Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hometown stop: Go Bruins!

I decided to make a quick stop in the city that is nearest and dearest to my heart (and physical location), good old Boston, and make some cookies to support the Bruins' run for the cup tonight.  I figured a few Bruins cookies would be sure to set them in the right direction, and lessen the mood of high stress-crazy children at work in these last few days of the school year.

I also thought I'd take the easy way out by using slice-and-bake sugar cookies for some of them.  For the rest, I wanted to make the chocolate cookies from the dirt cake because they were way too good to just use for crumbling.

I made icing with my very specific recipe for decorator's frosting: 2lbs confectioners sugar, 2 sticks of butter, and enough milk and vanilla to get it to the consistency you want it at.  I also picked up some "electric yellow" and "super black" gel icing color, and a sparkly gel icing pen.  I frosted some of the cookies with the pen and then, for fear that they wouldn't ever dry (does corn syrup mixed with sugar and fructose actually dry?), so I switched to regular icing.  The pen ones did come out prettier though.

All of the cookies came out well because, well, one set came out of a tube, and the other's are just yummy.  I left out one egg yolk because I ran out of eggs, and cooked them at a higher temp than called for, because my oven doesn't stay lit at 300, so they came out somewhat cakier than they had before, but they were delightful.  Someone at work described them as a mix between a cookie and a brownie and coined the term, "brookie."  This was after figuring out that "cownie" didn't sound quite right.

I have not being doing a lot of detailed decorating recently and I think I had forgotten what it was like.  I had forgotten about being extremely covered in icing that feels like pure grease and looks like egg yolks when you don't boil them quite long enough.  I had also forgotten how long it takes to decorate 32 cookies, how much clean up there is and what happens to your back when you stand for 3 hours to painstakingly put a Boston Bruins logo on to every cookie using multiple colors and tips.

Yes, I am complaining.  It was worth it this morning because everyone at work was really happy.  We will see if my good mojo worked in a few hours.

I am not overwhelmingly pleased with the actual detail work, but then, when am I ever pleased with what I create?  I always have images of grandeur in my head and think I'll be able to create them with little training, little practice and icing that isn't quite soft enough.  Oh well.

Close up of one with the gel pen.

These are the ones with the regular icing.  They look better in the picture.
Decorated with the gel pen.

Go Bs!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Too Hot in Boston

What do you do when it's 85 degrees in Boston at 5:30pm and you've spent the whole day in a non-air conditioned library with adolescents who have yet to buy into the concept of deodorant?

You make a drink.  Preferably a frothy, cold drink.  With ice.  And gin.

So, on my way home, I stopped at the store about bought (what seems to be) the most enormous cucumber in the world, and some fake lime juice.  Please don't mock my plastic lime shaped lime juice.  It's not my fault that there are no limes to be found in a 10 mile radius of Brookline.  

I had seen Ina on the Barefoot Contessa make a cucumber yogurt dip for which she shredded the cucumber and the squeezed out all of the water so the dip wouldn't get watery (which explained so much about my past dips).  I saw this and thought, what a great thing to make a gin cocktail with!  The cucumber water, not the shredded cucumber, that is.  So I shredded about a quarter of the cucumber into some cheesecloth and squeezed out all of the liquid.  There is A LOT of liquid in cucumber.  I then mixed the cucumber juice with some of the plastic lime juice and some Hendrick's gin.  I have no idea of the proportions.  

I had tried to chop some ice using the Magic Bullet, but when it all game together, the ice had melted, but the drink was cold and frothy.  I added the tonic water at the end, using Fear Tree tonic, which, if you haven't tried, you should.  Then I put it over ice in a glass chosen to support tonight's hockey game.    It ended cool, refreshing and delicious.

Oh, and don't worry about the cucumber that I grated, I tossed that in with the salad in the bag that was all I had the energy to make for dinner.  Well, that's a lie, I also ate about a third of a rotisserie chicken.  But then I saw Paula Deen make mashed potatoes and I didn't feel so bad about myself...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stop 20: Wisconsin Brown Sugar, Cranberry, and Pecan Cake

I did a Sarah-style triathalon today.  This means I rode my biked 4 miles and walked 1 1/2 miles and came home and passed out on the couch.  The passing out on the couch is the third activity in the tri.  As I as passed out on the couch, I realized that I was going to a birthday party tonight and hadn't made a cake.  Then I thought something along the lines of, "woe is me," (back of hand to forehead), "it is far too late now for me to make a cake that would be ready tonight.  Alas..."  Then I looked at the clock and realized it was only noon, got over myself and went to Whole Foods.  I had to go to Whole Foods because for this recipe I needed muscovado sugar and maple sugar.  Interestingly, in my house right now, I have muscovado sugar, turbinado sugar, maple sugar, and dark brown sugar.  No white sugar.

Anyway, my friend whose birthday it is is from Wisconsin, so I decided to make the Wisconsin cake  (seems logical, yes?).  The Wisconsin cake is this brown sugar, cranberry, pecan thing.  Brown decided on this cake because cranberries are the state fruit of Wisconsin and they celebrate them in a festival every September in a place called Warrens, Wisconsin.  I have no idea if this is near where Molly is from, but it's okay.  It turns out that Wisconsin produces the most cranberries of any state in the country.  As a girl from Massachusetts, this hurt a little to discover.

Brown says he likes to pair dried cranberries with muscovado sugar, which he, of course, just has around the house.  Muscovado sugar is a kind of unrefined brown sugar.  It is also known as  "Barbados sugar" or "moist sugar," though, that is from Wikipedia, so take it as you will.  This recipe also called for maple sugar.  Maple sugar is what is left at the end of the maple syrup-making process.  It is also what we commonly leave out of the maple sugar sweet potatoes every Thanksgiving because it is really, really expensive.  Well, now we have it.  And at $10/lb, we'd darn well better use it every Thanksgiving from here on out.  

The recipe is cooked in a bundt and calls for a rum-confectioners' sugar glaze. There is also rum in the cake.  I used Captain Morgan's since I seem to have acquired a handle of it at some point and I don't drink it, so I will use it in recipes until it is gone.  You cook the dried cranberries in the rum for a little bit, I assume to plump them up and get them good and tanked, then mix them in with the rest of the wet ingredients.  Besides that, it's a pretty typical cake recipe.  Cream the creaming ingredients (where the white sugar and muscovado sugar go) and add the wet and dry ingredients (where the maple sugar went) alternately.  Then you bake it.  I am being a bit anal about the oven this time since it did the whole turn itself off three times thing in the middle of baking the Coca-cola cake (stupid oven).  

I also, and this part is embarrassing, but I'm putting it in anyway, left out the sour cream.  I'm not exactly sure what happened, but when I had finished the dishes and the cake was well into the baking process, I looked on the counter and saw the sour cream sitting there, all un-opened and innocent looking.  The cake came out fine, super rich and sweet and delicious.  It was a bit crumbly and I have a feeling the sour cream would have helped with that.  Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with 10oz of full-fat sour cream.

All in all, it was definitely a success.  I think it would be more of an autumn cake and it definitely had a coffee cake feel to it.  I think it would be perfect for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.  If I had to choose between this one and the Delaware coffee cake, the Delaware cake would definitely win out, but this is a good one to have in the arsenal.

Here it is all naked and ready to be iced.  I think the discoloration comes from the oil spray, but I'm not 100% sure.

There is a layer of thinner icing underneath the thicker top layer because I had the proportions off a bit when I started.  I think it looked pretty nice by the time it was done.

And here's the birthday girl enjoying her half-eaten cake!

I have no next stop predictions right now.  I guess it will have to be a surprise...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Short Trip to the New England of my Youth

Hey New Englanders, remember these?

I've heard that they have ice cream cups in other parts of the country, called things like Dixie Cups, but none of them can be quite the same as a dual-flavor delicacy of the light, whipped Hood ice cream cup.    I bought a package of Hoodsies the other day.  They might not have come with the flat wooden spoon, and they sure seemed smaller than I remembered (could be that I've grown...), but the sentiment was the same and the flavor brought me back to hot summer days and sticky elbows.  I gave one to the three year old niece and discovered that they have the same affect on kids now that they did when I was that age.  Utter glee!

Then, of course, I made the mistake of checking the nutrition facts (NEVER, EVER check the nutrition facts on ice cream, just don't do it), and now, I can't eat them ever again.  It is so much better to go to an ice cream parlor and be in the dark.  But, last night, I did discover the best purpose for them ever:  Ice Cream Sandwiches.

It started when I made the famously delicious Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies of Cooks Illustrated fame to bring tonight's potluck.  When they came out of the oven, I was marveling at how perfectly round and equal in size they all were.  It was also about 150 degrees in the kitchen and my thought went immediately to using them for ice cream sandwiches.  

I pondered what kind of ice cream to get and how exactly to do this on my entire ride home from the Cape and realized about half way back that I had the answer already in my freezer, in the form of 3oz chocolate/vanilla swirl ice cream cups.  

It was the perfect (though maybe not most cost-effective) solution, especially since I wasn't going to eat them as they were.  

I simply ran a knife around the outside of the cup plopped the ice cream onto the bottom of one cookie.  It was already in the right shape...  

...and after a quick spread with the knife, was ready to be topped with the other cookie.  Then back into the freezer they went to get nice and solid and ready to be eaten.

Honestly, what could be better than that?