Friday, February 29, 2008

Julia Child's French Bread: Rise for Me?

"Feeeed me, Seymour," screamed the yeast in my poor, thin little batard. I looked down at its pale, dessicated visage and cringed. But then I took a bite, and all was well again.

The Daring Bakers, a group of men and women (and by group I mean there are hundreds of 'em) get together every month to bake the same recipe, chat about the process and post the results on their blogs. I started my blog specifically so that I could become one of these amazing women.

Of course I had to start on the month they decided to follow a fifteen page recipe: Julia Child's French Bread. You can imagine, what with a fifteen page recipe, that it might be time-consuming. You imagine correctly, dear Reader. It took me about eight hours--from first rise to first bite--and though I struggled to get my little yeast to rise for me--which, sadly, the didn't end up doing in as impressive a way as I'd hoped--it turned out pretty damn good.

So, having completed that gargantuan task, and after struggling through the question of how to properly knead the bread and exactly how I was to keep the fire alarm to stop ringing every time I opened the oven to spritz the loaves with water, I'm officially a Daring Baker!

I cannot wait until next month!

Julia Child's French Bread
(for the recipe, click here...if you dare!)


Love and Cookies,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dreaming in Black and White (Cookies)

I love New York City. I haven't been back (home) since early November, and I won't be going back most probably until July. But today the temperature dropped and I could almost remember the feeling of early spring in the city, so I decided to celebrate it with an icon of the good ol' Big Apple: Black and White Cookies.

Black and White cookies are amazing. When my sister and I were young(er), our parents used to take us to South Florida's version of a New York deli, Toojay's, where Ari and I would split a black and white cookie. There's something truly wonderful about the taste of a black and white, a cakey, spongy base with the sugary goodness of the icing, all with a just-barely-hidden bit of a lemony zest.

I've tried making these before, using an internet copycat recipe that claims to be the recipe used by Zabar's, but I've never had any luck with them. They always come out too dense and hard to be real black and white cookies, which, as the story goes, were originally made from leftover cake batter.

So I tried something new, and the batter came out amazingly cakey and spongy, just as I'd remembered. The icing's consistency required a little tweaking, but I think I got it right. And then I gave one to my roommate, who has never been to New York--she gave it a two thumbs up. Now I just need to find a true New Yorker to give it an authenticity test...

New York Black and White Cookies

I also made another loaf of rosemary focaccia bread last night to compliment the super veggie noodle soup I made for my sick roommates:

And now, I am off to ready myself for rehearsal number three, as well as for my second night of work at Domino's Pizza.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Where the Bee Sucks...

...There suck I. In a cowslip's bell I lie.

Sometimes I think I should have called this blog "Misadventures in the Kitchen," because I am Miss Adventure herself. I tried my hand at gum paste today, and, though the end product turned out quite nice, I had a heck of a time trying to acclimate myself to the medium.

Today was the first rehearsal for my play, Where the Bee Sucks, or Christopher Marlowe is Dead. It's my first full length play, and it's being produced by the Florida Players. My friend Michelle is directing, and we have the best cast and crew I could have asked for. So there's that.

Since I'm a crazy baker with a reputation for force feeding the actors and the crew on whatever show I'm working, I knew that I had to do something extra special.
So I went with the line from Shakespeare's The Tempest, which was the inspiration for the title of my play. A cowslip is a conical yellow flower, one that doesn't make for easy replication in cookie form. However, I found a really neat recipe that ended up working out wonderfully: Butter Horn Cookies.

I'm not really sure if they count as cookies...they're the strangest hybrid of recipes I've ever tried: 1/3 pastry, 1/3 yeast bread, 1/3 walnut meringue cookie. To make them, you cut butter into a flour mixture as if you're about to make a pie crust, but then add a yeast mixture to the flour and then let the dough rise in the refrigerator. Once that's done, you roll the dough out into circles and cut the circles into wedges, which are brushed with a meringue (prepared during the rise) and rolled up into cones.
Trés weird.

But once baked, they still didn't quite evoke cowslip for I dusted them with yellow sugar and then made the flower petals from gum paste. Once they'd been potted, I make little gum paste and chocolate chip bumblebees to adorn the flowers.

I'm really, really proud of this one:

Butter Horn Cowslips

Oh, and the reading went wonderfully. I love my cast, and I think the changes that I made to the script are going to work.

So happy right now.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Pie in the Sky

So, apparently I missed the deadline for Sugar High Fridays Pies that Evoke Your Dreams round up. I'm mildly upset at myself, but at least I still managed to make the pie.

It's been one of those weeks--nothing's gone particularly wrong, per se. In fact, a lot has gone really, really right. (For example, I was invited to a reading by Craig Raine and John Barth at the UF Gainesville Writers Festival, and ended up not only winning a free book of Barth's but also watching Raine drunkenly attempt an Irish jig in the middle of a grad student's living room. It doesn't get too much better than that--especially when debauchery and good company abounds.) I've just been in a bit of a funk, a sort of cloudy, not-quite-there-ness that won't seem to go away.

So I bake.

This morning, I made two pies, a Chocolate Chip Cookie Pecan Pie and a Chocolate Sugar Pie. The former is gorgeous and exactly what I wanted--it was the pie meant to evoke my dreams, since I'm pretty nutty inside AND I want to be a cookie chef. The latter pie tastes amazing but didn't live up to my visual expectations. Oh well. At least I know what to do better next time.

So, without further ado, the amazing Chocolate Chip Cookie Pecan Pie:

and a brief glimpse at the Sugar Pie:

I'm actually off to continue baking...I want this blur to go away...


Friday, February 22, 2008

Cupcake Hero: Tequila Sunrise Cupcakes!

I can't believe that it's already 22 February. I honestly had NO idea that it was so late in the month. It was odd; I came home from a production meeting for Marisol and then it hit me: CUPCAKES.

I was supposed to bake liquor cupcakes for the Cupcake Hero contest.

I snapped into action about 2 hours ago, running out to purchase some tequila and triple sec. (I was going to do something like a molten chocolate kahlua cake, but, frankly, I'm a little over chocolate right now, since that's all I seem to bake with lately. So I was ready to try something fun and crazy.)

So, here you go--just in time!


(and I realize that tequila is more of a "mexico" thing, but that was the only shot glass I had...)

(I hate the flash on my camera, but I wanted a picture that gives you an idea of the true colors of the cupcake instead of the awful lighting in my apartment.)

Hope you like 'em!


(also, if you missed it, I posted the pictures of my Violet Hour bouquet earlier today AND started a photo blog. So scroll down and check it all out!)

The Violet Hour

Last night, I went to see the Florida Players production of Richard Greenberg's "The Violet Hour." It was one of the first shows I've seen in a while that I had not read or known about before going into it. And I think that it might actually be the best way to experience theatre--to just experience it, to let the plot and the characters sort of wash over you instead of coming in with expectations.

Anyway, they did a lovely job, and now I'm going to go and read the play so that I can continue to experience it, having seen it.

The stage manager for the production ordered a cookie bouquet for the actors and 2 dozen Better than Chocolate Chip cookies, which turned out gorgeously. I love coming out of a show and hearing the techies gushing over the treats they stumbled upon backstage...

Also, I'm working on updating my photo blog, so check it out! ( Here! )

Okay. I'm off to finish writing a play....


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Let the Insanity Begin!

What is going on with the world?!

I swear: I turn my back on international politics for one moment to pay attention to domestic affairs, and all of a sudden Kosovo is declaring itself independent of Serbia, Pervez Musharraf's being voted out of office in Pakistan, and Fidel Castro is retiring. And it's only Tuesday.

This is going to be a long week, I think.

I forgot to mention a phone call I received yesterday: I had left a bowl of cookies at my friend Jo's house, and she called me, faux-panicking. "My roommates can't stop eating your cookies. [groans of delight and cookie-indulgence erupt in the background] You didn't put crack in them, did you?" Laughingly, I assured her that I hadn't. Earlier that afternoon, her roommate Michelle had taken a bite of one of the cookie mix cookies that had found its way into my cookie bowl after my roomie made them for her boyfriend, and Michelle said, "Oh. not bad. has a weird aftertaste."
It appears that I've spoiled my friends...they'll never be able to fully appreciate the chemical-laced powder sold on grocery store shelves again! (Ha ha! My diabolical plan has succeeded!)

It's those little things like that--knowing that people enjoy my cookies so much--that make the day wonderful.

PS On an entirely different topic, I'm going to start posting my photography to another blog that is accessible here, so check it out!

I was going to try to bake today--I have an idea for a recipe that I'm DYING (not literally) to try out, but it looks like I won't be baking anything new for about 48 hours. I'm going to be doing another bouquet, training for my job, doing a promo event for the Army (go figure), and taking some emergency headshots for a friend of mine. On top of that, The Violet Hour, a Florida Players production opens on Thursday night, and the University is holding a writers' festival that I'll be attending on Saturday.


Needless to say, things are going to be a bit crazy for the next couple of days! Hopefully, my kitchen won't hate me for the neglect too much...


Monday, February 18, 2008


Let me just begin by saying that this dulce de leche turned out to be more of a headache than I'd expected--but so worth it, I can't complain.

I bought a new can of sweetened condensed milk this morning, having baked the basic cookie yesterday, and proceeded to read the directions thoroughly this time, submerging the can in boiling water...for three hours. While I waited, I baked a batch of red velvet cookies, frosted them, and then bleached the kitchen. Technically, I could have waited another hour so that the dulce de leche would be thicker, but it was of spreading consistency (albeit a tiny bit runny), so I figured I'd just go for it and see what happened.

What happened was wonderful. The cookies came out absolutely amazing BUT the seemed somehow...plain. Despite being slathered in sugary caramelized milk and dusted with confectioner's sugar. The remedy? Why, dip them in a layer of dulce de leche, a layer of melted semi-sweet chocolate, and then top with a healthy coat of sweetened coconut, of course!

Delicious. Simply and utterly delicious.
Or, to be more ethnically correct, delicioso. The cookies are called "Alfajores," and there are a multitude of minor variations on the theme that have circulated throughout Latin America, but the recipe I used was a basic butter cookie with a tiiiiiny bit of rum (which I used instead of the suggested brandy) and a little bit of cinnamon (my choice) for flavor. Quite, quite yummy.

All right then. Enjoy those while I go and learn how to be a pizza delivery person.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

What a weekend...

I'm sorry I haven't been able to post anything new and enticing here since Valentine's Day! I have had a heckuva weekend...but never fear: I will have cookies for you tomorrow!

Today was one of those days...on Valentine's Day, after making my focaccia, I came up with a recipe for Tres Leches Cookies, of which, alas, I have no photos. It turned out moist and scrumptious (yes, I went there), but I had some left over condensed milk that needed to be used. So I figured: dulce de leche! Unfortunately, as I started the cookies, I accidentally burned the milk. So now I have dulce de leche-less cookies. Fortunately, Publix opens early in the morning. This lack of caramel-y goodness will be quickly remedied.

In other news, I'm now working at Domino's Pizza as a delivery driver. My roommates gave me a can of Mace for my key chain as a congratulatory gift.
I also went to Goodwill to find some pants for work, and I was hit on by a trendy hipster who pretended that he was finished shopping so he could come over and stand on line with me. He asked me if I was a cross country runner (to which I replied, "Yes--well, I used to be one") because I apparently have the most well-developed calves of any person he's ever met. Then he ran off, claiming that he'd spotted some more goodies to rifle through.

Okay then!

I was also in a show this evening at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre with some very lovely kids who I will miss seeing every Tuesday and Thursday morning! I've promised to show up in class, unannounced, with cookies to cheer them on as they prepare for the next two shows!

Anywho, I'm off to do some reading, writing, and recipe concocting...
Until tomorrow morning,
love and cookies,

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Focaccia Bread

Happy S.A.D.! (Single's Awareness Day!)
I made a rosemary focaccia bread for my friend's potluck dinner tonight...
I need to bake bread more often.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Valentine's Day Sachertorte

So, I had my second order! A Sachertorte--which I had only heard of but never baked (let alone tasted.)

Let's just say that the smell that wafted off of my cake was to die for.

Apparently the torte originated at the Hotel Sacher in Austria. It's a chocolate torte with apricot preserves and rum, and it's utterly decadent. Unfortunately, the original recipe is a jealously guarded secret, and no one but the hotel can make it.

So I used an approximate recipe that I found while searching the internet, comparing various ingredients and measurements, until I found the best one. Even then I had a little difficulty with the glaze, so I made a ganache using my own recipe.

I wasn't so excited with the simple ganache, so I decided to do a little personalizing. I added flakes of semi-sweet chocolate on top of a chocolate butter cream icing. I am very happy with the result:

I also made a batch of banana walnut muffins because I had some very ripe bananas and a bulk bag of walnuts. And, of course, I miss baking them for my stepdad and watching him fight off the hordes of my siblings and their friends as they attempt to raid the muffin jar...

Anywho, I'm off to do some serious writing, rewriting, and reading...


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Kay's Cookies is Open for Business!

I just delivered my first cookie bouquet to the stage manager of The Real Thing, as a gift from her to the talented and amazing cast.

I have had a mind-blowing couple of days, where the exhilarating has broken through the mundane sporadically, without so much as a warning. I'm not sure whether to feel incredibly accomplished or slightly behind.

Here are pictures of the Hockney Sunflowers*:

That's all for now.


*David Hockney's polaroids were a huge inspiration to The Real Thing's design concept, so the stage manager ordered sunflowers to reflect the influence of Hockney on our play.

Friday, February 8, 2008


I just realized that I had all of these (low quality) photos on my point-and-shoot that I've neglected to upload. So I'm uploading them now.
Enjoy the miscellany.
(Below: Kaitlyn's Birthday Cake, Betty Crocker Boston Cream Pie and Pancake Cookies, Mini Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Coffeecake Muffins, and a Sunflower Sugar Cookie...)

I'll post a real update later...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Superbowl, Super Tuesday, and other superlative days

It's been a little while since I've updated, but certainly not since I've baked.

I made some chocolate chip cookie and chocolate cheesecake bars at my friend Josephine's house the other night, and as soon as she sends me the photos, I promise to post them.

I've been feeling kind of low the last few days, so I didn't go out for the Superbowl or even Super/Fat Tuesday. But my roommates had some friends over to watch the superbowl, so I baked two loaves of beer bread, one with Sam Adams Black Lager and one with Sam Adams Honey Porter. The overwhelming vote was in the direction of the Black Lager, and understandably so. From reviews and other blogs I've read, it seems like the number one rule is, "the darker the beer, the better the bread." Which is not to say that there was anything wrong with the honey porter. It was quite good, as well. It's funny, because I'm not a huge beer fan. In fact, I hate it, because it's like drinking a loaf of sour bread. But it definitely works when enhancing the flavor of a loaf of bread.





Two days ago I was bored, and I've been trying to put together a collection of different cake-themed cookies, like the Boston Cream Pie, etc. I remembered a friend mentioning that I should try red velvet, so I figured, why not?
I took my basic sugar cookie recipe and added some basic moist chocolate cake ingredients as well as some red food coloring...and then filled and topped the cookies with a cream cheese frosting. The result was fantastic. I think these cookies are up there with the Boston Creams and the Vanilla Chai Teas.



I also decided that it's time to start actually selling my cookies. And so, witness the birth of Kay's Cookies:

I think pieces are finally starting to fall into place.
This is the best I've felt in weeks.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Real Thing...

...was wonderful. I'm so happy that I was able to have been a part of that production. Honestly, they did Tom Stoppard's words justice--and even found some moments that even Stoppard couldn't have done better.

I made my Buck's Fizz cupcakes as an opening night present for the cast and crew, and I spent several hours putting together a really nice display, writing the actors' names across the tops of the cupcakes in royal icing, and embellishing the cupcakes with orange sugar and orange-dyed white chocolates shaped like champagne bottles.

I'm not going to lie; I''m kinda proud of the end result:




But, with the good, always comes the bad:
I left for the theatre at 6:50 pm. Curtain was at 7:30, and I wanted to be able to get there early enough to wish the cast and crew luck before I took my seat, so I had plenty of time. No stress. Etc.
There's a cross street between my house and the main road, where, normally, people are smart enough to judge when to pull out and when to yield to the cars already on the road.
Obviously, the jerk in the accord (hereafter known as the JitA) wasn't smart enough to know how to yield. So she pulled out of the cross street and I almost rear-ended her. Fortunately, I managed to put on the brakes...and hold my cupcakes down. But the JitA didn't think that one gaffe was enough to secure her a spot in the section of hell reserved for awful drivers who enjoy putting other people in danger. So she proceeded down the road at 35 mph, although the speed limit assured her that 40 was perfectly legal, and then she decided to speed up as she approached the traffic light. All she had to do was make a right turn. It wasn't such a difficult thing to ask.

It wasn't as if we had a protected right on red; the light was green. GREEN. As in, you keep moving. But the JitA decided that, because she had sped up, she should probably slam on the breaks before she decided to make the turn. Unfortunately I couldn't read her mind. I managed to slam on my breaks and avoid an accident, but there was another matter I hadn't managed to catch as it went flying all over the front seat of my car: the cupcakes.

I spent hours on that platter. And there it was, smushed all over the front seat of my car. Sugar everywhere. Royal icing names turned into bright green smudges.
I nearly had a breakdown.

I know that everyone enjoyed the cupcakes despite the awful mess, but it was the principle of the thing. I worked for hours. I just wanted it to be special.
I really hope that girl gets her license revoked until she learns how to drive.
(PS she continued her slow crawl-speed up-slam on the breaks thing all the way to the school.)

Anyway, I have to go and get some stuff together for the first reading of my play, but I will probably have some updates tomorrow, as I attempt to add some culinary class to my friends' superbowl party! :)