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yeast take 2: success!

I’m not sure if you recall my first real encounter with yeast, but it didn’t go so well. Earlier last week, Brandon’s co-worker Greg gave him a pizza crust recipe we wanted to try. Of course we can never agree on pizza toppings, so we settled on a pizza cook off! I didn’t take pictures, but the dough was actually easy to make. While the recipe suggested a food processor (perhaps the ONLY kitchen gadget I do not own) we mixed all of the dry ingredients in my mixing bowl and set the dough hook on low. We then slowly added the yeast and warm water mixture and olive oil. We let it mix until combined and then dumped it out on a floured counter and kneaded until fully combined. After an hour in a warm oven, the dough rose about twice in size. We divided the freshly kneaded dough into three batches, reserving one in the freezer for next time!

I decided on a classic pizza, while Brandon decided to go with a deep dish pizza. I brushed on a mix of olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper before adding pizza sauce, mozz and parm, mushrooms and pepperoni. On top of pizza sauce, Brandon piled a mix of blue cheese, mozz and parm, then laid strips of seasoned chicken breast.

We baked our pizzas at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. The result? AMAZING!

There was no way we could possibly decide on a winner. Both pizzas were equally different and really tasty. Brandon mixed up some homemade ranch with buffalo sauce and Texas Pete to drizzle over each slice. This time around, I’d say my yeast experience was a success!

happy st. patty’s day

Ever since I brought cupcakes for breakfast at work, I’ve had a few requests for more. So I figured I’d whip up some St. Patty’s Day cupcakes. I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe but with some Callebaut cocoa = heaven! We also charged the battery in the Nikon (finnnaaalllyyyy) so I had to take some fun pictures.

Another favorite – fun baking cups. Bake It Pretty is one of my favorite sites to buy colorful baking cups.

While the cupcakes were baking, I prepared some clover-looking flowers in kelly green. I mixed some gold luster dust in a little vodka ..

… and painted it on the dried fondant pieces:

And of course, finished my cupcakes off with my famous swiss meringue buttercream – this time with a bit of cream cheese.

Hope everyone had a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

typical sunday

A couple weekends ago, Brandon went to Virginia Tech to do some bro-ing with his Phi Tau’s. I woke up Sunday morning bored and decided I’d bake something.

I found this recipe in the latest Cook’s Illustrated:

Wicked good huh? Ok I’ll try it. If you’ve never flipped through a Cook’s Country or Cook’s Illustrated, you’re missing out. The magazines revolve around “America’s Test Kitchen” which is a 2,500 square foot test kitchen located outside Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Their mission is to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. They test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until they arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. They also do equipment testing and provide recommended brands for everything from cocoa to toaster ovens.

This particular recipe had a couple goals in mind – create a tasty but tender cake, a Boston creme that didn’t ooze out from between the layers of cake and a smooth glaze that would cling to the top of the cake and drip artistically down the sides. Overall – a good Boston cream pie. Wickedly good? Eh – with a few changes.

First – the pastry cream. Pastry cream is made from bringing dairy to a simmer and then using it to temper a mixture of egg yolks, sugar and flour. With the goal of creating a thick pastry cream that doesn’t squeeze out from between the cake layers, Cook’s Illustrated called for 1/4 cup of flour. In hindsight, I think 2 tablespoons of flour would have been plenty. (1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons). Another tip – always place plastic wrap over pastry creme before placing in the fridge – it prevents a skin from forming.

The cake was pretty easy and straight-forward. As was the chocolate glaze. However, instead of equal parts whipping cream and chocolate, I added a little more chocolate to make more of a ganache. “Artistic Overflow” never works for me and it didn’t this time either so I decided to just cover the entire pie.

Feel free to email me for the recipe!

happy (belated) valentine’s day

I love simple sugar cookies with royal icing. I decided to make some heart cookies for Valentine’s Day. Michael’s had a great set of heart cookie cutters with all different sizes.

And as usual, my little supervisor was close by:

The finished product:

I couldn’t resist! Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day!

lego cake

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I have made a few confections lately. Brandon requested a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream for his birthday and I wanted to make it special, so I decided on a lego themed cake.

I decided to throw in some vanilla bean too! I love the black speckles and it gives the cake so much vanilla flavor.

My plan started a little ambitious… I wanted to make it look like I’d built something with the lego cakes…

But after icing three cakes – I decided that would be plenty cake. I also ended up using marshmallows for the pegs on the tops – the circle cake pieces fell apart too easy.

Ta da! In case you were wondering, I made a chocolate cream cheese filling. It was amazing and Brandon loved it!

yeast… FAIL

I have to admit, I’d never worked with yeast – minus the times when I was little and made rolls with my grandma, but those were rolls and she’d probably done it well over 100 times. I followed the directions perfectly – measured the temp of my milk, let the dough rise for exactly 45 minutes but my final product was no where near these:

I’m talking about Ali’s Baked Doughnuts. She makes everything look easy. So I rolled and cut my doughnuts:

Placed them on the cookie sheet:

And this is what I got:

I just have to laugh. First, I didn’t have a 3 inch round cutter on hand so I figured I’d make mini doughnuts – but that didn’t work since the dough rose too much and then the hole filled in.. (yes those are my sad attempt at baking the holes) They had a slightly tough, baked outside – very similar to a roll. But they also tasted very similar to a pretzel. So how do you remedy a failed yeast-doughnut-pretzel roll? BUTTER, CINNAMON and SUGAR!

While they are a far cry from a baked doughnut, they turned out pretty tasty! The inside was much like a roll/pretzel, not quite soft enough to be a doughnut. 15 seconds in the microwave:

Of course whenever a recipe requires a cookie cutter, I can’t help myself:

Doughnut pretzel roll dog!

charlotte geary photography

Charlotte was so kind as to send me the beautiful pictures she took of the desserts I made for Stephanie and Dave. They turned out beautiful! Check out her site at!

happy halloween!

will you be my bridesmaid?

This weekend I whipped up some beautifully decorated sugar cookies to include in a wedding package for my bridal party! Head over to my wedding blog to check it out!

a lavender wedding

I was so honored to be able to provide the desserts for Dave and Stephanie. They contacted me awhile back. I work with Dave and he had sampled many of my lovely cupcakes! Stephanie knew that she wanted a cupcake tower. We met and discussed options and decided to split the cupcakes – half groom’s theme, half lavender wedding theme.

The bride’s cupcakes were lavender cake with vanilla buttercream, as well as chocolate cake with chocolate ganache buttercream. They were adorned with pearl sugar and fondant flowers with a sugar pearl!

The groom’s cupcakes were chocolate cake, filled with chocolate ganache and topped off with vanilla buttercream! I was obviously OVER willing to create a Hokie theme!

Of course we got half way to Leesburg and realized we left the fancy camera at home, bummer : (  But here are a few shots Brandon took with the iPhone!

One of the two Hokie towers!

The lavender tower!

And the whole spread! I can’t wait to see professional pictures of the final table – the wedding coordinator would later add a beautiful fresh flower topper as well as flowers all over the table! (I’m not very good at decorating … just baking!)