September 2, 2014

August 2014 iPhonetography

We’re just barely into September, and it seems like everyone has fall on the brain.  This morning, my social media feeds were full of things like “50 favorite fall recipes!” and “how to transition your summer wardrobe into fall!” and pictures of pumpkin spice lattes.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but the day after Labor Day does not instantly equal fall in my book.  Today, it’s in the mid-90s, with enough humidity to “make this afternoon feel not just summery, or muggy, but like slogging through a tropical rain forest,” according to a local weather report.  Long sleeved shirts and big pots of chili?  I think not.  I’m going to keep enjoying my fresh produce and grilling outside for a few more weeks, and the recipes over here will continue to reflect that.  If you’re in the market for pumpkin and hearty stews, try back later!

August 2014

1) I started off August with an unexpected day home – poor Dreidel stepped on a wasp, and her little paw swelled up enormously.  Fortunately, she showed no other signs of an allergic reaction, so I just spent the day hanging out with her on the couch and applying ice to her paw every half hour or so.
2) Billy Joel concert… the only way to fill Citizens Bank Park after the dismal season the Phillies have had.
3) Our lab had a long-jump competition in the middle of the lab.  Note n=3…. we are scientists, after all.
4) MES/Kelly was adopted by a family with two little boys and a dog.  She seemed pretty excited to sign her own adoption paperwork!
5) Dreidel hates the rain and fights the whole time she’s out on a walk, refusing to go to the bathroom.  At least she looks cute in her yellow slicker!
6) I received these beautiful hydrangea napkins in the mail from a friend, “just because.”  There’s nothing like an unexpected package to brighten your day!
7) There’s a little biopond near my lab building, and the turtles really enjoy soaking up the summer sun.
8) I’ll never get sick of this view on my walk home.
9) Sarah and Jim adopted by other foster kitten, MOPS/Jen, who has been renamed Riley.  Riley is joining two other previous foster kittens I’ve had, and I hear that all three cats are getting along wonderfully!
10) Dreidel was nominated for, and completed, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  She took the cold water like a champ, and then ran around our deck eating all the ice cubes.  She also donated $100 in addition to her ice water bath, just in case any of you are all uppity about how the ice bucket challenge doesn’t do any good for charity.
11) In mid-August, we noticed two cones around this hole on the corner of our street.  Then the cones fell into the hole.  A work truck and crew appeared a few days later, but instead of fixing the hole, they just put more cones and a barrier around the hole.  Philadelphia at its finest.  (The cones, barrier, and hole are all still there.)
12) I did a temporary foster for a few under-socialized kittens who were terrified of me (and especially the dog) in the beginning.  This kitten, who I nicknamed Crazy Eyes, lashed out at everything and I had to “purrito” her to calm her down.  Fast forward a few days, and she was playful and purred every time I walked into the room, so it definitely worked!
13) The ladies in my lab all participated in a Paint Night event at a local bar. 
14) My paint night masterpiece.  I… have no idea what to do with it now.
15) One of the aforementioned under-socialized kittens quickly went from hating the dog to bumping noses with her.
16) We ended August with a progressive dinner party with a few houses on our block.  Each house hosted a different course and we rotated between everyone’s homes.  I, of course, was nominated for dessert, and served a chocolate peanut butter ganache cake and a lemon blueberry tart.  We had such a good time!

August 29, 2014

S’mores Cupcakes

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a real dessert on here, which goes a bit against the bakery theme behind the Bunsen Burner Bakery.  What can I say… all the fresh produce from my CSA has me spending more time at my grill enjoying fresh vegetables, and less time measuring out sugar at my oven.  Friends of ours recently purchased a house way out in the suburbs on nearly two acres of land (my inner-city vertical rowhome sits on a sprawling 0.02 acre plot, so two acres seems like an entire forest) and their home came with an outdoor fire pit, perfect for roasting s’mores.  While it’s been too warm to break out the marshmallows on our previous visits, thinking about s’mores reminded me of cupcakes I made a few years ago and never shared on here. 

When I lived in DC, I was very involved in the long-lived DC tradition of kickball on the mall.  When my fellow co-captain’s birthday fell on the night of a kickball game, I offered to make him any flavor of cupcakes he so desired, and he requested s’mores cupcakes.  As delicious as these were, I have yet to make them again, because I keep holding out for a kitchen torch so I can toast the marshmallow meringue frosting.  Alas, no torch has made its way into my kitchen yet, but don’t let this stop you – these were just as good with the plain,boring, visually unappealing, white frosting.


S’mores Cupcakes
Makes 24 Cupcakes


  • For the crust:
    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup sugar
  • For the cupcakes:
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup canola oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 3/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • For the marshmallow meringue frosting:
    • 8 egg whites, room temperature
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Line muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Add the melted butter and stir until well blended.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker crumb mixture into each cupcake liner.  Use the back of a spoon to press the crumbs into a flat layer.
  4. Bake the crusts for 5 minutes.  Remove the pans from the oven and increase the temperature to 350F.
  5. Allow the crusts to cook for at least 5 minutes before adding the cupcake batter.  While waiting, combine the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the sugar and mix until combined.  Then slowly add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Beat at low speed until combine and smooth.  Add in the coffee and gently stir with a spoon until smooth.  The batter will be quite thin.  Let the batter rest for 15 minutes, and then stir again gently before use.
  7. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter.  Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
  8. To prepare the frosting, fill a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  9. Place the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a clean glass bowl and whisk by hand to combine.  Rest the bowl over the saucepan, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.  Heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches 120F (hot to the touch), about 6 minutes.
  10. Pour the heated egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Turn the mixer to medium and whisk for 1 minute.  Increase the speed to high and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and whisk until just incorporated, about 1 minute. 
  11. Pipe the frosting in tall peaks onto the completely cooled cupcakes.  Toast the marshmallow icing using a kitchen blowtorch, or if you’re feeling adventurous and have an oven that doesn’t routinely catch fire, toast them under the broiler of your oven.  If you want to take the safe, easy way out, decorate the cupcakes with a square of chocolate or a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs.

August 26, 2014

Grilled Potatoes

Confession: I don’t really like potatoes.  I’m probably pickier about potatoes than any other food I eat, because I generally find them to be incredibly bland and not worth the calories.  I might eat half of a twice-baked potato, but I don’t like baked potatoes.  Smashed garlic potatoes = good, plain riced mashed potatoes = bad (I am hard pressed to think of a food I hate more than potatoes which are whipped so smooth you could suck them through a straw).  If I order a sandwich while dining out, I always ask if the fries are thin or thick – thick cut fries are a no-go.  So given my general dislike of potatoes, it’s probably not surprising that I generally purchased them once a year: for the annual latkefest (for the record, latkes are the single best way you can consume a potato). 

Then, I joined a CSA, and found myself with tiny potatoes week after week.  I was pulling out my hair for a while last summer trying to figure out what to do with all these potatoes, until I spotted a menu with “mustard grilled potatoes”, and I was sold.  This really isn’t a recipe at all so much as a technique, but it’s the only way I prepare my CSA potatoes now, and every time I serve them to friends, someone always asks for the recipe.  For the mayo haters: the mayo merely acts as a fat to coat the potatoes, so I suppose you could sub in oil instead and have the same result.  The potatoes do not taste like mayo at all, as most of it melts off while the potatoes cook.  Go ahead, embrace the mayo…. make the southerners proud.


Mustard Grilled Potatoes


  • 1 pound baby potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • salt, to taste


  1. Parboil the potatoes.  The length of time will depend on the size of the potatoes, but I usually boil for ~5 minutes for the very small potatoes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and mix with the mayonnaise, mustard, and salt.  My favorite method is to put the potatoes, mustard, and mayo in a nesting mixing bowl, placing a bowl one size smaller on top, and shaking to mix well.
  3. Add the potatoes to a grill basket and grill over medium-high direct heat for 6-10 minutes, stirring frequently. 


August 22, 2014

Baked Peach French Toast

Unlike my husband (and, apparently, most of society), I’m not a big breakfast fan.  He could happily eat breakfast foods for every meal; I’d be happy bypassing them all together.  Aside from huevos rancheros and everything bagels with whitefish salad, I’m just not that into breakfast -- I’m the person who always walks past the omelet and waffle bar at brunch and go straight to the salads.  Given my general anti-breakfast stance, I’m definitely not a fan of the traditional baked french toast casserole.  I’ve tried a variety of recipes, and most of them are too sweet, either too dry or too soggy, and often involve cream cheese (a common theme I bring up in multiple posts: I loathe cream cheese in sweet things). 

This baked french toast, however?  It’s delicious, and that means a lot coming from someone who doesn’t like breakfast.  It’s rich and decadent, without being overly sweet (I always serve it with a side of maple syrup for those who do like sweet breakfasts).  It’s pretty enough to serve to guests when it’s baked in a springform pan.  It’s a perfect way to showcase seasonal fresh fruit (peaches are my favorite, and so delicious this time of year!).  It has more of a bread pudding like consistency than too-often dry french toast. And best of all, it’s a great way to use up leftover bread.  I can never finish a loaf of bread before it get stale, so I wind up freezing quite a bit.  The stale bread is perfect, easily soaking up the liquid.  Challah is my favorite bread for this (though there are never leftovers when I bake a fresh loaf of challah!), but this time around, I used a package of frozen hamburger buns, left over from our 4th of July party.  Even with bland, commercial bread, this is still a winner.


Baked Peach French Toast
Adapted from The Pastry Queen


  • 1 loaf bread
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (any variety – I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • fresh fruit, for serving


  1. Cut bread into cubes and place in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, heavy cream, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon and pour over the bread.  Toss bread cubes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Pour into a greased 8- or 9-inch springform pan, and press down lightly on the bread to spread evenly.  Refrigerate a few hours or overnight, until all liquid is absorbed into the bread.
  4. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, until browned.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the ring.  Top with fruit and cut into 8 wedges to serve, along with maple syrup or powdered sugar.


August 20, 2014

Garlic Naan

When I posted the recipe for eggplant curry last week, I mentioned that I also made naan.  This was actually my first time making naan – I have no idea why it took me so long.  I don’t make bread frequently, and every time I do, I question why I don’t do it more often.  There’s something so incredibly cathartic about kneading dough by hand and (not-so) patiently waiting to see if your dough rises.  I think I might try working my way through a variety of yeast breads this fall; I’m already daydreaming about chilly fall days with the kitchen door open, football on the TV, and the scent of fresh bread coming from the oven.

Back to reality… and upper-80s summer weather.  This naan was a peace offering to my husband, going alongside the vegan and gluten-free (two of his least favorite food descriptors) eggplant curry.  The process is incredibly simple, though a bit time consuming if you don’t have a large workspace on your grill.  Since I was stirring the curry simultaneously, I chose to make these on a grill pan on my stove, but the whole process would have gone much quicker if I used my outdoor grill.  This recipe makes quite a lot (16 pieces based on the size I used), but it’s worth making the full batch, since they freeze well.  I let the naan cool, wrap individual pieces in aluminum foil, and then store them in an air-tight bag.  When you’re ready to use them, put them right in a 450F oven (straight from frozen) and cook for 6 or 7 minutes.  All the deliciousness, with the work done ahead of time!  What’s not to love?


Garlic Naan
  • 1 (0.25 ounce) package dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 – 4.5 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup butter or ghee, melted
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl.  Let this stand for ~10 minutes, or until frothy.
  2. Stir in sugar, milk, the egg, and salt.  Add in the flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Start with 4 cups ,and add the additional half cup if necessary while kneading.
  3. Knead the dough for ~8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.  If the dough is really sticky during the kneading process, keep sprinkling the additional half cup of flour onto the dough.
  4. Oil another large bowl, and transfer the dough into this bowl.  Cover the dough with a damp cloth.  Set in a warm space and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.  If you don’t have a warm spot to use, place the dough into an oven which was preheated to 180F.  Turn the oven off as you insert the dough, and let it sit with the door shut for the hour.
  5. Punch down the dough and knead in the garlic.  Pinch off small handfuls of dough, roughly the size of a golf ball.  Roll into balls and place on a large tray.  Cover the dough with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat a grill or grill pan (or heavy-bottomed skillet) to high.  Roll each ball of dough out into a thin circle and grill for 60 seconds, until puffy and lightly browned.  Brush the uncooked side with the melted butter, and then flip and cook another 1 to 2 minutes, until the other side is browned.  (Note: since I had limited space, I had a nice little assembly line going: roll out one piece of dough and add to grill pan, go back and roll out a second piece of dough and add that to the grill pan, flip the first piece, roll out a third piece, flip the second pieces and remove the first piece and add the third piece to the grill, and so on and so forth.)
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