Categories
Chocolate Cheer Cookies Sugar Cookies

Sylvapotamus Gets Old…Which Means I Get Older

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while and can’t think of anything to say without getting choked up at the thought of my baby sister turning 21. To me, she’s still the bald infant menace who was determined to get her “nosey-nose” back after I’d “stolen” it off of her face hours earlier.

Sylvia rules. She’s my best friend and the kind of family I am really, really grateful to be stuck with forever. She’s the only person who’s allowed to call me Chuckie Finster, the only person who can tell me I look ridiculous in a fedora without making me cry, and the girl who insisted that the worst bad ex I’ve ever had was “probably off dead somewhere.” You may find that sick. I find that hilarious. So does Sylvia. This is why she rules. Also, this is why she rules (it was my Christmas present from her). I could go on, but this is not the Sylvia Show. Sylvia is the baby of the family, so her whole life is the Sylvia Show (sorry kid, I had to get one dig in there).

So, why Sylvapotamus? I’m not really sure. She’s thin as a rail, but the nickname and the thought of her face superimposed on a massive hippo with swollen hooves have always brought us to crazy laughing tears. Did I mention we’ve both got sort of a twisted sense of humor?

Anyway, to celebrate, obviously I have decided to bake for her. And before you call me out for being cheap, let me mention that these treats are just some of many awesome surprises in store for the little one. Onward!

So, just like with the twins, I scammed Sylvia into telling me what her favorite cookie was. And, just like the twins, hers happens to be the classic chocolate chip cookie. Now, for her 21st birthday, I had to amp these up a bit; plain ol’ chocolate chip cookies wouldn’t do. But maybe a giant chocolate chip cookie “cake” with her face plastered on it would. Bwahahaha…

Her face? Wha? Yes, there is a company that will print an image you send to them on an edible sheet and have it shipped to you. And I would totally recommend that if you decide to sort of creepily bake a cake with someone’s likeness smacked on it, you check with these people.

Anyway, let’s start with the cake. It’s basically cookie dough spread into an 8×8 inch round pan. I’ll tell you what I used, if you’re curious:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of whole wheat flour*

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of brown sugar

1 egg

8 tablespoons of softened butter

Like, lots and lots of chocolate chips

Half a cup or so of chopped nuts, of your choosing, but I used pecans

*You don’t necessarily need to use whole wheat flour. I really like using it in cookie recipes because it gives the cookies a nuttier flavor. If you don’t have any on hand, you can just go with all-purpose flour all the way.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, sift together the flour[s], baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. When fully combined, beat in the egg, then slowly fold in dry ingredients until a dough forms. When everything’s mixed, add in your chocolate chips and pecans.

Grease your round pan, and evenly spread the mixture and flatten the top as much as possible. Pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Hopefully it’ll look a little something like this (Actually, it’ll hopefully look better, because you’re all awesome and I am mentally five sometimes):

Pretty cool, right? Cookie Monster would be proud. Why’d I just name-check Cookie Monster when Animal is my favorite Muppet? As a fellow drummer, I really don’t believe Animal gets nearly enough respect. Animal, let’s jam together sometime. Oh…um…

Since this is a cake, it needs frosting. Since I love cream cheese everything, it needs cream cheese frosting. You can find the recipe right here. Spread it evenly over the cookie, making sure to have it as smooth as possible if you’re placing an edible photo of your sister/dog/postman (I don’t know) on it. The instructions say to keep the edible print shielded from light until it’s to be used, so I left it inside of the Ziploc bag inside of the FedEx envelope in which it was delivered. I then cut it down to an appropriate size (be really careful handling it), peeled off the paper backing and slowly laid it on top of the icing. Then I added sprinkles because…whatever, because I did.

She's about six in this picture. All together now: "Awwww"

Oh, also, remember how her name is Sylvapotamus? Well, I found this rad hippo cookie cutter that I knew I needed in my life, and figured sugar cookies wouldn’t hurt. I must be trying to turn her into an actual hippo.

The recipe comes from this book that I have had for years and am currently obsessed with. You’ll need:

Classic Sugar Cookies

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 stick of butter, softened

1 cup of sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Have the oven preheated to 375°F for these. Sift together the flour, powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix with dry ingredients. To get this one to form into a dough, you might need to use your hands because there’s so much flour. Yay, hands, yay mess. Divide the dough in half, wrap each in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour. When you’re ready, pull out a half, and start pinching off sections to roll into about 1/8″ thick rounds. You can then cut these into adorable shapes, like I did:

One of these things is not like the others...

Pop these into the oven for 9 to 10 minutes, making sure to rotate the pan halfway through cookie to ensure even baking. Also, if you want, you can add icing to these to make them even prettier. I recommend royal icing, since it dries pretty quickly and will give these a nice sheen. Here’s a good recipe for it. I halved it to keep myself from having leftover icing for dinner. Sad, I know. Quarter life cri— ah, whatever. Here’s what I did:

Basic Royal Icing

1 egg white

1 cup of confectioner’s sugar

I left out the lemon because…eh. I didn’t want these to have a citrus-y taste to them, but you may do as you wish. Oh, also, I dyed the icing a bright pink because pink hippos and one lone pink elephant make me laugh. And I am assuming that since the sis and I are on the same wavelength amusement-wise, she’ll be tickled too.

I wasn't done spreading yet. Also, hippos have really uneven, dry skin, ok?

You can just dip one side of the cookie in a bowl filled with the icing, then use a butter knife to smooth off the excess. Give these about half an hour to completely dry, and you’re all set.

Dunzo. Can YOU spot the elephant?

Whew. This one definitely took some work and a bit of advanced planning, but it was all well worth it.

Happy Birthday, baby sister. I love you from this:


to this: to this:


Categories
Chocolate Cheer Fancy Pantsy

Let Me Eat Cake. Just Not Fruit Cake.

I’m going to let you all in on a tiny secret: I care about the Royal Wedding about as much as I care whether or not it’s acceptable to have hazelnut gelato for lunch. This means I do not care at all.

I am a terrible person, and this is awesome.

Ok, Kate looked gorgeous, the dress was fabuloso, blahblahboringblah. I’m a hater, I know. Really, though, nothing about this wedding intrigued me until I heard their official wedding cake would be a fruit cake. A fruit cake! Did my parents choose this? Worst. Nightmare.

Just as I was about to doze off and hopefully not wake up until the Saturday after the nuptials, I heard that Prince William also requested a chocolate biscuit cake be served, probably because he would have gagged if all he had to eat was fruit cake. Did I mention their cake was a fruit cake? Anyway, my ears perked up when I heard the groom’s request. Oh Wills. I had a feeling we were homies.

I knew not what a chocolate biscuit cake was, but I [correctly] assumed there would be no candied cherries (gag!) at play in this one. I also [correctly] figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a recipe for this cake, since, you know, no one cares about anything but Will, Kate and zzzzz…. sorry. I’m sure this cake will pair perfectly with the haterade I’m drinking. Also, for all you hippies who don’t believe in modern-day appliances, like ovens, this is a no-bake recipe. Score! Oh, you will need a fridge, though. Sorry hippies.

I used Darren McGrady’s recipe, which is said to be the exact recipe used for the groom’s cake, and found it here (first recipe). You’ll need:

8 ounces of tea biscuits or cookies (I used Kedem tea biscuits, which can be found in the “specialty/international foods” aisle of your grocery store, and are usually less than $1 a pack. Holla!)

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

12 ounces of dark chocolate (I used a bag of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate chips)

1 beaten egg

1 ounce of white chocolate, optional

Grease an 8-inch round pan or 9 x 5 inch jelly roll pan. In a small bowl, cream together butter and sugar until it is fluffy and yellow. In a separate, larger bowl, melt 4 ounces of your dark chocolate. If you’ve got a double-boiler, use it. If you do not, you are me. If you are me, add half a tablespoon of butter into your chocolate bowl, and melt at 15-second increments until relatively smooth. The chocolate will still be a bit tough to stir, but fear not. Once the butter/sugar mixture is added, your bowl will look much shinier and prettier. Go ahead and mix these together, then add in your beaten egg.

The recipe says to have your broken tea biscuits ready. I am a rebel, and I also do not like having to clean extra dishes, so I suggest breaking the biscuits over your chocolate mixture. I found that my mixture was a bit biscuit-heavy after one packet, but you can go crazy and add as many of these as you please. Stir it all together until all biscuits have been covered in gooey chocolate.

Pour into your greased pan, making sure to evenly spread it throughout, and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Once chilled, run a knife along the edges of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving dish. Oh, who am I to tell you where to put your cakes? Invert it onto the floor if you feel like it. Anyway, in the meantime, melt the remaining 8 ounces of chocolate and pour it over the cake, making sure to evenly spread it over the top and sides. Let the icing cool at room temperature. You can also melt a bit of white chocolate on top if you are feeling extra fancy. I am obviously not.

Messy finished product. The Prince would be proud. (No he wouldn't.)

So, the verdict? I mean, it’s cookies, butter, sugar and chocolate all mashed together into a pan. It’s going to be good. I would suggest doubling the recipe if you want something that resembles more of a cake and less of a pancake. This thing is crazy flat, but still pretty fab. Oh, also, it isn’t fruit cake.

Simply smashing.
Categories
Chocolate Cheer Classic Favorites

Almond Joychas (Or, Sad Shibow Has A Dad)

So my cousin George (‘sup yo!) came up with THE. MOST. BRILLIANT. name for my next sweet treat. I know caps are obnoxious, but the Kanye just passed through me, so forgive.

Allow me to explain the awesomeness of this name. My dad, Sebastian, is known for a few things, including: 1. The mustache he’s had probably since birth that he refuses to shave “until one of you girls gets married” (so yeah, he’ll be mustachioed for while) 2. The catch phrase “Ok, time to go!” 3. His sweet dance moves (No joke. He wins the dance-off. Every time.) and 4. His pet name, Joy.

Many of the men, and some of the women, in my Indian-Catholic family have “good names” and “pet names.” My mom affectionately (I guess?) refers to Dad as Joycha. And so, George challenged me to come up with a dessert known as the Almond Joycha by Easter Sunday. As he stated,  “it could be a play on the classic Almond Joy with coconut, almonds, and chocolate or something entirely different. As long as it fits the name.” Now, in my mind, “fits the name” means the treat has to include two things: almonds and Joycha. What better way to honor the dance machine who made me than with a sugar and almond-filled concoction?

I decided to veer away from actual Almond Joys in order to fancy up the dessert a bit. Actually, let’s be honest: I’ve been craving rainbow cookies for, like, years and am too lazy to roll into my local bakery to buy a pound (also, they’re kind of expensive). Rainbow cookies–which I will be baking in a couple of weeks, so keep an eye out– are typically made with either almond paste or almond filling, and have a cake-like texture with a  sweet, subtly nutty taste. I tweaked the recipe to my liking.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from this recipe for rainbow cookies:

8 oz of almond filling*

1 cup of softened butter

1 cup of granulated white sugar

4 eggs, separated

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of raspberry jam

1/2 cup of sweetened coconut flakes

1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon of butter

*Now, you could use almond paste for this recipe but a. it’s significantly more expensive and b. the texture makes it more difficult to work with and blend into your other ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with enough parchment paper that the ends hang off two sides of the pan. In a large bowl, cream together the almond filling, butter, sugar and egg yolks. Have another bowl ready for your egg whites. Having some trouble separating your eggs? The easiest thing to do is to tap your egg lightly with a fork, then use your fingers to break the egg into 2 halves. Holding the halves over your egg whites bowl, toss the yolk between the two shells, letting the whites drip out, like so (yes, it will be gooey):

You gotta keep 'em separated.

When your egg yolk/almond mixture is fluffy, stir in your flour to form a dough. Now, move on to the egg whites. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer at medium speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. This should take about five minutes. It took me ten, but only because I don’t know how to properly attach the beaters and they flew off mid-mix. I spent two minutes saying words not meant to be uttered on Easter Sunday, and spent another three scrubbing those suckers clean. When puffy and peak-filled, fold the egg white mixture into your dough, and spread the mixture into your pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Taste-tested pre-frosting several times by my lovely sister Sylvia

While that’s baking, combine your chocolate chips with a tablespoon of butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the chips in 15-second intervals, stirring after each nuke, until the mixture is melted and smooth.

As soon as my cakey cookie was done, I stuck the pan directly into the freezer for about 15 minutes. If you’re more patient– like, eons more patient– you can let it cool on a wire rack. Either way, when it’s cool to the touch, pick up the cake by the parchment paper flaps (See how handy those are?) and place it onto a cookie sheet or smooth surface. Cut out squares or rectangles (or both if you’re creative/geometrically challenged like I am).

Here’s where things get…complicated. I am positive that there is a neater way to accomplish this, but, well, I yam who I yam. I dunked one side of each cookie into my melted chocolate and placed it on a cookie sheet to cool. Then, I spread jam on the tops and sprinkled coconut over the sheet until each cookie was covered. Lastly, using a butter knife, I spread the rest of the melted chocolate over the top of each cookie, then placed them in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to harden. Mess? Yes. Mess. Also, delicious.

I would recommend NOT doing what I did here. Use a knife to spread the chocolate on.
Half-finished product, before they were re-cut to near-perfection. Those are mustaches. So you know.

Now, I am sure you are all wondering: what did Joycha think? And why isn’t his proud mug to be found anywhere in this post? Well, sadly, Joycha is perhaps the only member of the family who is not a fan of my venture into blogging. I can’t say I am not disappointed, but I can say that he is OLD. My guess is that he knows not what a “blog” is. Someone hand the man a dictionary and a cupcake, because he is a grouch. Fortunately, the rest of the clan–including George– seemed to love them. Ok, time to go!

Categories
Chocolate Cheer Strange and Yummy Vegan Desserts

Listen Up, Fellow Weirdos! We’re Making Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes With Avocado Frosting!

Now, now, don’t get all offended. I said fellow weirdos, didn’t I?

The whole hernia thing has put me in a weird mood. Weird mood = weird food!  Anyway, a little over a year ago, when I was a poor, bored, unemployed graduate student with a sad and random pantry, I came across a recipe on Glamour.com (it doesn’t appear to be on the site anymore, otherwise I’d link to it) for Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Avocado “Buttercream” Frosting. Why the quotation marks? Well, the recipe also happens to be vegan. And, I happened to have everything I needed in my sad and random pantry! My life’s EXCITING!

So, yes, it seems strange. And avocados are not exactly cheap. Still, if you’ve got the time, the curiosity, and some eager taste-testers (or you’re just willing to eat like two dozen cupcakes all by your lonesome, no judgment), they are absolutely worth it. They’re moist, rich and perfectly chocolate-y. Vegan and non-vegan friends and family loved them. Also, since the only fat in these babies are oil and avocado meat, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by scarfing a few down. Let’s get our folic acid consumption on, homies!

Lovely, isnt she?

I know there are still some skeptics out there who aren’t fans of the fruit (It’s a fruit!), so let me say this: you don’t absolutely have to make the bright-green avocado icing. Since the avocados are used in the cupcake batter only as a binding agent in place of eggs and butter, and since the taste of avocados on their own is quite mild anyway, you won’t taste them at all in the finished cake. You will taste them in the frosting, though, and in my opinion, you should. Do it! Be weird! Get crazy!

What you’ll need for a dozen cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons of cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1/4 cup of avocado (usually the meat of half an avocado)

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon of white vinegar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 365°F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, mash the avocado with a fork or your hands if you’re super angry and powerful.

Its guac night! Yay! Wait...

Add to this wonderful gooey mixture your oil, water, vinegar and vanilla, then fold in the sugar until fully incorporated. Um…use a wooden spoon for this part. I used an electric hand mixer and now I’ve got a weird Kermit thing going on. Baking night is also now laundry night.

Add to dry mixture and whisk using a hand mixer or, again, get all up in there with that wooden spoon and start beating.

The batter, or as I like to call it, "health yum yum soup"

Now, it’s almost impossible to get a totally smooth mixture without a stand mixer or magic or Jesus at your disposal. Don’t be frightened by the tiny specs of avocado in the chocolate mixture. Pour what you’ve got into your cupcake tin, filling each about 3/4 of the way. Pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes.

While you wait, lick the bowl. No, really…lick the bowl! Since there are no eggs in this batter, it’s totally allowed. Tell your moms Shibow told you to lick the bowls, kids!

Or, instead of sitting around cleaning your baking dishes with your tongue, you could be productive and make some frosting. This recipe was cribbed from Alton Brown, ultimate food dork, and halved to frost a dozen cupcakes:

8 ounces of confectioner’s sugar

4 ounces of mashed avocado (the meat of one medium-sized avocado)

2 teaspoons of lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Mix the mashed avocado with the lemon juice, then add in the sugar in increments, beating after every few additions. When all sugar has been added and the mixture looks fairly smooth, mix in the vanilla. It should look a lil’ summin’ like this:

Look how green! And yes, nerd keeps a recipe book.

Your cupcakes should be just about done by now. Maybe they were done a little earlier, or maybe you forgot about them until your smoke alarm sounded and now you’re standing outside shivering in polar bear pajamas and hot firefighters are giving you the evil side-eye. This has never happened to me. Anyway, if you’re still inside and safe, and your cupcakes are cool, get frosting!

In case you couldnt tell, I used a fancy icing decorator for this one. The other eleven werent as fortunate.

What do you think? Too weird? Just weird enough?

Categories
Brownies Chocolate Cheer

Sad Shibow and the Kicked Bottom…and Kick-Bottom Brownies

Welcome to Sad Shibow! Let’s get brooding.

A couple of months ago, I decided that I wanted to try kickboxing. I loved my first class and immediately decided I was going to become a professional fighter. Then, in a recent class, I was paired with a psycho banshee who kicked me in the tailbone (among other places I would rather not reveal in a family show) and punched me in the face. Now, I literally have a kicked bottom. More specifically, I have a slipped disc, but kicked bottom makes for a better headline. My dad says that I had no business kickboxing, because I am a “lady.” Tell that to my trucker’s mouth and drum set, pops!

Anyway, I’m being a total infant about this, except I’m the type of infant who, instead of whining for mommy to pick up after me, is whining for my sister Sylvia to pick up after me… while offering to repay her with brownies. I have also whined and gifted brownies to one truly awesome individual and fellow slipped-disc sufferer who drove to my place in Da Hurst to commiserate and provide remedies that have worked wonders. Special shout-out to you, dear hero.

Trust me, these are so yummy that– albeit BRIEFLY– I forgot all about my hernia. Then I fell up a flight of stairs and remembered it again.

I’ve always been a fan of cocoa powder. On its own, it’s quite bitter, and pretty much inedible. Still, it’ll do wonders for all things chocolate, and if you love the dark variety especially (ME!), you’ll greatly appreciate it. Most solid chocolate, including baking chocolate, contains a fair amount of sugar that, when added to the amount of sugar called for in any old dessert recipe, could produce something a tad too sweet for some of us. That’s why I was so thrilled to find this recipe for straight-up cocoa brownies from Smitten Kitchen. And if you’re a fan of box-mix brownies (not judging, because I know that Duncan Hines is kind of what’s up), you’ll want to listen up.

Cocoa brownies contain cocoa only. Sure, you can add in a few chocolate chips at the very end if you’re a bit cray-cray, but trust me when I say the cocoa powder in these babies will more than satiate your craving. You’ll need:

10 tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups of white sugar

3/4 cup and two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder (Smitten calls for dutch-process or natural, but I had Hershey’s at my disposal, and they came out lovely, so don’t hate)

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

2/3 cup of walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional, and I’ve never opted for them because nothing comes between Shibow and her brownies)

Also, bust out the aluminum foil, a wooden spoon and an 8×8 baking pan. Have your oven preheated to 325° F, and line the pan with enough aluminum foil that the edges hang off two sides of the pan. Smitten says to have these cooking in the lower-third of your oven, but these came out beautifully on the middle rack of mine.

In a large microwaveable bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Mix until just barely combined, then heat it in your microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, stir, and send it back for another 30 seconds. Repeat until the mixture looks a bit grainy and is hot, but not boiling, to the touch. It took me about a minute to achieve this, but if you’re microwave is not as awesome it’ll take a bit longer, so chill.

Pre-microwave

 

With your wooden spoon, mix in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Thanks to the eggs, the mixture will start to take on a nice sheen. When everything’s fully incorporated, stir in the flour until you can no longer see it, and then begin to beat the bleep out of it. Forty strokes is the recommended amount of lashes, for those of you who need numbers to keep you in line.

 

I had to take a break somewhere between strokes 25 and 30, because I'm injured 😦

Stir in any optional ingredients, and pour it into your foil-lined pan, making sure to spread the mixture evenly.

Bake the brownies until your house starts smelling like Heaven and the Oompa Loompas start slipping résumés under your door. Or, bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out with slightly-moist batter on it. This should take about 20 to 25 minutes (it actually took me closer to 30 minutes, so know your ovens, people).

Voila!

My cousin Rhea, who will be making several guest appearances on the blog and who is herself a fabulous baker, passed along a great tip: as soon as the brownies are out of the oven, stick them in the freezer for a good 20 minutes. This will allow for cleaner lines and easier cuts. Once cooled, lift them out of the pan using the foil and transfer to a rack or cutting board to slice. As you can tell from these pictures, I did not wait the full 20 minutes. Remember what I said about being an infant?

They may not be perfect squares... but neither am I! I'm just super corny.