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Everything posted by YWalker

  1. I think it depends also upon what you're making. The cookie you're making is a pretty simple, straight-up cookie, and it would somewhat seem wrong to me to "fancify" it by using cocoa that is a class above the recipe. I see nothing wrong at all with using common ingredients in a common recipe. In fact, if any of your recipients had been known to bake these cookies themselves, they might taste a little "wrong" to them due to the different cocoa. If it's a recipe where the ingredient is the star, though, I will definitely use the good stuff. In general, if I'm going to spend my time making something nice, I'm not going to drag down the quality by not using the good stuff.
  2. Did you roll them in granulated sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar?
  3. Google "silicone pan handle." A number of manufacturers make silicone sleeves that you can slip over the handles of cast iron pans; it shouldn't be too difficult to find one that would work reasonably well for any pan.
  4. If I'm not using muffin papers, I normally spray the pan with Pam. I leave them in the pan for about 5-10 minutes or so before removing. If they look as if they're going to stick to the pan (which is especially likely in the muffins I make with fruit chunks in them), I take a toothpick and trace around the circle to loosen any stuck spots before inverting the pan to remove them. If the muffin tops overshot the top of the muffin wells and look as if that is going to stick them to the pan, you can also use the toothpick to loosen underneath that. I don't like to let muffins in papers cool completely within the pan, as I feel like that encourages moisture to condense on the papers, which is just gross.
  5. We frequently have volunteer blackberry bushes pop up in our back yard. Since I generally try to keep these cleared out, I rarely get a whole lot of berries out of them. I don't like eating them out of hand, and I never have enough to make jam. My favorite use for them is to throw them in with some fresh peaches to make a peach cobbler. The pairing of the two fruits is wonderful.
  6. When I was dipping chocolates at Christmas and had just a bit of tempered chocolate leftover, I dipped some of the Trader Joe's version of Biscoff. I was using milk chocolate at the time, and found the combination wonderful, but I think they would be equally as good in dark chocolate. They made for a nice crunchy, mildly spiced interior.
  7. I always just use a potato peeler.
  8. Well, he *IS* the guy who was able to write his own cookbook in just 3-1/2 weeks, you know. He obviously does everything faster.
  9. Thanks very much for the perspective. I was just wondering "What sane person would rather spend 20 minutes wrestling it into submission, when the nice KitchenAid mixer will do that for you?" However, as Chocolot noted, since it's all going to dissolve anyway, it looks like I can go ahead and take the easy way out.
  10. I'm planning on making some chocolate covered cherries for my Dad. For starters, I need to make some fondant. I've been looking at Peter Greweling's Chocolates and Confections and Chocolates and Confections at Home as my reference. In Chocolates and Confections, he specifies tabling the fondant and agitating it with a scraper after cooking. In Chocolates and Confections at Home, he suggests that you pour the heated syrup in the bowl of your mixer and beat it with a paddle attachment. Is one of these methods preferable to the other in terms of the finished product? Is it just the scale of the two recipe in Chocolates and Confections (which makes 53 oz of fondant) makes it impractical to use the mixer?
  11. Does the Vietnamese place serve Banh mi? I really, really miss Sweet Basil down in Holly Springs that did a wonderful banh mi. Have you tried the Lime Rickey at Goodberry's? I've been taking my kids to Goodberry's for about 16 years now, and I've never actually tried the custard because I always go for the lime rickey (freshly squeezed limeade.) Also worth trying is Stick Boy Bread Company down in Fuquay-Varina. Their summer stollen is excellent.
  12. Bullock's Barbecue? It's something of an institution around here. I'm another NCSU Alum living in Apex.
  13. At the engineering firm where I used to work, a Ruud Lighting representative came to visit and brought us a kringle fresh from Wisconsin, which is where the firm is based. Better sill, he Fed-Exed us another one a month later.
  14. My Dad has a Montmorency cherry tree, and it makes the most heavenly cherry jam. I used to make an orange and honey jelly that was really good, but I haven't made that in years. When that's not available, I like blackberry or raspberry jam. (Seeded or seedless; I'm not choosy.) I really enjoy apple butter, too. As for my jam/jelly vehicle: Cherry jam is wonderful on a nice, hot Bojangles biscuit. I also like toasted english muffins or sourdough bread beneath my jam/jelly.
  15. YWalker

    Chick-Fil-A 2011

    I love their diet lemonade. It's made with Splenda rather than aspartame, so I can drink it. My kids absolutely love their sandwiches. Chick-fil-A franchises tend to be very good corporate citizens. They are great about helping out schools and community groups with fundraisers, sending out their cow mascots with coupons and giveaways and giving freebies or discounted food. My favorite brush with the courtesy of Chick-fil-A was when I was moving some huge props for a marching band performance across the campus to the football field for a halftime show performance. A couple of the cows joined me and helped me roll the props down a steep hill to the ball field. I do remember that when my kids were younger, they had a tendency to have really variable kids meal "toys." One time you might get a toy with real play value, and the next time you might get a real kid-pleaser like a book lecturing them on a character trait.
  16. The protagonist of "True Blood" is a waitress in a bar, and there are scenes in the bar in most episodes. (There are also frequently scenes in another bar called Fangtasia.)
  17. I absolutely love the William Bounds Sili silicone measuring cups set. The different colors make it very easy to see at a glance which size you're grabbing. They are very flexible, making it easy to squeeze ingredients out, yet still very sturdy. They're very easy to clean as well. They may be a bit pricier than some other alternatives, but are very worth it.
  18. For my office, I took in a monster tray with three types of goodies: Martha Stewart's chocolate crackle cookies. (I linked to this version rather than Martha's website, as the version on her website is a little different than the one from her cookie book that I use.) A new recipe for iced lime-pistachio Christmas tree cutouts that I got out of one of this year's "Holiday cookie" magazines. (I won't be adding this to my regular lineup. It's not bad, but not worth all the fussy effort, IMO.) Turtle pretzel rods. I dip half a pretzel rod in melted caramel, and roll in a mixture of chopped peanuts, milk chocolate, and butterscotch bits. Decidedly homely, but very tasty. They're the ones everyone in the office lusts after. I exchanged gifts with a couple of co-workers. For these, I included several candies I made (and maybe a tray of cookies for their families, as well.) These included: Amaretto truffles and Grand Marnier truffles Caramel dark chocolate truffles with fleur-de-sel* English toffee (omitting the pecans.) Fleur de Sel Caramels. I did one batch plain, and then did a second batch with peanuts in it; I dipped half of this batch in dark chocolate. In addition to these, for the cookie trays I took to may family events and gave as gifts to some neighbors, I made New Zealand Holly Cookies, as these are the "must have" cookies for my family. I also made some cherry almond scones to have for breakfast on Christmas morning. * I asked for, and received, Kerry's DVD on tempering chocolate last Christmas, and watched it before I started candy making this year. I was inordinately proud of the shiny, snappy chocolate on my truffles and toffee this year. (Although some of the pieces did have some pretty ugly feet --- but I saved the less-than-beautiful ones for my family, who consider an extra bit of chocolate to be a feature rather than a defect.) This was also my first time making caramels --- and the recipe above was very easy, and the caramels were incredibly good. I don't think the dark chocolate was the best match for the peanut caramels I made, though. Next time I'll try milk chocolate.
  19. Going back to the trashcan hijack that is now about 3 years old....... I've been very happy with this motion sensor trash can. It has the very happy side benefit of scaring the bejeebers out of my dog, which has put an end to her trash pilfering.
  20. To her credit, I thought that Heather showed real class by making it clear that she was responsible for the poor quality of the crust in Yigit's dish as well as her own. I was sorely disappointed by this week's episode. I think the banning of chocolate would have been a perfectly legitimate twist to throw in there if they had warned them at the outset of the challenge. I could have even been OK with it when they entered the store. That was just a nasty twist to do it after they had already left the store and had no opportunity to purchase other ingredients. Zac and Danielle were given a huge advantage in having adequate planning time and shopping time just because they had happened not to use chocolate. I think it just broke Eric and Yigit's spirit. I was really sorry to see Eric go. While I think that the championship will go to Morgan or Yigit, I would have loved to have seen him make at least the top 3. If given the opportunity to go to a bakeshop owned by any of the contestants, I would most like to go to Eric's. I just think his flavors would be great and accessible. If I were to be having a big affair catered, though, I think that Zac would do a great job --- it would definitely be fun and memorable event. I do think that Seth would be able to pull off the most amazing affair, however, and that Morgan would do an excellent job as well.
  21. Dear Johnny I: You seem to be a really nice guy, but please keep your paws off the contestants. They are under tremendous time pressure, and you've just used up a precious minute with your interview, so they sure can't take the time to go and wash their hands after shaking hands with you not once, but twice. Could you please just give them a friendly nod or a supportive pat on the shoulder? Thank you. And I was really sad to see Tim go. He seemed like a really neat guy, and though I'll admit that his dish this time had some problems, it sure looked better than the smurf bites that Seth served. And I really wanted to see him in a challenge where he could really go to town on a frozen dessert, since that seemed to be his forte.
  22. I'm just glad that Ed didn't win. Really? Hand over one course entirely to your sous chef? I just don't think that should be allowed. And I'm still astounded that contestants still come on this show without a couple of desserts under the belt. Particularly when you have the time off between the regular season and the finale --- why not hire a pastry chef to give you a tutorial on a few dishes and/or suggest a few killer desserts to add to your arsenal?
  23. When my oldest sister got married, my Mom wrote out (by hand) a cookbook of some of our family favorite recipes to give to her as a gift. By the time my younger sister and I got married she had lost her vision due to macular degeneration, so she wasn't able to duplicate the gift for us as she had planned. My older sister did photocopy her recipe book, though, so we are still able to have that in her own handwriting. My Mom has been dead now for almost 18 years, but her own handwritten cookbook notebook is still in Dad's kitchen, and I still use it from time to time when I visit. That is still one of the family treasures. Unfortunately, one of the recipes that all of us really wanted ---- the thick chocolate fudge icing that she always used on all our birthday cakes ---- was one that she knew so well that she never wrote it down completely. She has her recipe for caramel icing written down, and then noted "This adjusts well for chocolate", and I'm pretty certain that's the basis of the recipe she used, but none of us have been able to duplicate "the icing."
  24. Well, I'm almost a year late replying, but there is a recent book on the topic: Sweet Carolina: Favorite Desserts and Candies from the Old North State.
  25. Here's what I do when I'm making meat pies: I use 16 oz frozen bread dough to make 8 meat pies. Divide the bread dough into 8 portions. Roll each out into a 6" circle. Spoon about 1/2 cup meat mixture onto half of each circle. Brush the edges with egg white wash, and then fold dough over and seal edges with a fork. Place on greased baking sheets. (Reynold’s wrap Release aluminum foil works fine here.) Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. Brush the tops with egg white, and cut slits in the top of each. (I’m thinking that if you wanted to toss some sesame seeds on top before you do the egg white wash, this would go well here, but haven’t tried it yet.) Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown
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