Thursday, December 20, 2012

Denim and slugs

I don't have pictures of this one yet, because I haven't made my 'blog batch', but this recipe is so ripe with backstory you'll hardly miss them.

The inspiration for this particular 'good comes from a scene straight out of the first draft of my book, which unfortunately no longer exists. It pained me to cut this part because it was truly trippy and way out of left field, which I supposed proved its undoing.

Page 252:

            She had scones in there, piles of them; doughy wedges stuffed with fresh blueberries and lemon glaze. There was a pot of rice pudding freckled with cinnamon, and stacks of perfectly cut squares of fudge wrapped in waxed paper--the loose ends were twisted like starlight peppermints.

Alright, so here's the gist of the scene, which really was wildly entertaining. Rowan, our culinary crusader, gets mad upset that her kidnapped boy-toy, Gabe, has entered the clutches of a scarlet harlot and has committed the ultimate sin of prom-going. While he is at said prom, Rowan gets balls to the wall drunk, bakes up a bunch of goodies, and then retires to the front porch where she spends hours smoking and pouring beer on slugs and then flicking them into the dark Oklahoma night with a flip-flop. This is a girl who is committed to her meltdown. The high point for me came when Gabe comes home and finds her sprawled outside in the dead of night with her vodka and her slugs and they have the following exchange:

            “Did she get you?” she interrupted. “I only ask because you look sort of unkempt, in a rakish, sexy kind of way.”
            “Did she...why are you talking like that?" 

Oh, Rowan. I love you and your drunken vocab. I don't think we use the word 'rakish' enough. Anyway, the inspiration for THIS scene, and yes there is one, came the night that Allison and I (hi, Allison!) decided to get drunk and tackle my slug problem.

I don't know what was in the soil in 2010, but man alive I had slugs everywhere. They were all over the ground, they climbed up the siding, and crawled up the pipes to hang out in my bathtub. It was a summer of horror.  One night Allison came over and because it was 600 degrees we decided to hang out in front of my house (I don't have a fancy-ass porch like Rowan and Gabe, I have a cement slab and two Adirondack deck chairs, but that's neither here nor there). Once we were good and lit we got to talking about the slugs that were all around us, and after a bit of wiki research we found out that a great slug trap is a cup of beer. Slugs are nature's ravers, so if you put out the hooch they'll go hunting for it, fall into the glass and drown in their own shame. It's the ideal death for a gastropod.

Armed with Information, we went around and started pouring beer on all the slugs just to see what they'd do. We gave them all a healthy splash except for one giant one who got a shot of scotch. And they loved it. They looooved them some beer. They rolled around, all slimy and bloated, and just followed that beer wherever it ran. The scotch slug got too hammered to even think straight--I found him the next morning sunbaked into a pile of mulch, apparently too drunk to remember where he lived.

While we were busy doing all of this important research I decided that my jeans were hindering my scientific findings, so Allison fetched a pair of scissors and cut the legs right the hell off while I was still wearing them. The majestic pair of jorts that resulted continue to be my favorite and most utilized summer item.

After we ran out of beer and all the slugs had passed out, I went inside and wrote a nearly identical scene to the carnage that had just gone down, except that Rowan had made fudge and scones and we did not. Also, and I am not exaggerating, that was the last summer I ever saw a slug anywhere on my property. The baby slugs born that year were told of the dangers of alcohol and continue to spread cautionary tales of what comes from cavorting with me and Allison.

So that was kind of a roundabout way of getting to the point of this post and that point is scones! Blueberry scones with a lemon glaze! So appetizing after reading six paragraphs about slugs! How did Rowan manage such a treat while so thoroughly drunk? Well, I can't tell you that, but she probably made a huge mess, because this recipe is a slop-fest even when you're sober--this might be because I make the dough directly on my countertop, which means that Rowan did, too. The resulting scones are delicious however, and it's really not all that difficult a process. I use Tyler Florence's recipe for these, even though I am not the biggest Ty Flo fan. He sticks his fingers into his food way too much for my taste--all of his dishes have to be swimming with enzymes before they even hit the plate. Go ahead and watch him, you'll see. If he does that with food, I can't imagine the habit not carrying over to his personal life. Anyway, here are the deets:

Blueberry Scones:
·    2 cups all-purpose flour
·    1 tablespoon baking powder
·    1/2 teaspoon salt
·    2 tablespoons sugar
·    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
·    1 cup fresh blueberries
·    1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones

*Lemon Glaze:
·    1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
·    2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
·    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
·    1 lemon, zest finely grated

*(A small word of warning: the measurements here can be quartered and you'll still have a pile 'o glaze to put on your scones. The suggested amounts produce a LOT of glaze, way too much for any reasonable pastry hunter. Unless you are planning on a glaze chaser you absolutely don't need this much.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.

Eggs, no--shit ton of heavy cream, yes


Wonderfully crumby

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches.

This step always looks like crap. Be not afraid.


Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape.

I love my pastry scraper. I got it at Ikea for a buck.

Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

You can make the lemon glaze in a double boiler, or for a simpler alternative, you can zap it in the microwave. Mix the lemon juice with the confectioners' until dissolved in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water for the double-boiler method, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Either nuke the glaze for 30 seconds or continue whisking in the double boiler. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.

I believe this is the same one that is pictured unbaked above it. Ah, continuity.

And that's it! I am going to make these tonight and I'll add the pictures in later, obviously in a fabulous and instructive manner that will make it look like I actually made an effort with this post. In lieu of food porn, here's a picture of a bunch of guys in jorts.




Monday, December 17, 2012

*Bumps*

This weekend my house was transformed into a maelstrom of hyperactivity and plastic forks as I paid my yearly penance for failing to count to nine before I conceived my child--AKA Tess' birthday party.

If you'd rather not add the madness of your child's birthday to the roiling stressball that is December, I can't stress the importance of late March/early April abstinence enough. Put up signs. Keep Out. Just Say No.

Anyway, because I failed miserably at basic math comprehension, my daughter's birthday is December 22nd; something I'm trying to atone for before she is old enough to resent me for it. Poor timing notwithstanding, I do love parties, because what is a party if not an excuse to make a great cake?

Tess' birthdays are pretty much the reason that I started making cakes in the first place, and they provide a nice commentary on how much it is possible to teach yourself when you are too cheap to take proper classes. To illustrate this, I offer you a Timeline of Tess' Cakes.

Age two:


Sesame Street, because, of course! These are frightful in so many ways, but as a picture speaks a thousand words I'll try and keep my commentary to a minimum. The least offensive of the bunch is probably Elmo, though Cookie Monster would have taken that title if he were the correct shade of blue. Oscar looks like he was bred from the loins of Hitler and Harpo Marx. I also see that my poor judgment led me to arm wee Elmo with a tiny choke-able nose, which I remember to be Gobstoppers--I'm sure that was appreciated by the other parents. I took pains to use the correct piping tip and then turned around and applied it in a completely incorrect way, causing these guys to look like combed-down versions of their spiky-furred television counterparts. My only saving grace is that everything was in fact fully edible, a concept that I abandoned entirely a year later.

Age three:


Ah, flight of the bumblebees at its finest. At the time of baking, Tess had a burgeoning love of The Berenstein Bears, and I created this Queen Bee cake as a tie-in to her BB themed party.

Bears-->Honey-->Bees.

I know. Marginal at best, but, guys, I was MAD proud of this cake. I piped the whole thing in like, five hours; a Herculean effort that made it okay to slap some paper wings on that sucker and call it a day. Seriously, I don't know why the paper wings, but I do know that my hands were cramped into claws for hours after I finished this. The details leave a lot to be desired--poor thing looks like it was just goosed, what with those crazy black spotted marshmallow eyes, staring in terror at a seething mass of rainbow-colored maggots.

I don't know why I didn't move the cake to a more picturesque location before I took this picture, but we learn as we grow, right?
Age four:


This one is better, but still pretty flawed. I wanted to try my hand at a Mad Hatter topsy-turvy cake, and ended up cranking out this monster, which weighed  in at thirty-five pounds. I didn't have a very firm grasp of the topsy-turvy technique, and the bottom tier looks more pregnant than anything, but still a decent effort. I made the majority of this cake after a Christmas party and I might have been a little topsy-turvy myself. I do like the contrasting pastels, but that's pretty much the only good thing about it. The inside was "Peppermint Patty"--chocolate cake with peppermint frosting. It sounds gross because it was.

Age five:

When Tess was five she was crazy-obsessed with Glee, and her Glee cake was probably the easiest of the bunch. It was huge (you may recognize the size and shape from the checkerboard brownie incident) and I was less of a spaz at fondant, but that's about it for this one.

Age six:


Now we're cooking. This is the famous Batman cake, and I think it's pretty sweet. Tess was supposed to be Batman the previous Halloween, but she got sick the morning of and couldn't go out, so her homemade pink Batman costume was all for naught. We did this cake to make up for it. For once I didn't eff up the stacking, the fondant didn't tear, it was a solid effort all around. Brandon cut out the Batman insignias but I think, and I could be wrong, that I did the lettering, which I am not particularly known for. I don't remember the flavor combo, but since the fondant is black it was probably chocolate something.

Age seven:

We had a helluva task upon us. Tess has developed a deep, deep love for Adventure Time on Cartoon Network, and if you've never seen this show I urge you to locate and watch it immediately, because it is the SHIT. I was stoked to do this cake because Brandon and I are just as obsessed with AT, as is evident by our Halloween costumes:

We were Lemongrab, Princess Bubblegum, and Fiona, for the uninitiated.

There was ample potential for a kickass cake, but the show is such a hodgepodge of characters and colors and trippy acid moments that we had a time trying to figure out what the best showcase would be. Finally we settled on an illustration of the basic AT landscape on the bottom and a smaller version of the Ice Kingdom on top. Then we made the characters, and goodness they are cute:


Finn and LSP

Beemo

Ice King and Gunter

Princess Bubblegum

Tree Trunks and Pep Butt


Getting them ON the cake was more of a challenge, because most of them have long, spindly parts that don't hold up well. Finn fell apart at least fifty times before I got him to stick, and both he and Beemo lost an arm when all was said and done, but in the end I was pleased with the results.



I love this picture. It looks like LSP is shit talking to Tree Trunks.






Ah, nothing gives me a sense of accomplishment quite like digging through four years' worth of cake pictures. I know that this post has little to nothing to do with literature, unless you count my pithy Berenstein Bears reference, but I also mentioned the Mad Hatter and four different television shows...I think that counts.

On a more serious note, which is a place I hope to rarely go, we had exactly twenty children at the party--the vast majority of whom were first-graders. Spending the day with a nearly identical demographic to the twenty innocents that were lost just the day before was the epitome of bittersweet, and I can't even begin to imagine what the parents in Newtown, CT. are going through. The kids were wild, manic, laughing, wrestling, jumping off furniture, spilling juice, and pounding pizza dough with all of their might, and I cherished every single one of them. I hope against hope that they are able to grow up and bring their own children into a world that is far less terrifying than the one they are living in today.

Happy baking, all. Be nice to one another.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The fourth one is a phone-in

I knew I had this post kicking around somewhere, and since I didn't bake anything today I figured I better  find it. This dates way back to 2006, when I didn't know what I was doing, and a more horrific display of culinary ineptitude you are not likely to find.

This is from a post I wrote on my old blog about a cake that I had attempted to bake for my next door neighbor's birthday. I don't remember this particular endeavor very clearly, and I certainly don't have photographic evidence, but just the description of the chocolate on chocolate on chocolate--not to mention the fact that I used a truly bizarre ganache recipe, makes me think that it was probably a hot mess and a half.

While this can technically be referred to as 'instructive' I don't recommend that you follow any of these steps. Particularly the ganache, because I don't know what the hell was going on there.

 

The Way of the Cake


Are you slightly wary of your culinary skills? Do you wish to create simply delicious confections that will be a feast for the eyes as well as the palate? Of course you do! But sadly...you possess none of the necessary skills. Fear not! Here at Brooke's School of BackAssWard Baking we have taken all of the mystery out of the baking process. Simply follow these easy to manage steps and soon you too will be delighting your friends and loved ones with your know-how!

Step 1: Choose your cake! It has to be the perfect cake or the people you are baking for will hate you! Hate you and throw things!

Step 2: Once you have selected the recipe (for our purposes we will assume we have chosen a basic Chocolate Luvver's Cake), read through the steps once, quietly, to yourself.

Step 3: Inspect the ingredient list and then survey your pantry for additional supplies you may need to purchase.

Step 4: Decide that the 'cake' portion of a basic Chocolate Luvver's Cake isn't really the most important part and substitute two boxes of Duncan Hines brand chocolate cake mix.

Step 5: Decide that the 'frosting' portion of a basic Chocolate Luvver's Cake isn't really the most important part and substitute two cans of Duncan Hines brand chocolate frosting.

Step 6: Decide that, ultimately, the most important part of a basic Chocolate Luvver's Cake is the luscious and fudgy chocolate ganache filling.

Step 7: Gather your baking ingredients.

Step 8: Notice that, most unneccesarily in your opinion, Duncan Hines brand cake mix calls for three eggs. Notice further that you bought two boxes (resulting in two cakes) which will mean six eggs. Notice that you did not purchase eggs, did eat eggs for breakfast and will need at least one egg for the meatloaf that your husband is making for dinner. Curse the makers of Duncan Hines straight to hell.

Step 9: Examine egg supply and note with jubilation that you currently possess seven eggs. Rejoice in the knowledge that there is a God and he is clearly watching over you.

Step 10: Mix cake batter.

Step 11: Examine box for pre-heating instructions. Note, with some concern, that the instructions call for a temperature of 325 for coated pans and 350 for metal pans. This is problematic, as you have one of each.

Step 12: Throw caution to the wind and set the oven vaguely on the blank space between 325 and 350.

Step 13: Pour batter into two pans.

Step: 14: Place in oven and set timer.

Step 15: Iced tea.

Step 16: Check on cakes in oven. Observe with horror that you have tragically overfilled your pans and your cakes now resemble huge muffins!!!

Step 17: Theraputic breathing.

Step 18: Wait thirty five minutes past optimal baking time in order to fully bake your super-thick cakes. Place on counter to cool.

Step 19: Prepare ganache. Bring to a boil 3/4 cup heavy cream, one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of butter. (??????????????)

Step 20: Tidy up.

Step 21: Remember your boiling cream, which has begun to overflow, and hastily add to 1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips. (Chips and cream, people. That's it.)

Step 22: Let sit for five minutes and stir until creamy. (This is correct.)
Step 23: Remove cakes from pans and set on racks to cool (racks should be made of one inverted broiler pan bottom with holes and one grease splatter guard on top of a pot). (heh)

Step 24: Allow your frustration to mount as your cakes come out in not one but several pieces. (Two words: Cake Magic)

Step 25: Assemble pieces (just like a puzzle!) and allow cakes to cool.

Step 26: Using a serrated bread knife (good!) carefully slice the muffin top area off of your cakes until you have two smooth round discs.

Step 27: Get a Band-Aid.

Step 28: Slice each disc horizontally so that you are left with four even layers.

Step 29: Tranfer first layer to your presenting tray and cover with chocolate ganache. Continue to layer cake and ganache until you have a perfectly round tower.

Step 30: Fill in those holes with some of the top of the cake scraps, my God, that looks terrible!

Step 31: Frost your cake, as liberally as needed, with your Duncan Hines brand chocolate frosting to cover hideous cake pieces. Frosting is a grand disguise for any blemishes your cake may have suffered.

Step 32: Observe the lopsided way your cake sits on the tray. How did that happen? Decide to use higher side for presentation purposes.

Step 33: Try and fix frosting so that it looks light and airy, i.e. magazine cover worthy.

Step 34: Realize this is impossible. Cover cake, as liberally as needed, with shredded coconut to hide hideous frosting job. Coconut is a grand disguise for any blemishes your frosting may have suffered. (This sounds awful, too)

Step 35: Admire your handiwork. Give yourself a grin and a pat on the back...PUT DOWN THE KNIFE FIRST!!!

Step 36: First Aid.

Step 37: Serve cake and tell anyone who will listen that you made it from scratch (let's be real here...that ganache didn't just fall out of the sky!).

We here at Brooke's School of BackAssWards Baking are pleased to assist and guide you. We hope that our easy to follow instructions allow you to gain the confidence you need to make it all the way to Master Chef. Happy baking and...
Bon appetit!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Where I make strawberries good again

Today's post was inspired by the fact that I ran out of syrup this weekend on, woe to me, Pancake Day. Pancake Day is a sacred one in my house, and as I bleakly announced that we were sans syrup, histrionics  predictably ensued. In an effort to avoid being taken down by the caterwauling of my six-year old child, I turned to my freezer in stark desperation. There, shoved into the far corner, was a half bag of strawberries left over from some type of smoothie experiment--it was then I knew that victory was mine.

Page 52:

Rowan decided to make pancakes, if she could remember how. Her second foster mother had practically lived in the kitchen and she always let Rowan help, so she wasn’t too worried about poisoning them or burning down the house . She filled a pan with an inch of water and added sugar and a handful of chopped strawberries, setting it over low heat.

To be fair, Rowan was, perhaps, in more dire straits that I was. She'd just kidnapped a kid, crossed about fifteen state lines with him, and was trying to negotiate a very delicate blackmailing scheme in addition to coming up with breakfast on the fly. Girl had problems, but I knew that if she could put it all on the backburner (ha!) and soldier on, then so could I.

I'm not the biggest fan of strawberries as a fruit but I will admit that they cook up very well, which is likely why my two MC's have such a major berry fetish. I popped those buggers into a pan with an inch of water and a cup of sugar and let it boil down while I got the pancakes made (using up the very last of my flour, damn it).

I need to go grocery shopping.

(Before we move on, I'd like to give a quick shout-out to the purple thing you can kinda see in the upper left-hand corner. That is my silicone oven mitt shaped like a cow's head. It doesn't get any better than that.)

I inspected my syrup and found that I had a nice bubbling pot of strawberry studded water--I cursed Rowan for neglecting to mention every step of her process. Using a stick mixer I obliterated those strawberries from here to Sunday and added a tablespoon of cornstarch to produce a more syrup-like consistency. Then I tasted it...and I knew magic had been made.

Can you find Jesus?

Guys, this shit was DELICIOUS. Like, holy Mary, see the face of God good. I can't even properly take my icons' names in vain it was so good. It was pipin' hot, so I poured it on the pancakes double-quick and there we had it. Rowan's bum-rush pancakes with strawberry syrup come to life.

Page 53:

She brought her makeshift syrup to the table and made plates for both of them, piling butter and fruit on the pancakes and sifting powdered sugar over the whole thing.


Uhhhhhh.....

I didn't sift powdered sugar over the whole thing, because Rowan has an issue with boundaries, so I skipped the diabetic coma in favor of a more stripped-down version.

Good stuff. Make this one.

Pancakes:
I like thinner, more crepe-y pancakes, and this is my recipe for them. If you like yours a bit thicker you can Google "Pancakes (thick)" or something.

1 1/2 cups AP flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use Clabber Girl brand...it's more fun to say. Clabber giiiirrrrllll)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
3 Tablespoons melted butter

Blend the dry ingredients first and then mix in the egg and milk. Add the melted butter LAST, because if you don't you will have a big mess on your hands, and I speak from experience. Stir to combine the butter and then spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle at a time. Flip when...bubbly? I don't know how to describe making pancakes, just turn 'em when they look done.

Rowan's Kickass Strawberry Syrup!!!
I just kind of threw things together to make this, so I will estimate the measurements to the best of my ability.

1 to 1 1/2 cups of strawberries, fresh or frozen (I used half a bag of frozen, because it's December, and I pureed them later. If you use fresh you can chop them up beforehand.)
1 cup of sugar
About 1 cup of water, just enough to come about halfway up the sides of the strawberries (or, '1-inch' in Rowan-speak)
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in about a quarter cup of water.

I put my strawberries, sugar and water in a medium saucepan and let them boil down for about five minutes and then I used a stick blender to puree it together...I completely liquified mine, but feel free to leave a few chunks in there for some fun and sass. After I did the puree, I added the cornstarch and let it boil for another few minutes to thicken up, then I transferred it to a ramekin to cool off. It will get thicker as it cools, but take it from me and just eat it hot...you will not be sorry. Store the leftovers in the fridge.

This was a nice segue to the later portion of the book, when Rowan makes strawberry-rhubarb pie about eight thousand times.

Strawberries =





Friday, December 7, 2012

An offering for the Iron of Stomach-Checkerboard Brownies

Guys, these are the worst.

I'm really sorry to have to present such a dismal failure for my first official food post, but since I baked specifically for this entry I don't see that I have a choice. First, a bit of background on the elusive checkerboard brownie and the horror it has brought into my life.

If you've read my book you already know the deal with these little buggers, but since that's only, like, twenty people at this point I thought I should embellish a little bit. To begin we have Rowan, the star of our show, and suffice to say this is a girl who knows her confections. She has a stockpile of lard in her kitchen, at least one culinary torch, and can whip up gourmet offerings as quick as it takes me to type 'creme brulee'. Over the course of time I will have a LOT of Rowan-made offerings, but sadly the checkerboard brownie is not one of them.

When it came time to introduce a new character into the fold, I had to think of an effective way for him to woo our Ro-Ro and that was no mean feat, for her palate is a sophisticated one. To remedy this, I gave Dell, her paramour-to-be, a sweet little nook above what appears to be quite a high-end bakery considering they live in Oklahoma. I tried to think of a fun 'signature dish' for said bakery and I came up with the whimsical-sounding checkerboard brownie. That's where I ran into trouble.

Rowan loves, loves, LOVES her some checkerboard brownies. They are mentioned at least half a dozen times in the manuscript and she even steals the idea to pimp out her own bakery in the epilogue. She doesn't even like Dell that much, but just the fact that he introduced her to those freakin' brownies forced me to pen a really uncomfortably detailed fellatio scene on page 237. Anyway, since they turned into such a highlighted item, I realized that it would probably be in my best interest to figure out how to make them.

With that, I called Allison (hi, Allison!) and asked her for help. It's a good thing I did, because we quickly learned that these brownies would require geometry, and I am grievously ill-equipped to tackle that.  I'm not going to go into the details here, because I cry when I think about it, but suffice to say we made two 20x20 batches of brownies (one brown, one blonde), cut them up and melded them together like so:

I was frankly impressed that we achieved even this

Then we stacked them on top of each other, sliced, and viola! Kinda checkerboard patterned brownies.


Many crumbs ensued

The trouble was, they just kind of...hovered on each other, as opposed to being one solid brownie unit. So I remedied this by having Rowan mention that they were held together by chocolate ganache. And iced. Trust me, you eat ONE of these brownies you'll need a defibrillator, I don't know how Rowan ever survived so many--except for the fact that she's not real.

For my next offering I worked off of the advice of my husband, Brandon, who took umbrage with my original technique. He offered a strip-method, which I am not even going to try to explain, but looked like this:


This looks like bacon. I swear it is not.

Right away I could see there would be trouble, mainly because I used milk chocolate as opposed to dark chocolate and there was not much difference in shade. Still, I pressed on, added the ganache, and layered another batch of strips with opposite alternating colors on top. Then I iced the shit out of it. (Are you getting this, Rowan? You better make me LOTS of money someday.)

When all was said and done I made the highly anticipated cut to see what I had ended up with, and what I ended up with was this:

Derp

So yeah...not that great. The ganache got in all the corners and muddied everything up, so there is precious little pattern to be found. I don't know what Dell's bakery did to achieve success with this particular item, but clearly not this.

So, to sum up. Rowan's fictional love of a fictional dessert item brought about the following hardships:

1. Fellatio
2. Geometry
3. Ill-advised ganache application.

Not one of my better offerings. I'm so sorry. My next effort will be better because, let's face it, it couldn't be much worse. If you are interested in failing miserably at an extremely convoluted brownie concoction, these are the recipes to use!

Brownies:
(You will have to double this to have enough for the big-ass batch featured on top)

4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan
Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Or simply combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.
Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

Blondies:
(You will have to triple this to have enough for the big-ass batch featured on top)

2/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar and set aside. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated and then add vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to the butter/sugar mixture, beating only until incorporated. Spread into a 13 x 9 pan and sprinkle chocolate chips on top of batter. Bake at 350° for 25 - 30 minutes.

Despite the sadness, and yes, shame, that these brownies brought about, I am happy to report that I was able to successfully put on an argyle sweater and eat them anyway.




Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Loaded with shinny

A few months ago my keen literary tastes led me to pick up To Kill A Mockingbird for the eight billionth time, because as much as I love my Kindle it's really not the kind of thing you should  be bringing into the bathtub. As I lay there inflicting water damage on an American classic, I came across a passage that gave me pause. In short, it was describing a type of cake, a Lane cake, that is baked in enough hooch to get an entire kindergarten class tipsy. The verbiage used to explain this cake is particularly wonderful:

"Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight."

I don't know what 'tight' is referring to, though I have a few ideas, but that's not really the what struck my interest. You see, I bake all the time--cakes, cookies, meringues, pies...and I had never even heard of a Lane cake, let alone gotten tight from one. I did a quick Google hop and discovered that this is indeed a real thing, and it contains close to two cups of bourbon. I would consider it a grave disservice to myself and everyone around me NOT to bake such a magical confection, so I placed it in my "Cake Bait" file, which is where I keep recipes designed to make people love me.

The flip side of this is that I wrote my own book a few years ago, and have been jumping through all the requisite hoops toward publication, a goal that is now glittering on the horizon. Because I am both lazy and a fat kid at heart, I wrote about fifty different baking scenes into a book that ultimately has very little to do with food just to give my main character something to do that I wouldn't have to think too much about. I am also an avid taker of bad pictures, and now with the help of Instagram my bad pictures can look bad behind a wide array of artistic filters, so I thought, "Hey! Maybe instead of flooding my Facebook wall with all of my culinary creations I can condense them to a blog dedicated to literary desserts!"

So that's what I'm doing. My posts will likely consist of 99.9% dessert items, because I don't know how to cook real food, and as it just occurred to me that I should probably also document the inevitable weight gain that will accompany this project. I will heroically bake every single item that I wrote about in my own book, along with desserts ripped from the pages of other novels...trust me when I tell you that my taste in books is somewhat sporadic and not particularly sophisticated, so if you see me baking stuff that I found in a V.C. Andrews incest-fest or Shopaholic Raises the Dead don't be surprised. I'll also post recipes, so if something strikes your fancy you can attempt it in your own kitchen, or else send me money to make it for you.

<This officially ends the boring disclaimer post>

Sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting. They have no literary value, I just made them for Thanksgiving and they came out super-pretty.