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I've always been all about the baking. Cakes, cookies, pies, cupcakes, they're all solidly in my repertoire.


But there's always been a nagging desire to try making homemade pasta. I've watched Mario Batale do it in moments on TV so many times. How hard could it be?


So I put it on my goals list for 2013. "Learn how to make fresh pasta."


There are only three ingredients, what could go wrong?


I got a medium sized bowl out, dumped in two cups of flour. Mixed in a teaspoon of salt.


Made a well in the middle, and dumped in a lightly beaten egg.


Pretended I was Mario and used my fingers to start swirling the egg into the flour until it came together.


Wow, this was actually working!


I took the glob of dough and kneaded it on a lightly floured mat for about three minutes. It felt stretchy and a little bit shiny.


Here's where I messed up a little. I actually own a pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer, but got impatient and decided to just roll it out on my own.


I rolled the dough out on the mat as thin as I could (turns out it wasn't very thin). Then I used a pizza slicer to turn it into thin strips (looked almost like fettucine).


Bathed in the glow of almost-success, I plunked the "pasta" into boiling water.




OK. So it actually tasted pretty good, if a bit thick. I just put some butter, capers, a squeeze of lemon, and some parmesan cheese on top.


Next time I'm definitely using my roller attachment to make nice thin strips.


Stay tuned for attempt number 2.


Any of you guys make your own pasta?

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 3/8/13 3:13 AM)

You know how much I like food, right?  Well, apparently someone else noticed that as well, and sent me a fun package of Onion Crunch to play with.


What is Onion Crunch, you may ask...


It's real onion, dehydrated and crumbled so that you can easily add oniony goodness to your recipes.




I'm usually more into baking sweet things than savory, but my first thought on receiving these was to work them into a crunchy hors' doevre.  Hence, Onion Crunch Swirls were born.




All you need is a sheet of puff pastry, Onion Crunch, and cheese (I used swiss, but I think shredded Gouda or cheddar might be nice too).


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Thaw the sheet of puff pastry (it takes about 30 minutes) and roll it out just slightly.


Brush the pastry lightly with butter.


Sprinkle Onion Crunch over the pastry, leaving an inch border on the long sides.


Sprinkle the cheese over the pastry, leaving an inch border again.  Lightly salt.


Tightly roll the pastry sheet into a long roll, and then slice it into 12 slices.


Space out the swirls on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (I used an air-bake pan) and cook for about 15 minutes.  Make sure it's golden and puffed.


Devour immediately.



I think these Onion Crunch has better oniony flavor than the familiar onion crisps you normally see on top of green bean casserole.  My verdict?  Try it!  I think they would be great as a coating for chicken too.


Let me know if you would like to try these; I have some to give away.  The first requestor with a good idea will get a container of Onion Crunch and some packets (sorry, Mr. Onion is already part of the family).



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: Big D · 1/9/13 4:34 PM)

Yes, I'm late posting this one...but I promise to get caught up!


This one should be titled, "How to avoid making scrambled eggs."  Choux dough might be one I need to try a few times before I can really get it right.  


The recipe was a three-parter: first you make the pastry cream (easy), then you make the choux (looks easy but is really difficult), and finally the chocolate glaze (easy but make sure you pay attention).


Here's the recipe I used:


First, the pastry cream.  This recipe was pretty simple, and it tasted nice and custardy, with a touch of vanilla.  Put saran wrap on the surface of the custard while it chills or you will end up with a "skin" on the top.




The most important thing about the choux is to keep whisking like a maniac when you add the eggs to the heated flour mixture, or you'll have scrambled eggs. But you can't beat it too much or you'll have tough pastry.  I didn't get this part exactly right, because the final product tasted very eggy and dense, not light and airy.


Pipe out the choux (mine were a bit stretched out).






This was my finished eclair.  It looked like it might be tasty, even though the glaze was a bit runny. Final wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either.  Further research is required.




If anyone has made eclairs successfully, and has a great tip for avoiding the eggy problem, please let me know!

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: SuBe · 10/22/12 7:37 PM)

Guess what? I've never even tasted a macaron before.  But I've always been curious...they are often pastel, they have weird "feet" on the bottom, and are notoriously difficult to make.


So yeah. I needed to make those right away!


In my original Year of Random Desserts post I had planned to use the original Laduree recipe published on Epicurious.  However, the comments on that recipe scared the everliving bejeepers out of me, and there was some weirdness with the French and metric translations.


I was stewing about what to do when all of a sudden my favorite baking blogger came to the rescue.  Bakerella posted adorable blue macaron teddy bears.  Since her recipes are reliable and in English, and she shows lots of pictures along the way, I decided to use her method.


This is what they looked like when I piped them out.  I'm assuming that my egg whites might have been a tiny bit overwhipped since they retained the swirly lines.  They're supposed to be smooth.  Another little note in case you're going to make sure that your almonds are fully powdered; any bits of almond will ruin the texture of your macarons.




Here are the macarons fresh out of the oven.  I "had" to taste one for scientific purposes, and although I don't know what they're supposed to taste like, I thought they were amazing.  Slightly crispy on the shell, with a chewy middle.  Putting ganache in the middle is just gilding the lily.  So let's do that.




Here is a finished macaron.  It looks like a little hamburger, doesn't it?  For a first attempt, these were pretty darn good.  I'm glad I bought lots of extra almonds so I can give it another try now that I know what to do.


Also, note that the original Laduree recipe says to chill them in the fridge for 24 hours after you make them for best taste.  Good luck with that.



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 6 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 9/4/12 10:58 AM)

Yes, I know it's August...too many plates spinning right now!  I did finally get around to making July's random dessert, and it was worth the wait.


First, I went looking for a chewy chocolate cookie recipe and found this:


It was an easy recipe, and super delicious as a cookie, but probably too tender to use as an ice cream sandwich holder. I forged ahead anyway...but had to make the ice cream quick before everyone at my cookies out from under me!  If you decide to use this cookie recipe for sandwiches, I'd leave out the chocolate chips...




Then, I made peanut butter ice cream with chopped up Reese's peanut butter cups in it.  Here's the recipe from Cuisinart:


Dude, it was all I could do not to just eat it before it went into the freezer.  Delicious.


While it's still a bit mushy, drop a dollop of the ice cream onto a cookie and smoosh it with another cookie.




It will look awesomely messy like this.  Put it onto a piece of Saran Wrap and wrap it up tight, and pop it in the freezer.  It's several bites of heaven.




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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: James · 8/8/12 1:01 PM)



Okay, so it started off to be a Strawberry Cream Gateau (from the Golden Book of Baking).  However, when I actually started to make this monster, I realized that gateau means soaking the strawberries and the cake in liquor.  I hate liquor-soaked fruit and cake.  Hmmmm.  


I started to improvise.  


First off, I decided not to soak the strawberries in Cointreau (I don't like orange-flavored anything).  You'd think I would have noticed that when I chose this recipe, but ah well.  Then, after putting wine in the cream/custard, I realized that it wasn't really cooking out like it should.  The custard was very thick and wine-y smelling.  Perhaps I beat it too much while it was over the warm water?


The cake part of the gateau was super super eggy (which I think was the idea), and without soaking it in something, it turned out very dry.  Tasted something like desiccated scrambled eggs with strawberries on top.  The whipped cream did not really improve the situation, and I let everyone off the hook from eating it.


Leaving the kitchen with a grey cloud over my head, I vowed to read the entire recipe before committing next time.  


Here's a link to the cookbook in case you feel brave and want to give this one a whirl:


The strawberries were good!

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Lori · 4/22/12 8:47 PM)

The Year of Random Desserts is even more random for March...I was going to make cutesy little chocolate cake balls (see for examples), but time got away from me and they ended up naked.  No coating, no sprinkles, just cake mixed with frosting and formed into balls.


Guess what?  They're delicious.


When you eat them, you'll sort of feel like you're doing something wrong, but it's oh so right.  The only problem is that they are highly portable and poppable.  Sorry about that.  


All of the other people in your life can tell you not to eat the cake balls, but I'm here to tell you it's OK.  Life is short, why not make it sweet?


Here are some ideas and recipes for cake balls from the queen:



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 4/3/12 3:42 PM)

February's dessert in the Year of Random Desserts was chosen because I'm completely crazy about cherries.  And when you add the cheesecake center and flaky phyllo sheets, it's out of this world.


When you look at the recipe (I found it on Food Network's website), you'll need to read the reviews.  There's an important correction to the ingredients that someone posted after watching the episode.  I did follow the corrected recipe, and I have to say that the filling still leaked out of the strudel roll, but the taste was so awesome that it doesn't matter.


So my word of caution is that you probably want to serve this one at home, to family, rather than trying to do a fancy reveal at a big party.  It doesn't look at pretty as you would expect, but dude.  It's amazing.  The phyllo brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar becomes crispy and flaky, and the cherries play nicely with the cheesy filling.


What else can I say's gone. Yeah, I had it for breakfast.



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 6 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 3/5/12 7:33 AM)

So we visited this crazy little diner the other night in Mount Pleasant, and they had all sorts of pies and cakes on the dessert menu.  In the list was "hummingbird cake."  I had never heard of such a thing, but upon Googling (which is a natural reflex, like breathing) we discovered that it's a Southern delicacy.


No more needed to be said.  Into my groceries this week went pineapple, pecans, and cream cheese.  Plus, it was Valentine's Day yesterday and I realized I could make a cute heart shape on top with the pecans.


How was it?  Well, it depends on who you ask. You see, I'm in a mixed marriage. Ted likes fruity, nutty desserts and I like chocolaty things with no nuts and no fruit.  He loved it (and so did Finn), and I acknowledged that it was the pinnacle of fruity nutty excellence, but not my cup of tea.  For me, the best part was the homemade cream cheese frosting, which there was a ton of because it's a three-layer cake.


We tried to find out why it's called "hummingbird cake" but there's no real explanation other than the lady who first submitted the recipe to Southern Living in the 70's decided to call it that.  So there you are.






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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Lori · 2/15/12 8:34 AM)

Sent from my iPhone


I may have posted about this before, but just in should throw away whatever banana bread recipe you're using and switch to this one.  It's a Martha Stewart, but it super easy.  Don't blame me if you end up licking all of the batter out of the mixing bowl.

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 5 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 2/13/12 5:47 AM)

There was this gorgeous German bakery down the street, and their cakes were the most heavenly thing you could put in your mouth.  Light, fluffy white cake with buttercream frosting, and the most razor-thin layer of apricot preserves in the middle.  I don't even LIKE fruit in my cake, but this was so good it transcended the rule.


So when I started to make my list of desserts for 2012, I wanted to include a German treat.  Before you start yelling at your screen, I now know that it's really an Austrian dessert, but that's how I found it anyway. Call it Google serendipity.


This recipe (from the Joy of Baking) is both very simple and very difficult.  Making the shortbread dough is the easiest thing in the world with a Cuisinart---just toss the toasted nuts, flour, and spices in and whirl it up.  Then it all moves to another level. Because the dough is very crumbly, making the lattice on top requires Ninja-like spatula skills and lots of patience.  I was originally going to weave it on top, but that quickly went out the window with the first strip.  I think it looks like Martha Stewart got wasted and then decided to make a crust with one hand tied behind her back. Whatever.


I should note that this torte smells absolutely fabulous while it's baking.  First you have the toasted almonds and hazelnuts wafting around, and then the blackcurrant filling bubbling, and by the time it is ready to come out of the oven you're sitting in a puddle of saliva. seems that I might have messed up the filling.  Rather than making the filling that's shown in the recipe, I wanted to use the traditional blackcurrant preserves (and there aren't fresh blackcurrants sitting around our grocery store), so I used store-bought preserves and guesstimated the amount.  Not good.  It was waaaaaaaaaaay too sweet.  Like, your teeth melt and your eyeballs roll back in your head sweet.  Did I mention that I added the confectioners sugar and a dollop of whipped cream on top?  Too too sweet.


My recommendation would be to follow the entire recipe, and leave off the sugar and whipped cream, then eat it with a cup of strong black coffee.  I might make it again, just to try the filling the correct way.  Let me know if you try it, because I've never been more disappointed by a final recipe.  It SMELLED so good!  





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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 7 (Last: Tina · 2/6/12 7:37 PM)

Since 2006, inspired by Martha Stewart's Year of Cakes magazine issue, I've been choosing a year's worth of monthly desserts to try.  We've had cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and muffins so far, and this year I was stumped.  I believe it was Ted who first suggested, "how about a year of random desserts?"  And so here is my plan for the year.  


Before moving on to 2012, I have to say that 2011's Year of Muffins was rocky.  I don't feel that I've perfected the light fluffy muffin of my dreams, but that just leaves something to strive for.  The highlight of the year, without question, was the Best Apple Pie Muffins.  If you choose one recipe to try from last year's list, make it that one!



2012, Year of Random Desserts


Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Lori · 1/1/12 8:59 AM)



It might look like a deflated chef's hat, but this is, in fact, a delicious apple pie muffin.  Can I just take a moment and describe the alluring cinnamon apple aroma that was wafting around the kitchen when these were baking?  Can I tell you how many times the kids asked if the muffins were done yet?  Can I just admit that I ate two of them while they were still so hot I burned my tongue with the apple bits and I don't even care?


The edges of the muffin top are chewy/crispy and the inside is full of diced apple bits held together by moist, spongy muffin.  My advice?  Go make these now. I mean right now.


Here's the recipe (from The Best Apple Pie Muffins Ever


I think that mine turned out a little different than the ones on the website because I was in a hurry and didn't fret too much about measuring.  My topping was not really crumbly, it was more of a butter/brown sugar paste, and thus it sank into the middle rather than being a crumbly streusel topping...but I think it was a happy accident because dang it was delicious.

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 12/13/11 5:30 AM)

You know how shortbread cookies are not very sweet, and better with coffee?  This month's muffins, from a Martha Stewart recipe, remind me of those.  They have a very subtle pumpkin spice flavor, but the smell when they're baking is out of this world.


You bite into them thinking you're going to get a big hit of pumpkin pie flavor, but it's really more like pumpkin bread with a muffin texture.  Oh, there's also a crusty butter/cinnamon topping on it, which doesn't hurt. 


There were a lot of comments on the original recipe page about it being "too floury" or too bland.  I felt that way after the first bite, but late, after they cooled down and I ate another one, I decided that I really liked them.  They are moist, springy, and delicious, and they get you prepped for Thanksgiving.



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Lori · 11/10/11 6:14 PM)

Yes, you knew I would get around the chocolate muffins one of these days, didn't you?


This particular recipe, from Nigella Lawson via, had a lot of commentary.  Basically it all came down to "the muffins are sorta dry."  I read all of the comments, and decided that I would add a tablespoon of sour cream.  Some had advocated adding more cocoa powder, but I've had bad results from doing that in the past (cocoa powder doesn't really give more chocolatey flavor at a certain just tastes powdery).

The first muffin I tried filled me with ambivalence.  Even with some sour cream, they were a bit dry.  By the time I had my second muffin, the chewiness and the chocolate chips had grown on me.  Essentially, go into it expecting a muffin, not a piece of chocolate cake, and you won't be disappointed. I had a third muffin today


One final tip---depending on how hot your oven gets, you might need to watch them closely.  I ended up baking them at 350 degrees for 17 minutes.


Here's the recipe (be sure to read the comments too): Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins




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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Lori · 10/14/11 4:36 PM)

These were supposed to be Oatmeal Currant, but I happened to have a bag of Craisins and decided to substitute.


Here's the recipe, from Epicurious: Oatmeal Muffins


What caught my eye about this originally was the fact that the recipe goes back to the 1940's.  If a recipe lasts that long, it HAS to be good.


Aside from substituting Craisins for the currants, I followed the recipe exactly, and they turned out wonderfully!  They have a nice crispy layer on top, with a moist cakey interior.  I did pull them out of the oven about 5 minutes early because they looked nice and golden, so you might want to just keep an eye on them.  Ovens do vary.


The interesting thing is that you almost can't tell that there are oats in these.  The brown sugar flavor comes through, and they just taste very satisfying and hearty, without being too heavy.


And if you haven't ever tried Craisins...go get some! They are the cranberry version of a raisin, and I think they're lightly sweetened as well.  Delicious as an afternoon munchie or in recipes.


The final word on these---thumbs up!  Finn said, "These are yummy can I have one for dinner?"




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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Bek · 9/30/11 6:20 PM)

When in Rome...bake Roman pies, right?


Today we were discussing Southern cuisine, and the subject of chess pie came up.  I looked up a recipe, saw that I had all of the ingredients, and decided to go for it.


I used a recipe from AllRecipes (which I don't normally trust), and it was pretty good.  A word of warning: this pie is extremely simple to make, and it results in a very simple pie.  This is no Martha Stewart extravaganza, it's a basic vanilla custard.  I'd say the saving grace is the nice, melt-in-your-mouth crust that forms on top of the custard.


Whip it up, have a cup of coffee, and relax on the patio.  No muss, honey.



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 5 (Last: Lori · 9/8/11 2:56 PM)

You can smell the nutmeg, you can visualize the sweet cakey goodness, and it's brushed with butter and cinnamon, for Pete's sake.  So what could be wrong with this muffin? 


It's kinda dry and crumbly, with an annoying crunchy exterior.  (Cue "disappointment music" WHA WHAAAAAA.)  Guess I should have delved deeper into the comments section of this recipe, where countless others have been duped by the photo and description of the "doughnut muffin."


I wouldn't recommend making these, but if you do, DO NOT use a nonstick pan (that will tone down the crunchy exterior).  My batch may have also been affected by the fact that I used a standard 12 muffin pan, rather than the 24 mini muffin pan that was in the recipe.  However, I would have thought that making them bigger would have made them more moist.


The kids have taken to eating the butter/cinnamon tops off and leaving the stump.  Perhaps I can use those as pelican food.


Click here for the recipe, if you're feeling confident.


Doughnut Muffins

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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Karen Lynn · 8/25/11 11:51 AM)

You didn't think that a little location change would interrupt the Year of Muffins, did you?  Of course not.  My mother-in-law graciously allowed me to mess up her kitchen to make the July muffins, Cheddar Corn with jalapeno butter, from Epicurious.


These are fairly standard to make, put together the dry stuff, put together the wet stuff, and try not to stir it too much.  I'm not sure I've completely mastered that technique yet, as I'm still vainly searching for that light, fluffy, ethereal muffin of my dreams. 


One wrinkle with these muffins is that they were my only savory ones in the list.  We had them with taco night.


I accidentally cooked them using the convection mode, in addition to using a dark nonstick pan, so they ultimately were about 10 minutes overdone.  I'd recommend checking them pretty early in the cooking process to make sure you don't have the same problem.  Even "bricked" they tasted pretty good; the jalapeno butter was a very nice addition, so don't skip it.  You can use mild green chiles if you're afraid of heat.


One final recommendation is to eat them hot out of the oven.  The melted cheese on top is best when still warm.


...and by the way, isn't that a pretty plate?



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Lori · 7/7/11 9:31 AM)

It's going to be very hard to top this month's muffins. 


This is a blueberry muffin recipe from, and it is as mouth-watering as it looks.  If you like blueberries, this is your best bet for taking advantage of the season.  I've come to rely on for recipes that are reliable and memorable (check it out if you haven''s got a great community of users as well).


The recipe is fairly straightforward and simple.  My only tip is to remember that if you melt the butter in the microwave, be sure that it's cooled sufficiently before adding the eggs (I know, I put this tip in every post, but it bears repeating--no-one wants scrambled eggs in their baked goods).


Do NOT skip the sprinkling of sugar on top before you bake them.  It adds just a beautiful crispy element to the otherwise tender and buttery muffin.  With all of the vanilla, they also pack a really good vanilla whallop in your mouth.


Timing-wise, since we're in the middle of a move to the East Coast, I had to make these after the boys left.  Pretty sure I'm going to have to make them again once we're reunited; they can't miss out on this one.


Now go get your bowl and muffin pan out and start baking! You know you have blueberries in the fridge...don't you?



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Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: LittleOddMe · 6/21/11 7:27 PM)
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