Monday, March 29, 2010

Whiskey Truffles

I think some celebrations should be extended. Like my birthday. One day is not enough. I need a week, at least

And St. Patrick's Day should be St. Patrick's month. Though if you're really Irish, you keep the spirit of the day in your heart all year. Or at least, you find ways to keep whiskey in your belly every day. 
Another thing I like to get in every day? Chocolate. Therefore, whiskey truffles help me to get my daily serving of both of these vital nutrients. I've added them to the "eat every day" list. I don't know how my doctor or my boyfriend will feel about this, but personally I think it's one of the greatest ideas I've ever had. 
Truffles usually are full of things that make my tummy say: "What the hell are you doing to me??" Cream. Lots of cream. And butter, sometimes. But not these truffles. They're vegan, you see. And full of whiskey, which makes my tongue and my tummy say, "Bless ye, ye lovely lass!" These statements are all FACTS. 
If you've been following along at home, you'll know that the CARBOMB cupcakes have a whiskey ganache filling. And these truffles are simply a whiskey ganache, rolled and covered in stuff. Therefore, if you were upset that I didn't post the recipe for those cupcakes, you now have the know-how to make a vital element. Though I'm not going to tell you for certain if this is the same ganache I used in the CARBOMBs. 'Cuz I'm slippery like that. 
Also, a word of caution: make sure your bowls are heat proof if you're going to try a poor-man's version of a double-boiler to melt your chocolate. Don't make my mistake and spend way-too-long chopping up yummy expensive chocolate and mix it with yummy expensive whiskey only to have one of your favorite bowls crack and the bottom fall out entirely and all of that beautiful yummy expensive ganache fall into the water and glass shards underneath. There was cursing that could've made a sailor blush. There were also some tears. (It was mostly for the whiskey). Don't be like me. Check your bowls. In related news, if anyone's thinking of buying me anything anytime soon, I could use a new small-ish glass bowl...
Whiskey Truffles
adapted from SK

4oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I also sometimes use vegan chocolate chips when I'm feeling lazy. Chopping chocolate is the worst!)
1/3 cup soy creamer (non-dairy creamer will work fine too, though I'm not so sure that it's vegan if that's a concern for you)
1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter stick
2 tsp whiskey (OK, OK, I didn't measure. I poured a capful, stirred it in, then kept adding till it tasted right for me. Which is most likely too much whiskey for you. 2 tsp is a safe bet)
Cocoa powder, crushed almonds, pistachios, etc for rolling

In a small sauce pan, heat the creamer over med-low heat and bring to a boil. Place chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Once creamer reaches a boil, pour over the chocolate and let sit for about a minute. Add butter and stir until smooth. If not all of the chocolate melts, microwave on high for 10 second intervals, stirring in between, until fully melted. Pour in whiskey and stir. Cover, and refrigerate until firm. Once ganache is firm, set up stations with nuts and powders to roll in. Also have a pan or plate with waxed paper. Roll ganache into a small ball, roll in desired topping, and place on waxed paper. If ganache starts to stick, place back in fridge.* Place finished truffles back in fridge to set, and store in an air-tight container in fridge. 

*I'm sure there's some easier/better method that Alton Brown's come up with for rolling truffles, but I haven't seen that episode, and this works for me. If you know a better method, please share!
Also, I'm not sure how many truffles this makes, as I was busy sneaking tastes of chocolate, but it probably would have made at least 20 if I wasn't eating as I went along...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sparkle-cakes and LOLcats

It was a dark, gray, rainy Monday. The kind of day that makes you want to stay in bed a little longer, laze around reading, and generally loaf. It's also the kind of day that sparkle-skinned vampires love. Not that I know any personally. But I hear tales. It's also a good day for seeing a movie with friends. And celebrating birthdays. 
The Trocadero, my favorite venue for ANYTHING in Philadelphia, shows movies on Mondays. It's 3 bucks to get in, but those 3 dollars come back to you in the form of a drink. And they have buckets of PBR and cheap popcorn and other kinds of awesomeness. On this particular Monday, they were showing a certain sequel to a very popular series about vampires. What's that? You're not sure what I'm talking about? Well, I think this will clear it up for you here. A Certain Friend (who shall remain nameless) thought it'd be the best birthday ever to get some ladies together (who shall also remain nameless) and one REALLY good sport of a dude, and go see this movie. With lots of buckets of PBR of course. Other dudes/boyfriends were asked to join, but said they'd "rather be punched in the face" than go. Their loss. 
So in honor of the Pacific-Northwest kind of weather we'll be having this week, and as a special birthday treat for our festivities, I made some vampire cakes. Sparkle-vampire cakes. Vegan red velvet cupcakes. Vegan Cream Cheese frosting. Really silly decorations. 
I started by making a handsome, sparkly-skinned, amber-eyed vampire that would make all the ladies swoon. Then I made a few more, because honestly, there's never enough good men to go around. 
But while I was busy decorating the others, something must have happened. One of the cupcakes got wounded. 
So I looked back over the army of dreamy, gentlemanly bloodsuckers I had created and realized one of them wasn't what he seemed at first. 
You know the only way to kill a vampire cupcake? You have to tear him apart and eat the pieces. It's the ONLY way. 
If I hadn't done it, who knows what could have happened? Vampire cupcakes could have taken over the city! You're welcome, Philadelphia...

I took the rest to the movies, and passed them out to friends. Then we proceeded to laugh for 2+ hours. Well, maybe less laughing and more cackling. And heckling. Lots of heckling. And we weren't the only ones. Have you ever gone to see a movie in Philadelphia? Have you ever gone to see a terrible movie in Philadelphia when everyone knows it's terrible and can heckle the entire time? Best three dollars I EVER SPENT. The cupcakes weren't bad either.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whiskey, You're Me Darlin', Drunk or Sober

Oh Joy! St. Patrick's Day is finally here! As I sit here, glass of whiskey in hand, listening to the Dubliners, and covered in green from head to toe, I'm filled with such peace and contentment. Though maybe that's the whiskey talkin'. Regardless, I hope you're enjoying today as much as I am, however you decide to celebrate. And of course, I've got a little eye candy for you.
Now I ask you, what's one of the best ways to celebrate this most sacred of days? CARBOMBS. Irish carbombs of course. Just in case you don't know what i'm talking about, it's a drink where you fill a pint glass 1/2-3/4 full of stout (Guinness), then fill a shot glass 3/4 full of whiskey (Jameson) and top it off with Irish cream (Bailey's). Then, when you're ready, you drop the shot glass into the pint, and quickly drink it all down before it curdles. And it tastes like DELICIOUS. And it always seems with carbombs that once you've had one, another one (or two, or three...) seems like a great idea and before you know it you're waking up the next day feeling like maybe you got hit by a real carbomb. Of course, for my friends, Irish carbombs are pretty standard throughout the year, but they always seem to taste a little better on St. Paddy's. 
But let's face it, some of us are getting older, and have a harder time drinking like we used to (no one I know). So, how do you still celebrate properly without that nasty hangover? Cupcakes. CARBOMB cupcakes. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, they taste like DELICIOUS too. 
Chocolate stout cupcake. Whiskey ganache filling. Bailey's frosting. These cupcakes are serious. These cupcakes may look cute, but don't let them fool you. Don't even bother wearing socks if you're going to try them, because these cupcakes will KNOCK THEM OFF. I took them home with me for Parade Day, and passed them out to friends, bartenders and drunken strangers alike. If you were at the Bog in Scranton this past Saturday evening, there's a good chance you got to try one. (I'd like to give an extra shout-out here to all the awesome barkeeps at the Bog- youse guys are the BEST!!! And, should any of you dear readers find yourself in downtown Scranton, the Bog is the only place to be). They seemed to be a pretty big hit. I got some free beer and shots out of the deal too. Which, children, just proves the point that you should always tip your bartenders well, particularly in cupcakes if you've got 'em. 
I wish I could take total credit for these, but I can't. I got the idea from lurking around over at Smitten Kitchen, though I did not use her recipe. The cupcake recipe comes from my new favorite cookbook- Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. (Which, by the way, I squealed like a school girl when it arrived, and I genuinely feel that this may be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship...) Oh yeah, did I mention these CARBOMB cupcakes are mostly vegan? I know, I know, don't give me that look. I realize that saying something is mostly vegan is like saying that someone is mostly pregnant. But except for the Baileys in the frosting, there's no other dairy or eggs. AND, after the fact, I realized there's such a thing as Irish creme flavored non-dairy creamer, so next time, there'll be no mostly about it. And oh, yes, there will be a next time. If I had it my way, I'd be making a batch of CARBOMB cupcakes every week. Or every other day. (Also, for the record, CARBOMB cupcakes can only be referred to in all caps. They're that intense.) Also, on a completely related note, these cupcake guts were the awesome, and i may or may not have drizzled the still-too-thin ganache on them and eaten them all up. There were no witnesses, so you can't prove anything. 
Now, don't get angry, but I'm not posting the recipe. Listen people, these cupcakes are so good, I'm pretty certain they can make me some money. However, I won't leave you completely hanging. If you're willing to do some work, you can figure out how to make your own. Like I said, there is a recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, but it's not what I used, and it's NOT vegan. You can find the cupcake recipe in VCTOTW, which I mostly followed. I tried a couple of different ganache recipes, but made some adjustments to each (I'll give you a hint, mine had a LOT more whiskey in them.) And the frosting is a basic vegan buttercream with bailey's instead of soy milk or creamer. 
Ok, I feel like I may be whiskey rambling. Not coincidentally, I've also reached the bottom of my glass. Anyway, I think these cupcakes were supreme. But many of you got to try them, so tell me, what did YOU think? 
I'll leave you for now since I've got some irish potato candy in the fridge that needs to be tended to. (More on that later, I promise!) And, obviously, I need a refill. Sláinte

Monday, March 15, 2010


Ahhh, Scranton. The Electric City. Sometimes (but only sometimes) I really miss my hometown. As I mentioned in the last post, I was up in NEPA (NorthEastern PennsylvaniA for those not from the area) visiting this weekend, and just arrived back in Philly a few hours ago. Scranton visits are always great. It's so nice to go to my favorite places, see friends, spend time with famil-OHWHOCARES let's talk about PIZZA
Let's be honest here people. I love my family. My friends are my world. But somewhere around 80% of the reason I go home so frequently is for the pizza (that percentage is an average; sometimes that number is much higher). The pizza in Philly sucks. Sure, there are some I'll tolerate if I'm forced to eat them, but in the last year I have not eaten a single slice of pizza from the 215 and I'm much better for it. Philly's got a really great food/beer scene. But pizza is most certainly NOT included in that statement. 
"But, Colleen," you say. "Pizza?? I thought you were lactose-intolerant." Yeah, yeah. I am. But some things are worth the pain, and NEPA pizza is one of them.  I've gotta hear enough complaints from my boyfriend about my cheese-cheating habits and I don't need to hear any more from YOU too. Now get off my back and hand me another slice.
Seriously though, let's get down to business. I know, I know, this blog is supposed to be about baking and sweet treats and the like, but I need to talk to you for a minute about a kind of pizza called PAGASH. Because, if you know about it, you probably want to talk about it, and if you don't know about it, you need it in your life. Pagash goes by several names. Potato Pizza. Pierogie Pizza. Whatever you call it, doesn't matter, it's still delicious. Do you like pierogies? Do you like pizza? How about if we put them together into a warm, gooey, smooshy, crunchy snack and I'll watch your mind melt and your head explode from the sheer awesomeness of it all. If you're not familiar with pizza from the Scranton-area, you'll just have to bear with me for a minute while I try to explain. You start with a square crust, you top with cheesy mashed potatoes mixed with onions and garlic, then you finish with Old-Forge style cheese (usually a mixture that includes american and maybe some cheddar and provalone). Still with me? 
My favorite version (from Ferri's in Moscow, which coincidentally has one of my top 3 favorite red pizzas as well) has chopped up white onions in the potato mixture (which is a weird yellow color, but no matter because it could be neon green and I'd still eat it) along with thinly sliced white and red onions and scallions on top. And here's the kicker: You can only get it once a year, during Lent. That's right. It's only available for 40 days and 40 nights, and if you miss it you've gotta wait till next year. Sure, I hear there are some places where you can get it year round, but I don't want those. Maybe a part of the appeal is that it's a limited edition kind of thing, like Cadbury eggs, Shamrock shakes, or Troegs Mad Elf. And considering its main components are dough, potatoes and cheese, it's not exactly something you want to be available all of the time. Regardless, it's a need that borders on obsession this time of year, so you can be sure that this particular trip home involved picking up a half-tray of the stuff before hitting the road this afternoon. And I may or may not have eaten a slice or two in the car while on the turnpike. Don't judge me. You just try to sit in a car with a fresh box of pagash for 2.5 hours and keep your hands off the stuff. I'm only human. And besides, I've done a pretty good job so far of saving Ken half the box (3 whole pieces!!), so I've exercised some restraint. But, honestly, I'm secretly hoping he doesn't like it so I can have the rest. What? People, did you miss the part where I said it's only available once a year? Sheesh! Stop Judging!
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go do something to keep myself busy and my mind off of those 3 other slices...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

It's 3/14. Or, as geeks and nerds everywhere know it, Pi day! (You know, 3.14, that number/symbol that you use when finding the circumference or area of a circle? Am I the only geometry dork around here??) And how do foodie geeks like to celebrate Pi day? By making pie of course!
Except... I didn't make pie. Because I wasn't paying attention to the calendar, and was not properly prepared. In case you don't know me well, the most important holiday for me in March (or really, all year) is St. Patrick's Day. And I was so focused on all things Irish, that I didn't even realize today was the 14th until Google reminded me. 
Now on any other weekend, making a pie spur of the moment wouldn't even cause me to blink. I've always got the ingredients on hand to whip up some kind of pie (and I know for a fact I have a homemade mini pie crust in my freezer all ready to go right now). But I'm not home. I'm not in Philadelphia at all. I'm visiting Scranton for Parade Day (which, if you don't know the joys of Parade Day, deserves an entirely different post to fully explain). 
So I'm staying at my mom's. And... well... let's just say, my mom's not much of a baker. No butter. Not enough flour. She's lucky she has a pie plate, let alone a pastry cutter. Baking at my mom's house is about as fun as a trip to the dentist. The thought of it makes me a little nauseated to be quite honest. But it's Pi Day! And pies are my specialty. What kind of pie baroness would I be if I didn't do SOMETHING for Pi Day? 
So, I decided to give you all a little pie porn. These are all pies I've made in the past. There's berry pies (my favorite), sweet potato pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, chocolate pies, some are vegan, some are not, but all of them are DELICIOUS. (Just ask my friends, I swear.) And I promise that soon, very soon, I will make a pie and share the details with all of you. Until then, just try to keep from drooling on your keyboard.