Monday, September 29, 2014

DIY Vanilla Extract

I am crossing an item off my bucket list with this post today.
I finally made vanilla extract. I am shamelessly doing the goal-post, arms-up-in-victory stance right now.
I have wanted to make homemade vanilla extract for a few years now, but kept letting excuses get in the way. But now that I am jobless I have all the time in the world…and I have finally made vanilla extract! I also had a little bout of worry, thinking I might somehow make the worst vanilla extract ever. But as soon as I made the extract, I laughed at myself a little… it literally is so riddikulus-ly (see what I did there… HP fans will get it… hopefully) easy, it seems almost fail-proof. It probably took me 10 minutes to finish making the extract, including taking a few photos for this post.
So, with Christmas basically right around the river bend (I think I'm going through a quote-y phase…), I thought I'd share this super simple recipe that is so multi-versatile for the holiday season.
You can save money by having your own vanilla extract on hand for all the wonderful seasonal baking you'll be doing, or you can make little bottles to give away as presents… there are endless possibilities.

First things first: to make good quality vanilla extract, you need good quality vanilla beans. After quite a bit of research, I chose to use Beanilla, but feel free to choose whichever vanilla beans you like.

To make the vanilla extract, choose a few glass jars to use. I had a jar from Beluga Chocolatier in Germany that seemed the perfect size, & after scouring my house for a bit, found a cute little mason jar.
With my jars differing in sizes, I added 2 extra to the mason jar since it was a bit bigger.
Split the pods lengthwise and scrap out the seeds, add the seeds and pods to their respective jar. For a measuring reference I turned to one of my favorite bloggers (who has already been mentioned in a few previous posts… she's just so great) Joy [the Baker]'s recipe says to use 4 ounces of alcohol per 2 beans/pods. 

Add beans/seeds to their jars and pour your choice of alcohol (vodka, bourbon, or rum) over the beans. I chose to use vodka solely to have a neutral vanilla flavor. Bourbon is supposed to give the vanilla more depth and a bolder flavor, so I might have to make my second batch with bourbon since I'm a fan of strong flavors. You can honestly choose based on your taste preference, or try 3 different batches to see which you like best. There are no rules! 

Once I added the vodka and beans, I gave both jars a good shake and placed them into a dark, cool cupboard. After each week, give them a good shake again to help the ingredients continue to incorporate. Allow the extract to seep for at least 6 weeks before using - if you're going to gift vanilla extract for the holidays, start now or make your extract and label with a "ready to use" date.

The bonus about making your own extract: you can always just add more beans and alcohol as your supply dwindles down, and it basically will last indefinitely. It's a win/win situation from every angle. Go ahead… do the goal-post, arms-up-in-victory stance (I really should figure out the technical term for this position) with me, you know you want to.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

[No Churn] Ice Cream Cake

Okay, this heat has been ridiculous lately… it's basically devil-heat. It's just unnatural.
So, being the baker that I am, I decided an ice cream cake was in order.
Even though I was sweating like a five hundred pound trucker driving through Phoenix, the outcome was worth every second.

Readers: "What if I don't have an ice cream maker, Kylie?"
Me: "I've got you covered… this ice cream is a No Churn ice cream. Meaning you don't need to own an ice cream maker… you just need to have a freezer, which, I am 99% sure, is a standard household appliance."

Okay… cheesy little convo aside, this ice cream recipe really is fantastic because it doesn't require an ice cream maker - which I've heard can be a hassle to use if you have a smaller freezer (I personally have a very slim, narrow freezer…so I know the frustration of having limited space).

The recipe I used for the ice cream comes from Honestly Yum (which she used via Nigella Lawson )
The blog title accurately describes this ice cream… it is SO good.
[I'll put the recipes for the cake and strawberry sauce at the bottom of the post.]

The ice cream does call for rum, but I can assure you that you do not taste the rum at all… it is solely to help prevent your ice cream from crystallizing. 
"Where's all the rum gone?!" …. sorry, my nerd is showing - I couldn't resist a Captain Jack quote.

No Churn Ice Cream:
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
2 tablespoons of rum
1 teaspoon of peppermint extract
12 ounces of chocolate (I used 2 dark choc Ghirardelli bars, and one dark sea salt Lindt bar)

In your mixing bowl (I used my kitchen aid, but if you just have a hand mixer, rock that business like a boss…), add the peppermint, rum, and condensed milk. 
Mix until completely combined.

Add chilled whipping cream, and mix on medium-high until soft peaks form - do not over mix!

Fold your chopped chocolate chunks into the cream base - I chopped the chocolate into varying sizes because I'm so fancy… I am so quote-y today… I apologize.

I lined a spring form pan with cling film and poured the mixture in - I decided to use this method to ensure the ice cream would be the same shape and size as the cake… I like to keep things simple and easy. 
Before putting the ice cream in the freezer, I put more cling film on top of the ice cream (literally lay the cling film on the surface of the ice cream mixture), this helps prevent gross skins from developing…
Freeze for at least 6 hours. I froze mine overnight, and it was slightly firm and soft… like ice cream you buy from the grocery store, perfectly scoop-able before it turns to an icicle after one night in your freezer… seriously, do grocery store freezers have magical powers? 
Hogwarts Freezers!!! 
Sorry… nerdiness is showing again. I'll calm down, I promise.

Once the ice cream was frozen and ready to go (Let it go! Let it gooooo…. can't hold it back anyyyyymorrreee! I am SO sorry… I apparently can't control myself today…) I cut the cake in half, plopped the ice cream in the middle… and voila! An ice cream cake!
But it didn't feel complete… so I decided to make a strawberry sauce to pour over the cake. It was absolutely divine… and yes, I had cake for breakfast. Yes, I will be doing 2 hours (totally worth it) of Zumba after I finish blogging… a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do for the sake of her blog ;)

Doesn't that just look scrumptious!
Try not to drool… it's hard I know, but give it your best….

Advice I want to impart concerning making this ice cream cake: don't do it all at once… sometimes I get way to gung-ho when I start baking and I forget I'm not super-baker. So, bake your cakes off first. While they're baking, remain aware of your time, but prep your ingredients for the ice cream - or you can prep, start ice cream and then do the cakes while the ice cream chills in the freezer… whatever suits your fancy. Once cakes are done and cooling, start on your ice cream - you want to pay full attention to your ice cream… my first batch curdled because I was doing three different things at once. 

Chocolate Coffee Cake:
adapted from Sweetapolita (I seriously adore her cakes… I mean, sprinkles!)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup + 1 tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Pink Himalayan Salt, because it seems fancy)
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (to make buttermilk, I add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to my measuring cup, then pour milk until I hit 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup strong black coffee, hot
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients and mix until completely combined - then create a crater in middle of dry ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, mix all the wet ingredients until completely combined. Pour wet mix into the crater of the dry ingredients.
Mix together until you have a batter consistency.
Grease three 8-inch round pans (I sprayed Pam) and dust with flour, tapping out excess flour.
Divide batter evenly among pans, gently tap each pan against the counter.
Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick comes out almost clean, about 12ish minutes - you want a few crumbs attached: crumbs equal perfection in cake-land. I allow my cakes to cool in the pans, leaving them out overnight covered with towels - it's how I've always cooled my cakes, and they're always yummy and moist.

Strawberry Sauce:
(adapted from my brain ;) I kind of winged it this morning….thank you culinary school)
1/4 cup water
A splash of lemon juice
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 - 3 cups frozen strawberries (don't feel the need to be accurate, a few extras are a-okay)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Add water, lemon juice, and strawberries to a saucepan over medium heat. Allow to sit for about 1-2 minutes, then stir strawberries. 
Stir often, and once mixture starts to look more liquid-y, add sugar 1/2 cup at a time. 
Stirring frequently, allow sauce to come to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer. Mash strawberries.
Take sauce off heat.
In a small bowl, add cornstarch. Add 2 teaspoons water, and mix until you get a thick paste. If too thick, add 1/2 teaspoon of water.
Add cornstarch mixture to strawberry sauce, mix in completely. Allow sauce to sit and cool for a bit - about 10 minutes.
Pour over cake… store the rest.
Lick the spoon… I won't judge.

Enjoy this ridiculously delicious cake!
I'm off to Zumba...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Beginnings + [New] Etsy Shop!!

Hello lovelies!
I hope you all have had a splendid day.

I have a bit of news for you (I don't want to label one as bad, so I'll say uncomfortable and not my favorite): Yesterday I was let go from my job of almost 6 years. It was absolutely shocking and completely out of left field. Without delving into more reasons and personal feelings about yesterday's events, I am choosing to see this positively. I am choosing to see the good and the endless possibilities ahead. 
I am choosing to trust my Jesus. 

However, I am also a bit of a realist when it comes to this sort of thing. I know I need to somehow provide for myself now that I am jobless (that is still really weird to wrap my brain around).
Oddly enough, I've been wanting to open my Etsy shop again, but felt like I wouldn't have the time to create items to sell. I had even purchased 12 ceramic mugs the day before I was let go, thinking I would just try to create mugs when I could.
Today was weird, not waking up to go to work… so to occupy my mind, I started making a few mugs to put on Etsy. The more I drew, the more excited I became.
Even though it is incredibly frightening to be without steady income now, I finally have the opportunity to do what I've always dreamed of doing: create!
I now have time to dedicate myself to making items to sell on Etsy, and time to start really focusing on this blog as well. 
I'm excited to see what comes of this new adventure in my life!
If you would like to check out my Etsy shop (I would absolutely love it if you did!), here is the link. My shop is called KylieRaeDesigns and over the next few days/weeks, I will be working away to get more items up.
Here are a few photos of the mugs I painted today: