Thursday, February 24, 2011

Update....

It's been almost 3 weeks since I put the beginnings of my vanilla extract in the cabinet.  I am so impatient, I really want to open it up and smell it but I don't dare.  I honestly don't think it would do any harm but I am going to wait.

According to the recipe the extract has to be shaken every few days and kept in a dark place.  Well, I keep it in a dark cabinet and here is what it looks like today:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Good Intentions.....

I am on vacation this week!  I have myself a little over-scheduled but the road to hell.... right?

I have a lot of cleaning and laundry to catch up on,I have some recipes I want to try and I am getting some cake decorating lessons from Chelle so I am ready to do my cakes for the cake show next month.  Most importantly, I am taking a road trip to the King Arthur Flour store with Mr. Lucky to get some special ingredients.

Going to King Arthur is one of my favorite things to do.  I know I could get most of the ingredients locally but the road trip is a lot of fun and the store is just too cute.  Check out their website, you might find something you have to have!

I will let you know what I get tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cutting it out....

One of my greatest baking fears has always been rolling, cutting and decorating cookies.  I was afraid that the dough would not roll out evenly, that the cookies wouldn't bake properly, that I would suck at decorating.  I have a lot of these little fears but I am slowly but surely facing them all.

This past weekend I faced this fear and made some Valentine's Day cookies!  It was not nearly as hard as I imagined.  I actually had fun making them.  Here is the recipe I used:

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter (if you are using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla

Prep. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Step 1. In mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. (I like to slice the sticks of butter to make the mixing easier.)

Step 2. Mix in egg and vanilla.

Step 3. Add flour cup-by-cup.

Step 4. Split dough into 2 parts. Form each into a brick. Sandwich each brick between two sheets of wax paper, then roll each brick into a sheet using 1/4 inch cookie slats. Refrigerate dough sheets for 20 minutes before cutting shapes. Save dough scraps to make a third sheet of cookies.

Step 5. Bake cookies for about 14 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cookies are done when they start to turn golden on the edges. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Cut out and baked!










Most times Royal Icing is used to to decorate cookies.  I don't particularly like the taste or texture of Royal Icing.  It is bland and it dries hard which makes decorating easier and prettier but I just don't like it.  For my cookies I used a glace icing:

4 cups powdered sugar 
6 tbs milk 
6 tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp clear vanilla extract (Do not use this unless you want a pure white icing.  Clear vanilla extract is not real vanilla, it is imitation.  The real stuff is way better, WAY better. You could also use another flavor of your choice like lemon or almond.)

Mix sugar and milk with whisk or fork until smooth. Mix in corn syrup and vanilla. Icing should be thin, forming a drizzle. This consistency is the flood icing, the background for the cookies. Split icing into several bowls - one for each color. Dye icing to the desired colors.

Transfer half the icing from each bowl to squeeze bottles to flood the cookies. (Make sure to leave enough in the bowls for the piping icing.) To make the background of the cookies, make a pool of icing in the center of the cookie, then use the back of a spoon to spread the icing towards the edges. 










Half the icing is left in each of the bowls. This will become the piping icing. Mix powdered sugar into each bowl until icing is the consistency of toothpaste. Transfer icing to piping bags and decorate.

I only used the flooding consistency and swirled in some designs. Someday I will get up the nerve to do some real designs and decorating but this time I went with simple.



















I was really happy with how they came out!  What do you think?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Extracting....

I love vanilla extract!  I am talking about the real stuff not that imitation crap.  Almost all of my sweet recipes call for vanilla and even when they don't I toss a little bit in just for fun.  I add it to cake and brownie mixes too.  It could be considered an addiction. 

This love of mine does not come cheap.  Have you seen how much good vanilla costs?  It is very expensive and Mr. Lucky does not like expensive.  Any of you that know him know that he's a little bit cheap.  We fight often over ingredients that I want to buy. 

Well, this weekend I made my own vanilla extract.  This was so easy, possibly the easiest recipe I've ever made.  I feel like I say that all the time but honestly this one really is!  2 ingredients and a container, that's it.









Vanilla beans, vodka and a bottle or jar to store it in.  I had these bottles with rubber stoppers that worked perfectly.
Sorry for the quality of the picture










Whatever container you use must be sterilized.  I ran mine through the dishwasher.  You can also boil the container and it's lid.

For the extract.... The rule of thumb seems to be three beans per one cup of vodka.  You could use rum in place of the vodka if that's what you have. 
I got these at my local wholesale club










 To get the most flavor from the vanilla beans you want to split them down the middle with the tip of a knife and then scrape out the "seeds" then put the seeds and the beans into your container.  Do this for all three beans.









Once you have all three beans in the container add the vodka to it, put your cover on and give it a good shake. 









Now, you have to have a little patience.  You don't actually have vanilla extract for another 6 weeks.  You need to store your containers in a cool dark place and shake every few days. 

As the weeks go on I will give you some updated pictures and once it is done I will let you know how it works out in my recipes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

When life gives you lemons....

I have had jarred lemon curd several times and have always wanted to try to make it.  I bought some lemons to make some cookies but the cookies never happened so I made lemon curd.

This had to be the easiest recipe I have ever made, well one of them.  I got the recipe from Allrecipes but there are tons of recipes out there.

Here is the recipe I used:

Ingredients:










3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel









In the top of a double boiler, beat eggs and sugar.









Stir in lemon juice, butter and lemon peel. Cook over simmering water for 15 minutes or until thickened.









That's it!  Even Mr. Lucky could do this!  I plan to use this as a filling for a white cake with raspberry buttercream.  Yum!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things to look forward to.....

I have a few posts lined up for this week. I haven't had a chance to sit down and write them out because I have been completely exhausted. What does this mean to you? It means that you have something to look forward to later this week. :-)


Check back soon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pain....

I don't always think things through, I am a bit of a spaz and not very graceful.  With that all said, I burnt myself pretty bad last night.  I had turned on a frying pan to heat up some oil for frying up some onions, it got a little too hot and rather than turning it down and waiting a minute I just threw the onions in.  Splattered oil all over my arm.  Ugh!!!!  It sucked, big time.  This was probably the most painful kitchen incident of my "career", including the time my brother John was goofing around and almost sliced my finger off. 

Pain!!!!! 

Moral of this short little story?  BE CAREFUL! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rice......

Sorry this post was a little delayed!  I have the winter time blues because we have gotten a million inches of snow and I just couldn't get into it. So here you go, hope you like it!

Growing up in an Irish family the go to starch at most meals was some form of potato. Of course! Yea, we had boxed rice pilaf once in awhile but I was not a fan of that at all so for a good long time I just figured that I wouldn't like any rice. Well it took awhile but I found out but I was wrong. I love rice, even if my go to starch is still a spud.  Sorry, I can't fight DNA.  

About a year ago I decided to tackle risotto. I had heard a lot of talk about how difficult it is to make. I did not find it difficult at all, you just have to be patient. I think a lot of people just want instant gratification so the little extra time this dish takes makes them think it is difficult.

The recipe I use came from Joy of Cooking. This is my bible, I use it constantly. It is so splattered and battered from overuse. I just love it. Ok sorry, back to the recipe. All risotto recipes call for some wine. I never use it. I never have wine in the house. I just use some extra broth to compensate. Someday I will buy a bottle of wine just to see what the difference is with it versus mine without it.

Here is the recipe as it reads in Joy of Cooking (I usually halve this because it is only me and Mr. Lucky):

 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups Italian rice or American medium-grain rice (I use Aborio)
Ignore the dirty counter!










1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp butter
2/3 to 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, over low heat until soft and translucent but not browned. Meanwhile, simmer the chicken stock over medium heat.

Increase the heat under the onions and stir in the rice. Using broad strokes, stir the rice until it looks chalky and you can see a white dot in the center of each grain, about 3 minutes. (This sounds weird but when you see it you'll know)
You can't really see the white dot.










Stir in the wine and stir to prevent sticking as it is absorbed by the rice.  Then start stirring in the stock, 1 cup at a time.  Each cup must be absorbed before the next is added. Stir the risotto continuously to keep it from sticking.  When 6 cups of stock have been absorbed, add the stock 1/2 cup at a time and start tasting the rice. It should be tender but still a little firm to the bite, never mushy. 









Take the rice off the heat when the rice still has a little more resistance that you would like and fold in the butter and the Parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let the risotto stand for a moment or two.  Spoon into warmed soup dishes and serve immediately. 

This risotto is really delicious as is but I have added all kinds of things: veggies, chicken, even steak.  This time I added some sauteed mushrooms and it was great.  I stir these additions in right before serving. 










Here are some risotto tips from Joy of Cooking:
  • Use a large, heavy saucepan and never cover the cooking risotto.  Anticipate about 20 minutes of cooking time
  • Use a medium-grain rice, never long-grain.  First choices are Italian imports, always "superfino" grade - Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano, Roma or Balso.  Second choice is American medium-grain rice.
  • Add small quantities of simmering stock to the risotto and stir almost constantly.
  • At the end of coking, the rice should be creamy in consistency and tender to the taste but still have a little "bite". Let the risotto stand off the heat for a few minutes before serving. 
Please try this out if you like rice or are looking for a new side dish or whatever, just try it!  You'll like it.