Friday, May 27, 2011


It happens to the best of us.

I'm not "the best of us," but I fail sometimes, and this is especially true of angel food cake. I've only ever made it twice, and both times have been horrific.

Yesterday, it was lovely and summery, so I decided to make up a bountiful batch of batter, with which to formulate some fantastic angel food cupcakes, and then the following happened:
  • I looked at the wrong recipe in the cookbook, and measured out an incorrect amount of flour, salt, and I even added some baking powder. (Thankfully, I realized the mistake, tossed the flour, and started again.)
  • I knew that the cakes would stick to the muffin tin, so I made little circles of parchment paper that would cover the bottom, making it easy to remove, while the batter could still climb the sides. 
  • I forgot the vanilla, and only noticed after I had put the pans in the oven.
  • Not having enough parchment circles, I decided to pour the rest of the cake into a loaf pan. It collapsed, leaving a disgusting mush of uncooked egg foam in the bottom of the loaf.
  • Some of the cupcakes burned. I named one "Bernie."
  • It was messy.
However, some of the cupcakes were actually pretty tasty, and I managed to get one nice picture.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fun-Sized Bread!


Please, don't call it "short" bread- It's actually very sensitive about its height, and would appreciate it if you chose a different term to describe it. But fun-sized bread is very polite, and won't say anything if you  decide to ignore it. I whipped up a batch this afternoon, and the results were fantastic! This cookie is ever so classy, and goes great with a cup of iced tea, coffee, or all by itself. And luckily, with only three ingredients, it's a snap to remember, even for people like me who forget someone's name moments after they tell me.

Scottish shortbread recipie:
I borrowed this one from a favorite cookbook of mine, highlighted in the sidebar.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened, plus a pinch of salt if you're using unsalted
Now, a word on butter. I've seen one cookbook after another passionately persist in their point that it's positively crucial to use unsalted butter, since the amount of salt in salted butter varies widely. But if you want my opinion, (and I hope that you do) it just doesn't matter, unless you're making clarified butter, or something else where it plays a staring role. Use whatever butter you have on hand.
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
You will also need:
  • Stand mixer with paddle attatchment
  • Rolling pins
  • Cookie cutters/biscuit cutters/pastry rings (Mine were 2.5 inches in diameter)
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Wire cooling rack
  1. Line one aluminum sheet pan with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees (162.78 for Celsius folks)
  2. Using the stand mixer, whip the butter on highest speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, and pour the sugar in a stream into the butter. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, return to high speed and allow to beat for 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes- it's the most important part of the whole process. You can tell because I used italics! Italics is for serious business.
  4. Once all of the sugar and butter has been whipped, reduce the mixer speed to slow, and incorporate the flour a little bit at a time, until it is just absorbed. The dough will toughen if you over mix, so while you should be sure to incorporate it all, don't mix unnecessarily.
  5. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured countertop, and roll into a sheet that it 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Once the timer hits the 15 minute mark, be very, very careful (there's those italics again) to check on the cookies, as you do NOT want them to be browned.
  6. Remove to a wire rack to cool, and serve with jam and iced tea. Speaking in a British accent and pretending to be all classy is optional, but if no one's there to judge you.... I'll leave that choice up to you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cake is A Lie

Four of my best buddies are celebrating one more trip around the sun in the next few weeks, meaning that there's a huge potential for overexcited birthday chaos, presents, and, 


I don't know about you, but I find the concept of birthday cake to be pretty darned scary! Mostly, that's because we've cannibalized the poor pastry, and left it to languish in grocery store bargain bins, smothered in horrendously artificial frosting. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the incredible, crazy, four-foot works of art that cake baking experts crank out daily for hundreds of dollars, and are completely impossible to fabricate in the average home kitchen. My mission? To find a middle ground. A cake which perfectly balances flavor, texture, fantastic frosting, and good old homemade charm. Have I found it?

Nope. Not yet.

But I don't know anyone who's ever been overly critical of free food, especially cake, so I expect all to go well with the first of four birthday treats!

The hardest part of this little guy's assembly was actually deciding how to decorate it- I toyed around with the idea of making it My Little Pony themed, (the buddy for which this dish is made is a huge MLP fan) but ultimately decided to go with something easier, and only slightly more mature- a video game!
The design in the middle of the cake is the logo of the fictional company Aperture Science, in orange and blue instead of the usual gray, and the circles on each corner are portals, working their weird magic on a perfectly innocent birthday candle. The cake is all vanilla; vanilla cake, vanilla frosting, and vanilla fondant. For me, this was basically an excuse to have a fondant adventure, as I hadn't touched the stuff before yesterday, and the results were pleasantly surprising. The taste wasn't spectacular though, so I plan to use the much tastier marshmallow-based alternative from now on. 

A much larger photo of the cake can be found here: Much larger.

Since it's been months since my last real post, you can expect some minor changes in my writing style, as well as a few big things being moved around in terms of the site format. Just bear with me, and I promise everything will iron itself out soon. <3

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

*wipes away the cobwebs*

Oh no! I haven't blogged since July, and it made the doctor cry! O___O

Might as well start this old thing back up again, and get it nice and presentable.

I'll be back tomorrow, with a portal-themed cake, alright?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Bird In the Pan

...Is worth two in the stomach. Chickens are strange creatures, having inspired their fair share of terror, culinary and otherwise. But the most infamous of all is, without a doubt, the roast chicken. Everyone's got their favorite. Your grandma, your uncle, your second cousin's uncle's best friend's sister, and probably you. Admit it: we are all obsessive about roast chicken. The skin has to be just so, the meat has to be perfectly done, and of course, there must be a battle to the death over who gets the drumstick. Brine it, bake it, whatever you will. I won't say that this is the single best way to prepare our favorite fowl, but it IS pretty good.
The hardware:
A roasting pan
Your oven
Your favorite meat thermometer. (But since, like me, you probably only own one, it would be your only meat thermometer)
The software:
A roasting chicken (betcha saw that one coming)
One to two medium-sized onions, quartered
Six or seven large carrots, broken
Olive oil
One bay leaf
Before we even start on this controversial topic, I must address the thing that is undoubtedly plaguing your mind: stuffing. "Where is the stuffing?" Well, it's not there! And it'll never be there. Stuffing is a veritable breeding ground for bacteria, and you'll have to sacrifice juicy meat for safe stuffing. It's bad for you, and the bird that it goes into. Bland, rock-hard dryness isn't exactly on my top ten foods list, and it shouldn't be on yours.
1. Kick things off by setting your hot box to 350 degrees fahrenheit. (that's 176.67 for you metric folks) Then, open up your chicken from its plastic cocoon. Like anything that's been shoved into a tiny space and frozen for extended periods of time, it's not gonna be pretty. Let the liquids drain out into the sink, and set the bird on a plastic cutting mat. Odds are, there's going to be a little pack of giblets (that's a funny word. tee hee.) tucked nice and safe up in the cavity, and you don't want those unless you're making soup.
2. With a wad of paper towels, pat your newly-emerged bird dry. It doesn't have to be shriveled up like a raisin, but dry enough that there's no... liquids. Dripping off it. Line the roasting pan with tinfoil, and plop the carrots and onions right on the bottom. This will make a nice nest for the roast, and provide an additional burst of flavor.
3. After placing the fowl in said nest, drizzle with olive oil to aid the browning, and season with salt and pepper. While you're at it, put the bay leaf into the cavity. Stick in the meat thermometer, and tent the whole kit and kaboodle with some more foil. Roast 2-3 hours depending on the size of your bird, checking the temperature every now and then.
Whatever you do: DO NOT trust those little pop-up thermometers! A pop-up thermometer contains a spring, held in place by a temperature-sensitive glue. When the glue reaches a certain temperature, it melts, and the spring pops up. At this point, most manufacturers are confident that the meat will be cooked to a point that is safe to eat, and somewhat edible. Just leave it be until carving time. (early removal results in a spew a juices)
4. When it's done, let rest for 15-30 minutes, and remove the bay leaf. It's given its all, and we don't want it in somebody's meal. Carve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mind Scrambler

Mmkay. Story time, everyone! Pull out one of those little carpet squares that you sat on in preschool. (What's the point of those little carpet squares anyway? Discuss in the comments.) Now, I have no idea if this is actually true, but it makes a great, totally-related-to-this-blog-well-not-really story. One day, there was a lady walking into a store, searching frantically for "chicken balls." The staff of the store tried to help her, but alas, they could not find any balls of chicken meat. As it turns out, her english was pretty awful, and she was looking for eggs! *cricket sounds*
Yup. She's doing another egg post! Oh, sure. You and every other person in the world think that you know everything there is to know about scrambled eggs. I mean, they're so simple. How could anything as easy as the perfect plate of scrambled require any explanation? Because all too often, germ-fearing cooks toast the poor little chicken balls, and the fearless fighters pour out liquidous plates of straight-up eww. So, in order to help those willing to believe, here is my all-time best method for no-fail eggs. (well, to be honest, it's more of a ratio. but bear with me.)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of milk
Nonstick pan
Silicone spatula
Nonstick spray (or olive oil)
Now, before you say anything, I know that I told you to use nonstick spray on a nonstick pan. And you will. And I also know that some of you might not be familiar with the epic win of the silicone spatula. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of one.
Got it? Good. Onto the prep. 
1. Lightly beat the eggs, then pour in the milk. Whisk until thoroughly combined, so you don't have big globs of white floating in your nice, yellow eggs. 
2. Put your shiny new nonstick pan over low heat, and grease lightly with the aforementioned nonstick spray or oil. Pour in the eggs, and stir constantly with the spatula until they just start to coagulate. What does that mean? It means little egg chunks floating in goo. Yum! :D 
3. Crank up the heat to high, and still stirring constantly, cook until the eggs are all solid, but not quite done.(just a little bit shiny) The trick when cooking any egg or egg product is to pull it right before you think it's done. The magical heat called carryover will take it the rest of the way! 
4. Then, just pour onto a plate and devour! 
I must say, the great thing about this "ratio" is that it's incredibly adaptable. I personally can eat 3 egg at a time. But you can halve, double, or quintuple this recipe depending on how many adoring fans you need to feed. Now, go find me some balls of chicken meat!

In the comments: Discuss the actual purpose of those little carpet squares from preschool. I know most of my readers are older than I am, but I'd bet my blog that you sat on them, too.
Somebody email be a picture of ground chicken meat! I'll put it in the next post, and acknowledge the sender. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Give us this day our raisin bread...

Raisins... Those little mummified grapes have often been denied serious culinary cred. Truth is, few Americans appreciate these purple powerhouses unless they're coated in sugar and followed by the word "bran," or slathered onto peanut butter and piled on a stick of celery. Has everybody forgotten about raisin  bread? Warm, soft, and swirled with cinnamon filling, it can be made into the world's best piece of toast, or, if you're impatient like me, torn right off the loaf and eaten straight-up. Too lazy to make up a batch yourself? Make somebody else do it for you! It's worth the effort, believe me.*
To begin: assemble the software.
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup warm water- 110 degrees F or 45 degrees C. Thermometer broken? Lent it to neighbors who never gave it back? No problem. 110 degrees is just barely above body temperature.
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 egg
2 tablespoons and two teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons butter (softened)
1 cup raisins
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons milk
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter (optional, but highly recommended)
2 teaspoons melted butter

Flour and non-stick spray for pan dusting

Okay, now. Stop hyperventilating! Yes, it's a long list. Calm down- if you are a loyal MadChef reader, you already have all these in your pantry. Not a loyal reader? You should still have these in your pantry, or whatever you have that kinda passes for a pantry. Other hardware: stand mixer with whisk and dough hook attachment, and a loaf pan.
Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start:
1. Warm the milk in the microwave (or a saucepan, if you want to clean one out) until it bubbles, and then remove from the heat.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, and let it wake up. A few notes here: The water does have to be within 10 degrees of 100 degrees F. A few of you out there might be whining "Whyyyy, Sam? I don't want to go out and spend seven dollars on a thermometer. The yeast will be fine either way." They won't! At cold temperatures, the little buggers go to sleep, and above that, they go to sleep permanently. The yeast themselves also have to be measured. I use 1-pound bags of the stuff, which is cheaper in the long run. It demands volumetric measurement, which keeps things nice and consistent. But if you're not willing to make that investment (which isn't much!), you can use those little packets they have at the supermarket. Just measure it out for this recipe! Those packets contain 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast, which would be too much.
3. When the yeast is frothy, pour in the bowl of your stand mixer, equipped with the whisk attachment. Mix in the butter, eggs, sugar (the first portion only! we need that quarter cup at the end of the list for something else.), salt, and raisins. Add the flour gradually, until the dough becomes stiff. Depending on the moisture in the air, the four, ect., you may not need to use it all.
4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. I used a large cookie sheet; it contains the clutter, and it's quite useful later on in the process. Place in a large, oiled mixing bowl covered with a damp cloth, and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Dough doesn't double? Don't despair. Pull it after two hours, no matter what you see, hear, or think is going on in that bowl.
5. While that's rising, mix the quarter cup of sugar with the cinnamon and butter. The butter, as I said, is optional. Pull the ol' cookie sheet back out. Flour liberally, and roll the dough out on the cookie sheet until it roughly covers the bottom. Wet the dough with the milk, and spread every ounce of the filling over the top. Roll up tightly, and let that roll rise either in a warm place for an hour, or in the fridge overnight.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. At this point, your dough should be nicely risen. If needed, cut the roll to fit your loaf pan. Flour and dust the pan(s), and bake for 45 minutes, or until nicely browned.
When these luscious lovlies come out of the oven, you'll be tempted, very tempted to dig right in. I'm telling you: resist that urge! The protein structure needs time to set. Cut in while the loaf is even the tiniest bit warm, and it'll sink down and result in a mushy, dense loaf. How do I know? Trust me. I know. What you can do is brush them with some melted butter right after they come out of the oven and are nicely situated on a cooling rack.

*In general, don't believe anything I say. Kidding, of course. :D