Friday, October 9, 2015

Skating Fridays

Competition Recap - Duet and Dramatic Events

Being silly with my duet partner

I'm back again this week to recap my remaining 2 events: the duet and dramatic programs.

My skating partner and I finished choreographing our duet the day before the competition. We hadn't had much time to rehearse together and had our first full run-through the day the competition began. Oops.

Despite our last-minute efforts, we are so used to skating together that things went off without a hitch. We skated to a 2-song medley of the theme songs from The Impossibles and Men in Black. We had squirt guns and sunglasses as our costume accessories and had a blast skating with them.

I'm trying to get my hands on a copy of the video and will share that if and when I do. One of the judges kept laughing at us, so I was happy to see that he thought we were entertaining. We were the only competitors in our event and placed 1st (side note: even though we had no other groups skating against us, it is possible to earn 2nd place and lose to the rule book. This is a true story and has happened at our rink.).

I skated my dramatic program to Sarah McLachlan's Angel. I've had this program for a year but did not skate it last year at this competition because of my knee injury. It placed well regionally and nationally this season but apparently did not resonate with the local judges this time. I emoted as much as I could and this group of judges preferred programs that were much more upbeat than slow and lyrical. I placed 2nd out of 2.

Ending pose for my Angel program
This was my final performance of the Angel program. It's bittersweet because I created it to pay respect and homage to my grandfather, whom I lost a year and a half ago. And in the time that I've performed this program, I have lost several other loved ones and have dedicated my performances to them.

I am working on a new and completely different dramatic entertainment program and plan on debuting it at the next competition - whenever that will be.

So all in all, I had a great time hanging out with my adult skating friends, but I was disappointed in myself. I hope to take this energy and channel it towards better and stronger performances in the future.

And one more line from Rachel Platten's Fight Song for you all:

"I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion"


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Homemade butter croissants

Buttery, flaky croissants taste even better than the ones at the bakery! Don't be intimidated - these are very easy to make, and most of the time is actually spent waiting for the dough to chill. If I can make these, you can too. Add your favorite filling for a bit of flair to these luscious croissants!

Note: This is a picture-heavy post. I felt that it was essential to show you each step since croissants tend to be one of those recipes that folks find intimidating. I wanted to document how I made these so you can follow along and see how easy these really are.

I did it. I finally made croissants. These things have been on my bucket list for who-knows-how-long, and now I can cross them off. And you know what? They weren't difficult to make at all. These croissants just require a lot of patience since the dough has to chill for 2 hours at a time. Other than that, it's just rolling and folding. Easy.

Many of you may know that I am part of a cooking group called What's Baking that posts recipes around a theme 6 times per year (it used to be monthly, but that was too difficult for many of us to keep up with). The "host" rotates around, and that person gets to choose the theme for the baking challenge.

Look at how flaky these turned out!
I wanted to really challenge myself this month, so I proposed 3 different options for the What's Baking girls - croissants, kouign amann, and homemade puff pastry. We put these to a vote, and croissants won. Finally, I had my opportunity to make croissants.

I made my croissants over the course of 2 days, but you can absolutely do it in 1. As I said before, most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to chill, so your hands-on time really isn't much at all. If you can roll dough and fold it in half, then you can make croissants.

I got overambitious and did 3 "turns" of my dough. I made the mistake of letting my dough rest too much before popping them in the oven so they were misshapen and a bit soft. But, once they baked up, they tasted extremely buttery and flaky. These were so incredible that I could hardly believe that I made these.

We gifted croissants to two sets of neighbors, and both of them raved about them and how they were "the real deal." Fill yours with Nutella, jam, honey or whatever you like. Or make them plain. Just don't wait around like I did and make them now. Trust me on this one.

Stay tuned to see how my What's Baking friends fared. I'll be posting a roundup of their croissants soon.

Homemade butter croissants
  • 3 cups (15 oz.) all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • ¼ cup (1¾ oz.) sugar
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups whole milk, cold
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Butter square
  • 24 Tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces and kept cold
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together 2 and 3/4 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the milk until a dough forms. Add in the butter and keep kneading/mixing until you achieve a smooth, pliable dough. The dough should not stick to the bowl or the hook. If it does, slowly add in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, but in small increments. Once the dough comes together, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill. The dough can be made the day before if needed. Do not let it thaw before using.

Make the butter square: On a spotlessly clean and cool work surface, sprinkle the butter with the flour.
Using a bench scraper or any other flat-edged object, scrape the butter against the surface for a few minutes until it becomes into a beautiful buttery and velvety mixture.

Wrap the smeared butter in plastic wrap and use your fingers to squish the butter around until it becomes a 5-inch square.

Chill this in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (this can be made a day or two ahead of time if needed).

Combine the dough with the butter: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and gently and slowly roll it into an 11-inch square. Place the cooled butter diagonally in the middle so it looks like a diamond.

Fold up each side of the dough into the middle to cover up the butter.

Wrap this in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Be patient here and do not take the dough out early.

Generously flour your working surface with flour and gently press the dough down with  your rolling pin to flatten it a bit.

Gently roll out the dough into a 14-inch square. You should start with your rolling pin in the middle and alternating rolling forward to backward and then side to side so you get a square.

Fold your dough, vertically, in thirds.

Then fold the dough in thirds again, going from bottom to top (like a business letter). Once you're done this step, you have successfully made "2 turns" of the dough.

Wrap the dough again and place it in the refrigerator for at least another 2 hours. Repeat the process of completing 2 turns of the dough (rolling it out to a 14 inch square, folding it in thirds vertically, and then in thirds like a letter). Cover and place back in the refrigerator for another 2 hours or more.

We're finally done folding the dough! (You can complete 2 more turns if you'd like - I did, and my croissant were super flaky) Now, once your dough has chilled, generously flour your work surface again. This time, you will want to roll your dough out to a 20-inch by 20-inch square. Cut the square down the middle with a knife so you have two rectangles. Slice each rectangle on the diagonal so you have two triangles. You should end up with 12 total triangles.

Make a 1-inch slit at the base of each triangle.

Add filling, if desired. Then fold the slits toward the outside and start rolling the dough. Tuck the final edge of the triangle underneath and bring the two points of the croissants inwards towards each other.

Repeat with remaining dough and place on a parchment paper or silicone paper lined baking sheet. Allow the croissants to rise for 45-60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. If desired, brush the tops of the croissants with an egg wash. Then bake the croissants for 18-22 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. The croissants should be golden in color.

Allow the croissants to cool before serving. They should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the freezer) and will keep for about 2 days. They are best eaten the day they are baked. Leftover croissants can be reheated in a 300 degree F oven for about 5-10 minutes or for about 15 seconds in the microwave.

Yield: 12 croissants

Source: Annie's Eats


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Strawberry Greek yogurt muffins

Blueberry muffins not your thing? Try these strawberry Greek yogurt muffins instead! With no oil or butter, these healthier muffins will be sure to brighten your day!
Another day in the Eva Bakes household, another muffin recipe. Am I right?

With all the zucchini we've received in our CSA this year, I've made countless batches of our favorite eggless Nutella chocolate chunk zucchini muffins. While I am obsessed with those muffins, it was time to try something new. Our supply of said zucchini muffins was down to a minimum when I asked Addie what variety to bake next.

And no surprise, she said, "chocolate zucchini muffins." Nice try. I told her to pick something else, and she said that she wanted strawberry muffins. OK, strawberry muffins it was.

Like most muffin recipes, these came together in no time at all. Mix the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients separately, then fold and combine. Then toss in the strawberries. Easy.

After the muffins had cooled down, I offered one to Addie. She got mad! She said that she didn't want strawberry muffins but wanted banana ones instead. After she tried a bite, she forgot about being mad and ate the rest of it. Problem solved.

These strawberry muffins were a nice change from the chocolate zucchini muffins and your traditional blueberry types. The Greek yogurt makes the muffin nice and dense so they don't get too crumby after taking a bite. And with no butter or oil, they are slightly healthier than your grocery store or bakery muffins.

Guess I need to make a batch of banana muffins soon.

Strawberry Greek yogurt muffins
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup (1 small container) non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup diced fresh strawberries
  • Turbinado sugar for decorating, optional
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the vanilla, eggs, applesauce, Greek yogurt and milk. Mix well.

Pour the applesauce mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until a few streaks remain. Fold in the strawberries and mix until just combined - do not over mix. The batter will be lumpy.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan. If desired, sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake in your preheated oven for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. The muffins will get slightly soggy overnight if stored at room temperature. They will keep for several days.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Well Plated


Friday, October 2, 2015

Skating Fridays

Still Learning - Recap from Competition (Free Skate)

This past weekend, I skated in our rink's annual competition. I competed in 3 different events and am recapping the first event - my free skate program. I competed in the free skate this year since I figured it would be a good way to see what my baseline score was for this season and see where I need to make some improvements.

I spent several weeks preparing for it. My practices were good, and my program run-throughs were clean and on time. I was prepared both mentally and physically.

I recited several phrases to myself that I learned from Audrey Weisiger ("I am here. I am ready.") and even got a good luck hug from Laurent Depouilly, who traveled to the competition with some of his skaters. I told him that I wanted to make him proud.

When it came time to take the ice, it felt like an out of body experience. It didn't feel like it was me out there. Instead, it felt as if somebody else was in my body and making my arms and legs move. My first element was solid, but then things started to go awry.

I underrotated the axel jump and knew it wouldn't count the second I landed it. I was right - I earned 0 points. Immediately after my axel, I go into a sit spin, which is my strongest spin and one I can do in my sleep. Due to some freak accident, I couldn't center my spin and actually fell out of it and sat on the ice. That's an automatic 0.5 point deduction. Plus 0 points for the spin.

Since I was still in shock from my fall, the second half of the program was a blur. I felt slow and choppy, and my scores reflected as such. I earned 21.30 points, which was a mere 0.04 points worse than my competitor. It doesn't get any closer than that.

I am most disappointed in myself because I am fully capable of doing these elements. For whatever reason, this was not my best skate. Far from it, actually. My coach observed that my legs were shaking throughout, and I attribute it to the frigid temperatures in the rink that day. It wasn't nerves - I am used to being in front of crowds and performing (I am a flutist and performed countless times in front of audiences and judges). I just don't know what happened.

Similar to all competitions, this one was another learning experience. I attribute this poor performance to me just being new to competing and feeling my way through this. I've heard from other skating friends of mine, who have all collectively said that this happens to them too. It's frustrating when you are 100% prepared and things just don't end up as they should. What we need to learn from this is to stand up and keep going because it will get better. It always does.

So I'm going to keep my head held high, knowing that I can't change the past, but I have full control of what I can do to improve from here. I am prepared to fix what's broken and make things better for the next time I'm on the ice.

I'm going to close with a lyric from Rachel Platten's Fight Song, which has been my theme song as of late:

"And I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'Cause I still got a lot of fight left in me."


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Asian pear clafoutis

Have a bunch of pears (or apples) and don't know what to do with them? Make this simple yet fancy-sounding clafoutis. It's essentially fruit-filled flan batter cake!
Clafoutis. I had never heard of this until recently. In fact, I didn't even know how to pronounce it ("cla-foo-tee"). What is it? Clafoutis is a French dessert, usually filled with cherries. It's baked in a round cake pan with a thick, flan-like batter. It's not silky smooth like flan or pudding, but the batter is thick before baking.

Our CSA delivered a whole bunch of Asian pears one week, and I didn't want to eat them plain. So of course I tried to find a dessert to use them up. When I told my husband that I wanted to try making a clafoutis, his response was, "a WHAT?"

The clafoutis was wonderful. The cake was dense and springy and definitely not too sweet. I thought the cake would be more custard-like but still enjoyed the texture. I read online that traditional clafoutis are sprinkled with powdered sugar, but this one didn't need it because the fruit was already quite sweet. If using tart cherries, then a sprinkling of sugar would be perfect.

Go ahead and impress your friends and bake this. Not only will you sound fancy with your French speaking ("Why, 'alo! May I serve you some clafoutis?"), but you can add a new cake to your baking repertoire. Don't have Asian pears? Substitute with apples or regular pears instead.

Asian pear clafoutis
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds Asian pears, peeled, cored, sliced (do this while the batter rests)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking powder.

In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour this into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well. Add in the melted butter and mix until well incorporated. Allow the batter to rest for about 30 minutes while you prepare the apples.

Peel, core and slice the pears. I sliced most of them and cubed the rest. Add the cubed pears to your batter and mix well until they are all incorporated.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9" round cake pan.

Arrange your sliced pears on the bottom of your prepared cake pan. Pour the batter on top of the arranged pears and bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing and serving.

Keep the clafoutis in an airtight container and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" pan; about 8-12 servings



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Double chocolate cookies and cream ice cream sandwiches

Coolhaus double chocolate cookies paired with Jeni's cookies and cream ice cream - it's a combination made in heaven! Chocolate-y and chewy cookies are filled with a smooth and creamy frozen ice cream. Finger licking encouraged!

I was perusing one of my favorite kitchen stores one day when I saw something in the clearance section. I saw the Coolhaus Ice Cream Book sitting on the clearance table. I quickly snatched it up and saw that it was on sale for less than $10. Score!

Shamefully, I left the book on my counter for a few weeks and almost forgot about it. But without fail, every weekend this summer, I've seen various ice cream trucks, popsicle vendors and other frozen treat companies show their products across town. It triggered my memory and I remembered that I had this book sitting in my kitchen.

I promptly grabbed the book and went through the contents. Since I am indecisive, I asked Addie to help me. I read all the cookie flavors to her and she picked one out right away - double chocolate chip. When I asked her what kind of ice cream I should use as the filling, it took her a little while to decide. After I gave her a few choices, she settled on cookies and cream.

The cookies were a really easy recipe to put together. Foolishly, I read the recipe wrong and accidentally omitted 1/2 cup of cocoa powder. My dough was a bit wet but the cookies still turned out really well. The cookies were soft, chewy and fudgy. My husband said that they were too soft, but when I told him that the cookies were meant for freezing (hello, ice cream sandwiches), he retracted his complaint.

My tip for assembly is to make them when the ice cream is slightly soft. I tried scooping hardened ice cream onto fresh cookies and that was a disaster. You can freeze your cookies first and let the ice cream thaw a bit. Then assemble, wrap, and throw back in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

Oh, and just between us... I hid a few of these in the freezer. You know, so I don't have to share!

Double chocolate cookies and cream ice cream sandwiches
  • 2 cups pastry flour (or substitute with 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/4 cup cake flour)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, halfway melted and cooled
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • Store-bought or homemade cookies & cream ice cream
Bake the cookies: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the butter in 15 second increments until half of the butter is melted. Allow to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the cooled butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Once everything is combined, turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips by  hand. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Scoop out the dough using a medium cookie scoop or two teaspoons and roll the dough into a ball (it should be slightly smaller than a golf ball). Allow at least 2 inches in between each ball of dough.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly crispy and the centers are a bit overdone. Do not over bake these. Allow to cool completely.

Assemble the ice cream sandwiches: Pair up the cookies according to size. Take one cookie, flat side up, and top with 1-2 scoops of ice cream. Place another cookie on top, flat side down. Wrap in parchment paper or waxed paper. Repeat with remaining cookies and freeze for at least 1 and 1/2 hours.

Ice cream sandwiches should remain in the freezer and will keep for about 2 weeks.

Yield: About 15 ice cream sandwiches (30 individual cookies)

Sources: Cookies from Coolhaus Ice Cream Book by Natasha Case & Freya Estreller; ice cream from here


Friday, September 25, 2015

Skating Fridays

Final Notes and Thoughts from Skating Competition Seminar

Nick Perna and Doug Webster also led some sessions with us, but I will not be typing them up. Doug's advice was similar to what he shared with us at the G2C Seminar that I recapped previously.  Nick talked to us about boots and blades, and it was mostly geared toward younger kids since their feet and skills are constantly changing. If you want me to give you any specifics about that, please contact me privately.

All in all, this was a fantastic seminar and very timely since I am competing this weekend. There are only 2 people in my event, including myself, so I am competing against myself. I want to see if I have made any improvements since Adult Nationals in April and where I need to focus my efforts over the next few months.

In closing, here are few other thoughts that Audrey shared with us about competing.
  • Instead of thinking, "I shall prepare, and then perhaps, my chance will come," say to yourself, "I can, I will."
  • Remove all doubt
  • Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do
  • A coach is someone who gives correction without feeling resentment
  • Follow your path
  • Visualize your victory - however you define it
  • "Control the controllable"
  • Strive for excellence, not perfection
  • Your beliefs become your thoughts, which become your actions. Your actions become your character and that becomes your destiny.
I'll be back next week to let you know if my competition preparation has paid off. If you want more real-time updates, follow me on the Eva Bakes Facebook page, where I will likely share photos and live results.


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