Friday, May 28, 2010

Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberries & Strawberry Coulis

Hello! Can you believe that I had never made pound cake before? I can't! When I chose to make this recipe, it seemed odd to me that I hadn't ever made it previously in my baking days...but there's a first time for everything! Do you know how pound cake got its name? No, it's not because you gain a pound after eating it (although it's certainly not a "light" recipe). ;-) Actually, the name pound cake originated because the traditional recipe uses a pound of four ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. You can read more about that here if you'd like!

I looked at many different recipes before deciding on the one I used (I do this all the time - search for ages for just the right recipe!). I am pleased with my choice! I used the "perfection pound cake" recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. Yummm. The pound cake was going to be for a coworker's birthday, so I thought I'd need to dress it up a bit. How did I do that? With fresh, delicious strawberries!! It's almost Memorial Day, and this time of year screams fresh fruit (well, it screams fresh fruit in my head - maybe yours too? :)). 

Here are a few pictures of the batter as I was making it. If you ever make this, definitely follow the instructions closely. For certain steps along the way, you mix the ingredients for quite a while (e.g., the butter and sugar are mixed for 5 minutes). Be patient! At the very end though, it's important not to over mix when you add the flour. You only mix it until it's just incorporated (see the second picture below). Don't get me wrong though...the recipe was really super simple overall! Don't be intimated. ;-)

Here she is, all baked! I like its nice, light golden brown color.

Have you ever heard of a "coulis"? I hadn't until now! In my search for pound cake recipes, I came across one from Smitten Kitchen, a great blog. I did not use her actual cake recipe, but I did steal her strawberry coulis recipe. A coulis is a french sauce that can be sweet or savory, depending on the item with which it's paired. I want to make coulis more often!! This was really easy and yummy. The recipe is here (but remember, I did not use the pound cake recipe you'll see at that link). All you have to do is combine strawberries, water, lemon juice, and sugar in a blender until smooth, strain out the seeds, and then chill the mixture. Piece of cake!!

We enjoyed the pound cake, sliced strawberries (which I sprinkled with a little sugar and let them sit overnight to sweeten them a bit), and the coulis at work for a coworker's birthday, as I mentioned earlier. It was a hit!!

Here are the delicious toppings!

And the cake, half eaten!

Yummmm. I made sure to take a couple bites of the pound cake without any toppings, in order to form an opinion of the cake itself and see if I'd want to make it again. It was actually really tasty on its own! Since there aren't really too many flavorful ingredients in pound cake (other than vanilla extract really), I think it might get a bad rap of being not all that exciting of a cake. I would totally disagree! The cake wasn't too heavy; in fact, it was lighter than I thought it would be. It was also more moist than I anticipated...not dry in the least. So all in all, it was great! And of course, the strawberry toppings and cool whip helped quite a bit too. Any berries would be delicious with this really! :) 

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, friends! See you next time!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Something Sweet for Someone Sweet: Jenn's Bridal Shower!

Hi friends! Good to have you back here at the Barbershop. You may guess from the title of this post that it's a bit different than my usual posts...and it is! My good friend, Jenn, is getting married this July, and her bridal shower was this past weekend. And I was fortunate enough to be hired to bake for the shower! So fun! Jenn's matron of honor, Meg, asked me if I'd be willing to bake for the occasion, and of course I said yes. If you don't know this by now, I love to bake. ;-)

Warning: this is a rather long post! I've got a lot to say 'bout this one! :)

Okay, back to business... What was on the menu for Jenn's bridal shower? Well, we had three different kinds of cupcakes and sugar cookies. Mmmmm, sweet treats in honor of a very sweet lady! I had so much fun planning for the shower. I knew that I'd be baking for it back in March, so I put my thinking cap on right away as to what I should make. I decided on three kinds of cupcakes: double chocolate cupcakes with chocolate or vanilla frosting, classic golden cupcakes with chocolate or vanilla frosting, and lemon cupcakes with strawberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting. Phew! And for the sugar cookies, I decided to make some with icing and some with frosting. I have actually previously blogged about three of these four items are the Barbershop links for ya. ;-) Chocolate cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, and sugar cookies.

Chocolate cupcakes!

Lemon cupcakes with strawberry filling!

Sugar cookies!

I'll go into a little more detail about each recipe here too... :) So, for the chocolate cupcakes, this time around I added mini chocolate chips to the batter. Can you ever go wrong with extra chocolate? I think not! For each recipe for Jenn's shower, I made sure to try them out beforehand too...I wouldn't want my first time trying a new recipe to be an important occasion like this one! I had made the chocolate cupcake recipe a couple times before, so I knew it was a winner. And that was confirmed again at the shower!

As for the golden, or vanilla, cupcakes, I cut it close for my trial run of this recipe! I hadn't found a time to make them until about four days before the shower when I made them for a coworker's birthday. They passed the quality control test of my coworkers with flying colors, so I knew I had a "keeper" recipe! This is the one recipe I haven't blogged about yet, but I'll provide you with a link to the recipe I used (which was a recipe of the Food Networks' Barefoot Contessa) here. I did not use her frosting recipe, however. In fact, for both the chocolate and vanilla frostings I made, I used a favorite blog of mine, Our Best Bites.

Golden cupcakes!

Our Best Bites claims that their vanilla frosting is perfect. I would certainly say it's close! I really liked this frosting. It wasn't too sweet, but just sweet enough. And it was light and almost silky in texture. Deeelish! This is totally a recipe I'll make again. It does take a little extra work since you actually cook part of the frosting, but I think it's worth those extra few minutes. I'd say the same about Our Best Bites' chocolate frosting too! It's another super recipe and one that I'll be making again and again, I'm sure. If you've ever been a baker who tends to shy away from making your own frosting, I encourage you not to do that; instead, try either of these frosting recipes. Once you do, I think you'll make your own more often! ;-)

Here are a couple close-up shots of the vanilla and chocolate frostings...soooo good.

Isn't that flower pretty? It's edible and can be found at King Arthur Flour!

Lemon cupcakes with strawberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting... Do these sound familiar? Perhaps you've seen them at the Barbershop before! These were a favorite item of many gals at the shower, apparently...that's the word on the street anyway. ;-) If you happened to read my earlier post about these cupcakes, you may remember that I made a small blunder with the frosting that time. I used skim milk even though the recipe called for whole milk, and the frosting didn't turn out fluffy. :-( This time I used whole milk, and it was so much better! The strawberry filling in these is reeeeally yummy and makes the cupcakes a bit more special, I think. And it's not just adding strawberry jam either! It's a delicious homemade filling that you can read about here. Here is a picture of the cupcakes before I topped them with frosting.

Sugar cookie time!!!! These were a major hit at the party, I must say. As many of the lovely ladies said, what's not to love about sugar and butter, the two main ingredients in these cookies?? My mom gets full credit for this recipe too. I used the recipe she's been using for years!! I had a lot of fun decorating these too! As I mentioned earlier, I used icing on some of the cookies and frosting on the rest. I have a confession to make though... I did NOT make the icing! This was the one item I did not make from scratch for the shower. Instead, I used a handy dandy icing mix from my favorite King Arthur Flour. Sooo easy! You only need to add water to the mix, stir, and voila, you have icing! For the frosting, I used my mom's famous recipe; I tinted half the batch a pretty light pink and the other half a nice, springy green. Fun fun!! I have a lot of sprinkles, as evidenced here. :) And this isn't all of what I have either!

Meg had sent along pictures from a shower she had attended that had "I do" on the cookies. I replicated that, as you can see. Only about 6 more weeks 'til Jenn and Jason are saying those two words! :)

The shower was quite lovely all around. Meg and Jenn's bridesmaids, Lesley and Tiffany, really did a fabulous job! A wonderful time was had by all as we celebrated the beautiful bride to be, Jenn!! Here are some pictures from the special occasion.

Setting up...

Champagne anyone?! ;-)

Enjoying sweet treats!

Now, the shower was lingerie-themed, so I won't post too many pictures of Jenn's gifts, which generally kept with the theme... I'd like to keep this blog G-rated. ;-) But here is one picture of the beautiful bride as she's opening a gift!

I am very glad I was able to be part of Jenn's special day... It was truly a pleasure to bake for the occasion! We are all so happy for Jenn and Jason!! Here is a picture of them from last fall, when Mike and I went apple picking with the lovely couple...

Wishing you two all the best! ♡

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Buckeye Cookie Bars (a.k.a. Amazingly Delicious Bars!)

Hi there and welcome back to the Barbershop. I have another dessert recipe for you! Now, you may notice that the titles of my posts are typically pretty straightforward; they just name the item that was baking in the shop. But this time I had to add in the extra, "Amazingly Delicious Bars" because that's what these are! Amazingly delicious! It's a new recipe I haven't tried before, and I was pleased with the were the people with whom I shared these bars. :)

I'll start with the recipe, which is from a cookbook I've mentioned before, "Cake Mix Magic." These are the ingredients as they're listed in the recipe...I changed it slightly, and I'll share that change with you soon.

Buckeye Cookie Bars:

-1 package (18.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg
-1 cup chopped peanuts
-1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
-1/2 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, oil, and eggs; beat at medium speed until crumbly (I did not use a mixer, just a spoon!). Stir in peanuts. Reserve 1 and 1/2 cups crumb mixture; press remaining crumb mixture firmly on bottom of greased 13 x 9 baking pan. 

In medium bowl, beat sweetened condensed milk with peanut butter until smooth; spread over prepared crust. Spring with reserved crumb mixture.

Baked for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool, and cut into bars. Store tightly covered at room temperature. Makes 24 - 36 bars.

Here is a picture of most of the ingredients. Notice the package of reverse (or, vanilla) Oreos? Well, that's what I used to change up this recipe. Instead of adding chopped peanuts, I added crushed reverse oreos! I have had the package of oreos for a while, and I just wasn't eating them. So I decided to use them up in this recipe! The taste and texture of the oreos really added to the overall enjoyment of the bars, I think. ;-) Who says baking always has to be exact? There are often ways to change up recipes, I say!!

Can you take a guess as to how I crushed the oreos? 

Here is the first layer. Oh, and I probably added more oil than the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe...maybe more like 1/3 cup or so - just an FYI if you make these! I think it helps the mixture stick together a bit more, although the mixture is not intended to be like a typical brownie batter or don't expect that! If it seems a tad crumbly, it's okay. When you press it into the bottom of the pan, it all works out just fine, I promise.

Sweetened condensed milk & peanut butter (did I mention that this is NOT a cooking light recipe?).


This has the liquid layer and the reserved crumb mixture sprinkled on top.

Here's the final product, after it's baked! The edges look a little brown, but it wasn't burned at all. It's just the golden color that the milk and peanut butter layer becomes once it's cooked.

I am glad I gave most of these bars away. I think that if they had been in our house, I would have eaten too many of them! They're pretty darn delicious (well, amazingly delicious to be exact) -  and I think you should try them!! :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not: Spent Grain Bread

Spent grain bread? You may be wondering what that is... Well, let me explain! As many of you know, my boyfriend Mike homebrews beer, and I have joined him several times in the beer brewing process during the past couple years. Last year we found a recipe for spent grain bread, which uses the leftover grains used to make beer. And it's sooo good! Whenever possible now, after brewing, we try to make a couple loaves of this bread so that we don't waste the the title of this post says, waste not, want not! The only problem though is that typically you might use upwards of 12 or 13 POUNDS of grains in a batch of beer, and the recipe for this bread only used 1.5 to 2 cups of grains to make two loaves. That's a lot of leftover grains still! At least we use some of them I guess? Another typical thing that brewers do with spent grain is give them to farmers to use as feed for their animals. There aren't too many farms in Boston, but maybe one of these days we'll venture out and find a farmer that could benefit from our leftover grains. :)

Now I realize that many of you might not have access to spent grain, but you are welcome to ask me for some anytime! Or, you can just read this recipe and hope that I'll make some to give to you one of these days. ;-)

Want to see a couple pictures of us brewing our delicious beer? I thought you did! Here I am, pouring out all 13 pounds of grains!!!

And here's Mike, later on in the brewing process (during the boil), checking in to make sure everything's doing what it should be! And he's making a silly face, as he often does. :-P

And here's the key bread ingredient...the GRAINS!

Next, here are the bread ingredients and instructions for ya!
-¾ cup warm water
-2 Tbsp. yeast
-¼ cup butter
-¾ cup milk
-1 cup apple juice
-¼ cup molasses
-¼ cup sugar
-1 Tbsp. salt
-1 and ½ cups ‘spent’ grain
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-4 - 5 cups white flour

Put warm water in bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let dissolve. In saucepan, melt butter with milk. After the butter is melted in milk, remove from stove and add apple juice, molasses, sugar and salt. By now the yeast should be working (foaming), add in the butter/milk mixture, and then add the spent grain and whole wheat flour.

Start to mix and add white flour gradually til the mixture is workable and does not stick to your hands. Knead dough for several minutes. Dough should not stick to your hands. Cover and let rise until it's doubled in size.

Here is the dough before I let it rise....

And woah! Like magic, it is now ginormous! (I also made this picture be larger than others to exaggerate how much it grew... ;-))

Knock back to its original size. Form two loaves and place on a sheet pan that is covered w/ parchment paper that is sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush loaves w/ egg wash, and sprinkle w/ spent grain (in addition to amount in recipe) and let rise. Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes.

As you can see here, I made one loaf in a regular loaf pan and the other I just shaped into a round loaf on a regular baking pan. This recipe makes a lot of bread!!

Here is the round loaf, fresh out of the oven! Mmmmm, I just love bread. It's such a comforting food, especially when you make it yourself!

I brought some of the finished product up to my sister's when I visited her for her recent 30th birthday...  We went on a hike together, and we ate some bread as part of our pre-hike nourishment. Yummm!

You can see my breakfast of coffee, spent grain bread with jam, and a green monster smoothie here. :) 

This is such a delicious, hearty bread. It is best served toasted, I think, with a little butter/margarine, jam, or peanut butter... I wish I could just send you some electronically so you could taste it too! One of these days technology will make that possible, I bet...or, maybe not. That's a bit of a stretch. ;-)

And here's one final pic of the master brewer, Mike, and master baker, yours truly! See you next time, friends!