Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where, oh where has my baking-fu gone?


Last week I asked my coworker what he wanted for his birthday, coffee crunch bars, or chocolate cupcakes. I don't think he was really paying attention (this happens a lot since I routinely turn around to inform him of whatever song is stuck in my head, or solicit his opinion on what to eat for lunch. Sometimes, I just turn around and tell him I'm really, really bored. He is kind of long suffering.) but after some more prodding on my part, he settled on coffee crunch bars. Okay, maybe I was pushing them a little since I had just read the recipe in February's issue of Bon Appetit.


So, the other night, I got out all my ingredients, chopped up some good chocolate (to replace the chocolate chips), whipped up the recipe (very quick, very simple) and consigned it to the oven. By the way, this smells absolutely phenomenal while it's baking. Now, I don't exactly know what was going through my mind--I mean, the recipe is called Coffee CRUNCH Bars, but for some reason, I had it in my head that they would be kind of soft, like blondies maybe. I sliced them into bars while they were still somewhat pliable, but when they cooled--ooh, man. I almost cracked a couple of teeth! I can only attribute this to the fact that I overbaked them, because these are almost like biscotti. And although they look kind of good, especially in cross section, I did not feel they were up to my usual standards. So, the next night...I decided to make cupcakes, using a recipe that I had used many, many, many times before. And this is what happened:

Cupcake fail!

FRICKIN' FRACKIN' !#$!!%$$@!#$^^&#%%^$!!!!!!!! I guess I overfilled the cups, but oh gosh! Cupcake fail! Anyway, I made a half hearted attempt to cut around the overflow, thinking I could hide the ugliness under ganache, but no. It was not to be. I brought the coffee crunch bars in, instead. And you know what? With a quick dip in tea or coffee...they are pretty good. My coworker ate 6, so I guess they pass! If you try this recipe, don't overbake them!

Coffee Crunch Bars, from Feb 2009 Bon Appetit
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup semisweet chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325. Whisk first 3 ingredients to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl until blended, about 2 minutes. add espress powder and almond extract; beat 1 minute. Stir in flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing until just absorbed. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds. Turn dough out onto ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Using hands, press dough into 12 inch square. Pierce all over with fork at 1 inch intervals. Bake until edges are lightly browned and beginning to crisp, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on sheet 1 minute. Cut into 48 bars and transfer immediately to rack to cool.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bad blogger!

Cedric the Dino

I know, I have gone MIA again. I've been kind of stressed out with my Real Job. And it's not even like I haven't been doing any baking or cooking (or eating in general, hah), I just haven't been motivated to document any of it. Which is a shame, because we made a really lovely cioppino with more No-Knead Bread for Valentine's Day...and I made a huge batch of scallion pancakes on my day off (a recipe I should definitely share).

Well, hopefully things will calm down soon. In the meantime, here is my newest office companion, Cedric the Dinosaur. He comes from far-away-Canada, enjoys patrolling my desk to keep nosy co-workers out of my drawers, and likes to analyze client statements when I'm not looking. I think he might be planning on swiping all of the TARP funds and starting a new life on Tropical Dino Island.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chinese New Year Parade, 2009


Nope, there is no food in this post--but there are cute kids and lions and more confetti than you can shake a stick at! I finally managed to get myself to the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown this year and had a blast. I DID get there almost 2 hours early, thanks to some faulty information on the website (it said it started at noon!) but the upside to that is that I had a prime spot to watch from.

Confetti shower

I didn't wait by myself for very long, either--pretty soon, there was a decent crowd, most of whom were entertaining themselves (and each other) by shooting off confetti cannons.


This kiddo made his own lion dance. It was a really beautiful day (45 degrees, that's almost t-shirt and shorts weather!) and there were plenty of people to watch. Still, I was getting kind of antsy when I finally heard drums approaching...


First, the veterans. See how much confetti there is already?


And then, the first of the lions! I was pretty excited at this point...but THEN the father of the adorable kid next to me handed me a hong bao so I could FEED the lions.

Feeding the lions

Here is said adorable kid, giving the lion a hong bao. They "eat" the packets (which contain small donations); this one then did a little dance for us. Lots of floats went by (one sponsored by Foxwoods, go figure, hah!) but my favorites were definitely the lions and dragons. I recently got a nice email from the company that makes those lions--check out their website. There is some gorgeous stuff there, if you should find yourself in need of a lion or two :).


Then the Shaolin kungfu students came through and did a short performance. Man, they were impressive.


And my favorite person in the parade. He's totally giving me the eye, right?


The dragon--a proper, multi-person dragon! None of this single person tomfoolery!


One more touch of the lion, for luck....

Happy Niu Year

And here comes the niu year, riding in on a bicycle. HAH!! (The full photo set is here.)

Happy Year of the Ox to all!