July 30th, 2008

lemon bars

lemon bars 1

i don’t know if you noticed, but it’s HOT outside right now. so hot, in fact, that when people ask what i’ve made in the kitchen lately, i’ve actually found myself saying “it’s too hot to even think about making food.” while i wish i was a bit more motivated, i’m having a pretty good time just snacking on fresh fruit constantly because it’s easier and more refreshing. fact: i can eat an entire watermelon without even realizing, and with juice still dripping off my chin, ask for another. bananas, strawberries, oranges – there are few lazier foods for hot summer days.

citrus

kids aren’t really troubled by the heat. they’ll stay outside all day playing just because they can. meanwhile, i’m racing from one shady air-conditioned place to another in a desperate attempt to stay cool and keep from getting skin cancer (my skin has two settings: pallid white and lobster red). wow, i’m sounding really old here. anyway, the kids in my neighborhood have taken to selling lemonade on the corner, and while i haven’t indulged them yet (2 bucks a glass?!), i found myself thinking, during my sprint from the bus stop to my apartment door, about how delicious lemon bars would be.

oatmeal

the girl pointed me to this recipe, and i’m eternally grateful. they have oatmeal in the dough, which is something i’ve never seen before. it’s a great excuse to eat oatmeal, since the only time i use it is in baking. i got my fill of mushy hot oatmeal on boy scout camping trips growing up. it’s also an incredibly simple recipe that doesn’t require any eggs. really, you can have this in the oven in less than 10 minutes.

zest

what’s so great about lemon bars? how about the combination of sweet and sour, the refreshing bite of the filling, the realization that you are going to finish the entire tray of bars before they make it out of the kitchen…

lemon bars 2

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July 23rd, 2008

princess cake (or, a cake for a princess)

princess cake 7

thanks to betty crocker and pillsbury, there is no shortage of cakes in a box that anyone can make perfectly – the funfetti cake should be probably have a place in the smithsonian as a turning point in human ingenuity. however, there is also, on the other side of spectrum, the type of cake for which the recipe recommends you spend several days working out logistics, testing hypotheses and slaving in an extremely hot kitchen before putting all of the pieces carefully together just so to create something previously unwitnessed by the human senses. as the finishing touches are applied, women and children gasp, fanfare plays, grown men weep from the sheer beauty. the sky opens up and from the heavens descends: the princess cake.

mixing yolks

am i being overly dramatic? in all seriousness, this cake was a pretty hefty undertaking. why did i take it on? the girl sent me a link about 2 years ago to the princess cake, saying that she wanted one. i checked it out, laughed it off, but bookmarked it for later. earlier this year, i found the bookmark, and a bit more confident in my baking skills, did a little googling for more info on this cake. it’s a traditional swedish dessert with a multiple layers and a giant sheet of homemade marzipan that is draped on the cake like fondant.

egg shells

assembling the cake was not actually that difficult. the whipped cream, which covers the cake and provides a giant dome on which the marzipan lies, holds up surprisingly well. the most challenging aspect for me was the cake itself – it’s a genoise cake, meaning it does not use any type of leavening agent to rise. the volume of the cake is introduced while you make the batter by beating whole eggs into a frothy, aerated mixture. folding butter, vanilla and flour into the eggs proved to be tough. it took me several tries (and lots of eggs).

raspberry layerprincess cake 3

it really does pay to plan in advance of tackling a princess cake. i made the mistake of trying to make the marzipan at the same time as the pastry cream. i set the mixer up on the counter next to the range and literally used one hand to manipulate the almond paste while whisking boiling cream and eggs with the other. i laugh at danger!

pastry cream

i finally got all of the elements of this delicious monstrosity together and had the girl come over for dinner and dessert for the great (surprise) unveiling. she was very happy with the cake (and thankfully it tasted amazing). as i sliced a giant wedge for her, she asked what all of the layers were. she didn’t know? wasn’t she the one who asked me to lovingly devote several days to measuring, mixing, kneading, rolling and baking? “i just thought it was pretty!” she responded. to be fair, it was very pretty. we were both lucky it tasted so good too.

princess cake 4

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July 16th, 2008

onion bacon and cheese buns

cheesy buns 8

ok quick – take a piece of paper and a pencil and write down three of your favorite foods. don’t think about it, just write them down. are you finished? good. let’s review. the correct answers were onions, cheese and bacon. how’d you do? 2 out of 3? not bad, you get a gold star. hang your work on your fridge. now let’s get started.

rolled cheesy dough

the instructions for these buns look a bit complicated, but believe me, this recipes is easy. there are 2 hour-long rising periods for the bread, but you can also leave it in your fridge to rise overnight and whip them up in the morning for brunch.

cheesy buns 1

and the best part? these buns are basically an entire breakfast on the go. you’ve got your bread, bacon, and cheese – slap a fried egg on one of these, and you almost at a fully balanced meal (just add OJ).

cheesy buns 5

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