Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baked: This book was made for me

I heard about this new cookbook when it came out last fall and was intrigued with the title. And when I read more about the bakery I swear I started a little fund to save for that trip to New York I've always wanted to take. Baked in Brooklyn will be one of my first stops.

Until then, I plan to make as many recipes from their cookbook as possible. To start, I needed a cake for my mom's birthday and made the Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake. I'm fond of malt flavor, and apparently so are Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the proprietors. The cake was soft and heavenly - white cake with subtle malt flavor. The Milk Chocolate Frosting was pretty much the best I've ever had. You make it like a ganache, by pouring hot cream over chopped chocolate. But then you beat in three sticks of butter. Heaven. I used my little bit of leftover to frost some sugar cookies.

Next I tried the first recipe from the breakfast chapter - Sour Lemon Scones. With an abundance of fresh lemons in my yard, it was a good fit. I'm a sucker for any recipe that calls for fresh lemon zest. The book calls the scones "elegant" but I disagree. I'd call them a little slice of heaven - light and airy with sunshiny lemon flavor. They're more like a comfort food to me. My husband was a big fan too. The recipe makes quite a bit, so I refrigerated some of the dough for a few days and baked them fresh later. They turned out great, although these scones reheat fairly well too.

I saved the best for last - Baked's famous Brownies. They were featured as one of Oprah's favorite things, catapulting them to instant stardom. The Baked Brownie was also chosen as the favorite brownie by America's Test Kitchen and The Today Show. And I will add my vote as the best brownie I've ever eaten. Number 30 on my list is to develop the perfect brownie recipe. I'm just going to count that as done. It doesn't get better than these. And when I e-mailed Baked to ask if I could share the recipe I got a nice response from Matt Lewis. Go make them now. And while the brownies are in the oven baking, go online and order yourself the whole book: Baked, New Frontiers in Baking - by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

Yield: 24 brownies

The Baked brownie is a beautiful thing. It has won the hearts and minds of many people, been featured on the pages of O Magazine as a favorite thing, and won best brownie by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and the Today Show. Our brownie really owes many kudos to our friend and superstar pastry chef Lesli Heffler-Flick. She created the original ultimate brownie for us. It is dense, chocolatey, and slightly fudgy, and we are forever grateful to her for letting us adapt her recipe.

Baked Note: A great brownie is easy to make, but you have to be aware of several factors. 1. Use a dark cocoa powder, like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth. 2. Make sure your eggs are room temperature and do not overbeat them into the batter, and 3. Check your brownies often as they bake. An even slightly overbaked brownie is not a Baked Brownie.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
8 ounces butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.

Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK) fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Love This Album

For the second installment of my Artists Series, I have a sultry new musical artist. I found Jason Damato on Amazon's free mp3 downloads. (Did you know they have tons of free downloads? Check here.) They had one song from his debut album available as a free download, Floating Down a River. (Sorry, gone now.) And I ended up purchasing the rest of the album, which is only 6 songs total. My favorite track is Sing You to Sleep. You can purchase Jason's album from Amazon or iTunes.

I had never heard of him, but I am loving Jason's voice - it's so smooth, but with a wonderful timbre. His songs are getting a lot of play on my new (again) iPod Touch. Jason Damato seems to be a new artist from LA - you can see some of his self-filmed videos on YouTube. He's a true California surfer-boy and only 21 years old - but you'd never guess he was so young by his music.

I found this website where you can listen to full versions of all of Jason Damato's songs for free.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mad Money For You?

While my husband and I were engaged, we attended counseling with our bishop, our ecclesiastical leader. He told us that managing finances can be stressful for a couple. And that to keep both people from harboring resentment on spending (or lack thereof), each should have their own bit of money every month. To spend or save however they like. Mad Money. And this system has worked pretty well for us. Even though my husband is a saver, and I'm a spender - he can't say anything about my little piece of the budget.

So my question to you is: how much discretionary income do you personally have every month? And on top of my primary question: Do you just spend however you want? Is your spouse always on you about your spendy ways? Do you live by a budget? Or are you a saver?

My husband and I each have $80 a month to spend on anything we want. That includes work lunches for him (we budgeted more money for him when he worked at a business lunch type of firm) and fun lunches out for me and my little boys. And anything else our little hearts desire. I have been saving mine for a new iPod Touch (which I am days away from ordering). But usually I'm pulling out that mad money for all the tempting things at Target and filling my tummy with delicious (and usually not-nutritious) treats!

We do have a budget item for clothing, so occasionally I can fob a purchase off to that category, but not often. Somehow my husband doesn't consider teal, strappy, wedge sandals as a necessary clothing purchase. I know, crazy.

But I see women around me spending hundreds on little luxuries, so I'm not sure how things are different for them than for me. Obviously it could be that they simply have higher incomes than me, but often I don't think so. Different priorities? Help me out here. What do you spend? And on what?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Fab First Artist

In my list of 32 Things To Do Before 33, I committed to finding new (to me) artists to share with my readers. I subscribe to a number of blogs which I designate "design" blogs. And they always feature wonderful artists of every medium. A while ago I was struck with Julia Rothman, and spent many hours on her website, which is amazing! She is such a talented illustrator and pattern maker. I admit to a fondness for the patterns over the illustrations.

Ms. Rothman is from New York, attended the Rhode Island School of Design, and now has her office in Brooklyn. She started a company called Also with 2 fellow design students. Their portfolio is impressive. Julia also does work for Hasbro, designing for The Littlest Pet Shop and My Little Pony lines. She maintains her own website, and a book blog called, Book By Its Cover, where she features and reviews art and design books. And please, please check out her Flickr page! I have been rotating through the prints as wallpapers on my computer. I can't get over Julia's terrific work and the great products you can purchase for yourself.

You can find great Julia Rothman cards and wrapping paper at the website Hello! Lucky. I will be ordering some gift wrap very soon, thank goodness they offer a variety pack so I don't have to choose my favorite.

The Land of Nod sells a great little boy print (which my kiddos would love!) in Ms. Rothman's print, Robot Bedding. And you can buy bags from Freddy & Ma in her patterns too.

Hygge & West makes the most amazing wallpaper out of Julia's designs. They also have a cute interview with her. There is another interview on Amateur Illustrator, with lots of great images.

You can also get her wallpaper at Wall Collection, which is a super-cool place to buy custom wallpaper. I'm dying to try it - but will have to get a much larger tax refund.

Julia's work has been featured in Lucky Magazine, O at Home (Oprah's Magazine), Readymade, Design*Sponge (Julia's firm, Also, did the web design for d*s), New York Public Library Design by the Book video series (free podcasts on iTunes), Apartment Therapy, freshly blended, decor 8, print & pattern, and several books.

I am looking for some way to incorporate some of Julia's designs into my own home (and saving my mad money to do it) but for now I am thankful I can see so much of her work online. I can't think of anyone better to highlight for the first of my Artists Series. Look for more in the future.

(All images used with the permission of the artist.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Can You Wear Stilettos?

Sometimes advertising really works. I'll be the first to freely admit I am often taken with a television or magazine ad for a new beauty product. Last week I saw a tv commercial for Maybelline's new Lash Stiletto™ Ultimate Length Washable Mascara. I loved the 40s glamour girl vibe, and I love the branding of calling this mascara stilettos for the eyes. Even though I can't wear heels for very long, I love what a tall pair of stilettos does for my legs. And now my lashes can look just as good. I picked up a new tube at the grocery store, on sale for about $6.

Maybelline's website says the Pro-Vitamin B-5 formula conditions and smoothes for black-patent shine. And there really is something patent-leather-like about this mascara. It seems thinner, blacker, and glossier than others I've tried. My lashes really do look a little shinier, like patent leather. Stilettos, of course. All I know is my lashes have never looked longer. I look exactly like this model! Almost.

I've been using that XXL mascara, the kind with the dual wand - the white one to plump and lengthen, and black one for actual mascara. It's been a regular in my makeup bag for a couple years, and it turns out Maybelline makes it too. I really like the new Lash Stiletto, but the XXL does a better job at fuller lashes. I'm keeping them both. Hmm, maybe I should check out some of Maybelline's other products.

My tip for each of you (if you are a woman above the age of 14) is to head out and buy a tube of Maybelline Lash Stiletto™ Ultimate Length Washable Mascara from your local grocery or drug store. For other great tips check out Works For Me Wednesday.