Friday, March 30, 2012

What Becomes of an Ol’ Heart

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, yet I still have discount Valentine’s day candy remaining in my house.  At some point it becomes passĂ© to serve guests and friends candy from a holiday well over a month ago.  Considering, that time may be now, and not wanting to throw away the candy, I decided to bake with them.  A ol’ heart should never be thrown away; it should be wrapped in warm delicious chocolaty loving.

The only candy I had enough of to make something worthwhile was Reese’s peanut butter cups and hearts.  I had the idea of baking the cups and hearts whole into brownies.  Therefore, instead of little broken hearted pieces scattered throughout the brownies, there would be whole, strong, and intense hearts (and cups) ready to share their peanut butter flavor.  The hearts (and cups) would standout and up for themselves; they would not be like any other old and left over candy from a “holiday.”

Seeing as how my heart was kind of heavy today, I thought it was the perfect time to bake these Reese’s Peanut Butter Brownies to share with those around me.  I used my favorite one bowl brownie recipe from Bakers’ Chocolate.

I put down half of the brownie batter.  I then pressed the cups and hearts into the batter.

Lastly, I spread the other half of the batter over the brownies, completely covering the cups and hearts.

These brownies are rich, dense, and fudge-y.  The slightly salty peanut butter centers were the perfect compliment to the sweet brownie.  These brownies are a reminder that just because something is slightly pass its prime, it should not be discarded or forgotten; it can be incorporated into new and wonderful things. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake

I bought a small bag of beautiful Meyer lemons from the grocery store a few weeks ago.  I bought them because I saw them and knew I wanted to make a lemon pound cake type loaf with them.  I did not know when I would have the time to make the loaf, but Meyer lemons that plentiful are not easy to come by.

Well, as usual over the past few months, life got away from me and I did not get around to using them.  Then I was home, taking care of last minute details for a party I was planning for my friend the Bride, when I touched the bag of Meyer lemons and realized that the fruit was starting to get a tad but soft.  Considering the arm and a leg I paid for those lemons, I knew I had to use them immediately.

Somehow, I immediately, that day, within 2 hours, found time to make this Meyer lemon bundt cake.  This cake was pretty easy to whip up.  My normal lemon pound cake type recipe is made with buttermilk.  That recipe produces a tangy cake that is super moist, delicious, and dense.  This recipe produces a cake that is not as moist, but is a lot lighter.  I had to sub-out some of the original ingredients (such as using greek yogurt instead of sour cream), which could account for the less moist cake.  It was not dry by any means, but just not as moist.  It was still delicious!

Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake
Adapted from Recipe Girl

2 2/3 cups Cake Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
7 Meyer Lemons Zest (or less, but at least 3)
2 cups Sugar
6 Large Eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup Fat-free Greek Yogurt, at room temperature
2 TBS rum
1 1/2 TBS Meyer lemon juice
Pinch of salt
9 TBS Butter (1 stick + 1 tablespoon), melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour spray 1 bundt pan.
2. Mix together flour and baking powder and set aside.
3. Place sugar and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl, and whisk together until mixture is a bit clumpy. Add the eggs and beat with a whisk until the mixture is a light lemon color and thickened a bit. Whisk in greek yogurt, salt, rum, and lemon juice, each seperately.
4. Gently whisk in the flour in three parts, then whisk in the butter in two parts. The batter will be thick.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 55 to 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes before turn the cake out of its pan onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
7. If glazing the cake, mix together enough powdered sugar with Meyer lemon juice to achieve your desired consistency. Pour over the cake. Let the glaze harden before slicing and serving.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baking is Important (White Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies)

**Note: This is a long post and only 15% is about the actual cookies.  If you want to read about the cookie, without the glorious content needed to appreciate the complexity of said cookie baking experience, scroll down and read 2 to 3 paragraphs from the end.**
I do not know whether to call these cookies “a long time coming,” “a labor of love,” or a “thank God I had time to bake” cookies.  Let’s just call these cookies special, extra special!  You see, I have been trying to bake these cookies for about a week now.  I have gone as far as taking the butter out of the fridge to come to room temperature, only to realize I did not have enough butter (gasp).  I have also taken the butter out the fridge, only to put it back in the fridge 10 minutes later when I got the rude awakening that I did not have enough time to bake.

It all started last week some time.  I had gone to the gym and had gotten home within an hour and a half.  From there I was supposed to make three quick stops to get coffee, pick-up my Bridesmaid dress from the tailor, and run by the grocery store to get almonds, more butter, and white chocolate chips for these cookies.  Well, my errand partner got distracted at the mall, where the tailor is, and I spent nearly two hours in the mall.  After leaving the grocery store and getting home, it was after 9PM.  It was too late to even think about make cookies, considering I still had to eat dinner and for some reason, I cannot eat while I bake.  It is always bake first, eat second.

Then approached the weekend; the perfect time to make cookies because hello, I had all weekend.  Except, I really did not have all weekend.  Saturday consisted of bootcamp, errands for a wedding related party I am planning, lunch with a friend, more wedding party related errands, and then when I finally came home I had enough laundry to do to keep three full-time employees busy.  While folding one of my many loads of laundry, I was so tired that I fell asleep.  But wait, there is still time; the weekend has one more day. Right? 

Technically, yes.  But, oh Sunday, Sunday!  Sunday started off with church, followed by finding and purchasing my technologically challenged mother a digital camera, and then do not forget the unfinished laundry from Saturday, half of which still needed to be washed, and parts needed to be re-dried to remove wrinkles.  I forgot to mention on Saturday, I stripped my bed and put on a new quilt and throw.  Well the throw shed like a lamb ready to be sheared and my PJ’s were the recipient of a new furry coat.  I had to re-wash that throw as well (and it still was shedding, excessively after, which has made for an interesting week of trying to not get lent balls on all my clothes.  Which I still did and then had to remove by-hand, as the lent brush has mysteriously disappeared).  But wait, there is more.  Sunday is our normal grocery-shopping-for-the-week day.  Generally, we stop at the grocery store after church, on the way home.  But, not this Sunday.  This Sunday we went home first to eat lunch.  Therefore, we did not proceed to my favorite grocery store until around 7PM.  And yes, I was still doing laundry at the point.  “Baking” and “cookies” were not in my vocabulary for Sunday.

So, now we are at Tuesday.  I decided, prayerfully, that Tuesday would be the day.  I thought maybe I could squeeze in cookie making if I lost an hour of sleep and finished rock climbing early in the evening.  Well, when I got off from work it was lovely outside, absolutely gorgeous.  How could I not take advantage of such great weather and go for my first outdoor run of the season?  So, I pushed up my run to 5PM, instead of 6PM, thinking I would make cookies in between running and going rock climbing.  Yes, I am a little nuts.  I got out the house and was doing well on my run.  Around the 2.5 miles mark I noticed drops on the ground, and then a few more before an on slot of rain started.  I sought cover in the doorway of a model home.  I was stuck there for about 10 minutes.  The only thing I could think of was that the rain was seriously interfering with my cookie-baking plan!  Once the rain started to letup, I decided I could not take it anymore, running the last 0.5 miles, in the rain, to make it home and bake these cookies.

And when I got home, bake cookies I did!  These cookies are quick to make up.  I started making them at 6PM and was finished by 7PM—making, baking, and all.  I am telling you when I am on a cooking-baking mission, DO NOT GET IN MY WAY!  To prepare the batter I used my general chocolate chip cookie recipe batter.  I added one teaspoon of almond flavor emulsion to the batter to really carry the almond flavor throughout the cookie.  I have also been tampering with the amount of leavener I use in my cookies and in these cookies, I used about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder.  I was pleased with the cookies as they did not rise nor spread too much.

Taste and texture wise, I thought these cookies were great.  I am a huge fan of almond, so I loved tasting that flavor throughout the cookie.  The cherries were a bit tart, and provided an extra chewy texture, which paired nice with the sweet white chocolate chips.  The almonds added flaky, crunch throughout the cookie as well.  As I always look for improvements, next time I would toast the almonds first (as you can see from above, I did not have time for this here, but would recommend), just to bring out their flavor a bit more.  Also, I think aesthetically white chocolate chunks as opposed to chips would look better, and more rustic, in the spirit of the cookie.

Even with my crazy busy schedule, I found time to whip up these cookies, which had been on my mind for a while.  The funny thing is, even when I have to work so hard to find time to bake, it is always a welcomed experience.  Baking does not stress me out.  Even when recipes do not come out perfectly or it is 11PM and the frosting I made has turned to unrecoverable soup, I may feel disappointed and look at the time thinking, “I will be tired and paying for this tomorrow,” yet, I still roll-up my sleeves and get to making a replacement/fixing the error.  There have been times that I have gotten home after midnight from a late work meeting, and I still made brownies to take into the office the following day.  There were no worries, no stress, just fudgy squares of deliciousness to share, and then off to bed.  That is why I make time for baking.  Even in the midst of it all, baking allows me calm moments and that is why it is important.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Name that Dessert Revealed

In this post, I started a name that dessert challenge due to some technology issues.  Then I got impatient decided I did not want to keep my readers waiting and uploaded the pictures any.  So, now I am going to reveal the mystery dessert.  It is one of my favorites!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!  This combination of flavors is one of my favorites.  It all started years ago with a cookie from Potbelly’s.  I was never a fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, and when I discovered this little gem, I was hooked.  (Irony- I do not like raisins, so I do not like oatmeal raisin cookies.  I do not like chocolate, but like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  weird; I know!)

This recipe has probably yielded the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I have ever made.  I enjoyed the crisp edges and chewy center texture.  I made these a little smaller than normal, using my 3 TBS volume cookie scoop.  I also used mini chocolate chips instead of full sized chips.  Yes, I think they made all the difference in texture.  The mini chips provide a little textural contrast to the cookie without being too much.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (egg replacer)
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 3/4 cups oatmeal
1- 10oz bag Mini chocolate chips

1. Cream together the butter and sugars.

2. Add egg (or replacer) and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy.

3. Add baking soda, powder, and salt and mix.

4. Lastly add flour, oatmeal and chocolate chips, mixing until combined.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Oreo

Today is the 100th Birthday of Milk’s Favorite Cookie!  Can you believe it?  Oreos have been around since 1912!  Think about it, the humble deep chocolate cookie with a sweet frosting-like center has been around through the greatest events of the past 100 years.

After the sugar ration of WWI ended, the American people were able to celebrate with an Oreo Cookie.  In 1963, after Dr. King, Jr.’s historic March on Washington, an Oreo cookie could have been waiting for him back in his hotel room, a depiction of his “I Have a Dream” speech.  When Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act and President Johnson signed the bill into a law, those political heavy-hitters could have celebrated with a big ol’ cold glass of milk, with a side of Oreo Cookies.

In 1969, after his first historic step on the moon, Neil Armstrong could have celebrated with one giant bite of an Oreo Cookie for man, and once huge glass of powdered milk for mankind.  When the 1996 “Magnificent Seven” U.S. Women’s gymnastics team won the first ever Gold Medal for the U.S. in the Women’s Team Competition at the Olympics, those gymnast were too young to celebrate with beer, but they could have been celebrating with Oreo Cookies and Milk.

You see, Oreo Cookies make memories and they make moments special.  Some of my favorite commercials are Oreo commercials when Grandpa and Grandson are dipping Oreo Cookies in milk at the kitchen table.  Another favorite is the “How to Eat an Oreo” commercials, though my favorite way has never been depicted.  I like to open the cookies, clean out all the white filling (then throw the filling away, which is probably why Oreo never featured this method), and then enjoy the cookie plain without milk; I have never been a dipper.

To celebrate their big 100th Birthday, Oreo debuted a limited edition Birthday Cake flavored Oreo cookie.  Upon opening the bag, you are overwhelmed with the smell of birthday cake or cake batter.  The filling of the cookies actually taste like cake!  I do not know how they did it, but it is good!  Take the word of a non-filling lover.

To pay homage to such an American institution, I decided to bake the Birthday Cake Oreos into cookies—Birthday Cake Oreo Cookie Cookies with additional sprinkles, to reflect the celebration and the sprinkles already in the filling.  To make these cookies, take the entire pack of Birthday Cake Oreos (minus the two or three you may have already eaten) and chop them into pieces.  Make your favorite chocolate chip cookie batter, minus the chips.  Stir in the Oreo pieces and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sprinkles.  Bake and enjoy!

Tech Update: The computer has not come in yet.  No, it is not taking a long time; I am just impatient.  So, I have uploaded the above pictures and I will be posting the results of my mystery dessert from last week (with the recipe) soon!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Name that Dessert

I have griped about many technology related issues here and my inability to take decent quality pictures; ALL related to baking of course.  Well, this is not a technology griping post, because I am not complaining.  My faithful, ol’ laptop, which I have had for over seven years, is ready to be replaced.  Because I am updating my computer, I really did not want to take the time to upload new pictures onto the old computer only to have to transfer them to the new computer in about a week or so.  No, this does not make me lazy; it makes me efficient!

As such, I have no pictures to support this post (and potentially a few future posts depending on how much baking I do).  Therefore, I thought I would make this a game to tease you and tantalize your taste buds until I am able to actually post pictures.  I will list a few characteristics about the dessert I made last night and if you would like to play, you may leave a comment.  I will post the answer(s) when I get the new computer all setup.  (Note: The desserts in the picture do not adequately represent the dessert described below.  The picture was taken from Word clip art and edited by me.)

Mystery Dessert #1

1. Key Ingredients: Chocolate Chips and Oatmeal

2. Method of preparation: Baked in the Oven

3. Manner of Serving: Individually Wrapped

4. Texture upon Eating: Chewy and Soft, with a Slight Crunch

5. Reminds me of: A dessert at one of my favorite Sandwich Shops