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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Friday, March 31, 2006


I found myself with some free time this afternoon, and instead of riding my bike like I meant to, I decided I wanted to bake. I pulled out Small Batch Baking and flipped through the recipes that I had marked to try. I settled on "Just Plain Good Cupcakes" because I had all the ingredients and because there was a decorating idea in the April 2006 issue of Real Simple magazine that I wanted to try.

Carefully cut the lid off the cupcake and spread a spoonful of jam onto the cupcake. Use a small cookie cutter to stamp a shape out of the lid. My hearts didn't cut as cleanly as I pictured they would. (Yes, those are hearts. Use your imagination a little, wouldya?) Sprinkle the lids with powdered sugar and carefully place them back onto the cupcakes.

Now I have four darling cupcakes. It feels like Valentine's Day! Or better yet, Day Before Julia and Jay's Wedding Day!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dungeness Crab

My dad is here from my hometown of Marietta, Georgia. Of course much of our visiting revolves around food, and today was no exception. After an excellent lunch at Chuys, we took a leisurely tour of Central Market. I especially wanted him to meet my favorite fishmonger, Mario. Wouldn't you know it... Mario was off today.

They had some beautiful seafood, especially some gorgeous halibut for *gasp* $18.99 a pound. Dad was attracted to the Dungeness crab, and at a much more reasonable $6.99 a pound, we decided to get this one to share as an appetizer while we cooked dinner tonight. It was excellent - sweet and delicious.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Congratulations, Anna!!!!!!


Pillsbury Bake-Off

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blueberry - Lemon Coffee Cake

Today Anna is competing as a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off! There's only ONE MILLION DOLLARS riding on it, no pressure! None at all. Just kidding. Results will be announced tomorrow, Wednesday, March 22. Sending good karma and positive energy your way, Anna!

In Anna's honor, I decided to try a recipe that she gave me. It's a Cooking Light recipe that she suggested I make to use up some almond paste that I had left over. Now, I am not the biggest of Cooking Light fans. There are some things I enjoy about the magazine, but I mostly don't cook from it. Here is an example of why:

The recipe calls for "2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces". Now, that is a fairly common thing, when you're making pie or other pastry dough, biscuits, scones, etc. Generally, you cut the cold butter (or other fat)into flour until you have small pea-sized pieces, which makes your pastry nice and flaky when it bakes.

But alas, this is a cake. A coffee cake, not that it matters, but it is a cake. With cakes (or cookies), you generally start with room temperature butter and "cream" it with the sugar until it is light and fluffy. However, the directions for this recipe say to take the cold butter, sugar, & almond paste and "beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended". Well, I'm sorry, but that just does NOT work. If someone can tell me why the recipe would say that, I would appreciate it. I do know that there is an ongoing discussion by magazine and cookbook authors whether to dumb-down recipes for beginner cooks, by eliminating common terms like "cream", "saute", and "sweat". But that's another subject.

After I gave up trying to blend the cold butter with the sugar and almond paste, I left it to warm up a little. After that, everything went smoothly, and the resulting coffee cake is delicious. I especially love the topping of almonds, sugar, and cinnamon.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Heart Cake

I make this lovely cake about once a year. The first time was for Valentine's Day several years ago. Last time, it was to celebrate a recent wedding. This time for a wedding shower. It isn't hard to make if you are patient with a lot of steps. It's very small (6" pan), but it's rich enough that it can easily serve 12 or more. The cake itself is very moist, almost wet. There are only four tablespoons of flour in it. The leavening is whipped eggs whites that are folded into the chocolate mixture. The original recipe calls for amaretto in the buttercream filling, but Gary prefers Grand Marnier or Cointreau, and so I make that substitution a lot. That was the bride's preference this time, too. It was a little too warm when I served it at the party. The buttercream slices prettier when it is cool, like this. It's glazed with chocolate, cream and butter that is poured over the top and sets quite nicely.

Cherry Cheesecake Triangles

I clipped this recipe from a magazine many years ago and have made it over and over again. This time I accidentally overcooked it a little. Don't do that.

Cherry Cheesecake Triangles
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 T. butter, melted
2 T. sugar
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9" x 9" pan with foil; spray the foil with nonstick spray.

In a bowl, use a fork to stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Pour the mixture into the pan and press it evenly to form a crust. (I've found that the best way to do this is to lay a sheet of wax paper over the crumbs and use a small juice glass to mash the crumbs into place. Remove the wax paper. ) Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat just until blended. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust. Spoon dollops of cherry pie filling on top. Drag the tip of a knife through the dollops, cutting and twisting to make a marble design.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least an hour, or until ready to serve.

When cold, transfer the cheesecake on the foil to a cutting board. Cut in half, then cut each half in half, giving you four squares. Cut each square diagonally into quarters.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Irresistible Oatmeal Cookies

Another baking day. I know, I know. I said I would stop. And I will. Soon.

I'm really enjoying this Small Batch Baking book. I like knowing there aren't four dozen cookies sitting around. Plus it's fast because you don't have to fool with pan after pan after pan. Usually after the second or third pan, I'm tired of making cookies. This whole experiment took less than an hour.

The recipe says to form 8 equal-size mounds, but I decided to make mine half-sized and watch the cooking time closely. I'm not as good at describing cookie texture as Anna is, but I would say that these are a cross between cakey and chewy. They look cakier than they are. The vanilla and cinnamon come through very well. I like them. I think I will make them again with white chocolate chips and dried cherries.

I think I'll leave a couple out for Gary and freeze the rest. Just in case Wally and friends ever drop by on their bikes.