Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Chocolate Meringues

Earlier this week my sister and I discovered a case of Trader Joe's Chocolate Meringues in the kitchen and our curiousity led us to find that they were, in fact, quite delicious. Unfortunately, the next day they had completely disappeared. My mother had taken them to work with her, leaving us meringue-less. So to sate our cravings and my boredom I figured I'd try making chocolate meringues from scratch.

After making the incredibly simple batter, I had a little fun experimenting with shapes, piping the meringues into swirls, "kisses", wafers, and blossoms and finally decided to finish the rest of the batter in the "kiss" shape. Unfortunately my star frosting tip was nowhere to be found or I would have piped the batter with that instead of my round tip and would have ended up with meringues almost identical to the Trader Joe's version.

In the end, the meringues were perfectly light and chocolately, however, not exactly the same texture as the ones I meant to replicate. Nevertheless, they were adorable and very low in calories, the perfect guilt-free relief for any chocolate craving.

Chocolate Meringues

2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (120 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

In a large metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat until they hold stiff peaks. Mix in the vanilla and cocoa on low speed. Pipe small mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.

Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven. Turn off oven, and leave the cookies in the oven for 45 minutes, or until centers are dry. Remove from pan and store in an airtight container.

Zucchini Bread

Speaking of turning things laying around the kitchen into irresistible goodies, my mother came home last week with a few zucchinis from her best friend's vegetable garden and requested I try making a zucchini bread for her. Unable to acquire a summer job and bored out of my wits—how could I resist?

So bright-eyed and naive, I set out to meet my mother's demands. The preparation process was much more time-consuming and labor-intensive than I had anticipated and my *poor little handmixer, passed down by my mother, nearly beat its little heart out mixing the incredibly dense batter.

*NOTE: request new handmixer for Christmas...or maybe even a standmixer! *wishful thinking*

I apologize for the lack of pictures documenting the preparation, zucchini-bread-in-the-making is not nearly as appealing as zucchini bread fresh (and solid) out of the oven. The grating of the zucchini itself (it took me 3 large zucchinis) was rather messy and burdensome—imagine zucchini-string covered fingers and you'll understand why I wasn't able to take pictures, much less wield a camera.

Albeit, the resulting loaf was worth the toil. The bread was moist and dense (and already partly missing by the time I came back to check on it on the cooling rack) and, needless to say, proclaimed success by the household. The recipe yielded two loaves, the second of which I added walnuts to, because my mother happens to love nuts and I usually prefer most things without.

Zucchini Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Note: My cook time for my oven was 55 minutes.

Homemade Bread Pudding

The simplest and most delicious solution to a mediocre loaf of Trader Joe's white bread? Homemade Bread Pudding.

Like many monster tales, the easiest way to rid your village—or in this case, your kitchen—of something unpleasant is to transform it into something good. Now, normally, this would involve summoning a wizard of sorts to take care of the problem. However—with no wizard on speed dial—I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at making a classic: homemade bread pudding. This is the recipe I used, including the suggested changes of many reviewers.

Homemade Bread Pudding

6-8 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Many reviews suggested substituting 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar for a richer flavor, the only reason I used all white sugar was because I had ran out of brown sugar the day before

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

To top off the bread pudding I also made a Vanilla Sauce that was recommended by some. Personally, I felt that it was okay, but the rest of my family loved it. My biggest complaint about the sauce is it's consistency and appearance. Maybe in the future I will try to improve the aesthetics of it. Until then, I'm on the lookout for a more appealing topping.

Vanilla Sauce

1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the water, stirring until blended. Bring mixture to a boil and continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and mix in the butter and vanilla. Serve warm.

For my first post on this blog I was quite frustrated about how difficult it was to take an appetizing photo of this dish. All my favorite food blogs have the most adorable pictures and hopefully, with a little practice and some experimentation, some day I'll be able to deliver.

My biggest worry for my blog thus far: will I ever be able to resist eating the sample plate after all the photos are taken?