Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dainty and Delicious

These are really pretty looking and they taste great too - a repeat recipe of mine.
This recipe comes from America's Favorite Brand-Name cookbook - its basically pages of product placement, but there are a few great recipes included. This one is called Danish Raspberry Ribbons, and while it isn't the simplest cookie to make, the payoff is great with just a little bit more effort than usual. (recipe at the end of the post)
The one part that I've always found a little difficult is creating the ridge down the middle for the jelly. I've tried the handle of a wooden spoon, my finger, rolling a wooden skewer back and forth, a knife, and countless other options. Ultimately I'd say the best method is to do it with a spoon handle or similar sized object, and then go over it with your finger to neaten it up. It might not look great on the first attempt, but try, try again! These also call for raspberry jelly, but there's no reason not to try out strawberry, apricot, grape - the possibilities are endless!
Also, the recipe calls for you to refrigerate the dough for a while before using it - don't skip this step however impatient you may be. (Trust me, I've been there.) The chilled dough holds its shape better for the jelly.

Tip of the Day: One of your best baking investments is a plastic spatula - use it for scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl, marbleizing batter, spooning out dough, and every other use you can find!

Danish Raspberry Ribbons
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 2/3 cup flour
6 tbsp seedless raspberry jam

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy, add egg, milk, vanilla and almond.
Gradually add 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir in remaining flour.
Form dough into disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape pieces into 12 inch long ropes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Make a deep groove down the center of each rope.
Bake 12 minutes at 375 F. Remove from oven.
Spoon 1 tbsp jam in the center of each rope. Return to oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
Cool 15 minutes on sheets, then drizzle with glaze of 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla.
Cut into 1 inch slices and allow to cool completely.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mmmmm chocolate

I've had a few requests for the non-dairy chocolate frosting recipe I use, so I'll share it with you here. No picture, but here is the adorable birthday present my friend Rachel gave me last year. Perfect for frosting occasions.

(You can find it here)

Anyway, the recipe is as follows: (comes from Susie Fishbein's Kosher Palette)
1/3 cup of margarine
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
5 tbsp boiling water
2 tsp vanilla
Beat the margarine for a few minutes in a mixer, then add the sugar and cocoa.
When well mixed, add the boiling water, one tbsp at a time. Add the vanilla.

Now when I make this, I start out with this recipe, but I add a little more sugar, a little more water as I see fit, depending on the consistency I want it, the way it looks, and how much I need. I also don't add the vanilla, since I forgot it one time and liked it better. Ah mistakes, the mother of invention!
Well thats it, let me know if you have any questions!
More baking to come tomorrow.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Apple and Cinnamon Smells

Mmmm these smelled great when they were baking. And they tasted great when they were done.These are apple and cinnamon muffins, again from the Cookie and Biscuit Bible by Catherine Atkinson. (Recipe at the end of the post.)
These were my second attempt at making muffins (the first didn't go so well - more on that another time) and was pretty successful. A muffin is different than a cupcake in that it uses melted butter instead of solid, and often has whole wheat flour (though not always) and fruit and nut additions, which overall make for a denser cake.
These were pretty great, and they smelled amazing while in the oven - who needs Glade plug-ins anyway, just bake all day long! I doubled this recipe, as the original only makes 6, and for once I got all the ingredient amounts right - go me!
I used Granny Smith apples in these, since that's what I had in the house (yes, another recipe selected simply because I already had the ingredients - nothing like laziness to make a baker resourceful!) and I personally thought they were a little tart against the sweetness of the muffin, but others liked the contrast. Golden Delicious would be a sweeter alternative, or you could experiment with a mix of different types.
The recipe topping calls for crushed brown sugar cubes, which I didn't have, so I substituted regular brown sugar. I doubt it made much difference.

Tip of the Day: If you don't want to use paper liners when making muffins or cupcakes, don't forget to spray the pan(s) first - or else you'll end up having to eat them out of the tray!

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins:
1 beaten egg
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinammon
two small apples chopped

topping: 12 crushed brown sugar cubes and 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix the egg, sugar, milk and butter in a bowl. Sift in flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add the apple and stir until just mixed.
Spoon into muffin tin and sprinkle topping on top.
Bake at 400 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Toffee Bars?

Well, they look pretty good don't they? And I'll be honest they tasted good too.But I may never know what they were supposed to be like. See, I made an elementary mistake the night I baked these. One I've made before, and one I'm sure I'll make again. You see, this recipe called for a 9x13" pan, and I figured, thats kind of a lot right now, I"ll halve the recipe and put it in an 8x8. Grand plan no? And it was. But like my math miscalculations before, this idea eventually had its downfall. I measured out the ingredients, took half the amount of butter, half the amount of sugar, and so on and so forth, until I read the part of the recipe that called for two egg yolks. And I put in....two egg yolks.
Blissfully unaware (my general state of being) I put the pan into the oven and left the kitchen. Suddenly, about 5 minutes later, a light bulb popped on over my head. I knew I had missed something. And I couldn't take it back. Its like that scene in home alone where the mom tries to think what she could have forgotten before she left for vacation. I racked my brain, going over the ingredients in my head and them BOOM! It hit me. I'd halved all the ingredients but one. And it was too late now. Kind of like when the lid pops off the pepper container as you're adding a sprinkle to the sauce. You just want to take it back, but you can't.
Anyway, I digress. The cookies baked anyway, and I melted the chocolate on top and cut them up into pieces as instructed. They were a little on the dry side, and who knows if I'll ever recreate them to find out what they would have tasted like. I'll let you know.
This recipe came from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible by Catherine Atkinson, and was selected simply because I had all the ingredients already! Recipe at the end of the post.

Tip of the Day: When changing the amounts of a recipe write down all your new measurements to ensure you don't slip up with one (or all!) of them.

1.5 cups light brown sugar
2 cups butter
2 egg yolks
1.5 tsp vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
8 oz chopped milk chocolate

Beat sugar and butter together. Beat in yolks and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt.
Spread into 9x13" pan, and bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and place chocolate on top of hot cookie. When it melts, spread to cover base.
Cut into squares while still warm.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

1,2, Cake!

Simple and pretty...and pretty simple too, is this chocolate filled and frosted layer cake.

(Sorry for the bad picture)

The cake itself is adapted from Paula Deen's 1-2-3-4 Cake, and there the problems begin. Paula's cake makes a 3 layer cake that you then fill and frost - but I thought that would be a little much for the gathering - and a little much work for me! So I decided if I took 2/3 of each ingredient, I would end up with a 2 layer cake - perfect! This however, involves lots of math - not my strong suit - and resulted in me dashing back and forth between the kitchen and the computer, checking and double checking my calculations, and a solid minute of thinking hard about why the amount of butter seemed wrong, before I realized I needed 1 1/3 sticks of butter not 1 1/3 cups.
Nevertheless, all the numbers added up, and before long I had two 9 inch pans of batter. Now came the baking. Unfortunately, I have just a teeny little oven here, and I couldn't fit them both side by side. Being exponentially too impatient to bake them separately, I managed to fit them in on a diagonal, meaning one cake was a little farther back in the oven than the other. You baking purists are probably cringing at this point, but work with me here. So anyway, I figured I should switch their places in the oven half way through, so one didn't brown more than the other - a daring but dangerous feat. I pulled it off with only one almost drop. Note to self: do not attempt to adjust the dials while wearing oven mitts. You'd think that was common sense, but I guess not so common for all of us!
Once the layers were removed and cooled, the frosting began. I made the frosting from scratch, just a mix of butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and boiling water. I'd provide the measurements, but as I peered into the bowl worrying if it would be enough, I added a little bit more water and a little bit more sugar until I prayed it would cover the cake, and have no idea what the actual amounts ended up being. No worries, the amount was just right, and I sprinkled a few white chocolate chips on top for decoration.
Of course, my biggest problem was once again transportation, so without my handy dandy cake carrier I scrounged up a piece of cardboard (I knew saving all those boxes would come in handy one day) cut it down to a square, covered it with foil, placed it on a baking sheet, and covered the whole thing with an upside-down metal bowl to help it stay fresh. Success! Though I probably looked a little strange walking down 3rd avenue with that contraption. Oh well.

Tip of the Day: When frosting a cake, place a dab of frosting in the center of the board before putting the first layer down, to help it stay in place.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Peanut Butter Beauties

Mmmm piled high peanut butter cookies fresh from the oven...and they were great!
I made these babies (yes I am the type of person who refers to her baked creations as babies) for my friend Esti, who is a peanut butter fanatic. I went to visit her for a couple days, and brought these along. The making and baking of these went pretty smoothly, and I created the signature peanut butter cookie look on these with simple fork marks. Although this pattern is traditionally for PB cookies, you can have fun with a fork or knife in creating any sort of pattern on your next cookies. I recommend a skull and crossbones.
Anyway the only worrisome part of these creations was transportation. I, not surprisingly, was very concerned about them breaking or crumbling in transit, but I was going from a subway to a train and then a ten minute walk, and I didn't want to carry them separately. So instead I placed the cookies carefully in a plastic bag, and then wrapped the whole thing twice around with bubble wrap. It took up a large part of my suitcase - had to leave a pair of shoes behind! - but every cookie made it there in beautiful shape. Although Esti insisted on making fun of me the entire visit. Sigh. Oh the price I pay for baking perfection.

Tip of the Day: When baking with peanut butter, measure out slippery ingredients like oil first, then your peanut butter will easily slide out of your measuring cup.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

White Chocolate Goodness

Here they are in all their glory, pound cake cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting and white chocolate shavings.

These actually came out pretty well, although surprise, surprise they were all slightly different sizes. I try, but when they're raw, they always look about the same! Plus once you've put them in the little cases, its pretty hard to move the batter me, I've tried that before in my checkered past. It doesn't turn out well. Or clean.
Anyway the frosting here is (gasp) store bought...Betty Crocker I think. I suppose its cheating but the store bought stuff is generally pretty good, so why bother with all the extra effort?
Which brings me to the only part of this recipe that didn't go exactly as planned - the decoration. Originally I had wanted to decorate them with white chocolate curls, which are pretty and plump and three dimensional. But to my great dismay, I discovered (after, of course, googling chocolate curls) that making those involves melting the chocolate, pouring it out into a pan, letting it cool somewhat and then going at it with a spatula of some sort to create the curls. I don't quite have the patience for that.
So instead, I wondered, hmmm what if I just take a vegetable peeler to a bar of white chocolate? Well I did and voila! Chocolate shavings. The lazy way to decorate.

The cupcake recipe can be found here.

Tip of the Day: When filling cupcake cases, use an ice cream scoop to get level results.


Hi guys -

Amy here, your avid and adventurous baker. My days are filled with school and work, and my nights and weekends are filled with baking! I'll try anything once, sometimes even twice if I'm feeling a spurt of patience (rare, but occasional) and I make plenty of mistakes along the way.
If you check in regularly you'll get to see my triumphs, my failures and my numerous kitchen messes. Plus you'll get most of the recipes I've tried and tips for baking successfully.

I'll try to provide pictures with every post, but photography is not my strong suit, so I can't always guarantee quality photos.

Happy baking!