Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dogs hate crates...

Can't you tell? Ignore the pathetic face, she was actually refusing to come out of the crate at the time. She loves her pillow, and often runs into her crate after potty breaks, or after playing to rest.

Silly girl has had a love/hate relationship with her crate. The first day, she wasn't used to a wire crate and flipped out, crying for a long time. Thus, my husband nicknamed her YipYip. After moving her pillow in there and feeding in the crate, it's definitely her second favorite place in the house--curled up in someone's lap being her favorite. Twice though, she's gotten her leg caught in the crate while running in or out, which were followed by brief moments of being afraid of the big mean crate. The last time, the little ham was trying to get sympathy by pathetically holding up her paw. That would have worked much better if she 1. didn't zoom all over the house immediately afterwards with any limping, and 2. didn't alternate her "injured" paw. Faker.

And when she's not in her crate, she likes to burrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eggnog cheesecake

Happy Holidays!

This year, I was asked to make a cheesecake for Christmas eve. Eggnog cheesecake seemed to be the fad this year, so just once I thought I'd do what all the cool kids were doing. A number of reviewers did say they couldn't really taste the eggnog, so I considered making eggnog so I could double up on the flavoring. But after looking up eggnog recipes, I decided to be lazy--eggnog is really just egg, milk, cream, nutmeg, and brandy/rum. There's not a whole lot of flavor, besides the alcohol, which I wasn't using anyway. Even if you can't taste the eggnog (which we couldn't), it was still a yummy, creamy cheesecake.

Eggnog Cheesecake


* 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
* 2 tablespoons white sugar
* 3 tablespoons melted butter
* 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
* 1 cup white sugar
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup eggnog
* 2 eggs
* 2 tablespoons rum
* 1 pinch ground nutmeg


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and butter. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
5. In a food processor combine cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, flour and eggnog; process until smooth. Blend in eggs, rum and nutmeg. Pour mixture into cooled crust.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
7. Reduce heat to 250 and bake for 45 minutes, or until center of cake is barely firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and immediately loosen cake from rim. Let cake cool completely before removing the rim.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas sables

I was asked to make Christmas cookies for a luncheon, and as soon as I read Dorie's suggestion of colored sugar for this recipe, I was sold. I didn't actually try a cookie after it completely cooled (as per her tip that they're better then), but the still-warm ugly cookies were mighty tasty. They were pretty popular though, seeing as most everyone who grabbed one said that they were doing so after hearing other people rave about them. In fact, they ate all my cookies, so I didn't get to taste one.

Source: Dorie Greenspan

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg yolk, for brushing the logs
2 cups all-purpose flour
Decorating (coarse) sugar

Makes about 50 cookies

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 of the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogenous.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and the counter from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek -- if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. (If most of the flour is incorporated but you've still got some in the bottom of the bowl, use a rubber spatula to work the rest of the flour into the dough.) The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long: it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log. Wrap the logs well and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Remove a log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Whisk the remaining egg yolk until it is smooth, and brush some of the yolk all over the sides of the dough -- this is the glue -- then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with decorating sugar.

Trim the ends of the roll if they're ragged, and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. (You can make these as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as -- but no thinner than -- 1/4 inch.) Place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them.

Bake one sheet at a time for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top; they may feel tender when you touch the top gently, and that's fine. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest a minute or two before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining log of dough, making sure the baking sheets are cool before you bake the second batch.

SERVING: Serve these with anything from lemonade to espresso.

STORING: The cookies will keep in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days. If you do not sprinkle the sables with sugar, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Because the sugar will melt in the freezer, the decorated cookies are not suitable for freezing.

Playing Around

LEMON SABLES: Working in a small bowl, using your fingers, rub the grated zest of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons (depending on your taste) into the granulated sugar until the sugar is moist and very aromatic, then add this and the confectioners' sugar to the beaten butter. (Sables can also be made with orange or lime zest; vary the amount of zest as you please.)

PECAN SABLES: Reduce the amount of flour to 1 1/2 cups, and add 1/2 cup very finely ground pecans to the mixture after you have added the sugars. (In place of pecans, you can use ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts.) If you'd like, instead of sprinkling the dough logs with sugar, sprinkle them with very finely chopped pecans or a mixture of pecans and sugar.

SPICE SABLES: Whisk 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg into the flour.

Dorie's tips:
* Use fresh butter that is soft, but not at all greasy -- if your butter is sitting in an oily puddle, it's gone too soft and your sables won't have their characteristic sandiness.
* Don't beat the butter (or the butter, sugar and eggs) so enthusiastically that the mixture is light and fluffy. You don't want to beat air into this dough, because it would cause the cookies to puff as they bake in the oven and sink as they cool on the counter.
* Be soft and gentle when you blend in the flour. This is the make-or-break step in the process. With the word "sandy" singing in your head, add the flour all at once and mix it only until it disappears into the dough. To guard against overmixing, you can mix in the last of the flour by hand.
* Shape the dough as the recipe directs and then make sure to give it a good, long chill; it will improve the flavor of the cookies and help them keep their shape under the oven's heat. Try to refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, but know that longer is better.
* Cool the cookies completely before you serve them. As seductive as the smell of warm butter, sugar and flour is, the cookies taste better when they reach room temperature.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Heidi's handiwork

Isn't she talented?

Yeah, she's still a bit of a spazz sometimes. It's so much easier to just pick her up because she calms down really fast then, but I constantly remind myself that that's how you create those obnoxious little purse dogs that people hate. All dogs, even the cute tiny ones, are still dogs, and should be treated as such. They are not baby substitutes nor are they fuzzy little accessories.

In other news, I finally got off my lazy tush and started teaching Heidi sit and down a couple days ago. Sit is easy because that's pretty much her default. She's figured out that sitting calmly and staring with those big eyes is the most effective way to get attention. Down, however, was horrible. I initially lure with a treat, and she started running around and trying all sorts of antics, none of which included laying down. When she finally did lay down, she flopped on her back. I decided that was acceptable for a first attempt, and rewarded her for it. On the second day, I wanted to get her to do a proper down. She got praise for flopping on her back, but no treat. She only got treats when she was still upright. After a long and painful training session (ok, it was really 10 minutes, but it felt like an eternity because she just wasn't getting it), it finally clicked, and she's now doing proper downs fairly consistently.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Almost-Fudge Gateau

This Christmas, buy the undying love of your friendly neighborhood chocolaholic with this rich chocolate cake. Simple to make, with ingredients that I always have on hand (though, I will say egg whites do not fold into melted chocolate very easily). The ganache was a bit too much for me, but the cake alone was incredible.

This particular Dorie Greenspan book is now on the short list of books I want. I've now made 3 recipes from it, and I've loved all 3. I can't say I'm 3 for 3 for any other cookbook I've tried. I didn't blog about the Coconut Thins, but I did about the French Pear Tart

Almost-Fudge Gateau

Source: Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the cake:
5 large eggs
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tbsp. coffee or water
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

For the glaze:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. light corn syrup

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar, butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy - that is fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour. Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites in to the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

To make the glaze, turn the cooled cake onto another rack so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven - the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don’t worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake, it will add to its charm. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, or slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Videos of dogs playing

Coral and Heidi were playing, but I had to find new batteries for the camera, so I missed the crazy zoomies, but here's the tail end of the play session.

Versus how Coral and Duke play. Bit rougher. You miss the full effect because I don't have sound, but Coral and Duke snarl and growl and sound like they're going to eat each other. That's apparently how they show affection.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New bed for Heidi

While Heidi seemed perfectly comfortable on the giant dog beds, I thought she needed something more her size.

Then I remembered I had an extra super soft pillow, and decided to give that one to her. I think she likes it.

Elvis impersonation.

Demon puppy!

Apparently Coral thought it was comfortable too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009



"My turn! Bop!"

"Are you SURE that's a dog?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Miss Heidi, could you relax just a little?

Heidi had crazy long talons, so I plopped her in my lap for a nail trim. She wiggled a little at first, but by the time I finished, this is what I saw.

She has decided the world is her pillow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meet the scrufftastic Miss Heidi!

Look at this little cutie, she's my new foster. She was found wandering the streets last Friday when it was snowing, so my friend brought her in while she looked for her owner. My friend was calling her Hopper, because she's got a torn paw pad, so she hops on 3 legs sometimes. My neighbor is calling her Heidi because of her long supermodel legs. She's a goofy looking chihuahua/terrier mix (we think), but she's sweet as can be.

When she met my two, Coral was throwing herself on the ground and playbowing, but Heidi wasn't interested. She was, however, interested in Duke, and kept following him around. Duke, on the other hand, wasn't sure about her, and kept running away, with occasional reprieves when Coral ran between them, trying to get Heidi to play.

"What is it?!"

"Eek! Get away!"

"I was just saying hi...."

"Let's play!"

Heidi in her usual state, begging for bellyrubs.

"You can get off the computer now."

"Oops, I falled."

"Who you laughing at?!"

When she is ready for adoption, she'll be available at the Houston Westie Rescue.