Friday, November 29, 2013

Skating Fridays

My skating journey

Many people have asked how I got into figure skating or how long I have been skating. I figures that it would be fun to tell you all my skating story and what got me started.

In fourth grade, one of my classmates had a birthday party at an ice rink. I distinctly remember being very proud I myself for only falling 5 times that day. After that, I asked my mom to enroll me in lessons.

I participated in a Learn to Skate program on Saturday mornings that was organized in the ISI system. We also did ice dance. I passed through ISI freestyle 4 and ice dance 3 before I went to high school. At that point I had to make a decision since band conflicted with skating. I chose to stick with flute and postpone skating. In college, I did not have a car so I didn't get to skate then.

After college graduation, I picked up skating again but only sporadically. I was involved in some team sports at work so I only skated in the winter. One of the coaches at the rink made fun of me for this but thought I showed promise. He asked me to take lessons with him.

Several years later, I agreed and also skated year round. That is when I got serious. I didn't start testing until fairly recently since I had no desire to compete (I was a competitive gymnast back in the day and did not miss the competition aspect at all).

And here I am today. You can find me at the rink about 3 times a week. I take one half hour lesson each week and mostly focus on freestyle.

I hope to keep skating as long as possible. Hopefully that will be when I am well into my 80s or 90s!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey cranberry wreath

Can you believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving? My family and I will be spending it at my brother and sister-in-law's house. It should be a great time since my parents and my brother's in-laws will be there as well. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

This recipe is something that uses up some of your Thanksgiving leftovers. It's a meal that everyone in my family enjoys. And yes, I am fully aware that it uses refrigerated crescent rolls, but I just haven't had the time to experiment with an alternative yet. We only eat crescent rolls once or twice a year, so I don't feel too guilty about it. I've had this recipe since 2000, when I attended one of my first Pampered Chef parties. It was a hit back then, too.

My friend Joanna of Kosher Kitchen challenged the What's Baking gals to bake with cranberries this month, and this Pampered Chef recipe happens to use sweetened dried cranberries. Perfect. They add just the right amount of sweetness to this wreath, and the mayonnaise provides just enough moisture to keep the filling plump and juicy. If you wanted, you could add chopped walnuts into the filling for some extra crunch.

Addie originally wasn't a fan of this until we started calling them "pizza rolls." Once we started referring to the wreath as a pizza roll, then she gobbled it up.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Turkey cranberry wreath

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, chopped (I like using rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) Swiss or mozzarella cheese, shredded
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Unroll one package of the crescent rolls. Arrange them on a large pizza stone (or a lined baking sheet) into a circle - you will want the long points of the triangles sticking outward like the shape of a sun. The short, flat sides of the triangular roll pieces may overlap.

Unwrap the other package of crescent rolls. This time, arrange them so they fill up the center of the circle. The long points of the triangles should face in towards the center of the circle, and the wide ends should overlap with the first batch of crescent rolls you laid down.

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, black pepper, turkey or chicken, celery, cranberries and cheese. Mix well.

Scoop the filling onto the seams of the crescent rolls shape so that it forms a ring.

Using your hands, lift one end of a piece of dough over the filling and tuck it underneath. Alternate lifting from the outside and inside of the filling. Continue lifting and tucking until all the crescent roll ends have been used.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Yield: About 10 servings

Source: Slightly adapted from the Pampered Chef's Season's Best Recipe Collection, Fall/Winter 2000


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chunky peach and apple snack cake (or muffins) and a giveaway

I'm not sure about where you live, but here on the east coast of the United States, we get all four seasons of the year. Sometimes we tend to skip over fall and go straight to winter, or sometimes the winters are so mild that it seems like an extended fall season. Regardless, it's near impossible to get fresh, seasonal fruits year-round. That is when I normally head to my grocery store's freezer section.

Many of you may know that frozen fruits and vegetables provide just as many nutrients and vitamins as their freshly-picked friends. But did you know that canned fruits and vegetables can also be in this same category?  Here is a recent study that Oregon State recently published about the benefits of canned California cling peaches. The researchers actually concluded that canned peaches were better than fresh fruit. Wow, huh? (You just need to be careful that the canned fruits are not packed in a heavy sugar syrup.)

So I put the canned California cling peaches to the test. I had some apples left over from my apple picking day at work and wanted to incorporate them into whatever recipe I ended up baking. I found this chunky peach and apple snack cake and thought that it would be perfect for breakfast.

I baked one 8x8 inch pan and 12 muffins with the recipe below. I wanted to be able to share the muffins with friends and keep the cake for ourselves. The muffins were really good - I could barely taste the difference with the white whole wheat flour, and I loved the chunks of apples and peaches. I would recommend adding more fruit if that's your thing. Another change I'd recommend is swapping out some of the white sugar with brown sugar so you can have a more caramel-y flavor to your muffins/cake. If you want to make these even healthier, you could try substituting the melted butter with more coconut oil. Overall, these were very yummy, and the canned peaches passed the test.

And now for the giveaway...

One lucky winner will receive a California cling peach prize pack (say that 10 times fast!), which includes some canned California cling peaches, a reusable grocery bag and a plush "peach pal."  All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient since the widget may load slowly. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: The California Cling Peaches Board provided me with some product samples and the prizes for the giveaway. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post. All thoughts, opinions and reviews are 100% my own.

Chunky peach and apple snack cake
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped fresh, frozen or canned peaches
  • 2 TBSP sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 cup whole grain wheat or spelt (I used white whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange (I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan (alternatively, you can bake this in two 8x8 inch pans or in a muffin pan). Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, toss the apples and peaches with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the orange juice, orange zest, butter, coconut oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla.

Add the orange juice mixture into the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) and stir until just incorporated - do not over mix. Gently fold in the apples and peaches.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pans. If you are baking muffins, fill them 2/3 full.

If baking in the 8x8 or 9x13 inch baking pans, bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If baking muffins, bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins/cake from the oven and allow them to cool before serving.

Cake/muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 3-5 days.

Yield: One 9x13 inch pan, two 8x8 inch pans, or about 2 dozen muffins.

Source: Hearth and Hospitality


Friday, November 22, 2013

Skating Fridays

Skating idol

I am off this week to spend time with my family, so I don't have any specific skating updates. I thought it would be fun to tell you who my skating idol is. He is an Olympic silver medalist (should have gotten Gold in my opinion) and toured with Stars on Ice for many seasons.

Who is he? Why, none other than Paul Wylie, of course.

When I was in middle school and high school, I used to pretend that I was married to him. Some of my friends would jokingly call me "Mrs. Wylie" and I would get all giddy. Paul had beautiful choreography, and he skated with a lot of passion. His artistry was second to none, and his footwork was always mesmerizing (have you seen the footwork wars with him, Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning? If not, look for it on YouTube - it's from Stars on Ice). I especially loved his Schindler's List and Apollo 13 programs.

I even joined the official Paul Wylie fan club before the days of the internet. The club president would photocopy articles that were written about Paul and send them to each of us. Sadly, I still haven't met him, but I hope to one day.

Paul remains an inspiration to me, as I hope to continue to skate as I get older and am done with tests and competitions. I want to remain involved in the sport, just as he has.

And maybe one day I will earn a silver medal in a large competition too...


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Post: Sugar cookies from Simple Gourmet Cooking

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am on a week-long blogging break and will be resuming my posts next week - along with a giveaway. Today, my friend Dawn from Simple Gourmet Cooking is guest posting for me. Dawn and I also became friends through an online cooking forum and "chat" online pretty regularly. She is absolutely killing me with these mouthwatering salted caramel brownies and has an awesome treat for you today. So without further adieu, here she is...

Sugar Cookies 4

I was so excited when Eva asked me to do a guest post-I love all her recipes and love reading about her adventures with baking (and skating!).

With the holidays approaching, I've been trying to decide what to bake.  I love baking for the holidays and every year I am overly optimistic and plan to bake way more than I can handle.  I really love classic cookies-chocolate chips, gingerbread and snickerdoodles and always try to make a few batches every year in addition to some new cookies.

Up until now, I had not found a recipe that I was in love with for a sugar cookie.  Let's face it-a sugar cookie can be pretty boring.  But, not if it's done right.  Like these. These cookies were absolutely perfect-slightly crispy on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside and had big flavor from the sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. They are in every way, what I think is the perfect sugar cookie!

Sugar Cookies

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (11 and 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions Place an oven rack in the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Add 1½ cups sugar and cream cheese to a large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish, bowl or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; whisking until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft and smooth dough forms.

Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each. Roll dough pieces into balls. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheets, about 12 dough balls per sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with sugar remaining in shallow dish.

Bake cookie, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes; rotate the tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes then transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Source: America's Test Kitchen

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guest Post: Stuffed maple vanilla spice cupcakes from Feed Me, Seymour

So far, November has been an absolute blur for me. I've had some significant family events happen this month, and I need to spend some time with my loved ones right now. As a result, I need to step away from the blog this week, but I have some fabulous friends who have generously offered to do guest posts for me while I'm away.

Today, my friend Kim from Feed Me, Seymour is sharing her stuffed maple vanilla spice cupcakes with us. Kim and I "met" in an online cooking forum and interact with each other almost daily. I hope to meet her one day and convince her to bake me some of her Harry Potter butterbeer cupcakes.  While I'm trying to accomplish that, here is Kim!

Sometimes, I get on these kicks where I want to make the same things over and over again. For a while, it might be risotto. Then I might change my mind and become obsessed with mac and cheese. Either way, I end up with thirty different kinds of something. Lately, it's been cupcakes. 

I rustled up the idea for these cupcakes back in the beginning of fall, when it was still warm outside. Now, the weather has changed and it constantly smells like charcoal and burning leaves outside. The best kind of smell, if you ask me. These cupcakes are perfect for this time of year. The cake itself stays simple, just a classic vanilla cupcake. The icing and the filling? That's where we jazz things up a bit. 

The filling is a cream cheese filling that's been spiced with all kinds of goodness. A little bit of cinnamon and a little big of nutmeg go a long way, making the filling spicy and warm. The icing? Oh, that's the crown jewel here. It's a traditional buttercream base that's been fancied up with maple syrup. Because fall means maple flavors just as much as it means pumpkin flavors. There must be maple in fall. And so, maple and vanilla and spice come together for a fun, tasty little cupcake. 

I knew I wanted to share these with Eva and her readers. Eva is obviously a baker, and a great one. So the dessert I picked had to be good. It had to at least come to close to some of her tasty treats. I think I succeeded here in at least coming somewhat close! 


For cupcakes:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup milk

For filling: 
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

For icing:
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
splash of vanilla


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bwl and beat in vanilla. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly among the liners, about 3/4 to the top. Bake until cupcakes are golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside on a baking rack to cool completely. 

To make the filling: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until well mixed. Take a knife and cut out a small circle from the center of the cake. Discard the center portion. Use a spoon and spoon the filling into each cupcake. 

To make the icing: Beat butter until fluffy. Add in sugar, maple syrup and splash of vanilla. Beat until completely incorporated. Add in a splash of cream if the icing seems to thick. Transfer the icing into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe roses on top of the cupcakes, covering the filling

Serves 12


Friday, November 15, 2013

Skating Fridays


I took my Gold freestyle test this week, and I have to say that it was seriously disappointing. I wasn't nervous, and I felt really good after I landed my first jump in the program - a flip. It was solid, high, and strong. I two-footed the axel, and my combination spin (a camel-back sit) did not go as well. The back sit wasn't as low as it needed to be. Then, by some freak accident, I messed up the back spin in a really bad way. The back spin is my second strongest spin (next to my sit spin) and I have never had a bad one in the past... oh, maybe 7 years? Of course, my spin decided not to show up today. I caught a bad edge and couldn't even get around one revolution. It was bad. Needless to say, I did not pass.

I had attended a morning freestyle and that felt good.  My warmup was fine with the exception of my combo spin. I honestly don't know what happened. My nerves didn't get the best of me, my mind was focused, so I am pretty stumped.  Coach B said that I looked nervous and hesitant. The judges noticed too, as their comments reflected that.

The good news is that I wasn't that far off from passing - just 0.2, which is very close. The judges wanted to see more strength and power in my skating, which they said was lacking. I know that I am a better skater than what they saw in that test, so I am disappointed in myself.

I was hoping to skate at Adult Nationals next April at the Gold level but now I don't know what to do. I'd prefer not to have to skate at Silver since I do not have a Silver program, and my personal schedule is going to be very chaotic starting next week. The next test session for the club isn't until February, and that will be past the deadline for Nationals. The other option is that I could try to test at another rink (and pay out-of-club fees).

Freestyle has been my forte until today, and I guess I just have had too much going on outside work that it affected me today. That's the only reason I can think of for my horrible skate.  Either that or the judges had a bad day.  The two other adult skaters (one testing Silver and the other testing Bronze) did not pass either. None of us received a passing mark from a single judge, so that's 9 failed scores all in a row.

I guess the good news is that the weaknesses the judges saw are very fixable. I got good comments on my choreography and elegance, and the lutz received full credit. Now back to work...


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes

Would you believe me if I told you that I have never tried a pumpkin spice latte? I'm not much of a coffee drinker, and although a pumpkin spice latte sounds (and smells) wonderful, I just can't get into it. Maybe it's the cheapskate in me who isn't willing to pay that much money for a drink. Or maybe I'm just wondering how long I have to skate to burn off all those calories.

I've been curious about the hype over a certain coffee chain's pumpkin spice lattes and figured that I would try it out in cupcake form. Even though I'm not saving too many calories by eating a cupcake, I like the idea of eating my calories more than drinking them (one exception to this is my beloved In-N-Out Burger milkshakes).

While I enjoyed the cupcakes, I didn't get as much pumpkin flavor as I wanted. Don't get me wrong - these were still wonderful cupcakes, but I had expected the pumpkin to shine through more. The frosting was yummy as well, and the addition of the cream cheese helped stabilize it and prevented it from deflating.  If you are a pumpkin spice latte fan, I'm sure you would enjoy these.

Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes
  • 2 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing (I skipped this step)
Whipped cream frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
For the cupcakes:  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake pan with liners (if you are making the recipe as-is, you'll need two cupcake pans for about 24 cupcakes).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat together the pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar and vegetable oil on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to mix until they are just incorporated. Turn the mixer down to low and gently and slowly add in the dry ingredients until they are just incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter among the cupcake liners and fill them about 3/4 full. Bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Turn off the oven and transfer the cupcakes to a rack and allow them to cool slightly. Once the cupcakes have cooled down a bit, brush the tops with the coffee or espresso.Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until they are well mixed. Slowly pour in the heavy cream in a steady stream and turn the mixer to high until you achieve stiff peaks.

Frost on completely cooled cupcakes.

Yield: I halved the cupcake recipe and got 13 cupcakes

Source: cupcakes from Annie's Eats; frosting from Brown Eyed Baker


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Apple crisp with oatmeal streusel

I am fortunate to work for a pretty awesome company. Every quarter, we get together and go on a "fun day" where we leave the office and partake in an offsite activity. We've gone bowling, fishing and even on a city-wide scavenger hunt. This quarter, our fun activity was apple-picking.

Two of my coworkers were big into baking so we knew right off the bat which apples we wanted to pick. We saw that the apples that were available to pick that day were quite limited, and the one variety that stood out to me (that would be awesome for baking) was Fuji apples. We trekked up the huge hill and picked as many apples as we could carry - probably about 8-10 pounds per person. After we finished apple picking, we did a fun wine tasting on-site. It was a fun day, and I was excited to bring home my loot and start baking.

My husband immediately asked for an apple crisp, so I made it almost immediately. While he was talking with his parents, I prepared the crisp and threw it in the oven. It was so easy to put together, and our kitchen smelled like fall.

He and I enjoyed this classic apple crisp and are already thinking about what recipe to tackle next.

Apple crisp with oatmeal streusel
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds medium apples (about 5 or 6), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used Fuji but you can use anything like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, etc)
  • 2 to 3 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 TBSP cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces, plus more for coating the dish
Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Grease or spray an 8x8 inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with the sugar, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt until the apples are coated evenly. Transfer the apples to the prepared baking dish and set aside.

In the same bowl (do not rinse the bowl), whisk together the brown sugar, oats, flour, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt until it is thoroughly mixed. Using a fork, pastry cutter or even your fingers, cut in the butter until you get a mixture that resembles wet sand and contains pea-sized chunks.

Spread the topping over the apples and bake until mixture is golden brown and the apples mixture is bubbly,  about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: About 8 servings



Friday, November 8, 2013

Skating Fridays

Falling before test day

There's a skating superstition that says you'll have good luck if you fall before your test. For me, this has been true. Even my coaches know this as well. Usually about a week or two before my skating test, I take a hard fall on something silly.  Once I fell on a mohawk. Another time I fell in someone else's crater (a huge hole in the ice from a triple jump). I'm pretty sure I fell just gliding on two feet once.

This week, I fell on a 3-turn.

I can't even tell you how many 3-turns I've done in my life. They're essentially part of me, and falling on that was very unexpected and silly.  I was running my Gold freestyle program and just landed a falling leaf jump (a requirement on the test that I didn't previously have in my program, so this was a new addition). After I came out of the falling leaf, I did a 3-turn to get into my sit spin. And that is where I went down.

Thankfully, that fall didn't hurt, but I told people that I've had my obligatory fall before a test. It gets the nerves out of the way before the big day, so now I should be good to go.

Less than a week to go before the test. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I have some good news to share with you all next week.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chocolate caramel sea salt cake

Shhh... I have a secret. Yesterday was my birthday. I took the day off and baked, skated and went shopping. It was a fabulous. The only thing I baked yesterday was my birthday cake. My husband found the recipe in this month's Bon Appetit magazine and told me we had to try it. It sounded wonderful, so I obliged and decided to turn it into my birthday cake.

I'm a big fan of chocolate cake, and this was very good and very moist. The frosting wasn't as caramel-y as I wanted but was still yummy. As you can see, my cake was only two layers, so I didn't follow the recipe below exactly. I didn't want to oversalt the cake so I only added a small sprinkle of sea salt on top of the bottom cake layer.  It could have used a bit on the top too, so I will remember that for next time.

I'm not happy to be another year older, but I am happy that I was able to bake (and eat) this cake!

Chocolate caramel sea salt cake
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 cups mayonnaise (not low fat)
  • 1 and 1/3 cup water, lukewarm
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the eggs and sugar on medium high speed until the mixture turns pale yellow and has doubled in size (about 4 minutes). Add the mayonnaise and vanilla and continue to mix until just combined. Turn the mixer down to low and alternately add the dry ingredients and the water, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Evenly distribute the batter to your prepared pans.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven and allow your cakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl and set aside. In a small to medium saucepan, bring the sugar, corn syrup and water to boil over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Allow the mixture to boil for about 10-12 minutes or until the mixture turns a deep amber color (you may need to allow it to boil for longer than 12 minutes). Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble vigorously, and you may get chunks or globs of caramel on your spatula. Return the mixture back to the stove and keep stirring until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the caramel mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir. Allow the chocolate caramel mixture to cool completely.

In the bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk the chocolate caramel mixture on medium speed. Slowly add the butter until it is completely incorporated and the frosting is thick. Transfer the bowl to your refrigerator and allow it to cool at least 30 minutes or until the frosting has thickened to spreading consistency.

Place one layer of cake on a plate or cake platter and spread frosting on top of it. Add a pinch of sea salt flakes on top. Repeat with the remaining 2 layers. Frost the sides of the cake and garnish with additional sea salt if desired.

Cake can be chilled or stored at room temperature. It should keep in an airtight container for several days.

Yield: About 12-16 servings

Source: Sportello restaurant, via Bon Appetit, November 2013 issue


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin s'mores bars

Are you ready for another pumpkin recipe? My family and I were invited to my friend K's house for her annual Halloween bash. Even though she told me not to bring anything, I wanted to bake something pumpkin-y for everyone. I didn't feel like baking cookies so I decided to make bars.

I saw this recipe appear in my RSS feed and knew that this is what I wanted to make. It's been a while since I've made s'mores bars, and I was itching to bake with pumpkin again this month.

The pumpkin layer is very cake-like, so this tasted more like a pumpkin s'mores cake than a true bar. Regardless, my husband really enjoyed these and has already elevated this to his Top 10 list. And this is coming from a former pumpkin hater. The soft and chewy pumpkin cake is topped with graham cracker bits, melted chocolate and mini marshmallows. If you are a fan of pumpkin and s'mores, then this is a treat you will enjoy.

Pumpkin s'mores bars
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoom baking soda
  • 1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice  (if you don't have pumpkin pie spice, use 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, plus 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice. You can also add a pinch of ground cloves)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 graham crackers, broken into chunks
  • 3 chocolate bars - 1.45 oz each, chopped (I did not chop mine and just broke them into pieces)
  • 1 and 3/4 cup mini marshmallows
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease or line a standard 9 x13 inch baking pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Then add the egg and vanilla and continue to mix until they are fully incorporated. Add the pumpkin puree and continue to mix. The batter might look a bit curdled (like cottage cheese) but that is OK. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly and gently add in the dry ingredients. Mix until it is just combined - do not over mix.

Evenly spread the batter into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the graham cracker chunks on top. Add the chocolate pieces on top of the graham cracker layer and then top with the mini marshmallows.

Bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some wet crumbs.

Turn off the oven, remove the pan from the oven and allow it cool completely before slicing into bars.

Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Yield: A standard 9x13 inch pan, which can yield about 24-32 bars

Source: My Baking Addiction


Friday, November 1, 2013

Skating Fridays

An update on testing and some spin variations

I had a good lesson last week. Of course, I had a few bad axels and a few "waxels" (opened up waltz/axels), but at the end of my lesson, I landed a few fairly clean jumps that were pulled in tightly. I was even able to land some in a backspin.

Coach B said that she knew that I had the ability to land the jumps but was worried about how I would perform under pressure. I told her I'd be fine since I don't tend to get nervous when I'm skating freestyle elements (Moves in the Field, on the other hand, freaks me out). If the judges didn't like my axel during the test, then I could easily reskate it. Worst thing that could happen is that I do not pass my test the first time.

So then it was decided. I am now testing in the middle of next month.

I am making a few changes to my program to make it easier and to fit the requirements.
  • My footwork needs to include a spiral (remember, I didn't get credit for my choreographic sequence during the competition)
  • I need to add a split jump, stag jump or falling leaf
  • My lutz/loop combo needs to change to a single lutz
  • The death drop spin will now be a plain old backspin
However, I am thinking ahead to skating in IJS again, and I'd like to have a higher level spin so I can gain more points. Since the sit spin is clearly my strongest spin, I'm working on adding some variations to it.  If I have the speed, I can do a sit into a cannonball (for 8-9 revolutions) and then into a back tuck. If I execute this correctly, it would be considered a level 2 spin. I only hit the cannonball position for 5 revolutions in the video below, so this wouldn't be a level 2 spin yet.

The other thing I'm playing with is an open layback spin. I'm trying this variation to see if it will help me arch back further. If I can get this more comfortable, then I can add some arm positions. I probably won't use this in my program, but it would still be nice to have a pretty layback spin.

3 more weeks until test day!

Sit to cannonball to back tuck

Open layback



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