Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chocolate Oatmeal Bars and an Epiphany

A one bowl recipe? For cookies? With butter?Yes, it can be done. I was looking online for a simple recipe for bar cookies, that of course, include only ingredients currently in my cupboards (and fridge). And I found this recipe online. For Oatmeal Chocolate Bar Cookies.
Now I love my stand mixer, really I do. But sometimes, I prefer just to use a bowl. And a spoon. And a little elbow grease. But its hard to do that for cookies, since they call for butter, which is a lot of work to mix in. Right?
Well, as this recipe pointed out, if you microwave the butter until its really soft, but not melted. It's really not too hard. And it's true.
This may not be a new epiphany for most of you. Or any of you. But it is for me. I can make anything! Without plugging in the mixer!
Okay I think you've gotten the point. Sorry for rambling. So these oatmeal bars. Were great. When they came out the oven I had to eat one.
(Yes I halved the recipe. Successfully for once!)
Warm. And chewy. Like a big oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. With less effort. And yes, I know they won't always be warm. But there's always the microwave.
So anyway, I couldn't just eat one. So I ate a few more. Don't worry, there are still some left. I promise. Well, there are right now. I can't make any guarantees for ....ten minutes in the future.

Tip of the Day: I think you can all see where this is going. Soften your butter. Alot. Put away your mixer. And roll up those sleeves. Result!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Apple Pie Bars

These apple pie bars were (I'm told) delicious. And so simple. Because I totally cheated. And you can too. I started this simple, delicious dessert with the oatmeal crumb base from my raspberry bars, and added about 1 tsp of cinammon. After pressing between 1/2 and 2/3 of the mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 pan, I took a can of apple pie filling, and chopped the apple pieces into a fine dice, which I then sprinkled over the base, and topped with the remaining crumbs.
Mmmmm here's a close up.Sure, you could probably also make this recipe with real apples, and some sugar, flour and lemon juice - but that's for you adventurous folk. Anyway, back to the recipe. I then stuck this in a 350 F oven for 30 to 35 minutes and .... apple pie bars! Just imagine them warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum.

Tip of the Day: If you're really in a rush, you can throw your crumb base ingredients in the food processor for a few quick pulses. But I always prefer it by hand. Just take off your rings first!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Turtle Bars?

These are turtle bars. Well, my version anyway. You'll see why.
(Yes, those are the classy paper plates with flowers)
I wanted to make something new and a little different, and so when I stumbled across the recipe, and realize that it was something unlike anything I'd made before, and that I had all the ingredients already, I was hooked.
For those of you who don't know, Turtle Bars are a bar cookie that generally have a cookie base, a caramel and nut middle, and a finishing chocolate layer. I got my recipe here.
So - adjustment number one: I don't really like nuts. I love peanut butter in almost anything, but real chunks of nuts in my food - not my thing. So, in these, I actually just sprinkled a layer of rice krispies in place of the nuts.
But the most important part of this recipe was the caramel: I got to make it myself! I'd never done that before. It basically involved melting butter and brown sugar together until it looked like this:
Exciting no? Although I was a little concerned that there just didn't seem like enough. If I were to make these again, I would probably double or least make 1.5 times the amount of caramel.
All in all, they were pretty good, and definitely something I'd try again, but maybe with a few more modifications.

Tip of the Day: If you're looking to substitute the nuts in a cookie or cake recipe, try rice krispies or a cereal like grape nuts - so you don't lose the crunch factor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My First Pie

Yes, this is it. My first real pie. In all its glory.
Isn't it beautiful? This here is a pear pie, with the recipe coming from the Great Baking Good Housekeeping Book. I'll share the recipe with you at the end of the post. And I'll share my pie experience with you....right here.
First step in pie making: the crust. Of course. This recipe is a simple mix of flour, salt, butter, shortening and ice water. I made enough for a double crust, and then refrigerated it in two (almost) even discs for a couple hours.
Then it was time to move on to the filling.
Mmmmmm pears. I chose pear because, I love pears and they're in season, and they're not apples. I mean, I love apples too, but I needed to branch out a little. So anyway, after dicing up the pears, (eating a few chunks), I tossed it with sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and cinnamon.
Fast forward a couple hours...And it's time to roll out the dough. Pie dough is very easy to roll out, so you don't get the muscles like when rolling out cookie dough or anything. Here you roll the dough out so its about 2 inches wider in diameter than the size of the pie plate plus its height times two. Get it? So you have about an inch overhang when you press it in. Mine worked out pretty well - it's important to have it be pretty uniform in thickness. So after pressing in the dough, and pouring in the filling, I rolled out the second disc and cut strips, layering them carefully over the filling. Here it is, right before baking.As the recipe recommended, I baked the pie on a cookie sheet in case the filling overflowed and bubbled over. It didn't really. It looks delicious now though. Must resist eating. And check out this little detail here. After I finished the lattice top, I couldn't resist fashioning a little pear out of the remaining dough. You could tell that was a pear, right? Right?
Anyway, I liked this pie, but it wasn't my shining achievement. The dough wasn't perfect - I don't know quite what the problem was - and it seemed bland and not very sweet, but the recipe didn't call for any sugar in the crust.
The filling was good, but it didn't slice up that easily or neatly. Not that I mind. But you might.
Please, tell me about your pies! I want to hear all the tips, stories, and disasters when it comes to pies. They are my new frontier. And I need your guidance.

Tip of the Day:
With any fruit pie recipe, you can substitute similar fruits for a different taste, or even mix complimentary fruits together to experiment. Try this recipe with plum, peach or even cherry. But make sure to adjust the sugar content.

Pie Crust:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1/4 cup shortening
4 to 6 tbsps ice water

Mix flour and salt, and with pastry blender or two knives cut in butter and shortening.
Sprinkle in ice water one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork, until dough comes together.
Shape into two disks and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3 pounds pears, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter

Stir together pears, sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and cinnamon.
Roll out dough and line 9 inch pie plate. Spoon filling into crust and dot with butter.
Roll out second disk and cut into strips. Layer on top of filling.
Bake pie on 425 for 20 minutes, then on 375 for 45 to 60 minutes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lemon Glazed Cupcakes

I know, I know, you've missed me. But I'm back. And I brought cupcakes. Lemon Glazed cupcakes that is. I love cupcakes for so many reasons. Firstly, they're just so cute. Secondly, you can justify eating several at a time, because they're so little. And thirdly, the decorating options are endless.
Not that I did any of that here. I just went with a basic glaze. I wasn't interested in waiting too long to eat them. Plus look at that just dripping down the side (and onto the counter). Mmm.
Well anyway, this recipe for Lemon Cupcakes came from recipezaar of course, and while I kept the recipe intact (actually I double it for 24 cupcakes), I ignored the recipe they included for lemon frosting, and went with a basic glaze made out of lemon juice and powdered sugar.
Here are the cupcakes before baking - this time I even used a scooper to try and make them even - you'll see soon how that turned out.
For once the doubling of the recipe actually went ok - so instead, I had to make one of the most basic mistakes to make up for it. I try to keep the mistakes on here interesting - missing ingredients, cakes that never come out of the pan, and the like. Just a few weeks ago I almost used curry powder instead of cinnamon. But not this time. Nope, this time, I put them in the oven, and set a timer. Then I sat down, and played a song on my computer. Do you see where this is going? About 35 minutes later, I realized I hadn't heard the beep. Aha. These cupcakes ended up baking about 10 minutes too long, but the results weren't disastrous. Here you can see just how my attempts at evenly leveled cupcakes came out. Don't worry, I ate that little sad one right away to put it out of its misery. Once these were cool, I mixed up the glaze, and just dipped the tops of the cupcakes in them, and let them set. Delicious!

Tip of the Day: This recipe calls for cream cheese in the batter, but if you want to keep it non-dairy, Tofutti makes a cream cheese alternative that is really pretty good.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3 ounces of cream cheese
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
7/8 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Beat together the butter, cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar. Beat in the eggs.
Gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly between 12 cupcake cups that have been lined with paper cupcake liners.
Bake at 325F about 25 minutes until firm to the touch.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chocolate Chip Meringues

Passover baking always results in cakes and cookies that taste like two things: matzah, and ground nuts. And there is only so much of that I can take. So instead, I'll always prefer to make recipes that are naturally flour free the entire year - like flourless chocolate cakes, coconut macaroons and, as we have here, Chocolate Chip Meringues!These simple cookies contain just egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate chips - so there is no substituting or leaving out ingredients for this week. And they're so easy too. Just whip them up, stick them in the oven, and forget about them.The batter, if you can even call it that, is beautiful and shiny and white, and they puff up to pretty white puffs with a crispy outside and a chewy, sweet inside.I used chocolate chips in these, but you can make them without any additions, or use chopped nuts - just keep it small so they don't weigh it down. I used mini chocolate chips, but if all you have is bigger, you can run your knife through them before you add them.
The recipe for these came from recipezaar, but I used a little less chocolate chips than called for (all I had) and I think that the full amount might be a little too much. I also estimated on the vanilla and the lemon juice, which I think you could even leave out if you don't have.
Either way, these are a delicious, simple, and passover-friendly treat!

Tip of the Day: If you are going to try and adapt your favorite recipe, try using 1/2 cup matzah cake meal and 1/4 to 1/3 cup of potato starch to every cup of flour.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Happy Passover!

Well, its that time of year again - time to take a break from blogging and baking to celebrate Passover.
So instead of homemade baked goods, this week, well, I'll be eating this:Yum.
But don't despair, there are still desserts out there to be had. I for one will probably polish off several canisters of chocolate chip macaroons this weekend.
But for the more sophisticated among you, here is a link to Smitten Kitchen's 17 Passover Dessert Ideas. Look at the creativity!
If I get a chance next week I'd love to make some flourless goodies but I don't yet know if I'll have the time. If I do, you'll be the first to know.
But don't worry, I'll be back next week with more cakes, muffins, cupcakes, cookies and disasters!

Have a happy Passover/Easter/Weekend!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Low-fat Oatmeal Raspberry Muffins

I rarely bake low-fat things. If I haven't already told you, my motto is, if it doesn't taste good, why make it? But, in this case, I relented.When I found this recipe for Low-Fat Oatmeal Muffins, I thought I would for once give it a shot. Applesauce, oats, whole wheat flour, fresh berries - healthy right? And since it came from Joy the Baker I thought it had to be good. The original recipe called for fresh blueberries, but since I've never been a big fan of those I figured I'd go with raspberries instead.
Well, I'll be honest with you - they were...okay. Not great. Not awful, just okay. There were a few specific problems I had that could potentially be corrected.
Firstly, the raspberries I used weren't very sweet, they were actually quite tart, and so biting into one in the cakey muffin was sometimes an unwelcome surprise. For me anyway.
Also, the fresh berries made the muffin surrounding the berry a little wet, not overwhelmingly so, but noticeably so.
And I have to admit, I made a perhaps questionable substitution. As I was measuring out my oats, I realized I was about 1/4 cup short of the 1 1/4 cups the recipe called for. I searched around my kitchen, looking for anything that might work - and then I found some plain shredded wheat in the cereal section. Crushed some of that up, poured it in - and tada! Don't know if I would recommend that in the future, but I can't really say if it affected the recipe at all.
And, well, finally - they tasted low fat. I also felt the dough itself was a little bland - maybe increasing the brown sugar and the cinnamon just a touch would help. Then again, that's just me.
I don't want to discourage any of you from baking low-fat, there are great recipes out there - and I know alot of you have had success with splenda replacements for sugar and brown sugar alike.
So, go forth and bake! And then tell me about it please!

Tip of the Day: Substituting applesauce in baked goods works best in oil based recipes, not those with butter. If you're trying it, substitute the applesauce for oil 1 to 1, and then add 2 tbsp oil in addition. Good Luck!

Recipe: (from Joy the Baker)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 egg
3/4 cup raspberries

Combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combined the applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil and egg.

Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. S

Fold in the raspberries.

Divide the batter in to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups.

Bake at 375 F for 16-18 minutes.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Apple Streusel Cake

Apples, cake, cinnamon, crumbs - what more could a girl want? A scoop of vanilla ice cream, maybe.
I was looking around for a cake recipe that, of course, included only ingredients I could currently find in the house - and I stumbled across this recipe for Quick Apple Streusel Coffee Cake on the food network website and I thought I'd give it a shot. I feel like I don't do many cakes here - I do alot of cookies and cupcakes and muffins - but I only have a few cakes - and most of them focusing on the decorating aspect.
Cake are great because they're often less time consuming and difficult - one pan, in the oven, and you're done! Of course, there are plenty of difficult cakes out there as well.

Back to this cake - it was pretty good, sweet and light, with the right balance of apple to cake. The topping wasn't as crumb like as I would have thought - it ended up being more of a crispy layer on top than a traditional crumb cake. It was still good, but if you wanted to change you could probably double the amount of butter in the topping to 4 tablespoons.
Happy eating - and if you have any great and simple cake recipes send them my way!

Tip of the Day: In recipes calling for apples, try using two or three different types for variety in the dish.

Recipe: (from
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups chopped Granny Smith Apples

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsps butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, milk and shortening.
Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients, and stir until combined.
Stir in the chopped apples.
Pour the batter in to an 8 inch square pan and bake at 400 F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Melting Moments

It's been quite a while since I posted a complete disaster on here, and its not because I don't have them - I just procrastinate putting them up! But here goes: these melting moments looked pretty and dainty, but they just tasted awful.I wanted to try these out, because they were relatively simple, and who doesn't want to try a cookie that melts in your mouth! I got this recipe from Joy Of Baking, so I figured they would be pretty good, but oh was I wrong.
The cookies were dry, and mealy, and after one bite you were looking for somewhere to spit it out. Who knows what went wrong - it could be the recipe, the corn starch I used could have been too old, I could have not baked them correctly - either way, I doubt I'll be trying these again soon. Any suggestions or ideas?Something about throwing out two trays of cookies makes a girl reluctant to rebake.
So, there goes, just keeping up on the Mistaking end of the deal!

Tip of the Day: If your dough tastes funny raw, chances are baking it won't improve, so its in your best interest to try a little (even if you're not a cookie dough person)!