Archive | January, 2011

Sold!

30 Jan

If I was a betting woman, I’d bet that after you see the very first picture of today’s post you’ll already be sold on it. You’ll know you want to try this sweet treat before you even know what the end product will be.
Want to see if I’m right?

So what do you say? Have I reeled you in yet? 🙂 If a recipe starts like this……chances are it’s a great one. 🙂

I originally saw these chocolate crackle cookies on bakerella.com, but the recipe is actually from Martha Stewart. It can be found here. http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/favorite-chocolate-crackle-cookies

The first step is to melt 8 ounces of that beautiful bittersweet chocolate you just saw. If you know anything about melting chocolate, you know that you must be very careful not to burn it. Always use a double boiler or put the chocolate in a bowl on top of a pot of simmering water.

This will take a few minutes so you’ll need a little patience, but the smaller you chop your chocolate the faster it will melt. Just don’t turn the heat up too much trying to melt it faster because there are few things worse than burning perfectly good chocolate.

….getting there….

Just right! It is done as soon as all of the little chunks of chocolate are gone and it looks smooth. Remove this from the heat so that it can cool while you are working on the next few steps. Then sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

After sifting this all of the lumps were gone, but it still wasn’t well mixed. I whisked it a little just for good measure.

Now it’s time to work with the butter and brown sugar. You’ll need to leave the butter out on the counter for a while before getting ready to mix up these cookies, because it will just refuse to cooperate if it’s not room temperature. Butter can be very stubborn like that.

Mix these together until the mixture becomes “light and fluffy”…..

…and looks something like this. I think it’s so cool how cameras can get such a clear shot of something at high speed. This picture was taken while the mixer was on, but it looks like the paddle attachment is just sitting perfectly still. Cool.

Next the cookies need some eggs and vanilla.

Once those are mixed in well, it’s time to add the good stuff. 🙂

Mmmmm.

Just like many other cookie recipes, this one ends with alternately added the dry ingredients (that were sifted together earlier) and milk. Start and end with the dry, and make sure the mixer is on low so that the flour doesn’t spray all over your kitchen. It’s not hard to make a big mess that way. Trust me on this one.

This is what the dough will look like when it’s all done. It’s a very sticky dough, so it needs to be put in time out in the fridge for a while to become firm enough to use. The recipe suggests dividing it into fourths before sending it to the fridge so that you have smaller amounts to work with once you start making the cookies later. Here’s how I divided it up. I’m not really sure if this is the best (or easiest) way, but it certainly worked for me.

I put some clear plastic wrap over a bowl, scooped in about a quarter of the dough, and then pulled the ends of the plastic wrap together and twisted it to seal.


After about 2 hours, the dough is cold enough to work with. Take out one section at a time and roll it out onto a surface dusted with powdered sugar.

Keep rolling each piece until the diameter is about an inch. Then cover in plastic wrap again and chill for another half an hour. I know this seems like a lot of steps. It is. But the finished cookies are worth it. 🙂 Take out the dough after 30 minutes and preheat the oven. Cut into 1″ pieces and roll into a ball.

Dip each cookie into granulated sugar, then into powdered sugar.

Then place on a cookie sheet and repeat, repeat, repeat. This part is actually pretty fun, so I didn’t mind doing it 4 dozen times.

A parchment lined baking sheet helps to keep the cookies from sticking. After 15 minutes in the oven, the cookies flatten out a bit and the sugar on top crackles. Check it out. Very cool. 🙂

Enjoy! And share with friends. The recipe makes about 50 of these! They taste a lot like brownies.

Random Thought of the Day: As most of you know, I’m quite addicted to watching the Food Network. I know several of you are fans too. Who is your favorite chef? Or what is your favorite show?

Next Up: Not sure yet. I’m still thinking about those chocolate cookies that are cooling in my kitchen. 🙂

Early Valentine’s :)

23 Jan

I mentioned last week that I might make a Valentine’s cake this weekend, even though it would be a little early. I decided to go for it. I realized that the weekend before Valentine’s Day I won’t have time to make a Valentine cake because I’ll be busy making a cake for my niece’s birthday. So why not go ahead and break out the hearts and pink icing now? 🙂

I cannot take any credit for the design of this cake. I saw this cake on cakecentral.com last year just after Valentine’s Day and saved it. The lady who actually came up with the concept deserves props for this. I just did my best to make mine look half as good as hers. 🙂

I started my making my own fondant. This stuff is WAY better than the store bought kind. I found a recipe for marshmallow fondant a long time ago. I kept putting it off because I wasn’t sure how hard it would be, but I wish I’d tried this stuff as soon as I came across the recipe. Not only does it have a better flavor, it’s also much easier to work with. It all starts by heating up marshmallows in the microwave.

After about a minute, they are nice and melty and puffy. Water and a little bit of vanilla get added here.

After stirring in the water and vanilla the marshmallows become very smooth. Sticky too, but smooth. 🙂

The great thing about making your own fondant is that while the mixture is still a liquid you can add in the coloring that you want to use. This was much easier than trying to knead color into fondant. I wanted a bright pink for this cake. 🙂 The coloring is a little off in the picture. I still can’t quite figure out the different settings on this new camera. But this will give you an idea:

Once the color is incorporated it’s time to add powdered sugar, and believe me: it takes a LOT of stirring/kneading to get 2 pounds of powdered sugar mixed in!

Once I make several batches of this fondant and get the hang of it, I think it’ll go a little quicker. But 20 minutes later….here’s what I had. My own fondant! 🙂 That made me happy. 🙂

This had to sit in the fridge overnight before being used on the cake. In the meantime, I shaped some hearts from some black fondant.

This morning I took the fondant back out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before getting started on the cake again. I rolled it out and was pleased with how smooth it was. Making fondant wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be.

I rolled out fondant for all three of my round tiers- 4″, 6″, and 8″. I covered each of them and smoothed out the fondant and was impressed with how easy this marshmallow fondant was to use. Much easier to handle and smooth than the ready made kind.

As I stacked the fondant covered tiers I added a black fondant border at the bottom of each layer.

The final step was to add the hearts I made yesterday. I really like how this one turned out!

Up Next: Chocolate cookies

Random Thought of the Day: Sweet Tea. I love it. I’m having some now. You should too. 😉

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

17 Jan

Today’s cake is without a doubt the easiest cake I’ve ever decorated. Ever. And it’s pretty cute too. 🙂 I mentioned on the last post that I would be making something from a new pan I’d received for Christmas. My mother in law gave me a set of cake pans which look like an Oreo cookie (except it says “cookie” instead of “oreo” because it’s not an officially licensed product. All the same to me. )

For this cake you need 3 things: the special cookie pans, chocolate cake batter (I just used a simple box mix). and buttercream icing.

The pans came in a set of 2. Bake half of the chocolate cake batter in each of the pans (these silicone pans need to be sat on top of a cookie sheet to bake).

Now for the decorating. Are you ready for this? I promise that anyone can make this cake. It’s so simple, I won’t even need words to describe the decorating technique.

1.

2.

3.

Voila! That’s all there is to it! I didn’t get a good picture of the top of the cake; the flash kept making it too bright. I’m not very good at the whole lighting/picture-taking thing. You can see a little of the words in this picture (and of course the signature ridged edges)

Simple, quick, and fun. I like the idea of making this to have friends over for a summer barbeques or something like that. I don’t know why, but it just seems like a summer type of cake. But it also wouldn’t take much of your time, which can be important if you are having friends over and you’re trying to get lots of other things done besides a cake. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: I really like this cake, but to be honest Oreos aren’t my favorite snack. I mean, they’re ok. I eat them occasionally. But I’m not obsessed with them or anything. Which snack/junk food is your favorite? Oreos? Chips Ahoy? Some other cookie or candy?

Up Next: I’m not entirely sure yet to be honest. I may make a Valentines cake next weekend. I know it would be very early, but I have a picture of a Valentines cake I’ve had saved since last year…..so I may get an early start. 🙂

Tartlets to Begin the New Year

8 Jan

I’m back. I’m sure all of you were just staring at your computer screens wondering where I was last weekend. (Because my tiny fan base is SO consumed with this blog that I’m sure you all noticed that I took the weekend off last week. Or not. 😛 )

I’m making my first post of 2011 about a dessert that I tried at the first and only Pampered Chef party I’ve attended. One of my wonderful co-workers invited me to her Pampered get together just before Christmas. This was one of the recipes that was served, and I loved them! They are called Taffy Apple Tarts. They remind me of mini apple pies, and I really like that. 🙂 I think they would be perfect to take to a pot luck dinner or a family holiday gathering, because it always seems like there are SO many great dishes to try at big get togethers. These are great because you can try one and  have all of the great flavor, but still have room for other desserts too. Or, if you are just making them at home they are small enough that you can eat several (or most!) of them at once. 🙂

The one thing that I did to change the recipe was to use only 1/4 of a caramel in the bottom of each tartlet. The original recipe called for 1/2 of a caramel for each one. I just wanted to leave as much room for the apple filling as possible. Here’s the link to the full recipe. I highly suggest that you try it. 🙂

http://www.food.com/recipe/taffy-apple-tartlets-pampered-chef-328956

Here’s everything you’ll need:

The first step is to chop the peanuts. I don’t have the food chopper that the recipe suggests, but I used my mini electric chopper. Just be careful not to chop these too fine. You want small pieces, but still course enough to make a nice, crispy topping.

Then you’ll need to chop the apples. Again, the recipe suggests to use a food chopper. I just chopped these the old fashioned way. I thought a cereal bowl would be enough to hold the 2 apples. I didn’t realize I’d end up with this big of a pile!

Note: I somehow *completely* missed the part of the recipe that said to peel the apples. As you can see, I left the peeling on. It still tasted good and gave it a nice color, so I don’t know that I would bother peeling them. It’s up to you.

Then add the caramel sauce and flour. Stir together and microwave to heat. Yum!

*P.S. I hate to brag on myself, but I do think I did a pretty terrific job on that photo. When I look at it I can almost smell the caramel mixing in with the apples. Ok, I’m done with obsessing over that.

I love using pre-made pie crusts. They made recipes like this one so easy. Cut your refrigerated pie crust dough into circles and place into mini muffin pans.

Then add the cut up caramel and spoon in the apple mixture.

Then sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and bake! I used a little more than the 1/4 cup of peanuts called for, because I really liked the topping.

I’m already thinking that these would make a great summertime dessert…with a tiny scoop of ice cream  piled on top. Mmmm. Then I’m thinking that I should also try this with other fruits. I love peaches. I don’t think it would go well with caramel though. What type of sauce do you think would go well with this dessert if I switched the apples to peaches? Anyone creative enough to figure that out?

Next Up: A cake made with a special pan that I received as a Christmas gift. I think you’ll like it.

Random Thought of the Day: Since I haven’t posted anything since before Christmas, I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years. Anyone have a New Years Resolution they want to share? Or has anyone heard any funny New Years Resolutions from the radio (or anywhere) that might make us laugh?