Monday, March 31, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Filling and Meringue Frosting!

This week was my friend Kelly's birthday, and since it was her 21st, and since it coincided with Spring break, we decided to go away to Santa Cruz to celebrate. We stopped by Winchester Mystery House, and went to the boardwalk. But that's not the point. The point is since we were away for her birthday, we didn't get to celebrate with any sort of baked goods! So when we got back I decided I would make these cupcakes for a late-birthday treat.

I found this recipe on Pinterest (#23 on the webpage) awhile back. I actually have a whole Pinterest board of cupcakes if you're interested. But anyway, I asked Kelly to look through the cupcakes and pick ones she'd be interested in, and she picked these, and chocolate chip cookie dough frosting (which, I would like to point out, is not a cupcake, just frosting    -_-), and since I was already in a meringue mood (mostly I just wanted to prove I could get my meringue to form...) I decided to go with these.

Ingredients for the cupcakes

 First they said to add the flour, baking powder, salt, and butter, which I thought was weird, but it turned out okay... 
 The finished batter!
Ready to bake! 
While the cupcakes were baking, I worked on the lemon filling.
 The initial egg and lemon juice mixture.
The finished product! 
 The ingredients (that I had) for the meringue frosting. I didn't have cream of tartar or corn syrup, and I decided that a trip to the store wasn't worth it.
 Now we know! I didn't do anything wrong! Look at how foamy they are right off the bat! I blame old eggs for my failed meringue attempt. 
 After beating for ~7 minutes, adding the vanilla.
The finished frosting, after ~5 more minutes of beating. 
The frosting wasn't as stiff as it should have been, which I am attributing to the lack of ingredients.
 The cupcakes turned out nicely!
 To make room for the filling, I used a piping tip. Insert, then twist in a circle and pull out. The cake should come out with it, then you can blow the cake out.
 And repeat for all 11 cupcakes (someone ate one...)
 Next I improvised a pastry bag out of a ziplock bag... but I did use a real piping tip! 
 Like I said, the frosting wasn't as stiff as it should've been. So I did one layer, let it harden a bit, then added more.
And the finished product looked almost like the picture! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Meringue Cookies... Again!

So, after my failed attempt at the Chewy Meringue Cookies recipe, I went home for spring break and my grandma told me what I was doing wrong. She said that I had to be absolutely sure that my bowl and utensils were dry, that there was low humidity, and that I had to be sure I beat the mixture long enough (she said it could take up to ten minutes). I told her that I did everything right (I still think I did), and she asked me what the recipe was, so that we could make them right then to see if we could get them to work.

Since we had all the ingredients, we got straight to work. We used four egg whites, and she beat them a little before adding the sugar, and before putting them over simmering water. Right away they started foaming! Like, immediately! My eggs didn't do that, the first or second time.

See! They're foamy and beautiful! 

Next, she added the sugar (gradually) while I chopped the chocolate. She then put the mixture over the simmering water, even though they were already gaining volume without the heat! 

Already so voluminous! 

Next we took it off the heat, and kept beating. We probably beat the mixture for a total of ten minutes. And it was gorgeous! 

 Look at that peak! 
So glossy!!!

Next, we folded in the chopped chocolate, and about 1.5 tablespoons of this really intense drinking chocolate mixture... I think it's called Cacoco

 So pretty! 
And look! It still has such nice peaks! 

Finally we scooped the mixture onto parchment paper, and baked at approximately 350 degrees... although our oven is super sketchy and must've been hotter cause it cooked them way too fast. 

We baked them for a total of 10 minutes... The original recipe said to cook for 8, then rotate, then 8 more minutes. We did rotate them, but we did it when we thought one side was getting too cooked compared to the other. 

This is what they're supposed to look like!

The finished product was delicious, and what it was supposed to be! The only flaw was our wonky oven, which burned the bottoms a little. But they were so airy, but also chewy on the inside! Looking back on my first attempt, I think that my biggest problem was that I was using the whisk attachment on my mixer, which is what the recipe said to do (and what other websites said to do!). Our second attempt we just used regular beaters, and everything was fine. I also think that something might've been wrong with my eggs... they were kinda old, and our fridge is really cold (maybe this affects them? I've read they should be at room temperature...). Either way, I'm glad that the recipe finally worked out, even though I'm frustrated it didn't work out the first time cause I followed the directions. 

We proceeded to eat all but two of them, which my grandma said we had to save for my mom. ALL of them. They were so good, you can't just eat one or two, you have to eat at least 7. Thanks Grandma, for making cookies properly without even using directions, and making me feel like a baking failure :p

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meringue Cookies!

So, this was the first time I attempted making meringues, or making any sort of meringue for that matter. They totally didn't turn out the way they were supposed to, but they were still really delicious. I got the recipe from Bakerella, and I think she got the recipe from someone else. I picked this recipe because it seemed really easy, and it only needed a few ingredients. Two hours later, I was incredibly frustrated and just wanted some cookies to stuff in my mouth!

The first part seemed pretty easy. I just separated some egg whites, simmered some water, and whisked the egg whites with some sugar over the water until the sugar was completely melted. This took much longer than expected and my hand hurt so badly afterwards!

Once this was done I took it off the heat and used the beater to whisk it. First I tried my stand mixer, but the whisk attachment didn't reach the meringue! So I resorted to my hand mixer, but it only comes with one whisk attachment! I don't know if this was a mistake and it just wasn't included, or if it should work just as well this way (I think it would've worked better with two).

So I whisked, and whisked, and whisked and whisked and whisked! I was waiting for "stiff and glossy peaks" to form. This did not happen. I whisked the meringue for so long, and nothing happened. It didn't seem to increase in volume at all. After struggling for a really long time, I decided that maybe I didn't do the first part correctly, and maybe the sugar hadn't melted completely. So I threw the batch away, and decided to start over.

This time, I used the hand mixer to whisk over the heat. This made this step happen so much faster! And I am absolutely sure the sugar was completely melted. Like Bakerella, I felt the mixture for any granules. So after this step, I once again took it off the heat and continued whisking. And basically, reread the last paragraph. Peaks would NOT form! I don't know if I was doing something wrong, or if it had to do with the mixer, or what... but it was horrible. I did some research and found that if your bowl is wet, or has any residue in it, it can keep peaks from forming, but I don't think that that was the cause (or at least I hope not cause if it's true meringues are not in my future).

So after mixing and mixing forever and ever and ever, I finally gave up and decided the meringue was as meringue-y as it was getting. I used an ice cream scoop to get uniform amounts (which was hard to do with it being liquidy). Then I baked for 8 minutes, rotated, and baked for 8 more minutes. They cracked nicely like they were supposed to, but I don't think they cooked properly. Maybe because they were too big. They seemed a little bit too gooey in the middle (note to self: make them smaller next time!). However, after the many failures, they actually turned out okay! And by okay I mean they were super delicious. Like, really delicious. Like I ate four of them before I even realized I had eaten one.

I think I'll try this again (or maybe another meringue recipe), and hopefully I'll figure out what was wrong with my technique. If anyone has any advice, please let me know! I want to get these right cause they were SOOOO good!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Everything Figured Out...

After some very careful consideration, and some super helpful advice from a lot of different people, I think I've finally decided what I think I'll end up doing with my future! I know, exciting. I've decided that medical school isn't for me. I think the idea of being a doctor had just been ingrained in my mind for so long that I couldn't see myself doing anything else. My family also wanted it for me, and I think that was influencing my decisions.

The best advice came from my advisor at school. She asked me to consider why I wanted to be a doctor. She said if I only wanted to deliver babies, I don't necessarily have to be a doctor. She recommended that I consider being a PA, especially if being in charge isn't that important to me. So after some research and discussion with my family, I think that's what I'm gonna do. The program is only about three years, and then I'll be able to specialize in OB.

This was such a relief. I've always wanted to have a family, and I always saw myself as starting when I was fairly young (not super young, but I don't want to wait until I'm in my mid-thirties). I also think that this position will give me more free time, which is also important to me. Now the only challenge is getting in!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do I have to have a future?!?

Stress, stress, and more stress. Not just because of my classes. I'm actually not hugely concerned about them right now (which is probably bad). Something I didn't realize until a few months ago was that if you want to go to medical school without taking a year off, you have to be prepared to apply the summer after your junior year. I don't know why I didn't realize this, maybe it's because I was focusing on my coursework more than my goals after graduating, but for whatever reason I didn't. That was a huge stress addition because I don't think I'm anywhere near prepared for taking the MCAT, and I haven't done any sort of research (which is also a problem in terms of graduating).

To deal with the preparedness, I applied for research (which I didn't get), and I signed up for an MCAT prep course. This started last month, and everything was going relatively smoothly. I had partially gotten over the stress of having to prepare so quickly for the application process (although there are more issues with that that are freaking stressful). But very recently I had started looking at medical schools that I could apply to. Based on my GPA alone pretty much, since I haven't taken the MCAT. This causes a problem, because in terms of GPA I'm not super excellent. I'm not terrible, but I'm also fantastic in that department. Also, having taken a practice MCAT and getting a super terrible score, my hopes of getting into a top-notch med school were not that high.

Looking at medical schools in California, I realized that my chances of getting into a school in the state were very low. California schools are pretty top-notch, and they also have a low acceptance. At first I didn't think this was a huge problem, I could just go out of state, what's the big deal, it's four years. But then I started factoring in my other life concerns/goals. I have always wanted children, and I don't want to be particularly old when I have them. I was hoping to be ready to have a kid by the time I'm thirty. In my previous life plans I figured this would be fine since I likely wouldn't meet someone suitable until medical school. But I didn't think about the possibility of meeting that person before medical school.

Now I've had to consider what moving out of state would mean. It would mean four years (at least) apart from my partner. I think it would be a possibility that our relationship would survive the long distance, but how does this factor into my life goals and family planning? Sure, I might still be ready to have kids by the time I'm thirty, but those four years will likely change the dynamics of the relationship and maybe even ruin it. And then there's the additional factor that I'd have to move again for my residency, which for an OB/GYN is three years.

I've considered other options, such as nursing or becoming a physician's assistant, but I'm not sure what to do. I've wanted to be a doctor for a pretty long time now, but do I really want to give up that much time (not to mention money!) when I might not be happy with the end result? And if I do decide to pursue something with shorter schooling, will I regret my decision later?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stress and Failing!

So I've failed at keeping track of things with this blog... School has just been so stressful that I haven't had any free time to do anything (really, anything). The green smoothie experiment failed. I drank them for about a week and then got tired of making them (extreme laziness). I don't think they were helping me that much. Yes, I was getting some veggies, but they were also a lot of calories, and that was making me feel iffy about drinking them every day. They certainly weren't a bad source of vegetables, since I couldn't taste them at all, but I don't think they're for me.

School has gotten really stressful lately. I decided to overload this semester, take an MCAT prep course, and apply for research, and all of those things can't happen at once. I got an interview for a research position which was studying SLOS syndrome, but due to other time commitments I was not able to do it, which was a major bummer. I need to have research done in the next year, so this added to my stress levels. The MCAT class started at the beginning of February, and it wasn't so bad the first two weeks, but now the work load has increased significantly, and I'm having a hard time balancing it and my schoolwork. I've fallen behind on the online lesson stuff, which is fine, I'm not getting graded in the class so it doesn't really have a huge impact if I don't do something, but I want to do it. I really need to improve my MCAT score if I want to get into a med school in California. I got a 16 on the diagnostic test, and most schools in CA want at least a 33.

I'm also seeing the effects of trying to do too much in my classes. My first midterm was in Psych, which I didn't really care about so I put off studying for. I got a 70% on it. This was awful considering I thought the class wasn't going to need any effort on my part to get an easy A. My second midterm was in Biology, and I actually studied really hard for it, and got a 79. This was super devastating. Then, on the first assignment for my History of Women in America course, I got a B-, and there are only like 5 graded assignments in that class, so I can't afford to get those sorts of grades and have decided to drop it. Hopefully dropping that course will give me more time to handle my other commitments and will help to reduce the stress I'm feeling.

In terms of fitness and health, since the beginning of February I hadn't really been exercising. I was taking my Zumba class at school, but I had even been skipping a few of those. About a week ago we bought a new treadmill, which has been going really well for me. I think my biggest problem with the elliptical was that I got so bored, and time seemed to be going so slowly. With the treadmill I get on and before I know it it's been half an hour. This past week I've ran every day I didn't have Zumba, except for Thursday cause that day has no time for exercise. Yesterday I started using a couch to 5k app (a free one), and I'm really excited to build up my stamina.

Hopefully I'll have time to post updates to this page about how things are progessing. Wish me luck!