Know What Helps With Pulled Wisdom Teefs and a Broken Foot? LEMON!

30 03 2009
Lemon Meringue cures what ails ya. Like bourbon!

Lemon Meringue cures what ails ya. Like bourbon!

I am not making that up. It is a scientific fact. See, on the 20th, as I mentioned in the biscuits post, I got mah teefs cut out mah head. Then, 4 days later, I broke my foot. I’d like to tell you some rad story that involves kickboxing, Chuck Norris, and a gang of rabid aardvarks, but it’s not that exciting. Ahem. Anyway, when I discovered I could hobble around my kitchen long enough to make things, I vowed to myself (and some friends I had over) that I would make these delightful sounding lemon meringue cupcakes from ol’ girl Elinor Klivans. Ya HEARD!? My mom and dad say these are their favorite yet. I dunno about all that, but the lemon curd(ish) filling is UHMAYZING. These are a little time consuming, but pretty easy. And you might want to try sticking them in the broiler until the meringue browns rather than baking them again. But maybe it doesn’t matter because it all gets refrigerated anyway. WHO KNOWS? Not I. So, go make these! They’re good for spring.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes from Elinor Klivans

Cupcakes (makes 1 dozen)

  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 5 Tbl. unsalted butter, cut into 5 pcs.
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • a heaping tsp of lemon zest (not in the original, but it added something)
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Put milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until hot, about 150 F. Remove from heat.
  4. Meanwhile, mix eggs, egg yolk, and sugar on medium speed until thickened and lightened to a cream color, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. On low speed, add the flour slowly. Slowly mix in the hot milk mixture until batter is smooth. Mix in that lemon zest!
  6. Fill the liners with a scant 1/3 cup of batter. Bake until tops feel firm, blahblahblah, about 20 minutes (don’t forget to rotate the pan).
  7. Cool cupcakes in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely (important!!).
  8. When they are cool, fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd (it can be warm or cold, so you can make it in advance if you want). I did the cone method, where you cut a cone shape out of the cake and plug it full of lemony goodness. You want a lot in there, and don’t worry about fucking up the tops – they’ll get covered by the meringue. But, you probably want to know how to make the lemon curd. So here we go:

Lemon Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks (don’t trash the whites! You’ll need them for the meringue!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbl. cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 heaping tsp. grated lemon zest
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and lemon juice over medium heat until hot, about 130 F.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, yolks, and sugar together to blend them, then add the cornstarch. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot butter and lemon mixture into the egg mixture.
  3. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until it comes to a boil and thickens, about 6 minutes. It will leave a path on the back of your spoon if you draw your finger across it, and will look clear rather than cloudy (trust me, you’ll know when it’s done.)
  4. Remove from heat, strain into a small bowl, and stir in the lemon zest. I let it cool for a couple of minutes and then filled the cupcakes with it. But, you can also press plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for 3 days, OR (with the plastic wrap on) put it in a freezer-safe container and freeze that shit for 3 months (it never really freezes, so you can spoon out as much as you want/need to your liking).

Meringue!!

  • 4 large egg whites (see? Told you.)
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Beat on medium-high until soft speaks form, then start to add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.
  2. Beatbeatbeat until nice and stiff (heh). Using a metal spatula, swoop and swirl that shit on to the cupcakes with great bravado.
  3. Put the cupcakes on a baking sheet and put back into a reheated 350 F oven. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the tops are brown and delicious looking.
  4. Let cool for ONE HOUR, then bundle ’em up and put ’em in the fridge for at least 4 hours. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED. Enjoy, and prepare to get compliments from EVERYONE.

So, to recap: Make the cupcakes. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the filling. Fill the cupcakes after they’ve cooled. Make the meringue. Frost the cooled and filled cupcakes. Pop ’em back into the oven to brown the meringe. Let ’em cool again. EAT AND IMPRESS PEOPLE WIF YOUR SKILLZ.





Midnight Bay-OH HELL NO

29 03 2009
I should have known the movie would suck when I saw this picture

I should have known the movie would suck when I saw this picture

Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I’m addicted to Nora Roberts.  *Phew*  I feel so much better now that I have that off my chest.  My addiction runs deep and true – I’ve read everything she’s written, seen all the movies based on her books and subscribe to her newsletter.  I feel like I should be ashamed of this – I mean, I’m a smart independent woman, what the hell am I doing addicted to romance novels?  Here’s the thing, I’m not ashamed because Nora Roberts is better than most romance authors.  Her books are predictable but still delightful and surprisingly well written.  There’s a comfort I get from her books.  So, not only is Nora one of my favorite authors, she has again contracted with Lifetime (!) to produce four of her novels into Lifetime Original Movies (!!!).  And this time around, they made Midnight Bayou.

Okay, so this book is fantastic.  Boston lawyer Declan Fitzgerald, turns his back on his boring white wealthy lawyer life and buys an old plantation house on the bayou outside of New Orleans.  Of course he falls in love with a local girl, Lena, and the house is haunted and they are connected to the history and have to fight to save the past…and their future.  This is a favorite basic Nora Roberts plot. But the beauty is in the details, and Midnight Bayou may be my favorite of the haunted/house tales, because in this one, Declan is the one fainting all over the place and needing rescuing all the time.  Nora’s a big fan of tossing out traditional gender roles (just wait for my essay on the In Death series) and I couldn’t wait to see how Lifetime adapted this.

Now, I never thought I’d say this, but Lifetime failed.  HARD.  They had a great cast including FAYE FREAKING DUNAWAY and Jerry O’Connell.  They shot in New Orleans and the house they used was gorgeous (the handpainted wallpaper in the foyer made me ache with wanting).  But they went and made AWFUL changes to the story.  I’m not a spazz when it comes to adaptations, I get that changes have to be made to go from book to screen.  But I get angry when pointless adjustments are made that change the entire character of the original.  Like the fact that Declan isn’t rehabbing the house in the movie – which is a major part of the book. Or FAYE FREAKING DUNAWAY’s character, Miss Odette, grandmother to Lena and neighbor of Declan- in the book she’s a nice older lady, smart and funny with a bit of “kitchen magic” and someone I’d love to have as a neighbor.  In the movie?  Scary old voodooo witch next door, the kind I’d worry about ever offending because she may just leave a dead rabbit on my welcome mat.  This change didn’t make any sense and cheapened the story.  And then there’s the ending – which, I understand why they needed a change (the book’s conclusion is a bit…underwhelming, especially for a movie), it was such a drastic departure from the novel, my sister and I just kept saying What. The. Fuck. over and over.

There were a bunch of other things they effed around with and I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.  But, if you watched this movie and thought “hey, that didn’t really make a lot of sense and was actually kinda awful and therefore Nora Roberts must suck,” please believe me when I say she doesn’t.  Go and read the original book, or better yet Tribute, which is the final Lifetime adaptation this year starring Brittany Murphy (meh) and Jason Lewis (yay! – especially because the character is a graphic novelist.  Be still my beating geek heart.) and airs on April 11.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t blow as much as Midnight Bayou.





Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

24 03 2009

special_topics_in_calamity_physicslargeI’ve been going back and forth on what to write about this book for a week now.  I don’t know if I can whole-heartedly recommended it, but I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it.  It was interesting and well paced and wonderfully written, but the last 1/4 of the book went completely off the rails for me.  Looking at other reviews, this wasn’t true for everyone – and if the ending was different, I’d be raving about it right now – so, give it a try.

Blue Van Meer is the teenage daughter of a brilliant professor who has coped with the death of his wife and Blue’s mother by never staying in one place for more than 6 months.  For her senior year of high school, they move to a small town in North Carolina where she falls in with five seniors and their strange, mysterious teacher, Hannah.  Hannah’s relationship with her students is wildly inappropriate – the 5 of them go to her house every Sunday for home cooked meals, they discuss other teachers and faculty, there’s a rumor flying around the school that she’s sleeping with one (or all) of them.  Seriously, I don’t understand how she kept her job.  But, whatever, I guess these things are cool in private schools (Gossip Girl anyone?).

So, at the very beginning of the book we are told that Hannah dies.  The majority of the book is solving the mystery that is Hannah and how that leads up to her death.  The author is good about dropping hints here and there while ratcheting up the tension.  I felt I needed to figure out this woman with no past as much as Blue and the other students.  And, while you know that the death is coming – it still feels shocking.  Ms. Pessl does a great job of keeping the reader just slightly off balance and there are more than a few awesome “OMGWTF” moments.

This is highlighted by some truly lovely and interesting writing that I loved.  For example, when Blue’s father is addressing the idea that her mother’s death was a suicide – “That very morning your mother had talked to me of plans to enroll in a night class, Intro to Moths of North America, so rid yourself of such dour thoughts.  Natasha was the victim of one too many butterfly nights.”  Dad gazed at the floor.  “A sort of moth moon madness,” he added quietly. Also, this book is written almost as an academic paper, with a “Required Reading” list (the chapter titles) and notations throughout.  This was jarring at first, but once I was familiar it didn’t bother me any more.  And, really, I felt like it worked well with the voice of Blue – Driving with Dad wasn’t cathartic, mind-freeing driving (see On The Road, Kerouac, 1957).  It was mind-taxing driving.  It was Sonnet-a-thons.  It was One Hundred Miles of Solitude: Attempting to Memorize The Waste Land.

This isn’t a perfect book, by a long shot.  While Blue, her father and Hannah are well developed, the supporting characters fell a little flat.  There was a little too much plot the left the book a bit of a sprawling mess by the end.  And, well for me, the ending was just not right.  But – this is Marisha Pessl’s first novel, and a pretty damn impressive one for all of that.  I loved her prose and the concept of this book and look forward to whatever she does next.





At Least I’m Consistent in My Inconsistency.

19 03 2009
I dunno. This is what I got when I Googled "biscuit." It's appropriate.

I dunno. This is what I got when I Googled "biscuit." It's appropriate.

Sorry El has been bearing the brunt of the burden. I have no real excuse for not posting other than I am very, very lazy. BUT. Tomorrow I get all my wisdom teefs cut out mah head, so I figured I’d post since I’ll be in a Vicodin-induced stupor for at least a day. Several years, if my dreams of becoming Judy Garland come true…Anyhoo, every weekend, pretty much, I make biscuits from scratch. Not Bisquick-from-scratch, like, for real from scratch. And you know what? It’s NOT HARD. Big Easy LOOOOOOOOVES them, and actually got mad at his dad last week because his dad is kind of kitchen-retarded and said he couldn’t make biscuits. This set Big Easy OFF and he proceeded to have a GIANT MELTDOWN. To make up for it, I made biscuits on Saturday and all was right with the world. My favorite recipe thus far comes not from the ATK Family Cookbook, shockingly, but from my first cookbook ever – Betty Crocker. You cannot fuck with these biscuits. They’re a cinch to make and take only 10 minutes in the oven. Take ’em out, slather ’em in butter and honey, put some tea on, and enjoy yo’selves, fools! This shit is good! There’s a buttermilk variation on this recipe, but honestly – I just prefer the regular ol’ milk version. So no excuses this weekend – make some goddamn biscuits already!

Betty Crocker’s Baking Powder Biscuits

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 Tbl sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I use the Crisco in bar form – less mess!)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  1. Heat oven to 450. (Yes, really.)
  2. Whisk (important for fluffy biscuits, I swear) flour, sugar, baking powder, & salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (you can find this at your grocery store for less than $5 – trust me, it’s awesome) or criss-crossed knives until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in milk until dough leaves sides of the bowl (dough will be sticky).
  3. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead lightly between 10-15 times. Roll or pat to about 1/2″ thick. Cut with 2″-2 1/4″ round cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1″ apart for crusty sides, touching for soft sides.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating once, until golden brown. Serve warm, DUH.

Note: The recipe says it makes 12 biscuits, but it is full of LIES. My cutter is pretty big and it makes about 7-8 biscuits, but I still bake for about 10 min. So…just keep that in mind. I like giant biscuits. QUIT JUDGING ME.





St. Patty’s Day Booze Cake (El Bakes!!)

17 03 2009
st-pats-cake

It's not green, but it is filled with alcohol!

I love St. Patrick’s Day.  I love bagpipes and leprechauns and parades.  Mainly, though, I love drinking.  I enjoy drinking a Killian’s and singing “Danny Boy” and wearing my “Irish Moms Are The Best” t-shirt that I bought at thrift store 13 years ago.  I like drinking an Irish coffee and wearing a shamrock hat and wishing I was a redhead.   I’m marginally Irish and I’ll pinch you if you aren’t wearing green on March 17.

I’m also a big fan of holiday baking – I like making seasonally appropriate desserts, complete with decorations.   I find something comforting in marking time with delicious foods.  So, with St. Patty’s coming up, I could think of nothing better than the Chocolate Bourbon Cake listed on Simply Recipes.  And when a good friend who recently started writing her own food column said she was trying to figure out a post, I suggested we bake together – at her house, which has a dishwasher.

Luckily I asked about a mixer before I went over.  I didn’t ask about a sifter because I wasn’t originally planning on doing the powdered sugar.  But, while the cake was in the oven, Kona became worried that the alcohol didn’t make it Irish enough, so I MacGuyvered (MacGrubered?) some shamrock stencils with wax paper and we used a cheese grater as the sifter.  And it looked fantastic given our limited resources and the fact that we were slightly intoxicated at this point.

Not only is this a boozy dessert, you can totally drink while you’re making it.  There weren’t a lot of steps, nothing was super complicated or required a ton of concentration.  One small tip: USE THE BIGGEST MIXING BOWL IN YOUR KITCHEN.  This makes a ton of mousse-like batter and I was totally unprepared.   It has a really long baking time, so make sure you take that into account.  It worked out perfectly for us – Kona’s SigOt made us dinner as the cake cooled and we drank some more.

This cake came out really good and really frickin’ boozy.  I think that it needed to bake a little bit longer, the inside seemed especially strong and I have a feeling it didn’t have long enough for the alcohol to cook off.   The recipe called for more whiskey to be sprinkled on the cake as it cools, I think it would have been overkill.  The texture and density reminded me of flourless chocolate cake, all you’re going to need is a small slice.  And a designated driver.





What’s a Good Way to Celebrate No Cavities? Lemon- Sugared Snack Cake!

10 03 2009

Okay, I actually made this on Saturday because a friend of mine requested it. But I DID go to the dentist today for the first time since the Clinton administration and much to my shock, I had NO cavities. And my tartar buildup? MINIMAL. I attribute it to all the Jujyfruits, Haribo Gummy Bears, Red Vines, beer, wine, Beam and Coke, cupcakes, cookies, and lack of flossing for all but the past 6 months. That said, you should really floss. It cuts down on your dentist time significantly. Also, this cake makes everything better, so if you do go to the dentist and s/he tells you that your mouth is a disgusting cesspool, you can come home and eat this cake and feel like you’ve got Hilary Duff teeth (she has enormous, white, healthy-looking teeth – she’s a dental role-model. If you’re into giant teeth.) The texture of this is light and fluffy because of the cake flour. And you might think that it needs a drizzle of something lemony (and I wouldn’t stop you), but the topping is quite enough. It stays moist and fluffy and is just light enough. I got this from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, and if you don’t own a cookbook from ATK, well, I PITY THE FOOL. You should get one. Anyhoodles, on to the teeth rotting goodies….

Lemon Sugar Cake

  • 1 1/2 c. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbl. grated fresh lemon zest (it’s a pain in the ass, but totally worth it)
  • 8 Tbl. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. whole milk, room temp.
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8″ or 9″ square pan with foil to make a sling and grease it up.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and lemon zest together on medium until well combined and pale yellow, about 30 seconds. Remove 1/4 cup of the lemon sugar and set aside.
  4. Add butter to remaining sugar-zest and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time until combined, then add vanilla.
  5. Reduce speed to low and alternate beating in dry ingredients and milk, in 3 and 2 parts, respectively.
  6. Give batter a final stir with a rubber spatula. Scrape into prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle that 1/4 cup of lemon-sugar goodness on top.
  7. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached (like brownies should be), about 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan once.
  8. Let cake cool completely in pan, 1-2 hours. Or wait 15 minutes before trying a piece in the name of science. Pass out from glee. When awake, don’t forget to brush and floss.

    Magical floating lemon-sugared snack cake. This is no malarky! I'm magic!

    Magical floating lemon-sugared snack cake. This is no malarky! I'm magic!





Uh-Uh-Uh! Au Francais!

5 03 2009
Oui! (That is almost all the French I know.)

Oui! (That is almost all the French I know.)

I apologize for my long absence. I had the plague. Well, not the bubonic plague. The plague of strep throat. I never get sick. Haven’t been to the doctor’s since the Clinton administration (outside of baby/vagina related stuff – keep up on your hoo-ha check-ups, ladies!). EIGHT YEARS is how long it had been. I went a little nuts in my house and decided to become a Francophile (and thereby also becoming even more of a disappointment to my father). How did I go about this arduous task? I baked brioche! I’d never done anything yeast-related before (please hold all yeast infection jokes until the end of the post please and thank you) and decided that while I was delirious with the ill, it was as good a time as any. Right? Right. Basically, brioche is like a croissant, but in loaf form. I got it from the Dorie Greenspan Baking: From My Home to Yours book which I for for Xmas and hadn’t used yet so I was OHMYGODEXCITED, except I was sick as shit. But that did not change that this shit was delicious and made for fucking bad-ass French toast, which totes got the Big Easy Seal of Approval. Unfortch, I didn’t remember to take a photo. So instead, there’s a picture of a Frenchman. See his kicky beret and moustache? True signs of a Frenchie. Oh, one more thing – the dough needs to set in the fridge overnight, so this is a little bit of a 2-day project. But it’s pretty easy. Even a yeast virgin like me [snicker] didn’t fuck it up too bad. Now go forth and bake, dummies!

Brioche (makes 2 loaves – do NOT halve the recipe though. Dorie says.)

  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
  • 1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch milk
  • 3 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temp.
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp, but still slightly firm

Glaze (I didn’t make this because I’m lazy)

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbl. water
  1. Put yeast, water, and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer (you kinda need one for this) and, using a wooden spoon, stir until yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add flour and salt, then fit mixer with a dough hook. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer to avoid spraying flour everywhere and moisten the flour by pulsing the mixer a few times.
  3. Remove the towel, increase mixer speed to medium-low, and mix for a minute or 2. Dough should look dry and shaggy.
  4. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, set mixer to low, and add the eggs, and then the sugar. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes, until dough forms a ball.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add butter in about 2 Tbl.-sized chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. Dough will be very soft, like a batter.
  6. Increase speed to medium-high and beat til dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer dough to clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave out at room temp. until nearly doubled in size, 40 min.- 2 hours, depending on your kitchen temp. (Mine was apparently freezing and it took fucking FOREVER.)
  8. Deflate dough by lifting up the sides and slapping it down into the bowl. Re-cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge, continuing to deflate the dough every 30 minutes for about 2 hours. Then leave it, covered (duh), in the fridge overnight.
  9. The next day, butter and flour up some 9×5 loaf pans (I just used cooking spray with flour in it because I am a lazy bum). Divide dough into 2 equal pieces, and divide those pieces into 4 equal log-shaped pieces, about 3 1/2″ long. Place 4 pieces into each loaf pan, horizontally (so the logs fit snugly into the pan). Put the loaf pans on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper, cover with wax paper, and let rise again until the dough fills the pans, 1-2 hours.
  10. Heat oven to 400. Make the glaze, if you are so inclined, by mixing the egg and the water and brushing it on to the loaves. Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes, until they’re golden brown and make you want to hug your house.
  11. Transfer pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then remove loaves to cool for an hour. Pat self on back for bakin’ all fancy like. Start speaking French and watch Amelie a lot. KIDDING. Just enjoy the goddamn break. It’s mad good, yo!