Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics and Daring Bakers' Challenge: Crackers!

So, all the buzz lately has been about the Olympics.  And, understandably so!  I've been counting the days since January!  I remember watching as a kid, and loving it (I think it was only every 4 years back then), but when I moved out on my own, and had nothing better to do than sit on the couch for hours on end, is when I truly started to appreciate it.  Then of course, 4 years ago, watching the infamous Michael Phelps do what no other human has accomplished before....well, that's just good stuff!  Every time my soon-to-be 5 year old son watches, he says "That's me!", whenever someone wins.  Of course, he also thinks he's an Autobot.  Uhh...yeah.

Ok, on to crackers.  This month's challenge was to do 2 different types of crackers, 2 different ways.  I don't have a pasta roller attachment for my mixer, so my options were a bit limited.  I've had this Rosemary Sea Salt cracker on my pinterest to do list for a while now, so this seemed like the perfect time.

Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers
from Pastry Affair

I did not alter the recipe, except for maybe the cooking time.  Mine seemed to cook in less time.  It was a beautiful dough to work with.  It came together nicely, and wasn't sticky or too dry.  Just perfect.  The recipe called for large grain sea salt, but all I had was finely ground.  They were still tasty.

For my second cracker, I decided to do a graham cracker.  I chose Alton Brown's recipe, because, hello....it's Alton.  Need I say more?  That being said, I was thoroughly disappointed with the recipe.  Everything from the taste to the instructions, and to the end product.  This is not something I would repeat.  Ever.

Graham Crackers
adapted slightly from Alton Brown

The only change I made to the recipe was to sub wheat flour, for white.

The recipe calls for ingredients in weight, not volume, so here I am, weighing out my ingredients.  I know they say it's more accurate that way, but seeing as how the recipe was a dud, I'm having my doubts.  I decided to shape the dough into a log, and use the slice and bake method.  I'm not sure if this was my downfall, or if it was using the wheat flour, but it did not turn out well.  The recipe says to bake for 25 min, but mine were burnt to a crisp after that.  I tried again, for 10 min, and they turned out ok.  But, the dough was so coarse and didn't really taste the way a normal graham cracker tastes.  Of course, I'm just going by the store bought taste/texture, but those store bought ones are pretty darn good!  Anyhoo, here they are.  Mission complete, if not totally successful.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Magic Mike and Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Let's talk movies.  I love movies!  I get to escape the real world for a couple of hours and be entertained at the same time.  It's a win/win!  I love comedies, action, drama, sci-fi, romance...eh, not so much on that one, but most anything that isn't a horror movie, and I'm there.  I even saw The Artist, which is a silent film, and loved it. 

 So, as any red blooded American woman would do, I happily plunked down my hard earned money to watch Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum strip down in Magic Mike.  (Ok, so I wanted to see Joe Manganiello too.)  I was expecting to see hot ass, and that's what I got!  Unfortunately, that was all I got.  Now, I like a good strip tease as much as the next girl (and, I can TOTALLY see Tatum stripping in his former profession...he is extremely good at it, and perhaps should consider going back to it), but...as in all relationships, I was kind of hoping for a little more.  Maybe an actual plot that didn't suck?   Obviously, I was asking too much.  <sigh>

Also, as in relationships, when you're disappointed in one area, chocolate is always a comforting friend to turn to.  These chocolate covered strawberries rock.  I didn't really use a recipe.  I just kinda winged it.  Here's what I did.

First, I washed and dried these beautiful summer berries.  Delish by themselves, but everything is better with chocolate!  While these were drying, I heated up the chocolate.  You can use a double broiler or the microwave.  Be very careful with the microwave though, or it will cook your chocolate.  I used probably half bittersweet chocolate, and half semi-sweet. 

Once that was melted and the strawberries were dry, I was ready for dipping!  At first I tried sticking toothpicks into the strawberries, then after dipping, I stuck them in an upside down colander to dry.  That way, they wouldn't get that flat side on one side of the chocolate.  But, after doing a few, I decided to heck with it.  They were going to be on a platter anyway!  It's totally up to you.

After the chocolate was dry, I heated up some white chocolate to drizzle over the top.  I used a parchment cone to do this, but you could easily use a spoon, piping bag or bottle.  Whatever you prefer.

A few things to remember.  These are best made the day of your event/snacking.  After a while, the strawberries start to leak their juices, which in turn makes the chocolate a little juicy.  Still good eats, but not as pretty.  Also, WAIT for Magic Mike to come out on Blu-Ray/DVD.  Then, you can just watch the first 30 min of the movie and not torture yourself with the rest of it.

Happy eating!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Battenburg Cake

On to my second Daring Bakers' Challenge!  Ok, ok....I know it's been a month since I last posted, and I'm sorry.  I've been busy, what can I say?  Also, I know this post is a day late for the challenge....and again, I'mreallysorry.  Forgive and forget?  <whew>  Ok, good.  I'm glad that's not hanging between us anymore.

So, this month's challenge (pretend it's still June) was Battenburg Cake, which is something I had never heard of.  At first, I was a little daunted by the challenge, thinking back to those checkerboard cakes that were so popular in the 90's, but after reading through the instructions, I thought the best approach would be to jump in with both feet.

The variations on Battenburg cake are seemingly endless.  You can do just about anything!  Which, also makes it harder to narrow the choices down.  With the upcoming 4th of July holiday approaching though, I wanted to do something red and blue, with the outer white(ish) marzipan.  Very festive, I thought.  I started with the basic recipe that was given on the Daring Bakers' website.

Battenburg Cake
Adapted slightly from Mary Berry's "Baking Bible"

I added chopped fresh cherries to the red batter (with some red coloring), and chopped fresh blueberries (with some blue coloring) to the blue.  I had hoped that the fruit would color the batter enough not to use artificial colorings, but no luck.  Oh well.

Making the cakes was pretty easy. I used a strawberry/blackberry jam that I had made earlier this month to hold them together.  What I found the most difficult, was the marzipan.  I've never worked with it before, and found it a little dry. Let's just say, I did the best I could.  =)

Anyway, this month's challenge probably isn't something I'd do again.  At least, not until I get a little more experience with marzipan, but it was fun to do once.

Hope you enjoy!
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