Archive for April, 2012

Bake 52 Week 17: Baklava

April 25, 2012

This week’s post comes to you from the the nation’s capitol!

I wasn’t sure I’d get this recipe done, as I’m on vacation visiting my sister.  She’s a fellow Bake 52’er, but she also just moved in the last week, so I wasn’t sure her kitchen would be put together enough to do any baking.  It was though, so we spent Sunday night making Baklava.

I knew right from the start that I wouldn’t even be taking a small taste of this recipe.  I do not like nuts, and since that makes up the bulk of baklava, it doesn’t entice me in the slightest.  That’s probably a crime considering I grew up in Carbon County, where the Greek Festival is a BIG deal every year and little old Greek ladies make mass amounts of baklava (I’m sure completely from scratch….no cheating with phyllo dough).

It was a somewhat labor intensive recipe, though not really hard. We started off with making the sugary syrup, which Em worked on…

…while I worked on clarifying the butter, which started out like this…

…and ended up like this.  You skim the foam off the top and then carefully pour the separated butterfat off the top.  Kind of a cool trick to know, though I’d never know when to use it unless a recipe specified it.

Em zested the lemon.  I just love lemons.  They smell and taste so wonderful!

We failed to read the directions on the phyllo, so we didn’t realize that it would need to thaw for at least 2 hours on the countertop.  Given that it was getting late, waiting for it to thaw wasn’t really an option.  So, we worked with torn sheets of somewhat dried out phyllo dough. This was my first experience working with it, and as it started to thaw it reminded me of skin from a peeling sunburn.  Not the most appetizing comparison to make!  As we worked, we layered the phyllo sheets and added the nuts.

While cooking, the baklava smelled like butter.  Lots of butter.  Stomach-churning amounts of butter.  Kind of like the palmiers we made a few weeks ago.  Blech.  Check out the sheen on this baby, pre-baking.  There’s that and more under all those layers.

In spite of our rushed use of the frozen phyllo, the baklava came out of the oven looking quite pretty.  It was pretty late at that point, so we left it to cool overnight and didn’t have a chance to dig into it until after dinner the next day.

I, of course, just watched everyone else partake.  For me, there was nothing appetizing about the way it looked or smelled.  Those who did eat it said it was good.  I don’t know how it compares to traditional baklava, but Nick ate two pieces, which I suppose is a good sign.  Em dropped some off to a neighbor, who later called and left her a message RAVING about how good it was.  She apparently used to live near some people from the Middle East who made baklava frequently.  She said that she’s never found any to rival what they made, but this one did it for her.  Extra good sign!  This is definitely not a repeat recipe for me, but it was at least fun to be able to make it with my sister this week!

Talesha was this week’s host….check out her blog for the full recipe and directions!

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Bake 52 Week 16: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

April 18, 2012

I’m fairly new to this whole pie thing and this is the first real fruit pie that I’ve made.  I’ve never had strawberry rhubarb pie before, and was a little apprehensive because rhubarb just screams vegetable to me.  Owen even asked if it was strawberry celery, since it…well, looks like red celery.  On the other hand, I’d heard that rhubarb is tart, and tart is one of my favorite things.

Much like last week (only worse) it was a CRAZY day the day I had to make this pie.  I’m preparing to head to Washington D.C. for a week to visit my sister and had LOTS to do!  Today was my cooking day, so along with this pie, I made 3 freezer meals and 8 loaves of bread.  My kitchen was a disaster!

The prep work for this pie wasn’t too bad.  Cut up the strawberries and rhubarb, toss them in a bowl with some sugar, and let it sit for an hour to get the juices going.

In the meantime (between chicken parmesan and pork chop marinade) I got the pie crusts rolled out.  I’ve never done a double-crust pie before, so I was a little nervous about this part, but it wasn’t hard at all.  I obviously need some practice when it comes to making the edges look pretty though!

As luck would have it, my last four loaves of bread were ready to bake at the exact same time as the pie.  Figuring the pie would get soggy if I baked it second, I left my loaves to rise for a bit longer and put the pie in.  Unfortunately, I missed the part in the recipe where it says to turn the heat down and bake for 25 more minutes, which meant my bread was left to rise for an hour longer than they needed.  Whoops!  This is what happens to bread when it rises too long…

Good thing my pie came out looking better than my bread!  I thought it was rather pretty for being a first-timer.

Had I not had so much to do at the same time, I don’t think this pie would have been too terribly time consuming to make.  I made the crusts the night before, which helped.  I’m not quite brave enough to venture out in the pie crust world yet, so I stuck with Amanda’s fail-proof recipe, which is soooo easy!

In the end, fear won me over and I cut four slices of pie for the family instead of five.  I did have a little taste of the filling (nice and tart!), but after cooking, the strawberries had lost their beautiful red color and the rhubarb just looked like celery tainting the pie.  Owen asked for two pieces, Joseph said it “wasn’t bad”, Emmy ate around the rhubarb, and Ryan complained about the whole thing.  The response from the office this week seemed to favor those who already liked strawberry rhubarb pie….we didn’t convert anybody with this one.  However, the pie crust was a BIG hit!

Valerie was this week’s host, and you can find the full recipe on her blog!

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Bake 52 Week 15: Chocolate Blackout Cake

April 11, 2012

Wow! Can you believe we are 15 weeks into the year? I can’t. I also can’t believe that I have baked something every week for 15 weeks straight….that’s more than I’ve baked in probably the last 5 years combined!

This week’s host was Courtney, and since I know that she doesn’t really care much for chocolate either, I know I won’t offend her when I say that my excitement level to make this cake was non-existent. When you add my distaste for chocolate to the fact that I don’t really love cake much either, this week’s pick left me sorely lacking motivation. But, being the stalwart that I am, I made it anyway.

I knew that the only day I had to make this week’s recipe was Tuesday. The busiest day of my week. The day that I had to get Emmy to ballet, eat lunch at school with Ryan for Birthday Table, attend two IEP meetings, and go to a parent’s meeting for the spring track season….all in between the everyday duties of being a wife a mother (I only accomplished one load of laundry, unfortunately).

I did have time late Monday night to make the pudding. Turns out that the most important ingredient for me that night was burn cream and a bandaid. The recipe said to bring the pudding to a simmer, but for me it went from no hint of a bubble to exploding boiling without any warning. And my arm took the brunt of that explosion. Ouch! Thankfully this burn cream is amazing and I was out of pain in no time flat and there will be no blistering.

The cake was fairly simple to whip up. It was a pretty runny batter, but the recipe specified that it should be, so I knew I was on the right track. I don’t have any 8-inch cake pans, so I improvised with my 9-inch springform pan. My layers are a little thinner because of that, but it worked just fine.

One thing I was grateful for with this cake is that it is covered in cake crumbs. For me, that meant covering up my botched frosting job. My pudding was a little lumpy and I would love to know the secret of frosting a cake without having the cake go crumbly….I have yet to master that art!

The crumb topping made for an interesting presentation….not sure I really found it pretty, but it was definitely interesting to look at….kind of like the cake was fuzzy.

As for flavor…it was chocolate overload. The recipe called for a cup of coffee to bring out the chocolate flavor. On principle, I substituted water instead, so maybe that altered the taste some, but I can’t imagine it being any more chocolatey than it was. I actually do enjoy chocolate pudding, but the pudding in this recipe didn’t really wow me….it wasn’t quite sweet enough for my taste buds. I was able to eat one little bite and felt that met my chocolate quota for the next 5 years or so.  My kids gobbled up their slices in under a minute, so they are either seriously chocolate-deprived, or the cake was actually good.

If you are a chocolate-lover, I would bet that you’ll love this cake.  I was anticipating a much more difficult recipe to put together, but it really wasn’t too bad, nor was it as expensive as I thought a chocolatey-chocolate cake would cost.  If you want the recipe, check out Courtney’s blog.


Bake 52 Week 14: Tres Leches Cake

April 4, 2012

First off, I must apologize for my lack of pictures with this post.  Sometimes my house seems like chaos when I’m trying to bake and picking up the camera for a picture or three would simply put me over the edge!

Even with my limited Spanish, I knew right off that this cake was going to have plenty of milk in it. After reading the recipe, I figured there was a good chance that it would be too rich for my taste buds, but the whipped topping sure did look yummy!

I wish the recipe would have suggested using a saucepan to make the milk mixture. My sweetened condensed bubbled up and overflowed in the microwave, making a HUGE sticky mess. An hour or so later, my sister called with a question on the recipe and said the same thing happened to her. I think it would have been just as effective to do that step on the stove and MUCH easier to monitor!

The cake itself turned out quite nicely. I’ve not had the best luck in the past making homemade cake, so I was a little apprehensive this time too. It took the full 35 minutes for mine to bake all the way through, but it didn’t fall flat or look weird when it was done.

The cake smelled sooooo yummy when it came out of the oven and it kind of pained me to pour the milk mixture over it. But I did it anyway. And then gagged a little over how soggy I was sure it would be when it came time to eat.

After 3 or so hours in the fridge, I pulled the cake out for our FHE treat. While the kids played “Mother May I?” I whipped (and whipped, and whipped, and whipped….2 minutes was NOT enough to get the soft peaks the recipe called for) up the topping and spread it on the cake. We cut up some strawberries to top each slice.

I was a bit apprehensive about the soggy cake, but I was excited about the whipped topping. As it turned out, the cake was delicious (a little soggy in parts, but overall not bad) and the whipped topping made me want to puke. I did NOT care for it….and I’m not sure if it was the recipe itself or an issue with my cream (afterall, it took more like 10 minutes to whip up right). I would have been happier with Cool Whip on top! The cake was rich, so I couldn’t finish an entire piece, but everyone else ate 2, with moans and groans about how good it was.

Joseph took the remainder to work the next morning and by 10:00 I had the following text: “Your cake is being hailed as your best dessert yet :)”.  So I guess it was pretty good.  One of his co-workers spent some time in Guatamala and had eaten authentic Tres Leches cake several times and said that it’s too soggy for her taste in South America, but this cake was just right.  I’d call this one a hit…and simple enough to make over and over!

Amanda stepped up to the plate and hosted this week even though it wasn’t her turn….thank you Amanda!  Check out her blog for the yummy recipe!