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Thanksgiving and the Least Baking Fails Ever

The only picture of the apple pie.  Also, I can’t crimp so I don’t crimp.

This year I went a little overboard.  All in all I made eight things for Thanksgiving.  Yup, you read that right.  EIGHT.  And I would give myself a good 6 out of 8.  Not bad if I do say so myself.

Every year I make pre meal appetizers.  They are mostly sweet with a savory one slipped in for good measure.  Usually I don’t get to make the main desserts.  It is mostly because my family always has millions of people over and it is easier for the ones that don’t know what to bring to pick up a pie.  Last year I was responsible for rolls and they turned out quite wonderful.  I have made them again since but still never gotten around to blogging about them.

The bane of my existence on “baking day”.

Anyways, this year for some wonderful reason, I got to do the desserts!  I made apple pie, pumpkin pie, and cheesecake (for my Aunt’s birthday) for the big “end of the meal” desserts.  This was the first time using Joy the Baker’s recipe for apple pie and I liked it immensely.  If you make the crust the day before, it is really not that much work.  Also, macerating the apples allows you to put it aside and do other things.  It is a very friendly recipe for Thanksgiving day baking.  I usually make a Dutch apple with a pressed in crust.  I also used Joy’s crust for the pumpkin pie.  The recipe I use for the pumpkin pie I have used for a good 3 or 4 years now.  I fall in love with it more and more every year.  The same goes for the cheesecake.  This year was probably my best cheesecake in awhile.  I need to branch out more, though, with cheesecake flavors but my Aunt likes a big plain cheesecake.  She will go for the berry topping that goes with it, though.

The recipe I use makes about one and 2/3 of a pumpkin pie so I always have one for me! Also, the only semblance of a picture of the cheesecake is the pan on the upper left that at that point only has the crust in it.

With all that fruit and cheese, something was missing.  I could see my sister in the corner whining about not liking anything.  Chocolate was in order.  Now, while I would love to find the best chocolate cream pie recipe out there, time was of the essence as was ability.  I have tried it before and failed (multiple times) so I thought I would go simpler.  Nutella brownies and cheesecake brownie bites to the rescue!  The Nutella brownies were OK but I think I over baked them.  I made them mini sized and there was advice in the comments on the time to bake if making minis but I still think it was a bit too long.  They looked beautiful though, especially with the chopped hazelnuts on top.  The cheesecake brownie bites, however, came out better than anticipated and I made minis and about half a dozen cupcake sized brownies (which I put on the main dessert table) and all came out beautifully.

Just before going in the oven. Sadly no pictures of the finished ones and no pictures of the chocolate cheesecake brownies.

Onto the bread!  First off, two days before Thanksgiving I made my crusts and another batch of Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Bread.  That turned out to be a great decision because I now have a whole extra loaf in my freezer!  My aunt couldn’t believe it was vegan.  I also made a variation of my Ham and Cheese Pull Apart Party Bread.  I basically cut them like you would a cinnamon roll and baked it in two 8 inch cake pans.  Simple, easy, and yummy.  My biggest baking fail came from my sourdough.  First off, I just gotta say, this year’s starter is a VERY happy starter.  Happy starters make me happy, SERIOUSLY.  When I start mixing ingredients into the sponge and it is still bubbling at me saying hi with every turn of the spatula, I am one happy baker.  Anyways, it was late.  The sourdough was the last thing I made and it wasn’t going to be served on Thanksgiving but rather given to family that wanted some.  I may have shut off the alarm on my phone instead of snoozing it.  Also, the last thing my husband said to me was to make sure the oven was off (and it WAS, when he left and then I turned it back on).  So the sourdough was baked a good 30 minutes or so longer than it should have been.  There were no alarms or smoke, nothing happened (luckily) except I over baked it.  I still gave them away but I don’t know if anybody ate them.  I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t.  It still would’ve made great toast.

Pull Apart Party Bread

Today I don’t really have a GeekyLink just a little story.  Today I went to our local comic book store to look for something specific for a Christmas gift*.  I wrote down all the information I needed so I could get what I wanted or get it ordered if they didn’t have it.  My husband wanted to come with me.  He took our son so I could talk to the sales guy.  I asked the guy questions.  I answered some questions.  I didn’t get what I wanted because it turns out it is exclusive to Midtown Comics and I’d have to order it from them.  When we left, my husband asked me ” So you know all the lingo?”  but what I heard was, “How much of a nerd ARE you?”

*I can’t say what it is before Christmas, duh!

Sundays with Joy/Strawberry Cookie Dough Ice Cream

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This is for all those people out there in the world that thought cookie dough bits of goodness were only for vanilla ice cream.  YOU FOOLS!

For our sixth week of Sundays with Joy, we tackled something I have never made before on my own, ice cream.  The only memories I have of making ice cream as a kid involve my siblings and I eating the rock salt and my parents doing nothing to stop it.  I also have another vague recollection of making ice cream and rock salt but it involves Reese Witherspoon and Jason London so it may not be my own.

Custard and a Cookbook

I did change the recipe a bit partly because some in the group had a little trouble with it and partly because I completely boiled my eggs in my first attempt.  Ooops.  So I switched things around a bit.  I made my custard with only one cup of milk and added all of the ingredients that Joy has us put in the eggs and put those in the milk as well.  I also cooled my custard first in a chilled bowl without adding the cream and vanilla for about two hours, whisking to help cool it every half hour.  I then added two cups of heavy cream along with the vanilla and continued to chill until ready to use.

The pretty color it becomes after adding the vanilla and cream.

You know what else my siblings and I used to do?  Make eggless cookie dough, just for us to eat raw.  I say “I” but it was mostly my brother (I was the baby, they totally corrupted me).  Joy has that in here as well.  If I was going to eat it raw I would add a bit more flour (she does have THE perfect recipe here), I think she was making it to be a bit soft so it wouldn’t freeze too hard in the ice cream.

Again, though, Joy has me out of my comfort zone this week in a good way.  As always, if you want to make this you NEED to buy this wonderful cookbook!  I borrowed the ice cream maker I used and I am now tempted to buy one.  It is simply making the custard, cooling it, and putting it in the ice cream maker.  Now a days, those things do the work on their own!  No more rock salt.  It even makes sorbet!  I did almost buy one, they are on sale at Costco for one more day but I can’t justify it to the husband.  My girls’ dance recital is coming up and that just sucks up all the extra money and plus he is going to be on vacation in a few weeks and he actually wants to do stuff with us so I am supposed to leave us money for that.  It is not his fault, I didn’t really want one till now.  But my birthday is coming up soon so…

My new future toy churning up some goodness!

Speaking of my birthday, we don’t have a date for Doctor Who’s return as of yet but it should be sometime around my birthday or just a bit after, so yay!  One of my GeekLinks this week is regarding the new companion.  Here is a picture along with the name of her character.  I am disappointed it is a young female (I really wanted a boy) but at least she is a brunette!  I also have one other Link that is book related.  Apparently, I have another book nerd in the house!  While I spent lots of time and energy trying to get my oldest to read, she still didn’t advance much in that area till she got to school.  My middle child just taught herself how to read and she doesn’t start kindergarten till the fall!  This delights me to no end, however, I am kind of bummed that now she is too advanced for these BabyLit Classics for Pre-Schoolers.  Super cool!

Sundays with Joy/Vegan Avocado Chocolate Cupcakes with Vegan Chocolate Buttercream

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This cupcake was a bit frustrating.  Mostly because it ends up that mine isn’t completely vegan.  Cupcake vegan.  Buttercream not…just barely.  It turns out if I had bought the unsalted version of the margarin I used, it would be all good.  Whatever, I don’t get it.  That is why I am NOT a vegan.  The thing that really chaps my hide is that I could have used Crisco (not healthy but vegan) that I already had at home.  I even use vegan margarine as a spread at home (who knew?) but it is in the tub and wouldn’t hold together for the buttercream (I figured that one out the hard way).

Getting started…

Whatever, my vegan friends.  I gave it my best effort.  I know LOTS more for next time.  I also wanted to give it my best effort because I have a couple of acquaintances that I see twice a week that are doing a 30 day vegan cleanse.  I would’ve liked to have been able to offer them a treat or two.  I have made Joy’s Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies and I really, really LOVED them and no one knew they were vegan until I told them so that is why I didn’t want to cheat and add any butter or eggs or anything to any part of the recipe.


First off, the cupcake itself was fantastic.  I don’t know if the avocado was calling to the Mexican in me but I have never wanted to add cinnamon to a cupcake so much as I did during this recipe.  I was seriously restraining myself.  Maybe next time.  And there WILL be a next time.  I have chocolate cake recipes that I use for cupcakes that are great cakes but leave the cupcakes flat and kind of sad.  These puffed up all pretty, just waiting to be eaten.  They tasted great too!  I know the magic Joy can work and she certainly did it here.

Puffed up and pretty!
And who else thinks silicone cupcake molds were made just for snacking?

On to my failure of a vegan buttercream…

So I did first try it with my vegan spread but once I added my almond milk (instead of soy as in the original recipe), it all fell apart.  I really should have just left it out and I do think it would have worked.  I don’t know.  With the margarine, it was simple and foolproof.  It tasted fantastic too.  I dare say the flavor profile is that of her Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.  One thing that is missing though, is a pinch of salt.  I didn’t add it to my second attempt because I had bought the “original” salted margarine and I thought I wouldn’t need it.  I don’t want to say I was wrong because some people don’t like it but I like salt in all of my sweets and particularly chocolate.  A pinch would have been perfect.

To end on a good note, the kids couldn’t tell the difference and my son stuffed two down his throat in less than 15 minutes.  I would say that was a success!  And as per usual with this series, if you want the recipe, buy the book!

I do have a GeekyLink this week that I think is pretty awesome.  Space is friggin awesome.  Space travel is even more awesome and now it might be easier (eventually)!

Strawberry Yogurt Pie for Pi day!

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Okay so this won’t post until late Pi day (3/14) but I figured I just need to get this up because I had made a pie, it was Pi Day and I needed to post something.  I was debating about wether or not to post this because I didn’t get a picture of the pie after it was cut.  Let’s just call it a brainfart and move on. I am sorry it has been awhile but SO MUCH is coming up!  I need to stop dreading doing things and just do them.  Things get done faster that way.  Things I am not dreading are the ideas I have coming up of things to bake for you.  I LOVE them!  I can’t wait to get started.  I really hope I can bang some stuff out tonight and tomorrow so I won’t be leaving you silent for as long as I did this last week.

I used butter too.

This is my second time making a pie crust and instead of trying to fit all the ingredients into my mini-chopper (I don’t have a food processor!) I decided to kick it old school and work the dough with two forks (I don’t even have a pastry cutter).  It totally worked!  Julie from Willow Bird Baking recommended using lard in the crust and I would have to say she was right.  May I recommend, however, not tasting the dough till it is cooked cause then you could get a crumb of lard in the bit you are tasting and that may make you want to spit it out and completely question what you are doing.  Once it is baked it will be completely awesome.

Are you drooling yet?

So in the interest of more and better future stories and recipes to make, I am going to leave you early with some GeekyLinks and the recipe.  First up is an awesome story about how How Dolphins Say Hello.  It is just the neatest thing ever!  Next up is some Princess Bride awesomeness.  Lastly, is something I REALLY want but will NEVER be able to afford Harry Potter Wizards Collection.


Recipe Follows

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs and Dessert Kabobs

Geez, well, the days leading up to my party were completely a blur.  I was going back and forth from Stater Brothers to Target and back over and over again.  My oldest had soccer practice and then I had a meeting for my other soccer player the next day.  The day after that, my girls had auditions at their dance studio, and getting all their stuff ready that they needed was a bit nerve-wracking.  All the while, I was trying to shop for, and finalize the menu for, and prep for, the meal that I was going to make for my family when we celebrated my birthday.

First off, I actually got a card from my husband for my birthday!  It was unexpected, and I am a sucker for them, so that made it awesome.  Of course, the gift he got me didn’t come till the next day but I loved it because I picked it out and it was something that I needed and wanted.  An apron!  An Anthropologie apron!  The price was comparable to others I had looked at and shipping was free plus they have a really nice selection so hopefully this won’t be the last.  It really came in handy making this big meal.  I do feel a bit bad, my husband didn’t get to celebrate with us.  He had to work, but usually my birthday isn’t a big deal.  My family and I go out to eat and that is it.  I just wanted to cook this year. Read the rest of this entry

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