Monday, August 6, 2012

Orange Meringues

So what did I bake today?

Remember the chocolate chip meringue cookies I made earlier? And how I said they were super versatile? Orange meringue cookies. Orange extract, a dash of food coloring, and a stand mixer that whips them up thick enough to actually pipe out, and voila!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cookie Dough Dip

Yeah, ok. I'm a little behind the trend here.

I love my boy, but he gets whiny when he's hungry. (Ok fine, so do I.) But anyway, the boy was hungry one day, and the only thing in the whole wide world that could make him happy was sex cookies. That's it. Now, he's great and all, but if I baked these cookies every time he wanted them, I wouldn't have time to sleep. So when I told him I didn't have the time, he insisted on just eating the butterscotch chips out of the bag.

Now, in cookies, butterscotch chips are great, but on their own, they're actually kinda gross. Hungry, whiny boys don't understand this. So my challenge was to whip up something tasty in less than five minutes that involved butterscotch chips.

Cue the cookie dough dip.

I just so happened to have everything for this recipe in the house. Looking back, that wasn't exactly a good thing. This stuff was dangerous! We had leftovers of this stuff in the house for about a week, and I'm not sure whether my roommate loved me or hated me because of it. I mean, this is good.

Ok, so the one thing I messed up on? The chips. I did half and half chocolate and butterscotch (the boy wanted butterscotch, I wanted chocolate!) The raw butterscotch chips still tasted...raw. Blech. They really need to be saved for cookies, and only cookies. I also got a little excited and put waaaaay too many in. Yeah, follow the recipe (like I didn't) and try not to get too fat off this stuff!

Cookie Dough Dip
From How Sweet it is 
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups chocolate chips

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to bubble. Set aside to cool, and whisk in vanilla.
Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar for 60 seconds. With mixer on low speed, add in brown sugar and butter mixture. Mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Serve with fruit, cookies, crackers, pretzels or just a spoon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homemade Caramels

So, I have this super sneaky life plan right now. For those of you who haven't heard it, I promise I'll spill everything soon. It does however, involves my chocolate chip cookies, sex cookies, and these caramels.

Anyway, I have this crazy friend who swing dances all the time. One time, she was out swing dancing, and her partner pulled her in from a spin. She was supposed to land by grabbing his shoulder, but missed. Her finger somehow ended up his nose instead. (Still not sure how that happened...)

That story has absolutely nothing to do with these caramels. I just needed an interesting story to go with these, and that's what my friend came up with. She did enjoy these caramels however!

I probably have said this before, but I'll say this again, making candy is not like baking cookies. It's more like something you'd make in chemistry class. Everything has to be just right, and has to bake at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time. No tossing in whatever, or bumping up the temperature to get them done faster!

I feel like I have a million pictures of boiling sugar

Once they're done, the results are worth it. They're super sticky and gooey, and have a slight graininess that make them taste homemade. Watch your braces and crowns, but these are amazing!

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla

Generously butter a 9x9 pan.
In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar and a dash salt, stir thoroughly. Stir in corn syrup. Gradually add condensed milk, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to 245 (firm-ball stage) for 15-20 minutes. Mixture should boil gently over entire surface. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Pour into buttered pan. When cool, cut into squares with a wet, sharp knife. Makes about 2 1/2 pounds.

Chocolate caramels: (haven't made these yet, but that's my next project!) Prepare caramels as above, except add 2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened chocolate, cut up, with condensed milk.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adventures in Piping

Remember those vanilla cookies I made the other day? Yeah, they were tasty and all, but a little lame on their own. Remember those orange cupcakes with buttercream frosting? Yeah, I really needed a batch and a half of frosting, not two batches.

Hmm, lame cookies and leftover frosting...sounds like a perfect combination to me!

I figured this would be a good chance to (finally!) teach myself some piping. Piping flowers is not for sissies! It took me lots of practice, but I finally got something decent!

First, the frosting. It was about a week old at this point, so it had a funny texture. A minute back in the stand mixer fixed that right up! I got a set of Wilton piping tips with a #104 petal tip, and a #352 leaf tip. (and a drop flower tip that I couldn't figure out.) They took a hunk of time and a lot of googling to figure out, but here's what I came up with:

The petal tip has a fat end and a skinny end. With the fat end where you want the middle of the flower, (counter-intuitive, I know,) make a little "loop" motion while piping. It took about a hundred times to get just the right technique down, but once you do, make five or six petals together (I liked the look of five, but sometimes six fit better.)

The leaf on the other hand, was way easy. The tip has two pokey parts on it. With the pokey parts stacked on top of each other, pipe a leaf! The slower you move, the fatter and wrinklier the leaf will be. Stop squeezing but keep moving to get the little taper on the end.

Finish off with a dot of yellow for the center! They're not perfect, but not bad for my first try!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Vanilla Cookies

Humor me for a minute.

Flavors are weird. In ice cream land, there's three categories of flavors; chocolate, vanilla, and other. Chocolate's awesome, and "other" is cool and all, but with the exception of middle-aged men, nobody loves vanilla. It's considered a base for other flavors, both in ice cream land, and baking land. It's the modern equivalent of "plain" flavored.

But here's a secret - vanilla IS a flavor. I mean, it's a plant, and it's tasty. It's not plain, it's not flavorless. Look in the yogurt isle, there's tubs of vanilla yogurt, and tubs of plain yogurt. They're not the same. Vanilla is not the lack of flavor, it's just very mild.

So in other words, these cookies don't suck. They're not "plain," and they're not sugar cookies. They're vanilla cookies, deal with it.

Ok, I really just wanted to use my new toys. My sister and I went to Iowa, (It was awesome. Remind me to tell you guys all about it later. Oh wait, nothing happened, it was Iowa.) and I got some baking toys at the gift shop of a living history farm. Why the gift shop doo-dads were so cheap, I have no idea, but I got a new pastry blender, a set of biscuit cutters, and a french rolling pin, all for half of what they would have cost at Michael's. This project used all three. Sweet.

These cookies are good and all, but they're simple on their own. They do make a great simple base for all sorts of tasty ideas. I'll show you mine later, but theses are good for either frosting, sprinkling with a little raw sugar right before you bake, or topping with a little jam for a brunch treat.

Or just eat them, that works too!

Vanilla Cookies
from Greatest Ever Baking

2/3 cup butter (one stick plus 2 2/3 tbs)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Combine butter and flour in a large mixing bowl, rubbing with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in sugar and vanilla, and form into a stiff dough.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. arrange on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until light golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Dust with extra sugar before serving, if desired.