Wow, this week has blown by. Truly time is flying, I’m now 6 months pregnant, which is totally crazy and means that in 3 months I’m going to be a mother of two! I can’t quite get my head around that yet, but I guess it will hit me like a truck one day at 4 a.m. when not one but TWO criey, cuddly mini-monsters will be wanting ALL of my attention at the same time. I’ve felt pretty chilled out about it up until now, but last night I suddenly became petrified by the thought of having two kids. Not just having two kids, going through labor again, post-partum depression, oh god….the TIREDNESS. I guess in some ways the struggle is lessened by the fact that it’s not all new. There won’t be as much self-doubt, questioning, second-guessing – or will there be ? Honestly this kept me up for several hours last night and now I’m supposed to be writing about food but I’m thinking about it again and am too tired to write anything else so you get some random blathering and a photo montage of what happened in my kitchen last week… This is my brain on kids.
Here’s my kitchen synopsis:
- Chocolate Almond Bundt Cake
- Mini Brie En Croute and the Cheesy Corn Muffins
- The Smoked Chicken and Candied Bacon Club Sandwich Bites
- Blueberry Bars
- Banana Bread and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Whole Wheat Pretzel Rolls Filled with Spinach, Brie, Mozzarella and Basil
I used this recipe from BBC Good Food a Chocolate Almond Bundt Cake. I often turn to bbc.co.uk/food when I am first attempting a new type of recipe because their recipes are straightforward and measured in the metric system, which I find sooo much easier and more precise than cups or TABLESPOONS – butter measured in Tbsp is my nemesis. WHY!!!? Every recipe writer out there has to know that by using Tablespoon measures for butter they are alienating all cooks not buying American butter with the Tbsp delineated on the packaging and are forcing us to Google annoying conversions. (I’m a very displaced German/American expat that can’t get my head back around the Imperial System or USCS after moving back to Europe and finally catching on to the metric system.) OK, tangent over… While the BBC Food recipes are straightforward, they are often a little lackluster, but it sets a good benchmark for me to improve from, so this is where I often start the journey of making something completely new.
‘New? Never tried a marble cake?!’ says you. ‘YES!’
Let me be honest, I’ve only ever tasted marble cake once and it was dry and crumbly and not very exciting. When I asked my husband for suggestions for sweet treats for the week he suggested a marble cake, so I decided to give it a try. Mine was very pretty (actually much to my surprise) but also dry and crumbly and not terribly exciting. I asked hubs what he thought and he said, ‘good’, but when I dug deeper and asked if he found it dry he said, ‘I think this sort of cake is supposed to be like that.’ Oh dear, I was trying to leave out the very key detail of who made the only marble cake I have ever tasted… Can I assume your intelligence and leave you to guess? It wasn’t him… Processing, processing, OK – got it? Let’s move on. Clearly he is an unreliable source when it comes to bundt cakes. I thought the inclusion of almond flour and chocolate chips would add moisture and complexity beyond that of standard white cake and weak cocoa powder chocolate cake, but alas, no, it was still just a marble cake.
Mission of the month: To make a delicious and moist marble cake… can it be done?
The Mini Brie En Croute and the Cheesy Corn Muffins were also not on my top list. I am very critical when it comes to food and especially my own cooking, so while these might have been OK or maybe even tasty they were not up to my standards and will require some tweaking before I can post a recipe. It might be my technique and not the fault of the recipes I followed, but neither came out as I would have hoped.
The Smoked Chicken and Candied Bacon Club Sandwich Bites were actually a serendipitous success as they were total free-form and the whole execution was rife with potential catastrophe that I pretty graciously avoided. In theater, they say if you mess up on stage just never let the audience know and just keep on going as if all was intended; these tasty little morsels didn’t let on that they were meant to be something all together different, now that is performance art.
I had planned to make Mini BLTs, which are easy to execute and on my rotation of snacks, when at cook time I realized I didn’t have any tomatoes! ALARM BELLS, what is a BL? It doesn’t exit, because if it did, it would be crap. Bacon and lettuce sounds stupid, Bacon Lettuce and TOMATO – now that sounds wonderful.
‘NO TOMATOES?! SHIITAKES SUSAN, I’m in Trouble!’
‘Who is Susan, and what are you talking about?’ you are likely thinking. Well shiitake I think you can figure out, and Susan is my culinary alter ego. I definitely feel like a Susan when I put an apron on. On to the next question (you are so very inquisitive, I love it) ‘What are those little mini orange things under the pickles, they sure look like tomatoes?‘ Oh yeah, those are tomatoes, I found them after I totally changed the game plan and was plating. I knew I had tomatoes….
Recipe to come…some day…maybe…
My Blueberry Bars are from Smitten Kitchen and are simply perfect. I make them often and frequently just use the shortcrust and crumble, exchanging the filling for some other fruity delight. I love that the base rises significantly due to the less traditional inclusion of egg and baking powder, making it a mix between a shortcrust, and well – something else wonderful. I use frozen berries even though the recipe calls for fresh and it always works perfectly, in fact I think the extra chill-factor helps give the base even more rise. The lemon juice and zest in the berry filling add a wonderful tartness balancing out the sweeter crust. If you like zesty things you could even add a bit more lemon juice. This is definitely one to add to your recipe arsenal.
The Banana Bread and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies are from the America’s Test Kitchen book and are both now my go to recipes for these two classic treats. The Cookies are honestly THE BEST chocolate chip cookies you will try. Many recipes claim this, and I’ve made a lot of them but these are IT for me.
I LOVE this book! This is not a sponsored post. I’ve always flipped through cook books for inspiration and love collecting and owning the thick glossy publications from my favorite chefs or restaurants as homage to my passion, but until recently I did not have the discipline to follow recipes from start to finish. I would always get bored and wing it somewhere in the middle, I still do, but in taking up baking I have accepted that I must first learn mastery through replication and emulation before I can attempt to innovate.
I love how this book explains why certain things are done in the cooking process and how that affects the final outcome. The description of what exactly they are trying to achieve and the many iterations and tests that it took to arrive at a final recipe deemed ‘the best ______’, reminds me of my own kitchen tests and helps develop technique and understanding not provided by all recipes.
*I wont post the recipes here from this book unless I have ‘made them my own’ as I think these people have worked pretty hard at perfecting these recipes and if you want them you should buy the book or a membership to their site.
*As I make all these recipes with frequency I have included photos from other occasions to showcase possible variations.
Whole Wheat Pretzel Rolls Filled with Spinach, Brie, Mozzarella and Basil are a work in progress. I’m pretty much a pretzel master. Ha, pat on the back. Sorry for the ego, but I’m pretty proud of this accomplishment because my first batch of soft pretzels about 8 months ago were very funny and not very pretzel-ish at all. Practice makes perfect and a few months down the line I now whip up pretzels for most parties and occasions and dazzle people with what seems like a pretty fancy treat which is really just buttery bread in a fun shape. Anyone can do it, I promise!
Resting on my laurels, I decided to attempt pretzel rolls and take it a step further by stuffing them. I also wanted to try and make them feel a bit more healthy and hearty so I blended flours for a bit of a pretzel/bun mash-up. The fillings were just what I had in the fridge, but it came out tasty, though still in need of some improvements. They were a bit too hearty and lacked that iconic buttery pretzel profile. The filling was nice but perhaps overpowered by the doughy-ness. I will do a separate post solely on pretzels and continue to work on the filled rolls.