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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

If you’ve been following either CNBC or “The Daily Show” — or basically if you’ve turned on your TV at all this week — then you know that Jim Cramer is in a sort of televised brawl with Jon Stewart. It all began with this “Daily Show” clip.

Cramer, in contrast to his sometimes tough and angry “Mad Money” persona, is actually quite a sensitive man, and he didn’t appreciate the criticism. A weeklong back-and-forth has ensued. It’s all pretty ridiculous (and entertaining), and I honestly don’t know how seriously Cramer is taking it. I have to imagine that he understands that by putting himself out there the way he does, he leaves himself open to criticism. And I have to assume that Jon Stewart gives him the benefit of the doubt, because no one, not even the financial experts, knew quite what the market was capable of before the market punched us all in the face with it.

It all comes to a head tonight with Cramer’s appearance on “The Daily Show,” and along with the rest of America, I will be watching.

What I take issue with is this. Gawker has chosen to bring Erin Burnett into this mess and lump her together with all of the other CNBC pundits when she quite clearly is in a class of her own. For example, today on “Morning Joe,” Erin was caught off-guard having a breakfast of Cheetos. It is the latest in a long list of adorable and charming things Erin has been filmed doing and saying.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

She handled herself capably on the Bill Maher show. She does her job in defending Cramer, and she does it as adorably as she does everything else. There is nothing loathsome about it. And Gawker failed to mention that on Monday’s “Stop Trading!” segment (the wrapup of which I write every day for work), Erin put up a good fight against Mr. Cramer, proving she is far from the network pawn Gawker would make her out to be.

Gawker also recently deigned to mock Ms. Burnett for this gem, a perfect example of why she deserves recognition as business news television’s Cutest Little Button. I have yet to verify her claim that the chocolate chip cookie was invented during the Great Depression, but just watch the way she throws back her head when Matt Lauer pokes some harmless fun at her!

And honestly, where would the world be without the chocolate chip cookie? You tell me! I know where I wouldn’t have been last week at this time: in my kitchen making chocolate chip cookies! And I know what wouldn’t be in my freezer right now: two batches of frozen leftover chocolate-chip-cookie dough!

Also, for the record, I have spent a full day in front of CNBC every weekday for the better part of two and a half years, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not that bad. And it’s not just because Erin Burnett’s so impossibly adorable.

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via thisiswhyyourefat.com via jasongraphix

A co-worker just alerted me to the website This Is Why You’re Fat. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do that with a box of Oreos; I think the most I ever put together between two ends of a cookie were three lard centers.  That stuff is so delicious!

I have fairly healthy body image, so I’m not going to say I’m fat.  I’m not.  But if I were fat, here would be the most-likely reasons why:

  1. Pasta, particularly with butter (or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, which I can believe is not butter but still love the taste of) and a lot a lot a lot of cheese.
  2. Baking, especially when it involves frosting. Or batter. Or dough.  Or anything edible.
  3. Bread. I cannot resist a good bread basket, equally a fan of olive oil and salt on top as butter, and I just love a cheese plate that allows me another opportunity to slather brie onto a thinly sliced baguette.
  4. Chipotle. There was a period of time in grad school, during the semester when I was teaching, that I ate a Chiptole fajita burrito multiple times a week.  I don’t know how I ever got myself to stop doing that.  Or why.
  5. Street meat.  Those of you not lucky enough to live in a city that serves up street meat on nearly ever corner, I pity you. I think in an ideal world, I would alternate between Chipotle and chicken-over-rice from the plaza near work for lunch every day, and I’d have pasta with bread and cheese for dinner.  Is that gross?  I’d also find the time to bake every single day.

As for the first item on my list, we all know how much I love pasta. I should do a better job of defending this much-maligned staple of my diet. It started with Atkins, which had a snowball effect of many more low-carb and even no-carb diets. Those diets are ridiculous, and here is why.

One summer during college, or perhaps right before college, I spent a month or so at home.  All I did, all day long, was sew and watch movies.  I would emerge from the basement a couple of times a day to have a big bowl of plain pasta with butter and cheese, and I would retire to bed as my parents were waking up, usually around 6 in the morning.  A few things happened: I made a lot of dresses, most of which I never wore (and I even made one for Croquette, which she probably never wore, either). My dad took back his credit card, which he’d given me to rent movies with, when he discovered I’d rented more than 100 movies in a few weeks’ time. I also lost 15 pounds.

It was the best diet ever.

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The Croquer beat me to it, and she’s going to be hard to beat. She’s already posted her results of our Super Bowl Cupcake Showdown, and so far, her performance, well, takes the cake.

Let’s see how I measure up.

I was nervous about these cupcakes. Peanut Butter and Julie won a recent Food Network Showdown with them, which Croque Madame had originally alerted me to. But upon reading the recipe reviews, a few issues came to light. It seemed some thought the cake not sweet enough, the frosting too sweet. Some complained that they couldn’t taste the malt. Croque Madame decided to make Paula Dean’s Red Velvets instead.

But, always up for a baking challenge (and somewhat convinced the Food Network reviewers just hadn’t used the right ingredients), I decided that I’d go for it anyway. After hunting for malted milk powder all over Brooklyn and Manhattan and quieting some of my worries over a lovely email exchange with Julie, the recipe’s author, who explained that she’d cut the sugar down on the cake so as to provide a contrast to the sweet frosting, I set to baking.

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These cupcakes are incredibly easy to make, and they baked up beautifully. I suspect that I added extra cream to the frosting, because I had set aside a bit (and used the rest to make polenta) the night before, then forgot to measure out the proper amount later and just dumped it all in. I was worried that this made the frosting too goopy, and I was concerned that it never set up and that the acid in the cherry preserves had curdled the buttercream a bit (causing a very slightly grainy texture and appearance), something Julie had warned me about. Repeated licks off my fingers as I frosted, though, revealed it to be delicious.  (Any baker knows that, no matter how many damp paper towels you keep on hand, the best way to stay unsticky during the frosting process is to lick.) The buttercream was sweet, yes, but the tart cherry preserves created such a marvelous contrast! And Julie was right: The contrast between the cake and the frosting was also lovely. (Contrary to some of the Food Network reviewers, I did not find the cake too bitter on its own; it was a refreshing change from the overly sweet cupcake one usually encounters.)  I could not taste the malt, really, but I didn’t miss it.  The hint was enough, along with the hint of espresso and the slight chewiness of the mini milk-chocolate chips (which one taster would later call a “toothsome addition”).

The cherry on top? The perfect finishing touch.

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I had my cupcakes taste-tested at two separate Super Bowl parties. I encouraged honesty in scores and comments, but overall the response was very positive. Perhaps I hadn’t provided a space in which my testers felt comfortable critiquing me; perhaps my ‘cakes were just that good. I ate three over the course of the weekend (and several cups of frosting along the way), but I suppose I’m biased.

Many remarked on the appearance of the cupcakes (“cute” was an oft-used adjective, and one taster said, merely, “wow”), which surprised me, because I found them a bit sloppy. (I’ve never taken a pastry decorating class and quickly abandoned my original idea of piping the frosting onto the cakes when I realized I didn’t have a frosting tip large enough for the chunks of cherry preserve to push through.) All seemed to enjoy the experience of eating the cupcakes, too, though some were more critical than others. The lowest score, both by an individual judge and by the group combined, was awarded to the cake texture, which also surprised me. I loved the cake, even more than the frosting, though I cannot discount the pure joy it was to encounter one of those tart cherry chunks among that creamy, sugary buttercream.

Other comments included that the cake was moist and dense at the same time, a “perfect texture.” One judge described the flavor of the cake as having a “mind-bending complexity,” but this judge (and I have my suspicions as to who it was, but in the spirit of anonymity, I won’t reveal) also thought that these cupcakes should put Magnolia (whose buttercream recipe is my usual go-to) out of business, so I suspect he (or she) was having a bit of fun with the hyperbole.

And so, the much-awaited scores:

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This was never about the competition, so I won’t even bother to compare my scores with Croque Madame’s. Make your own comparisons, and draw our own conclusions. My take on it is that we both made some pretty delicious ‘cakes.  I wish we could’ve tasted each other’s!

Note: My testers, too, were confused by the ballot.  In the future, 1 shall be low, and 5 shall be high.  My thinking behind 1 as high was No. 1, but I guess that doesn’t translate implicitly.

And as for Croque Madame’s comment that her ‘cakes were more Super Bowl-appropriate — I assume because of their color — I add that mine were pink, too, with a splash of red on top.  But that was just a happy accident.

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Announcing the first annual Superbowl Cupcake Showdown. Croque Madame is making Red Cardinal Velvet cakes, to compete with my Double Chocolate Malt Shop Cupcakes With Cherry Vanilla Buttercream.

My cupcakes are done, so it’s left to the Croquester to see if she can top them. I have my doubts. These things are pretty phenomenal. The recipe is by Peanut Butter and Julie, who won a Food Network Recipe Showdown with them this month. I had a few questions about the recipe, and she responded kindly and quickly to my email. I hope I’ve done this fabulous recipe justice. The contrast of flavors–sweet with bitter, sweet with tart–is really fantastic, and I think I captured it well.

It’s up to my judges, though, who will be selected at random tomorrow, to decide.

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