Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creepy Cobweb Chocolate Cake

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, which are both tied for first right now.  I love spooky and creepy things, and getting dressed up as a little kid was always just about the coolest thing ever.  I was always a fan of dressing up, and that's something that hasn't changed.  My mom would always make me an elaborate homemade costume, and I always thought my costume was the best there was. Combined with my epic costumes, the fact that I also lived in a neighborhood where people were super generous when it came to giving out trick or treat goodie bags meant that Halloween was always a really special time of year.  I'm not dressing up this year, mostly because I just didn't have time to pull together a costume that met my standards, but I'm not without Halloween plans.  I'll be watching scary movies in the dark and eating my weight in mini chocolate bars, which is just as good a plan as any.  

I got into one of my layer-cake-making moods a couple of weeks ago, and rather than just bake a layer cake and get it out of my system, I decided to save it for Halloween. In theory, this meant that I would have had a long time to plan out my cake and decide how I wanted to decorate it, "in theory" being the key words there.  I did spend a lot of time looking for inspiration, but I just couldn't settle on anything.  I knew that I wanted to make a chocolate cake, because I don't think there's anything better than a perfectly moist chocolate cake, and also because the last two layer cakes I had made were of the buttermilk vanilla type (see here and here). Super dark, intense, almost black chocolate layer cakes were going to make it into my final halloween cake in one way or another. The decoration required a bit more thinking, and in the end, I ended up over-thinking it (because that always happens).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Apple Cider Soda Float

My schedule has been a little out of whack lately.  I had been hoping to share this quick and easy drink over the weekend, but my timing has been off these past couple of days.  I've had busy days at work, tough days at the gym, and one very exciting weekend that I needed to prepare for.  I was in Philadelphia all weekend, and it threw my normal weekend routine off.  Not that I minded though, because I love Philly, and I was in town for a Weezer concert (which was seriously, pretty darn amazing), and I got to eat some delicious food.  I had planned on sharing this post on Friday or Saturday, but I just didn't get around to actually typing it up. I think being a few days late on my post isn't the worst least we're starting off the week with something simple and delicious!

This apple cider soda float came out of having an excess of cider in my fridge.  Cider is one of my favorite things about the fall, and I love using it in all kinds of ways.  I love it in baked goods as much as I love drinking it straight, cold or hot.  It's comforting and got such a great warmth to it.  I thought it would be fun to use cider in a completely new way though, in the form of a soda float. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gluten-Free Breakfast Apple Crisp

I wish I could say that I went apple picking and picked all the apples used in this crisp myself, but that would be a lie.  A big, big lie.  It would also be a lie if I said that I loved apple picking, because I've never actually gone.  It's unfortunate, because I'm sure I would love it, and also because there are lots of great apple farms on Long Island's North Fork.  I've made it my mission to go, and hopefully I'll get to go once before the season is over.  I'm ready to wear my flannel and pick as many apples as I can, and buy a good amount of cider and homemade preserves.  I have my plans all set, and now it's just a matter of actually, you know, doing them. It'll happen.  Until it happens, though, I've gone ahead and purchased the best apples I could find over the weekend, and made some apple treats.  I had a craving for all things apple, and just because I didn't have freshly picked apples didn't mean that I would leave that craving unfulfilled. 

I wanted to start off my apple baking with something that was simple and unfussy.  I wanted pie, but it required a little bit more effort than I was feeling over the weekend.  I decided to leave apple pie on my to-do list for another weekend, and taking the warm, bubbly apple cue from the pie, I decided to make a crisp instead. Juicy, sweetened apples with a buttery and crunchy topping...that's just what I needed!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Muffins

Baking fails.  Everyone has them, no matter how long you've been baking. They're inevitable, and while they can be frustrating at times, they're not always a bad thing.  They're an opportunity for learning, for thinking up improvements, and if you're lucky, for snacking on the leftovers.  Tasty baking fails are the best kind of baking fail to have, and that's exactly what happened with these muffins. These muffins are the perfect example of that type of perfect situation. 

A few weekends ago, it was pretty rainy and gross out and all I wanted to do was lie low and watch movies in bed.  I think I wrote about this back in this post for Salted Caramel and Pecan Blondies.  It was the same weekend.  I knew I was behind on my baking and I just had to make something, even though all I wanted to do was hang out in my fuzziest sweatpants with a bowl of popcorn and a movie.  I made the blondies because I knew they would work and I knew they were quick.  Since I was already up, I figured that I might as well make something else, and I thought a quick bread of some kind would work.  Quick breads are easy and comforting, so I thought I was in excellent shape.  I had my second recipe sort of figured out, so after a little more thinking, a pumpkin bread seemed like the best option.  I already had all the ingredients I needed and baked goods don't get more seasonal than pumpkin loaves, so I was ready to go.  I mixed up the bread, baked it, let it cool slightly, and when I went to take it out of the loaf pan, it just would not budge.  It was completely stuck (you may have seen this documented on Instagram). 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

I finally did it! I finally took the plunge and made something that's traditionally made with wheat flour and made a gluten-free version.  The idea of gluten-free baking always intimidated me, mostly because all the recipes I had ever seen involved a million different flours and xantham gum and other stabilizers and I don't know what else. Arrowroot powder sounded like such a foreign thing and it just weirded me out.  I'd been meaning to make gluten free desserts for a long time, in an attempt to cater to more people, but honestly, I was just too nervous about it to give it a real chance.  It seems silly now, because it's still baking and following a set of instructions, just with a different group of ingredients.  It wasn't until the need for gluten free treats hit close to home that I realized I needed to gather my courage, do my research, and do what I do best: bake.

My mom has been on a gluten free diet for just about a month now, and I still can't believe it at times.  I mean, she's the one who taught me how to bake!  It's ironic, to say the least.  In any case though, it's amazing what this new diet has done for her.  She was feeling better within days, and she'll never look back.  Since starting her new diet, my mom has been experimenting with different gluten free baked goods from the store, and while we have found some that are pretty good, we've definitely been disappointed with a lot of them.  Some of the things we've tried were way too sweet or tough, and don't even get me started on the loaves of sliced those are frightening.  Recently, she bought a couple of gluten free blueberry muffins and was not happy with them at all.  I promised my mom that blueberry muffins would be the first gluten free treat I would make. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Salted Caramel and Pecan Blondies

My weekend mornings typically consist of either baking up a storm in my kitchen for the blog, or heading to the gym to get my workout done and out of the way, so that I can come home and do some baking.  It's been my routine for the past year or so now that I've been living at home from college, and for the most part, it typically works.  There are, of course, weekends where I break out of my routine because I have something special planned and I neither bake nor workout, or because I've somehow managed to bake ahead so far in advance that I can give myself a weekend off from my kitchen. Weekends off are nice.  I love working for the blog, but every now and then, it's nice to know that I can wake up late and just chill, because my recipes and photos for the upcoming week are already taken care of. 

Weekends where I'm off because I've planned ahead don't happen as often as I would like them to, sadly.  I try to plan ahead, I really do, but it just doesn't always happen.  I keep a little notebook full of random ideas that pop into my head so that I can bake and post them, but the problem is that my little notebook gets a little too full at times.  There's too many random ideas, and since I like to keep things seasonal, I typically have more seasonal treat ideas than I can reasonably prepare, photograph, and write about by the time the season ends. For instance, I know that I really need to do a post on apples, because what's more fall-appropriate than an apple? The problem is that I just can't decide which of the ten apple ideas I have written down to actually make.  This situation happens more often than I'd like, which usually leaves me having to bake every weekend. I don't mind it, honestly, but this past weekend, I was just not having it.  The weather was awful (it was cold and rainy), and I went to bed the night before knowing that the next day would be gray and miserable.  I think that made me wake up on Saturday and just want to crawl back into bed and sleep all day, because I consider that the best way to spend a rainy Saturday.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Rugelach

Rugelach are one of those little cookies that I've always thought I knew how to make (as evidenced here).  I mean, these looked like rugelach and tasted like rugelach, so I assumed that the little crescents that I was pulling out from my oven were in fact, rugelach.  I liked how they tasted, and I thought I could turn the page on rugelach. One more cookie that I had nailed, and it was on to the next.

While I may have always thought that I knew what I was doing when it came to rugelach, my mom always begged to differ.  She said they tasted fine, but were always too big. 

"They're supposed to be just a little bite!" she'd always say. 

I obviously thought I knew better, so I ignored her comments.  Every single time I made a batch of rugelach, she would say the same thing, and I would always brush her input aside, because I knew what I was doing.  In reality though, I didn't.

It wasn't until I got a box of rugelach in last year's Food Blogger Cookie Swap that I realized my mom was right. The rugelach I received were incredible.  They were flaky and buttery, tender and rich, but most importantly, they were tiny.  It took two small bites two eat each cookie, and it was a hard truth to accept.  I was wrong, and my mom was right (this seems like it always happens to me...).
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