Blueberries!

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Where did I find this tasty treat?

My dear friend Katy’s grandparents have a bunch of land in New Hampshire and there are an absolute shit-ton of wild blueberries on their land.  Lucky me, this means I get my hands on them every once in a while!  I was lucky enough to find myself with a TON of blueberries and no real plan about what to do with them, besides just shoveling them down my gullet by the handful.  Thankfully I found a Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bar recipe on Epicurean Mom and figured that if mine could come out looking even a little like hers then they’d probably be amazing.

I got 99 problems and baking is one:

At this point the only problems I had with making these had to do with equipment.  The baking part I’ve gotten figured out…for the most part.  But I didn’t own a food processor (when I made these, thankfully that’s been resolved!), juicer and my zester, which I at least do own, sucks.

I had to borrow my boyfriend’s mom’s food processor.  (who by the way must have felt bad for my pathetic-ness because she’s the one that got me a food processor :) ) One problem solved! Now about the juicer, no bigs I just bought one of those cheapy plastic ones at the grocery store and it gets the job done. Problem two solved. Damn I am making quick progress of this!  But now on to the zester.  Did I already mention the one I own sucks?

Here’s what I’m talking about, this is my zester, and let’s be serious, I don’t own the fancy Martha Stewart one, I own a shitty one I got at Market Basket.

Now, all the Puerto Ricans reading this blog (hello…are any of you out there?) will say, “what’s up with you, my momma has one of those and it’s always gotten the job done.” Look, you are right, my mom has one too.  We actually had a little collection of these damn things and every holiday season we’d get assigned to one and forced to start grating up all the verduras to get making some pasteles…but be real, you know your hand slipped every once in a while and got all cut up. And then your mom would start yelling at you because you managed to taint a tiny amount of the 7,000 pounds of masa she was making for the billion pasteles she was about to make. OK sorry, I digress, Puerto Rican girl problems haunt me as an adult I guess…

ANYWAY, my zester kind of sucks. I use the smallest size of the 4 sided grater and it annoys me, every time I use it.  But I still can’t bring myself to get a decent zester.  I am not sure why honestly, I curse every time I use the 4-sided one.  But every time it gets the job done, eventually, and then I just say, “meh, you already have a zester, why get another one?”

Lessons learned:

  1. Blueberries in cheesecake bar form are good, but so is just eating them fresh by the handful.
  2. Food processors are AMAZING contraptions. You should buy one, or give someone pathetic puppy dog eyes until they buy one for you.
  3. Zesters, meh.

OK now a bonus for my lucky readers, are you actually out there? With this installment of Ramblings, Rants and Such…you get a free piece of advice. Ready?

You need to eat some real Puerto Rican pasteles at some point in your life.  For. Real. They are a total pain in the ass to make, but so yummy. So, go out there, get friendly with a Puerto Rican and have them invite you over around the holidays (when most people make them) or find yourself an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant and enjoy.  Feel free to thank me later.

Oh and I almost forgot, I had a TON of blueberries, I wasn’t kidding when I said that.  I also made the cake below.  Sadly I don’t remember where the recipe came from, which is sad because it was damn tasty!

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RED! Red Velvet Cupcakes

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Where did I find this tasty treat?

I’ve never made red velvet anything before, so I basically just googled it and stumbled upon this recipe from Gimme Some Oven. This blog post seemed pretty straight forward and the pictures of her cupcakes was pretty much enough to convince me. So began the fun.

I got 99 problems and baking is one:

I knew I wanted to try to make these but was almost immediately annoyed when I read the recipe.  Cake flour, for real? I’ve got an absolute shit-ton of regular ol’ AP flour (see what I did there, using baker lingo:) and now I’ve got to buy cake flour?!?! I googled a few things to see if I could get away with it and found this, as soon as I read “the substitution is not one-to-one”, I just stopped. No, I’m not going to complicate this any more than necessary.

I pretty much had all the rest of the ingredients at home, (besides the food coloring) so it ended up not being a huge deal to spring for the cake flour.Image 

The recipe was pretty straight forward. I did notice is said, “In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. (Yes, it will fizz!)” I didn’t know what exactly that meant but it sounded cool, so before I did it I called Matt over and made him try and capture the fizz in action. Look at that, it actually fizzed! Smart people reading this are like Doh you idiot of course it fizzed, obviously that was going to react.  Well whatever I didn’t know. Here’s a significantly more dramatic version of what happened in my little measuring cup. 

 

Once I added all the food coloring I was actually pretty AMAZED how freakin red it was.  Like really, REALLY red. But that’s what they looked like in the blog, so I went with it.  I filled all the cupcakes and they came out so pretty! Nice and fluffy and surprisingly NOT totally overflowing. ImageLessons learned:

  1. If you want the really dramatic RED look then you really do need 2 bottles of red food coloring. Yeah, yeah I’m sure the food coloring is horrible and has a horror-show list ingredients that are likely best left undigested…but what they hell. I wanted really red Red Velvet…so I went for it. Do what you like. I know there are lots of red velvet recipes that use beets to add the color.
  2. Baking soda + vinegar = FIZZY action. 
  3. It really does pay to NOT over fill your cupcakes. I was particularly thoughtful about this after my last fiasco.
  4. Cream cheese frosting! YOU GUYS, if you don’t know that cream cheese frosting is basically magic, then you don’t know nothin’

p.s. look at how freaking beautiful these came out!

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Sunken Chocolate Cupcakes

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Where did I find this tasty treat?

Turns out I had some extra Guinness sitting around so I decided to make this cake but in cupcake form. This cake was tasty as hell and since I had already made this recipe once I figured…no bigs…should be easy.

I got 99 problems and baking is one:

So here’s the thing, I have absolutely no idea how to fill cupcakes.  I always, ALWAYS overfill these suckers.  I swear I put less batter than I did the time before and it still turns out the same, overflowed.  So that’s what happened here. As you can see below, it was a hot mess.  Sunk right in the middle, every last one of them.  Turns out there are a few reasons why cupcakes can sink in the middle (Cupcakes Take The Cake has more info here) but I know for sure why mine sunk…I overfilled the damned things.  Check it out, sad sunken cupcakesImage

My plan, as usual with my baking was to bring these into work to share with my coworkers…but seriously these looked terrible when they came out of the oven…but…they smelled damned good.  So I cooled them a bit and decided this wasn’t a big enough problem to toss the cupcakes.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING TO THE RESCUE! I just made sure I piled the frosting extra high in the middle and problem solved.  They looked great and tasted yummy.  What else do you need in a baked treat?

Lessons learned:

  1. When I think to myself, “that’s enough batter” it’s actually TOO MUCH BATTER!
  2. Frosting makes life better, especially cream cheese frosting.

I didn’t do all that baking for nothing!

I have been a total slacker about updating this blog.  BUT, I was totally not a slacker about baking.  I committed to learn how to bake from scratch a little over a year ago and I am still baking like a total bad ass.  OK, maybe that’s a bit strongly worded, I’m baking, a lot.  Whatever, you get the idea. 

Even when I was being totally lazy about updating my blog I was still baking and still taking photos so I’m going to start posting again.  Get ready, lots of baking adventures to come!

400lb Carrot Cake

Where did I find this tasty treat?Hands down the people that have been the most spoiled by my baking adventures this years have been my coworkers.  Just about every week I’m bringing in a new something for them to try.  So after being at the in-laws house for dinner one night they mentioned that I hadn’t actually baked anything for them to try.  Seeing how they bought me a bunch of amazing baking supplies for my birthday, I figured I needed to correct that ASAP.  Knowing them, I thought they would enjoy a carrot cake, and since I pretty much love anything with cream cheese frosting, I figured why not!?!  I found this recipe after scouring millions of versions, ok maybe a slight exaggeration, on allrecipes.com. Um, hello, it’s called The Best Carrot Cake Ever, obvious choice.

I got 99 problems and baking is one:

Did you look at the full recipe yet?  Did you? No?  Well here’s the thing, the recipe says that it makes two 10 inch round layers.  So I am going right along, making this cake assuming that I’m going to make 1 cake with two tasty carroty layers.  That is until I start making this freaking thing and it’s an insane amount of batter. I’m talking insane, and I keep piling more and more stuff in there.  I mean, look.  LOOK AT THIS FREAKIN’ BOWL.

And that folks, is how the cake got its name.  I’m not joking, this batter was insanely heavy.  Under absolutely no circumstances, and I mean NONE, would it make any kind of sense to make this into a two layer cake.  I honestly believe it would be physically impossible to eat that much cake, like if you tried, there’s a good chance you could explode.  BOOM.  So, here’s my public service announcement, either make this cake and half the recipe, OR, just make two cakes like I did.  One cake for the in laws, and one cake for my lucky coworkers, who benefited this time when  hadn’t even planned on hooking them up.

Lessons learned:

  1. Carrot cake is dense with a capital D, so in other words, it’s heavy as a mofo!
  2. The world if a better place because cream cheese frosting.
  3. Read recipes before you start, if you don’t in this case, you will be out of luck because you need to soak the carrots with sugar for 1 hour.

Omi’s Black Forest Cake

Where did I find this tasty treat?

This is another allrecipes.com find. My sister requested a black forest cake for her birthday, so I had to find one.  I looked everywhere and it seemed like this recipe was more simplified than some others I came across, so of course it’s the one I picked!

I got 99 problems and baking is one:

And…here we go again! You’d think I would have learned my lesson after the Baked Alaska fiasco.  I really need to see a recipe before I agree to bake things!!  I was happy when my sister asked for this cake because I really like black forest cake, but once I started digging through recipes I was a bit horrified.  If I’m really going with the made from scratch theme I couldn’t just go out and buy cherry pie filling!  For this cake I had to bake a chocolate cake, two of them actually, and slice them evenly…or as evenly as I could (so basically not that even at all). Then make cherry filling, from scratch.

Um, here’s the thing, my grocery store doesn’t carry sour cherries, not fresh, not canned, not dried.  So I had to make the filling from scratch.  I followed the recipe but substituted frozen cherries for the canned sour cherries.  This substitution worked out just fine.  I should mention here, I read a few reviews that suggested adding some kirsh liquor to the cakes to add a bit of extra yummy flavor.  Seriously though, I’m not messing around looking for kirsh liquor to add a few drops in a cake and never use it again, so instead, I just reserved the juice that drained from the frozen cherries and soaked that into the cakes.  I do think this was a good thing to do because it intensified the cherry flavor so if by chance you are going to make this cake, you should add the juice to the cakes!

I’d say the hardest thing about this cake was having to cut the two cakes. Now don’t get me wrong, the entire cake was a bit of a pain in the ass to make, but having to cut two cakes into two relatively even layers really really sucked.  I ended up cutting the first one and it was pretty sad.  Like NOT AT ALL even.  So I tried cutting the second one, I did it a lot slower this time and it was better, but not great. Needless to say I found this tutorial online when I was done.  Awesome, good thing I found this…AFTER. Ugh.

After the cakes were cut, it was just a matter of layering up cake, cherry mix and whipped cream. Easy peasy.

Lessons learned:

  1. Black forest cake is kind of complicated to make. Lot’s of fussy steps.  Tasty when complete, so still worth the trouble.
  2. My grocery store hates sour cherries.
  3. Regular ol’ cherries work just fine in this recipe.
  4. I’m not the cake boss, I need help when slicing a cake into even layers.
  5. The lighting at my sister’s house SUCKS so I need to take pictures at home next time (sorry the pictures in this post are so terrible).

Banana Crumb Muffins

Where did I find this tasty treat?

I had a few sad looking bananas on my counter but didn’t want to make another banana bread so I was poking around allrecipes.com and found this.  I love muffins, Matt loves anything with a coffee cake like crumble on top, and my bananas were brown and spotted enough to be perfect for this, so decision made!

I got 99 problems and baking is one:

These were actually pretty easy to make!  The recipe was short and sweet, and really easy to follow.  The only problem I had was with the crumb topping, I made a freaking MESS of my kitchen.  Apparently I suck at sprinkling, I some how sprinkled the topping all over the muffins, and my counter and my floor…

Lessons learned:

  1. This recipe is crazy easy, and a good use of sad looking bananas if you want to try something other than banana bread.
  2. This doubles as a dessert…and totally legitimate breakfast item.
  3. These freeze really well!  I cooled them and froze them and popped out one in the morning for breakfast and it was yummy!
  4. I need to learn how to bake without making such a huge mess.  (This is only sort of a lesson. I mean, I realize I need to stop making such a mess, but I haven’t actually learned a way to go about doing that.)