Friday, October 30, 2015

Skating Fridays

Better, Faster, Stronger


Coach B reviewed my protocols from the last competition and noticed something. I got called for a flutz - boo! She changed the entrance to my lutz and I have not flutzed since. While she was tinkering around with that jump entrance, she also noticed that overall, I was actually skating much faster than I was a few months ago. Because of that, my existing transitions didn't flow well and needed to be changed.

She made some revisions to a few other patterns, and when I showed them to my choreographer, she was shocked at how much faster I was going. We reviewed my freestyle program together and she changed a few more things because I was covering a lot more ice (with fewer strokes). I'm getting better, I'm skating faster, and I'm a stronger skater. Progress!

We're working on a few new spins and refining some jumps to consider for my freestyle program as well. I need to maximize my points under the IJS system and cannot afford to have any more "dashes of doom" (zero points).

And my new dramatic program is coming along nicely too. I skated it for my choreographer last week and she noticed a huge improvement from the week before. We're only about 30 seconds in, so we have another minute or so to go in terms of mapping out the program. This new program will be drastically different from the Angel one, and I am excited to debut it. The kids at the rink light up when they hear the music and always look around to see who is skating to it. Hello - old person over here!

Oh, and I am pleased to report that my pulled quadriceps muscle seems to have finally healed itself. I'm not quite sure what triggered it, but I'll be careful not to do anything too strenuous to set it off again.

Until next week,

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What's Baking roundup - croissants

Hi everyone - I am so excited to be hosting our What's Baking group this month. I decided that rather than focus on a single ingredient for our baking adventures this time, I wanted to choose a challenging baked good. Croissants have been on my baking bucket list for a long time, and I never had an excuse to make them... until now.

Honestly, croissants were much easier to make than I expected. I figured that they would be extremely difficult, with a finicky dough and next-to-impossible instructions. In reality, the hardest part was waiting for the dough to chill. If you can roll dough and fold it in thirds, then you can make croissants.

Sadly, only a few ladies were able to participate in the challenge. Let's see how they fared, shall we?

Nicole of Cookies on Friday made these gorgeous croissants. She used a cool technique where the butter and dough were processed together rather than created separately. I must try this soon!

Jaida of Sweet Beginnings made prosciutto and fontina croissants. I love that these are savory and have both (fancy) ham and cheese! Swoon.


And finally, here are my homemade croissants:

Although we did not have a lot of participants this time, I hope this post inspires all of you to try your hand at making croissants. It does take a bit of time, but most of that is spent waiting for your dough to get cold.

Bon appetit!

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Marbled chocolate zucchini bread

A tender yet hearty marbled chocolate zucchini bread will make you forget that it contains vegetables. This is definitely a kid-approved recipe that will make them beg for another slice!

How is it the fall already? Didn't summer just start? As the weather starts to get cooler, I see more Halloween and holiday decorations out and about. Although I love fall (in fact, it's my favorite season), I'm not quite ready to give up all the wonderful produce and fruits from the summer quite yet.

I was never a fan of zucchini when I was a child. My mom sauteed it, and I just was not fond of the texture. As I became an adult, I was finally introduced to zucchini bread and other baked goods that involved this crazy squash.

I didn't want my Addie to have an aversion to zucchini like I did, so I've baked a lot of zucchini recipes for her - mostly involving chocolate. As a result, my daughter is a big fan of zucchini.

When we received 4 gorgeous zucchini in a recent CSA delivery, I knew I had to make something fantastic. The idea of a marbled zucchini bread came to me, and before I realized it, this bread was baking in the oven.

I had to volunteer at Addie's Chinese school during the time this bread was in the oven. When Addie and her dad showed up to school a little while later, they said that they had already taste-tested the bread and that it was pretty epic. I was able to sneak a few bites when I got home and had to agree with their assessment. The bread was dense, full of chocolate flavor (hello, chocolate chips!) and was not a bit dry. And it held up several days after baking.

Since I used yellow zucchini, it was masked better than their green cousins. This is definitely a kid-approved recipe that we'll be baking again. I have 2 more zucchini, so I may have to bake another loaf soon.

Marbled chocolate zucchini bread
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce with the sugar until well combined. Add in the eggs and beat well. Add the zucchini, water and vanilla extract and mix well.

Fold in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice (you may want to mix these together in a separate bowl in case you aren't confident in your mixing skills and want to make sure all the ingredients are blended well). Pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter into a separate bowl.

Add the cocoa powder to one of the bowls and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips.

At this point, you have 3 choices on how to assemble your bread:
  1. You can either create two distinct layers and pour one layer into your prepared baking pan and then add the second layer directly on top. 
  2. You can create several layers by alternating the batters by adding them on top of one another.
  3. You can create a marbled effect by putting the light batter down first, then dolloping the chocolate layer and swirling with a knife or toothpick.
Bake the bread in your preheated oven for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving.

Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will last for several days.

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf (about 8-10 servings)

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Skating Fridays

Injured Again


Well, here I am, injured again. Thankfully, my injury this time isn't as bad as the torn meniscus that I suffered last year. I was skating last week and was doing a waltz jump when I felt a huge pain radiate down my quadriceps. I stopped to see what was wrong, and the pain was still there.

I took it easy over the next few minutes and then realized that I had pulled a muscle in my quadriceps. Ugh. I still had plenty of time left on my freestyle session so I decided to work on things that didn't involve my injured leg.

I've been attempting to stretch it and allowing my leg to rest. It's been two weeks, so I hope it heals soon.

My coach wanted me to skate in an exhibition this week, but I had to decline due to injury. It was definitely not a made up excuse!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Award-winning pumpkin pie

An award-winning pumpkin pie from the 2005 National Pie Championships featuring canned pumpkin, spices, milk and cream.
Let me clear up something first. I did not win an award for this pie. A woman named Sarah Spaugh from Winston-Salem, NC won 3rd place for this recipe in the 2005 National Pie Championships amateur division. Pretty impressive, huh? I figured that if this pie won an award, then it had to be pretty special.

I am baffled that I haven't made a pumpkin pie here on Eva Bakes before. I've made pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin s'mores bars, pumpkin spice beer bread, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin pie snickerdoodle bars, but not pumpkin pie. Time to remedy that.
The timing was perfect to bake a pumpkin pie. My husband was traveling for work one week and forwarded me a weekly ad from a local grocery store. The featured item in the email advertisement was a freshly baked pumpkin pie. I replied back and said that I could make him one, so I went to find a recipe to try.

I remembered that I had the America's Best Harvest Pies cookbook and decided to flip through it since all the recipes in the book had won awards. While the most popular recipes on the internet seemed promising, I wanted something slightly different than your ho-hum pumpkin pie. I came across Sarah's recipe and knew that it was something I needed to bake.

I had a leftover crust from Aunt Jo's pecan pie in the freezer and used it for this recipe. Foolishly, I accidentally omitted the maple syrup from the filling but still enjoyed the pie immensely.

Award-winning pumpkin pie
  • 1 pie crust (I used the one from here)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (do not use imitation maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup light cream
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out your pie crust, set it in the pie pan and crimp the edges. Put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin puree and mix well. Then add the sugars and mix until well incorporated. Add the maple syrup, allspice, cinnamon and cloves and mix. Gently stir in the milk and cream and mix until the filling is smooth and even.

Pour the filling into your (unbaked) pie crust and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the center is set. Allow the pie to cool before serving. If desired, serve with dollops of whipped cream or ice cream.

Leftover pie should be stored, covered, at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" or 10" pie; about 8-10 servings

Source: Crust from Aunt Jo's pecan pie; filling from America's Best Harvest Pies, pages  94-95

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tiny but intense chocolate cake

A small, flourless dark chocolate cake from Deb Perelman is sure to knock your socks off! This is the perfect cake for chocolate emergencies or when you want to bake a cake with few leftovers. You know, so you don't have to share!
I've been a member of an online cooking/message board for about 10 years. Many of the ladies I've "known" the entire time. I even had a chance to meet several of them over the years. While cooking brought us all together, we talk mostly about what is going on in our lives (rather than gushing over recipes).

The ladies on my cooking board thought it would be fun for all of us to bake from a cookbook together. We could each choose whatever recipes appealed to us and share our thoughts and opinions afterwards. For the first cookbook, we chose The smitten kitchen cookbook by Deb Perelman. Several of us owned this book already (myself included) and have already raved about many of Deb's recipes. But to many of us, this was a new book.

I have made a few of Deb's recipes already, but one that I have not tried was her tiny but intense chocolate cake. I had just finished baking something else that same morning but thought that the small chocolate cake would be another good option to snack on throughout the day. And if it was tiny, maybe I could sneak most of it without anyone noticing?

The cake was very easy to assemble. The texture was very dense, yet light at the same time. Almost like biting into an airy brownie, if that makes any sense. The chocolate flavor, while good, could have been intensified by adding some coffee or instant espresso powder.

Despite those minor nit-picky details, this is a solid chocolate cake and perfect for snacking. Feel free to share, but given how small this is, you should totally just keep it to yourself.

Tiny but intense chocolate cake
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
Directions
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to spit a little bit until small brown flecks start appearing at the bottom of the pan. The butter will be aromatic and smell like nuts. Once your butter browns, take it off the pan and stir in the chopped chocolate. Stir or whisk until it is well mixed and allow it to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and/or line a 6" springform or round pan and 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 the eggs and brown sugar on medium speed. The mixture will look pretty gross, but don't be alarmed. Add in the cooled chocolate mixture and keep beating until it becomes a rich brown color and all ingredients have been well incorporated. Add the vanilla and salt and mix some more.

Transfer the batter to a clean bowl and wash and dry the mixing bowl (or use a new one if you are using a handheld mixer).

Transfer the egg whites to your spotlessly clean bowl, and using the whisk attachment on high speed (or your cleaned handheld mixer), whip the egg whites until you reach stiff peaks.

Stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 using as few strokes as possible.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the center of the cake puffs up (it will deflate shortly). Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then release the cake and allow to fully cool on a plate or a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and/or whipped cream before serving.

Leftover cake, if you have any, should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.

Yield: About 4-6 small portions

Source: The smitten kitchen cookbook, pages 250-251

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Skating Fridays

No Adults Allowed


I love attending skating shows - whether it's Disney on Ice, Stars on Ice, or anything in between. It's always a treat to see the talented skaters perform their programs and dress up in beautiful costumes.

This year, Nancy Kerrigan's Halloween on Ice invited local skating clubs across the country to participate in a group number with the show (professional) skaters. The first 30 skaters at each club to register to skate were "in." Our club received one of the invitations.

Prior to the application entry, I contacted our national governing body to see if adults could sign up. I mean, what an amazing opportunity to be able to skate with legends such as Nancy Kerrigan, Kurt Browning and Johnny Weir?!? I eagerly awaited my reply.

When I finally heard back from the organizers of the event, they told me that skaters 18 and older were not allowed to skate with Halloween on Ice. What? They claimed that there was some liability thing that prevented them from having adults in the production.

I was deeply saddened to hear this since adults are, in general, more passionate about this sport than their younger counterparts. Most of us have careers outside of skating and chose to participate in this sport in our free time. It was a slap in the face to hear that we weren't invited to participate in a show like this, and I am sorely disappointed that there was nothing I could do to convince them otherwise. Rules are rules.

I guess I will have to participate vicariously through the skaters who were able to reserve a spot in the group number. They have started rehearsing, and I'll be eager to see how it turns out.

Guess I'll have to wait for another day to meet some of my skating heroes...


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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kouign amann

This caramel-y, sticky cousin to the croissant is a must-try item for breakfast or dessert. Crispy, sugar-coated layers of buttery dough are folded and re-folded to create this muffin-shaped pastry.

Kouign amann. A what-a-what-a? For those of you who have not seen this term before (that was me before this year), it's pronounced "queen a-MAHN." This pastry is a cousin to the croissant and originates in an area of France called Brittany.

So how is this pastry related to the croissant? Well, the dough starts off very similarly to the croissant, where you create a base dough and butter square. Then you fold the dough over the butter and keep folding the dough, chilling it, and folding it again. This process of "turning" the dough creates those deep, flaky and buttery layers that we all love so much.


The main difference in the kouign amann is that it's dusted with sugar and baked in a muffin pan so the resulting pastry has crispy, caramelized sugar bits dispersed throughout. Almost like a freshly fried sugar donut.

I am hosting our What's Baking group this month, and we decided on croissants as our challenge. My 3 original options for the month were croissants, kouign amann and homemade puff pastry. Since I have already tackled croissants, I figured that I'd try the kouign amann too. If the process was similar to croissants, then this wouldn't be that difficult.

Thankfully, I was right that the kouign amann was just like making croissants. The dough starts out very similarly and both recipes require a butter square/rectangle. Even the folding of the dough was almost exactly the same. The biggest difference is that the kouign amann requires a sprinkling of granulated sugar before the folding process.

These French pastries were not nearly as time-consuming that I imagined, but I do recommend allowing the final turn of the dough to chill for a good 1-2 hours before cutting and baking.


The final products were just as I envisioned them to be - crunchy, flaky and full of caramelized sugar. They were sweet, but not tooth-achingly sweet. If you are a coffee drinker, then I imagine these would pair perfectly with a cup of joe. I gifted some to our neighbors, and they said that the pastries were simply amazing.

Now that I have tackled these French pastries, I'm curious to try my hand at a few more varieties. We'll see what comes next!

Kouign amann
  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) SALTED butter, cold (I don't have salted butter, so I used unsalted butter and sprinkled on Maldon sea salt)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • extra butter for greasing the molds or tins
  • extra sugar 
  • extra flour for the butter square/rectangle
(To view pictures of the step-by-step process for making the butter square and folding the dough, please view my croissant post)

Directions

Make the dough: Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes or until frothy. (If you are not using a stand mixer to knead the dough, simply put the ingredients in a large bowl) Add the flour and salt and knead the dough by hand or using the dough hook attachment for about 4-5 minutes or until the dough is soft, smooth and no longer sticky. Place it in a large bowl (or keep it in the same bowl if you hand-kneaded), cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Then chill the dough for at least 30 minutes or overnight until ready to use.

Make the butter square/rectangle:  On a clean working surface, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Add the butter and sprinkle another 1 Tablespoon of flour on top. Using a rolling pin, gently tap the butter (be careful because the flour will tend to splatter everywhere). Keep tapping until the butter is about 1/4" thick and in the shape of a rough rectangle. Using a bench scraper or another flat surface, fold the butter in half. Sprinkle additional flour on top and roll the butter until it is 1/4" thick. Fold and sprinkle flour as needed. Repeat folding and rolling one more time. Finally, roll the butter into a rough 6"x10" rectangle and transfer to a baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.

Assemble the kouign amann: Take the cold dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a rough 12"x20" rectangle. Place the chilled butter in the middle of the rectangle and fold one side of the dough over the butter and then the other (you're essentially folding the dough into thirds, with the butter in the middle). This time, fold one third of the dough away from you and the remaining third towards you, like you are folding a business letter. Repeat this process of rolling and folding one more time. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it into a 12"x20" rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Press the sugar into the dough by rolling over it with a rolling pin. Fold the dough into thirds, then roll it out into a 12"x20" rectangle again. Sprinkle with the additional 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Fold into thirds, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to chill for an additional 30 minutes or more.

Generously butter or grease a standard muffin pan. 

Sprinkle your work surface with granulated sugar and roll the dough out to a 8"x24" rectangle.  It should be about 1/4" inch thick. Sprinkle the surface with more granulated sugar. Slice the dough into 12, 4-inch squares. Take one square and fold the corners towards the middle. Place the square into your generously greased muffin well. Repeat with the remaining dough. Now you can either get these pastries ready for baking or place it in the refrigerator and bake them the next day (if you decide to refrigerate, make sure you let the dough thaw for at least an hour before baking). Allow your dough to rise for another 30-40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Place a rimmed baking sheet underneath to catch any drips (more than likely the butter will bubble up over the top of the muffin pans so make sure you have something underneath the muffin pan). Once the pan is in the oven, decrease the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the tops of the pastries are golden brown and are on the verge of looking burnt.

Remove the pastries from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Then take them out of the muffin pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you leave the pastries in the muffin pan, the sugar will harden and it will be almost impossible to get them out of the pan later.

Pastries are best eaten the day they are made but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 days.  Reheat them in a 300 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes if desired.

Yield: 12 pastries

Source: use real butter

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Banana chocolate chip Greek yogurt muffins

These protein-packed, super moist and dense Greek yogurt banana chocolate chip muffins will rock your world! They contain no butter or oil and will stay fresh for days.

My baking muse (Addie) has spoken, and she demanded banana muffins. I wish I was joking, but I am telling the truth. When I asked Addie what breakfast item I should bake next, she said that we needed banana muffins. You might recall that I made mini banana chocolate chip muffins for her school's sleepover a few weeks ago, but she never got to enjoy those at school.

Rather than use the same recipe, I opted to try a recipe containing Greek yogurt. After all, Greek yogurt seems to be my not-so-secret ingredient for providing lots of protein and moisture for baked goods. You can definitely make these a bit healthier by substituting whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour and cutting down on the sugar as well. I omitted the butter from the original recipe and used unsweetened applesauce in its place, and I couldn't tell the difference.


Addie devoured these muffins and ate one every morning for a few straight days. Her favorite part of these muffins, naturally, are the chocolate chips. She picks them out of the muffins and saves them for last. Then in the end, her hands and mouth are a chocolate-y mess.

As for the adults? Both my husband and I really enjoyed these. I may try cutting down the sugar a bit or substituting with honey because the muffins are plenty sweet. Not too sweet, mind you, but I don't think that decreasing the sugar will make too big of a difference in the long run. These are a solid banana chocolate chip muffin and most likely will go on the standard rotation.

Until Addie makes another flavor request, of course.

Banana chocolate chip Greek yogurt muffins
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 medium bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
  • 1 (5.3 ounce) container plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two standard muffin pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the applesauce and sugars until well combined. Add the bananas, Greek yogurt, eggs and vanilla until the mixture is well incorporated.

Transfer the banana mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Add in the chocolate chips and mix until just combined - do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pans, filling each one about 3/4 full. If desired, sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top for a more polished look.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Store muffins in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Muffins will keep for several days.

Yield: About 18 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Creme de la Crumb

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Skating Fridays

Competition Recap - Duet and Dramatic Events

Being silly with my duet partner

I'm back again this week to recap my remaining 2 events: the duet and dramatic programs.

My skating partner and I finished choreographing our duet the day before the competition. We hadn't had much time to rehearse together and had our first full run-through the day the competition began. Oops.

Despite our last-minute efforts, we are so used to skating together that things went off without a hitch. We skated to a 2-song medley of the theme songs from The Impossibles and Men in Black. We had squirt guns and sunglasses as our costume accessories and had a blast skating with them.

I'm trying to get my hands on a copy of the video and will share that if and when I do. One of the judges kept laughing at us, so I was happy to see that he thought we were entertaining. We were the only competitors in our event and placed 1st (side note: even though we had no other groups skating against us, it is possible to earn 2nd place and lose to the rule book. This is a true story and has happened at our rink.).

I skated my dramatic program to Sarah McLachlan's Angel. I've had this program for a year but did not skate it last year at this competition because of my knee injury. It placed well regionally and nationally this season but apparently did not resonate with the local judges this time. I emoted as much as I could and this group of judges preferred programs that were much more upbeat than slow and lyrical. I placed 2nd out of 2.

Ending pose for my Angel program
This was my final performance of the Angel program. It's bittersweet because I created it to pay respect and homage to my grandfather, whom I lost a year and a half ago. And in the time that I've performed this program, I have lost several other loved ones and have dedicated my performances to them.

I am working on a new and completely different dramatic entertainment program and plan on debuting it at the next competition - whenever that will be.

So all in all, I had a great time hanging out with my adult skating friends, but I was disappointed in myself. I hope to take this energy and channel it towards better and stronger performances in the future.

And one more line from Rachel Platten's Fight Song for you all:

"I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion"

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Homemade butter croissants

Buttery, flaky croissants taste even better than the ones at the bakery! Don't be intimidated - these are very easy to make, and most of the time is actually spent waiting for the dough to chill. If I can make these, you can too. Add your favorite filling for a bit of flair to these luscious croissants!

Note: This is a picture-heavy post. I felt that it was essential to show you each step since croissants tend to be one of those recipes that folks find intimidating. I wanted to document how I made these so you can follow along and see how easy these really are.

I did it. I finally made croissants. These things have been on my bucket list for who-knows-how-long, and now I can cross them off. And you know what? They weren't difficult to make at all. These croissants just require a lot of patience since the dough has to chill for 2 hours at a time. Other than that, it's just rolling and folding. Easy.

Many of you may know that I am part of a cooking group called What's Baking that posts recipes around a theme 6 times per year (it used to be monthly, but that was too difficult for many of us to keep up with). The "host" rotates around, and that person gets to choose the theme for the baking challenge.

Look at how flaky these turned out!
I wanted to really challenge myself this month, so I proposed 3 different options for the What's Baking girls - croissants, kouign amann, and homemade puff pastry. We put these to a vote, and croissants won. Finally, I had my opportunity to make croissants.

I made my croissants over the course of 2 days, but you can absolutely do it in 1. As I said before, most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to chill, so your hands-on time really isn't much at all. If you can roll dough and fold it in half, then you can make croissants.

I got overambitious and did 3 "turns" of my dough. I made the mistake of letting my dough rest too much before popping them in the oven so they were misshapen and a bit soft. But, once they baked up, they tasted extremely buttery and flaky. These were so incredible that I could hardly believe that I made these.

We gifted croissants to two sets of neighbors, and both of them raved about them and how they were "the real deal." Fill yours with Nutella, jam, honey or whatever you like. Or make them plain. Just don't wait around like I did and make them now. Trust me on this one.

Stay tuned to see how my What's Baking friends fared. I'll be posting a roundup of their croissants soon.

Homemade butter croissants
Dough
  • 3 cups (15 oz.) all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • ¼ cup (1¾ oz.) sugar
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups whole milk, cold
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Butter square
  • 24 Tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces and kept cold
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Directions
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together 2 and 3/4 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the milk until a dough forms. Add in the butter and keep kneading/mixing until you achieve a smooth, pliable dough. The dough should not stick to the bowl or the hook. If it does, slowly add in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, but in small increments. Once the dough comes together, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill. The dough can be made the day before if needed. Do not let it thaw before using.

Make the butter square: On a spotlessly clean and cool work surface, sprinkle the butter with the flour.
Using a bench scraper or any other flat-edged object, scrape the butter against the surface for a few minutes until it becomes into a beautiful buttery and velvety mixture.

Wrap the smeared butter in plastic wrap and use your fingers to squish the butter around until it becomes a 5-inch square.

Chill this in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (this can be made a day or two ahead of time if needed).

Combine the dough with the butter: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and gently and slowly roll it into an 11-inch square. Place the cooled butter diagonally in the middle so it looks like a diamond.


Fold up each side of the dough into the middle to cover up the butter.

Wrap this in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Be patient here and do not take the dough out early.

Generously flour your working surface with flour and gently press the dough down with  your rolling pin to flatten it a bit.

Gently roll out the dough into a 14-inch square. You should start with your rolling pin in the middle and alternating rolling forward to backward and then side to side so you get a square.


Fold your dough, vertically, in thirds.

Then fold the dough in thirds again, going from bottom to top (like a business letter). Once you're done this step, you have successfully made "2 turns" of the dough.

Wrap the dough again and place it in the refrigerator for at least another 2 hours. Repeat the process of completing 2 turns of the dough (rolling it out to a 14 inch square, folding it in thirds vertically, and then in thirds like a letter). Cover and place back in the refrigerator for another 2 hours or more.

We're finally done folding the dough! (You can complete 2 more turns if you'd like - I did, and my croissant were super flaky) Now, once your dough has chilled, generously flour your work surface again. This time, you will want to roll your dough out to a 20-inch by 20-inch square. Cut the square down the middle with a knife so you have two rectangles. Slice each rectangle on the diagonal so you have two triangles. You should end up with 12 total triangles.


Make a 1-inch slit at the base of each triangle.


Add filling, if desired. Then fold the slits toward the outside and start rolling the dough. Tuck the final edge of the triangle underneath and bring the two points of the croissants inwards towards each other.

Repeat with remaining dough and place on a parchment paper or silicone paper lined baking sheet. Allow the croissants to rise for 45-60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. If desired, brush the tops of the croissants with an egg wash. Then bake the croissants for 18-22 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. The croissants should be golden in color.

Allow the croissants to cool before serving. They should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the freezer) and will keep for about 2 days. They are best eaten the day they are baked. Leftover croissants can be reheated in a 300 degree F oven for about 5-10 minutes or for about 15 seconds in the microwave.



Yield: 12 croissants

Source: Annie's Eats

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Strawberry Greek yogurt muffins

Blueberry muffins not your thing? Try these strawberry Greek yogurt muffins instead! With no oil or butter, these healthier muffins will be sure to brighten your day!
Another day in the Eva Bakes household, another muffin recipe. Am I right?

With all the zucchini we've received in our CSA this year, I've made countless batches of our favorite eggless Nutella chocolate chunk zucchini muffins. While I am obsessed with those muffins, it was time to try something new. Our supply of said zucchini muffins was down to a minimum when I asked Addie what variety to bake next.

And no surprise, she said, "chocolate zucchini muffins." Nice try. I told her to pick something else, and she said that she wanted strawberry muffins. OK, strawberry muffins it was.

Like most muffin recipes, these came together in no time at all. Mix the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients separately, then fold and combine. Then toss in the strawberries. Easy.

After the muffins had cooled down, I offered one to Addie. She got mad! She said that she didn't want strawberry muffins but wanted banana ones instead. After she tried a bite, she forgot about being mad and ate the rest of it. Problem solved.

These strawberry muffins were a nice change from the chocolate zucchini muffins and your traditional blueberry types. The Greek yogurt makes the muffin nice and dense so they don't get too crumby after taking a bite. And with no butter or oil, they are slightly healthier than your grocery store or bakery muffins.

Guess I need to make a batch of banana muffins soon.

Strawberry Greek yogurt muffins
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup (1 small container) non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup diced fresh strawberries
  • Turbinado sugar for decorating, optional
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the vanilla, eggs, applesauce, Greek yogurt and milk. Mix well.

Pour the applesauce mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until a few streaks remain. Fold in the strawberries and mix until just combined - do not over mix. The batter will be lumpy.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan. If desired, sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake in your preheated oven for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. The muffins will get slightly soggy overnight if stored at room temperature. They will keep for several days.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Well Plated

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Skating Fridays

Still Learning - Recap from Competition (Free Skate)


This past weekend, I skated in our rink's annual competition. I competed in 3 different events and am recapping the first event - my free skate program. I competed in the free skate this year since I figured it would be a good way to see what my baseline score was for this season and see where I need to make some improvements.

I spent several weeks preparing for it. My practices were good, and my program run-throughs were clean and on time. I was prepared both mentally and physically.

I recited several phrases to myself that I learned from Audrey Weisiger ("I am here. I am ready.") and even got a good luck hug from Laurent Depouilly, who traveled to the competition with some of his skaters. I told him that I wanted to make him proud.



When it came time to take the ice, it felt like an out of body experience. It didn't feel like it was me out there. Instead, it felt as if somebody else was in my body and making my arms and legs move. My first element was solid, but then things started to go awry.

I underrotated the axel jump and knew it wouldn't count the second I landed it. I was right - I earned 0 points. Immediately after my axel, I go into a sit spin, which is my strongest spin and one I can do in my sleep. Due to some freak accident, I couldn't center my spin and actually fell out of it and sat on the ice. That's an automatic 0.5 point deduction. Plus 0 points for the spin.

Since I was still in shock from my fall, the second half of the program was a blur. I felt slow and choppy, and my scores reflected as such. I earned 21.30 points, which was a mere 0.04 points worse than my competitor. It doesn't get any closer than that.

I am most disappointed in myself because I am fully capable of doing these elements. For whatever reason, this was not my best skate. Far from it, actually. My coach observed that my legs were shaking throughout, and I attribute it to the frigid temperatures in the rink that day. It wasn't nerves - I am used to being in front of crowds and performing (I am a flutist and performed countless times in front of audiences and judges). I just don't know what happened.

Similar to all competitions, this one was another learning experience. I attribute this poor performance to me just being new to competing and feeling my way through this. I've heard from other skating friends of mine, who have all collectively said that this happens to them too. It's frustrating when you are 100% prepared and things just don't end up as they should. What we need to learn from this is to stand up and keep going because it will get better. It always does.

So I'm going to keep my head held high, knowing that I can't change the past, but I have full control of what I can do to improve from here. I am prepared to fix what's broken and make things better for the next time I'm on the ice.

I'm going to close with a lyric from Rachel Platten's Fight Song, which has been my theme song as of late:

"And I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'Cause I still got a lot of fight left in me."

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