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A Celebration of Pi (with Pie).

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Over the past weekend, on 3/14/15 to be exact. I went to a Pi Party. How does one celebrate Pi? With pie, of course! Everyone contributed a pie of some sort in honor of Pi. As you can imagine, there were so many pies there, I almost couldn’t handle the deliciousness. Almost.

My personal contribution was a Key Lime Pie. I started off with a cornmeal crust made from scratch, baked it for about 8 minutes, filled it with pie, and baked it for another 15 minutes. And although I absolutely love this particular Key Lime Pie recipe, I feel like it’s not green enough. So…I helped it reach maximum greeness with a couple drops of food coloring.

it's not easy being green.

it’s not easy being green.

I wanted to put some kind of topping on it, but I didn’t have any heavy cream. I did however, have all the ingredients to make a meringue, so I started whipping one up.

do the meringue.

do the meringue.

It was going really well, until my hand started getting really really tired. Then I remembered just how long it takes to whip meringue, and realized I should have used the stand mixer,  not the hand mixer. But it was too late to turn back now, so I whipped on, as best as I could. The result was not the best meringue I’ve ever made, looks-wise, but it sure was tasty.

beautiful on the inside.

beautiful on the inside.

I really really really wanted to add a slice of lime to the center, but at this point, I was crunched for time, so it would have to go lime-less. I brought it to the party, feeling sightly disappointed. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my desserts, but there was no way I could redo the pie and still make it to the party in time. And showing up to a Pi Party without Pie was just unthinkable.

The party was a blast. The pies were all a huge hit, including mine. So much so, that by the end of the night, my faith in my desserts had been restored.

things are looking up.

things are looking up.

The best part about the pie party? We got to take home slices of all the pies, in what I affectionately dubbed a “Super Pie.”

the super pie.

best. pie. ever.

The moral of the story is no two pies are exactly alike. But that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Pie to infinity!

 
 

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The Best Sweet Beer Bread.

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Ok, so I know I said that last week I made the Best Beer Bread, and I still stick to that claim. However, the other day, I tried again, with a different beer this time – something just a little more dessert-like. What was the beer, you might ask? Why, it was Creme Brulee Stout, by Southern Tier Brewing Co.

a sweet, sweet beer.

a sweet, sweet beer.

The only problem here, was that the recipe as you may remember, calls for 12 oz of beer, and this bottle was, alas, 16 oz. Oh darn. The only solution was to drink the remaining 4 oz. Oh the perils of being a baker. ;)

more beer than bread.

more beer than bread.

Well, needless to say, the beer was delicious, and I was even more excited now to see how the bread would turn out! It smelled amazing, and it appeared to have been baked to perfection. Now, the hard part – waiting for it to cool, so I could try it.

hurry up.

hurry up.

Finally, the cooling hour had come. It was time. Time to slice. Time to taste. Time to judge and be judged.

worth waiting for.

worth waiting for.

Well, it was definitely worth the wait. It’s hard to say at this point which beer bread was the actual best – I think it all comes down to personal preference. This one was a little sweeter, which, anyone who knows me would know that sweeter is my bag. Not everyone digs on sweeter though, so let’s just call it a draw. This one shall be bestowed with the title of Best Sweet Bread Bread. If you’d like to try is, use the same Beer Bread Recipe as previously posted, but use the Creme Brulee Stout. Remember to only use 12 oz – and to drink the rest. Never let great beer go to waste.

 
 

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Recipe: The Best Beer Bread.

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Here’s the recipe for the Sweet Baby Jesus! Beer Bread I posted the other day. Keep in mind, you don’t have to use Sweet Baby Jesus! beer (although it really was super delicious) – you can use whatever beer you like! I plan on doing a lot more experimenting with this one…

The Best Beer Bread.

What you’ll need:

3 cups flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 12 oz can of whatever beer you like

1/4 cup melted butter

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a Large mixing bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Pour in the beer, and mix with a spatula until it gets thick, then finish mixing it by hand, until it forms a somewhat flaky-ish ball. Grease a loaf pan, and pour dough into the pan, spreading it out evenly with your hands. Pour the melted butter on top. Place the loaf pan on a sheet pan (sometimes the butter overflows while baking) and bake for approx 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

 

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in bread, Indulgences, recipes

 

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Sweet Baby Jesus Beer Bread.

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I forgot how good Beer Bread is. The other day, I was home from work, and really wanted to bake something, but I didn’t want anything super sweet or that took too long to make. I began flipping through my binder and came across this old recipe I had for Beer Bread. I’m not even sure where it came from, I’ve had it for quite some time – it was pre-pastry school! But I remember it being extremely delicious, and not super complicated. Being engaged to a complete beer geek, I was also 100% sure we would already have some kind of beer in the house that would work perfectly. Little did I realize just how perfectly.

perfection.

perfection.

In the fridge, I found a six pack of Sweet Baby Jesus! It’s a chocolate peanut butter porter, and if I remembered correctly, the beer bread tastes best with a darker beer. Not only was this one dark, but chocolate AND peanut butter???  The planets could not have been more perfectly aligned. I went forth and crafted the dough.

dough with beer.

dough with beer.

I greased the loaf pan, put the dough in, drizzled melted butter on top, and baked it. Not until after I tasted the dough though. A few times. This was some good dough.

baked beer.

baked beer.

I just loved the way it looked, fresh out of the oven – kinda like how I imagine the surface of the moon. Only much tastier. I let it cool, and waited patiently for my fiance to get home, so I could show him what I made, and more importantly, we could eat it. After what seemed like an eternity, he came home from work, and we sliced into the bread.

finally feasting.

finally feasting.

This was not good. I mean, it was really really good, which made it not good, because I did not want to stop eating it. It also inspired me to start thinking about other beers that would work well in the recipe….a whole line of craft beer breads…I think I’ve found my true calling.

the best thing since sliced beer bread.

the best thing since sliced beer bread.

Any suggestions for a beer to try? I’m always up for experimenting. :)

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 24, 2015 in bread, Indulgences

 

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Recipe: Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream.

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I had a few requests for the recipe of the Coconut Birthday Cake I just made for my mom, using Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water. It may have been the best coconut cake I’ve ever had, and it was certainly the best one I’ve ever made! So, I’d be happy to share it with those who’d like to give it a try! Heck, I’ll even share the recipe for the frosting.

Coconut Cake.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup flour

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, egg, and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, half and half, and Vita Coco to the original bowl, and beat until smooth. Grease one 8″ or 9″ pan (or a heart-shaped pan, like I did), and pour all of the batter in. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Coconut Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

4 oz (1/2 stick) butter (melted)

2 oz shortening

10 oz confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp Madascar Bourbon Vanilla

3/4 oz Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and Vita Coco, mix until smooth and shiny.

Don’t forget to cover the sides of your cake with fresh coconut!! :)

 

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One Cake to Rule Them All: A Valentine Birthday Cake.


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My mom’s birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day. Every year, I make her a cake, and I try to make it exciting and different each year. Last, year, I did this one. This year, I decided to use these heart pans that my aunt gave me that I had yet to use, and was always hoping for a reason to use them. Well, what better reason than a birthday cake for my favorite lady, which also happens to be right around Valentine’s Day??

I went with an easy coconut cake, because that’s my mom’s favorite. I actually used Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water this time though, in both the cake and the icing – something I’d never done before, but it wound up working out fabulously.

coconut water

living la vita coco.

I baked the cake in the heart-shaped pan, and it just looked so cute, cooling on the rack, in all it’s heart-shapey-ness.

i heart this cake.

i heart this cake.

Next, I frosted it with the coconut water frosting. It was very….white.

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white iced.

Next, I added fresh coconut to the sides.

coconut siding.

coconut siding.

Then, I started decorating. First the border and the main flowers, all in pink, in honor of Valentine’s Day.

pretty in pink.

pretty in pink.

Then, I added the birthday wish, in dark chocolate.

they say it's  your birthday.

they say it’s your birthday.

And finally, I added a few more minor embellishments.

cake: complete.

cake: complete.

Once the cake was complete, I brought it over to my mom’s house to surprise her. She in turn, made me take half of it back home, like she always does. :)

one half of this will be mine.

one half of this will be mine.

Happy birthday and Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. Hope you liked your (half of) cake! :D

 

 

 

 

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Heart-shaped Chocolate-dipped Sugar (sort of) Cookies with Sprinkles.

 

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I love making Valentine’s Day desserts, which is funny, since I really don’t love Valentine’s Day. But I do love making things that are pink, or red, or heart-shaped – or better yet – all of the above! I had this sugar cookie recipe made with Monk Fruit in the Raw that I was dying to try, and this heart-shaped cookie cutter that I had yet to use, so I decided on heart-shaped sugar (sort of) cookies for this year’s V-Day Small Indulgence of choice.

the main ingredient.

the main ingredient.

I followed the recipe pretty much down to the teaspoon, except that I added one thing – red food coloring. I wanted my cookies to be pink and swirly – and I figured a small amount of red food coloring would do just that. I wound up with dough that looked a little like a human heart. I figured that meant I must be on the right track.

the tell-tale heart dough.

the tell-tale heart dough.

I chilled it for a few hours, then rolled it out and cut it into heart-shapes. The result was swirly pink hearts, just as I had hoped!

pretty in pink swirls.

pretty in pink swirls.

I let them cool, and then thought that although they were cute as they were, they needed something more. So I melted down some milk chocolate, and dipped them. Oh, and added some festive sprinkles, while they were still wet.

dipped and sprinkled.

dipped and sprinkled.

I chilled them for a bit, then packed them up, and shared them with my fiance, my parents, my friends, and my co-workers. I guess I really don’t mind Valentine’s Day that much after all – it gives me the chance to spread the love, by doing what I love.

all you need is love.

all you need is love.

I suppose it’s true what they say: love actually…is all around…and in cookies.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

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Recipe: Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

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That’s a long name right there.

The recipe I started with was simply called “Nutella Cake.” But what I ended up with was so much more. It was snowing, and I really wanted to bake something, but I wasn’t about to go back out to get any missing ingredients. I found a recipe for Nutella Cake in my binder. It looked like something someone probably gave me, but it was very vague and it seemed to be missing some key details, like how to mix the ingredients together (did it matter in what order?) and what temperature to bake the thing at (when in doubt, go with 350). It also called for Nutella (obviously) which I thought I had, but it turns out all I had was this:

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

Although this was clearly not Nutella, I deemed it a suitable replacement, and marched onward with the cake. Upon further investigation, I realized that the recipe called for butter – a lot of it. I, alas, had only a little. Refusing to leave my house in the snow, I improvised, replacing most of the butter with shortening. The batter seemed awfully thick, more like brownies than cake, but I didn’t let that dissuade me from baking it. When it was done baking, it definitely looked more like brownies.

not nutella, not cake.

not nutella, not cake.

It smelled pretty good, and appeared to have baked properly, so I went with it, and waited for it to cool. When it finally cooled, I sliced into it, and sure it enough, it was definitely more brownie-like.

definitely brownies.

definitely brownies.

The next step was to eat one. And then another one. And then another one. They were THAT good. Two people even said they were the best brownies they ever had (wow!). Even though they were neither Nutella nor Cake like the original recipe claimed, the Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies were definitely a major success, and will be made again. Maybe I’ll even make them for my own wedding this Spring….and now you can make them too!

wedding worthy.

wedding worthy.

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

What you’ll need:

1 box of chocolate cake mix

1 egg

4 oz of shortening

———–

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)

2 oz butter (half a stick)

2 oz shortening

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup Jif salted caramel hazelnut spread

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg and shortening. The batter will be thick. Grease a 9×13 pan, and spread the batter across the bottom (using your hands makes it easier). Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and shortening until smooth. Mix in the sugar and salted caramel hazelnut spread until there are no lumps. Pour mixture evenly on top of the cake mixture in the pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely, cut and serve.

 
 

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Shoo-Fly Pie For the Win.

shoo fly pie4

I recently made a Shoo-Fly Pie for the first time. I had never made one before, and really didn’t even know where to begin, so I started with a basic recipe I found online, here. I did, however make one key change — I made my pie shell from scratch (find the recipe at the end of this post). After making the dough, rolling it, cutting it, and placing it into the pie pan, I began crafting the pie innards. I poured the mix into the crust, and it was so THIN I assumed I must have done something wrong.

not so shoo-re of this pie.

not so shoo-re of this pie.

I had come this far, and there was no turning back now. So I went ahead and sprinkled the crumbles on top, popped it in the oven, and hoped for the best. I opened the door to this:

if it looks like a pie....

if it looks like a pie….

In all appearances, one could assume this was a mighty fine pie. But I hadn’t tasted it yet, and wouldn’t actually be tasting it until dinner at my parents’ house. It smelled great, so that was another plus for this dessert-to-be.

I packed it up, put it in the car (and by put it in the car, I mean forced my fiancé to hold it precariously in his lap for the entire ride) and headed off to my parents’, hoping all the way that it didn’t suck.

it's a pie in a box.

it’s a pie in a box.

After what seemed like an eternity, the time of coffee and dessert finally arrived. I removed the pie from it’s protective vessel (i.e., the box) and placed it gingerly in the center of the table. Based on looks alone, my mom offered up the “fancy” dessert plates for serving. I went ahead and cut the first slice.

piece out.

piece out.

After we each had a piece in front of us, we simultaneously took the plunge. “We’re all in this together,” I thought, “in delicious bliss or nauseating horror.”

Delicious bliss, it was. The pie was a shoo-in all along! ;)

 

As promised (of course I didn’t forget!), here’s the recipe for my from-scratch pie dough, if you’d like to give it a whirl.

Pie Dough.

What you’ll need:

10 oz flour

7 oz shortening

3 oz cold water

1 tsp salt

1/2 oz sugar

What you’ll do:

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening, until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Add the water to the flour mixture, and mix gently by hand, until everything is combined. Do not overwork the dough! Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours before using. When it’s ready, remove the dough, roll it out until it’s 1/4″ thick, and cut a large enough circle to cover the bottom and sides of a 9″ aluminum pie (which is what I used). Bake as directed in the pie recipe. You should have extra dough for more pies!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Indulgences, pies, recipes, special occasion

 

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Peppermint Bark: A Holiday Treat with Bite.

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I love peppermint bark.

I look forward to eating it every Christmas. I am not sure why I haven’t ever tried making it myself before now, especially knowing just how much I love it. Maybe I thought it wouldn’t hold up against all the other barks I’ve eaten over the years, and my baking ego would henceforth be crushed. Whatever the reason, I decided it was a dumb one, and I went ahead and made it this year.

A whole pan of peppermint.

A whole pan of peppermint.

I greased an 8×8 pan, and then covered it with wax paper. I melted up some semi-sweet milk chocolate, crushed a bunch of candy canes, and then topped it with melted white chocolate (and more crushed candy canes). Then I let it refrigerate until it set. Next, I broke it up into random-sized pieces, and served.

bark with bite.

bark with bite.

It was as delicious as any bark I’ve had before it. The problem now is that I have so much of it. Resistance is futile.

 
 

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