Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bake 52: Week 52!! Thick and Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies

 Who can believe it's the last week of Bake 52?!!  I learned this year that time flies when you're baking. ;) I've had so much fun baking new recipes, learning new things, tricks and techniques and making new friends.  Thanks to all my baking friends who participated this year, whether it was baking with me every week or just reading and following along.  

We have decided to start a dinner group for 2013.  We will be posting twice a month for our new group starting the 2nd Wednesday in January.  So be ready for that and if you want to join us, let me know!

It's hard to tell from the pictures exactly how big these cookies are.  They're about 3.5 inches in diameter and plenty if each person only has one cookie!  Not to mention they are pretty rich.  It's a good thing for me because I LOVE chocolate but I guess it's not for everyone.  (Not that I understand that kind of thinking)  These were the perfect cookie, chewy on the outside, soft in the center and stuffed with more chocolate than anyone thought was possible.  You can opt to leave out the chocolate chips if you are scared about these amounts of chocolate but I don't scare easily.  I think these cookies would also be great to stuff things inside of-like rolos, peanut butter cups, oreos, whatever.

I didn't have parchment paper so I just baked the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and it worked out wonderfully.  I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips for the melted chocolate and it seemed to work well too.
All in all, I think these cookies were great.  They go really well with a glass of milk.  ;)  If you are a choco-holic, you should give them a try!

Janet was our host for the week, you can get the recipe at her blog.  Thanks for hosting this week Janet, and picking a great recipe.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bake 52: Biscotti (Chocolate and Peppermint)

 'Tis the season to over-do everything and shove peppermint in it.  Don't worry, I got the memo.  I am not sure what my fascination is lately with stuffing candy canes into everything but I am all about it.  I don't even normally like peppermint that much.  Or maybe I do and I just don't know it.  Either way, I'm a crazy un-stoppable force right now.  

This was my *third time making biscotti and my favorite so far.  Almost assuredly because of the chocolate involved.  I am not sure why I didn't think to do that last time.  It seems like most of the group used the chocolate chip variation in the book and, of course, I am one of them.  I bet the almond biscotti would also be good with chocolate slathered all over it though. :)

After adding the chocolate and peppermint to the dough (I halved the recipe, used about 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and 2 crushed candy canes) and while it was baking I was thinking about seeing chocolate covered biscotti somewhere and decided to go big or go home.  When it came out of the oven, I just put some chocolate chips on top, let them sit for a minute and then smoothed with a knife.  I am sure I could have made it harder by whipping up some melted chocolate with oil and then dipping them but I forgot about the over-doing everything-thing.  Momentary lapse.
These were pretty good and if I would have made them sooner, I would have considered making them to go with the gifts we gave out this year, which I still need to share.  As it was, I made them tonight. ;)  And that's the reason my pictures are slightly more horrific than usual.  I need the sun, man!

These would be perfect with hot cocoa, I am off to try that.

Emily was our hostess for the week, you can get the recipe at her blog.  Thanks for hosting this week Emily!

 *1st time was almond bicotti and was for this recipe, and the second time was cinnamon flavored

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD: Finnish Pullah

I haven't heard of this particular bread before.  It's essentially a yeasted sweet bread.  It's supposed to be flavored with Cardamom but I didn't have any and wasn't sure it was a flavor I would like so I took the advice of a fellow baker and subbed cinnamon and nutmeg (1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg) for the cardamom.  It was delicious.  I left off the almonds and used turbinado sugar instead of peal sugar.  Everyone loved it. 
The dough was easy to work with and the braiding wasn't as big a deal as you would think  I am going to try it again sometime with the cardamom and see how that goes.  It's super festive and I am sure anyone would love to share it with you or receive it as a gift. :)
You can get the recipe by buying the book or visiting Erin's blog for the recipe.  She was our host for the week.
If you'd like to see what the other TWD bakers did this week, you can see their links HERE.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homemade Marshmallow Stars

I will never be the same.  I really don't know how else to say it.  
I can't believe we have been eating store-bought marshmallows for so long when we could have been eating these.  And I wasn't expecting to feel that way.  
I really thought they wouldn't be much different taste-wise but I wanted to make marshmallow shapes. I was especially worried after working with the gelatin.  The smell of that stuff just makes me want to throw up a little bit.  So I was smelling that and thinking:
This is going to be disastrous.
These are going to taste like pure gelatin (gag)
I am going to end up just using store bought mini-marshmallows.

...and a few other things that I won't bore you with.  I was wrong on all counts.  I feel like I have never truly had a marshmallow until now.  And it was easy, almost too easy.  If you have a candy thermometer, a mixer and a brain, you can pull these off. 

You don't have to cut these into stars.  Candy cane shapes would be so cute with some peppermint flavoring and food coloring in the recipe (There's a recipe HERE for peppermint marshmallows that would be cute as candy canes).  Christmas trees would be cute too.  I just liked the idea of stars and I happen to have small enough cookie cutter that would work for what I needed.  My cutter was just shy of 2 inches (from the top point to the bottom point) and I got 77 stars and a bunch of scraps that were turned into mini-marshmallows.  You can also just cut these into squares and not worry about the shapes at all.  They are so good, they don't need a shape. :)

Homemade Marshmallow Stars
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 1/2 T)
3/4 cup cold water
3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
cooking spray 
18x13 pan
tin foil
wax paper

Line an 18x13 pan with tin foil and spray well with cooking spray or brush with canola or vegeatable oil.

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar, 3/4 cup water, corn syrup and salt to a boil over high heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue cooking, without stirring until mixture is 238 degrees (or soft ball), about 9 minutes.

Meanwhile add 3/4 cup cold water to the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle with gelatin.  Let soften 5 minutes.  Attach whisk attachment to mixer

Once sugar mixture reaches 238, turn the mixer onto low speed and slowly add the sugar mixture to the gelatin mixture.  Gradually raise the mixer speed to high.  Beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.  (It helps to set the timer for a reference.)  Bowl should just be warm.  Slowly beat in vanilla and combine.  

Scrape into prepared pan and smooth the top with a grease spatula.  I also greased a sheet of wax paper and placed it over the top and smoothed with that, then removed it.  Set aside, uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup powdered sugar over the top of the marshmallows, and flip onto counter top.  Remove foil and sprinkle another 1/3 cup powdered sugar over the marshmallows (so now both side have powdered sugar).  Add remaining powdered sugar to a plastic bag.  Cut marshmallows into desired shapes, add a few at a time to the bag with powdered sugar and toss to coat all sides of marshmallows.  Roll remaining sheet of scraps into a roll and cut into desired pieces, coat in powdered sugar and store.  Can be stored in airtight container for 4 days.  

These are good just to eat, good in hot cocoa.....

And I checked to be sure they were good toasted and they were freaking amazing.  Seriously.

These were part of my Christmas gifts this year (the stars anyway, the mini marshmallow scraps were saved for us to use), hopefully in a day or two I will share the rest. I am sure you are super prepared and already ready for Christmas, but if not, maybe this will give you an idea or inspire something similar.  Oh and these are gluten and dairy free!  These would make a great gift by themselves, maybe just cover them with chocolate and put them in a cute bag, or you could turn them into the these marshmallow pops.  Any recipe that calls for marshmallows has to be 20 times better with homemade used instead.

Adapted from

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bake 52: Chocolate Cake Roll with Peppermint Ice Cream

 I was planning on making this according to the recipe until I read Michelle's blog post.  The original recipe has a cream filling but she was discussing the possibility of using ice cream.  That was the only push I needed.  I know, I am so easily swayed.  My grandparents used to own an ice cream shop in my hometown.  They made their own ice cream and popsicles. They also made ice cream cake rolls and it was one of my favorite things we made.  I didn't get to have it very often because they were pretty long, like 24 inches, and we only sold them as an entire cake roll, not in slices.  Birthdays and special occasions were about the only time we got to indulge. I wish I had some super secret recipes from my grandparents but I don't.  I am going to have to interrogate some family members to see what I can come up with. ;)

Obviously, I substituted ice cream for the cream filling.  We had a bucket of vanilla ice cream in our freezer and some candy canes so I thought I would make some peppermint ice cream to make it a bit more festive than using regular vanilla.  I used about 3 1/2-4 cups of ice cream and about 6 candy canes.  I spread some wax paper on a baking sheet (18x13 since that was the size of the cake).  I put a little over a cup of ice cream and 2 candy canes in my food processor and processed until combined and then spread it on the baking sheet.  I repeated that with the remaining ice cream and candy canes (2 more batches).  Once the ice cream was spread out pretty well on the baking sheet, I covered it with wax paper, kind of patted it down so it was even and then froze it for about 45 min to 1 hour.

I was a little worried about waiting longer than the 15 minutes the book specified to fill the cake but it worked out okay.  It might have been a bit more brittle and there was one spot that cracked a little but I really can't complain.  After the ice cream had chilled for an hour, I took it out, took the wax paper off the top and flipped it onto the unrolled cake, removed the other layer of wax paper and then rolled it up as tight as possible.  Wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and then put it back in the freezer for about 3 hours or until firm. Then I made the glaze and directed.

The cake wasn't quite right as far the cake rolls I am used to.  It's lighter and more airy than the cake rolls we used to make. I remember them being made with denser cakes, almost brownie like cakes. This was still really good but I might try to experiment with it a little.  I was also appalled that there wasn't any butter or oil in the cake.  Weird, right?  I had to read the recipe a couple times to be sure I wasn't missing something.

I love this kind of recipe because it's easy but looks so impressive.  You should give this a try, Michelle, our host for the week, has the recipe on her blog (and how to make it gluten free!).  Thanks for hosting this week Michelle and for inspiring me to make it with ice cream. ;)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bake 52: Large Danish Braid

I knew when I looked at this recipe a few days ago that it was probably a 2 day process.  It doesn't have to be but it's easier to give yourself a couple days so you don't feel rushed.  Yesterday I made the danish dough and did all the rolling and folding, which really isn't that hard, just takes a little time.  You roll it out and fold it over a few times, refrigerate for 2 hours and then repeat.

This morning, I rolled it out, made the fillings and baked it.  I chose cream cheese and strawberries (1 cup frozen strawberries, pureed with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp lemon juice, simmered until thick) for the filling.  Of course we all loved it.  We are strawberry lovers around here and you all know how I feel about cream cheese.  I almost threw some Nutella in there too but I figured after folding all the butter into the dough, we were going to be consuming enough fat and calories without it.
 After baking it at 400 {Next time I would go with 375 degrees maybe.  It seemed like mine was more done that I'd like on the bottom.  Or maybe just double up on the baking pans like Betsy suggested a while ago.} for 22-25 minutes, the glaze is brushed over it.  I was maybe supposed to brush all the glaze over it, but I just did one coat and still had plenty left.  
 Since I had glaze left, instead of starting over with the icing, I just added some powdered sugar to my left over glaze to make the icing.  And I still had some left over.  Maybe I was just supposed to douse this thing?

This is super fancy, super delicious and not too hard.  It would be perfect for a special brunch or dessert on a special occasion or just a Wednesday. :)

Jen O was our host this week.  If you'd like the recipe, you can head over to her blog.  Thanks for hosting this week Jen, it was a great pick!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TWD: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

I have always known that Julia's tastes were much more sophisticated than mine.  I wasn't fooling myself.  But after the last recipe, (the brownies) I started to feel like maybe we weren't that different after all.  Maybe we were kindred spirits.  Maybe I had completely misjudged the situation and we were actually BFFs at heart.  Then this week's recipe smacked me in the face.  And I remembered that there isn't much sophisticated about me and especially not my palate.

I have never made a baby cake before.  I thought that was just a nickname people used.  "C'mere baby cakes."  You know, that kinda thing.  But I guess that nickname came from somewhere, probably these cakes?  Or maybe it's not a nickname and I heard someone say it and thought they were talking to someone else but they were actually talking to a small cake.  It's hard to say.  Of course, I didn't have baby cake pans so I used some ramekins that I had.  I made 1/4 the recipe and it made 2 small cakes.  The only problem, and maybe it's not a problem at all, is that I added the wrong amount of molasses.  I was supposed to add 1/2 cup for 1/4 of the recipe but I guess when I saw molasses, my brain automatically went to tablespoons.  Who would add more than tablespoons of molasses to a cake?  What are we making brown bread?  So I added 1/2 tablespoon instead of 1/2 cup.  Oops.  I realized it after putting the cakes in the oven.  The recipe said to rotate the pans to level batter, but my batter was way too thick to expect a pan rotation would do any good.  After reviewing the recipe a few times, I realized what I had done, but it was too late. (dun, dun, dun)

I wondered if they would still turn out with my error but I think it ended up being a blessing.  I am not a douse-everything-with-molasses kind of girl so I think if I'd added the full amount, the flavor might have been a bit much for me.  At is was, I was surprised how little I hated this cake.  I really expected to hate it.  It didn't have nearly enough chocolate and it seemed like way too much ginger but really it wasn't so bad.  It also has pepper in it.  Yeah, pepper.  I know I have heard of  pepper in a cake before, but I didn't expect I would actually put pepper in a cake (I know I am not sophisticated enough).  All in all, it wasn't so bad.  I ate half of a baby cake and maybe even enjoyed it a little bit.  I probably wouldn't crave these or make them for myself.  But if I knew someone who liked gingerbread and pepper a lot, I would probably make it for them.  
The inside was still a bit gooey when we cut them open but I liked it like that.  I am just glad they worked at all after my mess up! 
On a side note, Calvin thought they tasted good and Hadlee decided to be 'nice' and give Calvin her piece.  She is so selfless.

If you want to see what the other bakers did this week and maybe see what the cakes are supposed to look like, you can go HERE.

If you'd like the recipe, you can buy the book , or stop by the blog of our host for the week, Karen's Kitchen Stories
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