Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Don’t scoff at the Biscoff Spread

Yup, it is true.  I have jumped on the Biscoff spread bandwagon.  At the end of 2011, this spread seemed to take over the internet baking blog-asphere.  I mean it was everywhere.  I noticed all the recipes, but had no desire to try and find the stuff.  I thought to get my hands on the spread I would have to special order it from Europe.  Lo and behold, I noticed the spread on the corner of the cookie aisle at my grocery store this week.  I immediately picked it up and took it home.  Well I paid for it first.

This stuff is good yal.  SUPER GOOD, like I have bought 2 jars in 2 days good.  No, I did not eat a whole jar, let me explain.  On Tuesday, I brought the jar of Biscoff spread home.  I opened the jar and took out about 1/2 a teaspoon to taste.  It was sensational.  Then I thought, let me not be a piggy eating it plain.  I moved to go grab a cracker to spread the spread across.  As I turned, the glass jar rolled off the counter and smashed into my ceramic tile kitchen floor.  The jar was smashed to pieces, though most of the spread was contained within the broken pieces. 

I actually considered trying to take the spread out of the broken jar and saving it.  Probably not the best idea considering little broken shards of glass could get caught in the spread and I wouldn’t see it.  This stuff was so good that the glass shards would have been worth it.  Then less piggy, cooler heads prevailed and I picked up all the pieces, trashed them all, and cleaned up the floor. 

All I could think about the rest of that night, and the next two days was Biscoff spread... Biscoff Spread... BISCOFF SPREAD!  I really wanted the chance to use it in a recipe.  So Thursday, two days after buying the first jar, I bought a second jar.  So, yes, this stuff is so good it was worth paying $3.99 (plus tax) for twice!

I wanted to do something different with my Biscoff spread.  Online I saw recipes for Biscoff Blondies, Brownies, Fudge, and several different versions of Cookies.  What could I do different to take advantage of this luscious product?  I have a recipe I have used several times for soft peanut brittle.  What makes it soft is the peanut butter stirred in right before pressing it out.  Since Biscoff spread is like peanut butter, I thought I could substitute it and make Biscoff Peanut Brittle.  Of course, the fat content and properties of peanut butter is different than Biscoff spread, so I hoped it would work out. 

It worked out wonderfully.  The brittle tasted like a super crunchy cookie with peanuts.  My favorite flavor aspect was the hint of cinnamon.  The brittle was not as soft and flaky as when I used peanut butter, but it was still super yummy and not tooth-crackingly hard as standard brittle.  Now, I have a little less than half a jar left.  Time for Biscoff spread recipe, part II… or grabbing the jar, a spoon, and some rice cakes and see if I cannot drop the jar again!

Biscoff Peanut Brittle

I used this recipe here.  Omit the vanilla extract (you do not need it with the spread) and exchange the peanut butter for an equal amount of Biscoff spread.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just Because Cookies

In theory going to the doctor’s office should yield a diagnosis and a prescription or at least recommendations to make the pain better.  However, when you go to the doctor’s office leaving with absolutely no answers and in more pain than when you came with, it has not exactly been a successful appointment.

Well, I have been dealing with this arm thing for over a week now.  I broke down and finally went to the doctor because the problem has become an annoyance and an interrupter of my sleep.  After being poked, prodded, and stretched, I left the doctor’s office with a test prescription, no diagnosis, and in significantly more pain then when I went to the doctor.

After coming home from the doctor and taking a nap, I was still not feeling so great. Instead of hiding under my bed and waiting for the search and rescue mission to come and scope me out, I did something that made me happy. I got into my kitchen. I have been planning for a few days to make rice krispies treat candy bars, and though today would be that day, but those do not require me to cut on the oven. So, scratch that. What could I make that I could do with no planning, no preparation, and not very much effort?  Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies.

So, I whipped up these cookies and baked them off in less than an hour.  As they baked, I was wrapped in the delightful smell of butter and vanilla; it was comforting. As I saw the brown, soft, gooey results of my baking, I felt like I did something right.  Then, the thought of sharing the cookies with people who would appreciate them briefly brought a smile to my face.

Though I am still in pain, these just because cookies were definitely the best part of my day.  These were easy to accomplish.  Use your favorite chocolate chip cookie base recipe and then add two to three cups of different kinds of chocolate.  I used dark chocolate morsels, semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and white chocolate chips.  I hope these brightened someone else’s day as much as they did mine!

By the way, I saw my first snow of the winter 2011-2012 season fall over the weekend.  It was beautiful and did not amount to anything at all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Heart PB Cookies

One morning, about a week into the New Year, the paralegal in my office said someone just dropped this off for you.  She went on to say that she was out of the office and did not see who it was.  What was dropped off was a bag of flour, marked with the name of the same locality I work for.  The note of the bag said “This is the flour we discussed.  It is the best.  Enjoy.”  It also contained some cryptic name inscribed on the note, of which I could not read.  I did not know who this person was.

I proceed to ask the paralegal 101 questions, but she did not know who it was.  I racked my brain for about 10 minutes regarding every baking conversation I have ever had with someone I worked with.  I came up with nothing.  I set the bag of flour on my desk and left it there to sit.  No offense to whomever this mystery person was, but I do not use ingredients from strangers.  I do not know what they could have possibly done to it.

After leaving it in my office over night, the next day the culprit identified himself because he wanted to make sure I would not waste the flour.  The flour was a gift from my boss’s wife.  She saw the locality-named flour and thought that I could use it.  My boss, ever the prankster, played the little joke on me.  But I got the last laugh because the flour did not come home with me until I could determine its giver.

Anyway, have you ever seen that movie Stranger than Fiction with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Will Ferrell?  At one point when Will’s character is trying to woo Maggie’s character, he presents her with flours (not flowers).  Yes, different kinds of flour.  Maggie’s character was the owner and operator of a bakery.  Watch it!  Though the premise of the movie is a little fuzzy to my memory, that scene is ever present.  A man wooing with flours has the key to my heart!  The mysterious flour instance made me think of one of my favorite movie scenes, though it is wholly unrelated to this post and the situation in which the flour is presented.  I just thought I would share (Mr. R out there, take note :-)

I decided to go old school with this flour, and make the Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe off the side of the flour bag.  Old school peanut butter cookie recipe means shortening instead of butter.  I had to really talk myself in to this change because you know how I feel about butter.  I did want to dress up these cookies with a peanut buttery punch, and added Reese’s peanut butter hearts to the top, pressed it into the cookie right after they came out the oven.

These cookies were nice the first day, but I found that they tasted better a day or two later.  They maintain their freshness, softness, and yumminess inordinately longer than most cookies, probably due to the shortening.  I cannot say I am converted to shortening, but I can definitely see the benefit of using it.

Old School Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe from the Flour Bag sharing the same name as the locality which I work for, which I will not state here for anonymity sake.

1 cup Shortening (I used Butter flavored Crisco)
1 cup Peanut Butter
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs (or Egg Replacer)
3 cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla

“Cream shortening, peanut butter, and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Combine flour, soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture; blend. Add vanilla; mix. Roll dough into balls. Place on baking sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes.”

I rolled dough balls in organic sugar before baking and I did not flatten them with a fork. Upon coming out the oven, I pressed a Reese’s peanut butter heart (unwrapped and directly from the freezer) into the center of each one. Let cool completely before moving as the heart will distort if not allowed to set-up before moving.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Cake

Say whaaaat?!?!  Yes, sweet potato cake.  Not pie, not soufflĂ© and no melted mini marshmallows here.  By-golly, it is super yummy too!

A friend of a friend gave me three very large sweet potatoes out of his garden.  My first thought was to make sweet potato pie.  I make a great sweet potato pie and it has been five years since I made one.  It was well over due.  I bought all the ingredients necessary to make some out-of-this-world sweet potato pies and I was just waiting until the weekend to make them.

Then the weekend comes and I peel, slice, and steam the sweet potatoes in the oven.  I then run my stick blender through them to puree them until creamy.  After all this, I did not want to make pie.  I wanted something different.  I wanted cake!

I thought about it intuitively.  People make pumpkin cake; I have seen pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie; sweet potato is like pumpkin; therefore, I think sweet potato cake would work.  I was randomly looking through one of my baking books, and there was a recipe for sweet potato cake by Warren Brown.  (You know Mr. Brown, the George Washington law graduate, turned attorney, turned baker, turned owner of several Cake Love bakeries all over the greater DC Area.  Yes, I am intrigued by his story.)  Who would have known that a sweet potato cake recipe existed?

The problem came however when I went to the fridge to pull out the ingredients.  I only had two eggs.  Mr. Brown’s recipe called for three egg yolks (plus 2 eggs).  At that moment, a last minute trip to the grocery store was not possible.  What to do?  I refused to give up on my sweet potato cake.  By now, I was jonesing (definition: to have a strong need, desire, or craving for something) for it.

I searched the internet, looking for another sweet potato cake recipe that did not call for more than 2 (or 3) eggs.   I finally found one, and actually liked it better than Mr. Brown’s recipe.  Sorry, Mr. Brown, I will try one of you delicious recipes next time (legal disclaimer: by next time, I mean next time or at some other point in the near future, of which I disclaim, renounce, and do not subscribe to any definition or semblance to the colloquial, legal, or any other understanding of the definition and usage of the words “next,” “time,” “near,” and/or “future” :-). 

The new recipe required fewer eggs, but also had a lot of add-ins I did not want to use.  I also substituted some of the ingredients for ones I thought would be better.  In the end, my recipe is loosely based off the one on from meals.com.

Now after that super long back story, lets chat about the cake itself.  Please excuse me as I wipe drool off the key board.  Yup, that’s how good it was!  This cake has the distinct taste of sweet potato, there is no masking it and you will not confuse it for pumpkin.  It also has delicate and palate-pleasing spice flavors from the traditional sweet potato pie spices.  Forget angel food cake; this is the cake they are serving in heaven.

I ate my cake plain, but served it up cake-in-a-jar style with a tangy cream cheese frosting and candied ginger and pecan pieces between the layers for a flavor burst and texture.  This cake would be perfect for a layer cake with frosting, or a bundt cake plain or with glaze.  You cannot go wrong with this cake… seriously.

Sweet Potato Cake

2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 TBS Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp All Spice
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
15oz (by weight) Sweet Potatoes (pureed)
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar (or more Granulated Sugar)
3 Eggs
1 TBS Vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) Melted Butter (cooled, but still liquid)
1/2 cup water

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all spice, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl combine sweet potatoes and sugar. Add eggs, butter, and water separately, mixing each until combined.

4. Mix flour mixture into sweet potato mixture, stirring until combined.

5. Pour batter into a 9x13 inch pan prepared with flour pan spray and parchment paper (or any way you choose). I use this size to cut circles for cake in a jar. Try other pan sizes and shapes for different style cakes.

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Until the cake is browning, slightly pulls away from the sides, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Toffee Nut Cookies

This cookie is kind of like Panera’s Toffee Nut Cookie, but homemade.  I made these cookies the first week of the new year and I have had absolutely no time to post about them (and this post will be short, for me).

To create the cookie, I looked at the ingredients listed on the package of the Panera cookie.  I then decided to modify my basic chocolate chip cookie recipe based on the ingredient list from the Panera cookie.  Lastly, to make my cookie more special I added more nuts and toffee than in the Panera Cookie.  I believe the add-ins in the Panera cookie are minimal to keep costs down.  I, however, am only concerned with my bottom, not my bottom line :-)

So, if you like the Toffee Nut Cookies made by Panera, try making them at home.  Not saying they will replace a large, delicious Panera cookie, (I mean hello... It is Panera!) but they will more than satisfy.

Toffee Nut Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) Butter
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs (or Egg Replacer)
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 bag Heath Toffee Bits (the kind without chocolate)
1 cup Brazil Nuts (ground with about 1/4 cup of the flour above so it does not form a butter in the food processor; also, if you like larger chunks of nuts, do not grind the nuts as fine)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

2. Cream together butter and sugars.

3. Add in vanilla and eggs (or egg replacer).

4. In a separate bowl mix the flour, ground brazil nuts, salt, and baking soda.

5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

6. Add in the toffee bits and mix in completely.

7. Scope cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving space because they will spread.

8. Bake for about 15 minutes.

9. Cool (hot bubbling sugar right out the oven, not a good idea) and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You are Never too Old for Cookies

A certain little baker recently had a birthday.  A big birthday!  A birthday that celebrates said bakers last age in a certain decade.  To celebrate such a huge birthday, the little baker planned a birthday dinner at a restaurant where you essential cook your own food in a fondue pot.

The baker and her friends enjoyed the cheese course, quickly followed by delicious salads.  Next came the entrĂ©e course with all the raw sides you could imagine and warm spiced broths to cook the food in.  Last came the decadent chocolate course with sweets for all the sweet people in attendance.  At the end of the night the baker wanted to thank all her friends for coming out and presented them two cutely packaged chocolate chip cookies.

The baker thought, what better way to say thank you to friends then to give them something they would enjoy, something they could take home, something that was so authentically from the baker that her friends would immediately know she made it with lots of love.  No matter your age, the baker thought as she wrapped up the cookies, you are never too old for cookies & milk.

A sophisticated adult spin on a classic cookie will never go out of style or disappoint your taste buds.  The baker used her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, utilizing two different flours, at least 24 hours of resting in the fridge, and expensive imported chocolate.  This cookie was meant to be savored an enjoyed, not scoffed down, and with milk only to wash it down after finishing (no dipping!).