Friday, October 26, 2007

Live from New York, it's...S'mores cupcakes!

I've been so busy for the past few weeks. Besides producing the new podcast episode, I was also getting ready to fly home for a visit. My husband was leaving for a work-related thing that would take him away from home for about a month, and so I scrubbed my house from top to bottom (with the help of my friend Jillian!), and packed up myself and the kids and flew back to NY on Tuesday.

We've been having a great time visiting so far. Today we spent the day at Poppy and Nana's house:
Poppy/Nana visit
(Click, of course, to go to the set if you wish.)

Yesterday, I made S'mores Cupcakes:
S'mores Cupcake
Cupcake recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop, marshmallow frosting from Yumbrosia. At Cupcake Bakeshop, Chockylit filled the cupcakes with marshmallow fluff, but I didn't want to loose any of the graham crackery goodness, so I decided to spread the ganache over the top like she did, and then to pile on some marshmallowy meringue on top (piped out of a plastic bag with corner snipped off). My little sister (9-year-old Rachel) helped me with the double-layer frosting, and we had quite a fun time in the kitchen together.

Chockylit found that her cupcakes didn't quite rise and shrunk while cooling, and I had the same experience. I didn't think that it affected the overal quality of the final product though, so it was fine. Next time, I'd add less butter as she suggested to see if that helps any.

They've been a big hit with everyone who's tasted these so far. There's a buttery graham cracker crust on the bottom, and then a graham cracker-laced not-too-sweet cupcake. The ganache is bitter dark chocolate, which contrasts nicely with the fluffy, supersweet billowy topping. I tosted them under the broiler as a last step (with oven door open, of course!), which really took them over the top. I was going to stick a square of chocolate into the marshmallow frosting, but decided to stop while I was ahead.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cool Mom Picks

There are so many October birthdays! On the 16th was Christopher's, and today is my mom's and Joel's. Happy birthday to all of you! We love you and miss you so much!

On an entirely unrelated note:
Safer Toy Guide 2007

Maybe its' because I have a teething-soon-to-be-crawling baby, maybe it's because I have two little boys who are rather rough on their toys (and I am sooo sick of gluing back together toys all day), but I've become kind of concerned about toy safety in the light of so many recent (toy) recalls. If you click on the button above, it will take you to a list, compiled by some moms, of safer alternatives. They are more expensive than cheap WalMart finds, but the stuff on that list looks like it's built to last -- and it's supporting indi toy makers (independant, rather than "big box" stores like WalMart, KB Toys and the like), as well.

(Did I say "toy" enough times in the above paragraph? Yup, I thought so too.)

For the moms who read this blog, click on over to the CoolMom blog -- they post interesting kid friendly things at least once a day!

Here are some Demon Hunter fans:
Demon Hunter fans

"Rock and Roll!!"
Demon Hunter fans

(Photo taken this morning.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Someone's in the kitchen with Andrew...

I've just posted my latest episode of The Knitting Cook. If you want to hear Andrew and I cooking in the kitchen (a tasty Black Bean Salad), fast forward to 26 minutes and 5 seconds. If you actually really care to listen but are having troubles, email me and I'll help you with the file. You don't need an iPod to listen -- just your computer. Click on the picture below if you care to listen:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Friday, October 19, 2007

Someone is old!

Some people dread it. Some fear it. Still others simply ignore it, hoping that it might go away. Greg, on the other hand, is a man of a different stripe. When I commented a few days ago that this was a Big Year for him, he just kind of looked at me. "Well, you are turning 30 this week." "Oh. Right." So. Apparently, it's just another birthday. Perhaps I'll have a crisis for him or something but I'm glad that he's not concerned. (Kidding.) (About me having a crisis.) Anyway, today is The Big Day, so Happy Birthday to my favorite 30 year-old! You get better looking every year (as I know, my love, you will agree), and I adore you more each day that we're together.

Playing in French dirt (just as fun as German and American, as it turns out!)

I promise that I really will put together pics from our trip soon, but I've been so busy...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spinning and Cupcakes

Last weekend we spent four days in Paris on a spur-of-the-moment trip. It was even more beautiful than I'd imagined it would be, and I'm still organizing the pics! More on that in a future post.

Yesterday, I had a few spinning friends over to play (Rachel, Dina, Gina, and Jillian). Most of us have children, and they all kept each-other occupied for a good deal of the time. Most importantly, we created a new spinner! My friend Jillian has been wanting to learn, and her husband is buying her a wheel for Christmas. The get-together was set up in part so that she could try out wheels and get a feel for things.

Here she is, spinning for the very first time, with Rachel's guidance.
Rachel (right) teaching Jillian

It's always interesting to watch other people spin. Similar to watching other people knit -- I always learn something from checking out someone else's technique. (Jillian is actually very happy and excited in this picture, but that's the serious look of deep concentration.)

Dina and Gina.
Dina and Gina

Ever since I started reading the Cupcake Bakeshop blog, I've been looking for an excuse to use one of her recipes (her photographs make me feel like I could just reach out and eat one!). I finally got the chance!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Chocolate cupcake w/Salted Caramel Frosting

I knew that I would love them, but I wasn't sure how they'd go over with everyone else, especially the children.
Eating Cupcakes
I shouldn't have worried. (Dina's daughter "Nugget" on left, Rachel and "K" on right.)

Topped with a square of salted caramel and a sprinkle of Fleur De Sel
Chocolate cupcake w/Salted Caramel Frosting

I baked up half of Chockylit's recipe which supposedly should have given me only a dozen cupcakes, but even after overfilling the muffin cups (resulting in flat topped confections), I still turned out 15. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten 24 if I'd filled them half-way, like I usually do. Next time I'll make a little more frosting too -- I piped generous swirls out of a plastic bag (Ziploc bag with the corner snipped open), and ran just a little short. Here's the halved recipe that I used -- the only changes are that I've taken out the "gluten free" half of it (full credit to Cupcake Bakeshop):

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting:

18 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3-1/2 ounces (100 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
1-1/2 sticks (171.5 grams) butter
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (222.5 grams) sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons (90 grams) flour, all purpose
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Chop the chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts and the butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
4. Measure out the flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt into a small bowl.
5. Transfer the cooled chocolate/butter mixture to the electric mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
6. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each.
7. Sift the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix to combine.
8. Scoop into cupcake cups only 2/3s full. Bake all the cupcakes at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Note: If the oven is not hot enough than these cupcakes may over-flow. One way to be safe is to either fill 2/3’s full or another trick I use is to preheat to 375, then drop the heat to 350 once I put the cupcakes in. I also rotate the pans after 15 minutes of baking. It is safe to gently move them at that point and I find the lower back of my oven to be a bit cooler.

Salted Caramel

2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.
2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.
3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.
6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.
8. Put the mixture back on the heat, and stir, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
9. Measure 1/2 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Note: There was a small bit of extra caramel that I poured onto a small plate that I covered in aluminum foil and greased with vegetable oil. I transferred the plate to the freezer for about 30 minutes. I chopped the caramel quickly into squares (its starts to get soft) and topped each cupcake with a square.

Salted Caramel Frosting

1 stick butter
4 ounces or 1/2 package of Philly cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup salted caramel

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
3. Add 1/2 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
4. Sift powdered sugar a little at a time into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine. (Taste as you mix and add more or less to suite your specifications)
5. Chill to thicken up, if needed.

1. Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting.
2. Sprinkle each cupcake with sea, kosher salt, or Fleur De Sel.
3. Top with a caramel candy, homemade or otherwise.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


On Saturday, we spent the day in Saarbruken. Greg has been there several times to see some rock shows, and knows his way around a little. In every centralized town or city here in Germany, there is a shopping district with cobblestone "foot traffic only" streets, and Saarbruken has a nice large one with lots of cool stores and restaurants.
Saarbruken Fountains
Double fountains at the beginning of the shopping area

Stone slide
A rock thing in the center of one of the walking streets served as a sort of "slide" for a bunch of children

Small Polizei
Police car ride outside of the toy store

Lions statues that we couldn't figure out the meaning of


We found a good use for them though

We ate at an Asian Bistro, which served Thai and Chinese food. It was pretty good and very reasonably priced.
Daisy gives a knock-out punch
Lavella delivers a knock-out punch (notice her handspun, handknit sweater)

Of course, as always, there was ice cream. This particular Eis Salon had the best ice cream that I've had in Germany so far.
Green Apple Eis
Elijah got Pistachio and Greg got Vanilla and Green Apple (complete with tiny bits of unpeeled Granny Smith apple)

Blood Orange Eis & Nuss Becher
Andrew ordered Blood Orange, which was perfectly delicate and floral, tasting exactly like a perfectly ripe blood orange. I got a Nuss Becher, which has one scoop of each of their four "milch eis" (milk-based ice creams), which ended up being vanilla, pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate. It was topped with tiny nut clusters, un-sweet whipped cream and drizzled with a creamy liqueur.

Up until this point, I haven't really liked any of the milk-based ice creams here in Germany, because they're just not as creamy as American ones, and Vanilla usually ends up being touched with a lemon taste, which to me is no good. The fruit based ones are always good though, tasting of pure, perfect fruit, which I will miss when we move back. Anyway, everything that we had at this cafe was delicious, and my new favorite ice cream shop.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A new hat and some tasty bread

Lavella has grown out of all of the hats I knit her before she was born. Her hair, however, has not grown much at all. Even though it hasn't been that cold out, the early fall air is just a bit chill for her tender head, so I knit her this new hat yesterday:

Daisy's hat 3
I loved how she looks in purple.
Daisy's hat 2
I had embroidered bubbles on it, but then when I tried it on Lavella's head, the hat was a little too big, and has to be folded up for now. The bubbles got lost in the folded brim, so I'll have to save that idea for a later date.

A few days ago, I found this recipe for Potato Parmesan Bread over at food blog, Baking Bites. I've always loved potato bread, and had to give it a try.

Starch from mashed potato feeds the yeast, giving it an extra boost for a nice airy loaf.
Potato Bread Loaf
I made a few changes by adding Vital Wheat Gluten and some extra butter, substituted Romano for the Parmesan, bread flour for the all-purpose, used two red boiling potatoes instead of the one russet, used the cooking water from the potatoes, and heated the milk. I divided it unto two loaves instead of one, which allowed me to cut the baking time. I set the loaves on parchment covered baking sheets to rise, which I then slid onto a preheated baking stone to bake. All changes are reflected in my adapted recipe, below.

Happily, the bread rose high and lofty, with a moist interior. The cheese adds a surprisingly subtle note and lingers just a bit on the aftertaste, and the bread is equally good plain, or with butter and jam.
Potato Bread Slices
I would like to experiment with substituting cheddar, and adding some whole wheat to make this a little hardier. Bulgar wheat would also add a nice crunch -- I might try that as well.

Romano Potato Bread

2 red boiling potatoes (or enough potato to equal 1 cup when mashed. Potato flakes = OK)
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup milk, heated to about 110-115 deg. (low fat is fine)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup potato water (reserved from water drained from cooking potatoes. Add extra water if needed)
1 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
4-5 cups bread flour
1 cup Romano cheese, grated
1 egg + 2 tbsp water (for egg wash)

Peel potato and cut into small, even chunks. Boil potato pieces in a small saucepan until tender. Drain and reserve cooking liquid and completely mash potato (a ricer works well here, or you can force through a fine strainer) until smooth. Transfer potato to a large mixing bowl and stir in butter and milk, mixing until well combined. Mixture should be between 110 and 115 degrees, or the yeast will not activate properly.

Stir active dry yeast and sugar into the potato mixture. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, until mixture is slightly foamy. Add in salt, water, Vital Wheat Gluten and 3 cups of flour. Mix until smooth, either stirring with a wooden spoon or using the dough hook attachment on an electric stand mixer. Stir in Romano cheese and gradually add in additional flour in 1/4 cup increments until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. If using an electric mixer, continue to knead at medium speed for about 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. If mixing by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with waxed paper or damp towel and let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

TIP > If you live in a low-humidity environment, have dry heat in the house, or just want to aid rising process: heat oven on very low and then turn off. Place dough in a heat proof bowl and put in center rack of oven, covered by waxed paper or towel. Place a pan or bowl of boiling hot water in bottom of oven. Steam + gentle heat speeds the growth of the yeast.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Cut in two. Shape into two long, oval loaves and place on a parchment-lined (or generously sprinkled with cornmeal) baking sheet. Cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F, with large baking stone inside, if using.

Stir together egg and water with a fork and lightly brush mixture over the risen loaves.
If using parchment paper, slide onto hot stone in center of oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bread is a dark golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. An internal read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf will read 195-200F.

Transfer loaf to a wire rack to cool.
Cool completely before slicing. (Or don't, but it won't slice as neatly.)

Makes 2 medium sized loaves.