I Will Carry Your Heart(Shaped Petit Fours)

I decided we would keep with the theme of love until Valentine’s Day. I also decided that I am going to talk in the royal “we.” I hope that doesn’t make some of you cringe. And there is nothing that says, “I love you,” like a good poem and some homemade jam. That’s right, jam. Jam makes everything taste better: boxed pancakes, stale bread, frost bitten vanilla ice cream. Hell, I’ve been known to stuff a cupcake or two with jam.

I’m not much for poetry, but when I am in the mood, I stick to the poets I know like Sylvia Plath or our man of the hour E.E. Cummings. Cumming’s poems can act like a vessel for the reader to create his or her own version of a poem by rearranging certain lines. In the case of his poem I Carry Your Heart With Me, the reader has a few options.

Option A- Read the poem as is.

Option B– Read the lines in each stanza throughout the poem that are not in parenthesis first, then read the lines that are in parenthesis.

Option C– Read the lines in each stanza throughout the poem that are in parenthesis first, then read the lines that are not in parenthesis.

Option D- In each stanza, read the lines that are not in parenthesis first, followed by the one’s that are. Repeat this for each stanza.

Option E- In each stanza, read the lines that are in parenthesis first, followed by the one’s that are not. Repeat this for each stanza.

Confused yet? If yes, then stick with option A. If no, then give it a whirl.

I Carry Your Heart With Me

by E.E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

 Because Cumming’s did not use capitalization and very little punctuation, the lines between the start and finish of each line, stanza, and the poem, are blurred. Consequently, the reader is given the freedom to make the poem his or her own.

 For this poem, I made pocket sized heart cakes known as petit fours. More specifically, vanilla almond petit fours with a blackberry jam. It’s not as pretentious in person as it reads over the computer.

 Vanilla Almond Petit Fours with Blackberry Jam

Ingredients (For the Jam)

2 Cups blackberries

2 Cups white sugar

4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 Large orange peels

2 Large lemon peels

1 Cinnamon stick

dash salt

5 Tablespoons cornstarch

Ingredients (For Petit Fours)

1 Cup butter, room temperature

2 Cups white sugar

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

2 Eggs

4 Egg Whites

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 Cup almonds ground into a flour like consistency

2 Teaspoons baking powder

1 Teaspoon salt

1 Cup buttermilk

Ingredients (For Royal Frosting)

1/2 Cup water

8 Cups confectioners sugar

1/2 Cup light corn syrup

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Food coloring, optional

Directions:

  1. To make the jam, muddle the blackberries in a saucepan using a wooden spoon, then turn the heat onto medium. Add the sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon peel, orange peel, salt, and cinnamon stick. Allow the juices to come out and come to a hard boil. A hard boil is when the mixture continues to boil when you stir it. Then, turn the temperature to low and add the cornstarch. the consistency will thicken up. Allow the jam to come to a soft boil. Then, set aside to cool.
  2. For the petit fours, preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Ground 2 cups of almonds in a food processor until it takes on a flour-like consistency. Then, sift together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. In an electric mixer, mix the butter and white sugar together until it is fluffy. Then add in your eggs and egg whites one at a time. Once they are all incorporated, add in the vanilla extract. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the wet ingredients. Once it is mixed well, pour mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and put into the oven to 10-15 minutes or until it is fork-clean. When the cakes are done, allow them to reach room temperature. Then, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the cakes into little hearts. If you do not have a cookie cutter, you can cut them into even squares using a knife.
  3. For the royal frosting, place a glass mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water to create a double boiler. Combine the water, confectioners sugar, light corn syrup, and vanilla extract and mix until it is lump free and heated through, but not boiling hot. Then add in any desired food coloring.
  4. To Assemble, spread some of the blackberry jam onto one of the heart-shaped cakes. Place another cake on top of it and coat it with another layer of jam. Place a final cake on top until you have a three layer mini-cake. Using a spoon, coat the top of the petit fours and let gravity to it’s thing as you guide the frosting down the sides of the cake. The royal frosting tends to harden quickly so stay need a microwave and heat up the frosting in 30 second intervals. Repeat these steps for the rest of the cakes and garnish as wished.

You will have extra jam so I suggest putting it in jars and placing in the refridgerator. It will go quickly!

 

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If You’re a Pancake, I’m a Pancake

Men, (if you’re out there), how many times has your significant other sighed and yelled, “God, why can’t you be like Noah from The Notebook!” Ladies, how many times have you updated your Facebook status to something cheesy like, I wish that I found love like in The Notebook, or my personal favorite If you’re a bird, I’m a bird, accompanied by lots of less than three hearts? If you’re blushing, then you’re guilty.

It is no secret that I absolutely hate Nicholas Sparks because he is a genius. All his books are exactly the same. They have the same plot and same character personalities and us girls eat that up. We can’t get enough of it- I mean, he could literally re-title The Notebook to The Postcard, change Noah’s name to Billy and Allie’s name to Mandy  and we would buy The Postcard in epic quantities. Warner Brothers would probably make it into a movie too. Sparks really has us wrapped around his little finger. Genius, I tell you!

Anyway, as a girl I am guilty of not only yelling at boyfriends to act more like Noah, but also of making those cheese-tastic Facebook status’ about The Notebook. I also cried like a total dork when I first read the book and like an even bigger dork when the movie came out. Around Valentines Day, it seems that The Notebook infiltrates the lives of us women in more ways than we’d like to admit. Deep down, we all want someone to care for us like how Noah cared for Allie- even if you are a huge romance cynic like myself. We crave that book romance that swept us off out feet as readers. We just wish our boyfriends and husbands would get a hint.

 So enough about that, let’s talk book. The Notebook takes place post WW II in North Carolina. Noah Calhoun is a rural Southerner and handyman who became famous in the town for rebuilding a massive mansion, previously left in a less than livable state. While working on the house, he was constantly reminded of his former love Allie Nelson with whom he spent an unforgettable summer with. Allie was from a wealthy family who did not approve of her relationship with Noah. Her parents were so against the romance that they sent Allie away to school in the Northeast. Before she was sent away, they shared a night in that old run-down mansion, which is a symbol of their relationship.

Years later, Allie is engaged a man named Lon, who her parents are overly fond of. While Allie is trying on wedding dresses, she sees a photo in the newspaper of Noah in front of the newly finished home. She is compelled to visit him and from then on they are inseparable. Allie leaves Lon and builds a life with Noah in that home.

 The home becomes more important than ever when the reader sees Noah and Allie in their golden years. Allie suffers from Alzheimers so Noah converted their home into a nursing home. He also wrote down their entire relationship in a notebook and reads it to her every day. Sometimes, she comes back to him and remembers their life together, other times she does not. It is a modern day love stories that will no doubt grab the attention of readers for many decades to come.

One of my favorite characters is Noah’s father. He is a humble man with a gently sarcastic personality. During the summer Allie and Noah spent together, Allie stopped by Noah’s home with a painting. When she arrived, Noah was reading Robert Frost on the front porch to his father. His father called Noah out of a prior stuttering problem, which was fixed by reading Robert Frost poems out loud. He then invited Allie inside for some pancakes. She questioned him because it was nighttime. His father said, “It’s never too late for pancakes,” and I totally agree with that.

 Because it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I decided to upgrade the typical buttermilk pancakes with Red Velvet pancakes. How fancy!

P.S. All you men out there, this blog post is my Valentine’s Day gift to you.

P.S.S. Ladies, I suggest e-mailing this blog post to your boyfriend or husband immediately.

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Ingredients (For Pancakes)

1 Cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder

1/2 Teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons white sugar

3 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Egg

1/2 Teaspoon distilled white vinegar

3/4 Cup buttermilk

1/4 Cup sour cream

1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon red food dye, liquid

4 Tablespoons butter, melted.

2/3 Cup chocolate chips

Ingredients (for Cream Cheese Syrup)

1- 8 Ounce package of cream cheese

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 Cup confectioner’s sugar

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

4 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

  1. Mix together white sugar and cocoa powder. This will prevent clumping. Then sift together the sugar and cocoa mixture with, the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, beat the egg. Then add the buttermilk, vinegar sour cream, and vanilla extract and mix well. Then add in the red food dye. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. Then, add in the melted butter and chocolate chips. Mix until lump free.
  3. I’m about to let you in on a secret to making perfect pancakes. As a pancake connoisseur  of sorts, I’ve perfected the pancake. To make a perfect pancake, measure out 1/3 cup of batter and pour into a greased pan on medium low heat. Then, forget about the pancake. Don’t look at it, don’t think about it. Just ignore it for 4 minutes.  At this point, the edges of the pancakes should look cooked and the top of the pancake should be infiltrated by a bubble army. NOW FLIP IT. Cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes. Hazza! It’s perfect! Now do this until you run out of batter. This recipe makes about 8 medium sized pancakes.
  4. For the Cream Cheese Syrup, melt together the cream cheese and butter. Then add you confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. Once it is smooth, add your milk.  Drizzle this on top of your pancake.

 “It wasn’t Noah she loved; she loved what they had once been. Besides, it was normal to feel that way. Her first real love, the only man she’d ever been with – how could she expect to forget him?” – The Notebook

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The Sweet Hereafter: Nichole Burnell

You still with me? Good.

Our last perspective is from Nichole Burnell. Nichole was on the bus the day of the accident and survived, though not without some cost. She is now paralyzed from the waist down. She has to relearn simple tasks knowing that walking will never be one of them. But the town still says she’s lucky.

 She’s lucky to be alive, but more so, she’s lucky because she doesn’t remember much of the accident. Nichole doesn’t feel the same luck now that the town sees her as “wheelchair girl.” She even went as far as telling Mitchell Stephens, “ You can feel lucky you didn’t die for only so long.”

 Being the poor, broken survivor of the accident took its toll on Nichole. The town lingered with whispers about what happened on that bus and leaned on Nichole to help put the pieces together. Mitchell Stephens made this especially difficult. He was persistent, which is why they paid him the big city bucks. Nichole just wanted it to end, so she lied.

 Nichole told the court she was scared the moments leading up to the accident because of how fast the bus was going in such hazardous weather conditions. She said, with conviction that Dolores Driscoll was driving at 73 MPH when the accident happened. She knew she was lying and her father understood why. She wanted to madness to end and she wanted the town to move on. Just like she would never walk again because of the accident, the children that died that day would never come back. By pointing the finger and giving the town a reason for how the accident happened, Nichole gave the town closure.

 I saved the best recipe for last: Salted Caramel Mocha Crepe. What better way to end this four-part blog post than with a chocolate crepe, stuffed with coffee mousse and drizzled with caramel and salt.

 Salted Caramel Mocha Crepes

Makes 8 Crepes

Ingredients for Coffee Mousse

(Adapted from Mario Batali’s Coppette al Caffe recipe)

5 Tablespoons hot water

3 Tablespoons instant coffee granules

3 Egg yolks

1/2 Cup sugar

Dash salt

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 Cup whole milk

1 Cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Ingredients for Chocolate Crepes

1 Cup whole milk

4 Tablespoons butter, melted

2 Egg yolks

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons chocolate liquer

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

5 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

2/3 Cup all-purpose flour

Ingredients for Salted Caramel Topping

1/4 Cup packed brown sugar

1/4 Cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 Cup butter

1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

1 Tablespoon coarse ground salt

Directions:

  1. To make the coffee mousse, mix together the hot water and instant coffee granules until it is well combined. Then, with a wooden spoon, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, the instant coffee mixture, a dash of milk and salt together in a saucepan. Turn the heat onto medium-low. Gradually add in the rest of the milk and continue to whisk until the mixture has the consistency of pudding. Put this mixture in a bowl, cover with cling wrap, and set in the fridge to cool for at least 2 hours.
  2. Once the coffee custard is cooled, push the mixture through a strainer to make sure there are no clumps. In an electric mixer, whisk together the heavy cream until it begins to hold a firm peak. Then, add in the remaining vanilla extract along with the confectioner’s sugar. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined and the heavy cream holds a firm peak.
  3. Add your coffee custard to the whipping cream and fold them together. Once they are evenly mixed, set aside in refrigerator.
  4. To make the chocolate crepes, put the milk, melted butter, egg yolks, vanilla extract, chocolate liqueur, cocoa powder, and confectioner’s sugar in a blender and mix on high for 30 seconds. Then add in the flour and mix until all combined. Put the batter through a strainer to get all of the clumps out.
  5. Grease a large frying pan and pour 1/4 C of the batter into the pan, moving the pan in a circular motion. Allow to cook for 2 minutes. Then flip it on the other side and cook for another minute. Do this until you use all your batter.
  6. To make the caramel, put butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan and cook on medium until it begins to bubble, while mixing constantly.
  7. To assemble your crepes, drizzle some caramel over the crepe. Then, spoon your coffee mousse in a even line along one side of the crepe. Then roll the crepe. Drizzle more caramel over the crepe and top with salt.

“But Daddy knew why I had lied. He knew who was normal and who wasn’t. Mr. Stephens could never know the truth, but Daddy always would.” ~ Nichole Burnell, The Sweet Hereafter

 

 

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The Sweet Hereafter: Mitchell Stephens, Esquire

It has been a long, long, long Friday. But hey- it’s just not any Friday, it’s payday Friday. And also new blog post Friday! And a pretty great Friday to make this Salted Caramel  Hot Chocolate.

So let’s talk about part three of our The Sweet Hereafter/ Salted Caramel Mocha series. Part three is from the perspective of lawyer Mitchell Stephens, Esquire, who is handling most of the lawsuits and helping point the finger towards the blame of the bus accident. Mitchell Stephens represented Risa Walker and he husband in a negligence suit that financially compensated them for the loss of their son Sean. The tone in Mitchell’s voice sounds as though that is sufficed.

I kind of drank half of it and then realized that a picture from this angle would be pretty cool. Enjoy this half drank photo.

Mitchell is unfamiliar with life in a small town. He is a fancy lawyer who handles big city cases. But not is all unfamiliar to Mitchell. The feelings of grief, that the town exudes, are all too common for him. Mitchell’s daughter Zoe is drug-addict who reaches out to him only to scam him for some money. After five years of her antics, he finally gives up on her, until he receives a phone call from her while he is handling the case in Sam Dent. Zoe says she has some big news. Zoe tells him she tested HIV positive. Mitchell does not believe or disbelieve her, but in this moment, she is dead to him either way.

 Mitchell is now one of the town’s people in Sam Dent. If Zoe is telling the truth that she has HIV, he too will suffer the loss of a child, not now, but soon enough. It’s the loss of a child that he cannot do anything to prevent, just as the parents of the bus accident victims could not prevent.

 So for part three, I made a homemade version of a Starbucks favorite: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Whether I am or am not at work, I bring the work home with me, clearly.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

2 Cups milk

3 Tablespoons white sugar

4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash salt

1/4 Cup butter

1/4 Cup brown sugar

1/4 Cup sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1 Tablespoon coarse ground salt

Ingredients for Whipped Cream (Optional)

1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Pour milk into a sauce pan, then turn the heat onto medium-low.
  2. Meanwhile, make the caramel by melting together the butter, brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and light corn syrup. Stir constantly until it begins to boil.
  3. At this point, your milk should be warm enough to add the white sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of the caramel sauce you prepared. Whisk constantly until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Allow milk to come to a light boil, but to do burn the milk.
  5. Rim a cup with the remaining caramel sauce and dip it into the coarse ground salt.
  6. Whip together  your heavy cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar until you form stiff peaks. Using a piping bag, pipe the whipped cream onto your hot chocolate and garnish with some caramel drizzle and salt.

 “But it wasn’t greed that put me there; it’s never been greed that sends me whirling out of orbit like that. It’s anger.” ~Mitchell Stephens, Esquire

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The Sweet Hereafter: Billy Ansel

First things first, I finally am choosing to act on my New Years resolution to become more organized. Yesterday I cleaned the retail massacre that is my room and today I came up with a reasonable goal for the blog. I am a random blogger. I post randomly and it’s really confusing. From here on out, I will be posting every Tuesday and Friday. And now that this is posted all over the internet I have no choice but to carry through with this.

 Now back to part two of The Sweet Hereafter. The next section follows Billy Ansel, who lost his twins Mason and Jessica in the bus accident. Billy’s character is unique because as a reader, you want to shake sense and emotion into him, but you realize that his past makes this virtually impossible.

 Billy fought in the Vietnam War at the age of 19. He then married a woman named Lydia who died, leaving him with two young children. Billy finds himself out of focus sometimes. He recognizes a dire situation, but freezes, almost choosing to ignore it, until it goes away. He did this on a family trip to Jamaica. Stoned out of his mind, he accidentally left his daughter Jessica at a convenient store. He drove for miles after he realized that she wasn’t in the back seat and questioned how he could have forgotten her. When Mason said that they forgot her, Lydia woke up and Billy snapped back into reality. One could say that this behavior is from fighting in a dirty war at such a young age.

Billy also escaped from reality after Lydia’s death when he had an affair with a woman named Risa, whose son Sean died in the accident as well. Billy hired a girl Nichole Burnell to watch over his children while he “grabbed some beers,” but really he met up with Risa at a local motel.  His relationship Risa was just as escape from being a single parent.

This behavior is changed when the accident happens because the town is covered in death. Billy cannot ignore it because Risa, his current escape, is suffering from the same loss and shock. Billy, for the first time, is forced to face reality: his children are dead, the town is destroyed, and life for himself and the community will never be the same.

Is everyone totally depressed yet? Are you ready to eat comfort foods, rent the movie version of this book and cry? Well if you answered yes to this, I suggest you make this Salted Caramel Mocha Bread Pudding. It’s ooey, gooey, warm, salty, and chocolaty. If you need extra comfort after reading this post, add a huge glob on vanilla ice cream on top. There’s nothing that goes better with warm bread pudding than an obnoxious scoop of ice cream.

 Salted Caramel Mocha Bread Pudding

(Adapted from Paula Deen’s Chocolate Bread Pudding recipe, found here.)

Ingredients:

1 Large loaf of Challah bread

3 Cups whole milk

1/4 Cup heavy cream

1/2 Cup coffee flavored liqueur (I used Kahula)

1 Cup white sugar

1 Cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

6 Eggs

8 Ounces of semi sweet chocolate finely grated

1/2 Cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 Cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 Cup butter

3 Tablespoons light corn syrup.

1 Tablespoon coarse ground salt.

Vanilla Ice Cream (Optional)

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. To make the caramel, melt together the butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and light corn syrup together in a saucepan. Cook on medium low, constantly stirring until the caramel begins to bubble. Set aside to cool.
  3. Chop the Challah bread into 1 inch cubes and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, cream, and liqueur. In another bowl, mix together the white sugar, brown sugar and cocoa powder until it is an even consistency. Then, add the sugar mixture to the milk mixture and whisk until even.
  5. Then, add the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and eggs into the mixture. Gradually stir in the grated chocolate.
  6. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and place the bread in the dish. Then, gradually pour the chocolate mixture over the bread. Take half of your caramel and using your clean hands, mix the caramel into the bread pudding. Let the bread soak in the liquids for 30 minutes.
  7. Then, bake your pudding for 60 minutes, or until the pudding sets. When a knife is inserted, it should come out clean.  Top off by drizzling the remaining caramel sauce and sprinkling with salt over the top of the pudding. Add vanilla ice cream… you really should.

 “From then on, we were simply different people. Not new people; different.” ~ The Sweet Hereafter 

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The Sweet Hereafter: Dolores Driscoll

There is a different side to every story is a phrase particularly present in the novel The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks. The Sweet Hereafter is about a school bus accident that killed many children and  ripped apart a small upstate New York community by exposing the towns most intimate secrets.

 What makes this novel so unique is its point of view. While remaining in the first person, the point of view switches to that of four different characters, each with a different angle, exposure, and result of the bus accident. This makes the protagonist and antagonist change, as well as blurs the lines of this concept. Though the viewpoints change, all the characters ask the same question, who is to blame?

 The first narrator is Dolores Driscoll, the bus driver who lost control on that winter day. She described the day as a red brown blur that will remain a permanent image in her life. Her day began like any other winter morning. It was dark and the snow fell ruthlessly, but it was something she and the town were accustomed to. The morning of the accident, the temperature read -17 degrees fahrenheit, “Too cold to snow,” she said.

 As the kids loaded the bus, she described a red brown blur, perhaps a dog, which crossed the bus’s path. The brakes glided across the wet ground, as the small bodies of the children were tossed around inside the bus.

 Over the next few days, I will play on Bank’s decision to morph perspectives on a single issue, by creating four different recipes inspired by the same flavor: salted caramel mocha.

For the first perspective I prepared a salted caramel mocha cheesecake, salty has never tasted so sweet! And after reading this horribly depressing blog entry, and the entries to come, you’re going to need something sweet… and possibly boozy.

Salted Caramel Mocha Cheesecake:

(Adapted from the February/ March 2008 issue of A Taste of Home as Layered Mocha Cheesecake, p 35.)

Ingredients For Crust:

2 1/2 Cups of crushed chocolate cookies. Do not use the ones with a cream filling.

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon white sugar

Ingredients For Cheesecake:

3 1/2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules

2 Tablespoons hot water

2 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

4- 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Eggs + 1 egg yolk

Ingredients For Caramel Topping:

1/2 Cup butter

1/2 Cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 Cup sweetened condensed milk

1 Cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted. (Will need a chocolate decorating squeeze tube like this)

1 Tablespoon coarse ground salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together cookie crumbs, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Then mix in butter until it is an even consistency. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and press the crush mixture into the bottom on a pan. I use a cup with a flat bottom to press down the crumbs so it is an even layer.
  3. In a double boiler, melt 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Once melted, set aside to cool. In a small bowl, mix together 3 1/2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules and 2 tablespoons of hot water together, until the coffee granules are melted. Set this aside, as well.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth and lump-free. Gradually mix in 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1/4 cup flour and 1 teaspoon vanilla until it is creamy. Then, slowly add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time until well incorporated.
  5. Using a 1/2 measure cup, divide the batter evenly into two bowls. In one bowl, beat in the melted chocolate mixture set aside from earlier, until it is an even consistency. Add the instant coffee into the other bowl of cheesecake filling and mix until even. Pour the chocolate layer into the springform pan first over the pressed cookie crumbs. Then, pour the coffee layer of cheesecake on top. To prevent air pockets, GENTLY tap the cheesecake onto a tabletop.
  6. Wrap the cheesecake in foil and put into a water bath like shown in direction #6 for my strawberry cheesecake, and bake for 70 minutes, or until the center of the cheesecake jiggles slightly while the outside is firm. Then, turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 2 hours. Remove and allow to reach room temperature before continuing, about 2 hours. Do not remove from springform pan.
  7. Then, melt together 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons light corn syrup, and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk. Stir constantly until the color turns caramel-like and it just begins to boil. Then remove from heat. You must stir constantly or the caramel will burn. Allow to cool for ten minutes before pouring this over your cheesecake. put in fridge and allow to harden to 1 hour.
  8. Put one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a chocolate decorating squeeze tube and microwave for 45 second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Then create a cross-hatch patten by drawing even, straight lines in chocolate.
  9. For a finishing touch, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of coarse ground salt over the cheesecake.
  10. To remove from springform pan, take a long knife and heat it over the stove top. Then, cut around the edge of the cheesecake. The caramel around the edges will melt and make it easy to remove. Then, push the bottom of the springform pan up and the cheesecake will easily pop out! (All credit to this step goes to my dad)

“Obviously, you can’t control everything, but you are obliged to take care of the few things you can. I’m an optimist, basically, who acts like a pessimist. On principle. Just in case.” ~ The Sweet Hereafter, Dolores Driscoll 


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Amy Winehouse Brownies & Fyodor Dostoevsky: An Unlikely Duo

Before I begin, I just want to say that these brownies, Amy Winehouse, and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment have one distinct similarity. They are all tortured souls, full of guilt. Yes, the brownie is a tortured soul- just go with it.

 A few years ago, I came up with a concept for a brownie that literally tightened your belt with how deliciously guilty it made you feel afterwards. It is a soft brownie with hidden Reeses cups and a crunchy, ooey gooey top. It was addicting. So addicting that even if there were literally no more room to fit in another brownie, you’d eat it anyway.

So logically, I dubbed this brownie, The Amy Winehouse Brownie. Why? Because it was more addicting than any drug my Winehouse was ingesting at the time. After her death, I felt like it became slightly inappropriate, but calling these brownies by any other name just didn’t fit. Winehouse was as distinct of a talent as these brownies are as a snack.

How does this tie into Crime and Punishment? Crime and Punishment is the tale of a tortured man named Rodion Romanovch Rasolnikov. Rasolnikov is a mentally sick man who is struggling to support himself in St. Petersburg and dreams of an unthinkable crime. These characteristics are accompanied by his intelligence, self-pride, and good looks.

 While dinking at a tavern, he overhears students discussing about how St. Petersburg would be a better place if the town’s pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna were dead. Rasolnikov sees this as an opportunity to get some money and seeing as he dreamt of committing a similar crime recently, it took the opportunity. When Alyona was alone in her apartment, he brutally kills her along with her sister Lizaveta, who walks in on Rasolnikov as he raids the apartment post-murder.

Rasolnikov’s health continues to deteriorate due to guilt. He becomes paranoid that his secret will be uncovered as the murder shakes the town. His uneasiness is only heightened when the police come looking for him and when a man on the street calls him a murderer.

Rasolnikov does trust two women, Danya, who is engaged to a man named Luzhin and a woman named Sonya. He begins to have feelings for Danya, but fears his secret will push her away. At the same time, Sonya develops feelings for Rasolnikov. Danya breaks her engagement with Luzhin.

At the end, Rasolnikov first tells Danya of his crime. She tells him she will always love him. Rasolnikov then goes to see Sonya, who gives him a cross right before he turns himself in. In a plea bargain, Rasolnikov receives eight years of hard labor in Serbia. Things between he and Danya disintegrate. During this time, however, he learns of his true feelings for Sonya, who moves to Siberia, right outside the prison, to be closer to him.

So these brownies were inspired by guilt. Rasolnikov clearly suffered from enough guilt to literally cause health problems and my initial inspiration for the brownies, Amy Winehouse, her songs are full of past guilt from broken relationships, drug addiction, and the struggles of fame.

These brownies just happen to be the silver lining of this incredibly depressing blog post. These brownies have more calories per square inch than you would ever want to know. They’re so good, so addicting, that when you eat more than 1, you’ll feel the guilt. It’s all right though. They have gyms- to help burn calories from eating a whole tray of these brownies.

Amy Winehouse Brownies

Ingredients (For Brownies)

4 Ounces unsweetened chocolate

2/3 Cups butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 Cups chocolate chips

1 1/3 Cups all-purpose flour

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 Teaspoon salt

4 Eggs, at room temperature

2 Cups sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Cups of chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients (For Topping)

1 Cup peanut butter

1 1/4 Cups chocolate cups

2 1/2 Cups Cocoa Krispies

2 Cups marshmallows (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. In a double boiler, melt unsweetened chocolate, butter and chocolate chips. When all ingredients are smooth, set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a mixer, beat eggs until well combined. Then add sugar and vanilla. Mix.
  4. In a medium size bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set this aside. Next, begin to temper your eggs with the melted chocolate by stirring in 1/3 of the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Mix constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Once this is incorporated, mix in the rest of the melted chocolate mixture. Then, add you flour mixture and mix until the brownie batter is smooth.
  5. Pour batter into  a greased baking pan and cook for 20 minutes. While brownie is cooking, chop up the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into a variety of sizes. After 20 minutes, sprinkle the top of the brownie with the Reese’s Peanut butter cup until it is covered. Cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by melting the peanut butter and chocolate chips in a medium sized pot. Once melted incorporate the Cocoa Krispies. Add in the marshmallows last so they do not melt. Pour this on top of the brownie and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. I like to refrigerate the brownie for one hour before serving

 “It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amuse myself; a plaything! Yes, maybe it is a plaything.” ~ Crime and Punishment 

 

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Paramedics and Strawberry Cheesecake

In the spring of 2011, I interned for Penguin Group (USA) in the Penguin Audio department. The biggest perk was access to literally every book Penguin Group (USA) has published. The “take shelf” at Penguin Group (USA) is to books, what Mt. Everest is to geographical wonders.

This is where I picked up This is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper. This is Where I Leave You is about a man named Judd Foxman who simultaneously mourns the death of his father, as well as his marriage to high school sweetheart Jen. Judd attempts to regain normalcy while suffering from a mental demise via an early mid-life crisis and with help from an overwhelmingly dysfunctional family.

 One of my favorite scenes from this novel is when Jen’s affair is revealed. When the first line of Chapter 3 began with, “My marriage ended the way things do: with paramedics and cheesecake,” I knew it was going to be a good read.

 It’s Jen’s birthday and an unassuming Judd leaves work early and picks up a strawberry cheesecake to surprise her. However, he is the one left surprised. After hearing a series of strange noises coming from he and Jen’s bedroom, he walks in, only to find his radio show host boss on top of his wife. Logically, he throws the cheesecake at his boss, which ends up in flames…. Yes, it’s an inflammable cheesecake.

 I’d explain more as to why the cheesecake became a culinary fireball, but it’s more R-rated, and I like to keep things PG on The Baker in the Rye.

I had no choice but to forever memorialize this scene as a strawberry cheesecake, but I promise this one won’t end up in flames, just in your bellies.

Strawberry Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups crushed vanilla wafers

1/2 Cup butter, at room temperature

4- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 Cups + 3 tablespoons white sugar

3/4 Cups milk, room temperature

3 Eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temperature

1/2 Cup sour cream

1/2 Teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

  1. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4  Cup flour

2 Cups (or so) of boiling water

2 Cups fresh swrawberries

** It is important that all ingredients are room temperature to prevent lumping.

Ingredients (for Simple Lemon Syrup):

1/2 Cup water

1/2 Cup white sugar

3 large lemon peels

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together crushed vanilla wafers, 3 tablespoons of sugar and butter until it forms a uniform mixture. Press this onto the bottom of a greased springform pan.
  3. In a mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then add milk, followed by eggs, and egg yolk, one at a time. Gradually add sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest and flour until the mixture is creamy.
  4. BEFORE pouring mixture into the springform pan, place the springform pan onto a piece of tin foil, large enough to cover the perimeter of the pan. Place the springform pan onto a baking sheet. Then, pour your cheesecake mixture into the springform pan.
  5. Boil 2-4 cups of water.
  6. Place pan with cheesecake onto an oven rack. Then pour boiling water into the baking sheet until the water is at least 1/4 the way up the side of the springform pan. This prevents the cheesecake from cracking and helps it hold in moisture. It should look like this –> 
  7.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. You will know the cheesecake is done when the outside is firm, but the center slightly jiggles like jell-o. Then, shut the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another two hours. Remove from oven and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Slice strawberries and place on top of cheesecake.
  8. For the simple syrup for the top of the cake, bring sugar, water, and lemon peels to a boil on medium heat. Then, remove from heat and let cool.
  9. Brush top of cake with this syrup to prevent the color of the strawberries form turning.

“I want very badly to be in love again, which is why I’m in no position to look for it.” ~This is Where I Leave You

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All Aboard The Hot Cocoa Cupcake Train!

I always have these big ambitions for the blog at the beginning of every month. About two weeks ago, I came up with a list of all holiday books to cover… how many have you seen? That’s right, a big, fat 0. None.

 

I blame the holiday shopping pressure for my lack of blogging. I just had to spend two hours online to get the best deal on a top secret present that I cannot disclose to the World Wide Web. I also had- just had, to go to twelve stores searching for a lingering Super Soaker, only to end up with a Nerf gun and an argument with a Target employee on why they can carry swimsuits and not Super Soakers.

 I’m a mess- a mess without a Super Soaker.

 So to get the season started about two weeks too late, I made a holiday treat inspired by The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. The Polar Express quickly became a classic tale of a young boy’s journey to understand the spirit of Christmas.

The Little Boy is awoken on Christmas Eve by the sounds of Santa’s sleigh. As he peers out his window, he sees a train filled with children laughing and drinking hot cocoa. When they reach the city, Santa allows the little boy to pick out his gift first. He chooses  a small silver bell from Santa’s sleigh.

 After the festivities, the children board the train to go home and the little boy realizes that his silver bell fell through a hole in his pocket. Brokenhearted, he goes home.

On Christmas morning, the little boy’s sister finds a small box for him among their presents. Inside is the little silver bell. The boy believes in the spirit of Christmas and continues to hear the ringing of Santa’s sleigh as he grows up.

The only thing better than drinking hot cocoa is eating hot cocoa. And what other way to drink and eat hot cocoa than with hot cocoa loaded with Bailey’s Irish Cream? After holiday shopping who doesn’t need a little boozy pick-me-up.

Bailey’s Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

Ingredients (For Cupcakes):

1/2 Cup butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

2 Eggs

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Cup buttermilk

3 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor

1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients (For Frosting):

2 Cups powdered sugar

1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 1/2 Cups mini marshmallows

6 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor (optional)

1/4 Cup whole milk

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract.

Ingredients (For Topping):

1 Cup heavy cream

3 Tablespoons white sugar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract

12 Mini marshmallows (optional)

1/4 Cup chocolate shavings (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cream  1/2 cup butter and  1 1/2 cup sugar together. Then, add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon  vanilla extract. Beat until creamy and lighter in color.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together 1 1/4 cups flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and  1/2 teaspoon salt.
  4. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with 1 cup buttermilk into the wet ingredients. The mix in 3 tablespoons Bailey’s
  5. Once all incorporated, pour batter into lines cupcake tin. makes 12 cupcakes.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before frosting
  7. For the frosting, mix together 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in a large bowl.
  8. In a saucepan, melt together 4 tablespoons butter, 1 cup of mini marshmallows, 2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor, 1/4 cup whole milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Once they are all melted together, let cool for 10 minutes. Then add this to the powdered sugar and cocoa mixture. Mix until combined.
  9. In a clean saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 cup of mini marshmallows. Once all melted together, add the warm marshmallow mixture in with your other ingredients. Mix  until it the frosting is thick. Chop up 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows and add it to the frosting. mix until mini marshmallow chunks are distributed throughout. Frost your cupcakes.
  10. For the whip topping, whip 1 cup heavy cream with an electric mixer until it forms peaks. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Then add 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat for another 5-10 seconds. I filled a pastry bag and used a star tip to pipe big mountains of whipped topping on top of my cupcakes. I finished by garnishing them with some chocolate shavings and a marshmallow on top.

 

“I don’t think ordinary things are very interesting, so I try to imagine a world that is less ordinary.” ~ Chris Van Allsburg

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Another Pumpkin Season At Its Close

Welp, it’s the last day of November and you know what that means, another season of foods containing pumpkin has ended. No more pumpkin cupcakes. No more pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, muffins, ravioli, pudding, nothing. It’s all over, until next year. It nearly brings a tear to my eye.

 As I made my final pumpkin loaf of the season, I got to thinking about how the end of pumpkin season is kind of like the end of a good book series. Thinking beyond the Twilight(GAG ME) and Harry Potter(<3) series, there have been so many great book series that have come to a close, like The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The morning after reading the final page in a book series always begs the question- now what? I had the same feeling this morning when I slathered the last piece of walnut pumpkin loaf with cream cheese and cinnamon. Now what? Now what do I bake? What can I inject into every recipe to make it seasonal? Peppermint? Cranberry? Foods all in the shape of a yule log? I’m so skeptical and confused.

As a kid, I followed the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket like I followed the Backstreet Boys, religiously. I just had to have the latest book in the series the day it came out. However, it got kind of awkward when book 10, The Slippery Slope was released because by then I was a freshman in high school. It’s not cool to be the book nerd in high school, let alone one who reads a kids series. But it was SO GOOD.

But just as Lemony Snicket continued to release books when the Unfortunate Events series ended, pumpkin season will too come again- in about 9 months. Gives me some time to birth some new recipe ideas.

Pumpkin Loaf Two Ways:

Ingredients:

8 Ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 Cup of butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 Cups of white sugar

4 Eggs

2 Cups of pumpkin puree

3 1/2 Cups of all-purpose flour

1 Teaspoon salt

2 Teaspoons baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 Teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 Teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 Cup chopped walnuts

1 Cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Cream together cream cheese and butter in an electric mixing bowl. Then add sugar and mix until fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs and once they are incorporated, add pumpkin puree.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Mix ingredients together until it just comes together.
  4. Divide batter equally in two bowls. In one bowl, mix in 1 cup chocolate chips.
  5. Grease two loaf pans. Pour the batter with the chocolate chips in one loaf pan and the plain one in another. On the plain pumpkin bread, sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top.
  6. Put into the oven and cook for one hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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