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The Better Martha's Dorm: Part III

October 31, 2012

It's All in the Details

Since paint is an obvious no-no, I hung two pink curtains for a pop of color. Dorm floors are never welcoming so this *PBteen rug is a great way to make the room more inviting. To hide the unsightly things I store under my bed I tucked a window curtain horizontally between my bed and mattress; it's an excellent way to create a makeshift bed skirt. 
{Framed artwork and potted plants add a bit more color and life to the room}
{A canvas picture of Diana Ross and the Supremes. It was a big investment but totally worth it}
{When my room mate is sleeping I like to put this scarf over my lamp to keep the light level down}
{Monogramed Pottery Barn towels}
{Custom shower caddy and flip flops--a lovely gift from my brothers girlfriend}
{Plates and cutlery from Target}
Since I'm not allowed to take furniture out of my dorm, replacing my chair wasn't an option. Folding a blanket over it and adding a pillow makes it more decorative and comfortable. 
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The Real Simple slim hangers are the greatest thing to ever exist. My clothes don't slip because of the velvet texture, and the hooks in front allow you to stack clothes to save room.

The Better Martha's Dorm: Part II

October 24, 2012

Organization and Storage

This post is dedicated to the organization and small details that make my room extra special. Since I'm living here for most of the year it makes sense that I put in the effort to making my environment feel like home.

{Favorite things: comfy chair, potted plants, family photos}
IMG_0417 Under the bed
{A peek under my bed. So many essential items that are not to pretty to look at are here.}
{Closet top level: sweatshirts, detergent, tupperware. Mid level: Clothes, scarves, belts. Bottom level: shoes}
{Command hooks for bags and Martha Stewart storage boxes for food}
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{Storage seating that holds snacks and serves as a stepping stool to get on to raised bed}

The Better Martha's Dorm: Part I

October 19, 2012

A post dedicated to my dorm has been the most requested; after all this is The Better Martha Goes to College. I have been putting it off for so long because, believe it or not, it has taken me a month and a half to complete the moving in/ decorating process. Since dorms are so tiny (unless you luck out) every item I add to my room is carefully thought out. A few items too many and you end up with a space that resembles a junk shop. 
Recently my blog has had a lot of food posts, but it's time for all things dorm now!
I really lucked out that my sister wanted to get rid of some stuff from her apartment. The bedding curtains, dust ruffle, and pillows are all from her. She originally purchased the duvet cover from Anthropology; the pink pillows are custom made; and the pink curtains are from Target's Xhilaration line. 
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If you have a small space, the bed is really the most important part of your room. I study in the library so when I'm in my room I spend all my time on my bed. It is just as comfy as the one at home because I invested in a three inch mattress pad and a feather bed topper. A little excessive, but totally worth it!
Although I have a room mate, I'm only showing my side out of respect for her privacy.

The (Even) Better Chocolate Chip Cookie

October 14, 2012

I know I already have a chocolate chip cookie recipe out, but recently I've discovered a way to make it even better. Everyone and their pet dog claim to have the best CCC recipe, ever, but they lie. A long time ago I read this article on what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie--the kind you remember a week after it's been digested. I can't find the article, but here are a few of the rules that will improve any recipe.
Rule 1: No chocolate chips allowed. I know those cute little chips in the Nestle package are so cute and easy to grab as you walk down the baking section. But don't touch them. Just don't. For a wonderful cookie experience you either want to purchase chocolate candy making wafers like this, or you want to hit the candy aisle and load up on high quality chocolate bars like Godiva or Ghiradelli. This is the most important rule. Because chocolate chips have wax-like substances in them--that's how they keep their shape--they aren't too wonderful to work with. Also the yummiest cookies have irregular chunks of chocolate that come out of the oven melted and then solidify for an extra little snap!
Rule 2: The more varieties of chocolate the better. Once you coarsely chop all your chocolates and put them in the dough, you are guaranteed an unique taste every bite. I try to use at least three different types of chocolates with varying cocoa percentages.
Rule 3: Double that vanilla extract. 1 tablespoon is never enough.
Rule 4: When creaming the butter and sugar, don't overbeat with the mixer. This contradicts the golden rule of baking: cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. The truth is that when you beat the sugar and fat you aren't just mixing it, but you're trying to get as much air in there as possible. This is good for making light fluffy cakes, but not cookies. Chocolate chunks can't be supported in a dough that light, and you'll end up with flat cookies. Mix butter and sugar until evenly incorporated.

Rule 5: After rolling cookie dough balls freeze them. Have you ever wondered why the cookies at the bakery always have the perfect consistency? Slightly crisp edges with a melting, gooey center? It's because of the way bakeries operate; no one person sees a cookie through from raw ingredients until the finished and out the oven. In reality it could easily take three people to make one cookie. Let's say three girls operate a bakery: Olivia, Mackenzie, and Brittany. Olivia only makes the dough, puts it in a tub, then into the industrial fridge. Next Mackenzie will come in and she'll take the large tub of dough out, use a cookie scooper, and scoop hundreds perfect balls of dough onto cookie sheets. Later Brittany will come in and be in charge of baking the cookies.
(If you are still reading this I commend you. You must be very dedicated to perfecting your cookie.)
So the reason bakery cookies get this great consistency is because of the in between refrigerating time the dough goes through. Everyone knows that things bake from outer edges in. Because the dough is well refrigerated the dough edges cook well, but the center remain a little underdone. When you take cookies out the oven they should look a little unfinished. Allow them to rest on the counter before transferring them to a cooling rack. This way the residual heat will cook the cookies through without overdoing them.
 Rule 6: A little salt is what you need. Contrasting tastes help enhance flavors. Topping the unbaked dough balls with a few granules of kosher salt will help rev up the chocolaty goodness.
Rule 7: Don't use any fancy butters. It is counterintuitive since you are trying to make the BEST chocolate chip cookie after all, but the higher end butters tend to have higher fat contents which will leave you with an oily cookie. 

The Better Tiramisu (Cake)

October 07, 2012

I don't know if you remember my summer bucket list from a while ago, but if you do you will remember that I was dead set on making tiramisu. Well I can kind of cross that off my list. I was too lazy to break out my piping gear and make ladyfingers. Instead I made *this tiramisu cake using hazelnut liquor which was born to go in dessert. This recipe should be prepared the night before you plan to serve it; this way the espresso syrup can be completely absorbed by the cake. 
Tiramisu cake

I opted to leave out the dusting of cocoa powder on top. Usually if I order it I'll suck it up because, hey, it's tiramisu, and when you eat any tiramisu--be it good or bad-- life is just too wonderful to complain about. Also, I was going to coat the sides of the cake with the whipped cream but I thought the exposed layers looked to pretty to hide. 

*A few adaptations to the recipe:
 -Everywhere that Deb used brandy I used hazelnut liquor.
-I couldn't find instant espresso in my grocery store so I used Starbucks extra strong instant coffee.
-Use a high quality bittersweet chocolate instead of any 'ol chocolate chips
-Like a dumb dumb I didn't follow baking 101, and I failed to read the recipe through before starting it. I used all the espresso extract and syrup on the cakes and didn't put any in the whipped cream (thats why the cream in my photos looks so white). 
But even with these changes (and mistakes) it still tasted DELICIOUS!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

October 01, 2012

If Reeses Peanut Butter Cup and a Chocolate cake ran toward each other this cake is what would happen when they collide. It's beautiful, it's tear educing,, it's magical--much like Howie Day's one hit wonder song Collide
{I always have to be listening to music, an audiobook, or a podcast when I bake--hence the laptop)
{So many layers of peanut butter frosting and chocolate cake}
It's a bit difficult to smooth the chocolate glaze over this cake; I highly recommend sticking the frosted cake in the freezer for a few minutes before glazing it.