Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Ice Cream Base from Heaven

I prefer making sweet things. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and, when I'm feeling really indulgent, ice cream. But you can't have a good peanut-butter banana or brown-sugar ice cream without a solid base. And that's where Ben & Jerry come in, with their wonderful book.

This is my ice-cream base bible. They have great recipes, too, but ice cream is something you can get creative with, so it's a rare occasion that I follow the actual recipes. I would advise you to do the same, once you're comfortable enough with it.

Anyway, here's the base that I swear by:

  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Milk
First, you want to whisk those eggs until they're pale and fluffy and gorgeous. Then, slowly whisk in the sugar. You'll end up with this decadently pale and creamy concoction. Then, whisk in the cream and milk, carefully, so as not to splash this glorious soup all over your prep area.

That's it. That's the ice cream base. No cooking necessary. I mean, you might have to cook or melt the things you decide to add to it, but the base couldn't be any simpler.

Try it. Please. Just make sure you have room in your freezer and ice cream maker or large tub that fits in your freezer, and don't mind running an extra mile or two of five to work off the incredibly bad for you ice cream you'll never stop eating.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Whatever's in the Fridge Stir-Fry

It would seem that impromptu dinners are becoming a thing now that I'm spending less time at home, and more time gallivanting about with friends and such. Nothing wrong with any of these things, unless you're confronted with making dinner and have absolutely no time to plan or grocery shop. Which actually isn't that bad, when you've got Mother Superior's wok, or really just a large skillet, and some imagination.

For this round of Whatever's in the Fridge Stir-Fry, I used:

  • 3 raw Chicken Breasts, sliced into disc-like pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers, cut into squares
  • 1 small Broccoli head, cut into florets
  • 1 Carrot, but use more if you can, julienned
  • Jasmine Rice
This was the base for the stir fry. Basically, after everything is cut up, throw all the veggies into the wok with some very hot (temperature wise) peanut oil. When the bell pepper chunks are tender and the broccoli loses that raw taste, dump the veggies into a dish and add more oil to the wok, and then the chicken, in a single layer. This way it all cooks nice and evenly. When the chicken is done, dump it in the dish with the veggies, and take a trip to flavor town.

To get to flavor town, you'll need:

  • 4 Scallions, the whites chopped and greens sliced
  • 3 Garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Ginger, peeled and chopped
When your chicken and veggies are done, hit the wok with more oil and throw this stuff, excluding the scallion greens, in there, stirring it like a mad man until it's fragrant. Then throw the chicken and veggies back in and take a side-trip on your trip to flavor town.

For the side-trip, you'll need:

  • 6 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
  • 6 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons Rice Vinegar 
Whisk all those together to make a lovely little sauce, which you'll throw in with your chicken and veggies and original flavor town subjects. Work this all together in your wok until the sauce is thickened. And easy way to tell it's done thickening is when it starts bubbling/boiling in the bottom of the pan. That's as thick as it'll get right there. Then just toss this back in the dish, or a serving vessel, and plate it over the jasmine rice that was mentioned earlier. If you're feeling fancy, garnish with the scallion greens and eat it with chopsticks. Just because.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Impromptu Cupcakes for Dire Situations

Saint Patrick's Day. Not my favorite holiday, because it means corned beef and cabbage at Mother Superior's table. And, this year, the addition of a boyfriend meeting Father Superior. I'm still not clear on how this came together, or why I thought cupcakes would diffuse the situation. But that's not important here. The fact that these were hands down the prettiest, most feminine cupcakes that've ever come out of this kitchen is important.

For the cupcake, I used the same cake recipe from the previous post, except I substituted white sugar for the light brown for a lighter, sweeter flavor. I also nixed the cinnamon and other spices. I didn't want those flavors competing with the topping.
Before. Photo by J.Cust
After. Photo by J.Cust
Now, I'm going to apologize in advance for this vague recipe. I was in "Cocaine Driven Martha Stewart" mode and just wanted to crank something out in the short time I had before worlds crashed together. Just bear with me, okay?

For this impromptu topping, I think I used:

  • About 2 cups Frozen Raspberries
  • 1/2 a Lemon's worth of juice 
  • Possibly 3 tablespoons White Sugar  
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon Unflavored Gelatin
  • Heavy Cream
In a medium saucepan, I threw together the raspberries, lemon juice, sugar, and a splash of water to keep it loose. Then, on medium-low heat, I mashed it all together with a whisk. Keep whisking this stuff until it turns into a seedy syrup. Take it off the heat and pour it through a strainer. You can either wait for it to drip through by itself, or whisk it some more, until all that's left in the strainer are the raspberry seeds. In your bowl you'll have a very simple raspberry syrup. At this point, sprinkle your gelatin over your syrup and let it set up for... I think I did ten minutes before stirring it up. Read the directions on your gelatin packet, to be safe, though.
This... Photo by J.Cust
...turns into this. Photo by J.Cust
While the gelatin is doing whatever it does, start whipping your cream. You can add a little sugar if you want, but the tartness of this mousse/topping/frosting really compliments the cake. Anyway, whip the cream until it's fairly stiff, and then start folding your gelatin-syrup mixture in. I did it in three additions, and then, with a chilled attachment, whipped it all together with the stand mixer to get it stiff enough to pipe. You don't want butter, mind, just a really thick whipped cream/mousse thing. Eventually, you can have something life the following, that hasn't be mashed by unceremonious saran-wrapping.
Sorry... Photo by J.Cust
For... Photo by J.Cust
The... Photo by J.Cust
Lighting. And the fact that this one was partially squished
by some saran wrap. Photo by J.Cust

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Make Your SO an Apologetic "Ditched You on Your Birthday" Cake

It was my boyfriend’s birthday a few weeks ago, and I forgot. No. Not forgot. Forgot and blew off. The next day, upon realizing what I’d done, I took action, in the form of a cake no one can deny. Seriously, I’ve never had a person turn this masterpiece down. Ever.

Anyway, for the cake, you’ll need:
  • 1 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 ¾ cups Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • ¾ cups Cocoa Powder, preferably Ghirardelli
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Poweder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Strong, Freshly Brewed Coffee, chilled
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • ½ cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Seeing as this was just for my boyfriend and not a crowd, I opted for a small springform pan, and a few cupcakes to appease some slightly jealous parents. With the springform, like all cake pans, I buttered that sucker, then lined the bottom with parchment paper, buttered that, and dusted the whole thing with flour. Just to be safe.
Photo by J.Cust
And the easiest way to chill the coffee is pouring it into a small metal bowl and placing that into a larger metal bowl full of ice and water. The metal conducts the cold better, and the coffee will be nice and cool, so there isn’t any egg-scrambling later in the process.
Photo by J.Cust
Preheat the oven to 350, too, while you’re at it.

At this point, combine the AP flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. If you want, sift everything but the sugar together to eliminate lumps and get a head start on the combining process. Then work the brown sugar in with your hands, to keep the lumps out. It’ll be kind of grainy and wonderful.
Photo by J.Cust
When you’re dry ingredients are combined, add the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and at least one teaspoon of vanilla. I usually end up adding a bit more. This is also where you can get creative with spices. I always add a solid dash or two or three of cinnamon, and occasionally some freshly grated nutmeg or some powdered ginger. This time I stuck with the cinnamon and nutmeg, but seriously, play with it.
Photo by J.Cust
When this is all mixed together, it’ll be very thin and smooth, like a really thick, dark chocolate milk. This does not mean you can drink it straight. Bake it first, people. And the timing for this will vary. For cupcakes, and with our stove, it’s an even twenty minutes. Depending on the size and depth of the pan and oven you use, the time will be different, so set reminders and trust your nose. And toothpicks. I think I’ve said it before, but a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out spotless if the cake is done.
Photo by J.Cust
Anyway, while it’s baking, you can work on the frosting.

I went with a terribly simple peanut butter frosting in this case:

  • 2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Milk

Here, you’ll want to cream the butter and peanut butter together until it looks like a paler version of peanut butter. Then add the powdered sugar so it holds up, vanilla extract to taste, and a little milk so it’ll spread and pipe nicely.
Photo by J.Cust
Then, you know, when your cake is done, let it cool, trim it up, and frost and pipe to your heart’s content. And then give it to your scorned lover and hope they’ll accept it’s chocolaty decadence as an apology.
Cut it up, level it out, eat the scraps. Photo by J.Cust
The bottom layer. Photo by J.Cust
The bottom layer with frosting. Photo by J.Cust
All the layers, with frosting everywhere. Photo by J.Cust
Moved to a plate begrudgingly and decorated with the
worst piping I've ever let out of the kitchen. Photo by J.Cust 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thank You, So Very Much

While trolling around to find the food shelf life image from the previous post, I had the opportunity to poke around While meandering about, I stumbled upon their food tab, which opened up an astounding slew of various graphics relating to food.

Some featured the "beef" lasagna debacle, other pie charts on pie. A few appeared to be in foreign languages, but other than that, all the graphics were very accessible. So, in other words, if you're bored and want to giggle at creative graphs and charts about food, visit the food portion of the site.

Do it. Do it now.


This could be helpful. Maybe. Thanks to and Lindsay Snow Osborn. For a larger version of the image, click here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

That's Enough Internet for Today...

I'm not sure if this horrifies, sickens, or delights my childish instincts...

Thanks to for this monstrosity. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How to Properly Mail Your Friend a Cake

What you'll need:

  • 1-1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 a Lemon's Worth of Zest, if you so desire
  • 1 to 1-1/2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
  • 1/2 Cup or 1 Stick Butter
  • 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the center.

Before you start anything else, find a pan. Since I was mailing this, a completely optional step, I used a loaf pan somewhere around 9"x5"x3". When you've found you desired pan, butter and then flour said pan. This guarantees a clean break-up. Your pan should eventually look like this:
Buttered, floured loaf pan. Photo by J.Cust
Now you can start baking. 

In a medium bowl, combine the AP flour, baking powder, and salt. Some people advise setting aside a tablespoon of this mixture to coat the berries so they don't sink while baking. It's an extra step I've never done, because I've never had berries sink. Either way works.
AP, BP, and salt. Photo by J.Cust
Melt your butter. Most people go for room temp butter, but it's easier, with this recipe at least, just to melt the whole stick. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Then beat in your eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. You can also add your lemon zest at this point.
Butter sugar, before beating in eggs and vanilla. Photo by J.Cust
Butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Photo by J.Cust
Now add you flour mixture and milk in batches. Flour, milk, flour, milk, flour. Make sure you mix well between each addition. At times, the batter will look...questionable... but never fear, it's part of the process.
Flour. Photo by J.Cust
Milk. Photo by J.Cust
All together! Photo by J.Cust
Now loose the whisk, and grab a spatula. This is where you want to be gentle, and fold in your blueberries. Those glorious, glorious berries. 
Frozen berries. Photo by J.Cust
Frozen berries on the batter. Photo by J.Cust
Frozen berries in the batter. Photo by J.Cust
Scrape your batter in the pan. Level it out, either with the spatula or by banging the pan on the counter a few times. The banging method has the added benefit of getting out any air bubbles, although this is a pretty thick batter where air bubbles don't have that much of an influence. 
In the pan we go. Photo by J.Cust
Pop that sucker in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes and bake until the cake is golden brown, and the toothpick you insert into the middle comes out clean. This is where it helps to know your oven. You might have to go over or under the time, so just keep your nose and eye on the cake. 
Halfway through the baking process. Photo by J.Cust
Baked and ready to come out. Photo by J.Cust
Out of the pan and gorgeous. Photo by J.Cust
TELL ME I'M PRETTY. Photo by J.Cust