Category: Cookies/Brownies

Baking Chronicle No. 35: Rugelach!

Baking Chronicle No. 35: Rugelach!

I picked up the special holiday edition of the magazine Bake From Scratch in a bookstore a few days ago, and it’s fantastic! The featured recipes are innovative, interesting cookies with cool flavors! There’s a ton of stuff in here I want to bake, but the first thing I made was Rugelach!

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This edition of the magazine is totally AWESOME – the recipes all look really fun and the photos are GORGEOUS!

For those of you who don’t know, rugelach is a traditional Jewish dessert that’s kind of a cross between a cookie and a pastry. I’m pretty sure it’s generally filled with fruit jam or cinnamon, but this recipe filled it with Nutella!

love Nutella. It’s probably one of the best inventions since air conditioning.

So I was totally psyched to make this recipe. It was really simple, too: I just had to mix together cream cheese, butter, flour, salt, and sugar to make a dough, and then refrigerate the mixture until it was firm enough to roll.

Next, I separated the dough into three parts and rolled each one out into a rectangle. Then I spread the dough with way more Nutella than the recipe specified (did I mention that with Nutella, more is better?) and rolled each rectangle into a log shape. Then I baked them before slicing the logs into cookies!

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The cookies looked rough around the edges (literally) but there were defined swirls inside and they tasted AMAZING!

(The slicing didn’t go as well – they ended up looking pretty messy. But that’s probably me and not the recipe.)

Pretty easy, right? I wholeheartedly recommend finding a rugelach recipe and making it, or buying this magazine (it’s pretty awesome).

The cookies were buttery, sweet, and definitely chocolaty – perfect for me! I’m excited to experiment with different rugelach fillings in the future (maybe I’ll do a project for the winter holidays?), and I think this bake was a (scrumptious) success!

Baking Chronicle No. 33: Lemon-Poppyseed Cookies!

Baking Chronicle No. 33: Lemon-Poppyseed Cookies!

I recently picked up poppyseeds from the grocery store, and I’ve been anxious to use them. So when, while flipping through the Taste of Home magazine (see my last post), I saw a recipe for awesome-looking lemon-poppyseed cookies, I couldn’t resist!

The recipe was fairly simple. It was a shortbread cookie with lemon juice, lemon zest, and poppyseeds. I first creamed the butter and the sugars, then I added the spiced and the dry ingredients. Next, I refrigerated the dough so, once it was firm, I could roll the dough out.

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My dough was fairly soft before I refrigerated it, but it was definitely firm after 20 minutes in the fridge and 10 in the freezer.

After 20-30 minutes (some of which the dough spent in the fridge and some of which it spent in the freezer), I rolled out the cookie dough on plastic wrap. Then, when I tried to cut out a cookie, it stuck and wouldn’t come out cleanly. The dough felt too moist and definitely not firm enough to successfully roll, despite having been solid when it had left the freezer.

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My rolled-out cookie dough became a total mess once I tried to cut anything out, so I just rolled small balls out of the scraps.

So, I did what I do best: I improvised! I gathered up small, unequal-sized pieces of dough, rolled them into balls, and pressed them flat with a glass. Then the cookies began to stick to the glass, so I used my hands (which is why you can see the impressions of my fingers in some of the cookies).

Eventually I had around 35 semi-uniform cookies! I baked them for 12 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

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My cookies right before I baked them. Surprisingly, I managed to make them mildly uniform!

Next, I made a lemon glaze from How to Bake Everything to top the cookies. It seemed a little thin after I had finished making it, but I was reluctant to add more sugar like the instructions suggested lest it lose its wonderful lemon-y taste. Instead, I added corn starch and meringue powder until it felt thicker. Then I messily spread the glaze on the cookis and refrigerated the extra.

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The glazed cookies. The merginue powder I added ensured that the glaze dried hard.

The cookies were amazing. The lemon flavor really popped, the cookies had a wonderful buttery texture, and the poppyseeds added a nice nuttiness and crunch! My family loved them and all of my friends who tried them raved about how good they were! I totally recommend getting the Taste of Home magazine just for this recipe, and I will definitely make these again!

Adventures in Baking No. 32: Butterfinger Bites!

Adventures in Baking No. 32: Butterfinger Bites!

So I saw the most recent issue of Taste of Home magazine in the grocery store this weekend, and it was their holiday cookie edition! It looked super cool (and, after reading it, I can confirm that it is) so I got it and picked a recipe to make! My entire family loves Butterfingers, so I made the Butterfinger Bites recipe!

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Look at that beautiful, shiny cover! The photographer for this magazine did an awesome job!

The recipe only required 4 ingredients, which was awesome because I love simple recipes! The amazing secret: peanut butter and candy corn tastes like Butterfingers!

First I melted the candy corn in the microwave, which took a few minutes because the candy seized a bit. However, after heating up the candy corn some more, it smoothed out.

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My candy corn before I melted it

Next, I added the peanut butter, microwaved the mixture some more, and stirred until smooth.

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It took a few tries but the mixture finally came together!

Then I had to work fast to shape the mix into round balls, which was painful (I had to use my hands to roll the truffles quickly or else the mixture would harden).

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I successfully shaped the candy corn mix into only minorly misshapen truffles, which I considered a victory considering my general inability to shape desserts!

After that, I let the truffles cool while I melted the chocolate to make the coating. Then I dipped the Butterfinger bites in the chocolate and set them on my Sil-Pats to dry.

I tried dusting the truffles with sprinkles, which only partially worked – the orange sugar sprinkles sunk right into the chocolate, but the pearly Halloween-colored sprinkles stayed on the top and looked beautiful!

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I sprinkled the majority of the truffles with the invisible orange sprinkles, so these are the only bites with the right sprinkles.

Once the chocolate dried, I popped a Butterfinger bite in my mouth. It was beautifully sweet, wonderfully peanut-buttery, and it had a great crunch! I will definitely make this recipe again and I highly recommend the Taste of Home magazine!

Baking Chronicle No. 31: Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Baking Chronicle No. 31: Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies!

A few years ago Sophronia and I had made these amazing chocolate chip cookies with Oreos in the middle. They were so delicious that we decided to recreate them using King Arthur Flour’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.

This is my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It’s just so soft and chewy and amazing! I highly recommend getting this cookbook solely for this recipe.

First, we mixed the dough, which came together easily.

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The finished cookie dough! The nice thing about this recipe is that it holds a lot of chocolate chips.

Next, I tried to coat the Oreos in cookie-dough by hand, which didn’t go well. The dough was too sticky and difficult to handle (probably because the cookies are meant to be soft and to spread). So instead, wholly unfazed, we dropped the dough by the teaspoonful and pressed Oreos into the tops of the cookies before baking them!

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The bottom two cookies are the only ones that I succeeded in stuffing with Oreos. For the rest, we just pushed the Oreos into the tops!

This worked marvelously: the Oreos were warm and and the filling was melted and sweet, and the cookie tasted fantastic! All in all, a great-tasting idea!

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We eventually ran out of Oreos, which is why some cookies have Oreos baked into the top and why some don’t.

The most interesting cookies were the two that had Oreos in the middle (the only ones I had attempted to “stuff” with Oreos before throwing in the towel). It tasted awesome and looked really cool!

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The inside of an Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie!

I will definitely make these again, just because it’s such a tasty combination! I would recommend using a different cookie recipe though, only because you can actually succeed at “stuffing” the chocolate chip cookies with Oreos if the batter is stiffer (which would be true of a different recipe).

P.S. Sophronia read the recipe for the pumpkin ice cream in Adventures in Baking No. 30, and she also couldn’t find where the instructions said to add the pumpkin! (Thank goodness, or else that would mean I can’t read.)

Adventures in Baking No. 30: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Gingersnaps

Adventures in Baking No. 30: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Gingersnaps

Well, this was one strange baking ride. I originally wanted to make ice cream sandwiches – gingersnaps with pumpkin ice cream sounded like an amazing pairing – but I guess we’ll never know, because the ice cream went way south.

First, I decided to make the Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream recipe from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, one of my ice cream cookbooks (one of two, to be exact). It looked exactly how I expected pumpkin ice cream to be made, based on prior knowledge, and I made the custard with no problem – except for the fact that I had no working thermometer.

Yeah, not only did our instant-read thermometer break, but our meat thermometer (which I sometimes use in severe emergencies) requires two hands and several minutes to work. Since I had neither time nor two hands, as I had to stir the custard constantly after tempering the eggs and putting them back on the heat, I did it by eye.

This, in theory, should have worked: I’ve made custard before, I know what cooked custard looks like, and I did the line test (where you drag your finger through the liquid coating the back of the spoon, and if the line holds it’s done). Moreover, the custard did indeed coat the back of the spoon. I still felt a little nervous, though, so I cooked it for another two minutes (which, at the time, I thought was risky) before straining it and putting it into an ice water bath.

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My (theoretically) finished custard.

Then I read the instructions, because this was when (drawing on having read the beginning of the recipe and having read many ice cream recipes) I thought I should add the pumpkin puree.

Nowhere in the instructions did it tell me to add the puree.

I’m serious. The ingredients called for puree, and there was even a little blue bubble note telling me that I could use my own homemade pumpkin puree (who even has time for that?), but nowhere in the actual instructions did it tell me to add the pumpkin. I think I stared at the page for a full five minutes, wondering whether or not I was somehow too tired to read properly before realizing, after reading it for the hundredth time, that I wasn’t crazy. The instructions just didn’t mention the pumpkin. At all.

So I just said “Why not?” and added the pumpkin to the finished base. I beat it in with a whisk until smooth and then chilled the custard.

Next, I made the gingersnaps, which was way more soothing. The recipe, from How to Bake Everything, was easy to make and used all of the ingredients (never thought I’d have to add that qualifier). I made the dough, shaped it into two logs, and chilled it in the freezer (I think “refrigerate” is really a recommendation) before cleaning the ice cream maker and preparing to churn the ice cream base.

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My shaped cookie dough

I churned the base! It didn’t go well (predictably).

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I was too sad and stressed once the ice cream had finished churning to remember to take a photo, so here’s what the ice cream looked like at the beginning of churning! It’s basically the same as what it looked like at the end of the churning, minus a few lumps.

Basically, it didn’t “inflate” or become aerated, and I don’t know if this is because my ice cream bowl wasn’t cold enough or if the base wasn’t cold enough, but my guess at the time was that my custard was under-cooked and needed to be put back on the heat.

(My “why not?” philosophy was really the guiding force once I had reached this part of the bake, so since the idea sounded semi-reasonable, I just did it.)

At this point, I had already started shaping the gingersnaps into rounds and baking them.

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I pressed the cookies into rough circles before baking them.

So once all of cookies had come out of the oven I dumped the custard into the saucepan and reheated it, and then I cooked it again until it really coated the back of the spoon and I was sure that it couldn’t be not cooked.

Then I strained and chilled and went through the whole process again, all the while cursing the dead thermometer with its strange batteries and the recipe’s lack of pumpkin instruction.

At long last, I re-churned the base, and…it was still not aerated. In fact, it was even soupier this time. I gave up and pushed the bowl into the back corner of my freezer.

The gingersnaps, on the other hand, were delicious. Absolutely fantastic – they had a great snap, a wonderful sweet flavor, and a nice kick from the ginger. I will definitely make those cookies again.

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The gingersnaps were AMAZING! 10/10

The ice cream, on the other hand…

Well, it tasted AWESOME! I mean, it was really frozen custard by the time I tried it, but it tasted fantastic. The spices blended beautifully and the pumpkin really shone through. However, the stress totally wasn’t worth it and I really don’t think I’ll make pumpkin ice cream again any time soon.

If anyone has any theories on why the ice cream failed, please let me know!

Adventures in Baking No. 28: Peanut Butter Brownies!

Adventures in Baking No. 28: Peanut Butter Brownies!

I absolutely adore peanut butter and chocolate together. Frankly, it’s one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations – it’s just so rich and delicious! So for fun, I decided to make King Arthur Flour’s Triple Play Brownies recipe!

Except (it seems that there’s always some sort of deviation, doesn’t it?) I really didn’t want to have to make a peanut butter crust. (The recipe calls for a peanut butter crust, chocolate brownies, and peanut butter frosting.) Making crusts takes way too much time when I’m just looking for a quick bake. As a result, I omitted the crust and just made King Arthur’s amazing On-The-Fence brownie recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and the accompanying peanut butter frosting!

First, I made the brownie batter. It was extremely easy to throw together (the beauty of the recipe), and within 30 minutes it was in the oven. Then, while the bars baked, I made the frosting.

I’m going to rave about this frosting now, and I’ll probably still be raving about it twenty years from now. It’s just that fantastic.

Basically, the frosting is white chocolate and peanut butter.

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The sensational frosting of spectacular stupendousness! (Yes, I used a thesaurus to find the extraordinarily fun words.)

Yeah, that’s it. It tastes phenomenal – a perfect balance of sweetness, saltiness, and nutty flavor – and it’s also super-easy to make. Moreover, the frosting is easy to spread and it dries hard, so it could be used for cookies, too (not that I’ve done that yet, but it sounds like a fabulous idea).

And if you make the frosting far too early (like I did, when I made it 30 minutes before the brownies came out of the oven), you can just reheat it!

This frosting is a miracle cure-all of a dessert topping. I love it so much.

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I frosted the brownies about 5 minutes after I took them out of the oven.

So these brownies were fantastic, because the brownies were tasty (wonderfully rich and chocolaty without feeling too dense) and the frosting was scrumptious! (They were so amazing that I’m saving one in my freezer for a special occasion.) I will definitely make these again, probably with another twist!

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)!