Friday, May 18, 2012

Quite the Pair

I am generally a fairly patient person.  Of course, any of my friends would tell you, that this is far from the case when it comes to food.  I mostly eat cereal, yogurt, and salads, because I can't stand waiting for things to cook.  When I am hungry, I want to be fed 10 minutes ago.  The same is kind of true when it comes to baking.  I want to mix things in a bowl, put it in the oven, and be done.  Yeast breads don't give you that option.  You have to let the dough rise, and then punch it down, and then let it rise again.  I HATE making anything with yeast.  Cinnamon buns, however delicious they may be, are one of my worst enemies.  They take FOREVER.

Last night, I was supposed to go to my friends' place for a wine and game night, but I decided to make cinnamon buns first and they took so long that I didn't get to go play games.  Curse you little bundles of doughy cinnamon sugar goodness...

You're probably wondering why I would make them if I just told you how much I despise them.  Well, it's a long story, a few years in the making actually.  But we'll skip all the details.  All you need to know is that my friend Justin is a very important person in my life, and that he likes cinnamon buns.  That was kind of our thing: whenever I found something cinnamon-bun related, I would post it on his wall.  So for his birthday this year, I decided a few months ago that I was going to make him a GIANT cinnamon bun.  Then, about two weeks ago, out of the blue, he tells me that cinnamon buns are no longer his favorite, but instead he likes apple crisp.  Um, excuse me?  I don't think so.  I had been planning this thing for months, and you're just going to pick something ordinary and boring and unattractive as a birthday cake?  Great.

There was no way I was going to make him a pan of apple crisp for his birthday, so I talked it over with Stacy, and she came up with the idea of combining the two.  It ended up in the end being more of just apple cinnamon buns and it kind of lacked the "crisp" aspect, but I think it gets my point across.  All that matters is that I had no idea what I was doing, and they turned out AMAZING.  Paula Deen, you are my heroine for this base recipe.  I was trying to rush to get to game night, so I'm sorry I don't have step by step photos, but they are really easy to make, so just follow Paula's instructions and you should have no trouble.

Apple Cinnamon Buns
Recipe adapted from Paula Deen
Yield: About 2 dozen

Finally All Legal

Our entire house is finally legal.  Chandra and I are the old ladies that are 22, the other Hannah had her 21st birthday last month, and now, the last of the four is finally legal.  Leah completed 21 years of life on Monday, but unfortunately her birthday fell during finals.  We didn't have time to bake for her until after I finished my LAST UNDERGRADUATE PAPER (sorry, really felt the need to emphasize that), so we made her a belated birthday pie.

I didn't really know what to make her, and then I remembered that I had a bag of last summer's elderberries in the freezer.  Now, I've never had an elderberry, but back home, they are considered gold.  They are really hard to come by, and even more difficult to pick and sort, so elderberry pies are cherished in my family.  I decided that since Leah is a huge foodie, (she just recently started her own food blog!), she is one of the only people I know that would appreciate the rarity of this strange berry.

Stacy and I really just improvised with this pie, and Leah ate it with her friends, so I'm not really sure how it turned out.  I hope it was ok!

Elderberry Pie w/ Crumb Topping
Recipe from innate pie genius

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mistake Macaroons

Last night was our last class for our student forum on translation.  We were having a mini-fiesta/wrap-up session and all brought snacks.  I really wanted to bake something, but Tuesday was a pretty busy/exhausting day, and I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.  I was totally drained, but had already committed to making something, so I decided to pull together some strength and make some cookies.  I'm still trying to use up what I have in my cupboards, and what did I find but a big bag of shredded coconut?  I thought, MACAROONS!  Perfect; they are easy and fast to make.  Only problem is I think macaroons are boring on their own.  They need a little extra something.  The last time I made them, I used slivered almonds. 

My favorite ones are from Linda's Sweet Memories Bakery, and hers have a cherry on top.  I drove up to the campus grocery store to get maraschino cherries.  Some jerk cut me off just as I was turning into the parking lot and took the last of only four parking spaces.  I was in a hurry so I parked illegally, and ran into Weshop so I could get in and out before I got ticketed.  Of course, they didn't have maraschino cherries, so I decided dried cherries would have to do.  I found the stack of them on the shelf, grabbed one off the top, waited in line, paid for it, and rushed home.  As my luck would have it, when I pulled the container out of the bag, I realized that I had actually grabbed dried blueberries which were in the wrong stack instead.  I wasn't going back there, so I figured they'd have to do.  And you know what?  They were a hit.  Win.

Coconut Macaroons w/ Dried Blueberries
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 4 dozen macaroons

Sarah's Sangria Cake

Ok, so I've done a lot of baking over the years, and have come up with some pretty amazing creations.  But this cake, by far, surpasses anything else I have ever made or conceptualized.  It was DELICIOUS, moist, light, and one of the coolest ideas I've had in my life.  So how did I come up with this genius idea, you may ask?

Well, we must first start with the reason I made the cake in the first place.  Fate would have it that I would not end up staying abroad for a full year last year, throwing my housing at Wes upon return to chance.  As luck would have it, I sent out a Facebook message pleading all of my friends if they knew someone that was looking for a roommate.  My friend, Sarah Q, told me that her friend, Johnny was looking for someone, and gave him my email.  Johnny worked for ResLife, and put a plan into action for me to live with him and two of his friends (who were both also returning from abroad) even though I had never met any of them.  Now, this situation could have gone horribly, horribly wrong, but it didn't.  I came out of that semester with three of the most wonderful new friends anyone could ask for.  We all bonded in our special ways, Johnny and I with our obsessive cleaning, Julia and I with our boy gossip, and Sarah and I with our foodie-ness (she is from NYC, so it is in her blood).

Last year, I made Sarah a really awesome Black Magic Cake befitting of even the snobbiest foodie.  I knew that this year it would be tough to top it, but I had to try.  It's getting to the point in the semester where I don't have a lot of points yet, so I have to choose my ingredients carefully.  I opened the cupboards and found a bottle of merlot, and was immediately inspire.  Sarah was going to be missing the Tour de Franzia for a family affair at home, so I thought that a birthday cake was an appropriate way of getting her wine.  I didn't want to make any more frosting, so I decided that I would decorate it similarly to Stacy's cake and use whipped cream.  When I thought of what I could possibly put on top of the whipped cream, I decided on fruit, and then decided that the fruit in combination with the wine would make a sangria cake, and the most amazing cake idea was born.

Sarah's Sangria Cake
Chocolate Merlot cake, brushed with Merlot, filled and topped with fruit-infused whipped cream, garnished with wine-soaked fruit
Basic cake recipe adapted from Epicurious

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Black(berry) Beauty

This week was my friend Heidi's 22nd birthday.  Heidi and I have a lot in common.  She does ballet, loves horses (rides on the equestrian team), and her name also starts with H!  Heidi is a lot of fun, and she always has something to say that will make you laugh.  She is also such a naturally sweet person, that I didn't think a cake would be appropriate.  I decided that a pie would much better reflect her personality.  Although I really hate making pies out of season of the fruit they feature, I decided to make an exception since I had a bag of blackberries in my freezer that I had picked over the summer. 

Of course, I can't make just a plain, boring, blackberry pie.  This is a birthday pie, so it has to be special.  I decided to dress it up with some coconut, mainly because that is what I had in my cupboards.  I present to you:

Blackberry Coconut Pie w/ Crumb Topping
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cookie Cups

At RVS this week, we made some really amazing loaded blondies.  Since I have recently discovered the horrible, sad truth that I am allergic to chocolate, I've become increasingly attached to the idea of blondies.  For our final class of our student forum last night, we were all supposed to bring snacks.  I really don't like the idea of not bringing something homemade, so I decided to whip up a batch of blondies using what I had in my cupboards.  Of course, I really hate bar cookies because they are rarely pretty to serve, and decided to make them in mini-muffin pans.  The result: cookie cups!  They have the shape of a muffin or cupcake, but the texture and flavors of a cookie.  It's genius!!!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookie Cups
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes
Yield: 15 assorted sizes of mini cookie cups