24 July 2010

Good morning!

One of the perks of unemployment is that if I want to get up at 05:00 to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast, I can do that. And then I can go back to bed after my (employed) flatmate leaves for work, if I feel like it, or I can take advantage of the nicest weather we've had in a while and bike to Walden Pond. It's all about the choices.

People in Massachusetts don't really believe in straight lines or labeled street corners, making it tricky to follow Google maps directions. Still, it was a good adventure, complete with Fig Newtons. :)

22 July 2010

Bidding a sweet farewell to mouse wench-hood

Something I just remembered out of the blue: On the Fourth of July, Robby passed around my desserts amongst his sailing team friends because I didn't want to have to carry half-full glass pans for four miles after the fireworks. Apparently his friends were skeptical at first -- Robby is quite the trickster -- but then bit into the food and remarked, "This is really f***ing good!"

I think that was possibly the best compliment I ever got on anything I made. ♥

Anyway, enough narcissism. Ahem.

My last week at work started off by sucking royally, and by Tuesday I was so fed up with it all that I actually just came home early to indulge in some baking therapy. To be perfectly honest, I had already been planning to bring a lemon cake for the animal facility staff on Wednesday, since Tuesday was the IACUC inspection (my very last!) and I wanted to thank them for being so awesome to work with for the past two years. So no, this was not quite as spontaneous an act of rebellion(?) as I made it sound. Bite me.

But you know, I put the cake in the oven, and it still didn't feel like enough. Enough therapy, I mean. So I made coffee cake muffins!

Becca got home from class just as I was pulling the muffins out of the oven.

The best part was that these were for us.

20 July 2010

Becca is amazing

Just, you know, stating the obvious, because the world needs a reminder every so often.

Anyway. Both Becca and I baked a lot for our respective labs last week. The mouse cake was the pièce de résistance, so to speak, but chronologically it was actually the last thing in the queue of treats produced at Hatherly College during the week.

So in the next couple of posts I will simply be playing catch-up. For one thing, it's still a bit too hot to be baking, and anyway, I should be cleaning and packing and generally preparing for the impending move. Plus now that I'm unemployed, I need to be more conservative about spending all my meager savings on baking ingredients. Besides, to whom could I feed it all now?

Last Sunday Becca made a Grand Marnier Orange Cake and a plateful of truffles while we watched the World Cup final. I was too distracted by the game -- which, by the by, was one of the most frustrating soccer matches I have ever watched (Arguing with me? Yellow card! How dare you laugh! Yellow card! Celebrating the first and only goal of the game in double-overtime that will get your country its first-ever World Cup title? Yellow card!!) -- to remember to take a picture of the truffles, but the cake was quite pretty.

I couldn't sample the cake since Becca was bringing it in to work the next day, but I did taste the one that Becca's mother had sent for her birthday, and it was delicious. Becca's coworkers were convinced they could get drunk off the cake, there was that much Grand Marnier in the glaze.

At some point I may ask Becca for the recipe, but then I'd have to purchase a lifetime supply of Grand Marnier just for making this cake. I don't drink, so what else could I do with a whole bottle of orange liqueur besides bake with it? (Does one even drink orange liqueur? I wouldn't know.)

ETA: Becca sent me the recipe for the Grand Marnier cake! See below!

18 July 2010

The incredible edible mouse

A couple of weeks ago I came across the Science Cookie Roundup #5, which featured, among other things, a mouse cake.

I wanted to bring something special to the lab on my last day, and had been eyeing the gel electrophoresis cookies as a potential candidate.

But guys. A mouse cake.

As the self-proclaimed Mouse Wench Extraordinaire, I felt that I could not possibly pass up such a challenge.

The mouse cake submitted by Jackie has a cupcake tumor, since she used to study cancer biology. While some of our mice also sport induced tumors, most of them receive heart or skin graft transplants, since my lab studies transplant rejection.

Unfortunately a heart graft is well nigh impossible to represent in cake form -- unless I were to render a surgery-in-progress, complete with all the organs, instruments, sutures, etc., which... well, there's an idea. Perhaps I'll attempt it one day, when I have more surgical and cake-decorating experience under my belt. For this particular mouse cake, however, I settled for a skin graft.

10 July 2010

It's a rainy day... but I love it!

Guys, guys.

The heat finally broke -- only temporarily, I fear, but right now it is delightfully cool -- and that means baking.


The weather broke with a spectacular rainstorm that caught me out on my bike. I love me some rain storms, but it was terrifying to bike down hills with wet brakes.

That was a lot of water! But it was such a refreshing respite from the smothering heat of the past week.

Both Becca and I are planning to bake a lot for our respective labs in the upcoming days, and that will officially(?) commence tomorrow, but I still wanted to bake something today to, I don't know, celebrate this cooler weather.

07 July 2010

Heat advisory on the east coast

Fact: It is far too hot right now. I can't even fall asleep, which should tell you something if you know me at all. Clearly with the heat index in the triple digits the past (and future) couple of days, the last thing I want to do is switch on the oven.

So I shall take this opportunity to pimp a great recipe from Cooking Light that I tried a few weeks ago. My flatmate Becca had made a red velvet cake earlier in the week, and there was buttermilk left over. Since we hardly ever have buttermilk in the house, I took the chance to use some to make a cake for a birthday in the lab. The cake was such a great hit -- it was gone by lunch time, and I didn't even get to try it! -- that I made another one for Becca and myself. The rest of the buttermilk had to be used up somehow, you know?

Glazed Lemon Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light.

This cake was deliciously lemony and moist, and not too sweet. The sweetness came mostly from the glaze drizzled on the outside.

3 Tbsp. grated lemon rind (2 lemons)
4 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 eggs
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine zest and lemon juice in a small bowl, and set aside.

Coat a 10-in. Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar.

Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, stirring well with a whisk.

Place butter in a large bowl; cream with a fork until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 1/2 c. sugar, lemon mixture, and extract, beating until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture and beat, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 min. Cool in pan 10 min. on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 Tbsp. buttermilk

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and buttermilk, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm cake.

04 July 2010

When life hands me lemons...

...I make zest! Honestly, I don't think there is a scent that I love more than that of freshly-grated lemon zest.

A continually overworked mouse-wench-about-to-turn-grad-student, I turn to baking as a way to relieve stress. It is somehow so therapeutic to prepare and combine the ingredients, then to trust the oven to do its job. The chemist in me likes to analyze how each ingredient contributes to the final product, but there is still something magical about the way a goopy mess turns into a delicious cake. Of course the best part about this chemistry experiment is that you can eat the final product!

For the 234th birthday of the United States, I made an apple pie and a blueberry-and-cherry buckle. I am not American, but I guess I won't turn down an excuse to bake something to go with the theme of the day. :)