Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vegan acorn squash muffins

Don't forget to enter my cookbook giveaway!

I am proud to say that I have been eating fewer English muffins for breakfast recently. I have been baking various breakfast treats so I haven't had to revert to my old standby meal. We received a beautiful acorn squash in our CSA delivery one week, and I wasn't quite sure what to make with it. In previous deliveries, I've made acorn squash bread and chocolate acorn squash baked custard. I didn't want to repeat a recipe so I decided to bake some acorn squash muffins.

I only had a few eggs left and didn't want to use them all, so I found a vegan acorn squash muffin on A Whisk and A Prayer that sounded good. I already had to turn on the oven for a bar recipe I was making for a party, so I baked the bars and roasted the acorn squash at the same time. By the time the acorn squash was done, I had already prepped the recipe below. All I needed to do was to add the acorn squash and it was ready to bake.

These muffins were pretty impressive, especially since they were vegan. My muffins got a very beautiful deep brown, and they crisped up nicely (although not as much as I had hoped). The interiors of the muffins were soft and fluffy and reminded me of a pumpkin muffin. The molasses added a deep, sweet flavor and nicely complemented the cinnamon and nutmeg. If you want to take these muffins to the next level, you can always add a layer of streusel on top.
 
Vegan acorn squash muffins
  • 2 cup flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup + 2 TBSP acorn squash puree
  • 3/4 cup soy milk (or milk of choice)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 TBSP molasses
Directions
If you have a fresh acorn squash and need to turn it into a puree,  preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Wash the acorn squash and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle and place the acorn squash face down in a high-sided baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Fill the pan with about 1/2 inch of water and bake in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes or until the acorn squash is soft. Allow the squash to cool down slightly. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or food processor. You will need 1 cup and 2 TBSP of puree for these muffins.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease (or spray) a standard muffin pan and set aside (I used my silicone muffin pan and did not grease it). You do not want to use paper liners because the muffins will stick to them.

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

In a large bowl, mix together the squash puree, milk, brown sugar, water, oil and molasses.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until the mixture is just combined. You do not want to overmix this.

Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin wells and bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool completely before serving.

Muffins can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 3-5 days or can be frozen for several weeks and reheated in the microwave.

Yield: About 14 muffins

Source: A Whisk and A Prayer

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Apple streusel pie and a giveaway

A show of hands: who here loves streusel topping? Yes, me too. I love streusel topping and find it to be the best part about crumb cakes, muffins and other baked goods. There is no such thing as too much streusel in my mind. When I came across an apple pie with streusel topping from my America's Best Harvest Pies cookbook, I giggled with glee. I immediately showed my husband the recipe, and he requested that I bake the pie right away, so I did.

This apple pie was very easy to put together. I halved the crust recipe below so I didn't have any extra crust laying around. Since I don't eat nuts, I omitted the top layer with the pecans and caramel sauce, but you should definitely try the recipe as it is written. The crust was nice and flaky, and the filling tasted like a classic apple pie with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. The streusel topping, of course, was the best part. I piled on the streusel and was in pie heaven. This apple pie recipe is sure to stay, and it's officially made the list as one of the best apple pies my husband has ever eaten. This is an award-winning pie, after all.

In fact, every recipe in the America's Best Harvest Pies cookbook features an award-winning pie from across the nation. There are entire chapters dedicated to apple pie, fruit pies and pumpkin pies. I asked my husband which pie he would want to try next, and I think he named every single one. I'm pretty sure one of the peanut butter ones caught his eye first, so that might be next up on my pie list.

And now onto the giveaway... One of you will win not one, but TWO cookbooks! You will receive a copy of America's Best Harvest Pies and one copy of Lick the Bowl Good (I will be featuring a recipe from Lick the Bowl Good in a future post). Simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Be patient since sometimes the widget is slow to load. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Apple streusel pie
Crust (I halved the crust recipe below so I wouldn't have extras)
  • 2 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup Crisco shortening (I substituted with cold, unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP ice water
Filling
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 medium Braeburn or sweet/tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
Crumb topping
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I used light, but you can use dark
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter
Caramel pecan finish (Since I don't eat nuts, I omitted this completely)
  • 1/4 cup caramel topping (like Smucker's)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions
For the crust: Whisk the flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the cold shortening/butte until the mixture resembles wet sand and you get small lumps the size of peas.. Slowly add the ice water and continue to mix (with a fork, you pastry cutter or even a sturdy spatula) until it is fully incorporated. The dough should form a ball when you press it together. Add more water if your mixture is too dry. Cover in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Once the crust is cooled, either lightly flour a clean working surface or spread a piece of parchment paper on a flat working surface. Place the chilled crust on the flat surface and cover with another piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to an 11 or 12 inch circle. It needs to be big enough to cover your pie plate. Transfer the crust to your pie plate and gently press it into the plate. Trim any excess dough and crimp the edges.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.


For the filling: In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, flour and salt until the mixture is uniform. Add the sliced apples and toss to combine. Drizzle the lemon juice over the sliced apples and mix well. Pour the apple filling onto the prepared (unbaked) pie crust.

For the crumb topping: In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, sugar, flour, oats and salt. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the cold butter until the mixture contains small, pea-sized lumps. Spoon and gently press the crumb topping on top of the apple filling.

Bake the pie at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and continue baking for another 60 minutes (I baked mine for 50 minutes). If needed, you may protect the pie edges with aluminum foil or a crust protector. You may also need to tent the pie with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes of baking if your pie is getting too dark.

Remove the pie from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

For the caramel-pecan finish: When the pie has cooled slightly, heat up the caramel topping (either in the microwave or on the stove). Drizzle half of the caramel topping over the pie, then add the pecans. Drizzle the remaining half of the caramel topping on top.

The pie is best when served warm (with a generous scoop of ice cream) but can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. You can either reheat it in the microwave or serve it cold.

Yield: One 10-inch pie, about 10-12 slices.

Source: America's Best Harvest Pies, pages 16-17

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Skating Fridays

To test or not to test?

I know I've mentioned in some previous posts that I was trying to decide whether or not I want to skate at the Adult Gold level for freestyle. On one hand, it has been a goal of mine, and I already have one competition in the IJS system under my belt. On the other hand, I'm not sure if skating at Gold is realistic because I'm not sure if I would be competitive or not (meaning that I am not positive if my skating is up to par with the other women at Adult Gold).

After I got my results back, Coach B and I analyzed my scores and said that I am pretty much right on the cusp of where an Adult Gold skater should be. I probably skated a little more poorly because it was my first competition, and I didn't have any experience with IJS, so my scores were lower. Not to mention the fact that I didn't receive credit for my choreographic step sequence or axel jump. Had those counted, my scores would be pretty good.

I decided to go ahead and aim to test next month. In fact, today is D-Day (decision day). Coach B and I have been breaking down my axel to see how and why the judges viewed it as cheated, and we have some good answers. When I do an axel from a standstill, I inadvertently cheat the jump by taking off going backwards instead of forwards. Also, if you look at my tracings on the ice, you will see that my takeoff edge creates a "flag" (similar to a loop or salchow). This is an incorrect axel takeoff. Also, I land the jump about 1/4 turn cheated because my body opens up too early.

I have been focusing all my attention on this jump since it's the only element that Coach B thinks will be in danger of failing for my test. I guess the good news is that the judges won't have the luxury of having a video replay on test day, so I just need to make the jump look like it's correct in order to get full credit. The test forms are due today, so we have until 5pm to decide if I am ready or not.

Keep your fingers crossed that Coach B gives me the green light to move forward on the test today.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chocolate Dutch baby pancake

One of the best trips I've taken in my life was a 4 or 5 day trip to the Netherlands during my last semester as a senior in college. During Finals. Don't worry, I had given my professors a heads up before the trip and arranged to take my finals at another date (I did graduate, in case you were wondering). My college roommate and I found an e-saver fare to Amsterdam, and it was an opportunity that neither one of us could pass up. She also happened to have a friend who lived in Amsterdam so we would have free housing.

Amsterdam was such a beautiful city. The architecture, the people, the canals and the food were all amazing. We arrived in Amsterdam on Queen's Day, which is a national holiday for the Dutch. The entire city was painted orange to celebrate one of the country's royal families, the House of Orange. We walked around the city and met all kinds of wonderful people, decked out in their orange clothing and accessories and had a blast getting to know the area.

After Queen's Day was over, life went back to normal, and we were regular tourists again. For breakfast one day, we went to a cute little restaurant called Poffertjes that specialized in Dutch pancakes. I ordered an apple pancake and thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

For whatever reason, I hadn't thought about making these Dutch pancakes again until I came across a chocolate version in Nicole's cookbook.  My husband bookmarked this recipe before I even had a chance to do so myself. The texture of the pancake is exactly as I remembered it - slightly chewy but thin enough to make me want to eat the entire thing. In fact, the Dutch usually order an entire pancake for themselves and eat that as their meal. These Dutch pancakes aren't like your traditional fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Instead, they are about a 1/8 inch thick and loaded with tons of toppings. You can see that I opted to keep my plain, but you can certainly add powdered sugar, fruit, syrup or whipped cream.

I hope to visit Amsterdam again someday, and when I do, you can be sure that I'll be stopping by Poffertjes again.

Chocolate Dutch baby pancake
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Directions
Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in your oven and preheat it to 425 degrees F. If you don't own a cast iron skillet, you can use a standard pie pan - just be sure to grease the inside of the pie pan with butter.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla and sugar together. Mix well until there are no lumps.

Once the oven has reached 425 degrees F, remove the skillet (or pie pan) from the oven and add the butter to the skillet. Swirl it around so it evenly coats the pan.

Pour the batter into the skillet and place it back in the oven. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the pancake fully puffs up in the middle.

Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar. You can also serve with fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries.

Note that the pancake will begin to deflate after a few minutes. This is completely normal so don't be alarmed.

Yield: One 10-inch pancake (about 6-8 slices)

Source: Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking: 100 Light and Delicious Recipes to Promote Energy, Weight Loss, and Well-Being; page 215

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

White cupcakes with chocolate buttercream

I can't believe that I haven't made a classic white cupcake on this blog yet. And I almost forgot that my blog turned 2 years old in September. Geez - where has the time gone?

Here is a tried and true white cupcake recipe that I think you'll enjoy. For those of you (um, ME) who always have an abundance of egg whites hanging around, this is the perfect recipe. It uses 8 egg whites, so you can keep making your fruit curds or homemade ice cream with the yolks. My coworker, who tastes a lot of my baked goods, declared these as his favorite recipe to date. I paired the white cupcakes with a classic chocolate buttercream.

I'll be back soon with another cookbook giveaway, so stay tuned for that.
White cupcakes
  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 and 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 large egg whites
Chocolate buttercream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 TBSP milk or heavy cream
Directions
To make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, 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 the butter and 2 cups of the sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla. 

Turn the mixer to low and alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Transfer the batter to a large bowl and set aside. Clean the stand mixer bowl and dry it completely.


In the clean bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a separate large bowl if you are whisking by hand or using a stand mixer with good beaters), whip the 8 egg whites on low speed until the whites start to look foamy. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and turn the mixer to high. Keep whisking until your whites achieve smooth, glossy peaks. 

Turn the mixer off and slowly but gently fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until it is just incorporated. Fold in remaining egg whites into the batter and be sure not to overmix.

Evenly divide the batter into the 24 liners. Each cupcake well will have about 1/4 cup of batter.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Turn the oven off, remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool completely before frosting.

To make the buttercream: In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), cream the butter on medium speed until it is smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to low and very gently and slowly add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder until they are fully incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and add the salt, vanilla and milk/heavy cream. If the frosting looks too stiff, add more milk/heavy cream about 1/2 teaspoon at a time. If the frosting looks too runny, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost with the buttercream.Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for about three days.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Sources: White cupcakes slightly adapted from Martha Stewart; chocolate buttercream from Savory Sweet Life

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Skating Fridays

Ice monitor woes

You all know that I competed in my first competition a few weekends ago. It was also the first time that I volunteered to be an ice monitor for part of the day on Saturday. This position was new to me, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. My duties as an ice monitor were to make sure that the skaters and their coaches were checked in, have them take their practice ice as scheduled, and to make sure that the skaters took the ice in the correct order. Simple enough, right?

Never did I expect to get yelled at and berated during my shift. I had the unfortunate task of trying to calm down the coaches (note that I did not say skaters) when two things went awry during the competition. First, there was a group that had their skating order changed because the girl in the first position forgot her skates at home. She made a request to the event director (and the referee in charge) to see if she could go last since she had to run home and grab her skates. Her request was granted, and the ice monitor was supposed to tell the coaches and skaters about the change. This happened about 5 minutes before my shift started, so I was aware of the change but did not know if the skaters/coaches who had already checked in knew about the change in skate order. Apparently, this did not happen.

When the warm-up was over and the announcer said the (new) first skater's name, the coach went ballistic. She very promptly came over and yelled at me. I stayed calm and apologized for the situation and said that the skater in the first position had an incident that was cleared by the director and referee in charge. She continued on her tirade and I calmly but firmly told her, "I understand your frustration because I am also a skater and know how stressful this is. However, I don't think you should be taking your frustration out on me. I am just a volunteer and am telling you what was communicated to me." She huffed and puffed away and came back at least one more time to vent.

After the event was over, the coach came back and apologized to me. She was actually pretty nice about it and said that she was sorry that she had yelled at me. Regardless, I was still in shock that a coach would act like that.

The second incident happened when the announcer mistakenly called two groups (instead of one) to take their warm-up. Again, the coaches went nuts. At least 3 coaches looked at me and yelled, "You can't let this happen! This needs to stop!" I ran over to the judges' area and talked to the referee in charge and said that there was a mistake in the announcement because only one group was supposed to warm up. He acknowledged the error and went to talk to the announcer, but no further communications came out on the PA system. When I returned to the boards, the coaches continued to yell at me. I said that the referee was aware of the error, but they continued to scream. I told them that the skaters in the 2nd group would get another warm-up. Regardless, the coaches continued to yell and complain.

The 2nd group received another warmup as expected, but again, it was another situation where I was the unfortunate scapegoat since I was "connected" to the competition. I left my shift feeling very angry, stressed out and underappreciated.

I know that these situations were anomalies, but it convinced me to not volunteer for this position next year. I am bewildered that grown adults acted this way in front of their skaters. I also saw the dynamics between skaters and their coaches and am elated that the relationship between my coach and I are nothing like that - but in a good way.

The events from my volunteer shift make me sad and embarrassed for our sport. It's unfortunate that a few sour apples (or coaches, in this instance) left me with such a bad impression from the two hours I was there. Thankfully, most of the coaches that I know do not act like this, so that makes me happy, but I am still convinced that the ice monitor position is not for me. Next year, I'm sticking to something like playing the music CDs so I can stay far, far away from all the drama.


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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Finally - a pumpkin recipe. I've been holding out on you this whole time and decided it was time to bake with pumpkin. Our weather on the east coast has been a bit strange. One day, it was 90 degrees and sunny, and two days later, we were down in the 50s. Fall, my friends, has finally arrived. And fall means the official start of pumpkin season.

My family and I went to Penzey's one day so I could replenish my dwindling supply of their ground cinnamon. While we were browsing around, I came across a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe that was featured in their baking section. I tore off a copy and happily put it in my handbag so I could bake this when the time was right.

That time finally arrived since we had endured a full week of cold, rainy weather. I wanted to brighten things up around the house with some bold pumpkin aromas. My husband cheerily sang, "It smells good around here," and that instantly put a smile on my face.

I loved these muffins. Right out of the oven, they were slightly crisp on the outside yet nice and soft on the insides. There were just enough chocolate chips to satisfy my sweet tooth but not too overpowering. There is a perfect amount of pumpkin flavor and spices so they aren't too overwhelming. All in all, this is a solid pumpkin muffin and one I think you will enjoy.

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil (I subbed with applesauce)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinammon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1 and 3/4 cup (one full 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray or grease two standard muffin tins with baking spray or butter. Do not use paper liners because the muffins will stick to them.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil/applesauce, eggs and vanilla together until everything is well incorporated.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Slowly add the sugar mixture into the dry mixture and stir until just incorporated.

Add half of the milk and mix well. Then add half of the pumpkin puree and mix. Repeat.

Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin tins and fill them about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. They can also be stored in the freezer and reheated in the microwave.

Yield: I halved the recipe and got 15 muffins (the original recipe says that you should get 24 muffins)

Source: Carolyn Munson, via a Penzey's recipe card that I found in the store

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fresh apple cinnamon scones

How on earth is it October already? Pretty soon it will be time for the holidays. But let's focus on my favorite season of the year, which is happening right now - fall. Autumn is the peak time for apple picking, so you can make these apple cranberry oatmeal bars, apple crumble bars, apple bread, caramel apple cake, apple pie cupcakes, apple buttermilk custard pie, apple pie or salted caramel apple pie with your loot. 

Jaida of Sweet Beginnings is this month's host of What's Baking and asked each of us bake a sweet or savory scone. Since apples are clearly on my mind, I chose to bake fresh apple cinnamon scones. 

If you take a look at the photo above, you will see that these are barely recognizable as scones and almost look like a chicken pie or something. I added more apples and butterscotch chips than the recipe called for because I wanted more fruit and butterscotch flavor. The scones were nice and crispy on the outside and chock full of apples, butterscotch and flaky layers on the inside. The cinnamon flavor came through as well, and I know that using cinnamon chips would have been even better (but alas, I did not have any). Both my husband and I enjoyed these scones, and we were tempted to eat an entire slice as part of our taste testing.

The one thing I'd recommend changing is decreasing the amount of sugar in the topping. I used 3 Tablespoons as the recipe suggested, but it was too much. Start with 1 TBSP and go from there - you can always add more sugar if needed.

Be sure to check out Jaida's blog to see what types of scones everyone baked!


Fresh apple cinnamon scones

  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (can substitute with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 cup (8 TBSP, or 1 stick) cold butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh apple, in 1/2" pieces (about half a medium apple); feel free to leave the peel on
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips (can substitute with butterscotch, white chocolate chip or even regular chocolate chips if you can't find cinnamon chips)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • Splash of milk (to top the scones)

Topping


  • 3 TBSP coarse sanding sugar (can substitute regular white sugar in a pinch - I recommend decreasing this to 1 TBSP and adding more if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and apple pie spice (or cinnamon if you are substituting). Cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture contains pea-sized chunks. The mixture will resemble coarse sand at this point. Do not overwork the mixture.

Gently fold in the chopped apples and cinnamon chips.

In a separate small mixing bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla, and applesauce together.

Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a study spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until everything is just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

Transfer the dough to a clean working surface sprinkled with a little bit of flour. Shape the dough into a circle about 5 inches wide and about 3/4 inches thick.

Brush the top of the scone dough with a little bit of milk  Make the topping by mixing the coarse sugar with the cinnamon. Evenly spread the topping on top of the milk.

Using a sharp paring knife or pizza cutter, cut the scone in half diagonally and vertically so you have 4 slices. Cut each slice into 3 sections so you get 12 total wedges.

Place the 12 scone wedges on your prepared baking pan and transfer them to your freezer for 30 minutes. This will help solidify the butter so they will help create beautiful, flaky layers in your scones.

Preheat your oven to 425°F. 

Remove the scones from the freezer and into your preheated oven. Bake for about 18-22 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Turn off the oven, remove the scones from the oven and allow them to cool. Scones are best served warm but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3-5 days (they will start to get soggy after a day or two). They can also be stored in an airtight container and stored in the freezer for a few weeks.

Yield: 12 large scones


Source: King Arthur Flour

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Skating Fridays

My IJS scores and breakdown


After what seemed like eons (4 days in reality), I finally received my scores from the skating competition. Here they are above.  I'm going to do my best to interpret these for you and explain what happened and how the judges scored me.

Technical Elements
  1. 1F (Single flip): Since this received a 0 Grade of Execution (GOE), it means I performed this jump as the judges expected. I received the full 0.5 point value.
  2. SSpB (Sit spin, base level): Two judges gave me a +1 GOE, which means this spin was performed above average in their eyes. In order to attain a higher level spin, I needed to hold the sit spin for 4 revolutions and then go into a featured position (like the cannonball or a tuck) for a full 8 revolutions. Coach B and I checked the rulebook, and even though spins earn higher points if held for 8 revolutions, it doesn't look like it applies to the base sit spin position (it does for the camel and layback spins). Lesson learned.
  3. 1Lo (Single loop): A 0 GOE means that this jump was performed as expected and I received the full 0.5 points.
  4. 1A<< (Single axel): I have to be honest here. I was dumbfounded why I did not receive any points for this, and I had no idea with the << symbols meant. After talking with Coach B, she said that the << means that the jump was downgraded. The judges thought my axel was more than 1/2 revolution cheated, so it was downgraded to a waltz jump. Since a waltz jump isn't a recognized jump in IJS, I received no points.
  5. 1Lz+1Lo<< (Single lutz/single loop combination): You can see from my scores above that I received -1 and -2 GOEs for this combination. Because the << symbol is immediately following the 1Lo, it means that the judges thought I cheated the loop jump. Huh? I didn't think that was even possible! On a positive note, I got full credit for the lutz jump, so it means I took off on the correct edge. Hooray! Considering that I just learned the lutz (the correct way) this summer, this is a huge accomplishment.
  6. CCoSpB (Change foot combination spin, base level): I did a camel spin into a back sit spin for my combination. After reviewing my video, I realized that I may not have completely reached the 4 required revolutions on the camel spin for this combination to fully count. The back sit spin may also not have gotten low enough to achieve full credit. Therefore, the judges gave me a -1 GOE pretty much across the board. 
  7. ChSt (Choreographic step sequence): This one baffled us, and Coach B and I had a long talk about this even before the competition. She had a feeling that the choreographic sequence required a spiral sequence, but after reviewing the rules, she said that adults were exempt. Unfortunately, her initial instinct was right. I needed a spiral sequence within my footwork, and we did not have it in there. Because I didn't include a spiral, I received no credit. This is so frustrating since we reviewed the rules pretty thoroughly a week before the competition.
  8. 1F+1T (Single flip/single toe loop combination): Two judges gave me a -1 GOE, so they thought it could have been stronger. And they're right. The combination was fine but not my best by any means.
  9. FSSpB (Flying sit spin/death drop spin): I didn't fully stretch out my "fly" portion of the spin, and my back sit spin didn't snap down or as low as I wanted to. The judges saw this flaw and gave me -1 and -2 GOEs. One generous judge gave me a 0 GOE... yay!
OK, so with the scores above, I clearly need to fix my lutz/loop combination, flip/toe, camel/back sit spin and my death drop. I can gain extra points by turning the single jumps into combinations and turning the sit spin into a cannonball with 8 revolutions. Obviously we need to fix my footwork to make sure it meets the requirements for either a choreographic step sequence or a regular step sequence (that's two points lost right there!). And the other thing I need to work on is making sure the axel is landed more cleanly and less cheated.

My Program Component Scores (PCS) were actually not too bad, especially for my first competition. After watching my video, I can see where I could have had more fluid arm movements, and I can see that my transitions could use some improvement. My skating skills, choreography and interpretation were all pretty closely scored and were my highest components within the program delivery.  I just need to make the linking footwork stronger and make them flow better. Coach B was very pleased with this and was surprised that my PCS scores were stronger than the technical scores - she said that most of the time these are flipped (where skaters' technical scores are higher). That probably would have been the same for me, except that I didn't receive credit for the two elements.

I guess I can only get better from here. Now we know what NOT to do!

Hope this was a helpful post and gave you some better understanding about the IJS scoring system and what some of the symbols and acronyms mean.

And finally, here is a good view of my blinged-out dresses as I promised a few weeks ago. The white dress is from the Tonya/Nancy duet and the purple one is from my Gold Freestyle program.



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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Red bean paste mochi

Don't forget to enter my Classic Candy cookbook giveaway!

I always get a bit jealous when I hear friends or coworkers talking about their family trees. Some people are able to trace their ancestors back hundreds of years. Others even can dig up an old family crest. Well, not me. You see, both of my fraternal grandparents are adopted. The people who knew my grandfather's birth parents have long since passed.

My dad was able to do a bit of research a few years ago and found some distant relatives who heard rumors about my grandfather's real birth mom. The story is that she was a schoolteacher when Japan invaded Taiwan in the late 19th century. My dad believes that my real great-grandmother (the teacher) had an affair with the principal at the time, who was Japanese. The Taiwanese teacher became pregnant with the principal's child and eventually gave him up for adoption. This child was my grandfather.

It makes me sad to hear that my grandfather was given up for adoption, but the story makes sense to me. My grandfather learned Japanese very quickly and speaks it fluently. He definitely looks Japanese. And whenever I walk into a Japanese restaurant or grocery store, the Japanese staff and coworkers always attempt to speak to me in their native language. According to my relatives, I also look Japanese.

I do love Japanese food, so this story is plausible. In fact, one of my favorite Japanese sweets is mochi. It's a soft, pillowy and sticky ball that is filled with red bean paste and covered in corn starch. There are other flavors of mochi, but red bean is my favorite. I never thought of making these on my own until I saw Heather's guest post on Darla's website. This mochi was made in the microwave (!) and looked very do-able.

Since I had leftover red bean paste from my Chinese red bean mooncakes, I wanted to try my hand at mochi. It was much easier than I expected. I even tried making some green tea mochi ice cream, but those were a big fail. I didn't pinch the mochi skin fast enough and my ice cream melted everywhere. Boo. Maybe next time. Either way, my mochi were just as good as the ones I buy in the store. They had a perfect chewy and sticky texture, and the red bean paste filling was just perfect.

What would make me even happier right now would be to get some closure on my family's history. I hope to know more about my ancestors one day. Until then, I'll believe the story that my dad told me above.

Red bean paste mochi
  • 1 and 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour (you can find this at your local Asian grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 2 drops red or green food coloring (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch (I only used 1/4 cup and it was plenty)
  • Red bean paste (I buy this brand from my local Asian grocery store)
Directions
In a medium or large microwave-safe bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour, sugar, water and food coloring (if using). Use a very sturdy spatula and mix everything together until no lumps remain. The mixture will resemble glue.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap and stir the mixture with your spatula. It will be very sticky and difficult to stir, but do your best.

Re-cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute. When you remove the bowl from the microwave and take off the plastic wrap, the mochi skin will deflate. If it doesn't, recover the bowl and microwave for an additional minute.

Spread the cornstarch over a flat surface and make sure that you cover your hands with cornstarch. Transfer the hot mochi mixture onto the cornstarch surface and gently stretch the dough with your hands. Don't try using a rolling pin (trust me - I tried) because it will not work. Cut the flattened mochi dough into 10-12 pieces.

Stretch each individual mochi piece until it is flat and resembles an oval or a circle. Fill the center with a spoonful of red bean paste. Bring the sides of the mochi piece towards the center and pinch to seal.

If the mochi is too sticky on the outside, roll it in the cornstarch until it is no longer sticky.

Mochi tastes best on the day they are made but can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a few days. They will start hardening each day, but you can heat them in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds to soften them a bit.

Yield: About 10-12 mochi

Source: Bakingdom; adapted from Vegan Yum Yum

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Easy peanut butter fudge and a giveaway


There is an awesome sporting goods store in the Midwest called Scheels. I absolutely love going to this place when we go visit my in-laws. It's a sports lover's mecca, where they sell thousands of items, even in the women's section. Our local sporting goods store has a measly little section for ladies, and a pathetic rack (maybe two) of women's golf apparel. Clearly, the stores in my area are biased towards men.

Every time we go into Scheels, we head straight upstairs into their market section (yes, they have one of those). Scheels offers free samples of their house-made fudge, and I can't even tell you how many different types I've tried. Even Addie gets in on the sampling, and she always leaves that store happy.

I don't make fudge very often since recipes tend to make quite a bit, and our little family of three simply can't eat it fast enough. But, fudge is easy and fun to make, and I often get a craving when we're unable to head to Scheels for our fix.

The kind folks at Skyhorse Publishing sent me a copy of Abigail Gehring's Classic Candy cookbook. And lo and behold, there was a recipe for peanut butter fudge that I wanted to make for my husband and Addie. The cookbook also includes over 60 recipes, including candy bars, toffee, soft candies and even salt water taffy. The author even has a section in the cookbook that offers sugar substitutes and some advice on how to properly melt chocolate. I didn't actually try any of the fudge since I don't eat peanut butter, but my husband said it was slightly dry. I'm dying to try the salt water taffy to test my taffy-pulling skills (or lack thereof).

One thing to warn you about when making this fudge is to make sure you heat the sugar/milk mixture slowly over medium heat. The first time I tried making this, I had the stove too hot and my fudge got too hot. The result was a crumbly, ugly mess and I ended up throwing away that batch. Oops. This batch was still dry, even though I used a candy thermometer. I am pretty sure it was a user error (my bad) so don't let my mistake prevent you from trying these fun candy recipes.

And now onto the giveaway! I'm giving away one copy of Classic Candy to an Eva Bakes reader. All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient since the widget might load slowly. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Easy peanut butter fudge
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (I used 1%)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use all natural)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions
Generously grease or line a standard 8x8 inch baking pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and milk to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil for about 2 and a half minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, allow the mixture to hit soft ball stage (235 degrees F). Do not allow the mixture to go past soft ball stage or you will have a hard, dry and inedible fudge.

Turn off the stove, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla until everything is well mixed.

Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Allow the fudge to cool before slicing and serving.

Yield: At least 32 pieces of fudge (you can slice them as big or little as you want, so you could even get up to 64 squares) 

Source: Classic Candy by Abigail R. Gehring, page 14

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Skating Fridays

Competition results and some videos

I officially survived last weekend's competition! Actually, I had a blast. The duet program was such a fun performance that it didn't even feel like we were out there to compete.

My friend K and I skated to a piece called "I've Got a Brand New Pair of Figure Skates" which mocks the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding knee-bashing incident from the 90s. I played Nancy and she played Tonya. The Nancy character was so oblivious during the program and skated very "pretty" while Tonya chased her around and made fun of Nancy behind her back. At the end, Tonya takes a plastic bat and whacks Nancy in the knee. Of course, Nancy says her infamous "Why me?" line at the end before Tonya reveals a gold medal around her neck and skates off without Nancy.

We got 2nd place in the event, but we skated against 3 other duets that were made up of all kids. I'm pretty sure we would have placed 1st, but we think that the judges didn't want to send the message to the kids that they lost to a bunch of old people. Ha ha.  We'll have to try to skate this duet again at an adult competition to see how we do since we'll be on an even playing field.

Addie and Mommy
I didn't know what to expect for the Adult Gold event. The woman that also skated in my group was the 1st place winner at Adult Nationals in her event. She has placed 1st in many other competitions, so it wasn't even a contest. Not even close. Regardless, she was an inspiration and very modest so it helped make the competition more fun.

I had a pretty good warmup except I popped the axel and two-footed the landing. I did not attempt another one since my lower back had been bothering me for about 3 weeks and I didn't want to aggravate it any further.

I was the first to take the ice and was pleased that I skated a fairly clean program. I did not attempt the cannonball spin and opted to play it safe and do a regular sit spin instead. My axel was not 100% clean, but I did land it. The lutz-loop was a bit off, which was disappointing. And then my death drop caught a bad edge. Thankfully, I saved it and was able to finish the spin. All in all, I was happy with my performance and am proud of the way I skated for my first-ever competition. This was a great practice for future competitions, and I know that I can only get better from here.

My scores were not available to me until yesterday, so I'm still trying to digest it all. My Total Element Score (TES) was only 7.09. I did not receive credit for my axel jump or my choreographic sequence. My Program Component Score (PCS) was a respectable 11.86 (so my total program score was 18.10). Had my axel and footwork sequence counted, then my final TES score would have been about 3 points higher so my final overall score would be around 21 points. The other Gold ladies skater told me that a "competitive" Gold ladies program should receive between 22-29 points.  She also said that those skaters who achieve 29 or more points are generally considered for the Championship Gold events. So I'm just on the edge, and I'm still happy with this since this is my first-ever competition.

I received negative Grades of Execution (GOE) on my lutz/loop, the camel/backspin combo and the death drop. What is really interesting and eye-opening is that the spins gave me the most points, even though I received a negative GOE on two of them.  Two of the 6 judges gave me a positive GOE on my sit spin, so I know that if I hold it in the base sit spin position and go into a cannonball position for 8 revolutions, then I can gain even more points. And the technical component that gave me the 2nd most points overall was the death drop spin, even with a -2 GOE from 3 of the judges. The Gold ladies skater gave me a good tip and said that most skaters can boost their scores immensely by upping their spins and making them more difficult (adding features to gain "levels"). Good to know!

All of this IJS stuff is just fascinating, and these scores are immensely helpful since I now know exactly what I need to work on for the next competition. I'll try to include a screenshot of my scores in next week's Skating Fridays so I can explain what the scores mean and why the judges didn't give me credit for my two elements.

And finally, here are both the duet and my singles program videos for your viewing pleasure.

Duet
Gold freestyle

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fresh peach pie


I was overjoyed when our CSA delivery from Dominion Harvest included a ton of peaches. This stone fruit is something that I really enjoy eating but never seem to buy at the grocery store. The peaches we receive are always very fresh, ripe and super sweet. The ones at the grocery store...well, not so much.

As usual, I polled my husband to see what he wanted me to make with our fresh peaches. The first words out of his mouth were "Peach pie!" (with a strong emphasis on the exclamation mark). I had never made a peach pie before, and my pie-making skills are near the beginner level, so I honestly did not have high hopes for the adventure that I was about to embark upon. But, I shrugged my shoulders and moved forward anyway.

I went to my Dorie Greenspan book and found her recipe for a double pie crust and figured that I'd use that as my base. When I went to search for the peach filling, I saw something in the description that sold me on the recipe. The author was from Iowa, which is where my husband's family hails, so I knew that this would be the recipe that I would try.

This was my first time making a lattice top, and I have to share my mistake with you so you don't run into the same problems as I did. I thought that my dough was cool enough, but it turns out that it wasn't. I chilled my dough for an hour, but once I rolled it out into a circle, the dough stuck really badly to my working surface. When it came time to actually create the lattice, the dough strips broke into pieces because they were too soft and stuck to my countertop. Not good. So err on the safe side and chill your dough for over an hour before rolling.

I have to say that Iowans definitely know their pies. My husband gave this an A+ and loved the pie. I was initially apprehensive about the apple-pie like spices in the filling, but they helped enhance the peaches rather than mask their natural sweetness. The crust was buttery and flaky, and my lattice top actually turned out fine, even though I had a hard time assembling it. We still have a bunch of apples that we need to use from our CSA so perhaps an apple pie is next up. We shall see.

Fresh peach pie
Double pie crust
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 and 1/2 sticks (20 TBSP) very or frozen unsalted butter, cut intro tablespoon-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup very cold or frozen vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (I subbed with unsalted butter)
  • About 1/2 cup ice water
Pie filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 4 and 1/2 cups sliced peaches; about 4-6 medium sized peaches (I did not peel mine, but you can if desired)
  • 3 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (I omitted)
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter (if using salted butter, omit the 1/8 teaspoon salt in the ingredient list above)
Directions
To make the double pie crust:  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and shortening and only pulse until the butter and shortening are barely cut into the flour. Don't over-pulse or overmix - the mixture will resemble wet sand with large and small clumps at this stage. Slowly add about 1 Tablespoon of the ice water and pulse once, then add the next Tablespoon until you have added about 6 total Tablespoons. Then use a few long pulses to get the crust to slowly come together into a large ball - it should take about 12 long pulses to get here. If the dough still appears dry or if the dough isn't coming together, add in more water about 1 teaspoon at a time (using the same pulsing method) or until the dough when stick together when pinched.

Transfer the dough onto a flat work surface and divide the dough into half. Turn each half into a rough ball, flatten into a circle (just press down) and wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the sugars. Then add in the peaches and gently toss, being sure not to break up or crush the fruit. Cover and allow the the peaches rest for 1 hour.

Drain peaches into a separate bowl but reserve the juice.

In a medium to large saucepan, mix together cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Add in the reserved peach juice and bring everything to a boil. Constantly stir until the mixture has thickened, about 2 minutes. Turn off the stove, remove the pan from the heat and stir in lemon juice and butter. Gently fold in peaches and make sure that the fruit is evenly coated in the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out one of the pie crusts with a rolling pin so it's slightly larger than a standard pie pan. Gently press the crust into the pan and trim any excess overhang.

Pour the peach filling into the crust.

Roll out the last crust so that it is slightly larger than the pie pan. You can either cover the pie with the entire crust and slit some holes to allow steam to escape or make a lattice crust. Trim, seal and flute the edges. Protect the crust edges by covering it with aluminum foil.

Bake the pie in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Turn off the oven, remove the foil and allow the pie to cool before serving.

Yield: About 12-16 servings

Sources: Peach pie filling and method from Taste of Home; pie crust from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

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