Conquered THE CHEWY!

IMG_0336

One of my favorite Food Network shows is Good Eats. I’m a science geek, and I love how Alton goes into the science and details of why things cook/bake up the way they do. I especially love baking, so when I saw the episode when Alton made the different varieties of the ever so popular Chocolate Chip cookies, I knew I had to try one. I love chewy cookies the most, so naturally, that’s what I went with!

Unfortunately, the first time I made these, something went terribly wrong. The Chewy baked up SUPER flat and greasy. I’m not one to give up, so I decided to try again. This time, being very careful and mindful about each step. (I’m usually not so cautious with cookies!) This time, they baked up super well and I sampled 1 2 of them. They get a thumbs up from me!

The Chewy
Source: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  3. Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Chill the dough (I chilled for 2 hours), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets with a #20 sized scoop, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes (mine took 12 minutes) or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0268

This is one of the no-fail recipes that I like to refer back to for Chocolate Chip Cookies. I tried making Alton Brown’s The Chewy before, but something went TERRIBLY wrong with it and they all turned out flat. (Alton, don’t worry, I will try your recipe again.)

So, when my nephew showed his mad swimming skills last weekend, I promised him his favorite cookie. Without hesitation, he said CHOCOLATE! So, I made these cookies for him and they were a hit!

I posted about these cookies before, so definitely give this recipe a shot next time you are in the mood for some yummy CCC’s!

IMG_0267

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake

IMG_0242

While it may not be the prettiest icing job, (I tried to make it swirly and messy to look like dirt) I have to admit this will be one tasty cake for my sister-in-law. Today is her birthday, and I told her I wanted to make her a cake. I know she likes chocolate, so I got the holy grail of chocolate cake recipes to food bloggers everywhere: Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake.

I will admit, when they say the batter will be thin, it will be thin as a drink! You will think you botched the recipe and did something wrong. However, as weird as this is, the cake comes out completely perfect and from the tops I shaved off, it tastes incredibly rich, moist and amazing!

These are a few royal icing flowers that I made for the cake. I learned these in course 2 of the Wilton Cake Decorating classes. From top to bottom: apple blossoms, primrose, pansies and daffodils.

IMG_0235

My skills are VERY rusty (it’s been a year since I’ve made these) but I think I did an OK job.

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake
Source: Hershey’s Kitchens

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost cake. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

There are many variations to this recipe if you don’t have 2 – 9″ pans. I ended up doing the 3 – 8″ pans variation below:
Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

For the frosting, I used two batches of Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting. This was the perfect amount with a little leftover to use on the shaved cake tops to eventually make cake balls!

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Cupcake Pops

I made cupcake pops for my shower hostesses this past weekend. They came out awesome! Check out how I did it here!

Foodie Christmas Presents!!

This Christmas, I decided to give a bunch of homemade presents. I love the thought of gifting something that is homemade. It feels more personal, and who hates food?

For some family members, I gave spice baskets with homemade vanilla extract and sugar. For the extract, I found very reasonably priced bottles (that you didn’t have to buy in bulk or pay a TON for shipping, since they were glass) at American Spice Company, and I simply used mason jars for the vanilla sugar. To give it a cuter touch, I purchased label sheets at Office Depot and designed the labels for them myself. Check them out!

img_7249

I also made some homemade peppermint bark to put in the baskets. This is very simple…just place some parchment on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in melted semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Pour melted white chocolate on top (and swirl a little, if you’d like). Then, before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Once everything hardens, break the bark off into large chunks and place in bags.

img_7258

I thought that my family would enjoy some spice mixes, and I decided to give them our favorites from Penzeys: Northwood seasoning and BBQ 3000.

As for our coworkers, I baked sugar cookies using this recipe. I would say this book is a definite read for anyone who is interested in learning to decorate cookies! I adapted it to add almond extract, in addition to the vanilla extract and lemon rind called for in the recipe. It gave the cookies more of a sugar cookie flavor and less of a butter cookie flavor. This was the first homemade sugar cookie recipe that my fiance loved too! I FINALLY ended the search for the perfect recipe! :)

This recipe barely spread, allowing the cookies to keep their great crisp shape. It also rolled VERY easily. I never had a sticking problem, which is something I experienced with some previous recipes.

img_7257

To show how well they hold their shape, the cookies on the left are not cooked, while the ones on right are cooked.

I also made candy bark coated pretzels with Christmas M&Ms on top. This was a SUPER easy recipe. Just melt candy melts or bark, spoon into the middle of the store bought pretzels (laid out on wax or parchment paper) and top with 3 M&M’s.
img_7259

Last, but not least, I made the infamous Oreo Truffles. To make more, I used 1/2 tsp. as a measuring tool for how big the truffles should be. These made a more decent sized truffle, and I made about 80 with the recipe this time.

Then, I put each treat in holiday cellophane bags, as pictured.

img_7266

These went in cute little holiday take-out boxes that I found at Michael’s for $1 each. I absolutely love how these all came out! They were also well-received, so I’m definitely going to keep making edible gifts for future holidays!
img_7267

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve read a lot of great reviews about this recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies. The only reason I made these (since they are SO not diet friendly) is because our over-generous neighbors were landscaping at the same time as my fiance and I. They gave us ALL of their leftover top soil (which was more than what we needed.we didn’t even have to open any bags that we purchased at Lowe’s). So, my fiance suggested that I bake them something. Any excuse to bake works for me! AND it felt good not to use applesauce haha!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Brown Eyed Baker from Baking Illustrated

Makes about 18 large cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
  4.  Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
  5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

img_7155
It took a lot of willpower to avoid eating this dough as is.

img_7158
Here’s my best effort to make sure the jagged edges stayed jagged. AND, here’s the Silpat debut!! The Silpat totally rocks way more than regular silicone baking sheets I’ve used before!!

img_7160

Here they are out of the oven. Yum!

img_7162

Finally, these babies are cooled and ready for a taste tester! Sorry, couldn’t help it!!

I will admit, these are some crazy procedures on this recipe (jagged edges on top, what?). However, follow them to the T! The cookies will come out a little gooey, but if you leave them on the baking sheet, they will finish baking into a perfect cookie! The jagged edges do bake into a neat looking top as well.

By the way, since this recipe used a yolk, there was a white left. So, I got bored, and I tried to make a meringue while a batch was baking up. I’ve never done it before! Super cool!! :)

img_7153

Eggnog Cookies and a couple of recipe revisits!

For my last day at my old job, my coworkers asked me to bring in some goodies for them. I decided to make Cranberry White Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti (scroll down a bit for the recipe), Eggnog Cookies and Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies.

The treats went over really well!

Here’s the recipe for eggnog cookies. These left for a very subtle spice taste, so if you want more eggnog, add more. Many people on Allrecipes adapted the recipe that way.

Eggnog Cookies
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Cream sugar and butter until light. Add eggnog, vanilla, and egg yolks; beat at medium speed with mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg. Bake 20 to 23 minutes until bottoms turn light brown.

Check out the spread!!

img_7134
Cranberry White Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

img_7135
Eggnog Cookies

img_7136
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies

 

Pumpkin (White) Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these pumpkin cookies last week, since I was on a serious pumpkin kick, as you can tell from previous entries. These were a little too sweet with the white chocolate chips, in my opinion. So, next time, I’ll omit them and let the pumpkin shine!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I did 1/2 cup applesauce, of course!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used white chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional and omitted)

Directions:

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

img_7128

img_7130

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies

So, yesterday I realized that I wanted to bake with more pumpkin. The Fall is only here another month and a half, so I need to enjoy pumpkin while it feels right! I saw on Cara’s Cravings a picture of these beautiful swirly pumpkin cheesecake brownies and knew I just had to try it. Thanks for the recipe, Cara!

As far as for the diet, I didn’t really skinny it up that much (not that it really needed it as you will see in the POINTS* value), because it was election night and heck, I knew my family needed some fun food to enjoy the night with! I did make some changes on here, though.

Pumpkin Spice Cheescake Brownies
Adapted from: Cara’s Cravings

Ingredients:

Brownie Batter

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (used 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 1 cup sugar]
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    (added 1/4 oz. semisweet baking chocolate)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each ground ginger and ground cloves (I used 1/2 tsp nutmeg instead)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8″ square metal baking pan.
  2. Beat together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon. In separate bowl, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients.
  3. Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving.

img_7054
Don’t they just look great? Ok, I won’t keep you waiting. Here’s the POINTS* value.

Serves: 20 (I made them small because they are very flavorful brownies and you don’t need much to give the sweet tooth what it wants!)
POINTS*: 4

img_7059

Oreo Truffles

I’ll admit it…I rushed myself into making oreo truffles, so they aren’t the prettiest. However, the taste makes up for it BIG TIME!

I found this idea originally in Beantown Baker’s blog, and I love that this is non-perishable!

I can’t wait to make these around the holidays with my new candy dipper set too…

All you need are:

1 package oreos
14 oz. condensed milk (you may need less than this…see directions)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Almond bark or melting chocolate

First, crush the oreos in a ziploc bag or a food processor.

Then, add half of the condensed milk and mix together. Add a little more at a time, until the filling is mold-able by hand, but not too sticky.



Form into small balls and place in the freezer to set for about half an hour. In the meantime, prepare your melting chocolates according to the package instructions in the microwave or double boiler. Then, dip the balls in chocolate (I used toothpicks to hold the balls in the chocolate) and allow to cool on parchment or mini candy cups. :)