Thursday, September 17, 2020

Lemon Pudding Cake

Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com
What do you do if you find yourself with an abundance of lemons that you bought for a different recipe, a recipe which you are no longer making? Good question. I was asking myself that the other night as I noticed the lemons were starting to get, shall we say, a little squishy. On the verge of no longer being usable, unless you want a dried up lemon as a decoration, and maybe you do. But if you don't, might I recommend this Lemon Pudding Cake? 

Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com

I've made Classic Lemon Bars before, and while that is certainly always a crowd pleaser, I wanted to try something different. And while this is called a pudding cake, it's essentially something like a souffle. You've got a lot of eggs in this situation, and it has a very fluffy, souffle-ish texture to it once it's finished. In those above pictures, you can see how it's very perky when it comes out of the oven, but as you let it sit for a bit, it deflates down. Now typically that's no good for a souffle, so that's where the difference is here - you want it to deflate down a bit so you get that pudding-like texture on the bottom. So just what does this baby look like on the inside? When you scoop it out, it can look like a general lump of stuff, so here are a couple photos from a side angle of the pan.
Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com
As you can see, you've got a nice, pudding layer on the bottom, topped with a light, sort of sponge-y "cake" on the top. The cake melts in your mouth to combine with the denser pudding below with a delightfully fresh lemon flavor. It's easy to eat a lot of it as once because it's so deceptively light and airy, it doesn't feel as bad for you as other, heavier desserts. But there's still a lot of sugar in this thing, kids, so if you're sugar-averse, it's not the one for you, sadly.Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com
Like I said, it's very hard to scoop it out in a nice-looking scoop, so it kind of turns into a glob like the below. But a very delicious glob. You can still see the pudding vs the cake parts, and that's what's important. You can eat it when it's cooled down but still warm, or at room temperature, both are delicious options. The original recipe says to eat it immediately, but I found it was just as good the next day. So, if you're looking to try your hand at something close to a souffle without feeling overly intimidated, give this a try, especially if you like lemon!
Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com

Write recipe photo description here

A fluffy and tart lemon delight with a pudding-like bottom and a cake-like top.

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons grated zest and 1/2 cup lemon juice from about 4 lemons
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) boiling water
Instructions:
  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 8-inch square baking dish. Whisk flour and cornstarch in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1/2 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Slowly add milk and lemon juice, mixing until just combined.
  2. Using clean bowl and whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes (this always takes longer for me). With mixer running, slowly add remaining 3/4 cup sugar until whites are firm and glossy, about 1 minute. Whisk one-third of whites into batter, then gently fold in remaining whites, one scoop at a time, until well combined.
  3. Place kitchen towel in bottom of roasting pan (yes, you heard that right) and arrange prepared baking dish on towel. Spoon batter into prepared dish. Carefully place pan on oven rack and pour boiling water into pan until water comes halfway up the sides of baking dish. Bake until surface is golden brown and edges are set (center should jiggle slightly when gently shaken), about 60 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour. Serve.
Recipe from Cook's Country
Lemon Pudding Cake by freshfromthe.com

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter


Published: May 1, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Pages: 223

Synopsis: The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind, but a good detective is never obsolete.

London is quiet in 2039—thanks to the machines. People stay indoors, communicating through high-tech glasses and gorging on simulated reality while 3D printers and scuttling robots cater to their every whim. Mammoth corporations wage war for dominance in a world where human augmentation blurs the line between flesh and steel.

And at the center of it all lurks The Imagination Machine: the hyper-advanced, omnipresent AI that drives our cars, flies our planes, cooks our food, and plans our lives. Servile, patient, tireless … TIM has everything humanity requires. Everything except a soul.

Through this silicon jungle prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective—one of the few professions better suited to meat than machine. His latest case: a grisly murder seemingly perpetrated by the victim’s boyfriend. Dremmler’s boss wants a quick end to the case, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the heinous crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

Dremmler smells blood: the seeds of a conspiracy that could burn London to ash unless he exposes the truth. His investigation pits him against desperate criminals, scheming businesswomen, deadly automatons—and the nightmares of his own past. And when Dremmler finds himself questioning even TIM’s inscrutable motives, he’s forced to stare into the blank soul of the machine.

Thoughts: First and foremost, I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For me, science fiction books can be quite hit or miss, so I was a little hesitant at first to give this one a go. In the end, I decided to give it a shot. So, was it worth it? I mean, I can say that I finished it, whereas the last book I was reading was actually the last in a series and I gave up on it, so that's certainly saying something. 

But, let's get down to some more significant details. For about the first 3/4 of this book, I was pretty into it, despite the story itself being somewhat derivative. I've certainly read books and seen movies with similar themes - Blade Runner, Scythe, Warcross, Ready Player One, to name a few. You know, the omnipresent technology, hard-boiled detective murder mystery, technology gone wrong, that sort of thing. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything too original to be honest, but at the same time the story was intriguing and the main character, Carl, developed enough to keep you invested. 

It certainly makes you think about how technology is becoming so ever-present in the world, and how things could become similar to this world without too many leaps of the imagination. The idea that 3D printers could be used for such nefarious means definitely makes you think twice about them becoming more ubiquitous, that's for sure. The author also features non-binary gendered characters that go by "ve" and "ver" that will at first make you think there are typos until you realize what's going on, and then you become used to it. 

But what happens 3/4 of the way through that I previously mentioned, you ask? Firstly, there's a random chapter in there that makes you question Dremmler and the entire book, that is never really referenced again. What was the point? It could've been removed and nothing would've been lost, or it should've been referenced again at some point. I won't say what exactly, but you'll know it if and when you read it. 

On top of that, the book moves at a nice pace up until that point, and then just shoots through the ending at a confusing and fast pace and... the plot goes a bit off the rails. There's this weird sexual stuff, which I suppose isn't entirely out of nowhere given the prevalence of other sexual themes throughout, but still was off-putting. And the ending itself just kind of... ends. It's a cliffhanger that leaves the reader to decide what may happen next, which can work in some cases, but after so much uncertainty with what may be real or not already, it would've been nice to have a clearer ending.

That said, if you enjoy reading hard-boiled detective novels set in a semi-dystopian future, you may enjoy this book. The writing itself is good, and the mystery keeps you engaged even though you may have an idea where it's going. 

Rating: 3/5

What I'm Reading Next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review: Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3) by Libba Bray

Book Review: Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3) by Libba Bray, by freshfromthe.com
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Published: October 3, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy

Pages: 552

Synopsis
New York City.
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming...


After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

Thoughts: It's been about four years since I read the previous book in this series, which basically meant that it took me some time to reacquaint myself with all of the characters and get back into the story. I only have a partial memory of how things ended in the last book, but what I mostly remember is that I didn't like it nearly as much as I enjoyed the first book in the series. What about this one, you wonder? 

Though it did take me a little bit of time to get back into it, it felt like the story picked up pace a bit more in comparison to the previous book. I feel like the last one had some character introductions it had to focus on more than this one, which made this one flow a bit better for me. But nonetheless this book does have a lot of characters to keep up with - Evie, Sam, Jericho, Mabel, Memphis, Theta, Henry, Ling... Yeah. However I felt like Bray did a good job of focusing on the characters that needed focusing and had a nice balancing act between everyone. The story kept moving forward and it didn't feel like any person's individual story was doing anything but advancing it as well. 

This book also does a good job of making all of its characters very diverse. You have a whole range of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions, and more represented among our core group of Diviners. The story is also, sadly, still very relevant to what's happening in society today. It's set back in the '20s in New York, and delves a lot into racism, sexism, and the rise of eugenics and just the general idea that some people are better than others. You'd never guess all of that from the synopsis, but it all plays a pretty large role in how things connect and who the real "bad guys" are. But yeah, you can see how this is all still relevant, and sometimes that made me kind of angry to think how little has changed in some ways.

Some of the book can be quite spooky when dealing with angry ghosts and creepy men running experiments on people. I've decided to jump right into the last book in the series so I don't have to remember everything from this one down the line. I'm not sure what to think of the actual enemy of the series, this King of Crows dude/creature, but the next book is probably going to focus more on that. Hopefully it all comes to a satisfying end! 

Would I recommend this series to others? If you're into this sort of story, sure. There are some books I recommend regardless of taste preference, but this series I would say only if you're into this sort of thing to begin with.

Rating: 3.5/5

What I'm Reading Next: The King of Crows by Libba Bray

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Triple Citrus Bars


Recipe for Triple Citrus Bars by freshfromthe.com.

If you're a fan of Key Lime Pie, or even the lesser-known Sour Orange Pie, this is another dessert to add to your repertoire. This time around, we're mixing up all three of the most famous citrus fruits - oranges, lemons, and limes - into a very easy and delectable bar form. Sour and sweet, without being overly so for either category. Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong.

The crust is made from animal crackers, which have a slightly different tang than the typical graham crackers that are used most often in pie-crusts. You could probably do it with graham crackers, too, but give it a whirl with the animal crackers. I used the organic Kirkland brand ones from Costco as they seem to have less preservatives than the typical Barnum's ones.

Recipe for Triple Citrus Bars by freshfromthe.com.

What's the hardest thing about this recipe? I guess all the zesting and juicing just because it takes some time. You can easily double this recipe to be made in a 13x9 inch pan rather than an 8x8 pan, but that IS twice as much zesting and juicing. I don't ever tend to double a recipe on my first try just to make sure I like it first. Also, can we just talk about how perfect those pieces of fruit look on the inside? Beautiful.

Now here's the real question - if I were to make these or the sour orange pie, which would I pick? They are admittedly very similar in their ingredients, these bars just have a bit more of a floral note to them thanks to the lime. I think personally I prefer the orange pie better, but I wouldn't say no to either one if set out in front of me, that's for sure.

Recipe for Triple Citrus Bars by freshfromthe.com.


Triple Citrus Bars

Tart and sweet, a perfect and floral citrus flavor explosion in a simple, easy-to-make bar.

Ingredients:
    Crust
  • 5 ounces animal crackers
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • Pinch table salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • Filling
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest, minced
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 6 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, either Key lime or regular
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
Instructions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are going to want to take all of the bars out at once, cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7 1/2-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. If you're not going to take them all out at once, you don't need to use the foil, instead you can just spray your 8x8 pan with some cooking spray.
  2. TO MAKE THE CRUST: In workbowl of food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.
  3. TO MAKE THE FILLING: While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zests, and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add juices and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).
  4. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.
  5. If you used foil, then loosen the edges with a paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares and serve. If you did not, you can just store the pan in the fridge covered with foil or saran wrap, and cut out pieces as you like.
Recipe from Cook's Country

Recipe for Triple Citrus Bars by freshfromthe.com.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies


Friends, please go make these cookies. Unless you can't eat peanut butter, and honestly? That just makes me super sad. You're missing out, and I'm sorry. Because these cookies are SO. GOOD. Especially if you liked eating the classic PB&J sandwiches as a kid. Or as an adult, I don't judge.


These cookies are big, bakery-style cookies. You're really probably eating like 2-3 regular-sized cookies when you eat just one of these. But they are so worth it. I adjusted the original recipe slightly to add in more jam. It felt like there was just a slight hint of jam in the original -- it was more of a peanut butter cookie. And still a delicious one at that, but to get a real PB&J vibe, I added a bit more jam per cookie and yes, I'd recommend the extra jam. You'll get more ooey gooey oozing, but do we have a problem with that? No. 

It's just so nice to eat this cookie and get to the peanut buttery, jelly filled center. And? It's not hard to make. You can be eating these cookies in about an hour from start to finish. Honestly, enough with the talk. Get on it!
 


Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

Your favorite childhood sandwich turned into your new favorite cookie.

Ingredients:
  • Abt 10 Tablespoons (162 grams) crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (253 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (265 grams) creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) light brown sugar
  • 8 Tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 10 heaping teaspoons strawberry jam or preserves
Instructions:
  1. Dollop the crunchy peanut butter into 10 equal-sized pieces (a little less than 1 tablespoon each) on a sheet tray or plate and freeze until ready to use.
  2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Either using a large bowl and hand mixer, or your stand mixer fitted with the blade attachment, beat the creamy peanut butter, sugars, and butter until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and make sure the first is fully incorporated before adding the next, then add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated, then roll the dough into 10 equal-sized balls and place on a parchment paper-lined (or you canuse a silicon liner) baking sheet.
  4. Working with one ball of dough at a time, flatten the ball into a 3-inch circle in the palm of your hand. Add in about 1 heaping teaspoonful of the jam, then a dollop of the frozen peanut butter. Carefully seal the dough around the peanut butter and jam and roll it back into a ball. Some of the jelly may ooze out slightly, and that's ok! Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
  5. Divide the dough among 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets and bake, turning once halfway through, until golden on top, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before serving.
  6. *I don't like using two cookie sheets in the oven at a time, so instead I put all 10 balls in step three onto a cutting board, then did five for the first batch on one cookie sheet, baked those, and then the last five for the second batch on that same sheet. I'm leaving the original instructions in case you have two and prefer to do that, but just know you don't have to do it that way!
Adapted slightly from a recipe by Farideh Sadeghin