Learning from Bad Cookies

Interesting article on how to bake a better cookie.  I have certainly learned over the years.  This is good basic information
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1. Amount of Flour

Getting the flour ratio right is crucial to a nicely textured cookie. Too much and your cookie will be dry, crumbly, and chalky. Too little and your cookies will burn easily, spread a TON, and will feel greasy to the touch. Not good!

2. The Mixing Method

It is tempting to dump all your ingredients into a bowl and stir them together all at once. Surprisingly the results aren’t terrible, but the cookies were inconsistent in flavor. On the other hand, our over-creamed batch resulted in overly tough, puck-like cookies. Finding a happy medium between doing the most and doing the least is important for both the texture and flavor of your cookies.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

3. Baking Powder

There’s a reason baking powder is never called for in cookies: Adding it results in cookies that have a Play-Doh texture and a vaguely chemical taste.

4. Eggs

You gotta have ‘em! Leaving them out will result in overly sweet balls of dough. Crunchy on the outside, doughy in the middle, and completely unsatisfying.

Soft & Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

5. Sugar

Not enough and your cookies will taste more like shortbread, too much and they’ll be crunchy, burnt, and obviously way too sweet.

6. Bake Time

We’ve all burnt a batch of cookies, so you likely know the deal with over-baked cookies. They’re dry, crumbly, and come with a slightly bitter burnt flavor. Still edible, though! Under-baked cookies are doughy, soft, and slightly greasy. Luckily, if that’s your issue, you can pop ‘em back in the oven and give them a little more time.

Learning from Bad Cookies

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

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Pasta is one of those things you’ve never going to stop making, so you should probably know how to do it well.  From the right size of pot to cooking time to storing leftovers, here are some pasta mistakes I suggest you stop making immediately.

Note: this guide is exclusive to standard, Italian-style wheat pasta. Many other types of noodles, like soba, glass, mixian, and rice vermicelli, as well as gluten-free pasta, sometimes cook differently, so for those, it’s best to consult the package for best practices.

 

1. Using a pot that’s too small

Sure, it’s a pain to wash a big stockpot, but you know what’s just plain dumb? Slowly shoving a pound of fettuccine into a one-quart saucepan until it snaps in half. When making pasta, especially longer noodles like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini, it’s best to use a big pot (one with a diameter that is at least the same length as your noodle) with plenty of water. If you don’t have a stockpot, you can actually boil pasta in a skillet.

2. Not adding enough salt to the water

It may seem bonkers to toss a fistful of salt into pasta water, but keep in mind that you’re not actually ingesting all that water. To actually have a fighting chance at seasoning the pasta while it boils, you need a lot (like several tablespoons) of salt. There really isn’t an exact measurement to use here, but I would say a good rule is three tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta. If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some. Don’t use your fancy Himalayan pink or flakey sea salts (they’re expensive and most of this salt is going down the drain), nor iodized table salt (it sucks).

3. The water isn’t really boiling

In her brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat says to evenly prepare noodles made with wheat, they must be cooked at a vigorous boil, as “the pandemonium keeps the noodles moving, preventing them from sticking to one another as they release starch.” This isn’t a mere suggestion, folks. Bring your water to a rolling boil, dump in the pasta, give it a stir, and ensure that the pot continues to boil.

4. Adding oil to pasta water

Some people think that to keep pasta from sticking itself in the pot they must add olive oil to the pot. False. If your pot is large enough, at a rolling boil, and you’ve stirred the noodles around after dumping them in, there’s no reason pasta should stick to itself or to the pot while cooking.

5. Overcooking pasta

If you’re cooking pasta according to the package directions, odds are you’re going to overcook it. Especially if you’re planning to mix the pasta into heated sauce, pasta will taste perfectly cooked (that is, soft with a slight bite, also known as al dente) when it’s pulled out of the pot about three minutes earlier than the package says.

6. Tossing the pasta water

Most people simply dump their cooked pasta into a colander, letting all cooking liquid run down the drain. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, use a slotted spoon, spider, or tongs to pull out your pasta and drop it into your sauce or put it in a colander, leaving the pot of warm water on the stove. Starchy pasta water is the secret ingredient your sauces have been missing. Whether you’re making cacio e pepe or linguine with clams, a hefty splash of pasta water will thicken your sauce and encourage it to coat each noodle completely.

7. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Shocking pasta with cold water after it comes out of the pot will indeed stop the pasta from cooking more, but it will also rinse away all the delightful starch that helps sauce cling to noodles. To avoid the overcooking factor, see rule #5. If you’re rinsing to ensure the noodles don’t stick together, you should simply be ready to add the pasta into your sauce as soon as it comes out of the pot.

8. Storing leftovers improperly

You can get very sick from poorly stored pasta, so if you pay attention to any of these tips, make it this one. After your pasta dish is cooked and divided among plates, any leftovers should be cooled, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated. When cooked food is held at a temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF, it’s known as the “danger zone” by the USDA. Bacteria love moist foods like pasta, so any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and fully reheated before you eat them again (and it’s best not to wait more than a day). You may feel bad about throwing away food, but we all know reheated mushy pasta isn’t very good anyway.

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

Old in Art School

Facade finished.jpg

When I saw the title of this book, I was immediately attracted to it. This is the year I turn seventy. At sixty-two I completed my Ph. D. in Business Marketing, not in art, although I did finish my BA in Art in 1971 and my MA in Art (although with an emphasis in interior design) in 1985. I understand going back to school when a little older is all about attitude. I laughed at the beginning of the book, as the author described the other students, the attire, the classrooms and the fear of failure, but as I listened on to the audio-book I liked it less and less.  One of the reviews of the book described how I innately felt perfectly:

“I was excited to dive into this book, hopeful for little nuggets of wisdom for my similar journey and perhaps a laugh or two in self-reflection. Instead, the reader encounters a self-indulgent, needy author who repetitively presents an inventory of her resume ad nauseam. She used this book to disparage other students all while trying to impress the reader by spewing supercilious comments and including very little about the process or art school. This book had so much potential but was so disappointing.” 

It is interesting to think that no matter how successful you were in what you did before, no one in your art classes knows that or cares about that. I had a little of that this weekend when I took a tonal painting class of street scenes.  I love the work of the man that taught the class and I learned quite a bit in the class. Mostly I learned I don’t like doing a tonal painting.  I love painting with color! Color kept creeping into my paintings in the class and I kept getting in “trouble” for adding too much color.    Sometimes in life, it is just as important to know what we don’t like, as much as what we love.

When I sat down to write my blog, I thought I would look at the artwork of the author of the book before I wrote a lot about it. Viewing her artwork, the first thought that crossed my mind was that she wrote this book, not about her real art school experience, but to promote herself and her art. Her background is in writing and history, so she knows how to write about history, but in this book, she makes being older a roadblock, not an advantage. She has gotten quite a bit of attention over the book, and thus her art. What is totally missing in this book, are all the other wonderful artists that started their art life later in life. She is certainly not alone!

Maybe I should write about starting and stopping art in your life. You start as a child and my case went on to study it in college. Then you start a career, get married, have children (oops no time for art), and in my case was widowed at a young age and raised my sons on my own and don’t have much time for art till your children are grown and have lives of their own.

When she started talking about how you have to dress to be a successful artist, I started losing interest.  Moving forward to discuss the philosophical side of the history or artists (in her opinion) I began wondering if I wanted to bother to listen to the rest of the book.

The book made me think about my own tonal experience. You can enjoy viewing art that you do not enjoy attempting. You can be award-winning in other fields and not art, and still enjoy painting. I have had many art shows, but never entered a contest with my art.

Study Terry Miura.jpg

The class was a learning experience. We worked on these small the first afternoon after watching a demo in the morning. The one on the top right was the first one with the second below and the third in ochre tones.

We moved forward painting in a slightly larger format the second day after another morning demo. My green trees are too green for tonal painting, but as I said I like “color”.

Street scene from Terry Miura Class.jpg The last and/or third day we had options of what we could paint.  I chose to paint a facade of a building, as I used to do a lot of rendering in interior design school, and as an interior design college professor.  I am still working on the facade and realized when I stood back and looked at it, I had added a shadow to the awning, and now I had shadows coming from two directions.  I will try to make the correction and add it to the post. The building and the cafe next door need names too!

I heard once, and again in this class: “If the painting is not selling, add a dog.” I think this painting may need a dog-walker with several dogs. I think it is better to laugh at oneself, that try to be pompous about what you cannot do.

Facade.jpg

As always, I walked away having learned something new, met new people that love art and enjoyed the camaraderie of painting with new and old friends.

I will continue to listen to the rest of the book and hope it gets better, but reading several reviews I don’t think that will be the case. It makes me want to write a funnier book on a similar topic. One of the other reviewers wrote: “More of a self-congratulate memoir of past achievements than a book of more recent achievements. Disappointing … could have been much more.” 

It could have been written in a much more positive manner and encourage those of us over twenty to try different things.

Old in Art School

Make Your Own Vanilla

Vanilla is expensive and Imitation Vanilla is just that, and if you taste both they do NOT taste the same.  I never thought about making my own Vanilla till a group of cooks on Facebook of all places were talking about what kind of vanilla to use.

A good number of professional cooks and home cooks make their own.  It is just something I never thought of doing, but love the idea.  I am going to be making Vanilla this week.  I might make enough to give as gifts.  What a great idea!

Many people are often familiar with clear or imitation vanilla extract. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; the pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that’s it! Don’t be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure. Imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Here is how simple it is to make your own Vanilla:

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar
  • 7 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality)

Directions:

how-to-make-vanilla-extract

Step 1: SLICE

Slice each bean once long-ways and place in a bottle. (If it helps to cut them into smaller, tootsie roll-sized pieces so they fit in the bottle more easily, go for it).

how-to-use-vanilla-beans

Step 2: POUR

Pour one cup of vodka, rum or alcohol of your choice. Make sure vanilla beans are completely submerged.

vanilla-beans-in-vodka

Step 3: SHAKE

Shake once or twice a week.

Step 4: WAIT

Wait about 8 weeks
Presto, your alcohol has turned into delicious vanilla! Store it at room temp and out of direct sunlight, and you can enjoy this puppy til’ the last drop!

homemade-vanilla-extract-recipe

What makes homemade vanilla extract so much better than “store bought”? First, you have control over the quality and type of vanilla used in the extract. Using premium grade vanilla beans will provide significantly better flavor and aroma than commercially produced extracts. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract from different types of vanilla beans? Each different vanilla variety will create a unique flavor!

Do you prefer bold and smokey? If so, try Ugandan vanilla beans. Traditional, rich and creamy? Use Madagascar Vanilla Beans! Floral aroma with a unique cherry-chocolate flavor? Venture to the Tahitian vanilla beans. You can even blend various varieties together! The floral, fruity, cherry-like notes of the Tahitian variety blend wonderfully with the nutty-chocolate character of the Bourbon varieties.

After 8 weeks the vast majority of the extraction process is complete. At this point, the vanilla is ready to use and the vanilla beans can be removed. If the vanilla beans are left in the bottle, the flavor will continue to evolve just like a fine wine (just be sure the beans are always submerged in alcohol).

Whether you are a seasoned baker, procrastinating about making vanilla extract, or looking for the perfect holiday gift this year it is easy and will save you a lot of $$$$.

Making vanilla extract is a fun, easy way to bring a favorite recipe to the next level.

Make Your Own Vanilla

Tips from Culinary School

Found this article online by “my recipes” and thought the information was quite valuable.  I am always looking for ways to make things taste better in simple ways.

Good Stock Changes the Game:

This is probably something you’ve heard before, homemade stock is always going to be superior to the stuff you can buy in boxes, cans, or cubes at the grocery store. We use stock in almost everything. In classic French cuisine, so of course, There are all kinds of distinct schools that go about culinary training differently, but in French cooking, the sauces are everything. And the sauces are all built with great stock. Restaurants, of course, have the advantage of having many, many carcasses and scraps of mirepoix to put into huge vats of stock. It’s hard to get stock like that at home, without the industrial quantities that restaurants work with. But even just making quick stock in your Instant Pot will make your sauces and soups taste much, much better.

Watch the Bits at the Bottom of the Pan

When you’re searing meat or chicken on a pan, you’re, of course, watching the piece of meat so that it browns nicely and doesn’t burn. But it’s equally important to watch the browned bits at the bottom of the pan as they’re a good indicator of whether your pan is running too hot. Plus, those browned bits,  are incredibly dense in flavor. When you have them, you should always try to use them by degreasing and then deglazing the pan after you’re done cooking your meat. That just means pouring out any excess fat and then pouring wine, stock, or another liquid to help scrape up all the delicious bits. That’s an easy way to make a pan sauce, a great addition to your meal.

The Pan Cooks the Food, the Flame Doesn’t

You want to pay attention to how hot the surface of the pan is and how high your burner is turned up. Pans hold heat to varying degrees, and it’s important to keep that in mind when figuring out which one to use for what application. For very delicate things like fish, you often want to turn off the flame when the dish gets to a certain point of cooking, and the heat from the pan will continue to cook it. Pay more attention not just to how big the flame was under the pan, but how hot the pan was getting.

Weighing versus Measuring Cups

In applications where absolute precision isn’t necessary, eyeball amounts, and when precision was necessary, use kitchen scales. Bakers swear by using scales, and digital kitchen scales are a pretty cheap addition to the kitchen, and much better measuring by weight is than relying on measuring spoons and cups. Different flours and sugars weigh different amounts.

Reduce for Flavor, Thicken Later

When you’re making soup or stew, one of the steps is always to reduce a component. You reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, and on and on. Part of the point of reducing the liquid is to thicken it. But thickening really shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reducing down a liquid. You can always use a roux or a quick beurre manie to thicken a liquid later. The point of reducing is to build flavor. You reduce it to the point where you like the flavor, season it, and then thicken it.

Rest Your Meat, Then Reheat

Resting meat is important. When you don’t let it rest after you cook it, whether its steak or roast chicken, the juices spill out over your cutting board and the meat gets dry. But It’s better to let the piece of meat rest even to the point of getting colder than you’d like, and then just put it in a very hot oven for a minute or two to reheat. That lets the juices reincorporate into the meat, then reheats it without cooking it further.

Reheating and Cooling Things Properly Is Crucial

Lots of things in restaurants are made beforehand and reheated because making things a la minute for hundreds of people is a good way to become very overwhelmed. You can bring up most things to the temperature they were when you were cooking them without cooking them further. That means that you cooked, say, a piece of chicken until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. As long as you cool that chicken properly, you can reheat it up to that internal temperature again without it getting overcooked. You don’t want to do that too many times, because the meat will dry out, but you won’t ever overcook your meat by reheating it if you keep that in mind. Similarly, with cooling things down, the danger zone for bacteria is when meat is in between piping hot and refrigerator cold. To get things cold quickly, it’s way more effective to put them in a bowl over a bowl of ice water than throwing them right into the fridge.

Depend on your Senses, Not the Directions

The throughline between very famous chefs of haute cuisine and my grandmother is that they don’t rely on recipes by the letter, they rely on their senses. Pay more attention to how the meat looks and smells and feels to tell when its done (and yeah, a thermometer too!) than what a recipe estimates. After all, recipes are great guidelines, but everyone’s kitchen equipment and conditions are totally different. You cook things until they’re done, and determine that doneness by visual and other cues.

Size Matters

This sort of cheeky mantra but it’s true so choose the right pot, pan, or bowl for the job and it makes all the difference. Too big of a pan means your meat won’t cook properly. Too small of a bowl, and whisking will be a huge chore. It matters not just because of convenience, but because your results will be different if you don’t pay attention.

Hot Plates for Hot Food

The quickest way you can give your at-home meals a restaurant touch is remembering to heat your plates before putting food on them that are meant to be eaten hot. All it takes is sticking them in the oven for a couple minutes before plating your meal. It means the food won’t cool down as fast, and you can enjoy it longer. Try it!

You Can Use Almost Every Scrap

Whether it’s egg whites or garlic skins, restaurant kitchens are geniuses at repurposing what would be food waste in most home kitchens. For them, it’s an economic concern as much as an environmental one, but it’s a practice that’s useful to adapt at home. You can use many of the things that you might otherwise scrap to make your food even better.

Tips from Culinary School

History of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer

kitchenaid k5a gradient

 I found this article online and just found it interesting, as most of cooks own a stand mixer of some kind.  I have had several in my lifetime. One caught on fire, although it was not a KitchenAid, it was a very high-quality Kenwood with too much cookie dough. I replaced it with a 4.5 quart KitchenAid which I used for years.  I added a 7-quart pro KitchenAid this last year and love both the old and the new.  I do not keep either of mine on the counter, as I love a clear counter.  One (the old one) is in the pantry, and the other lifts hydraulically from a space beneath the counter. I often did wonder about their history. 

KitchenAid’s story

When you envision a well-equipped kitchen, there’s probably a gleaming KitchenAid stand mixer sitting on the counter. The complex machine, camouflaged in Deco architecture and cheerful color, is a sign that one’s made it in the sphere of adulting.

The KitchenAid mixer has maintained its place as a status symbol for a century, doing far more than modernizing countless kitchens. The very appliance that has shaped so many lives directly reflects modern American history.

The KitchenAid mixer didn’t just save time in the kitchen; it helped time move forward.

The story goes that Herbert Johnston, an engineer working for the Hobart Corporation, conceptualized the standing mixer after watching a baker mix dough and thinking there had to be a better way. Development started in 1914, and the first standing mixers went somewhere that desperately needed to industrialize its kitchens: the military.

A lot of the military and government for soldiers is a large part of how our food system developed. Military chefs needed to feed a lot of people and cooked in bulk all day long, and updating kitchens were the best solution. By 1917, all U.S. Navy ships were equipped with model H mixers.

Hobart then shifted gears to produce home models, and soon after the KitchenAid C-10 mixer was born. At the time, although a sizeable chunk of employed women were maids (More than half of employed women worked in “domestic service” according to the 1870 census, and that percentage continued to increase), the early 20th century saw a shift away from live-in servants, meaning many women were now cooking for their families for the first time.

It’s difficult to look back at how cooking used to be compared to what we can do now. At this time women were expected to have a several-course meal, always with a dessert. That was a lot of labor that went into cooking for your family. Preparing elaborate meals was also tied to status. How much you loved your family was dependent on how elaborate your meal was. Having the standalone mixer wasn’t just a minor convenience. It could really change a woman’s day as she was doing all these various things that we take for granted today.

However, practicality didn’t come cheap. You had to have the money in those very early years to have a standalone mixer, adding that in today’s prices, the C-10 exceeded $1,000.

The KitchenAid mixer didn’t take off immediately as the high price deterred retailers, but word of mouth started a sales momentum among the upper class.

It was very much ‘I have to have this because so-and-so has it.

kitchenaid standing early

In the early days, KitchenAid sales were conducted by an entirely female, door-to-door force, the first of its kind, and a precursor for entrepreneurship such as Tupperware and Avon representatives. Since KitchenAid targeted wealthy housewives, the best way to market them was by coming into a woman’s home, preferably when her husband was around.

There was this idea that only a man could understand the engineering aspect of this appliance and how it worked, even though she’s gonna be the person using it. In that way, KitchenAid was just as much about the housewife’s relationship with her husband. KitchenAid would sell it every Christmas. It was obviously the gift that was given to the housewife. In some ways, it seems demeaning, given today’s lens, but at that point in time, it was a status symbol.

After World War II ended and the era of mass consumerism dawned, broad industrialization of the kitchen emerged. Appliances indicated that a family had made it, and other companies developed their own standing mixers. Despite the more affordable competition, KitchenAid held its own for two reasons. First, the quality couldn’t compare. And KitchenAid’s secret weapon took that longevity even further.

What was smart about what KitchenAid did that the others didn’t do was cross-generation accessories. What that means is that if you bought a KitchenAid mixer in 1950 and kept it through the years, even though the appliance itself would evolve, you could still use the accessories with the mixer you had. It meant that women could pass down their KitchenAid mixers and extensions to their daughters.

Whatever their design was at the beginning, they either smartly or were lucky to discover a concept that they could have evolved without having to start over with everything again. As our food systems changed over time, they were smart enough not to change the model of the concept that they had. They didn’t try to talk down to their consumer or try to be trendy. And sticking with that traditional model is what’s made them so successful. That combination of quality and commitment helped KitchenAid hold its own against competitors, and it’s a huge part of what keeps them successful today.

KitchenAid’s fate may have turned out differently without behind-the-scenes feedback from housewives. These women weren’t just the target audience, but also developers who emphasized that standing mixers should be in the home. They often had a significant voice in food products and appliances because they were the ones that were using these things all the time, although they rarely received the credit. Even the appliance’s name came from a wife’s feedback: “I don’t care what you call it, but I know it’s the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had!”

KitchenAid also helped women break outside domestic restrictions by giving them careers in home economics. We sometimes act as if women’s labor in certain generations made pin money, but a lot of women were supporting their families, Voss says. The KitchenAid mixer was its own Trojan horse: an industrial-grade machine disguised in a pretty color. Women found all sorts of ways to make money and have careers using the concept that only a woman could understand such things.

And the opportunities that evolved out of door-to-door KitchenAid sales, such as Tupperware parties, allowed women to safely gather and discuss topics that expanded far beyond cooking. These meetings inspired women to run for positions of power, such as school board, and eventually political office.

They had to work within what they had at the time. They couldn’t go out and do certain things, but if you look back over women’s history, they found a way.

It was amazingly progressive but done in such a way that seemed safe. It wasn’t just about the mixer itself. It was about what it represented.

History of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer

Carrot Cake

As you might have figured by now, I love to do two things in life: Paint & Cook

I am not a big sweets eater, but I love the process of baking and love sharing what I bake with my small community.  Our community has a Pie Auction each year in which I did participate only one year.  When I was there, the owner of a local restaurant bought a pie to support the auction and in passing said, he would just drop by our local fire department, as he did not need it.  I thought that was brilliant and we did the same with the pie we purchased.  I did take one slice, which I often do just to see what it tastes like or in my case save one slice for my husband.

This started a now two-year strategy of baking and sharing with my local fire department.  Yesterday I baked a Carrot Cake for the fire department, as I had my first actual request for a repeat.

 

Carrot Cake.jpg

INGREDIENTS FOR T H E CARROT CAKE :

• 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2oz/ 355g) all-purpose flour (preferably weighed)*

• 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon baking soda • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

• 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

• 1lb/ 450g peeled carrots, (about 6 to 7 carrots)*

• 1  cup (10 1/2oz/ 298g) granulated sugar

• 1 cup (3 1/2oz/ 100g) packed light brown sugar

• 4 large eggs

• 1 1/2 cups (355ml) vegetable oil

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING :

• 10 tablespoons (5oz/ 142g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

• 3 cups (12oz/ 340g) confectioners’ sugar, sift if lumpy

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 2 tablespoons (1oz/ 28g) sour cream

• 1lb/ 450g COLD cream cheese, brick-style cut into 1-inch pieces

INSTRUCTIONS

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Spray three 8inch or two 9 inch round pans with nonstick cooking spray or lightly grease with oil. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment rounds and spray parchment or lightly grease again with oil then dust with flour, tapping out excess flour.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cloves (if using); set aside.
  4. In a food processor fitted with the shredding disk or using the small holes of a box grater, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); set aside.
  5. In the bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in a large bowl and using a hand-held mixer), beat eggs and both the granulated and brown sugars together on medium-high speed until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds.
  6. Reduce speed to medium; with mixer running, add oil in slow, steady stream, being careful to pour oil against inside of the bowl (if oil begins to splatter, reduce speed to low until oil is incorporated, then resume adding oil). Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 seconds to 1 minute longer. Turn off mixer.
  7. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture by hand until just incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the carrots.
  8. Give the batter a final stir to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops
  9. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few cooked crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time.
  10. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up and let cool completely before frosting, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  11. To frost and assemble, place one of the cake layers onto the cake platter. Spread 1 cup of the frosting over the cake, right to the edges. Place a second cake layer on top and press lightly to adhere. Spread another 1 cup frosting over the second cake layer. Top with the final cake layer, pressing lightly to adhere. Frost the top and side of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  12. I like to add chopped pecans on the side and decorate the top with half-nuts.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and lightened up, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat until lightened in both color and texture and looks fluffier than when it started, 4 to 6 minutes. Beat in the sour cream.
  3. With the mixer running on medium speed, add one piece of cream cheese at a time, one after the other, mixing well after each addition so there are no lumps. Continue adding the cream cheese until fully incorporated.
  4. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light, fluffy, whipped-like and until almost no cream cheese lumps remain 4 to 6 minutes.

Now you can easily make this yummy Carrot Cake!  It has always been a hit when I have served it.

Carrot Cake

Taking Art Classes

After a little hiatus from painting impressionistic work, I am back taking some classes and really enjoying the art of the little painting.  A couple of months ago I took a class at the Winslow Art Center by David Marty for six weeks and really enjoyed learning new ideas and techniques.  The class is and was fun (new section now) as we paint one photograph in class (can finish at home) and do another one for “homework”.  It has gotten me back doing one of the things in life I love the most (cooking being the second).Painting Class 1.jpg

This was the first painting I did in class and really enjoyed the process and continued to use some of what I learned in painting number two which was our homework assignment.

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Back in class, we critiqued what we had done at home and worked on a new photo.  Everyone seemed to like my homework and it is still the favorite of my husband.

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Back in class we worked more on reflection and tree shapes and were sent home with homework of painting the garden.  I did not love the “garden”, so reversed it and added a little girl in the garden.  It looks a little “old world” to me and is not one of my favorites.

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From there we went to working on a road scene, which I thought was fun and liked the result.  It is fun to see your style change and grow in a rather short amount of time.

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Painting homework for that week, seemed a bit overwhelming to me when I started working on it, as it seemed to be mostly “just trees”, and to try to make that look interesting was somewhat challenging.

 

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I think it turned out better than I would have predicted and it did not take a lot of time, or I should say I did not spend a lot of time on it.

One of the other things I was doing while taking the class was working on a three foot by five-foot commission for a design client, so it was interesting going from working on an 8″ x 10″ or 9″ x 12″ to working on the larger scale.

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Back in class, we worked on painting rocks on this cliffside painting with rocks and trees.  For once I did not finish in class and worked on the rocks when I got home.  I have started collecting art books, which are always good for getting ideas of how to do something differently.

 

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Homework came as another road scene with a barn off to the side.  I really enjoyed working on this one and liked the result, although I did tweak it a bit after the class.

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Coming back to class we had the opportunity to work on a Night Scene, and this is what I came up with for the project.

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This one came out more abstracted than any of the others I had done. The teacher of the class seemed to like it.  And homework was of a barn, as requested by someone in the class.  I have painted a lot of barns, but usually 18″ x 24″ or bigger, so this was fun.

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Working on skies with lots of clouds came next.  Have you ever noticed that the lowest clouds are always parallel to the horizon?  The more I paint the more I notice these things. We painted this in class and difference in how people see the same thing is amazing to me.

We were sent home with more homework after our first six classes, as everyone in the class asked if the same teacher could come back to teach another four-week session.

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We came back to class and the first day we painted waves.  Now, this may look easy, but to make them look real (and interesting) I found quite challenging.

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Following the beach scene we were sent home the following assignment, which I did twice, as I did not like the first one very much.

Number 1

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Number 2:

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Tell me if you can see the differences.  I liked the second one much better.  This is becoming a trend now with me and seems the second one is always better.

Since we were all snowed in for more than a week, the perfect exercise for the class must have been working on snow paintings.  We did a series of two and I painted them both twice.

Number 1:

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Number 2:

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There is quite a difference between these two.  I painted the second one in class.

On to the second snow scene, which both are homework. I didn’t love the first one, so I painted it again.

Number 1:Painting Class 18.jpg

Number 2:

 

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I do not know what adventure we will paint tomorrow, but I know it will be fun.

Port Gamble Diana.jpg‘So we all worked on a photo taken at Port Gamble in the mist.  Here is my rendition.  This week we have two homework assignments (Oh my) and to bring in a piece we are working on.  I don’t have anything in process, so will start a new Airstream and take it to class.

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So here is what I took to class.  We did two more homework assignments. I made a couple of changes to both and here they are.  It was a great class and I think everyone learned a lot.  It is always good to see something from someone else’s perspective.

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The photo of these Madronas are probably not something I would have ever chosen to paint, but it makes for a rather eerie effect.

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The photo of the stream literally had no color, so I enhanced it in Photoshop and even though it is a bit “green”, I rather like the result. Can’t wait till the next time I take a class.  Oh wait, it is not that long I take one this weekend.

Taking Art Classes

Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies

Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies: a perfect treat of sinful chocolate ganache sandwiched between two hazelnut espresso cookies. I found this recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Perfect Cookie Book”.  Next time I would just buy the hazelnuts already skinned.  That took way too long, and even though I like the taste, it took forever to roll the dough out to 1/8″ and actually my rolling pin only measure 1/6″, so that is the thickness of mine. These and Snickerdoodles, that I made yesterday will be delivered to our local Senior Apartments, for their Friday movie night.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Process hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds.
  2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and ground hazelnuts together in a bowl.
  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add egg and yolk, one at a time, espresso powder, and vanilla and beat until combined.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  6. Transfer dough to counter and divide in half. Form each half into a 5-inch disk, wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Let chilled dough soften on the counter, about 10 minutes. Roll 1 disk of dough into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured counter.
  9. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 30 circles; space circles 1/2 inch apart on prepared sheets.
  10. Gently reroll scraps once, cut into circles, and transfer to prepared sheets.
  11. Bake until edges are lightly browned, about 7 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
  12. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Let cookies cool completely.
  13. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Place 1 3/4 cups chocolate chips in a bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips; cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Refrigerate ganache, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40 minutes.
  14. Spread 2 teaspoons of ganache over bottom half of cookies, then top with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to adhere.
  15. Microwave remaining 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips in a bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle chocolate over cookies and let set, about 30 minutes, before serving.
Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies

Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

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Use your favorite pork sausage (I had homemade Chorizo in the freezer so used it) , a mix of tart and sweet apples, (I only had one, so used sweet only) and a flavorful apple cider or juice. The liquid will intensify in flavor, much like boiled cider, when reduced. I like to pair this filling with a cheddar cheese crust either with or without a bottom crust. Don’t worry if there is extra moisture released in the bake from your fresh juicy apples. That bottom crust will soak up the delicious flavor. I just poured off the extra liquid and it was perfect!

The original recipe was from “Art of the Pie”, but as you can see I altered the recipe to use what I had on hand, as we were in the middle of a snowstorm and I could not get out of my driveway to make to the store.  I figure you can always adlib and substitute and still have a wonderful result.  My husband loved this recipe.
Makes: one 9-inch deep-dish pie

Ingredients

Sausage and Apple Pie

  • 1recipe Cheddar Cheese Crust (below)
  • 1pound (454 grams) ground pork sausage, cooked and drained
  • 2 to 3tart apples (such as Granny Smiths) cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3sweet apples, cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1/4teaspoon (a pinch) salt
  • 1cup (248 grams) apple juice or cider – ( I did not have either, so I used a little Rose Wine)
  • 1/3cup (73 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4teaspoon fresh diced rosemary
  • 1/4allspice
  • 1egg

Cheddar Cheese Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2cups (363 grams) all-purpose flour, unbleached (use dip and sweep method), plus additional for rolling out dough
  • 1/2teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 1/4pound (115 grams) Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese or other sharp cheddar cheese, grated and chopped fine with a knife (about 1 cup grated)
  • 8tablespoons (112 grams) salted or unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 6 to 8tablespoons (88 to 118 grams) ice water

Directions

  1. Make the Cheddar Cheese Dough: Combine all ingredients but the ice water in a large bowl. With clean hands or a pastry cutter, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal with some lumps in it.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir lightly with a fork.
  3. Squeeze a handful of dough together. Mix in a bit more water as needed.
  4. Divide the dough in half and make two chubby discs about 5 inches (12 centimeters) across. Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  5. To make the Sausage and Apple Pie: Place the apples, salt, juice or cider, brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, and allspice in a sauté or fry pan and cook on medium-low heat until you can just start to put a fork into the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. Reserve the juice.
  6. Pour the juice into a small saucepan. If you have less than a cup, add more juice or cider to make 1 cup, then turn the heat to low and cook until the juice has reduced in amount to about one-quarter its amount and has nearly caramelized. Be careful not to let it burn. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Spoon the sausage into the apple mixture, pour over the reduced cider, and mix well.
  8. Adjust the salt to taste and let the filling cool.
  9. Roll out the bottom crust and place in your pie pan. Add the filling.
  10. Roll out the upper crust and place it on top. Seal the edges, crimp, and vent.
  11. Make an egg wash by beating together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork. Brush the pie with egg wash.
  12. Bake at 400° F (205° C) for 40 minutes. Give the pie two more egg washes at 10-minute intervals during the first 20 minutes of the bake.
  13. Let the pie cool for 15 minutes or more before serving.
Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust