She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Dad’s Baked Mac and Cheese

Posted: September 17th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

Land O Lakes: Fat Free Half & Half, 946 ml

In the house where I grew up, my dad did the cooking.  My dad is a good guy, and I love him dearly, but most of his cooking was what I call “man food.”  This means that if it involves little to no flavoring, a minimum of ingredients, and something you stick in the oven, forget about, and then eat when the timer goes off, we ate it.  Seriously, I grew up eating baked potatoes 6 days a week (I have never actually made one in my own home).  However, he has a few jackpot recipes that are not only very easy, but very tasty.  One of them is for his (low-fat!) baked mac and cheese.  The trick to making this low-fat is using Land-o-Lakes’ Nonfat half and half.  How they get half and half to be nonfat, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know, but it makes a good mac and cheese.

To make this recipe, you need:

a whole box of rotini pasta (you could probably sub in some other shape of pasta, but my dad always uses rotini)

3 tbs butter

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

1 pint nonfat half and half

12 ounces of grated extra sharp cheddar

2 tbs flour

1 can whole tomatoes (yes, mac and cheese with tomatoes.  Try it.  You’ll like it.)

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan, mix in the bread crumbs, and set this aside.  Cook the pasta as per the directions on the box, drain and put in a large bowl.  In a large saucepan, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and mix in the flour.  Then add in the half and half, and bring to simmer over low heat.  Mix in the cheese, stirring until it is thoroughly melted.  Put this in with the macaroni.  Drain the juice from the tomatoes, and mix them in.  Put everything in a 9×13 inch baking pan, and top it with the breadcrumb mixture, coating it evenly.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the sauce bubbles.

The one caveat about this recipe is that it doesn’t save well.  You should really try to eat it while it’s fresh.  Also, my dad and I both never put pepper in anything because we like people to put in as much as they personally like, but this is superb with some freshly ground black pepper.  It makes a huge difference.


Baked… Samosas?

Posted: September 10th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 5 Comments »

DSC00231

While baking sweet things is my passion, a girl can’t eat goodies alone.  What I’ve discovered is that I can make healthy versions of some awesome foods by employing my baking skills.  Samosas are my favorite of this genre.  They are a traditional Indian dish, which are usually deep friend – not exactly the healthiest thing in the world.  But, these are delicious and pretty healthy, and are hand-held and easily portable (I made these for a picnic with our very own Kosher chick, Rita, and some other friends).  And, I get to use several favorite baking tools, including my pastry brush, rolling pin, and cookie trays.

First, make the dough, by mixing up 2 1/2 cups flour, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup yogurt or buttermilk (nonfat is fine, and to make them vegan, use soy yogurt).  Use your hands to mix and then kneed the dough for about 5 minutes (wash your hands first!!!).  Wrap the dough in saran wrap and put it in a fridge.

Next, make the filling.  Peel 2 large or 3 small potatoes (for a twist, use sweet potatoes, which are tasty and have lots of nutrients), cut them into 1-inch cubes, cover them with water in a saucepot and boil until those suckers are nice and soft.  Drain ‘em and mash ‘em, just like regular mashed potatoes.  Set aside.

Heat up 1-2 tbs butter or olive oil (again, oil if you want a vegan version) in a skillet, and throw in a cup of minced onion (any variety is fine), 1 tbs of grated ginger, 1-2 tbs minced garlic, and about a teaspoon each of mustard seed and coriander (careful – the mustard can be spicy).  Saute until the onions are soft, keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.  Add this, as well as 1 1/2 cups of uncooked peas (frozen works well), to the potatoes, and gently mix it up.

Next is the messiest part. Pre-heat the oven to 425 and oil a cookie sheet.  Flour a surface, and keep some extra flour out, as well as a small bowl of water and a pastry brush.  Pinch off about an inch wide ball of dough, and roll it out into a 5 inch (ish) circle. (yes, rolling pins have a use other than cookies).  Put in about a tablespoon of the potato-pea mix stuff in the center of the circle.  Then brush the outside of the circle with water, fold it over, and press it together with a fork to make a seam.

Bake the samosas for 15 minutes at 425, and then turn the oven down to 375 for 10 minutes.  While they bake, make the dipping sauce: put 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 3 tbs brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic, and a little salt into a small saucepan, heat to boiling, then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Stir so the sugar dissolves.

Yeah, these are totally high maintenence, but they are so tasty!  And portable!  Yum!


Chocolatey Brownie Goodness

Posted: August 28th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 3 Comments »

IMG_7559

I am so happy to be hanging out in Boston, where the weather is cool and I get to use premo kitchen stuff (my family has lived in this house for about 50 years, so we have collected some impressive cooking utensils), that I have been baking up a storm!  Today, I am going over to my aunt and uncle’s house for dinner, and then we are all seeing John Oliver, the Daily Show correspondent, perform live ::squeals with delight::.  And their daughter, my cousin, is a girl after my own heart.  That is, she is a total chocoholic, and has discriminating taste.  (At age 5, my dad was watching her, he bought her an ice cream at Carvel, which was right next to the grocery store where they had just done some errands.  She commented, “It’s okay, but not as good as Brigham’s.”  So, they drove to the next town and my dad bought her Brigham’s, which is a New England ice cream chain that does have really, really good stuff).

My cousin is now 13, and her taste has only improved.  So, I decided to whip up some brownies with a chocolate glaze.  Everyone thinks their brownies are the best, and I have read so many cookbooks saying they have the “world’s best brownie recipe” it makes your head spin.  The fact of the matter is that all brownies are a little different, and we all have different tastes, so let’s all just get along and quit with the competition.  This is the recipe I use, and I have to say, it’s mighty fine.

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter/spray a 9×13 inch baking pan.  Melt 5 squares of unsweetened chocolate (I always use Baker’s, because the original Baker’s Chocolate Factory was in Dorchester, MA, the section of Boston where I grew up) on the stove (NOT the microwave).  Make sure you stir constantly while you do this, because burned chocolate is really gross.  Let stand while you mix together 2 sticks of butter and 1 3/4 cups of sugar (I use brown because it gives the brownies a warmer, homier flavor, but white is fine also).  Add 5 eggs, mixing well after each.  Use the yolks for this one – it makes the brownies chewy.  Add in about 1 – 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.  Then, stir in the chocolate, and mix it good.  Lastly, add 3/4 to one cup flour.  When I put on a glaze, I think it needs the full cup, but without the glaze, a little less flour makes the brownies extra fudgy.  My biggest secret is putting in about a teaspoon of cinnamon with the flour.  It makes the brownies have a certain flavor that feels like a warm sweater on a crisp fall day.  Other people like to add nuts, coffee, marshmallows or banana at this stage.  I usually don’t, but feel free to try and tell me how  it goes, I bet any of those things would be super delicious.

Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool (if you can wait that long!)

For the glaze, I put on a basic chocolate ganache (semi-sweet chocolate chips melted with cream), because I made these for a 13 year old chocolate fanatic, who my family clearly likes to indulge.  In the past, I have been known to put on caramel (brown sugar with butter or cream, melted together).  For college late night bake sales aimed at people coming home drunk, I would whip up buttercream (butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and a little milk), and then pick out the marshmallows from lucky charms and put them on top.  I’m a maverick.

The best part about making these was that my dad’s cats supervised me while I made them.  Nothing like a little feline companionship to make you feel extra mushy when you bake!

Petey - one of my helpers!

Petey - one of my helpers!


Blueberry Peach Custard Pie

Posted: August 28th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

Raspberry Custard Pie

Apologies for my absence. Summer time is not prime baking season, and where it has been HOT, I have not turned on my oven in some time. However, since it finally cooled down to a more reasonable temperature, yesterday I decided to make a pie. Pie is a great thing to bake with stuff you have lying around the house, and is very flexible in terms of what ingredients you use.

The first and hardest thing about making a pie is the crust. To make a 9-inch crust, take 1 1/2 cups flour, and 6 tablespoons of butter (cut into little pieces), and combine them with a mixer until it resembles course cornmeal. (You can also use a food processor for this). Then, add a few tablespoons (4-5ish) of VERY cold milk (skim OK) (I like to let it sit in a glass of ice and then add it), just so the dough holds together. Roll the dough on a very well floured surface (it will be extremely sticky) so it will fit a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. TIP: Don’t handle the dough a lot. Roll it out once and that’s it. The more you handle it, the less flaky and good it will be.

For my pie, I used one peach and about a cup of blueberries. You can use whatever fruit you want, in whatever combination you think will taste good, for a pie. It’s a good way to get rid of ripening fruit in the house. Also, use fruit at it’s ripest (like, about to go bad), because that is it’s sweetest. For this pie, just cover the crust over with fruit, enough so you can’t see the crust on the bottom, but only use 1 layer of fruit.

I made a light custard to go on the top of the fruit using ingredients my parents had lying around the house (pie is this kind of baked good – no exotic ingredients required). Some people, many of whom I deeply love and respect, really like super dense, heavy custards. This is the more traditional way of making them. But I don’t make custards like that. It’s a taste issue, and I prefer my custards to be light and airy. I also delete a lot of calories and fat by making custards this way.

To make the custard, put 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites (if you want it denser, 4 whole eggs), 1/4 cup maple syrup (I LOVE LOVE LOVE the flavor of maple syrup, but if you don’t, use brown sugar or honey), 1 cup vanilla yogurt or 1 cup plain yogurt plus 1 tsp. vanilla extract (low or nonfat yogurt is okay), 1/2 a teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt into a food processor or blender. Whip it up until it is frothy. Pour it over the fruit in the pie (try not to over spill, or you will have an oven cleaning mess).

Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the custard thickens and the outer crust just starts to brown.

I look pictures, but of course forgot to bring my camera cord on my trip to boston, but the pie pretty much looked like this picture I found on the internet. It is really tasty and light, and not too heavily calorie loaded. It is a messy, messy project, so be prepared to wash a lot of dishes. I think it’s worth it. My 90 year old neighbor also really liked it, and she loves sweets more than anybody I know.


Low Cal Banana Muffins

Posted: July 11th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 4 Comments »

banana muffins

Yesterday, I had a “nonfat fruit muffin” from Whole Foods and it was gross.  Tough, tasteless, and with only strawberries that were concentrated at the top, I was mad.  Fighting mad.  When I joined Weight Watchers in April, I decided I was going to learn to eat healthily and appropriate portions so I could be healthy and become a skinnier pretty girl.  There was nothing about eating gross muffins in that.  At the end of the day, I love food, and I love baking, and I’m not sacrificing that.  And, having lost 21 pounds (and counting!), I haven’t had to.  It means being creative and working with new and different ingredients, which can be a challenge, and I love a challenge.

So, this morning, I decided to make my own healthy muffins.  Normally, muffins are sneaky.  You think they’re good for you because they have fruit, but really, they are loaded with butter, oil and calories.  Not these bad boys.  Adapted from a weight watchers recipe, they have about 110 calories a piece (2 points for those on the plan).

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray a muffin tin.  I like baker’s joy because it has flour in the spray.

Dry Ingredients:  1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached, because who wants to eat bleach?  yuck-o), 2 tablespoons brown sugar: the difference between brown and white sugar is that brown sugar has molasses (my dad says: “just the asses?  what about the rest of the mole?”), 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

Wet Ingredients:  1 cup skim milk, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons applesauce.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside.  Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Then, add in two bananas, mashed up with a fork.

Spoon into muffin tins (secret trick: use a ladle, like for soup), bake 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool, eat.

These muffins have a lovely texture.  A bit chewier than a regular muffin, but extremely moist.  How are they moist when they have no oil or butter?  The bananas and applesauce.  There are so many fruits and veggies that can make baked goods moist without adding nasty saturated fat.  Other favorites include zuchinni and pumpkin and any member of the berry family.  These aren’t super sweet, but have a delicate, warm flavor due to the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Whole Foods: I hope you’re reading this and can amend your muffin recipe so they actually taste good.  You heard me, I’m calling you out.


Happy July 4th

Posted: July 4th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

http://www.lib.k-state.edu/depts/spec/rarebooks/cookery/images/farmer1896tp.jpg

Hi Everyone,

I am home for July 4th, and while refiling through my parents’ stuff, I came across a copy of “The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” that belonged to my grandmother.  It is the 1936 edition.  I will most likely steal it, because it has some incredible historical baking recipes.  A true piece of American culinary history.

While I haven’t had a chance to completely go over all the recipes, or make any of them, I wanted to share with everyone their section on “Freezing in Mechanical Refrigerator,” so we will all be grateful for modern technology and remember an important piece of American history on this Independence Day.

FREEZING IN MECHANICAL FREEZER

Consult booklets issued by manufaturers for information about using each make of refrigerator.  Special recipe booklets are usually available.

Be sure the temperature of the refrigerator is sufficiently low for freezing desserts.  The motor may be set correctly for proper refrigeration but not low enough for freezing.  a temperature-control feature allows temporary adjustment.

Mouses, Parfaits, and all desserts which merely require packing in salt and ice can be made in mechnical refrigerators without stirring.  Pack in drawer and leave until firm.

Ice Creams. Recipes which require continuous stirring must be adapted to be successfully made in refrigerator.  For some refrigerators, the proportion of sugar to liquid must be kept low – not more than 1 to 4.  Corn sirup may be substituted for one third of the sugar.  A small amount of gelatine – 1 level teaspoon to each cup of liquid – helps the mixture to freeze more smoothly.

To Pack in the Mechanical Refrigerator. Pack homemade or commercial ice cream in individual molds or paper cups and decorate with fruit, nuts, or whipped cream put on with pastry bag and tube.  Freezing tray or a mold may be lined with ice cream, the center filled with whipped cream, sweetened, flavored, and colored, or decorated with fruits or nuts.  Set molds in the freezing compartment and leave until serving time.

Freezing stuff sure was complicated back in the day.  And “Syrup” was spelled with an “I” everywhere in the book.


Amy Sedaris: Queen of Cupcakes

Posted: June 27th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 4 Comments »

amy

If I have two passionate side interests in my life, they are baking and comedy. In fact, I was just chatting with Johanna last night about a comedian I recently discovered named Liam McEneaney, who is really, really funny. Seriously, you should look up his videos on youtube or something, unless you dislike laughing or being happy. But I digress. Because I love both baking and comedy, I worship Amy Sedaris. She’s hilarious. And none of the recipes from her book: I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence have ever failed me.

In this book, she has cupcake recipes, which I won’t copy here for fear of a lawsuit. But, I can say, they are the best standard/traditional chocolate or vanilla cupcakes recipes I have ever made (sorry, Martha). The cakes don’t come out too dry like those at a certain famous NYC bakery that people go nuts for whose name starts with M and ends with agnolia (yeah, I’m a hater). The frosting is awesome, and so simple! Butter, powedered sugar, a little milk… and she is the one who introduced me to the concept of substituting almond extract for vanilla extract. Such a simple idea, and such an amazing and tasty result! Seriously, try it in any cake or frosting recipe that calls for vanilla. You will not be sorry.

I know cupcakes have been getting so popular among the cool, obnoxious hipster set over the past few years, but cupcakes are so awesome that I forgive them. Easy to transport, perfect for parties where everyone is drinking and the idea of someone having to cut a cake (or anything) with a sharp knife is terrifying, they’re a great dessert.

And you can make any cake recipe into cupcakes. Just grab your cupcake tin reduce the cooking time by about 10 minutes (watch carefully your first time and figure it out) and double the amount of frosting (well, I love frosting, so maybe that’s just me). So your favorite cake recipe (mine is a caramel cake from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook) can be made into delicious, perfectly proportioned mini cakes.

A side note, I met Amy at a book signing, where I bought her book for my parents. She wrote “I heard you both could use this book!” on the inside cover. I laughed out loud, and she said, “they’re going to be like, ‘what? no we don’t'” and I said, “oh, they’re my parents, and they throw a lot of parties and they’re wacky.” That’s right, I told a famous person that I love that my parents are nuts. I am just so charming and not at all awkward, aren’t I?

PS While they are a little nuts (and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), I love my parents dearly and they are in real life, very sweet and lovely people.


Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Posted: June 26th, 2009 | Author: bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

I made Boston Cream Pie cupcakes for a party last weekend using a recipe from marthastewart.com.  (Link: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/boston-cream-pie-cupcakes?lnc=ae0cdc53f03ee010VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&rsc=collage_food_cupcake-recipes).

Say what you will about Martha, but that lady can sure pull out an amazing baking recipe.  It’s important when you’re baking to actually follow a recipe.  It’s not like cooking where you can kind of make things up as you go along, which I can’t do to save my life, baking is more like a science experiment, and you need things in the right proportion to turn out right.

I have a new thing for Boston Cream Pie.  Maybe because it was invented in my hometown.  Maybe because it includes chocolate, vanilla custard cream and pound cake, together in a menage a trois of goodness.

Boston Cream Pie bought at the grocery store is often really soggy, which is gross.  The reason for this is mainly because it’s left out too long, and they use a runny, Jello pudding type custard.  Real custard involves egg yolks, cornstarch (a thickening agent) and sugar and milk.  It’s supposed to be thick, and does NOT have the consistency of pudding, which is a related, but different thing.

For this recipe, you should really double the amount she suggests so there’s enough filling for all the cupcakes.  I ran short.

A word on ganache, which is what tops the cake.  Ganache is just cream and chocolate.  Here, you add a little corn syrup, but that’s just for it to look shiny.  Since there are so few ingredients, you need to use a very high quality chocolate.  In things like frostings, where there is a lot of powdered sugar, this isn’t as important.  I like Ghiradelli, because it’s among the more affordable high quality brands.

They end result was messy!!! But isn’t that half the fun?