Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sharknado Cupcakes

So for some reason, I'm watching Sharknado 3 tonight... and unfortunately the internet led me to Nerdy Nummies' Sharknado cupcakes post.

I had a few problems with her instructions (some health and safety related, some nit-picky), so I decided to make my own attempt. However, she had some great ideas, so I give her all the credit for the idea to make sharks out of twinkies and use cones filled with icing for the tornadoes.

This is only for the decoration of the cupcakes, so I'm going to go ahead and assume that you have a recipe for cupcakes that you wish to top with sharknados. I used a mix that tasted like pudding and shame - appropriate for watching Sharknado 3.

What you'll need:

Sugar cones
At least a pound of white melting chocolate
Chocolate wafers
Buttercream icing*
Blue and black food coloring
Icing bags and tips

*I used a recipe with cream cheese in it because it's July in Georgia. My recipe uses a pound of butter and a little more than two pounds of confectioners sugar. I ended up using about 3/4 of it. So that would be at least two containers of store-bought icing.

Day 1

Make as many tiny half-sharks as you can stand making (I gave up at 14) out of fondant.

Cut the twinkies in half diagonally, and cut the tops and the very bottoms of the sugar cones off. I found the sugar cones to be very easy to cut with a bread knife.

Chop the chocolate wafers into pieces for top and side fins, and stick them into the twinkies. At this point I also covered a cooling rack in plastic wrap (because I couldn't find my wax paper). Luckily, this made them easy to stick into the freezer for 10 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate and stir in just enough black food coloring to make it shark/tornado grey. Dip the cones (careful to let them drain) and then the twinkies (after they're done chilling in the freezer). Because the fins are chocolate as well, make sure that the chocolate is warm enough not to dislodge them, but not hot enough to instantly melt them (e.g. don't microwave them for 15 seconds just before you dip them.... like I did).

After they harden for a couple hours or so (I let mine sit for about 5 hours), wrap them up and put them in the refrigerator for tomorrow.

Day 2

Bake your cupcakes. Let the cupcakes cool. Make/grab your icing.

Fill the cones with grey icing. Ice the cupcakes with enough blue icing to look like waves and hold the tornadoes on. Place tornadoes and sharks on top of your cupcakes. Cover the backs of your sharks with blue icing.

Use a toothpick or similar tool to swirl the icing in the tornadoes around so that it looks.... tornado-esque. Add your tiny sharks to the mix.

Finally, using black and white colored icing, add faces to your twinkie sharks.

The tornadoes ended up being surprisingly sturdy. I'm not looking forward to transporting these though.

There you go. Were you to want to spend this much time thinking about the sharknado movies, this is how you can go about it, and then eat your shame afterwards. <3

If you have any ideas about what you'd like to see another post on or issues you had with this tutorial, let me know in the comments! I might listen to you - you never know.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review of Fred and Friends DIG-INS Dinosaur Fossil Cookie Cutter/Stampers

The Myopia Podcast was recording the first Jurassic Park episode, so of course I had to make dinosaur cookies. I thought piping dinosaurs onto a square cookie would be more work than getting dedicated dinosaur cookie cutters. I think that might been true if I hadn't gone with these cutters with bone stamps. You have to do the cutting and stamping independently unless you want to drill a tiny hole in the stamp so that the suction doesn't destroy your newly cut cookie.

The cutters were constructed so that there are lots of places for dough to get stuck. Luckily, this problem is easily solved with the skewers I keep around for testing if cakes and breads are done.

I'd forgotten how much I disliked dealing with big cookies with appendages like legs or antlers. Based on how often the T-Rexes were legless, I understand why there were no brontosauruses.  

The dough has to be rolled out pretty thick for the stamped bones to stay after baking. However, if it's too thick, then the sides of the indention puff up and it's difficult to get icing in. Admittedly, the box said something about rolling it out really thick between parchment paper and refrigerating it. However, the directions acted like you wouldn't want to re-roll after the first round of cutting, and I prefer to use Sweet Sugar Belle's sugar cookie recipe that is easier to deal with when you don't refrigerate it.

Luckily, they look pretty darn good. If you're willing to put in the time, effort, and patience, they're probably worth the purchase. I think next time I'll just stick with artfully smothering the top in royal icing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What happens when I binge watch too many cooking competitions...

My boyfriend can tell you that I like walking into the grocery store with a plan. I'm the person all of the impulse buy end caps are aimed at. If I just wander around, I end up with all kinds of junk food. I'm also comfortable altering a recipe, but I rarely just wing it.

Today, I had no plan, and for once - no recipe. So I came up with something easy, quick, and delicious that I could make after work.

Were Alton Brown to ask me to explain my dish to the judge, I would probably call it a Southern-Inspired TexMex Bruschetta.... but I'm not great at naming things.

2 cups chopped pineapple
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 medium onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
2 habeneros, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
lime juice
3/4 of a shredded rotisserie chicken
1 baguette
Add salt and pepper to taste (I used bourbon-smoked).

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the baguette into 1/2 slices, place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with black pepper. Bake until crispy/crunchy. (I took them out before they turned golden brown, but that's a personal preference.)

Combine other ingredients in a bowl. Top toasts to make bruschetta or use toasts to scoop salsa out of the bowl.

You could easily stop before adding the chicken and have a vegetarian dish, or sub serranos or jalepenos for the habeneros for less spice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My new love affair with decorating cookies...

Hand decorated cookies are great for birthday presents and events. After they dry they're so much easier to transport than cupcakes or cakes. It's gotten so bad that I even got an airbrush for Christmas.

You need three things to decorate cookies: 1. time 2. a tiny tiny icing tip 3. patience

I love this delicious cookie recipe (that doesn't require a refrigeration period) and her website is full of helpful tips and tutorials. I use the Wilton Royal Icing recipe because I find it easy to scale.

My first attempt for Halloween
Nightmare Before Christmas
for the Myopia Nightmare Before Christmas episode!

These were a big hit at Thanksgiving.
Doctor Who Cookies for my friend's birthday
This was my first use of my airbrush!

Next I'm hoping to experiment with some lace and water brushing!

Nutella Star Bread and Bagel Bombs and a cake made of smiles and rainbows

Lots of camera photos in this one.

I've been looking for a quick, delicious, and nutritious breakfast and these bagel bombs hit the spot.

You can freeze them and just microwave them quickly in the morning before work. I used this recipe with a few substitutions. I used my bagel recipe instead of refrigerated pizza dough and substituted bacon for ham. I found it made a lot more than the recipe said it would. 

The Nutella Star Bread seems to wow everyone, and it's fairly simple to make.

I used this recipe and followed these braiding instructions.

I say it's simple because I can just toss all the ingredients in a mixer instead of hand kneading, and then the majority of the preparation time is proofing. I find that it usually requires a little more milk in the dough, but you can roll it out without flour. The most difficult part is keeping the dough circles from becoming ovals when you transfer them. As long as you leave a strip nutella free on the outside, pinching the ends together goes smoothly. However, it's very difficult to get two pieces of dough to roll out together, so make sure you divide the dough into four pieces carefully.

I know the rainbow cake is cliche at this point, but I just had to make a cake made out of smiles and rainbows for the recent Myopia podcast recording about Mean Girls. We all ate it and were happy. I used cake mix for the first time in about four or five years because I was pressed for time. Matt picked up the Betty Crocker french vanilla and people seemed very pleased with the taste.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Better Bagel Recipe

I searched for ways to make red, white, and blue rice krispie treats not taste like food coloring, but the closest I came was pink, white, and light blue rice krispie treats with mashmallow goo that I made (following this Alton Brown recipe). They were quite delicious, but the process is not for the faint of heart. If you don't ever want to see you and your entire kitchen a sticky white mess, this is not for you. More research is necessary.

Now that I have my own kitchen and a decent bagel place to compare to, I've been doing a lot of experimentation with my old bagel recipe. The old one has more explanation of things like what proofed yeast looks like, but this one will produce a better end product. I just face-palmed when I saw that I used to add the salt to the newly proofed yeast. Most recipes use malt syrup, but I like to be able to use what I usually have stocked. I love garlic (maybe too much), so a tablespoon of powder might be a lot for you. Instead of garlic powder, you could add just about anything. I've added pumpkin puree before and that just required the addition of a little more flour and/or reducing the initial water. 

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder (optional)

Water Bath
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 egg for egg wash
Whatever you want

Makes 12
Time: Around 3 hours

If you have a mixer, put the yeast in the bowl of the mixer, sprinkle in a tablespoon of the brown sugar, and add the lukewarm water. Then wait 10 minutes. Next, use the dough hook attachment to stir in the rest of the brown sugar. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until combined, pouring in the garlic powder and salt in between additions. Once it starts clearing the sides of the bowl, beat on low/medium until dough is stiff but springy to the touch and you can pull a window. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour and a half). At this stage, the dough is not sticky.

If you don't have a mixer, stir the yeast, a tablespoon of the brown sugar, and water together. Wait 10 minutes for the yeast to proof. Add the rest of the brown sugar, and begin stirring in the flour 1/2 at a time, adding the garlic powder and salt in between additions. Once it starts clearing the sides of the bowl, switch to a lightly floured surface and begin kneading. Once it becomes stiff but springy to the touch and you can pull a window, transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour and a half). This means that when you poke it, the dough should put up a little resistance and spring back when you stop. At this stage, my dough is not sticky.

Once dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into about 12 pieces. (I use a scale to get them as even as possible, but the only thing this actually does is make them all cook at the same rate.) Roll the pieces into balls (pull the sides of the dough into the middle until it's smooth and then seal up the bottom by pinching it together). Cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your topping. Make your egg wash - I don't use the whole yolk, but I do use a little less than a fourth of it. Whip all of the egg, some of the egg, or just the egg white together with a couple teaspoons of water. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Combine the water bath ingredients and bring them to a boil.

Once the 30 minutes are up: With lightly floured hands, poke holes in the dough balls and using two fingers, rotate the dough until you have something that looks like a bagel. Drop them into the water bath in batches. Let them boil for 1 minute on one side and 2 minutes on the other.

Pumpkin bagels.

Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water and place on parchment paper. While the second batch is boiling, use a brush to coat them in the egg wash and allow the first coat some time to dry. Then, coat them with the egg wash again and add your topping. I usually do 4 bagels per bath round, so when I'm on the final round of boiling, four bagels have 2 coats of egg wash and the topping and four have one round of egg wash. Put the baking sheet in the oven and let bake for 15-20 minutes. (I rotate the pans every 5 minutes so they cook evenly.) When they're done, transfer them from the baking sheet to a rack and allow them to cool completely.

Note: If your dough is too sticky, add flour. If your dough is dry and tearing, add water. Previously, I said olive oil was acceptable to use in place of the egg wash, but if you want a bagel that has that caramelized, chewy outside, the double egg wash is the way to go. The topping also sticks way better. I tend to use just rock salt for my topping, but on the second day, a good deal of moisture accumulates around the salt. My next experiment is to try and see if using a vegetable steamer is better than boiling, because while they look pretty smooth coming out of the oven and after toasting, I bet I could get them smoother. ;) 

Bagels made with previous recipe.

Bagels made with this recipe (and puckered up by salt topping).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stinky Dog Treats!

Sardines are disgusting.

That being said, my dog certainly doesn't think so. I recently purchased a silicon bone mold, and when it arrived, I had to try out Alton Brown's Stinkin' Dog Treats.

My food processor was a little small, but I was able to work the oat flour in with my hands. (Also, I have more than enough oats for granola for the human beings in the household - a new favorite to make.) They're much cheaper than the treats I've been buying and I know exactly what goes into them!

Did Pepper love them?

Not only was she running around the kitchen from the time I opened the sardines to the time I took the treats out of the oven, but she was making the "I'm cute so I deserve treats" face the entire photo shoot.

Up next: Red White and Blue Rice Krispie Treats for the 4th of July!