Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Baking Round Up- Fall 2012 Edition

Today’s post is a hodgepodge of sorts.  It is literally all over the place.  I wanted to share with you all some of my random baking adventures and yes, it is still meteorological fall until December 21st.

Many times my blog is not as up-to-date as I would like.  I may bake something and not be able to post about it until weeks later.  Writing posts and editing pictures take time, time that I do not always have or make.  I am not one of those bloggers who blogs for a living.  This is not my day job (obviously) and balancing blogging and the actual baking with normal, more than full-time work is well, hard work.

In my dream world, my full-time job would likely be my part-time job preferably at night.  That way I would be able to catch the beautiful natural light of day and take pictures of every single treat that I make in the best light possible.  Oh, to dream!  Anyway, considering the severe lack of time but also wanting to share with you some treats that I have made over the past few days weeks months, I put together this post of randomness.  (If you would like the actual recipe I used, as opposed to the link back to the inspiration recipe, let me know and I will try to send it or post it.)
These cookies were inspired by this recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Sandwich Cookies.  While they tasted amazingly refreshing, the idea did not work as well at the peanut butter cups did.  The peanut butter cups get melty when placed between two hot cookies and once cooled, hold the cookies together.  A peppermint pattie does not melt the same, even with the dark chocolate coating.  Therefore, these cookies did not stay together as well, but still tasty.

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These cookies are a basic chocolate chip cookie dough, rolled into a ball, and then pressed into fall harvest colored M&M’s (only on top) prior to baking.  The cookies were nice and festive for an at-work bake sale.

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These cake-jars were adapted from this recipe for a full Honey Bun Cake; I put mine in jars and changed the recipe some.  This cake brought me back to my high school days when some of my classmates (not me) would eat a honey bun for lunch, along with drinking a super sweet fruit punch drink.  This cake is definitely better than the cloyingly sweet, lacking in flavor, white peel-able frosting covered fare from the less responsible and nutritional unaware high school days.  Those old honey buns were not worth it, but this cake is worth every extra minute me and my adult metabolism had to spend at the gym to work it off.

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These pumpkin doughnut muffins were just okay, not good enough that I had to hide them from myself to stop from eating them and not bad enough to throw away.  They were just uncomfortably in the middle.  A middle dessert is the hardest for me to deal with.  I do not want to waste it, but I also do not want to give it away as a representation of what I love to do.  I am better the mediocre (at least in my mind).  I ended up rolling these in a second layer of cinnamon and sugar, because everything is better rolled in sugary and spicy goodness x2, and that brought these muffins over to the giveaway side, but just barely.

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These pie-jars were adapted from this recipe for a full Key Lime Pie.  I know it is not the time of the year for citrus flavored desserts, but this recipe is easy and worth tucking in your recipe drawer.  I am a major proponent of keeping food in its designated season.  For example, the biggest ongoing battle in my house is potato salad at Christmas dinner.  I mean, hello, potato salad is a summer food and should not be cozied up next to the ham!  Nevertheless, I digress.  This recipe is so good I am willing to go against my guttural instincts and share it off-season, but beg you to wait until spring or summer to make it.

I made a marshmallow meringue style topping for my jars because it was more sustainable for portability and not prone to weeping like a whipped cream.  For the topping I used: 4 Egg Large Whites; 1 cup Granulated Sugar; 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar; and 2 tsp Vanilla Extract.  To make the marshmallow type topping:  Place sugar, egg whites, and cream of tartar in a heat proof mixer bowl.  Set over a saucepan of simmering water (like a double boiler), whisking constantly until sugar is dissolved.  Place mixer bowl in the stand mixer.  With the whisk attachment, beat until stiff, glossy peaks are formed, approximately 5 minutes.  Place marshmallow topping in a piping bag and pipe on top of key lime filling.  Place pies under broiler for a few seconds to brown the top.

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These cookies were adapted from this recipe for Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey Cookies.  What makes a cookie a Breakfast cookie?  Well let’s break it down; when you think of breakfast, what do you want?  Something that is filling, hearty, and provides energy to start and get you through until lunch.  When you think of cookie, what do you think of?  Something sweet, portable, differing textures, and basically delicious.  All those characteristics (and more) are met with this cookie.  The ingredients of oats and bananas are so wholesome and typical breakfast fare.  To health it up, i.e., counter balance the chocolate chips, I used whole-wheat flour in the cookie.  These are definite worth giving a try for breakfast or anytime of the day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Little Advice from the Baker at Law



*Please note that all information provided in this post is purely for delicious purposes.  The advice given is of a purely general, non-legal nature.  Any decision to follow or disregard the provided advice in no way forms an attorney-client relationship or gives rise to any rights under the law.*

Today’s topic of discussion is wedding cake.  Yes, I have a ton of experience in this category.  Between the onslaught of TV shows about all things wedding and cake, and the four weddings I have attended in the last 10 months, I feel I have a good basis of knowledge to give out this advice. 

There is a tradition that exists were the newlyweds save the top tier of the wedding cake, place it in the freezer, and share it on their first wedding anniversary.  While this tradition sounds nice (in theory) to reflect on fond memories of the wedding day while eating sugary deliciousness, let me break it down for you- it is year old, freezer burnt, smell/odor absorbing cake.  It is not at the peak of freshness and regardless of what miracle of modern science that was used to preserve it for a year, it will not in taste, texture, or appearance be close to what was enjoyed on the original wedding day.

First piece of advice- Just say “NO” to the year old wedding cake!  But you say, “I want to look back and relive those sweet moments a year later with my sweetie.”  No problem.

Second piece of advice- Hire a baker that is willing to make you a replica top tier of your cake for your first anniversary.  This is more than a growing trend and is really becoming popular.  Do not have any qualms about asking your baker to include this service.  As a baker, I do not want my clients eating a month old cake, let alone year old cake.  I want all things associated with my name to be tasty and fresh.  Stale, year old wedding cake will not be the last thing a couple remembers my name by.  Your wedding cake baker should be willing to include this service with your cake order. 

Which brings me to my third piece of advice- Get it in writing.  Make sure the replica first-year anniversary cake term is in the contract you enter into and sign with the baker.  While the baker may freely agree to your request for a replica cake when trying to obtain your business, it may be a forgotten promise a year later when you ask them to honor it.  Having the replica cake provision in writing will help to “remind” the baker of what they agreed to.



Advice is best illustrated by a cautionary tale to bring the point home.  For her wedding a friend of mine contracted with a great and reputable bakery; they agreed to make a replica top tier for the couple’s first anniversary.  The wedding cake was gorgeous and tasted wonderful.  The bakery lived up to the hype surrounding their name.  One year later when my friend contacted the bakery about scheduling the replica top tier, the bakery recanted and refused to make the replica top tier.  Though the bakery orally agreed to make the replica, it was never reduced to writing.

My friend was left high and dry by this (supposedly) reputable bakery.  For her one-year anniversary, her and her sweetie would not have a sweet reminder of their wedding day.  That was unacceptable.  While my friend battled with the bakery, but foreseeing that a cake would not be produced by her anniversary day, she asked me to make a stand-in top tier wedding cake.  I immediately agreed and asked her what flavor(s) they wanted.  She gave me free reign to make whatever I wanted.

Even with that much freedom, I wanted to tie back to the wedding.  I did not want to duplicate the cake flavors from the wedding (lemon and red velvet); I wanted to create some new, warm memories.  My friend’s wedding was in the fall and the couple loves fall flavors.  So, I immediately thought of spice cake.  Additionally, for their wedding favors the couple made and canned apple butter.  I still had my unopened jar and used that in the filling.  I frosted the cake with a brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream to keep the appearance in the warm golden tones.  Lastly, I decorated the cake with marzipan pumpkins painted gold.  My friend and her husband loved the cake.  They were touched by the details that I included to remind them of their special day.

The above story does have a yummy ending, but view it as a word to the wise.  The above is the exception, not the rule.  You may not have a baker in your life able and willing to make you a stand-in wedding cake top tier.  While I am grateful for anyone reading this, I cannot personally make you all a replica first year cake, but I can give you some sound advice to hopefully ward off a similar situation.  So remember- say NO to year-old wedding cake and YES to a replica cake a year later, written into your contract with the baker.



Spice Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Cloves
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, room temperature
4 Large Eggs, room temperature
1 cup Sour Cream, room temperature
scant 1/2 cup Whole Milk
2 TBS Vanilla Extract

Method:
This recipe would likely make two 8in circle cake layers.  I used a 6x4in circle pan and had enough batter left over to make 6 cupcakes.


1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare pans with parchment on the bottom and flour/shortening spray on the sides.

2. Combine first 7 ingredients.  Whisk together and set aside.

3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Mix together sour cream, milk, and vanilla.

5. Alternate adding flour mixture (in 3 additions) with adding milk mixture (in 2 additions) to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

6.  Pour into pans and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, Oct 1999

Apple Butter Cream Cheese Filling

Ingredients:

4 oz (1/2 cup) Apple Butter
8 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, room temperature
4 cups (more or less to taste and consistency) of Powder Sugar

Method:

1. Beat cream cheese until creamy.  Add butter and cream together.

2.  Beat in apple butter.

3.  Add in powder sugar, after sifting, in 2-3 additions until desired sweetness and consistency for filling.

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients:

5 oz egg whites
9 oz Brown Sugar
15 oz (2 TBS short of 4 sticks) Butter, room temperature

These are just the measurements for the ingredients I used.  The same method that is used for making the swiss meringue buttercream with granulated sugar is used for brown sugar.  For the method, look here.

Assembly

1. Tort cake, if necessary, into desired number of layers.  I used four.

2. Pipe a buttercream ring around the first cake layer.  Fill in the middle of that ring with the apple butter cream cheese filling.

3. Repeat in between the 2nd and 3rd layer.

4. The cream cheese filling is very soft and will need to set-up before continuing.  If the cake is sliding too much, place two skewers in the cake to stabilize it and refrigerate it until it is complete set.

5. Frost the cake with the buttercream, and smooth and decorate cake as desired.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Only Half Crazy



I ran a HALF marathon last weekend!  That is 13.1 miles, which is half of a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  That is why I am only half-crazy, not full on bananas, though my sore little legs, chest, and stomach would beg otherwise.   I have been training for this race for quite a while and finally it has come to pass.

The race was not easy at all.  Not that I had expected it to be a walk in the park, but I did not think it would be as painful as it was.  I trained with my longest training run, two weeks before the race, being 12.5 miles.  That training run was not too bad at all.  Considering a half marathon is only .6 more, I felt more than prepared.


Race day came and I started feeling pain in my hip at mile 2.  I am used to some joint discomfort early during any run, but with continued use the discomfort disappears.  On race day this was not the case however.  The hip pain in mile 2 never went away and was joined by knee pain (in the same leg) in mile 3.  I took my first walk break at mile 5, which was a lot earlier than I expected to walk, if at all.

Miles 6-8 were inside a tree covered, hilly park.  During this dark part of the race, I started to experience chest pain.  It felt like my heart was being poked and constricted.  At this moment I was so uncomfortable that I wanted to stop.  I questioned why I was putting myself through this voluntary torture.  I kept thinking, why is this all going wrong today.  I. Trained. For. This.




After making it out of the park, I tried to keep my spirits up, but it was so painful.  My legs just hurt for no good reason.  I never felt as much leg pain and fatigue during training as I did on race day.  From miles 9-13 I ran and then walked, running more than walking, but still walking a lot more than I planned and wanted to. 

In the last miles of the race, I had to make a decision.  If walking hurt and running hurt, then I would have to just choose my hurt.  I chose to run… it would get the race over with faster.  I found new energy and lift coming into the finish.  I sprinted at top speed for the last .3 miles.  Just throwing caution to the win and yelling out that I was ready for this to be over.

I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 2 hours and 51 minutes.  Slower than my low effort goal of 2 hours 45 minutes and far slower than what I knew I could accomplish based on my training.  Considering how horrible I felt during the race and how much I had to walk, my time is commendable.  Plus, hello, I finished the race under my own volition and within the course timeline of 4 hours.  But I should have done better.  


I know this is not a running or fitness blog, but I had to tell you about my race experience to explain why I made this COOKIE or I made this COOKIE so I could justifiably include information about my race on my baking blog…Whichever works.  I made this cookie prior to my race as a way to celebrate the race I would run and to inform those around me of the accomplishment.  Maybe this cookie jinxed my race performance.  If it did, I know a few people who would argue this cookie was worth it.  Being the actual individual who suffered through the pain, I would not go quite that far, but the cookie is phenomenal.

The cookie is the perfect blend of salty sweet, a favorite of mine.    Because there are so many add-ins, each bite is different.  The flavor of the cookie changes and expands with every bite.  The flavors are complementary, but stand out on their own.  In the cookie I taste tested, the first bite was chocolate and pretzels; the second bite contained the crunch of the M&M’s; and the last bite was strong with butterscotch flavor.

The best way to describe this cookie is to expect the unexpected.  You do not know which flavor will come through next, but as long as you use quality ingredients the end result will be a complex cookie of complimentary flavors.  I guess I could say the same for the race.  Regardless of the training, expect the unexpected.  Although race day may not go as well as training went, as long as you put in the time and dedication to training you will finish the race.




Half Crazy Cookies (or Half Marathon Cookies)

I am only half-crazy running a half marathon.  These cookies have a standard base with 13 add-ins, one for each of the 13(.1- don’t forget it, that last .1 is serious) miles I covered.

Basic Cookie:

1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
2 Eggs, large, room temperature
1 TBS Vanilla Extract
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour (optional, can use all AP Flour if desired)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt.

Add-ins (in random order):
Totaling: 4 cups of Add-ins

1. White Chocolate Chips (1/4 cup)
2. Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips (1/4 cup)
3. Toffee Bits (1/4 cup)
4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped (1/4 cup- about 8 little cups)
5. M&M’s Minis (1/4 cup)
6. Old Fashion Oats (1 cup)
7. Pretzels, roughly chopped (1/4 cup)
8. Candied Sunflower Seeds (1/4 cup)
9. Dark Chocolate Chips (1/4 cup)
10. Toasted Pecans, chopped (1/4 cup)
11. Peanut Butter Chips (1/4 cup)
12. Butterscotch Chips (1/4 cup)
13. Cashews (1/4 cup)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.

1. Prepare all add-in by measuring them out and chopping where necessary.  Combine in one bowl and set aside.

2. Cream together butter and both sugars.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.

3. Add both flours, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until just combine.

4. Fold in add-ins.  Do not over mix; you do not want to break down the pretzels.

5. Using a 3 TBS capacity cookie scope, scope batter onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Leave space as these cookies do spread.

6. Bake for 12-13 minutes until the edges are brown, but the middle will still look slightly under baked.

7. Allow to cool before moving.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Halloween- Part II




Does any of this sound familiar:

1) So, Halloween was a week ago and despite your best efforts to control yourself and slowly eat through your leftover candy, a lot of candy still remains. 

2) Your kids have picked all of the fruity candies out of their Halloween candy and what is left is pure chocolate deliciousness of which you do not want to partake.

3) You just want something cool to share with others.  Well cooler than handing someone a fun sized candy bar…for no reason…a week after Halloween.





If you have candy still left from Halloween (or like in my case, stocked up on half priced candy after Halloween), I have the perfect recipe for you to re-purpose the candy into something even yummy-er than before.  This year with my “leftover” candy, I made Halloween Candy Bars.  The bars are made by covering a shortbread cookie crust with caramel (like a Twix bar without the chocolate coating) and then pressing all different types of candy, treats, and snacks into the caramel.  There you have it.  Simple, easy, but ohhhhh so good!






Do you have any Halloween candy remaining?  If so, how do you plan to use it?






Halloween Candy Bars
from Torts to Tarts

Shortbread Crust
This recipe was written to fit a 15x21in pan.  I had a lot of candy to use.  The recipe should work by cutting it in half and using a 9ix13in pan.

Ingredients:

4 sticks (1 pound, 16 oz) Butter, Cool-ish
1 1/2 cups (250g) Granulated Sugar
2 cups (240g) All-Purpose Flour
2 cups (240g) Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (optional--you can use all, all-purpose flour)
4 tsp Vanilla Extract
Dash of Salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.

1. Cream together butter and sugar.  I suggest using a stand mixture due to the firmness of the butter.  If not using a stand mixture, let the butter come to room temperature before creaming.

2. Add vanilla extract.

3. Add Flours and salt.  Mix until just combined.

4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, with additional paper extended over the side like handles.

5. Poor the crust mixture onto the baking sheet and press into an even layer using your hands.  Spray hands with non-stick spray or use a little flour to prevent sticking.  I also used a rolling pin to help flatten and even the layer.

6. Poke the shortbread crust all over with a fork.

7. Bake the crust for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are deep brown and the middle is brown.  Make sure to rotate the pan half way through the baking time.

8. Allow shortbread crust to cool completely.

Caramel Layer

Ingredients:

3 bags (approx. 33 oz) Kraft Caramel Bits
7-8 TBS Heavy Whipping Cream

Method:

1. Place all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl.

2. Microwave for approximately 6 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the caramel bits are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.

Candy Layer

You can use any type of non-fruity candies (not skittles or starburst, for example).  Also, I would be leery of using peppermint candies, as the flavor would not match well with peanut butter and to me, peanut butter is a requirement.

The candies and approximate quantities I used (all candies are fun sized):
6- 100 Grand Bars
10- Almond Snickers
20- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
8- Butterfingers
14- Kit Kats (Orange, White Chocolate, and Regular)
2/3 bag- Candy Corn M&Ms
12 Hershey’s Mini Bars (Krackle, Dark, and Mr. Good Bar)

And to cut some of the sweetness and just because I love salty sweet, I added about 2 very full handfuls of pretzels and 2/3 cup of salted peanuts.

Chop all ingredients, excluding M&M’s and peanuts, while the short bread is in the oven or cooling.  Mix together all candy layer ingredients and set aside.

Assembly

1. Rub the edges of the baking pan with butter or non-stick spray to help the caramel release a little easier later.

2. Pour still hot caramel over shortbread crust.  Use the spoon or spatula to spread the caramel into an even layer.

3. Immediately, sprinkle the candy mixture over the caramel layer fully covering it.  Gently press the candy into the caramel.

4. Refrigerate the entire pan until the caramel and candy is completely set (about 1-2 hours).  Do not leave in the fridge too long or the M&Ms will lose their sheen.

5. Using a sharp knife to cut into squares and enjoy.

Friday, November 02, 2012

No Problem (You’re Welcome) Cookies




A few months ago, the morning radio show I listen to had a discussion on how the host responds to “thank you.”  He stated that saying “no problem” seems rude and like you are doing that person a favor.   “You’re welcome” is the more appropriate route to go.  I never thought it that way.  But, it got me to thinking, if he sees it that way maybe other people see it that way as well?  What do I say when someone says “thank you?”  Evaluation and analysis must now occur.

It depends on the situation.  I tend to say “you’re welcome” to people I do not know very well or when I am at a loss for words.  It seems more formal to me.  I tend to say “no problem” or “no problem at all” when I responded to people I know better or in less formal situations.  Am I conveying that my baked goods are doing them a personal favor and that they had better get down on their knees and bow at my awesome baking magnificence?  Well maybe, in my head, a little queen worship is desired.  Of course not; it was literally no problem.  I wasn’t asked to make something and I fulfilled a request.  I decided to go into my kitchen and bake something and then voluntarily gave it out to whoever wanted it.  No personal favors here.






I like saying “no problem” because it is less formal and really when you talk about baked goods, it is usually never a problem for me to whip something up.  I love to do it.  So now, when I get “thank you,” I seem to follow it with “No problem.  I loved doing it.”

In true appreciation fashion, I was gifted a bag of Ghirardelli Chocolate chips and a gift cards to my favorite grocery store from my office.  It was a please bake use more stuff thank you gift in appreciation of all the stuff I bake and bring in.  In response to their thoughtful gesture, I decided to make them a treat with the chocolate chips-- a thank you for the thank you gift cookies, which seemed redundant and could start a repeated cycle of thank you for the thank you for the thank you…, or No Problem Cookies.






These Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are pretty simple but super tasty.  I mean you can never go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate.  They are firmer on the edges and chewy in the center.  The oats provide a nice toothsome quality to the cookie and textural contrast from the firm chips and soft cookie.  These were a very welcomed way to say “No Problem; I loved doing it.”

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg, large, room temperature
2 1/2 cups rolled oats, old fashion is best
1 bag (12 oz) chocolate chips

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. Cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars and vanilla extract. Add eggs and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips.

4. Use a 3 tablespoons cookie scope, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Lightly press down on each cookie to flatten, slightly.  Bake for 12-14 minutes,  until the cookies are lightly golden.

5. Cool completely and enjoy with a glass of milk, if that’s your pleasure.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hey, there is a Chocolate Chips Cookie in my Cookie!




File this under the why-didn’t-I-think-of-it-first tab!  While doing my daily occasional food blog reading, I was over a Picky Palate and saw that she baked a chocolate chip cookie… inside of an Oreo!  Freaking genius!  I mean you have the best store bought cookie, filled with the perfect and classic homemade cookie.  It was like a match made in cookie heaven.

I have baked several things into chocolate chip cookies before, including Oreos, but never the opposite way around.  It seemed so obvious and it made so much sense.  I had a Homer Simpson moment, smacking my forehead and saying “D’oh.”  Why did I never think of this?  I cannot believe this never entered my pastry realm of imagination.






I did not allow my lack of being a trail blazer in the Oreo cookie stuffing arena deter me from trying this treat.  I actually rolled up my sleeves pretty much immediately and got to baking.  These cookies are awesome.  I thought they might be too sweet, but they were not.  The Oreo cookie retained its crunch and the chocolate chip cookie filling was chewy and gooey.  It can be enjoyed warm, topped, and out the oven or later at room temperature.

The best part of the cookie, visually, was the Oreo cream melting slightly over the chocolate chip cookie.  When I make these again, I will try them with double stuffed Oreos to get more of the ooze factor.






After taking these to work, I was talking with a co-worker about other cookies that could be filled.  One idea that came up in that discussion was filling Nutter Butter cookies with chocolate chip cookies.  (Other ideas may be featured here later.)  I used the store brand version of Nutter Butter cookies because it was circle in shape and I thought it would be easier than trying to get the chocolate chip cookie to bake in a peanut shape.






The Chocolate Chip Cookie stuffed Nutter Butter cookies came out similar to the Oreos.  The only difference is that the Oreo cream helped seal the new stuffed cookies together, but the Nutter Butter cream did not seal the cookie.  The Nutter Butter cookie came apart much easier than the Oreo.  My favorite part of the Nutter Butter cookie was the bottom cookie that baked in the oven under the chocolate chip cookie.  Its time in the oven browned the cookie and brought out an even more intense flavor.  Super, super good!

Though I did not think of it first, I think I did find a way to make it my own.

Chocolate Chip Cookie stuffed Oreos
Adapted from Picky Palate

Ingredients:
1 stick (8 TBS) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, large
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bag mini chocolate chips
1 package Oreo Cookies

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheets with a parchment paper.

2. Cream butter and sugars together.  Add egg and vanilla, mixing until well combined.

3. Add flour, baking soda and salt to wet ingredients mixing to combine.  Then add chocolate chips, mixing until just combined.

4. Separate Oreo cookies and place non-cream sided cookie onto prepared baking sheets.

5. Place 1 tablespoon of chocolate chip cookie dough onto each Oreo Cookie.  (Just one level, not over filled table spoon of dough!!!)

6. Bake for 8-9 minutes until baked through.

7. Gently press the cream side of an Oreo cookie over the warm baked chocolate chip cookie and let cool for another 10 minutes before enjoying warm or let it cool completely then enjoy.

** By the way, after making 30-36 stuffed cookies, I still had plenty of cookie dough left.  Using the same table spoon scope, I baked off another dozen and a half cookies or so.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Elevated Fail



There are many desserts and snacks I enjoyed as a child.  As we get older, some of us think 1) it would be cool to make pre-packaged desserts at home and 2) that elevating the homemade version with more “quality” ingredients is necessary.  Usually, this is the recipe for an epic homemade dessert… Usually.  Sometimes, however, it is the recipe for an epic fail. This is one of those epic fail moments.

While at a local small-town market, I saw wafer sheets.   I was immediately drawn to them because you do not see these in your everyday grocery store.  I held onto the wafer sheets for a while, not really sure what to make with them.  I was considering a play on Vanilla Wafers, but was not sure how to make a filling that would not result in a soggy wafer.




How else could wafers be used?  Then while at the gas station, I saw Little Debbie Nutty Bars and thought I could make these.  Then I had the brilliant idea to elevate them pass some processed treat, filled with ingredients I could not name, to something more natural (I am not going to even try and pretend it is more health).  I exchanged the peanut butter filling with an almond butter and honey filing.  I am not sure what type of coating is on the original, but I used dark chocolate.  In theory, this sounds awesome.

In reality, the almond butter flavor is so much more delicate than the peanut butter that is was not detectable with the dark chocolate.  Also, it is impossible (for me at least) to get the chocolate coating as thin as the original.  Therefore, in the middle of summer, full of 90+ degree-days I made a thick chocolate coating that had the dandiest time setting up.  (I mentioned before I was a little back logged on post… This was made in August.)




Overall, this was a good in theory treat, but not so satisfying in execution.  Sometimes, the original should not be tampered with.  When an original is delightfully, sinfully delicious, it should just be enjoyed for what it is… A guilty pleasure.  Go out and enjoy a real Nutty Bar, it is worth it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread brought to you by Chef Clumsy




I have named myself Baker at Law due to my two passions- law and baking.  Yet, most of the time a better moniker would be Chef Clumsy.  I am so clumsy it is sad and I probably should be living in a bubble.  As a child, my mom put me in ballet to teach me balance, coordination, and grace.  I cannot imagine how much more uncoordinated and clumsy I would be without that basic training, though I am still not a ballerina.

On to my kitchen clumsiness, of which standing and walking are not usually my problem.  I am just clumsy in the kitchen, which results in frequent injuries like inadvertent slices of the finger, doing stupid things like cleaning a freshly sharpen knife with flesh and taking hot baking sheets out of the oven without a pot holder/oven mitt, or repeatedly burning the same spot on my right hand on the oven rack, just to name a few.  






Burning myself while baking has become the norm, unfortunately.  Usually, I burn myself sometime in the middle of baking but before the dishes are done.  Then, I am forced to wash dishes in hot water, with a hot burn, which is more painful than just the burn itself.  But, having a good baking session is worth the never ending burns and pain.  I sacrifice layers of skin and endure pain so that I may bake and share treats with those around me.  I must be in love or stupid.  I will call it a love of baking.

Keeping the above in mind, it is most disappointing and even more painful when I get a burn and the baking session was a flop.  It is like going through plastic surgery to come out looking worse than when you went in.  Well maybe not that bad, but the burn is not worth it when the dessert flops.  This dessert is not a flop, it is far from it… Yes, today’s burn was worth it.






However, on Sunday I received a pretty bad burn about the size of a quarter on my right hand.  The cookies I was trying to make on Sunday flopped.  The burn was painful and blistered more than normal, and the cookies flopped.  I was too through.  However, today I decided to take on my nemesis yeast.  I received a burn on my left finger as soon as I put the bread in the oven.  This baking session was either going to be really good or really bad.

The baking session was an awesome success.  I conquered yeast and made a delicious bread, though washing the dishes was painful…typical.  The bread is soft and cinnamon-y and sweet.  The top provides a nice crunch and the glaze gives it a little extra sweetness and flavor thanks to the almond extract.  Best of all, my clumsy behind does not have to pick up a knife to cut the bread; it just pulls apart…Perfecto!

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients:
Dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/3 tsp (1 envelope) “highly” active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 scant cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, browned

Method

1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and set aside.

3. In a microwavable bowl, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125F.

4. With mixer on low speed, pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.  Add the eggs and turn mixer up to medium-low speed, mixing until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  Add the remaining ¾ cup of flour and mix until dough comes together slightly. The mixture will be sticky.  Change over to your dough hook and knead the dough for about 2 minutes, until it is no longer sticky.

5. Place the dough is a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6. While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and allspice for the filling. Set aside. Brown the butter in a a saucepan until browned. Set aside and allow to cool, though it should still be melted. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set that aside too.

7. Deflate the risen dough.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long. Pour browned butter in the center of dough and use a pastry brush to spread across all of the dough. Sprinkle with ALL of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

8. Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again. You’ll have six stacks of six squares. Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.  If the dough squares do not stretch across the whole pan, places them in askew to cover the width.  Do not worry, the spaces will fill in as it rises.  Place plastic wrap and kitchen towel over the loaf pan loosely and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

9. Preheat oven to 350F. Place loaf pan on a cookie sheet or line the oven with foil to catch potential drips.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (I baked mine for 45-50 minutes, until it reached an internal temperature of 190F), until the top is very golden brown. The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw. A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board.  Invert cake bake to its upright position.

11.  If glazing, mix to taste and desired consistency--powder sugar, almond extract (a little goes a long way), milk, cinnamon, and allspice.  For a thinner consistency add more milk (slowly- less than a teaspoon at a time) and for a thicker consistency use less milk.