V-Day Baking Brainstorm

On the one hand, Valentine’s Day is all about the date night, but on the other hand it’s all about classroom card exchange and an excuse to baking everything in the shape of red and pink hearts. As we know I love an excuse to bake with a theme or season in mind, so I have done a lot of the latter over the years. If you’re thinking about baking this week, I have three ideas at three different difficulty levels.

Sadie Dishes- Valentine's Day Baking

Heart Shaped Pink Rice Krispie Treats

This options wins when you think about effort vs. reward. You just take the standard recipe, add a little red food coloring, and presto- Valentine’s Day Rice Krispie Treats!

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1.5 10 oz. bags of mini marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • red food coloring
  • 6 cups Rice Krispie Treats
  • Themed mix ins- sprinkles, white chocolate chips, etc.
  • Heart shaped cookie cutter

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan or small stock pot over the stove on low/medium heat.
  2. Add 1 bag of marshmallows to melted butter and allow to melt together. Add vanilla extract to melted mixture. Add drops of food coloring until you get the color you want (less is more for food coloring, take it easy).
  3. Have the six cups of Rice Krispies and half bag of marshmallows ready in a large bowl.
  4. Add warm butter and marshmallow mixture to the cereal and leftover marshmallows. Stir until uniform. At this time you can add in sprinkles or any other mix-ins you would like. I add the sprinkles later on so they don’t melt completely.
  5. Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking pan and allow to cool. Then use cookie cutters to create heart shapes!

Heart Shaped Shortbread

Shortbread sounds a little boring, but you bring these to work and your co-workers have one with their morning coffee and you will be their best friend forever. You can dip half the heart in chocolate and add pink or red sprinkles to make them fancy. I use Ina Garten’s classic shortbread recipe for this. It says is makes 20 cookies, but my guess is that you get more than that.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (three sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (you can use chocolate chips)
  • Sprinkles or nuts for decoration

Method

  1. Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla extract to mixture.
  2. In a separate bowl sift together the flour and salt. Then slowly combine the wet and dry mixtures, trying not to over mix.
  3. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes to overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350.
  5. Roll the dough out to quarter to a half inch thick depending on how thick you would like the cookies. Use your heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake cookies at 350 for 20-25 minutes until just slightly golden brown. They shouldn’t get too much color.
  7. Melt the chocolate in 30 second increments in the microwave. Once it’s shiny you can just stir it until it’s all melted together.
  8. Use a spoon to paint half of the baked and cooled cookies with chocolate. If you would like you can dip the chocolate part in sprinkles or chopped nuts to add a little je ne sais quoi. Allow chocolate to cool and solidify before storing.

Heart Shaped Marshmallows

Here’s where the degree of difficulty gets ramped up a little. This is for when you’re baking to impress. If I were you, I would not start making these on a whim because they take some time, effort, and a serious clean up. The plus side is you get major bragging rights, because you just made marshmallows from scratch!

Ingredients

  • 3 packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • red food color gel (optional)
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Method

  1. Prepare a 9 x 13 brownie pan with parchment and dust the bottom with powdered sugar.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the gelatin with a ½ cup of water.  Allow the gelatin to “bloom” (I think it’s called) while you cook the other mixture.  Some recipes recommend a full half hour.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and a half cup of water. After the sugar melts, turn the heat up to high, and cook until it reaches 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer).
  4. Once the mixture has reached the correct temperature, remove from heat.  Use an electric hand or stand mixer to mix the gelatin on low as you pour in the warm mixture in very slowly.  Once the mixture has been completely poured in, mix it on high for about 15 minutes until the “fluff” is pretty thick.
  5. Add vanilla, salt, and food coloring and mix until well distributed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula smooth it out.  This process will be a little sticky and difficult, but you will persevere.
  7. Dust the top of the fluff with powdered sugar (it is easy if you pass it through a sifter).  Allow the fluff to “dry out” overnight.
  8. The next day, lift the large marshmallow out of the pan and place on a cutting board.  Use a knife or a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the marshmallows.
  9. Microwave the semi-sweet chocolate chips for 30 seconds at a time until mostly melted.  Use a fork to stir the chocolate until smooth. Dip the marshmallows in the chocolate, and allow to dry.
  10. Microwave the white chocolate similarly and place in a pastry bag with a fine tip or a Ziplock bag with a small corner snipped off.  Once the semi-sweet chocolate has set, use the white chocolate to drizzle a design on top of the layer of chocolate.
  11. Allow to set at room temperature or place in the freezer to speed up the process.  Enjoy!

What are you making to celebrate?

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Trashed Up Treats

What is better than a good old fashioned Rice Krispie treat?

A trashed up Rice Krispie treat!

I wanted to bake for a friends birthday recently, and when I think birthday, I tend to lean toward flavors from childhood. My first thought is: sprinkles. Which is my first thought everyday really. I decided to go with Rice Krispie treats to switch it up from some of my latest baking endeavors. I knew I would have to add more than just sprinkles, so the next thought was white chocolate chips. And then I realized only I can handle that level of sugar, so I decided to add pretzels to the mix to cut the sweetness. And thus, these were born:

White chocolate pretzel Rice Krispie treats

Yields approximately 24 cupcake sized portions

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 2 10 oz bags of mini marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 cups of Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped pretzels (I used mini pretzel sticks)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 of a 10 oz bag of white chocolate chips (more or less to taste)
  • Rainbow Sprinkles!

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a pot over low to medium heat on the stove.
  2. In a separate large bowl combine the pretzels, half a bag of marshmallows, and half of the Rice Krispies. Putting some of the marshmallows in this mixture will vary the marshmallow texture, which I enjoy.
  3. Add the remaining one and a half bags of marshmallows to the butter, and stir so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
  4. Once the marshmallows are melted and the mixture is homogeneous (probably 3-5 minutes), add the vanilla extract, and the other half of the Rice Krispies to the marshmallow and butter mixture and stir until they are well incorperated.
  5. Add the warm marshmallow mixture to the large bowl of other ingredients and mix so the mixture is uniform.
  6. Stir in the white chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles last so they do not melt completely.
  7. Portion into muffin tins with liners (I find this the easiest way to manage Rice Krispie treat presentation) and allow to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.

Before:

Ingredients

After:

White Chocolate Pretzel Rice Krispie Treats!

6 Month Check In

It’s July already! Where did the time go? Since we’re just over halfway through 2013, I thought it would be a good time to check in with my New Year’s Resolutions. I’m feeling good about my progress so far:

Personal Goals

  • Graduate with my MBA – CHECK
  • Find a great full-time job- CHECK (I start today)
  • Make at least one international trip- CHECK (Milan and London)
  • Read more books (like maybe 10 for the year)- working on it, but off pace

Fitness Goals

  • Run another half marathon- CHECK (Colonial Half Marathon)
  • Push myself to run faster- I’ve been going up and down in pace, but I’m definitely faster than last year
  • Lead a successful Yorktown Victory Run (I’m the race director)- CHECK
  • Learn the Pilates Reformer- CHECK (I love it)
  • Add more variety to my fitness routine- CHECK (I’ve tried both yoga and Crossfit and hopefully I can make them regular parts of my routine)
  • Continue to make weight loss progress, and continue to stabalize my nutrional routine- I think I’m making baby steps with this (I’ve gone up and down a little because of some vacations, etc)  but I think having a full time job will help me stabilize my routine further

Cooking Goals

  • Make a successful challah bread- nope
  • Broaden my savory dish repertoire- a little bit
  • Try at least 3 new techniques like making marshmallows or risotto, or cooking with a new ingredient like tofu- CHECK on the marshmallows, and I made vegetarian dumplings with my mom
  • Cook more dinners at home rather than using places like Panera as my dinner option too often- CHECK, lately I’ve only been eating dinner out maybe twice a week tops, otherwise I make my own dinner

And let’s see how accurate my horoscope for 2013 from Yahoo was:

2013 brings you sweeping change and intensity, Virgo. The biggest transformation takes place in the realm of the mind. Communication, correspondence and courses of new study carry great importance. Saturn, the cosmic taskmaster, is spending a good chunk of time in the sector of your chart ruling the mental realms and communication. If you’re not already a powerful public speaker, teacher or writer, get ready to discover your latent potential to sway the masses with your power of speech! You’re also hungry for knowledge in 2013, and will want to strengthen your skill set and beef up your resume with even more knowledge than you possess naturally.

I can’t say this is word for word accurate, but I think it corresponds well to my transition from grad school to a new promising job. I love horoscopes!

So the moral of the story is that I need to make Challah bread, continue to improve with my weight management goals, and hit the books hard. I think I can do that in six months!