Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Baker's Do Eclairs

I joined the Daring Baker's group this year to try and stretch my skills. I never would have dreamed of making eclairs on my own and was pretty skeptical when I saw the challenge for August, posted by our hosts, Meeta and Tony.
But learn new techniques is just what I have done here and I am just thrilled! The recipe comes from the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. Éclairs consist of 3 elements:
- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough;
- Pastry Cream;
- Chocolate glaze
I halved the recipe, not wanting to be piggy about it, and piped the choux on the baking sheet in little fingers, planning to make mini eclairs.
I baked my pate`a choux according to the recipe, but got tied up on the phone and they baked a minute or 2 over. That somewhat spoiled my idea to pipe the cream directly inside, so I let them cool and cut them in half and spread the filling. Why I didn't pipe the filling on the halves, well, I don't know! Next time I will pipe to make them look so much neater.
I changed it up a bit by using suggestions from the Martha Stewart Baking Book and added a bit of whipped cream to my pastry cream for an eclair that was less heavy. I also made the original chocolate glaze, but made some with butterscotch glaze, knowing how my family loves bscotch!My eclairs tasted pretty dang good! If I ever venture this recipe again, I promise to be neater!!
You can find the original recipe at the hosts websites, listed above.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cookies for the USS Abraham Lincoln

Well I sent my cookies off the the USS Abraham Lincoln yesterday. I made Oatmeal Scotchie Bars, Chocolate Chip cookies and Peanut Butter Chip cookies. Hope they get there in one piece!

I used my trusty Food Saver vac and sucked most of the air out- but not enough to flatten the cookies- to keep them fresh. Then, super bubble wrapped!
Oatmeal Scotchies are, by far, my family's favorite cookie. I have always made them as a bar, using the recipe on the Nestle's Butterscotch Chip bag.
As part of Operation Baking Gals, I am on Steph's team and am sending cookies to Eric for distribution on the USS Abraham Lincoln. I am happy to be involved in showing our appreciation to our troops as they fight to protect freedom in the world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lemon-Up Cupcakes

Browsing the cookbooks at BJ's last week I came across one which looked to have lots of great ideas in it. So I bought it. It is called Ultimate Cake Mix Book from Publications Unlimited. I was going to put a link to it, but couldn't find it easily online. There is another book with the same name by Betty Crocker. But this one is different.
Anyway, one of the recipes is called Lemon Up Cake, but it was actually made as a cupcake. I sorta followed the recipe, and I used a different icing. The same icing was used recently by my buddy Bunny. It is a wonderful Lemon Cream Cheese Icing from Epicurious. I changed it up a bit by using lemon extract instead of lemon zest and adding a bit of yellow food coloring for effect. I topped some with crushed Lemonheads.
The cupcakes baked up very nicely. I finally used my square cupcake pan for half the recipe. These were so delicious (baked and unbaked!!). Bowl licking good!
Lemon Cupcakes
I box Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix
1 box lemon instant pudding
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake mix according to directions on box, adding the pudding and substituting the lemon juice for 1/4 c of the water. Beat according to the instructions on the box. Batter will be thick. Scoop into 24 cupcakes. (I use an ice cream scoop.)
Bake 18-23 minutes until light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Ice as desired.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Have You Ever Been Kayaking??!

Last Sunday, Mark and I took a course on kayaking. It was something I had wanted to do for awhile and I'm so glad we finally got to go. The class is offered by 41 North Coastal Kayaks. Our class was supposed to be held at the Emerald Necklace Marina in the Cleveland Metroparks, but due to the weather and the roughness on Lake Erie, it was held at LaDue Reservoir in Aurora.

There were 6 of us in the class, with 2 instructors. They supplied all the needed gear and the kayaks. Yep, we had class from 9am to 4pm! Here, from their website is the course description, "This full-day course introduces students to the fundamental skills necessary to safely enjoy the sport of sea kayaking. The emphasis is on on-water safety and use of proper technique in basic strokes. Students will also become proficient in a variety of techniques (both solo and assisted) for safe re-entry to your boat in the event of a capsize."

UhHUH! Well we did learn that and more, but I personally can't say I became proficient at getting back in the boat after it overturns. Gotta start doing guy pushups I guess. Mark had little trouble getting back into the kayak in deep water, but it took me awhile and I did need some help to hold the boat steady. Gonna have to practice!

We did have a lot of fun and loved being on the water. The instructors do everything they can to teach you the basics and you can tell they love what they are doing. I'm hoping we can go again on our own in the next week or so.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bake for our Troops!!

I am blogging to let you know of a great new baking group, started by Susan of Doughmesstic
called Operation Baking Gals.
The idea is to send homemade baked goods to our troops overseas. Here, in Susan's own words is the plan. "Operation Baking GALS will be supporting our troops every month, once a month, and instead of our soldiers getting deodorant and soap, they'll be getting the one thing they can't get from the canteen - Homemade goodies made with LOVE. We will be assigning a different soldier to certain sub-groups of bakers each month so that we spread the love, and that way, a homesick troop will have a package with HIS name on it, filled with goodies to share."
If you are inclined to help with baking and mailing to our guys and girls serving abroad, check out The Operation Baking Gals blog and read through for instructions.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Butterscotch Cupcakes

My oldest daughter is such a butterscotch lover that when I made pecan pie she would beg me to put butterscotch chips on the bottom of the filling. When my girls were growing up I didn't have much spare time or interest in baking. Occasionally I would make a pie. It was only after they were done with college that I began to pick up this hobby. (Poor deprived children!) So when she came to visit last week, I knew I was gonna indulge her with some BScotch Cupcakes.

A few months ago I found Mercken's Butterscotch wafers at the cake store. I am now using them in most of my recipes that call for butterscotch chips (except for Oatmeal Scotchies). They have a less "fake" taste than the chips, that's the only way I could describe them. They are sooo good!

The Northern Ohio summer day was quite warm and we were having a busy time but these were really easy since I used a boxed cake mix (doctored up of course). Actually, I used a Cupcake mix. Some people complain and wonder why anyone would buy a cupcake mix when its the same thing as a cake mix. Well, the reason I like it is that it is HALF the size of a boxed cake mix, which means if I just can make a dozen instead of 2 dozen cupcakes.

Anyway, these were ButterScotch all the way- BS cake, BS icing and BS glaze. Here's the blueprint-
Cake- Make cake according to box recipe, but add almost 1 box instant sugar free butterscotch pudding plus 2 tablespoons applesauce.
Icing- Simple buttercream with a bit of the BS glaze added.
Glaze- Heat a small amount of heavy cream, remove from heat and add enough wafers to make an almost ganache like glaze. (I'd guess I used maybe 2-3 T of cream and probably 1/3 C of wafers.)

Oh yeah, I added pecans to some of the batter and topped these with pecans.