Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cheesecake and Standing O's--A Week of Insanity

It's finally over...and I'm not sure it's hit me yet. Where the Bee Sucks, or Christopher Marlowe is Dead was one of the best experiences of my life. It's so strange to see the words that I wrote on paper--words that I labored over, fretted about, changed, rhymed, and manipulated--were really brought to life in front of an audience. And not only were they brought to life, but they were brought to life convincingly--my actors did such an absolutely incredible job, and I couldn't have asked for a better director or stage manager. I can't stop gushing. I'll post a link to photographs as soon as I have them uploaded to my computer.

Now on to the reason for this post being here so early in the morning: The April Daring Bakers challenge. I have no idea how I managed to muster up the time or the energy to complete it, but here goes:

Cheesecake Pops.

I was a little apprehensive about making these, mainly because the recipe called for five 8 oz packages of cream cheese--and in today's economic climate, well...and then there was also the water bath and the incredibly long cook time (especially since I usually had about 1 hour or less between each of my comings and goings in the past month). But somehow, I managed.

These cheesecake pops are made by preparing an actual cheesecake and then scooping out 2 oz balls, putting them on lollipop sticks, and then dipping them in tempered chocolate and various toppings (which were left to our respective discretions). I went with a plain cheesecake (no fancy flavorings) and graham cracker and sprinkle toppings.

The cheesecake was a little bit difficult to make, and, like many of the other DBers, I had a very long bake time. For some reason, the middle of the cake took forever to bake, while the sides browned nicely. I had a little extra batter left over because I only have a 9" cake pan, so I poured the remaining batter into my mini muffin pan and baked it in an impromptu water bath made from one of my cookie sheets. Those minis cooked perfectly. Duly noted for next time.

While I'm sure the cheesecake pops are great for gifts or party favors, I didn't even get a chance to stand them up and make them look all pretty--they were eaten straight out of the refrigerator by my roommates and friends. Apparently, they taste incredible.

The only real problem I had with them was getting them not to melt and fall off of the lollipop sticks. Here in Florida, it's too darn humid to keep them out of the fridge for more than a couple of minutes. Fortunately, they didn't last long enough to melt.

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake Pops

Oh...and I baked my cast and crew a cake, using the amazing cake decorating book from Tartlette as inspiration:

Where Have All the Honeybees Gone Cake
(Yellow Cake with Strawberry Whipped Cream filling, Butter Cream Frosting, and Marshmallow Fondant)

I miss the theatre already.

Oh! and one last thing: I was published in the Mangrove Literary Review here at UF. It's just a poem, but I'm still excited that someone thought it was good enough to publish.

What a week!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where the Bee Sucks

Once again, I am *SO* sorry for the lack of updates in the past few days. While I have been baking, it's usually done in the two or three seconds I have available to me between trips to the theatre building.

Tonight is the opening of my first full-length play, "Where the Bee Sucks, or Christopher Marlowe is Dead." I have been privileged enough to work with an amazing director, cast, and crew, and now, the baby that we've raised from it's first workshop reading is about to stand on its own two feet. Needless to say, I've been having a panic attack since last week.

I just wanted to share, since I cannot share any cookies today, a trailer that I made to advertise for my play. Enjoy!

All right, I'm off to get the day started...and to try not to think about the fact that my play starts in less than 12 hours...


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tasty, Healthy AND Kosher for Passover!?

Somehow, April is almost over, and Passover is just about here. I figured that, since I have some friends who like to keep kosher for Passover, I should try to find a way to make Kay's Cookies kosher so they can continue to enjoy them this weekend. In that same vein, my mother has been nudging me to make a healthy cookie, especially if it's one that my brother, who has an oat allergy, can eat.


The other day, I saw that Heidi of 101 Cookbooks had posted a recipe for Black Bean Brownies. I did a double take. Black beans in a brownie? Believe it or not, yes. I used her recipe (but, as usual, with a few artful tweaks by yours truly) and they were amazing. The most fabulous part about these brownies is that they're made without flour OR sugar. Sure, there's a sugar substitute, but it's actually quite quirky: Agave nectar. I found some at Mother Earth, and I'm kind of excited to see what else I can do with it in the future.

As for the un-oatmeal oatmeal cookie, I think I hit the jackpot on my first try. While searching for the agave nectar at Mother Earth, I stumbled upon a box of Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) flakes. Quinoa is not only gluten-free, but it's also kosher for passover. I made a basic oatmeal cookie, but substituted quinoa meal for all-purpose flour and quinoa flakes for the oatmeal. ...And then I added melted semi-sweet chocolate...AND cocoa powder.

I'm so happy the way they turned out:

Black Bean Brownies and Double Chocolate Quinoa Cookies

I'm still hoping that there will be time to try making some coconut macaroons before Passover, but starting tomorrow at 3 pm, I will be setting up camp in the Black Box theatre. Speaking of which, if you're in Gainesville (or its surrounding environs) and want to come and see my play, "Where the Bee Sucks, or Christopher Marlowe is Dead," then you should probably head on over to the Florida Players website and reserve your *FREE* tickets. My show is on Wednesday, April 23rd at 8 pm and Saturday, April 26th at 12 pm.

I'm so excited!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cookies in the Sun!

Hello hello! I do apologize for the lack of updates. I've been baking like a fiend, but I have barely had a second to post about said baking due to the crazy that is life before tech week. My play opens one week from today, and tech begins on Friday, so I'm basically selling my soul to the theatre until then.


I did want to share a piece of wonderful news: Kay's Cookies is in today's edition of the Gainesville Sun! You can click HERE to read the article.

This has been a very good week.


PS I have some crazy cookies in the works, so hopefully I'll be able to try them out in the very very near future!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pick Me Up and Drop Me...

I apologize for the lack of updates over the past week; this has been a ridiculously busy and emotionally overwhelming couple of days for me. Suffice it to say that, after a trip back to South Florida to see my incredibly talented younger sister's musical and to sort out my life, I am back in Gainesville and officially finished with my undergraduate career. That's right: I turned in my thesis today. It's over.

Now that things are falling into place in terms of my future employment and my monetary and living situations, I'm starting to realize that I graduate in three weeks. That's it. Only three weeks left until I officially have no more excuses. This is the real world, baby.

The worst part about the whole "graduation" thing is that I have to leave my friends. So I've been a little down in the dumps about that. I've been needing a pick me up.

And what better pick me up is there than tiramisu? Tiramisu is a lovely little dessert, the origin of whose name is derived from the Italian for "pick me up." I went out and bought myself some mascarpone cheese and decided to use kahlua and espresso instead of brandy or Marsala wine. And then I made a cookie.

The actual dessert is a combination of ladyfingers soaked in an espresso syrup and covered in layers of mascarpone cheese filling, shaved chocolate, and cocoa powder. So I had to do a bit of maneuvering to make the tiramisu cookie taste just right. I substituted a kahlua-caramel sauce (which I made up) for some of the sugar in my basic sugar cookie recipe, to imitate the taste of a ladyfinger soaked in espresso syrup. Then I put the cookie dough into muffin tins and filled the dough with a mascarpone and kahlua filling as well as two semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Then I covered the cookie with another layer of cookie dough and dusted the tops with cocoa powder. The result was pure yumminess. I am so happy that these came out well...they were a complete experiment, and I pulled the recipe completely out of the air. But when I took them to my friend's house last night, they disappeared in a blink of an eye. So I'm happy with that. Talk about a pick me up!

Tiramisu Cookies

Now, this is a little belated, but I'm slowly catching up with my posting, so:
The other night, my friend asked me to make him some savory drop biscuits. I'm not averse to making savory foods, but I'm much more into baking diabetes-inducing sweets. So this request was a bit of a challenge. But I am not one to turn down a friend's request, so I went on a quest for the perfect Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuit.

After reading through several different recipes, I couldn't find one that seemed to do the drop biscuit justice. So I tinkered for a bit, combining recipes, changing measurements, and dicing bacon into little, drop-able pieces, until I got a moist, tasty, savory drop biscuit. The house smelled incredible when they came out of the oven...My friend gave 'em two thumbs up--although I, being a semi-vegetarian am not going to be trying them out any time soon! Maybe a regular drop biscuit will be in order in the next few days...mmmm.

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Alrighty then. I'm off to use up some tiramisu filling before rehearsal...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Another Heads Up:

The Bread Baking Day Celebration Breads round-up is posted. Check out all of the delicious spring-y celebration breads there!

[EDIT]: Also, the Strawberry Seduction Round-up is up now too! Check it out!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

Have you ever watched another human being actually melt? I did, this past Tuesday.

I don't know how the gods managed to align the stars the way they did, but on Monday, I decided that I wanted to make molten chocolate lava cakes and on Tuesday, the Tuesdays with Dorie group decided to make Dorie Greenspan's version. So I had a recipe sitting in front of me, taunting me not to try it.

Of course I did try the recipe, although, me being me, I had to tweak it. And, oh boy, what a tweak. I ended up with these absolutely incredibly gooey mounds of death by chocolate.

So I brought them over to my friend's house, along with a batch of freshly baked Brownie Batter Cookies. The night before, he and I had discussed the possibility of death by chocolate, and how that would be the best way to go. So we decided to test the hypothesis. He ate about 8 cookies and chased them with a glass of chocolate milk. And then the cake. His reaction after the first bite was incredible. I was tempted to call the paramedics.

So, basically what I'm saying is: I'm definitely making these cakes again.
And I'm keeping Shands on standby when I do.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes


(PS a direct quote after the first bite of the cake: "Oh my god. It's almost better than sex!" And that, my friends, is that.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cookies and Amazing-ness

First and foremost, before I do or say anything else, I need to send a HUGE thank you to Tartlette for being so absolutely wonderful. I opened up my mail this afternoon and sitting there was a cake decorating book, which I am SO excited to use. Have I mentioned lately how amazing this foodie blogger community is? Because I am meeting so many lovely, wonderful, supportive people. Thank you thank you thank you!

Secondly, my chocolate graham cracker strawberry cream pie cupcakes were featured in this week's cupcake collection at All Things Cupcake, which was a really pleasant surprise.

Now, onto the cookies:

Two days ago, I realized that I had a bag of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips in my refrigerator. I didn't just want to do any old thing with them, so I went to Publix in search of something special. I ended up with a bunch of blueberries and a box of Lipton's Blueberry and Pomegranate White Tea. Thus were born the Blue and White Tea Cookies. For some reason, the blueberry ended up making them incredibly moist, and I also ended up using a little too much baking soda (a fact to be remedied in the next batch), so they're a little chewy. But the reception for them has still been quite good. One of my friends got his hands on them after rehearsal and couldn't stop eating them. "They're like muffin cookies!" he exclaimed.

Blue and White Tea Cookies

I have to admit something: I think I'm obsessed with baking with chocolate. I love it. I don't know why. But yesterday's experiment was an experiment in chocolate madness. I'm actually dedicating these to Shannon, who is playing the lead role in my play (which opens in 22 days!!!). We were having a conversation the other day about our favorite desserts (because, when I'm not baking, I'm talking about baking), and she mentioned that she had a terrible weakness for brownie batter. I agreed, but confessed a fear that eating any sort of eggy batter might be grounds for salmonella.

So I decided to fix the problem.

I decided on Brownie Batter Cookies. This cookie is a variation of my basic sugar cookie, saturated in cocoa powder. Where's the brownie batter, you ask? I decided to make an eggless brownie batter, minus the baking soda and salt. I filled my cupcake decorator with the batter and fitted it with a Bismarck tip so I could fill the warn cookies with the gooey brownie mix. Heaven in a cookie? You bet your rear end it's heaven.

Brownie Batter Cookies

So that's that. I'm gonna go bury my nose in my new cake decorating book! I can't wait to give it a try!