July Daring Bakers challenge!

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. (Except that I don’t think she’s actually on the Food Network anymore [though Brian Boitano will be soon – what the what?!] which is a shame because I always like her show.)

Basically, I think we were recreating Mallomars and Pepperidge Farms’ Milanos (which were one of the few things that I missed when I stopped eating chocolate). But the times, they are a-changin’! I may not be eating chocolate on a regular basis, but I have recently decided to try and ease it back into my diet. So I was excited to try these recipes, particularly making my own marshmallows for the Mallomars!

Unfortunately, I was not a huge fan of the Mallomars once they were finished. I’ve never had a real one, so I can’t say for sure how closely they were replicated here, but I think what I didn’t like was the cinnamon that was in the cookie dough. I think when I make these again, I’ll use vanilla or maybe almond extract instead of the cinnamon.

Making the marshmallows went pretty well (I was disappointed not to get to use my new candy thermometer because there wasn’t enough depth of liquid in the pan I was using) – there was a bit of a kerfuffle with the gelatin, but it all worked out. I have to say, though, that I hope marshmallows aren’t made by hand because it took about 10 minutes or so of whipping at a very high speed with my KitchenAid mixer. Thank god for my Pink Lady otherwise, that would have been exhausting!

I was much more fond of the Milanos and will definitely be making these again! I had a little bit of trouble managing to pipe the right amount of batter for the cookies – mostly just because I was never sure quite how much they were going to spread. So the sizes ranged from tiny, bite-sized cookies to fairly hefty ones. Also, I think I probably could have let the cookies bake a bit longer – my cookies were fairly chewy instead of the crispy crunch that I remember real Milanos having. They actually crisped up a bit as they went stale which made for a more similar texture.

So two new cookies to add to my repertoire – yay! Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to click through the blogroll and see everyone’s experiences with this challenge.

Summer blockbuster tally: Special edition

I’m not going to tell you which movie I went to see today – because I’m ashamed and because my friend that I went with and I swore that after today we would never speak of this movie again. So here’s my vague review with information withheld to protect myself:

  1. This is the worst movie I have ever seen. And I’m including the MST3K movies I’ve seen in that count. Most of those were either low budget or just didn’t know any better, but this? This should never have gotten made – or, at the very least, released as is. I mean, when they were in the editing room, was the director thinking ‘This movie is awesome – people are going to love it!’? And I find it difficult to believe that none of the suits at the movie studio saw it and said ‘Um, this is just a joke, right? Where’s the real movie?’ Seriously, why do movie studios keep giving this man millions and millions of dollars to make these horrific movies?!
  2. The lead actors have the chemistry (and appeal…and talent, frankly) of a sock. I saw the lead actor on Conan promoting the movie and all I could think was ‘This man is a sock.’ He has no charisma, no talent, and, as far as I can tell, no appeal. Same goes for the lead actress. I think her acting style is basically just to pout and maybe blink every now and then.
  3. I didn’t care about any of the characters. Okay, that’s not completely true, there were two characters (one old and one not) that I, well, not cared about, but wasn’t horrified to see on the screen. But everybody else, I could not have cared less what happened to them. Not that there was ever a real sense of danger – no one was going to die in this movie any time soon.
  4. The plot made no sense. And that is taking into account the fact that this was just a mindless, summer, action movie. Half the time I wasn’t sure where the characters were and when there would be a big fight or chase scene, I couldn’t really tell what was going on or who I was supposed to be rooting for. If I’d cared about the outcome of the fight or chase scene, that is.

When it was over, both of us turned to each other and said that if we’d been alone, we would have left after the first 15 minutes. Which says a lot – I mean, usually I figure ‘I’ve already paid for it, how much worse can it get?’ The answer this time was ‘A lot.’ I saw her keep checking her watch during the movie and it took all my self-restraint not to ask how much longer we had every time.

I blame my moment of weakness in suggesting we see this movie on the lack of summer blockbusters. Until today, I had not met my summer movie explosion quota. I certainly have now, but it came at the cost of 2 and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back. My only comfort is that, expecting it to be bad (though fun-bad, not nightmarishly bad), I bought a ticket to a different film (Harry Potter, a film I probably won’t see [I’m so over Dan Radcliffe – he’s such a tool!] but have nothing against) so that the director of this abomination wouldn’t get my money.

Summer blockbuster tally: 2-0-10 (Yes, this movie is so bad, I’m counting it as 10 bad movies)

What to do with leftover strawberries?

After a second round of strawberry shortcake last week, I was left with about an extra pound of strawberries taking up space in my fridge. So, remembering that Smitten Kitchen had recently gone through a couple of strawberry recipes, I went trawling through her index to see what I could come up with and I found this recipe for a strawberry tart (there’s also a whole lemon tart recipe on the same post that sounds really good – maybe even with a few strawberries pureed in with it?)

I ended up using the shortbread crust recipe from last month’s Daring Baker’s challenge because the one Deb uses makes enough for three 9-inch tart crusts and, even though I know you can freeze them, that’s just not how I roll (I would have just downsized the recipe, but it calls for two eggs and if you know of a clever way to divide two eggs by three, please feel free to let me know).

It’s very nice – next time I think I’ll up the amount of strawberries, though. Or maybe do a variety of fruit – some kiwis and blueberries thrown in would probably be a nice addition. So hooray for summer berry season! (The market had some gorgeous-looking raspberries, so I may have to find a good use for them soon…)

New TV: Monday

I don’t know if it counts as new TV since it’s really a mini-series, but I am anxiously awaiting the next installment of the third “series” of Torchwood. Usually, I just watch it because I like Captain Jack and Ianto and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it minus the characters they lost at the end of the second series, plus their plots are…hit and miss (and that’s being kind).

But, as long as they can keep it up, I think maybe they should stick with the miniseries plan. We’ll see.

Big cliffhanger – big news, lots of people in danger, a mysterious alien presence, plus dodgy government action. I’m hooked! Is it tomorrow yet?!

My rating: Bring it on, BBC!

ETA: Hell no, Russell T. Davies. Hell to the NO! Days 1-3 were tremendously good and then after that… I won’t spoil you for it, but just. No. Torchwood, I’m done with you. I’ll read synopses to see if perhaps a well-timed time travelling plot occurs which might be me back to the fold, but unless that happens, it’s just the Doctor for me. Because Gwen’s accent is really not enough to keep me watching.