Happy Halloween from Cidney the Girl Dog

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from Cidney the Girl Dog
Hello from Cidney the Girl Dog! Cidney and I wish you a very Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Cidney the Girl Dog
May your day be filled with the best candies, pumpkin carvings, and lots of hot cider and family time.

- mary and cidney the girl dog
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Mini Thumbprint Jam Scones - Savory Sweet Life recipe

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mini Jam Scones
Mini Thumbprint Jam Scones

I'm going to see the Book of Mormon tonight! I'm sooo excited. It's touring in Los Angeles for a short time, and my friend and I were able to get some tickets. We'll be in the last row...but we'll be there! (This bit of news has nothing to do with these scones...but I'm so excited that I just wanted to tell you. ;)

These scones are from the pages of Alice Currah's Savory Sweet Life cookbook. Oh my! These scones are really soft and lovely. I love this scone and can't wait to try adding other delights like mini chocolate chips, zest or ginger.

Mini Jam Scones
These scones are from Alice Currah's Savory Sweet Life cookbook. Do you have it? It is beautifully photographed, and you can actually see yourself making many of the recipes! They look tasty, and yet not complicated. You can always find inspiration on her blog, Savory Sweet Life.

Mini Jam Scones
I made the full recipe, but froze half the dough. It's always nice to have some scones ready to bake off when you have a visitor. I made square scones instead of triangles.

Mini Jam Scones
These scones are topped with Shannon's homemade Nectarine Jam and Ha's Farm's Strawberry Jam. My friend Shannon makes some lovely jams (blue ribbon winners!), and hosted Gwendolyn and me in making raspberry jam (that post is quite delayed and I'll try to get that up soon).

Failed SconesFor these scones, make sure your jam is on the thick side. At first, I made these with the raspberry jam. Um, they came out looking very interesting...the color from the jam bleed out around the circular indentation and left a ring around the jam. Well, because of the color and shape, the scones look like they might need a mammogram when they hit 40 years old. See what I mean?! You might be able to save it with the glaze, but just hear me when I say to use a thick jam.

Mini Jam Scones
You don't need to set out jam with these scones...it's built in! 

Mini Thumbprint Jam Scones
Adapted from Savory Sweet Life by Alice Currah

2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur's unbleached)
1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, cold
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (or so) jam (I used Shannon's homemade nectarine jam and Ha's Farm Strawberry jam)

1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon almond extract (I didn't have any almond extract in the house (or it was missing!) so I used vanilla extract)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.
3. Cut butter into cubes and scatter over dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, your fingers or two knives, quickly cut the butter into the flour mixture, until a coarse meal forms. You should see pea-size pieces of butter - don't overmix. Of course, you can do this in a food processor.
4. With a fork, mix together the heavy cream, egg and vanilla. Pour over the dry mixture and blend together until the dough comes together. Again, don't overmix.
5. If you wish to make mini triangles, divide dough into 4 balls and, on a floured surface, flatten into discs. Cut each disc into 4 wedges. I made square scones so I just made a square and cut them into 16 squares.
6. Place scones on a parchment paper-lined pan and made an indention in each scone. Spoon jam into each indention.
7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden. Remove and transfer scones to rack to cool before glazing.
8. Whisk together the milk, powdered sugar and extract until free of lumps. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle glaze over scones. Enjoy!

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Torrance Bakery - Cake Decorating 101 Class

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Cake Decorating Class 101 at Torrance Bakery

Guess what I did for a few weeks? I took a great Cake Decorating class with my friend, Rosie. Coordinated by El Camino College's Community Education program, the five-week class was held at the Torrance Bakery  in Gardena with instructor and owner, Kirk Rossberg.

For those of you who aren't from the South Bay, Torrance Bakery is an institution in this Los Angeles suburb. Kirk Rossberg purchased the bakery in 1984, and it has grown to two locations and over 80 staff. He is generous to the community, and you can see him here celebrating Torrance's centennial with a large "cake". Kirk, who started working in bakeries in high school, teaches this Cake Decorating Class two or three times a year. If you are the area, I highly recommend taking this class.

And, if you are keeping track...yes, I do seem to be eating my way through family-owned South Bay bakeries! King's Hawaiian Tour and now this class from Torrance Bakery. I do like to surround myself with carbs!

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
You remember Rosie, right? We've baked challah, yellow cake and entremets together. She's my friend Helen's daughter...I've known Rosie since she was three years old! Rosie is attending the prestigious Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island and was home for a trimester. Having spent time in France making fancy plated desserts, Rosie says it was fun to make some shaped cakes and practice piping and icing.

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Class #1: Basics
During the first class, you receive a packet of tools! Ateco spatula, off-set spatula, scraper, two tips, decorating combs, and a rose maker thingy (I'm sure that's the exact term). We crumb coated the cake, piled on the frosting, decorated it with the comb, and piped some shells.

Readers of the blog will know that I hate frosting (which is why the Bundt Cake is the greatest cake on the planet), so I don't have much experience. I definitely need to practice my decorating skills!

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Class #2: Fondant
I've never used fondant...and, like 99.9% of people, I don't like to eat it. Assistant Chef Dale led this class. After frosting and crumb coating our 7" cake, we covered it with the fondant. I think I spent half the class rolling out the fondant. We decorated with colored fondant, and Rosie used the play-dough toy to make a border (bottom right photo).

Kirk Rossberg (Owner - Torrance Bakery) - Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
We missed Class #3 that covered making roses, leaves and other decorating techniques...bummer. Here are photos of Chef Kirk Rossberg demonstrating the shaped cakes. It's amazing how fast and effortlessly he can pipe frosting. Actually, I'm in awe of how fast he can make a parchment pastry bag...I felt like I was making an origami contraption every time! Chef Kirk was awesome - very helpful, high energy, encouraging and gave excellent pointers. Although the class can hold up to 30 students, I never felt the class was too big. Chefs Kirk and Dale were able to help all the students. Also, the large production kitchen easily fit all of us.

The class is $175 plus $25 for materials. So, it's $200 for five classes from 5:30 - 7:30 pm. Sure, Wilton classes at Michael's are less expensive, but let's break it down. It's only $40 per class and you walk out the door with a fully decorated cake every week! Your friends, family, and co-workers will love you (in fact, Rosie's co-workers would have chauffeured her to class if it meant getting a cake the next day). Plus, you get instruction, tools and you don't need to make, bring, or clean up anything (for me, that is sooooo worth it!) At $20 per hour, it's delicious culinary art therapy. Since I missed Class #3 and always need more practice, I'm probably going to take the class again next year (there were repeaters in the class).

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Rosie's full pumpkin on the left and my Jack-O-Lantern with candy on the right. Oh, these were soooo cute!

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Class #4: Pumpkin Cake
I've never made a shaped cake so this class was a blast. Just in time for the upcoming holiday, a cute whimsical pumpkin filled with a chocolate frosting layer was just the ticket. The pumpkin was two 7" cakes (in the middle) and 1/2 of a 6" cake on the bottom and top.

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Class #5: Turkey Cake
We had such a good time making the pumpkin cake, Chef Kirk let us make another one. This week, for our final class, we made a Turkey Cake. We had two 7" cakes, and the back was cut. Then, another gold cake plate was cut and decorated with frosting. The head? A cupcake. So freaking cute. We also used the air brush machine - that's the kind of tagging I can get into.

Cake Decorating Class - Torrance Bakery - El Camino College Extension
Rosie finishing off her cute turkey...and my little guy peeking out from the box.

Here are some hints I picked up:

  • Freeze and use cold cakes for decorating.
  • Use hella frosting. (As a frosting hater, this killed me...but I totally get the point. You need to cover that cake so you can pull ribbed decorations, make shapes, etc.)
  • Cut the edges from the cake with scissors - so much easier!
  • Place eyes high up on a shaped cake and make them big. I should have made my bigger to be more expressive. 
  • Have fun!
All the photos were taken with my Android Samsung phone so they aren't that great...but you get the idea. And, I still hate frosting (personal preference), but I like playing with it. The vanilla cake we made each week? That was delicious! 

Thanks Rosie for taking the class with me!! Thanks Chef Kirk and Dale for a fun class!

Links of interest:
Torrance Bakery (opens to music) Locations in Old Torrance and Gardena (Los Angeles area, California). The bakery has seating for coffee breaks, and they make a zillion wedding and decorated cakes.
El Camino College Community Education (this class is listed under Culinary Arts)
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Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins from Joy the Baker

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Some days, you just need a muffin that has:

1. Melted chocolate in the batter
2. Chocolate chips
3. Topped with white chocolate

These are the perfect remedy for those situations in life.

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
Chocolate muffins are so close to cupcakes...but they don't have frosting. You know me...not the biggest fan of frosting.

These muffins are from Los Angeles' own Joy the Baker Cookbook that came out this year. It rocks. I hope you have it in your collection. These muffins are super easy to make, and are beloved by all. Who doesn't like chocolate chocolate and more chocolate?

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
From: Joy the Baker Cookbook - Find it on Amazon or your library

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I used Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (I used 96 grams of Nestle white chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a muffin pan. Joy's recipe says it yields 12 muffins, but I must have made mine a bit smaller and got 16 muffins.

Create a double boiler (place some water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer) and place the butter (chopped into about 8 pieces) and 5 ounces of chocolate into a heatproof bowl over the simmering water. Don't let the bowl touch the water. Melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring together. Once melted, remove and set aside to cool a bit while you mix the rest of the ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, soda, salt.

Whisk the brown sugar into the chocolate mixture. Follow with the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and fold together. Don't overmix. Add the chocolate chunks.

Dish into muffin tin. Bake for 18-20 minutes - until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan after 5 minutes and place muffins on wire rack to cool completely.

When the muffins are cool (or as long as you can wait), melt the white chocolate like you did the semi-sweet chocolate. Note that white chocolate melts at a lower temperature. Once melted, have fun drizzling it over the muffins.

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Frozen Burritos

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lunch. Dinner. Lunch. Lunch. Dinner. 

I'm working a 4/10 schedule now (four days, ten hour days). I need to leave the house at 6 am and get home around 7 pm. After walking/jogging the dog, I don't have much time in the evening for cooking, baking, or much else. I keep meaning to make a menu plan...but often end up at Chipotle or zipping through the market for some to-go sushi.

Inspired by Tracy at Shutterbean, I made a batch of frozen burritos one Sunday afternoon. I often buy the Amy's Bean Burrito for $3 but they aren't spicy enough and are a little too big.

Frozen Burritos
Wrapped in parchment paper, these are ready to bring to work and nuke for lunch. Do you use blue painters tape in the kitchen? I use it all the time. Blue tape, parchment and a Sharpie (mark the date made) are staples in my kitchen.

Frozen Burritos
I made some brown rice and added salsa. I know, totally not authentic Spanish/Mexican rice with sauteed onions and tomatoes...but I was in a hurry.

I found this Frontera tomatillo sauce from Rick Bayless at my local Sprouts Market (it's very good). And I used these whole wheat flour tortilla. Tortillas come in a zillion shapes and sizes now...so you can make these burritos big or small.

Frozen Burritos
I went to the Farmer's Market in the morning and picked up some fresh veggies. I roasted the zucchini, corn, and red pepper in the oven and let it cool off before making the burritos.

Frozen Burritos
I softened the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute (wrapped in damp towel) or you can steam them - depends on the size and type of tortilla. I filled mine with rice, black beans, roasted veggies, salsa, fresh cilantro (I should have chopped that cilantro a bit), black olives (I just love olives and could put them on anything...I know they usually aren't in burritos but these are MY burritos so they get olives :), and topped it with tomatillo and sriracha sauce (I was out of Cholula sauce). Of course, you can add cheese, meat, and lots of other goodies...just don't overfill or it won't close!

Freeze solid and microwave for 3 minutes on high when you are too tired to make lunch or dinner.
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The Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles
La Brea, near Third Street

Nothing like waking up and having a delicious meal with an dear friend. This morning, JustJenn and I went to The Sycamore Kitchen in Los Angeles for their pastries and breakfast. Karen and Quinn Hatfield, chef-owners of Hatfield's, opened The Sycamore Kitchen in 2012.

If you are in Los Angeles, you should wake up tomorrow and do this same. It was delicious!

Above, it's a buttercup ($2.75). Described to JustJenn as "It's like a croissant but with more sugar..." (that was an easy sell), it was light and flaky. My pick was the Blueberry Oat Bar ($3.25) filled with fresh blueberries and just the right amount of sweetness. The crust was perfect.

Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles
We ordered a few items from the Breakfast menu (until 11:30 M-F and 12:30 Sat/Sun). The Cinnamon brioche French toast, grated apple slaw, and whipped creme fraiche ($10) was sinful. It was quite rich and sweet. I could have that slaw on everything!

The Pork belly hash with roasted peppers and onions, russet potatoes, two fried eggs and spinach ($11.50) was delicious. The eggs were perfectly cooked. The savory dish was a nice balance to our almost-dessert french toast.

Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles
There are many more baked goods available...a return trip is definitely in our future. They have comfortable indoor and outdoor seating.

Sycamore Kitchen, Los Angeles
They also have a lunch menu that looks intriguing too. I want to try the Chinoix Salad with chicken, cabbage, apple, almond, puffed rice and muddled ginger vinaigrette, as well the sandwiches such as the Double BLTA with crispy and braised pork belly...next time!

They serve Stumptown Cold-brewed bottled coffee ($4.50) that Jenn picked up. I adore the bottle! And a little something for later? Of course! Salted Caramel Pecan Bobka Roll ($3.50).

The Sycamore Kitchen
(see their website for great photos, all my photos were just taken with my Droid phone)
Breakfast & Lunch (8-5 pm)
143 South La Brea (between Beverly and 3rd Street)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
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Spiced Pear Muffins

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spiced Pear Muffins
Spiced Pear Muffins

Do you read The Kitchn? I love the website. They always have helpful tips, recipes and just plain pretty things. I had a few pears on my counter and found Emma Christensen's recipe for Spiced Pear Muffins.

Spiced Pear Muffins
I used lovely bartlett pears from Ha's Farms. They are a farmer's market vendor in Hollywood, Torrance, Palos Verdes and a few other places. They have wonderful apples and even better pears. Unlike other muffin recipes that are more "quick bread" (liquid and dry ingredients combine), this recipe creams the butter and sugar together - more like a cake batter. As you can see, the batter is thick.

The original recipe uses a mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. I didn't have any whole wheat flour in the house so I used all a-p flour. Also, I made these quite early in the morning and completely forgot to put cinnamon-sugar on top of the muffins...as well as the ground ginger. It was too early for me. Oops.

Spiced Pear Muffins
I dropped these off, along with some cookies, at my former workplace. Although I enjoy my new place, I was at the old library for five years and miss the folks. I miss hearing about K's beautiful granddaughter, E's smart toddler who never has a bad hair day, J's travels around the globe, V's gardening and her intelligent sons, P's son who is a fire fighter explorer (I wish I could join :), F's March Madness (UCLA Bruins all the way), and H's discussion of White Collar and all things George Clooney.

Spiced Pear Muffins
These were a hit at the library. I hope you make some for your friends and family - especially those that you don't see everyday.

Spiced Pear Muffins
Spiced Pear Muffins
Adapted from Emma Christensen / The Kitchn's Spiced Pear Muffins
See the original recipe here (as well as very pretty photos)

1/2 cup (4 oz) light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (2 oz) white sugar
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) milk (I used whole milk)
2 to 2 1/2 cups pears, unpeeled and diced small (2 medium-sized pears, about 11 oz whole) (I used two Bartlet pears from Ha's Farm)
Cinnamon-and-Sugar for sprinkling on top (You can make a mix of 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon, but only sprinkle a bit of that on the muffin and save the rest for cinnamon toast).

Preheat oven to 425°F. Prepare 12-muffin cup pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the sugars and butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at at time and beat for 1 minute after each egg. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Scrape down side of bowl.

With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour until just combined. Don't overmix! Fold pears into the batter.

Fill muffin cups. I use an ice cream disher. I didn't fill mine as high as The Kitchn and got 15 muffins, but you can fill them full to get 12 bigger muffins. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar.

Place the muffins in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 400°F (don't miss this part!) Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are cracked and a toothpick comes out clean.
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