Getting Personal and... Creamy Pizza Dip

Sunday, October 25, 2009
I feel like this blog is slipping from me. Have I seemed less personal compared to how I started? Looking back at my first post and up to now, I've lost the stories and little insights into my life. I apologize. I think I got more concerned with throwing a recipe up to show I made something, than really personalizing and giving love into this blog. But I'm hoping to change, I swear.

That's a picture of me on my first day of school. I'm in 11th grade and since it was about 6 in the morning I wasn't too awake. I'm a member of the volleyball team at my school and the hours we keep are insane. 6 days a week commitments. Game days I may not get home until 10 o' clock at night. And Saturdays you get on a bus at 7 am for a tournament and get home by 6 pm. This doesn't leave much time for baking, or school work or anything else. But, I've managed to keep my blog thriving even during these hectic times. Volleyball will be ending soon and I'll have much more time on my hands. (And that means more time blogging hehe)

Also, I've been growing my hair out for quite along time. Truely, the first thing people will say to me is, "Wow! You've got really long hair." I know. I've only been growing it for like ever! And so I've been contemplating cutting it for the longest time. When I ask for other people's opinions I always get a huge gasp and, "No! You can't! It's so nice!" But honestly, It's so unmanageable. It gets really annoying as well. Then one day I took the leap and got 6 inches cut! This was a huge step for me. My hair was my safety blanket and with it gone I thought I would be lost. Well, it's cut and I love my new look. Not too short but still different. I hope I don't sound too conceded talking about my hair, but it's just been such a big part of me, literally. Okay, enough about hair. Here's some pictures of before I cut it, and then we can give it a rest. =o)

Unfortunately I don't have an after photo yet. But I'll get around to it someday...

Now for a recipe of sorts:

I don't have a picture for this dip and I'm not even sure if it's the best recipe possible, but i was hungry and used what I had. I added ingredients as I went, just throwing in what felt right. I'm sure you could add some seasonings or pepperoni or whatever you like.

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4- 1/2 cup pizza sauce, or just to taste
shredded cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, romano, provolone...

Simple, right? I choose to eat it with butter crackers and to me this was a comforting dish. My fam and I gobbled it up.

Also, more personal tid bits to come in future posts!!!

Pumpkin Biscotti

Yay more pumpkin! I've been hearing on some other blogs that there is a canned pumpkin shortage but that is certainly not the case here in Pittsburgh. For this pumpkin recipe I have two of my favorites, biscotti and white chocolate.

One important rule you need to remember is that the biscotti harden after a few minutes out of the oven. So, though they may seem too soft, there is still the opportunity for them to harden. The recipe made two logs and one turned out fantastic while the other fell short. The latter began really gooey after the first bake and that caused me to rebake them several time for short increments. Still gooey, but I cut them and baked on. In the end they seemed undercooked so I put them in longer. When I gave up and set them out, the hardened super fast and I was left with rock. Edible, but rock-like. The other batch, however, was much more successful and required only one return to the oven.

Once the biscotti cooled, I microwave melted some white chocolate and drizzled it over top. White chocolate hardens super fast as well and posed some minor problems in that respect.

Also, although the directions mention lowering the temperature at one point, iIforgot. That may have affected my results so I recommend you lower it like the recipe suggests.

I've only had one so far but they are really scrumptious, well at least the good batch is. The white chocolate adds a more complex but delightful taste. Oh, but the big issue I have with the taste is the pecans. They add a great texture and toasty taste, but there were WAYY too many. I would use half the 1 1/4 cup suggested. I also think cinnamon would have been a nice flavor to add and maybe even more pumpkin as well.

Pumpkin Biscotti
seen on My Baking Addiction

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup nuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans)

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.

2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl; stir well. In another bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla, stirring well with a wire whisk. Slowly add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Mixture will be very crumbly; it will gradually become moist after stirring.)

3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add nuts. Cook, stirring constantly, until nuts are browned. Remove from heat and cool completely.

4. Knead or gently stir cooled nuts into dough. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 portions. Lightly flour hands and shape each portion into a 2 x 10" long log. Place logs 3" apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 24 minutes; cool logs 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F.

5. After some cooling, move a loaf to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2" thick pieces. Do the same to the other loaf. The interior of each biscotto should still be just a little moist (while the exterior is nice and hard). The crust of the loaf will probably be quite hard, so use a large serrated knife such as a bread knife for this job.

6. Place the biscotti with a cut side facing up on a half sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Remove the pan and flip all the biscotti over so the other cut side is now facing up. Bake for another 7 minutes. Set all the pieces on a wire rack to cool making sure that none of the biscotti are touching each other. If the biscotti are placed too close together, they could get a little soft or soggy as they cool.

7. Once the biscotti have fully cooled, they can be consumed as is, or white chocolate dipped. I opted for a simple white chocolate drizzle. I just melted some white chocolate chips, placed the melted chocolate in a zip top bag, cut a small opening in one corner and drizzled it across the biscotti.

The biscotti tastes best during the first few days, but will keep for up to a month in a sealed air-tight container.

Crepes Parisiennes: A Restaurant Review

Saturday, October 24, 2009
I have been waiting to go to this place forever! Crepes and blintzes are my favorite breakfast items ever!!! We were on our way to an applefest (which had a $5 admission!! So we skipped) but instead ended up in Oakland perusing the shops. Tucked away down some cellar steps was this place: Crepes Parisiennes. Though the downward descent into what seems like a cellar might throw some people off, I found it very quaint and authentic.

There are some other interesting things to note about this place as well. When, you walk in, before you sit down, you wait in line to reach the counter to place your order. After you give your order and they give you a number, you may then take a seat. It's not too bad because while you wait there is to perfect view of the crepes as they are made. There are not many tables, however, so going at a busy time of day would be unfortunate.

There are both savory and sweet crepes. The list of savory crepes contains dishes with spinach, mushrooms, sausage, ham, cheese, eggs, tomatoes, etc. Anything you want basically. The sweet crepes list is extremely impressive. Black forest or white forest crepes, fruit preserve crepes, Russian blintz crepes, nutella, nutella and banana, nutella, banana, and chocolate crepes, pineapple and coconut crepes, white chocolate or plain chocolate crepes, and more I can't remember. There is also frenh toast varieties and waffles. There are authentic french drinks like cafe au lait and french hot chocolate, whose name escapes me.

You are served pretty quickly and the staff is nice. The prices themselves aren't too fabulous. Anywhere from $6- 8 crepes. For one crepe. And after you see how big they are, you know it's too expensive. Besides the size, you need to consider taste. I ordered the white forest crepe and my mom got a blueberry Russian blintz. All sweet crepes are served with whipped cream and walnuts unless they are told otherwise.

My crepe itself was nice and soft, a bit chewy though. The white choclate was nice, although the raspberries on top were very overwhelming. They also had tons of seeds which wasn't very pleasant. All together, if you got an even combination of the crepe, white chocolate, raspberries, whipped cream, and nuts, it was nice. But before I got to enjoy my crepe, it was gone. I neede more. So the verdict: good, but certainly not great.

My mom's crepe was actually a blintz, my favorite. Blueberries were a stretch for her since she usually gets strawberries but we both thought something different would be good. I only got one bite but here's what I thought. Her crepe was a tad crispier and we both prefer ours soft. Also, the blueberries were extremly tart and that was not a good thing. the filling to me was not was I was hoping for, as I have had many blintzes before. It was chunkyish and not smooth and creamy. Verdict: I've had quite a few better.

This trip was necessary, but not something I'd do again. For those high prices and that small of food, and the 'meh'-ness of the taste, we probably won't go back. All the while we kept thinking, "I like our homemade ones so much better."

While we were out we stopped in the Williams Sonoma store, and I fell in love. Ahh, it was such heaven! There were samples out as well and we tried some pecan pie, butternut squash soup, and hot apple cider. They were all amazing! We did end up buying the butternut squash soup we tasted and decided it would make a great Thanksgiving dinner item.

So that's the review. And I will say this, my mom and I have decided to give Pamela's the benefit of the doubt. We will be returning, though this time at a different location. Then we make our final decisions about the restaurant. I can't say when it will be, but hopefully we'll get around to it soon.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Coffee Cake w/ Cinnamon Icing

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When I saw this recipe I thought it looked fabulous. had just the right amount of pumpkin left over from my last recipe and this seemed like a great way to use it. Although, I had to put my hopes for making a pumpkin milkshake on the back burner.

This was a bit interesting to make. You prepare a cake batter, a pumpkin filling, and a variation on a streusel topping. The cake was easy to make, but the pumpkin filling just seemed a bit bland. If I had thought about it, I really showed have added some other spices to it because the end result was pretty bland. I hit a bit of a wall with the streusel topping. I didn't have pecans. I really thought I did, but unfortunately it was a bag of slivered almonds instead=( Not the same thing. So I had to leave them out, which was unfortunate because I think they would have added soooo much more to the recipe.

After an hour of baking, I took it out and let it cool over night. In the morning it looked great and I tried a piece. Bland. That's what I'd call it. The different layers just didn't come together very well taste wise. The pumpkin middle wasn't seasoned very well, which again, is why I should have added more spices. The streusel was okay, but pecans would have been a great addition. The cake itself was very good, though.

I also felt as though it needed some icing. So on the spot, I whipped up some cinnamon icing.
I supplied my "recipe" below, but take into account that I eyed balled it all. I put down measurement amounts that I thought I used but I don't really know. Also, the amount I made would not be enough for a whole cake, or let alone half of it. I just made enough for the piece I was having and maybe one or two more.

The addition of the icing, however, completes it. It was just what the cake needed. The large amount of cinnamon made up for the lack of overall spices and definitely took the cake from bland to mighty tasty.

I probably won't make this recipe again, but it was nice to try. With so many pumpkin recipes out there this one isn't super necessary to try. If your ambitious enough to tweak recipes as you go then you might like to play around with this one. Also, I've eaten this room temperature but I'd like to see how it tastes warmed up.

*added 10/18/09: I tried this cake a day after and it was much better. Maybe the flavors had more time to come together? I don't know. But after a day and a half, you don't even need the icing. It's good.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Coffee Cake
from Megans Cooking (hers looked better than mine)

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cup (16 ounce can) solid pack pumpkin
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
Combine brown sugar, butter and cinnamon until blended. Stir in chopped nuts.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour a 9 x 13 x 2 pan.

Cream butter, 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla in mixing bowl. Add 3 eggs, beating well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with sour cream.

In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, beaten egg, 1/3 cup sugar and pie spice.

Spoon half of batter into 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, spread to corners.

Sprinkle half of the streusel over batter. Spread pumpkin mixture over Streusel.

Carefully spread remaining batter over pumpkin mixture.

Spread remaining streusel over top.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean.

Cinnamon Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk
1 1/2 T cinnamon
A dash of vanilla

These are all eye-balled so play around until you find a taste you like. If it seems too sugary don't be alarmed because the taste of the cake tones it down.

MSC: Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Thursday, October 15, 2009

These cupcakes were the perfect pick for the beginning of fall. This was my first pumpkin recipe of the season and I'm so glad I was able to make these. I will note that yes I did skip the marzipan pumpkin decoration for on top. I just didn't have the time or energy to deal with marzipan.

The recipe says it yields 32 cupcakes. I was a little worried that it'd be too many but decided not to half the recipe or anything. In the end, I was able to make 30 regular sized cupcakes and 24 minis! As I was filling the tins I realized I had a lot of batter left. I tried filling the regulars pretty full but it just made them have bigger domed tops and I still had batter left. So, instead of making even more of the same cupcake, I had a bag of left over white chocolate chips that I had been meaning to use up for the longest time. There were just enough for the remaining batter which I used to make mini cupcakes.

My cooking times really worried me. I had to put them back in more than once and even as they were cooling I was worried they were pretty mushy. But I let them cool over night and waited to see how they would turn out the next day.

I made the cream cheese icing as directed except I used one less cup of powdered sugar. They frosting already tasted fine to me before the final suggested addition. While icing, I realized the cupcakes were just fine. I decided not to ice the minis because they were good on their own. Although, I did add some frosting on before I ate mine for some added flavor. Both ways are tasty though.

So the taste: The regular cupcakes were very good. Pumpkin and cream cheese frosting are the perfect partners and this was no exception. They were fluffy and springy, if you can describe a cupcake as being so. I really liked them after 15 seconds in the microwave. I don't know why but I like my goodies slightly warm, where as my mom preferred them chilled and right out of the freezer.

The minis with white chocolate chips were sensational!! I honestly wish I could have made regular sized ones with them in it. I think that is a great way to tweak the recipe and add your own twist. Add white chocolate chips!

Many thanks to Kim from What the Whisk for picking this season friendly item. It was a big success in my house and with the neighbors. So far I'm 3 for 3 with Martha's recipes. She never fails!
Check out the Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club website for the blogroll of all my fellow bakers.

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins

Sunday, October 4, 2009
Okay I'll come out and admit it. This was the first time I have ever made blueberry muffins. Shocking, right?

Unfortunately I wasn't very prepared and had only about 3 oz of blueberries on hand.

But I was able to half a recipe I found and still make them. It only yielded 6 muffins which was very disappointing. These muffins were unique
because they were cinnamon blueberry muffins.
And that cinnamon really make all the difference.

I've eaten blueberry muffins before, but these beat all the rest! They could actually be just delicious on their own or with another add in. They are moist and dense. They definitely are my new got-to muffin=)

I tweaked the recipe below, but added the link for the original. I had to half the recipe and change one or two ingredients. I didn't melt the butter (not a personal choice, it's just I skipped over that part) and I used buttermilk instead of whole milk.

Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins
from epicurious

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 buttermilk
1/2 large egg
3/4 all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 oz (or so) blueberries

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Put liners in muffin cups.

Whisk together butter, brown sugar, milk, and egg in a bowl until combined well. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries gently.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Only suggestion, DON'T half the recipe like I did. DOUBLE IT!!!