Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD: Cheesecake! (aka: Eat Your Heart out, Golden Girls!)

Anne Strawberry, thank you for choosing Tall & Creamy Cheesecake (Baking, from my Home toYours, Dorie Greenspan) for our last recipe of 2008 on Tuesdays With Dorie! I was excited to try it, yet fearing "can I really tackle this?" I don't know why it was such a big mystery before...maybe due to the fact that it is a favorite of so many...that it became worthy of a chain of restaurants bearing its name....Yet it turns out, I followed Dorie's instructions to the letter, and darnit, I made a good gosh darn cheesecake!

I chose Dec 23rd to put it all together, not only because I did not have to work that day, more because Dear Husband DID. You see, my dear lactose intolerant mate would have probably bust an intestine seeing the lineup of the ingredients....4 packages of cream cheese...heavy whipping cream...sour cream...the man would have spontaneously combusted just looking at all of that lined up on the counter! He can regulate having dairy by doing the lactaid milk, or taking the lactaid pills before eating pizza, or lasagna....but THIS?...NO amount of medicated preventative medicine in the cabinet would have saved his digestive system. He can take LOOKING at the finished product and appreciating in the way of: "it looks good---for those of you lucky enough to digest dairy." But I thought to spare him the whole ingredient list and showing him all that went into it (kind of like not wanting to know what goes into hot dogs or sausage, I suppose?!) Of course what he didn't see was me eat a piece of it Christmas night--with a side of egg nog! He would have accused me of showing off (but oh how I adore you, my lactose-loving digestive system!!)

I followed the recipe for the filling exactly--and opted for a package of Nabisco chocolate wafter cookies as the crust--which was sooo gooooood!! I'm not one for too many flavors in the 'cake' part, so liked having a nice chocolate base for the crust. Great compliment.

VOILA! A cheesecake fit for the likes of Blanche, Rose, Dorothy & Sophia!!

I had to show this next photo only because it hit me going through my pictures how the top of the cheesecake's color looks just like the kitchen table! Even down to the bubble 'knot holes'! Maybe I'm the only one amused with that...anyway...humor me:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All Occassion Sugar

Ok, speed baking.... Read post below to see why this is being posted so late on a Tues!

Dateline: Tuesday, 8:30pm. I procured the baking powder tonight on my way home, and threw these together...I did slice & bake route so I can properly test the dough (must compare to mom's old sugar cookie recipe and just want a 'control' group of cookies..plus, let's face it--cut-outs at 9pm on a Tuesday? Nah, I don't think so.) So here I am at the computer to at least start my entry while the dough is chillin'!

The dough came together super easily, and I tried to follow through and not over mix the flour/dry ingredient step...by 7pm the dough was put in the fridge and I was put in front of our TV as we ate and watched Jeopardy! (we live SUCH an exciting life--and yes eat in front of the TV way too often he and I. It wasn't even a good episode...no good TV/pop culture subjects, and there was a run-away winner...those smug 'returning champions...')

I'm looking at the clock--time to go preheat the oven and slice!..be right back!

Dateline: Tuesday, 9pm: The dough chilled for for 1hr 45 min and it was perfect for slicing--nice and firm, just like the store-bought Nestle/Pillsbury dough you cut up...only...mine wasn't round--the slices came out oval. Not sure what happened there, I think when I wrapped, I sorta flattened at the same time. Oops. Alas, no time to lament, I cut 'em, threw red/green sugar on 'em, (and cinn/sugar on a select few), threw 'em onto cookie sheets, and popped up here to continue the blog entry while I hope for the best during the first half of baking.

Ding! 9:05....Time to rotate the cookie sheets to opposite racks in the oven, hold on.

9:07pm. So the only thing I was bummed as I cut them was there were slices with some flour 'shrapnel' that did not break apart...most likely due to my stopping the mixer a bit TOO soon?

I curtailed my baking session and only cut up 1 log..got about 22 cookies out of that half. No re-chilling needed, it really was a great slice-n-bake consistency!

DING!! It's 9:11 They're done...time to taste test!

9:30: Final Judgement: well, other than the shape looking odd for Christmas cookies, they came out really tasty. I would make the dough again--it's slightly 'thicker' butterier than my mom's traditional sugar Christmas cookie dough (which probably was not 'her' recipe, but the one we used each year...so I call it hers!) These are a bit thicker. For me, I am a fan of crispy cookies, not 'cakey' cookies...If I want cake, I'll make a cake. I think there's just more butter going on in them. With that said, it did not stop me from popping 4 of them in the past 5 minutes. I may make as a head-to-head comparison with the other sugar dough from the old days to really compare.

Well, that's it folks, 2.5 hrs to spare, my post has been submitted! Thank you Ulrike of Küchenlatein for choosing such an easy recipe--one that can be made/posted in under 3 hrs on a Tuesday night!! :) Now, I'm off to have a couple more of my "Easter Egg" Christmas Cookies!

ok, truly...I'm still trying!

OK, I've been awful with Tuesday posts, this I know...but there's a reason that has been taking up tons of time and mostly energy and sucking me away from baking... More on that in a few weeks...BUT the thing that really gets my parchment paper in a bunch is I WAS going to bake Sunday night, opened the pantry for the brand new container of "Baking Powder" that I grabbed from Trader Joe's the day before (my old one expired and I had thrown it out). Well, come to find out what I bought was NOT baking powder afterall. Now who, I ask you, WHO PUTS BAKING SODA IN A CONTAINER SHAPED JUST LIKE TRADITIONAL BAKING POWDER?! Yes, come to find out, I grabbed baking soda by mistake because I glanced at the shape of the container and did not read carefully...shame on me, but c'mon Joe, this is total BS (and for any kids out there in Blogger Land, by that I mean "baking soda"..)

Dear Husband looked at me, an emotional wreck..it was 7pm on a Sunday...offered to go out and get the right ingredient, which was just so sweet that I had to say no. (Though I think he his real motive was he wants these sugar cookies!)

Monday was no-go I had to work late...BUT then again..Tuesday is a long day--perhaps if I can get out of work on time...Who knows, maybe I'll get a post in by 11:59pm of the sugar cookies if I can make them quickly tonight!

I do plan to do major power baking (or should I say POWDER baking)---I've got a work cookie swap to plan for next week so there's no way I can go without baking for that!

Lisa is a (poor excuse for a) Baker

PS: Please, powers that be at TWD, don't take me off the blog roll yet--I promise, I'll be better in living up to my baking potential!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Arborio Rice Pudding

I was so happy when I saw this would be on tap for this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe! I LOOOOVE rice pudding...love, love it. I have not made it in ages--and what I do remember in making it involved putting it in the oven, in a pan of water...It was one of my mom's recipes that I have since lost track of...(anyone ever make it that way?) Another thing I know about rice pudding--many times the recipe calls for raisins. I was pleasantly surprised that Dorie did not call for them in the main recipe (though I know she had some spin-off recipes in the margins), because, to be honest, I would have left them out anyway--so this way I didn't feel like I was flaking out on Dorie's creation! Mom used to make 2 batches--one with, and one without!

I decided this was the recipe I would break out my new copper pot that I bought several months ago now, and had not yet used. It's the only copper one I have, and I just love it. I guess I was waiting for 'the' perfect recipe to christen it, and this ended up the perfect size pot for this recipe...I felt like I was "really" cooking when I used it!

I must note that I think I enjoyed this recipe partly because it is a fave of mine, partly because I was able to admire my copper pot whilst making it, and partly because the recipe actually was a nice and "quiet" one. No going back and forth with melting things on the stove, to going to a Kitchen Aid, sifting, etc. This was a low key, simmer and stir, and phase out while you stare into the milk, looking for the rice to surface. It was a nice change of pace.

BUT--it was not without its hiccups. The only glitch came when I had the feeling after the 30+ minutes on the stove it was still not thick enough, but I gave up and poured it into the bowl, threw the Saran Wrap on top as instructed to prevent skin, and put it into the fridge...Then I went right to the computer, and consulted the notes left on the TWD site, to see the post by Dorie herself, warning of the "fatal" misprint about how long to let it simmer...No, not 30 minutes--more like 50 minutes! So I rushed downstairs (after my very soupy version was sitting in the fridge for about 10-15 min) and dumped the bowl back into the pot, let it simmer 20-25 minutes more, and it finally did in fact absorb 80-90% of the liquid--disaster averted! Believe me, I would have been CRUSHED if I didn't do this recipe correctly, I had such high hopes!

So here is my rice pudding--in 'Round 2' on the stove (note bowl w/ ripped off Saran Wrap to left!)

Quick note--I found I had to stir it almost constantly towards the end of the simmering time--otherwise a skin would form...

So back into the fridge it went...and later that afternoon while it set, I cracked open my new Everyday Food and decided to make the Lighter Chicken Enchiladas---yum!! They came out awesome! (Of course, I'm partial to anything covered in melty cheese....)

So Saturday evening, Dear Husband and I enjoyed enchilada dinner, compliments of Martha's Everyday Food, and topped it off with Dorie's rice pudding--which was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! How proud I was that the best rice pudding I've had was by my own doing! I can't ever see making the chocolate version-and my chocoholic husband actually noted the same thing...maybe one day I'll say I'm a believer (cue The Monkees), but I don't feel I'm missing anything right now. For me, all I needed was the classic vanilla rice pudding, and the only other requirement for me is a happy sprinkle of nutmeg on top (Much like my theory on egg nog, it's all about the nutmeg!)

Dorie, thanks for a winner! And thanks for posting about the typo and saving me from rice soup! I would have been so disappointed as I was so excited to try this!

If you want the recipe, visit Isabelle of Les Gourmandises d'Isa. She chose this great recipe this week! She's got some amazing looking photos of her creations on her blog too--hello puff pastry! And you can hit a button on it to translate it into English (though I'm having fun trying to read it in French, just to see what vocabulary I remember from all those classes in high school and college. Turns out, sadly, I can't say I retained a lot--sorry, Mrs. Beaulieu!)

Hope everyone was able to enjoy this recipe and avoid any soupy under-simmered pudding. If you didn't I urge you to try it again--it's worth it!

(PS: "Melty" came up in my spell check as misspelled?! Hey, it may not be a formal word, but darnit, I'm keeping it in--how else can you describe the Monterey Jack atop my enchiladas?! Though, "nog" came up too, so that just makes me think blogger needs an updated dictionary! Especially for kitchen/cooking/baking words!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm a TWD Slacker this week..

Ok, so after all my excitement over baking that Kugelhopf bread-cake hybrid, and after purchasing my fancy pan for it....I didn't get to making it being out of town 4 days last week, plus having a weekend filled with little things to do that prevented me from caring for the rising of the dough......but I WILL make this later this month! I am determined!!

In the meantime, having no Kugelhopf to share, I give you "Hassel-hopf"...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TWD: Rugelach

This week on a "very special" Tuesday's With Dorie...Lisa faces her demons of pastry dough...Will they ever come to terms and get along? Tune in and find out what is more thinly stretched and overworked--the dough or Lisa's last nerve...

But first a word from our sponsor:

This week's recipe is brought to you by Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal who chose Rugelach found on page 150 - 151 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours...If you want the recipe, check out Piggy's blog--to read more fascinating rugelach stories/blogs than you are right now, visit TWD by clicking here!

So the second I saw this recipe was on our list, I was SO excited and was itching to try it, yet there was a little voice in my head dreading the prospect of once again facing down my demon...me on one side, a blob of pastry dough on the other....a trusty rolling pin at my side, and a lightly floured surface separating us....(was that a tumbleweed that just went by?) The clock says High Noon...and we stare each other down....

Now, if you jump to the end of this story, you'll find me there enjoying rugelach...but not without my battle scars.

What came out really did not look much like they should, and I yielded maybe half of what I was supposed to. And the dough was not fun to work with--it was really soft, even after chilling overnight. By the 2nd half of the dough I got the hang of it somewhat. (But I could not roll it out nearly to 12" circle, more like 8"...and then I didn't get 16 triangles...more like 8. Oh, and the first half of the dough I just ended up just rolling in a full-jelly roll, freezing it a bit, and then cut it in cross-sections and baking from there.. tastes the same...but again, not nearly as many rugleach from that one either). Any way you cut it/fold it/bake it, they came out VERY tasty.

So, the dough. I once again had dough woe. I tried in the food processor (not a large-capacity, but one I thought should still work ok), but it totally overmixed the dough the first time (and I say "first time" because I had to do a dough-do-over). Actually, what happened was it mixed up some of the dough ok, but then I still had huge chunks of the butter and cream cheese that were not getting broken down. So trying to incorporate those meant the rest of the dough had to come along for the ride and it was way too worked over by the time things were 'blended'--and as I wrapped it up I saw chunks of bright white where cream cheese still was not incorporated. I threw it in the fridge on Sunday night...and there it stayed. Monday.... Tuesday... Wednesday... Thursday....Just taunting me every time I went in to the darn fridge. By Saturday, I just dumped it and started over. But not before going online to see some tips for making rugelach dough with a stand mixer, which is how I did it the 2nd time around....and it came together ok, but still a challenge for me to work with when it came time to assemble these suckers. Here is my not-quite-8-inch round o' dough:

I don't know what it is, I cannot get dough to do what I want it to do--I just doughn't enjoy the process. Pies, turnovers, and now add rugelach to the mix...I rarely can get as much as they say I will because half of it will stick to my rolling pin, it rips, or I may actually make it to the width called for, but not without the last inch tissue paper thin. Pastry dough can never just be a happy, calm, easy process. And yes I KNOW the only way I can improve is to keep making it--yet I get a sinking feeling EVERY time because I have yet to have a good positive no-mess experience where I am not stringing together expletives. Bring me a bread recipe any day--but pastry is a chore.

I already am getting a combination happy yet dreaded feeling know I have to attack pastry once more for that pumpkin-pecan "twofer" pie we have on tap in a few weeks. I know already that my crust will barely reach the edges of the pie plate, I'll probably have nothing hanging over to crimp....the only thing going for me is it' s not a 2-crust pie--happily just 1 needed! This should NOT be stressful activity. But it is..Every.Time.

So back to the rugelach and happy endings: For my fillings, I used:Polaner Raspberry (And as I opened it, I could not resist saying out loud the line from their old commercial,"would ya please pass the jelly?!"...and yes, I was the only one in the kitchen at the time...I do what I need to amuse myself) I also used currants, chopped walnuts, and bittersweet chocolate as called for. I will add I think the chocolate is overpowering-and I didn't use all called for--so next time I plan to load half the dough with sugar-cinnamon, bit o' chocolate, and the other half the jelly-currant-nuts and maybe a little chocolate rather than try to go all-in, so to speak.

So there you have it. Another pastry crust showdown and I came out ok, but not without the usual stress, and frustration that now goes hand-in-hand with this process. I'll be keeping at it, I am no quitter....and maybe, just maybe, one day pastry crust and I will learn to get along and work together, and not against each other. (What a great message on election day, huh? Let's work with each other across that aisle..be bipartisan...work for the common goal of a successful pastry crust!)

Hope you enjoyed this week's installment....Tune in next week where the recipe will be Kugelhopf! I'm quite excited--here is a sneak preview for those who don't know what this is: here's a photo I found of a Kugelhopf pan similar to the one I just got the other day!! Enjoy THIS photo, because who knows what mine will end up looking like! I just find I enjoy saying Kugelhopf---almost as fun as saying Farfegnunen!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Awards to Give!

How COOL is this?! I was given a really neat award today by fellow Tuesdays With Dorie blogger, Laura of She's Cookin' Now! I said it on her blog, and I will say it here: this really is a shot in the arm to a hack like me! I still am trying to figure out how the heck to upload a photo in the right spot on this blogspot thing, so really--this is wild!

As a humble recipient, I shall pass on to five other blogs that are worthy...I have a few in mind--and not all are "Tuesdays With Dorie" baking blogs (is that ok? I think it is...hope I don't blow it and have the award rescinded!? How shameful that would be!)

1. Moores of the Blue House: This is the other blog of my college housemate Cathy (of The Tortefeasor). Run, don't walk to this one for tons more genuine, real, and amusing musings of our pal, her adoring husband, and her three kiddos. (I personally recommend the Ice Cream post, and the Publix post!)

2.Matt's Kitchen : My new-found fellow TV fan on this TWD community-the guy had me at the Flying Nun post, gotta say--and Martha sealed the deal as we both are fans of Everyday Food! I know I will enjoy visiting Matt's Kitchen often!

3. Magic Sprinkles: Her name is Lisa, so I have to say her comment this week kinda jumped out at me (as if I had an unusual name?? yes, I still say to "Lisa"s that I meet "wow, that's my name too!" as if it was some odd occurance...) Anyway, she had very nice things to say about my post-then I went to her blog and saw she made flippin' Ding Dongs this week with the TWD recipe...did you hear me? DING DONGS! God I love those! (she even had the Hostess filling recipe!) Love that! And for a Daring Baker's challenge, she lived the name of the club and posted a video of her tossing pizza dough--so for that alone--let alone all the great recipes and writing--she gets an award!

And now, for two "non-baker" awards...
4. My Mom Genes: Funny how the internet brings people together--when I was getting married, I was on "The Knot" (wedding planning site, with message boards on all sorts of subjects. They also had local boards for looking for advice about local vendors/etc) I posted on the local board mostly--and found it enjoyable to keep up w/ the banter (which really was about everything else BUT the wedding--celebrity gossip, what's for lunch/dinner/etc, clothes, fashion--and of course wedding photo sharing) Then I got married, and graduated to "The Nest" where I still hung out on the local board where everyone else migrated after their wedding. There were some really funny characters and it was a fun diversion to peep in and see what people were posting about. Well The Nest changed their layout/format, we all hated it, so we 'defected' to make our own private message board on another website. So anyway, 2 gals on this local "not-so-newlywed" board have a blog called My Mom Genes that they tag-team write together. And although I have not gotten there yet with the whole "parenthood" life, I just like their open and honest posts about it--and that all is not perfect, but it is that imperfection that you still find happy, honest, and unforgetful moments. And they remind moms that hey, it's ok, you won't have it all figured out--no one really does, so relax and enjoy the ride that goes by all to fast.

5. And this gem..Wry Toast. What else could a baker love than a blog with "toast" in the title? I dont' know how he'd feel about the attention of an award, and I'm not even sure that I'll tell him right away...I may wait and see if he reads my blog and finds it first--but trust me, he is an amazing "wryter"...He has been MIA lately, but delve into "archives" and poke around--there are some fabulous posts. He lives up to the title and more with the "wry" humor, and he will keep you coming back for more..I assure you. (oh and he writes haikus a lot, which I used to LOVE to do...in fact, I may steal that from him and do a "bake-ku" every once in awhile!)

So there you have it, some favorite blogs o' mine!

*Here's the scoop on the award, and its rules--but I wont turn you in if you don't play--- no need to feel the burden of a 'chain letter', but if you do, be sure to mention the origin of the award (details below!)

  1. "This award was created in Uruguay by a fellow blogger who makes dolls exclusively from recycled materials. Her blog can be reached by clicking here.
  2. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.
  3. Advertise name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone
    Each award-winner, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
  4. Award-winner and the one who has given the prize to show the link of “Arte y pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
  5. Share these rules."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Cupcakes (a.k.a "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For")

Greetings and Salutations! (as Charlotte says!)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Clara, of I Heart Food4Thought (visit her blog for the recipe!)

I must admit, I had high hopes for this one, as I have been on a quest for the 'best/perfect' chocolate cake recipe....I've tried a couple from scratch so far, so I will admit, I've not been on the quest for long--and I am sure I will get a lot of "this was your THIRD scratch cake recipe for and you think you'll just 'find' the perfect chocolate one so soon?!!?" Ya, I know, who do I think I am?!)

I started the recipe on a bright sunny Saturday morning--Dear Husband got out to do errands early and brought me back a coffee (I opted for Dunkin' Donuts-vs- Starbucks) So with large, regular, half-decaf close by, (yes, as a matter of fact, an order at DD CAN indeed be just as involved as an order at Fourbucks) I was off and running!--or baking..Operation: Dunkin' Dorie!.

Now, these are 'good' but I fear I have to keep forging ahead and looking for 'my' chocolate cake--it's in my head, and I know I'll know it when I eat/see it...These just weren't it for me...and I feel guilty saying that..?? I looked on the site, and I don't think it was a factor of too much flour or over-mixing, I do try to be careful with that...they just are not that "moist" bite that I so wanted out of them.

OH--but I nailed the ganache!! I had ganache with panache, I tell you! But then I somewhat lamented not having a more traditional frosting to help off-set the dryness of the cake part--but still, these were tasty, and nothing a glass of milk can't handle!

I decided to get festive with them--in honor of Halloween (side note to Cathy--Elizabeth would love these sprinkles!!)

Dear Husband, my chocolate loving hero and taste-tester, declared them fabulous--and he said he was ok with the texture--and his favorite thing about them is they are not too 'sweet'--as he is a fan of dark chocolate/bittersweet. So hey, another week of putting a smile on his handsome face, so I can't complain...(I threw a lot of new stuff on him the past 2 weeks--5 alone from the same magazine issue--and happily all came out pretty darn good!) but still, I'm just not settled on this being my go-to cake. I'm going to keep testing out different recipes--I know the right one is out there for me! I guess just like Dear Husband--who, being my brother's best friend, has been in and out of my life one way or another since 4th grade, but whom I did not start dating until I was in my early 30's--my guess is that recipe is sitting right under my nose somewhere, perhaps already in my kitchen cookbook archives...it'll show itself when it's time...I just know it! (Wow, this sounds like Lord of the Rings..."one recipe to rule them ALL!!" I'll keep you posted if I stumble upon it in the shire....

In the meantime, I wanted to finally acknowledge some thoughtful awards I have been given and pass them on to 2 blogs!

My first award was given by my dear friend, Cathy at The Tortefeasor and the other from Nancy from The Dogs Eat the Crumbs. I must admit, Cathy was sweet enough to pass her award onto me a few weeks ago, but then I went off MIA, and just never got around to posting about it and adding to my blog. Cathy introduced me to Tuesdays with Dorie (or maybe she just told me about her involvement, and I just jumped in and invited myself? Now I forget)...she is one of those people who when I see or talk to, we are immediately laughing no more than 2 minutes into a conversation...her writing is all at once smart and funny--2 things that no one can 'fake'. Cathy is the real deal.

Nancy's (n.o.e) blog is one of my weekly stops, and the fact that she pointed MINE out really made my day! I have found this whole TWD/baking/cooking blog community are some of the most genuine people around--so thank you again, Nancy! (I feel like Sally Field.."You like me! You really, really LIKE me!") AND I just found out that she has connections in CT--so she's ok in my book! (gotta love the Nutmeg State!!)

So I guess the rules here are I pass some on...so here I go! I am still ramping up getting to 'know' the style of various blogs...Prudy, you come to mind first, but looks like you already have these 2 specific awards. so I thought I'd spread the love..Here are some others that come to mind lately. I will add more as I get to 'know' more blogs and folks on TWD/etc! Again, I'm thoroughly enjoying this bakin'n'bloggin!

And the awards go to....

1. Eat Real by Sandy-- I LOVE that she incorporates great photos, great tips, and all around great recipes all in one! (I am sooo making those bagels!!) I bookmarked her site the minute I saw it!

2. Bun in the Oven by Annette: Maybe it's that she came to TWD a week after I did (and was sweet to thank me for commenting on her blog, adding she thought no one read it--well we do!!) Or maybeI noticed on her profile that she lives in the same CA town that a dear friend of mine lives...or maybe it's that she not only bakes but knits, AND also adds to her profile that she loves wine and photography--and is a proud Auntie---all things that I would use to describe myself! (well, no, actually I'm really NOT a die-hard knitter, I only have a blanket and one scarf under my belt, but I so WANT to be a tried and true knitter!) Anyway, I wanted to post about her blog because while reading about her, it just struck such a chord. Plus, anyone who can successfully balance baking AND knitting needs applause!! I tend to give one up for the other....

Friday, October 24, 2008

EVERYDAY FOOD...a.k.a "Martha, Martha, Martha!!"

Perhaps it started because a pint-sized magazine was missing from my life. (TV Guide how I miss you so!!! I hardly know you now that the evil ones have blown you up to magazine size, and turned you into US Magazine!!)

Whatever the reason, from the first issue of Everyday Food I bought, I've been drawn into this little gem. I have probably 20 or so from the past 3-4 years, and find that I am more apt to pick this up each month than Mar-Mar's large format Living, which I tend to look through, dream about 'someday' attempting projects (like stripping antique furniture...putting together that photo album-scrapbook of vintage family shots....or making Beef Wellington--which, by the way, I vow to do one day)...but Living always ends on the coffee table.

Everyday Food, on the other hand, ends up in my KITCHEN. I always find myself flipping through saying "I'll totally make that"...."ooh, that looks good!"...."fold that page down..." I'm not afraid of attempting the Beef Wellingtons and Yorkshire puddings of the world, but really, if I am to attempt new recipes during the week, I need them to be work-week friendly....and I am never let down with Everyday Food (EF from now on). I continue to review all my old issues when I'm looking for something easy and solid. The recipes are home-made, but they cut some corners to be weekday realistic (i.e. go ahead, and use--gasp!--jarred spaghetti sauce in lasagna....jarred salsa on tacos....etc.)

I guess you can say Martha Stewart Living plays the Grace Kelly, to Everyday Food's Katherine Hepburn. One is the more soft-focus, elegant, can do, say, cook and wear no-wrong....be altogether lovely and refined and a level that few operate on (and don't get me wrong, I love Grace Kelly...and to this day want every single piece of wardrobe from Rear Window!) But then you have the more fun, frivolous, yet everyday working gal, who cuts to the chase, in a no- nonsense, get-it-done fashion. Is still classic, and genuine, yet still attainable, and someone you think you can hang out with, well, quite frankly "Everyday." (And there is no right or wrong here--they both got Cary Grant, right?!)

Last week, I whipped up the spinach-prosciutto lasagna start to finish in under an hour (not incl. the day-long thawing of the frozen spinach) It called for jarred spaghetti sauce, and "no-boil' lasagna noodles, which I am all for when it comes to quick but home-made. Two Saturdays ago, I did the chicken tacos---which called for chicken thighs to chill out seasoned in a crockpot (oops, or are they "slow-cookers" these days?) for 4 hrs--GREAT for a weekend dinner....oh, and the same weekend, I made up a huge vat of her minestrone soup, and the slow-cooker pot roast the following Monday---ALL recipes from the same (current) issue!!

This past weekend, I delved into some back-issues and found an easy Coq au Vin recipe from one of the 2007 issues I had...it was amazing! It was a cold, windy Oct night and we had a great meal!!

So, those who perhaps pass by it thinking you have heard enough about Martha,Martha, Martha! I urge you to push aside your inner Jan Brady and get over it. Give i ta try...each issue gives you a "Freeze it", "weeknights", "weekend", "lunch box", and even "dinner-for-one" recipe....and dessert!
(I have not even touched the 5,6 and 7th recipe I want to do from the current issue: all dark chocolate recipes!)

As I did the week of 4 recipes: tacos, minestrone, pot roast and lasagna, I did not think about blogging until I hit the lasagna...(when Dear Husband said, "so, tell me...is this lasagna considered "cooking" or "baking?"--will it be on your blog?) But as I was working on the 5th EF recipe in 1.5 weeks, I decided to grab a photo of it: I give you my Coq au Vin!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

From pumpkin muffins

Well, I'll make it short and sweet this week for a change...there are so many blogs now listed on Tuesdays with Dorie, I am sure everyone has a lot more reading these days! :)

Loving these Pumpkin Muffins, and I made them on a perfectly autumnal weekend! I even had my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte over the weekend--the leaves are still gorgeous, and the extra blanket is on the bed: aahhh...October, how I love thee! What a perfect time for Kelly of Sounding my Barbaric Gulp to choose the Pumpkin Muffins! (Thanks, Kelly!)

Forgive me for making them plain as can be....I'm a purist with my pumpkin--don't dig on the nuts, raisins, etc add-ins to my pumpkin baked goods. I thought about doing them by the 'book', with the nuts and golden raisins, but knew that I would end up thinking "these would be great without.." so I refrained. (Actually, that's a lie--I was going to put craisins into half of the batter, then totally forgot...but I'm not too upset about it as I would have been doing that only to try to do SOMETHING interesting in light of the fact that everyone else will no doubt be doing fabulous things with this recipe I'm sure!)

The only issues I had were (1) the batter was super-duper thick, and I guess I wasn't sure if that was right or not--but they turned out excellent muffins, so I guess it's supposed to be that way (it reminded me of the thick batter from my Bundt cake). The 2nd issue was they did not rise consistently--and it's not even like half the pan was high, the other not (which would lead me to think it was uneven baking inside the oven). I think it may have been uneven scooping in my part?? Not sure--I'll show the highest and lowest profile I ended up with--all others fall in between...
From pumpkin muffins

Dear Husband loves them without any add-ins too, and so although they may seem rather boring to some, we like them (as Mark Darcy said to Bridget Jones), "just as they are." (well, no I guess to be exact, his quote is "just as you are.." but y'know what I mean...)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TWD: Biscotti Marching Band...

I am happy to be back in the swing of things with Tuesdays with Dorie especially on a week with such a great recipe that will come in handy--and one I would have picked out to make soon had it not come up in rotation! Thanks to Gretchen of Canela & Comino this week we baked Lenox Almond Biscotti....I'll tell you now, I already can't wait to make these again...and no one is more shocked as I am because I certainly did not have high hopes when I started out...

The dough started to come together fine--but by the last step it was so sticky--half was around the paddle, yet the other half around the bowl.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with doughs of any kind (except the "Play-doh" variety). Whether they be for pies, pastry, bread, I always feel like I do it incorrectly and I'm a bumbling idiot trying to roll it out, pat it out, into the desired shape/size. So I took one look in the bowl and worried that somehow I screwed up--again...then all the questions come out like "Did I over-beat?" "Under beat?" "Mis-measure anything?"

"Curses!! Why does dough hate me so!?!!!!" (because even when I'm annoyed--I can still be a poet...)

But I pushed onward hoping I could still work with it and make them into the form of "logs" like Dorie was calling for. This task took some time--because if dealing with dough wasn't bad enough, I had to deal with measurements. It's time I also admit I have no sense of spacial relation--I am not one of those who can "eyeball" an inch..or 2 inches...or 12...it doesn't stop there--I'm awful at estimating longer distances as well (this is one of the many reasons I was never a great golfer---if someone asked me how far I hit a ball off a tee--I would have no clue--50 yards? 150 yards? Hell, I dunno, if you asked me I either hit it "far" or "wicked far" or as was most often the case--it was still where it had started and went nowhere)

So when a recipe says form into logs 12"x1.5", mine will be (and were) more like 9x2.5" until I took out my trusty ruler and worked them out to be the dimension that was actually called for.

Into the oven they went...and then I had to deal with the "bake until lightly browned and spongy" part...sigh...another judgement call. I baked at the time called for, added 2-3 more minutes--the edges were brown, but the tops were still looking the same as they did when they went in. I pressed a finger onto one and I can't say "spongy" is the word that came to mind. (FYI, I'm glad I used 2 different baking sheets--and thank you to the TWD posters who warned it would spread in a major way--it certainly did)

>Here is my before-after first bake:

At this point, I still was not convinced these would ever see the light of day, but I pulled them out and let them rest for the 30 minutes called for....

..and 30 minutes later, came more measuring issues--cutting them up every 3/4"....once again, I brought out a ruler because I knew once again I can't be left to my own devices.

Oh but I still had not encountered the hardest part...no, the hardest part was trying to figure out what on earth it meant when in the instructions for the 2nd baking of the cut biscotti stated to line them all up on the sheets "like a marching band"....

....say what? I stared at the description...thinking (1) she musn't mean flat side/cut side down or she'd say that...(2) it doesn't say stand up like "dominos" (which would mean on their short-sides...which was impossible anyway with the uneven ends)...so I guessed that she meant cut them and leave spaces in between each cut piece, but don't flip them over on their sides, keep them upright. (If that's not what she meant, someone please tell me what "marching band" means....other than making them into a formation of a kaleidescope a la a REAL marching band, I've got no clue...)


And so I baked 15 min, and lo and behold, I ended up with practically perfect almond biscotti!!

The only pause I had eating them was the cornmeal that was called for--it sort of leaves a gritty kinda feeling behind...but nothing a swig o' joe can't wash down. Besides that, the texture was PERFECT---I don't like the super-crunchy ones that basically fall apart into crumbs before they reach your mouth, and still they were not too soft, so were good for holding up to 'dunking' Not too hard-and not too soft. Yes, I think even Goldilocks would deem these "just right"!

I will be making these again (and again..) and I think they will pack up and travel well, so to my faithful reader (that means you, Dad...) Get ready for a care package over the holidays that include some of these treats for your coffee!! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TWD Update!

Ok, so I've been MIA the past few weeks thanks to a combination of factors. I had had a crazy work schedule preparing for a trip to Arizona..then I went ON that trip to AZ--which happily included 2 extra days down in Tucson with my Dad, which was beyond wonderful. When I got back, I was home not 2 days when I had to get a cyst removed from my foot...no worries, it's benign, but still, 5 stitches later I was not feeling up for baking and standing/etc. (Dear Husband has taken to calling me Franken-foot, as it's really scary looking wound going on--the stitches are nylon, black nylon. So on my pale-as-a-baby's-derriere-skin, it's REALLY looking rather ghoulish--I shall spare you all the Franken-foot photo!)

So, I was very bummed to miss out on a yummy chocolate cake recipe this week, but I shall return next Tuesday! (Where it's all about Almond Biscotti!)

In the meantime, I thought I'd share the last time I got my "bake on"--which was the weekend prior to aforementioned jaunt to AZ. Dear Husband and I were invited to a dinner party/overnight to Long Island, to one of my nearest and dearest--my former office mate and partner in crime at Columbia House. She and her wonderful husband met at "The House" and are now living happily ever after and had a few of us former C.H. "alumni" over for dinner. A fun time was had by all!

So, back to the baking--
I was determined to finally try my hand at a Bundt cake. Now, a bundt cake is one of those things I just love. Something about the tube-pan baking makes it just a little more 'extra' special. And then the whole drizzle of the glaze on top, and the "wonder what could be baked inside" curiosity. I have always loved the idea of them, yet have never made from scratch...actually I don't even make them from a box either.

My baking life "BD" (Before Dorie) had me storing the (then) lesser-used bake ware in the dark corners of one of the cabinets. There you will find the muffin tins, mini muffin tins, round cake pans, heart-shaped cake pan, bread pans, pie plates, weights for baking an unfilled pie crust, foil covers for a pie crust, a rolling pin cover for pie crusts, and even little cookie cutters in shapes of leaves for--you guessed it--pie crusts. I think the bread-maker is pushed waaaay back there somewhere too. You name it, I seem to have it--I just rarely USE it (which is why I love this baking club of ours!) Each time I would open up that cabinet for the muffin tin or round cake pans, I would pass over "the bundt". It has been waiting patiently for that call to glory, and the wait was finally over. I'm sure it was convinced I took it out to move it out of the way for another item, but no, this time it was for real.

I found a recipe in one of my Bon Appetit magazines for a Brown Sugar & Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Maple Espresso Glaze. Thanks to the Dorie-baking, I had just about all of the ingredients (save the buttermilk and maple extract) in the house (and as I would soon discover, corn syrup--more on that below).

I'm not a big maple fan, but I liked the espresso sound of the glaze, which called for instant espresso powder. (Would you believe I even had that in the house---totally unopened from about a YEAR ago when I wanted to try one of Giada's desserts..yea, that never saw the light of day--I'm an expert at buying ingredients, but I have a huge delay in actually MAKING recipes..again, that's why Tuesdays with Dorie has been so good for me!)

Because I did not want the maple flavor in the cake or in the glaze-- and coming home from the grocery store to realize that I missed that I would need corn syrup for the glaze--which I did not have--I turned to my trusty Big Red Book and scoured my Betty Crocker for a cake glaze recipe that would perhaps suffice. (When in doubt, I consult Betty). I found a confectioners sugar-and-water based vanilla glaze. I removed the vanilla extract from the recipe, replaced it with almond extract, and then shook in some espresso powder, and "presto" I had made an almond-espresso glaze!

(check out the "after" photo in the end of my slideshow below--THAT'S usually how my counters look after baking...my frantic mixing, getting the glaze 'just right' with confectioners suger flying everywhere--and even Dear Husband's sports page somehow got tossed aside up on the counter--I guess it was in my way and I gave it a fling!?!)

I have to say this was a huge thing for me--only because I am not one for improvising...I think that's why I enjoy baking, it's a strict recipe. I am getting better at the "cooking" and improvising here and there, but not as a rule. So I was turning somersaults when I dipped a finger into the glaze and loved the taste of it!

The only hiccup was transporting my lovely creation. I do not have a 'travel' container for cakes...let alone a bundt cake. I have a fancier glass cake plate (the glass pedestal w/ dome lid) but not a tupperware/travel version...Yet by a miracle I somehow got it safely to LI in the 2.5 hr drive by rigging up my own system. After 30-45 minutes of trial and error, I finally figured out how to get the dome to set over the cake, but not let the dome slide into the SIDE of the cake on any sharper turns of the car ride. (Thus it would smudge the perfectly placed glaze).

I used the glass dome to the fancy cake plate, which fit completely around the rim of a dinner plate, on which the cake sat. This dinner plate/dome then went onto a wider platter. That way, if we turned the car, the glass dome would slide on the larger platter, up until it hit up against the rim of the dinner plate (that way it hit the plate, not the cake). Whether or not I am properly explaining this system, I was so proud when we got there with a totally pristine glaze! No bumps, or smudges!

The cake is awesome, and as much as I don't want to repeat recipes too quickly, I think I'm going to make for a party this weekend at my sister and brother-in-law's house...I only had 1 piece of it in L.I because I ate so much dinner...so I'm rather anxious to try it again!

NOTES ON BUNDT CAKES: So, not knowing about these cakes, they are denser-more "pound" cake like than a birthday-cake type of thing. Also, for any other Bundt rookies out there, the batter is stiff when it goes into the pan for baking---that threw me, and I thought the consistency was way off (it didn't run/pour into the pan more than inch into it like The Blob. (Thank God for the internet--I googled 'bundt cake batter' and found that it's common that the batter will be thick/stiffer than standard cake recipes!)

Here is the Recipe as it was Printed in Bon Appetit (as I said, I finagled a bit with it, especially the Glaze)


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups all purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons (or more) whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 12-cup Bundt pan. Spray pan generously with nonstick spray. Dust pan lightly with flour. Mix chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons flour in medium bowl. Sift remaining flour with baking soda, baking powder, and salt into another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract and maple extract. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chip mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and cool completely.

Mixing the chocolate chips with a little flour before adding them to the batter helps the chips stay evenly suspended in the batter and evenly distributed throughout the baked cake (otherwise, they may sink to the bottom).

For glaze:
Combine powdered sugar, maple syrup, 2 tablespoons cream, and espresso powder in medium bowl. Whisk until smooth, adding more cream by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to drizzle. Spoon glaze decoratively over top of cake; let stand at room temperature until glaze is firm, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.

ps: Happy Birthday, Kristin...wherever you are...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers!

Well it's my third cookie recipe in as many weeks--which is not a bad thing...at all! Each cookie has meant a totally different experience--each lovely and delicious!!

This week's Dorie Greenspan concoction was Chocolate Chunkers, chosen by Claudia of Fool for Food.

Ok, attention ANYONE who is a fan (like myself) of a sweet-and-salty tug-of-war-kinda-snack: These.Are.For.You.

When I go to the movies I love my popcorn--but I enjoy following the salty up with chocolate of some sort. Dear Husband is quick to point out that we are opposites in our sweet-salty combo...I go for salty first, then my candy...he is the opposite--he likes his sweet first THEN his popcorn. (He is also quick to quip that he can never count on me to leave him enough popcorn when he wants to switch to salty--because it's usually half-gone by the opening credits). When I saw these cookies were on the agenda, I was so excited to try!

The raisins caused some pause, as I'm not a huge fan of them in cookies--but I went for it and wanted to make these as Dorie recommends. I also opted to chop up all the chocolate as she suggested rather than buy the chips.

The raisins caused more pause than anticipated. Almost as bad as my cake flour incident, I stared trying to figure out which ones would be best. I finally chose something that said, 'seedless raisins--plump and moist!" and added them to my cart...but then was happily surprised as I went to get my chocolate--there, in the baking aisle, I saw this little 1-cup packet of SunMaid "baking" raisins (baking raisins--who knew?!) I happily switched out the huge tub o' raisins I thought I was going to have to buy for these lovely little things called "baking raisins" (which only makes me wonder why all raisins are not created equal...)

I chopped up my chocolate diligently, using the recommended white chocolate as well as dark, and then compiled the dough, and was about to scoop them out when I got a call from my niece. I told her I was baking and within 10 minutes my sister-in-law dropped off 2 helpers!

They were bummed out they missed the fun part of measuring out everything and mixing it up--but were impressed with the cookie scoop I had--and we proceeded to scoop out a sheet....

...that was as far as they got because from there on out it was all about finding Auntie Lisa's Brady Bunch DVD collection--which I gotta say, cracked me up. Enabling those minds to be classic TV fans is something I take pride in. (And I figured any Brady they watched meant one less chance I would be asked to put on the dreaded Drake & Josh)

I told them they could watch TV while I got up every 5 minutes to scoop and bake (I have 2 ovens, so had 2 batches going at once). In between my batches as I came in and out of the TV room, I fielded questions like, "Who's older Marica or Peter?" "What happened to their other parents--did they get divorced or did they die?" "I like the stairs in that house.." "Cindy is sooo cute!" (which, in Season 1, you must admit, she really was) And they agreed that Alice is the best one of them all. PLUS they learned the theme song after about 2 episodes -- darn near brought me to tears...

So all in all, a productive day for me...doing one of my favorite things--baking--while taking on my favorite role: Auntie Lisa. And they were sent on their merry way with cookies (and the Season 1 DVD's) in hand!

Oh, ya, the cookies--I got off track again (don't say I didn't warn you). Yes, the cookies--Dorie, thank you!!! These are melt-in-your-mouth good...they satisfy any type of snack urge you may have--salty, sweet, fruity, you name it!

The only thing I'd do differently is cut down on the peanuts--or chop them up more than I did--I love the 'salty', but it was all I tasted in a lot of bites.

I also like all the 'stuff' in them (thus the "chunk" in the name), but being a huge cookie fan, there wasn't as much "cookie" as I would prefer. I'm making a mental note to try these as just white and dark chocolate chip cookies sans the nuts & raisins so I can up the ratio of chocolate cookie-to-chunky add-ins.

But I did like them a lot just as they are--they certainly lived up to the "Chunkers" name with all those flavors and add-ins! In fact, now that I think of it--Chocolate Chunkers are the Brady Bunch of cookies! A lot of pieces coming together to form one big happy cookie!

"And Ann B. Davis as Alice"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

It’s only been two weeks, and I’m enjoying TWD immensely (and was so excited to see that Crème Brulee is in the future for us all this month)!

As for this week--the recipe, Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops (page 85), was brought to us by Rachel of Confessions of a Tangerine Tart , ("and by the letter C.")

Well I must admit I hesitated at first when I saw “Whoppers” in the title as I am just not a fan, but knowing this is only my SECOND week here, I couldn't possibly skip a week already, so with a slight edit (using semi-sweet chocolate chips in place of the crushed Whoppers), I was back on track. I realize that means this is not the cookie Dorie intended, but wow is it amazing nonetheless! For the bittersweet chocolate I used Ghiardelli and for the malted powder I found Ovaltine Chocolate Malt Flavor.

Saturday turned out to be an inside-day due to the weather/Hanna, so this was perfect to create these. They went together with ease. The dough was indeed “frosting-like” as Dorie indicated it would be, which led to my only issue—it was a challenge for my cookie scoop as it would not push the dough out easily; it was so super-soft. It didn’t make for a neat/even lineup on the cookie sheets (it was just a bunch of blobs), but the mess is all just a part of the creative process (and because I was getting sloppy here and there it meant many a taste test was had to get the dough off my fingers! Wow was that dough good!)

In no time our rainy afternoon was uplifted with the delightful smell of chocolate cookies baking! I think I got about 50 cookies out of the dough…

Dear Husband came into the kitchen at one point as some were cooling, and I told him to try one. These tasted awesome warm!! He had been eyeing them as he loves chocolate--especially dark chocolate. Here is his reaction as it progressed: (Takes a bite) "Wow, these are good" (takes another bite) "mmm, really good..." (finishes cookie 1, reaches for cookie 2)…"they're dangerous..."

By the next day, he asked me to do (or NOT do, as the case may be) three things:
1. Please don’t bring them to work
2. Is it possible to freeze some because the 2 of us couldn’t eat this many while they were still fresh (well, we COULD….but we decided not to!)
3. Could I please NOT to make them often—because they are that good that he will eat way too many

So another rave review! He is a huge fan of brownies so I have no doubt that’s why he likes these as they have that cake-like consistency to them. (FYI, last night I grabbed 2 of them and zapped them for 5-10 seconds in the microwave and the chips became gooey again….soooo good!)

So another week of TWD brings another week with a full cookie jar--but they're going fast! I give it 7 days before we're defrosting the ones from the freezer!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


AUTHOR'S NOTE: this originally appeared on my other blog--before I had this 'just-for-baking' site! Thought I'd share here..

So usually on the weekends I can be found sitting on the kitchen floor, in front of a shelf filled with old Bon Appetit and Cooking Light issues, a stack on my lap, flipping through, trying to find something different and inspired to make for dinner.

I happened to be flipping through a June 06 Cooking Light and came across the very last page, where they often have a parting recipe and lovely set-up shot of the food in all its perfectly-baked/cooked/sauteed/grilled/blanched glory. The photo totally drew me in, making me think, “wow that looks so good!” yet mocked me with it’s triple-layer cake smugness, and made me add “…but I doubt I could do THAT…”

Staring up at me, was the most pleasing looking cake, with a name both refreshing in flavor and nostalgic in style: Lime Chiffon Cake.

I don’t know if it was the “chiffon” in the name (being a retro-type of cake style...something Lucy Ricardo would make, while dressed in clothing made of material of the same name) or if it was the hot day and the thought of a lime-flavored dessert going so well after dinner (because lime margaritas and mojitos go so well BEFORE the meal, then certainly a lime-flavored dessert will complement its ending!) Anyway, I kept going back to this page—staring and thinking that perhaps this would be my very first “from scratch” cake. I have always enjoyed baking and have tried my hand at many things, but an honest-to-goodness scratch layer cake (let alone THREE layers--with a filling--not just frosting--in between) was new territory.

I quickly took inventory of provisions….when faced with a new recipe I like, I start playing the game of, “How many ingredients do I already have in the house”. The amount of time and money it will take to locate the ingredients I DON’T have rules exactly how quickly I close the magazine and move on.

As I ran through the recipe, I mentally checked off most of the ingredients…it went something like this:
Limes: “I’ve got those” (b/c of the aforementioned cocktails)
Lemon Extract --"hmm..I've got vanilla, almond, and 2-3 others--but not lemon...
Cream of Tartar--"I KNEW this would come in handy one day...I hope it's not too old.."
Can of Sweetened Condensed milk : “yep, got it—wait, or is that a can of evaporated milk that I have in the cabinet??? Darn, I always mix these up--which one goes into pumpkin pie because that's the one I have…”

(A walk to the cabinet proved I did not have the sweetened condensed milk…it also turned out that the can of evaporated milk I DID have had expired 4 months ago….probably because I buy about 4 cans every Fall of evaporated milk, thinking that I don’t have it in the house for pumpkin pies…and then as it turns out I DO have at least 2 cans already…this same exercise also occurs when it comes to canned pumpkin—so trust that at any time of year, guaranteed I’ll have 3-4 cans each of One Pie pumpkin, and of evaporated milk...but zero sweetened condensed milk.)

And so on…I made my way all the way to the bottom of the recipe and was getting excited—and a bit scared because the only things I found I needed required a simple trip to Stop & Shop. Usually, it seems there is at least one totally exotic or rare ingredient that would require half the day looking for, across 5 stores, and then finding it, only to discover I need to spend a fortune on it just for that ‘pinch’ of something for the recipe…and then the rest spoils before I'll ever need it again.

So I started reading the recipe, this time assuming I’d find some technique I’ve not yet tried or mastered that would be the clincher for scaring me off the recipe….As I went through each step I started saying to each: “ok, I can do thatyep, I can do that too..” the only tricky part ahead of me seemed to be the egg whites and being sure I beat them to the correct consistency for the chiffon (a chiffon cake is a batter made up primarily of beaten egg whites, which are folded in, and give the resulting cake a fluffy, light texture….thus the "chiffon" moniker)

Was I actually going to attempt this?! Yes. And so to Stop & Shop...where I purchased all ingredients with little to no issue.

Other than cake flour that is. See, I had no clue which brand to buy…I had "Softasilk" by Pillsbury in my hand, when this caught my eye

Here was my irrational reasoning in the middle of shopping as to which one I'd choose, Pillsbury -vs- Swans Down:
Pillsbury has tons of products to output--whereas THIS company's only gig seems to be cake flour. Not to mention the design on the front looks like a logo/brand that has been around for decades….I bet it's a tried and true brand for real bakers....In fact, I bet there are grandmother’s country-wide who say, 'I’ve used Swans Down for 50 years—it’s the only one I use...'

"Yes," I thought, "that's the cake flour of a baker." Then I took it from the shelf, turned to see a 2,000 year-old knight in armor standing next to me in the Baking Needs aisle, who declared upon my taking the flour from the shelf: "You have chosen....wisely." (Ha! c'mon, did you really think I could get through this long-winded story without a movie quote?)

Bonus: I flipped over the box and saw "America's Favorite Cake Flour Since 1894" on the back, and that clinched it. Swans are also my favorite animal, so bonus for the good vibes from the box.

I found myself with a quiet Saturday afternoon, and I started lining up all my ingredients. I took the time pre-measure everything out, and had it all lined up ready to go. I love the mise en place technique because there is something about those small glass bowls I use to hold all the separate ingredients that makes me feel like a legit chef! I am a sucker for those things! Love that I have a set of glass nesting bowls of various sizes all the way down to a tablespoon size….it just makes me happy!

It took some time to get it all measured out, and assembled and into the oven—I had to make the filling first so it had time to set/chill for several hours so by the time the layers cooled I was good to go...had to cut out my wax paper for the bottom of the pans....and then the process of mixing the batter up and mixing the egg whites up separately took extra time b/c of having to clean the bowl in between and being sure it was totally dried/toweled off (Note To Self: It could be time to get an additional bowl for the Kitchen Aid so I don’t have to empty out, clean it, and reuse it when doing work in 1 recipe). It could have taken less time, but I was very serious: this first cake-from-scratch HAD to come out perfect…or I’d be annoyed and could find myself running from the kitchen forever, hurling cupcake pans, parchment paper and silicone mats to the curb.

In the midst of all of cleaning up while the layers cooled, I took a call from one of my two sisters--this time, Sister, the Younger. The call went something like this:
Her: “hey it’s just me…whattya up to?
Me: “I’m baking a cake from scratch---triple layer lime chiffon!
Her: (laughter…. laughter.....more laughter....) “WHAAAAT!? (Laughter…laughter..finally composes herself): “sorry, it’s just not the answer I was expecting…triple layer lime chiffon--who DOES that??! Where did that come from!!?”

I finally stepped back and realized that it was rather absurd…but I was determined. I figured if I made the cake now, when I didn’t have an occasion for it, then I know if I can make it when I needed it "for real." I know to start with this instead of a simple 2-layer vanilla/yellow or even chocolate is a leap, but it was what I came across....so hells bells, I'm going for it, sister.

Here it is, in all its lop-sided glory....(photo lopsided too--I took w/ my phone, so it's not good at all...I have a view of it pre-cut, but it's taking forever to download them...) This one was taken to show the inside layers...all the lime filling, and chiffon-y goodness! You can see how my cool whip topping did not keep its form too well...the lime and sugar when added to it made it sort of fall apart in consistency and all of a sudden the whipped topping was airy and 'holey'--almost disintegrating while I frosted--but it held together. The recipe called for "Fat Free" Cool Whip, but I splurged and got the 'real' kind--but next time I would probably not flavor the topping. Not only did it fool with the texture, but the cake and filling are lime enough for me.

Other than that edit, I LOVED it! I was psyched!

As for the sister that laughed at the shock of my domestic endeavor (and if she's reading this, she's mad that I'm not pointing out that she was quick to point out that she was not laughing at me as much as the shock of such a random type of cake that I was baking--so truly, she's my biggest champion in all things), she benefited as she & I went shopping the very next day and I showed up to her apartment with a section from my creation....

Score one for the happy homebaker!

RECIPE AS FOLLOWS: (c) Cooking Light (June, 2006)

1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cake flour
2 cups sifted cake flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
3 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 1/2 cups fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Fresh mint sprigs (optional)
Fresh blueberries (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)

To prepare the lime filling, combine 1 teaspoon lime rind, 1/4 cup lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl, stirring until blended. Cover and chill 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 325°.

To prepare cake, coat bottoms of 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour.

Lightly spoon 2 cups cake flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well combined.

Combine oil, 1/3 cup juice, 3 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon rind, lemon extract, and egg yolks in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add oil mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into flour mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture.

Divide cake batter equally among prepared pans, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Remove wax paper from cake layers. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons lime juice in a small glass bowl. Microwave at high for 30 seconds or until sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Fold into whipped topping.

To assemble cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread half of filling over cake layer. Top with second layer, remaining half of filling, and third layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with mint, blueberries, and lime wedges, if desired. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Slice cake into wedges.

16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 290(29% from fat); FAT 9.3g (sat 2.1g,mono 4.6g,poly 2.1g); IRON 1.1mg; CHOLESTEROL 47mg; CALCIUM 122mg; CARBOHYDRATE 44.9g; SODIUM 218mg; PROTEIN 5.3g; FIBER 0.3g

Jan Moon , Cooking Light, JUNE 2006