Wednesday, September 29, 2010

After these messages...



...we'll be right back.

It's been a busier-than-usual week and I haven't had the time (or the brain juice) to put together a post.  Sometimes the only thing that can remedy a creative block is the semi-new Black Keys album and an earlier bed time, albeit temporarily.

I'll be back on Friday, less like a zombie and more like that girl with the mediocre grammar whose posts you've come to skim and mildly enjoy.

I leave you with this picture from Berry White's birthday dinner.


The poor lighting conditions and blurred, grainy result turned out to be small blessings in disguise.

Ribbit. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Heathers (1989)


My parents wanted to move me into high school out of the sixth grade, but we decided to chuck the idea because I'd have trouble making friends, blah, blah, blah.  Now blah, blah, blah is all I ever do.  I use my grand IQ to decide what color lip gloss to wear in the morning and how to hit three keggers before curfew...

An overview, from left to right:

Heather Duke wants to be Heather Chandler.
Heather McNamara wants to be liked.
Heather Chandler wants the student body of Westerberg to kiss her Sam & Libbys.

Veronica wants out.

With the help of a rebellious new student J.D. (played by a very young, very squinty-eyed Christian Slater), Veronica tries to take down the malicious threesome.  Death, destruction and Corn Nuts ensue.

Heathers makes Mean Girls look like Sweet Valley High.


You were nothing before you met me.  You were playing Barbies with Betty Finn.  You were a bluebird.  You were a brownie.  You were a girl scout cookie.

A brownie cookie even?

 Chewy Brownie Cookies
Recipe by M-Stew

Makes 36 regular-sized cookies (according to Martha) or about 15 big-ass cookies, if you're heavy-handed like me.
 
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chips or chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
 
In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate until smooth, stirring constantly.


 Take the bowl off the heat and let it cool while you prepare the dough.
 
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 


  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and both sugars.


Beat until light and floffy.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat again. 

 On low, alternately beat in the chocolate and flour mixture.


Mix just until combined.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto your parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Don't worry about making them a perfectly-shaped mound.  They'll bake up fine, trust me.  Just try to keep them 2-inches apart so that you don't end up with one giant Gary-Larson-amoeba-looking cookie.


Don't even say it.  I know.

Bake, uh, those ^ things for 14-16 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.  

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.


I love the cracked texture and the raised centers.  Want to see what the middle looks like?


 Nyum.

Alright, so these cookies rule.  They're even better the next day, much like regular brownies.  


They could be jazzed up with some extras although I'm not sure how well, say, white chocolate chips or nuts would hold up since the dough is so soft.  Try it out.

Now creme de menthe?  That would be lovely.

Just don't confuse it with drain cleaner.


It's one thing to want someone out of your life, but it's another thing to serve them a wake-up cookie full of liquid drainer. 

Happy Friday, everyone.  You better motor if you wanna be ready for that party tonight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cookie Wallpaper.



A cool beer label, colored sprinkles, big swirls of obnoxiously-bright buttercream...I'm all about the decorative aspect.  

I recently purchased a sheet of wafer paper from Fancy Flours.  Wafer paper is, essentially, edible wallpaper for your baked goods. 


A part of me channeled William Wonka when I received it in the mail.  Lick an orange, it tastes like an orange.  Lick a pineapple, it tastes like...yeah.

Anyway, I had some extra hat parts to test the wafer paper out on.

Start with an iced cookie.


Trace out a shape using a sharp knife or an Exacto.


Brush a thin layer of corn syrup onto the back of the wafer paper.


Gently rub it onto the surface of the cookie.  Let it set, paper side down, for 30 minutes then flip them side up to dry for a few hours.


How easy is that?

You can use wafer paper on cakes or cookies decorated with buttercream, royal icing (when dry) and fondant.  Guaranteed to get you props.


This is what I imagine HGTV hosts snack on in between takes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Pretty Woman (1990)


Woman:  Did you like the opera, dear?
Vivan:  It was so good, I almost peed my pants.
Edward:  She said she liked it better than Pirates of Penzance.

Today is my mom's birthday.  She and my dad are jetting (well, driving) off for a little R&R in Atlantic City this weekend.  The woman loves her some slots and Three Card poker.  I always find it hysterical when they call their jaunts to the Sin City of the East "R&R time."  That's why they rule and I'm sure they're the reason why I enjoy Hold 'Em.  It's in the blood.

For as long as I can remember, Pretty Woman has been one of my mom's favorite films. 


She had a dress that was identical to the one worn by Vivian in the polo match scene (or maybe it was my sister...or maybe they just shared) but every time I see that scene, I think of my mom.  Then I do the Arsenio bark and fist-pump combo.

In honor of my mom, her special day and her love for all things Julia Roberts, we'll be making polo cookie hats.


To make these cookies, I used my go-to sugar cookie recipe but you can use any rolled sugar or shortbread cookie recipe you like. 

Use round cutters to make two sizes of cookies.


Prepare two batches of royal icing:  brown and white.


Start by damming and flooding the larger cookie.  The "brim" if you will.


Lightly dot on white icing while the surface is still wet.


Dam and flood one of the smaller cookies and place it on the center of the larger cookie.  Give it a gentle press to help it stick.  Add dots to the smaller cookie.


Let the cookie hats dry for a few hours before storing.

If you want to give them a little extra flair, you can add a fondant ribbon or band around the hat.
 

Probably not that cookie's best angle but it was still delicious.

Happy birthday Mom!  Win that monay! 

And to everyone else, have a fantastic weekend.  Do something crazy.  But regular crazy.  Not prostitute-crazy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.


This was my old header.


It's a picture of my mom's hand mixer.  She and my dad received it as a wedding gift in 1970.  Somehow, after 40 years, it still keeps on mixing.  It's been used to make birthday cupcakes for me and my sisters to share with our classmates, pineapple upside-down cakes for my dad (his favorite) and my first venture into creative cake decorating:  a Merry-Go-Round cake, complete with stand-up animal crackers and a Big Top crafted from a paper plate.  Basic, yes, but a sizable challenge for a 7 year-old who can barely reach her chubbed-out arms over the counter.

I took this picture last December, a few weeks before I unveiled my first post on this blog and months before I had even begun to grasp the concept of post-processing.

You can say it.  The composition is busted.  Amateur.  White balance?  What's that?

Anyway, while it pains me to part ways with such a sentimental picture, I figured it was time for a change.  One of Berry White's best friends, Allen, created the poppin' fresh new header.  Not only is he ultra-talented but he also nerds out over beer as much as we do.  This is why we're pals.  Thanks guy!

I bid you farewell, avocado-colored GE hand mixer.  Your time here may be over but you will forever live in my heart (and in my Mom's kitchen cabinet.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beer Style Breakdown 101: Double IPA

As we wrap up the pale ale portion of the series, let us reflect on the other styles that have brought so much joy to our palates (and so much anguish to our livers) over the past month:






You will be missed.

Who am I kidding, you'll all be sipped on again in the near-to-immediate future.  Yeah boy!

And now...the grand finale.

Dunnnn....


Dunnnnn...


Dunnnnn...


DA DUNNNNNNNNN!


The Double (or Imperial) IPA.

This style of beer is often referred to as "aggressive" and rightfully so:  the abv typically falls between a saucy 8-10% and contains even more of what you'd find in an IPA:  more hops, more malt, a more intense flavor and a fuller body.  Did I mention more hops?  Double IPAs like to leave their mark on your palate.

Today's demonstration beer hails from Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, Pennsylvania. 

Double Simcoe IPA.
Brewed using a single type of hop: Simcoe.


Chill, Simcoe.  You're safe.


Shall we?


Double Simcoe IPA has a deep, coppery hue and a medium head. The aroma is killer: huge piney hop presence, large grapefruit notes, some pineapple and sweet, almost syrupy malt. Much easier to detect its characteristics than a pale ale or IPA. 

The taste is intensely bitter up front - you can practically feel the hops latching on to your tastebuds.  The bitterness is then smoothed out by the creamy, bread-y malt, with only a trace of hop lingering behind..a pleasant little reminder of the outstanding beer you just experienced.

That's right.  You didn't drink that beer.  You experienced it.

Other suggestions, based on Mike's list of favorites:  Southern Tier Unearthly (NY), Bell's Hopslam (MI - seasonal), Victory Hop Wallop (PA), Avery Maharaja (CO - seasonal)

Cheers, friends. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sugared Cinema: Rosemary's Baby (1968)


What have you done to him?! What have you done to his eyes, you maniacs?!

That final scene in the apartment, and the moments leading up to it, jarred me in a way that only an old horror movie can.  A genuine, shudder-inducing eerieness.  I don't know if I can bring myself to even discuss it, seeing as it's past midnight, my husband isn't home and the cats have conveniently stationed themselves in another room.

Instead, I'm going to take the safer, less creepy route and reflect on Mia Farrow's trademark style in the film.

She rocked the pixie cut so fiercely.  A style only few girls, like Twiggy and Carey Mulligan, have been able to pull off.


Loooove Peter Pan collars.


Now that we've covered my vast knowledge of 60's trends, let's get to baking.  Honestly, I wasn't sure if I would dig this recipe.  I experienced a bit of rosemary overkill last year and haven't touched it much since.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Honey-Rosemary Shortbread
Recipe from Epicurious, courtesy of Gourmet

Here's what you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/12 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and rosemary (sans baby.)


In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, honey and confectioners sugar and beat on low speed until combined.

Hey squeezy bear!


But yeah, like I was saying, beat on low.


Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.  The dough will be coarse and have some pea-sized bits.


Form the dough into a mound and transfer to a lightly floured surface.  Knead it until it starts to come together, about 8-10 times.  Don't be overly knead-y.

At this point, you have a few options:

You can form the dough into a log, let it chill in the fridge then slice it or you can roll it out and cut into wedges, circles, bars, whatever you like.

I traced and cut out two 9-inch circles on parchment paper then rolled 1/2 of the dough on each circle.


Use a fork to score the dough into wedges.


It's time for the perforator.

Sprinkle the dough evenly with the granulated sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Let it cool on a rack for 5 minutes before transferring to a cutting board for slicing.


Such a simple, flavorful, aromatic cookie.


I'm definitely back on the rosemary wagon.

Happy Friday everyone.