Friday, January 29, 2010

A huge sigh of relief

I had a meeting today that confirmed that I am almost ready to start serious house hunting. I have more than enough for the down payment, plus I have enough extra to be able to pay off the few remaining old credit problems so that I have the best credit score possible when I apply.

The biggest limiting factor when looking for homes is that I want to stay within walking distance to work, since I don't have a car. And that is a REAL limitation. For instance, right now there are two homes that are within my price range and in walking distance. But both of those houses look like possibilities.

Here's what I'm hoping for. I'd like to spend the next couple weeks casually browsing, getting those old bills handled (and making sure it is reflected on my credit), and getting together the stuff I'll need to apply.

Then it'll be time to get serious.

But this good news, plus all the fun cupcaking coming up, have definitely brought me out of my funk. Not sure that it's permanent, but I'm going to enjoy it!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just what I've been needing...

A friend on facebook pointed out this cupcake competition coming up at our local mall. I'm really psyched! And so is my son! LOL

Vote for me!!!

It's Iron Cupcake voting time again folks! Click here and vote for me (Starting all over again)!

Like we always say in Lincoln County, "Vote early, vote often!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A seriously bright spot

I haven't written much lately cause I'm not in a real good place right now. As a result, my sense of humor has definitely faltered and I've even found it difficult to get excited about baking.

But, when I saw this, even my funk lightened a bit.

Cupcakes take the Cake is a blog that is, as they say, all cupcakes all the time. They post info about bakeries and home recipes and even tattoos (and one of these days I'll have one to add). And this evening, they blogged about a mouth-watering looking apple cupcake... inspired by one of MY recipes! Someone else saw my recipe and liked it enough to make their own changes and make it even better!

I look forward to trying her recipe, although I'll put the caramel somewhere else since I'm not much of a drizzler.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An open letter to Andy Dick

Dear Mr. Dick:

When in West Virginia (and I would guess most other places), it is not smart to grope unidentified men and lick them. Now, true, were someone like Adam Sandler to be in the area and grab and lick someone, there would be at least a moment of "I've-been-licked-by-awesomeness" swooning. But you are not Mr. Sandler; you are Andy Dick. So there is no swooning, only nausea. And then the cops get called.

It's sad because your visit to our state had such an auspicious start, as you were invited to perform for a whole weekend at the oh-so-aptly-named Funny Bone (and yes that crack comes from the brilliant Jacque Jo). But rest assured Mr. Dick, West Virginia has housed far more famous people than you. If you were ever to run into Martha Stewart, for example, you will now have an instant conversation starter. And, should the Manson Family ever try to "get the band back together," you could make a play for inclusion (plus you would have the envy of Mr. Manson himself who spent time here early on and really wants to come back). However, I wouldn't advise using your little visit to try to get closer to legitimate West Virginia stars like Jennifer Garner or Sam Trammel (to name a few) because they may actually be LESS likely (if that's even possible) to return your calls.

But anyway, I would be remiss if I didn't inform you that, despite being jailed, you got off pretty easy. You were lucky enough to be doing your groping and licking in Huntington, one of the two urban areas in the state. You see, in urban areas, people call the cops when someone goes too far. In rural areas, people handle things themselves.

I hope your time in West Virginia is short. However, if you feel the need to stay and clean up your act (again), I happen to know there are several lovely rehab facilities, a choice I would highly recommend. Good luck.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Random Musings

It's a pseudo Monday and my mind's all over the place so I'm just gonna hit a few bullet points to clear it out a bit.

1. So yesterday was supposedly the most depressing day of the year. If that's true, then I'm golden this year cause I spent the day hanging with the kiddies and wearing pjs all day. And, believe it or not, I didn't even do any baking! Just complete chill out time (well chill out and laundry... LOL).

2. The new semester starts tomorrow. I'm psyched, mainly cause any classes I take are optional and put me back in the middle (probably the outskirts of the middle) of the creative spirit at State. I'm excited to pick my script up again, even if it is just to start slashing it. There's just so much exciting work that will be coming at me between now and summer! While I love my new job, it will never fill that creative void. And I miss the chaos that comes with the creativity, but I'm trying to keep from seeking out chaos in any other realm.

3. Yes, I realize I said I loved cream pies in my last post. Yes, I am generally oblivious. Not-So-Ex found it so funny that he refused to let me change it. It was totally my "rusty trombone" moment.

4. House hunting is tough. Not-So-Ex and I have started looking for a house. We wanna stay here in the East End, but it's tough. The houses are either mansions or dumps, with our price range obviously falling more towards the latter. But we'll keep looking. We're not really ready, but more window shopping than anything.

5. I love On-Demand. We have HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime for the first time ever and I have logged MANY hours watching Weeds, Dexter, Big Love, Hung, True Blood, and all the movies I can find. Most of these I've watched for at least a year or two, but I always had to download them and go through this whole irritating process. Not anymore. Now they're just right there all the time! Killer!

6. Speaking of Weeds, last week was the Golden Globes and, for the first time since the show's premiere season, Weeds wasn't nominated for a single award. And, as someone who was a huge fan of Weeds, I gotta say the Globes finally caught on. Last year at this time, I was whining that Weeds only got nominations out of habit because it had seriously jumped the shark. After checking out this past season over the long weekend, they've left the shark way behind. And the saddest thing is that I don't think it can be fixed. The show was about the middle class chick suddenly finding herself navigating her own world plus the world of a dealer, for which she was seriously ill-equipped. Now it's just a matter of how offensive and dark the writers can be. Doesn't matter if it's sensible or not. But, if they wanted to get back on track, my first suggestion would be to bring back "Little Boxes."

Well now that I've done all my Weeds ranting, I guess I'll let it go! Have a great pseudo Monday!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

She's not just about cupcakes...

This weekend I made pies. Yes, you heard me right, pies.

I'm not one for fruit pies (anything with two crusts stresses me out), but I love cream pies. So Friday night I played around with some recipes using graham cracker pie crusts (absolutely no stress) and had pretty decent results.

First off, Not-So-Ex loves chocolate pie. While I'm not big on it, it reminds him of his incredibly awesome (though unfortunately no longer with us) Grandfather. So, for him, I searched around for a really good, homemade chocolate pudding recipe and put it in a graham cracker crust and voila! Chocolate Pie.
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in margarine and vanilla. Let cool briefly, pour in pie crust, and chill in refrigerator until serving.
Now I'm not big on Chocolate Pie so I decided to make a second pie. Many years ago, mother-in-law and I would take trips to Amish country that always included a huge lunch at a restaurant where, in addition to incredible food, they were famous for their pies. One of my faves was a peanut butter cream pie. It had a peanut butter crumbly mixture on the bottom, a custard on top of that, and then it was covered in meringue. So I was looking for something similar and found it.

But then I thought I would play around with the recipe to make it even better. I am definitely not a fan of meringue so I knew that would be left off. I also thought it would be better if the custard had a hint of peanut butter to it. So this is what I came up with.

You start with a mixture of 1 c confectioners sugar and 1/2 c peanut butter and mix till crumbly. Then sprinkle half of the crumbly mix into the bottom of the pie crust.
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 big spoonful of peanut butter
1.In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
2.Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolk; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter, peanut butter, and vanilla.
3.Pour over the crust and peanut butter mixture. Sprinkle remaining half of peanut butter stuff on top and put in fridge to cool.
It was really good but I suggest making it when you know it will be eaten quickly. After a few days, the peanut butter can make it a little oily.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Go Hunt Go

My son Hunter is in 2nd grade. He's one of those really calm, easygoing kids. Of course he really had to be because his older sister was such a force to be reckoned with.

Anyway, since he started school, he has always done just fine. The teachers always loved him cause he's got such a kind and genuine heart, but the comments I always got about Rena (smartest kid in any room) never were heard about Hunt. And I just always figured he'd be the kind of kid who just glides through school.

When he started school this year, I was a bit concerned when I found out his reading level was just a bit below grade level. When they started doing Accelerated Reader (AR - where they read, take little tests on the books, and then earn points), he was so not interested. He would even take tests on books he didn't even read just to see if he could pass them. When that didn't work out well, he'd sit down and flip through looking at the pictures and then try to pass the test.

We got through the first 9 weeks with him earning enough points to get a good grade and his teacher informed him that his reading level had improved. This new reading level took him from Dr. Seuss to chapter books like the Magic Tree House books. The first weekend he sat down with a book that the teacher gave him special permission to read (since it was well above his level) and, while we had to be nearby in case there was a word he didn't know, he was drawn into the world of a book for the first time. And, since then, there's been no stopping him.

This week is the end of the 2nd 9 weeks and the boy who struggled to get 10 points last time is working hard to be the first kid in his class to reach 30 points. And I'm so incredibly proud of him. So proud that I went completely out of my way this morning to take him a box of new books so he has tons of options.

While I'm proud of his school accomplishments, I'm more excited at the world that I know will open up for him. It's not quite like Rena, to whom I could hand down my Anne of Green Gables and Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but I do look forward to the day both he and Rena are old enough for me to pass down my well worn copy of The Once and Future King. Oops... I just geeked everyone out didn't I... my bad!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things that make me happy (pt 2)

Since I was a little kid, I have loved television. Yes, I'm quite the movie buff, but tv will always hold an even more important spot in my heart. And, while the last few days may have been turbulent ones for tv in general, they've been incredibly good days for MY television.

First off, as everyone seems to be talking about, Leno is going back to late night. When Leno's move to prime time was announced, everyone viewed it as the death knell of scripted television. But all that it did for me was to make me realize that I don't really like late night shows and I definitely don't like late night shows pretending to be prime time shows. But for the love of all that is good, would Leno just man up and retire? They gave Conan your show and he's not going quietly (although he's maintaining his class). You gave it up to try this disastrous plan. It failed. Move on.

And Leno's vacating of prime time space bodes well for the next person I wanna discuss. And that is Chuck. If you haven't watched Chuck, do so immediately. Not-So-Ex and I got hooked on the show via tv on DVD and, coming into this season, I was a bit concerned about the direction the show would be taking. At the end of Season 2, Chuck had a huge change and I feared that the Charles Carmichael I knew and loved would be no longer. But nope. He still manages to both bumble and triumph in his black Chuck Taylors. And that makes me a happy girl. Plus, now that Leno's a goner, there's a much better chance for Chuck to be given the chance to continue to grow an audience. And that is a good thing for everyone.

On a slightly down note, Sunday also brought the return of Big Love, a show I fell but have gradually been becoming less enchanted with. From the start of the new season, I was sad. Where was my "God Only Knows"? In it's place was a total Mad Men rip off. The show itself was only slightly better. I find myself getting more and more irritated with Bill as he continues to ask for more and more. He manages to maintain three homes with three beautiful women and a zillion kids - I can barely handle my crappy apartment and one family - yet he continues to spread himself thinner in search of more money and more success. Of course I guess no one would watch a show about a content, happy man and his three wives. But whatever... I still hope some changes are coming.

I'm also enjoying Hung. I've only caught a few episodes but the opening credits definitely trump Big Love. The opening song's been a fave of mine since it was on the Rescue Me soundtrack many years ago (in fact it's Not-So-Ex's ring tone on my phone) and I'm glad to see the Black Keys get some massive media love. I'm anxious to catch some more episodes and see if I can ever get over my loathing of Anne Heche enough to not cringe when she shows up or if they'll actually do anything with the two most un-tv-show-type kids in the history of the box or if they only cast them to say "See! We're different!" I guess time will answer both questions.

And I almost hit publish without mentioning American Idol! Yep, Simon Cowell is leaving and I am officially placing AI in the grave next to Leno. Or maybe that's just wishful thing? Again, guess we'll see!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mom Cupcakes (Iron Cupcake Earth January)

So for Iron Cupcake Earth this month, you are supposed to come up with a cupcake based on something that warms you up. Now I'm not one for warm stuff generally. I don't drink coffee. I'll occasionally have tea (at work) or hot chocolate (with the kids), but it's not a normal thing for me.

However, there is this one certain drink that even the smell alone makes me feel all warm and snuggly. And that is Russian Tea.

My mom discovered Russian Tea when I was in my early teens I think. The smell of citrus, tea, and cloves instantly brings to mind a zillion different Christmas, New Years, or family winter birthday dinners. But more than anything, the smell just screams Mom. So when Iron Cupcake mentioned warmth, I knew Russian Tea was the way to go.

You can just barely see the filling in there...

I guess I should start with Mom's recipe for Russian Tea...

8 c water
2 c sugar
6-8 tea bags
1 tsp cloves (or more depending on taste)
1 tsp allspice berries (optional)
1 c orange juice
1 c pineapple juice
1/4-1/2 lemon juice

Mix the water and sugar in a decent size pot and add the cloves and allspice. Boil for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add the tea bags and let steep for about 5 min. Remove the tea bags, add all the juices and put back on the stove to simmer. Let it sit and simmer until you're ready to drink. Mom likes it warm but I think it's just as good cold.

Now on to the cupcakes. I wanted something that used a pretty decent amount of Russian Tea in the batter so that the taste would really come through. So I decided on Angel Food since I like to use powdered egg white and can reconstitute them with any liquid without changing the texture of the cake.
12 egg white (I used 1/4 c powdered egg whites and 3/4 c cooled Russian Tea)
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1.Combine the powdered whites and tea in a mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, sift confectioners' sugar and flour together three times; set aside. Add cream of tartar, extracts and salt to egg whites; beat on high speed. Gradually add sugar, beating until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Fold in flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time. Gently spoon into a prepared cupcake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool completely before removing cake from pan.
For the filling, I wanted to add more citrus so I made a curd using the juices in the tea. And I even added the cloves and allspice as it cooked. If I were to do it over again, I would cut down or even eliminate the spices, but I was still pretty pleased with it once I got it in the cupcakes.
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
a splash of lemon juice
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
I always have to add some cornstarch (start w a teaspoon)
1.In the top of a double boiler, beat eggs and sugar. Stir in juices, butter and cornstarch. Cook over simmering water for 15 minutes or until thickened.
The frosting was pretty simple since I went with an old favorite and just added a bit of Russian Tea to my cream cheese frosting.
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons Russian Tea
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar

1.Beat cream cheese and butter in a bowl until combined. Beat in powdered sugar and Russian Tea.
2.Beat in 3-4 cups more of powdered sugar till frosting is of spreading consistency.
Anyway, I was pretty happy with them!

I should also mention that, since I'll be submitting this to Iron Cupcake, there are some incredible prizes to win including:
So wish me luck folks!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How to make a Zinger...

So during the snow day yesterday, my in-laws requested some cupcakes. Instead of telling me something I've made a million times, my sister-in-law gave me a sweet she loved and asked me to replicate it in cupcake form.

I gotta say this is one of the toughest, and most fun, ways to come up with a cupcake. But here is my version of a Raspberry Zinger that I made for my dear sis-in-law.

First off, for the cakey part, I figured a Zinger was pretty close to a Twinkie. So I searched for a homemade Twinkie recipe and came up with this:

In the end, the cake didn't really look like the spongy texture I expected in a Twinkie, but it was still really good.

Twinkie Cake

adapted from Gourmet Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 cup milk

Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute in between each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with the milk in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until just incorporated.

Once mixed, pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans and bake at 350 for 15-20 min.

The next step was the filling, but I was low on marshmallow cream so I made my own. I don't know if my homemade cream was the reason or not, but the filling was nowhere near as fluffy and light as a Zinger's. I went ahead and piped it in and figured I'd end up tossing them but, the next morning, Not-So-Ex tasted them and said that the cupcake soaked up the filling and the result was a really, really good and moist cupcake.

Twinkie Cream

recipe from Todd Wilbur

2 teaspoons very hot water

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups marshmallow cream (one 7-ounce jar)

1/2 cup shortening

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the salt and the how water in a small bowl and mix until the salt is dissolved. Let the mixture cool.

Combine the marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Add the salt solution to the filling and beat to combine.

Now came the part I was really interested in. The Raspberry Zingers are coated in a thin raspberry substance and rolled in coconut. I looked and looked for guidance on how to achieve this but the only thing I could find was a cupcake coated in raspberry jelly and then topped with coconut, which was NOT what I wanted. So I decided to make a raspberry curd and mix the coconut into the curd, rather than just sprinkling it on top. And it worked like a charm. It reached the consistency of my German Chocolate frosting and I was able to pipe it onto the cupcakes.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 package defrosted raspberries pureed and strained
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
unsweetened coconut
1.In the top of a double boiler, beat eggs and sugar. Stir in raspberries, butter, cornstarch, and powdered sugar . Cook over simmering water for 15 minutes or until thickened. Once thick, mix in unsweetened coconut to taste.
Anyway, Not-So-Ex is delivering the cupcakes now so hopefully the in-laws will be happy with them!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The one where she whips it into submission...

If you remember, yesterday's post was about my failure in making a Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. Well I tried it again last night, following the directions very carefully and, if in doubt, beating longer than I normally would. And it turned out just right.

In fact, this time I added a bit of cocoa to the coffee in the frosting hoping to give it just a hint of chocolate. The result was really yummy.

Overall, Not-So-Ex deemed the cupcakes too strong on coffee flavor for him (which was a bit shocking) but I thought they were pretty good. Next time I'd probably lower the amount or strength of the coffee though.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2 great recipes and 1 mediocre baker

So yesterday was my cousin's birthday party and I had offered her whatever cupcake she would like. She chose S'mores, which I was excited about because I hadn't made them in quite a while. The recipe is pretty simple, it's a graham cupcake with milk chocolate chips mixed in, and marshmallow fluff for frosting. The key though is that, once you put a dollop of marshmallow on top, you put them in the oven under the broiler for a minute and toast the marshmallow tops.

The result was incredibly yummy! So here's the recipe (which is adapted from Vanilla Garlic).
Graham Cupcakes
Makes 12-14 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You’ll Need...
1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of milk
1 cup of self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
What You’ll Do...

1) Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until well creamed. Add the sugar and mix for 3 minutes using a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
2) Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to beat for 30 seconds for each egg.
3) Place graham crackers in a food processor or in a plastic bag and beat the crud out of them until it's been ground into small crumbs and powder.
4) Sift together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, and salt. Add about 1/4 of the mixture to the butter mixture, then add some of the milk. Continue to add the ingrdients in adry-wet-dry method, ending with the dry. Continue to mix until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
5) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 F oven or until a cake tester comes out clean

Like I mentioned, once the cupcakes cool, put a bit of marshmallow fluff on top. There's no need to pipe it on or to try to be neat or pretty with it cause it's just gonna melt anyway. Then set your oven to broil and put them back in for a couple minutes. Keep a close eye on them cause, once they start to brown, they move quick!

The cuz loved her cupcakes and, since I have an order due on Friday for another birthday party, I headed home and started on another cupcake recipe. This birthday girl wants Pink Lemonade (which is and old go-to recipe) and she also wanted Mocha, which I've never made but always wanted to try.

I made the cupcakes, which came from How to Eat a Cupcake, and they were perfect! They were big and full and even had these perfectly domed top. You seriously couldn't come up with a prettier cupcake.
Mocha Cupcakes
Makes 12-16 (book says 12, I got 16)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and brewed coffee. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about ½ to ¾ full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 16-20 minutes (book says 22-24 minutes, mine were done at 16). Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Once the cupcakes were done and cooled, I was so excited by how well they turned out that I wanted to make the frosting and get them finished. I decided to go ahead and make the frosting that How to Eat a Cupcake had made for them, which is unusual cause I have a handful of frostings that I really like and I tend to just modify those instead of trying new ones.

She used a Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Now I've only made Swiss Meringue Buttercream once, but it was awesome. I've always heard that it's a tricky frosting, but, in my hands, it went from tricky to mind-boggling (none of which is the fault of the actual recipe).
Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes enough to frost 16 cupcakes

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee

Put sugar, egg whites and salt into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees). Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes total. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee into 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved, then put it in the refrigerator or freezer until it comes down to room temperature. Reduce mixer speed to low and add coffee mixture. Continue beating 1 minute to reduce air bubbles.

My first problem was that I generally use powdered egg whites, especially in recipes where you're using a liquid (like coffee) to add flavor. So I had to get the equivalent of 6 egg whites, which was 1/4 c of powdered egg whites and 3/4 c of liquid (I used slightly watered down coffee). It made sense to me that, if the eggs were supposed to dissolve in the liquid, then the warmer the better, so my coffee was still hot and I added lukewarm water to it, and then I added the eggs. You cook this mixture, with a bunch of sugar, in a double boiler until the sugar dissolves, then move it to the mixer and beat the crap out of it. So that's what I did.

What I didn't know is that, if you mix powdered eggs with hot water, they turn into what feels like little bits of plastic. So I completed the recipe (after you beat it, you add butter) and tried it. It tasted incredible (like sweet, milky coffee), but with little bits of plastic.

I obviously couldn't have that so I decided that the issue was how I mixed the egg whites and liquid (I had mixed them in the double boiler with the sugar) and that could be remedied by simply mixing the powder and coffee separately and then adding to the sugar. But, no, the hot coffee still turned the whites to plastic.

Then I looked on the internet and figured out what the real problem was. So I cooled my coffee to room temp and added the whites and, just to be sure, poured the mixture through a sieve as I was adding it to the sugar. And it worked perfectly.

I cooked the eggs and sugar, put them in the mixer and whipped them like mad, then added the butter and mixed just a bit longer. Then I put it in the fridge for a bit, then beat just a little more. Then I tried to pipe it.

And yes, tried is the key word. It appears that my butter wasn't soft enough when I added it (and I didn't beat it long enough either) so there were all these little bits of butter. It didn't hurt the flavor, but the frosting wasn't as smooth as it should have been. And, once I did get some of them all frosted, the buttercream began to separate and a milky looking substance dripped down the sides of the cupcakes within 15 minutes or so.

At that point, I got frustrated and went to bed. But I know that, as much as I hate failing, it is just a reminder that I am still a novice baker. I've only been making cupcakes for less than a year and I still have a lot to learn and try. So tonight I'll head home and try again. Hopefully I'll have a better report tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How do you fix a bad day?

So yesterday was one of those days where everything goes wrong. And, around 10:30, I got sick of it and said forget it (or something along those lines) and called off the rest of the day at work and just took some time to calm down. Luckily, Not-So-Ex was able to take off work a little early and join me so we did a little errand running, picked our son up from school, and then had a nice, huge dinner before heading in for the evening.

And, even better, once we got home and settled, there were TWO episodes of Big Love back to back. So the crappy day turned into a pretty darn good one!

Today is another slow, snowy day here in my little corner of the world. My kids go to a private school that doesn't do two-hour delays and only cancels for snow if our local county cancels before 6 am. So the past two days they have had school while everyone else is off.

I made it into work this morning, even though I didn't want to, and was even lucky enough to have Not-So-Ex offer to drive me in so that I wouldn't kill myself by falling in my new, incredibly painful, black boots. So the plan today is to do my time at work, get home quickly so I can finish the S'mores Cupcakes I made for my cousin's birthday this evening, and then head to the grandparents' for cake and ice cream to celebrate. Can't beat a little family time!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ever had one of those days?

So I really shoulda stayed in bed this morning. It's been one of those days when all these little, completely insignificant things go wrong. Like when you finally get to work cold and damp from stomping through the snow and snack on the chex mix the secretary made you. This of course makes you thirsty so you go get a Coke, only to realize it's completely hot. But you resolve to drink it anyway cause you're just that thirsty. So you sit down at your desk and open it, only to have it explode. *sigh*

Ok... whining done. Later.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Time to step up your game 2010...

So the new year started off just right; I mean how can you beat sitting and watching "Singing in the Rain" while sipping hot chocolate with peppermint marshmallows with your kids? But, since then, you're kinda boring me 2010.

I guess it's not really your fault that Not-So-Ex has had to work the entire holiday (and 10-12 hour shifts at that)... And it's not really your fault that it's been so cold that I haven't really wanted to leave the nice warm security of my apartment... But I do blame you for the fact that I finally get all the good movie channels and there's still not a single thing on. Seriously, a girl can only watch Season One of True Blood so many times.

But I have to say that it was pretty awesome of Not-So-Ex to ensure that there was a well-stocked fridge before he started these insane work hours. If there's something that I've always wanted to try but never had the time, it's been made. Last night I decided to try (yet again) Angel Food cupcakes and, for the first time ever, they turned out just right! And I also made peanutless peanut brittle (or as my mom insists I call it, "brittle"), which has always been a dream of mine. All those summer vacations to the beach or Gatlinburg where I would sit and pour over the peanut brittle looking for the package with the least peanuts were building up to this one moment. And it was everything I dreamed it could be! LOL

While today is definitely the end of our mini vacation, I hope it will be the end of the boredom too. I have some things I have to get done in the kitchen (like gifts for the kids' teachers since they missed the last day of school before the holidays). Plus I have to get the kids ready to head back to school and myself ready to head back to work. And I should really schedule some Beatles Rock Band time before we all have to get back on the grind.

And, while I know the huge paycheck that will come with all this overtime will be wonderful, I really want my hubby back home! It's so funny cause I can remember a time when I was trying to get used to having him here all the time and how weird it was to go from being on my own to having a live in boyfriend. And here we are like 6 months (maybe?) later and I miss him when he's just working! LOL

But anyway, this week also includes the return of thesis work as I have lunches scheduled with my Director of Photography (DP) and my Co-Producer. I'm excited to get moving again. Seeing the actual finished script (at least the rough version) was a real motivator!

Well I guess I'll get back to scouring for more stuff to make! Later!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Huh... Who'd have thunk it...

It's kind of a surreal thing, as a student filmmaker, to know that someone actually bought tickets and paid to see the film you worked on. It goes from surreal to amazing when they actually pick the film as one of the top 10 movies of the year. Very, very cool.

And, just so you know, if you ever see it, my name is the third one in the closing credits! Right after the Director and Executive Producer!

AFF programmers pick their top 10 of '09

By Kelly Williams and David Gil and SPECIAL TO AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Updated: 2:49 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009

Published: 1:25 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009

We asked Kelly Williams and David Gil of the Austin Film Festival to weigh in on their favorite movies of the year.

Williams is the film program director for the festival, and Gil is the film competition programmer.


1. "Where the Wild Things Are"

2. "The Messenger"

3. "Up in the Air"

4. "Gigante"

5. "The Hangover"

6. "Observe and Report"

7. "St. Nick"

8. "Funny People"

9. "The Informant!"

10. "The Vicious Kind"

GIL'S TOP 10 OF 2009

1. "Sin Nombre"

2. "The Messenger"

3. "Up in the Air"

4. "The Hangover"

5. "The Hurt Locker"

6. "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

7. "Where the Wild Things Are"

8. "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia"

9. "Collapse"

10. "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"