A blog about all the things we love, regardless of how uncool they are.

Cream Puffs: The taste of a Wisconsin summer

Posted: June 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Food, Recipes | Tags: | Comments: Dork out with us! »

Every summer, it is tradition for Wisconsinites to flock to the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee to get their hands on the famous cream puffs. Folks wait in line for nearly an hour to taste the softball-sized whipped cream sandwiches, and when it’s all over, wait another year before they can have another delicious cream puff.

When our CSA basket arrived last week with a beautiful carton of fresh strawberries, I immediately thought: strawberry shortcake. I searched through stacks of cookbooks for the perfect cake to accompany my new berries. Angel food cake: who has 14 eggs lying around? Pound cake: too heavy. Scones: too messy. Imagine my surprise and delight when I came across this recipe for cream puffs in the old faithful Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Turns out, they’re super easy to make and only require a few basic ingredients. I made all 12, gave 6 to a friend, and froze the 4 that were left for another day. Delicious!

CREAM PUFFS
(taken directly from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Meredith Publishing Group, 1996. )

1 c water
1/2 c butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 c all-purpose flour
4 eggs
whipping cream, pudding, or ice cream
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter, and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.

2. Drop 12 heaping tablespoons of dough onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven until golden and firm. Transfer cream puffs to a wire rack and let cool.

3. Cut tops from puffs; remove soft dough from inside. Fill with whipped cream, pudding, or ice cream. Replace tops. If desired, sift powdered sugar over tops.

Makes 12 cream puffs


Homemade Hot Cocoa – Our fave winter treat

Posted: February 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments: 4 Other Dorks »

The story goes like this: One blustery winter day, we were craving a nice evening with a movie and some hot cocoa, but had run out of hot cocoa mix and didn’t feel like going to the store just for hot cocoa mix. Then I thought, “Hey, I bet we can just make it from scratch”. So, with some baking cocoa, sugar, milk, love, and a little help from google, I made hot cocoa from scratch. The result was absolutely shocking. Did you know that hot cocoa from scratch is pretty much the most amazing thing ever?? Well, it is. The rich and creamy and chocolaty taste can’t hold a candle to that instant stuff.  And now you can make it for yourself. Here’s the recipe!

Homemade Hot Cocoa:

1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cups sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup hot tap water
4 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, stir together the cocoa, sugar, salt and water. Bring to a boil, stirring often, being careful not to burn. Add the milk and heat to just boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into cups. Put on your sweatsuit. Turn on a good movie (such as You’ve Got Mail or Love, Actually). Wrap yourself up in a blanket. Drink the cocoa. Say “mmmmmmmm”.

Once you try this stuff, you’ll never go back, I promise.


Butternut Squash Chili

Posted: October 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Recipes | Comments: 6 Other Dorks »

DSC_0373 (1)

Fall has quickly and unmercifully descended upon us here in Milwaukee, and with its arrival the produce section of our local grocery store has been invaded by hordes of butternut squash. You won’t catch me complaining about that (the squash, not the weather). In fact, I was starting to get butternut squash soup on the brain when Emma came home with a recipe for “Gold Rush Chili,” whose main component is the aforementioned squash. So, we headed to the store and picked up the ingredients to make the chili that night. The recipe is super simple and – holy cannoli – is it ever good! It didn’t look like much once I set it to simmer, but I was pleasantly surprised by the final product. It’s sweeter than any chili I’m used to, and could probably even be considered more of a chili-flavored stew.

I know that most of you that are kind enough to subscribe to our blog live in warmer climates, but when the thermometer dips below 60 down in Florida and everyone is wearing their parkas and snow boots, give this recipe a try! And let us know what you think!

Gold Rush Chili (from Outpost Natural Foods)

2 Tblsp olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tblsp mild chili powder
1 1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste (for spice)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 15-oz. can kidney beans
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream (for garnish)
green onion, chopped (for garnish)

Peel and chop squash and set aside. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sautee onion and bell pepper until soft – about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee 2 minutes more.

Add seasonings and stir well to coat. Add tomatoes (and their juice), water, squash, salt and pepper to taste, Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes.

Add beans and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Cover and cook until squash is tender, but not disintegrating – about 30-40 minutes.

Serve garnished with sour cream and green onions, if desired.

TIPS: The next time we make this we plan on doubling the recipe. That should produce the amount of leftovers that we want from a dish like this. This is one of those that tastes even better the second day! You might also consider cutting up a carrot and throwing it in there with the onions, for texture just as much as flavor.


Birthday Cake: Vanilla Cake with Coffee Buttercream Frosting

Posted: July 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments: Dork out with us! »

DSC_0466

This weekend some friends of mine invited me to bake a cake with them for the birthday of another friend. And if you know me, you know I never pass up a chance to be domestic with the gals. Lindsay had this fantastic cupcake book, Cupcakes: Luscious Bakeshop Favorites from your Home Kitchen, by Shelly Kaldunski which has all kinds of great cupcake and frosting recipes, along with decorating tips.  We adapted the recipes for Vanilla Cupcakes with Coffee-flavored Buttercream for our cakes. The decorations are turbinado sugar, dyed with food coloring, and coffee buttercream, with added hot cocoa powder and food coloring. We had so much fun, and the cake was delicious! This recipe comes directly from Kaldunski’s book, with the amounts doubled for the cakes.

Basic Vanilla Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole milk

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Spray sides and bottom of one small and one large spring-form pan with non-stick baking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  And the eggs and egg whites one at a time, beating well on low speed after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat on medium-high speed just until no traces of flour remain, about 30 seconds; do not overbeat.

Divide the batter evenly among the springform pans, until all batter is used. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, (20-25 minutes?).  Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about  1 hour.

While the cake is cooling, make the Coffee Buttercream:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temperature
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160 F on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan.  Usuing an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition.  If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more.  Add the coffee in small amounts until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Use right away.


Debunking the “Bread-Making is Hard” myth

Posted: July 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Recipes | Comments: 4 Other Dorks »

Bread

For whatever reason, I always grew up under the impression that bread-making was really difficult. I think that most people that I’ve met have that same impression. I can’t tell you where the idea comes from, or what has caused it to persist through 28 years of my own life. However, I can tell you that this notion was only reinforced when my family bought a bread machine. Wow, it must be complicated if there is this expensive contraption who’s sole purpose is to bake a loaf of bread. I remember that even loading the machine up with the ingredients seemed pretty complex at the time and then it would perform some mysterious voodoo (usually overnight), resulting in a fresh, box-like loaf of bread. Sure, the bread that resulted was good – but the only thing that made it better than what we got at the store was that hour or so that it was still warm from baking. After than, it seemed to lose its magic. Needless to say, the bread machine didn’t really get used that often. Well, that’s about the time that I resigned myself from ever trying to bake bread again.

Fast-forward over a decade into the future and here I am, surfing the internet, when I come across this article and this video from the New York Times on a dead-simple no-knead bread recipe. Really? You don’t need to knead the bread endlessly until you fall over, pass out, and awaken only to find your dough has gone flat? I just mix together a few simple ingredients and basically let it sit until it’s ready to bake?!  Yea, right.

Now, this article has been across, and back, and across the internet again and again, so we know we’re not breaking any news here. We just want all of our family and friends (and the occasional random person) to know that BREAD BAKING IS NOT HARD and YOU SHOULD BE BAKING YOUR BREAD AT HOME! We’ve been baking this recipe for about a year now and it turns out great every time. Beautiful, crunchy outside, spongy inside, and just plain tasty. So, please, give it a try! And let us know what you think! If you’re not convinced, make sure you watch that video!

Check out this awesome recipe!