Archive for May, 2009

May 30, 2009

Sometimes you need a backup plan…

I had very ambitious plans for this week.  I had this candy mold that had been sitting in my room since Christmas and I decided this was the week to put it to the test.  I started making a list of all the filled chocolates I wanted to make… nuts, nougat, caramel, mint, peanut butter, coconut…. Long story short, it was already 9:30 on Friday night and I knew  that I did’t have enough time to do the full blown project that I wanted to do.  I make a couple candies with nuts in the center as a trial, and then decided to whip something else up really quick, to satisfy that baking bug. Enter Caramel Apple Bars.

I made these bars of cinnamon-apple-nutty goodness (from My Baking Addiction) a few weeks ago and my family has been begging me for a repeat ever since.  It is a super simple recipe… two bowls, one pan, mega-yumminess.  One quick note on the caramel drizzle… I melted Kraft caramel squares this time around, and when they hardened, the caramel was like a rock hard grid across the top of the bars, making it hard to cut, chew, etc.  Last time I used a caramel sauce, like you might put on ice cream.  It was gooey, not too runny, and I think worked a lot better for these bars.

Caramel Apple Bars Adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped apple (I used a little extra)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together melted butter, brown sugar, and 1 cup of white sugar with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the apples and walnuts.

3. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. In a cup or small bowl, stir together the remaining cinnamon and sugar; sprinkle over the top of the bars.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes in preheated oven; finished bars should spring back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan, and cut into squares.
5. Drizzle bars with melted caramel squares (I suggest a caramel sauce, such as an ice cream topper for gooey-er caramel)

May 27, 2009

Easy-peasy, ooey-gooey Pecan Bars (Baking Blitz Pt. 4)

My Saturday morning baking blitz was winding down, but I still wanted to get rid of the leftover pecans from the Chocolate Turtle Cupcakes I made last weekend.  Enter Pecan Bars.

See, I bookmark every tasty looking recipe I come across using delicious.  I tag each recipe with a bunch of keywords, so when I am looking for something particular, it is super easy to find.  Since I had an extra bag of pecans lying around, I just typed in pecans and this yummy recipe was ready to go!

I found these on My Baking Addiction, and followed the advice to let these bars cool, then pop them in the freezer for easier cutting.  It was hard to cut through just after pulling them out of the freezer, but I think it helped keep them neater – these guys are very sticky and gooey, even after being chilled!

This recipe was quick and easy to make.  The longest part of the whole thing was the time it took to bake. Also, I actually didn’t have 2 cups of pecans, so I decided to cut the recipe in half and use a 9×9 pan instead. I was still a little short of pecans, so I threw in some white chocolate chips too, which turned out super yummy. I was worried when I first pulled these out of the oven, since they didn’t look very pretty…

But, after being chilled and cut into bars, I thought they looked pretty nice after all!

Phew!  4 hours later, my morning of baking was over and I turned to the sink to plow through the piles of dishes I had accumulated.  My house is fully stocked with plenty of tasty treats to last the week I think… but I’m already thinking about what to make next weekend!

May 26, 2009

Did someone say Oreos? (Baking Blitz Pt. 3)

No, someone said HOMEMADE OREOS!!!  I was so excited when I found this recipe on Sassy Radish (which I believe was originally found on Smitten Kitchen).  I love Oreos.  And these cookies actually taste really similar! When I saw the recipe, I assumed the cream filling would be much lighter and fluffier, but it came out with a similar consistency and taste to actual Oreo cream filling!

Also, it was a beautiful day out, so I decided to have my little food photo shoot on the deck 🙂 I’m working on this whole food photography thing… so bear with me!

When I was baking the chocolate wafer, I realized I had forgotten to flatten out the little balls of dough, so halfway through the baking time, I pulled them out, flattened them with a spatula, and swapped the top and bottom trays. All the cookies came out perfectly baked after exactly 9 minutes, and I think it was really important to flatten them in order to have the perfect Oreo effect.

I also didn’t have a pastry bag, so I just scooped the frosting into a ziploc and cut off one of the corners. I found it worked better to squeeze the frosting around the edge of the cookie and then spiral in toward the middle. If I just put a dollop in the middle, it didn’t squish out to the edges when I put the second cookie on top.

I took these cookies to a BBQ, and everyone was surprised it was even possible to make a homemade Oreo (as I was, when I found this recipe!). Although I’m not sure anything could REALLY replace a DoubleStuf Oreo with a cold glass of milk… these come pretty close.

Homemade Oreos
Adapted from Sassy Radish
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies

Chocolate Wafers Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (I used a very dark Callebaut)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1 1/4 cups sugar)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

Filling Ingredients:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip, pipe teaspoon-size dollops of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. DEVOUR with copious amounts of cold milk.

And coming up next, for the final part of my weekend Baking Blitz, yummy, gooey, Pecan Bars!

May 25, 2009

GIANT peanut butter cookies (Baking Blitz Pt. 2)

After my epic FAIL on Thursday with the Banapple Muffin Bars, I woke up Saturday morning determined to have a successful day of baking.  I was basically a baking whirlwind. As soon as one thing was in the oven, I was already furiously throwing flour, sugar, and anything else in reach into another bowl.  Best morning ever. This is what my counter looked like about halfway through the process.  By the end of the morning it looked similar, but covered in various stickiness.

I decided to start with some giant, bakery-style peanut butter cookies that I came across on Confections of a Foodie Bride.  I wanted to make some cookies to mail to my big brother in NYC, and I thought this recipe would make a perfect amount of cookies to send (plus he loves peanut butter).

These cookies were a lot of fun to make – the recipe was really simple.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any peanuts and was too lazy to run to the store, but they came out really well anyways.  One of them broke as I was transferring it off the sheet, so that was the tester 🙂 I thought the cookie came out with the perfect mix of crispy edges without being rock hard.   I have never scooped such big cookies before!  I used a scant half cup of dough for each cookie, and I got 6 cookies out of the recipe.

If you do decide to make the big size of these cookies, note that they took about 20-25 minutes in the oven, and they still seemed slightly under done when I took them out (although once they cooled they were perfect).  Unless you want a super crunchy cookie, take them out when they are still pretty soft, let them cool on the pan for a few minutes, and then move them off to cool the rest of the way. YUM!

So, Dan, keep an eye on your mailbox next week, these babies are coming your way! 🙂

Oh and I almost forgot!  The recipe for these big bad boys:

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick butter, cubed and room temp
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup honey-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Cream the butter and peanut butter on medium high for 1 minute. Add sugars and beat at med-high for another minute. Add eggs, vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour, baking soda and salt on low speed until thoroughly combined. Mix in peanuts. Chill dough for 15-20 minutes.

Drop the dough onto a greased or lined baking sheet. You can use a greased fork to form the traditional criss-cross. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden brown.  (Or, if making larger cookies, 20-25 minutes) For a crispier cookie, allow the entire cookie to brown. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Original recipe link here.

Next up…Baking Blitz Part 3: HOMEMADE OREOS!

May 24, 2009

You win some… and you lose some (Baking Blitz Pt. 1)

My single blog post was feeling a little lonely, and I figured the only way to remedy that quickly was to having a baking blitz this weekend. I picked out four recipes that I had been drooling over for a while, and decided to get the first done ahead of the weekend, on Thursday.

Unfortunately, my baking blitz started out with a major failure.  I had been wanting to make the Banapple Muffin Bars from Patti Cake for a while.  As much as I love buttery, chocolately desserts, I thought it might be fun to try something on the healthier side.  These have no butter, just applesauce and a mashed banana.

I thought the batter tasted kind of weird, and the final product tasted even weirder.  The texture was kind of gummy, maybe from the applesauce, and the bars in the center of the pan didn’t quite get baked all the way. I guess they looked okay once I cut them into bars, if a little bland and colorless…

After a few determined trys at tasting these, hoping they would get better, I trashed ’em.  I’m not sure exactly what went wrong, but I’m just chalking it up to an interesting experience. Patti had said on her blog that they were somewhat mediocre, but I have a feeling I messed up somewhere along the way. If you want to check out the recipe for yourself, go for it.  I have made some other things from Patti’s blog by the way, and they have been delicious, so this isn’t a reflection of her skills by any means!

Stay tuned for three more recipes that turned out FABULOUS!!!