Fun Times with Homemade Peeps

Peeps Lined Up

Up until a week ago, I didn’t realize you could make Peeps at home.  I don’t know why it took me so long to make this discovery.  I’ve made marshmallow at home before and I know Peeps are made of marshmallows……no idea why I never put two and two together.  Perhaps it’s because Peeps look like they came out of some crazy nuclear experiment, with their bright neon colors and their “you kinda look like a baby chick but you don’t really look like a baby chick” shape.  Making homemade Peeps was never on my radar and this is coming from a girl who wants to recreate everything at home.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why do you want to make Peeps?” or as my Dad put it when I told him what I was up to, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy them?”  Well, there’s a very specific reason as to why I want to make Peeps and it can be summed up in one word, Boyfriend.  He is obsessed with Peeps (hopefully he’s cool with me making that public knowledge…..if not….ummmmm…….sorry?).  I’ve never met anyone who loves Peeps as much as he does.  Until dating him, I had no idea they even made Peeps for holidays other than Easter (they make them for every holiday in case you’re curious).  And to answer my Dad’s question – yes it would be a heck of a lot easier to buy them, but it’s way more fun to make them and they taste way better.

I’m not going to lie, making Peeps is a little harder than I thought it would be.  I figured it would be a relatively simple process – make marshmallow, pipe marshmallow into little chicky shapes, then eat.  Making the marshmallow isn’t bad.  In fact, I quite like playing with hot sugar syrup and making candy at home.  The tricky part of this whole making homemade Peeps business is the piping.  These guys can be a wee bit difficult to pipe out.  My first batch had more “bad” chicks than “good” ones.  However, after some practice, I finally got the hang of it and my second batch was much more successful.  They might not look exactly like the store-bought ones, but they look close enough and the taste more than makes up for their appearance.

Close Up Peep

To make my Peeps, I worked off of two different recipes.  I found that the The Los Angeles Times had the best recipe for marshmallow, so I combined that with some very minor tweaks and tips on technique from a recipe on About.com.  I’m pretty pleased with the final result.  With Easter coming up, these are the perfect treat to make and surprise your friends and family with – they’ll probably be pretty impressed as well!

Continue reading

Things That Make Me Happy in the Kitchen

Baking Tools

Lately, I’ve been spending the majority of my time baking in the kitchen.  I have a pretty solid routine going and it’s working out well so far.  Over the past week, I realized how attached I am to certain baking tools.  I even noticed that I tend to play favorites in the kitchen.  There are certain items that I rarely use and sometimes wonder why I bought.  Then there are the tools I use every time I bake without fail.  I guess this is pretty normal (or at least I hope it is).  Everyone has their favorite trusty whisk that they’ve had for 10 years and can’t imagine ever parting with……..or is that just me??  Either way, I wanted to share some of my favorite kitchen tools with you guys.

The following list is made up of items that I find indispensable in the kitchen and use on a regular basis.  You might have a lot of these items already, but if you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to check them out.  In an effort to remain impartial, I won’t name specific brands.  We all have our favorites and I wouldn’t want to unfairly promote one over another.  On that note, let’s get cracking on this list!

Continue reading

What I’m Baking: Scones and Irish Coffee

Scones and Irish Coffee

Back in grad school, two of my close friends and I decided to spend St. Paddy’s Day in Dublin.  Spring break had just started and tickets from London were so insanely cheap that it would have been crazy for us not to take advantage of the opportunity.  When I told people about our trip, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again: “Ohhh St. Paddy’s in Dublin is wild. You have to be careful, are you sure you want to go? It might be sketchy.”  After hearing this a few fifty times or so, I started to believe the hype.  I mean I figured it would be fun, but not as crazy as people were making it out to be.  By the time we arrived in Dublin, I was seriously expecting a green colored Mardi Gras on steroids with leprechauns, Irish accents, and maybe a drunken appearance by Bono or someone else really cool.

My hyped up vision of St. Paddy’s Day was not exactly accurate.  Was it a fun day?  Of course, it was a blast!  Was it the craziest thing I’ve ever been to?  Not so much.  Did I drink my fair share of Guinness?  Yes……yes I did and one was even green.  Did we see a bunch of Swedish dudes perform an impromptu cover of Abba’s “Dancing Girl” complete with the world’s greatest flute solo?  Actually, we did.  Did Bono show up, hand me a pint, and sing a song for me?  No…..stupid Bono crushing my dreams.

Overall, Dublin was a great place to spend St. Paddy’s and it was an experience I’m glad I got to share with two of my closest friends.  My favorite part of the day (minus the amazing unexpected Abba cover band) was starting off the morning with a scone and Irish Coffee at the pub.  I have to admit, at first, I felt a little weird being at a pub for breakfast.  The thought of drinking a heavy stout first thing in the morning did not appeal to me.  However, when I saw I could get a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam as well as an Irish Coffee, I was totally on board.  It was the perfect breakfast to start my St. Paddy’s Day.  I’m not exactly a “morning person,” so the coffee helped wake me up and the scone provided a solid (and delicious) breakfast for a long day of wandering around the Dublin.

Close up Scone

Even though I’m not a big coffee drinker these days, I still like to start my St. Paddy’s off with an Irish Coffee.  And any excuse to make scones I will take.  My favorite scone recipe comes from Sarabeth’s Bakery in New York.  It’s light, moist, and impossibly delicious.  If you can get your hands on some clotted cream, it’d be wrong not to put it on your scone – it really elevates it to the next level of deliciousness.  My favorite Irish Coffee recipe is pretty traditional and really simple.  Just a nice hot cup of coffee with a shot of Jameson, brown sugar to taste, and some unsweetened freshly whipped cream piled on top.  It’s the ultimate breakfast for St. Paddy’s or any day you feel like being a little Irish!

Continue reading

Update from the Kitchen

Salted Caramel BrowniesThe past couple weeks, I haven’t exactly been great about posting here.  My goal was to add a new post two to three times a week, but lately I’ve gotten a little side-tracked.  However, I have an extremely good reason for this – I promise!  I’ve been busy in the kitchen baking up a storm developing and testing new recipes.  In a way, this benefits all of us.  For me, it means I’m moving forward with my business and starting to nail down the final menu for The Earnest Baker (which is top priority right now).  For you guys, it means lots of awesome products to try in the near future.  It also benefits you if you live close by and enjoy me force feeding you lots of sweets in the name of research.

The truth is I really have to give a big shout out to all my friends.  I’m sure they’re getting a little tired of eating tons of sweets while I stare at them and ask ridiculously nitpicky questions like, “Are the Salted Caramel Brownies too salty?”  There’s been an absurd amount of baked goods in the house lately and I hate letting any go to waste.  Fortunately, I have a great group of friends to pawn them off on.  My boyfriend and I would probably be 20 pounds heavier if we ate everything I’ve been making.  I really can’t blame him when he told me the other day he couldn’t eat any more brownies.  I feel the same way……..it’s a sad day when eating baked goods starts to feel like a chore.

My time in the kitchen has had its fair share of ups and downs.  I’ve had some moments of brilliance (Chocolate Malted Brownies come to mind) and I’ve had some not so brilliant moments (low-fat vegan gingersnaps were not my finest idea).  I’ve also had some recipes that drove me insane trying to perfect (I’m looking at you Salted Caramel Brownies).  The best part of all this is that I realized how happy I am.  The other day, while working on yet another batch of salted caramel, I noticed I had a huge goofy smile on my face.  It took me a little by surprise, but I guess it shouldn’t have.  Baking always makes me incredibly happy and realizing that this is what I do for work now felt absolutely amazing.  Maybe this means I should have made the decision to start my own business a long time ago.  Maybe it’s a sign that I made the right choice and am finally where I’m supposed to be in my life.  No matter what, it’s a great feeling and I’m going to ride it as long as I can.

What I’m Baking: Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

 Close Up Biscuit

When I think of comfort food, one of the first things I think of is biscuits.  No matter what time of day or what the weather is like outside, there is nothing more comforting than a warm, flaky biscuit fresh out of the oven.  Yesterday was kind of gloomy out, so I wanted a hot, delicious dinner to brighten my spirits.  I also wanted to bake something a little more savory since I’ve been baking a lot of sweets lately (I’m on sugar overload right now).  I debated making cornbread and turkey chili, but that seemed time consuming and I wanted something quick and simple.   That’s when I realized the perfect quick meal – Cheddar Cheese Biscuits and Tomato Soup.  I mean what’s more comforting than homemade cheesy biscuits and a big bowl of soup?

For some reason, a lot of people are wary of making biscuits at home.  They think it will be time consuming or that there are too many variables that could go wrong during the baking process.  The truth is biscuits are surprisingly quick and easy to make and certain styles of biscuits are almost foolproof.  Cream biscuits are a great example.  This style of biscuit uses cream in place of butter, so you don’t have to worry about cutting the butter into the flour.  Another perk is that this dough actually benefits from kneading and handling it a little more than you normally would.  They’re also super fast to make.  I’m talking like maybe 10 minutes of actual work time.

Fortunately, my favorite recipe for Cheddar Cheese Biscuits happens to be a cream based biscuit.  They are light, fluffy, and deliciously cheesy.  I love cheese (perhaps a little too much), so I up the cheese factor in these by sprinkling a little on the tops of each biscuit before baking.  These biscuits are very adaptable, so feel free to play around and use whatever cheese you like best.  You could also add in a tablespoon of minced chives if you have them on hand.

These biscuits are best straight out of the oven.  My favorite way to eat them is with a big bowl of tomato soup.  There is something about the combination of cheese and tomato that I just find so comforting.  If you’re not a tomato fan (and surprisingly I know a few), these biscuits would be great with pretty much anything.  Cause let’s face it, when you combine cheese and biscuits you really can’t go wrong.

Continue reading