Wednesday, September 15, 2010

OMG! It's a Moose!

Recipe:  Chocolate Mousse
Video:  Link
Recipe Number:  7
Week:  1

The batter is almost as good as the finished mousse!

Okay, not a moose but the next best thing: chocolate mousse.  So I actually made chocolate mousse a few days ago but just did not have a chance to sit down and write-up this blog post.  Oh well, it is happening now.  I have to say, this is an extremely easy recipe to follow and do and the end result is so tasty and wonderful, it is a great dessert to make and serve to guests.  And when you say you made mousse, they will just not believe it!  Go watch Titli's video and read her recipe so you know what I am talking about!

All you need to make for four servings

So first things first, get the butter and the chocolate melting on the stove, using the bowl over a pot of simmering water trick.  This trick is great because no matter how long it takes you to beat the egg whites into merengue, with in reason of course, the chocolate will not burn.  This trick is so simple and gentle.  Just forget you ever had a microwave, just forget it right now!  For beating the egg whites, I would recommend investing in an electric mixer, because I am sure it makes things infinitely easier.  I do not have one and that is the only part of the recipe that I found a challenge: the physical labor!  (I swear my arms are getting toned from all of this baking.)

If you are as unfortunate as me and have to beat your egg whites by hand, first thing I would recommend is getting some help.  Your arm is going to get tired and you will have to take breaks, probably, so it would definitely be nice to switch off with someone.  I am a bit of a control freak, so I was silly and did not ask for hep.  Do not be like me, folks.  It took me about thirty minutes to beat the eggs into soft peaks, though, but I did discover a trick which made the process easier.  I sat down at the table and put the rod of the whisk between my hands and made a rubbing motion so it spun in the egg white (I am will aware of the innuendo here, but there was no other way to explain it!  *Sigh*).  This made the motions of an electric mixer and I cannot say it was faster, because I discovered this near the end, but it seemed like it was and it was easier to do.  If you are beating by hand, there is an end in sight though and beating in the confectioner's sugar is much faster!

These were my stiff peaks, picture quality is a no go, sorry folks!

Once you have finished with your merengue, set it aside and go finish up with the chocolate.  This only takes a few minutes as it should be all nice and melted by this point.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well over the heat.  Remove and add in the merengue in small amounts, about a quarter at a time or so worked well for me.  Work slowly driving your spoon down to the bottom of the mixture and then bringing up the chocolate to cover the merengue.  As it gets more fully covered, you can start to work at breaking up the clumps and making the consistency even.  And then, repeat three more times or until you have it all mixed.

Easy, right?  Now all that is left is dividing it into some serving glasses and putting it in the refrigerator for a few hours to set.  I let mine sit over night (I made them very late) and by morning they were perfect!  I had one before going to work and it was delectable.  I did not garnish mine as I really had nothing to garnish them with but you can follow Titli's suggestion, stick a small cookie in, or spray on some whipped cream.  Or eat them as is like me!  Whatever your fancy is, go for it!

This poor guy lasted barely a minute before he was consumed

Happy Baking,

Zielony Pie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Baklava or Not To Baklava!

Recipe:  Baklava
Video:  Link
Recipe Number:  6
Week:  1

Yummy, crispy, tasty Baklava!

So I had an extremely long weekend at work and worked more hours that I probably should have.  Today, Tuesday, was my first day off in a week and it will be my last for a week.  I actually have a recipe I have made before this one that I have not had a chance to upload because of work and locational issues!  But, back to the point, I had one entire day off and thought to myself, what could I do that will be fun and a challenge?  Quickly, I came to the conclusion there was one recipe that I would have to try:  Baklava!  But it was not that easy to decide, I was nervous to try it because it looked hard and took a long time.  And, while it was definitely both those things, I was so glad that I did it!  Now, like always, go read the recipe and watch the video so you know what I am talking about (like always, links are at the top of the page!).

So in order to make baklava, one needs to have fillo dough (or as Titli calls it, phyllo pastry).  I was not sure exactly where to go for this but I thought that the Whole Foods near me would have it and... I was correct!  However, as I learned today, it is not easy to find fresh fillo dough and it is usually found frozen unless you go to a Greek market (or any other culture that traditionally uses fillo).  Now the problem, and this is a foresight issue, with getting frozen fillo was that it needs to be thawed.  And it needs to be thawed properly, which means that you do not just sit it on the counter for a few hours.  The recommendation on the box is to let it sit in the refrigerator for seven to eight hours and then let it sit in room temperature for two hours.  I almost gave it up sue to lack of planning right then.  And I was walking back and forth between the fillo dough and the dark cooking chocolate (I was also considering making French Chocolate Cake) and now I am sure that the workers at Whole Foods think I am crazy.  But then I did the math, and figured out I could get the dessert done before the evening was over if I used the bare minimum so I took the chance.  I would just like to note that this worked out for me, but I would recommend planning in advance and letting the fillo dough thaw in your refrigerator for 24 hours and then at room temperature for two!  That is what I will do next time.

So I bought everything that I needed and came home, putting the fillo dough in the refrigerator right away.  As you may notice, I was not in my usual kitchen but another person's apartment.  And it just so happened that they were having water issues above and the wall needed to be fixed right then and there!  Hurray, I got to go sit for a few hours before I could even start, which turned out to be fine because I needed to let the dough thaw, right?

Filling ingredients; I used all the spices Titli did

While I was waiting for the dough to thaw, I realized that I could be proactive and decided to make the filling and the syrup, which needs to be cool when applied, in advance.  So starting at two in the afternoon, I began on the filling.  The filling is super easy to make and the only thing hard to do about it was shelling the pistachios!  Now, to be honest, it was not hard as much as it was repetitive.  Grab nut, shell, put fruit in bowl and then pitch shell.  For 125 grams (and that is a lot of nuts, folks!).  So if you are going to in list help during this recipe, have some silly friend of yours shell your pistachios.  Saves you time and then they can say proudly they helped make baklava (and if you have made baklava, you know just how silly that is).

Coarsely blended filling!
I divided in advance my two portions of filling and put them into two separate containers for later use.  I am not one who likes to guess or estimate and I would have been really annoyed if I used too much filling for the first layer and ended up with not enough for the second layer so, for me, it was best to just divide right away so I could see I had done it evenly.  Also, I think that my filling was coarser than Titli's now that I am comparing my pictures to her video, but I enjoyed the taste and texture of mine just fine!  Haven't had the pleasure of trying Titli's yet, though!  I just actually bought this food processor today; it is by Cuisinart and worked great!  Everything fit in it (just barely, though) and was processed within thirty seconds!  Much faster than I was expecting!

Syrup ingredients; aren't those cups the cutest?

After the filling, I decided to make the syrup because when you are making baklava, the syrup needs to be cool!  So you should probably allow time for it and I was worried about doing it while the baklava was baking in case something went wrong.  I am not as talented as Titli yet!  So I made it hours in advance, I believe I started it around three in the afternoon.  The syrup was just as easy to make as the filling though considerably messier (at least, for me it was!).  You just put all into a pot and bring to a boil then allow to simmer for twenty minutes.  Easy peasy, right?  Not exactly!  Be careful with this syrup as mine went from just starting to heat up to boiling up and over the brim of my pot in less than ten second!  Luckily I was watching it like a hawk and got on it quickly.  But do you know whats hard to clean up?  Honey, definitely.  Or, even harder, hot honey that has then cooled all over the place!  Who ever says a watched pot never boils has never made baklava, let me tell you.  After I removed it from the heat quickly, I turned the heat right down (down, down to between gas mark two and three) and let it simmer for twenty minutes.  Everything went smoothly and the apartment smelled lovely:  there is nothing like the smell of sweet honey!

Blurry!  But this is a nice simmering pot of baklava syrup

After twenty minutes, I set the baklava syrup aside and let it cool down to room temperature.  No problems in this department; I thought that it might thicken and become hard to use, but it did not.  It had a consistency more watery than honey but more condensed than water!  Now I had sometime on my hands before I could begin using the fillo dough (it was not even on the counter yet) so I decided to clean the kitchen up.  As a note, when cooking for neat freaks in their apartment, be sure to clean up between steps!  This is a messy and long recipe and I am sure you will not want to be cleaning up everything afterwards.  You definitely have the time, I know you do, so be proactive!  And if your neat freaks are anything like mine, and I am sure that is not possible, it is worth having your head to keep cleaning because it only gets messier from here on out!

Now I do not have any pictures of me making the baklava and layering the fillo, I apologize about that but it was so intensive and time-consuming I did not have a second to run and grab my camera so I could show you how mine looked at this time.  But to give you a general idea of the neatness and fluidity of my motions, watch Titli's video and then pretend a kindergartner was copying everything she did.  That was me with just about the same grace!  She makes everything look so easy and really, it is not so bad, it just is not that easy.  Before I continue, though, I need to make a note about frozen fillo dough because if you are in the US, that is probably what you are going to use.  First things first, plan ahead!  I bought my dough at nine in the morning and that really was not enough time.  You should really get it the day before and start thawing in the refrigerator as soon as possible so that the dough has a long, slow thaw.  When it thaws too quickly the dough sticks together and tears more easily, which, as I am sure you can guess, can be incredibly frustrating!

If this is your first time making baklava, like me, I have one very important piece of advice: stay patient with the fillo dough!  It is very hard to work with and it sticks and tears like you would not even believe!  If you think you are going to make your first baklava like Titli makes hers you have another thing coming.  All I can say is just keep plowing along and take your time!  If you try to rush things, you are going to make things worse for yourself, much worse!  Also, if you are an American, you may find it hard to find a baking tray that are the deminsions Titli specifies: 7"x11".  That is not a standard US size.  I used a 9"x13" baking tray and the only big difference is, assuming you do not tear the sheet, you will not have enough fillo to fold over.  That should not be an issue, though, as there are 11 layers of fillo in baklava and both brands of fillo dough I saw had 20 in their packages.  In retrospect, though, I would have purchased and thawed two packets of fillo dough for my first time.  I needed them and you can always refreeze what you do not use!

Like I said before, move very slowly when handling the fillo dough and keep it covered!  Both presented issues for me!  When I was pulling the fillo dough, it would often tear or stick to the layer beneath it.  When this happens, adjust your grip on the fillo so you are holding the dough just beneath the tear, but not on it, and continue to peel the layers apart.  This takes the pressure off the tear and helps prevent the tear from growing.  And keep the unused fillo covered!  It is tempting to forget as you are trying to man-handle this tiny piece of dough into your tray without it ripping, but do not forget!  Do not!  the dough will dry out and rip like tissue paper when bent even slightly.  Now, when putting the fillo into the tray, move slowly and press with your fingers so it is firmly in all of the corners.  Then apply all the butter.  And repeat and repeat.  When it comes to trimming the excess filo away, I found it was easiest to do right after I added the nut filling layer because it weighed down the fillo and helped prevent the part I wanted to stay in the tray from pulling away and ripping.  Also, I cut by pressing a sharp blade onto the dough and then slicing forward.  This motion tore the dough the least for me.  For particularly long pieces, I trimmed with scissors first and then did the fine detailing with a knife.  Just a thought!

My first layer of fillo, first layer of filling, second layer of fillo, and final layer of filling went relatively smoothly if not painstakingly slow.  It was the final layer of fillo in my baklava that I really ran into issues.  I shall call this final layer my Frankenstein layer.  During the beginning of my layering, I accidentally tore a large chunk of my fillo, which meant I was not going to have enough fillo to make all the layers!  I was nervous about this and my fillo was drying out so it was tearing more and more.  I am going to be honest, I got frustrated at this point and tore the remaining fillo a lot.  The result?  My layers were patch work, using multiple pieces, sometimes just fractions, of fillo to fill the layer completely.  And then I used ample amounts of butter.  I managed to scrape together, quite literately, five more layers of my surviving fillo.  Just three shy of what Titli used.  This is why I recommended getting two packages of fillo for your first batch of baklava!  Better to have more and save the rest than be short like me.  With a sharp blade, I scored my baklava down to the top most layer of nuts, but I was not expecting anything good to result from my hours of effort.

Scored and ready to bake!

My hardest part was over.  Baking went very smoothly.  I was using a different oven than I normally do and was praying that it heated true to number.  It did, so I baked my baklava first for thirty minutes at 360F and then removed to cover with aluminum foil and then bake again for twenty more minutes.  I am not going to lie, I was very apprehensive during the baking process as there were two people ready to eat my baklava and I had no idea how it was going to turn out (the Frankenstein layer was getting me down).  But it smelled delicious and that got my hopes up.  When it was done baking the second time, I quickly removed it from the heat, took off the aluminum foil, and drizzled on the syrup, slowly.  It made the appropriate sizzling sound and my baklava looked appropriately flaky and golden brown.  I sighed a sigh of relief.  It looked absolutely fantastic!  If you are like me, though, the hardest part of a baking recipe is the last part: letting it cool properly.  Go do something away from your kitchen for about two hours, that is all I can say.  This baby needs to cool down to be made properly.

After two hours, it was just before ten in the evening now, the baklava was cool and ready to try.  I garnished it with the ground pistachio and served with more than a pinch of apprehension.  I had no need!  It was delicious!  Absolutely decandent and despite my best efforts to thwart a properly made baklava, everything seemed to be made just fine.  I highly recommend trying this recipe; it may take a long time and a lot of effort (this was my hardest baking project to date) but it is well worth it and I was successful on the first try!  And the only way to get better is to do; next time I am sure I will be better at handling the fillo dough and I am already wanting to try again.  Try this recipe.  Just bite the bullet and do it!  It is worth it.

I think I may go have another!
If there is a recipe by Titli you would like to see me try, sign up and comment on my blog or send me an email at!  I would love the challenge and I am feeling up to it now that I have a few recipes under my belt.  Or, are you a beginner cook/baker as well and you tried one of the recipes I did?  Let me know about it!  People need to hear others' experiences so that we can all learn!

Happy Baking!

Zielony Pie

Saturday, September 11, 2010

T*asty Dutch Pancakes

Recipe:  Dutch Pancakes
Video:  Link
Recipe Number:  5
Week:  0

Y*mmy and w*rm

Last night I decided that I needed something tasty and warm after a long day of work.  Something that would not be too messy or hard to make and something that I had everything on hand for.  Dutch pancakes fit the bill perfectly.  Titli's recipe is, like always, easy to follow and fun to watch (How do you make everything so entertaining?).  Anyways, before reading my experience with the recipe, go read how to make it and watch her video (links at the top of the page!).

All necessary ingredients plus the optional ones
First things first for this recipe: go place whatever you are using to bake your Dutch Pancakes into the over and pre-heat it.  This is the first step as the pan is supposed to be hot when you ladle in the batter!  Now Titli says to use a cast iron skillet or a pizza tray if you do not have a cast iron skillet.  Now, if you are like me, and do not have either (clearly I need to start considering about investing in some quality utensils!) then you can use a cake tin.  My cake tin is 9" in diameter, so the pancakes were slightly smaller than what Titli made and my batter made about four of them.

After getting the pre-heat all taken care of, mix together the flour, salt, eggs, and milk to form the base of the batter.  Now add the melted butter.  Be careful during this step as you might be adding hot butter to a cold batter which is going to make it clump if you do not beat and mix it properly!  Mine clumped at first, though, and for the first pancake it was clumped and I can honestly say that it did not effect teh taste.  I managed to beat out the clumps by the second pancake, however.

Ladle in your batter
Once your batter is ready, check your oven again to see if it is the correct heat.  If it is, take out the tin (or try or skillet) and melt some butter in it to prevent the pancake from sticking.  When ladling in the batter, be sure to keep the layer thin (just 2 to 3 millimeters) as it will fluff up and cook quite nicely.  After ladling, add your selected ingredients on top.  This is a personal decision and go with what you think is tasty!  I had never had Dutch Pancakes before so I added tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms to two of mine and potato and cheddar cheese to the others.  Both combinations were delicious.

Cheddar, tomato, and mushroom!

Now, the most important thing, cooking it!  But before you do, there is something I think is very important to learn and that is how your oven runs.  Someone could tell you to cook or bake something at a certain temperature for a given period of time, but it might not work for you even though it worked for them!  You need to play and constantly check your food to see the variations.  As you have probably seen with my carrot cake and brownies, I was running my oven much hotter than Titli.  The dutch pancakes were no different.

For my first one, I had it at 395F and it took well over 20 minutes to cook and the top was still not golden brown.  But it did cook.  So for the second one, I raised the temperature to 420F and cooked for 15 minutes.  This one, while done, was the least cooked.  For the third, I let it in for 20 minutes at 420F.  Perfection!  So while for Titli it was 10-15 minutes at 395F for me it was 420F for 20+ minutes.  Clearly mine runs colder than standard.  But learn your oven, folks, and focus more on the signs of completion (i.e. golden brown and fluffy) than on the measurements of time until you know what works!

Pop it out of the oven and use a spatula to transport it to a plate and, voila!  You have beautiful, tasty Dutch Pancakes with no fl*pping involved!  I ate mine with syrup.  They were delicious.

S*rupy and G*!d
Happy B*king!

Zielony Pie

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Aloo Tikki... Not!

Recipe:  Aloo Tikki
Video:  Link
Recipe:  4
Week:  0

Notice the uncooked-ness :(
So I decided to try something harder and different today when making my Titli recipe and I thought that Aloo Tikki would be just the ticket for me.  It seemed simple enough and I had most of the ingredients, so, why not?  I, however, was not successful at the end of this recipe though most of it went very smoothly.  Since I was not successful I thought about not mentioning it until I was.  And then I realized the purpose of this blog: it is to learn how to cook!  So naturally I am not going to be able to make everything right on the first time?  Right?  Well I do not think so.  Messing up is all part of the learning process!  So let us learn together and I will let you know what I did and maybe you can see where I went wrong but first, go read the recipe and watch the video (links at the top)!

I had never boiled or mashed potatoes before so that was a first for this recipe.  500g of potato, for me, worked out to be two medium sized potatoes.  I skinned and then coarsely chopped my potatoes, then added them to a pot of boiling water.  I boiled them for twenty minutes and when I poked them with a knife, they were very tender!  Smashing them into potato mash was much easier than I had anticipated it to be and only took a few minutes to make a very smooth pot of mashed potatoes.  I did not add any butter or salt to them, though, just as an fyi.

Mashing was more fun than I thought

While I had been boiling my potatoes, I cooked my half cup of peas and got all of my other ingredients out and ready in dishes just like Titli does in her videos.  I felt very youtube professional.  I then got a big bowl and mixed everything together.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully easy it was to mix mashed potatoes, peas, and all the spices.  Maybe it is just me, but I was expecting something a bit more challenging (then again, my arms are stronger after that carrot cake!).

Pretty much the last successful step I had

Now, rolling into balls went smoothly but I ended up with fourteen, which is two more than the recipe predicted and one more than Titli got in her video.  I think it is all just fine, though.  Flattening them into patties went smoothly enough and I had them all laid out ready to go.  I then brought oil in a flat bottom pan to heat (just a few millimeters).  I used Canola Oil because that is what I had in my home and I looked up elsewhere (elsewhere = not Titli's website) that that was an okay oil to fry with.  Now, Titli warned that if the heat of the oil was not hot enough, the patty would start to break down in the oil.  So I did a tester (I did have an extra patty after all) and it broke down before I could even flip it properly.  Darn!

So I heated up the stove so that my oil was even hotter and I saw little bubbles at the bottom.  Seemed hot to me.  I tried with patty number two and right when I added it in, it started to steam much more than in Titli's video and my kitchen was soon filled with oily steam.  And you know what!  It still broke down into the oil.  At this point the top layer of my oil was black from the disintegrated potatoes and it had become an Aloo Tikki horror scene.  Time to ditch the oil and get a new batch.

This time I started the heat of the oil hotter and let it sit longer so that it would heat up before I added anything into it.  I looked up elsewere that the oil is hot enough when a piece of bread browns within 60 seconds, so I did that test.  Passed with flying colors (and the bread crumb was pretty tasty afterwards) so I added a patty in.  Lots of steam and it broke down.  Argh!  I was getting a bit frustrated, to be honest.  But I thought, I would give it one last try.  So I sacrificed one more poor patty to the heat of the oil and it died like all the others.  Actually, it had the worst.  Flames start to spark above my oil and the steam increased tenfold.  And then my smoke detector went off.  After all of that, I decided to call it a day with the Aloo Tikki.  So I boxed mine up and stuck them into the fridge.

I really, really did need the Titlibirds to come to the rescue for this one!

Now I am turning to you all for help!  I am determined to fry these surviving patties up and make delicious Aloo Tikki!  Absolutely determined!  But I need tips for frying and you can give them to me in two ways.  You can send a quick email to me at or (and I would love you for this one) you can sign up to be a follower of this blog and comment.  That would be best because this blog is all about learning and then everyone can see your suggestions!  I would greatly appreciate it!

I think I will send a message asking Titli for advice, as well, and see what she has to say!

Happy Cooking!

Zielony Pie

Tortillalicious! (With Flour)

Recipe:  Flour Tortilla
Video:  Link
Recipe:  3
Week:  0

Irregularly shaped goodness :)

Flour tortillas are a simple little flat bread often used with Mexican cuisine... I did not make any Mexican cuisine, however, so it should be noted that they are great just by themselves.  This recipe by Titli was extremely simple to follow and reproduce.  So, like always, go read the recipe and watch the video and then come back and read my blog.

Ingredients are simple for this dish and you start off right away by mixing everything together.  The recipe calls for a variation of water but says to start off with 1/4 cup.  When I did this, it was definitely not enough water and I slowly added in more water until I got a nice, not-to-sticky dough.  I probably added in about another 1/8 cup of water.  But add it slowly, not all at once, just as you need it!

Finished dough

Now when it comes time to roll out the six tortillas, remember that the shape of your disk is going to have definite effects on the shape of your tortilla!  So if you are a stickler for perfect spherical-ness (because it tastes better that way... right?) make sure your discs are nice and even and round.  Or you can be like me and make fun shaped tortillas that varied from nice and round, to almost square, to something the resembled a mutated mickey mouse!  One tip that I do have is if while you are rolling the corners of your tortilla start to look torn and jagged, fold the edges in all around and re-roll.  Helps keep them smooth.

Whether the edge is perfectly round or not, it should be nice and thin!

Cooking these things was really easy.  Take a flat bottom pan and put it on medium heat then throw these suckers on.  I did not watch a clock while these guys cooked but they cook really, really quickly so just check the cooking side after a short while to see how it is doing.  Every time on my first check, it was ready to be flipped.  Once flipped, the second side cooks much faster, which, of course, makes sense because it is already heated up.  Takes no time at all to cook all six.

Now, just making tortillas is not difficult at all and rather plain (especially when you lack the Mexican food to go with it like I did).  So here is a simple Zielony Delicacy you can whip up with your freshly made flour tortillas.  Take one tortilla and spread either peanut butter or nutella on it and the roll it up into a tube.  Bon appetite!  A nice, tasty snack... or at least it is if you like peanut butter and nutella!

It tastes better than the quality of this picture!
Happy Cooking!

Zielony Pie

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's Brown and Sticky?

Recipe:  Brownies
Video:  Link
Week:  0
Recipe:  2


Brownies, of course!  Though, if you ask Titli, she would say a stick!  What were you thinking?  So today's recipe was another baked good and really kind of a cheat on my part because I have made brownies before.  But I had some extra time today so I thought I would give Titli's recipe a shot.  So go read her recipe and watch her video before reading my blog so you know what I am talking about (links at the top of the post).

Now, before you even begin to make brownies, I have one very important recommendation for you: make sure you have all of the ingredients!  That may seem silly, but I had already gotten started melting my chocolate and pre-heating my oven and then I went to grab my eggs to crack into the sugar.  I had three and this recipe calls for four.  Shoot!  I turned everything off and ran quickly over to my neighbor to borrow an egg.  Though, I won't be giving it back to her so really I went to beg for an egg.  So an extra step in my baking was having a little chitchat about nothing so I could get an egg.  Double check, folks!

Notice the three eggs?  I noticed too late!

This recipe was incredibly easy to do and I did not even have an electric mixer like Titli did!  So I got another work out today mixing by hand!  My arms are soon going to be toned between shredding carrots and beating batter.  Now Titli said to mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla for ten minutes on high.  And that is a great tip for all of you who have electric mixers can just watch it go to town while you suck on your teeth (I jest) but for those of you like me who do not have an electric anything for cooking (I told you I was a beginner!) you can reduce this time.  I mixed well for probably less that five minutes and everything was smooth and well mixed.  Also, as a note, I used white sugar and two cups like Titli recommend.  Unless, you really like sweet brownies, I would not use any more than this.

A good, old wooden spoon does the trick just fine
Now, I forgot to mention, start melting the chocolate before mixing anything.  It helps wasting time sitting around for it to finish melting and mine had melted completely and perfectly right when I was ready for it.  I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and you need to press them with your spoon to realize that they have melted, just mix it a bit when you are ready and it should be fine.  The bowl over the simmering water works wonderfully.  When I added in the butter (or fat as Titli charmingly refers to it as) it takes a few minutes to mix it in well.  And at first it does not seem like it is going to mix in and then WHAM!  It is all smooth and creamy.  Just keep stirring it over the simmering water and it will mix beautifully.

Mixed chocolate and butter; nice and smooth
Mixing the sugar/egg mix, chocolate, flour, and salt is the final mixing step and it is super easy.  Took me just about a minute of good stirring to mix everything together smoothly.  I decided to add a little bit of extras to mine and poured in a half cup of chocolate chips into the batter.  Then I poured into a 9"x13" baking try that I greased with Pam, not butter, and it worked perfectly.  Like with the carrot cake, Titli set her oven to 180C and baked for 30 minutes.  I baked mine at 400F (which I think is slightly hotter) for 30 minutes and when I pulled it out it was done, toothpick tested!  And there were no burned corners, it came out perfectly.

The end result: delicious!  They were jut the right balance of chewy and gooey with a nice flakey top and edges.  The hardest part of this simple recipe is waiting for them to cool properly before cutting them up and eating (but do let them cool, because it makes less of a mess!).  From starting to pulling them out of the oven, it took me just about an hour (conversation with the neighbor lady included) so this recipe is quite quick to make!  Definitely an easy baking project and very tasty!  Thanks Titli!

Ready to share (or not)!

Happy Baking!

Zielony Pie

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's Up, Doc?

Recipe:  Carrot Cake
Video:  Link
Week:  0
Recipe:  1

My carrot cake!

So I decided for my first recipe, to get me started, I would stay in my comfort zone just a tiny bit.  And that would be baking.  Like I have said before, I have zero experience cooking but just an ounce more when it comes to baking.  I have made chocolate chip cookies and brownies and other simple recipes.  So I decided the best place to start would be something baked and delicious but I also was going to try something new.  The result, I decided on Titli Nihaan's recently uploaded video: carrot cake.  (It also was made an easy decision because I had all the ingredients on hand.)

I am not going to sit down and explain how to make this dish, go read the recipe and watch the video, I followed her to the tee!  I am just going to write what I experienced when I made it, post some pictures, and let you know my thoughts!  So ready, set, go watch the video and then continue reading so you can know what I am talking about.

My shredded carrots (notice how it is all over my counter!)
My first recommendation, after having completed this cake: shred the carrots at the very beginning!  This was absolutely the hardest part of the recipe to do and you cannot tell by the video.  Titli says it takes about three large carrots to produce 300g of shredded carrots and it took me about four.  Not to mention it felt like my arms were going to fall out when I was halfway through.  And, like she says, it gets EVERYWHERE!  I mean it.  And at first, I was trying to stay neat and tidy and pick up as I went along.  Do not do that either, just accept that you are going to make a mess and press on.  Eventually you will get to 300g of shredded carrots.

Now, one of the big decisions that you have to make when making this recipe that you have to make is choosing brown sugar or white sugar.  Like you all know, this is my first recipe and I have no idea what difference it would make to use one versus the other, so I decided to do what Titli did and went with brown.  I am not sure if there is a difference between the brown sugar in the US and brown sugar in Switzerland (probably is) but mine did not look as granulated as Titli's and certainly was clumpier.  My recommendation if yours sounds like mine, sift it!  It makes the entire process easier because you get the clumps out of the way right at the beginning.  Also, I do not have an electric mixer and it is hard to beat those suckers out by hand...

Eggs and brown sugar
Now the first "problem" I ran into was the color.  And I say "problem" because it turned out just fine and I suspect it was a difference between brown sugars on either side of the pond, or so to speak.  But when I mixed my brown sugar into my beaten, frothy eggs the color was much darker and more brown than the batter in Titli's video.  This remained the case until after it was baked, and then the colors seemed to be the same.  Is there a difference in taste, I have no idea!  Here is the color of my batter:

It took me about an hour and a half to make all the batter and get it into the oven (and like I said, most of this time was dedicated to shredding those dreaded carrots.  I won :D).  Titli says to set the oven to 180C but if you are in the US like me, I would set the oven to either 395F or 400F.  I personally preheated my oven to 400F and baked the cake for 45 minutes.  It came out completely cooked and maybe just a tiny bit crispy on the corners, but that is how I like my cakes.

The frosting was incredibly easy to make, but I have to say I was a bit... unmotivated to peel the orange zest after having spent so much time with the carrots.  It took considerably less time.  I used one large orange it gave plenty of flavor to the frosting.  I believe, though I am just guessing, it was probably around a tablespoon or two of orange zest.  You can see my orange (zestified!) and my orange zest below!
Orange zest!

After removing it from teh oven, I followed Titli's words exactly and let it cool in the pan for ten minutes, then flipped it out and let it cool completely before frosting.  The result was delicious and my entire family enjoyed it thoroughly!  I have to be honest that I was a bit nervous to make this because as Titli said in the beginning, a vegetable for desert?  That is right, I had never had carrot cake before.  This recipe was easy to follow and easy to do (and it buffs up your arms from all of that shredding).  Definitely try this one and it is going into my cookbook.

Special thanks to Titli Nihaan from Titli's Busy Kitchen for making this all possible!

Happy Baking!

Zielony Pie