Tag Archives: baking

from the file pit: rocky road cake

29 Jul

Sometimes you have an idea, and before you can stop yourself you tell other people about this idea, and then later, once you have time to reflect, you’re honestly not sure if your idea is a good one, or if maybe next time you should shut the hell up and not tell the Internets that you’re going to do something, because now you have to do it whether you like it or not.

Unless you’re talking about training for a half marathon.

But! When I finally reached into the file pit because I was so fed up with myself and was just like, “OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND DECENT, JUST PICK A F*&$ING RECIPE ALREADY AND GET ON WITH IT,” this recipe was literally the first one in the pile, which I am taking to be a sign that this idea of working my way through the recipe files my younger self hoarded many moons ago was a good one. Also, the fact that there even exists a recipe for Rocky Road Cake is proof that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit all love me and want me to be happy. Add that to the fact that it was on top of all the other hundreds of recipes, and well, clearly I am brilliant.

The recipe is so simple, though, that I’m not actually sure it constitutes as a recipe. It’s basically like, “mix together some boxed devil’s food cake, some water, some other stuff, and beat that for a couple of minutes, then stir in the chocolate chips and marshmallows and peanuts and WAA-LAA YOU HAVE A CAKE AND YOU CAN EAT IT TOO, SUCK IT, MARIE ANTOINETTE.”

Sorry for the crappy photos taken on my phone.

Sorry for the crappy photos taken on my phone.

I have no idea where I found this recipe, but I have a hunch that my old boss had a book of cake recipes that she brought in for me to check out once, which I did, as evidenced by the fact that there are several similar-looking Xeroxed pages in my file pit, all with different, luscious cake recipes. If this recipe did not come from my old boss, then your guess is as good as mine from whence it came. Maybe it came from the Holy Spirit. I dunno, I’ve never been super clear on what He/She/It actually does, but maybe part of its heavenly mission is to drop cake recipes into unsuspecting file pits. I’m not going to claim I know what goes on beyond my eyes and human limitations.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably already seen this photo. Oh well.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen this photo. Oh well.

With the addition of the chocolate chips, this cake has a fabulously soft and moist crumb. The peanuts add a nice salty crunch, and work better than I think almonds would, as in a traditional rocky road ice cream. Also, it’s a bundt cake, and who doesn’t love a good bundt? What is incredibly disappointing, however, is that the mini marshmallows melt completely into the cake (adding to that good crumb) so you have none of the lovely bits of mallow like you get in the ice cream. Which, coincidentally, is my favorite part of the ice cream.

Would I make this again? Yes, because it’s too easy not to. Would I figure out a way next time to get the marshmallows to not melt into oblivion? For sure. Do I think Young McPolish was right to throw this recipe in the file pit? Absolutely.

Again with the crappy, cell phon photo. So sorry.

Again with the crappy cell phone photo. So sorry.

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recipe for disaster? or masterful plan? you decide.

15 Jul

Recently I’ve been trying to do my part to de-clutter our bootbox of a condo.

It’s not going well.

As anyone who has tried to de-clutter anything ever, you understand the complete high you start off with, doing hot laps around your space and sweeping the obvious things to get rid of into the garbage or recycling or Good Will bags. And after those first 10 minutes, it gets a little harder.

I’m sure professional organizers/life gurus/normal people would tell you that honestly, you really don’t need it—whatever it is—even though you have spent the past five years since whatever the thing is that came into your life convincing yourself that you do. And they’re most likely right. And most likely if Swede and I actually listened to them and actually kept ONLY the things we used, our bootbox of a condo would be a minimalist’s paradise. Think of how much space we’d gain just by getting rid of the cats!

I joke.

Maybe.

Anyway, in an effort to de-clutter, or at least acknowledge the clutter (Hello, Clutter. How are you today? Dusty? Great, great. Carry on.), I spent some time the other day culling through my cookbooks and recipe files that are stacked and piled and generally running amok in various corners of our home. And do you know what I discovered?

I have a lot of freaking recipes.

And I think I’ve actually made approximately only 2.794 percent of them.

No, I don’t know why that is, either. Or why I’ve instead, in all my cooking, chosen to use recipes that are from elsewhere, and not in these piles.

Because I mean piles, you guys. PILES of recipes that I printed out or scrawled on ripped out sheets of notebook paper years ago, as in before I even turned 30, while surfing the web, probably while I was supposed to be doing something more productive, like not accumulating a metric ton of shit I don’t need but now can’t seem to part with, such as mismatched socks and various notebooks filled with ideas for books I most likely will not get around to writing unless I quit my life full-tilt and spend every minute from now until my dying day tapping at the keyboard.

A smattering of the recipes that make up the pit.

A smattering of the recipes taking up residence in our bootbox. 

And some of these recipes look phenomenal, which makes it all the more devastating to me. Rocky Road cocoa puff treats? Yes, please. Coconut curry braised short ribs? Why am I not eating these right now? Chocolate éclair torte? Sweet Holy Mother, bless me for I have sinned in not making this. Cheesy chicken roll ups? Ehhmmm…well, okay, something about it must have appealed to me at some point so I’ll give it a go.

See what I mean? And that’s just a few of—no joke—hundreds of recipes that twentysomething McPolish threw in the file pit.

So I made an executive decision, friends, right then and there. A decision I look forward to keeping and tackling: Instead of being sad about all the recipes I haven’t made (yet hoard like a fatalist with soup for the coming rapture) (why on earth do people think their bomb shelter will survive a rapture?) I’m making a concerted effort to, actually, you know, MAKE these recipes. I’m going to work my way through my recipe files, and see what was what in the land of aged 25-28-year-old-McPolish’s tastebuds.

I can’t promise the results will be pretty. Or tasty. (Still curious about the cheesy chicken rollups. And by curious I mean mildly horrified at the prospect.) But by God I WILL spend some quality kitchen time wondering what the Sister Mary Fudge my younger self was thinking!*

*And maybe when that’s all said and done, we’ll finally tackle the Pinterest boards.**

**BAHAHAHAHAHAHAH YEAH RIGHT. 

csb june, or: let’s have a party with chocolate and sour cream

23 Jul

At the end of June, there was a conversation between me and my pal Beh Beh. It went something like this:

Beh Beh: Come over and sit on my porch with me and drink alcoholic beverages.

Me: Okay. I will bring popsicles made of booze.

Beh Beh: We are brilliant.

Except that in a frenzy of something-I-now-can’t-remember-so-clearly-it-was-major, my brilliance failed me, and I didn’t leave enough time to narrow down exactly which boozy popsicle I wanted to make, buy the ingredients, and freeze it all together.

Hence, our next conversation went something like this:

Me: You’re getting cupcakes instead. And prosecco.

Beh Beh: Yum.

I figured that for the cupcakes there was no time like the present—seeing as how I’d flagrantly failed to meet the June 20th deadline—to make the June CSB cake. And, it should be noted that since I’d last baked with the group, the rules had been altered slightly to allow bakers to choose from one of four cakes to bake, rather than everyone baking the same cake.

June 2014 Cake
I chose the sour cream chocolate cake, because I have an undying love for adding sour cream to baked goods; let’s just disregard the fact that it took me until almost July for the follow-through.

(Better late than never? Maybe?)

Anyway, as I will continue to champion until my dying days, sour cream in baked goods is marvy. It adds an almost whipped-like texture to the batter and more often than not results in a non-dry cake. If you don’t know about sour cream in baked goods, now you know. You’re welcome.

Cupcakes unfrosted 

Needless to say, these were an excellent accompaniment to our porch sitting and prosecco, particularly since I stuffed them with a strawberry whipped cream frosting (not in the book, a recipe I found online) that I would only change next time by adding more strawberry puree. And perhaps Frangelico. Or maybe bourbon. Or Bailey’s. Really, any one of those would work well because booze and whipped cream are MFEO just like Romeo and Julie, minus the depressing undertones of teenage suicide.

(WTF, Shakespeare?)

Unlike several of the recipes I’ve made from this book, I (obviously) really took to this recipe. I per usual disregarded the whole one tablespoon of sugar at a time because standing and mixing in sugar until your knees give out is no way to spend a Saturday and did you not read the part about the prosecco calling my name?

And if by chance you were wondering if I had to ask Swede if freeze-dried coffee is the same thing as instant coffee, showing both the age of this cake book and my ignorance of coffee-related nomenclature, well the answer is yes.

So come on over next time you’re around. We’ll go sit on Beh Beh’s porch and eat cupcakes and drink prosecco. And you can have some Sanka if you like, because don’t worry, I’ve got a whole jar, minus 2 teaspoons, in my freezer.

Cupcakes frosted

still well stocked in sugar and flour

9 Jul

Despite what you may think due to lack of words on this blog lately, I am still here, and I do still bake things. In fact, I’ve whipped up quite a few treats in the past month or so to:

A)   Relieve boredom

B)    Relieve my cabinets of extraneous ingredients

C)    Feel an intense pride that I did not let bananas go to waste. Again.

I’m not proud of my banana waste, Interwebs. I’m truly not. So one fine Saturday a few weeks back I did something with some bananas I’d bought, and that something was to add them to chocolate chips and bake them into bread, and life was good and my kitchen smelled happy.

I’m sorry, I just get very emphatic when I can put bananas to good use.

Anyway, this is all to say that you can expect some baking-related recounting to come your way soon, and won’t that be exciting?

No, actually.

It will be BANANAS.

Speaking of which, unlike the last time I successfully made banana bread (it’s a rare occasion, surprisingly), I did two things differently this time:

1)    I made mini loaves (because I figured they’re easier to control, and I love lording a baking dictatorship over quick breads)

and

2)    I used my family’s recipe rather than the recipe from the Joy of Cooking (because I’m a traditionalist and enjoy following recipes I’ve scribbled on an M-shaped note pad with directions such as “mix wet and dry. Bake 350 1 hour or whatever.”)

Also, potential difference #3: the aforementioned chocolate chips (because just because).

And lo! Did these two (maybe three) differences make a difference and never again shall I make a full-sized banana bread, particularly because I still have two mini-loaves lovingly wrapped in tinfoil and stored in my freezer. There is only so much banana bread you can eat in one sitting, after all, and granted that so much is unsurprisingly quite a lot and now I’m thinking these frozen loaves might do well to turn into some sort of bread pudding that involves a bourbon caramel sauce and holy Sweet Mary Mother of God I think I just made my own head explode with my own brilliance.

It’s about to get crazy up in this weblog, you guys. I hope you brought a fork.

Banana Bread

csb february: lemon velvet squares, or, i made this cake a long time ago and forgot to take notes and now i can’t remember a damn thing

26 Feb

Let the record show that I made this cake right away. Like, immediately after it was announced. Like, the SECOND it was announced.

Okay, maybe it was a few days after that. Or a week. Or it was Super Bowl Sunday. Whatever, the point is, I made this cake a long time ago, and was so busy patting myself on the back for a job well done and getting another cake made on time that I A) forgot to take notes while I did this cake write up—though I most likely said to myself, “Oh, I’ll just make mental notes! Mental notes are fiiiiine! I’ll totally remember this experience!” and 2) I never actually wrote the post.

And here we are.

GAH.

Needless to say, the Super Bowl was many several weeks ago, and since then I’ve been very busy with, errrm, hmm. Well, I’m sure whatever it was I’ve been busy with it was terribly important. (House of Cards.) (And cheese popcorn.) And as such, I have been picking through my brain to remember my thoughts on these lemon velvet squares, and here’s what I can recall:

I added extra lemon juice to the batter because I was worried that the orange juice also in the batter would overpower and dilute the lemon flavor. And these are supposed to be lemon velvet squares, yes? Yes. And good thing I added that extra juice, because I was right—I definitely was getting more orange flavor than lemon. That was kind of disappointing, I’m not going to lie. Historically I was never a big fan of lemon, but in the past couple of years I’ve really turned a corner and want to shout lemon’s name from the rooftops. So when I’m eating something that has lemon in the title, I want to taste the lemon. Not orange. (I love orange, don’t get me wrong, but calling something lemon and then tasting orange is just screwing with my brain and tastebuds.)

The cake was pretty good, but it was not what I had pictured in my head. You say lemon squares, I think of those gooey on top, powdered sugar-coated squares/bars, you know what I mean? And this is definitely a cake, not a bar. That’s not a bad thing! But the simple topping of powdered sugar on top did kind of get lost on it, so were I to make this again I’d A) up the lemon juice quotient and decrease the amount of orange juice and 2) top it with the suggested lemon glaze.

DSC_0038

I’m not sure what is supposed to be velvety about this cake. The crumb? The crumb was good—not too dry, not too sticky—but soft, luxurious, and velvet-like I would say not. It was certainly better than some of the other cakes we’ve baked so far from this book, so maybe that’s a point in its favor? We’ll go with a point in its favor. But next time: More lemon! Less orange!

Bake on, bakers.

DSC_0052

csb january 2014: a pound in

26 Jan

Truth: I have, in my possession, a pound cake recipe that will knock your socks off.

Truth #2: This month’s Cake Slice recipe is not that recipe.

It’s not that the Old Fashioned Pound Cake that was the January 2013 recipe was bad, per se. It just wasn’t…spectacular.

And the recipe I have, given to me long ago by one of my best college girlfriends, is spectacular. It uses mounds of butter and has a sugary, chewy, crackly top that makes you want to snarfle it down as fast as you can, and land a left uppercut on anyone who tries to get in your way.

DSC_0213

This recipe? It’s nice. I wouldn’t punch someone in the face for it, but I might give him a strong hug.

I will note, however, that this pound cake is better warm than it is at room temperature. So either serve it fresh out of the oven, or throw it in the microwave for about 45 seconds before eating. If you happen to slather it with homemade apple pie jam that your sister made for you, all the better. If it’s not -45 degrees outside and you have access to a grill, I might also recommend grilling the pound cake, along with some pineapple slices. Not that I’ve tried the latter with this specific pound cake, but I’ve done that with other pound cakes to delicious results.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning. As Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp sang, it’s a very good place to start.

And it starts with lining a loaf pan with parchment paper.

And Lo! In surveying my cabinets, I found I actually! had! parchment paper! No idea when I purchased it. But there it was, happy as a clam, hanging out in my cabinet. Glorious. I quickly tore off a piece I approximated would fit in the pan, and set about trying to then, you know, get it in the pan.

Voila!

DSC_0207

It’s not perfect, but that’s cool. Neither am I. I wasn’t about to judge the parchment paper for its lack of rigidity.

I turned to the mixer, silently rolling my eyes as I read over the directions about mixing times (ridiculous, as per usual, and dropping in the sugar one grain at a time (double eye roll). To be quite honest, at this point I’ve given up following Walton’s directions about the mixing and the this and the that. I turned back to grab a spoon off the counter next to the loaf pan, only to find this:

DSC_0209

I tried again to shove it down and make the paper stay in place, but it wanted to stay put about as much as my control-top opaque tights want to stay in place and not bunch and twist awkwardly around my hips. Which is to say, not much. So instead of struggling with the paper and the pan (and my tights for that matter), I said fuck it, chucked the paper in the garbage and sprayed the hell out of the pan with non-stick spray.

(As for my tights, I had a serious talk with myself about why the shit I was wearing tights anyway. Everyone knows that when you walk in the front door of your home you should immediately strip off whatever clothes you are wearing and put on your pajammies.)

Except for the clouds of flour dust that poofed up when I dumped in the cake flour and made my eyes water slightly, this cake came together pretty easily. I went for the straight version, though the book gives variations for “spirited” and “nutty” and “chocolate chip” pound cakes. I know, you’re probably very surprised that I didn’t fall for the “spirited” pound cake, and frankly, so am I. I suspect it may have made this cake that much better, and given it the oomph it needed to compete with the spectacular recipe that my gal pal gave me many moons ago.

DSC_0232

Alright, Ms. Walton, it’s time to step up to the plate and impress me. Of the three recipes I’ve baked from this book, I’ve only really liked one of them. Not good odds in your favor, but I have high hopes that next month fall on the right side of the tasty line.

Bake on, friends.

Poundcake 2

csb cake december 2013: streusel squares, or, i kept confusing this with strudel, which was a huge disappointment

27 Dec

The day after Christmas I was left alone to my own devices while Swede took his nephews to see The Hobbit 2, Hobbitier Than Before. I was sitting on the couch, binge-watching White Collar Season 4 (More art forgery! More sneaky times!), when I realized I hadn’t made the December cake.

So I did something so very, very bold.

Instead of skipping this month’s confection, I hit pause on the Netflix and got my ass off the couch and made the cake.

December 2013 Cake 1

At which point I realized some things about this cake. In no particular order:

One: It’s streusel, not strudel. And in case you were wondering, there is a difference the size of the Grand Canyon. And I was on the wrong side of it. To say I was disappointed when I finally got it straightened out in my head is an understatement. I blame the confusion on the holiday madness we just weathered. Trust me, I won’t make the same mistake again.

Two: I shouldn’t have bothered making this cake. It would have been time better spent, IMHO, if I had stayed planted on the couch watching Neal Caffrey and Agent Burke fight white collar crime. I don’t mean to sound so cynical, but at best this cake was meh. The streusel topping was rather flavorless and seemed to contain an obscene amount of flour, and the cake itself was kind of bland. It was nice and dense, though, I’ll give the cake that.

Three: The way the directions are written makes me think that the author has WAY too much time on her hands. Six to eight minutes to beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time? Are you fucking kidding me? Listen, lady, I have things to do and television to watch. And there is just absolutely no need to beat in sugar for six to eight minutes, one tablespoon at a time. If you have time for that, bully for you. But this case of sculpture forgery isn’t going to solve itself, sister.

Four: Superfine sugar. This recipe calls for superfine sugar. Normally I get superfinely annoyed when I have to buy special ingredients in such large quantity (the sugar came in a package the size of a quart of milk), but for this one, I happily chucked the container in my cart. You know why? Bartending. It says right there on the container: Great for baked goods and cocktails. I’m happy I can bake, Swede is happy he can make liquory drinks, and I’m happy even more because I get to sample said liquory drinks. Mayhaps while I bake. Fun for everyone!

Five: Next. I’m ready for the next cake. And the next season of White Collar, for that matter.

December 2013 Cake 2