Banana Fosters Bread Pudding, A Dog Bite, & A Lot Of Complaining

It’s been a month since my last post. Literally, one entire month. But in my defense it’s been a crap month full of long work hours, not to mention the return of Starbucks 10 day long Frappachino Happy Hour – a.k.a. Frappy Hour, a.k.a. two hours I’d rather spend getting a root canal than working.

It’s been a month of dog bites, 0 time to bake, and some of the most frustrating customer interactions I’ve ever had in my 7 years of working in customer service.

I’m just going to put this out there because this is my blog and I can complain if I want to… To all Starbucks customers, if the lack of java chips in your Double Chocolaty Chip or Java Chip Frappachino is the worst thing that has happened to you today, then switch lives with me because your life is immediately better than mine. Also, please stop yelling at me when I tell you we are out of java chips. I didn’t eat them all to spite you, though maybe next time I’ll consider that kind of juvenile revenge as you are threatening my life over the lack rectangular chocolate chips in your over priced drink.

I feel a lot better now that this is all over the Internet.

Also, dog bite? Yes that happened. Remember that post I did about my pooch Daisy? Yeah, well her choppers had one taste of Rachel and she’s been hooked on Rachel meat ever since. Daisy and I may have gotten into an argument over her dietary choices. I think eating vomit is gross, however, she thinks it’s rather satisfying. So when I tried to get her to stop eating her own puke, she responded by gnawing on my arm. Which apparently is just as satisfying to her as her own vomit.

It took a week and a half for the two puncture wounds to heal and now I’m back in the kitchen with a badass scar that kind of looks like a vampire bite. Not that I’m into vampires and Twilight at all. In fact, since it’s on the table and our minds are all going there, YOU WILL NEVER SEE TWILIGHT MENTIONED ON THIS BLOG BEYOND THESE TWO SENTENCES.

So to wrap this up, I’ve been too busy complaining to bake. I’ve been given the nickname Drama.com/RachelYecco for a reason. I’ve been too busy being dramatic over dog bites and frappachinos to make anything delicious!

But I did make Banana Fosters Bread Pudding prior to my dog’s attempt to eat me alive. It’s just the gooiest springtime bread pudding. ß That was very Martha Stewart sounding of me.

 COMING UP: Mac n’ Cheese inspired my the late Maurice Sendak, Jacques Torres infamous Chocolate Chip Cookies inspired by Brittany Spears- bare with me, I’m not in favor of the Diva, but of an article written about her other-worldly behavior- and …uh…. Something else that I haven’t thought of yet, but it will make an appearance.

I’m also attempting to make donuts again, so that will be some fried up fun.

Expect those recipes and a photo dump of my trip Vermont, where I will try to catch dinner on a fly fishing excursion. All this on next week’s post!

As for now, here’s some bread pudding inspired by the lack of a life that I’ve led in the last month.

Cheers!

Banana Fosters Bread Pudding with a Caramel Sauce

Ingredients (For the bread pudding)

1 Large loaf of Challah bread

4 Cups whole milk

1/2 a vanilla bean + hull

1/2 Cup dark rum

1 Cup white sugar

1 Cup brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

6 Eggs

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients (for the Banana topping)

(Adapted from Emril Lagasse’s recipe, Banana Fosters Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce)

6 Firm ripe bananas

1/2 Cup dark rum

1/2 Cup butter

1 Cup brown sugar

1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients (For Caramel)

3/4 Cup white sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/2 Cup heavy cream

1/4 Cup whole milk

1/2 Cup walnuts, optional

Vanilla Ice Cream, optional

Directions:

  1. Bread Pudding: preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop Challah bread into 1 inch cubes and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together whole milk, rum, vanilla beans and hull. Let marinate together for 30 minutes in refrigerator. Whisk in white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Whisk in eggs into milk mixture one at a time until it is a uniform mixture.
  5. Grease a 13x 9 inch pan and arrange your challah bread in the dish. Pour milk mixture over the bread and allow to sit for 45 minutes in the refrigerator until the bread has soaked up most of the liquid.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes or until the top of the pudding is light brown in color.
  7. Banana Fosters Topping: Slice bananas into 1/2 inch pieces.
  8. In a large skillet, melt 1/2 Cup of butter. Then, add in the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook until the brown sugar dissolves. This will take 5 minutes. You will know it’s ready when the brown sugar is creamy. Then, arrange bananas flat onto the skillet, cooking bananas on both sides and flipping with they begin to soften. CAREFULLY, add the rum and light the skillet on fire using a match. Move the pan back and forth until the flame dies down. Remove from heat.
  9. Caramel Sauce: Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, turn heat to medium low and let the sugar boil without mixing. Don’t mix no matter how badly you want to. Allow sugars to boil until it forms a light amber color, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream, which may splatter. Then add 1/4 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons at a time until it forms the desired consistency.
  10. Assemble: Scoop your bread pudding into a bowl and top with the banana fosters topping and caramel sauce. Add walnuts and vanilla ice cream, optional.

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Barton Hollow, TN & Devil’s Food Cake

My ears exploded the night of the 2012 Grammy’s. I typically never watch those sorts of things, mainly because the thought of Katy Perry turns me borderline hulk-like. But Adele was performing, which I think is why almost every single person with cable tuned in to watch.

 In the middle of the awards, cameras panned onto a duo known as The Civil Wars. Guitarist John Paul White in all of his Depp-like glory thanked all of his ‘opening acts,’ which included Adele, Bruce Springsteen, and Chris Brown. Bold for a musician I had never heard of before. It seemed like out of know where, John Paul and the duo’s better half Joy Williams unloaded more volume than any of their stage heavy ‘openers’ did. They played Barton Hollow for 30 seconds before introducing Taylor Swift.

Why Taylor, why did you have to make them stop playing?

For the love of God, riddle me this! Who allowed The Civil Wars to play for 30 seconds, while Katy Perry rolled around on stage as an alien and Nicki Minaj had an exorcism for around 8 minutes each? Please, I need answers to this. Someone get the CEO of CBS on the phone.

I almost immediately became infatuated with them, learning about how they toured just as man with a guitar and woman, a feat that little Grammy musicians even think about attempting. They stripped down music to its bare essentials, which really opened the eyes of new music seekers and definitely got the country talking.

 As performers, Joy rides John Paul’s sound waves, hypnotizing the audience probably into buying CD’s. I mean, it worked on me once I saw them sing My Father’s Father beneath a canopy of Californian Redwood trees.

Not to mention they do a cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean better than the King himself.

I wanted to create a recipe inspired by Barton Hollow. While performing at Rolling Stone Studios, John Paul said on the real Barton Hallow, Tennessee, “It’s a place you don’t go to do anything legal. So I feel like it kind of fits us.”

The chorus reads:

Ain’t going back to Barton Hallow

Devil gonna follow me e’er I go

Won’t do me no good washing in the river

Can’t no preacher man save me soul.

Devilish. Outlawed. Unspoken. Damned. It’s it obvious? Devil’s Food Cake. And you want to know how I made Devil’s Food Cake a little more rebellious? By cranking up the whisky.

Devil’s Food Cake

Ingredients For Cake

2 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting the pan

1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon salt

12 Tablespoons butter + extra for greasing the pan, room temperature

2 Cups + 2 Tablespoons white sugar

3/4 cups cocoa powder

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Eggs, room temperature

2 Teaspoons instant coffee

3 Tablespoons Whisky (optional, but definitely encouraged)

1 1/4 Cups water, at room temperature

1/4 Cup buttermilk

Ingredients for Ganache 

1/2 Cup + 3 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 Cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons Whisky (again, optional)

1/4 Cup powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the butter until smooth- about 2 minutes. Then, gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy- about 5 minutes. Add the cocoa powder. In a small cup, mix vanilla with instant coffee until it is just dissolved. Add to mixer and mix for 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time and beat until it is well combined.
  4. Bring water and buttermilk to a light boil and remove from heat. Buttermilk will separate- this is good.
  5. On a low speed, gradually add flour mixture, alternating with the water-buttermilk liquid. Once it comes together, add the whisky and beat for 1 more minute.
  6. Using extra butter, heavily grease a bundt pan and then give it a light dusting of flour. This will prevent the cake from sticking.
  7. Cook for 50-60 minutes or until it is toothpick clean. Allow to cool
  8. TO MAKE THE GANACHE: In a double boiler, heat the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and whisky. Allow it to melt together before whisking heavily so it forms a uniform chocolate. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before drizzling onto the top of the cake. Once it is all cooled, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar.

“Miles and miles in my bare feet
Still can’t lay me down to sleep
If I die before I wake
I know the Lord my soul won’t take” ~ The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow

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Ho Hey Honey Pancakes & The Lumineers

Very few music makes me stop whatever it is that I’m doing to give it my full attention. Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men had that effect on me and so did My Father’s Father by The Civil Wars. But neither even began to compare to the excitement I felt when I was introduced to Ho Hey by The Lumineers.

As I crept my way through their self-titled debut album it became difficult for me to pick a favorite song, let alone one for the blog. I was introduced to their music the day their album dropped and bought it immediately. BOUGHT it, as I advise all of you to do.  Denver rooted band, The Lumineers consist of two ex-New Jersey folk Wesley and Jeremiah, as well as a shorthaired cellist Neyla, who joined he band after responding to a Criagslist post. In an online interview and performance on Chase Jarvis, Neyla said that when she graduated, she got a short haircut and was looking for something to do, which led her to joining The Lumineers. I think that’s how most things begin- with a short hair cut and boredom.  When she said that I couldn’t help but to think about how I started this blog. I had just gotten rejected from a PR job after being strung along for three weeks. It was the end of the summer and I was discouraged and broke. I decided if publishing companies wouldn’t hire me, then I’d have to figure out my own way to make it in the business. So I started The Baker in the Rye, got a job at Starbucks and then had a panic attack, which naturally ended with me cutting 8 inches off my hair.

Shorthaired gals have got some grit. We don’t have time to do our hair when we’re busy making waves. The Lumineers are best compared to Bob Dylan, if he had a good voice. That’s right, I said it. Bob Dylan was known for his lyrics and style, not for his voice, which isn’t conventionally pretty. The Lumineers have a Dylan-esqu soul and folklore to their lyrics, championed with smoky mountain vocals. Their sound makes it hard not to become intrigued by them. Since their album dropped, I have wrapped myself with their music and fallen deep into the comfort of their lyrics.  These Orange Honey Oatmeal Pancakes were inspired by their cozy, home-style sound. It’s almost as if they are singing about you, to you- about someone you know, or knew, or someone you want to know more of. The Lumineers give off an all around comfortable vibe. And what is more comfortable than Pancakes?

I was also compelled to toss a few flowers onto the pancakes as inspired by their song Flowers in Your Hair. 

Happy pancake making and music listening!

Orange Honey Oatmeal Pancakes

(Makes 12-14 pancakes)

Ingredients for Pancakes:

1 Cup all purpose flour

1 Cup quick cooking oatmeal

1 Tablesoon white sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

3 Teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 Cups buttermilk

2 eggs

3 Tablespoons honey

1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon orange zest

3 tablespoons butter to grease the skillet

Ingredients for Whipped Topping:

1/2 Cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons honey + extra for garnish

1/2 Teaspoon orange zest + extra for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix flour, oatmeal, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, honey, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add in orange zest and mix lightly. Allow batter to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet and using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto a buttered skillet. The oatmeal will weight down the bubbles, which are an indicator to flip the pancake. To prevent the pancakes from burning, keep a close eye and flip with the edges of the pancakes are firmer and golden in color. You will need to flip, most likely after 2 minutes. Allow to cook an additional minute on the other side. Repeat until you have used all your batter.
  4. For the whipped topping, whisk the heavy cream using an electric mixer. Once the cream  formed firm peaks, add in the honey and orange zest and whisk for an additional 10 seconds.  Dollop some cream onto you pancakes.

We thought everyone was on our side
Then we grew a little
And romanticized the time I saw
Flowers in your hair
Takes a boy to live
Takes a man to pretend he was there. ~ The Lumineers
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Lay Low & Sweet Potato Home Fries

There has been a Friday morning donut disaster. A donut massacre, if you will. I had planned on posting a recipe for old fashioned donuts as inspired by Icelandic singer Sóley’s song I’ll Drown. However, due to issues with yeast quantity, rest time for the dough, and a cold home, which is not conducive to making donuts, my donuts lacked a certain deliciousness that I aimed for. But alas, I always have a backup.

Wednesday I saw the band Of Monsters and Men, whom I recently blogged about, perform in Philly. Ironically, I had a little run in with singer/ guitarist Ragnar and dream boat drummer Arnar on the street outside of a shoe store. It was not a good run in. I embarrassed myself so epically that I can only hope they have forgotten about it. I went to wave and say hi, but the sound I made resembled more of a choking noise than a person trying to communicate with them.

 My total awkward encounter aside, it was a great show. Of Monsters and Men are talented musicians who will surely take over the airwaves. But it was their opening act Lay Low who really got my attention. The audience couldn’t help but be intrigued as a petit girl wearing a poppy patterned dress and holding a worn guitar, made her way onto the stage. After she introduced herself as Lay Low, it was clear that she was more than just a girl with a guitar- that guitar was a weapon and the audience was left with their minds blown after her performance.

 

Photo by Páll Kjartansson from http://laylow.is/media/images/

Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, on stage known as Lay Low, is an Iceland native and is breaking waves with her  folk and blues sound. One thing that struck me was when she picked up a new guitar and said that she had just bought it on tour and is now totally broke, but incredibly happy. Her tone and stature had such a child-like charm as she bobbed her body around like waves when she played. After her performance, I knew I had to feature her on The Baker in the Rye.

 Her music, small stature, broken English, and all around charm were just too sweet to ignore. During her performance, I kept turning to my friends and saying, “She’s just so cute! She’s so talented and so adorable!”  I wanted to translate her sweetness into something edible for the blog, like these quick and easy sweet potato fries.

 Hopefully you give Lay Low a good listen and enjoy her music as much as I do. I found a music video from 2006 for her song Please Don’t Hate Me so have a listen!

Sweet Potato Home Fries

Ingredients and Tools:

1 Large sweet potato (about 2 cups, cubed)

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Quarts vegetable oil

Deep fryer

Paper Bag

Paper towel

Directions:

  1. Heat your oil to 375 degrees fahrenheit in a deep fryer.
  2. Make your cooling station by laying a paper towel over on top of a flat paper bag. This will soak up any excess oil.
  3. Cube your sweet potatoes and once the oil is hot enough, add the potatoes to the seep fryer. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
  4. Place the cooked potatoes onto the paper towel and sprinkle with the brown sugar and salt.

TIP: Don’t over crowd your deep fryer. Cook potatoes in two batches. Too many potatoes will lower the frying temperature, which makes a greasy potato. Yuck!

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My Head Is An Animal And My Hands Are Bear Claws

Folk music wears a variety of masks and has run many marathons since the days of Bob Dylan. My folk of choice comes from an ocean away in a country built on more irony than any novel ever written.

It’s the first post in April and I am very excited to announce that we will be breaking from books and opening our ears to some new tunes for the month of April! Why? Because April is my birth month and I am a huge music junkie. This week I will be sharing two of my favorite Icelandic imports: Of Monsters and Men and Sóley.

Photo by Tony Prower , taken November 29, 2010 from http://www.icelandaurora.com

Those who know me know that I am overwhelmingly obsessed with Iceland, the country built on fire and ice. It takes a lot for me to fall in love with a country to the point where I’d get on a plane, known to me as a winged-tip devil, to fly there. I am so obsessed with the country, that when I had to cancel my trip to Reykjavik for this June, I masked my disappointment in 8 pounds of buttery treats.

I bought 3 books, a carry all bag, and hiking boots for this trip.

My dad often asked “Why Iceland? There’s nothing there?”  He and my mom had just come home from Italy with hundreds of pictures of cathedrals and museums- beautiful man made things.

Iceland’s ghostly glaciers, lush mountainsides, black beaches, time-bomb volcanoes, and waterfalls that leave me down right speechless are more beautiful in photo than any Italian cathedral because no man could have ever built it. Iceland would have been the most incredibly experience I could have had. Even through photos, the landscape made me feel so insignificant in a grounded sort of way. I wanted nothing more than to get lost in that landscape. Maybe next year.

Researching Iceland exposed me to an Iceland Airwaves 2010 video of Reykjavik babes Of Monsters and Men. Singer, Ragnar þórhallsson began by introducing the band as well as a nameless song, now known on their freshly squeezed album My Head is an Animal, as Sloom. Between the beautiful lyrics and unique music-style, not to mention singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir chic partially shaved head and drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson just all around good looks, I quickly became smitten this these Icelandic kittens.

They have talent, excitement, passion, and are bringing back the accordion with style- got to love it.

I can’t even begin to explain the hell I went through to get April 4th tickets to their Philly show. First off, you all should know that I am a control freak and once I get an idea into my head I will do almost anything to make it happen. The April 3rd sell out left me ticket-less, which put a sour taste in this Of Monsters and Men fan’s mouth. When they announced an April 4th show I knew what needed to be done. However, there are two things that I will never divulge on The Baker in the Rye: my chocolate frosting recipe and how I got those April 4th Of Monsters and Men tickets. Why? Because I don’t want anyone to know what makes my frosting so amazing and I don’t want anyone to have Of Monsters and Men tickets over me. I’m a mega fan- this is what we do.

One of my favorite songs from their Iceland Airwaves 2011 performance was Dirty Paws. It was filled with folklore undertones that I dove head first into overanalyzing it. It’s filled with animal battles, talking trees, and the story of fighting for what you believe in despite stature and odds. Sounds a lot like the music business. Are you the dragonflies Of Monsters and Men? Or perhaps Dirty Paws is a reference to The Sagas?

I’ve read three books on Iceland and what I’ve learned is that it’s folklore and history as written in The Sagas is an intricate part of life. Or at least, that’s what Lonely Planet: Iceland, Insight Guides: Iceland, and Iceland Land of the Sagas by David Roberts, photographed by Jon Krakauer, led me to believe.  It is written as prose, often with stanzas or as complete poems. This parallels how music is written.

Instead of going WAY more into this, just check out Of Monsters and Men and make this Almond Bear Claws. Dirty Paws, Bear Claws- you see what I did there? My head can be an animal too sometimes.

Of Monsters and Men have blown up since I first saw their 2010 Iceland Airwaves video. They spread like wildfire in the U.S. It seems like every time I turn on the radio, they have been added to yet another music festival. It’s good to know that musicians with talent are taking over the Justin Beibers of America.

Get a head start of Friday’s post by cozying on up with Sóley’s hypnotic song I’ll Drown. Can you guess the most drownable/ dunkable food to pair with her song? I’ll give you a hint, you can drown it in the national beverage of Iceland.

Also, see you in Philly  on April 4th OMAM! I can’t promise I’ll be on my best behavior!

Almond Bear Claws

(Adapted from hte Recipe “Almond Bear Claws” from “A Taste of Home” )

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Cups cold butter, cubed

5 Cups all purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1/4 Cup how water

1 1/4 Cups half and half

1/4 Cups sugar

1/4 Teaspoon salt

2 Eggs

1 Egg white

3/4 Cups powdered sugar

1/2 Cup almond paste, subed

1 Tablespoon water

3 Tablespoons coarse sugar

1/4 Cup sliced almonds

Ingredients for Glaze

1 Cup powdered sugar

4 tablespoons whole milk

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the hot water and allow 10 minutes for it to proof, form bubbles.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the butter with  flour, using a pastry cutter to mix together. Mix until it forms coarse crumbs. In a saucepan, heat the half and half, sugar, and salt to 120 degrees and add it to the  yeast mixture and mix with 1 egg. Then, add this to the the flour and butter mixture, mix until it is just combined. Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  3. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to form a 1 in thick rectangle. Fold it like you would a letter, into thirds. 
  4. Place this into the refrigerator for an hour. repeat this process three times, refrigerating for 1 hour in between. Once you’ve done this three times, cut the dough in half and roll it out to form a large square about 1/4 inch thick. Mark the dough so you make 3 inch by 6 inch rectangles and cut them using a pizza cutter.

 5. Make the Almond pastry cream by beating the egg white until it forms thick peaks. Then add powdered sugar and almond paste until it forms a thick creamy paste. 

6. Brush the rectangle with an egg wash and place 2 tablespoons of almond cream in the center of each rectangle, folding it over to form a pocket. Press the sides down tight and cut 3 small strips to form little bear toes for the “claw” part of the bear claw. Brush the top with an egg wash, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and put a sliced almond toe nail on each of the claws.

7. Place in a 350 degree fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes, until the tops puff up and are golden brown. Let rest for 20 minutes. To make the glaze, mix the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl until it is smooth. Then, drizzle on top of the cooled bear claw.

 “Her dirty paws and furry coat, she ran down the forest slope.” ~ Of Monsters and Men

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Mega Million Madness & Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Willy Wonka-esque mayhem has infiltrated New Jersey as the Mega Millions jackpot climbs to a world record 540 million dollars. 540- million- dollars. You bet your ass once my cheesecake is finished cooking I’ll be buying some tickets. But may I remind you; it only takes one ticket to win.

Someone should tell that to rookie NBA star Chris Singleton who tweeted that he planned on spending $10,000 on lotto tickets for the big drawing. I on the other hand, will spend all of $3.00 on tickets. Mainly because once I fill my Jeep up with gas this afternoon, I’ll only have about $3.00 left in my wallet.

The Mega Millions madness reminds me of Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the novel, the world was consumed by the possibility to enter Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and people spent thousands of dollars on candy bars just to maybe uncover one of the golden tickets. Charlie spent a stray dollar, that his family desperately needed, on a winning chocolate bar.

 Right now, the world is obsessed with the notion of winning 540 million dollars, before taxes of course.

Yesterday I asked the people I worked with, along with some customers, “If you won the lotto, what would you spend the money on.” One of my co-workers said he’d buy a big boat, hire someone to steer it, live on the boat for the rest of his life, and employ me as he designated boat baker.

One customer, who said he had a feeling that he would win the big bucks, said he’d build a bat-cave, maybe even two of them. Since he felt so strongly about his early lotto win, I reminded him not to forget his local Starbucks baristas- especially me.

If I won the lotto, I’d:

  • Move out of my parents house and buy my dream home a mere 5 minutes away. It’s a turn of the 20th century style home, formally an inn, which has been beat to death with hard economic times, bad weather, and if my gut feeling is accurate, maybe some termites. I’d fix her up and turn the barn in the backyard into a massive kitchen.
  • I’d pay my parents back for college/
  • I’d pay off any loans of my family and friends.
  • I’d go for my master’s degree in PR writing OR open up a coffee shop.
  • I’d spend a year backpacking through Europe, starting with Iceland (More on Iceland to come).
  • I’d throw a Monster Ball in my backyard with myself, Lady Gaga, some close family and friends, along with some other Little Monsters.

But these things would only scratch the surface of 540 million dollars. It’s just such a large amount of money that truth be told, I would never want to be responsible for. So yes, I’ll join Mega Million Mania today and buy a few tickets just to have in on the excitement, but am I expecting to be sipping tea, poolside with Lady Gaga in a month from now, definitely not. Though that sounds pretty nice.

 

The lotto is a vehicle for wishful thinking, only a lucky few will be able to turn their lotto wish list into a reality.

 

As for now, here is a lottery and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired treat, Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re so good that you’ll abandon your lotto dreams and dream mainly in chocolate, which is how I prefer to dream. I typed dream way too many times.

 And hey- if the winner of the 540 million dollar jackpot, happens to be reading The Baker in the Rye, don’t forget your local baker. 540 million dollars can buy a lot of butter.

Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1 Cup butter, room temperature,

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

2 Eggs

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Cups all- purpose flour

2/3 Cup cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

2 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar.  Add in the vanilla, followed by the eggs one at a time. Beat until Fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Then add this to the wet ingredients and mix until it just comes together.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and mix until it is all evenly incorporated.
  5. Using a medium sized melon-baller, scoop out the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet until you have no more batter. Press the tops down slightly with the palm of your hand and bake in the oven to 8-10 minutes.
  6. Do not cook for more than ten minutes or else the cookies will be hard and not soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Will yield 24 cookies.

 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~ Roald Dahl

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Huck Finn, Scmuck Finn- I’m In It For The Breakfast Rafts

My sophomore year in high school, I gave my English teacher a real hell of a time while we read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Although it is considered the ultimate American tale, I begged to differ- I begged to differ a lot.

 Before we would discuss any book as a class, we would take reading comprehension quizes. My teacher would ask a question and we were to quietly write the answer down on a sheet of paper. At 16, quiet was not the best way to describe me. I had previously interrupted one of those quizes  by asking out loud, “Is Pheobe spelled with an F or a PH?” Everyone got that answer right, thanks to me.


 As we finished out Huck Finn comprehension quiz and began going over the answers, I asked a question that went down in 11/12th period English history. My teacher asked, “Where was the primary setting of Huck Finn?” Someone rose their hand and answered, “The Mississippi River,” to which I asked, “THERE WAS A RIVER?”

Did I mention this was an honors English class? I have a way of embarrassing myself as vocally as possible.

For those of you who never read Huck Finn, pretty much the entire novel takes place on the Mississippi River.

Haunted by Huck Finn, I decided to revisit the book by making breakfast rafts- mmm breakfast rafts. Flaky, cheesy, salty breakfast rafts- I could be a morning person for these.

 Breakfast Rafts

Ingredients & Tools:

12 Mini tart pans (I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond)

Parchment paper

1 1/4 Cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 Cup cold shortening, cubed

1/4 Cup cold butter, cubed

2-3 Tablespoons ice water

12 Eggs

6 Strips Bacon

1/2 Cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 Teaspoon pepper

3 Green onions chopped

4 Sliced of white bread, toasted and cut into small triangles

12 toothpicks

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together the flour and salt. Then cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry cutter and mix until it forms coarse crumbs. Add the ice water and work the dough until it just comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Using the mini tart pans as a stencil, cut out small circles in the parchment paper and place it on the bottom of each tart pan. This will prevent it from sticking to the pan.
  4. Roll out your dough to 1/4 inch in thickness and using a 4 inch circular cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles in the dough. Push these circles into the bottom on the mini tart pans. If you want soft eggs, bake the tart for 10 minutes, then crack n egg in each tart pan and cook for 10 more minutes. For hard eggs, like the ones in the pictures, crack an egg in each tart pan and cook for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with pepper.
  5. After 10 minutes in the oven, or 20 minutes, top the tarts with grated cheddar cheese and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the tops just begin to melt.
  6. The same time the eggs are in the oven, put bacon on a cookie sheet and cook in oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Top the eggs with crushed bacon bits and green onions. Take a piece of toast that you cut into triangles and stick it on a tooth pick. Place this in the center of the rafts and viola, a fun breakfast!

 “When it was dark I set by my camp fire smoking, and feeling pretty well satisfied; but by and by it got sort of lonesome, and so I went and set on the bank and listened to the current swashing along, and counted the stars and drift logs and rafts that come down, and then went to bed; there ain’t no better way to put in time when you are lonesome; you can’t stay so, you soon get over it. ” ~ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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A Transcendental Adventure: Pi Day Picnic On The Beach

In high school, my friend and I would take “transcendental journeys” to our English class after we studied the subject. That basically meant we took the longest, most obscure way we could to our class, typically showing up late and always landing us in a heap of trouble. We would tell our teacher that we were just applying what Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about to our every day lives, that we were experimenting with transcendentalism. Our teacher didn’t buy into it.

 Transcendentalism is a literary movement, which began in the 1830’s as a protest against the norms of society. Those involved fought against the church, education systems, and government through their writings. Despite their protests against society, transcendentalists believed in the inherent good in man and nature. According to them, things like government, the church, and the Ivy League education system corrupted the innocence and goodness in people because it brought about material means.

 To sum it up, transcendentalism is a back to basics writing style. The subject is almost always nature and tends to rely the message that man can only find peace with himself once he rejects material goods and connects to nature. Walt Whitman’s poem, The Learn’d Astronomer describes how the outdoors is more of a classroom than that of an actual classroom.

 Since I’ve been feeling the blogging blues these last few weeks, I decided that maybe a transcendental journey to the beach was in order, along with some pie since this journey took place on Pi Day. I made a rounded lunch of beer braised beef tacos in a sweet potato tortilla, Mexican red quinoa salad, mini cherry pies, and raspberry peach lemonade and headed for the beach on an overly warm March day.

 It was definitely a back to basics day at the Brigantine Beach. The beach was bare besides a few stragglers with their dogs. The only stores open were a hair salon, Chinese takeout place, and a WaWa. There were no distractions, no one texting or calling me to come into work, no mid- summer season beach tantrums from small children. It was a quiet day with some great food.

 It was so tranquil that it temporarily made me forget about a few cupcake orders that still needed assembling and the cleaning chore chart that I need to complete for work by Monday. Alas, the beach, the power of something greater than human life, can do that to a gal. And it was then, that I had my real first transcendental adventure.

 Walking a different way to class was not a transcendental adventure. I never learned anything or gained some sort of profound knowledge that Whitman or Emerson wrote about. But as I forgot my obligations for a few hours on the beach, I finally understood the Transcendentalists message: to live simply and love the things too beautiful for man to make.

 Because blogging blues have kept me away, I figured I make it up to you with five recipes in one blog post. That’s right FIVE recipes, right here, right now. First up, beer braised beef tacos in a sweet potato tortilla, then an quick recipe for a fresh veggie quinoa salad, followed by a recipe for the most adorable baby cherry pies you ever did see. All of these washed down with some raspberry-peach lemonade.

Beer Braised Beef Tacos

 Ingredients

2-2.5 Pound Eye Roast (Tri-Tip works as well)

2- 12 Oz. bottles of dark beer, I used Yeungling Porter

1- 14.5 Oz. can beer broth

1/4 Cup olive oil

1 Teaspoon salt

1 Teaspoon pepper

6 Cloves Garlic

1 Red pepper, chopped

1 White onion, chopped

2 Serrano peppers, chopped

1 Jalepeno pepper, chopped

3 Chipotle Chilies in Adobo Sauce, plus 2 Tablespoons of the Adobe Sauce. (WARNING: Adobo chilies are incredibly spicy, if you don’t like heat, use 1 chili and 1 tablespoon of Adobo Sauce)

1 Carrot, chopped

1/4 Cup flour

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

1 Teaspoon chili powder

1 Teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. Allow olive oil to heat up in a pot large enough for the meat. Rub your meat with the salt and pepper, then place your meat in a hot pan and sear on all sides.
  2. Put your meat in a crock-pot and set to low. Chop all your vegetables to the same size. I did about 2 inch chunks. Add your beer, beef broth, garlic cloves, red peppers, white onions, serrano peppers, jalepeno pepper, adobe chilies and sauce, and carrots to the crock-pot.  Cook on low for 5 hours, then lower the heat to warm for at least another 6 hours. The meat will fall apart and be spicy and delicious!
  3. Once your meat is fall apart tender, shred it using two forks.
  4. To make the sauce, take 1 1/2 Cups of the beer- beer liquid from the crock pot and set aside. In a medium heat sauce pan, create a rue by melting the butter and adding flour to it. Then, whisk in the liquid. Once it begins to thicken, add in the brown sugar, chili powder and paprika and whisk until it just begins to bubble. Add this to your meat.


Sweet Potato Tortillas

 Ingredients:

1 Large sweet potato

3 1/2 Cups flour

3 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons brown sugar

1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon

3-6 Tablespoons water

1/4 Cup vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Chop the sweet potato into 2 inch cubes and boil in water until it is form tender. Then, mash the potato and allow to cool completely before moving on.
  2. Once it is cooled, add it to an electric mixer and mic it with the shortening. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add this to the sweet potato and mix on low. The dough should form a ball at the nose of the mixer. Gradually add 3-6 Tablespoons of water if the dough is too thick. Once it comes together, knead it briefly before allowing it to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out large chunks of dough, roll it out  until 1/4 inch in thickness and cut into 8 inch rounds. Repeat this step until you have used all your dough, it should make between 14-16 rounds. 
  4. Heat up a cast iron skillet and brush it with vegetable oil. Place the tortilla round into the skillet for 1-2 minutes, until large bubbles form. Then, flip it to the other side for 1 more minute. Repeat these steps, brushing the skillet with vegetable oil before placing a new tortilla round to the skillet.
  5. Place your beer braised beef into the sweet potato tortilla for a taco twist!

Mexican Red Quinoa Salad

 Ingredients:

1 7 Oz. package of Red Qunioa

1/4 Cup diced red onion

1/2 Cup diced green pepper

1/2 Cup diced tomatoes

1/2 Cup sliced black olives

1/2 Cup Corn

1/2 Cup olive oil

1 Lemon, juiced ( about 4 Tablespoons)

1/2 Teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 Teaspoon Chili powder

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1/4 Teaspoon black pepper

1/2 Teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Add the full Red Quinoa package to 2 1/4 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid, and allow for cook  for 15-20 minutes. Once all the water is absorbed, fluff with a fork and allow to cool completely before moving on.
  2. Dice up the red onion, green pepper, tomato, olives and corn and add it to the cooled quinoa. To make the dressing, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, chili powder, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add this to the quinoa salad and let rest for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Mini Cherry Pies

Tools and Ingredients

Parchment paper

12 mini- tart pans, which can be found at any kitchen supply store. I got mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond

2 1/2 Cups flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Cup shortening, diced cold

1/2 Cup butter, diced cold

6 Tablespoons ice water

3- 14.5  Oz cans of tart red cherries, (about 4 1/2 Cups)

2 Cups + 1 Tablespoon white sugar

6 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch

3 Tablespoons butter

3/4 Teaspoon almond extract

1 Egg

Directions:

  1. For the pie crust, Sift together the flour and salt and add it to an electric mixer. Begin mixing on low. Add in the butter and shortening and continue to mix until it forms coarse crumbs. Then, add in the ice cold water. Once the dough begins to form, Remove from mixer and knead into a ball with your hands. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Cut out rounds from the parchment  paper and place it on the bottom of your mini tart pans. Grease the pans with butter. Remove the dough from fridge and roll out until 1/4 inch thick. Cut out small 4 inch rounds and place them at the bottom on the mini tart pans. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Put the remaining dough in the fridge for the top of the pies. 
  2. For the filling, heat the cherries, 2 Cups sugar, and cornstarch on medium heat until juices form and it becomes thick and starts to bubble. Then, add in butter and almond extract and mix until the butter is melted. Add this mixture the the mini tart pans. Create a lattice pattern with the remaining dough. Once all the pies are formed. Brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle with white sugar. Place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Makes 12 mini pies. 

Raspberry Peach Lemonade

Ingredients

6 Cups water

1 Cup white sugar

1 Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, about 6-8 lemons

1-9.5 Oz. can peach juice

1 Peach

1/2 Cup Raspberries

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized pot, bring water and sugar to a boil. Then allow to cool completely before moving on. Add in the lemon juice and peach juice. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Add in sliced peaches and raspberries to juice before serving.

I hope this recipe blast makes up for my lack on internet appearances over the last few weeks. I’d start with the pie- and finish with it too.

 “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” ~ Walt Whitman

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Daisy & Me

I am a stress baker. The smell of cupcakes helps to calm me down and to organize my thoughts. I baked so much my last two years of college that I actually became really, really good at it. But now that I’m out of college, live at my parents, work at Starbucks, and can’t find a job in my field, there’s been more baking than ever before. I have plenty of reasons to stock the fridge with butter.

When I was in college, my roommates knew when I was in the kitchen that I was looking to be alone. But now that I’m back living at home, solitude is hard to come by. Daisy makes it especially difficut. Daisy is my 5-year old dog.

Meet Daisy.

I often find myself saying Daisy is the worst dog on planet Earth. She seriously has no consideration for anybody else’s personal space- yes, I know I’m talking about a dog. I can’t be in the kitchen without her constantly walking in between my legs just in case I maybe accidentally drop a grain of sugar onto the floor. All she ever accomplishes by doing this is tripping me, thus making me really mad. And she’s a kitchen thief. She’s always trying to steal paper towels off the island counter, not to mention butter wrappers and egg shells from the trash. She will do almost anything for food and drool on and around me until I give it to her.

She’s also really unintelligent. Daisy is a little sensative about some words and tends to bark uncontrollably at the mentioning of:

Stinkbugs

 Wylie

 Alfie

Kitty Cat

 Numbers. Daisy is anti-education and hates when people count up or down and especially hates the number five.

Daisy also doesn’t like pickles, warhead candy, meeting new people, the ocean- or any body of water larger than her drinking bowl, rabbits, birds, deer, ducks, other dogs- all animals really, tall men, being touched before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m., baths, stairs, and vacuum cleaners… to name a few.

 My dad lives in an alternate reality, which makes him think Daisy is not only his daughter, but also his most beautiful and intelligent daughter. News flash Dad: Just because she graduated 4th from PetSmart Training doesn’t mean she’s anywhere in the realm of smart. Did I mention that there were only four dogs in the class?

Daisy is very tempermental as you can see by her really welcoming facial expression from a photo taken on Christmas Eve.

 She lives by the motto: whatever is yours is mine and whatever is mine you better back the hell away from. She has a hoard of bones that she’s received as Christmas gifts and if she catches you even thinking of walking near it she will literally lose her mind and go Mike Tyson on you. Let’s just say she’s earned her nickname, Cujo.

Daisy is a horrible, horrible dog. But she’s also the only one who will always think my cooking is great. She’s the only one who is always happy to see me when I come home from work. She will always find some way to amuse me when I’m bored. I guess she’s not all that bad.

Last week, I decided I was going to make her a treat for being a good girl. I know, I know, but as annoying as she is in the kitchen, she always ends up making it up some how. I made some whole wheat peanut butter dog treats. I think she would have rather had the Amy Winehouse Brownies I was also making at the time. Daisy has a sophisticated pallet, what can I say?

 If it isn’t obvious, this post was inspired by Marley & Me by John Grogan. Grogan’s life went through many stages, just as everyone’s does. As a columnist, he captured these changes by writing about the one constant through all these stages, his dog Marley. It is the human-dog relationship that we all can relate to.

People always hold grudges against other people. Think hard about the last person you forgave for something. You never really did forgive them, did you? Now think of the last time your dog peed all over the carpet when you came home from work, or vomited everywhere as you were running late for work. How about the time that your dog ate your new health insurance card? Or better, your new registration card for your car. Not only do we forgive out dogs faster than we do each other, we also mean it.

 Do I get mad when Daisy jumps on the counter and eats the cupcakes before I’ve gotten a chance to get them out of the cupcake pan, yes. But will I give her a piece of one about a half hour later, absolutely.

 Peanut Butter Puppy Biscuts

(Adapted from the recipe, “Peanut Butter Dog Treats,” by Sweet Pea’s Kitchen)

Ingredients:

Parchment paper

3/4 Cup nonfat milk

1 Egg

1 1/4 Cup smooth peanut butter

2 1/2 Cups whole wheat flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/8 Teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together the milk and egg. Then add in the peanut butter and mix until all incorporated. Then add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix until  thick dough is formed.
  3. Roll the dough out about 1 inch thick. Then, using any cookie cutter you want, cut the biscuits out and place onto a parchment paper-lines baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

 “A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A water-logged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.” ~ Marley & Me

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Poison, The Drink Not The Band

For weeks I have been wanting to post a cocktail on The Baker in the Rye, but all my attempts failed. I spent way too much money on strange alcohols that this beer and wine gal has never heard of and never wants to use again. This is until yesterday.

 I was in a bad time crunch for a new blog recipe when I decided to make a cocktail at 11 a.m. yesterday morning. Wining and dining knows no time in my life. The inspiration? Romeo and Juliet, the two star-crossed lovers in William Shakespeare’s play. After a family feud gone too long and so wrong, Juliet takes a potion that temporarily makes her appear dead. Romeo, not knowing this, kills himself because he cannot live without her. When Juliet awakens to see Romeo’s lifeless body, she too kills herself with a dagger. Now that’s love.

 For this week’s recipe, and for The Baker in the Rye’s first successful cocktail, I’ve made POISON. Fake poison. Tropical poison, if you will. Close your eyes and you’ll be sitting on the white sandy Bahama beaches. Too bad I don’t like the heat, but if you do, this will do the trick to get you through the next few winter weeks.

 Poison

1 Part Blue Curacao

1 Part Melon Midori

1 Part Coconut Rum

Pineapple Juice

Splash Fresca, or any other citrus soda

1/4 Part Grenedine

Maraschino cherries for garnish

Directions:

  1. Fill a wine glass up half way with crushed ice. Then add 1 part coconut rum, followed by 1 part blue curacao and 1 part melon midori.  
  2. Fill the glass up 3/4 the way with pineapple juice so it looks like this 
  3. Then add a splash of Fresca. Also note that champagne would work in this recipe as well.
  4. Pour 1/4 part grenadine down the side of the glass, allowing it to sink to the bottom of the glass. If it gets on the side, it will give it a really cool toxic-esque effect.
  5. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

 “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” ~ Romeo and Juliet

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