Archive for June, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I swear, I feel like I’m suffering from PTSD. I spent over seven hours in the kitchen today (it’s like 40 degrees nowadays, much hotter in the kitchen) and all I managed to make was a mess.

I now know exactly what I did wrong (hindsight = 20/20). Here is a laundry list:

– To start with, I didn’t have the right cake pan. The one I have has a hole in (I think it’s called a bunt? pan). Anyway, that’s where the trouble started. The layers kept getting stuck to the bottom and kinda fell apart when I was getting them out.

– Then I didn’t freeze the layers as recommended. I just let them cool in the fridge for a while

– I used the frosting at a cooled state, when it should have been room temperature

These reasons are why the cake looks like it does (like a bomb went off in it, and I tried to cover it with chocolate). There were some taste issues, mostly that it’s really heavy (really, really) and that there is too much sugar in the peanut butter frosting.

Will I try it again? Maybe, someday. Not with three layers, maybe just two. But not for another two odd months. I’m going back to brownies/cookies for a while.

June 25, 2009 at 6:09 pm 3 comments

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake

I’ve been dreaming about baking this cake for a while, but never really had a reason to, till now. Since my mom asked me to bake this for an upcoming event at her work, I have to make sure it’s perfect, which means I get to make it twice (yay!!) to make sure it’s not a messed up katrina’s-best-brownie-type disaster. To that end, I went out today and got all the ingredients (down to driving waayy out of my way to get light corn syrup) as well as Pillsbury Chocolate Cake Mix (at my mom’s insistence) in case I fail to make the cake right.

Anyway, with Api arriving tomorrow, I won’t get a chance to put up the recipe later, here it is right now, along with pictures (as I told a friend, looking at pictures of this cake makes me want to eat my laptop!!) and the link to the original recipe from SmittenKitchen (of course!)

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake

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2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosting, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

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Yumminess!! Will post more after attempt #1 is complete tomorrow night.

June 24, 2009 at 4:50 pm 6 comments

Louboutin – Fall Collection

OMFG! Check out some of my favorites from the Louboutin Fall Collection

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Eeeks!! I want I want I want I want!!

June 20, 2009 at 8:30 pm 2 comments

Chocolate Brownies, Peanut Butter Cookies and Faryal’s Famous Dessert

Last night I had one of those, “I HAVE to eat something sweet NOW” feelings. I rummaged around in the kitchen and discovered nothing worth eating so ate a banana and decided that today I would bake something…

But what to bake. I have a zillion recipes I want to try out and just choosing one can take hours. I narrowed it down to four contenders, chocolate brownies, peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cake and chocolate cupcakes. Obviously, I wasn’t going to make all four, so I sat down to go through each recipe in detail to figure out which was the simplest to make with ingredients I already had on hand (Yes, I did all this planning the night BEFORE I was actually planning on baking, lol)

Then my mom, who was on the phone while I was doing all this, hung up and said, “My friends are coming over tomorrow.” Yowza! Permission to go bake-crazy granted. After being told that I also needed to make something virtually guaranteed to turn out perfect (Faryal’s Famous Dessert), I cut out the peanut butter cake from the list and decided to make the cupcakes, cookies and brownies.

Cut to this morning. I wake up late (no one woke me up, and I’ve never been woken up by an alarm) and realized that I only had two hours and was missing some very important ingredients (butter, flour, brown sugar). I sent Safdar (the cook) on a grocery shopping trip and started with the first item on my list, the brownies.

Now let me start with the end result here. They didn’t turn out so great. They taste great, but they don’t have great texture so I’m not going to bother you with the recipe as it’s been deleted from my records forever. Still, these were better than the lard-oozing ones I made a few weeks ago, so they sit atop my mom’s fridge and shall be finished in due course.

While I was waiting for the brownies to bake, I made Faryal’s Famous Dessert, which is famous for the simple reason that it is ridiculously simple and absolutely delicious. Here’s how you can make it:

– 1 box Candi Biscuits (or graham crackers)
– 1  tin canned fruits
– 1 pack cream

Crush the biscuits till they’re no more than crumbs, put them at the bottom of a dish and spread ‘em. Next, remove the syrup from the fruits (very important) and add the fruit as the next layer. Finally, add the cream on top. Voila. You need to put this in a freezer for 15 minutes and then put it in a fridge for as long as you can wait.

Once, thinking that where canned fruit was good, fresh fruit was better, I added fresh strawberries. Ugh! The canned fruit is sweet (so maybe something like fresh mangos would have been better) but the strawberries were very sour and made the entire dessert non-sweet, which kills the point of dessert.

Anyway, once I’d made this (2 down, 2 to go) I moved on to the cookies (Safdar being back by this point). These, by the way, are absolutely delicious, which is why the recipe follows.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Via Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Alright, so these are ridiculously simple too. I don’t have an electric mixer, so I used my hands (burning calories, see?). Deciding what size to keep the cookies was difficult. First, I made two that were super large, but then they broke when I was removing them from the tray leaving them looking very un-pretty, so I used teaspoonfuls (literally) for the next two batches. Beautiful!

Great, on to the next and last item, the cupcakes (which I was most excited about having never made cupcakes before). First ingredient on the list, butter. Wait, where’s all the butter? Crap, it’s finished.

Being lazy and really really tired by this point, I decided to quit while I was ahead and stopped at three items. Then I called my mom, “Hi Amma. When’re you guys reaching home?” My mom, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, my friends aren’t coming today.”

Moral of the story: Always make nice things for guests since you might have to eat them yourself if they don’t show up. 🙂

June 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

MHT

Seriously, these shoes are hot! However, I can understand how they would be a complete waste unless you’re wearing a skirt as well. Regardless, thanks Elle Shoe Blog for another great post.

6a00d834527a7669e201156ff2320c970c-800wiYves Saint Laurent

June 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

Divine French Toast

It seems like I’ve been searching for the perfect French Toast my entire life. Alright, I exaggerate a bit, but still. My mom makes great French Toast but they’re a bit on the deep fried side, my aunt makes great ones (I remember this one time in Swat when she made friggin’ awesome ones) but doesn’t have a set-in-stone recipe, I made some awesome ones in college with the help of a friend, but don’t remember exactly how.

Basically, French Toast are one of those things everyone knows how to make, but you never really bother with working out the ratios. That means that they end up tasting different every time you make them. On top of that, everyone likes theirs differently. Some like ‘em all brown, some like them very soft. It’s annoying really.

I gave up on the search a few years ago when I realized that I could never work out the milk/egg ratio that would make the toast soft, yet egg-y enough. Times have changed though…with all this new found time on my hands I decided to jump straight into developing a recipe for French Toast that I (at-least) could recreate again and again without a change in taste.

Some things to note. I like French Toast really soft, almost not cooked through but brown on the outside. Also, I am one of those one-egg-per-toast kinda people. Finally, sugar is your friend, use it generously.

French Toast

Ingredients:

2 slices Bread (I use whole grain)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar (feel free to add more if you want)

2 tablespoons milk

Instructions:

– Put milk and sugar in a deep dish and nuke for a few seconds, then whisk the sugar till it dissolves. It won’t completely dissolve, no worries about that.

– Add egg (make sure milk isn’t hot) and whisk more till egg/milk are mixed in thoroughly.

– Add bread. Let it soak through. I let the first side soak till I can actually see the liquid seeping through it, and then I turn and let the other side soak about half as long. By the time I actually pick it up and put it in the pan, it’s threatening to break apart, but never really does.

– Heat a pan, add a very little amount of oil. Just enough to coat the bottom lightly. You can probably skip this if you have a good non-stick pan. I don’t 😦 Make sure the pan is hot hot hot, then reduce heat a little before you add the bread.

– Add the bread to the pan, let one side cook for about a minute or so, till lightly browned then turn over. Cook other side till lightly brown…you get it 🙂

– Once both sides are browned, the bread should be soft to the touch still. I like it this way, but you can continue to completely cook it and toughen it up like a piece of cow hide if you want.

Tada…French Toast. I made these for my mom, and she loved them. She’s a pretty mean cook herself so that’s a pretty high standard right there. My cat, Charlie, also loves them. He doesn’t really have a high standard, but this is the only non-cat-food thing he yowls for once he smells it, so I’m thinking he likes them a lot 🙂

On a related note, I have found a great recipe software Cook’n which is free and also lets me copy/paste recipes in from websites. The only problem is that it doesn’t give nutritional values, but I guess I can’t have it all 🙂

June 11, 2009 at 3:22 pm Leave a comment

MHT: Payless Gladiators

Alright, so not exactly these shoes, but I really need to get gladiators.

6a00d834527a7669e20115709c5cc6970b-800wiPicture courtesy Elle Shoe Blog

June 6, 2009 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

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