Archive for ‘Adventures with Alice’

November 11, 2011

Adventures with Alice: Mallows

A couple weeks ago, Lauren and I got to talking about how we’d both let our mixer posts fade … whoops!  It was decided marshmallows should be on the list. Maybe that weekend, maybe the next, definitely soon.

Well, then that Saturday looked like this:

 

Clearly, snow calls for hot chocolate. And just as clearly, hot chocolate needs marshmallows.

The lovely Jen had linked us back to the Smitten Kitchen recipe, so armed with that I headed to the store … to buy gelatin. Only. The thing I’m loving most about baking/cooking more is having staples on hand so I literally can wake up, think I want to make something, and not have to do a grocery run before starting.

Armed with a box of unflavored gelatin, I was off.

Step 1: Decide to make mallows 2 nights before husband’s big race. Make sure you wait until he’s trying to sleep, he’ll complain loudly enough to keep you entertained.

 

Step 2: Freak out about just how much sugar (in many forms) were going into it. That mixture above? 2 cups sugar + 1/2 cup corn syrup. Ewwwwww. Promise yourself you will NOT to tell husband how much sugar, so he’ll eat them.

Step 3: Realize your candy thermometer only goes to 220, when the recipe calls for 240. Decide to wing it.

 

Step 4: Hover awkwardly over your stove, trying to get photos of the process. Fail miserably at lining up the thermometer in multiple shots. Also fail at getting the light balance to stay constant for longer than one shot.

Step 5: Realize your thermometer has crapped out at about 215. Decide to go on look (it needs to be clear!) and hope for the best.

 

Step 6: Back away at lightening speed when you turn on Alice. Pro tip: boiling sugar and unflavored gelatin smell like burning. Terrible terrible burning.

Step 7: Worry that you effed it up while Alice does all the work for you. Add extra vanilla to try and mask the burning you’re sure will come through in the taste.

 

Step 8: Do another round of awkward hovering for photos. This time, do it will one handedly pouring the mallow fluff into your pan. Again totally fail at lining up and light/color balancing. Don’t forget to make sure your booze is clearly visible in at least one photo.

Step 9: Ignore Deb’s advise, and try to scrape down the bowl. Be successful! Decide your success was a fluke and to never do it again.

Step 9: Misread the directions and top the fluff with ONE CUP of confectioner’s sugar instead of the prescribed 1/4 cup. Realize your mistake too late and decide to roll with it.

Step 10: Put in fridge to set. Pout when you realize you won’t be able to eat them until tomorrow. Flounce out of the kitchen in your angst and totally forget to soak the wisk. This will haunt you when cleaning up, tomorrow.

 

Step 11: Forget to oil your pizza cutter when cutting the mallows the next day. End up with slightly curved, different size mallows.

Step 12: Beat down the worry and try one. Realize that while you cannot taste the burning smell, you also used WAY too much vanilla. Decide they are still delicious.

Step 13: Give one to husband. Have him reply “that tastes like a real marshmallow” excitedly. Bang head against table at the realization he still doesn’t consider homemade goodies to be “real”.

 

Step 14: Bust out your favorite winter mug and make some hot chocolate. Add too many mallows. Decide all the steps were totally worth it.

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September 20, 2011

Adventures with Alice: Sally Lunn Bread

And we’re back again for more play time in the kitchen!

 

On a related, if off-the-mark note, how cute are these? I got them as a joke for my husband, who would always look cross-eyed at any recipe that used “a pinch of salt” or “season to taste”. Turns out, the DASH spoon is 1/8 teaspoon. Super handy for measuring yeast!

After the mishaps with yeast buying, and a few helpful tips from Cindy (she of the AMAZING birthday cake), we were set. Milk, eggs, butter, sugar, flour, salt, yeast. Can do.

 

Being my first attempt at bread, I wanted to try something simple. The recipe for Sally Lunn Bread (again, via Smitten Kitchen) required no kneading. Um, a full on real bread, without kneading? SOLD. The write up promised that it would be a dense, slightly sweet bread … almost like a brioche, without the hours and hours of work.

 

Let me tell you, Alice had her work cut out for her. During that final mix (after the last of the flour), she was bucking all over the place. I think I’ll do that bit by hand next time. That being said, she was a trooper, and expertly mixed it all up … without whining. What an awesome sidekick!

 

Then it was time to let it rise. I was a little worried I hadn’t activated the yeast right (the temperature for the liquid was SUPER specific in the recipe), considering I’d never done it before. But, I managed to walk away for an hour and came back to it nice and doubled! The photos (above) are a little hard to compare, thanks to my lack-o-lining-up-the-shots … but it was doubled, trust me.

 

Into the pan we go for one more rise. This is where I messed up. Instead of just LEAVING IT ALONE I tried to spread and shape it to the pan. Of course, it wasn’t going to shape. And all it did was cease to rise in the places I’d prodded. Lesson learned. Don’t touch the dough, Sarah! But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying to bake it!

 

Hey look! It worked!! And boooooooy did it taste good! The husband is officially a convert … and has decided the smell of baking bread is the best ever.

But we already knew that, right?

Since it’s fresh, I’m thinking we can’t keep it any longer than 5 days or so. Does anyone have a better idea of time? I want to use what’s left (about a third of the loaf) for french toast (YES, PLEASE), but I’m not sure if I should. What do you guys think?

So … total success! Fairly simple, no long processes, delicious. I’m calling it a win. And, even though my loaf didn’t look like the recipe pictures, I’m still thinking it looked pretty damn good.

YAY! BREAD!

September 13, 2011

Adventures with Alice: Dobos Torte

So … after much thought and consideration … my lovely mixer has been named!

Originally suggested  by KA, Alice is, in my opinion, the perfect mix between proper lady and partner-in-crime. And it shortens nicely to Allie when the mood strikes. Lauren said it was masterful. That’s enough for me!

Sunday afternoon, we began our first adventure together. The plan had been to do a batter bread Saturday afternoon, but yeast buying mishaps put that on the back burner, and we turned toward that ever beckoning mecca of the stand mixer: dessert.

While browsing Smitten Kitchen, looking for tips for the best’s sister, Felicity*, I came upon this recipe: the Dobos Torte. It’s a super famous Hungarian cake and … being Hungarian and all … I’d eaten it growing up. It was fancy looking, and a little daunting, so of course I decided to try it.

Clearly, no inaugural use would be complete without throwing flour all over the kitchen. If you think this is a mess, you should have seen my apron. Apparently this is Alice’s idea of a joke.

You guys, for all the daunting directions, this cake was SUPER easy. Can you separate eggs? Yes? You’re set. No? Well, you’ve got 13 to practice on. It was the most complicated part of the entire thing. And yielded such lovely photos as the one on the left, above. Seriously … mix away! Whee!!

The most DIFFICULT part had to be stirring the batter. Deb warns that before folding in the whites, the batter will be the consistency of mortar. She’s NOT KIDDING. My arms got a workout, just getting ANYTHING mixed in. Then again, this also provided folding practice … something I do NOT get enough of in my kitchen. I need to remedy that.

Baking took 5 minutes. Seriously. I’d never done a sponge cake recipe before … so the idea that I had to actually shape the cake on a cookie sheet threw me off a little. But it didn’t run, and it baked relatively flat. Win! Cooling took just another 5 minutes (I did multiple sheets of layers, so each cooled while the next was baking.) This reminds me … I need to get another cooling rack, so I can cool more at a time. Limitations in baking are no fun.

While the baking was going on, I pulled together the frosting/filling. Yes, it really only took 10 minutes. 5 to melt the chocolate. 5 to whip it all together. Easy easy.

From there, it was stack, frost, stack, frost, stack, frost, done! I had enough batter to make 10 layers … so I used them all. The end result was a little goofy looking (I didn’t make enough frosting, so had to really stretch there at the end), but I had high hopes.

Monday night was the moment of truth. I took it to dinner with my bible study group, and served it for dessert. As I cut the first slice, I was holding my breath … but look what we saw!!

SUCCESS! And a delicious delicious success at that. The torte was a total hit with the friends. The best compliment though, came from my dad … Hungarian baker extraordinaire. I sent him a photo and he replied “That looks amazing. Much better than your grandmother or I ever made. Well done.”

::wipes tears away::

I think Alice and I are going to be the best of friends.

.

* Felicity is a senior in high school. The ever crafty girl that she is, she decided to take “Home Ec” as her home-study class. This essentially means that twice a week she has to try a new recipe for class … basically, it’s an excuse to destroy her mother’s kitchen. And she’s QUITE the cook. Any recipes anyone wants to throw at her … send them along. She’ll send you photos when she masters it. =)