Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chick Season Nearing

What can I say, I am a sucker for an adorable, fluffy chick. Or in this case a fluffy, cold hen. More snow this past week here in Oregon. Makes for cranky leghorns, in this case a moody Starbuck who had to be lured out for a photo session.

Yesterday we spent part of the afternoon meandering around town surveying  the current batch of chicks available at our favorite chicken stores. Backyard Farmer, likely our most favorite chicken store in town, had a fresh batch of several breeds and it took all of my effort not to head home with a shoebox filled with peeping chicks. We're trying to wait for our favorite breeds to come in...ugh, the waiting.

In the meantime, let me spend a few moments gushing about raising chicks. This is what our original flock looked like soon after we brought them all home. During the first few weeks they spend a lot of time eating, sleeping, and seeking warmth. I can't wait to lay in bed and listen to the sound of little chirps from the other room.

After a while they start to resemble chickens with a few feathers coming in here and there. At this point, they become very inquisitive. And typically require moving into a larger box for their living situation as they start to jump about.

In a few months they will have grown large enough to begin living outside. Here are our ladies on their first day of living in the big outdoor world in their newly constructed chicken tractor. I remember how much I fretted the first evening!

This time around, we will spend a few months integrating our original flock and the new additions. This involves having their pens close together, yet not within contact yet. They'll cluck at each other, get used to the new scents, and when the little ones become big enough to hold their own around the original flock we will see how the integration goes. Check back soon for baby chick pics!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Red Velvet Cake & Mini Vacation

February seems to be my month to slack off on posting. I checked last year's February foodie posts and found the same thing. There appears to be a pattern forming, however I promise to get my baking buns back in the saddle soon.

Last weekend I had the wonderful pleasure of celebrating a friend's birthday on the Oregon Coast. If you haven't visited the Oregon Coast yet, put it on your bucket list. Seriously. It is a magical, wonderful, amazingly beautiful place with far fewer visitors than you think and a plethora of activities for everyone.

I call this the bowling team/gaming crew. Don't we look like a motley, crazy bunch? And yes, we had ridiculous amounts of fun. :)

The birthday boy requested a red velvet cake as his present. Have you ever made a red velvet cake? Do a web search for a recipe and start reading, it will likely intimidate you. This is how I felt embarking upon my red velvet quest.

I ended up going with a Smitten Kitchen recipe for the cake and a cream cheese frosting recipe from Joy of Baking. While I did do some minor tweaking to both recipes, I tried to leave them more or less intact. The one big change is that I added a raspberry whipped cream layer inside the cake (also adapted from a Joy of Baking recipe). The cake was delicious, however a little too dense for my taste (am not sure if this was due to letting the baking soda/vinegar bubble too long). As with all red velvet cakes, it tasted so much better after letting it sit for a day in the fridge.

And sorry for the poor photograph, blame the iphone. This is the only shot I managed to capture of the inside of the cake prior to it being demolished. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cake
Adapted from: SmittenKitchen
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup strawberry applesauce 
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.

Sift together cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl (this is in addition to the pre-sift for the flour).

Place oil, applesauce, and sugars in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla and almond extracts . Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (watch closely as mine tended to overcook). Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting Layer 
Adapted from: Joy of Baking 
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup slightly sweetened raspberry puree or jam 
In a large mixing bowl, place the whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill in the bowl with the wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until soft peaks form. Then add the raspberry puree/jam, a little at a time, and beat just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. Taste and fold in more jam or sugar as needed.

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from: Joy of Baking 
  • 1 - 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 - 8 oz tub of mascarpone cheese at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted 
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream 
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is thick enough to spread. Add more sugar or cream as needed to obtain the right consistency.

Assemble the cake: After the cake layers have cooled, place one of the cake layers on the serving plate as the base layer. Thickly spread the raspberry whipped cream layer over the top of the base cake layer. Place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to let the cake set up. Take the chilled cake out of the freezer and stack the next cake layer on top of the cooled whipped cream layer. Then add a thick layer of the mascarpone cream cheese frosting on top. Again place it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to set up the frosting. Finally add the top cake layer to the stack, and finish by frosting the top and sides of the cake. I tend to make this fairly heavy and thick. Place the cake back in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, then remove and decorate as desired. Refrigerate the cake until nearly ready to serve. Prior to serving, remove the cake from the fridge and leave it at room temperature for at least 20 minutes prior to serving.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Dark Chocholate Cupcakes

Another round of birthdays this week. Hell, this month. Which is fine by me, as it means more reason to bake. Although I attempted a late-night (drunkish) baking session last night, and promptly remembered why I shouldn't do that. Ha, a story for another time. ;)

This week's menu: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting. Mmmm, super rich and super sinful.

I picked up this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker and have had nothing but positive feedback from taste testers. I didn't change anything in the recipe, however next time I think I would change things up a bit. The peanut butter frosting is a little intense; next time maybe the kaluha frosting from the White Russian Cupcakes. Also, I think the dark chocolate cupcake could improve with a little instant coffee for taste. Tinker around with your batch and share what you discover. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
From: Brown Eyed Baker
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup (1.5 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) lite sour cream
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. (If you are using a non-stick muffin pan, heat the oven to 325 degrees F.) Line standard-size muffin pan with baking cup liners.

Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. (Alternately, you can microwave the mixture at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.) Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogeneous and thick.

Divide the batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1 cup creamy peanut butter
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
    ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Banana Pudding Pie

This is a banana pudding pie. Make sure you have friends around to help you consume it, or you just might eat the entire thing by yourself. Believe me, I nearly did. Even with friends around. 

I should have snapped a few more shots of this pie, but honestly the second I tasted it I wanted more. Screw pictures. Pie in mouth, please.

After doing some online research, I came across this recipe from Lick The Bowl Good. Sadly, I didn't have a pie pan handy when making the crust and opted for a round cake pan. Hence I lost a few points on presentation as the slices didn't come out all pretty for picture taking. However, the taste more than made up for it. I didn't change much with the recipe from it's original state, and am glad I didn't as this pie is perfect just the way it is. Enjoy!

Banana Pudding Pie
Adapted from: Lick The Bowl Good

To Assemble the Pie: 
  • Vanilla Wafer Crust (recipe below)
  • Vanilla Pudding (recipe below)
  • Whipped Cream (recipe below)
  • 3-4 medium bananas, cut into slices
  • 30 vanilla wafers plus more for decoration
Vanilla Wafer Crust:
  • 2 1/2 cups (about 30) crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
Vanilla Pudding:
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the crust:
In a medium bowl, stir together crushed vanilla wafers and butter until blended. Firmly press on bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.

For the pudding: Whisk together sugar, flour, eggs, yolks and milk in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 10-12 minutes or until it reaches the thickness of chilled pudding. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will be thick enough to hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted. It must be thick and slightly bubbly to set up properly!) Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.

Transfer to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic directly on top of the custard so it doesn't get a "skin" on it. Refrigerate til completely cool. (Can be made up to a day in advance.)

Whipped Cream: In a medium bowl, whip cream on medium high speed til soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat til thick and stiff. Don't overbeat or you'll have butter (no good).

Assembly: Arrange half of the banana slices evenly over bottom of cooled crust. Spread 1/3 of cooled pudding over bananas, then layer with 20 vanilla wafers. Spread 1/3 more pudding over vanilla wafers, then add the remainder of the banana slices and cover them with the last of the pudding. Spread the whipped cream over the entire pie and decorate with more vanilla wafers if desired.

The layers from the bottom up should be: vanilla wafer crust, bananas, pudding, vanilla wafers, pudding, bananas, pudding, whipped cream

Refrigerate at least for 4 hours. Overnight is best. Consume within 2 days.

Foodie Fest - Pie & Bread Edition

This past Saturday, I had the joy and pleasure to share food, drink, and warmth with a handful of foodie friends. What a lovely day! If I could do this more often (especially getting paid to do it), I would be the baking hostess of renowned success. :)

On the menu this Foodie Fest - pie and bread. Specifically crafted for a pair of friends, the general gist of the event included showing up ready to assemble/bake/eat a favorite bread or pie (dough) recipe. And of course, enjoy a mimosa or two.

We also sampled a flyer of IPA beer, which was most fun discussing and arguing the subtle taste differences between each label. 

One friend brought seed bread (oh so delicious). Two loaves, which we pretty much decimated.

Another made empanadas + potatoes = empotatoes! With gruyère cheese...needless to say I sampled MANY of these little babies.

A local bread baker pal made his first attempt at rye bread with pink himalayan salt dusted on top. Wow, like a little bite of heaven in my mouth.

As for me, I might have made a contribution or two...first up were the pesto pinwheels. These were a cross between my garlic cheese pinwheel rolls and garlic knots made last year. Needless to say they were instantly gone.

My other contribution - banana pudding pie. There is barely a sliver remaining the morning after. Obviously a sign of a smashing hit with the foodies. Click here if you would like the recipe. Easy as pie to make (ha, couldn't help myself) and well worth the wait!

Am currently taking ideas for the next round of Foodie Fest. Feel free to leave me a comment or two with your suggestions. Happy baking!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Life With Chickens & White Russian Cupcakes

I am not going to lie. Life with chickens is well, a little weird. Chickens are definitely their own species. Not quite birds as they don't fly and seem to have an attitude about it. And not quite domesticated pet, say like a dog, however they definitely perform some amazing pet tricks.

With their crowing at odd moments and chicken yoga, feathered ladies follow a hierarchy all of their own. A pecking order is always in place, which seems to change for no reason and is quite dramatic. They are so fascinating!

Chickens rock, plain and simple. Life with chickens is entertaining, in that way where you stand at the kitchen window for spans of time wondering what the hell they are doing now. Go hang out with a friend of yours who has chickens. Or better yet, agree to watch the flock for a few days when your friend heads out of town. You'll get what I mean after observing fowl play for a while...ha! Sorry, always one for a chicken joke.

Now on to the thing I am sure most of you stopped by for - White Russian Cupcakes. Wow, hats off to the person who came up with this one. I discovered this recipe through Baked Perfection. Forewarning, this is definitely an adult cupcake. Maybe it was the white russian I had to drink while making the recipe, but I could definitely taste a wee bit of the alcohol in the cupcake. Personally, I love me any dessert that makes me tipsy if I eat too many!

As for the recipe, I didn't change much. I made sure to sift the dry ingredients together, as cupcakes always come out better that way. Also added a tiny bit of almond extract, although hazelnut would have been even better. One thing I did add to the recipe directions - drink a white russian while baking these lovely treats (it's a must). Enjoy!

White Russian Cupcakes 
Adapted from: Baked Perfection
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond or hazelnut extract 
  • 1/2 cup almond or rice milk
  • 1/8 cup Vodka
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Get yourself a white russian to drink (strength is up to you, however in my opinion they are served best strong).

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a seperate bowl or in a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until combined. Add egg and egg white, one at a time. Then add the vanilla and almond extracts, Vodka, and 1/8 cup of Kahlua. Gradually add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions, ending with the flour mixture.

Bake 17 -20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcakes comes out clean. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with the remaining 1/8 cup Kahlua. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Kahlua Buttercream
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons Kahlua
Beat butter until creamy. Add salt. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until combined. Add Kahlua 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.