Sunday, April 10, 2011

Too Close to a Black Hole

This image, taken by NASA's Swift satellite, shows a star being eaten by a black hole. When matter travels too close to a black hole, it passes a point of no return (the event horizon). At this point, the force of gravity from the black hole stretched the star until it overcame its internal gravity and was literally torn apart.

I'm back!

My absence can be explained by the simple fact that everything I've baked has been so delicious that it has been gobbled up by a black hole before I even had a chance to snap one picture...

Rather a more plausible explanation is that I didn't have the time to post what I've been baking lately, not that I've been making anything too exciting. I've been taking pleasure in making simple and easy foods. My sweet tooth has been indulged with sliced fruit atop coconut milk ice cream and the occasional chocolate. Boring, I know but there is something to be said by simple comforts.

Hopefully this recipe makes up for my absence: Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes. Excitement.

The cupcakes are uber cute and really delicious, perfect for a child's birthday party. The frosting is my favorite part, it would be perfect to dip fresh strawberries in.

Sundae Cupcakes
(Yields about 15; Recipe courtesy of: Crustabakes)

Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/4 TS salt
4 TB (heaping) cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 TS baking soda
1 TS vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a cupcake tin.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

3. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.

4. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

5. In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture.

6. Bake for 15 minutes.

White Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounces whipping cream
8 ounces melted white chocolate, cooled


1. Double boil white chocolate till it fully melts, set aside to cool slightly

2. Whip the whipping cream to soft peaks. Drizzle in the cooled melted white chocolate, and whip to firm peaks (You want this to be of pipe-able consistency)


Pipe frosting atop cooled cupcakes. Add a dollop of melted fudge and top with rainbow sprinkles and a maraschino cherry.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Coma Inducing Chocolate Cookies

The Coma Cluster is a supercluster of galaxies which contains more that 1000 identified galaxies. Nearly every dot in this image is a galaxy. It takes over 300 million years for the light emitted from those galaxies to reach us on Earth. Image courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope.

I can't believe how quickly time flies! Its not like I haven't been baking in the last 6 weeks-- quite the contrary, actually. Around Christmas time it seems like that is all I was doing; so much so that I didn't even have a chance to take a single picture of my creations. I made some pretty good stuff (chocolate gingerbread men, truffles, and fudge) and some not so good stuff (cinnamon rolls that tasted like a confection from a buttery Paula Deen like hell).

I've been on a chocolate bender lately. A friend gave me five pounds of high quality chocolate that has been threatening to put me into a chocolaty coma every time I open my pantry. The first thing I made with it were double chocolate cookies, of course.

To everyone who loves chocolate, this recipe is for you. If not, try it anyway, you won't regret it. These cookies have a diverse range of flavor with just the right amount of salt to cut through the sweetness.

Double Chocolate Cookies
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart; makes ~3 dozen)

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 TS baking soda
1/2 TS sea salt
8 oz. chopped semisweet chocolate (4 oz. coarsely chopped, 4 oz. cut into 1/4-inch chunks)
4 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 TS vanilla extract

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Melt coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter in a double boiler.

4. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool for a few minutes.
5. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.
6. Fold in semi-sweet and white chocolate chunks.
Drop balls of dough 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces begin to crack, about 15 minutes.
8. Transfer on parchment to wire racks. Let cool 5 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

A close up view of one of the "dots" in the above image of the Coma Cluster.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Many Worlds, Many Variations on Banana Bread

The Many-worlds interpretation postulates that many independent worlds exist. Rather than the wave function of a quantum particle collapsing and assuming one definite state the wave function continues -- just in another world. Schrodinger's cat is a popular thought experiment theorized by Erwin Schrodinger. The thought experiment places a cat in a sealed box with a Geiger counter that if it detected the radioactive decay of a quantum particle it would trigger a device to break a sealed vile of poison and kill the cat. Until an observation is made this quantum particle would exist in a superposition of states (decayed and not decayed); the many-worlds interpretation theorizes that the cat is indeed both alive and dead each state existing in an independent universe.

I have an awesome variation on banana bread that is moist, flavorful, and likely to satisfy everyone. Banana bread is such a classic and simple concoction that there seems to be a plethora of variations to the standard banana bread recipe - white chocolate & macadamia nuts, chocolate chips, toasted pecans, green curry, etc. I added candied walnuts to top a simple banana bread and the result was crazy good. The bread itself was smooth and moist and everything I could ever want in a banana bread while the topping was crunchy and sweet and delicious -- the perfect contrast.

On to the recipe...

{Banana Bread with Candied Walnuts}
(recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen; makes 1 loaf)

2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 TS baking soda
1/2 TS salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c. plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 TS vanilla extract

1 c. walnuts, chopped
1/4 c. sugar
2 TB butter, melted
1/4 TS cinnamon

1. Adjust a rack to the lower middle position of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking oil.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; set aside
3. In a medium bowl, stir together mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.
4. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the center. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry careful not to over-mix.
5. To make the topping: toss together the walnuts, sugar, butter, and cinnamon until evenly coated.
6. Pour batter into loaf pan and sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake for ~45-50 minutes.
7. Once cooled, slice and voila!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Blueberries & Cream Cookies

Centaurus A is the closest active galaxy to Earth – about 11 million light years away. Galaxies with an active galactic nuclei contain a supermassive black hole in its center which is "feeding" on nearby material. The friction from its accretion disk causes the surrounding material to heat up and become very energetic which accounts for its high luminosity. Image courtesy of the European Southern Observatory

What do blueberries & cream cookies have to do with active galactic nuclei? Nothing, other than I spent the last four days of my life researching the former and this recipe kept popping up during every study break I took. I originally stumbled upon this recipe on the blog momofukufor2 which led to me watching Christina Tosi (of Momofuku's Milk Bar) make the cookies on Martha Stewart which then led to me thinking about it every free second I had. I thought that it only be fitting that I finally bake these when I was done with my research.

Well these cookies were well worth the wait. They taste like no cookie I have ever had before - the milk crumbs mixed with the blueberries is a match made in heaven. Like Martha said, they are reminiscent of blueberry muffin tops. I wish there was an actual Top of the Muffin to You! bakery from Seinfeld. But seriously try these cookies.

{Momofuku's Milk Bar Blueberries and Cream Cookies}
(recipe from Momofukufor2 - makes about 14)
Milk Crumbs:
1/4 c. plus 1 tablespoon nonfat milk powder
2 TB all-purpose flour
1 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 TS sugar
1/8 TS salt
1 1/2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. white chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Stir in melted butter until well combined. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven. Bake until dried and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove milk crumble from oven and let cool completely.
3. Transfer milk crumble to a large bowl and fold in remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder and white chocolate. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Blueberries & Cream Cookies:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 TS baking powder
1/8 TS baking soda
2 TS salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. plus 2 TB granulated sugar
1/2 c. plus 2 TB light-brown sugar
1/4 c. glucose (I used corn syrup)
1 large egg
3/4 c. dried blueberries
1/2 c. plus 1/3 c. Milk Crumbs

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Cream butter, sugars, and glucose until well combined. Add egg and mix.
3. Add flour mixture and mix then add blueberries and milk crumbs. Scoop dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
4. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until cookies are golden brown and tops begin to crackle, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Scary Good Snickerdoodle's

Vegan cinnamon swirl cupcakes topped with a fluffy vanilla frosting and cinnamon sugar

Named the Witch Head Nebula for its spooky resemblance to a witches head. This reflection nebula gets its color from the bright blue star Rigel in the upper right corner. Don't fear, this witch is located about 1,000 light years away.

This post was supposed to be in time for Halloween but obviously I'm a bit late. I've also been a bit late on starting my term project which got pushed aside until a week or so before it was due (hey, at least I didn't start on it the night before it was due! So that is an accomplishment I suppose). In the past few weeks I went to three concerts (The Walkmen, Interpol, & Jarrod Gorbel-- each was amazing in its own way), had to evacuate my apartment (again) due to a wildfire, and caught a cold. All in all, that is why I've been a bit late. That always seems to happen this time of the year too. I blame the changing seasons, not my misappropriation of time of course.

mmm... cinnamon sugary deliciousness

I love this time of the year; the crisp weather followed by the changing of the leaves is serene (especially so in Colorado - the Aspen tree's changing color is so pretty). I feel as if I have to enjoy every second of it before it gets too cold outside and I want to go running indoors every chance I get (on a side note, I am not looking forward to winter in Colorado).

I also love all of the yummy things to bake this time of the year. I, however, woke up one morning last week and decided to see if I could cut out all fat and sugar from my diet for a week, because I get weird urges like that, (leaving me to essentially only eat vegetables and oatmeal) and surprise -- I managed! Not wanting to scarf down triple chocolate molten lava cake (although that sounded tempting) I decided to ease back into the flow of things by returning to vegan desserts that are low on sugar but high in taste. That didn't sound too cheesy, did it?

I also ordered a bunch of healthy baking cookbooks online (such as Babycakes, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, and one on baking with olive oil) so watch out and be prepared for some new recipes!

Vegan Snickerdoodle Cupcakes:
(recipe courtesy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World; makes ~12)

1 c. soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 c. + 2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 c. flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar

Vanilla Frosting:
1/2 c. Earth Balance (or refined coconut oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 - 1/4 c. soy milk
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. raw sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with liners.
2. In a small bowl, mix together soymilk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cinnamon, brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil.
5. Add the remaining oil and the orange and vanilla extracts to the soymilk mixture. Stir together and add to the dry ingredients.
6. Beat with a mixer or by hand until the batter becomes smooth.
7. Divide the batter evenly among the baking cups and spoon about 1/2 a teaspoon full of the cinnamon mixture into each cupcake. Swirl it into the batter with a knife.
8. Bake for 19-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
9. Allow to cool and frost with vanilla frosting and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Beat the Earth Balance and vanilla together then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired frosting consistency. In a separate bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar and top each frosted cupcake with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Globular Clusters

Globular clusters are some of the oldest formations in the universe, older than the galaxies that they are gravitationally bound to. They are tightly bound clusters of several hundreds of thousands of stars; in fact the stars are so close to one another that there are often collisions between stars. It is so dense in the center of the cluster that are hundreds of stars in a region of less that 3 light years wide. This image of M13 is one of the brightest globular clusters in the northern sky; if you have access to a telescope I highly recommend observing it.

These cinnamon sugar cake bite doughnut things will blow your mind. Seriously.

There is this late night bakery in Boulder called Boulder Baked. This place is awesome, they make cookies to order along with grilled cheese and other late night snacks. Its the type of place that I don't go to on a regular basis (thankfully, for my health's sake) but rather its the type that once I "rediscover" it, I'm hooked for a solid 3 days.

I introduced this place to my friend Nick and he became addicted to it, no joke. We would walk to Boulder Baked at 1am during the summer and eat all the cookies before we even made it back home. It's all about the journey not the destination, or something like that. On a few occasions when I would stop by his apartment on my way to class in the afternoon I found him passed out on his couch with a empty box of boulder baked cookies on his lap, a victim of an apparent sugar coma. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Priceless.

Last time I visited Boulder Baked I was feeling impatient about waiting a whole 10-12 minutes for a cookie and found these little cake-like doughnut things in the display case. Biting into them is pure heaven. They are soft and cake-like with a crunchy cinnamon sugar shell.
They have this cake-like taste but with the consistency of a moist doughnut... Its really hard to describe accurately. I knew that I had to recreate these at once. After questioning the guy working behind the counter for about 5 minutes he finally asked me if I was wanting to make them at home. Uh... obviously.

Since they would not divulge their "secret" recipe I turned to the internet. Coming up empty handed, I decided to combine a vanilla cake recipe with elements of a baked doughnut recipe and here is what I came up with:

Globular Clusters (aka Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut-Cake Bites):
(Note: I have no idea what their formal name is so I'm going to call them Globular Clusters--I think it rolls off the tongue easier than Super Yummy Cinnamon Sugar Two Bite Cake Doughnut Fritter Things)
makes 14

3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. melted butter
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

For the topping:
melted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking oil.
2. Beat together sugar and the egg (~2 minutes).
3. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg; combine with egg mixture.
4. Mix in melted butter, milk, and vanilla.
5. Divide evenly among muffin cups, filling it about a quarter full, and bake for about 10-15 minutes.
6. Once they have been removed from the oven lightly brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Banana Equivalence

Oh what a cold and dreary day it is in Boulder. It has been raining all morning with no sign that the sun will make an appearance.

What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? For me, it is baking followed by watching old episodes of Cosmos, there is just something so soothing about Carl Sagan's voice. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Seeing as how the rain inspires me to pick up a spatula and I had promised my friends that cheesecake would be the next thing that I made, I set off to the kitchen. After a quick survey of my fridge I discovered that I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand to make cheesecake but what I did have were overripe bananas. I'm not insinuating that I was able use bananas in place of the cheese in cheesecake (even though it seems that you could use bananas in place of just about anything nowadays) but what I did do was stray a little away from cheesecake and made...... banana cupcakes with honey-cinnamon frosting! Just as good. Besides, I've never been a big fan of cheesecake.

The perfect afternoon snack to accompany a mug of tea on a dreary day.

Banana Cupcakes:
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart; makes 12 - I got 15)
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 3 large ripe bananas)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Honey-Cinnamon Frosting:
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In the well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir just to incorporate flour mixture.
3. Divide mixture evenly among baking cups; smooth surface.
4. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. Immediately remove cupcakes from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
5. Spread frosting on cooled cakes and enjoy (yum).

Beat sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon together until smooth, ~4 min

Once the weather starts to get cold again it makes me want to crawl under my blankets and listen to Interpol all day. I love this song, the singer has such a beautiful voice: