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Saturday
Dec312011

Brownie cake pops

I made cake pops, with brownies!

Chocolate brownie cake pops

Here is the essential recipe by Bakerella. I used brownies with cream cheese instead of cake with icing mixed in. The general steps are:

  1. Bake a double batch of your favourite brownies.
  2. Totally destroy the brownies by crumbling them with a fork. Very stress relieving.
  3. Gradually add cream cheese to the crumbs and mix. Add just enough to be able to form firm balls. You seem to only need 1/2 a brick of cream cheese per batch of brownies.
  4. Roll the mix into balls, place on a cookie sheet or tray, and refrigerate so the balls are firm. 
  5. In the meantime, assemble lollipop sticks, and decorations.
  6. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. 
  7. Take the balls out of the fridge. Dip the tips of the lollipop sticks into the chocolate and put one in each ball. Let each harden for a minute. 
  8. Dip each lollipop into the melted chocolate. Use a spoon to help cover the whole pop.
  9. Stand each lollipop in a block of styrofoam and let dry. Decorate with deliciousness!
  10. Keep the brownie pops cool or refridgerated; if they get too warm, they tend to become mushy. Though maybe I used too much cream cheese.

Baker beware: obtaining true round lollipops is difficult. By the time I was done, I marred about 30% of them. Yikes!

If you want to have a true round lollipop, see Gwen's Kitchen Creations: Cake Pops Tips and Tricks.

  • She's right that balancing them in cups or cardboard doesn't work: several balls broke & fell off the sticks, or the chocolate oozed to one side, or they tipped into each other.
  • Don't use too much chocolate or it will ooze down the handle.
  • A Pyrex measuring cup in a saucepan of water worked great. Though I need to learn how to temper chocolate...

From the photos, you can see that this time I just gave up and left the lollipops flat on a cookiesheet. They have odd bell shapes, but at least they didn't drive me insane and were easy to display on a plate.

I used dark chocolate chips, and candy melts. The candy melts are holy cow too sweet for me, but I had trouble getting a thin shell.

For decorations I tried crushed M&Ms, gummies, chopped crystallized ginger, cinnamon sugar, other candy or sprinkles.  I also made a small batch with chocolate-almond Pocky stick handles instead of lollipop sticks. Super!

Experiment: cake pops with Pocky

Saturday
Aug202011

Honey ginger throat drops

This week I found myself with a hellishly sore throat and no throat drops in the house. Normally I *am* one to lay about the house and moan, but dangit, this time I made cough drops myself.

Honey ginger drops

It was surprisingly easy. I followed this delightful recipe from Scootchmaroo on Instructables: Cough Drops. Read all the comments too!

I'm thinking of trying these again in the winter as gifts. What flavours do you like?

My day went like this:

  1. Make ginger tea and let it steep.
  2. Have a nap.
  3. Start boiling sugar solution. Make lunch while watching sugar. Eat lunch nearby. Check on sugar solution more while washing dishes. Once done, pour sugar into molds.
  4. Have a nap.
  5. Wake up: dust off the drops and they are done! Try a drop.
  6. Finish off with another nap.

Haha ok - some more details: 

For the honey ginger flavour, I made a strong ginger tea from boiling ginger in water (some sliced, some minced). I was out of lemon, but I added a couple sprigs of thyme from the garden. I'm wondering how fruit juice with pulp would work...

I strained the tea to get ~ 1 cup liquid. The liquid was cloudy from bits of minced ginger.

Ginger tea

Add an equal proportion of sugar. I used ~ 1 cup white sugar but since I love honey, I added a tablespoon of blackthorn honey, a dark aromatic honey. I didn't realize it at the time but  this made the drops taste dominantly of honey, with a kick of hot ginger. Scootchmaru notes that using only honey, less or no sugar, will increase the boiling time for the sugar solution.

If first time with this recipe: so you don't end up with a huge number of drops, only one cup of liquid was very managable. This will end up with about a cup of drops.

I also tried rosemary sage drops at the same time, but these were bland with a bad bitter aftertaste. I should have guessed that if the tea was bitter, don't make it into drops!

Then I set the ginger-sugar solution to boil. I agree with comments to use an extra large saucepot. Once the sugar solution approaches the right temperature, it can froth up to twice the height.

Boiling sugar

Eek! A smaller pot and this would have overflowed.

Read Scootchmaru's instructions here: once it boils, do NOT stir or do anything to drop sugar crystals back into the solution. Use a clean thermometer and spoons. Also, it's dang hot AND sticky, so treat it as if it's molten lava. (Well, just as if - fellow scientists will point out molten lava is over 1000 F.)

Let the temperature reach hard crack stage, or about ~300 F. My candy thermometer seems to be off, so I dropped a bit in water to see if I had the hard crack stage.

Scootchmaru & Mongpoovian's powdered sugar DIY molds work great! As per their instructions: pour a mix of powdered sugar and/or cornstarch into a pan, and make holes with any small round object. You have to find a size balance... shallower impressions can give a nice thumbprint drop, but it's easier to accidently make a joined puddle of syrup. Also make more impressions than you think you need: if you have to set the pot down, the sugar will harden in the pot.

Dot matrix

Pour the drops into your molds. Remember you are working with ... um, molten lava. Any little drips are fun to eat later.

The drops look really neat once you've poured them. Bubbles...

Drops in powdered sugar molds

They cool fairly quickly. I had a 2 hour nap to be sure. I dropped them into a strainer to sift off the extra sugar. If powdered sugar collected in the bottom divot, I removed it by either poking it out with a chopstick or violently shaking the lot in the strainer. Whatever reduces the amount of inhaled sugar :P

Voila! They turned out a pretty gold honey colour.

Drops in a jar

If you can do this, you can toally make lollipops next!

Wednesday
Jun082011

Lemony no-bake cheesecake

This weekend I had almost an entire package of cream cheese, so I made super easy no-bake cheesecake. No bake cheesecake is so easy it's rather dangerous. Good thing I don't have heavy cream in the house all the time or it'd be raining cheesecakes.

Whipping cream

Here is the recipe I use: No Bake Cheesecake I by Jennifer Gurule (AllRecipes.com).

Essentially it's three steps: (1) smash cookie crumbs with butter, yum! (2) mix cream cheese with sugar and lemon juice, yum! and (3) fold in whipped cream, yum yum yum! Then let it chill.

I grated in some lemon rind for exra lemon-y-ness, and used double-chocolate cookies for the crust. Since I was low on cream cheese, the cheesecake was extra thin. Quite nice and light for summer. Here is a horrible quality cell phone photo. Um, I forgot to take a photo before the last piece, then forgot to charge the camera batteries... and then all that was left of the cheesecake were crumbs!

In past made this cheesecake in muffin-sized portions, with gingersnap cookies and topped with candied ginger. I found it equally easy to put a whole cookie in the bottom of each, instead making a crust. So here is a prettier photo!

X marks the spot.

Isn't that a wonderful muffin tin? It's from my husband's grandparents.

Ready to go to the office:

Mini cheesecakes
Saturday
May142011

Makin' biscuits

Omm nomm

Sometimes on the weekend we run out of bread and eggs. Sometimes I just make bread, but we also low on flour, So I made a half batch of these tasty lemony biscuits from The Kitchn, which were just right. Lovely with blackberry jam!

Buttery Lemon Angel Biscuits

Also my first time making a biscuit with yeast, and angel (triple leavened!) biscuits. Yup, they did rise to seraphic heights!

Sunday
Mar272011

Asian supermarkets

Last week we visited T&T Supermarket. I love asian supermarkets and grocery stores. I miss the excellent ones from Vancouver; they were the best place to get fresh, fun vegetables and herbs.

Coconut & red bean bread

This time we tried something different: coconut & red bean bread (pictured above). We loved it. Holy moly cow it's sweet, like an egg-bread cake, but so soft and tasty. It was good plain, or with a bit of butter, or we even managed to fit some in the toaster without it falling apart, and spread cream cheese on it. YUM!

Our regular favourites from asian grocery stores:

  • Sauces and condiments - Sriracha sauce (Thai hot sauce), chili-garlic paste (good with anything), black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce (great with vegetables like green beans or eggplant), & don't forget to get some more soy sauce (we like the sushi-soy-sauce, I want to try some of the mushroom ones). If you like hot stuff, nip over to the vegetable section and get some whole hot chilis too.
  • Fresh noodles. Lately we love Shanghai noodles. I also like to always have dried rice vermecelli and buckwheat soba noodles in the house, and Sean's fav is udon.
  • Tea - often brown rice green tea (genmaicha) is hard to find outside of asian stores. Sean likes ginseng tea. I'm looking for recommendations for a non-powdery ginger tea...
  • Potstickers / dumplings / gyoza, and dim sum items!

There's other stuff too. In the vegetable section I go a bit crazy.

And of course, treats!

  • #2 must buy - Pocky! (#2 must buy This was my first time visiting their website. Dance music! Also, I need a cherry red suit and top hat.) If you are new to asian candy, you must try these pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate.
  • #3 must buy - Kasugai gummies. Orange is my favourite, but all of them are good. I love the packaging's monstrous tasty fruit and a ... though-provoking description.
  • Glutinous rice balls (also called sweet rice balls, Tang Yuan,  or Ah Balling?) sound unappetizing, but they are a fabulously sweet chewy rice ball with flavours inside. I like the black seasame and peanut butter ones. Usually you buy them in the frozen section, then drop them in boiling water few minutes: they're best warm. Yes, they kind of look like little eyeballs. Tasty, tasty eyeballs.
  • Red bean ice cream, or green tea ice cream. 

I'm sure there's a TON of stuff we haven't figured out yet - let me know your favourites! Can you believe I haven't had mochi yet?!