Mrs. Chelsey Croft

Future teacher, life long learner

Tasties and Technology — June 20, 2017

Tasties and Technology

This week in my baking adventure I attempted to bake the perfect Creme Brulee.  It is a seeminly simple.  Only four ingredients – eggs, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla. Should be impossible to mess up right?  WRONG!  In order to fully succeed at creme brulee, one must be very precise and exercise some technical baking skills.  Not for the faint of heart that’s for sure.

So what made me think I could tackle this difficult classic French dessert?  I wish I had a cool answer for this, but the truth is I just love the way it tastes and would love to be able to make it whenever I wanted it!  So once again, I turned to good ol’ Pinterest for my recipe. One immediate change I knew I would have to make is using vanilla extract instead of an actual vanilla bean.  Regardless, I was ready to channel my inner Julia Child and this dessert a try.

The lack of vanilla bean was just a minor inconvenience more than anything.  However, me not having a cooking torch could possibly result in teh sessert being ruined.  I mean, I was trying to make a creme brulee….the brulee part is pretty important!  Luckily, this particular recipe described a second technique that could give that ‘brulee’ effect.  In order to do this I simply set the oven to broil and kept the door open.  I then just kept a close eye on my desserts to ensure the sugar topping would not burn.  In the end, I think I was too worried about burning it and took it out a bit too early. Although it still formeda nice ‘crust’, it wasstill slightly grainy as a result of the sugar not being heatedlong enough.  Next time I will bite the bullet and use the actual torch I have.  I will just be sure to have a fire extinguisher on hand!

Baking the creme brulee was not my biggest challenge this week though.  Creating one single video depicting the whole baking process was.  In order to do this I took 12 different videos of my baking process.  I then downloaded a program called Movavi onto my computer.  This tool allowedme to merge these 12 videos into one, while cutting out parts I did not think I needed.  Because it was my first time using this software I messed up on one of my cuts, and took out a bit too much.  To make matters worse, whenI went to uploadthe video to YouTube I was informed that if I did buy the complete version of the software there would be a ‘stamp’ on my video and no audio! Oy vey!  I published it anyway, and am making it my goal to find a FREE editing tool for my next video!

Even if the dessert and the video did not work out perfectly, I was quite pleased with how I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned some new techniques with baking and new techniques with technology!  Until next time….

— June 9, 2017

This week I am doing something a little bit different with my learning project.  Instead of baking (more like attempting it) something super yummy, I have made it my goal to find some online sources that can help me, or anyone out when it comes to baking.  Although it won’t have the yumminess of my previous weeks, I think it will be super beneficial in the long run.

My first goal was to try to find an online source where I could ‘store’ all of my baking recipes.  I know, I know, doesn’t Pinterest do this for me?  Yes it does.  But I find it is always time consuming to go through the many pins I have under ‘Desserts’ just to find one specific recipe.  Plus, you cannot make adjustments to these recipes on the site, which is not ideal becaise recipes often need little personal touches to make them better for you.

After doing a little web browsing, I cam across a great article from the LA Times.  This article gives a list of the best sites to collect recipes on. Perfect!  After going through their list, I decided that my favorite option was MacGourmet.  The main reason fro this was because not only can you import recipes/pictures from the internet (like Pinterest), you can also add in your own personal recipes and pictures.  This would make my life much more organized than the ‘recipe box’ I currently use to keep track of everything.  This site has one big con though.  It is only compatible for Mac. The good news is you can download an app on your iPhone or iPad.

My next challenge was to simply learn some common baking mistakes and how to fix them.  I cam across a great website for this.  Some of these tips I have learned by baking desserts for this learning project, including the fact that the temperature of ingredients makes a big difference!  Something I did not know was that ingredients like baking soda and yeast have a very short shelf life and that you should not use them if they are ‘expired.’  Pretty sure the yeast I used for my cinnmon buns in a couple years old…ooops!  I really wish I would have looked up these tips at the START of my learning project.

Reluctantly I also wanted to find a way to make desserts taste good but still being somewhat healthy.  Okay healthy might be stretching it.  But I still wanted to find desserts that are less fattening, I got baby weight to lose!  Plus I have a sister who is a vegan so I thought it would be nice to bake something she can actually eat!  This blog is amazing! She has tons of ‘healthy’ dessert recipes (and some mains too) and breaks them down into really easy to find categories.  Although I have not tried any recipes from her blog, I am hoping that I will get a chance to during this learning project.

Now to get back to the unhealthy, yummy, fatty desserts.  The way desserts were meant to be.  I found a wicked blog that has countless recipes for nearly every dessert you can think of.  My mouth was watering a I read some of her entries and recipes.  After I make a healthy dessert, I think I will come back to this blog and make a yummy, ‘bad’ dessert!  Again, this site is set up in such a way you can look at delicious pictures, and easily find the type of dessert you are looking for (ie. cookies, cupcakes, bars, etc).

I think all of this info will help my baking game, from the technical details I know nothing about, to new and exciting recipes!

Lava Cake Blow Up! — June 5, 2017

Lava Cake Blow Up!

This week’s baking challenge was a tricky one to say the least.  After searching Pinterest for what seemed like forever, I was finally able to find a delicious looking, chocately masterpiece.  Otherwise known as Lava Brownies.  It sounds dangerous because it is!  The dangerous part is somehow baking them long enough to ensure the outside is fully cooked with a nice crunchy edge, all the while the inside is still a liquid river of gooey chocolately goodness.  Definitely not for the faint of heart, and probably not the best choice for me, a sub skilled baker.

I also tried ‘upping’ technology game by creating a time lapse video.  This presented me with a whole new set of challenges I did not anticipate.

The above time lapse video shows me making the ‘lava’ part of the dessert, which had to be prepared ahead of time as it had to be frozen and then formed into chocolate balls (I bet you smiled reading that).  When reading up on how to create a good time lapse video it often came up that one should use a tripod or at least have the camera situation somewhere where it would not move.  However, with this task I felt I needed an overhead shot in order to fully show what I was doing.  In order to achieve this I had to recruit a helper, which resulted int he video to be shakey.  Overall, although time lapse videos look super cool, I do not think they are great for baking, unless you have a very tall tripod.  Lesson learned.  TO make me feel even more inadequate about using ‘new’ technology, I spent a good half hour looking for a good time lapse app 9I went with an Instagram one), only to realize the iPhone camera has one built in!  So note too self:  always check your current technology first!

Now back to the lava cake.  The recipe called for a bake time of 25 minutes. Errrrr WRONG!  After 25 minutes I took out my dishes, and well, this happened:

This whole thing kind of just flopped out of the baking dish.  CLwarly not even close to being fully baked. Does not look very appetizing.  It is a good thing I made six!  Long story short, it took over double that time before I thought they were ready.  I was so scared to cut open my cake, but that is the only way I could be sure if it was ready.  You can tell by the ‘normal’ video below that my second attempt tunred out much better.  However, I must admit, in the video I state that it is perfect, but it was not.  In my opinion, it was overbaked slightly as the middle chocolate lava seemed to be very slightly ‘scorched’. This just means it was a bit thicker, and more gooey than it should have been.  Luckily it still tasted amazing, espeically with a scoop of ice cream!

Next week I will be doing something a little bit different.  Instead of bakinga ‘tricky’ dessert, I will attempt to find some online sources and\or apps that can help with aspects of baking.  I am still not sure exactly what this means, but I am hoping to provide some baking tips for common mistakes to help out beginner bakers like myself.  In hindsight, I probably should have started with there! Hahaha. Until next week….

Mmm Mmm Pie! — May 28, 2017

Mmm Mmm Pie!

The title says it all! My applie pie was not only beautiful to look at, but it tasted delicious too!  Of course I had to ‘a la mode’ mine, because, well, I love ice cream!

I wish I had good enough camera video skills to create a one shot, step by step process of what I am doing, but I do not.  Plus, with two young kids, I usually am switching off between baking, playing with, feeding, or cleanign up after the kids.  With that in mind, I created 5 short videos that explain how to go about making the perfect, flaky pie crust, which pie had!

I was quite skeptical of my crust when I was finished making it, although I am not quite sure why as I did not really know what ‘good’ pie crust dough was supposed to look like.  I did, however, know what I wanted my pie to look like, and it was the fancy lattice pie top.  In roderto getthis right, I use this steo by steo YourTube video to show me how.  It was actually quite simple and easy to create, and makes your pie look super fancy.

Just as I did with my cheesecake, I followed the Apple Pie recipe perfectly.  Okay, so not perfectly, I had to make two minor changes:

  1. I used lime juiceinstead of lemon because I forget to buy lemon juice and I already hadlime juice in the house.
  2.  The recipe called for 8 cups of apples, which I prepared.  However, the pie dish I used was only able to hold about 6 cups. (Luckily I also had some extra dough too and created what I called a big apple perogy!)
    Ready to be baked

    Fresh out of the over
Next up on the Menu….Warm Apple Pie! — May 24, 2017

Next up on the Menu….Warm Apple Pie!

I was super skeptical about the title of this blog post, but then I remembered that I am relatively old, and most of you will not ‘get it’ anyway.  Perhaps that could be a challenge for you young bucks in #ecmp355.  So, as the title states, I will be trying to bake a successful apple pie this week.  I have never made a pie in my life.  This is probably because most pies contain a lot of fruit, and I am very much against fruit in desserts, but here I am, stepping out of my comfort zone and making a “healthy” dessert!

The recipe I will be using was found on Pinterest and it claims to be “the best we’ve come across”.  I feel with a quote like that ‘they’ are just setting themselves up for failure!  But that is not important.  What is important is my ‘pre-baking’ prep, as I like to call it.  A day or two before I begin baking I always read over the recipe to ensure I have all the ingredients and tools to bake my dessert.  With this apple pie, it turns out you make the crust in a food processor, not a mixer.  The only food processor I have access to is my mother’s.  She told me she got it as a wedding gift in 1984!  This means I will essentially be playing Russian roulette with this old machine, hoping it does not give out before the crust is made.

Now normally, as in always, I only use traditional “written” recipes, where it states the ingredients and then the directions.  Simple and easy, at least for me.  This is made a bit more tricky using my iPad and recipes found online, mainly because baking is very messy and I like my iPad to be clean.  For this dessert I am going to try and up my technological baking game by using a YouTube video as well.  My plan is to find a good video that can teach me how to make a more complex upper crust then the typical ‘flat’ looking one with a few holes poked in it.  Right now I am thinking of doing the ‘basket weave’ design.  If I am feeling super ambitious I may even throw in a pretty leaf or two!

Final thoughts about apple pie:  since it is primarily fruit I think I will make it my goal to have it ready to eat as breakfast on Saturday morning (clearly I am super into nutrition)!

Cha cha cha cha cheesecake — May 22, 2017

Cha cha cha cha cheesecake

Before I begin to talk about my baking adventure this week, when you read the title of this blog please do so in a David Bowie “Changes” tune. I had the song stuck in my head the whole time I was baking, it just seemed to fit the theme of cheesecake.  Anywho….

The cheesecae was a huge success.  Honestly, it was probably the best thing I have ever baked in my life.  However, I may be abit biased as cheesecake in general is one of my favorite things ever.  Add a brownie bottom to that and peanut butter, how could it not be amazing!?

Fresh out of the over – the cracks are a good sign!

In case you may have forgot, my two main worries about baking this particular cheesecake were 1) the brownie bottom would burn and be brick hard, and 2) the center of the cheesecake not be fully cooked (that has happened before).  Turns out I was worried for nothing, because, as mentioned above, this cheesecake turned out perfect!  I think the secret to my success was to follow the recipe exactly!  Go figure eh?  Okay, so I may have added more chocolate ganache than the recipe called for, and I may have added more peanut butter cups on top of the brownie bottom than the recipe called for, but I made an exectutive decision, and I think it was the right call.

Cooked all the way through and delicious!

This cheesecake tasted absolutely delicious, but it is not for the faint of heart. If you do not like rich, sweet desserts, this is NOT for you.  This cheesecake if for people who take on desserts like an athletic event.  You must prepate for it, both mentally and physically.  It will test you and it may win.  My sister and Dad could not finish theirs.  They were too weak.  Lucky for me, I got to finish their pieces, but I am somewhat of a dessert warrior!

The biggest challenge to this baking experience is to step outside of my comfort zone and put myself in a video.  I never realized how annoying my voice sounds until I made these ‘YouTube’ videos.  You can’t unhear that!  Even so, I am going to continue to try and force myself in front of the camera.  I feel like I am about 80 years old when I try to figure out how to flip the camera from ‘selfie’ mode to facing out.  This technology I tell ya!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins…..Saaaaay Whaaaaaat!? — May 19, 2017

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins…..Saaaaay Whaaaaaat!?

Those bunnies didn’t stand a chance!
ADVISORY WARNING: All my baking will include these little fingers dipping in them!

So I know I am not a great baker but for the most part I do alright.  However, those cinnamon buns were not great, or even good. That really bummed me out, and hurt my baking ego!  I needed something to boost my confidence in the baking department, so I decided to make a couple batches of banana chocolate chunk muffins.  This was also a great way to get rid of the many chocolate Easter bunnies me and my daughter had left over.

This is a fool proof recipe I have perfected (I think) over many attempts of making the perfect banana muffin/bread.  For me the kicker (shout out to Guy Fieri) is adding in cinnamon and nutmeg….gives it anice spicey taste that goes great with the chocolate.

Just as I had anticipated, the muffins turned out amazing and delicious, and will hopefully serve their purpose of giving me back my good baking vibes!

Tomorrow sometime I will attempt to make my first brownie bottom cheesecake.  Cheesecake in general gives me grief.  I always get nervous that the middle won’t be fully baked, and the though of raw eggs in anything grosses me out!  The brownie bottom will be an added challenge as I am told it is very tricky not to burn it.  I always like to let cheesecake ‘set’ for over night, so I will not be putting on the finishing touches until Saturday, at which point I will eat the whole cake to myself!

 

Cinnamon Buns – Take 2 — May 16, 2017

Cinnamon Buns – Take 2

This icing was definitely a hit!
Dough so perfect a 3 year old could roll it

Last night just before supper I decided to tackle cinnamon buns again.  For fear of completely ruining my dough again, I decided to make a couple changes the “my” recipe.  The first being I would not add asmuch flour!  Secondly, I decided not to use the ‘bread hook’ on my mixer, but instead use the paddle attachment.  Luckily both of these adjustments paid off and the cinnamon buns were, in my opinion, a success.  Sure they were not that perfect golden brown color, nor did they form a perfectly tight spiral, and okay, they may have been a bit too hard on the bottom, but they still tasted pretty good…..not great, but good.  The best part was the yummy cream cheese icing I made to go on top of them.  I dipped my cinnamon bun in it as if I were eating veggies and dip…..cream is a weakness of mine!  Overall, I am calling this a win and moving on, and likely never baking cinnamon buns again.  I mean they are not even very expensive to buy!

The part about not baking cinnamon buns ever again was likely only ‘big talk’ from me.  I have alrady decided that if I get through all of my other desserts with better success than the cinnamon buns I am going to try to make them for a third time!  I really want to get them just perfect! Aaaaarrrrgggg!  Stupid cinnamon buns!  Okay happy thoughts….cheesecake.  Yes, I think I will try cheesecake next.  My plan is to bake a Reese’s Pieces cheesecake on Friday, have it cool over night, and then BOOM!  Breakfast Saturday morning.  And before you jusdge me, cheesecake has cheese in, albeit, cream cheese, it has eggs, and it has milk.  It is basically an omelette.

Pre Oven (not the prettiest)
Finished product (still not the prettiest)

 

***Note:  I did have a video, but it was a horrible attempt at a ‘selfie video’ that no one will ever see, ever!***

Cinnamon Buns – Take One! — May 14, 2017

Cinnamon Buns – Take One!

Sooooo, I tried to make cinnamon buns yesterday afternoon.  I got all my ingredients ready, the bowls and rolling pin set out and ready to go, and I had the cutest sous chef helping me out.  “Igot this!”, I thought.  Ummmmm….WRONG!  To say I was unsuccessful would be an understatement!  It was a straight up fail and disaster.  I started this project out with cinnamon buns because I truly thought they would be easy to make/bake, again WRONG! I am now beginning to think that it may take me the five weeks just to make these darn cinnamon buns, nevermind all the other desserts I want to attempt!

My adorable sous chef, Leighton

Dough! Bleeping dough! Can I even “say” ‘bleeping’ on here?  Who would have thought making dough could be so difficult.  Clearly not me as I thought it would be a breeze.  It was just a mess.  It would not roll out, it was think, it did not stick together properly, and it just looked really dense.  I think I mixed in too much flour, but I cannot say for sure until I try again.  Needless to say, it ended up in the garbage.

Now I am the first to admit that I have a pit of a short temper and lack patience when it comes to myself and learning new things.  I know what I am good at and try to stay in that particular ‘pool’ of things.  Baking is NOT one of those things.  I am also very stubborn and know that I will keep trying to bake these cinnamon buns until I get them just right!  The plan is to try and again sometime today but just typing about my fail is getting me all fristrated again, so I may need another day to mentally prepare!

To add to my frustration, I actually had to youTube how to use YouTube, ironic I know. I have never uploaded something to the site, so went over a quik tutorial, and quickly realized it was pretty simple (I think/hope).  With that, I hope you enjoy my videos. I hate being on video.  Wish me luck on my next attempt!

 

What to do, what to do? — May 12, 2017

What to do, what to do?

Since learning about this ‘learning project’ I have been racking my brain regarding what I could do.  I immediately knew I wanted to take on something that I truly enjoy and would not quit when the project was over.  So what do I truly enjoy. Well, the first thing that came to mind was food!  I loooove food.  Specifically, I love desserts. Cakes, pastries, muffins, CHOCOLATE.  Pretty much every thing sweet.  I am also somewhat of a dessert snob. For example if there is fruit in a dessert, I do not consider it a true dessert.  One time my mom made fruit salad for “dessert” and I simply told her, “neither fruit nor salad is a dessert!”

I have also always enjoyed baking. Well, maybe I do enjoy and maybe I don’t, I am not quite sure, but I know I love eating my baking, so that has got to count for something!  And, as far as my skills go, they are not top notch.  I have mastered making a chocolate cake, but that is about it!  So for my learning project I am going to try and tackle all of the desserts I have been too afraid to try in the past, for fear of completely messing them up (I would still eat them regardless!).  I have narrowed it down to five desserts, and my goal is to complete one a week.  I am REALLY hoping I will just perfect it on my first attempt, but I am not counting on it.

The five desserts and reasons for choosing them are as follows:

Cinnamon Buns – I have never baked anything that requires yeast, and I figured cinnamon buns are yummier than regular buns.  I am hoping I will have a perfect batch made for Mother’s day morning!

Apple Pie – I have never made a pie crust before.  I know this breaks my rule of no fruit in desserts, but I will be sure to add extra sugar into the apples to make up for it.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake – I have only attempted one full size cheesecake in my life and the middle did not cook…..like at all! Cheesecake is delicious, but not when it’s raw. Here’s to hoping I can improve my method.

Chocolate Lava Cake – I want to take my chocolate cake to the next level by adding yummy melted chocolate to the middle.  Plus I was always curious how these types of cakes were made.

Creme Brulee – I am told that these are very hard to get just right.  Often times the custard does not set properly and it is easy to burn the sugar on top.  This one will be my biggest challenge, so I will likely attempt it last.

I will be obtaining all of the above recipes from Pinterest and will look to YouTube  for technique tips, like how to torch the sugar on the creme brulee and how to make a ‘fancy’ crust top on the apple pie.  I also plan to document my progress through pictures, my blog, through YouTUbe videos.  I do yet have an accoutn for YouTube, so that could be a learning project in itself!

Here’s to hopefully getting chubbier as a result of perfect desserts!