Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Experiments with Snickerdoodles

What do you do when you have leftover cream cheese icing? My first thought was brownies with cream cheese icing. My daughter had other ideas, though – sandwich cookies a la Great American Cookie Co. So I made Snickerdoodles using the recipe I’ve posted before. I divided that dough in half and added 1/4 cup cocoa to half of the dough. Mmmm mmmm good!

What would I do different? I would perhaps flatten the cookies more, and I would probably use less cocoa. To tell you the truth, the chocolate version would probably work better if I made a completely separate batch so I could adjust the flour measurement. It tasted fine, but the dough was a little denser.

The whole point was to use up the cream cheese icing, but I think the icing itself was a little too thin. I’m not sure if adding a bit of powdered sugar at this point (several days after making the icing) would have worked out, but I think I would try next time.

Was  I disappointed? Not at all. Well worth a try if you’re so inclined!

Where has the time gone?

I haven’t posted in 4 months, and I truly have missed it. I’ve been fairly prolific on Instagram lately, which works for me, but I miss the words. I’ll try to be better.

As usual after a blogging hiatus, I’ll start off with some baking, knitting, and books talk.

I actually haven’t been baking as much as I was. I’ve been counting calories and using my Fitbit (which I love) and, believe it or not, I haven’t really *wanted* the baked goods as much. Last night, though, I did do a little baking. I made a lemon gooey butter cake, modifying Paula Deen’s recipe by adding some lemon zest and about 1/4 cup lemon juice. It turned out very good!

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The last post I made was about my Vintage Cakes project. I’ve actually done several recipes now, but have only posted pictures on Facebook or possibly Instagram. Looking at the table of contents, I’ve made (in addition to the ones in the previous post): Texas Sheet Cake (which was a fail as far as the actual recipe went (baker error), but still tasted delicious), Lemon and Almond Streamliner Cake (this was amazing!), Malted Milk Chocolate Cupcakes (pretty good), and The Pink Cake (which was a chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream – oh.my.god). These cakes tend to be a little time intensive, which is part of the reason I haven’t been baking them regularly. I tend to wait for an occasion, of which there haven’t been many lately. I can’t remember which cake I was planning to make next just by looking at the table of contents, but it involves strawberries and ricotta cheese. Maybe that will be a “yay for the end of school cake” in a couple of weeks!

On to knitting. I’ve been knitting a ton lately, but finishing little. Wow, I just looked at my projects page on Ravelry and got a little persective. I’ve actually finished 10 projects in 2013 so far. I have several things on the needles but am actively working on 3 right now:

And reading. I’ve only finished a handful of books this year – well, according to Goodreads I’ve read 12, which isn’t too shabby, but it feels like I haven’t read much. The only “wow” book I’ve read this year has been The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, which was *this* close to getting 5 stars. It lacked some little spark that would have put it over the 4-star edge, but it was a damn good book. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are a fan of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

In other news , or just rambling-ness, life is crazy. Work is crazy, and I will be very glad when July 1 has come and gone. My daughter was going and is now not going to Japan, all in the course of less than a week. Disappointing (and expensive, since we had to get an expedited passport) to say the least. We’re planning a trip to Big Bend in early July, and I absolutely can’t wait. I just wish we could stay longer. My husband is in Atlanta for the weekend with his school’s Academic Challenge (aka Quiz Bowl) team for Nationals, and we’re planning to go to the Mississippi coast in a couple of weekends. And that’s about it. I miss writing and hope to be back soon.

The Vintage Cakes Project

For Christmas, my good friends Cathy & David gave me a copy of Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. I immediately thought, “New project!” After listing all the recipes in the book, I noticed that, serendipitously, there are 52 cakes in the book, which reinforced my plan. I have made a cake a week since (albeit only 3 weeks), but haven’t gotten around to blogging about it, which was the original plan. So I will kick off the project with a 3-in-1 post. Unfortunately, my thoughts are not fresh on the first two cakes, but I’ll do the best I can.

Cake #1: Angel Cake with Orange and Chocolate Freckles

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This was my first angel food cake, and I was a little wary, because I don’t have a great history with meringue. I have historically had a hard time telling when my peaks were stiff enough (or whipping just a little too much so they fall). Not so with this cake. This recipe called for 12 egg whites, and they whipped up to meringue perfection. Such a beautiful tower of fluffy meringue. I wish I had taken a picture, but, alas, I didn’t. Angel food cake’s not my most favorite of cakes, but this was pretty good. What I learned from this recipe: grating chocolate by hand is a pain – next time I’ll use the food processor.

Cake #2: Italian Cream Cake

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The cake itself may have been traditional Italian cream cake (I’d never made one before this, so I wouldn’t know), but instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting, this had a chocolate ganache. Also, instead of frosting the whole cake, you only frost between layers and on top. This was a pretty darn good cake. It would have been even better had I not tried to cook all 3 layers in the same oven at the same time. I knew better and next time this comes up, I’ll use both ovens. The ganache was amazing and did a good job of masking the crunchy edges.

Cake #3: Berry Long Cake with Ginger Crust

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This cake was delicious. The cake itself is not too sweet. It only uses 1/2 cup sugar. It’s also a mix of flour and corn meal, so it has an interesting texture. My discerning daughter said, before knowing it had corn meal, that it tasted sort of like corn bread. I couldn’t really tell, other than that it had a toothier texture. I used about 6 ounces of blackberries and 8 ounces strawberries, and that was a nice combination. You could really use any berry, I think. The only difficulty I ran into was with the topping (a streusel with brown sugar, flour, diced crytallized ginger, and butter): like a streusel, it is supposed to form a crumb-like consistency, but either the butter or the flour measurement was off, and it formed more of a dough. The end result was fine, though. The little bits of crystallized ginger were really a nice touch and not too overpowering. I will most definitely make this cake again.

Aunt Di’s Bittersweet Chocolate Layer Caje

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Saturday was our friend Cathy’s birthday, and she requested that I bake a cake. I am to the chapter in All Cakes Considered that deals with fancier cakes, thus I need more special occasions than “It’s Friday!” to bake one of these mamas. Cathy’s birthday was the perfect opportunity to try out the first cake in the chapter, Aunt Di’s Bittersweet Chocolate Layer Cake.

The cake itself is interesting in that it is a whipped cream cake – it uses heavy whipping cream in place of butter and milk. My verdict: it tastes good but is not as moist as I would like. Probably a fault of the chef and not the recipe.

Now, the frosting. When I followed the recipe exactly, this frosting was extremely runny. I added about half a box more of powdered sugar before it was thick enough to spread. Out of curiosity, I Googled the recipe & no one else seemed to have this problem – in fact, there were stellar reviews for the frosting. I don’t know if it was something I did or if letting it sit originally would have allowed it to thicken. A little frustrating. That said, my final product did taste great.

I will slowly continue to work through this book, & hopefully my layer-cake-assembly will improve as I go. This was probably my most successfully constructed layer cake, but it still needs improvement.

Chicken Bog & Sweet Potato Biscuits

I recently bought Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible, after checking it out at the library. I can’t say I’m working my way through it, as there are quite a few recipes I don’t have any interest in cooking – for example, anything deep fried – but I did make a list (oh how I love lists) and am randomly picking recipes to try.

As you can tell by the title of this post, today I made sweet potato biscuits and chicken bog.

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What is chicken bog, you ask? Basically, it’s rice, sausage, and chicken cooked in a spicy broth. It may not be much to look at, but it was really good! Very subtly spicy and a nice consistency. It sort of reminded me of the filling in the sticky rice you get at dim sum restaurants, but not quite as sticky. Jimmy is a huge fan of all three ingredients and this was a big hit with him.

Apparently sweet potato biscuits are a well-known Southern phenomena, but I had never heard of them. Maybe a Georgia thing? These turned out so light and fluffy, and just a bit sweet. They were delicious, and I will definitely make them again!

The Best Snickerdoodles

Back in January, I briefly mentioned the snickerdoodles I made on Christmas Eve. I made them again yesterday, and they again turned out amazing. Not long ago, I read a blog post (I think – it may have been something I saw on Pinterest) where someone mentioned that they have had a hard time finding a snickerdoodle recipe they really like, because all the recipes she tries come out crunchy and she prefers chewy. Well, this recipe results in light, slightly chewy snickerdoodles. Because they were so perfect, I’m posting the recipe here.

 

Snickerdoodles

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Cream the butter, sugar, and shortening. Add eggs one at a time.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, using the lowest setting on the mixer.

In a small bowl, mix together the 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.

Shape dough into small balls (about an inch or so). Roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack.

Truly, these are probably the best cookies I’ve ever made. They’re incredibly easy to make and pretty foolproof. Amazingly, I only ate 2 yesterday…

 

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Speaking of Paula Deen…

Today I tried two separate recipes out of Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. The first was Streusel Pumpkin bread.
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For the most part, I followed the recipe exactly. The streusel didn’t work out exactly as it should have – when mixed together, the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour are supposed to have a crumb-like consistency, but mine turned into a thick paste. I think I must have used a tad more butter than I should have. I was able to mostly fix it by adding more brown sugar and flour, as you can see in the picture above. The recipe also calls for raisins, but my husband nixed that idea. I happened to have dried cherries in the pantry, so I used those instead. They worked out perfectly!

I traditionally make pumpkin bread at the first sign of fall, and I have used the recipe out of Silver Ravenwolf’s Halloween for years. Paula Deen’s recipe tasted quite different, but I think overall I prefer it over Silver Ravenwolf’s.

 

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Next up was Cheese Grits. This recipe was a hit, but it was a bit time-consuming. Twenty minutes to cook the grits, then another 45 minutes of baking. I’m pretty sure I’ve made a cheese grits recipe that didn’t take quite as long. Still, this is a good, Southern dish to have in my repertoire.