April 30, 2013

Peach Tea Ice Cream

Can I just put something out in the universe? Anyone who leaves a container of 4 dozen sandwich cookies open all night should be put in the stocks. 4 dozen. That's 8 dozen individual cookies that someone spent an entire day baking, and then woke the very next morning to find every single one gone stale.

Also, I should probably be put in italics-users anonymous.

And we know it wasn't me the baker that did it because I she closed the lid securely after putting the cookies in, and didn't touch it again until I she started sobbing in frustration over the open Tupperware this morning.

I'm pretty sure I know who did it, because his only defense was, "It was already open when I went in." I don't care that it was already open. I care that it wasn't closed.

Seriously, someone keep me away from the italics button. I can't stop.
I was very proud of those cookies, too. They were roll-out cookies and everything. You know how much I hate roll out cookies. I used a cutter and made them cute, and I was going to bring them into work and give them out. I can't give people stale cookies. Nuh-uh. Well, I brought some for G, but I can explain to her what happened, and her son and boyfriend will probably still gobble them down.

So I made myself ice cream (yeah, yeah, I gave up the pretense. I spent all Sunday making cookies, and I woke to stale cookies Monday morning. And I was ready to either murder someone or burst into tears). And it's ice cream that only I like so I don't have to worry about anyone else leaving the lid off or leaving it on the counter to melt or eating it all up even when I tell them not to (like with my Oreos that I specifically said, "Do not open these. I am using them for something.").

No. This, this is my ice cream. It tastes like tea and peaches. But like, cold and creamy and decadent tea and peaches.
The original inspiration for this was Peach Snapple, because Peach Snapple is my liquid crack. I'm even more addicted to it than to italics. I drink it almost everyday.

My original thought was to add some instant tea that I had leftover from making drink mixes to an ice cream base, along with some syrup from canned peaches. But when I had everything prepped and went to grab the instant tea, it had all clumped together in the middle, in a surprisingly uniform shape. Yeah, no.

So I went with real tea. And the ice cream, it tastes like real tea. The peach flavor is subtle, but there. It's not really sweet, which is the way I take my tea. I prefer the sugar to enhance the tea flavors, not cover them. (Yes, I am a snooty tea lady. Got a problem with that?)

It tastes like the sort of thing that you eat in a sunny little conservatory, sitting at a wrought iron bistro table, covered in a lace tablecloth. And there are pretty little tea cakes, and ladies in fancy clothes, sipping their tea with their pinkies up, and chatting about fancy things. And cucumber sandwiches.

And meanwhile you're just like, "Omnomnom, ICE CREAM!!!"

I said the ladies were fancy. I didn't say you were.
This is definitely an ice cream for tea lovers only. All others need not apply. And you know, it's tea, so you totally have my permission to eat it for breakfast. Just remember to put the lid back on.

Peach Tea Ice Cream {Printable Version}

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup half and half
3 black tea bags (I used English Breakfast)
1 green tea bag
½- ¾ cup sugar*
6 tbsp. syrup from canned peaches
3 egg yolks
½ cup peach chunks

In a saucepan, heat the cream and half and half over low heat until it just begins to steam. Add the tea bags, remove from heat, and allow to steep about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and peach syrup.

Strain out the tea bags** and return the cream to medium low heat, until it just begins to simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add the cream to the eggs about 1 ladleful at a time, whisking constantly. When all the cream has been added, return the entire mixture to the saucepan, and heat over low, stirring constantly, until it reaches 160°F on a food-grade thermometer. Do not let it boil.

Cover and refrigerate until fully chilled, about 3 hours or overnight. Add to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is a few minutes from being done, add the peach chunks. Freeze completely in an air-tight container

*I liked it with ½ cup sugar, but others found it to be not sweet enough

**I left the tea bags in the cream until it came time to temper the eggs. This results in a stronger tea flavor; however the second heating can make it bitter

Recipe by Kim

April 27, 2013

K-9's Italian Hot Dog

It's Doctor Who Saturday! And guess who we're featuring today? Probably my number 1 favorite character in the entirety of time and space: K-9!
Can I just tell you guys a secret? I love robots. I think they're adorable. When I was a little girl, R2-D2 was my favorite. I had a little R2 gigapet. (Remember those things?) Except it was really upsetting because you had to shock him when he was bad, and I never wanted to do that. So R2 pretty much did whatever he wanted. Kind of like in the movies, actually.

You know what else I love. Dogs. Well, all animals really. I'm an animal lover. But there's just something about a dog.

And when you put the two together: epic squee!
K-9 with the first 5 doctors. Because K-9 is BAMF

Now, I actually haven't watched much of classic Who (I know. I fail as a fangirl), so my first introduction to K-9 was in the episode School Reunion, which also brought back one of the most beloved companions, Sarah Jane Smith.

And let me tell you, when I first saw K-9, it was love at first sight.
Sarah Jane and K-9

Not only was he an adorable robot dog with a good measure of sass, but in that first episode I saw with him he pretty much singlehandedly (pawedly? doggedly?) saved the Doctor, Mickey, Rose, and Sarah Jane. And he was willing to sacrifice himself to do so.
So in that one single episode, I fell in love, I squee-d, I cried, and then I squee-d again when the Doctor fixed K-9.

It was an emotional roller coaster, let me tell you that.
So. Much. SQUEE!!!

So my original thought for K-9 was to do a sort of replica made out of bread, wrapped around a hot dog. That's my favorite way to make hot dogs, and I thought it would be fairly easy, since K-9 is such a simple, blocky, shape.

It really wasn't. Although I did get one that kind of looked like Falcor from the Neverending Story.

I'm really exposing all my geek today, aren't I? K-9, it's all your fault.
That's my K-9 from ThinkGeek. Isn't he just the cutest?

Anyway, do you know what I just recently realized? That Italian hot dogs are a strictly New Jersey thing. I mean, you might find them in Pennsylvania or New York (cultures tend to bleed a bit in the tri-state area), but not like in New Jersey where you can get them at any pizza joint or burger place.

So for my K-9 post, I decided to do an Italian hot dog. Not that K-9 really has anything to do with New Jersey. Or hot dogs. Or Italians. Or that he eats. He's a tin dog, it's a hot dog, you can see where I'm going with this.
An Italian hot dog is just a hot dog with fried potatoes, peppers, and onions. Spread some deli mustard (spicy brown) on a torpedo roll, or a chunk of Italian bread. Hot dog buns are far too wimpy. Get yourself a quality hot dog- all beef, natural casings, no mystery meats here, please. Sausage works, too. Then grill or fry or cook it on a skillet. No boiling. This is a Jersey dog, it's hardcore. Cook up some peppers and onions just until soft. Fry up some potatoes- or, if you want to be lazy, you can do what pizza places around me do, and just use French fries. Layer it all in the prepared roll, then fuhgeddaboudit and stuff it in yer face.
For the rolls, I actually bought refrigerated Italian bread dough, and shaped it into 4 rolls before baking. Then I prepped the other ingredients while it was in the oven, so when I fixed it all up, every thing was hot and fresh and yum. And then I had to take pictures. Sometimes being a food blogger kind of sucks, you know?

But then I totally had to chow down so I could show you a picture of the inside. Totally imperative.
So it's a hot dog. And K-9's a tin dog. They're not really related except that if I had a K-9, he could totally cook the hot dog for my with his little shooty nose laser. He has a laser in his nose. Bet you didn't know that could ever be adorable. But it is. Because K-9.

Italian Hot Dogs {Printable Version}
Yield: 4 hot dogs

2 large potatoes
2 bell peppers
1 large onion
4 quality hot dogs (all beef, natural casings preferred)
Vegetable oil
Deli mustard
4 torpedo rolls, or 1 loaf Italian bread, divided

Peel the potatoes and slice into thin rounds. In a large skillet, heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom over high heat. Add the potatoes in an even layer and cook on either side until golden brown, 1-
3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, and salt lightly if desired. Reserve about 1 tbsp. of the oil, and
discard the rest.

In the same skillet, cook the hot dogs over medium heat until browned, turning occasionally to cook
evenly. Remove and cover to keep warm.*

Cut the onion and peppers into strips and add to the skillet. Cook on medium-low heat until softened to
your liking.

Slice open the rolls and spread generously with mustard. Line with the fried potato rounds, and add 1
hot dog, and peppers and onions to your liking. Serve hot.

*Or grill the hot dogs, if you'd prefer.

Recipe adapted from various sources
And because this is my new favorite gif in the entire world:

April 25, 2013

Easy Apple Cobbler

You know how there are moments when you're completely bereft of ideas? Your mind is just totally blank, no inspiration, nothing. And you start ransacking the kitchen hoping to find something, anything to light that little spark. You find a few things, you think, "maybe I could..." but then you end up putting it back because you're not really feeling it right now.

And then you find 4 cans (that's right, count them. 4) of apple pie filling in the pantry that someone kept buying, swearing up and down that he was going to make apple pie, but he never did, and then a few months later he'd come home with more cans and swear that he was going to make apple pie. Spoilers, he never did.
So you look at the apple pie filling and go, "Well, I guess I could use this and free up some pantry space." And then you remember that you have leftover cake mix from making cake batter fudge, so you go on pinterest and find a recipe for apple cobbler that has a cake mix substitution. But you end up nixing the cake mix because you're a baking blogger, and you primarily do scratch baking, and using canned pie filling and cake mix would feel slightly fraudulent.

And you also added oats on top because you didn't have the pecans called for in the recipe, and you're not particularly fond of nuts.
So you make the cobbler, serve it warm, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, take some artsy photos of the melty bits, and you feel accomplished. Also, you have a happy belly full of apple cobbler and melty ice cream.

Just me?

Easy Apple Cobbler
Yield: 12-16 servings

2 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking power
1 tsp. salt
3 21oz. cans apple pie filling*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup uncooked oats (quick or old-fashioned)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Spread the pie filling evenly in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread the flour mixture on top of the filling, and add the diced butter evenly over the flour. Bake 35 minutes. Sprinkle the oats on top and bake 15 minutes longer, or until the oats are lightly golden brown. Serve warm.

*I used 2 21oz. cans and 1 16oz. Feel free to use homemade filling, but you'll need enough for 2-3 pies

Recipe adapted slightly from Bake or Break

April 23, 2013

Lemon Bubble Ring

Now, you guys know that yeast dough and I have had some troubles in the past. It's not that I don't love it-- if you'd ever seen me tear into a ciabatta roll or gnaw on the end of a fresh loaf of Italian bread like some kind of animal, you wouldn't doubt it-- but we've certainly had our fair share of fights. I think it all stems from  the first time I tried to make focaccia and ended up with this sort of wet cement mixture that could have been used to patch drywall. Since then, I've hesitant. I've shown it my fear, and it's responded in kind.

But, with some help and counseling from Max and Old Reliable, Viola (my mixer) and I have decided to try stepping out, removing the training wheels, and mixing the dough without a bread machine. Now, I love Max, you know I do, but I have very little control over the dough after all the ingredients have been added. You know how sometimes you need to add a little extra flour, and sometimes you don't need quite all of it? If Max is helping, I can't adjust that until after the dough has already been mixed and allowed to rise. So, in the interest of better baked goods, I'm trying not to break Max out every time there's yeast involved. He still has a place of pride in my kitchen, though. And he's still the best way to mix up dough when you're busy with other things.
One of the types of yeast breads that Viola and I have had the most success with is sweet dough. I don't know why, but you add a bunch of sugar to the mix and I am all over that sucker. This lemon bubble ring is no exception. The recipe comes from Old Reliable, and really the only changes I made were to add some zest to the dough itself, and to sub in nutmeg and allspice for the ground mace (I'd never heard of it before this recipe, and I wasn't going to hunt it down for 1/4 teaspoon).

And good lord, is this thing amazing. The soft dough, the bright lemon zest, the warm note from the spices, and the hint of that melted butter on top. Plus, it's super pretty with little effort. And there's no need to stand on ceremony when eating it. Want a piece? Just tear it off. That's the whole point of it. And trust me, you will want to tear into it.
There are very few things in this world that can compare to homemade sweet dough. Very few.

Lemon Bubble Ring {Printable Version}
Yield: 1 loaf (32 “bubbles”)

5-6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup sugar, divided
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups milk
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
Zest from 2 lemons, divided
2 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl, mix 2 cups flour, ½ cup sugar, yeast, and salt. In the microwave, or in a saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and butter until very warm, 110°-120°F (butter does not have to melt completely). With the mixer on low speed, beat the liquid into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and ½ tsp. lemon zest, and beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add ½ cup flour and continue to beat another 2 minutes. Mix in 2 cups of flour to form a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook (or continue by hand on a lightly floured surface), and add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Mix on low, or knead by hand, about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, cover, and let rest about 15 minutes.

Spray a 10-inch tube pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup sugar, remaining lemon zest, nutmeg, and allspice. Divide the dough in half, and cut each half into 16 equal pieces. Shape into balls by tucking the ends under. Arrange half the dough evenly in the prepared pan, brush with half the melted butter, and sprinkle half the sugar mixture on top. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover with a towel, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes (dough is doubled when you can dent it by pressing lightly with one finger).

Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake about 35 minutes, or until golden brown, and the dough sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted slightly from The Goodhousekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

April 20, 2013

Bad Wolf Cupcakes

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Rosewater Buttercream

I'm going to be a little more serious for the moment. I want to talk to you about the reason why I love Doctor Who-- and other things like it-- enough to do this series.

Doctor Who and science fiction and fantasy, they're escapes. And a common theme with all of these stories is the ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances and emerging victorious. These characters deal with things we could never even dream of, maybe they've got abilities or powers we don't, but there is always something so very human and relatable about them.

And even in the characters who aren't, even in the Doctor or Aslan or Gandalf, there's always going to be that belief that they are out there, that no matter how bad things get, they are out there saving us from something bigger and something worse. And there is always the dream, no matter how childish it might seem, that one day you're going to find Narnia in your wardrobe, or Gandalf is going to knock at your door, or the Doctor is going to grab your hand, look at you with a wink and that rakish grin, and say, "Allons-y!"

I don't know about you, but that keeps me going when things get too bad.
In Doctor Who, the Doctor always travels with a companion. This companion serves as a plot device for the Doctor to explain everything to, but it's also the character that we as the viewers identify with and want to become. And while the Doctor could very well travel with the most extraordinary people in the universe, he never does. He'll travel with a girl that works in a shop. Or a temp who's mother doesn't think she's worth anything. Or a med student, or a journalist, or a governess. The most ordinary people, living the most ordinary lives, but once they meet the Doctor, they do the most extraordinary things.
Amy taught me to never let anything get between me and the people I love.
Rory taught me that sometimes the bravest thing you can do is stand beside the one you love.
Donna taught me that anyone could be the most important person in the universe, without ever even realizing it.
Martha taught me to never settle for being the sidekick. If the hero is out of commission, you pick that sh** up, and you keep going.
Sarah Jane taught me that a broken heart doesn't mean your life is over.
And Rose Tyler taught me to never let anything get in my way, even if I have to tear down the walls of the universe and bend the laws of time and space to my will.

You see, the Doctor sent Rose back to her own time with the Tardis to protect her. He couldn't see a way out. But Rose had none of that. She cracked open the Tardis, she absorbed the time vortex, and for a few moments she controlled all of time and space. And what did she do with that power? She used it to save her world's future and the man that she loved, even though it nearly cost her her own life.
And in that moment, Rose scattered the message "Bad Wolf" throughout time and space, a message to herself so that she would know she could get back to him.
Why bad wolf? The Doctor was fighting the daleks on Satellite Five when he sent Rose away in the Tardis, which was owned by Bad Wolf Corporation. The Doctor and Rose also said their goodbyes at Bad Wolf Bay.

But that wasn't the end of it. When the daleks threatened to destroy the universe, Rose, who was stuck in another universe, built a freaking reality cannon and found her way back to save the Doctor once more.

Rose is also remarkable as a companion in that when she met the Doctor, the 9th Doctor, he wasn't the warm, silly madman we know now, but cold and distant, torn apart by what he had to do to end the Time War and save the universe. Rose accepted him unconditionally, she fell in love with him, and in the end, in the very end, the 9th Doctor gave up being a soldier. He gave up the ideas of strategic advantages and acceptable losses, and in the end, he died to save her life.
So whenever someone tells me that they didn't like Rose, I tell them it doesn't matter what they think. Because the Doctor truly loved her, and she loved and healed him.
When I found a bottle of rosewater at Home Goods, it seemed like fate. I would make cupcakes for Rose. I made a simple, moist chocolate cupcake, inspired by a chocolate pound cake, and a simple buttercream. But then, with the two simple additions of orange zest and rosewater, these cupcakes became something extraordinary. Just like Rose is just a normal, everyday girl that works in a shop, but when she meets the Doctor, she becomes the defender of the Earth.
D'you like my gun? Heh, I loved that scene. 

Anyway, these cupcakes are a mild chocolate cupcake, which really allows the orange flavor to shine. The addition of dark brown sugar makes them rich and moist, without being overly sweet. And the rosewater in the super silky buttercream really complements the citrus flavors well. The rosewater flavor isn't strong (too much can make it taste perfume-y), but there's that definite hint of the exotic and fancy. And these cupcakes smell, well... hit it, 9!
And it's been confirmed that Rose is coming back for the 50th anniversary special, which explains why the words "Bad Wolf" keep showing up on my cupcakes.
Oh, you thought I put it there? You silly normals, you haven't listened to a word I've said, have you? Rose scattered the words through time and space in order to lead herself back. Including on cupcakes, duh.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes With Rosewater Buttercream {Printable Version}
Yield: 30 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. orange zest
1 cup milk

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup whipping cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. rosewater

Preheat the oven to 365°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and zest, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, until fully incorporated and smooth.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill about ¾ of the way with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting: Using electric beaters, beat the butter on medium speed. Gradually add in the powdered sugar. When the sugar has been added, reduce the speed to low. Add in the cream, vanilla, and rosewater, beating until just incorporated. Increase the speed to high and whip until smooth and fluffy.

*I used ¼ cup regular and ¼ Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa.

Recipe by Kim