Friday, November 20, 2009


I've been collecting my mistakes to share. Let me show you my tribulations in the kitchen.

This was the first time I've ever cooked a spaghetti squash. Someone suggested that I cook it in the microwave. I pierced it - obviously not deeply or often enough because it exploded and blew the microwave door open. BLEW THE DOOR OPEN. The microwave needed to be cleaned anyway....

See that crack, where the stove meets the counter. An egg schlooped down that crack. The yolk even stayed intact through the schlooping. I scrambled to catch it before it sunk, but with no luck.
I had to get some man power to help me move the stove. Ahhh, what a pleasure! I love to make clumsy messes and clean them up. It's the best!

The instant I took this photo, everything was going swell. This was caramel in the making. I was preparing to make a chocolate caramel icing for some very hyped-up cupcakes for a special birthday party. I was trying to bake on Friday the 13th. I should have paid attention!
I consider myself a fairly good baker. I can follow a recipe and use good judgement and instinct during the baking process. The baking gods turned their backs on me that day. The cupcakes sunk. They were totally concave. I was less than pleased. My consoling fella suggested that I call them concakes. I "meant" to make them that way to hold more icing.
Well, I burnt that golden bubbly goodness shown above. It turned black. The aroma of charred sugar filled the air, along with a bit of smoke.
I chose to turn the other cheek and bake a pumpkin pie - complete with freshly pureed pumpkin. I made the dough from scratch, in my stand mixer, which I will never do again. It turned out horribly. Uber crumbly. The pumpkin filling turned all kinds of unappetizing colors. Not the glorious, roasted orange hue a pumpkin pie should have.
After many hours of grumbling, I served my ugly pie. It tasted like it should, but I had to eat it with my eyes closed.
Ah, mistakes. Lessons learned.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Strange Farmers Market

Now that the farmers market season is over, I can share with you some of the "highlights". I've been to a few farmers markets. The one that I sat at every Saturday morning this past summer was not a normal one. It was ... unique. You'll see what I mean.

One day, a live, giant elk was present. How often do you see one of those at a farmers market?

Various forms of martial arts were demonstrated throughout the season. I don't remember which one this is, but they were right next to my booth. The kids liked it.

Oh, this guy. I'm sure he's a nice fellow, but he was like a character straight out of Napoleon Dynamite - blend of Uncle Rico and Rex Kwondo. He would walk very stiffly whilst making exaggerated breathing noises to "get in the zone" even when no one was watching - besides us, of course.

Square dancing. This is actually quite cute to watch...except when the caller is present. Holy schnikeys does that woman have an annoying voice. It's characteristically a caller's voice - monotone and nasally with the microphone turned WAY up. Neighboring booths were less than pleased.

This one is my favorite. He's a fairly well know guy in the Indianapolis scene: il Troubadore - "The 14th Century Rock Band" if that gives you any hints. Robert, I believe his name is, is obviously talented. He plays a half a dozen instruments and can sing in four or five different languages. Some of his songs will probably never leave my memory. It was the same set every Saturday. I laughed out loud the first time I heard The Beatles "She Loves You" in German. "Sie liebt Sie, yaa yaa yaa." Oh, il Troubadore, you're like black licorice; a required taste.

As weird as this market was, it was a great learning experience. This being our first year in business, the farmers market was a great stepping stone. It was a good way to get our name out there, especially in such a vibrant market place.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three Downtown Indy Restaurants & a West Lafayette Cafe

So, I'm doing this little thingy called trying to get a job as a food writer. I've tracked down the editor of Metromix and have been bugging her a bit. I offered to write a test review for a new restaurant downtown - Cafe Zuppa. See what you think. "It all started with the soup; hence the name, Café Zuppa. (Zuppa, pronounced "zoopa", is the Italian word for soup.) Owners and new Indy residents Randy (originally from Georgia) and Paul (hailing from Maryland) built their business from their love of "adult" soups. After finding the perfect location across from the beautiful University Park on Meridian, the two began expanding their menu to suit the size of their restaurant - a space that big needed more than just soup. Innovative salads, flat bread pizzas, sandwiches, and a full breakfast soon followed.

I came in during breakfast time and feasted on the Meridian Street Omelet: three eggs folded around turkey, ham, mushrooms, tomato, broccoli, and my choice of cheese. The omelet came with a side of freshly cut, crispy hash browns and a pile of toast; a big portion for the moderate price of $6.35. Had I come a half hour later, at 11am, I could have ordered from the lunch menu and gotten the Roasted Turkey Pecan Panini that I'd been eyeballing or the enticing Trail Mix Salad. (You and I, Soup and Sandwich, shall dine together soon.) The menu was familiar, yet intriguing. The Kettle Soups are sure to be a comfort for downtown lunch-goers as the weather continues to cool off. A new soup, salad, and sandwich is created especially every week to keep curious taste buds satisfied. The lunch combinations are seemingly endless, and with the price range of $6 to $9, you can’t go wrong. Bottom line: Café Zuppa is locally owned. The staff is quick and friendly. The atmosphere is relaxed. The menu is bold, flavorful, diverse, and affordable. A win win situation all around."

Alright enough of that. On to Hoaglin's To Go. I did the rest of this just for funzies. Enjoy if you please.
Hoaglin's has been around for a long time. Their severely impressive quiche is evidence of this. They have two special quiches every day. This beast was delicious. "I can't believe I ate the whole thing." I had my side salad come with their champagne vinaigrette. Honestly, it turned my mouth inside out. A WEE bit tart.
Flashback to the Indieana Handicraft Exchange in October. After this two day event, Karli, Karli's Hub - Travis, and I met with our new, crafty friends from Chicago, Julie and Andy at MacNiven's - a place to get real Scottish fare. We were tired, cold, and in need of heavy comfort food. Oh, we found it here.
A toast to new friends and a successful weekend! (I had an Irish coffee. I'm so lame.)
This is all I really wanted. Warm. Warmness. Warmth. Found in a hot & sweet coffee beverage and in a hot & beefy stew. The roll and butter were a bonus.

And so was the sausage roll, smashed turnips, and coleslaw. I really shouldn't have gone this route. It was a baaaaaaaad idea. That sausage roll, in all of it's tastiness, kept me up all night, clutching my middle. Never again, sausage roll, never again. I will be returning to MacNiven's again though. I loved the atmosphere and menu.

Julie was awesome and got the most Scottish-y item on the menu. Scottish eggs. Great Scot!
Ending on a sweet note: The Greyhouse Coffee Shop in West Lafayette. This is a nod to my friend afar. We would go here every time I was in town. Their gelato is A.MAZE.ZING. Everything about this place is wonderful. It seeps wonderfulness. No tummy aches here.

Thanks for listening. Oh, if you like my writing and blogging, please tell your friends to follow me. Editors like to know that their prospective new writers have fans. The more fans the better. Yay fans! Yay support! Thanks for watching!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

German Cookie Bake-Off part 3

Welcome to the last installment of our German cookie baking extravaganza - a day so long, it required three blogs. A long day, but a fun one, filled with lots and lots of sugar. I probably had a weeks worth of sugar that day. I'm still recovering.
Cookie #7: Mini Americans. They are really called this. Basically, they're smiley faced cookies. Apparently, we Americans are extra smiley. Smiley enough to be noted by German cookie bakers. I'll take it. Any other theories? I'd like to hear them.
Maike's piping out some piles of doo. I mean dough. (It kind of looks like doo if you use your inner elementary school imagination.)
See, the piles flowed into nice little cookie pillows. They are tasty just like this, however not as fun to look at.
Maike is painting a canvas of white icing on the bottoms of the cookies.
I got to make up the faces with melted chocolate. I got the most fun part! Some had uni brows and mustaches. Excess facial hair is always funny.

Mini Americans
Preheat oven to 355 degrees F.
Mix 100g. softened butter, 100g. sugar, and a pinch of salt for 8 minutes. No less!
Add beaten egg and mix for 30 seconds. Add a second beaten egg and mix for another 30 seconds.
Combine 250g. flour, 1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix, and 1 Tbsp. baking powder.
Add dry mixture to butter mixture alternating with 5 Tbsp. milk. (Example add 1/5 of the dry, then 1 Tbsp. milk, then 1/5 of the dry, then 1 Tbsp. milk, etc.) Until just combined.
Pipe little circles onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.
Let cool and decorate with frosting. (Make smiley faces with two different colored icings.)

I'm going to emphasise, again, for you to get a scale; a DIGITAL scale. Digital scales hop from grams to ounces in a second. It's great. Hooray for technology!
ATTENTION COCONUT LOVERS! This is your cookie. Heck, even coconut dislikers, you will like this cookie. As a coconut disliker, I can honestly say that these cookies are fantastic! So give them a try. They are very easy to make.
Scoop. Plop. Top. Scoop. Plot. Top. Scoop. Plop. Top. Scoop. Plot. Top. Scoop. Plop. Top. Scoop. Plot. Top. Scoop. Plop. Top. Scoop. Plot. Top. You get the drift. After so many hours of baking. It becomes like clock work. Auto pilot kicks in. Scoop. Plop. Top. Scoop. Plot. Top.
Topping them with a chocolate chip was a great idea. That little bit of chocolate was perfect as well as adorable.
And now, you eat!
Or you decorate with more chocolate. AND THEN EAT!

Coconut Lumps
Preheat oven to 320 degrees F.
Cream 50g. softened butter, 125g. sugar, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar.
Add 1 whole egg and 1 tsp. almond extract and mix for 30 seconds.
Mix 125g. flour and 2 tsp. baking powder. Add half of dry mixture to butter mixture and add 1 Tbsp. milk. Mix just until combined, then add the rest of the dry mixture and 200g. coconut flakes. Mix until just combined.
Scoop out by the tablespoon full. Option - top with a chocolate chip.
Bake on lightly greased baking sheet for 10-12 minutes.

Want to learn how to peel an almond? You'll need to know for this last cookie. It's quite fun actually. Start by boiling some water.
Throw in the almonds and wait a couple of minutes. Drain the hot water and plunge the hot almonds into some ice water. Now for the fun part.
Squeeze the little naked almonds from their skins.
Don't stare! Have you no manners?! They are shy. Poor things, all cold and naked.
Now for the tricky part. Find the seam of the almond. Slide a paring knife in and crack the almond in half. Set them aside to use at the end.
Bethmännchen is the name of this cookie. Maike and Nadia couldn't find a way to translate it. (Sometimes there just aren't the right words in our English language.) So, I've given them an alternative name: Worth the Wait cookies, because they take 50 minutes to bake! The dough - another marzipan based dough - is not pretty. It's a sticky mess, but pinch off small amounts and roll into balls.
A reserved egg yolk will make them shine. This cookie is the best dressed of the bunch. Use some water to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.
Lather up the dough balls with the yolk.
Bring back the naked, halved almonds, and place three on top of each dough ball.
Very nice. Very nice.
These were my second favorite - tied for first place, next to the Almond Moons. What can I say, I dig on some almond cookies.

Bethmännchen/Worth the Wait Cookies
Blanch and peel almond skins from 500g. of whole almonds. Split in half.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Mix 200g. marzipan, 50g. powdered sugar, 1 egg white, 1 Tbsp. flour until combined and roll into balls the size of a tablespoon.
Glaze dough balls with a beaten egg yolk. Top with three almond halves.
Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 50 minutes.
I hope you have enjoyed our long day of cookie baking. Surprise your family and friends by baking something different for this upcoming holiday. A German cookie perhaps?

Monday, November 9, 2009

German Cookie Bake-Off part 2

The sweet saga of our German cookie extravaganza continues! On to Cream Cheese Cookies!
This delightful batter is laced with almonds (of course) and cream cheese. (Cream cheese. Shouldn't it be called creamed cheese? I always feel funny saying, "cream cheese". Maybe it's just me. I'll have to do some research.)
These little nuggets get a dusting of powdered sugar after baking. I've found that most of these recipes are not overly sweet like our American cookies, so the extra dusting is a nice touch.
Ta Da! Careful not to over bake them. I think we kept ours in the oven for just a minute too long. Boo! They are super when they aren't burnt. I also suggest making them this size. Small. I couldn't imagine them big. I think they might fall apart under their weight if they were big. Besides, the smaller they are, the more there is to share!
Cream Cheese Cookies
Preheat oven to 390 degrees F.
Combine 200g. cream cheese (or an 8oz. block), 50g. shortening, 120g. sugar, 1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar, ½ tsp. almond extract and cream until light.
Add 50g. flour, pinch of baking powder, 200g. ground almond, and 1 tsp. lemon zest. Mix until just combined.
Whip an egg white, and gently fold into batter.
Drop by the Tablespoon full on to greased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes or until just browned on bottom.

OK, you're in for a surprise with this next cookie. The Linzer cookie everyone has seen, but this recipe has an unusual ingredient. Well, not so unusual, but an unusual way of using it.
This recipe calls for 1 whole egg, 2 egg yolks, and 2 HARD BOILED egg yolks! WEIRD! I don't know what the purpose is. Texture? Flavor? (But you can't taste them in the cookie.) I'm so confused and in awe at the same time. Follow me through this incredibly labor intensive recipe. If you're looking to impress someone, this is the cookie to make for them. Just watch.
There's all the stuff. See the crumbled hard yolks?! I still can't get over it.
After some chill time in the fridge, we rolled the dough out very thin. It puffs up some in the oven. Check out the ancient cookie cutter. It's my mom's.
We used a large round cookie cutter and a small heart for the top cookie layer. (You'll see.) Nadia and I had such a hard time keeping the dough cool. The kitchen had been so warm all day from baking and the dishwasher was on. (Which we were working on top of.) We rotated the dough SEVERAL times, from counter to freezer and back again.
After they had made it out of the oven and cooled off a bit, we "painted" the round cookies with jelly that we'd loosened on the stove. No lumpy jelly for our cookies!
The top cookies get a healthy dusting of powdered sugar before being layered on top of the jellied cookies. I might add that it is wise to bake the top cookies separately from the bottom cookies because they cook more quickly.
Theoretically, the cookies should be the same size, but we had so much trouble transporting the dough, we warped them quite a bit. Arg! Not done yet. One more step.
Fill the holes to the brim with more jelly. They look rather nice like this. An impressive cookie for very much loved, appreciative cookie eaters.
Awww. Look how cute the parchment paper looks afterward. Just darling.

Linzer Cookies
Ingredients: 250g. flour, 250g. ground almonds, 250g. sugar, 250g. softened butter, 2 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 2 hard boiled egg yolks crumbled, ½ tsp. cinnamon, and ½ tsp. ground clove.
Mix all ingredients together until just combined and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut with circular cookie cutter. Using a small cookie cutter (about 1 inch wide.) cut out the centers of half of the cookies.
Bake on a greased sheet for 10 minutes. Let cool.
Heat jelly until warm and runny. Pour and brush on a small amount of jelly to the whole circle cookies. Sprinkle the cookies with the hole in the center with powdered sugar. Place the powdered sugar cookies on top of the jelly covered cookies. Fill the hole with jelly and let the jelly set up.

Cookie #6: Almond Moons or Marzipan Crescents. The almond lover's cookie.
When Maike gave me the list of ingredients that we needed, I really had my doubts on finding marzipan. She actually found it. I had no idea it was on our grocery store shelves all along. Who knew! I'd like to meet those Americans using marzipan. Who are you, and why aren't you friends with me?
The mixer was not needed for this recipe. Although Nadia totally fell in love with my mom's stand mixer. Honestly, what's not to love? It was too big to fit in her already crammed suitcase though. (It's probably over the allotted weight limit anyways. Sorry, Nadia.)
Here Nadia is squishing marzipan, ground almond, lemon juice, and an egg white together. (I lied about the lemon juice. We forgot that part, but it's in the recipe.)
A generous dusting of powdered sugar!
More squishing and mushing until the dough comes together.
Patience should be an ingredient listed here because making the dough balls into crescents is time consuming. But it's TOTALLY worth it. This recipe was tied for first place with another cookie that I've yet to talk about. Soooo good!
This is a very pretty cookie. It's got a regal quality, I think.
I'm working on my patience and crescent-shape making. Grab ball, roll in almonds, shape into crescent. Grab ball, roll in almonds, shape into crescent....
They plump up after baking. PS - I don't even like marzipan, but these cookies are a dream.
To fancy them up even more, you can dip the ends into melted chocolate. I, a chocolate lover, actually prefer them *gasp* without chocolate. Go figure.
Almond Moons/Marzipan Crescents
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mash together by hand 200g. marzipan, 100g. ground almond, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 egg white until just combined.
Sift 100g. powdered sugar over the dough and mix in with hands.
Roll into tiny ½ inch logs. Roll logs in sliced almond pieces. (Approx. 100g.) Shape into crescent.
Bake on lightly greased baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Option: dip or drizzle with chocolate.
Keep your pants on. The third and last issue of our cookie bake-off will be coming soon. Sweet!