Monday, October 25, 2010

RLB's Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake

Inspired by all the wonderful goods I'm baking for the Baker's Market this Saturday (butter count is up to 4 pounds so far!), I'm breaking from the unusual amount of healthy crap I've posted lately with something significantly back to normal: RLB's Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake.
This recipe was a big step for me because I have this... thing... about condiments.  They are gross.  So effing gross.  Over the years I've been able to come to terms with some of them, namely certain salad dressings.  Ketchup and mustard are acceptable ingredients in some recipes.  Consuming any of these, however, takes a bit of mental preparation beforehand.

Mayonnaise can jump off a cliff and die, though.  It is so repulsive I want to vomit thinking about it.  It's not allowed in my house, and if I'm-- god forbid-- visiting somewhere and something I need in the fridge is behind it I have three options: 1) abort the mission and don't bother getting what I want; 2) grab a stick/knife/ruler/long object and use it to move the mayo jar out of the way, so the item can be safely grabbed; or 3) move the mayo jar with my hand, and either douse said hand in bleach or ammonia or gasoline or just cut the damn thing off.  Regardless of which method I choose (and I've yet to choose the third) I'll be considerably concerned for the rest of the day that somehow airborn mayonnaise particles have penetrated what I just ate.

So we've established that I'm crazy.

That out of the way, I've recently come to terms that sour cream is not (like mayonnaise) the devil, and sometimes it tastes good in baking.  Deep breath.  Because of this, and a conscious effort on my part to get over myself just a little bit, I had picked up some sour cream from Costco a few weeks ago, thinking of all the recipes I kept finding and not being able to make because I lacked some.  It sat in my fridge until the day before it expired, isolated from all the other food products.

I finally buckled, not wanting to waste, and made RLB's Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake.  RLB recommends this recipe be made in a bundt pan, but sadly, I don't have one yet.  But she also suggests the recipe can be made into cupcakes, and RLB's word is truth, so I wasn't about to pass these up just because they wouldn't be in a beautiful uniform bundt shape.  

The cake was incredibly light and fluffy, and the filling was the perfect hint of cinnamon chocolate.  One of my favourites from Heavenly Cakes so far!  So good I completely forgot about the sour cream... issue.
If you haven't picked up a copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I highly recommend it.  Each recipe from this book is divine; I've yet to find a bad one.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Woodchipper Vanilla Cherry Birthday Cake

For several months leading up to the boy's birthday he was absolutely adamant about the type of cake he wanted.  It had to be vanilla with cherry icing.  And he wanted a woodchipper on top.  He would not change his mind, no matter how hard I tried to convince him it should really be chocolate.

Clearly, I was not up to the challenge of making a woodchipper out of gumpaste.  I knew he would want to play with it, so it seemed the best option was to buy a small toy he could keep.

The cake itself is a basic vanilla recipe from Martha Stewart, the icing is swiss meringue, flavoured with a natural extract, and cherries were also mixed in to it for the filling.  The trees were made with a similar method to this tutorial (but much smaller).
I give desserts the same longing gaze.

It's much simpler than the cake I made him last year...

PS.  You should really join me on facebook

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jam-Filled Cornmeal Muffins

A few days ago a craving randomly popped into my head for cornmeal muffins filled with jam.  Oddly enough, it turns out that my mom used to make them when I was young.  I haven't had them for what is probably at least 15 years because she threw out the recipe during some stupid healthy phase.  It contained something like a cup of butter, so you know they were good.  (What other treasures you might have thrown out, Mom, I will never know nor forgive you for).

Anyhow, I needed to make these muffins, partially to procrastinate from studying for a midterm I have tomorrow (why didn't I keep up with the readings?!), and partially because I'm really tired of making breakfast and these will keep the boy and I fed for a few days.

I adapted a much healthier cornmeal muffin recipe from the always lovely Crepes of Wrath, and spooned some jam into the batter.  The results were delicious, and satisfied whatever weird buried childhood memory craving I was having.  And the boy loves them, too, so everyone won this time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

 I don't know why I'm on such a bread/loaf kick lately, but here we are: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
I like to make a stark differentiation between baking cakes and cupcakes, and baking loaves and muffins.  With the former category I want sugar, fat, chocolate, heavy cream, and all the delicious bad stuff.  The latter category needs to at least be remotely healthy.  It's the age-old slippery slope argument: If I started baking unhealthy loaves and muffins, then homosexuals would want to marry snakes and children!  Or something.

Anyway.  This recipe won me over because it's made with a relatively small amount of butter, and all whole wheat flour.  It's incredibly straightforward to make, and I had it in the oven within a few minutes.  This is a good thing because I was already late for class. (Why I do this, I do not know).

I made a few changes, like cutting down the sugar, and throwing in some chocolate chips (so I guess keeping the sugar the same, really...).  It was a nice little treat, although I found the texture a bit wanting. It was a bit dense, almost rubbery, for my liking.  That being said, I would make it again, but maybe with a few more tweaks.  If you like a denser banana bread though, this is the one for you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The boy's birthday and Healthy(ish) Cinnamon Rolls

Today my little boy turns 4. My little boy who, for all of his little life, and with no prompting from his carnivorous family, has refused to eat meat (with the exception of the odd homemade chicken nugget) because "it makes animals feed bad". My little boy who loves fruit and vegetables, dogs, hockey and boxing. Whose favourite band is The Doors, and who has the longest eyelashes in the history of eyelashes.

Somehow, in the last four years, he has gone from this:
To this
To this:

And then this: 
fresh out of bed, very sleepy in the early hours this morning, mid-present opening, and for once not hiding from the camera

Today he's brought Cinnamon Carrot Bread to school to share with his class, and for his party this weekend he's requested a vanilla cake, with cherry icing and a woodchipper on top. Wish me luck!

With that rare bit of sentimentality aside, let me show you some goods: Healthy(ish) Cinnamon Rolls

These rolls were a staple in my childhood, and I still remember what a treat it was to wake up and find them for breakfast. They're just healthy enough to be able to call them healthy-ish, yet taste decadent enough to still count as an indulgence. I love having them on-hand for quick breakfast treats, or late night snacks.  And pretty much everything in between. The best part is that they're incredibly quick and easy, and require no rising time. You have no excuse not to bake them.

** recipe and photos have been updated

Monday, October 11, 2010

Apple Crostata for Thanksgiving Dinner

I hope that everyone who celebrated had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend!  My contribution to dinner was this fabulous Apple Crostata.
I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, so I try to ensure an alternative dessert for myself.  My mom usually makes a chocolate pie, but this year I had something else in mind.  I didn't want to make another pie, so I opted for an apple crostata instead.  It's kind of like an open-face apple pie.  A pie pizza. (But not a pizza pie).

The recipe comes from the always fantastic Ina Garten.  I love her.  (And I love 30 Rock even more now for mentioning her in the season premiere--  even though last week's episode was decidedly subpar).  64 positive reviews accompanied this recipe, so I felt pretty confident about making it, although you can never trust the unwashed masses.  Fortunately, in this case, they were right!  The pastry alone is one of the best I've made, and the filling tastes just like apple pie.  I think it's safe to say it will be a staple from now on.

What did you make for Thanksgiving?  Or, if you've yet to celebrate, what will you be making?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cinnamon Carrot Bread

For the past few days, we've been battling a bit of illness over here.  The boy has had one of those typical childhood colds, where he seems completely unaffected one minute, and nearly comatose the next.  Now I'm feeling a little under the weather, as can be expected when woken up a few mornings in a row by a kid coughing god knows what into your face.
I took this as an opportunity to bake some healthier items we could both take to school or snack on.  I never quite know when to use "rustic" to describe baking (baked on a farm? in a wooden oven? what counts, people?), but I think I'm willing to throw it out in this post.  So we'll call this a rustic, healthy carrot bread.  The recipe comes from a centuries old cookbook my mom has-- one of those from the 70s or whenever there was a big craze about healthy foods you could have ready on the table to help reduce your hard-working husband's risk of heart disease.

In spite of its datedness, it was good.  Really good.  I was half expecting it to be dry and, quite frankly gross, but it was moist, light, and still a bit sweet with a hint of spice.  It wasn't cake-like at all, which I can find to be a problem with carrot loaves.  It also baked up incredibly easy, and was very simple to throw together.  (I'm also happy to report there were no finger-slicing incidents when grating the carrots).  The boy ate 4 slices when he came home from school, and today there's only a small portion left.  He actually loved it so much, he's asked me to bake it for his class next week for his birthday!  I suspect these would also make great muffins-- something I'll have to try very shortly.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chocolate Creme Brulee

What do you make the first night after buying a blow torch?  Chocolate Creme Brulee!
I can't believe I've gone so long without a blow torch.  Is it not something every girl needs in the kitchen?  Hell, is it not something every girl needs in life?  I can finally have a steady supply of creme brulee!  I can finally get over my weirdness about baked alaska (It just doesn't seem like it would be good)!  I can finally go on arson sprees!  (I'm just kidding about the last one.  Sort of.)
I had so much fun I actually made this recipe two nights in a row.  The first night, I halved the recipe just to give me something to try the torch out on.  I loved it so much, I made it the next night at my parents' house.  It's wonderfully creamy, rich, and chocolately, and the crunchy burnt sugar really tops it all off.
What's your favourite desserts that get torched?  I'm eager to try some more.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Vancouver Baker's Market October 2nd

October 2nd was the opening of the Fall 2010 Vancouver Baker's Market, and how sweet it is was there!  My friends Maddi and Tara joined me-- it our first time being a vendor, and it was honestly the most fun we've had in a while.  The craziness of the week and nights before aside, we loved it so much we've signed up for an extra day!  

We'll be there October 30th, November 13th, and December 4th.  THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by this past weekend! We'd love to see you again next time and meet new people as well!

And now, the pictures.
Tara, Maddi, and me

 Maddi showing off her long arms
Decorated cupcakes
 The market.  (My little one is in the picture!)
 Maddi and me and our glorious booth
Some of our set up: sugar cookies, cupcakes, pie pops, and black and whites (my favourite)
 Pumpkin and ghost cookies
 Froggy cookies
 Sushi cakes! 

 Just your friendly neighbourhood bakers!

We'll have a lot of the same items (sugar cookies, traditional cookies, black and white cookies, pie pops, cupcakes, etc) plus some new exciting ones at the next market so don't forget to visit us October 30th!  I'll also be telling you some good deals we'll be having coming up, so keep reading!


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