Archives for posts with tag: baking

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I always look forward to getting a new issue of Bust Magazine in the mail. This mag had a recipe that appealed to me right away: Salty Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies. I love the combination of salt and sweet. This recipe reminded me of a Cowboy Cookie, which I am a big fan of. It calls for malted milk powder, which tends not be as readily available in Canada as in the US. I toyed with possible substitutions, and decided that I’d use espresso (which may have altered the consistency some, but would add a nice flavour).

Here is the recipe that Bust printed (from Chocolate Chip Cookies: Dozens of Recipes for Reinterpreted Favorites):

 

Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. malted milk powder (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp. espresso)

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 3/4 cups pretzels

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk together the flour, espresso, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a food processor, grind1 3/4 cups of the pretzels to a fine powder. Combine with flour mixture. Either by hand or in a food processor, chop the remaining 2 cups of pretzels into 1/2″ pieces.

With mixer, cream butter and both sugars on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg and mix until completely combined. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.  Add chocolate chips and pretzel pieces. Mix on low speed until evenly distributed. Use a tablespoon to drop well-rounded ball of dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2″ apart. 

Bake for 9 – 11 minutes. When cool transfer to wire racks. 

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This morning I realized how much I miss posting about my adventures in baking. I think the macarons derailed me – I still haven’t mastered them – and briefly had to give up trying. This summer, I had the good fortune to be able to make my fabulous gal pal Adrienne and her lovely husband a wedding cake. Adrienne is a super fun and crafty gal. She saw an image of a Rice Krispie cake on a DIY wedding blog and sent it my way. I knew that I had to make it happen for her. I looked at various recipes for Rice Krispie squares – the key here was to be able to make sure that the ‘cake’ would still have a gooey marshmallow consistency on the wedding day, so I had to make the cake the night before. I armed myself with spring form pans and ample amounts of the key ingredients: Rice Krispies, butter, and marshmallows. I threw in a little sea salt too, inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

 

Rice Krispie Cake

Per tier:

1/2 pound (or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan

2 10-ounce bags marshmallows

3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

12 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat.

As soon as the butter is melted, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared spring form pan. Use a spatula to press the mixture into the pan.

Let cool, and remove from spring form pan.

Repeat for each tier.

Next up, stack those tiers and try and anchor them together. I used chopsticks – this was likely not the most finished looking option. You can use ribbon to decorate – it will adhere to the marshmallows and stay in place.  Have fun!!

Adrienne and Brian had a beautiful wedding, full of DIY touches. It was the perfect day. I was so happy to be part of the day. Adrienne asked baker extraordinaire Carol to make cupcakes, and WOW! The cupcakes are pictured above – they were super cute! Carol made loads of cupcakes that looked like mini buckets of popcorn. Amazing!! I was honoured to share a dessert table with her.

Sending Ace + Brian loads of love and good wishes.

 

So my current obsession is macarons. I think it’s safe to say that over the last couple of years macarons have replaced cupcakes as the sweet du jour. My gal pal Dag gave me Hisako Ogita’s I Heart Macarons a couple of years back. At the time, I didn’t experiment, in part because I am allergic to almonds, and figured that I would never get to taste the fruits of my labour. A few weeks ago, my pal Jaime asked if I had ever made macarons. I knew then that they were not an easy baked good to master, but I decided to try my hand at it. And that’s when the obsession began. My first attempt was a failure. Big time. The texture was wrong. I wasn’t really sure how to fold the almond flour into the meringue. The dough was really thick and wasn’t easy to pipe. I was dissatisfied. I watched some youtube videos of people making macarons, and tried the recipe again. I didn’t have much success, and decided to abandon the recipe and dig out the I Heart Macarons cookbook. I read it cover to cover. Determined not to let the macarons beat me, I spent the next couple of days reading macaron blogs – and there are many. My favourite one thus far is Brave Tart  – I read the ten commandments and followed the advice. My next attempt was reasonably good, though I still didn’t attain the perfect consistency – I felt like the inner bit of the shell was still a bit too sticky. I didn’t bother with a handmade filling; I want the macarons to be perfect first. Nutella was a good substitute. I’ll be back at it this week. Once perfect, I’ll share any tips I have.

 

I haven’t had a chance to bake for the last couple of weeks (other than a botched attempt at making my own granola). I am a big fan of oatmeal cookies. I came across this recipe and tried it immediately. These cookies are quick and easy to make, and the results are delish!

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies
(recipe adapted from Alicia Silverstone)
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups brown sugar
2 t cream of tartar
2 t baking soda
1 t fine sea salt
2/3 c maple syrup
1 cup canola oil
2 t vanilla extract
2 t cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl mix together the oats through to the salt. Stir in the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and spices. And then combine the cranberries/raisins, pepitas and coconut. Use your hands to shape dough into tablespoon sized balls. Place balls onto a prepared cookie sheet, spaced 2″ apart and slightly flatten the balls with your hands. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops are slightly golden. Let cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 24 cookies.

Over the weekend, my pal Eva got married to her beau, Warren. Their wedding was absolutely gorgeous and their adoration of each other clear for all to see. It was, in a word, lovely. I was lucky that E&W entrusted me with the honour of making chocolate ginger cookies as their wedding giveaways. I adore these cookies and have been making them for quite a few years. They can be a little labour intensive, but the results are worth it. The plan was to be able to give three cookies to each guest, packaged in a super cute turquoise coloured takeout box. I did the math and realized that this would mean about 500 cookies – I always bake extra to be safe and to allow for quality control (read: taste testing). I assembled the ingredients, and got my bake on. Two things I have realized when baking large quantities of this recipe: peel and freeze your ginger facilitating easy grating and chop your chocolate in advance. I baked about half of the cookies and then prepped ingredients for a day of baking with Eva. She wanted to help, which was fantastic. As is obvious, I love baking. I also love when other people want to bake, and when people appreciate baked treats. Eva and I spent a morning happily baking, and managed to get the rest of the cookies baked. These cookies do freeze well, and can be defrosted just before packaging. I missed out on the packaging party, but I did love the results. I hope the wedding guests enjoyed their treats.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart:

  • 7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup  molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (for rolling cookies in)

Directions

  1.  Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more (overnight works well).
  4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 – inch balls;  roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

A few months ago, two of my fave people – Janet & Jaime – were on a shopping trip in Buffalo and they came across the Bakerella Cake Pops book. They felt that I had to have this book, and volunteered to be taste testers once I had tried out a recipe. I started out with cake balls, which are infinitely easier than cake pops. I say this only because of the cake pop sticks. This weekend, I was having some serious adventures getting the cake ball to stay on the stick – perhaps because the cake ball was too drenched in chocolate and the stick couldn’t support the weight. Ultimately, It worked out. I decided that I wanted to bring cake pops to Talia’s third birthday party. Talia and her sister Ava are two of my fave kids. Their mom is pretty great too!

I decided on everyone’s favourite flavour: chocolate! So, what you have to know is that make cake balls is super simple. Rather than baking cake from scratch, I took the easy way out and used a cake mix. Mind you, Bakerella says this is okay. Cake mix turns out super moist, which is great for cake pops. So, easy peasy instructions:

Break out your cake mix and follow instructions to bake a cake.

Let the cake cool for at least a few hours, or overnight.

Cut the cake into pieces and crumble it into little crumbs (over a bowl). If you’ve got bigger cake chunks, breal them up with a fork.

Add ready made (or homemade) frosting to your crumbled cake, and mix together.

Place wax paper on two cookie sheets. Roll little balls -not quite as a big as a golf ball of cake and place on cookie sheet. Do this until you have used up all of the batter.

Refrigerate! (This is key). Leave the cake balls in the fridge for a few hours until completely cool. It is much easier to dip them and/or insert the lollipop stick.

You’ll need some chocolate moulding wafers (available in tons of colours at the Bulk Barn) and some coloured sprinkles or decorative sugars. Put your moulding wafers into a bowl and microwave for approximately 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and mix the wafers. Put the wafers back into the microwave for another 30 seconds. Remove and mix briskly. You want a smooth and thin consistency. If you need to microwave for a few more seconds, do so.

If you are dipping the cake balls without sticks, simply put the cake ball on a spook and immerse in chocolate. Tap the spoon on the side of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate. Lightly drop the coated cake ball back on to the baking sheet and add sprinkles.

If you are going to make cake pops – you want to insert the lollipop stick into the cake ball, before you dip the pop into chocolate. You may want to use the spoon to help fully cover the cake with chocolate.  You can then place the cake pop standing up (cake down) on the wax paper, and add sprinkles. Or, if you’ve got styrofoam or a block of florist foam, you can wrap with pretty paper, and display cake pops upright.

Once you’ve mastered this – time to try some other exciting cake pop projects.

Red velvet cupcakes are the baker’s holy grail, no? I’ve tried to make them once before, and I’d say they were fairly substandard. Expectations run high with red velvet. People are very particular about the cake, and even more so about the cream cheese icing. I try to eat red velvet cupcakes or cake whenever I see them – in part because of my big sweet tooth, and in part out of curiosity. This is such an elusive flavour to perfect. When I visited Brooklyn, I visited Cake Man Raven upon my friend Ivy’s recommendation. Ivy is very serious about her Red Velvet, so I knew I had to follow up on her suggestion – it was a tasty piece of cake (these days, Ivy is crushing on the Cheescake Factory’s version of Red Velvet).  Yesterday, I was watching the Food Network and Ina was whipping up a batch of the delectable creations. It seemed that Red Velvet was demanding my attention – especially since I am planning to visit Ivy on Monday. So, I decided to try a recipe I found online. Let’s see how it turns out – I’ve got a batch in the oven now.

The results were good. The taste testers (read: Jodel’s family & my family) liked the cupcakes. This was an interesting recipe as it used sour cream in place of the traditional buttermilk and vinegar. I wasn’t happy with the icing – it was lacking. The consistency wasn’t what I was hoping for. I decided to head back to Google, and lo and behold, the Cake Man Raven recipe is online. I decided to try it. The icing is a much better consistency, and the cake is looking good. Tomorrow I test it out. Fingers crossed!