Tag Archives: chocolate

Fall Break Baking Extravaganza

Alternatively titled, Working the Kinks Out Before the Holidays.

I more or less lived in my kitchen during this fall break. When I wasn’t doing homework or keeping ahead on thesis research, I was baking. This will probably be the most time I have for baking until…I’m not sure when. If I’m lucky I’ll eke out two pies the day before Thanksgiving (the kitchen belongs entirely to my dad on Thanksgiving Day). And this year, I don’t get home for Christmas until December 22nd. Three days before Christmas. Last year, I arrived home from Chile on December 12th and started baking probably the next day, affording me 12 whole days to bake. Ideally, I don’t bake on Christmas Eve Day. That means that this year, I get two days to bake, including the day I come home from school. TWO DAYS. This will require advance planning, likely including baking at school once my exams are finished, as well as a limited menu and no new recipes. Just the classics. (My family is probably happy about this. Less time to bake = less cookies to eat,  less ingredients to buy, less mess in the kitchen.)

Anyways. Given all of that, I took advantage of plenty of uninterrupted kitchen time.

There were chocolate chocolate chocolate chip muffins, from the Joy the Baker cookbook. Yes, three times the chocolate.

Look at those crackled tops. COME ON.

Look at those crackled tops. COME ON.

Just a close-up.

Just a close-up.

White chocolate drizzle. Because why not? Oh, and calling them muffins means they're an acceptable breakfast.

White chocolate drizzle. Because why not? Oh, and calling them muffins means they’re an acceptable breakfast.

Joy does it again, throwing in buttermilk and extra chocolate and calling them muffins and not cupcakes. I made a second batch today and they turned out just as great the second time around.

Then I gave Joy’s recipe for cream cheese pound cake a shot.

All was going well. The batter was gorgeous. Silky and fluffy and creamy, just like it should be. It went into the pan. I thought, hm, the pan looks a little full. Well, maybe it won’t rise that much.

I was wrong.

Looks delicious, huh?

Looks delicious, huh?

One side of the cake- just one side, not both, thank goodness- overflowed and oozed through most of the bake time. So once the rest of the cake was done cooking, we took it out, let it cool, and then I cut out the ugly part and salvaged the rest of it. It really is a delicious cake. It’s tangy and dense and moist (such a horrible word but so right for desserts). It just has  a chunk missing.

The sad part is, I had meant to send that cake to friends away at other schools. So I had to figure out something else to do. Snickerdoodles worked out as planned.

Such pretty little things!

Such pretty little things!

Soft, crackly, and covered in cinnamon sugar. Easy fall goodness.

Soft, crackly, and covered in cinnamon sugar. Easy fall goodness.

Last dessert of the week: oatmeal raisin cookies, because we had leftover raisins from another recipe. I’ve made these before. I’m pretty sure I’ve made them from the same recipe before. And here is what happened.

Fail #2 of the week.

Fail #2 of the week.

To be fair, they’re edible. They are chewy and soft. But they were so spread out and some of them were rather dark. I think it was either that the butter was too warm when I incorporated it, or there just wasn’t enough flour. It was probably a mix of both.

So, two fun baking fails this week. Let’s hope that that means smooth sailing for holiday baking.

But I haven’t even gotten to the best part of my baking/cooking this week! Guys! I made empanadas! ¡Empanadas chilenas caseras!

Here is the pino (filling) before getting wrapped up.

Here is the pino (filling) before getting wrapped up.

I did the filling according to the cookbook my host parents gave me: chopped top round, browned and cooked with caramelized onions, green chile pepper, and a bunch of spices. Since I couldn’t find merkén, I made a substitute with chili powder (I used guajillo), paprika, cumin, and coriander, with salt and pepper to taste. It got pretty darn close! And of course, each empanada had a whole black olive, half a hardboiled egg, and raisins.

Going into the oven! My folding may need a little work.

Going into the oven! My folding may need a little work.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Empanada de pino con una ensalada de lechuga, tomate, y palta.

Empanada de pino con una ensalada de lechuga, tomate, y palta.

You can take the girl out of Chile, but you can’t take Chile out of the girl. I will absolutely be making these again, hopefully with merkén and with better folding.

So besides all of that, I took some walks.

Fall 1

Fall 2

Fall 3

Fall 4

Tomorrow is the last day of calm before the big push begins. The last eight weeks of this semester, and I think especially the next four weeks until Thanksgiving, are busy with a capital B. There will be papers and RA duty and other deadlines and continued job searching and a million other things that will come up. The first eight weeks of the semester were a gift, considering how manageable and evenly paced it all was. But it’s probably going to be a hurricane, not a tornado. Which means that I can see it coming and get ready before it hits!

So I’ve got a plan. I’m making an awesome playlist, because if there’s going to be a lot to do, I’m going to dance my way through it. I’m going to keep exercising because everything they say about exercise giving you more energy is absolutely true. I feel better and I work better mentally when my body works hard. I’m going to keep journaling and incorporate more prayer time, which is a far more constructive way to clear my mind than say, Facebook. I’m going to schedule the heck out of every day and push to get everything on every to-do list done, whenever possible. There is nothing like going to bed at the end of the day knowing that you are keeping pace and aren’t behind in the morning.

It takes focus. It takes discipline. It takes a recognition of my own mental and physical limits, and also a willingness to push and ask more of myself. More than that, it takes confidence, and the belief that I can do it all, and that I won’t break under pressure.

So let’s get to it then!

With love,

Gaby

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Homecoming

This week has been wonderful and tiring and busy and happy and cold. First there was the whole process of getting home, which involved brief tears in the airport; moments of tears on the plane; Californian wine with the plane dinner which was incredibly disappointing; not sleeping on the plane at all; being randomly selected for the luggage search at US customs; a flight delay in Miami; hearing a lot of Spanish in Miami; and a most joyous reunion with my mom in Chicago. Within hours I was back in the glorious state of Wisconsin, basking in the comparatively weak midday sun and enjoying the delicious, not over-pasteurized, and cold milk. That comes in a plastic gallon jug. Not a cardboard box.

Reflections on departing a foreign country: saying goodbye is like ripping off a Band-Aid. You need to go through security. You need to get yourself together. Say goodbye and get your papers ready.

It does not help your switch back to English when every single person in your entry airport speaks the language you were just speaking for 5 months. Neither does speaking in that language most of the night on the plane…

Wrap your gifts up in your clothes. Nothing- not a thing!- broke. Also, say with confidence that you are 21 when the border patrol agent sees that you are carrying alcohol. Remember that you did indeed turn 21, and maybe they won’t make you haul your luggage through the second check.

If you have more than two pieces of luggage that roll, you should grab a cart to lug it through customs.

Everyone said that there’s a transition involved in going home after study abroad. I feel like it hasn’t been much of a transition, that I came home and unpacked and it’s life as usual around here. But I have my moments where I miss things/forget where I am/briefly wonder what language I should be speaking.

Things that have been wonderful:

Milk. Gosh, I missed just drinking a cold glass of milk.

Orange juice. Real orange juice!

Pretzels. Like the kind you get in a bag. I can’t even tell you if they have them in Santiago or not- I think they do?- because I swear I didn’t eat a single pretzel for 5 months.

Baking. Butter and sugar and flour like every single morning. More of that later.

Drip coffee. Ugh. Nescafé doesn’t even compare.

The sunrise off of our deck. Look at this.

DSCF5377

Cold and bright and blue.

Mass in English and going to Mass at my childhood parish.

Driving a car. I can still do it!

I went to the dentist, and despite large amounts of tea and juice and soda and all the sugar that comes with it (and infrequent flossing…), I don’t have a single cavity.

The water is so much better on my hair. After washing and conditioning my hair just once, it looked better right out of the shower.

The niceness of Midwesterners. Seriously. I love it.

Things that have been…different:

The lack of avocado (almost typed palta) in my meals. Also, the first time I went to the store, the first thing I saw was avocado. And I immediately thought, “Oh, we probably need palta.” Because we almost always needed palta in Santiago.

It’s only recently gotten wintry cold here. It was actually pretty warm for a Wisconsin winter when I came home. But I’ve been freezing.

For the first few days, I would go to look for something and think of where it would be in my Santiago house. Also, every time I’d carry a purse anywhere I’d check for my metro card and my old house keys.

Fewer daylight hours. And did I mention the cold?

The lack of mountains was positively disorienting the first couple of days. How am I supposed to know which way is east?!

I almost always look for toilet paper before entering a public bathroom stall. And many times I almost throw it into the trash can, instead of in the toilet. I will actually do that one of these days.

I like to talk about Chile. A lot.

I miss speaking in Spanish. And I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. And then when I do speak it, de vez en cuando, it sounds so weird to me!

I’ve noticed that I smile a lot and make a bigger effort to be warm to people. Is that a Midwestern thing?

When a table shakes, because someone’s kicked it or whatever, I immediately think, “Tremor!” In Wisconsin, folks.

My dad made chicken cacciatore, which is an Italian chicken stew. It was delicious, but then it reminded me of the Chilean pollo al jugo and my heart hurt a little bit.

But that’s about as “rough” as it’s been, if you can even call it that. I miss people, but that’s why we’ve got the Internet! And I’ve been keeping busy.

This is mostly what I’ve been doing:

Soft gingersnaps. Yummy ginger and spice, not a lot of snap.

Soft gingersnaps. Yummy ginger and spice, not a lot of snap.

These chewy gingersnaps were surprisingly delicious. That is to say, I didn’t think I would like them as much as I did. It’s nice to have a spicy cookie in the midst of pounds of chocolate and buttery goodness. The recipe can be found here, at Two Peas and Their Pod. If you need a cookie recipe, go there! They are known for their creative and reliable cookie ideas.

I also made peanut butter blossoms.

I got a cup and a half of peanut butter out of these single-serving peanut butter cups. It's resourceful. Judge not.

I got a cup and a half of peanut butter out of these single-serving peanut butter cups. It’s resourceful. Judge not.

These are so good. So so good.

These are so good. So so good.

I like peanut butter blossoms because it’s a heavy cookie. The peanut butter is rich and dense, the chocolate is perfect (you can never go wrong with a Hershey’s Kiss!), and they’re freaking rolled in sugar. I like making these because they last me a while. Which means that the people in my house do not eat them all in a couple of days. It’s just too difficult to eat a bunch in one sitting. They’re tricky in their deliciousness. I got this recipe from How Sweet It Is, which is a blog I absolutely adore, but you can also get the recipe off of a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. Really. I even checked. It’s still there.

I also made these. And will probably make them again, because unlike the peanut butter blossoms, they are dangerously easy to eat.

Chocolate chip cookies. You cannot go wrong with a classic, "normal" cookie on your holiday cookie plate!

Chocolate chip cookies. You cannot go wrong with a classic, “normal” cookie on your holiday cookie plate!

These are so soft and delicious. Why? Instant pudding mix. Cook and serve pudding is NOT the same! Make sure you get the right kind! Or you’ll end up like us with two little sad boxes of cook and serve vanilla pudding who get yelled at every time you go to make cookies and think you already have the right kind of pudding. This is the recipe I use. Yup. A whole pound of butter. 4 1/2 cups of flour. But it really does yield around 6 or even 7 dozen cookies. You’ll need that many. They won’t last you.

And then I had my friend E. over and guess what we did?

Look at how Christmas-y they are!

Look at how Christmas-y they are!

I love these. E.’s family requested another batch. They’re a pretty easy cookie and you might have all the ingredients in your house already, except the Candy Cane Hugs (which are delicious by themselves) and unsweetened cocoa powder. They were a favorite last year, and I think my family forgot how much they liked them until they ate them again. Find the recipe here.

Believe it or not, I still have a lot left to do. I’ve got two apple pies to make. I still have lemon raspberry thumbprints, German cinnamon stars, sugar cookies round 2, and- wait for it- Chilean alfajores to make. There’s also pretzel treats and peppermint bark. But those are so easy I barely even count them.

Oh, but did I mention I’m making my own manjar for the alfajores? Yup. Just gonna casually stir a quart of milk with a bunch of sugar over heat until it turns into caramel. You know. Hey, go big or go home.

All in all, it’s been a great first week back in the greatest country in the world. Do we have plenty of problems? Absolutely. I will never deny that, especially in the light of what happened last Friday in Connecticut, which left me with a knot in my stomach all weekend. We are not perfect. But between the outpouring of sympathy and empathy and goodwill in the days since and the chance I’ve had to compare life here to life elsewhere, I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Well, maybe I’d go back to Chile for a while. But I’ll talk more about that later.

With love,

Gaby

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¡Galletas! (Cookies!)

It’s a cooking post!

I once again got together with my dear friend F. to dish about life and to bake something. After wandering around the Jumbo (like a cross between Target and Walmart, plus a big grocery) in South America’s largest mall for a while trying to find ingredients, we went back to her place to get baking some oatmeal craisin cookies.

This post could also be titled, “Adventures in Metric Conversions.” Or, “Adventures in Cooking Without Measuring Tools.” Or, “Adventures in Baking with Unlabeled Ingredients.” Or combine all of those titles into one. We had one large measuring cup. We tasted a white powder from a jar to make sure it wasn’t powdered sugar, and took our chances guessing it was baking soda and not baking powder. We then made shaky metric conversions, mixed it all together, and hoped for the best.

Basic cookie things. In Spanish.

Fun fact: brown sugar is called azúcar rubia here. That means blonde sugar, not brown sugar! It reminded me much more of raw sugar than of traditional, sticky, fragrant brown sugar.

Looks normal to me!

Also, the oven did not have a thermometer. It was either on alto or bajo (high or low). And we used a casserole pan.

Trust me. It works just fine.

Nevertheless, we got edible cookies!

Voilà!

We now move on to the portion of this post where I appreciate that I live with a host family instead of on my own or with other foreigners in an apartment or a dorm. Why? Among a zillion other reasons, they make sure that you don’t unwittingly go out to a bad neighborhood late at night. This is why you tell your host parents where you’re going, guys.

On Saturday I celebrated one month living with them in Santiago. One whole month. That also meant that I signed my contract with them committing myself to stay with them for the rest of the semester (they were like, “Are you sure?” To which I responded, “Are you sure?” Clearly my imperfect Spanish has hidden some of the quirkier aspects of my personality from them. But they’re stuck with me now!). To commemorate all of that goodness, we went out to eat at a traditional Chilean place in one of Santiago’s hipper neighborhoods.

Soooo much food. So much delicious Chilean food. Sopaipillas with pebre. Pan amasado. Some kind of cheesy clam appetizer. Lamb and beef and chorizo with goat cheese. Pastel de choclo. Reineta. And a fairly strong pisco sour. To top it off, I got to write my name on one of the walls, near their previous host daughters’ signatures. It was just a really great night.

And THEN, as if I hadn’t already eaten enough over the weekend, I continued the host family bonding time by making brownie chip cookies with my sister.

Brownie chip cookies are about the easiest recipe I know. Get the recipe here. Buy some brownie mix. You probably have the rest of the ingredients already. Bake them. Done.

Chocolate chips are really expensive here. Just FYI.

I’m sorry. I know what this looks like. I just want to show you that you can bake cookies on a pizza pan.

Lesson learned: don’t be picky about your baking pans. It all works just fine.

While they’re baking, take a break to eat some gummy bears and dish about boys with your sister.

My favorites are the red and the clearish ones.

Ta-da! Yes, they look like cowpies, okay? The Internet tells me that they spread out so much probably because the pan was over-greased. Oh well. They taste just like they should!

Flat, chewy, and good.

We also made a brownie tart. Want to know how? Prepare some brownie mix. Put it in a tart pan. Bake. Fancy, right?

That’s all I’ve got for now! I’m very, very happy to be back in the kitchen. I hope you’re all enjoying the end of your summers/beginnings of the school year. The season is changing here too- from winter to spring! This means that one day it will be 40 and rainy, and the next it will be 76 and sunny. I just have to be ready for everything!

With love,

Gaby

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