Monday, October 31, 2011

Blizzards and Baguettes

I love it when we do something that sounds remotely like we have a social life. Which do not let me fool you for a second: we absolutely do NOT. (We being Big D. and  I.) No dinner parties, (although I think I made that pretty clear here), no Melave Malkas, and definitely no girls night out. Yep, its a pretty bleak and dreary existence filled with work, school, baking, studying, laundry and cookies. Not necessarily in that order. But last night I can sort of pretend we had a social life. My good friend, who shall be called Hyper D. (Yes, all the D's on this blog really have names that start with the letter D. You just can't make this stuff up.) was hanging out at our house over the weekend, when BAM- Northern Jersey was hit with a freaky whopper of a blizzard. It was so bizarre- we were all kind of in shock. There is a small window of beauty right in the middle of the snowstorm, when everyone is snug in their houses, and no one has had a chance to muddy up the snow. There are no slush puddles splashing everywhere, and no salt crunching in the streets. The world is so quiet, pristine and beautiful. Hyper D. and I just sat at the window sighing " It's so romantic. *sigh* It's so beautiful. *sigh* It's so peaceful. *sigh*" Meanwhile, Big D. is in the background snorting "Harumph, you guys, you realize I'm the one who has to go shovel eight inches of snow to get your car out." Gee thanks Big D. 
Great way to ruin the moment. Men.
Anyhow, when everything is so snug and cozy, it calls for some pretty specific food:
Soup- Definitely.
Hot Chocolate- Check.
Fresh Bread- Amen to that.
So here was our menu for last night:
Fresh French Onion Soup
Crusty French Baquettes
These baguettes were incredibly easy to make. I have never attempted to make baguettes before in my life, but Hyper D. started waxing poetic about dipping crusty french baguettes into french onion soup, so I just couldn't resist. And I will definitely make them again. 

Crusty French Baguettes
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg white
(Approximately 2 cups water)

Combine water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until the yeast begins to foam. Add flour, and salt. Using the kneading attachment, knead dough for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rise in warm place for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375° ( I set the bowl on top of the oven and then turn it on to preheat. It seems to work well over there.) Divide dough in half. Roll out half of the dough into a large rectangle, about 18'' by 12''. Starting at the wide end, roll the dough up tightly, until it forms a log. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 3. Gently roll each baguette into a proper baguette shape, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover baguettes with a towel and allow to rise for another 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the baguettes with egg white. (I skipped that step in the one pictured above and it came out fine. The egg white adds more crispiness to the crust if that's what you are going for.) Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
 For extra crispy baguettes: Heat about 2 cups of water in a teakettle. Before placing the baguettes in the oven, put an empty cookie sheet on the bottom rack. Pour the heated water into the cookie sheet. Then put the baguettes in to bake, and immediately close the door. Keep the oven door closed for the duration of the baking time. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's that time of year...

Yep, it's birthday time! Little D. is five!
Sometimes I feel like these birthday posts are a sort of time capsule for that very distant future, which is quite hard to picture.  When everything is not so rosey all the time, and the kids don't merrily skip out the door cheerfully in the morning, singing "You are the best mommy in the whole wide world." (What, you don't believe this is how my kids are every day? Ha! We each have our own dream world, ok? Don't ruin it for me!) 
Anyways, just in case that is not exactly the cheerful picture of the future, I like to think that  this blog will come in handy. I'll whip out one of these birthday posts, and say "See! Look! I really do love you! Even if you go to sleep the earliest in your class, and everyone else is doing X,Y and Z and you can't, and we won't buy you ____ and everyone else has it, I really really love you! You just can't argue with your birthday cakes!"
All kidding aside, I really do love my kids. (Otherwise I just look like a crazy lady making cakes that take 7+ hours for no reason!) And every time I sit down to write a birthday post, I always feel like I have to share with you how much I love that birthday boy, who today is Little D. And really, its not such a difficult thing to do! He is the most delicious five year old you have will ever meet, and we are just so proud of him! There are some magical ages, when you can't imagine them being any cuter, and Little D. is smack in the middle of one of them. He is just transitioning into being a "big boy" and he is taking his role as such, very seriously.
Little D.: We love you, and we are so proud of you!

P.S. In case anyone is deluded into thinking we have these crazy fancy birthday parties, with themed napkins, cake and drinks, think again:
Dollar Tree special, courtesy of Savta G.!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Strawberries and Rhubarb --------

Hi, My name is CantStopBaking and I'm a bake-a-holic. 
I am also slightly addicted to looking at pictures of food online.
(While we are getting everything out on the table here. No pun intended)
Anyways, I've noticed over the summer lots and lots of strawberry pies. They always intrigued me, but not enough to inspire me to actually make one. Strawberry pies are so pretty, but I just couldn't bring myself to put so many strawberries in one place. I just thought it would be overkill a little bit. Of course I generally follow the rule :
 "When it comes to dessert, there is no such thing as overkill."
 Which actually goes hand in hand with the rule:
 " When it comes to dessert there is no such thing as logic."
 So I guess it all makes sense in the end. 
Point is, I have never ever been inspired to make a strawberry pie, regardless of how pretty they are.  (For anyone wondering what a strawberry pie is,and what it looks like, you can check it out over here at Brown Eyed Baker.)
Well, this all changed recently when I tasted this delicious recipe consisting of strawberries and rhubarb.
 A match made in heaven, literally. 
The strawberries in here were so perfect
Not overkill, completely logical, and completely delicious. 
And of course, the reason for the incomplete title is because I'm not sure what you would call this. It all boils down to our kugel definition dilemma. So you may call this a cake, bars or a kugel. Call it what you will. Just make them- they are wicked good!

Strawberry Rhubarb Kugel
1-16 ounce bag frozen strawberries
1-16 ounce bag frozen rhubarb
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups flour

For the filling: Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a medium saucepan. Cook over low flame until defrosted and softened. Stir and mash slightly, until it resembles a sauce. Add vanilla sugar, brown sugar and white sugar. Stir until combined. Remove from heat. Measure 1 cup of strawberry mixture, and place in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and stir until dissolved. Pour back into the saucepan, heat over medium flame, and cook until thickens. (About 1-2 minutes.) Remove from heat. 

For the crumbs: Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Pat 1/3 of the crumbs into an ungreased 9X13 pan. ( There will be leftover crumbs, so you can assemble it in a loaf pan as well.) Pour filling over the crumbs. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top of the filling. Bake for about 40 minutes, until set and top is golden. You can also make this in 2 - 8'' square pans, plus a loaf pan. This freezes beautifully- just bake, cool, freeze and reheat when needed. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Where it all started...

Yep, this is my mom in a nutshell. Definitely has one of those capes in her closet. The scary part is, I am approaching the age that I remember my mom being. Get it? Its really weird. But whats crazy is, I find myself saying at least 3 times a week, how did she do it? I don't remember all the mess and the craziness that
 I find myself drowning in daily. Hence the Supermom cape.
 Because I guarantee you folks, you won't find that in my closet. 
Just a lot of cake crumbs. 
A lot of people say to me " Ohmigosh, you bake so much. You have three kids blah blah do you do it?" Honestly guys, everything I know I learned from my mother. While my mother is definitely a queen of the kitchen, I'm not talking about techniques per se. I got one (out of many) crucial principle from my mother, and that is "I can do anything. " Seriously. It sounds tacky, but somehow, my mother drilled this into my head. And it comes so in handy! Anytime I am in the depths of despair, with cakes crumbling all around me, I hear my mother cheering me on " Come on, you can do it! I know you can." Its amazing. Like my own personal cheering squad. I'm sorry, I'm making you jealous. I hope your Mom is your personal cheering squad too. Because I'm not sharing. Anyways, point being, my mom is pretty cool. So is my father, because he photographed this weeks delicious recipe.Well, that's not the only reason, but this week its all about my mother. And she is pretty cool, because she took time out of her insane schedule for a delicious guest post. So without further ado....
My mother!
Crusted Baked Apples
8 baking apples  (Cortland, Ida Red, Northern Spy)
2 sheets pastry dough (10" X 15" X 1/8")
white sugar

Wash apples, pat dry (Do not peel them). Cut off the top of the apple, keep apple tops for later. Core the apples, leaving the rest of the apple intact. Measure approximately 1 cup sugar, with 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a ziploc bag and mix well. Pour a generous amount of cinnamon-sugar mixture into the cored section of the apple, up to the top. Cover with the "apple top." Cut pastry dough into 4 squares. Reserve extra pastry dough to garnish with pastry dough leaves at the end. Take a piece of pastry dough square , and cover the apple with it, draping it over the top. Fold the sides neatly around, and tuck ends under the apple. Shape extra dough into a leaf shape, score with a knife for veins. Garnish each apple with 2 pastry dough leaves. Roll up some pastry dough into a small "stem" and stick it on top. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and place apples on top. Bake at 375°, uncovered, for at least an hour, until it is golden brown,and the apple feels soft and tender.  Serve warm, with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or whipped cream. 

And just because I'm having so much fun Googling "funny mom cartoons":

Monday, October 3, 2011

Apple Crisp

Carrying on with last week's theme, here is my absolute favorite Apple Crisp recipe. 
(Courtesy of the Recipe Queen DT  )
I think Apple Crisp is a prime example of a dessert turned side dish. 
Warm Apple Crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream = Heaven
Apple crisp with a slice of roast beef = Pretty darn good too.
See? It works!
Anyways, enough with my ramblings. Here is the recipe:

Apple Crisp

6 apples, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix above in a bowl, and put in a 9'' circle or 8'' square pan. 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash cinnamon
Mix the crumb ingredients until its crumbly, and sprinkle on top of apples. Bake at 350 for exactly one hour ( Less if you are using ramekins.) You can make double or triple the crumbs and freeze it in a ziploc bag for whenever you need it. You can also freeze the whole apple crisp raw and then bake it when you need it. 

P.S. This is one of the only sweet side dishes that I have succeeded in convincing Big D. to taste. And he actually likes it. 
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