Monday, February 28, 2011

Coconut Panna Cotta & Key Lime Gelee

This month’s Daring Bakers consisted of two recipes that I had never made before. In fact, these recipes had never dawned on me before. I’m not a huge fan of chilled desserts. I like my desserts warm from the oven, topped with ice cream. You will rarely find puddings, gelatins or flans in my fridge. Two factors of this particular challenge seemed serendipitous. First, I’ve been working with a lot of gelatin in the past few weeks. I had just stocked up on Knox gelatin before our February challenge arrived. Second, I actually had panna cotta, for the first time in my life, on January 28th.



Boyfriend and I were in New York City four weeks ago apartment hunting. After a long and fruitless day of looking at either mediocre apartments or overpriced ones, we headed to the Meatpacking district for dinner. It was the beginning of restaurant week and we decided to try Ajna Bar on Little 12th Street. The most recent snowfall had made crossing intersections (in cute shoes nonetheless) very, very difficult. Also, if you are familiar with this particular section of Manhattan, you know the streets are cobbled. Cobbled streets, covered in several inches of slush, are a cute shoe-wearing girls nightmare. Boyfriend also refused to carry me across the street. Bad boyfriend.


We made it to Anja bar and were greeted with a burst of warm air and dark corridor. Once we were seated we had to take a minute to absorb all of the things going on around us. The restaurant is huge, with an equally large wait staff. There are huge columns, carved into dragons, candles galore and what I’m pretty sure was an aquarium filled with jellyfish. All the crazy décor aside, the meal was actually pretty delicious. (I’d highly recommend their shrimp curry.) The perfect ending to the meal was their Thai tea panna cotta. Smooth and creamy panna cotta buried beneath a layer of cool whipped cream and chocolate crunch.  Perfect.


For my panna cotta, I decided to go a little more south, and less east, for my influence. Key lime is one of my favorite flavors and with this being the season of citrus I was able to get some good ones! Just don’t skimp on the fat in this panna cotta recipe. If you go with lite coconut milk you will likely wind up with a panna cotta that won’t set. Give this a try and enjoy a little summer on a plate.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestlé Florentine Cookies.  Since Giadas recipe called for honey, and I hate honey, I went in another direction.  The florentine cookies weren't anything to write home about, so I omitted the recipe.  You can find it on the Nestle website.


Friday, February 25, 2011

S’mores Cupcakes

I don’t know about everyone else, but these are the facts of my life. Once I moved out of the house, my parents got all sorts of cool toys. I’m not saying that I was a deprived child (other than my sad cable tv-less existence), I had plenty of things to fill my childhood days with fun. I played the flute and my parents bought me a fancy flute with open keys. I still have it and think about trying to play it once and a while. I was a baton twirler and went to competitions all over the country. My trophies are still in residence at the Wilde parent household. My brother and I spent summers camping out in the backyard and riding our bikes along the creek.


Look at that chocolate ooze!

What I’m talking about are the cool toys that would have made our childhood even more carefree. It started slowly, with the John Deere. Johnnie showed up when I was in College and he was my dad’s new best friend. They would ride around the lawn in the summer and plow clean canyons in the snow in the winter. What Johnnie didn’t know, was that he was taking someone’s place. He was replacing my brother and I, Johnnie didn’t complain when he had to plow two feet of snow from a very long drive-way. Dad just had to feed Johnnie some gasoline and away he went to chew up the snow or grass.


Then came the boat, the hot tub, the air conditioning. The current toy that I’m totally jealous of is a fire pit. I think that is what I was thinking of when I threw together this recipe. Spring is coming soon, I can feel it trying to sneak up on winter, and spring is when the fire pit comes out. My dad gathers the firewood, the dog breaks up sticks to make kindling and my mom gets the marshmallows. Sounds like a great evening and I don’t think my apartment building would go for one in my unit.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Orange Challah French Toast

The first time I ever worked with yeast, I decided I was going to make a braided challah. Talk about ambitious. It was in my fourth year of grad school, I had just moved into a new apartment and I was in the mood to cook. My roommate owned a breadmaker and she churned out loaves of bread with minimal effort. The apartment always smelled wonderful and she had warm bread to go with dinner. I thought that if a machine can make bread, then it can’t be that hard. Let’s say I was just a little naïve.





Back at this point in my culinary career I was the proud owner of about ten cookbooks. Leafing through the nearly pristine pages of my Bread Bible, I fell upon a picture of a braided challah. It was gorgeous. Golden, shiny and delicious looking. The instructions also seemed doable, some time to knead, a few rise periods and an egg wash before baking. I could definitely do this.


I just forgot to take a few things into account. First, I had no idea what I was doing. Okay, I guess that isn’t a very good first. Let’s start again… First, my kneading technique consisted of rolling the dough around on the counter, gently nudging it and poking it. This was after I added about one additional cup of flour, the dough just would not pull away from the countertop! Second, I had no idea how to tell when it was kneaded enough, I just went with what the book said, ten minutes. Third, it was winter. Wintertime in Wisconsin is a rather chilly time and our apartment was equally chilly. Gentle breezes also permeated the windows and doors, keeping my dough cool and preventing the proper rise. In the end I wound up with a braided challah. It was edible, but not the light and airy challah I was used to in New York.


My braid went a little crazy in the middle there...
Now, ten minutes of gentle nudging and poking most likely wasn’t enough to develop the gluten necessary for this bread. Lesson learned. Also, bread needs a little warmer environment than I had provided. These days I like to do laundry at the same time as I make bread, it heats up the apartment. Finally, I know to slowly add liquid ingredients, rather than try to bring the dough back with more flour. It’s been four years since my first attempt at braided challah and this recent attempt shows how much I’ve learned.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Cherry Turkish Taffy

Is there a candy from your childhood that you miss? Something that reminds you of warm summers riding your bike around the neighborhood? Maybe a sweet that you always bought at the candy store? Perhaps it was a confection that made a trip to the movies worthwhile? I think that we all have that one treat that holds sweet memories and most likely you can’t get that candy anymore. Why do candy companies do that to us? They get us hooked on something delicious then take it away, like dealers. Sucrose dealers.



When I was little, my mom worked nights. She was the banquet manager at a hotel and had to manage the big events that occurred on the weekends. This meant that it was up to dad to entertain my brother and I. One of our favorite Saturday night events was to head to the movies. I remember watching Jurassic Park, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and Titanic with my boys. Guess who picked the last movie, ha ha, winner!


Before we would head to the movie theater, we would stop at the local 7-11. We would stock up on cokes and candies, because who wants to pay ridiculous movie theater prices? My candy of choice would inevitably be Tangy Taffy. A big (HUGE) slab of taffy, with a sour bite and an amazing flavor. With your choice of grape, strawberry or cherry, it was hard to go wrong with this treat. It would last for hours and turn your tongue colors. The perfect movie candy.


It’s funny that this was my favorite candy, because my mom also had a childhood love of taffy. Although oddly enough, you can still buy her favorite brand. My mom recalls heading to the theater with a dollar and being able to purchase her ticket and have enough left over for some Bomono Turkish taffy. Bomono taffy was available in strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and banana, just like a banana split!

This recent batch of candy came out more like Bomono than it did like Tangy taffy. I think it needs some citric acid to get that tangy flavor. Next batch!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Buffalo Mac’n’Cheese

I’m downright excited! You know why? This week is my mom’s birthday week (Happy Birthday Mom!!!) and for her birthday we are headed to New York City. A girls weekend to be filled with shopping, Mary Poppins and cupcakes! I’ve been to New York a many number of times, but this will only be Mom’s second trip to the big city. Second trip in the winter, maybe the third time we should shoot for the summer?


Say hello to delicious

There are many things that I love doing while in New York. In general I’ll be there with boyfriend and we love to wander the streets, popping into cute shops we find along the way. Every time we go, we find ourselves in someplace we’ve never been before. The first few times we visited the city (back in the summer of 2003) we were without our handy iPhones. We relied on guidebooks and maps to help us find our way through the streets. When it was time for a meal we would wander aimlessly, somehow missing all of the restaurants along the way. How? I have no idea.


These days we have GPS, Open Table and a better sense of direction. The last few trips to the city we went with more of a plan, places we wanted to visit and reservations. We’ve dined at Asian fusion joints, American bistros and English pubs, but my favorite place is just a hole in the wall. Located on 12th St near 1st Ave is S’mac. What do they serve? Macaroni and cheese. And it’s delicious.


Sadly S’mac is in New York and I am not. So, I decided that it was necessary to replicate my favorite dish, the Buffalo Mac’n’Cheese. And maybe to drag my mom to S’mac next weekend…

Friday, February 18, 2011

What day is it?

So, apparently it's Friday, although I woke up thinking it was Thursday.  This is crazy because last night I watch Community (amazing show, go set your DVR) and Community is on Thursday nights!    I must have forgotten this fact as soon as the show was over, because I neglected to write a post for you today!  Here's the plan.  Today I'll take care of some blogging business, then tomorrow I'll send out a new amazing recipe (it really is good!).  Sound good?  Well, let's get down to business!
Recently I have been the recipent of the Stylish Blogger award!  So thank yous go out to not one fabulous blogger, but the six bloggers who thought I was stylish enough to deserve this award!  Thanks go out to...

The Mom Chef - She is currently cooking her way through Cooking Light Magazine, it's so much fun!

Fit Foodista - She has some pretty amazing recipes and they're healthy too!

Big Fat Baker - The desserts being posted on this blog are droolworthy!

Amy Bakes Everything - One word - hilarious.  I love reading every post.

Cookbook Archaeology - Loving following along on her journey of curing meat :)  So jealous of her summer in Pompeii!

Little Kitchen on the Prairie - Great looking recipes and stories written from the heart, love her!


Secondly, I am supposed to share some fun facts about me!  I'll share some different fun facts from the last time I recieved this award...

1. I am currently running an acetate cleavage in my hood.  (Chemists, enjoy my nerdiness, everyone else, giggle at my nonchalant use of the word cleavage)
2. I've been making a lot of candy recently, my kitchen floor is getting very sticky.
3. I will wear my winter coat until the temperature rises above 55 degrees.
4. I am excellent at navigating, I do not own a GPS.
5. I secretly compete with the people on the treadmills next to me.  I must outrun them!
6. My car is gold and it's adorable, no matter what anyone else says.
7. My apartment is so small, I didn't have to turn on the heat once this winter.  Remember, I live in CT.

Now wasn't that fun?  Some very useful facts about me!  Thirdly, I've got to pass this award along to some well-deserving bloggers!  I've recently discovered so many fun new blogs, here are a few, go check them out!

Lulu's Sweet Secrets - A new blogger with some amazing pictures

Delicious Inspiration - Some amazing desserts from a girl in my home town!

La Mia Vita Dolce - Delicious looking recipes that make you want to lick your screen

Honey and Soy - I wish my macarons were as beautiful as these!

Ingredients of a 20 something - A girl with a cupcake addiction to rival my own!

There we are!  Some of my new faves!

On another note, have you ever wondered where I got that pie plate, my cake stand, that handy dandy tool?  Check out the link on the right, you'll find all of my favorite tools, equipment and foods! 

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

English Muffins

Has food ever surprised you? Like, you always wondered how they made gummy bears. Then you were totally surprised that they were molded in cornstarch? I was so amazed when I discovered how those little pictures were made inside of taffy (they start with a really big picture). Maybe you were amazed at how Hostess got the cream inside of a Twinkie, or how Tyson made chicken into little dinosaur shapes. Okay, maybe no one wants to know how Tyson does their magic.


On my current goal to complete the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, I’ve been learning a lot of things I didn’t know before. Like patience. Lots and lots of patience. Why is yeast so slow at doubling in size? You know what helps? A DVR filled with Doctor Who episodes. Nothing like watching David Tennant run after monsters to pass the time. (I like you too Matt Smith, but your episodes aren’t running right now).


I’m also learning to measure. How can I tell when it’s exactly doubled? Luckily I’ve found something that really helps with my measuring problem. Granted I got mine in Interlocken, Austria and therefore my measurements are in metric, but it does the trick. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to bake a lot of bread.


Recently, I’ve learned about English muffins. I’m a big fan of English muffins. Toast them up, add a layer of peanut butter or jam or add some egg whites and a slice of good old Kraft American and you’ve got a meal. I had never considered baking my own English muffins, they always seemed so perfect. Even the commercials touted Thomas’ years of practice to obtain the ideal nook and cranny filled muffin. How could I make something to rival that which took the Thomas people centuries to perfect?


You know what, it’s all in the grilling. That’s right, I said grilling. Before my beautiful little orbs of dough were baked in the oven, they were cooked on the griddle. That’s it! That’s the secret! The curtain has been pulled back and the wizard is nothing but a square griddle. No magic, no special machine, just smoke and mirrors. But you might be asking, “How do they compare to the famous Thomas’ English muffin?” You know what? I’m never getting store-bought again.

Look at those nooks and crannies!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Homemade Butter Finger Bars

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I know that I’m a little late in the day, in fact it’s only still Valentines for the Western hemisphere. It’s plain old February 15th in Europe right now. Good thing that I’m giving you a non-Valentines specific treat! I spent the first half of my Valentine’s Day flying around the country. It’s a very exciting month in the Wilde household!



This weekend I spent packing up boyfriends house for his upcoming move to the east coast. We spent hours going through bins and bins of toys. Fabulous 1980’s toys! Everything from Ninja Turtles to G.I. Joes to Batman. It was a very Toy Story 3 kind of weekend, deciding what would move and what would be sent to the big Thrift store donation truck. Packing up old toys is hard! You get distracted and find yourself setting up the G.I. Joe base, when you should be deciding whether astronaut Raphael should be donated or not (donate).


So, while you may have spent your weekend heading to a romantic dinner or cooking something delicious for your favorite person, I spent it in a basement, playing with toys! Boyfriend was able to pick and choose his favorites and we set aside a big box (okay, five boxes) to take to the collection center. A big box (5) of G.I. Joe trucks and Batcaves, ninja turtle action figures and micro machines was on its way out of the house, so sad.


Fate intervened and a text message came to boyfriends phone. A friend saw us driving around town and was harassing boyfriend for ignoring him. A friend, with two kids. Kids who like toys! Perhaps boyfriends friend would like the toys? The return text message… Yes! Friend would love the toys! Hooray, the toys will have new kids to play with them! Such a Toy Story ending, everyone is happy. Except boyfriend, who wants to break open the boxes we packed and play with the toys.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

When I was little, I loved the weekends. Wait, my love of the weekends was not because I wanted to sleep in and I didn’t have to go to school. No no. I loved school. I loved doing homework. I loved practicing my flute. I was a big ole nerd, just not the briefcase carrying, coke-bottle glasses kinda nerd. I was a secret nerd, but now is not the time to discuss my secret nerdiness, perhaps another time. Now we are talking about the weekend!


The weekend meant enjoying a warm breakfast with my family. Mom and I would toil in the kitchen as dad read the morning paper and brother played computer/video games in his room. I would toast slice after slice of bread or watch the bacon get all crispy (then forget it and it gets burnt). Mom would make everyone omelets or cook up dippy eggs. Dad would clip coupons and brother would slaughter monsters, or something like that.


Sometimes, I would take control of the whole breakfast situation. This meant heading to the fridge and pulling out a tube of dough. I’d proudly rip off the label and crack the tube on the counter top. As the dough exploded from its cardboard prison it would let off an amazing aroma of cinnamon and yeast. I always thought the raw dough looked delicious, mom suggested I didn’t eat it, please.


Cinnamon rolls were always my favorite and I preferred when we got the tube of seven, rather than the tube of 5. Sure, the tube of 5 meant bigger cinnamon rolls, but the tube of 7 meant leftovers! I’d have one right out of the oven, then try to sneak back later in the day to get another. Sometimes I’d be too slow and brother would have eaten them all, blast him!


Now I get all the cinnamon rolls. I don’t have to share. I’m greedy with the cinnamon rolls, so here’s the recipe. You have to make your own, I ate all of these and there aren’t leftovers.

Be sure to stop by Candy Challenge 2011! (see it up there?  Below the banner?)  This is where I'll link all of my candy recipes for this year.  This is also where you must add your challenges.  Got a candy you want me to try and make?  Post a reply and consider the gauntlet thrown! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mustard-Glazed Chicken

Sometimes a girl gets a little busy. So busy that she hasn’t had a haircut since July. So busy that her car registration has been expired for a week and she hasn’t been able to go to the DMV and get new plates. So busy that she has to go to the dollar store and buy milk (yes, they sell milk! And boxed brownie mix…). Yes, life tends to pile up around here. Although I consider today a big win, because I put the dishes in the dishwasher, then I turned it on. Boo-yeah, clean dishes.



And even the haircut isn’t that bad. When I moved from Colorado to Connecticut, I spent two fabulous weeks visiting friends, family and boyfriend in Buffalo. I like going to Buffalo in the summer, it’s so nice out. I spent time in the garden with my mom, well, she gardened, I rolled around the lawn with the dog. I went for a long bike ride along the Niagara river with my dad, then we ate our weight in ice cream. I went to my brothers new house and saw all of the work that he’s put into it. Dude knows how to handle a table saw, I was very impressed. I know how to put together Ikea furniture.

The most hilarious time was going to the salon with my mom. When I first got home she mentioned that she had a hair appointment and perhaps I would like to get my hair done too? But why? You don’t like my hair? It’s so pretty. When was my last haircut? Ummm, right before my thesis defense… in August… of 2008. That’s right, two whole years since my last haircut! When I arrived at the salon the stylist asked what I wanted to do with it. I suggested that we cut off enough so that my mom didn’t think I looked like a homeless person anymore. Stylist laughed, but she thought I looked like a homeless person too. At least she complimented my jeans.


So I figure I have at least another year and a half before I really have to get another haircut. In the meantime I’ll try to head to the grocery store. This dinner, while delicious, was made out of necessity. I had a half bag of carrots in my fridge, leftover from making chili. I had some chicken quarters, purchased and frozen three weeks ago while on sale. Everything else you need to make this meal will most likely be located in your pantry. Feel free to use dried herbs, I know I did!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes & Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Can you believe that it’s been one-hundred posts already! I feel like we’ve been through so much together. Since I’m 100, does this mean that Willard Scott is going to mention me in his Smucker’s 100? Maybe make some terribly inappropriate comment about me?


I thought that we should celebrate with some cupcakes. I know some people have been on the lookout for some savory posts; that will have to wait until after the party! Savory posts later this week, after I’m all sugared up.


Every time I ask my lab mates what I should make, I get the same suggestions. There are always requests for cheesecake, chocolate and cupcakes. One lab mate even went and bought me some cupcake liners, because he really likes cupcakes. I realized that I haven’t made cupcakes in months, so I made some to celebrate this momentous occasion.


No matter what anyone says about cupcakes being “so last year,” I’m still a HUGE cupcake fan. Every time boyfriend and I go to New York, we head to different bakeries and get cupcakes. Well, we get cupcakes, then I eat them. Boyfriend isn’t much of a dessert fan. I have more cookbooks for cupcakes than anything else. Cupcakes are just that perfect single serving of dessert. They are just the right size to have two, without feeling guilty about it. Macarons might be hot right now, but they will never replace my beloved cupcakes. Especially not these cupcakes, they were delicious.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Caramel Thumbprints

As terrible as this past winter storm was, I love what it left behind. Now that the sidewalks are clear and covered in salt, I’m happy to glance at all of the wonder. Sure, Tuesday morning I hid underneath my umbrella as I skated to work. I shook off a layer of ice as I walked into the lab. We all watched from the windows as the rain came down. Wednesday morning came with another harrowing walk to work, a quarter-inch of ice coating every surface. The sidewalks, partially chiseled of their icy coat, were a treat to navigate.


Come Thursday, the city had removed most of the annoying ice and the sun came out. My walk into work Thursday was so much different than the day before. Snow is pretty on its own, but have you ever seen it coated in a sheet of ice? A very thick sheet of ice. Ice that is so thick, you can walk on top of the two feet of snow that are already on the ground. The snow was so shiny and pretty. Everything was covered in a shiny layer of ice, the buildings, the cars and the trees.


Today I’m going to enjoy one more sunny day, until winter weather moves in once again. At least I got a chance to go to the grocery store. I’m planning a major weekend of hunkering down and candy-making. Is it springtime yet?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BBAC - Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread

I love a challenge. When I’m presented with a task, I’m going to complete it. Maybe I’m stubborn like that. Actually, yes, I’m very stubborn. I’ve been told this several times in the past. When I first got to grad school, I was nervous. It was the first time in my life that I was living away from home. I lived at home the entire time I was in college, it was free and only five miles away from school. Moving fourteen hours away from my parents, brother and boyfriend was hard. Every few days I sat thinking “Why am I here? Was this a good idea?”




Luckily I made friends and came to discover that every other first year grad student was thinking the same thing.  Even those who had gone to undergraduate far from home were questioning their decision to come to grad school. The first year of grad school was tough. Challenging classes, the stress of finding the right group to join and teaching teenagers freshman chemistry, it just all piled on. Some people cracked, it’s a lot of pressure. Most people succeeded and we were stronger for it.


Making it to the fifth qualifier, our official anniversary, was so uplifting. Completing our first year in grad school was just the first of many hurdles we would have to overcome, that first year hardened us. From there on out we would present seminars, defend original research proposals, write papers and get scooped. Getting scooped is always the worst.


In the back of my mind I always knew that I could finish what I started. It might start off a little shaky, uneasy of the strange new ground I was walking, but every challenge makes me stronger. Each step becoming more steady, until that goal is accomplished. Triumph!


So what is the challenge that I’m talking about today? The Bread Bakers Apprentice challenge! I started a few months ago with the Anadama bread. It turned out well, but being new to yeast, it wasn’t perfect. Later, I celebrated my gram with Cinnamon bread. A fitting tribute to many days spent in her home as a child. This year I plan to finish this challenge. Forty recipes in fifty-two weeks, here is the first one of the year. And it is going to be a hard one to surpass, absolutely delicious.


The cranberry-walnut celebration bread can be found on page 154 of Peter Reinhart’s Bread Bakers Apprentice (also on several other bloggers webpage). I made no changes to the recipe and it was absolutely delicious. I wound up eating the whole loaf in a matter of days. Yep, just me, one person, ate the whole loaf. It was amazing as French toast and great slathered in butter as an evening snack. The double braid was a kick to make and made the bread look gorgeous. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.
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