Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Martin Spurlock, Meet Julie Powell

I'm a serious copycat sometimes. Of course, being trained in theatre, I was taught to take inspiration from history when creating costume designs. Sometimes, I was too exhausted to take inspiration and would just straight-ass copy.

I decided a few weeks ago that I needed a challenge...or a hook...or something to focus my ADHD/artistic brain on this blog. I LOVE writing this, but need something to keep me from driving this car into a ditch.

I really liked the performance art nature of "Super Size Me", and "The Julie/Julia Project", and, being a trained copycat, I wanted to do "30 days of..." something for my food blog. I toyed with the idea of pie, but they would have to knock out an exterior wall to extract me from the house if I ate pie everyday. I polled my Facebook friends and my dear cousin Brenda had a brilliant suggestion: "Peanut Butter! You could start with your yummy peanut butter and jelly cookies!"

I must admit that I have successfully turned the majority of my family into Peanut Butter and Jelly cookie addicts. "The first one's free...then you have to pay"..."Take these to your friends, bring me back the money in this violin case".

So that's what we're gonna do: 30 days of Peanut Butter.

I'm going to start next week: July 5th. I wanted to start this week, but my husband is on vacation and is sooooo needy: "Help ME clean the floors", "Go with ME and the boys to the movies", "Get ME some gas so I can mow the yard"....geeze, what a whiner!

Anyways, he goes back to work next Monday, and that will be Day One.

On Day One, we will make our own peanut butter from scratch.

I won't reveal all the recipes, but in the 30 days, we will be making some old favorites (My grandmother's peanut butter cookies), some new favorites (Peanut Butter Ice Cream), and some unexpected fare (Alabama Peanut Butter Soup).

So tune in next Monday for the first installment of "30 Days of Peanut Butter".

Expect it to be awesome. Expect me and my husband to gain 30 lbs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chocolate Pie Crust Cookies.

I go through a lot of pie dough. Outside of the fact that I have a small bakery, I sincerely love pie. I'm pretty certain that every food can be transformed into pie.

I usually have pie dough stockpiled in my freezer. But after all the strawberry pies, the cherry pies, the coconut pies...well, durnit, I'm slap out of pie dough.

My pie dough recipe makes a lot of freakin' pie crusts.

You're probably thinking, "How many freakin' pie crusts does it make?"

Well, I'll tell ya...it makes about 12 freakin' pie crusts.
You probably don't need 12 freakin' pie crusts. But I'll bet you'd like to have my recipe for Chocolate Pie Crust Cookies, right?
Don't lie. You love chocolate. You love pie crusts...

So do I. A lot. And I love food that has a few simple ingredients. Like sugar and chocolate. What's better than that?
Here we go. First, I'm going to make you look at pictures of my pie crusts:
I stack them for the freezer and play a little balancing game. With myself.
Yeah, I totally can make it stay, right?

Yep. Pie dough Jenga, anyone? "It takes a steady hand...!"

Ok, quit screwing around. Let's get to the cookies, Amy.

Roll pie crust between wax paper or parchment...Extra flour = tough crust.

Sprinkle with sugar.
Now cocoa powder.
Notice my obvious lack of measurements...just put some on a spoon go for it. Rocket science, this is not.
I kinda smoothed it over and pressed it in a little.
And now we roll...
Why yes, I do bake in my flip flops. Doesn't everyone?
Keep rolling...

Since it's a wee bit humid this time of year, we need to firm this up.
When you get it rolled up...
Wrap it in parchment/wax paper/plastic wrap...
And stick it in the freezer.
Right next to all your other pie crusts, diet dinners, and the your-sons-insist-on-eating-every-morning-breakfast sandwiches .
After about 15 minutes or so, take her out and slice:
You'll notice that these are a little crumbly...mostly because I rolled the pie crust pretty thin. When you make them, you'll roll the pie dough thicker than this.
Let's go to the cookie sheet:
Gosh, this didn't make very many...my boys will have these inhaled in about 5 minutes..
Get that oven at 350...
And about 25 minutes later, they come out and look like this:

Yummy, yummy in my tummy. Better grab one before the boys see them...

Chocolate Pie Dough Cookies

1 unbaked Pie Crust


Cocoa Powder

Roll out pie crust between wax paper or parchment. Sprinkle with sugar, then with cocoa powder. Roll up jelly roll style, then freeze or refrigerate until firm.

Cut into 1/2" thick slices. Place on baking sheet and bake in 350 oven about 25 minutes, or until slightly browned.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Rainy Day, A Full Recipe Box...

So...it's raining today.

Or will be raining soon...My boys are gone for the day (Thank you, Grandma K!!)...

All I have is the kick-ass stereo that I stole from my mom's house

(yes, I'm 38 BUT I can still go to my mom's house and take things)

And my grandma's recipe box...what ho, what's this??

Does that say "Cherry Pudding"? What a co-winkie-dink...Dad just brought me a gallon of cherries from my uncle's trees:

Gorgeous, right? They've already given us a pretty pie

It only seems right that we should try out Grandma's cherry pudding...

She had 3 (count 'em THREE) copies of this recipe in the box. She's like me: it's around here somewhere, but I'll copy it again because I can't put my hands on it right now.

Pretty raggedy, a sure sign of a good one.

Pudding? With Baking Powder? Really? Welp, I guess we don't know until we try, right?

Simple ingredients: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 (heaping) teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 cup cold water

Mix together dry, add wet...just like noodles:

In another bowl: 1 1/2 cups hot water, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup cherries.

You may be asking yourself, "I wonder why that water looks...pink?"
Well, there was about 1/4 cup of juice that came out of the cherries, I just put that in the bottom of the measuring cup then filled it 1 1/2 cups.
Genius, right? Not really, it was suggested on one of the copies of the recipe.
Pour the flour mixture into a greased baking pan. I used a round cake pan.

And then pour the cherry mixture on top. Don't stir.

My cake pan is a wee bit full, I better put this on a baking sheet so I don't have to clean my oven again.

No baking instructions...gee, thanks Grandma. Let's do 350, we'll check it after 20 minutes or so...

Meanwhile, let's see what else is in this recipe box:

A self frosting cake??? WHAAAA???

Ooo, look: A tobacco ad...

I think it wants to say, 'Anyone old enough to vote is old enough to make up his own mind'. I'm sold, gimmee a cig.

Bisquick Party Book??

Whoa...Bisquick Party. Amy's House. Be There. I'll bring the book.

Hey, what's this?

Oh. Emm. Gee. A mystery recipe!

Well...should we make it? Ok, I think so too...

"Hard Ball"...ok, it's a candy of some kind.

1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1 cup B sugar (I'm going to assume that means Brown), 2/3 cup syrup (light corn syrup), 3/4 cup water...There's a little space, I'm going to think ahead and assume you cook this part separate from the remaining ingredients:

Cook to Hard Ball. I prefer Hard Ball to Soft Crack - The most unpleasant term in candy-making. Maybe the most unpleasant term EVER. Well, Hard Crack isn't so great either.

While that's cooking, the rest of the ingredients are 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 tbsp butter. I really feel that this really needs nuts, so I'm adding cashews.

After you get to the proper degree of ball, add the remaining ingredients, then pour out onto a sheet to cool:

Beautiful, right? I gotta let it cool...If you want uniform shapes, you should score it while it's still warm...

Yes, Amy...it's gorgeous...And the pudding? How about the cherry pudding Amy?

Oh, crap...I forgot about it. 40 minutes in the oven...And I wanted to eat some really bad so I did. Sorry.

Yeah. It's yummy....
Whipped cream? Sure! Powdered sugar? Oh, yeah. Warm with ice cream? Don't EEEEVen.

Raining outside. Fresh Coffee. Warm Cherry Pudding.

Life is good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bacon Fudge - A study in Artery Clogging.

Yeah, you read that correctly: Bacon Fudge.

My name is Amy. And I'm addicted to all things pork.
I love pork, as most of us do. I also love sweets, as most of us do. Last night, I was cleaning my oven and started thinking about bacon...and everything that is awesome about bacon. Then I was thinking about making candy. Bacon fudge? Is it possible? Maybe the fumes are getting to me...
So, I Googled. Bacon fudge isn't exactly a new idea. There's tons of recipes online about putting a layer of bacon in the bottom of your pan before you pour the fudge. Awesome, right? Chocolate and bacon...sign me up.

But I was looking for something that really uses the bacon, not just as a novelty. I wanted a recipe that made your left arm tingle just reading it. Dude, I totally found it.

Let's start by rendering a package of bacon. I fried the whole package, but you really only need 1/2 of it (my boys eat bacon like most kids eat M&Ms, so I knew it wouldn't go to waste).

Drain off the fat, reserving 1/2 cup of bacon grease.
Pour the bacon grease into a heavy-duty pot, then add 3 cups of sugar:

7oz of evaporated milk (Oooo, ounces! This must be European!) that I forgot to photograph
1/2 cup of corn syrup (I used a mix of light and dark):

Cook, on low, to Soft Ball...238 degrees. It takes a few minutes. You should cook it over low heat.

Now I should interject here. I have learned, through much trial-and-error, that the less you mess with candy, the better it turns out. The more you stir, the more chance you have at grainy candies. Just leave it.

Hit 238? Great, pull it off the heat, let it cool a little. I let mine sit for about 10 minutes.

Get out your mixer and start beating it. This. Takes. For. Ever.

You're looking for thick and creamy, and the fudge should lose it's shine. For me, that's the key: Look for the candy to get a dull finish as you pull the mixer through. That's when you're ready to pour.

Holy Crap! I almost forgot to add the bacon! I crumbled up about 6 slices of the cooked bacon, and then added a tablespoon of maple syrup. Vanilla would work here (teaspoon), maple flavoring...whatevah you got.

Stir, then pour into 8x8 foil-lined pan...I buttered the foil, too. Just for fun. Then I sprinkled a little more bacon crumbles on it. And in a "Why The Frig Not" moment, I threw on some sea salt. That seems so hot right now. Let it set. Mine took about an hour on the counter.

Oooo, I love that "Lift and No-Cleanup" thing!
Time to cut...I'm the worst cutter ever. I think we've discussed this before.

Shut. UP. Shut UP! At this point, however, I've eaten so much of it I can't even tell if it tastes good or not.

And I was thinking...would't these be cute in a little pink box? Maybe...just two pieces, since they're so rich?

Well...whaddaya know!

So that got me thinking...

Wouldn't a little brown ribbon with pink polka-dots just make this so cute?

Oh, wait!

Cute, right? I kind of channeled Bakerella there for a second. I hope she doesn't mind.
Ok, I can actually HEAR my mother cringing at the thought of bacon fudge. But, as I tell my 5 year-old, "You're not allowed to say you don't like it until you at-least try it!"
I was being serious though, when I said I can't even tell if it's good anymore. Anyone want to come over for a tasting?
Or make your own:
Bacon Fudge
1 package bacon
3 cups sugar
7 oz evaporated milk
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tbsp maple syrup
Fry bacon, drain, reserving 1/2 cup of grease. Combine bacon drippings, sugar, evaporated milk and corn syrup in a heavy duty pot. Cook to soft ball stage, remove from heat to cool slightly
After the candy has cooled slightly, mix until the candy becomes smooth and creamy, and has lost its sheen. Add maple syrup and crumbled bacon pieces.
Pour into 8x8 foil lined pan. Allow to set at room temperature.
Cut and enjoy!
The recipe also states the fudge can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, or refrigerated for 2-3 weeks. Good. To. Know.