Dessert

Mini Snickers Cheesecakes

Posted in Dessert on January 15th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

I don’t normally go for gimmicky baking where the appeal is dressing up someone else’s brand name, but my coworkers were going crazy over the idea of this Mini Snickers Caramel Cheesecake. I joked that I could go home right then in the afternoon and make it and I think they would have let me, assuming I actually came back with cheesecake in hand.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. chopped Snickers Bars
  • 2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbl. granulated sugar
  • 5 Tbl. melted butter
  • 2 8oz packages softened cream cheese
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbl. pure vanilla
  • 3 Tbl. caramel sauce

My biggest downfall in cooking is that I still am not good at reading recipes thoroughly before I start. First I misread 2 cups as two Snickers bars and had to go back to the store.

Then I missed the two mentions of sugar in the ingredients, so when I started making the crust I used the whole one cup and thought there was nowhere near enough butter to turn this powder into a crust.

That went in the trash and I had to start over.

Instructions:

  • Place graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter into a mixing bowl to combine. Spoon a couple spoonfuls of crumbs into each section of the muffin pan and press down and up the sides.Bake for 5-6 minutes or just until browned.

  • Remove from oven.

Good to remember. It would be really hard to get the cheesecake in those little cups while still in the oven.

  • In a stand or electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined, scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.

Looks like cheesecake!

  • Beat in caramel sauce until well combined.

I keep saying that I bake for selfish reasons. It’s not that I don’t like making other people happy with sugary treats, which I do, but I also fill up on the compliments I receive back. And so I insist on using quality ingredients because my reputation is on the line – I want people to be excited when they see something made by me. That means, for example, no high fructose corn syrup in the caramel sauce.

  • Pour about 1/4 c. of cheesecake mixture over each baked crust then top evenly with chopped Snickers

I augmented the original two bars with a bag of “fun size” and chopped as I went so the leftovers could go in the freezer. (Frozen Snickers – try it.)

  • Bake for 23-26 minutes or until cheesecake edges are just starting to brown and centers are nearly set. Remove and let cool completely. While still warm, loosen all edges with a plastic knife to make for easier removal from pan.

This knife thing is a good idea because those melted candy parts are still gooey and not yet glued like cement to the pan – at least for the first 30 seconds.

My first impression was that these are the ugliest things ever… and the right out of the oven taste test was okay but not my thing.

However served properly after being refrigerated, topped with homemade whipped cream and the rest of the caramel…

Beautiful and wonderfully yummy.

Red Velvet Milkshake

Posted in Dessert on November 11th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

Andrew came home last week and said he found something at the grocery store I had to know about, but didn’t buy for me because he was afraid of being accused of sabotaging my diet.

Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream with
Red Velvet Cake Pieces & a
Cream Cheese Frosting Swirl

I see a lot of “wrong” red velvet out there but I have faith in Ben & Jerry’s.

Red velvet isn’t just chocolate cake with red food coloring. The red tint originally came from a reaction between the chocolate and buttermilk, and except for my inappropriate cupcakes I consider the flavor more important than the color. In fact I think too many people have been turned off of red velvet cake due to the artificial dye taste.

I also learned while making my cupcakes that cream cheese frosting isn’t actually the traditional frosting, but people use it that way anyway so I’ll give them that. I saw vinegar in the ingredients (same as my cupcakes) which convinced me that this is the real thing… in ice cream form.

Adding milk and a blender… it’s red velvet cake in liquid form.

Wine glasses are good for portion control, and they make anything you drink feel fancy.

(And yes I realize in retrospect that photographing on a white background was a bad idea… that’s why this is a cooking blog not a photography blog.)

Red Velvet Cake Redux

Posted in Cupcakes, Dessert, Uncategorized on September 14th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

So I (totally cheated) bought some store-bought red velvet cupcakes on a whim. After being thrown in my shopping bag, this is how they made it home.

Apparently I’m not the only one having trouble with slippery frosting.

I’ll forgive them for that since I couldn’t do better, not to mention my haphazard self-check-out bagging, but let’s see…

Texture: kind of dry, definitely not moist
Taste: A little off, chemically… red dye taste?

An expensive reminder of why I have the rule I can only eat junk food I make myself. It’s easy to resist store-bought when I know I can bake better.

(Except for Starbucks’ mini peanut butter cupcakes… so, so, so good… and less calories than a slice of banana bread.)

Inappropriate cupcakes

Posted in Cupcakes, Dessert on September 5th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

People got a little too excited when I mentioned that I was going to make inappropriate cupcakes for my next baking project. I think they imagined something intended for a bachelor/bachelorette party and I just don’t have those kind of molds or sculpting skills. The cupcakes themselves are completely normal – it’s just the story behind them.

If girl stuff (you know, girl stuff) bothers you – or you’re one of my coworkers who ate them – then skip ahead to the recipe while I tell the story.


It occurred to me recently that, while I don’t know the exact date (I just remember it was the first day of school 8th grade) I’m coming up on the 20 year anniversary of my first period. Or in other words, the beginning of my fertility, which itself didn’t mean much to me as a 13 year-old but much more so as a 30-something. So I decided to mark the occasion (because what’s wrong with an excuse to celebrate?) with red velvet cupcakes – both perfectly appropriate and inappropriate at the same time.

In fact I think it has just the right level of appropriate inappropriateness when I told Andrew the story and he had to think for a second, and then it hit him.


I originally made these cupcakes for Christmas a couple years ago. I remember they were good, but cupcakes don’t mail well, especially when you add in frosting and perishability. The recipe, like every red velvet recipe, also uses an absurd amount of red dye. I cut it in half originally and then decided that the next time I made these I’d leave out the dye altogether and they could just be ‘velvet cupcakes’. However since this time the color was important I at least went for quality – the main reason I’ve heard people say they don’t like red velvet is the artificial dye taste.

This set of India Tree Natural Decorating Colors claims no corn syrup or synthetic dyes, and at $15 – that’s $5 a color! – was the single most expensive thing I bought at the grocery store.

I’ve already dyed the packaging… that’s how you know it’s loved.

I decided to make them, right then that night, pretty spontaneously so that grocery store trip I just mentioned didn’t take into account things like frosting. It turns out from a little research that cream cheese frosting typically used on red velvet cup/cakes isn’t actually traditional. The “real” red velvet cake frosting used (nearly) all ingredients I already had at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 c. vitamin D whole milk (too runny if you use other)

I say nearly all of the ingredients because the closest I had is 2% milk, so I tried to substitute by adding a 2 tablespoon frozen cube of cream to 2 tablespoons less of milk to increase the fat content.

Directions:

  • Cook flour and milk in double boiler until thick, stirring constantly.

They mean that, stir constantly. Otherwise you’ll come back to a thickened white goop and panic until you remember that the recipe you just stepped away from the stove to check said “until thick”.

It is done.

  • Cool.

No problem.

  • Cream sugar, butter and vanilla until as fluffy as possible. Blend cooked mixture with creamed.

A bit of a problem… Even though the recipe warned that it would fall apart at room temperature, I wasn’t getting anything frosting consistency to start with. I added about half a cup of powdered sugar (maybe overkill – suggestions say to add a tablespoon at a time to thicken frosting) and the put it in the freezer to harden.


My plan was to make the frosting first, and then if it turned out, to make the cupcakes. While I was iffy on the frosting texture, it tasted good at least so I kept going.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 fluid ounce red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

I decided to cut the recipe in half this time so it wouldn’t be cupcake overload.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 12 cup muffin pans or line with 20 paper baking cups.

I pulled out my mini cupcake pan because it was on top and considered it… Andrew asked, didn’t I learn my lesson with that already? Yes, that it ends up too much work. but the next cupcake pan I found was only a 6-cup so I decided to make half normal and half mini sized.

  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, red food coloring and vanilla.

I still cut back the amount of dye to a teaspoon, and added a couple drops of blue to deepen the color. Still, it was pretty…

  • Stir in the baking soda and vinegar. Combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt; stir into the batter just until blended.

It seemed like a good idea to do step 2, the combining part, before step 1 because I’m pretty sure step 1 involves a chemical reaction that doesn’t want to wait five minutes while you look for the which cupboard you put the cocoa powder in this time.

I’m totally cheating in this picture. Not only did I not bother to use a real mixing bowl, that’s Ghirardelli in the background while I actually used up the end of my old Hershey’s powder.

  • Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.

“Evenly” gets a little difficult when dealing with different sized pans. In the end I think I came out with three or four sizes of cupcakes, depending on the amount of muffin-top.

Those still look on the brown side, although the red would probably show more if they were next to some actual chocolate cupcakes for comparison. However a little Photoshop work will give that real red look people expect:

Personally I’d rather have purple velvet cupcakes:

Now back to the frosting… cold it was too stiff to spread and warm it was too soft… and either way the frosting didn’t actually stick but slid around the top of the cupcakes as I tried to frost them.

Way too much frosting as always.

I have a new appreciation for people who make pretty, fancy cupcakes. While I still think taste is more important than looks (especially with frosting – if you have to make it into glue to keep its shape then it’s not going to be edible) I was kind of embarrassed to bring these into work, especially when they’d be one coworker’s first impression of my baking. I can make pretty cupcakes, I swear.

Oh, and it only got worse from there. I put them in my new brownie pan because it came with a cover, and in the fridge overnight. However in the morning I forgot about the cover, and put the pan on the passenger’s seat of my car – not a problem except for my backpack precariously propped up in front of them, which of course fell backwards while driving to work… at least twice. The backpack was covered in frosting, but I don’t think the cupcakes could look any worse than they started.

People ate with closed eyes and open minds I think. My frosting kept being complimented especially. I’d really like to find a way to package, preserve and sell frosting along with baked goods – I imagine little canning jars with petty ribbons and labels of artisan frostings. However I’ve found out the canning process itself won’t work on frosting because of the heat involved. It sadly looks like there’s a reason the only options are store bought Betty Crocker variety, full of preservatives, or making it homemade. If someone knows how to pull this off, I’d love to know, and would happily trade a cupcake or twelve for the secret.

Rapturedoodles

Posted in Cookies, Dessert on May 21st, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

I was about ready for today to be over just for the endless rapture jokes to finally end (although the raptor jokes are still funny) but I couldn’t help sneaking one in myself at the last minute. Andrew wanted snickerdoodles, the best cookie ever, which turned into rapturedoodles, the best pre-apocalypse cookie ever.

My “secret” snickerdoodle recipe is allrecipes.com’s Snickerdoodles V. Forget I – IV, V is where it’s at. The secret is how easy these are to make in comparison to how good they are. I am arrogant enough to say that I cannot buy a snickerdoodle, in a box or fresh, that is better than one I can make myself.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

This is a really easy one to cut in half as well, for a quick cookie fix, which I usually do.

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  • In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar.

This is really the hardest part. The next time I make a full rather than half batch I’ll see if the Kitchenaid mixer can take over but usually I just bring the mixing bowl to my desk while distracted by something on my computer.

  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended.

    Here I admit I usually cheat and don’t waste a second bowl sifting – just throw the dry ingredients on top and stir them together a bit before mixing all the way in.

    • In a small shallow bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture.

    I’ve always found that I have too much cinnamon-sugar left over so I cut this in half a second time, since you can always make more if you run out. But leftovers can’t be saved since the dough it’s been touching has raw egg.

    My snickerdoodles also tend to come out more as cookie-balls than the cookies you’d normally buy, which are great as they are, but I wanted to make sure I know how to make a proper looking cookie if necessary so I rolled these a little larger than usual and flattened them a bit on the cookie sheet.

    • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies should be slightly golden at the edges.

    Now the next hardest part was waiting for these to cool before turning them into rapturedoodles.

    As you can see, a hole appeared by the time I was able to start decorating.

    All in all it was an excuse to pick up some red sparkle gel. I tested one with the black I used on the Portal cupcakes and still no sparkle, despite being able to see it in the package. Disappointing.

    Andrew’s vision was more something like a cross, which I didn’t think read as well on a cookie.

    I had imagined a fancy-font ‘R’ for rapture, like this one which I tried to imitate. He said that an “R” would just make him think “Rebecca cookie”, which sounds like something my parents would have made for me as a kid, but I think I’m okay with that.

    This is my cookie.

    Mango Pudding

    Posted in Dessert, Mango on May 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    It’s still happy mango season going by the sales – 4 for $5, 5 for $5! I can tell I’m starting to get a little mangoed out when I find myself having to rush to use them up before they go bad, but I can’t pass up prices like that while they’re available.

    I had a couple false starts with this recipe – I explicitly bought the coconut milk for it one day and totally forgot the gelatin. In the meantime I’m sure I had to cycle through mangoes.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 medium to large ripe mangoes
    • 1 packet gelatine (3 tsp.)
    • 1/2 cup hot water
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1 cup good-quality coconut milk

    Like with the garlic cloves, I wish they gave more of a measurement than number of mangoes since they comes in so many varieties. I don’t know how my yellow mangoes compare to the “normal” mangoes I expect they’re using. They seem like they’re smaller but they could be like the Small Beer vs Large Beer and actually be the same amount of flesh.

    As for the good quality coconut milk, I’ve yet to have an opportunity to go on my rant about recipes that insist you use “good” ingredients, implying my choice of olive oil or soy sauce is inferior, or that I keep the good quality coconut milk on the back of the shelf for special occasions.

    Directions:

    • Do this:

    • And then do this:

    • In a saucepan, heat up the water until it reaches a rolling bowl. Remove from heat. While stirring the water with a whisk or fork, sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and stir briskly in order not to have any lumps.

    You have to be really quick on the whisking because once those little lumps form they’re reluctant beyond my patience to go away. But I tend to follow a ‘when in doubt, go to the next step’ philosophy.

    • Add the sugar to the hot water/gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve.
    • Add this mixture to the mango in the food processor/blender. Also add the coconut milk. Blitz briefly until ingredients are combined.

    Then the waiting… it’s the same whether you’re making pudding out of a box or out of a… mango. Into bowls and into the fridge for 2+ hours.

    The weird thing is while being aware that I was eating a pretty exotic dessert, I was also kind of bored. It tasted pretty much like the mango part of the mango tapioca pudding I made recently enough, and I actually wondered if I should just add some tapioca to round it out. A few days later though, giving my taste buds a chance to calm down from the mango overload I’ve been experiencing, definitely good stuff.

    The cupcakes are not a lie

    Posted in Cupcakes, Dessert on May 6th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    I had planned to make a Portal cake in honor of the release of Portal 2 but Valve threw off my timing by releasing the game a day early. The idea morphed into cupcakes, and ultimately the timing worked out better for me to wait a couple weeks so that I could make for Andrew to take to his D&D game because Portal cupcakes deserved to be appreciated by people who get the reference.

    This means that for about two weeks there was a box of cake mix in my kitchen. This felt very wrong to me now that I know how to bake from scratch. I came close to going all out and using a homemade German chocolate cake recipe, but even the official recipe mentions a cake mix.

    Justified, but still hid in the cupboard.

    The recipe(s) that seem to be generally accepted as the true Portal cake are essentially a cake mix with an entire second cake’s worth of ingredients added, and have warnings about being extremely rich. I found a more reasonable version that seemed to be focusing more on authenticity in appearance without being overly complicated.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 (18.25 oz) package German chocolate cake mix
    • 1 package (3.4oz) Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chocolate chips

    I’m not actually bothered by the instant pudding the way I am with by the cake mix – I even use it as an ingredient in an amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe – but I grew up eating instant pudding and haven’t actually come to terms with the idea that pudding is supposed to be cooked at some point.

    Directions:

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease/pam two 9 inch cake pans.

    Being cupcakes instead of cake, I lined my cupcake pans with the brown, unbleached, environmentally friendly liners I was lucky enough to find at Whole Foods. I explicitly wanted brown liners to mimic the look of the cake, while the regular grocery stores only offer a variety of pastel, patterns, and metallic.

    In this case I really just wanted the color and environmentally friendly was a bonus.

    • Combine the cake mix, pudding, sour cream, water, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat it with an egg beater for about two minutes. Don’t beat the cake too hard or too long, just enough so the batter is mixed.

    That’s still a crazy looking amount of stuff in that bowl.

    • For extra chocolately goodness, mix some chocolate chips into the batter. This will give the cake a weird chocolate chip cookie feel to it.

    I’m not a big chocolate chip person myself, and here I am forcing my anti-chip views on my recipients, but I imagined something more along the lines of flaked chocolate pieces like you find in the really good (in my opinion) kinds of ice cream. I put half a cup of chips to start in my mini food processor and…

    The chips seemed to disintegrate from the outside in, so I ended up with chocolate powder covered, smaller chocolate chips. So then I tried a quarter cup in my smoothie maker which came out a little closer but not quite.

    This looks about the same as what’s left at the bottom when I make a milkshake in this thing.

    I just dumped the whole 3/4 cup from the experiments into the bowl and left it at that.

    Last time I made cupcakes I said there has to be a secret to getting the batter into the cups without making a mess. This time I decided to look that issue up and there are – mostly involving excuses to buy more fancy kitchen utensils, but also one ingenious idea I wish I had realized before, using a Ziploc bag as a pseudo-pastry bag.

    Notice the bottom left tip I kept clear to cut the spout.

    Now getting a bowl of cupcake batter into a gallon sized Ziploc bag isn’t without its own mess, but once it was done it worked like a charm. The only downsides are,

    1. Not being able to squeeze every last bit of batter out.
    2. Keeping your inner child from wanting to make poop jokes.

    These went into the oven for about 30 minutes.


    This recipe also uses a can of premade coconut pecan frosting which must be the traditional frosting for German chocolate cake, but the ingredients in canned frosting scare me. So this I made homemade following How to Make an Awesome Coconut-Pecan Frosting for German Chocolate Cake.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup evaporated milk
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 3 egg yolks, beaten
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
    • 1 cup chopped pecans

    I noticed too late that my little bag was only half a cup but those little bags are expensive and I wasn’t going to bother with a second. I also bought pieces because pieces were cheaper than chopped, and then smashed the bag before opening with my “chicken pounder”.

    Smashed pecans are as good as chopped for the cost difference.

    Directions:

    • Put the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, and butter in a medium-sized saucepan.
    • Turn heat on to medium.
    • Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes. Keep stirring and don’t walk away from the stove while you are waiting for it to thicken.

    Yes, don’t walk away from the stove to check the recipe on your computer, grab the camera to take pictures, get a chair to sit on, or reply to messages. These are all things I didn’t walk away from the stove to do of course.

    The problem is it doesn’t say how thick is “thick” and that’s probably something that needs to be known from experience and can’t be taught from a web site. When it wanted to start bubbling up every time I looked away for a second I decided that this step was done.

    • Remove the saucepan from the heat.
    • Stir in vanilla extract, coconut, and pecans.
    • Let the frosting cool to spreading consistency, beating every now and then while it cools down. The frosting will continue to thicken as it cools.

    Because the frosting in the picture is darker than you get out of either this recipe or a can, the cake recipe author added chocolate syrup to darken it. I used a couple tablespoons unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder which didn’t just “fix” the color but made it taste amazingly good.

    In retrospect, for making cupcake frosting I would have ran the chunky bits (pecans and coconut) through the food processor first to make smaller chunks. It was appropriate for a cake but little difficult to work with on small areas.


    Now for the decorating, the part that would make or break my theme. I was already taking some artistic liberties by making cupcakes to begin with, and did again with the icing. The cherries are supposed to be circled by white but I found some sparkly black icing that I felt like I would be able to find more use for in the future. In retrospect again, especially since the sparkliness doesn’t even show, I should have gone for the white to be authentic, or better yet, the clear sparkly icing.

    Directions:

    • Frost the cooled cupcakes.
    • Cut maraschino cherries in half and dry off excess liquid on a paper tower.
    • Don’t eat the maraschino cherries before they make it on to the cupcakes.
    • Oops, that one got messed up. You can eat it.
    • Place three cherry halves in an equilateral triangle shape around the top of each.
    • Circle the cherries with icing.
    • Place a candle in the center of the cupcake.
    • Don’t forget garnishes, such as:
      fish shaped crackers
      fish shaped candies
      fish shaped dirt
      fish shaped solid waste
      fish shaped ethyl benzene
      pull and peel licorice
      fish shaped volatile organic compounds
      sediment shaped sediment

    I really wanted that sediment shaped sediment to be authentic, but I did pull off the fish shaped candies as a bonus. (“Fish & chip” chocolates from Chocolatti.)

    • Light and pose dramatically.


    The final question – how did they taste?

    I hate sending my food out into the world without knowing first, so I decided that the ugliest “reject” cupcake would get sacrificed and cut in half so Andrew and I could taste-test. They all looked pretty good so I picked the one that my arm kept bumping while I was frosting the batch.

    The only thing keeping me from saying I’d make these again is feeling like I’m cheating with that box mix. And of course the painstaking decorative work, so if there’s a “next time” they’ll just be German chocolate cupcakes unless I get invited to a Portal-themed party. But if I do get invited to a Portal-themed party, I have to say I’m pretty proud of my creation.

    Leftover Easter Candy Cookies

    Posted in Cookies, Dessert on April 29th, 2011 by admin – 3 Comments

    Now that Easter’s over I see that there are a billion and one articles and recipes with uses leftover Easter candy. But I found this recipe before Easter and had to try it, so much that I went out and bought candy explicitly intended to be leftover Easter candy.

    I know the point is to use up what you already have, or buy it on clearance the next day, but I didn’t want to risk there being nothing left except rows of Peeps and pastel candy corn. I picked out some candy that seemed like it would make the least scary cookies (no Peeps) – Whoppers robin eggs, Starburst sour jelly beans, and the ultimate, Dove peanut butter eggs.

    I won’t lie—I was aware that these cookies had the potential to be either awful or awesome.

    I agree.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup butter
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 3 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • Anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 cups leftover Easter candy

    I realized quickly that this would make a lot of (potentially frightening) cookies so I cut the recipe in half easily.

    Directions:

    • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
    • Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

    So this didn’t say anything about softening the butter first, and I remembered I can do this the easy way now.

    However I’d recommend softening the butter a bit first. I actually made the mixer jump a couple times trying to mix a solid block of butter into the sugar. But no physical labor on my end!

    • Stir in your milk until incorporated.

    My milk wasn’t really incorporating so I moved on to the next step and hoped for the best.

    • Stir the flour mixture in bit by bit, swiping down the sides of the bowl, until fully incorporated.

    Incorporated.

    • Fold in your Easter candy.

    I divided my dough into two bowls because was I imagining two different kinds of cookies coming out of this. The first I mixed in the jellybeans and malted eggs.

    The second I mixed in chopped up peanut butter eggs.

    • Let the dough chill for at least one hour.

    I missed this step at the start, which explained why my dough was so gooey when I tried to scoop my first cookie. So I jumped in the shower while waiting and put on my Cooking Naked apron to finish. You can add this to the list of things I promise not to do when I’m baking professionally – I won’t be naked in the kitchen, apron or not – however if you’re on my personal Christmas list you might want to specify no naked cookies.

    • Heat the oven to 400°F.
    • Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet.

    I have this cheap cookie scoop that was a silly impulse buy years ago.

    While scooping I noticed a small hole forming in the plastic bit. Great, I thought, an excuse to buy a fancy new one. The hole never got bigger so now I’m thinking it was designed
    that way all along, but still… excuse to buy fancy new one?

    • Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly.

    I really expected the peanut butter egg ones to be the ultimate cookie but they were kind of disappointing. I don’t think the base cookie batter was that interesting, but the weird candy ones made up for it and were surprisingly better than expected.

    I took them to work, put a label on the container that said “scary cookies” and still every single one was eaten and complimented. I’ve realized that the free food aspect adds a 20% or so bonus to the perception of tastiness so free samples are definitely the way to go when it comes to promoting my bakery.

    I wouldn’t rule out the idea of making these again, but only if I had actual leftover candy to use up. I would also invest in the parchment paper because I still have this mess to figure out how to clean:

    That’s my good cookie sheet too…

    Now the next problem is what to do with all of this leftover Easter candy cookie candy?

    Lessons in Tapioca

    Posted in Dessert, Fruit, Mango, Taro on April 8th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with tapioca this week. Mangos too of course, oh yes the mangos are coming, but first it was taro.

    Looking for a way to use up that leftover coconut milk, I found Taro coconut milk with tapioca off of a blog with a really great name. Following her process all too well, I also ended up with a gelatinous blob of my first (and only) try, although looking back she said “solid block” so I’m thinking perhaps ‘gelatinous blob’ is just the natural state of cooked tapioca.

    Ingredients:

    • 2/3 cup mini tapioca pearls
    • 600g (about one med) taro
    • 2 cans coconut milk
    • 1/2 cup sugar

    I cut this way way back to use up half a can of coconut milk, the end of a box of instant tapioca, and while I have some baby taro I originally planned to use, I went ahead and finished off the bag of frozen taro pieces I had in the freezer too.

    Gelatinous tapioca blob and the coconut milk-taro didn’t want to mix so well but I could tell this would be a good one if done correctly. Apparently I wasn’t expecting much from the start because I didn’t bother to take pictures.

    It did however set me off on a mission to find real tapioca pearls, whatever they might be. Hers were green. I ended up with a multicolor bag, because given the choice between plain old white and colorful I had to go with the colors. Actually given the choice between a package that gave some kind of cooking directions and one that didn’t I’d go with the former but it wasn’t an option.

    Just… tapioca.

    I had to use the cooking directions from the recipe instead, this time Mango Coconut Tapioca Pudding.

    Ingredients:

    Tapioca

    • 1/2 cup small tapioca pearls
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar

    DIrections:

    • Soak the tapioca pearls in about 1 cup of water for about two hours.

    • Then bring another cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the sugar to the water and stir until completely dissolved. Then drain the tapioca pearls thoroughly and add to the boiling water. Immediately turn the heat down to low.

    It continues with stirring and covering for 20 minutes to keep cooking but my tapioca was pretty much cooked at the time it went into the pot. Into the fridge to cool, as instructed.

    Mango puree

    • 8 ounces mango flesh
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • Put all the ingredients for the mango purée into a blender and pulse until they are completely blended. Refrigerate the mango purée.

    The immersion blender has become one of those how-did-I-live-without-this items. This went into the freezer to hurry things along.

    • Add the mango purée to the tapioca pearls when chilled and mix thoroughly to make the pudding.

    See, out of the fridge, gelatinous blob, and I followed the instructions.

    It wasn’t breaking up so well here either so the only solution I could see was to get a bigger bowl where I could mix more vigorously.

    Now that’s starting to look like something.

    Garnish

    • 1/2 cup blueberries
    • 6 raspberries
    • 1 kiwi
    • 8 ounces fresh mango flesh

    Of course I wasn’t going to go out and buy all these fruits and berries just for my little experiment, but I did happen to have strawberries. I even rolled my eyes at myself for cubing my last mango for a pretty picture.

    But a pretty picture it did make.

    Now is probably a strange time to admit that my only experience with tapioca before this has been in bubble tea, so I don’t even know what this is supposed to taste like. I offered Andrew a taste first and he didn’t like it. I found that eating it with the garnish, especially the cubed mango, made it pretty good, but not so much on its own.

    My biggest complaint it that it’s too sweet. If I was to make it again I’d leave the sugar out of the mango puree – the sugar in the tapioca and the natural sugar in the fruit should be enough. Then I would have plenty of fresh fruit for a topping, enough to last the whole bowl, not as a “garnish”. Finally, I would remember that there are raspberries in the freezer which could have made for an even prettier picture.

    Amaretto Brownies and Rainbow Chips

    Posted in Brownies on April 3rd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    So I’ve made some mention of planning to start a baking business in the future. Michael has been insistent that I do not want that linked to my blog in any way at risk of scaring off my customers. My opinion is that if someone finds my blog through my bakery, then they already know how awesome my baking is.

    Now I do play up my cooking mishaps because it makes for better stories. However when I’m working professionally, in a professional kitchen, I promise I won’t do thinks like grease the pans with olive oil because it’s what we have laying around. I promise I won’t leave food sitting in the car for hours and feed it to anyone but myself – I wouldn’t even risk that on my family. And if something like this cookie failure happens… well I’ll have a good blog post, but no one will be eating it.

    Really I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this picture for something for years.

    I’m even wondering how professional chefs keep their kitchens from being contaminated with cat hair. (My cats’ hair has even made it to other people’s offices.) I’m guessing that a separate set of uncontaminated clothes must be the answer.

    A bit of blatant self-promotion, my Neiko’s Bakery Facebook page. If I collect 25 ‘likes’ I win a prize.


    I had planned to lay off the baking for a while because i’m running out of people to help deal with leftovers without killing all of our diets. Andrew is such an enabler though – when I ran across an amaretto brownie recipe, he said he would have no issue with them appearing in our kitchen.

    Within the hour a pan of brownies appeared in our kitchen.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 3 eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
    • 1/4 cup Amaretto
    • 1 cup almonds, chopped

    I have a ‘no walnut’ policy in my baking. I have nothing against walnuts on their own, although they’re not my favorite nut, but they seem to just arbitrarily ruin the texture of a nice squishy treat – brownies, cookies, banana bread, etc. Almonds in amaretto brownies however made perfect sense so I allowed them.

    This was a totally straight forward recipe – mix, pour, bake. (360 degrees, 25 minutes.) I was trying to guess from my current baking science knowledge what kind of brownies these would be. Fudgey? Cakey? The answer was… dry. I didn’t make the frosting that goes with them because as a spontaneous act of baking I didn’t have buttermilk, but these would have needed frosting to be passable.

    It turns out though that it may have been my fault. I also didn’t have vegetable oil (and I do know better than to try to use olive oil in its place here) but using oil didn’t feel right to begin with. Instant mixes use vegetable oil but every homemade brownie recipe I have uses butter (lots of butter).

    I made an estimated guess and substituted 1/2 cup of melted butter. I also learned, another example Michael gave for keeping the blog secret, that butter explodes in the microwave.

    How did I not know this before? I’ve never melted more than a tablespoon or so in the microwave in the past, but I didn’t want to dirty a pan when I wasn’t also melting chocolate.

    I would have guessed not enough butter was the problem, but recently I was listening to an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they were trying to make better-than-a-box brownies. I wasn’t able to pay attention at the time so I’m going to go back to the DVR to take notes, but they were explaining the difference between saturated fats (butter) and unsaturated fats (oil) and how the proportions of each affect the texture of brownies.

    So this recipe deserves a second try, without me getting cocky and trying to change things.


    While the brownies themselves didn’t work out, my little experiment that went along with them did.

    I’ve had the idea of “rainbow brownies” stuck in my head and have been trying to figure out a way to pull it off. I imagined melting, originally something like rainbow sprinkles, on top of the brownies and carefully swirling the colors together.

    I actually had the ends of a bottle of rainbow sprinkles in the cupboard that I played with just to see if and how they would melt. While they did eventually melt, the oil that ran off and the brown goo I eventually ended up with, along with actually reading the ingredients label, has ruined my childhood favorite ice cream topping for me.

    After some research I bought these “Premium Rainbow Baking Chips” off of Amazon.com, ultimately spending more on shipping than the chips themselves cost, but when I get an idea stuck in my head…

    I just “borrowed” a corner of the brownies, hot out of the oven, to test my chips on.

    After a few minutes to start melting I carefully ran a butter knife through them to swirl.

    Success!