2012, TS Eliot, Dating & Chocolate Truffle Stout Marshmallows

by kellybakes in , , ,


Chocolate Truffle Stout Marshmallows

This is the way the year ends This is the way the year ends This is the way the year ends Not with a bang But a marshmallow. 

2012 started with both a bang and a marshmallow. Mummers masks. A raging dance party with a triceratops. Makers 46. Fireworks. A conversation about Peeps and making your own mallowy goodness.

Last New Year's Eve, friends of mine threw a party. I knew no one but the hosts, yet thanks to the chocolate covered oreos I brought, I was able to make friends quickly [funny how that happens]. After the ball dropped, we were talking and the conversation turned to sweets. and, as I chatted with one particular fellow, he mentioned that he had an unhealthy love of marshmallows...so much so that not only stockpiled them at holidays, but he'd eat the odd-colored Peeps that should be outlawed [Red chicks for Easter? Really?!]. When I asked him if he'd ever had the homemade version, his eyes puffed like the treat in question and his jaw dropped in disbelief. I patted his arm and assured him: Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a homemade marshmallow. I even offered to make him a batch.

A few weeks and some witty texts later, I walked halfway across Philly, ready to meet up, armed with a plastic container of pillowy, freshly-made marshmallows in my mittened hand and a vanilla bean-sized fleck of hope that the afternoon would go well.

I don't normally have good luck on dates. I've been asked out by guys with horns glued to their foreheads [not at Halloween], ones who thought it appropriate to abruptly latch onto my upper thigh and cling for dear life in the middle of a movie theater, some who have said "I love you" on the first date, others who asked if I had a hit list and then immediately proceeded to describe theirs [Um...check, please?]. In the rare occasion that I end up on a date with a nice guy, I usually get too nervous and the whole thing bombs.

Though I was relaxed that afternoon and Marshmallow man was a good guy, our date wasn't all that stellar...and it lasted roughly 7 hours. I always imagined marathon dates to be romantic and taken straight from a movie--a montage of a couple at the beginning of their relationship, talking for hours at a coffee shop as the camera pans outward, snow falls outside the picture window they sit beside and, as the music dies down, the shop closes, they wonder where time has gone and have fallen in love, though they don't yet realize it. In my case, a marathon date meant fried chicken and a candy shoppe [no complaints there] and plummeted quickly into smokey divebars, awkward silences, and frigid jaunts through subzero windchills, hoping in vain that the next establishment we ventured to would spark a better connection between us.

Chocolate Truffle Stout Marshmallows

As I thought about summarizing 2012, that day came to mind because it seemed to set the precedent for the rest of the year. I went into 2012 hopeful, and though it had its good moments, for the most part, it was a really trying year that left me feeling exhausted and discouraged. When life got hectic in the past, I lived much more in my head, so posting and putting on a happy face these past few months was not only a challenge, but it seemed insincere. Looking back at my year, though, I realize that blogging captured many of the good moments--conquering fearstraveling,discovering brown butter [finally], meeting amazing people--and, though I didn't realize it at the time, each post was a way for me push through whatever struggles I faced and to find the positives when things seemed bleak.

As I look to 2013, I'm optimistic for what's ahead and the attitude I have to tackle the new year. After all that I've faced in 2012, I realize that if something doesn't work, I need to either change my approach or change the ingredients. These marshmallows are proof of just that--sweet, but simple vanilla bean mallows that recall a not-so-perfect day are transformed into an entirely new flavor: echoes of stout with a sweet cocoa finish. Though not quite as airy as their cloud-like cousins, they're a bit like me after this year--not quite perfect, but they bounce back when you push them and are a bit richer [in their case, flavor, in mine, spirit]. The recipe needed some adjustments and I tried two different methods, but in the end, I'm happy with the result. Hopefully, by this time next year, I'll have made some adjustments too and will be happy with what I have to post as I look back at 2013. Wishing you a bright, happy, year ahead filled with lots of laughter and sweetness! xo

I'd also like to thank Shauna Sever, the author of Marshmallow Madness, for all of the advice she gave via Twitter about golden syrup vs. corn syrup as I set out to initially make peanut butter marshmallows. I used her vanilla marshmallow recipe as the base for this one, with flavor adjustments. And, given how little I know about the chemistry and makeup of marshmallows, you can bet I'll be ordering her book!

Chocolate Truffle Stout Marshmallows

Recipe Type

:

dessert, sweets, snacks

Author:

adapted from Shauna Sever

A fluffy, chocolatey treat with subtle hints of stout. Makes approximately 24 1 1/2" squares.

**Note on golden syrup: Shauna's recipe calls for light corn syrup, however, I couldn't find any near me and was pleasantly surprised by the taste of golden syrup. Imagine if molasses and corn syrup had a baby--it's more flavorful than corn syrup without the punch of molasses.

**Note on flat chocolate stout: If you're impatient like me and don't want to let the beer sit out for a few hours to get flat, you can whisk it in a bowl until there's no more foam. Do this by hand; when I tried it with my standmixer, it turned entirely to foam. I used Hooker Brewing Company's Chocolate Truffle Stout from CT because I love my home state and love that beer, but use whatever chocolate stout you can find![br]

**Note on chocolate:[/b] I made this recipe two ways--once with 3 oz melted dark chocolate (72%) and once with Dutch process cocoa powder. I liked the cocoa powder version more because the melted dark chocolate masked the flavor of the beer quite a bit. If you'd like just a faint hint of beer, use melted chocolate and add it at the same stage you'd add the cocoa powder, but you can increase the mixer speed to medium once you add the melted chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder [approx 2 packets of Knox]
  • 3/4 C cold, flat chocolate truffle stout** (see above note)
  • 1/2 C golden syrup** (see above note)
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract [I used my own homemade vanilla extract!]
  • 1/2 C unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, divided** (see above note)
  • Special Equipment
  • 8x8" pan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Stand Mixer
  • Pizza Cutter

Instructions

  1. Grease an 8x8" pan with canola oil. Dust with cocoa powder.
  2. Place 1/2 C of the flat chocolate stout in a microwave safe bowl. Sprinkle with gelatin. Stir once or twice to coat the gelatin. Let sit for five minutes to bloom.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together 1/4 C golden syrup, sugar, salt and remaining 1/4 C chocolate stout in a saucepan over high heat. Heat until mixture reaches 240F, stirring occasionally. (If you don't have a thermometer, this is the 'soft ball' stage, which means you should be able to drop the mixture into very cold water, form it into a ball with your fingers, but it should lose its shape when removed from the water.)
  4. Pour remaining golden syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  5. Microwave the gelatin/beer for 30 seconds on high until the gelatin melts completely. [The bonus of subbing beer for water in this recipe is that it masks the smell of the melted gelatin!]
  6. Start mixer and set to low. Once the beer/golden syrup/sugar mixture has come to 240F, slowly pour it into the mixing bowl. Increase the speed to medium and whisk for 5 minutes, then increase the speed to medium for 5 more minutes and finally, increase the speed to the highest setting for 2 minutes. The mixture should be fluffy, light to medium brown and have tripled in volume.
  7. Stop the mixer and add 1/4 C cocoa powder. Mix on lowest setting until almost completely combined (If the speed is too fast, you'll wind up with cocoa all over your kitchen--trust me!)
  8. Pour it into the 8x8" pan and spread and smooth into the corners with an off-set spatula. Dust lightly with cocoa powder. Allow to set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.
  9. After marshmallow sets, invert pan onto a surface dusted with cocoa powder. Dust a pizza cutter with cocoa powder and cut marshmallows into squares. Toss squares into cocoa powder to coat any sticky edges.
  10. Enjoy!

3.1.09


Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes & Falling in Love

by kellybakes in ,


Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes

Do you remember when you first fell in love? When you first experienced that head-to-toe giddiness that seemed to make your brain go into overdrive, replaying blissful moments on loop until you thought your heart couldn't beat any faster and your cheeks had no more room to stretch your smile?

I fell in love in October of my senior year of college. I sat on a bench overlooking a dam, drinking Starbucks and reading Ezra Pound's poetry with a handsome blonde man. I told my creative writing class it was the way the autumn sun dusted the already orange dappled tree tops with an amber glow. I told the man it was his beard. In truth, it was the coffee...

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I fell in love with fall after one sip of my first pumpkin spice latte. I was a stranger to Starbucks for most of my life, but in that moment, all that mattered was the sweet kiss of vanilla whipped cream, the rush of pumpkin flavor following and the warm cinnamonny smell dancing up my nostrils. The world went silent, including the handsome man and his words I once clung to. As his mouth flapped on noiselessly about what I can only imagine was modernism and epic poetry, I hugged my white cup to my chest in blissful ignorance, smiling as I sighed and took in the scenery with new eyes. I was lovedrunk on the ultimate autumnal elixir and I haven't looked back ever since.

[Dramatic, I know, but isn't love always that way?]

Pumpkin spice latte cupcake

These cupcakes are a bit like that, too. They showcase both flavors, pumpkin and coffee, with equal intensity. The silky Swiss meringue buttercream is reminiscent of a milky latte and the moist pumpkin cupcake laced with hints of cinnamon, ginger and clove bring to mind all the warmth of fall. If you prefer one flavor over the other, adjust the amount of coffee liquor (I used Cafe Patron) to suit your tastes. You can also play with toppings. Javaheads, add a scant dusting of ground coffee to the top of each cupcake. Pumpkin-fiends, make yourself some pumpkin spice syrup and give each swirl of frosting a sexy drizzle of pumpkin on top. Then, save the syrup, froth some milk, and make yourself a pumpkin spice latte to wash down these cupcakes. Twice the pumpkin. Twice the love!

pumpkin spice latte cupcakes & falling in love
Recipe Type: dessert
Author: kellybakes, cupcake recipe adapted from Ina Garten & SMBC adapted from Dyannbakes
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 12
Perfect for Starbucks addicts, coffee lovers and autumn admirers alike, these cupcakes are sure to make the perfect addition to a fall menu!
Ingredients
  • For the Pumpkin Cupcakes
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I love cinnamon, but if you don't, add 1 tsp!)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 C canned pumpkin puree (for the love of all things good and delicious do NOT use pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1/3 C granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • Pumpkin Spice Syrup (optional, see link in post)
  • Ground Coffee Beans (optional)
  • For the Coffee Buttercream
  • 3 oz egg whites
  • 6 oz granulated white sugar
  • 12 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 T coffee liquor (I went a little coffee-heavy, but feel free to adjust to your taste. I used Cafe Patron, but you can also use Kahlua or to keep things kid-friendly, espresso or coffee flavoring)
Instructions
For the cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl. Set Aside.
  3. In a larger bowl, stir together oil, pumpkin, sugars and eggs until well combined.
  4. Slowly add in flour mixture, stirring carefully until combined.
  5. Divide batter among tins. Bake for 20-25 minues or until a tester comes out clean.
  6. Set aside to cool completely.
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  1. Prepare double boiler. In the bottom pan, add 1-2 inches of water and allow to simmer. Add top pan, combine sugar and egg whites. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (at this point, the sugar will have dissolved and you can rub the egg whites with your fingers and you shouldn't feel any granules).
  2. Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixter fixed with the whisk attachment.
  3. Beat for 10 minutes on high or until mixture is glossy, white and forms stiff peaks. The mixing bowl should be cool to the touch.
  4. Slowly add butter, one cube at a time, making sure it is well incorporated before adding the next cube.
  5. Repeat until all butter is added. If your frosting curdles, do not fear! Keep beating. Eventually it will come back together.
  6. Once all butter has been added, add the coffee flavor. Taste to adjust.
  7. Frost cupcakes with a large tip. Dust with coffee grounds or drizzle with pumpkin spice syrup.


hot mess tres leches cake & why it's ok to delete your facebook

by kellybakes in ,


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Last week my friend Don invited me to a surprise birthday party for his partner, Benjamin. When I asked what I could bring, he coyly asked, "Do you remember that tres leches cake you made that one time? Could you make that?!" Of course by 'that one time,' he meant a dinner party two and a half years ago. I had to take a minute to think back to it and, as I did, I found myself wondering, if Don remembered the cake two years later, was it really that good?

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At the end of the party, I went to hug Don goodbye and remembered that I had a pressing question that needed an answer. As I approached Don, I confronted him about an unfathomable decision he had made a few months earlier when, without warning, he quit facebook. I  meant to ask him about it when I got there, but found myself enjoying the company so much that I forgot all about his lack of internet presence [funny how that whole 'in-person interaction thing' works, isn't it?].

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Talking to Don reaffirmed so much about what I had been ruminating over last week at Big Summer Potluck. In creating a facebook profile, you're presenting an image of yourself that's rarely a complete representation of who you are. Often times, I feel pressured to live up to this identity that's online because when I see people in person they see me as the Youtube videos I post, the snarky status updates, and, of course, the endless pictures of baked goods. But, if I wasn't worried about getting affirmation from a digitized thumbs up, what would I no longer be afraid to post? And would that profile really be a clearer, more multifaceted, accurate picture of me? Maybe, but most likely not. For all of the "other" things I put up, people associate me with food and respond most to those posts. **SPOILER ALERT** This may come as a shock, but I am way more than the cookies I bake. I have weird quirks, silly gestures, other hobbies (gasp!), and numerous interests that I like talking about... and some that I just don't. It can be exhausting to present a limited version of yourself to the world and even more so to then try to live up to it.

tres leches cake

The other issue that came up was memory--how facebook just won't let things die. Sure, you can untag yourself from that picture of you and your ex, but it'll still be floating around your timeline when 12 of your mutual friends comment on it. Let's not forget friendships that were once vibrant and happy. When things go sour or you grow apart, facebook is there to remind you that you don't talk, that you had no idea s/he got a new job, that you weren't invited to the wedding. Maybe this makes you angry or leaves you with a pang of regret. Maybe you try to salvage things and maintain a shallow friendship or maybe it moves you to make futile efforts to save the sinking ship that has become your friendship.

The beauty of memory is that we can look back with fondness and maybe a tear at what used to be. We allow ourselves to remember friends as we want to, perhaps in more joyful times, rather than being reminded of the current state of affairs and guilting us because things will never live up to that image again.

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What does this all have to do with cake? Well, the tres leches was a hot mess. I poured the three milks onto the cake, let them soak in and hermetically sealed the pan in 8 layers of saran to safety bike it to South Philly. Let's just say that, despite my efforts, it wasn't going to win any beauty pageants by the time it got to the party. Don is a Georgia boy, so I smothered it in the rest of the bourbon peaches from my failed BSP3 cheesecake tarts and blanketed that with a layer of dimpled, slightly overbeaten whipped cream. It still wasn't pretty. But, as my friend Ted pointed out, the cake wasn't trying to be anything delicate or chic looking. I knew it'd be messy to cut into just by looking at it. Despite its appearance, both Don and Benjamin agreed that it was better than the version they'd had two years prior. I didn't take a picture of the final cake (and I'm glad) because, judging by the way people rolled their eyes back at the first bite or how Don clutched the bowl of leftover cake to his chest like he was hoarding gold, I knew that the joy that the hot mess tres leches brought them would stay in their memory longer than any Pinterest-worthy picture would.


Big Summer Potluck: a gift on being present.

by kellybakes in ,


"If it's meant to be, I'll go."

When I uttered those words to a friend who offered to buy my ticket for Big Summer Potluck back in February, I had no idea how true they'd be months later. By all accounts the cards were stacked against me to go. I had my debit card info stolen the day before tickets went on sale (hence the very generous offer to buy me a ticket until things were straightened out) and when the event sold out within minutes, I thought the universe was sending me a message and doubtfully put myself on the waiting list.

I was right about the universe, though it wasn't sending the message I thought…

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About a month or so ago, the Eventbrite gods took favor on me, bestowing upon my inbox an email that said a coveted spot had opened up. In a rush of giddiness, I snagged it without thinking about logistical things like oh I dunno… transportation. I haven't had a car since November and ever-reliable SEPTA failed to produce any route that even came close enough to hitchhike.

Tack on a ton of traveling this summer (I know, I know... #firstworldproblems, but seriously? I had barely unpacked my suitcase before it needed to be packed again), 3 conference presentations, work commitments and stress in my personal life and all that was left was a faint shadow of the energetic, witty Kelly we all know and love [did I mention modest? :]. I was exhausted. Plain and simple. Plus, the thought of baking something that Joy the Baker could potentially eat was kind of major... as in, I knew there would be some amazingly talented bakers and cooks to feed and I wasn't sure I could muster up the social fortitude to talk to some of the attendees let alone wondering if I was capable of the amount of love it usually takes to bake something worthy of that kind of audience.

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The exhaustion of the month prior was a blessing in disguise. When I got to the hotel, I discovered that my cheesecake tarts had toppled in transit. I peeked into the box, sighed heavily, salvaged a few and was too tired to make a big deal out of it. That feeling carried over into the evening and the next day, as I was too tired to be worried about being too intimidated to talk to folks. Admittedly, I'd been so busy I didn't get to read everyone's blogs beforehand--I think that in itself was another blessing. Had I done so, I probably would have stood off awkwardly in the corner muttering to myself and eating my feelings [though anxiety would probably never taste that delicious again].

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I'm pretty sure Saturday is what made all the difference. If you've read some of the other attendee's recaps, you'll no doubt read about Brooke's amazing talk about mindfulness. While the whole of it was amazing, I was most moved by a single moment in the talk. At one point, Brooke was talking rather quickly, stopped herself and said, "I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm going to stop and take a breath." And she stopped talking. She collected her thoughts. She breathed in. She breathed out. And my jaw dropped. It sounds silly to admit, but the idea of pausing to breathe was revolutionary for me. Of course it's okay to breathe! In that very moment, I realized that I never allow myself time to breathe. I fill up my schedule with too much--whether it's taking classes, teaching extra tutoring sessions, working two jobs, hanging out with beekeepers or trying to teach myself web design. Tack on social media and I feel like I've got a thousand pots on the stove and can't tell which one is burning.

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And when Molly O'Neill mentioned that every woman between the ages of 26-29 goes through a crisis where she wonders what she's doing with her life, I was so relieved. Being around a group of people who seem to have their lives together had me wondering just what it is I want out of life, and I was happy to know I wasn't alone.

BSP was worth every penny, if only for those two moments. But, if Molly & Brooke's talks were the main ideas, Joy's discussion on the back lawn added in all the supporting details. She talked about jealousy and comparison, about how we shouldn't look at the picture-perfect pins on Pinterest and beat up on ourselves or feel jealous. Rather, we should look around and be inspired. For me, that translated to not worrying about feeling like I was miles behind every blogger on my Twitter feed and to go back to Brooke and Molly's talks, figuring out what's important and makes me happy and pursuing that. I don't have to be the best photographer with beautiful poetic prose, CIA-worthy recipes and an awesome blog layout. I just need to remember why I blog (more on that later) and what makes me happy (again, stay tuned).

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I can't say that I came back from the weekend and sloughed off all of my extra commitments, put my life entirely in order and found myself stress-free and focused. BSP was about enjoying the moment and the retreat in itself was just that--a moment. Being able to be physically present was a gift in itself, one I will no doubt be thankful for as I watch my life unfold.

Huge thank-yous go out to Pam, Maggy & Erika for all of their hard work organizing such an incredible event & for their generosity (whether it be opening their home, heart [or both!] to an amazing group of food bloggers!) xo