Category: Cookies/Brownies

Baking Chronicle No. 23: Chocolate Meringues!

Baking Chronicle No. 23: Chocolate Meringues!

This recipe comes courtesy of the King Arthur Flour website (if you want to make this recipe, click here) and my desperate need to make something that used four egg whites! My basic thought process was that making meringues was an easy way to dispose of the egg whites before they went bad, and then I’d make chocolate meringues because, well, everything’s better with chocolate!

(Logic?)

First, I whipped my egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until they reached soft peaks. Then I dumped in my sugar (I figured that the instruction to add it gradually was really more of a suggestion) and whipped the meringues until stiff peaks formed.

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My meringue formed stiff peaks after approximately 7-8 minutes of whipping.

(A note on baking vocabulary (for those of you who don’t know): “soft peaks” means that you whip the egg whites until they contain just enough air to hold their shape when you pull the mixing attachment out. “Stiff peaks” means that when the mixing attachment is pulled out, the egg whites defy gravity (yay science!) and stick to the mixing attachment in a stiff peak, as pictured above.)

Next came the trickiest part: I had to fold cocoa powder into the meringues. The reason why you have to “fold” ingredients into a meringue is because the meringue is full of air (the air that you just whipped into it) and if you mix vigorously, it will deflate. Deflated meringue is not good, because a deflated meringue won’t develop the same melt-in-the-mouth texture that a normal (inflated?) meringue has after baking.

So folding is a pretty high-pressure experience. It also takes forever (I think it took me five to ten minutes to incorporate the cocoa powder). Finally, though, I was done mixing the batter!

Meringues are often piped, so I asked my sister to make me a piping bag (mainly because the last time I made a piping bag, I accidentally sprayed creme patisserie onto the carpet). I messily piped the meringues, popped them into the oven to bake, and then turned the oven off.

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I can honestly say that this is probably one of my best piping jobs…My worst was probably when I squirted pastry cream all over the carpet!

Yes, off. Meringues generally need a long bake – in fact, most people will stick them in the oven, turn the oven off, and then let them sit there overnight. My patience didn’t last that long, however; I took the meringues out of the oven two hours later and popped one into my mouth.

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My baked meringues!

The texture was amazing – in my opinion, it’s the real reason why people make meringues. It’s a beautiful crunch as you bite into it, and then the insides dissolve into sweet, chocolate bliss inside your mouth. Even when frozen, meringues still melt on your tongue.

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The inside of a meringue!

So I’d call this adventure a success! I will definitely end up making meringues in the future (because I really don’t know how else to use those leftover egg whites)!

Baking Chronicle No. 21: Chocolate Chip Shortbread!

Baking Chronicle No. 21: Chocolate Chip Shortbread!

Why snack on popcorn when you can bake yourself cookies? Neither Sophronia nor I could think of a good answer to that question, and so we decided to bake chocolate chip shortbread to eat during our Kim Possible Marathon!

Our (fantastic, life-changing) shortbread came courtesy of the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, also known as my family’s go-to cookie-and-brownie cookbook. The recipe was simple, and there were only 6 ingredients: butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, flour, and chocolate chips! Basically, you creamed together the butter and sugar, then dumped in all of the other ingredients, and voila! Shortbread dough!

For the first batch (that we made for our first marathon), we used the full amount of flour and pressed the cookies into 9-inch cake pans, as instructed. However, for our second batch, we omitted 1/4 cup of flour (the first batch was a little dry) and pressed the dough onto a greased cookie sheet in a haphazard pattern (I really didn’t feel like making a neat square). Then we just baked the cookies for a little over half an hour, and they were done! Instant snack!

The cookies were amazing. I mean, I have hated shortbread for my entire life, mainly because I’ve only ever had store-bought shortbread, but this shortbread….It was crunchy yet melt-in-the-mouth, flecked with chocolate, and beautifully buttery. In short, I loved it! I will definitely make this recipe again!

(P. S. There’s a reason there aren’t that many pictures for this bake – the shortbread disappeared that fast!)

Baking Chronicle No. 15: Cherry Brownies!

Baking Chronicle No. 15: Cherry Brownies!

There’s a restaurant in my town that makes these amazing blackberry brownies – they’re dense, chocolate-y brownies with blackberry jam baked into the top in a beautiful, marbled pattern. I love these brownies, and so when the whim to make jam struck me, I also decided to make brownies and swirl the jam onto them in the same style as the restaurant.

I was inspired to make these with a twist (the cherry jam) because…we had frozen cherries! I’d like to say that I was inspired by summer flavors or the Bake From Scratch magazine that I’ve been reading or the cherries in my refrigerator, but the truth is that the jam flavor was need-based. We had frozen cherries, and so I used the frozen cherries.

First, I thawed my frozen fruit for about 40 minutes before pouring the cherries into a saucepan and cooking for one minute. Then, as instructed by the recipe in How to Bake Everything, I added my 1/4 cup of sugar and my 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and turned up the heat until my mixture bubbled. Then I just stirred occasionally while cooking my English muffins.

Eventually I scraped the back of my wooden spoon with a fork, and a bit of the bright red liquid came off and held together with a jam-like texture. So I took the pan off the heat and let it cool, and then I poured my “jam” into a glass bowl to keep cooling.

There was only one problem: my jam consisted of liquid and cooked, dehydrated cherries. It seemed that I hadn’t chopped my cherries small enough, and so the fruit hadn’t cooked into a mushy, jam-like mass (at least, I think that’s what’s supposed to happen).

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My jam before its magical journey to the mystical blender

I had one last-ditch effort up my sleeve, however: the blender! After the mixture had cooled, I poured it into the blender and hit the pulse setting, which (surprisingly) worked! I achieved a jammy texture and a sour cherry flavor!

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After blender-therapy, my jam had a fabulous texture!

Next, I made my favorite brownie recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and added chocolate chips and white chocolate chips before baking for 10 minutes. Then I spread my jam on top and baked for another 25 minutes, until the brownies were done.

The final result was delicious. The sour jam lifted up the intense chocolate flavor of the brownies, creating a summery and sinful treat! I will definitely make this copy-cat recipe again – but hopefully with a different flavor of jam, just to see what happens! Please feel free to post jam flavor suggestions for next time!

Adventures in Baking No. 6: Rose Shortbread

Adventures in Baking No. 6: Rose Shortbread

Ever since I started watching The Great British Baking Show, I’ve wanted to try rose water. I was just ravenously curious as to what rose even tasted like. I mean, I’ve never had it (before yesterday), so after considering for a month I bought myself a small bottle of rose water from Sur La Table.

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My rose water

My next challenge was what I should use as a carrier for the flavor. I decided on shortbread because…I felt like making shortbread!

A quick aside for shortbread haters: I, too, once hated shortbread. In fact, I still do hate shortbread  – store-bought shortbread. Homemade shortbread is one of most buttery and delicious cookies ever, but store-bought shortbread is disgusting. Summary: make your own shortbread and try it!

So I made my basic shortbread recipe, melting the butter instead of creaming it because I didn’t think my mixer could take the chunky butter, regardless of how soft it was. The shortbread was easy to make – I just added all the ingredients and then mixed in 1/4 teaspoon of rose water before freezing the dough for an hour.

Next, I rolled out the dough, which was interesting. My dough kept sticking to my rolling pin (despite flouring everything), so I eventually got so frustrated that I just used my palm to press out the dough. Uneven thicknesses? Check. Faster? Totally.

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I flattened these cookies with my palm rather than rolling them out

Then I just chucked the shortbread in the oven to bake. I had a bit of an issue with the bottom rack in that the bottoms wouldn’t really cook, but I fixed it with perseverance and perhaps 7 2-minute trips to the oven.

When I tried a piece of shortbread, I tasted shortbread. Seriously. It just tasted like good shortbread. I tasted no rose water, just butter. It was delicious, but no rose. The people who taste-tested the shortbread, on the other hand, could definitely taste the rose. One hated the rose in the cookie. Another said the rose added a bitter taste.

Honestly, I couldn’t taste anything bitter or rosy. Just shortbread.

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The baked shortbread (this is the batch that I rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter)

But, to make the cookies taste better, I melted some good tempering chocolate (Trader Joe’s Pound Plus all the way!) and spooned it onto the tops of the cookies. Again, I thought it tasted good, because it tasted like shortbread with chocolate, and who doesn’t like butter and chocolate? (Answer: No one!)

However, I probably won’t use rose water again, because while I couldn’t taste it, I could smell it, and it gave me an awful headache for the next three hours.

Next time I make shortbread, I’ll add something innocuous, like lemon or allspice 😀

 

Baking Chronicle No. 3: Orange-Chocolate Bar-Thingies

Baking Chronicle No. 3: Orange-Chocolate Bar-Thingies

By reading only the title, your first reaction may be confusion – what even is an Orange-Chocolate Bar-Thingy?

Truth be told, I invented it this morning, and I’m still working on the name of my new pseudo-recipe. If you have any suggestions, I will enthusiastically take them.

Anyway, I wanted to bake some bars, but I wanted them to be new. And interesting. Not just plain, boring old brownies. Also, I wanted to use orange. We had six or seven oranges in our refrigerator that were begging me to zest them. A pastry base also sounded appealing, and that was how I created the first Orange-Chocolate Bar-Thingy!

First, I made the pastry by stealing the base from the lemon bar recipe in Mark Bittman’s How To Bake Everything. Basically, it was flour, butter, and sugar mixed together and pressed into a 9-by-9 inch pan (after I applied a lot of Crisco to the bottom).

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My pastry base

While the base was baking, I cleaned the bowl to the stand mixer and made the fudge brownie recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. My only issue was that we were completely out of cocoa powder (whoops!) and so I substituted with unsweetened chocolate. It took a lot of screwing around, but I managed.

I also tasted the melted unsweetened baking chocolate. For any adventurous souls who don’t already know: DON’T EAT UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE. It’s disgusting, and unfortunately I now speak from experience.

Because I wanted the orange flavor to be pretty strong (I mean, nothing’s better than orange-flavored chocolate, right?), I added the zest of two oranges to the brownie batter before pouring the majority of it onto my pastry base.

My leftover batter was spooned into muffin tins so that after baking it could be taken for experimental analysis.

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Muffin-brownies for experimental analysis

Next, I baked the brownies and let them cool.

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The baked bars

While the brownies spent some quality time at room temperature, I made my orange cream! Basically, I took a creme filling recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and added orange juice and the zest of two oranges. The eventful portion of that step was making marshmallow fluff. I managed to create two separate sticky, disgusting messes that were, thankfully, much easier to clean than the tea lollipop incident. But the creme filling tasted like orange, and after adding some corn starch to thicken it, I spread it on my bar…thing…and added some fun sprinkles!

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(I really love sprinkles, and so I was really excited to add them despite their Halloween label 🙂 )

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HALLOWEEN SPRINKLES!!!

My bars were done! Since I need them for an event later, I haven’t cut them yet (as of the time I’m writing this post) but I used the brownie muffins (see, experimental analysis pays off!) to taste-test the brownie-orange cream combination, and it was AMAZING! So, I highly recommend this combination, and I direly hope that I invent (or a reader suggests) a better title for my most recent bake!

(Update: I still haven’t come up with a better name as of 8/5/17, so please comment with suggestions!)