Sunday, August 24, 2008

uncle gary is 33! ...again.

So it's a running joke in my family that the "middle-aged-folk" (i.e. my mom, aunt, and uncle) turn 33 each year instead of their respective ages. It's a long story, and we're weird, but if you're slightly interested, just watch "The Three Amigos", and watch for the scene of El Guapo's birthday. :)

So my uncle isn't really a fan of desserts...blasphemy, I know! But he comes from an English background, and they like bland things there, right? Who knows...maybe his genes are to blame. But anyway, I wanted to make him something non-chocolately since he doesn't like overly sweet things. Soooo, voila! Enter almond cake with raspberry whipped cream and white chocolate!

I've blogged about this almond cake before (see Sheila's Almond Cake for more details), but I jazzed it up a bit and made my own whipped cream for the center and top. Actually, I've never actually made my own whipped cream before...but anyway, after the cream was whipped to a fluff, I folded in raspberry preserves. The result? A not-too-sweet concoction of cream and raspberry deliciousness.

The sides of this cake were looking a bit bare, so I decided that some white chocolate chips would look lovely pressed against the sides. I don't think that my family enjoyed it that much, since a lot of them were scraped off onto the plate, but oh well. Can't win 'em all with white chocolate, right? :)

Whipped Raspberry & Almond Cake
Adapted from "Simple White Cake"

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
4 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk

Raspberry Whipped Cream
Adapted from "Raspberry Whipped Cream Truffle Cake"

1 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream, chilled
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp. raspberry liquor
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
6 tbsp. raspberry preserves

about 1/2 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried
about 1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray. Dust bottom and sides of pan with flour.

Prepare cake: in mixer bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in almond extract. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in milk until batter is smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cakes from pans.

Prepare whipped cream: using an electric mixer, beat cream, powdered sugar, liquor, and vanilla in large bowl until very firm peaks form. Gently fold in raspberry preserves until evenly worked into the cream. Keep chilled until ready to assemble cake.

When cake is completely cool, place one layer on a serving dish, and spread half of the whipped cream over the cake. Top with second layer, and spread with remaining whipped cream. Press white chocolate chips on sides of cake. Top cake with raspberries.

these taste like christmas in august

Yum ho ho. That is what you'd say if you bit into one of these Chocopeppermint Bars. :) That's because they pretty much taste like Christmas. I came up with this recipe on my own, altering my all-time-fav chocolate chip cookie recipe...yes, the one from that infamous high school chemistry class. Anyway, to infuse them with the Christmas Spirit, peppermint extract replaces your traditional vanilla, and chopped peppermint candies are sprinkled on top.

But really, who needs the Christmas season in order to enjoy these yummy treats? I mean, holiday cheer is always a plus, but these taste delicious anytime of the year. :)

Anyway, I really love these cookies because you can alter the recipe to make them more cake-like or decadently dense. These bars are the decadently dense version, but feel free to take out a stick of the butter and, voila! Cake-like cookie bars are yours!

Chocopeppermint Bars

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. peppermint extract
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peppermint candies, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and peppermint extract until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips. Spread dough into prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and peppermint candy chunks over dough.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until cookie is golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares, and serve.

Monday, August 18, 2008

where can I find a crumb cake like that?

You know...I wish I had a Starbuck's cake, I wish I had a Starbuck's cake. Where can I find a crumb cake like that? Well, usually under that illuminated glass showcase of delectable baked goods at that quaint, yet overpriced coffee shop. But today, I baked up the signature coffee cake (complete with that incredible crumb topping) in my very own kitchen. Except one change...strawberries! Yep, strawberries were layered into this amazing crumb conundrum.

Oh...and 10 points to whoever can name the song that inspired this blog title! *Answer at the bottom of the page. Hehe, gotta love Pandora. :) And wouldn't it be hilarious if I pranced into Starbuck's one day singing this song, complete with altered lyrics? In fact...maybe they'd give me a slice of coffee cake for free! Siiigh...I really do live in my own imaginative world far too much sometimes. Always a good thing? No. Entertaining? Yes, very much so. :)

So let's talk about substitutions for a sec. This recipe called for sour cream. Hmmm. Sorry, but do could do today...not a dollop of sour cream in this house. But no worries...because buttermilk can be used in place of sour cream! Ummm...problem. What if you don't even have the slightest splash of buttermilk in your fridge? Voila! We have an answer:

1 cup milk + 1 tbsp. lemon juice + let sit for 15 minutes = 1 cup buttermilk

Letting the sludge sit is key: this is the part that makes it all thick and buttermilk/sour cream-like. So don't skip this step, got it?! After that, just use an equal amount of lemon milk sludge for the sour cream or buttermilk you're replacing.

So the best part of this coffee cake is clearly the crumble. Ohhh, the crumble. You know...those big chunks of cinnamon-y sugar-y goodness. That sit proudly atop your slab of coffee cake. That melt devinely in your mouth and crumble down into your light-ice-sugar-free-vanilla-double-macchiatto-latte. Ahhh, the simplicity of coffee shop lingo...

But yes, these are definately Champion Crumbles in this coffee cake. In fact, the recipe instructs you to make these crumbles 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch in size. Yes...definately the sumo wrestlers of the crumble-topped dessert world. Hands down.

Oh, and while we're here...please acknowledge and respect the University of Michigan mixing bowl pictured above. Perhaps it was The Michigan Difference that made this crumb cake so devine?

So this crumb cake was just so so good. It was buttery, moist, and delicious. And really, who are we kidding? It's really the crumble that makes the cake.

Ohhh, the Leaning Tower of Crumb Cake! And if we had absolutely no decency at all, my mom, David, and I easily could've polished off this entire tray of cake. Thankfully, though, we did not, so there will be more to enjoy tomorrow. :)

Sumo Strawberry Crumb Cake

Altered from The New York Times 6/6/07

For strawberry filling:
1 cup strawberries, rinsed and patted dry, then halved
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch

For crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For cake:
1/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk or…lemon milk sludge
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. softened butter, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8-inch-square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Prepare filling: toss halved strawberries with sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

Make crumbs: in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, cinnamon, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.

Prepare cake: in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon strawberries over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over strawberries; it does not have to be even.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from the strawberries), 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or cool.

*"Jessie's Girl", by Rick Springfield

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

vanilla vodka, eh?

So my birthday was last Saturday...wahoo! I am now officially legal! And old...haha. A big bash was held at my casa; the fam was invited as well as a few friends. Lampshades were worn by all, and we even got a visit from our friendly neighborhood policeman. Just kidding, just kidding....seriously. :) It was pretty tame for a 21st birthday, and the craziest thing my friends and I did were lame attempts at pull-ups in a school playground circa 10pm. Oh, and eat sinfully dense and delicious chocolate cake.

So you might be wondering what this bottle of Absolut is doing on my wholesome baking blog. For one, who knew that the Absolut bottle was so pretty? So sleek and so elegant with that flowing script across the front? Well, my mom gave me a make-your-own vanilla extract kit. And what did it call for, but vodka! I never realized you could get drunk off of vanilla extract! Really, though, you can't...sorry to crush your hopes and dreams. Most vanilla extracts don't use vodka, though, unless they are the super duper fancy-expensive kinds. And the vodka explains why some of those vanilla extracts can, in fact, break your piggy bank. Not to mention that real vanilla beans aren't exactly cheap, either.

Making the vanilla extract was pretty easy. The kit came with its own vanilla beans, and all I had to do was split them lengthwise down the middle, stick them in the bottle, and get them drunk on vodka. It was my first time handling real vanilla beans, so, naturally, I took an obscene amount of vanilla-bean-closeups. But...they were all lost when transfering them to my computer. Boooo. :(

But anyway, these drunken vanilla beans will need to sit for 4-6 months before the extract is ready to be baked up into something delicious....what?! Yes. You heard me. 4-6 months. And in a cool, dark place. Long time, I know, but I'm sure that it will be the best vanilla extract ever. :) And the good news is, is that the extract is good for 7 years! Though I can guarantee that it will be all used up by then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

crumble-licious and delicious

Warning: there are an obnoxious amount of raspberry pictures here. Okay, okay, so maybe I went a little overboard...but how many times in your life do you have the chance to go raspberry picking?! Not many. :)

So this raspberry excursion was a mini-field trip for us and our Californian friends. And after an afternoon spent in the patch, it is now oh-so-clear as to why raspberries are oh-so-expensive at your local Meijer. They are just so much more complicated to pick than, say, apples. First of all, they grow on these bushes that are low to the ground. So here you are, kneeling down in the dirt (or mud, if you're lucky), searching and searching for a glimpse of red among these thorny-ish bushes. And then there's the delicate-ness of these ruby red gems. Pluck them too roughly off of their vine and you end up with raspberry mush. Yes...raspberries are a high-maintenance fruit.

And how can we forget about our friend the Japanese beetle?! These little buggers like to live among the raspberry patch, and they actually look really cute! Or at least...I thought they did. :) But anyway, these guys eat away at the raspberry plants, so they are left to be sprayed with some sort of pesticide. :( Actually, we had to reschedule our raspberry date to Tuesday since the plants had to unexpectedly be sprayed on Monday...when the beetles decided to attack. Obviously, this little guy survived The Spray. :)
So we were conveniently given cute little baskets to pick our berries in, and here's the spread that I ended up with. Not a bad-looking bunch, huh? And they were probably the most beautiful color of red I've ever seen.

Oooh...pretty. :)

After our picking-adventure, our group headed to the sketchy grey concrete building to have our baskets weighed and paid for. And...eeeep...$14 later, we walked out with our freshly-harvested raspberries.

Okay, so let the fun begin...Operation: Raspberry Pie. I debated for awhile on what to make out of our raspberries. My mom was the one who requested pie. Not being a huge fan of pie, I suggested some sort of raspberry crumble instead. The madre didn't seem to by it, so away I went looking up pie recipes on Basically, this pie that I came up with is a combination of two different my mom could have her pie, and I could have my crumble and eat it, too. :) Next time, though, if there is a next time for raspberry pie-making, I would really like to try making a ginormusly tall meringue to bake on top instead of crumble. That would look really pretty, no?

So this recipe was really easy to make...the crumble mixture was your basic crumble, complete with butter, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and then the raspberries were mixed happily with (more) sugar, lemon juice, a little bit of flour for thickening, and cinnamon...which actually surprised me. Cinnamon and raspberries did not seem to be a likely combination, but it ended up tasting super good., I am a huge fan of crumble topping. Basically, it makes me think I'm eating an oatmeal cookie on top of my pie, which never could be a bad thing, right? It's just so so good. And while I don't actively eat pie as I do, say, cake, if there's crumble on top...then I just may be persuaded. :)

And now for the finished product...

Whoaaa good!!! The only tricky thing about this pie is that is came out slightly runny when I cut the first slice, thanks to those amazingly juicy berries. :) But time spent in the fridge, or even the freezer, could easily fix this problem.

And then...what to do with those leftover fresh-picked berries? All you do is place them (unwashed!) on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and then freeze. And when the time comes around that you're craving berries again, take them out, rinse, dry, and eat!

Raspberry Crumble Pie
Altered from "Raspberry Pie III" and "Raspberry Peach Crumble" from

1 cup oatmeal, uncooked
1 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch single crust pie (I used a premade crust, but this would be so much better by making your own)
4 cups raspberries, rinsed and dried
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

In small bowl, mix the oatmeal, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. With pastry cutter, cut in butter until resembles small crumbs. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together the raspberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt until raspberries are well covered. Be sure not to mix to much, or else the raspberries will get crushed! :(

Pour into 9-inch pastry shell. Top raspberries with crumble mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

do you know the muffin man?

So there were a plethora of leftover frozen fruit after a 90th birthday bash at my aunt's house...and what better way to use up all that fruit than make it all happily baked into a muffin? The motive behind these cakes of deliciousness were, once again, our Californian guests. Little do they know that they will be dining on these for breakfast tomorrow morning. :)

These muffins were super easy, and the only tricky part was the fact that I used frozen berries instead of fresh. The berries had to drain for quite awhile in our handy dandy Ikea sieve, and many a paper towel had to be used to make them relatively dry-ish. I was a bit concerned that I was going to end up with soggy muffins due to the frozen fruit, but they came out absolutely fab. And fabulously moist! Really, any fruit could be used for these muffins...blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc. But I must admit that mixed berries seemed to kick them up a notch.

And not only did these muffins come out tasty, but they also came out...

...bella! Or beautiful, if you're not feeling Italian today. :) And hopefully tomorrow morning, our guests will think they're bella, too.

Berry Good Muffins
Altered from "Blueberry Muffins" in The Great Big Cookie Book

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup mixed berries, fresh (rinsed and patted dry) or frozen (thawed, drained, and patted dry)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin pan tin, or use paper liners.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Beat the eggs until well blended. Stir in the melted butter, milk, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. With a large spoon, stir until the flour is just moistened, not until smooth.

Add berries to batter, and gently fold with spoon, making sure they are evenly distributed. Spoon batter into the pans, leaving room for the muffins to rise. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

my oatmeal cookie is shaped like the moon

So this is what you would call an epic recipe between my mom and I, and I am sure a few of you are at least the slightest bit curious as to how the name of this recipe came to be. Let's just say that it all started with my weekly spelling word homework when I was in the 3rd grade. You remember those, right? Where you had to make sentences out of the words, write them three times in different colors to imprint them in your brain, etc.? Well, if you do, you know what I'm talking about. And if you don't...well, you missed out on a quality educational experience. Not really... :)

Anyway, one of my spelling words that week must've been "moon". And as any 9-year old would be, I was bored out of my mind and sick of spelling words coming out of my ears. So here I was, racking my brain for at least the slightest bit entertaining of a sentence that could keep me focused. Thankfully, my mom was baking oatmeal cookies at the time, and we all know that baking alone is enough to increase concentration levels tenfold. :) And then it came to me...the sentence that began the legacy:

My oatmeal cookie is shaped like the moon.

So ingenious, right? Haha...but after that one simple sentence, the name stuck, and to this day, my mom and I call these cookies "Oatmeal Cookies Shaped Like the Moon", despite their traditional circle shape. Perhaps I should try to mold these cookies into a moon-shape some day so they can finally live up to their name...that might be a fun project. :)

While there need be no special occasion to bake "Oatmeal Cookies Shaped Like the Moon", today's batch was made in preparation for our Californian family friends who will be staying with us for a couple of nights. They always joke that we treat them like they are staying in a B & B, and what better way to welcome someone into your home than with the cookie jar filled to the brim with delicious treats?

It is an unwritten rule to always add some sort of mix-in to these oatmeal cookies, be it raisins or chocolate chips. Today, I really couldn't decide, so I ended up splitting the batter in half and mixing raisins in one batch and chocolate chips in the other.

And oh wow, this cookie dough is good. Amazingly good. So good, that if you really really wanted to, you could probably eat it for dinner. And that is exactly what I did...whoops! Well, I wasn't intending on eating dough for dinner, but you know what happens when you're thing leads to another, and before you know it, you've eaten 2 or 3 cookie's worth of dough. A pro about dough dinners, though, is that it's very filling. It really must expand in your stomach or something because, I don't know about you, but after eating cookie dough, I really don't want to eat for the rest of the day... However, what a plus to the poor college student!!! A batch of dough is pretty cheap and filling...but not exactly nutritious, I guess. But hey, we've got raisins and oatmeal in this cookie! So that means it's practically a granola bar, right?

Now these cookies are bigger than your average cookie. A full 1/4 cup of dough is plopped onto the baking sheet, and a baked cookie with a 3-inch diameter flies out of the oven. Not to be exact or anything.... :) So basically, this cookie is big, it means business, and it's pretty much the most bad ass cookie you can bake. Sorry "Badass No-Bakes", but you've been replaced...

Mmmmmm. Let's just drool all over these, okay?

Oatmeal Cookies Shaped Like the Moon
Taken from Good Housekeeping, September 1990

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup chocolate chips or raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Into large bowl, measure all ingredients except oats. With mixer at low speed, beat ingredients until blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. With spoon, stir in oats and chocolate chips or raisins.

Shape level 1/4 cups dough into balls and place, about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake cookies 15 to 16 minutes until golden. Carefully remove to wire rack to cool.