Batter Licker

November 29, 2011

raspberry zinfandel sorbet

You already know I’m an ice cream girl. To clarify, when I say “ice cream,” I mean it in the broadest sense, including sorbets, frozen yogurts, semifreddos, popsicles, granitas and mostly any other soft, scoopable, meltable, spoon- or lick-worthy frozen treats.

So when it was hinted that maybe I could bring a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, in addition to my updated, real cheese-including, non-“cheese product” version of my family’s traditional cheesy broccoli dish, which I totally botched because it turned out way more mushroomy than cheesy in flavor; although I love mushrooms, so that’s not entirely a tragedy; in fact, I’m using the leftover cheesy, mushroomy sauce, which I made four times too much of, for a lasagna this week … anyway, where was I?

Oh, right! I had a dessert brainstorming breakdown.

And a totally unjustified sobbing fit. I wouldn’t normally cry over a lack of dessert ideas, but I was sick! And I had a feeling my standard, easy go-tos – toffee and fudge – were out because my mom was likely to make a surprise batch or two.

I might have settled on baked goods. But the weekend before Thanksgiving, we had Friendsgiving, and I had baked some incredible butternut squash cupcakes with maple-sage goat cheese frosting. For some reason, I didn’t feel like baking more of them for Thanksgiving – probably because I had eaten the handful of leftover cupcakes over the past few days.

They were rich. They were savory-sweet. And I was a horribly selfish person because I didn’t think any other baked good could ever top them, and yet I refused to make them for Thanksgiving. They could have been perfect for it – they were so chock full of Fall flavors that they were practically made for Thanksgiving. But in retrospect, after a day of feasting and several platefuls of stuffing, cupcakes would have been way too much.

But sorbet was juuuuuuuuust riiiight (à la Goldilocks and the Three Bears). (more…)

November 22, 2011

butternut squash cupcakes with maple-sage goat cheese frosting

My butternut squash bonanza continues! Think of this as a play on pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Except way better.

Honestly, I thought these up a year ago and never got around to making them. But they haunted me through spring and summer, and now that we’re back to peak butternut squash season, I had to make it happen.

So when last weekend’s Friendsgiving dinner got scheduled, it was a no-brainer. I knew exactly what I wanted to try.

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That’s the beauty of Friendsgiving. My friends and I officially launched the make-whatever-you-want concept last year, after decades of being told by our families that, no, we could not make butternut squash soup as an appetizer instead of Bopop’s bowl full of grapefruit tradition, and no, we could not make a cornbread, sausage and peppers stuffing instead of the rustic bread, sausage, apple and onion standard. (more…)

November 15, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 12 (s’mores brownies)

The night before the night before my wedding, my not-so-reliable pal Sleep totally ditched me. After several hours of anxious waiting, ceiling-staring and clock-cursing, I finally gave up.

So at 3 a.m., I rolled out of bed to start crushing graham crackers for the 12 dozen s’mores brownies I intended to bake in the three different sizes of cupcake liners I had accumulated but not used over the past couple years.

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I broke up the graham crackers by hand, and didn’t stop until the entire box of ’em was crushed.

After all the smashing, I felt more relaxed, and my renewed attempt at sleep proved successful. Thank goodness. Two days before your own wedding and the thousands of photos that will be snapped of you is not the ideal time to not be sleeping.

The next morning, Jay and I jaunted over to Hayes Valley for our Blue Bottle coffee fix, and wandered into Moishe’s Pippic in search of breakfast. I sought something hearty, anticipating that I would be standing on my feet all day while baking, and went with the corned beef sandwich.

Yes, sandwich. Full of meat. With a pickle! For breakfast.

I’m a corned beef nut to begin with, but Moishe’s corned beef was so incredibly tender, moist and flavorful. And not too salty. I remember thinking at the time that this corned beef sandwich was so entirely worth having to pull out the Spanx to fit into my wedding dress. (By some miracle, Spanx weren’t necessary. But I was willing to go there for this particular sandwich.) (more…)

November 8, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 11 (cashew bacon brittle)

Until the wedding, I had never made a brittle that wasn’t chock full of peanuts. I also had never been married, and had never had such beautiful signage for my dessert bar designed and made by my dear peanut-allergic friend CB of Darts Meet Heart.

So when I saw Irvin’s bacon peanut brittle pictures on Eat the Love, and subsequently became obsessed with it despite not being a bacon freak, I knew I had to find a way to include it in the dessert bar without causing CB’s cheeks to puff up.

Luckily, CB gets along just fine with cashews, and after a quick Twitter affirmation from Irvin that yes, cashews should substitute just fine, I proceeded to pull out cashews, bacon and sugar. Little did I know how much trouble the sugar would later cause me.

But diced up a heck of a lot of bacon, refilling my cutting board with uncut strips of fatty pork about 6 times.

Then I fried the bacon until super crispy, but not burnt.

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Getting the bacon crisp initially took much more time than I thought, so I quickened the process by draining the bacon fat from the pan a few times.

Per usual, I strained the bacon while removing it from the pan, and scooped it atop paper towels to absorb the excess fat. Rinse and repeat for the several remaining batches.

In retrospect, this bacon-crisping process would have been much easier, faster and cleaner in the oven, given that I was making enough for wedding full of guests.

Bacon aside, it became cashew time. (more…)

October 27, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 9 (toffee)

This toffee is an oldie but goodie. It is the first candy I ever learned to make (Thanks Mom!). Except that, back then, I learned to make it with milk chocolate and almonds. Or maybe it was pecans. I forget (it’s been a couple decades). Now, I prefer it topped with bittersweet chocolate and pistachios.

The key is to start with room temperature butter. Or fake it with a microwave. Or deviate from the recipe a little and just melt the butter slowly in a pot before adding the sugar.

Reach deep down into that almost-empty 10-pound bag of sugar. I couldn’t believe I was almost at the bottom. Good thing I had another 10-pound bag on hand … because that’s the kind of over-preparation I do when making everything for my own wedding dessert bar, apparently.

Must stem from Girl Scouts back in the day. “Be prepared,” which in my perfectionist mind translates to “be more than prepared at all times for things you couldn’t possibly imagine might happen at the beginning of a project.” Like actually using up an entire 10-pound bag of sugar. (more…)

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