Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Is This Even Possible?!?!?

PB&C is never bad, right? Wrong. I found this recipe online from a link on yumsugar that led me to here. From the looks of it, these cookies seem very tasty and combine the two most perfect things on earth, foodwise. Unfortunately, this combination of chocolate and peanut butter proved disastrous. The cookies were as easy to make as cookies are, the pre-bake dough taste test received raves from Glenn, but as soon as they came out of the oven they were defeated. They did not taste good warm. I gave them a chance to cool and they did not taste good cooled either. I am chalking this one up to an unfortunate baking event and so life goes on. Just for future reference on what not to bake in case you ever come across this, here is the recipe.

By the way, this recipe won the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest back in the day, 1951. I guess in 1951 they had crappy tastebuds, because this recipe would come in dead last on my scorecard.

Chocolate Nutbutter Cookies

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup chunky or creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups Pillsbury all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.

Beat sugar, shortening, and peanut butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Stir together flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually mix in the egg mixture and the milk alternating between the two.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with a fork in a criss cross pattern.

Bake for 6-10 minutes (in my oven, 6 minutes was probably a little more done than I like).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Check Out My Double D's.... Cookies That Is

The other interesting recipe we found in the Bon Appetit Magazine was called Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies (Double D, get it?) and it was captioned with "these dense chewy cookies will satisfy even the most intense chocolate craving." They weren't lying. These cookies are very intense and perk you up like a cup of coffee. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to throw in some espresso and really give these cookies a boost. Coffee always brings out the chocolate flavor a little better even if you can't taste the Joe.

Double D Chocolate Cookies

nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided (I used Ghirardelli)
3 large egg whites at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two large baking sheets with nonstick spray.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring a couple times.

Beat egg whites to soft peaks using an electric mixer.

Beat in 1 cup powdered sugar gradually. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow cream.

Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.

Beat dry ingredients into meringue on low speed.

Stir in lukewarm chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. The batter should become stiff. (Mine didn't so I refrigerated it for about 20 minutes.

Scoop out tablespoon sized balls of dough and place on cookie sheet. A cookie scoop works best for this. Space two inches apart on baking sheet.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until tops of cookies are puffy and cracked.

Soda Bread = Better Than Soda Muffins

A while back I made soda bread and Glenn and I really liked it. Glenn always brings me home the Bon Appetit Magazine from work and as he was going through it, he spotted a recipe that intrigued him. This was Giant Soda Muffins. Soda Bread is super easy to make and I figured I could just whip those together while the ice cream was being mixed and the brownies from hell were baking because I only need a bowl and a wooden spoon.

Giant Soda Muffins

nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter at room temperature
1 cup raisins
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a jumbo muffin tin (1 cup capacity) with nonstick spray.

Whisk next six ingredients in a large bowl.

Add butter. Using fingertips, blend butter into mixture until it is incorporated and it starts to forms crumbs.

Whisk buttermilk and egg together. Add to dry ingredients and stir to blend.

Spoon batter into muffin cups.

Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 23 minutes.

Remove muffins from pan and cool slightly on rack before serving.

Hell's Brownies

Before I talk about the brownies, I need to talk about the process of making them. I was bored while Glenn was at the game so I decided to finally try the Jalapeño Brownies that I have been pondering lately. I ran to Safeway and picked up some Jalapeños and a Habañero to substitute for the Thai Chilis. Once I got home, I preheated the oven and started prepping. I washed the peppers and cut them into halves and then removed all the seeds... BARE HANDED! Nobody told me you should wear gloves or coat your hands in oil before you mess with peppers. I chopped away and ended up with some beautifully minced peppers. As I finished up with the recipe, my hands felt extra warm, an odd sensation to say the least. I put the brownies in the oven and forgot about everything until I tasted a bit of the ice cream that was being made in my new KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment, mind you, I used my finger. The first sensation I experienced was bliss, my ice cream was turning out incredibly, but then came the second feeling. Searing pain blazed across my tastebuds rendering me helpless and desperate for milk. After I guzzled my milk, I was awakened to the awful agony surging from my fingertips and radiating from my palms. I figured it would go away, but it didn't. After three hours I was worried, so I went online and found countless home remedies, none of which worked. I gave up trying and sucked it up. The next day, 24 hours later, my hands still hurt. They are still sensitive to extreme temperatures right now, 5 days later, but I can certainly handle that. Moral of the story? Glove your hands if you wanna mess with peppers.

All of that being said, I made the Jalapeño Brownies which were well received by my taste testers Glenn and Becky. I won't even go near them thanks to that awful experience. I also don't like peppers at all, so there's another reason I won't try them. The main problem with the recipe though is that Jalapeños are oily peppers and they made the brownies very difficult to cook, and even after 15 extra minutes of baking time, they were still severely undercooked. I would either use less next time, chop them coarser, or leave em in the oven even longer. If you are a fan of spicy and chocolate, I suggest you try this unexpected combination.

Hell's Brownies

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup chocolate chips
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
5 large jalapeños, minced
6-8 thai chilis, minced (I used one Habañero in place of these)
3/4 cup walnuts (I didn't put these in, I hate nuts in brownies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish.

Melt butter and chocolate chips together then set aside.

Whisk or beat eggs with salt in a large bowl until foamy

Add sugar and vanilla and beat until well blended. Add chocolate butter mixture and stir just until combined. Add flour and cocoa and mix until almost blended.

Fold in the jalapeños, Thai chilis and nuts.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until top forms a cracked cruse and the inside looks slightly moist, 30 to 35 minutes. (I did this for 50 minutes and it still wasn't done)

Cool and cut into squares.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More Celebration of Peanut Butter Lover's Month

Hooray for more peanut butter! I am going to make myself sick eating all this peanut butter, but who cares. I don't like biscotti and that was the second recipe in my book, so I skipped to the third recipe which was peanut butter cookies. Sounds great to me. Only problem is I start gathering my ingredients and realize that I have a half a stick of butter left. Bummer, that means less cookies. Oh well, I just half the recipe and then throw in some chocolate chips for good measure, and these little beauties are what comes out. They aren't bad or anything, I am just not that impressed. A peanut butter cookie is something to savor, to truly experience, and I am just really picky about them. I want them to be soft and chewy and a tad bit too sweet. I just didn't get that from these, but they were still good. Glenn suggested that next time they be flattened more because one bite is a little too much rich sticky peanut butteryness to handle in your mouth. I am still working on developing a better pb cookie recipe, but this will suffice until it is complete.

By the way, trying to figure out what half of an egg looks like is an interesting task.

PB Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar (I used dark brown because it's yummier)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup peanut butter (crunchy is best)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift the flour and baking soda together. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugars until soft and creamy. Combine the egg, flour mixture, peanut butter, and salt. Add the butter and sugar mixture and mix until smooth.

Wrap the dough in foil or parchment and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. (I totally skipped this step)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Shape the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden. (I thought peanut butter was already golden)

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Don't Discriminate Against the Shortbread

I have never liked shortbread, it's just so plain to me and it is severely lacking in the chocolate and/or peanut butter department. But when I asked Glenn what I should make yesterday, he suggested just starting at the beginning of my 500 Cookies book and knocking out each recipe, one by one. That first recipe just happened to be shortbread. Incredibly easy and incredibly tasty. Needless to say, I actually like shortbread now... I guess as long as I make it myself. I don't like that shortbread is traditionally extremely dry and crumbly. I prefer a little chew to my cookies.

Scottish Shortbread (I don't understand the Scottish part)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice flour (I just used regular flour since I didn't have this specialty kind)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
Raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line a 7 x 11 inch pan with aluminum foil. Sift the all purpose flour into a bowl and stir in the rice flour.

Beat the butter and the sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla extract. Work the dough until it starts to clump together, then press it into the pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The shortbread will seem to be done before it is, so ensure that it cooks the full 45 minutes (or if you are like me, you completely ignore this warning and do it your own way).

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the raw sugar, and cut into fingers. Cool for 20 minutes and remove from pan. For an extra tasty treat, dip half of the cookies into melted chocolate.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is It Supposed to Look Like Brownie Batter?

Well, I got a new cookie cookbook which is super exciting, not that I need anymore, but this one just begged for me. It was so cute and small and lime green and has 500 cookies in it. I had to have it. Anyway, I am flipping through it and I see these cookies that look almost identical to my favorite Chewy Chocolate Supreme cookie at the Great American Cookie Company. I of course had to try it. So I make it, and taste it, and it is delicious, but when I go to drop it by tablespoonfuls on the pan, it looks just like brownie batter, smooth and slightly runny. I go on and attempt to neatly place this runny mess on the cookie pan and stick it in the oven. I second guess myself and decide to add more flour to the cookie dough so it looks more like cookie dough. When I look in the oven, I begin to think that maybe it's going to run onto the bottom of the oven, but thankfully I didn't. It turns out that they actually kinda sorta turned out how they were supposed to, but it was too late and I had already made my changes. Whatever, next time I will give the chocolate more time to cool, and maybe that will help the runnyness of it all.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I later added an extra 3/4 cups)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped coarse (i just used 1/2 cup chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate with the butter. Set aside and allow it to cool slightly. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract until thick and pale. Stir the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and then gradually add flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop tablespoons of mixture onto baking sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Slide the parchment paper onto wire racks to cool.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I've Died and Gone to Peanut Butter Heaven

Now that Glenn is feeling all better, and his peanut butter allergy is gone for now, I decided I had to make something all peanut buttery and chocolatey. That I certainly did. I don't have a name for this, but the filling right before it goes in was AMAZING. We're going to have this as a Pre-Dbacks game treat. Nothing like a little sweetness to accompany a baseball game. Maybe I could take the whole thing with me to the game and sit there with my scorebook and a spoon. Probably not the best idea.

D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S... I would bake the crust for maybe 6 1/2 to 7 minutes instead. Also, the pretty chocolate squiggles get really hard and don't like to be broken so maybe doing designs that also guide where it should be cut would be better. All in all though it was fabulous.

Heavenly PB Pie

1 package crushed Nutter Butters with filling removed (I used about 3/4 and ate about 8 leftover cookies) about 2-2 1/2 cups

1/3 cup sugar 1
/2 cup butter, melted

2 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temp
1 1/2 cups non organic peanut butter (i used crunchy)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pint whipping cream

1/2 cup semi sweet chocol
ate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using your hands, combine cookie crumbs, sugar and butter until it holds its shape when you pinch it between your fingers. Press into springform pan (size doesn't matter in this case) and bake in oven for about 8 minutes. Allow to cool.

whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks. Add vanilla and continue beating until stiff. Set aside.

Beat together peanut butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually and slowly fold in the whipped cream. Pour filling into cooled crust.

chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a plastic bag and snip off the corner to create a very small hole. Pipe out some squiggles onto the pie until you have no more left. I also melted some PB chips for good measure.

the pie for at least 4 hours.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nutella... Sweet Nutella

It just isn't possible for me to let Nutella sit in the cupboard. That's just plain wrong, and since I wasn't planning on making more banana bread with it, I decided to make some cupcakes with a Nutella frosting. This could be my best idea ever, but definitely not to Glenn because he hates hazelnut, which is a shame because that keeps me from adding it in any way shape or form to my baking. Since Calogero is coming over, I decided that it would be a good idea and hurry up and make some cupcakes so he can take them away from me. I decided against making a hazelnut flavored cupcake, my original idea, and went with a chocolate cupcake flavored with Kahlua Hazelnut. I would have used Frangelico if we had it, but since we don't drink and Glenn hates the flavor, I picked up a cheaper bottle of Hazelnut flavored Kahlua (Frangelico was 32 dollars!). Long story shortened into one word... AMAZING! I love it when I make something that literally excites me so much that I don't mind cleaning up the mess I made to kill the time until I can eat my goodies. Oh yeah, and since a recipe I found for a Nutella frosting had an incorrect temperature listed, which made me ruin the batch, I continued on and winged it. The frosting on top wasn't as pretty as I would like because I was up so late and just needed to finish up and go to bed. Next time I will make more frosting so I can make the lovely swirly on top.

Update: Calogero came over while I was gone and ate about 6 of the cupcakes. He then said they made him feel tired and lazy. Hmmm....

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cupcakes (Makes about 2 dozen)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter at room temp
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar + 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated, at room temp
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Hazelnut Kahlua or Frangelico (anything hazelnut flavored really)
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place muffin liners in cups of regular size muffin tin.

Cream together butter, cocoa, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolks and beat for 4 minutes.

Combine Kahlua and water in a separate bowl. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating with the flour mixture and the Kahlua, starting and ending with the flour mix.

Beat egg whites on high in a separate bowl until soft peaks form with an electric mixer with clean beaters. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Fold the mixture into the batter with a rubber spatula.

Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full and bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove cupcakes and fully cool on wire racks.

Nutella Frosting (makes about 2 cups, frosts 1 dozen cupcakes)

1/2 cup Nutella
5 tablespoons softened butter
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat together nutella, butter, and milk in a medium bowl with electric mixer until light, about 1 minute. Gradually add powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, beating on high for fluffier frosting and low speed for a denser frosting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bananananananananas... ewwww

It's no secret that I hate bananas. I actually despise them, and just smelling them on our counter two days after we bought them was making me sick. I was not going to wait any longer for these bananas to ferment in their nasty stench anymore. I bought them at Fresh & Easy with the intention of making banana nut bread, which I happen to love, go figure, but with a twist on it... Nutella swirled in there. Oh yeah. As I am making this, I look at it and decide that isn't enough of a twist. What do I do? I throw in some cocoa, some dark brown sugar, some nutmeg, a little extra butter, and a little extra flour. Who knows how this is going to turn out. It could quite possibly be downright disgusting. Then again, it could be positively amazing. We will see. The mushy congealed mess that is banana bread batter is sitting in the oven right now with about 45 minutes to go. I am actually quite excited for this one. I was a little more adventurous this time around. I promised myself that I would only have a little and then give the rest to Glenn's friend Calogero who loves Nutella a little more than I do. Good idea. Update to follow.

Update: Ugggghhhhhh.... So i guess I tinkered a tad too much. I have had to add an additional 10-15 minutes on to the original baking time. Either I messed with it too much and it will never fully bake, or it just takes a really long time. i think this is why I never make bread. I need instant gratification. Even some tasty batter is enough to tide me over. There's no way I am about to eat banana in the raw though, because that is just plain nasty. At least if I ruined this, I only lost 1/2 a jar of Nutella. Any more would be a travesty. Another update to follow soon, but I really need to go to bed.

Morning After Update: Well, after I got some sleep and I wasn't so mad at the banana bread, I decided to have some for breakfast. Not too bad. The swirls of Nutella were nice, but not enough. When I didn't have Glenn influencing my thoughts as he further emphasizes how much he hates hazelnut, I was able to actually enjoy it a little. I will post the recipe a little later, and maybe someone may have a suggestion as to how to improve it. It took too long in the oven to bake all the way through. The inside is nice and moist but the crust is overdone. Next time I will just make some regular banana bread with maybe a little cocoa thrown in. I thought that was a nice touch.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Despite my burnt arm and my half destroyed chocolate cake I decided to go ahead and proceed with the cupcake pops. I'm not impressed, with myself that is. I don't know, maybe I just suck at dipping stuff into stuff, but I just don't like the way that mine turned out. In fact, they pretty much suck in my opinion. They got all drippy, I dropped like 4 of them, and they aren't all cute and cupcake shaped. They look more like deformed toadstools from Mario instead. Whatever, I tried it right? I was planning on making these for Mother's Day to give to my mom and my husband's mom until I remembered that my mom is doing the crazy no-carb thing (it works great for her) and my husband's mom will take a bite to be polite but not eat the rest (sometimes I think she doesn't like sugar). Maybe someday I may forget how frustrated I got doing these and I will make them again. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of my short bus version of Cupcake Pops.

Final Verdict: I am not impressed. Maybe it is because of all of my frustration that went into making these, but I am just not thrilled with my results. If I were to give advice with this though, it would be to overbake the cake. You add two cups of frosting to the cake, so you might as well make the cake drier if you can, otherwise the inside may be a bit too gooey. Not dropping the cake on the floor is also good advice too, this I know from experience. Maybe one day someone will want to make them WITH me, and it won't be so time consuming and frustrating. Then, maybe then, I can give these little cupcake pops of terror a fighting chance.

My First Disaster

Today is a sad day. While my husband is at the baseball game with his mom, I decided to try and make the cupcake pops that I saw on Bakerella's blog. I watched the video from the Martha Stewart Show (hilarious I might add, I didn't know that Martha was the kind of woman to describe a food as "turd-like") and then I got on to baking. I didn't have any boxed cake mixes in the kitchen, I am a purist remember, so I grabbed my trusty Luscious Chocolate Desserts book and made the simple chocolate cake from there. Everything went fine, I had to cook it about 15 minutes longer because I used a different pan, but when it came out to the final removal... disaster. I DROPPED THE PAN! This was my first kitchen disaster, and thankfully only my salivating dog, Rally, was there to witness my humiliation. Awful, I know. I wasn't about to let all of that go to waste though. I carefully salvaged most of the cake and threw it back in the pan. Luckily the cake was going to be destroyed and crumbled into oblivion anyway, otherwise, I would have cried. I actually did cry because I got a wicked burn on the underside of my left arm. It is a wonderful shade of rosy pink right now. Long story short, the disaster is sitting on the kitchen counter cooling right beside my cream cheese frosting that will be mixed with it later. Sad, I know. When I finish I will post pictures of the final product to remind me of my first disaster.

A Cake That Tastes Good With No Frosting?

Back when we were dating, I had expressed a hatred for the "holiday" known as Valentine's Day. My husband was determined to change my mind. He took me to a fancy restaurant and showered me with gifts. It was all very thoughtful, but it was the next year that he truly impressed me. He is a fantastic cook and made me coconut shrimp with a delightful dipping sauce, but the dish that took the cake was the cake he made me. He never bakes, so when he made this truly decadent cake for me, I was really impressed. While I am not a fan of recipes that use boxes of mix because I have become a purist, if boxes can make a cake taste this good, I am all for it. The most amazing part of this cake to me is that it doesn't actually NEED frosting. That is kind of unheard of to me, because I think frosting makes everything better.

V-Day Cake

1 package (18.25 ounce) Devil's Food cake mix
1 package (3.9 ounce) instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups sour cream
1 cup melted butter
5 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract (I use vanilla because I think almond extract is nasty)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (minis are the best for this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 10 inch Bundt pan. You can also use 2 8 or 9 inch square baking pans.

Stir together cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and almond extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl and beat for 4 more minutes on medium speed. Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

A Few of My Favorite Things

I thought that it would be a good idea to share with my fellow bakers a list of my top 10 favorite Kitchen Items. There are certain things that I just can't imagine trying to bake without, i.e. Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (funded by wedding money, Yay!) I hope this list might help you in your baking endeavors as much as it does for me.

10. A Good Apron: Baking is a messy job and sometimes we just need to wear an apron. Jessie Steele's vintage inspired aprons are absolutely beautiful while still being functional. I personally do not own one because my Grandmother made me some adorable hostess aprons for Christmas and my Mother-In-Law gave me a ridiculously cute lingerie looking apron for Christmas as well. I think three is enough... for now.

9. Baking Stone: I actually don't really use my baking stone for it's intended purpose, even though we have a super nice All Clad pizza stone. I find that baking stones are wonderful temperature regulators in your oven. I leave mine on the bottom rack in the oven all the time. We have a gas oven and it had been proving difficult for me to get my goodies to turn out right all the time until I read a tip to keep a baking stone in there. Voila! Perfection every time. Of course though, I have heard that baking stones turn out some really great bread.

8. Rolling Pin: If you work with dough, a rolling pin is a necessity. However, there are so many different variations; tapered, marble, straight, wood, silicone. Find the one that is the most comfortable for you and be on your way to rolling out perfect dough! There is a great review on rolling pins in the Cuisine at Home August 2007 issue, but I cannot seem to find it online. When it all comes down to it though, play with it before you buy it, because this comes down to personal preference.

7. Measuring Spoons: Baking really is an exact science, the main reason "cooks" don't like to bake. It's important to have a versatile measuring spoon set handy at all times. These measuring spoons are so great because they have narrow heads that can fit into those pesky tiny openings on spice jars and the heads are pointed to break up the clumps that like to appear in our baking soda. An added bonus to these is that they have flat bottoms to prevent tipping while resting on the counter top.

6. Glass Measuring Cups: It's always good to have lots of sizes handy, but if you only get one, the two cup is the most versatile. The clear glass makes it easy to see the contents and its sturdy construction makes them very durable. I haven't even broken one of mine yet.

5. Pyrex Bakeware: What good is a baker if she/he doesn't have anything to bake in? Pyrex is the best option in my opinion. Everything browns beautifully in glass dishes and the dishes also double as serving dishes. There are also many Pyrex sets that include lids for all the dishes to prolong shelf life.

4. Double Boiler : A must have if you bake with baker's chocolate as much as I do. These are great for melting anything because it is next to impossible to scald or burn your ingredients. Also great for melting candy melts.

3. Santoku Knife: I am not a big knife user but when I received my wonderful KitchenAid Santoku Knife as a gift, I changed my tune a little bit. This great knife, I suggest 6-7", is great for pretty much anything. It chops baking chocolate effortlessly, a task that can get very messy, and it cuts cinnamon roll dough with ease. If you only ever buy one knife for your kitchen, I suggest this.

2. Spatula and Spoonula: I adore my kitchen tools from Williams Sonoma. Someone over there is a genius when it comes to making things out of silicone. Their spatulas and spoonulas are as sturdy as sturdy can be, they come in lots of fun colors, and they work wonders. If you only buy one, go for the spoonula. It scrapes down the sides of bowls beautifully and when you use the backside it easily doubles as a spatula. It really is the best of both worlds.

1. KitchenAid Stand Mixer (mine is Orange, the most fun color): Every home baker or chef really needs to have one of these. I always thought that it was just something that everyone registered for when they got married just so they could have one. I have noticed that a stand mixer has risen to become a status symbol, with thousands of newlyweds receiving them on their big day, only to never use them. I on the other hand wasn't that keen on getting one, but my husband was, so after our honeymoon we used our leftover gift money to spend about $600 at Williams Sonoma. Ask him how many times he has used it and he might say a handful of times, usually only to make his killer mashed potatoes. Ask me on the other hand and I can't even begin to tell you how many times it has been used. This essential tool can give you an extra set of hands when you have multiple things to prepare at once. It can take the hard work out of mixing extra stiff doughs, and it can stand in for you when you really don't feel like holding an electric mixer for the 10 minutes that the recipe calls for. Hands down, everyone needs one of these, check out your local Craigslist and you can probably find one for under $150.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Almost As Good As King's Hawaiian

I always loved whenever we went to the grocery store to pick up dinner because we were too lazy to make it that night. Why, do you ask? Well, because with that lovely grocery store made dinner there was always a bread companion. That companion was always King's Hawaiian Bread. I thought to myself recently, when we were having a somewhat Hawaiian themed dinner and I was feeling particularly adventurous, I decided to find a recipe, and find I did.

Unfortunately though, I misread the directions the first time and didn't realize how long the dough had to proof. However, this did not stop me from continuing in my adventure. Dinner went on without the bread though, and we had Hawaiian bread late that night.

The bread was really good, but who knows when I will ever make it again. Besides, it just looks like a golden mound of sweet yeasty goodness. In the off chance that I make this anytime soon, I will post a picture.

Hawaiian Sweet Bread

7 to 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mashed potato flakes
2/3 cup sugar
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pineapple juice
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine 3 cups flour with the next five ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, heat milk, water, butter, and juice to 120-130 degrees F. Add to dry ingredients and beat just until moistened. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla and then stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down, and turn into a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds and shape each into a ball. Place in three greased 9 inch round baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Makes 3 loaves.

Best. Cheesecake. Ever.

Cheesecakes are probably my favorite indulgence. Then if you decide to go and add peanut butter and chocolate to the mix. Well, I am sold. I found the easiest, most incredible recipe that combines the best of both worlds into one wickedly good tasting cheesecake. Not only is it wickedly good, it's wickedly easy. I had never made cheesecake until I attempted this, and it came out absolutely perfect. No complicated water baths to scare you off.

Aside from not having any pictures, I don't have a suitable camera for taking pictures of all my yummy treats, so in the meantime, until I can get some pictures, just imagine complete and utter decadence in your mind.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cups (10 oz package) peanut butter chips melted ( Reese's is best)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 9 or 10 inch springform pan.

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cocoa, and butter in a medium bowl using your hands. Press into bottom and onto sides of springform pan.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk, then melted peanut butter chips until very smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake cheesecake in center rack for 55-65 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake is set. (Tip: place a cookie sheet under the cheesecake to catch any drips) Let cheesecake cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator to chill. Serve cold. (Another Tip: to make the cheesecake truly decadent, pour Reese's Shell Topping for ice cream over the top and chill)

Cupcakes Anyone?

I love cupcakes. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't love cupcakes. My husband doesn't like frosting very much, but he still loves when I make cupcakes unfrosted for him (kind of blasphemous in my opinion). I got this great cupcake book as a wedding gift, simply called Cupcakes! by Einor Klivans, and I have found nothing but success from here.

Everyone needs a great classic yellow cupcake recipe, and from there you can spin it all sorts of ways. The tops bake up to my slightly crunchy and perfectly sweet. There is also a great chocolate cupcake in there that I modified to make Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes. Back to the yellow though, it actually tastes great unfrosted! Imagine that!

I can always use more cupcakes, well my waistline could pass on them, but whenever I get to making some, I will definitely put up some pictures of them all dressed up and pretty.

Easy-Mix Yellow Cupcake Batter (makes 12 regular cupcakes, 9 big-top cupcakes, 6 extra-large cupcakes, or 42 mini cupcakes)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Beat, in a large bowl, the egg, yolk, and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until thickened and lightened to a cream color, about 2 minutes.

Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla until blended. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. Mix in the flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth. The batter is ready to bake, or for additions such as nuts, fruits, or other flavorings.

The Cookie With No Name

I made these cookies for a Christmas party last year and they were SO good! They're called Chocolatiest Crinkles which is a name I despise. I actually don't make them the same way so the name ultimately becomes irrelevant, but my husband and I cannot seem to come up with a better name, or even just a name that doesn't suck. This is yet another great recipe from my great book Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham.

I would put up a picture of these if I had one. I just never have an excuse to make this many cookies, but in the event that I do, a picture will follow. In the meantime, there is a beautiful picture of the cookies in the cookbook.

Chocolatiest Crinkles (or whatever you want to call them)

5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, whisking until smooth. remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together the lour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, beating just until well blended after each addition. Transfer the dough to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls, roll in the powdered sugar to coat thoroughly and heavily, and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. (This is where I decided to change it up. Instead of rolling the balls in the powdered sugar I just bake them as directed and then as they are cooling, I use a sifter to sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies. I think it looks prettier and is much easier and less messy as well... to each his own.)

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on wire racks for 2 minutes, then transfer to the racks to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.)

A Little Chunk of Heaven

Brownies from a box are pretty good. Unless you have tried brownies from scratch though, you haven't quite tasted how heavenly a brownie can truly be. In one of my favorite cook books that I got at my bridal shower, Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham, I have found one of the most sinful brownies I have ever made/tasted. Of course, being the chocolate addict that I am, I chose to forgo the nuts in the recipe in favor of chocolate chips, while the author suggests using cocoa nibs.

Pictures will come as soon as I make these again, which cannot be that long away.

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup walnuts (optional)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8 inch square baking pan.

Melt the butter and chocolate in double boiler and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Add the flour and salt and whisk until just blended. Stir in the walnuts and then transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out sticky, with just a few crumbs clinging to it, but is wet. Do not overbake.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill if you have the time, and then cut into 9 large brownies.

Cinnamon Rolls Aren't That Scary

A little backstory: I used to be terrified to make cinnamon rolls. Well, I was actually just scared of yeast. I attempted my first round of cinnamon rolls around the age of 14 with a church group. That was my first foray into yeast... and my last, until now.

I was reading an article in Bon Appetit magazine, one of the best, and came across a funny article that shared pretty much the same fear that I had. After a little coercing from the clever writing in the article, and a wicked sweet tooth emerging, I decided to play with yeast again. Good idea.

These cinnamon rolls are so yummy and so easy to make. They are perfect to try out on a lazy Sunday. I hope someone else can enjoy them as much as my husband and I do. WARNING: eating these cinnamon rolls for breakfast for two weeks straight can cause you to become cinnamon roll'd out.

I will post pictures when my husband and I decide we can handle another week's worth of cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze (makes 18)

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons Rapid Rise yeast (1 packet)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dough: Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120-130 degrees F, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball.
Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning over to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then with a kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume. About 2 hours.

Filling: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.
Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15x11 inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2 inch border all around. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at one long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch wide).
Spray two 9 inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between the rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and then with kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40-45 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto wire cooling rack. Cool for 10 minutes and then return to glass dishes.

Glaze: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I Got Your Crazy