Baking Through the Alphabet: L is for Lemon French Macarons

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Guess what–

I’m officially a college graduate!

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(pc: Raymond Tay)

In the past three years, I’ve moved away from home, grown tremendously at a home church and found a new one along the way, built and lost friendships and relationships, met great brothers and sisters who’ve impacted me more than they’ll ever know, lived with roommates who I can’t imagine life without (holla, 1128!), learned a lot less about business economics than I would have expected, gone through probably 50 pounds of butter and hiked up the electricity bill, gotten a job which I’ll probably stay at for the next few years at least, joined an on-campus fellowship which I am very thankful for, had a strong support system back at home (and gained a future brother-in-law too!), hermit-ed and broken out of my shell (though it’s still a work in progress), started a food blog, and so many more things that I would like to say but shouldn’t list out here.

But if there’s one giant theme for my time in college, it is that God is faithful. He was faithful in bringing me to UCI, faithful in constructing every single second of my life, faithful in bringing me to where I am today. I am here today by the gospel, and it is by grace that I have been saved (Ephesians 2:8). Life is tough, but there is joy and comfort in the gospel. And at the end of the day, I have my salvation; God was, is, and will forever be sovereign over all things…and that is something to be thankful for.

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(pc: Samantha Ho)

ZOTZOTZOT forever.

This post is a special one–it’s the first collaboration project I’ve ever done with someone. And guess when I actually made these goodies…February. Yep, half a year ago. Laggy to the max, sorry! But Ryan Kim is one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly talented, and that’s perfectly clear if you look through his portfolio. He took photos of the entire process step-by-step, from beating the egg whites, to piping the shells, to filling the macarons with lemon curd icing. He was patient even as I asked questions about all his camera equipment and life, I guess, and even when I spilled powdered sugar all over my kitchen. He definitely knows his stuff, and it was fun getting to know him with this project.

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Anyways, Ryan, if you ever read this, it was a joy collaborating with you on this one! Thanks for all the photos and for making my food look better!

Like I mentioned in my last macaron post, these things can be a little tricky, but there’s nothing to be scared about. I wrote my own tips on the other post, so I won’t be typing them again here. But you can definitely check it out here if you’re curious!

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Lemon French Macarons
(Photo Credit: Ryan Kim)
Makes about 70-1.5 inch shells (35 sandwiches)
Macaron recipe from Not So Humble Pie, Lemon Curd from A Baked Creation

Ingredients:

For the macarons:
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
30-35g granulated sugar
4-6 drops yellow gel food coloring

For the filling (needs to be made ahead of time):
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh lemon juice from 1/2 large lemon (about 2-3 tbsp)
zest from 1/2 large lemon
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, sliced

Note: For almond meal, you can grind up your old almonds, or you can buy the almond flour/meal itself. I usually buy slivered almonds in bulk at Winco and grind them myself, but sometimes I use the almond meal from Trader Joes–$4.99/lb bag.

1. For the macarons: Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Prep a piping bag with a round tip. Place the bag into a tall drinking glass and cuff the bags opening over the top (this makes it easier to fill the bag).

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2. In a large bowl, sift the almond meal to remove any clumps, then weigh out 120g. Some people like to weigh then sift, but I always end up with so many extra lumps/chunky nuts that won’t go through the sieve that I don’t want to be inaccurate in my weights. Sift then weigh.

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3. In another bowl, sift the powdered sugar to remove any clumps, then weigh out 200g.

4. Mix together the powdered sugar and almond meal. You can sift both of them again, but I usually don’t, and my macarons turn out fine. Sifting it together makes sure that they’re evenly incorporated with each other, but I just stir with a spoon.

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5. Pour the 100g of egg whites into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Add the cream of tartar. Begin beating the eggs on low speed. Once they are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. Read here if you’re confused about what this means.

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6. If you’re using food coloring, make sure you are using gel food coloring. Add it in at this point (add more or fewer drops if needed), and whip for a few seconds.

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7. Add about 1/4 of the almond and sugar mixture; fold with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain (make sure you fold! Don’t stir. It’ll deflate the whites). Continue to add the almond and sugar mixture in quarters, and fold until you reach the proper batter. It is finished when you pick up your spatula and the batter flows steadily.  People describe this as lava-like or molten, but I never really understood what this meant… SO it needs to be thick enough that it will mound up on itself, but also fluid enough that it will melt back down after 20 seconds.

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8. Pour the batter into the prepared piping bag, and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets. Make sure you don’t pipe them too close to each other, because they may spread.

9. Rap the baking pan on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. If you want, you can pop the air bubbles that come up with a toothpick.

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10. Let the macarons rest or “dry” on the counter until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. I know they are ready when I touch it and nothing gets on my finger. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for me, but it depends on the humidity and weather. Try to let them dry in a cool place.

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11. When your macarons are almost dry, preheat the oven to 290°F. Bake the macarons on the middle rack of your oven (this depends on your oven). I usually bake one tray at a time.

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12. Bake the macarons for 16-20 minutes. When they are done, let them cool completely on the sheets. Once the macarons are completely cool, peel them off by pulling back the parchment paper/silicone mat. The shells should come off easily. If not, put them back in the oven for 1-2 minutes.

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13. For the filling: Place the metal bowl on top of the saucepan and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture will begin to thicken in about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat; whisk in the sliced butter. Wait for the slice to completely melt before adding the next one. Pour the lemon curd into a glass jar/container, and let it cool. Refrigerate overnight before using.

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14. For Assembly: Match up each shell. Fill a pastry bag filled with the lemon curd. Pipe a small mound of the lemon curd into the center of the shell, then sandwich each shell with its other half. Do this for all the shells.

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15. You have two options now: a) Eat them all. b) Put them in the fridge, and let the flavors develop overtime. I usually just leave them overnight, since I’m always baking at night. Leave the macarons in the fridge when you’re not eating them, then when you’re ready to serve/consume them, let them warm up a bit so the macaron can soften. Or eat them straight from the fridge, like me. Your choice =).

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Goodbye, college.
You went by a little faster than I had expected, but it’s okay.

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Now it’s time to grow up.

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(pc: Timothy Lam)

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(pc: Ce)

Until Next Time,

Soli deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: K is for Kahlúa Crème Brûlée

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Hello, friends! It’s been a while (as usual). Things have been a bit hectic the past few weeks, sorry! But they’re good things, I promise.

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I started this post two and a half weeks ago. I still can’t figure out how to start this, so here I go with the bullet points again:

  • I’m graduating in less than two weeks, eeek! I’m ready for school to be over (senioritis level has been at 100% this past quarter…), but not ready for friends to move back home. I think that’s something I’ve been really thankful for this past quarter, the community of friends.
  • #glmcnation, that is all. More on this eventually.
  • The Office Project. Don’t laugh at me, but I started this project where I post something related to The Office every Wednesday, aka I either recreate the scene, or I do something similar to it. Probably makes no sense right now, but it’s a way for me to have fun, share my love for the show, and test my creativity. Maybe I’ll post a picture on here sometime.

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  • I’ve been listening to two things recently: 1) Kishi Bashi’s new album, Lighght, and 2) Ellensburg. Ellensburg is an album from Resonate Church, who also has this really good hymns album out, called The Hymns Record. Anyway, a few lyrics have been stuck in my head: “But God, rich in mercy…” / “He rolled away the stone, death has been dethroned” / “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the sweetest Name I know.” These lyrics have stuck out to me because I think they hold so much truth–God’s unfailing love and unending mercies, the power of the Resurrection, and JESUS. There’s been a lot of uncertainty going on, not so much uncertainty in getting a job/grad school, but more so in what’s going to happen next in life for me. I’ve graduated college (or graduating, I should say), I’ve gotten my full-time job–so what’s next? It’s easy for me to be discontent in where I am, but I am reminded to not only be thankful, but also to just trust in God. He has a plan for me, and I don’t know what, but I know for a fact that He works all things for my good (Romans 8:28). He is merciful, He is just. He is good.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self  is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

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In addition to taking forever to come up with something to write about, it took me forever to figure out what to bake for the letter K. I settled on Kahlúa and was set on making Kahlúa cheesecake swirled brownies. It did not taste good (in the voice of Judy Geller when Rachel makes the trifle). I put too much Kahlua, and the cheesecake to brownie ratio was off…SUPER OFF. Round two, some other day.

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I partially settled on crème brûlée because I had extra egg yolks and heavy cream sitting in the fridge. And it worked out well! The Kahlúa flavor was prominent–so if you’re not a super big fan of Kahlúa, I would reduce it a little bit. It was creamy and silky, not too sweet, and had a nice kick at the end. I approve!

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Kahlúa Crème Brûlée
Makes 4-6 ramekins
Adapted From Being Suzy Homemaker

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Kahlúa (I used Hazlenut Kahlúa)
6 teaspoons sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place ramekins in a roasting pan/deep baking dish at least 3 inches deep.

2. Stir together the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until very hot, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and Kahlúa until combined. Slowly add 1/3 of the cream mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, while still whisking (you want to temper the eggs and not cook them). Stir in the remaining hot cream slowly.

4. Pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the custard is set around but still slightly jiggly in the center. Let the custards come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for four hours, or until cold.

6. When ready to serve, let the custards come to room temperature. Sprinkle sugar on each to coat the top. Then, using a hand torch, melt the sugar until it forms a crispy crust. Serve immediately (or soon!).

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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Baking Through the Alphabet: J is for Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Pretzel Poppers

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I’ve spent the past hour figuring out how to start this post. So in a nutshell:

  • Happy Spring!
  • Happy spring quarter, AKA my last quarter of college
  • the working life is tiring, but I am grateful.
  • God is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:9

Quite possibly the shortest introduction I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ll do it this way from now on. Hah, we shall see.

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This one is a mouthful–jalapeño bacon cheddar pretzel poppers…or jalapeño bacon cheddar cream cheese pretzel balls….or jalapeño cheddar bacon cheese pretzels. I don’t know, and I’ll probably never have a consistent title for this one, but as long as it starts with a j, I’m ok.

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I started these off with the mindset that I wasn’t going to eat any because I’m not a fan of unsweetened cream cheese or jalapeños. That ended up failing, and I ate some from all four batches. (Side note, these pictures are actually from round 4 with Sam’s new lens. The other pictures were no bueno.) I didn’t think I’d like the cream cheese and jalapeño combo, but it worked, but probably because of everything else–the pretzel dough, the bacon, and the cheese. They taste the best when they’re hot out of the oven, but if not, just microwave it for a few seconds and they are good to go!

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One more thing, the dough from this recipe doesn’t require any rises. I know it sounds strange, but it works. Also, the original recipe called for beer in the dough. But being the 20-year-old I am…I just used water, and it still tasted perfectly fine (although I don’t have beer dough to compare it to..). Just saying, water works too.

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Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Pretzel Poppers
Adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian
Makes about 36 pretzel poppers

Ingredients:

For the dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
12 ounces warm water, can also use milk or beer
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting counter
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pretzel tops

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces shredded Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar cheese)
1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeños
12 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

To finish:
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 cups hot water
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Stir together warm water, yeast and sugar. Add the flour and salt, and knead until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough is too sticky to come together, add some water. The dough should be tacky, not sticky.

In a medium bowl, mix together both cheeses, the bacon, and jalapeños. It’s important for the cream cheese to be softened, otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting everything combined. Add optional salt and pepper (I added them because I was scared the filling would be too bland).

Sprinkle clean countertop with 1/4 cup flour. Place dough on floured countertop, and knead in the flour until it is no longer tacky. Form the dough into a ball. You want to get 36 balls out of this ball, and there are two ways: 1) eyeball it. or 2) Quarter the ball of dough. Roll each quarter into a fat log, and cut each log into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a log, and cut that into 3 pieces. You should end up with 36 pieces in the end.

In a large bowl, add the hot water and baking soda (the water will react a little to the soda, don’t worry).

Roll each dough piece into a ball and flatten into a circle. Add a tablespoon of filling into the center of the dough circle, and pull the dough over the filling, pinching the edges closed. (it’s sort of like making dumplings, if you’ve done that before). Gently roll the dough into a ball. Place 3-4 stuffed dough balls (depending how big your bowl is) into the hot water mixture for a few seconds (or while you prepare the next few dough balls). Remove the dough balls from water and place onto the baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the dough pieces are stuffed and dunked in the baking soda/water mixture.

Place the dough balls onto the parchment paper. Make sure they aren’t touching. Brush each ball with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. I sprinkled mine with garlic salt!

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli deo Gloria, and happy reading, eating, and baking!

 

Baking Through the Alphabet: I is for Irish Cream Bread Pudding

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Do some songs just remind you of certain moments?

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Like for me, Anberlin will always remind me of high school. Especially when “Pray Tell” kept running through my head during my Calc BC test junior year.

“Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson (or any song by him) will always remind me of Drama 16…the parts that I did manage to stay awake in, at least. (Thanks N and W for being my friends in this class!)

“Souvenirs” will always remind me of finals week, fall quarter, freshman year…and basically what really sparked my Switchfoot obsession.

“Holding my World” by Kristin Stanfill will remind me of when I got rejected from UCLA. Truth that I needed, though. More on that later.

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I think baking is the same way. There are just some things that hold so much significance to them.

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Asian steamed buns will always remind me of my childhood, because that was something I always made with my mom.

Oatmeal raisin cookies will always remind me of my grandpa, because that was his favorite, and every time he visited, I made sure he had a batch of those waiting for him.

Cinnamon rolls will remind me of my apartment, Samoas my sister, cheesecake my mom, etc. There’s something to everything.

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This one does the same, and it’ll always remind me of work.

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I remember this one day I was sitting at the table in our office kitchen with my coworkers, and I was telling them how I couldn’t think of what to do for the letter “i.” I’m doing this whole entire alphabet thing based on the main ingredient/flavor. For example, if I made Thin Mints Cupcakes (which I did actually, post coming…eventually), they’d be filed for the letter “t” and not “c” because Thin Mints is the main ingredient. I couldn’t think of a main ingredient that started with “i.”

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…Anyways, my coworker T suggested this bread pudding recipe that used Baileys and chocolate. I had no idea what Baileys was, and she explained that it was this Irish cream liquor with a coffee flavor. She gave me the recipe, the Baileys, and the idea for this post. I don’t think you’ll ever read this, T, but this one’s for you! =)

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I was a little iffy about bread pudding because I’d much rather eat the bread by itself (I’m a major carbs fan, in case I haven’t mentioned it yet). But I figured that this would be a good addition to this alphabet mix, so I went for it. The end result? YUM. A little too rich for my taste, but definitely comforting. French bread cubes soaked in a custard, mixed with white and dark chocolate chips, baked in little ramekins to perfection, then topped with a sweet Irish cream sauce. I think it’d go really well with vanilla ice cream too! But I didn’t have any…boo.

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Three notes though, 1) More dark chocolate chips next time, and maybe less white chocolate chips, 2) You can get little Irish cream bottles at BevMo! You need two of those little bottles (they’re so cute!). You won’t use all of it, but I just poured the leftover liquor into the custard sauce, and 3) Less Irish cream sauce. I’d probably cut that part of the recipe in half because I had so much leftover. I didn’t want it too rich, so I didn’t drizzle as much cream sauce over the bread pudding. It’s your call though. If you cut the cream sauce recipe in half, you have some Irish cream liquor to put into the custard sauce.

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Irish Cream Bread Pudding
Makes 8 ramekins
Adapted From Epicurious

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons Irish cream liquor (Baileys)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

For the bread pudding:
14 cups 3/4-inch cube French bread with crust (about 12 ounces)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped or chips
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped or chips
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, separated
1/2 cup whole milk

1. For the sauce: Bring the cream, liquor, sugar, and vanilla to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Mix the cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl to blend, then whisk it into the cream mixture. Boil until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

2. For the bread pudding: Combine the bread and chocolates in a large bowl, and toss to blend. In another large bowl, beat the eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla, and leftover Irish cream liquor. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups cream and milk. Add the cream mixture to the bread mixture, and stir to combine. Really combine it so the bread can soak in all the custard. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the ramekins by spraying with nonstick spray. Scoop the bread mixture into the prepared ramekins (or if you want, a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish). Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake the pudding until the edges are golden and the custard is set in center, about 1 hour. Let the pudding cool slightly.

4. Drizzle the pudding with the Irish cream sauce, and serve warm. Enjoy!

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Holding my World. I sort of stopped listening to that song for a while, but it came back on my playlist the other day, and it reminded me so much about really trusting in God. I first heard this song this one Friday night at our high school fellowship group back in 2011. I had just gotten rejected from UCLA, which was my number one choice (even though a part of me knew I wouldn’t get in), so I was definitely bummed. But these lyrics spoke so much truth to me:

So I will not worry or fret
My God is the God who will never forget
All of His goodness and all of His promises
He’s holding my world in His hands

I was reminded that God is always good and He is always sovereign through my trials. At that moment, it sucked that I didn’t get into UCLA, but God is good because I ended up here at Irvine, and life is good. I’ve learned plenty, met great friends, have a stable job, and live with wonderful roommates. I’ve found accountability and loving brothers and sisters here who always care and love me. God was good, and He will always be good. He had a plan for me to be here at Irvine, and He has a plan for everything else in my future. Note to self: be patient and trust in God.

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating and baking!

 

Baking Through the Alphabet: H is for Honey Cranberry Orange Scones

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I’m sick.

Headache, runny/stuff nose, slight cough, burning eyes (a little), fever, and slight nausea.

But after sucking it up at work for 7 hours and finally caving in at 3 to use my sick hours and to just go home, and after some meds and a good nap, I’m feeling much better! I think. Hopefully I’m well enough to go in to work tomorrow. (Edit: I didn’t make it to work. POO.)

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But seriously. Sick hours = :) :) :).

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I’ve been really slow with the alphabet recently because I’ve been baking other things outside of this alphabet project. I’ve made…thin mint cupcakes (which will probably be for T), chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes, baked parmesan eggs, Andes mint chocolate cookies, and other baked goodies just for friends and the apartment. Cream cheese was on sale at Albertsons for a buck again, so I’ll try to find things to make with those. I bought 10 blocks HAHA.

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I made these scones about 3 weeks ago. I knew I wanted to do something with honey for T, but I was having a reaaallly hard time finding something. I wanted to make some baked good that hasn’t been a part of this whole alphabet thing yet. I settled on this honey cinnamon scone recipe until Sam gave me the idea to make honey cranberry scones.

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I really wish the honey flavor stood out more though, but I love the citrusy combination with the fluffy scones and tart cranberries. I used this honey that Sam got from a farmer’s market, but take my advice, use honey instead of sugar. I made it once replacing the honey with 3 tablespoons of sugar, but they just came out so much drier. Also, the flour called for in the original recipe wasn’t enough; my dough was sooo sticky. Just keep adding flour until it’s manageable; I gave an estimate in the recipe below. Don’t add too much because the scones will turn out dry. Oh, I also used milk instead of cream to save some fat and calories. The scones still came out delicious! So yummy that I made them again three times after that. =)

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Honey Cranberry Orange Scones
From Inspired Taste
Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or 2 1/2 depending on how wet the dough is)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cold milk, plus 1 tablespoon for tops of scones
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon orange zest (I used the zest from one orange)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (like Sugar in the Raw…I used
half of those packets you can get a coffee shops)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. I used my silicon baking mat and it got stained.

2. For the dough, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few small crumbles of butter the size of peas. Alternatively you can do this by hand in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips. I just find that a food processor makes it so much easier.

3. In another bowl, combine the milk, honey, and orange zest and stir until the honey is completely incorporated into the cream.

4. Pour the flour/butter mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the cranberries. Pour in the honey-milk mixture and mix until a dough forms. If it’s too wet, add a little flour just until it’s easy to work with, but not too much or else the scones will come out dry.

5. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3 to 5 times. Form it into an 8 inch circle and cut into 8 triangles.

6. Place the scones onto the lined baking sheet. Brush with the milk and lightly sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.

7. Bake scones in the preheated over for 12 to 15 minutes until light golden brown. Scones are best eaten fresh, but they can keep at room temperature for a few days. Perfect for breakfast. Enjoy!

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Perfect with some coffee (sorry, I lied in the picture because I really don’t drink my coffee that black…), a journal, and the word of God. :)

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Happy Thursday!

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: G is for Garlic Parmesan Bread Knots

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Oops, I lagged again! Forgive me, please.

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I’ve been super lazy about blogging (and pretty much everything else, actually). BUT I have been baking and the pictures are sitting on my laptop waiting to be edited.

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Actually…did I mention I got a job? I work full-time at the same place I was a student worker at, and I’m a part-time student for the next two quarters until I graduate in June (thanks 2014 for letting me crash your party!). I work 40 hours a week, and I am actually really enjoying the working life. I’m definitely not a big fan of studying or school, and I really like just being able to come home at 5 and…relax. I’m sure I have it easy now, because I know I’ll have many more responsibilities once I’m married, have kids, etc. But for now, I’m just going to enjoy it.

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I’m really thankful for my job, and sometimes I forget to remind myself how lucky I am to have this job. Everything for this job just fell into place…the timing worked out really well. I was mentioning to my boss (who is also a Christian and is a pastor’s wife) the other day how lucky I was to have randomly met my friend Heidi (who introduced me to the student position). I was telling her how lucky I was to have everything work out so smoothly. But she reminded me that it wasn’t pure luck, it was God who had everything planned out. It was my sovereign creator who had allowed everything to happen the way it did. And I am so thankful.

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[Look! My coworkers got my flowers for my new office :’) ]

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Anyways,

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Garlic Parmesan Knots. Soft, bread-y knots topped with garlic, butter, fresh parsley, and parmesan cheese. It’s sooo yummy. It’s a little hard to tie the dough into knots, but after a few you get the hang of it. After you do that, you bake the knots, then you toss them in a garlic/butter/oil/parsley mixture and top them with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Eat them while they’re warm!

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Garlic Parmesan Bread Knots
Makes about 40 knots
Adapted From White on Rice Couple

Ingredients:

For the dough:
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
about 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Parmesan-Garlic Coating:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly warm
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

1. To make the dough: Combine the warm water, olive oil, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the flour and mix and knead to incorporate all the ingredients. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm spot to proof until doubled in volume.

2. If you want, you can chill the dough for a few hours to make it easier to handle. I didn’t have time so I skipped this step.

3. Prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

4. For the knots, pinch off and weigh 1 oz (28g) balls of dough. Weighing helps keep the sizes consistent. Roll the dough ball back and forth to create an even rope about 6-inch long. Tie the rope into a knot (over, under, and through), and place the knots onto the lined sheets. Allow about 1 1/2-inches between each knot. If the dough gets too sticky, you can add a little flour. Be careful to not add too much flour or the knots will come out dry. Let the knots rise on the trays until doubled in size before baking.

5. Preheat the oven to 400° F. 

6. When the knots have doubled in size, bake the knots in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

7. While the knots are baking, prepare the coating. Mix together the warm/hot butter, olive oil, parsley, and garlic (If you want a stronger garlic flavor, you can melt the butter with the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan). Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

8. When the knots are done and still warm, toss the knots with the garlic coating, then top with parmesan cheese. These taste best when warm, but you can always heat them up in the microwave for a few seconds if they get cold. Enjoy!

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Until Next Time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

gracefulleats is one! (plus Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream)

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I’m taking a break from my alphabets for today, because…

gracefulleats is one!

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It’s been exactly a year since I’ve started this thing, and I must say…it’s been a blessing. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but I really mean it when I say it. It’s been a crazy year (both in and out of this blog), and I’ve learned so much about myself and about others along the way.

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In the past year, I’ve baked through over 60 recipes, made three birthday cakes, baked for a bridal shower, engagement party, and wedding, was featured on Welcome Home and on Rachael Ray magazine’s “#RRWhatchaCookin Featured Cook of the Week,” and made it to foodgawker (after 27 declines!). I’ve received so much support and encouragement from my family and friends, and I am thankful. But…

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Soli Deo Gloria means “glory to God alone.” I’ve been reading, researching, and racking my brain the past few days to find a concise way to explain this…but I can’t. It’s too difficult to define. The way I see it is this (with the help of John Piper and Mark Driscoll): the glory of God is the infinite beauty and worth of God publicly displayed. It is the “radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections (Piper).” It is His beauty and greatness, His infinite worth radiated for us to see. “God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections (Piper).”

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You see, God deserves eternal praise. He should be our greatest joy and desire, and we should find hope and happiness in that fact that we have a God who loves us, knows us, and has sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We should delight in our salvation in Christ and in the fact that we get to live for His glory. HIS glory, not ours, and not that we have to, but because we get to. “We get to finally do the singular cause for which we were made: to glorify God (Driscoll).” God created us for His glory; therefore, as His children, we should live for the glory of God.

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If you’ve noticed, I always end my posts with Soli Deo Gloria. I do that for two reasons: 1) As a reminder to myself that all glory be to God; 2) because all glory really does belong to God. And this is true because we are called to glorify God in all that we do, as it is commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). I know that was an abnormally long introduction, but a) it’s my birthday (kindasortanotreally) and b) this is important to me, and I pray and hope that this may be an encouragement to you as it is to me. You can read more here, here, here, and here.

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I’m celebrating gracefulleats’s first birthday with my favorite chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream. I first made this for a birthday cake I had to do back in September, and it was the best chocolate cake I’d ever made–I haven’t gone to a different chocolate cake recipe yet! The cake has a strong chocolate flavor, is moist, and isn’t too sweet. It pairs perfectly with the vanilla buttercream which is sweet, fluffy, and creamy. It doesn’t have that greasy taste that a lot of other buttercreams have. The recipe below makes a two-layer 6-inch cake (I cut my two layers in half so I had four) and enough buttercream to frost and fill the cake generously.

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Chocolate Cake
Makes two 6-inch layers
From Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch pans. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla.Pour in a third of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add half of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat–add the rest of the dry ingredients, mix, then add the rest of the sour cream; mix until just combined. Gently stir in the hot coffee, and pour the batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool completely before frosting.

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Vanilla Buttercream
Makes enough to frost and fill a 6-inch layer cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Add the heavy cream, and beat until fluffy. You can add more or less heavy cream depending on how thick you like your frosting.

For Assembly: The Whisk Kid has a really good tutorial on assembling a layer cake. You can find it here! I promise it’s super useful! I really enjoyed it, and it was helpful for me too.

Enjoy!

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With all that said and done…here’s to another year. Whatever comes my way, I’m ready! I’m ready for the opportunities, the learning experiences, and the baking adventures. Thank you all again for your support! And as always…

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Until next time,

SOLI. DEO. GLORIA. (and happy reading, eating, and baking!)

Baking Through the Alphabet: F is for Flan Cupcakes

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There’s this one episode in Friends where they’re sitting around the dining table at the girls’ apartment planning Rachel’s surprise birthday party. Phoebe asks about the birthday cake, and Monica says she’s not making a birthday cake, but is making “birthday flan” instead. “It’s a traditional Mexican custard dessert!,” to which Joey responds with “Happy birthday, here’s some goo.”

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The reason why I mention this is because:

1) Friends is my favorite TV show! I don’t really agree with a lot of their morals, but I really do appreciate the friendship among the six of them. The show never fails to make me laugh, and my friends and I love quoting their lines for any and every situation. I own all 10 seasons, and it never gets old. Never.

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2) F is for Flan Cupcakes! I found these cupcakes while watching Food Network with a friend a few years back. It seemed like such a genius idea–vanilla cupcakes filled with flan, topped with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

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I know the recipe seems complicated, but it’s not too bad! Slow and steady wins the race. The cupcakes were moist and fluffy…and I’d have to say the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve made so far. The flan came out more like a really light and fluffy cheesecake, a bit like the Asian cheesecakes with a caramel flavor. For the cream cheese frosting, I ended up making half of what the original frosting recipe called for, and I was able to frost 18 out of the 24 cupcakes. I’m not a big fan of frosting and a little goes a long way for me, but if you are, feel free to double what’s called for below.

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As for the cupcake as a whole, I really wish the flan flavor shined more. With the cream cheese frosting and vanilla cupcake, the flan was kind of tucked away in the back. Regardless, I think this is the best cupcake I’ve made so far (which…isn’t THAT big of a deal since I don’t make cupcakes that often. BUT they usually fail–too dry, frosting too runny, too doughy, etc–so I’m glad this one turned out well).You don’t use all the flan in the cupcakes, but you can always use the extra as a side dessert. To be honest, I think I like the flan more on its own than with the cupcakes because it tastes like a light cheesecake. I like the combination and concept behind the flan cupcakes, which is why I’m sharing this with you all. Maybe you’ll like these more than my picky tastebuds did!

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Flan Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
From Food Network

Ingredients:

For the Flan Custard:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

For the Cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
One 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Flan Custard: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns into a nice, amber color, about 10 minutes, without stirring. Pour the caramelized sugar into an 8- by 10-inch pan or 10-inch cake pan. Let it cool.

2. In a blender, blend together the eggs, cream cheese, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Blend for about 4 minutes.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the sugar. Put the pan inside an 11 x 14-inch pan. Pour water into the larger pan until almost full (water bath). Bake until it sets and has a slight uniform jiggle, about 1 hour. When done, take out the small pan and let it cool.

4. For the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by lining with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. In another bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla; mix until fluffy. Fold in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Do not overmix. Portion the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

6. For the Frosting: Cream together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy.

7. For Assembly: Cut a hole in the top of each cupcake. You can use an apple corer; I used a paring knife. Fill a pastry bag with the flan. Pipe in enough flan to fill the hole in the cupcake. Top each cupcake with frosting. Enjoy!

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So for all the January babies, happy birthday, here’s some goo. =)

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: E is for Earl Grey Donuts (baked) with a Blueberry Glaze

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I thought I would post another letter before the year ended…but obviously I didn’t. Winter break is over (insert sadface), but it was a good three weeks. I spent the first week plus some at work, a couple more days at a church retreat, and the remaining days with my family and friends. It’s always a joy to be at home, and it makes me happy to see old faces back home for the holidays.

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2014 is here, 2013 is gone (*whispers* foreverrrr. If anyone got that Friends reference…you make me proud), and winter quarter is here! I’m not going to go into too much detail, but 2013 was a good year. A bunch of trials and struggles, but I know that God is sovereign and has planned all things for a greater purpose.

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Something that comes with each new year is new year resolutions. I used to make resolutions, but stopped once I failed to keep up with them. As for this year…I’m not sure. I haven’t really sat down to think about my resolutions, but I do know one of them is be more consistent with my blog posts (sorry all!!). One for sure resolution is to glorify God in all that I do. And only through the grace of God may I do so.

One more thing before I get to the donuts (or doughnuts? what?): The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. Read it. It’s an encouragement. I’m reading it too.

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E is for earl grey (baked) donuts with a blueberry glaze. I had originally planned to do earl grey macarons for the letter E, but that one totally flopped. I tried a new recipe and the shells just looked like junk. I did tint it a pretty blueish/gray color though! But the shells didn’t come out right, and the filling was too runny. I’ll try them again eventually! You’ll find out when I do.

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But I finally caved and bought donut pans–they’re so cute! I love donuts, but I hate dealing with all the oil after you fry them, so I figured baking them would be the way to go. BUT DISCLAIMER: if you’re thinking baked donuts=yeasty, bready donuts, then you’re wrong, and this recipe may not be the right one for you. Baked donuts taste more like muffins instead of bread, but having them in a donut shape do make them much more fun.

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I added two earl grey tea bags to the donut batter–I steeped one bag in the hot milk, and another bag I tried crushing the tea leaves and then threw them in with the dry ingredients. I made a blueberry glaze to go on top, and I really do like the combination, but to be honest, the blueberry flavor overpowered the earl grey flavor. If I were to make this again, I’d probably try either a regular vanilla glaze, or an earl grey glaze. Regardless, the donuts were moist and the earl grey flavor was there. Again, they had a muffin texture to them rather than a bready texture, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with leftover oil and all the excess fat if I were to fry them. I like how they turned out! The bits of blueberries look like sprinkles. And if you like The Simpsons, these donuts look like the infamous one on the show =)

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Baked Earl Grey Donuts with Blueberry Glaze
Makes 1 dozen (I made 6 regular and 24 mini ones)
Adapted from A Beautiful Mess

Ingredients:

For the Earl Grey Donuts:
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 earl grey tea bags
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, hot
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Blueberry Glaze:
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare your donut pans by spraying with cooking spray.

2. For the donuts: Open one tea bag, and pour out the leaves into a small bowl. Using a spoon (or a mortar and pestle if you have it), crush up the big tea leaves by pushing the tea leaves against the sides of the bowl with the spoon. It’s okay if you can’t get it. I just wanted didn’t want big leaves in the donuts.

3. Steep the other tea bag in the hot milk for 5 minutes. Using a fork, poke at the bag to get as much flavor out of the leaves. It’s okay if you pop the bag because the leaves will just get mixed into the donut dough. Toss the tea bag.

4. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (first five listed above). In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (the last five listed above, including the steeped milk–make sure it’s not too hot or it’ll cook the eggs).

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined.

6. Fill the prepared donut pans 2/3 full with batter (don’t fill too much, or else they’ll come out looking like mini bundt cakes). You can spoon in the batter, but I poured the batter into a pastry bag and piped the batter into the pans for better control. Bake them for 10-13 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you’re making mini donuts, bake them for 8-10 minutes. Let the donuts cool before dipping them in the glaze.

7. For the blueberry glaze: Place blueberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor, and pulse until smooth.

8. Dip the cooled donuts in the glaze, and let them set before serving. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: D is for Dulce de Leche Eclairs

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Hello to all my new readers!

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It’s crazy how much my blog has grown the past few weeks, all thanks to Welcome Home on Facebook! I know there are a lot of comments sitting in my inbox, but I promise I’ll get to them soon! I’ve been swamped with finals and projects these past two week and haven’t had the chance to get around to them. But guess what? Finals are done, projects have been submitted, fall quarter duties have been relieved, so I can safely say…

HELLO WINTER BREAK!

Yes, I survived another quarter of college (all through the grace of God, of course). It’s been a crazy one, but I’m thankful for it all.

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I had meant for this post to be my “Happy Thanksgiving!” post, so let me just say…Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope you all had an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving with your loved ones (food included!). I know I did–it was great to be at home during the week with family and friends. I had lunch with my family, reunited with (actually, MET for the very first time) some extremely distant cousins for dinner (we have the same great-great-great grandma), and hung out with high school and church friends. It was a weekend well spent!

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I’m still baking my way through the alphabet. I know I’m only four letters in, but this letter kind of sucked. I knew I wanted to do dulce de leche eclairs, but it took me THREE tries to get the filling right. First, I tried making this diplomat cream, which is basically a combination of whipped cream and pastry cream. It was perfect since I had a bunch of leftover egg yolks from making macarons. But I messed up because I overcooked the pastry cream and ended up with this ugly, chunky, scrambled egg mess. Not good. Delicious!, but not good. I decided to make a dulce de leche whipped cream by beating together dulce de leche and heavy cream. All was well, until I got a little selfish and wanted stiffer peaks. So I put the bowl back under the wire whisk, turned it on, and ran to get my camera. I swear, it was only like 20 seconds, but by the time I got back the cream was overbeat (is that a word?) and had turned into a curdled mess. Boo.

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Third time was the charm. I used my trusty cream puff recipe from Joy of Baking, and piped logs instead of little mounds. The eclairs did come out a little fatter than I would’ve liked and I’ll have to pipe thinner logs next time, but they were still delicious. I spread a little dulce de leche on the bottom shell of the eclair, filled it with dulce de leche whipped cream, topped it with its other half, and topped that with chocolate ganache. The chocolate and dulce de leche go so nicely together, and it’s a nice twist to your typical cream puff/eclair. My roommates said it was a little too sweet for them (it was okay for me), but if you want it less sweet, you can spread less dulce de leche onto the bottom puff or skip it altogether. Either way, the chocolate ganache with the eclair shell and the dulce de leche whipped cream will be tres excelente (insert the “ok” hand emoji here).

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Dulce de Leche Eclairs
Makes 16 eclairs
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

For the Choux Pastry:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup dulce de leche (more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the chocolate ganache:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. For the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil. Make sure the butter is completely melted before the water boils. Remove it from the heat, and using a wooden spoon, add the flour, sugar, and salt, stir until combined. Return the saucepan back to the heat, and keep stirring until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball.

2. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl, and beat it to release the steam from the dough. When the dough is lukewarm, mix in the eggs until you have a smooth, thick paste. The dough will separate but will come together to form a thick paste. The dough should fall from the spoon in a thick ribbon.

3. Place the dough in a pastry bag and pipe oblongs of dough onto the baking sheet. I made mine slightly larger, but the original recipe piped “12 oblongs of dough about 3/4 inch wide. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are an amber color and are almost dry inside when split. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

4. For the filling: With a whisk attachment (or a whisk, if you’re doing it by hand), beat the cream until soft peaks form. Mix in the dulce de leche, and beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Add more dulce de leche if you want a stronger flavor. Mix in the vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5. For the chocolate ganache: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream until just boiling and pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate is melted.

6. For assembly: Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Take the top shell, dip it into the chocolate glaze, and let the excess drip off. Let it dry. Spread a little dulce de leche onto the bottom half (you should have some extra from the can), and fill it (can spoon or pipe) with the dulce de leche cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use; it can be stored for two days. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!