have not forgotten. Just give me a little bit of time. I'll be back on track in no time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blender Banana Bread

Ever since I can remember, my mom has been making this banana bread. And I've always loved it. It's a perfect loaf of just bananas, no nuts or anything, and it's just plain good!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ICE: Music Ebony and Ivory Cupcakes

Iron Cupcake is back!

I was very excited to see that Iron Cupcake was back after its few months hiatus. And this month's theme was music. We were to create a cupcake centered around or inspired by music.

I decided to go with a song and take my inspiration from that. I played around with a lot of ideas...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato (Pumpkin) Biscuits

It seems like I'm making lots of substitutions lately.  I had actually fully intended to use sweet potatoes in this recipe; I was even excited about it because all I've seen here are purple sweet potatoes. How cool would it have been to have some purple biscuits! But alas, it was not meant to be. I went to the store twice to get some sweet potatoes. The first time the produce section was not open. The second time there were no sweet potatoes. So I grabbed what I hoped to be a pumpkin (it was green, kinda like a watermelon) and decided to switch it up. I was pleasantly surprised not only when I found out it was indeed a pumpkin (or at least a squash with orange flesh) but also when I looked at the Tuesdays with Dorie site and found suggestions on making a pumpkin version.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Whoopie ! Pies!

Sometimes I just get an idea in my head and I cannot get it out for the life of me. This one was making whoopie pies. I have no idea what exactly made me want to make these, but I really, really wanted to. I could not get the idea of making them out of my head. I've never made whoopie pies before, so I have no idea where this urge came from. But it was there, and I had to satiate it.

I was so glad that I did. What I great idea I had! :)

And these were great! They were like Ho-Hos but in a different form.They stayed incredibly moist for a long as we had them (which, incidentally, wasn't very long, but I think it would last pretty long as long as it was well wrapped).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice (Cinnamon) Crumb Muffins

I could not find allspice. I looked, but I could not find it. It probably doesn't help that I can't read hardly any of the labels. So I resorted to cinnamon. But can it really be called a resort? I think I have to say that cinnamon is my favorite spice. It's so versatile and just plain yummy. And I don't just love it because my initials, before I got married, practically spelled cinnamon: CMN. Okay, not quite, but you get the picture. All that to say, I used cinnamon today.

So for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, the recipe chosen, by Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Experimenting with Royal Icing and Sugar Cookies

I'm not a huge fan of sugar cookies. To tell the truth, they are pretty bland. The only thing that redeems them in my book is the fact that they are a blank canvas. There is some amazing sugar cookie art out there, and I wanted to try my hand at it.

I've tried decorating sugar cookies before but never after I learned about the technique of flooding. That was the look I was going for but never could achieve. Until now.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New York Style Cheesecake

While at my parents' house, it was requested by my siblings that I make a cheesecake. They wanted a plain one, and Trisha asked for a peach topping. I personally thought a peach topping would be a little weird, so I bought some raspberries, just in case.

I actually learned how to make cheesecakes from my husband. He made one for me for the first birthday I had after I met. He actually did this whole elaborate thing for me that birthday, because I had said one time that I like surprises. Let me tell you the story, and mind you, this was before we were dating.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD: Split Level Pudding

I'm on time! Hooray!

Today's TWD was picked by Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla. Be sure to check out that site for the recipe.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beet Chocolate Cupcakes

I found these cupcake liners at a store in Tripoli and knew I had to buy them to make some pretty little cupcakes. And the price was so right. It was only 0.750 LYD for a package of 100, which is like $0.60 US dollars. I thought it was a steal! I am definitely going back for some more. The only draw back is that they are a little shorter than normal muffin pans, but luckily for me, in the effort to save space with moving to Libya, I had only packed one 6-hole silicone muffin pan that had holes a little smaller than normal. It was meant to be.

Friday, October 2, 2009

TWD: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

I know this is super late, but I still wanted to post about it anyway. This week's Tuesday with Dorie was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey.

I was supposed to make a chocolate-crunched caramel tart, but I didn't have any nuts, so no crunch, and I was really tired, so I decided to skip the caramel (plus I haven't had good luck with it yet), and I was lazy even further and decided to use my leftover puff pastry for a crust instead of making tart dough, so it wasn't even really a tart.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Goodness Gracious Cake Balls of Fire

I wanted to make cake balls one time before I left Los Angeles. I did not want to leave without Jacob's coworkers experiencing the joy and wonder of the cake ball.

I absolutely love these things. I especially love them straight out of the fridge. Delicious! The only thing is that they are kind of a pain to make. But after all that trouble, the first bite makes it all worth it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

DB: Vols-au-vents

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

This was my first time ever making puff pastry, but I had heard about making it, and I was anxious to try. Not too anxious though (I waited until the very last minute to make these, which I guess is my style.).
It turned out to be easier than I thought it might be, but it required regulated time in the fridge. Waiting is not my speciality, so this was the most difficult part.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bon-Bonning Finds

While I was visiting my parents in Maryland, I got to do my favorite activity with my mom: going bon-bonning. Now this is probably a new term to most of you, but I've grown up with it all my life. It just means that we got to go to thrift stores and try to find some good bargains.

My mother has some kind of bon-bon radar because no matter where we are, where we live or where we visit, she seems to know exactly where the bon-bon shops are. It is incredible. I wish she could come to every place I have lived so that she can show me where the treasure shops are.

Anyways, on this trip, we visited the book bon-bon. It's a part of the library in Olney (where my mom lives), and they sell used books and magazines.

I found these cooking magazines on their shelves. And do you know how much they were? 10 cents a piece! And if you bought 15, which of course I did, you only paid a dollar. Amazing! And these weren't magazines from the dark ages, these were only a few months to a year old. But even if they were older, old recipes rock the house, so any way you look at it, it's a winner.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese (Sour Cream) Pufflets

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie, I actually made while I was still in Los Angeles. These were chosen by Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes. I was trying to clean out my fridge, and I didn't have cottage cheese, but I did have sour cream. So that's what I used.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

So it's the first thing I've baked in Libya, and let me tell you, it was really difficult finding the ingredients and equipment to make these. I'm definitely looking forward to when all my baking supplies arrive from DHL, but they are being really dumb right now. I asked them if I needed to do anything else, and they said no, then, days later, they said that they haven't shipped it yet because they need some other documentation. Argh! But we finally got everything sorted through, and my boxes should be on the way.

So without my regular baking supplies,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TWD: Flaky Apple Turnovers

So I'm a little late with this week's Tuesday's with Dorie. But I blame it on being in another country. This recipe was chosen by Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen. Be sure to check out her blog for the recipe, because these are delicious!


Monday, September 14, 2009

A Caribbean Dinner and My Sister

This is my sister, Trisha.And I'm sure she'll be really pleased that I put this picture up, but I really could have chosen much worse.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Balsamic Strawberry Jam Session

We're in Libya now!

This creation came out of the necessity of cleaning out my freezer right before we left for Libya. I had some strawberries that I had frozen earlier this summer in there, and I was anxious to use them before I left. And I thought a jam would be a perfect solution.

I've never made jam before, but always wanted to try. I didn't have any canning equipment, but that was okay because I wasn't planning on keeping it long. I ended up using almost all of it in my Cottage Cheese Pufflets that I made for TWD (coming soon).

But even though this was my first time, I thought the jam turned out awesome. I didn't have any pectin, and I didn't want to buy any, so I searched for a recipe that didn't call for any, and I came across this recipe. It called for balsamic vinegar, which I was a little hesitant doing, especially when I smelled it while cooking, but it turned out just fine, good in fact.

This came together quite easily, and it actually set up like a jam. I was so pleased. And the flavor was great, too. Easy and tasty, you can't beat that combination. So try this recipe out!

Easy Balsamic Strawberry Jam Recipe
from Savory Sweet Life

2 cups of chopped strawberries
1 cup of sugar
2 Tbl. of balsamic vinegar

Cook strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a medium pan on med heat for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally. I usually eye-ball the thickness of the sauce to determine when it is done. When the jam mixture has reduced to the consistency of thick honey or 220 degrees F. ( I don't know if mine ever got to a thick honey stage, but I waited until it thoroughly coated the spoon and tried to remember what heated up jam looked like.) Remove from heat and allow to cool. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Souffle

Today I am actually on a plane to Libya, but this is what I did before I left. Enjoy!

This was my first time making a sweet souffle, so I was really excited when it came up in the TWD rotation. Check out Susan's blog She's Becoming DoughMessTic to get the recipe. I was excited because they always look so nice, and I've always wanted to try them. So try them I did.

But...there's a problem. The recipe was for one big souffle, but I really did not want to do that because my husband and I just can't eat that much in one sitting, and the idea of reheating sunken souffle was not really appealing to me. So I wanted to do individual souffles. The only problem is, I don't have ramekins. I've always wanted to get some, but I never have. So, I needed to get some.

I'm doing a lot of baking trying to get ready to leave, so I wanted to make this but again needed ramekins. I didn't have time to drive somewhere to get them, so I walked to the Asian market that is just down the street from my apartment. There I found a cute tea set that was the right price, and I just prayed that it would be oven safe. Thankfully, my prayers were answered, and I got nice little souffles.

I thought I would be super impressed with these little cakes, but I really wasn't. The cake was just "okay" to me and I wanted it to be out of this world. It just needed to be more decadent to me. And I really wished I had halved the recipe because my husband and I are still working on it.

But now I know, and I've conquered the sweet souffle. Now let's see if I can conquer life in Libya. :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pear Butter (Round Three: Me vs. Fruit Decay)

This is the final round, for a while at least, of me versus fruit decay, and I must say, I totally won this round. I actually got to the pears in this pear butter before they started to go. I'm really quite proud of myself.

I saw this on foodgawker and thought it would be perfect for the pears that had been sitting on my counter. And I was right.

This recipe produces a nice fragrant sauce that is great for putting on yogurt. It didn't think it was quite thick enough to be labeled a fruit butter, but I was still happy with the results.

Pear Butter
from Feasting on Art

4 TB apple juice (I didn't have it so I used water)
1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice, divided
5 large ripe pears
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp coarse kosher salt

Add the apple juice and 1/2 TB of lemon juice in a large pot. Prepare pears by peeling, coring, and chopping into 1/2 inch pieces. To prevent the pears from browning, add to the juice mixture as soon as you mix pears into juice mixture in pot as soon as pears are cut, to prevent browning.

Over high heat cook the fruit until the juices begin to boil. Stir continuously for about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer until the pears are tender. Continue to stir frequently for an additional 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and pass the pear through a sieve or food mill back into the pot. Add the remaining lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Over medium heat bring back to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Reduce heat and continue to simmer until thickened and reduced to 2 cups. Be sure to stir ever couple of minutes to prevent the bottom from burning.

Pour the hot mixture into sterilized canning jars. Leave 1/4 of an inch of space from the top. Wipe the rim clean with a damp cloth and screw on the lids. Process in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes. Will keep in a dark cool place for 1 year.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TWD: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

Today's Tuesday with Dorie is a great combination of cheesecake a brownie, chocolate and coffee. It was chosen by Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell. Check out her blog for the recipe. Be sure to check out the other TWD bakers to see how theirs turned out.

I decided, like usual, to make it for Jacob's work, so instead of baking it in a 9x9 pan, I used doubled the recipe and put it in my large jelly roll pan. This produced a thinner than intended bar, but I think the proportions turned out well.

I realized later that the point where I poured the cheesecake mixture in made the brownie spread away to almost nothing, so if I did it again, I would pour small amounts around the pan.

I also didn't do the sour cream topping. I was going to, and I had grand dreams of piping fleur di lis on them to make them classy and creamy, but... I made this right before I left for my parents house and I simply did not have the time to do it without missing my plane. I made these early because I'm trying to get it all ready for when I move to Libya in one week exactly. I don't know how I'm going to bake over there, and I expect that it might take me a little time to figure that out, so I'm trying not to fall behind.

Also, as a result of barely getting them made, I didn't get to try them. It's quite a bummer because based on my husband, his coworkers, and other TWDers, it seems like a missed out on a scrumptious treat. I guess I'll just have to drool over the pictures until I get to make it again.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Peach Ice Cream (Round Two: Me vs. Fruit Decay)

So I mentioned in an earlier post, and I was fighting mold on my fruit. Jacob salvaged the peaches, and I made a galette, and then I made ice cream.

This is my second time making ice cream, and let me tell you, I need to invest in an ice cream maker. I'm a terrible ice cream cooker, at least using the no machine way. I forget about the ice cream, and then it turns into ice crystals. And so instead of peach ice cream, we got a milky-ish peach icee.

I think I would have liked it a little better if I had skinned the peaches before putting them in the ice cream because I didn't really like the texture of the skin, although it did add a pretty color.

I tried to make it look creamier in the picture, but there's only so much I can do. Nevertheless, I bet this is a really great recipe. You can find the recipe here, along with some really appetizing pictures. You could probably whip this up in no time have a creamy luscious ice cream. Maybe I could too, with a little mechanical help.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

DB: Dobos Torte (My first challenge!)

I joined Daring Bakers, and this is my first challenge. I was very excited to get into this group, but I must say, I was a little intimidated by the dessert we were to make. The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Let me tell ya, there is a reason why this is called a challenge. I don't think I've ever spent so much time to make a cake. There are a lot of steps.

You have to make the sponge cake mixture.
You have to individually bake the really thin sponge pieces.
You have to carefully peel the thin cakes off of the parchment paper.
You have to trim the cakes.
You have to make the buttercream.
You have to skin the hazelnuts. (I suppose this could have be
en avoided if I had bought the unpeeled ones, but that's beside the point.)
You have to toast the hazelnuts.
You have to make the caramel.
You have to struggle for ages trying to get the caramel/cake pieces apart.
You have to ice in between each layer.

You have to decorate the cake.
You have to wonder how in the world other people made it look so easy and look so nice. have to eat it.

After all of the struggles, the end result was really quite nice. Jacob said it was better than he thought it was going to be. He had sneaked some of my cake remains and thought the cake was going to be quite bland. But the combination of the cake with the buttercream really gave it depth. I have to say, though, my favorite bites included the chopped hazelnuts that I used to decorate the sides. I guess it reminds me of Nutella, but I felt the cake really came together in those bites. I would have liked to used the hazelnuts throughout the cake.

As for complaints, (I've got to vent somewhere) I did not really like this buttercream recipe. It was kinda melty at room temperature, and I felt like it could have been more chocolatey. Perhaps a ganache would have been nice. Or maybe add a few ounces more chocolate to the buttercream. But I didn't really like the method of making this buttercream, though. It was time consuming, and very hard to get smooth. And then there was the caramel. I cringed when I saw that it was part of this recipe, but wanting to be a good Daring Baker, I did it. And I found out a cringed for a reason. How is it that caramel made at home tastes so bitter. And it was sticky. And it was nearly impossible to get apart from the parchment paper. There has got to be a better way get pretty amber colored decorations than that.

So of the other Daring Bakers did some other flavor combinations, and I hope that someday, I'll get around to trying one or two.