Friday, April 19, 2013

PUPdate #1




I know everyone is just DYING to know what the latest news is on our baby Basset! (And by "everyone," I mean my Mamma! It's just easier to post pics on a webpage than to email them!)

So almost two weeks ago, we took the dogs on a short walk and Eleanor had a breathing attack. She was choking, couldn't breathe, foaming at the mouth, and dry heaving. She'd always had a bit of a breathing issue, but we had chalked it up to her being so small and thought nothing of it. This time was different. Boyfriend ran home and got the car while I waited in front of the grocery store across the street. The nearest emergency room was 15 minutes away-- the longest 15 minutes of my life. She sat in my lap, struggling to breathe, while we raced down the freeway. I thought she was going to die.

When we got to the ER, they took her back immediately and put her on oxygen. Long story short, we had to leave her there overnight, I didn't get to sleep until 2am, we had to cough up $300 bucks, and they couldn't tell us anything concrete.

A few vet visits later, and we still know nothing. It's looking like we'll have to take her to a cardiologist in orange county, but we'll know for sure after her check up and bloodwork on Monday. Poor little Bassie.

Oddly enough, she's been back to her normal self, ever since. She's still having a few issues when she over-exherts herself, but overall, it hasn't affected her at all. She's still a little pain in the ass, she eats like a pig, and after all of the time and money spent, we still love her to death and I feel like she's the best decision I've made in a long time.

At three months old, Ellie weighs 16 pounds and her earspan is now at 21 inches!

As for Toby, he turned four years old and he's been the best big brother a baby basset could have!





Our little freckle-bellied sunbather in action!








Good weather = lounging weather!








"Do I HAVE to use the doggie door? Cant you just open the people door?"






 AUNT KINNY IS FINALLY HERE! It was love at first sight!








Nappin' buddies!!






Nap time at the Murphaliel's!







The border at Ellie's vet has a picture of her on it!







Patio-ing!





Dogsitting the notorious Charlie Ryan/Rousseau!





"Oh, hiiiii guyyys!!"





On the way to dad's for his birthday dinner. They both just had to be in my lap...simultaneously.






My favorite furry brown pibby!



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting




I'm a stress baker. This quarter at school is killing me and my personal life has not been going great.

After a 4 AM shift at work, a 3-hour dentist visit, and an intense/frustrating heart-to-heart with my roomie/best friend, I couldn't wait for Boyfriend to come home. Unfortunately he's a busy man and he wouldn't be home until 9:30. To fill the void that he left while he was at work and school, I decided to make bourbon-infused cupcakes since he's a huge bourbon fan.

Interestingly enough, the recipe I got from allisoneats* was a play on the Smitten Kitchen's chocolate stout cupcakes which I've made many times before! I tweaked it a bit, of course, but it worked out beautifully!

*If you like a denser cupcake, like I do, use my recipe. If you prefer a fluffier, lighter cake, follow Alison's recipe!


Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting


Make caramel sauce FIRST (recipe below) and allow it to cool in the refrigerator for one hour, or at room temperature for four hours. You can also make it a day in advance.



For The Caramel Sauce (using Ina Garten’s Caramel Sauce recipe):

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, warm (Believe it or not, one of the biggest mistakes people make in the art of caramel sauce is adding cold cream to hot sugar-- it's dangerous and it can affect the chemistry of the recipe. You can heat it in the microwave or over the stove.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Directions:
  1. Mix the water and granulated sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. DO NOT STIR. 
  2. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350°F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes. Again, DO NOT STIR. Stirring causes crystals to form and your caramel will come out grainy. (The first time I tried caramel, I made 9 attempts before I realized this. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! )
  3. Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly.
  4. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and ½ tsp of vanilla. The cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.
  5. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. 
  6. Allow to cool at room temperature for four hour or in the fridge for one hour. It will thicken as it sits.




For The Cupcakes:

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate


  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
    2. Bring the bourbon and butter to a simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
    3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. 
    4. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. 
    5. Add bourbon-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. 
    6. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. 
    7. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
    8. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and bake 20-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


    For The Frosting:

    Ingredients:


    • 1 cup butter (2 sticks-softened)
    • 3-4 cups confectioners sugar
    • 1/4 cup caramel sauce (using recipe above!)
    • coarsely chopped chocolate
    • Coarse sea salt



    Directions:

    1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Beat in the confectioners sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.
    2. Mix in the caramel sauce. (If too thin, add more sugar or a little flour to keep it from getting too sweet.)
    3. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and use remaining caramel to drizzle on top.
    4. Sprinkle lightly with chopped chocolate and sea salt.



    Doggie Birthday Parties!!

    I am not even ashamed to admit that I celebrate my pets' birthdays. In fact, I've been doing it for most of my life. Here's a picture of my brother and I celebrating our basset hound, Lucy's, birthday when we were wee ones! ( Clearly we are more interested in  this event than Lucy is!)



    This post is a little late, but my number one boy turned four years old on March 19th, and since Boyfriend and I are in our first apartment together in a new city with a fresh start, I felt it completely necessary to make this birthday extra special!

    Not only did we make him a special Doggie Birthday Cake, but he and Eleanor got special dinners and one of Toby's doggie pals even came over for cake!

    Here are a few of the night's highlights:



    1. I made Toby a very special dinner made up of some old steak and chicken that was in our freezer. It was so weird! First of all, I didn't season any of it at all and I didn't have to pay any attention to the way I cooked it (I just had to make sure I didn't burn it!). Second of all, I don't think I've ever even SEEN steak and chicken in the same pan before!!







    2. We gave the doggies their meat mixture over  a bed of white rice. To say that they were ecstatic would be an understatement....





    3. That handsome gentleman in the background is our friends' King Charles Spaniel, Charlie. He came over for cake...



    ....which apparently was too delicious for Toby to eat in a normal fashion. This is an action shot of him literally trying to swallow his slice whole!!!




    Happy Birthday, Toby! Mama, Mattsweo, and Ellie Bear Love You!!

    (Toby looks just about as thrilled as Lucy did, dontcha think?)



    (I read somewhere that dogs sees shades of blue and yellow the most intensely, so I went with those colors so Tobo could really experience his birthday!)

    Toasted Caramel Pot de Creme (Custard)




    I got this really sweet cook book from Boyfriend's mom for Christmas. It's a book of recipe from a San Francisco bakery called Miette. It's full of recipes for pastries, cookies, candies, and other sweet treats, which have so far really been a test of my skill. I've really been in need of a challenge in the kitchen. 




    This is not to say that I am particularly skilled. In fact, my skill level is intermediate at best. I'm still a rather new home cook so I've spent a lot of time with trial and error so far!

    This recipe was no different. I've made it five times total, and I have burned and seized countless batches of caramel (In fact, the pictures from this batch are the result of NINE failed attempts at melting sugar before I found the secret!) 

    Hopefully I have encountered and mitigated all potential roadblocks for this recipe. I also tweaked it a bit and I believe I made it better =]

    The final result was positively magical. I could eat custard every day.


    Toasted Caramel Pot de Creme

    (Adapted from Miette: Recipes from San Franciscos Most Charming Pastry Shop and Michael Recchiuti)



    Ingredients:


    • 3 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Swiss Milk Chocolate from IKEA!)
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 3/4 cup whole milk
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    • 6 large egg yolks
    • Water
    • Whipped Cream for garnish
    • Grated Chocolate for garnish



    Directions:


    1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
    2. Bring a large saucepan or kettle full of water to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat; keep the water at a simmer. 
    3. Lay a kitchen towel (Or doubled-up paper towels) in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Arrange 6 (6-ounce) ramekins 1/2 inch apart on the towel. Set aside. 
    4. Fill a small bowl with water and have a pastry brush ready.
    5. Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; remove from the heat, set aside, and cover to keep it warm
    6. Combine the sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and lemon juice in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (make sure to use a saucepan between 2 1/2 and 3 quarts in size) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until it is combined well and the sugar begins to dissolve. DO NOT CONTINUE TO STIR IT. This will agitate your sugar and cause it to seize.
    7.  Continue to cook the sugar, without stirring. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush away any sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan. Cook until the mixture turns a dark amber color, about 4 to 6 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, as it may brown very rapidly. Immediately remove it from heat.
    8. While whisking gently, very carefully add about 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture to the caramel (it will bubble up and sputter so be sure to only add a small amount at a time), making sure to whisk the bottom of the pan, until the bubbles subside. Continue to slowly add the cream mixture 1/2 cup at a time while slowly whisking to incorporate it, until all of the mixture has been added; set aside.
    9. Whisk the yolks in a small heatproof bowl until blended. While whisking constantly but not too vigorously, slowly pour about 1 cup of the cream mixture into the yolks until combined. Pour the cream-egg mixture back into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Add the chocolate and gently whisk until it’s melted and evenly combined.
    10. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large measuring cup or a bowl with a spout and pour in the custard. Remove the strainer and evenly divide the strained custard among the ramekins filling them three-quarters full.
    11. Being careful not to get any water inside the ramekins, add enough of the simmering water to the roasting pan so that it reaches 1 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the tops of the custards are darkened in color and almost set, about 1 hour. (The entire custard will still jiggle, but it will set as it cools. If it is overcooked, the custard will cool to a rubbery consistency)
    12. Using tongs and being careful not to get any water inside the ramekins, carefully transfer each custard to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. 

    1. Serve or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, let the custards sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
    2. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and grated chocolate.