Friday, December 21, 2007

Daring Bakers Challenge Dec 2007 (on my XOPC!)

I'll start by noting how much I do love my XOPC. This is the first time I've tried to type anything of length on it, and has so far taught me one important lesson - the keyboard is frakkin small and will take loads of getting used to! (Good side effect - I will not be able to easily write long blog posts...)

Daring Bakers' Logo

Next month's challenge will be made easier with its presence as well. It's designed to be safe even with spills and dirt, and is therefore (in my mind) an outstanding recipe tablet PC. I will be sure to post pictures of it at work supporting my mad cooking.

On to this month's challenge - the Yule log!

I wasn't thrilled with the posting date since I wanted to bake this for Christmas, and have no place to store something like this for more than overnight. We also didn't return from our honeymoon until Dec 8! So I threw the cake together Monday and Tuesday nights for the Wednesday work party (which I wasn't able to attend).

I printed out the recipe and hung it on the wall next to The Joy of Cooking's recipe for more helpful hints; my laptop (mac) sat in the other room, website open and accessible to read others' comments. Several hours later (well, maybe 3?) the cake was baked and rolled and in the fridge. I frosted it the next day and somehow fit it into my crockpot. A friend of mine was going into work early by car, so she stopped by and grabbed the pot and cake (from my front doorstep while I was happily sleeping in!) People at work seemed to like the cake, seeing as it was mostly gone the following morning.

Recipe Customizations:

  • Don't be a moron like me and forget that frozen butter is not good for frostings.. Take the butter out of the freezer ahead of time. But if you are a moron and forget - cut it into 1TBSP chunks, put on a plate with parchment paper, and set on top of a low heat source (like our heaters in this freezing cold apartment). Then check each one individually for mooshyness. ^_^
  • When I took the cake out of the oven, as Joy advised, I let it cool for 10', then upturned it onto a sheet of tin foil. When I rolled the cake, the eggy "Skin" stuck to the foil.
  • I brushed the cake with a mix of Kaluha and Godiva choco liquor before rolling.
  • The buttercream "curdled" - but I let it keep beating until the lumps went away (Just like when we made our wedding cupcakes' vegan frostings)
  • Flavors in the frosting - I hadn't bought proper espresso powder, so I used amazing coffee powder from Aruba, almond extract from the Netherlands (VERY LITTLE), melted dark chocolate, and a little bit of vanilla.
  • Always, Always, ALWAYS use the beautiful wedding-present KitchenAid Stand Mixer!
  • When I frosted the cake the next day, the frosting crumbled (too cold) so I put it back in the bowl and re-creamed it (thanks vegan wedding cupcakes ;)
  • Marzipan mushrooms!

Whole Foods had Buche de Noel for sale today, but people instead asked me why I stopped bringing in baked goods (Hmm maybe because I was testing wedding cupcakes on you?) and refused to try the store-bought one since mine was so amazing. :)

I plan on making this recipe for a New Year party, but with lots of hazelnuts and frangelico. I also have had some people ask for the recipe. My response? "Of course - just wait until Saturday, and the recipe will be all over the internet." :)

This Month's Challenge was brought to you by the founders of Daring Bakers - Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. Recipes were taken from Nick Malgeri's Perfect Cakes and are available here. Denille - GO BAKE THIS CAKE!!! (or we can do it... TOGETHER.)

What's next for today? Well... the house is a wreck so I must clean it. Especially the kitchen. And then I will start making for some people my dad's locally (to the Concord, NH area) famous Christmas Bread recipe! I will plan on posting about it soon.. but for now, here's a picture of when I made it in college for our dorm's Iron Chef competition... AND I WON.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Meet Yuka (ゆか、紫)

My baby OLPC arrived today! She is SO CUTE. I played a bit with her, got her connected, installed Tetris, played in Terminal. I am SO IN LOVE. She'll be PERFECT as an ebook reader, and will make an outstanding kitchen compy (I can store recipes elsewhere and call them up as needed; the screen is so readable, and she's so well sealed, that I won't have to panic the like I do when my MacBook Pro is "assisting," but getting flour and whatever else I'm cooking with on (and probably in) her!

The XO logos on the front lid were not customizable, but were completely random selection. There's 20 possible colors, and the O and X parts can be separate colors. I had a 1 in 400 chance of getting something like I actually did get... Purple!

I spent all last night thinking of a name. All my computers have since had four-letter girl names. My old windows box from '99 was named Lyra; 12" Powerbook was Quon, current MacBook Pro is Mjrn (in OSX) and Jote (in WinXP), and even my Blackberry Curve's name fits (Cici). Murasaki (紫) is the Japanese word for Purple. The name suited, but was too long. So off to Jeffrey's Japanese Dictionary!

Fortunately it has a "Search by Japanese" option, so I looked through the female names with that Kanji, and came up with one favorite - ゆか, or Yuka. Who else has that name? Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto. The voice actress for Yukino's mother in KareKano. A video game soundtrack composer. A bunch of other Seiyuu (voice actresses) and famous people. So it's a real name, and it's a safe name - and it uses the same kanji for purple.

So everyone, meet Yuka, the newest addition to the computer farm. I'll post more on her as I get to know her and how she works!

For more information on OLPC (the one laptop per child program) visit their website at: You can also read about the Give-One-Get-One project which I am a part of.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I've been meaning to post about our honeymoon, but just haven't had time or energy. In the meantime, here's sunset at the Divi. We grabbed two pina coladas and my early Christmas Present (canon powershot 850) and did absolutely nothing but watch evening fall and boats sail by.

Posts I plan on writing soon:
* Desserts for Dinner at the Sunset Grille
* Christmas Cookies (they're coming slowly)
* Daring Bakers (huzzah)
* Maybe, just maybe, a post not about food.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This is a story in which I make the same bread three times and decide I need more bread-baking experience.

I joined Daring Bakers after seeing their delicious works time and time again linked to via tastespotting (which you MUST go visit!)  Tanna, of My Kitchen in Half-Cups, challenged us with a savory potato bread recipe.  I've been making a lot of whole wheat bread with help from Laurel's cookbook, I'm damn skilled with english muffin bread, and who can mess up no-knead bread?  So off I went!

I made the recipe three separate times with minor variations, none of which changed the deliciousness drastically, and each of which I learned what to do or not do.  Unfortunately even the ones I considered failures I don't have many pictures of, as they were all eaten pretty quickly, with the exception of the first "artisan-style" loaf. 

I shaped it similar to Laurel's bread book - roll it into a circle and fold in the edges somewhat like a flower, let it rest, and repeat.  It rose on well-floured towel.  I preheated my old 1970's corningware 4 qt dish at 450ºF, dropped the risen loaf in, spritzed it with water, threw on the lid, and baked it next to the loaf in the pan.  I unfortunately didn't think to turn down the temperature (as others noted, they baked at 450F for 10', then 375F for the remaining time - which I did on trials 2 and 3.)

The second time around I made a loaf and some rolls.  They were going along swimmingly until someone texted me and said "Hey, let's go to the diner and get dinner!"  I threw the bread and rolls into the fridge, hoping the rising would retard just enough to get me through an hour or two of enjoying tea and company.  The bread over-rose a bit but the rolls didn't rise at all, and sadly I had to throw most of them away.  (the loaf of bread is almost gone, but here's a picture I got of its crumb yesterday before it was finished off!)

The third time I made rolls for Thanksgiving and turned the rest into a loaf (no-knead style again).  Rolls had fresh chives from my garden (now relocated to pots for the winter); loaf had fresh chopped garlic.  Before the proofing stage, I rolled each flat, pressed the chopped garlic or chives into the dough, then rolled it up and cut or shaped it accordingly.  The rolls this time were beautiful; I forgot to take pictures before they got eaten!  The artisan-loaf was frozen until last night when it was the side-dish for my homemade tomato soup, since the boy was sick.

I learned a few very important things -
*  Make sure the room is WARM ENOUGH for rising!  
*  Dissolve the yeast entirely in the warm liquid to make sure none is left behind
*  Add the salt to the second cup of flour, not into the first (according to Baking911.  I did this with the third trial, and I swear it was the magic step for the rolls!)
*  If you accidentally butter a pan you won't use and can't bring yourself to waste the butter, press saran wrap onto all the edges and store the pan in the fridge until it's time to bake the rolls. :)  It will be FINE.

I'm looking forward to my next Daring Bakers challenge!  I'm hoping it's something that won't interfere with making dad's holiday bread, which I MUST make.  Oh, and biscotti.  I made Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites biscotti, and it is delicious.  Maybe Santa will bring me a new digi-camera so I can take lots more pictures of things I'll make...

The picture at the top is what I did with the first loaf -- the crust was overbrowned on the pan-loaf, so I sliced it and used it for toast.  Since Jared was off on a business trip I had fried-end-of-the-season-green-tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, and olive oil toasted atop homemade potato bread with a glass of Rhubarb wine, and SHARED NONE OF IT.  Yum!

The recipe is posted here on Tanna's Blog.  Thank you for such a great challenge!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Goodby Old Blog!

I've been procrastinating about moving my blog from xanga ( for ages. To be honest, I was too lazy to get my butt in gear and make a new blog. I'd also been on xanga for over six years (since October 2001!) and was sort of attached to it. Recently my mom sent out a general email to the family asking about starting up a family blog, so I logged into Blogger yet again and started poking around. I suppose with some work I can make a better blogspace on here (especially seeing as I need a better place to post my baking challenge results than a cryspace for depressed thirteen-year-olds!).

We held a fondue party about a month ago, during which I spent a lot of time over the stove with pots of cheese. Thanks to Threadless and its awesome Communist Party t-shirt I was quite stylish and comfortable. Trev (my maid of honor at my wedding this past summer, hometown neighbor, ex roommate, and all around awesome friend) commented on how I was slaving away as the Communist Cheese Fairy. For my cooking exploits I suppose it's an apt enough name. ^_^