All posts by Cocofancy

A real weekend (at last!)

The last couple of weeks I’ve been picking up an extra 8 hours helping out at one of our new properties. It’s great money, but it was killing me. I was slated for a third week of it, which I would have done, but my wonderful boss told me not to bother. I was kinda bummed (money ; ;), but I needed that time off more than I realized.

This last weekend I had both Sunday -and- Monday off, and it was amazing. Sunday I ended up sitting out by the pool and soaking up some sun, which was awesome, and Monday I baked up a storm. I didn’t really mean to, but we had a lot of stuff in the fridge that was expiring and needed to be used. I made zucchini bread muffins, blueberry scones, and banana cream pie.

Did you know that August 27th is Banana Lover’s Day? We have these odd calendars in the office from the furniture rental company we recommend to our residents, and along with the normal national/religious holidays, it has other sundry observances, usually along the food line – such as Banana Lover’s Day. Apparently I missed Cheese Cake Day a few weeks ago. I’ve been kinda-sorta using it to plot out what I’ll make on Mondays or Thursdays if it’s convenient.

Even after making zucchini bread muffins, I still had about a cup of zucchini left, and as it’s Thursday I decided to query the internets as to the possibility of zucchini scones. I thought it sounded odd, but then people seem to like the combo of chocolate and zucchini. Turns out I’m not the only one who has thought of zucchini scones. I stumbled upon a recipe that does something interesting as far as the butter in the recipe goes. Instead of cutting the butter in, they grate it, freeze it, and then briefly integrate it into the flour mixture before adding zucchini and moving forward. I am intrigued – the scones I made Monday ended up not being flaky enough for my tastes, and I have a feeling the problem was a couple of things: I know I added too much liquid (I just tipped my hand too much the last addition), and I think I made the butter a bit too small when cutting it into the flour. I read in the CIA Baking at Home book that when you’re making pie crusts, you should cut the butter in really well (small crumb-bits) if you’re going to be baking a filling in the crust – apple, cherry, or other hot-filling pie – so that the filling doesn’t break apart and can stand up to the filling; but if you’re going to be filling it after completely baking it, especially if that substance isn’t particularly liquidy/wet, you want to leave larger crumb-bits so that the crust is flaky. It makes sense that if I wanted my scones to be more flaky, I should leave larger crumb-bits. We’ll see how this grating idea works.

Zucchini Scones

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2-1 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
1 c buttermilk (plus additional, if necessary)
1 c grated zucchini, dried well

Grate the unsalted butter on a box grater over some plastic wrap. Throw the grated butter in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. (She seems to like using her hands to combine things – I agree up to the point where my hands start getting sticky-doughy.)

Once the butter is hard, toss it gently with the dry ingredients, being careful not to melt the butter with your body heat. (What I did was I initially broke up the grated butter mass and integrated it into the flour a bit with the fork, then once it was manageable used my fingers to make sure there weren’t any terribly large clumps.)

Add the buttermilk and grated zucchini and mix quickly with your hands. The mixture shouldn’t be dry. (Mine wasn’t, but then I think part of my moisture problem with the last batch of scones was just how much water the zucchini had retained. I squeezed out this batch and let it sit in a sieve for a while to drain, but I have a feeling that still left too much. Maybe I need to keep it out for a few hours or something and really let it dry?)

Using a portion scoop, scoop mounds of scone dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave enough space between mounds so that the scones can expand slightly as they bake.

Bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly.


The recipe goes on to mention making an icing for the scones, but I’ll have to see how they turn out before I can determine whether they’ll need icing or not.

[later]

They’re certainly interesting. I’ve had to bake them a good 10 minutes longer than the 15 minute mark, perhaps because I have so many on the pan. They do have a nice texture, though not the scone-texture I was hoping for. They’d make a good muffin – nice and light and moist. Eventually I will figure out how to make scones. I have a feeling part of it is that I end up handling the wet dough too much – I keep trying to make sure that the added ingredient (blueberries, zucchini) is fully integrated and not oddly clumped, and I have a feeling that while I’m doing that I’m just working the dough all to hell. I’ll have to try plain scones one of these weeks, because scones are pretty awesome. I’ll also look at my pumpkin scones, because as I remember those turned out decently well.

Firefly marathon goodies

So my awesome boss had an awesomely good idea once she realized half the office hadn’t seen Firefly: have a Firefly marathon. Everyone would bring goodies, it would start at nine in the morning, and it’d just be an awesome way to spend a day off. (If you have no idea what Firefly is, do yourself a wonderful favor and head to Hulu and check some episodes out.)

When we went shopping for the yummies to bring to the party, it took on a mexican flavor – taquitos and tortilla chips – so I amended my original idea of strawberry pie to something more within the spectrum, tres leches cake. Tres leches cake is a rich dessert of a sponge cake soaked in three milks (evaporated, sweetened condensed, and whole), then topped with whipped cream. I add strawberries to mine because it feels incomplete otherwise. This time I tried a different recipe from my last two, and I do prefer my initial recipe.

Tres Leches Cake

1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 whole eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kahlua

Icing:
1 pint heavy cream for whipping
1 heaping tbsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Liberally coat 9″ x 13″ pan with butter. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large owl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. Add as much Kahlua as you deem necessary – I used one of those mini-bottles for two cakes, and it was just enough to flavor it. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with the tablespoon of powdered sugar until thick and spreadable.

Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped strawberries. Cut into squares and serve.


I love this cake. Even while soaked in milk, it still feels light and fluffy. The only issues I had with it were my first time around, when I felt like I was adding too much milk but in fact had left some dry spots. If you decide to make a smaller cake, or have large enough plates/platters to do this, turn the cake upside-down from how you want it presented, poke with holes, and soak that side, wait half an hour, and carefully turn it back over and repeat the process. That is the best way I have found to ensure adequate moisture throughout the cake.

Dutch Baby with Spiced Peaches

On a totally irrelephant note: I hate my dishwasher. It beeps about once a minute or so when it’s open. Mikal doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, but it annoys the buttons out of me. Seriously.

Anyway….

I’ve been attempting to make a little something to bring to work on Thursdays, since we start an hour later than the rest of the week. It’s a good little idea, it’s a way to get my baked goods eaten by someone other than myself and Mikal, and it’s fun. I like it.

I totally forgot I was starting this little breakfasty-thing until around 6:45 this morning when my alarm went off. I was trying to think of something, anything to make, while fighting off the sluggishness of sleeeeeeeeeepies. Snooze was hit twice. By the time the alarm went off the third time, I had two ideas: I could attempt to make a peach-filled crêpe for each person, or I could utilize the one-inch square cavity silicone pan I have to make brownies. I could even top each brownie bite with either an almond, peanut butter, or nothing. It was a good idea…until I remembered that I still haven’t figured out a good homemade brownie recipe, and I really don’t have anything outside of powdered cocoa in the house for chocolate. The crêpes were still in the running, but I wasn’t sure the peaches were up to it. I had let them sit in the fridge for a bit to ripen, but they were still not quite there, or at least the last batch hadn’t been.

I made some coffee and sat with Mr. Ginger and Baking at Home with the CIA and tried to figure out what I could pull together at the last minute. I could have tried the zucchini bread recipe again, but I did that just last week and wasn’t too excited by it – definitely needs some tweaking. I had also made the peach galette in the book, but the dough had turned out a bit meh, same with the peaches. Not great, though a good idea. And then I came across the dutch baby. Easy, you cook the peaches a bit before using them as a filling, I have all the ingredients, and it’s something that would probably be light enough for everyone: instant winner.

This batch of peaches has so far proven to be more ripe than the last, so I can hope that the peachy flavor will come through a bit more. The filling for the galette didn’t seem quite sweet enough for the under-ripened ones, so it turned out kind of tart and meh. But, as with all of the CIA recipes I have so far encountered, the instructions are straightforward and nicely easy.

Dutch Baby with Spiced Peaches

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

Spiced Peaches
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 peaches, peeled and sliced
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp lightly packed light brown sugar

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Place a 1-inch cast-iron skillet or ovenproof sauté pan in the oven and preheat to 450°F. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and set aside.

While the pan heats, put the eggs in a blender and blend at low speed. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately, in 3 additions. Scrape down the sides of the blender and continue to blend until smooth, 15-20 seconds. Blend in the melted butter. Brush the hot skillet with additional melted butter and pour in the batter. Bake for 10 minutes without opening the oven. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake until the Dutch baby is very puffy and the edges are starting to pull away from the edges of the pan, 15-20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare the spiced peaches: Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the peaches, cinnamon and brown sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and stir until the fruit is just heated through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the Dutch baby from the oven. Drizzle with the lemon juice and dust with the confectioners’ sugar. Fill the center of the Dutch baby with the hot fruit mixture. Serve immediately.


I have to say, this is an amazing recipe. Pretty simple, straightforward, and doesn’t take a whole lot of time. I have a feeling the blender helps things go quickly, otherwise one would have to whisk a lot.

These were so good my boss, who usually won’t take terribly much of my sweets, grabbed a second helping right after scarfing the first. Granted she had to leave right away, but still – that’s a pretty good endorsement.

The whirlwind of moving and peaches

For whatever reason, I tend to forget just how crazy it is to move while one is working full-time. It’s seriously crazy. Mikal has been handling most of the rest of the house while I focus on the kitchen and bathrooms, since those are both easy and necessary. Well, relatively easy? This is a slightly different arrangement, but my new kitchen looks a little something like this, except with a cherry finish:

the kitchen

Compared to our old kitchen, this is a whole crap-ton of space. Even so… it’s not enough XD. I should qualify that, actually: in our previous apartment, there had been so little storage space that we had created an 8-foot pantry along our dining room wall. This unit doesn’t quite have the space for that, and almost doesn’t need it. Unfortunately, I have a lot of kitchen items. I mean, I kind of knew I did, but it’s becoming apparent just how many kitchen items I have that I actually do use at least once a year. I have two-ish boxes still unpacked, mostly full of kitchen odds and ends. Part of what’s keeping that unpacked is the fact that we are still trying to figure out how best to arrange and organize what we have. We have a couple of little organizy creations in the works to help with that, but between me working full-time and Mikal still working on school stuff, it’s a bit hard to find a chunk of time to dedicate to it while I have the energy.

Part of the chunk-of-time-while-have-energy thing is the fact that we live in CALIFORNIA D: The sun and warm outside are amazingly distracting. I meant to make a peach galette this last Monday since I had the day off, but instead I walked 13 miles, not really meaning to, but not regretting it. Little things like that keep popping up, or we will need to stock up on foods or supplies, and we end up walking because it’s amazing out, so it takes a good deal longer than it normally might with a car. I’m hoping to take a chunk of time off from work in the next couple of months so that I can take Mikal and go explore and hike places I’ve been wanting to show him that I haven’t gotten a chance to do yet. Of course, it would take a week or two to show him everything I want, but I’ll have to do the condensed version. I remember going up to Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills on the weekends and just hiking and picnicking with my moms and the dogs all day. That’s the sort of thing I want to share with him. And I found out that the Napa Valley is just a couple of hours north of here, so I’m anxious to go up and see stuff, possibly go on a tour of the Culinary Institute campus :3

But that’s all for later. Right now, I have been baking at odd moments, and not really following through with chronicling it here. Since we moved in, I have made cinnamon rolls (AMAZING), beignets (stuffed was weird), peach galette, zucchini muffins, and a dessert item I am actually forgetting. I know I meant to make a strawberry pie, but I can’t remember for the life of me what that was. I apparently need way more coffee than what I’ve had @_@

I will eventually make some of these things again, and put them in here because a few of them are too good to pass up. Luckily, in the meantime I have a wonderful new friend who has been bringing me zucchini and beans (purple! purple beans!) and peaches and pears… I will surely have enough fodder for more recipes. Plus, my work schedule is such that Thursday we start an hour later than the rest of the week, so I have dubbed it my day to bring in breakfast XD Totally just an excuse to bake. This morning it’s Dutch Baby with Spiced Peaches, which I will actually be writing about later this morning. And this weekend we are having a Firefly marathon with my coworkers, and we’ve managed to have a mexican-food theme going so far, and I’m slated to bring the 7-layer dip and I’ll be making tres leches cake. It’s going to be amazing!

Back from hiatus

Well, it’s been a while, but I’m back. As you can see, I spent part of my break remaking the site a bit. Please let me know what you think of it – I am trying to get it toward a more permanent/final version, and would love some feedback.

I was not wholly unproductive while away. I have about four or five new recipes that I need to post that are pretty awesome. But this will have to do for now, since I am rather tired.