Friday, August 24, 2012

homemade vanilla extract

Way back in January (I think) I announced I was going to get some vanilla beans and make my own vanilla extract. Well, it's been finished for some time, but I haven't gotten around to posting the results yet. So here goes I drained the extremely dark liquid and discarded the vanilla beans. The vanilla extract was extremely strong smelling, mostly of booze. The smell faded away after I left the jar open for about 5 minutes. I poured the extract into 2 canning jars I had purchased just for this experiment. I was a little hesitant to try it, I thought it would knock me on my butt. I figured I'd use it in a recipe instead of sampling it straight from the jar. In my opinion, it made a difference in the brownies and cake. But maybe it's just my imagination, because nobody said "holy Moses, this tastes like vanilla". But that's probably a good thing, I wouldn't want one flavor to overpower the rest. Would I do it again? Yes, and I plan too prior needing the vanilla. I considered doing it now so I will have lots of vanilla extract for holiday baking. I think I would use vodka the next time around. Not that I know using the vodka would be better, just to try out different ways to make vanilla. I want to see if the vodka vanilla works better than the rum vanilla. What would I do differently? I'd make sure I had jars/bottles ready to put the vanilla in. I'd make a note to myself to shake it up every day (I skipped it some days, I forgot). So I would say if you use as much vanilla as I do, making your vanilla is a great alternative.... Here's the basic recipe 5 whole vanilla beans 8 ounces of alcohol (bourbon, rum, vodka - anything that's about 35% alcohol) Take the vanilla beans and split them down the middle. Place vanilla beans in container. Add the booze, seal the bottle and keep it in a dark place for 8 weeks. Shake the bottle every day for a minute. After 8 weeks, the extraction process should be finished. The liquid will be dark. There's some disagreement on what happens to the vanilla beans. Some people re-yse them, making another batch. Others leave the beans in the extract and add a little booze to replace what they used cooking. I tossed mine because they looked mushy and were in small bits and pieces. (that's because I thought if I exposed more vanilla to the booze, it would become vanilla quicker & give a different flavor). So here it is, you can get cracking on those Christmas gifts;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Will I ever bake again?


It has been a long hot summer. A summer that I spent on having whooping cough and that's not fun, I felt like I had been run over by a train. But (finally) I am starting to feel better. I miss the baking but it's been too hot... I did bake Will's "Cheeto cake". That, of course, was a hit. He wants me to make one without icing for his girlfriend (she's diabetic). I have managed a few thrown together dinners. Luckily for me, Craig doesn't seem to mind eating lots and lots of sandwiches. But today the weather cooled off. And I thought "hey maybe tomorrow's that day" The day for what, you ask? The day to make a Sunday dinner, the day to make bread sough (man I miss that). I think a nice roast beef with veggies and some yeast rolls will do just fine. I'll use one of my favorite bread recipes - Bernard Clayton Jr's potato bread recipe. It always turns out perfect. I have only used a few of the recipes in his book. I may like to experience with cakes and brownies, but with bread, I pretty much stick to the recipe - unless I don't;) I need to explore the book a bit more so I can make other goodies. Maybe I'll do more bread experiments in the fall, when it is cooler. Baking bread is a great experience because I believe if I can bake bread, I can do anything if I put my mind to it. And sometimes I just need to knead the bread, it's very relaxing

Friday, August 17, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia


I can't say for sure whether Julia Child ever made brownies. Believe it or not, I am not that familiar with her recipes. However, I am familiar with Julia Child's television shows. Julia (because, come on, all of us have know of her forever) is a fascinating person. Not the least bit interested in cooking until she was in her 30s, Julia managed to become the "French Chef" of renown. There was a new book by Bob Spitz about Julia. it's Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child and it is as remarkable as Julia's life was. Mr Spitz manages to put Julia's passion for food between the covers of a book. It starts out with Julia's childhood, not especially remarkable, and ends with her death. Along the way, you get to Julia grow as a person as well as a chef. And Mr Spitz describes Paul Child, without who there would not be an iconic chef as Julia Child. Mr Child had some rough breaks (his twin brother was sent to college, he wasn't) along the way. It also sounds as if he could be a difficult man to live with, but Mr Spitz shows the reader what Julia knew and loved about Paul. He was an extremely supportive husband, especially considering the time frame the Childs inhabited. But I love the little "bad Julia" stories. For instance, Julia walked out on Regis and Kathie Lee. The three of them were supposed to spread ganache over a cake. Kathie Lee, however, refused to do it because she didn't want to get "dirty". Regis decided to go with Kathie Lee decision and also refused to frost the cake. Julia was not a happy camper because that was not the way the demonstration was supposed to be shown - it was the 3 of them frosting their own cake, not Julia frosting all 3 cakes. So Julia did what I bet many stars would like to do - she packed up her equipment and left at the commercial break and never looked back. I would have loved to seen that particular show, the 2 hosts looking at each other thinking "What now?" when Julia bolted. And how Julia bedeviled Jacques Pepin on their shows and live performances. I get a sense that Julia just loved being alive and wanted to get every single second of fun she could from each moment of her life. There's a lot more to this book (it's over 500 pages)than the small crumbs I present here. But don't freak over the length - Mr Spitz writes in such a way that it makes the book a quick, enjoyable read. I really enjoyed this book and I think you will, too. FYI I did get the book from the Amazon Vine program as a freebie, but I would have bought it anyway. Outside of the free book, I received no other compensation fro reading or reviewing this book... Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

too much chocolate?!

I have a confession to make. Yes, I have continued to bake brownies and experiment with the ingredients. I still find the half a cup of applesauce (to cut down on the fat) and the whole wheat flour (because who doesn't need more whole wheat?) to work out pretty well. But I tried one experiment that made me go "UGGH - too much chocolate". Nope, I am not a pod person. It is just when I chose to using chocolate chunks in the brownies, it became too much for me. Incredible but true.
But it didn't slow down my sons for 1 minute. They didn't praise it but they didn't complain.
Not going to put chocolate chunks in the brownies again.

Friday, January 13, 2012

making vanilla extract

Yes, I have gone completely nuts and decided to make my own vanilla extract. Not so I can drink the rum or vodka, although it's a great idea. It's just I use a _lot_ of vanilla while baking - 2 teaspoons here, a tablespoon there and you go through a small bottle of vanilla very quickly. I don't know if it's really a savings to make your own, but it certainly seems cheaper than buying it.
I purchased my vanilla beans (Madagascar) from Olive Nation. I get no kickbacks from them for mentioning Olive Nationand the only only experience I have with buying vanilla beans happened at a grocery store. But Olive Nation was fast and fresh- best of all free shipping. The beans arrived vacuum sealed, a very cool thing. In the grocery store, they are generally in bottles, loose.
The first difference I noticed was the smell. The wonderful smell of vanilla hits you as soon as you open the pouch. The beans seem softer, more supple, so that seemed good, too.
I choose Bacardi rum to use to make the vanilla. I had it in the house already (rum cakes) and thought, hey, why not. I got 3 small jars, measured a cup of rum for each jar and placed the vanilla beans in it. I just did it maybe 30 minutes ago, so obviously I have no clue how it will turn out - for that I have to wait until close to the end of February. But it definitely is an intriguing kitchen task. I found the full instructions on this web site, http://www.noveleats.com/how-to/make-your-own-vanilla-extractHow to make vanilla extract
Again, no kickbacks from these folks. I will keep you posted on how it works. I'm thinking about buying some vodka to test that recipe out, but first I'll try the rum. Should be fun.

_Enjoy_

Saturday, December 3, 2011

hello again

I've still been baking brownies - okay not so much during the hot summer months but I'm still baking. I doubt the kids ever notice the difference but sometimes they surprise me. I have added peanut butter (1/2 cup) but it seems to get overpowered by the chocolate. I've added Nutiva's coconut oil (emulsion?) and while it gave the brownies a richer taste, no taste of coconut.
And believe it or else, I managed to make a cheesecake that didn't crack. I know, it amazes me, too. I told my older  son no one could touch it until we had a photo of it. He whipped out his cell phone that's equipped with a camera and he took the shot. Then he  put the phone away and went to work on the cheesescake;)
In my quest to find different recipes to try, I have come across a few British recipes that I would like to try. British measurements are almost totally unlike  American cooking measurements. So in case you have a Brit recipe you would like to try, here's a link to do the conversion to US cooking measurements, too. (They also have other languages.) 
So now I got to clean up the mess I made already today. I baked my first fruitcake of the season last weekend, it went over pretty well. I don't give them to anyone unless I know they like fruitcake. There's no use spending the time and money to make a homemade fruitcake and it not be appreciated.
later - dishes don't wash themselves (and why is it?)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

hey, I'm still here (I think)

I got no excuse for not writing in so long. I could say I was busy (and I was) but still it's a long of water under the bridge, so to speak.
I still am making brownies, I didn't make any this week, it's just way too hot. Plus I plan to put the energy into baking my "baby's" birthday cake, the famous Cheeto cake.
I did make blondies from the King Arthur cookbook. I used just chocolate chips. That worked out pretty well. My sons suggested I add peanut butter chips. I used those mini peanut butter chips as well as chocolate chips. The peanut butter chips did not stand up to the chocolate and you couldn't tell they were in the blondie.
So far, the faves of my sons are the brownies with peanut butter chips (and no additional chips), brownies with orange extract flavoring and the frozen mini marshmallow brownies.


I keep a bag of the mini marshmallows  in the freezer. Sometimes I take the  frozen mini marshmallows and mix them in with the brownie batter. It creates a little pocket of marshmallow goodness in the brownie. Sometimes I put them on top and they dot the brownies. It's pretty cool, even if I say so myself.

I did make some brownies with cream cheese in them. I loved it, but I like cream cheese. My sons didn't seem to notice any difference. But generally they don't notice anything different. Which, I guess, is good because I could sneak ground up pickled beets in the brownies - but I'm not going to because I also eat the brownies.

For Father's Day, I baked my beloved a chiffon case. For some reason, it was easier than I thought it would be. But I can't say I remember making a chiffon cake before. It might be possible I'm thinking of angel food cake. And what gives? "Back in the day" you hung the tube upside down on a glass bottle while it was cooling, something like a soda bottle. But mostly everything comes in plastic now, so there's no way you can do that. I might have to find an old soda bottle just for that purpose. Probably there's a gadget that I could buy and use for that purpose. I'll have to look into that.

_enjoy_