Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to make Death by Chocolate Cake

Sunday was my birthday. I turned 25 – this is nice for several reasons. I can rent a car for a low rate, I supposedly get lower car insurance, and I get cake. If you know me, which you should since you are reading this, you will know I love chocolate. If you don’t know this you are blind. That being said I decided I was going to make an amazing chocolate cake. I would bake, level, frost, and devour this cake was the plan. Only one problem, I have never leveled a cake before. However, test subject Mac has. I purchased a leveler (like 3 bucks) although she told me a serrated bread knife would work. Then we got to work. This is what we made:
Death By Chocolate Cake:
1 brownie layer
2 dark chocolate cake layers
Chocolate fudge frosting (recipe to follow)
Whipped Chocolate buttercream frosting (recipe to follow)

Chocolate fudge frosting:
½ c butter
3 (1 oz each) squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 pound (4 c) powdered sugar
½ tsp of vanilla extract
About ¾ c of milk
Melt the butter and chocolate together and in the meantime combine sugar, vanilla and 1/2 c. of the milk in the mixer. When chocolate is melted pour it into the mixer while the mixer is running. Now if you think it is too thick add the rest of the milk. If it looks thin good, it will set up as it cools.

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream:
1 1/2 c. butter
1 pound of powdered sugar
1/2 c of cocoa powder
3 – 4 tbsp of milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Beat the butter for 6 – 8 minutes in a mixer or until it is white and fluffy seriously 6 minutes at least. Add cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, and milk. Beat until very fluffy, about 4 – 5 minutes.

This is what we did. I had already baked the cakes and brownie and let them cool completely. I whipped up some frosting. Literally. Then I asked Mac to show me how to level a cake. It was easy enough you take the little device, decide how high you want it, set it for that height and run the leveler through, slowly working away at each side. While she did that I got the fudge frosting ready to use she placed the first layer on my cake stand and I added a generous slab of fudge filling, we then placed my brownie layer, which did not need leveling, topped it with more fudge, then the last layer went on and she did what is known as a crumb coat. She took the fudge frosting and spread it all over with a semi thin layer until it was completely covered. We then let it harden – which we waited about 45 minutes, we went back and took the whipped frosting and I again let Mac frost it. For two reasons, one it was my birthday cake, and two she frosts prettier than I do. I have zero patience. She has OCD and has to have perfection. She then frosted my cake to perfection and we put a lid on it and waited to inhale the cake later. Now what did we do with the extra? I made cake bites out of the left over cake and some frosting. I had planned to top the cake with some but I decided they were not very pretty so I fed them to test subject Ethan (yes he is new to my blog, he has not eaten a whole lot of my creations but here lately he has been). I then made everyone sing me happy birthday and then we devoured the cake, well I cut it into 16 slices first, so that there were smaller slices, which was plenty since it was so dang rich. Now I know what you are thinking? How did it taste. Freaking awesome! If you are wondering where I got this idea, I got it from Pintrest, then I tweaked it, the only thing I took from the Pintrest recipe was the chocolate cake layered with brownie idea, everything else I did on my own. What do you think?! Sounds amazing huh! Go on, I know you want to make it! Let me know if you want to guest blog!





see that cake!

Test subject Ethan!

Test Subject Mac


Test Subject Justin and Derek

New Test Subject Kala!

Test Subject Dalton

the dude again 

Derek Showing his true colors 

My other birthday cake

Blew em all out in one shot!

Finished product again 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Make Oven BBQ Chicken

We had a busy weekend! My sister in law got married – so I know have a brother in law (Test subject Scott)! Which is awesome! Anyway Peter was in the wedding party, therefore, he’s all exhausted. Anyway, Monday night I had some chicken legs that had been on sale at Kroger and I decided I wanted BBQ chicken. Mmm Mmm Mmm, have you ever had BBQ chicken? I love it, normally you’d make it on a grill but since I am still sans (without in French people) grill I opted for the oven. So this is how I made my BBQ chicken.
Things you will need:
Chicken cut of your choosing
BBQ sauce
Seasonings of your choosing (I did a some garlic and chicken rub I make)

Now take a skillet and place it on the stovetop and get it hot. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400, line a long cookie sheet with foil and place cooling racks on top, or use a roasting pan since I don’t have a roasting pan I was using the cooling racks. Season each side of the chicken, and when the pan is hot begin searing/ browning each side of your chicken. Once that is done place it on the cookie sheet or roasting pan (I really don’t need a roasting pan it takes up extra space so please no one buy me one) and then take a basting brush and BBQ sauce and baste each side with the sauce. Pop them in the oven and bake for 25 minutes (please note that I am using drumsticks or chicken legs, not boneless so please if you are using boneless know that your times will be different) then pull them out of the oven, baste them again with lots of sauce and return to the oven. Bake until fully cooked and enjoy with some sides of your choosing. I love BBQ sauce….mmmm. Anyway no questions came in this week. Stay tuned because next week I will have made an awesome chocolate cake for my birthday! I am thinking of calling it death by chocolate or JJ’s Chocolate Overload – still thinking. Let me know what you all think! Happy Eating!

All Sauced up and nowhere to go! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to make Amazing Brownies

This weeks only Question I received was from my Technical Writing friend, it was
Q: How do you separate an egg
A: You put it in a bowl away from the others and tell it "You know what you did!!!" Just kidding. Here is how I do it. I grab my egg and GENTLY crack it and place it into my clean hand (over a bowl) so that I am holding a whole egg. I open my hand like I am making a "live long an prosper" sign and allow the egg yolk and white to move toward the space. Then the white will start to separate away from the yellow. I continue to allow it to do that until all the white drops away from the yolk and then I put the yolk in a different bowl. You can also use the egg shells to separate them here is an actual video link for that because I don't ever do the shell: Video for eggs. Now they also have egg separators you can buy in the store where you just crack the egg into the top hole and wait for the white to leave. Word of caution if you are using a recipe that requires just egg whites get no yellows in there or else your recipe will not turn out correctly. Also whatever part you do not need you can freeze and use later. Just make sure to label the baggie so you are not like hmm is that 4 egg whites or 12.... Great question! Keep them coming! Ironically enough I actually have photos of the hand version because Justin took photos of it. Hope that helps!

Sometimes in life I make things by accident and they turn out to be awesome. Not always, actually normally this is not the case. Normally I try random recipes off the Internet and they suck, hardcore. For example: Garlic Soy Pork Chops – tastes like a cows salt lick; Italian chicken – you know with the Italian dressing – also sucked; Brown Sugar Garlic Chicken – who made this piece of leather?!  Finally the one that ticked me off the most Overnight French Toast – but I've already discussed that one. That being said normally when it is a baking recipe I know if it will turn out or not just by reading it, but when making something savory it’s a guess like you kind of know that those three tablespoons of salt should not be in this dish and you’ll cut it back, but sometimes the recipe seems great and sucks. That is not your fault. Trust me I have made too many to know. 
Yes I am a great baker and a rather pretty decent cook (if you don't believe me come over for dinner). I am a good recipe finder but what I lack is patience. I think we all can lack that to a degree. My Grandma Gephart has zero patience and she says I am just like her – so poor Grandpa G. 
Anyway, the point of this recipe is I was in a hurry and I needed to make my grandparents a dessert. My brother suggested brownies. So I knew they did not have unsweetened chocolate so melting it to make brownies was out of the question so I went to the Internet and got a Cocoa Powder Brownie recipe. Whipped it up really quick – doubled so I didn’t have to make it in a 9x9 then topped with some chocolate chips and baked. Didn’t think anything of it when it came out just though hmm looks decent.

Let me give you this recipe:
1/2 c. Vegetable Oil
1 c. White Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
1/2 c. Flour
1/3 c. Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
Nuts or Other Mix-In if you want
*Please note this is for a 9x9 pan, if you have a 13x9 double it*

So mix oil, sugar, and vanilla together in a bowl, no need for a mixer. Then add eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly. Add the dry mix a little at a time until well blended. Then once that is done pour into a prepared GREASED pan (these still stuck after I greased so flour will help too) and bake at 350 for 20 – 25 minutes mine took almost 30 minutes and it puffed up. Let it cool and slice and enjoy. 
Now my grandparents are not like me – they will eat then wait hours and have something sweet. I on the other hand need to eat and then have something sweet. Always have. So my grandma sent me a text at 10:30 and was like those are the best brownies I have ever had. I was like okay, sure. Then I tried a piece the next day, and yes these are the best brownies I have ever had. So even though I was thinking this recipe would be okay and plain it was awesome. You should try a new recipe this week too! Maybe this one – it is amazing. 

 Here is the Egg

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to make Sea Glass Candy

If you read my blog – which since you are reading this sentence I am going to guess that you do, then you will know a couple of things about me.

1.     I typically try to find the easiest way to do something
2.     I do not typically cook difficult things
3.     When I do cook something difficult it is rare but I obviously like it
4.     I do not make candy – it is temperamental
5.     I fail at recipes sometimes
6.     I don’t always follow the EXACT instructions when making something – I make it the way I   want it
7.     I typically end up hurting myself…a lot
8.     Sometimes I break all these rules and what I make turns out pretty – except rule 7…I typically keep that rule intact

That being said, I am going to attempt to make sea glass candy. One because my future brother in law asked – and he’s one of my favorite d and d players, and two because why not! See, sea glass candy (yes I did that on purpose) should be easy, it’s just sugar, water, and corn syrup – well and any flavor you want. The hard part of making this was to find flavorings. Yes I should have just gone to Jungle Jims bet they would have had it. However, I did not, I just ordered the flavoring I wanted online. After of course discussing flavor options with Scott. Once we realized we could not find our favorite flavor online we picked a few others, I placed and order and waited for the flavors to arrive.

Now let me take this time to discuss oils. Do not buy essential oils, unless they are edible. If you want oils you buy FLAVORING oils for cooking. If you are at a store like a cooking store ask someone to point you in the direction for flavoring oils for candy making. They will know what you are talking about.  Now some recipes I found they used extracts – you can attempt this but I did not want to – yet! Plus what flavor would I use vanilla? Not lemon for me – test subject Jon is not here.

So let’s focus on what I should be worried about – one this is HOT melted sugar – so it’s like a volcano just erupted in a pan and I am going to boil this and then pour it out…okay. Now this is why I hate candy making – boil this too short and it will be too sticky and pull out your teeth. Boil this too long and it will be way too brittle. Cook it on too high a temp and it will burn – effectively RUINING my pan.  Lots of ways to fail…so lets focus on the bright side. If I mess up it’s just sugar and water. Except the oils are expensive. I guess the best bet is to use a candy thermometer and have a cup of ice water to do the brittle strands test.  That is where in a glass of ice water you put some in and if it forms small brittle strands it’s good. Not that I don’t trust my thermometer. Okay I don’t but if it tests right I shall.

 Here is the fun part – you know how they say a watched pot never boils? Well it does, and it is boring. That being said this is what I did Saturday, I sat in front of my stove, attached a candy thermometer to a pot of boiling sugar water and watched it bubble. I sat there and I was supposed to wait until it reached 250 add coloring then wait till it was at 300. However, this is what happened. I stood there and the thermometer got to 215 and then my sugar started to brown like a caramel. I poured it out into my prepared pan and stared I knew it was a goner. I knew it. I stared at that and thought all kinds of nasty thoughts. Like “stupid boiling sugar” or “who the hell invented this dang recipe” then I stood there and thought how the heck am I going to clean this pan. Hot water and dawn dish soap cleaned it right up.

So I went to the Internet and tried to find a different recipe one that had more sugar and crap in it because the first one was tiny and I was thinking hmmm I bet there was not enough to boil and get an accurate temperature. Upon finding a new recipe and reading several notes from people I was ready to try again!

I stood there, pot in front of me totally dry and I stared…Peter come and looks right at me, and this is our conversation.
Peter: Going to try again?
Me: I think so…
Peter: Honey out of everyone I know I am confident that you will be able to make this!
Me: I am 80 % sure I have it this time…
Peter: Let’s get a stool and you can just sit here.

So I measured out and started again and here is the recipe.

What you need:
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. light Corn syrup
3/4 c. Water
1/4 – 1 tsp of Flavoring oils
A candy Thermometer that you trust or a glass of Ice water
Powdered sugar – optional…

Okay in a medium saucepan place the sugar, water, and corn syrup stir over medium heat until the sugar is melted and it starts to simmer. At that point grab a pastry brush and with water brush down the sides of the pan to get rid of any sugar that could be on it. Now attach the candy thermometer and get a glass of ice water ready as well as grease a cookie sheet with sides. NO GLASS PANS FOR THIS!!! Now I watched my thermometer to make sure it was accurate and while it was close it was not perfect. Actually it ended up being 25 - 50 degrees colder than what the actual sugar was. (My sugar was at 250 but according to my water test it was at 300) Once it starts to boil it will take a while to reach the right temp. Once it hits the 250 mark you can add food coloring into the pan and the boiling action will move it around. We DO NOT stir this stuff. Not once it starts boiling we just let it boil. Which I did, once it reached the 250 mark on my thermometer I dropped some of the boiling sugar into ice water and it immediately formed these brittle threads. Meaning it was done. I pulled it off the heat and added my flavoring oil and food coloring and began stirring, it bubbled and steamed. Then bam, done, I poured it into a pan and waited…I had to wait for it to harden and then I could break it.

 Peter wanted this so I let him have it – he grabbed a butter knife and using the heavy end he gave it one good hit and the whole thing broke like someone tried to break a car window. Which meant I had done it right! Now at this point you are supposed to toss it in powdered sugar, guess what I forgot I had ran out of. So I did not toss mine in powdered sugar but I did try it. I am not a hard candy fan but I made Cotton Candy flavored, and I liked it, it was hard until you stared eating it and at that point it was like a good sucking candy. Therefore, mission accomplished with only one small fail. I knew I could do it…okay Peter knew I could do it.  Now what did test subject Scott think? He loved it – said can’t wait for the next flavors because he may not exactly like cotton candy but he loved the candy itself. Anyway I am now accepting Q & A for cooking questions – which will be answered in each blog. I guess any real question can be asked like what do you eat for dinner Jessica? My answer would of course be food. Just kidding but seriously folks send me your questions, no question is too complicated or too big or too small!