Ganache gone wild – WTF just happened

Ugh. On Sunday I spent 2.5 hours making a perfectly emulsified ganache for an experiment. I let it chill overnight, and it solidified. I am so steamed.

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Ganache is typically equal parts scalded cream to chopped chocolate, in this case Toblerone.  To achieve a proper ganache that doesn’t crack or separate, you need to emulsify it.  Emulsification is the process of combining two or more liquids, which normally don’t combine, into one. (Basically you stir and rest, stir and rest, chill, pass Go, collect two hundred dollars.) It was all going so well…

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I poured the heated cream onto the chocolate and let it sit for bit, and then stirred every 15 minutes, for 2 hours.

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The hell with stirring by hand. I’ll let Nemo do the work for me. After all that is what I have a stand mixer for, who wants to stand there the entire time? I have video games to play.

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After 2 hours, it had lightened considerably, and had a smooth texture. All okay so far.

So I covered it with saran, and stupidly forgot to press it down to the surface, so the surface hardened.

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I intended to use it on Monday but I was busy. I took it out of the fridge today, and lo and behold.

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What. Is. This? I tried to save it by reheating but the fat started to separate. Wuah! This is no good.

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I figured it might be salvageable if I could stir heated cream into it, and miracle of miracles, it seemed to recover.

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Alright, we’re cooking with gas now. As to what I made this for, well, just stay right there and find out. Next year.

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Pumpkin muffins – round 2

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After being slightly underwhelmed by my first attempt at making pumpkin muffins, I went back to the drawing board.  I made some changes to the ingredient proportions and baking time:

  • 2½ C of flour (instead of 1½ C)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (didn’t have this last time)
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp all spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C packed golden brown sugar (instead of dark brown sugar)
  • pods from half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 C of pure pumpkin (instead of 2 C)
  • a sprinkle of turbinado sugar

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The batter was really dry. I was a bit worried they wouldn’t settle into the muffin cups but I think they look cute.

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These were baked 18 minutes (the original ones were in for 25). In retrospect 18 minutes was not quite enough, I’ll try 20 next time.

They were cooled in the pan 1 minute before being transferred to the rack.

Now this is the fun part. Use a cupcake corer (thank you M!) and stuff them with cream cheese frosting.

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Woah this thing works way better than a knife.

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And voila!

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Verdict: Hmm. I liked this much more than round 1. Boyfriend-Unit loved them. I think there is still room for improvement however, so next time I’ll up the pumpkin ratio a bit, and decrease the cardamom.

Playlist: Katatonia – Into the White

Patty’s pumpkin cream cheese muffins – round 1

I decided to reverse-engineer a pumpkin cream cheese muffin after the underwhelming experience of buying one from StarBucks. This is my first attempt at making pumpkin muffins, and I made them the morning after seeing Nine Inch Nails live, which really has nothing to do with making muffins, but there you go. The muffins were edible, but have room for improvement. Trent Reznor, I am happy to report, does not require any improvement.

(Update Oct 19: round 2 is much better)

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I was surprised to see that the ingredient cost of this made this the most expensive thing I have ever baked, even steeper than the the Bailey’s chocolate cheesecake. Yikes.

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Time required: 1 hour

Yields: 14

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $79 if iced, $54 if plain

Cost per muffin: $5.64 if iced, $3.85 if plain

Kitchen implements I used:

  • Nemo the KitchenAid
  • muffin tin + large liners

Muffin ingredients:

  • 1½ C flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp all spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • pods from half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 C of pure pumpkin
  • a sprinkle of turbinado sugar

Frosting ingredients:

  • 1 block of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 TBSP butter, softened
  • 1 TBSP milk
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 C icing sugar

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F / 176°C and put muffin liners into pan.

2. Combine in a bowl: flour and spices.

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3. In mixer; cream the eggs and sugar until smooth.

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4. Mix in canned pumpkin, vegetable oil, and vanilla bean pods. (Reserve the shell for something else).

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5. Gradually add flour mixture to wet, and don’t overbeat.

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6. Spoon into tray, and dust with turbinado sugar.

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7. Bake 25 min. (Checked at 20 and but still too springy.)

8. Cool in pan 5 min before transferring to rack.

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9. Make the icing by combining everything in one bowl. This is precise science, people.

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10. Use a knife to score a circle around the muffin tops and press the knife down, then lift up, and pry out the top. You will have a little muffin cone lid. Slice off the bottom part until you have a thin top remaining. Now stuff that bad boy with cream cheese and replace the top.

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Verdict: They were good, but the muffin texture really changed overnight, they seem overly moist today. I tried one without icing, and the pumpkin was a bit too strong. Then again cream cheese icing is also a very strong flavour, so… hard to say. I sent my friend home with one but forgot to ice it. Oops. Overall I was pleased with how it turned out, and I think for round 2 I’ll add a few more spices, and cut back on the pumpkin and see how that goes.

Playlist: Nine Inch Nails – Terrible Lie

Peanut butter blossoms (by Boyfriend!)

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This recipe comes from BHG: New Cookbook: 12th edition which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Time required: 1 hr

Yields: 54

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $48

Cost per cookie: 88 cents

Spring is in the air folks… The cats are acting like kittens, my allergies are flaring up in huge raging hives, and the bake sales at work have begun for another season.

I was asked if SpatulaGoddess could make something for the bake sale fundraiser for whichever cancer research thing was going on at the time, and I said “No. but I can make something for you.”, not offended by this but it seems my colleagues forget that I was baking my own goods before I met SpatulaGoddess.  I won’t say that I have ever made anything as exquisite as my lovely, but I have never served anything that lasted, and the compliments abound… maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve baked for them… BAH!!!

I love peanut butter cookies who doesn’t?   I know the ones I love are in the Red Checkered Cookbook that my mom used, and also got for me when I moved out, so I went looking there, my original plan was to make peanut butter ninjamen cookies, but once I found page 218 in that wonderful book my plans changed BIG TIME, beside the cookie recipe I was looking for I saw the recipe I used.  I changed the hershey kisses with Reese’s mini peanut butter cups… ENJOY.

Kitchen implements I used:

  • Nemo the KitchenAid
  • large baking sheet
  • parchment paper
Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • ½ C white shortening
  • ½ C smooth peanut butter
  • ½ C granulated white sugar
  • ½ C golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1¾ C white flour
  • ¼ C granulated sugar (reserved)
  • 1 package of mini peanut butter cups

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 176°C / 350°F 

Step 1-4

Flour, milk/egg/vanilla, sugars/baking powder/soda, shortening/peanut butter

1. Put shortening and peanut butter into mixing bowl.

2. Put the ½ cup of granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda, in a separate bowl.

3. Put milk, egg, and vanilla in a separate container.

4. Put flour in a separate bowl.

Nemo doing his thing

Nemo doing his thing

5. Beat “Step 1” ingredients with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.

6. Add “Step 2” ingredients and beat until combined, scraping the bowl.

7. Beat in “Step 3” ingredients.

8. Beat in as much of “Step 4” ingredient as you can, stir in the rest.  I am guessing this was written for those that do not have access to a Kitchen Aid… cuz Nemo KICKS ASSSSSS and has no issues mixing in almost 2 cups of flour.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm  Peanut butter balls in sugar

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Peanut butter balls in sugar.

9. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and roll them in the rest of the sugar.

10. Place balls 2 inches apart, (ballroom) am I right fellas?  Ahem.. anyways back to the topic at hand.  2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

11. Bake at 350°F for 10 – 12 mins or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned.

12. Immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into the middle of each cookie, and transfer to a wire rack and let cool

Cooling

Cooling

Verdict:  As I said to my buddy from work whom I sent a pic of these to after making them… “I AM A MUTHER$&#*^$ GENIUS!!!”  These far exceeded my expectations, I was thrilled with how great these  turned out.  SpatulaGoddess was so impressed she wants me to make more… But isn’t willing to let me play with the centres.  I know there are other great things to stick in the middle of a peanut butter cookie.

Playlist: Godsmack, Disturbed, Slipknot, Random J-pop… that’s how I roll

All about fudge

Prepare to get schooled. I’ve added four how-to guides, all devoted to fudge. If you have never made fudge, or your fudge never turns out, this is for you. It’s written for the total newbie, and explains the science of good fudge making, how to actually beat it successfully, and the common problems that ruin fudge.

Fudge 101 – introduction to fudge

Fudge 102 – fudge for newbs

Fudge 201 – beating fudge

Fudge 202 – it’s all over but the crying

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What are you waiting for? Get fudging.

 

Penuche fudge – SUCCESS!!

Miracles really do happen. I made penuche fudge. And it set! Pardon me while I sob with joy.

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I guess the sixth time is the charm? It’s been over a year and a half since I first dabbled in making fudge, and it was such a discouraging endeavor I promised myself I’d wait a good long while before subjecting myself to such misery again.

I found this recipe on Old Tyme Fudge, and I followed it exactly (aside from one minor adjustment since I ran out of something.) I really like this site because the author writes very clear recipes, and has good tips for fudge newbs.

Before you get started:

Underbeaten fudge will never set, and overbeaten fudge will turn into a brick. The time window between those stages is razor-thin. Beating fudge to the proper consistency is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in the kitchen, and I’m still learning.

If your fudge doesn’t set, or gets bricked, don’t get discouraged! You can freeze underbeaten fudge to be used as a topping for ice cream, and bricked fudge can be re-melted.

Don’t go trying to double recipes or substitute ingredients until you know what you’re doing.

Fudge must be stirred, and then not stirred, at specific times. If you stir at the wrong stage you will get grainy lumpy fudge which is worse than having no fudge at all.

Hot sugar is napalm. Once it’s getting close to the right temperature you have to watch it like a hawk and get ready to pounce. Turn off the tv, turn off the phone, shun the world when you are making fudge.

Humidity will ruin your fudge, unless you compensate for that by increasing the cooking time and temperature, but that’s more at the expert-level. If it’s wet outside don’t even bother.

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Time required: 8.5 hours (about 1 hour of actual doing stuff)

Yields: about 30 pieces

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $25

Cost per piece: $0.83 (can you price perfection?)

Kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid mixer
  • 8″ square pan
  • tin foil
  • heavy-bottomed sauce pan
  • silicon spatula or sturdy wooden spoon
  • lots of extra spoons

Ingredients:

  • 4 C brown sugar (I used 3 C golden brown and 1 C dark brown)
  • 1½ C of 2% milk
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ C golden corn syrup
  • 3 TBSP butter, unsalted
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract

Instructions:

1. Line the square pan with foil and grease it. Also grease the entire inside of the sauce pan, all the way up the sides. Grease the flat beater of the mixer too.

2. Combine everything in the sauce pan except the vanilla.  Heat on Medium, stirring constantly.

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Ugh, yummy!

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3. Once mixture boils, reduce heat to Med-Low and STOP STIRRING. Insert candy thermometer.

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4. Once mixture reaches 238°F / 114°C, remove from heat. It takes a long time for the sugar to reach the correct heat, mine took about an hour. Hence the beer.

5. Just as it’s about to hit the right temperature, remove from stove and carefully place pot into cold water bath.  DO NOT STIR. Sugar will keep getting hotter and hotter if you let it sit there, so the cold water bath will immediately bring down the temperature and prevents the fudge from overcooking.

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6. Let it cool for about an hour, until temp falls to 120°F / 49°C. Once the mixture has cooled to this stage, there will be a skim on top, just ignore it. Transfer to mixing bowl and pour in the vanilla.

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Also don’t worry about the fat that rises to the surface.

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7. People tell you “beat until it loses the gloss” or “beat until it lightens”. That’s really hard to judge when you are new. Today’s fudge took 28 minutes of beating on speeds 1, 2, and 3. In the past I’ve had fudge turn into a brick under 9 minutes, so there is a learning curve here.

It was a dark molasses colour at first.

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After about 10 minutes it had lightened considerably but was still runny.

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Now 20 minutes in and I’m worried, why isn’t it firming up? What have I done wrong?

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About 25 minutes, still seems fairly glossy, and runny, but when I raise the beater the ropey strands are getting stiff.

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After 28 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore and stopped. I am not sure if it’s because a KitchenAid beats with such force, but it seemed like the beater was moving too easily through the fudge. When I would stop to scrape the bowl it was harder to do by hand so I figured it must be close to done.

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8. Pour into prepared pan and let sit at least 4 hours.  Hmmm, air bubbles. I don’t remember air bubbles in fudge before.

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9. Lift out of pan and score the top with a knife, then slice into squares.

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Real fudge is creamy, and sort of shears away from the knife. It also melts on your tongue, and tastes amazing. Like this!!

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Verdict:

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. It set. Come look, it set!!”

Sigh. So good. Am so happy.

Playlist: Celldweller – Stay With Me (Unlikely)

Grandma’s Scotch cakes – St. Patrick’s style

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This is my Grandma’s cookie recipe which was published in a local book by her church society. I have pimped them up for St. Patrick’s Day which is my favourite day of the year. Scotch cakes are really quick to put together! If you are a lazy froster like me they are even faster.

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I had a lot of trouble with my camera today.

Time required: 1 hour

Yields: around 24-28 cookies depending on the size of your cookie cutter

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $38

Cost per cookie: $1.35

Kitchen implements I used:

  • KitchenAid
  • cookie cutter ala shamrock

Ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • ½ C icing sugar
  • ½ C powdered corn starch
  • ½ tsp salt
  • food colouring as desired
  • optional frosting (3 C icing sugar, 5 TBSP butter, 2 TBSP milk, 1 TBSP lemon juice, dash of vanilla, 2 drops mint oil)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 204°C / 400°F.

2. Cream the butter.

3. Combine all other ingredients (except the dye) in a bowl, and slowly add to the butter and beat til just blended, then add dye. It will look crumbly when it’s done.

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4. Roll the dough into a big ball and knead it for a few minutes, then separate dough into 2-3 balls.

5. One at a time, roll out each ball on a floured surface until about ¼” thick. Use awesome cookie cutter and transfer to pan.

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6. Bake 7 minutes, cool in pan 1 min, then transfer to wire rack. The edges should be slightly golden.

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7. Meanwhile make your frosting. Beat softened butter, then add icing sugar, milk, vanilla, and lemon juice. Beat until combined, then add dye and peppermint oil.

Peppermint oil is really strong, you do not want to overdo it here.

Frost your cookies and top with leprechaun poop if desired.

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Verdict: These were really good. Sláinte!

Playlist: Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine

KitchenAid mixer review

“Thou shall not covet thy sister’s appliance.”

I chanted those words to myself the first time I saw M’s glorious new acquisition. I am not often struck with home appliance lust, but there was something compelling about the mixer. I was so determined to own a KitchenAid that I started buying attachments before I got the mixer.

Their mixers are so shiny. And powerful. And expensive. They have a smooth, rounded design, high gloss finish, plenty of chrome, and a hint of retro. But are they worth the hype?

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Functionality: There are two main types of KA mixers: tilt-head which have a smaller bowl and lots of colour choices, or the lift-bowls which have bigger bowl capacity but limited colour selection. For the hobby baker, the smaller tilt-head is a good choice.

Price: The mixers and accessories get marked down a lot the week after Christmas and Mother’s Day. If you are patient, you can get the one you want for a very good price.

Be aware the prices change a lot. You’ll see a huge variance in pricing (over $200) on the websites for Amazon.ca, Canadian Tire, Future Shop, and Wal-mart. My advice is figure out which model you want first, understand the specialty colours have a price mark-up, and when the one you want goes on sale, go for it!

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This is a KitchenAid Artisan 10-Speed 325 Watt Stand Mixer (model # KSM150PSBU) in cobalt blue.

I purchased my precious on May 4, 2011 from FutureShop.ca for $219.99 and the shipping was free. The after-tax total was $248.59 CAD. It came with a stainless steel bowl (no spout), and four attachments: flat beater, wire whip, pouring shield, and dough hook. For comparison the same model is currently selling for $500 before tax, so the sale price makes quite a difference!

Specs: The details below are from the Canadian KA website and the information is current as of today’s date. Most of the attachments are compatible with all mixer models but do your own research, there are some negative reviews online about people in Europe buying incompatible parts from the North American distributors.

Tilt-head mixers:
Architect series, 5-qt (4.73 L), 5 colours
Artisan series 5-qt (4.73 L), 25 colours
Classic series, 4.5-qt (4.26 L), 2 colours
Ultra Power Plus, 4.5-qt (4.26 L), 3 colours

Bowl-lift mixers:
Professional 600 series, 6-qt (5.68 L), 4 colours
Professional 7-qt (6.6 L), 1 colour

Colour: Obviously the Artisan has the most colour selection. Buying a stand mixer is like buying a car, you can research all you want online but you won’t get a real sense of the colour until you see it in person. Personally I think the cobalt blue is more of a deep rich violet blue, but I love it anyway.

Attachment and accessories: I have the ice cream maker attachment (part # KICA0WH) which I received in Oct 2012 as a gift. It comes with four pieces: freeze bowl, dasher, adapter ring, and drive assembly. It is pretty awesome, and I recommend it.

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I misunderstood the instructions, which indicate that some (not all) tilt-head mixers require the adapter ring to make the bowl fit into the mixer. Mine does not require the ring.

I have a spare mixing bowl so I can make batter and icing without stopping to clean the bowl. I purchased the 5 quart glass bowl with lid (model # K5GB) before I purchased the mixer actually… I found it for $20 at an in-store sale at a Future Shop in Toronto. I’ve noticed that Wal-mart sells the same bowl for $80 but they reduce it to $20 around Christmas.

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I chilled it here to make whipped cream. This is definitely worth waiting for the sale. It’s also a lot wider than the stainless steel bowl that comes with the Artisan, so it’s easier to pour into while the mixer is running.

Buyer beware: As with any mass-produced product, there are lemons and angry buyers. I would definitely recommend you research product reviews before you buy.

A common complaint about KA mixers is that after a time, black grease drips down into the bowl. This is food-grade oil used to lubricate the motor, and KA recommends you run the mixer regularly to prevent this drip down.

You will need to adjust the beater height and tighten the attachment bolt periodically.

When mine was brand new, I’d notice some purple dye would come off when I wiped it down. This has not led to any discolouration however.

You may need to adjust the mixing time on some recipes because the KA mixer goes fast, so flour-heavy mixtures may become over beaten until you get used to the high speed. My first attempt to make whipped cream was a disaster.

Was it worth it? I think so.

I use my KitchenAid mixer in almost everything I bake. Before I got one, I used a little plastic stand mixer which bounced across the counter as it ran, unless I stood there to hold it in place. I don’t have that problem anymore, the KA mixer is solid, so I can start it and walk away to work on something else. I’ve had it for 22 months and so far everything has run smoothly.

I’m not going to lie, what initially attracted me was THE SHINY and the beautiful colours. It is my trusty tool to make lots of delicious goodies. I’m glad I bought it.

I asked Boyfriend Unit to provide his unbiased opinion, “Was Nemo a good purchase?”

His response? “I can’t provide an unbiased opinion. Since you bought it, I get to eat so many good things.”

Ninjabread men

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CHUCK NORRIS! These ninjas are cut out for action!

My friend M (actually I have two friends named M, but this one is the boy) gave me a very cool gift last year and I have been waiting for December to use it. It’s a set of 3 ninja cookie cutters. M has a penchant for gifting me with ninja-related presents and the cookie cutters were just SO AWESOME.

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Ingredients:

  •  ⅔ C shortening
  • ½ C brown sugar, packed
  • 2 TSP ginger, ground
  • 1 TSP cinnamon
  • ¼ TSP cloves, ground
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ C molasses
  • 3 C flour
  • 1 TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP baking powder

Instructions:

1. Moving like the wind, pre-heat your oven to 190°C / 375°F.

2. Quietly cream together the shortening, sugar, spices, and salt.

3. Beat in egg, to death. Add molasses and blend into the night.

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4. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add dry mixture to the wet with deadly accuracy. Cream together as if your life depends on it.

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5. Roll the dough to ⅛ thickness, as even and smooth as the deadliest katana. Your hands move like a whisper, cutting the dark shapes into the dough.

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6. Release the ninjas. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has been greased with lightning or lined with parchment paper.

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7. Bake 6-7 min. Cool on rack. (Here is Boyfriend taking them out of the oven for me.)

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Oh noes! The ninjas are burnt. Let’s try another round.

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8. Frost with traditional ninja accessories. (I used my basic butter cream and divided the bowl of frosting in thirds. One part I left plain, and the other two I added highly concentrated no-taste black and no-taste red pigment. To achieve a darker black, I added cocoa to that bowl because it’s a lot easier to get black frosting if you start with chocolate frosting.)

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I didn’t use the red dye yet, I’m going to let it sit overnight to darken. Stay tuned for more ninjas later this weekend.

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Go ninja go!

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Verdict:

Making these was a lot of fun. The first few ninjabread that I rolled did not turn out so well. As I was transferring them to the cookie sheet, I squished them. They ended up misshapen and burnt.

For the second batch I got Boyfriend Unit to hold a piece of parchment paper tightly against the cookie pan, and I  plopped the dough right on to that, and rolled it out, cut the shapes, and then just peeled the excess away so the ninjas did not have to be moved. It worked much better.

The ninjas tasted pretty nice. I’ve never made gingerbreads before, they are tricky to work with. I have new respect for my sister J’s skills.

Playlist: Placebo – Running Up That Hill

Christmas chocolates ver 2.0

 

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and up in the city,
We made lots of chocolate, but not in a jiffy
The boxes were packed and sent on the train,
In hopes that my peeps would enjoy them again.

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What is better than chocolate? If you guessed “not very much” you would be right, and if you guessed “homemade chocolates” you’re be righter. More right? Whatever.

I have just finished eating a chocolate, which we made last week as Christmas gifts for family and friends. Last year we had lots of pretty boxes. I sort of forgot to order more boxes and we ran out this time. Luckily Boyfriend channeled MacGyver and made me some DIY boxes.

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I was really excited to make chocolates again this year because we got all the extra chocolate moulds I wanted, and had two of each shape, which makes it a lot easier to do.  Here is the map.

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Tried two new flavours this year: milk chocolate and toasted almond, and semi-sweet chocolate caramel chews. Said bye-bye to the dulche de leche and chocolate ganache.

I am so over the idea of Toblerone ganache. It never works out. “Toblerone goo” would be more apt. Never again! I’m just melting solid Toblerone bars from now on.

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I really love making chocolates. Just looking at them fills me with joy. I have a few more boxes to give to some friends. 😉

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I also made my peppermint bark. Le yum.

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What type of chocolate is your favourite?