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.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Baking Chronicle No. 29: Pane Bianco!

Baking Chronicle No. 29: Pane Bianco!

“Pan-ay whats-it?” was my first reaction when I read this recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website. (According to Google Translate, it means white bread in Italian.) But after reading it, this recipe (found here) looked too fantastic to pass up.

Basically, the recipe is an enriched bread filled with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and cheese (I used Parmesan, because I use Parmesan whenever possible). The fun part comes in shaping (I mean, who doesn’t love that infinity shape?!?), but the bread tasted fantastic, too, and I would totally make it again.

First, I made the dough. I combined the flour, yeast, salt, and water with the other ingredients (most notably the egg and the milk, which make the dough enriched). The instructions said the dough should be soft and smooth – which it wasn’t.

My dough wasn’t really coming together that nicely, so I added a little more liquid to make a softer dough.

So, I decided to trust my instincts and add a little more water. Then I kneaded it some more and let the mix rise for 3 hours (but a substantial amount of that time was spent in the refrigerator, in order to slow the rise while I ran errands). After that, I flattened the dough (which hadn’t really risen much) into a ginormous rectangle and gathered together my filling.

I flattened my dough into a large and extremely uneven rectangle. (Who really needs rulers or tape measures, right?)

Next came the super-fun part: filling and shaping! I drained the tomatoes (they were packaged in oil), washed and chopped the basil, and spread them across the dough. Then I sprinkled garlic and cheese on top and rolled up the rectangle into a log.

My filling, spread haphazardly across the dough

Afterwards, I cut the log down the middle and shaped it into a loose “S” before folding the ends underneath the center, pinching the bottom seam, and letting the bread prove for another hour.

This is probably the most fun I’ve had shaping bread. It’s just such an interesting shape!

After that, all I had to do was bake! I preheated the oven, transferred the dough onto a baking sheet, and popped the Pane Bianco inside. Once it had baked for 45 minutes (it was a little light in color, so I baked it for longer than the recommended time) and cooled for 10, I cut inside:

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My bread had a nice crumb structure and an awesome marbled inside!

It looked beautiful! I really loved the pockets of ingredients and the fun colors. The bread tasted great, too – cheesy, soft, and with a nice flavor from the blend of tomatoes and basil. I really enjoyed this bake!

(It’s the 29th baking post, and I still have no sign-off. Ideas? (In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m in desperate need of assistance.))

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.

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. 27: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

Baking Chronicle No. 27: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

So last night Sophronia and I decided to make soft pretzels using King Arthur Flour’s Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels Recipe! (Here is the link.)

Basically my entire household plus Sophronia ADORES soft pretzels, and on top of that, the recipe only takes two hours to make, so we were sold. (Our other option was to make French bread, and we really didn’t want to wait five hours to eat.)

First we made the dough – we combined our flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and warm water in a bowl and mixed the ingredients by hand. Then we kneaded the dough until smooth and elastic before letting it rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough rested, we prepared the baking soda bath.

(Okay, you may be thinking to yourself: Baking soda bath? What? But the truth is, bathing pretzels in baking soda and water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the water temperature, gives the pretzels their nice, shiny brown color once they’re baked!)

The fizzy baking soda bath! I’ll look up why it fizzes and get back to you

Boiling some water, we added baking soda and watched it fizz (chemistry!) before turning off the heat and letting the mixture cool. After the dough had proved for long enough, we shaped the dough into pretzel balls (who doesn’t love pretzel bites!) and bathed each bite in the bath for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

The proved dough, right before it was shaped

Next, we rested the dough for 10 minutes before sprinkling with salt and baking at 475 (475!) degrees Fahrenheit for 7 minutes. Then we brushed the pretzels with 3 tablespoons of melted butter and popped them into our mouths straight from the oven.

The finished pretzels, fresh out of the oven! I nearly dropped the pan because it was so hot, even through the oven mitt!

The pretzels were exactly like the article described – ethereal! They tasted AMAZING; they were beautifully soft, salty, buttery, and delicious! I am definitely going to make this recipe again and I highly recommend this recipe!

(I mean, seriously: fast AND scrumptious? It’s begging to be baked!)




Adventures in Baking No. 26: Birthday Cake!

Adventures in Baking No. 26: Birthday Cake!

Making birthday cake is always an exciting and fun event! (Mainly because birthday cake is an amazing dessert, regardless of the type, so baking it practically guarantees a fantastic treat.) So for my dad’s birthday, I made him (per his request) a chocolate cake filled with cherry jam and topped with fudge icing!

(My tendency to “off-road”,as we refer to it, inspired the specific directions.)

First, I made the chocolate cake recipe from How to Bake Everything. I halved the recipe to fit into two 6-inch cake pans (we love two layer cakes in my house!). First, I melted chocolate to mix into the batter, and then I creamed the butter and sugar in my electric mixer. (I used soft butter this time (I know, I was shocked too), which worked marvelously.) Next I added the vanilla, melted chocolate, egg yolk, and all of the dry ingredients excluding the flour before alternating adding the flour and milk to the batter. (While the directions instructed me to mix the dry ingredients together to start with and then add them to the batter as a whole, I regarded this as optional.)

After cleaning my mixing bowl and attachment, I whipped the egg white until soft peaks formed and folded it into the cake batter. Then I baked the cakes for approximately 13 minutes. While they were baking, I started cooking the cherry jam!

I cooked the jam for a pretty long time because I wanted it to be nice and thick (which it was, thank goodness!)

Once the cakes were baked, I turned them out of their pans onto a cooling rack. However, I spectacularly broke one of them (it was my one klutzy moment in this bake) and had to piece it together.

I tried to turn one of the cakes out of the pan one-handed, which was a HORRIBLE idea! Don’t try that at home!

I didn’t let that mishap faze me, however. I was making cake! So after I finished the jam, I prepared my fudge frosting – I heated the sweetened condensed milk, chopped my 8 ounces of chocolate, and measured out my vanilla. Then I dropped the chocolate and vanilla into the hot milk and stirred until smooth. After adding 3 cups of powdered sugar, I had my fudge frosting!

My sweetened condensed milk heating on my stove

Except that it was really thick. And by really thick, I mean NOT SPREADABLE.

Which was kind of bad. I tried heating it, but that didn’t really work, so I decided to experiment and whipped out my rolling pin. Placing the frosting on some parchment paper, I rolled it out like fondant and (after assembling the broken cake layer like a jigsaw puzzle atop the jam filling) delicately laid it on top of the cake. I smoothed the sides like I’d seen bakers do on TV, and voila! I had a frosted cake. (It was much faster than frosting any other cake I’d made.)

My frosted cake! The fudge was really shiny, which was kind of cool

However, the cake looked lumpy under the fondant (because I had broken the top layer; what a mistake to make!), so I made some royal icing to frost the sides with and cover the bumps. I then piped “Happy Birthday” on the top of the cake in mildly neat handwriting and tried my hand at a few flowers.

The final product! My only regret is that I didn’t color the frosting on the sides

All that was left to do was wait for about 15 minutes for the frosting to dry. Then (after a super-fun photo shoot) we sliced into the cake!

The sliced cake – look at all of that jam!

I thought I’d over-baked the cakes, and thank goodness, I was wrong! The cake was moist, soft, and delicious! The fudge frosting was sweet and rich, and the royal icing was tasty, too. What made the cake, though, was the jam. The cherry jam added a sourness as well as moisture and a wonderful texture! I really loved the cake, and so did my dad! This bake was a success and I will definitely try jam in the middle of a cake again!



Baking Chronicle No. 25: Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

Baking Chronicle No. 25: Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

After my long hiatus, I’m back with an awesome (and tasty) experiment of mine, Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

My basic thought process was that I wanted to try making brioche, and I needed to use the hazelnuts in my pantry. To finish, I just added chocolate (for obvious reasons), and this post’s bake was born!

First, I made the brioche recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything. Brioche, an enriched French bread, was pretty easy to make. Basically, I combined all of my ingredients (by hand, since I have a permanent grudge against my food processor) and proved the dough. The one notable difference from other breads I’ve made, though, was the presence of three (three!) eggs and almost one whole stick of butter!

My brioche dough, dotted with butter!

Next, I chopped and toasted my hazelnuts and mixed them with chocolate chips to create the center of my buns. Then, after my dough proved for about three hours, I shaped the dough into 12 rolls. (In hindsight, I should have made 16, as directed, but I really didn’t want to clean the other muffin pan, so I just made 12 really large buns.) Flattening the dough, I filled the centers with hazelnuts and chocolate, folded the edges over, and pinched the seams closed. Then I let my brioche rise for another hour!

One of my rolls right before I finished shaping them. My dough was wet, so I had to use a lot of flour to handle it!

The one step I almost forgot was egg-washing the buns. (Egg washes give bread a nice, shiny crust.) I remembered, though (thank goodness for reading the directions!), and separated an egg before mixing the yolk with some milk. Next, I brushed my buns with the mixture before baking for about 25 minutes.

My buns REALLY rose right before I baked them!

Half-way through the bake, the kitchen already smelled AMAZING (which, as all bakers know, is a really good sign). I couldn’t wait to try one! After ensuring that my brioche was baked by tapping the bottom, I took them out of the muffin pan and let them cool for about 10 minutes before cutting one open.

My middle held together! I was really happy about it, because I wasn’t really sure it would work!

My brioche had wonderful air holes, a rich taste, and (shockingly) a center that held together! There were no gaps in the crumb structure, and the chocolate tasted magical in the middle of the delicious bread. The hazelnuts added a nice crunch, but probably should have been toasted for longer than two minutes!

Overall, this bake was successful! I will definitely make brioche again in the future (but perhaps not with semi-raw hazelnuts)!