Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pickled What? Watermelon Rinds?

Yes, I am serious! 
These are awesome!
I know most of y'all have never heard about pickled watermelon rinds and the concept sounds totally bizarre.
As with most oddly intriguing foods, it's a southern thing apparently.
If you forgot (or are new), I am originally a northerner. And not just any northerner - A New Yorker!
So, we never heard of pickled watermelon rinds either.
Don't forget, it's all about time in NY.
There is never enough so there are no homemade biscuits made with pride or amazing fried chicken or sweet tea... all are too labor intensive or take too much time for a Northerner's schedule.
We moved down south more than 4 years ago (but I always said y'all).
OK, I can babble about anything apparently. Back to the pickles. Besides the fact that they are kinda unusual (which makes for wonderful gifts), they taste amazing AND are cheaper than cucumber pickles to make!
My house always has pickles. My hubby and all 3 boys adore pickles. Hubby is always coming home with more. Generally a locally made brand, Mt. Olive Pickles (which are very yummy, so go look for them next time you're out). Hubby wanted to show the boys how to make pickles. I should rephrase that. He wanted the boys to see how pickles were made. I rephrased since I'd be the one actually showing them :) So we saved our Mt. Olive pickle jars for "one day".
One day arrived. I had a plan. I bought the kidlets a seedless watermelon. I cut off all the rind and cubed the melon for them. I saved the rind. Here's the recipe I used....
B Sunshine recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rinds
Adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

  • 2 quarts watermelon rind (equal to one medium-sized melon)
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 3 quarts water
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried lemon peel

Trim most of the pink flesh from the rind (leaving a trace amount adds a nice color to the pickles). Cut rind into long 1/2"-1" long strips. This makes it easier to the get the green part of the rind off. Take a vegetable peeler and peel the green off. Cut white rind strips into 2" pieces (so they are about 1/2" by 2").

Combining 3 quarts water and 3/4 cup salt make the brine. Refrigerate for at least five hours but prefer overnight.

Drain; rinse. Cover the watermelon with water and bring to a boil; continue cooking until fork-tender, about another 5-7 minutes. Please note, overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery. Drain.

Combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices. Boil 5 minutes and then pour over watermelon. Refrigerate as little as 3 hours (if you have time, overnight works wonderfully).

Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling; reduce heat to medium-high and 15 minutes and pack into hot jars. Cover with boiling syrup. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space (if needed). Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel and seal.

Note: Since we reused commercial jars, the heat sucked in the seal (hot jars+hot pickles). Not that we needed a seal, once they cooled in the fridge, we ate the whole jar!!!

They are cute aren't they? I will make these again next week and make sure to leave a little pink of each piece. They look best that way! :)

A blogger I follow, Cupcake Project, just posted about watermelon today! Her post was how to make Watermelon Syrup from the juice and using the pulp of the watermelon to make Watermelon Butter (like a summer apple butter). So, there is like NO garbage! Use the pulp for butter, the juice for syrup and the rind for pickles! Talk about economical! Add on that fact that one of my favorite foods/flavors/smells is Watermelon, I am in heaven!!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Caramel Frappuccin-uh-oh! Someone put a cupcake in my frappe!!

So my entry into the 2010 Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup sponsored by the Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious was inspired by my love of Starbucks.

Originally, I intended this entry to taste like a caramel Macchiato, which, as Starbucks proudly states, consists of "creamy vanilla-flavored syrup, freshly steamed milk with a topping of velvety-rich foam, an intense hit of Espresso Roast, and a finishing of buttery caramel drizzle". Sounds yummy, right?

Well, after making the cupcake, which is amazing & I will detail after, my guinea pig husband and I concluded it was more like our favorite cold Starbucks beverage which is a Caramel Frappuccino. Again, for those who live under a rock,  a Frappuccino is a frozen drink that is made with bold coffee, ice, caramel (for a buttery sweetness), real whipped cream and drizzled with more caramel. Of course there is stuff in teh Frappuccino mix to make it the wonderful addiction that it is, but Starbucks won't quite tell ya that part. that's ok though,this cupcake tastes like it!

So, with it being said how we arrived at what it tastes like, the name.... It's like Cake & Frappuccino all in one. I seriously had my doubts of icing with ice cream and cake but OMG! These are seriously amazing! I cant wait to make them for my family who spend too much money on these frozen drinks.

Not only do they look pretty, they taste better than they look!

"What's in it already?" you ask. "How is it made?"

CUPCAKE (recipe here): It's a semi-airy coffee & vanilla cupcake. It's made with pure vanilla, fresh, stong coffee, and coffee grounds. It tastes wonderful on it's own. But then sandwiched in the middle of the coffee cupcake is ice cream. Since the cupcake was cut in half (to "sandwich" the ice cream), it was brushed with the strong coffee for added coffee flavor much ion the way one does for tiramisu.

ICE CREAM: It's vanilla bean ice cream with coffee beans as well swirled with homemade caramel. Frozen on a sheet pan and cut with a circle cookie cutter.

CARAMEL (recipe here): So easy to make and the taste is worth it! Also used to drizzle on top of the whipped cream.

CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM BLISS (recipe here): As I have said in the post with the recipe, this is a MUST TRY! It is just amazing and almost leaves those who try it with no words. I topped this off with whipped cream.

WHIPPED CREAM: Extra heavy Whipping Cream and a tiny amount of white sugar whipped until it's perfect. Then it's drizzled with the homemade caramel sauce.

Got that? Cupcake, Coffee, Ice Cream, Cupcake, Coffee, Frosting, Whipped Cream, Caramel.

Now the pretty picture y'all have been waiting for......

Caramel Sauce (Butterscotch)

This is a simple and yummy sauce. Great for cakes with layers - just put a layer of this, then the filling, then the cake again and it's wonderful. It's also great on desserts and in coffee drinks!

Caramel Sauce

2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Mix sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in cream. Return to heat, and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream Bliss

When it came time to decide which option I should do for the Cupcake Roundup, I knew it had to have this frosting! I made this frosting for a client's butterscotch cake and it was totally to die for! Hubby, who is not a fan of frostings of any kid, was in pure happiness with it. I knew then, we had a keeper. 

The recipe came from Martha Stewart but in time I will adapt it and bastardize it so much it becomes almost unrecognizable. But I will always know in my heart, Martha is the one who started the best frosting ever.

This recipe was used before but now posted as they are part of my entry for the Cupcake Project & Scoopalicious'  2010 Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup. (posted separately).

Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream Bliss
12 ounces unsalted butter (3 sticks), 1 stick left whole, 2 sticks cut into small pieces, softened
2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
20 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

1.  Melt 1 stick butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until dark golden brown, about 10 minutes.
2.  Add brown sugar, cream, and salt, stirring until sugar dissolves.
3.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and cook for 3 minutes.
4.  Transfer to a mixer bowl, and let cool.
5.  With machine running, add remaining butter, a few pieces at a time, and beat on low until incorporated.
6.  Raise speed to medium, and beat for 2 minutes.
7.  In another bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar on medium-high until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
8.  Add brown-butter mixture to cream cheese, and beat until smooth.
9.  Cover, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours (or overnight, beating on low speed before using).

Coffee Cupcakes

Ok, so I wanted a coffee cupcake and I pretty much used Chockylit's recipe just changing a few minor things. 

These were great cupcakes as a standalone cupcake. No frosting, so glaze, just coffee and it's glory. I will make these again using other flavors besdes vanilla for popular coffee flavors (like Irish Cream coffee, or Hazelnut coffee).  Totally yummy.

These were made to be a part of my entry for the Cupcake Project & Scoopalicious'  2010 Ice Cream Cupcake Roundup. (posted separately).

Coffee Cupcakes
yields 24 regular cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee**
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon used coffee grounds
Set oven to 350 degrees

1.  Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2.  Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3.  Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
5.  Measure out coffee and milk together.
6.  Add Vanilla to liquids.
7.  Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
8.  Add about one third the coffee/milk mixture and beat until combined.
9.  Repeat above, alternating flour and coffee and ending with the flour mixture.
10. Fold in the teaspoon of coffee grounds.
11. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will shrink slightly when they cool).
12. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
** To make my strong coffee, I used 5 heaping tablespoons. I put about 1/3 cup of hot water on the grounds and let them sit for nearly half an hour. I then ran the coffee maker with a little over 2 cups of water. This yielded nice strong coffee.

** Be cautious when adding the liquid mixture to the batter. If you add it too quickly the mixture will look curdled. Add small amounts and beat well to incorporate.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Something wonderful...

I am not a huge chocolate fan. Gasp, I know! A woman who doesn't love chocolate. I can take it or leave it. Nothing special.
I hate wine but I do adore beer. Hubby got me on Guinness too. YUM!
I am from the family I am from. Therefore, I like coffee. I hate to think about NOT drinking coffee i my family. I mean, it's just a thing. I digress. I like me some good coffee, I do.

Why all those statements? My new favorite cake is why. It's chocolate! I love a chocolate cake. I think it's my favorite! I should elaborate. It's a Chocolate Guinness Stout cake and it's amazing!.

I started off making it as cupcakes pretty much following Nigella's recipe but subbing in brown sugar for the superfine white sugar, and adding in some Malt to the batter as well as a heaping Tablespoon of instant coffee.

I decided to make a (get ready for this long name) Chocolate-Malted Guinness Cream Cheese Buttercream. I also think be far the best buttercream! :)

So, these little puppies were made.

These are mini cupcakes. Chocolate Guinness Stout Minis topped with Chocolate-Malted Guinness Cream Cheese Buttercream and a bittersweet chocolate chip to balance out any additional sweetness.

These are full-sized cupcakes.
Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcakes filled with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache topped with Chocolate-Malted Guinness Cream Cheese Buttercream and a white chocolate malted milk ball.

I got rave reviews from those who ate them. I had a cake order for someone I know and I jumped at the chance to make this cake for them. So sitting in my fridge right now is a assembled-but-not-yet-finished cake. It's a 9" square layered Chocolate Guinness Stout Cake filled with the same Chocolate-Malted Guinness Cream Cheese Buttercream. It's all perfect and boxy. It will get covered in some yummy marshmallow fondant and decorated with more fondant and luster dust. I will take pictures when it's finished. 

I definitely LOVE this cake.. I might tweak it more to what I find best, but so far, I'm in ♥love♥

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Parfaits are delicious"

The thought of parfaits always yucked me out. I am not a fan of my foods touching. Yogurt Parfaits aren't too bad. McDonald's put them on their dollar menu and got my 2 youngest ones hooked. Well, now they are hooked on MOMDonalds, as my eldest calls it, yogurt parfaits. Yesterday's lunch (and day before and today's breakfast) has been yogurt with granola and fresh strawberries and bananas. I had to snap a shot or two because I am me. :)

And when I think parfait I immediately hear Donkey from Shrek squawking out, "You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious. " I had to let you know what goes on in my head.. my weird, wild, wacky head.

Food Debate #1 - What is Cheesecake? Pie? Cake?

A local radio personality whom I like and follow on Twitter, asked the question. This got me thinking probably more than most people. After all, I am a foodie and I also hate to be wrong. So, the geek in me came home and decided to research the answer and come up with my own VERY educated conclusion.

What is a cake?
Well, it's fairly to easy to tell a bread from a cake. But. defining a cake is more cumbersome than you think. Cake is usually sweet and often baked. Note usually & often - not always the case. Cakes normally combine some kind of flour, a sweetening agent (commonly sugar), some sort of binding agent which is generally egg, fats (while usually butter, oil, or shortening can also be applesauce for a healthier version), a liquid such as milk or juice, flavorings, and some sort of leavening agent like yeast or baking powder (although many cakes do lack these and rely solely on air bubbles in the dough to expand and make the cake rise).
Now, cakes are broadly divided into several categories, based mainly on ingredients and cooking techniques. There are yeast cakes, sponge cakes, butter cakes, ruske-kape, and yes, cheesecake. There are sub categories such as coffeecakes or fruitcakes, too.
So "cake" covers a lot it seems. Let's look to more of a straight definition.

Merriam-Webster states :
Cake - Pronunciation: \ˈkāk\. noun. Etymology: Middle English, from Old Norse kaka; akin to Old High German kuocho cake. Date: 13th century
1 a: a breadlike food made from a dough or batter that is usually fried or baked in small flat shapes and is often unleavened b : a sweet baked food made from a dough or thick batter usually containing flour and sugar and often shortening, eggs, and a raising agent (as baking powder) c : a flattened usually round mass of food that is baked or fried
2 a : a block of compacted or congealed matter b : a hard or brittle layer or deposit
3 : something easily done

Now looking at those definitions one can see why a cheesecake might be a cake. While it is not bread-like as 1a, or using a dough containing flour, sugar & leavening as stated in 1b, it is cake shaped and baked like 1c. Moreover, it is defined by 2a for sure... compact and congealed.... makes cheesecake sound not as yummy when described as compact and congealed, huh?
What is a pie? A pie is generally a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough shell that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients. Pies can be either "filled", where a dish is covered by pastry and the filling is placed on top of that, "top-crust," where the filling is placed in a dish and covered with a pastry/potato mash top before baking, or "two-crust," with the filling completely enclosed in the pastry shell. Pies can be a variety of sizes, ranging from bite-size to ones designed for multiple servings. When consulting with good, 'ole Merriam-Webster again, the same definition is found.

This got me thinking. Is only pastry bottomed dishes pie? So if I go and but a Keebler graham cracker pie shell, am I not making a pie since it isn't a pastry bottom? Wikipedia says that a graham cracker crust is a style of pie crust made from crushed whole-wheat crackers made from Graham flour, usually flavored and stiffened with butter or vegetable oil. Graham cracker is the most common crust for cheesecakes. It is increasingly popular for use as a cream pie crust. So, if a graham crust IS a pie crust, the filling it with something would make it a pie like cheesecake. But if the definition is that a pie has to be a pastry shell, I come to the question....

What is Pastry Dough? Pastry Dough is the standard American dough for pies. It can be made with butter, vegetable shortening or lard, but most often a combination of butter and shortening is used. Whatever fat is used, it is rubbed or cut into the flour and then moistened with water to form the dough. Salt is either dissolved in the water or added to the flour at the start. The more finely the fat is rubbed in, the less flaky and more mealy the baked dough will be. So, if we use graham flour, cut in some butter, sugar and salt, we got a dough that falls into that definition of creating a pie crust.

OK.. the real question....

What is cheesecake? If we look to the wonderful that is Wikipedia, we find this definition: "Cheesecake is a dessert consisting of a topping made of soft, fresh cheese on a base made from biscuit, pastry or sponge.[1] The topping is frequently sweetened with sugar and flavored or topped with fruit, nuts, fruit flavored drizzle and/or chocolate." Sounds good. Makes sense.
Dear, sweet Merriam-Webster has this:
cheese·cake. Pronunciation: \-ˌkāk\. Function: noun. Date: 15th century.
1: a dessert consisting of a creamy filling usually containing cheese baked in a pastry or pressed-crumb shell

Ah.... baked into a PASTRY or crumb "shell" (See.. not a graham crust - a graham shell. I like that wording). So, its baked in a shell. Got it.

Wiki goes on to it's history which is what intrigues me most. I look to the history to explain to me why it was ever called cheeseCAKE.  It dates back pretty far and I mean well over 2000 years old. They have a recipe for a chesesecake dating back to the 1st century AD. It was cheese, pounded until smooth and creamy that was baked with flour, egg, and honey. How was it baked? It made into a loaf.

Back them, cheesecake was a cake. The name makes sense.
What about modern cheesecake?  Modern cheesecakes use a soft cheese like cream cheese, marscapone, cottage cheese, or neufantel cheese along with suagr, vanilla, and most times, eggs. This makes a custard or custard-like base that gets poured into a pie-shell or a springform pan that has been prepared with a cracker/butter combo for a crust. Many types of cheesecake are essentially custards, which can lead a novice baker to overcook them, expecting them to behave like true cakes." That statement flasehes 2 things to me personally. (1) I know custard is not cake and (2) expecting them to act LIKE a cake means they are NOT a cake


My final educated answer:

Back in 300 or so AD, cheesecake was in fact a cake. But modern cheesecake is a totally different item. The fact that cheesecake is a pastry-like shell filled with a custard, means today's evocation of the word cheesecake is a pie.

Would you say my Banana Cream pie is a cake? It is a graham cracker crust, layered with bananas, then a custard poured on top. No one would call that a cake. So if that is a pie, so is cheesecake.

My final answer. Was a cake, now a pie.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Few More Easter-y Things

Easter Morning we made Resurrection Rolls. Resurrection Rolls are basically crescent rolls wrapped around a marshmallow that hollow as you bake them. I wanted something to make sure they knew WHY we celebrated Easter. It's so not just about a giant bunny who leaves you stuff. I explained the story of Easter by taking a marshmallow (the sinless Jesus), coating it in butter (anointing him in oils), rolling the butter-coated marshmallow in cinnamon-sugar (further anointing him with incense, wrapping the marshmallow in a crescent roll (wrapping Jesus in his shroud, and then placing the rolls in the oven (Jesus' tomb) to bake (for 3 days). When the 8 minutes was past, I took out the gooey rolls. They were now hollowed out! Hunter was amazed! Yes, the filled roll became empty just as Jesus' tomb became on Easter morning.

Here's the recipe for y'all.

Resurrection Rolls

1 can of refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 large marshmallows
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease lightly (i used aluminum foil and sprayed with Baker's Joy). Separate crescent rolls and flatten out a bit. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon together. Dip marshmallow into melted butter, than roll into sugar mixture. Place marshmallow in center of crescent dough triangle and wrap carefully, pinching at seams to seal tightly. Place on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool, break open and enjoy. Even when they "gush out" they are still tasty. We'll be making them all year long they are so good. Like a not-so-sweet breakfast roll. Perfect for brunch play dates *wink*wink*


You can see it's empty inside!


Look how beautiful Peeps can be!!!


Family is what the holidays are all about!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Beauty in baking

Since this is my first food post here, I will explain.
I am a foodie.
There is not doubt about it.
I have succumb to the fact that I can never be skinny or thin.
I can only make wise choices because I refuse to give up food. I love food!
I have always loved food.
I wanted to culinary school but short story is my parents though t it was a bad choice so I couldn't.
I went to a top business school, graduated with a high GPA, but never worked a day after college in the field I was trained.
Everything I have since then has been self-taught.
That includes my baking!
I love to bake. It is an art. It is a thing of beauty!

Now for this post in particular. I got easily talked into baking for 2 local radio personalities for today.
I then I had to come up with something good and I didn't want to do a kind of cupcake I have done before.
I rattled my brain and decided on the 2 below.
Caramel Apple.
Yummy buy lacking. the cake is wonderful, as is the topping and filling but I think I'd add caramel to the cream cheese mix next time. As for the cake, add less spice and some caramel to carry the flavor completely through.

The 3 Deadly C's
Totally Yummy!
I am not a chocolate fan, so I think I could use half the chocolate but it's probably fine for most people.
So only change might be less chocolate and I think I'd spike the center caramel with coconut as well.

I hope Alli Morgan & Robin Fox like the cupcakes!

Update: Tom called me to tell me I should put on the radio. I loaded it up online. 30 seconds later, there was Alli Morgan saying how she just had Tom bring her some yummy looking cupcakes and how she was thankful to me! :) She totally made my day and  made all my failed attempts last night (don't even ask) totally worthwhile! Seriously, a little bit of praise goes a long way for me!

Caramel Apple Cupcake

Caramel Apple Cupcake with Nuts

Caramel Apple Cupcake Cross-Section
(That's Apple-Chunk Spice Cake with a Cream Cheese Butterceam filling, topped with Caramel and in this one chopped pecans)

The 3 Deadly Cs Cupcake

The 3 Deadly Cs Cupcake Cross-Section
(That's a Brown Butter cake filled with a gooey caramel topped with a layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache, a coconut cream chew layer, dipped in more toasted coconut, and lined with more ganache)


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Graphic Designing, Cupcake Baking, Cake Carving, Photo Taking, Party Planning, Carpool Driving, Cheerleading, Reorganizing, Busy, Blogging mom to 3 crazy boys, 3 crazy cats, and married to my best friend.