Thursday, September 24, 2009

I've been baking! Really! I have!

I wish I had time to blog about it though. Let's see. It's been so long since I made the coffee cake and the ice cream that I don't remember doing it. And I made the baked apples yesterday. I cheated and made the Honey Ricotta Cream to go with them (I figured it was only 3 recipes in advance of Top Secret, and was the recommended accompaniment to the apples). And tonight I'll be making the Chocolate Festival Cake to bring to Maddy's birthday party at the beach. Hopefully the 17 year olds attending won't have the same reservations as Maria's party goers . . .

So why haven't I written about any of this? Several reasons. 1) I've been really busy at work. I shouldn't be doing this right now, actually. 2) We only have one computer at home. Still waiting for the insurance money from the computer thefts. That computer is in high demand. Blogging does not seem to be the most important use for the computer when there are papers to be written. 3) I'm never home, and when I am, I'm exhausted. Here, for everybody to see, is my typical Tu/Th: Get up at 5:45; put on running clothes; wake up Maddy; pack lunches; wake up Natalie; eat breakfast; clean SOMETHING; wake up Cassandra; throw a load of laundry in; leave at 6:40; drop off Maddy and Natalie at school; drop off Cassandra with Stuart; go try to run (sometimes I'm successful); take a shower; go to work; try to work 8 hours; leave to pick up Cassandra for 6:00 p.m. Karate; then Natalie to 6:30 driver's ed; then back to pick up Cassandra from Karate; then drive home. Usually I don't get home until 7:30. Throw laundry in dryer; make dinner; eat dinner; clean up from dinner; fold and hang up clothes; try to keep my eyes open for a few more minutes; collapse into bed. Argh. And that's just Tu/Th.

I'll quit my whining and write about the goods.

So the Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. Let's see. This was one of those adventures in baking -- how do you make something that has to rise twice when you have way too many commitments. I got up early on Saturday morning and made the dough. I made it in the food processor, which I think was a mistake. My food processor, which I've had since I think Cuisinart was invented, is showing its age in a rather horrible way. Whenever I try to process anything doughy, it emits a burning engine smell and a rather nasty gray liquid leaks out around the bowl. The contents of the bowl become incredibly hot and usually very nasty. So while I was in a giant hurry, I had to deal with this hot mucky mess, get it out of the processor (which wasn't easy) onto some flour (oh yeah -- I had run out of flour and so had to use my only available substitute which was cake flour) and make it look like dough. I threw it into the bowl to rise and Natalie and I left for our golf lesson.
Seems like Natalie and I did something else after the golf lesson, and when I arrived back home over two hours later, the dough had really not risen very much. Now Maida had written that no matter what flour she used, the dough always doubled in volume in 2 hours. Apparently her food processor had never made a hot mucky mess of the dough. I was about to enter despair, but realized that the dough had risen a little bit, so I should just let it sit a little longer. While it sat, I made the filling. And yes, I used raisins.
The dough did rise (although I'm not sure it had doubled in volume when I punched it down). And it was really really fun to roll out. I love rolling stuff out into rectangular shapes. It is an art and a science. You have to pull things one way and roll another way and keep bringing it back into line. When I had it in a perfect rectangle, measuring EXACTLY what it was supposed to measure, I applied the filling. It looked like a lot of filling. Natalie, who hates cream cheese, was very upset about the abundance of filling. I carefully cut the slits at one-inch intervals on the side, and braided the dough. It looked perfect - just like something you would see at a bakery. But I still think there is too much filling.

Now we had about 19 errands to run, and there was NO WAY I could wait for that beautiful coffee cake to rise. So I covered it, shoved it in the refrigerator, and we took off on our multitude of errands. We were volunteering at the MS Walk the next day, and needed to pick up a bunch of stuff to make our water station special. Red vines, hula skirts, leis, rented the giant hula girl/ surfer dude cutout which I had to pick up at 8:30 that night. I thought there was a Brazilian festival in PB, so we drove over there, parked, and walked around looking for it. It was on Sunday. Bummer. Ate lunch (at 3:00). Drove over to SDSU to pick up Blue Books (bookstore was closed.) My errands were not going very well.

Honestly, I don't even remember when I baked the coffee cake. I know that I did, and it was gorgeous. Although the over-abundant filling did leak out. We took half of the cake to feed the volunteers at the water station. Everybody seemed to like it -- well, it was all eaten. Maddy took the other half to school with her. I never heard if it actually was eaten there. It was pretty tasty. But I'm pretty sure I'd never make it again. It did have too much filling in it. Plus, it was a PITA to make.

Now for Spago's Caramel Ice Cream. I don't really like ice cream all that much, but I was excited about making this because I had a brand new ice cream maker to try out. Realizing that I didn't have an ice cream maker anymore, I went onto Amazon to look at the options, and found that KitchenAid makes an ice cream maker for its mixer! And it was inexpensive. So I bought one right away. It's super cool. The bowl looks just like the KitchenAid mixing bowl, but with an outer shell and some kind of coolant in the middle. You lodge it in your freezer so that anytime you want to make ice cream, you can just pull it out and install it on your mixer and make it. There is a dasher just like with a traditional ice cream maker, and the dasher fits onto a little piece where you usually put the beater. It was so awesome.
I wasn't in a very good mood on Sunday -- tired and worn out and emotionally drained. And the ice cream "batter" wasn't helping me. It took FOREVER for the cream/egg yolk/sugar mixture to thicken. I'm talking a good 45 minutes of constant stirring. I was very annoyed. And when it finally did thicken, it looked curdled and yucky. I strained it, Maddy tasted and declared it DE-licious. The caramel was easy to make and turned out perfectly. But when I stirred it into the custard, the custard now looked hideously curdled and yucky. Plus it became an ugly color. But Maddy tasted it and declared it even more delicious. I put it in the fridge to cool, making a mental note to remember to put the vanilla in before I started the ice cream maker (but knowing full well I would forget the vanilla).
A couple hours later, I poured the cold hideous looking custard into the freezer bowl, and, forgetting the vanilla, started mixing it. Man was that cool. KitchenAid just standing there like always -- but this time it was making ICE CREAM. It took about 15 minutes and it was soft-serve consistency. I scooped it out and put it in the freezer to cure.
It was OK. I'm convinced that it didn't taste that good because I forgot the vanilla. I think Maddy and Natalie liked it -- but obviously not that much because there is still about a quart left in the freezer. Sam said it tasted like carrots. But I think Sam was mad because I told her that her doughy creation she had made that day tasted like playdoh with cinnamon in it. Pete said "Can't you still add the vanilla?" which makes me think that he wasn't all that thrilled with it. Since I don't really like ice cream very much, I'm a bad judge. But I would declare this ice cream OK, not great. I would declare my new ice cream maker FANTABULOUS!

And then, almost two weeks later, come the baked apples and honey ricotta cream. Everybody has been asking me when I'm going to bake again. Sharmyn questioned me before leaving on the Trans-Canada Rail Odyssey. Maria e-mailed me to ask if I was sick. Deb was "just wondering" when I was going to bake again. And my girls asked me a lot. I had bought the ingredients a while ago. I just didn't have the time or energy to make them. But I promised my girls, and Deb, that I would make the baked apples Wednesday night. Wednesday night -- Girl Scout night. We get home around 8 most Wednesday nights -- and there is still homework to do. Wednesday nights are bad nights for anything.
With promises from the girls that they would help, we got home and I got the stuff out for the apples, and for dinner. Then Cassandra had to take a shower (in fairness to Cassandra, she did pit the dates and laboriously cut them up before she jumped into the shower.) Natalie had to send out an e-mail about the Girl Scout meeting (nice job Natalie). And Maddy had to read the Food Section of the newspaper (where there was a recipe for baked apples stuffed with dates and pecans, hmmm). So I threw together a pot of spaghetti sauce. Mixed the filling (with the dates cut by Cassandra). Maddy made the crumb mixture for the apples. I peeled and cored the apples. When I was done and ready to assemble the dish, there were only 5 apples sitting on the cutting board. I counted the cores -- there were six. So we went on a hunt for the missing apple. Not in the freezer, or the fridge, or the trash, or any of the drawers, or the microwave, or the dishwasher. We were thorough. But apparently not very observant. For Pete had wandered into the kitchen earlier, saw the nicely peeled and cored apples sitting there, and grabbed one as a pre-dinner snack. I took out a red delicous apple (not a good baking apple), peeled and cored that one, and then assembled the dish.
Because I was also making spaghetti squash, washing dishes, boiling water for spaghetti, trying to get Maddy and Cassandra to work on homework while the waited, etc., I forgot to baste the apples. So when it was all done, the sauce was all stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bummer. It looked like it would have been yummy. I really didn't feel like making the Honey Ricotta Cream either. Most of the reason I didn't want to make it was because of my last food processor experience. I was picturing flaming hot Ricotta Cream with gray oily streaks running through it. But since it was only 3 ingredients, I pulled out the food processor, which worked like a champion on the Honey Ricotta Cream. Which is, I must say, completely tasteless.
The apples were quite tasty. Only Cassandra and I ate them hot because Natalie had gone to bed and I had yelled at Maddy so much about not doing her homework that she was punishing me the only way she knew how -- by not eating my food. And Pete doesn't usually eat any of the desserts. He doesn't like desserts.
Maddy and Natalie took apples to school with them. Maybe they will give them to their teachers. I gave an apple to Deb. She liked it and said the Honey Ricotta Cream, while tasteless, goes very nicely with the apple. And I can tell you, the cat thought the Honey Ricotta Cream was just about the best thing he had ever tasted. I've never seen him beg for anything the way he begged for that.
I'm making that cake tonight -- even if it means I'm up until midnight. And I will catch up. I'll make the muffins and cookies this weekend. And I WON't give Maria the next recipes, so she can't get too far ahead of me. I'm utilizing the only power I have.


  1. ROFL by the time I got to the cat -- great post, and thanks for this blog, it's great fun to read about experiences you both have with these recipes!

  2. Oh, my! Very funny, in an occasionally painful way. You are going to have to watch that sneaky Pete "The Apple Snatcher!"

  3. Thanks for adding the pics. The finished coffee cake is gorgeous.