Archive for guinea pig mondays

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

Is it possible to go wrong with cheesecake? I think not, though I do make an effort not to jus make cheesecake every week, though I think I totally could and be happy. My love of cheesecake borders that of the driver in the absurdly awesome King Missile song ‘Cheesecake Truck”

Sometimes the hardest thing about the Guinea Pig Monday initiative is deciding what I want to make. Sometimes I’m not even really in the mood to whip something up. I don’t really feel the pressure to make something just because it’s become tradition, I mean I went the better part of a year in between the first Guinea Pig run and the current one, but I have found that forcing myself to get into the kitchen on days I might rather do absolutely nothing is kind of beneficial. As a person with a horrible track record of dropping the ball when it comes to follow through on things, I’m quite guilty of the ‘ooh shiny’ distraction of the next big project. This week all I knew I wanted was a lemon and blueberry combination. I was prepared to have to improvise, but it turns out there’s a ton of items to choose from, so I ended up following a recipe to the letter. The idea of making little cheesecake bars so it wasn’t quite so rich and heavy as an everyday cheesecake. I must say I was a little worried about how the taste would come out when I tried the batter before baking, but in the end, they are really good and would make a nice potluck dessert.

You can find the recipe on Food Network’s site

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Guinea Pig Monday: Watergate Cake

The frosting is addictive

I love Watergate Salad. Always have, always will. To be honest I’m not sure how the cake ended up having any frosting on it, I probably could have eaten the whole batch right there in my kitchen. We’ve been going through everything in my grandmother’s house to clean it out to sell. (We moved her into an assisted living apartment last month.) She was the one I obviously inherited my baking obsession from since my mom used the smoke detector as an oven timer and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad cook anything besides eggs, so there are lots of I’m-not-even-sure-what-that-is-kitchen-gadgets to discover and cook books to explore (not to mention the desserts recipe card box that is stuffed full.) This weekend I was going through a United Methodist Women’s league community cookbook from the late 70s I now own and I ran across Watergate Cake. I knew I had to give that a go, even though Floof made over-dramatic shocked gasps when I picked up the boxed cake mix it called for in the grocery store.

Yes the ’70s when everything came in a box mix. There are too many nuts in the batter if you ask me. I don’t think I even used as much as it called for and now that I’ve tasted it,  it could have used about half that.  You could probably use half in the cake and then the other half in the frosting, since they work better in the frosting.

Watergate Cake

Adapted from the United Methodist Women community cookbook

cake:

1 box white cake mix
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup 7 up
2 boxes pistachio instant pudding mix
4 eggs (well beaten)
1 cup chopped pistachios or pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350º and butter a 10″ bundt pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together, pour into pan and bake 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes, turn out cool and refrigerate several hours before frosting.

frosting:
1 box pistachio instant pudding
2 envelopes dream whip
1 cup sour cream
1 cup 2% cold milk.
3-4 oz. crushed pineapple
1/4 cup chopped pistachios or pecans (I’m just guessing here, it wasn’t in the original recipe, but I felt like the frosting needed the texture nuts provide so I just sprinkled in until it felt like the right amount)

whip all ingredients in bowl of mixer with whisk attachment until fluffy. frost cake and refrigerate.

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GPM: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanutbutter Cupcakes, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

Due to what I like to call niceness gone wrong my cake-taker is indisposed (I brought the leftovers of my birthday cake over to my parents’ house, but a few days later, my dad called offering to pay me to make another one because apparently controversy erupted over whether he had hogged all the frosting, so he thought it was just easier to get them another cake. I didn’t charge him obviously, but I did make a new cake yesterday for him, so the taker is over at their house again.) so the ultimate chocolate peanut butter torte turned into me deciding to make cupcakes. I didn’t turn the torte recipe into cupcakes, just the spirit of it (because the reviews of the recipe on the site were pretty mixed so I figured I’d go it alone. I am all about the ganache, I think I could eat that all just out of the bowl. The batter is adapted from my goto chocolate cake recipe from ‘Baked’. The ganache I just made up.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes (makes 3 dozen)

for the cake:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 cup chopped Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups (I bought a bag of them from the horrifically early Halloween candy section at the store. I used about 8 for cupcakes and then sliced the rest into thin strips for garnish)

For the Ganache:

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (high cocoa content)
1 cup heavy cream
4 spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter (I used a soup spoon and heaped it)

make the cupcakes:
In one bowl combine the cocoa, hot water and sour cream, set aside.
In a medium bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter and shortening for about 5 minutes on medium until light and fluffy. Add both of the sugars and beat about 5 minutes until light an fluffy. Add the eggs 1 by one, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl and beat 30 seconds.

Add half of the flour mixture, once incorporated add the cocoa-sour cream mixture, incorporate and then add the rest of the flour mixture scraping down the bowl each time. Add the chopped peanut butter cups and mix on stir to just combine.

Divide among 3 trays of lined cupcake pans. Bake at 325º for 30-35 minutes rotating halfway through baking. Cool on wire racks.

Make the ganache:

Put chocolate into heat safe bowl. Heat the cream until just starting to boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit a couple minutes to soften chocolate, add peanut butter and stir until everything is combined and creamy. Let cool about 15 minutes to set up a little. It should be soft enough to spoon or pipe, but if it’s too warm or runny it will soak into the cake and you’ll use more of it than you need.

Assemble:
Using a paring knife, cut circles into the top of the cupcakes and remove the cake to make a small cavity. Fill the cavity with ganache and spread a thin layer of ganache over the top of the cupcake. Slice your remaining peanut butter cups into thin strips and garnish the cupcakes.

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Guinea Pig Monday: Mocha Cookies with White Chocolate and Butterscotch

mocha cookies with white chocolate and butterscotch, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

A confession: I’m not really much of a cookie person. I mean I like cookies and I have a lot of cookie recipes in my recipes to try queue, but I rarely bake them. I suppose I just like cakes and pies and other more complicated things more. Cookies are sort of an easy default (except of course macaroons.) I’m sure, sometime in the near future, I’ll fall prey to the current Whoopie Pie Madness, if for no other reason, it’s an excuse to buy another one use baking pan.  (I’m horrible with kitchen gadgets, actually I totally dream of say Food Network doing an adult version of those contests Nickelodeon used to have where kids get  10 minutes to run through Toys R Us and  keep whatever they could cram in a shopping cart, except it involves me and a Sur la Table.)

Cookies are perfect for when you want to bake a dessert, but you don’t really want to do anything. Sunday was like that for me. My grandmother is moving to an assisted living apartment complex in a couple of weeks, so the weekend I thought would be partially leisurely, turned into me spending 2 days helping my mom and dad try to figure out what was moving with her and packing up her house.  That wouldn’t really have been so bad if the heat index outside weren’t 105 and the air conditioning weren’t broken. By Sunday when I got home and pondered what Monday’s experimental bakey-goodness  would be, all I wanted to do was sit down and veg out. So cookies were the obvious choice.

These cookies are perfect for lazy baking. You beat 1 cup of room temp. butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 eggs,  and a teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy; then add 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder,  2 T instant espresso powder,  1 teasp baking soda and 1/4 teasp salt and mix until combined. Add 1 cup of white chocolate chips (This is the point at which I decided that butterscotch would be a perfect addition and changed it to 1/2 white chocolate and 1/2 butterscotch chips. The original recipe just called for instant coffee instead of espresso, but I hate coffee and only had instant espresso which I use for baking.)  The recipe just says to roll the batter into balls with no specific size, but  I just spooned out generous probably a little bigger than a tablespoon-sized  dollops a couple of inches apart on 2 baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes (I found I needed to bake for about 14 minutes, but that might be partially my cookie size and partially my oven that sometimes works perfectly and sometimes is possessed by a gremlin. )  The original recipe is located on Jessica’s blog ‘How Sweet It Is’ (which currently has a lot of dangerously tasty looking recipes on the first page, I really shouldn’t visit food blogs when hungry.)

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Guinea Pig Mondays: Cranberry Apricot Date Tart

Cranberry Apricot Date Tart, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

This week my baking adventure is a little more adventurous than usual. That’s because instead of following a recipe, I created one. Creating a baking recipe scares me a little bit because baking is such a science. I had a little trouble with the crust shrinking on the sides and I feel a little like the crust still didn’t bake completely. I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of my rectangular tart pan though because it seems that every tart I make with it, the shell is undercooked even if I’ve used a professional recipe and cooked it longer than the recommended time.

Now that I’ve premiered the tart to my co-workers, I can say that it’s definitely a success, and compared to my last 2 Mondays, it’s almost like health food. 🙂 Perhaps I’ll feel more confident to tweak and come up with my own recipes with baked goods more often now. (and maybe I’ll even keep track of how much spice I’m adding so I can be more precise than ‘um I gave it like 4 shakes’ I’m a terible ‘that just loks like the right amount of seasoning’ type.)

Recipe is after the “more”.
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Guinea Pig Monday: Lemon Marscarpone Cheesecake

lemon_marscarpone_cheesecake, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

It’s been raining everyday for at least a week, it seems like ages. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rain, it’s one of my favourite weather conditions, especially the torrential slightly dangerous rains that bring the promise of tornadoes (provided of course that they only bring the promise and not actually the tornadoes part.) There is something about the experience of standing outside in the greenish light of severe weather with the wind tearing around you and then suddenly stopping and everything goes eerie calm like all the sound has been sucked out of the world for a second before the rain starts pouring down and everything goes squid-ink purple. Some people don’t like that, but like my father I’m probably one step away from being one of those people up on the gas station roof with a 2×4 through their chests because they wanted to be a storm chaser.

What I don’t like is the humidity, and in between the morning downpour and the evening severe thunderstorm, the world has gone thick and heavy and everything wants to melt. Plus the walking trail I usually walk at lunch has been flooded out about every other day.

So what better way to fight the greys and the humidity than lemons? They are after all the most sunny, cheerful and refreshing fruit. I’m a sucker for anything lemon really. So much so that I even abandoned my peppermint gum only rule recently to add the Raspberry lemonade gum that orbit makes to the rotation. So I combed my long list of baked goods to try recipes for something lemony, and came across one that combined 2 of my favourite things, lemon and cheesecake! Surely it can’t get any better than that. (having had a piece I’m pretty sure it can’t.)

Cheesecakes are always one of those deserts for me that I always start out feeling like they’re going to take so much work, and then they never do and I’m asking myself at the end why I don’t make them more. And this cheesecake recipe, well it’s just the bees knees! Not only is it to die for tasty, but it did not fall victim to my frequent cheesecake problem of the center puffing up and then falling when cool and cracking. Even if I hadn’t put the lemon marscarpone layer on I could have served it without fretting over its somewhat sad aesthetics.

The other thing that made this recipe impervious to my other frequent cheesecake failure is that this has a really lovely shortbread crust, instead of the graham cracker crumb that I sometimes manage to make so dense it’s hard to cut through. I’m thinking that I’ve made enough cheesecakes that I might start to experiment at creating my own variations. This cheesecake is a total morale booster, you see, and you should make one. This particular miracle cheesecake recipe comes from Humble Pie, whichis a wonderful baking blog you should read if you haven’t before. It’s going over well here with my guinea pigs, there was only a quarter of it left by 10:30.

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Guinea Pig Mondays: Tuesday edition

earl grey brownies, originally uploaded by sockmonkeyrevolt.

Pretty much every week for a year (with exceptions for Monday holidays, ot of town trips or the week I moved) I baked a baking experiment on Sundays and brought it in to foist off on my co-workers. My boyfriend hates desserts (I know what is wrong with him? Who hates desserts? I always ate mine first just incase my mother’s cooking finally killed me. I love my mom and all, but burnt dry canned salmon burgers, well, I’m pretty sure those are outlawed by the Geneva Convention.) and no one in the office has yet complained about being offered baked goodies for free, just becasue it’s so I can try out a recipe or experiment and not have some giant cake I have to eat by myself.

It really has been year since I last brought in the experimental goods (I did bring in the obligatory St. Patty’s Day and Cinco De Mayo cupcakes, but they don’t count.) I’m not entirely sure what caused the hiatus, I’ve still been collecting recipes to try, primarily due to my obession with the foodporn site Tastespotting, but Sundays would roll around and I couldn’t bring myself to bake. Co-workers were sad faced on Mondays without their sugar, but the baking spirit didn’t come back. But, my litle squirrel friend threw a walnut at my head and chattered, ‘how do you expect to find the current and regain the breeze if you don’t go on any adventures?’ And, of course he was right, moping breeds moping and the adventure of baking breeds the desire to bake some more.

I decided to come back with brownies. Briwnies have always been a weakness of mine. For awhile a couple of years ago, I was afraid I might be pregnant because all I wanted to eat was brownies. I wasn’t, it just turned out that I was on a brownie kick fortunately (perhaps not fortunately for my waistline.) So I scoured through my list of baked goods recipes to try and decided on an Earl Grey Brownies recipe from The Boston Globe. I did make one tweak to the recipe after a comment on twitter asked if the brownies I was making had lavender honey frosting (they don’t) because I thought lavender sounded like quite a fine idea, so I added a couple of drops of lavender extract to the batter.

These brownies are amazing! A dense fudgey brownie that’s incredibly rich, but not super-sweet. It’s definitely hard to sit with them just down at the end of my desk and not eat a second one. Philsie the owl is quite taken with them.

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