Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fail Whales

I don't want to fool you guys into thinking that everything I make is delicious and pretty and picture perfect. There's been a lot of FAILS and EPIC FAILS going on around here lately. I'm gonna blame a tank top I've been wearing that's covered in whales. Or, as my friend Sean pointed out, maybe they're fail whales

There was the Pate Brisee/Pocket Pie FAIL two weeks ago for which I still haven't completely redeemed myself.
There was my first attempt at a lime cake with a mango curd. Probably the grossest FAIL yet.
There were those Strawberry Rhubarb muffins that just didn't live up to their expectations. (Don't worry, I've perfected the recipe since then!)
There was that time I tried to melt chocolate in a glass bowl that was not heat-safe. Ruined the ganache and lost a bowl. EPIC FAIL.
Two weeks ago there was the Great Vegan Marshmallow Disaster of 2010. And while I was home in Scranton this past weekend I made some bland-as-can-be corn muffins, and flat cupcakes with soupy buttercream. Big frazzled FAIL. And I can't even show you pictures of those because the biggest fail of all was leaving my camera at a friend's house last week and not getting it back yet. [Insert huge, full-body sigh here.]

No camera means I also can't show you any of the ups: the whoopie pies or the grapefruit shortbread cookies or the BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES IN THE WORLD. Sorry to get all shouty about them, but really, they're that good. You'll hear about them soon. Until then, I've got all those muffins to make for Sunday. So go have some blueberries and coconut sorbet, maybe take a little nap, and I'll meet you back here in a few days. Take a lesson from this little lady; she knows how to spend her time wisely. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Always Sunny is IN South Philly!

Guys, I'm a little distracted. There's baking to tell you about, and zany vegan marshmallow mis-adventures. But I can't stay focused, because It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is filming 2 blocks from my apartment. That's not an exaggeration, 2 BLOCKS. 
So I've been stalking watching Danny Devito and Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton do their thing (otherwise known as Frank, Mac, Charlie and Dennis). And Jason Sudeikis is on set too (from Saturday Night Live), making a guest appearance. And so forgive me if I'm not thinking of baking today because my favorite show is filming in my hood. I'll be back to baking and blogging about it soon. 
Danny and Charlie came over to say hi, and sign some autographs for the kids. They're pretty rad. It's also totally clear to me now why Danny Devito is so saucy with the ladies- He's totally at eye level with most chick's boobs. Srsly. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strawberry Love Muffins

My last entry was long, silly, scattered, and probably a little too "crazy cat lady" for most of you (or, more honestly, everyone except Nicole and Sarah). So I'll keep this short and simple.
It's a muffin-palooza around here these days. Remember how I mentioned I'm making 12 dozen (!) muffins for that scooter rally in Philly? Well, the 4th of July is approaching quickly, and I'm fine-tuning recipes and freezer-testing, and generally trying to make sure I don't drive myself last-minute crazy like I always do. How responsible and completely atypical of me. I like it!
One of the muffins on the list is Strawberry Rhubarb. My last attempt at a Strawberry Rhubarb muffin yielded lukewarm results, and I've been hunting for the perfect recipe ever since. Because, seriously, I just can't get enough of that S&R combination. And just when I thought I had figured out the perfect recipe... I couldn't find any rhubarb. Not at the supermarket, not at the farmer's market. Not Awesome. 
Thankfully, strawberries are very in season, and every farmer's market stand in the city is overflowing with bright, juicy, sweet berries of the not-freakishly large (read: normal-sized) variety. If you can stop yourself from eating the whole container, pickup some berries at the market this weekend, and make these muffins for brunch. Thank me later.

Strawberry Love Muffins
adapted from Bittersweet

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup ricemilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh berries, chopped (if you use frozen, make sure they're thawed. But why would you use frozen strawberries in June???)

Preheat oven to 375 F and grease or line 12 muffin tins.

Whisk dry ingredients together (sugar is considered a dry ingredient for this recipe). In a seperate bowl whisk together non-milk, oil and vanilla, then add your wet ingredients to the dry. Fold gently with a wooden spoon until just mixed; a few lumps are totally OK. Remember, when it comes to mixing vegan muffins, LESS is always more! Gently fold in strawberries. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes before removing and placing on wire rack to cool completely. These muffins are just as good same-day and slightly warm as they are at room temp the next day. Store in an air-tight container. DO NOT refrigerate.
*Note: I like my fruit muffins on the sweet side, so I added more sugar than called for in the original recipe. I still thought they needed a little something extra, and next time will probably add some lemon juice or zest, and some sanding sugar or a simple glaze on top. Or RHUBARB if I could find the gosh-darn things! If you spice these up, let me hear about it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Golden Monkey Muffins, or How I Spent my Saturday

Ok, first things first. We finally gave a kitty a forever home!  Last week I talked about getting a cat from PAWS, and on Friday we finalized the adoption process and brought our little lady home. Everyone, I'd like you to meet Ms. Gracie LaRoux. 
Her previous owners abandoned her, and she was so sad at the shelter. I can't understand how anyone could abandon her. She's petite, and full of style and grace, and really just an all-around swell gal. She seems happy and content in her new home, already claiming the papasan as her own. But the best part of the whole process? Watching Ken, my "I don't really like cats" boyfriend, slowly fall in love with her. Although, you'd have to be heartless to deny this much adorable. Also, if you're thinking about adopting a cat or dog, try PAWS first. There's so many sweet animals there waiting for a forever home!
Gracie and I spent all day Saturday getting to know each other, and it was just wonderful. Pocket pies are on my 'to-do' list for the Punk Rock Flea Market, and I found an interesting recipe on Vegan Yum Yum. Now, pies are my specialty, and I've got a pie crust recipe that works beautifully for me every time. This recipe called for a Pate Brisee, and though I'd never tried it before, I figured I'd branch out and give it a go. And since Gracie is French, she offered to help.
I guess there's a lot of things that could have gone wrong with this recipe. It's a vegan recipe, so there's no actual butter. I used the food processor, which I never usually do. Maybe I didn't add enough water. Maybe it was too hot in the kitchen. All I know is, I couldn't get the dough to roll. It kept cracking no matter what I did. It was really quite infuriating. Especially for someone who thinks pastry is her specialty and has never had such problems before. 
And everytime I'd ask Gracie for her help, she was all like, "Oh, I'll be back in one second, I just need to check on something." And 20 minutes later, I'd leave the kitchen frustrated and all covered in flour, to find her comfy and sound asleep. 
This happened repeatedly. 
Gracie, I'm sorry to say that you're fired as sous chef. However, there's an opening for adorable mascot, and I think I'll hire you immediately.
I spent a really long time fighting with this dough. Too long. And for the hours I spent on this endeavor, I only got two pocket pies out of the deal and they cracked and leaked and generally looked like they had just come back from war. 
A quick web search eased my stress, as many people appeared to have issues with this recipe, including Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. That really made me feel better. So, I scrapped the rest of the dough, cranked the AC in the bedroom, and took a catnap with my new best friend. When we woke up, we made banana muffins to brush off the morning pastry FAIL. And these muffins are a total WIN.

Guys, I hope you're ready, cause I'm about to give you my vegan banana muffin recipe. This is my go-to recipe. I've stolen hearts and blown minds with these muffins. 
It started with a banana bread recipe from How it All Vegan that I've altered over the years. This recipe makes a sweet, light and moist muffin that you can throw just about anything into, or leave plain. Since I was out of nuts and wasted all my blueberries on botched pocket pies, golden raisins were all I had left. And so I give you, the Golden Monkey muffins.

Golden Monkey Muffins
adapted VERY loosely from How it All Vegan

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup vegan sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375. Grease muffin pan, or line with muffin cups. In a medium bowl, mash bananas. Add lemon juice, oil and vegan sugar and whisk together. In a large bowl, sift flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Fold wet ingredients into the flour mixture and gently stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed. When almost done mixing, fold in raisins. DO NOT OVER MIX. Some lumps are OK.  Pour into muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Makes 12 regular sized muffins, or six large muffins.
*Notes: If golden raisins aren't your thing, feel free to substitute blueberries, chopped walnuts, dates, or whatever you have on hand and tickles your fancy. Then let me know how it works!

*Also, vegan muffins and breads work best when you mix much less than you think you should. You want to mix until you don't see any more flour, and lumps be damned. When pouring the batter into the pan, don't bother smoothing or smooshing it down either. Just scrape the batter in, and let it fall as it will. This helps to keep the muffins light, instead of dense and gooey.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kitties and Flea Markets

Exciting things are happening around here. The temperature's gone down, so baking is a very real possibility again. Which is good, because my summer schedule is really filling up with baking orders for which I need to start trying new recipes. I'll be making a lot (13 dozen!) of muffins for a scooter rally on the 4th of July, and I've got some savory corn muffins I'm planning to try. Oh, and did I mention I'm making the desserts for my friends' wedding? Don't worry, you'll be hearing more about both of these soon. 
I'm also doing the Punk Rock Flea Market again! The summer version is happening this July, and unlike the Christmas one, I'm starting to plan way in advance. I'm thinking about what I should make, and I've got lots of ideas. Cookies are always a big seller, and my chocolate peanut butter cups went really fast at Christmas. I'm also thinking about homemade pop tarts and pocket pies. Cupcakes and brownies. Lots of ideas swimming around my noggin' right now. 
And while I'm brainstorming and preparing signs and packaging and business cards, I thought I'd give you guys a chance to put in your two cents. So, what do you guys think I should sell at the market? Or, more importantly, what do you guys want to buy from me? I'm interested to know!
But the most exciting news of all? I finally broke Ken down, and there's a very real possibility that we'll be giving a kitty a forever home by the end of the week! I've been looking on the PAWS website at all of the sweet little cats that need a good home, and I want them all. I'll have to settle with one (for now), but I'm still really happy about it (this little guy in particular seems to be calling my name). 

I'll keep you posted on the new addition to the fambly! And while you're waiting for that, leave me a comment with your flea market goodie suggestion!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Snackin' in Scranton: Gold Crown pizza

My kitchen's still an inferno and I haven't turned my oven on in over 2 weeks. So, while I'm itching for a baking fix, here's a little something to distract you check out from my Scranton trip. I apologize to Nicole Snyder in advance, who will now probably be craving pizza for the rest of the day:
We've discussed this before. I'm from Scranton, and I frequently travel home to see friends and family eat pizza. Sometimes it takes up my whole visit. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to round up a group to head to Gold Crown for pizza and beers. It's a two birds, one stone kinda thing in the most delicious way possible.

Now, before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, let me clarify. Gold Crown is not actually in Scranton. It's in Dunmore. Which is near Scranton. But just like a Japanese man would be offended if you said he was Chinese, Dunmoreans are proud of their borough. And I've got too many friends that live in Dunmore to start angering them. OK, now that's out of the way, let's talk about the pizza.
On this particular venture, we got a tray of plain and a tray with olives. I don't have much to say about Gold Crown other than it's extra yummy, in a very NEPA-pizza kind of way. Crispy bottom crust, slightly sweet sauce, gooey cheese blend. 

Their pizzas are smaller than normal trays, but not quite personal-pan size. I've thought about finishing one on my own, but I've never actually done it. Two pizzas will very easily feed 4 people, and you might even have left-overs. But you'll probably find yourself justifying that third, and sometimes fourth, piece. Do it. It's worth it. Also, I find their pizza is best while still warm, and looses some deliciousness the longer it sits. All the more reason to have that extra piece, love handles be damned. 

Yeah, yeah, I know. I shouldn't be eating cheese anyway. Ken reminds me all the time. But there are some things that are worth the pain. Pagash is one. Gold Crown is also on that list.
Gold Crown has a bar on one side, kitchen on the other. You can eat in, or take out. They only serve pizza until around 10pm though, so you need to get there before beer o'clock if you want to enjoy the gooey awesomeness. The bar stays open till 2AM, so you can continue drinking your calories. They've got a pretty good bottled beer selection for a NEPA bar, so if you're a beer lover and you find yourself stranded in Dunmore, it's not such a bad place to be.
Gold Crown is definitely on my top ten list for NEPA pizzas. It's good snackin'. 

634 E Drinker St
Dunmore PA 18512