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Archive for September, 2010

funnel cake friday

“embarrassingly delicious”

well, it’s the last friday of the month, which means it’s the last day of fair food september. it’s been a charming experience and we’ve picked up a few new skills to keep in our back pockets. we have no complaints over here. so let’s just dive right in and go out with a bang. what would an entire month devoted to fair food be without the beloved funnel cake?

funnel cake

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

2T sugar

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups canola oil (for deep fryer) or

2 cups canola oil (for stovetop)

equipment needed

canola oil

deep fryer or sauce pan if using stove top

this is the easiest recipe I think ever followed. If you are using a deep fryer, follow the specific instructions for heating and for how much oil to use. my fryer says to pour no more than 4 cups oil into the fryer. let it heat up for 8 minutes and then you are ready to go. if you are using the stovetop, in a deep skillet pour 2 cups oil over medium-high heat. to test the temperature drop a pinch of flour into the oil and if it sizzles and cooks right away without smoking you are ready to go!

while your oil is warming up, in a medium bowl mix all dry ingredients. in a large bowl blend your egg and milk together. once blended slowly add all dry ingredients while mixing at the same time until smooth, just like pancake batter. however i noticed that the mixture was pretty thick and when you pour out the batter through a funnel you want it to pour out in a steady stream, so I added about 1/4 cup more milk. follow the recipe first and if it seems to be too thick, then add the milk and mix again.

using a candy funnel pour your batter, into the hot oil. funnel cakes usually have a crazy shape to them. the best way to fry the batter is to make a spiral into the oil followed by zig zagging your batter on top of the spiral. this gives funnel cake it’s signature doughy spiderweb appearance. as far as cooking time goes i didn’t keep track of the time. I just watched my funnel cake turn golden brown, making sure to keep the dough fully submerged.

remove dough safely from the oil, with tongs or metal slotted spoon, top off with powdered sugar and you’ll have a taste of the state fair in your very own kitchen.

enjoy,

b

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as a tribute to one of our most loyal taste testers…

lori, a coworker, is headed to napa with her husband to celebrate their 10th anniversary. she had high high hopes of getting a reservation at The French Laundry, but alas….no such luck. all is not lost, we have recreated one of their famous desserts “coffee and doughnuts” – minus the cappuccino semifreddo (sorry…we’re not that fancy yet) hopefully the cinnamon-sugar doughnuts will tide you over until your reservation dreams come true! happy anniversary lori and clay! enjoy your trip!

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it’s a taffy pull!

 

“keri’s filling just popped off”
“oh no! you’re kidding me?”
“she just left to go to the dentist”
“i said don’t bite! aw man, so much for hard candy at work”

what an adventure this has been. there have been mistakes, burns and emergency dental appointments (sorry keri) but after many many tries….i finally succeeded at the salt water taffy.

disclaimer: if you’re an adult…your teeth aren’t as strong as they use to be….proceed with caution. the emergency dental appointment happened on a batch (gone wrong) that was heated too much and turned into hard candy….i feel like it’s natural to bite down on candy even if you’re told not too…so if you have had work done to your teeth…and want that work to stay intact…be careful…or just steer clear completely :)

i have never attempted to make candy before….but it seemed simple enough…so i went out all confident…bought my first candy thermometer and collected about five or six different recipes. all the recipes were very similar…all calling for the same ingredients, only slight measurement differences here and there. i finally settled on a recipe i found on this blog (that i just discovered and am kinda falling in love with)…i picked the recipe mostly because of the beautiful photography (as i’m a sucker for things well designed and displayed) ms. humble also pointed me in the direction of LorAnn candy oils, which i learned are essential.

as the oils weren’t immediately accessible, i began to do my trial runs with some cinnamon oil i had on hand. for the first batch…i followed the directions precisely…heating the candy till it reached 260°F. i poured it out, let it cool and began pulling it…until it got so difficult that either i would lose my grip and hit myself in the face or it would break apart. hmmm….this did not seem right. will it soften as it cools? no…it will not. this first run ended up turning into a large hard candy cinnamon blob. also…halfway through this trial run….i distinctly remembered my father’s advice to NEVER directly touch the cinnamon oil to your skin…and to be very very careful with it. unfortunately i didn’t remember until my cheek started to tingle and feel very flushed. sure enough i had been careless with the oil and must have touched my face….i’m just thankful i didn’t touch my eyes…eek!

after this disaster of a trial run…i was sure i had done something wrong. i checked through all my recipes…and nothing seemed off. upon further inspection of my candy thermometer i noticed that there are different levels marked off: thread, soft ball, firm ball, hard ball, soft crack and hard crack. 260°F fell into the “hard ball” range. i decided i should experiment more with the temperature instead of the ingredients.

the most helpful tip i found was to drop a spoonful of your candy mixture, while it is heating, into a bowl of cold water. the candy mixture will harden into its final consistancy so you can tell if you’re at a good stage to stop heating or not. my go-to temperature ended up being 250°F.

salt water taffy
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted – extra for coating pans and hands
1 teaspoon salt
flavoring oil & color

i went with apple, strawberry cheesecake, mint chocolate-chip, marshmallow and vanilla (would have done cinnamon too, if it hadn’t been so mean to me) you only need about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of oil.

equipment
shallow heat safe pan, or marble slab
candy thermometer
medium-sized sauce pan with lid
metal spoon
kitchen shears
wax paper

grease or butter shallow pans or marble slab and set aside. if you are making multiple flavors, prepare multiple pans.

in your saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, water, salt and melted butter over medium heat. stir until all the sugar has dissolved. let mixture come to a boil and cover with lid for 2-3 minutes. Remove lid and clip on your candy thermometer and heat to 250°F (that’s just my opinion….feel free to experiment with different temperatures). Remove from heat and stir in flavoring oils and color.

pour out candy into buttered pan or marble slab and let cool.

once cool enough to handle, grease or butter your hands and begin to pull taffy until it has a smooth satiny appearance. i laid down wax paper so that anytime the taffy started to get too sticky to manage, i could lay it down on the wax paper and then regroup. i also alternated between flavors. i pulled one flavor for about five minutes and then let it rest in the fridge while i started in on the next flavor, and alternated this way until i was ready to cut and shape the candy. when you are ready to cut, butter some kitchen shears and cut away…wrap with wax paper and then you’re done! i ended up with about 80 pieces per batch…but this really depends on the size you cut the taffy to.

again…careful with the dental work….but enjoy!

in the event that you have read this whole post and are concerned about keri’s tooth….rest assured….she was back from the dentist in about 45 minutes….it was free….and she said it didn’t hurt….but seeing the tooth without the cap was a bit shocking and she doesn’t recommend it.

-L

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sneak peek wednesday

i feel like i needed a lab coat, gloves and beakers for this fair food treat. there’s been experiment after experiment….but i may have figured this one out…with only a few casualties. (note to self: cinnamon oil and direct skin contact do not mix well) this is my favorite fair food treat….wait and see!!

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weeding…

i’ve been taking good care of my daisies. (there are still no blooms….so only i know they aspire to be daisies…well, and you)

i feel very fortunate to be located where i am, apartment wise. you see….first of all…my patio faces east. during a steamy texas summer, this seems ideal. plants get to enjoy a morning of sunlight….but by the time the temp has hit 100 and the sun is scorching down….my plants are nicely shaded. secondly, my patio also recedes into the building…and the roof provides an overhang that protects the plants hanging out on my patio ledge from drowning in any sudden downpours. (that is unless the rain is coming in sideways…but for the most part they are safe)

i’ve been watering them…and loving them….and that’s about the extent of my green thumb. i don’t really know what i’m doing…or what to be looking out for…all i know…is that someday they will become flowers.

well, out of nowhere…they really started to shoot up. i was a proud mama. i continued watering them and telling them how proud i was (anyone who knows me…knows i literally talked to them and squealed in delight at their progress…as it doesn’t take much to excite me and most inanimate objects develop personalities in my mind)….my subconscious noticed that one part of the plant was growing faster, stronger and differently than the rest….but i just went on being so proud of how well they were doing…when all the neighbor flower pots were dry, brown and dying.

B came over for a baking night a while back and exclaimed that she wanted to go out and check on my daisies (since i have been bragging on em). when she came back inside….she said…now, don’t be offended. (pause) i think you have a weed.

of course…the moment she said it, i knew exactly what she was talking about. that part of my plant that was growing the best…shooting up over the rest of the leaves….the part of my plant that i was extra proud of…..was a weed. how did i miss it?! how could i be so naive? :) together we marched out to the patio and pulled that sucker out by the roots….being extra careful not to harm the rest of the plant. oh how sad the daisies looked now….not quite so tall and strong….some crippled over (since the weed had been taking over most of the pot) arg!

i got to thinking about how i needed B to point out the flaw in my plant because i had become so proud that it made me completely oblivious. i feel like this goes hand in hand with why we need true-blue friends and community. sometimes we let our focus become so centered on one thing….that we look over the part of our life that needs to be weeded. or, if we’re in really bad shape, we’re actually proud of that part that needs to be removed….and don’t see the damage it’s really doing to the rest of our selves. by beaming over the growth of a weed….i was ignorantly risking the growth of the actual plant and setting myself up for the disappointment of spending all my time and energy bringing a worthless prickly-leaved weed to life…which was in no way what i set out to accomplish.

weeds will pop up everywhere…we are far from perfect. we’ll head down paths that won’t bring us joy and we’ll settle for the momentary over the eternal….but what i appreciate about the B’s in my life…is that i rarely head too far without being questioned. sometimes it’s easier to recognize the weeds and sometimes it takes what seems like forever to surrender, with much resentment and sometime regrettable responses. however, along the way it seems to get easier….to just stop….shake your head….admit what’s there….pull it out at the roots…and do your best to mend and grow the parts that were being crushed down by that silly prickly plant.

i’m so thankful to have honest friends in my life…friends who aren’t too scared to broach the tough topics (gently). you know someone really cares about you, when they are willing to risk an uncomfortable situation, defenses flying high….or even an argument to be loving enough to help you weed out your life so that you can grow stronger and more beautifully. on top of being thankful for true friends, i need to constantly be praying for a discerning and humble heart…one that is receptive to counsel and correction…quick to listen…slow to anger.

James 1:19-21 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

-L

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soft pretzels

“i’ve been saving myself for this”

1 (.25 oz) packet of active dry yeast

2T brown sugar

1 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 of warm water (110 degrees F)

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup bread flower

2T baking soda

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)

2T butter, melted

kosher salt to taste, for topping

cinnamon to taste, for topping

sugar to taste, for topping

– – – – –

oil for greasing

plastic wrap or dish towel

pizza cutter

cookie sheets

cooking spray

in a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in the 1 1/2 cups of warm water, for about 8 minutes or follow the instructions on the back of your yeast packet. once dissolved stir in all 4 cups of flour and begin kneading your dough on a flour workspace for 8 minutes. by 8 minutes your dough should be smooth and elastic. lightly cover your entire ball of dough with oil and place back in the large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel. set aside and let rise for 1 hour.

in an 8 x 8″ pan, combine your baking soda and  2 cups warm water and set aside and set your oven to 450 degrees.

cut it out. after your dough has risen, using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 pieces. then put the pieces back into the greased bowl, to avoid them from drying out. one at a time, roll each piece into a 3 ft rope then twist into the pretzel shape. once twisted dip the pretzel into your baking soda/water mixture and place on a sprayed cookie sheet. once your cookie sheet is full of pretzels, set aside for 15 more minutes, as they need one more chance to rise. then bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until golden brown. once baked, brush with melted butter and top with salt or cinnamon and sugar and you have one delicious pretzel, and don’t forget the mustard.

now enjoy some football this weekend and make some pretzels! happy friday!

-b

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mustard and salt are best served over a pretzel! at least we think so. stay tuned because friday’s featured fair food is the soft pretzel. believe me you won’t want to miss this. my mouth is watering just thinking about them. :D

-b

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