Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flourless chocolate cake

Disclaimer:  This cake tasted way better than it looks!  The office sugar addicts ranked it among the best things I've ever brought in.  It's just that I'm not a 5 star restaurant so I don't do all the fancy things with powdered sugar and whipped cream and strawberries to make this incredibly simple dessert seem really fancy.
Seriously, there is no reason to ever order this in a restaurant.  The recipe has like 5 ingredients, isn't challenging, and doesn't take that long.  And then for $7 you have an entire cake, not some tiny slice.  Win!

Chocolate Cobbler

You know how sometimes you're perusing a baking blog and you see a recipe and you're just like, I must make that, immediately, if not ten minutes ago.  Even if you weren't really in a baking mood, something about the recipe just screams at you that it must be made.  This was one of those recipes.  Check it out, her pictures are way nicer than mine.

This was delicious, though it would have been better probably with just vanilla ice cream, I only had mint chip so I went with that.  Also, gross fact, the dish from this is still sitting in my office because I went out of town the day after I brought this in to work, so when I got back, the remains had already petrified and I didn't really see a point in bringing it home.  I. Am.  Disgusting.

Double chocolate muffins

Sometimes it's like a boring Wednesday night and you're not excited about your boring Thursday morning meeting, so you bake something to liven it up.  Sometimes it is these muffins.  They were easy, they were fast, they were healthy-ish due to the use of applesauce instead of some of the eggs/oil.  

They were delicious, though they went over mediocrely in the meeting as apparently people get less excited about free food after college.  Sigh.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chocolate caramel shortbread bars

These could also be called "super injurious shortbread bars" given I cut and burnt myself while making them.  How to avoid these things?  You know how your mom always yelled at you about lids of cans removed using can openers being sharp?  Well, they're actually sharp.  Take the lid off the can and throw it out.  Don't kid yourself into thinking you can empty out the can with the lid still half attached.  It will lead to blood.  Also, be careful while handling hot caramel.
So, these took way longer than I thought they would, probably in large part due to injury.  Also, I did not enjoy the 'make caramel in the microwave' method.  It felt like it took forever, everything was constantly separating, it bubbled over in the first bowl I used so I had to switch.  Bleh.  If I made these again, I'd probably just do it on the stove.
Also, I did milk chocolate instead of semi sweet because it sounded better.  And it came out delicious.
People loved these.  And then they heard how much butter was in them and they panicked.

Holy crap pound cake!

So, pound cake.  You think of that awful dry stuff they sell in the grocery store.  You hate it.  So do I.  But that is not pound cake.  This is pound cake.  
Okay, so this is pound cake plus fresh strawberries.  But whatever.  It's so good.

However.  It's not as good as it could be.  I once had a party, to which a friend brought the best pound cake I had ever had in my life.  I literally could not stop eating it, this pound cake was so magical.  And the worst part was, it was a secret recipe.  She'd had to beg a friend for the recipe, and was now not sharing.  All I knew was it involved cream cheese.
The recipe I used also involved cream cheese.  And don't get me wrong, it was good.  I mean, look at this crust:
Yummers.  But there was something just not as good about this pound cake, I guess I expected it to be a little more moist?
So anyway.  The pound cake came to work, the girl with the secret magic recipe came by to get some, and then decided the time was right to give me her magic recipe.  And...
it was the same recipe I used.  The magic was not the recipe.   The magic was her ability to make pound cake.  Sigh.

Chocolate Cheesecake

I love me some Food Network.  But I love some shows less than others.  I won't lie, I'm usually less than impressed with Dessert First.  Maybe because the host makes me think of this.
But.  Then.  I was channel surfing, the show was on, and she was making chocolate cheesecake.  And I thought, hm, chocolate cheesecake.  That sounds nice.  Let's make me some of that.  

And so I did.  And it was fantastic.  If you're looking for rich and decadent, you've found it.  The guys at work loved it, even though they thought it sort of tasted like an instant heart attack.  Which it kind of is.  Also, I used regular cocoa powder because I can never find Dutch process, and I still thought this was delicious.  And I threw some chocolate chips into the batter, because I'm a fat kid.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Like Texas Sheet Cake, this recipe is a classic from my childhood.  I think my mom found it in a magazine somewhere, and it became a favorite to bring to school, Girl Scouts, wherever.  In this case, I brought it to a coworker's birthday barbeque.  He loves chocolate chip cookies, but we know how cookies rank with me, so I went with chocolate chip cupcakes instead.

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup milk
One 12-oz. pkg. (2 cups) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels, divided
Chocolate Frosting:
1 cup Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels (reserved from cupcakes)
2½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup millk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 375° F. In bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt;
set aside. In mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs,
beating well after each. Blend in flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in ¾ cup Mini
Morsels. Spoon batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until tops
spring back when lightly pressed. Cool. Spread with Chocolate Frosting. Sprinkle with
remaining ¼ cup Mini Morsels.

Frosting: Melt remaining 1 cup Mini Morsels. Cool. In mixer bowl, beat butter,
confectioner’s sugar, milk, vanilla extract and melted chocolate until creamy.



So, for these, since they were for a birthday, I did something I rarely do - I decorated.  I dug an actual pastry bag with an actual fancy tip out from my kitchen somewhere, and got rainbow sprinkles.  They're nothing too spectacular, but they're nicer than what I usually do.

And here's the birthday boy.

These went over well at the party, and the leftovers did very well at work the next day.  And by "did well" I mean "were used to bribe a technician to give me a ride from the parking lot to my office."  Totally worth it.

BG&R Reviews: Movies about baking: Bridesmaids

So I went to see Bridesmaids last weekend.  This review will focus strictly on the baking aspects of the movie, and not the aspects in which the movie hit far, far too close to home and will likely be the story of my life in about six months.

Anyway.  Baking.  Is a key aspect of this movie.  Kristen Wiig's character, Annie, has a failed bakery called Cake Baby.  Since the failure of her bakery, she's reluctant to really bake again, even though other characters encourage her to.  There are two significant baking scenes, one in which she takes the time and effort to bake herself one really, really elaborate cupcake (which I can totally sympathize with; see the Shame Brownie), and one that I won't talk about as it's sort of a spoiler.  Overall, her baking looks pretty legit.  I would have liked to see more of the failed bakery, but the movie's two hours as it is so there's only so much they can do when the focus is supposed to be weddings, female friendships, etc, etc.

As for the nonbaking aspects, it's a good movie.  Definitely funny; not sure if I would have found it funnier if I hadn't identified quite so much with Annie.  As for those female friendships, I was expecting to see a little more of them, and a little less 'women being hypercompetitive with each other', but perhaps I'd just heard too much hype and my expectations were too high.

Incorporation of baking into the movie:  3/5
Overall movie quality:  4/5

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Margarita Pie

Summer is almost here, if the weather would ever actually get warm.  This means it's time for pool parties, barbecues, and frozen desserts.  All the better if said frozen desserts have booze in them.

My mom has been making this pie for years.  It's delicious and so easy.  It does have a tragic tendency to melt if one is serving it at an outdoor party, so keep that in mind.


1 ½ cups vanilla wafer crumbs
5 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
½ teaspoon grated fresh lime peel
1 pint strawberries
2 limes
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons orange-flavor liqueur
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream


1. Prepare Crumb Crust: Preheat oven to 375° F. In 9-inch pie plate, with fork, stir
crust ingredients until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture onto bottom and up side
of pie plate, making a slight rim. Bake crust 10 minutes. Cool crust in pie plate on
wire rack.

2. Prepare Strawberry Filling: Hull 2 cups strawberries; reserve remaining berries
for garnish. From limes, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze ¼ cup juice. In food
processor with knife blade attached, pulse hulled berries with lime peel and juice,
undiluted sweetened condensed milk, and liqueur until almost smooth. Transfer
mixture to large bowl.

3. In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 2/3 cup cream until stiff peaks
form; reserve remaining unwhipped cream for garnish. Gently fold whipped cream
into strawberry mixture, one-third at a time.

4. Pour filling into cooled crust. Freeze at least 4 hours or until almost firm. (If not
serving pie on the same day, wrap frozen pie in foil or plastic wrap and freeze up to
1 week.)

5. If pie freezes completely, let it stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving
for easier slicing.

This is the traditional recipe as taken by my mom from a Good Housekeeping cookbook.  I swapped 1 T. Blue Curacao and 1 T. Tequila for the triple sec, because that's what I had on hand.  It does give it a slightly less than ideal color, but it still tasted great.  I also accidentally used too much whipped cream in the filling, which I don't recommend as I feel like it dilutes the strawberry taste.

The crust.  The lime makes it so freaking good.

Pie.  Mmmmmmmm pie.

Brownie of shame

So there was this thing on the radio this morning about a woman who had a fake engagement/wedding ring that she would wear to go pick up takeout on Friday nights so that people would think "oh, she's picking up food for her family" not "oh, what a sad, sad single girl."  And I know this should cue all kinds of feminist rage about how dare a woman's worth be based on her marital status, how tragic that a woman be embarrassed to eat, etc, but mostly I thought "Wow, that's genius."  Because I, too, suffer from Takeout Shame.  It is actual embarrassment that keeps me from getting takeout more often.  I have been wanting to get a salad and a slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory for weeks, but it is so cliched and the idea of having to stand in front of other people going out to actual dinner with other people and get my takeout is too humiliating.

This is where the Shame Brownie comes in.  Sometimes, you need dessert.  You don't have the energy, desire, or altruism to bake an entire batch of something and share it with your coworkers.  And thus, the single serve brownie in a mug comes into play.  Sometimes, though, this doesn't seem like enough, so you double the recipe, make it in a bowl, and make hot fudge to go with.

This tastes a lot better than it looks.  I promise.

I cut the hot fudge recipe to a fourth, and it was still a ton if you're trying to make this single serve.

Delicious, and cheaper and less shameful than takeout.

As is often the case, my eyes were much bigger than my stomach.  I made it through about a third of this and the rest went into the fridge.  For being microwaved, the brownie has really nice, light, fluffy texture.  It is better the day it's made, so don't follow my lead and make a smaller quantity.  Plus in a mug the brownie looks quaint and not just gluttonous.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A point of contention

So there's a great debate* in the baking community** at my workplace.  If one has to rank the major categories of baked goods (cookies, cake, pie) in order of awesomeness, what's the order?

My belief is
1. Pie
2. Cake
3. Cookies

based on the fact that pie is pretty amazing, cake is also very good, and cookies, in my opinion, can be really good but are often just this 'meh' thing that you make because they're easy and convenient.  And yet some people rank cookies first.  I don't get it.  I mean, sure, I'll take a really good cookie over mediocre pie, but somehow, for me, the things that are more labor intensive (making crust, making filling, etc) will tend to win out over something you can just dump onto a cookie sheet and run with.

*a mild disagreement
** me and this other guy who occasionally bakes, but did invent Nutella chips, so he's sort of legit

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Texas Sheet Cake

Occasionally a cake comes along that makes you want to eat an entire 11x18 sheet pan of cake over two days.  This is that cake.  (Also for the record, I only ate half the pan over four days, and then took the rest to work on Monday before I became completely disgusted with myself.)

Texas Sheet Cake
(recipe courtesy of my mom, courtesy of a newspaper from about a zillion years ago)

½ pound Butter
1 cup Water
4 tablespoons Cocoa
2 Eggs
1/2 cup sour milk (add ½ teaspoon vinegar to sour milk)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
½ teaspoon Salt

¼ pound Butter
4 tablespoons Cocoa
6 tablespoons Milk
1 pound Confectioners’ Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 11-by-8-inch jelly roll pan. Bring butter, water
and cocoa to a boil in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with sour milk,
vanilla and baking soda.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter mixture and egg mixture to
flour, mixing gently. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until cake tests done.
Spread icing on the hot cake when it comes out of the oven.

To make icing: Bring the butter, cocoa and milk to a boil in a small saucepan. In a
separate bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, nuts and vanilla. Add butter mixture and
blend thoroughly.

It's straightforward.  It's delicious.  And it is shockingly non-dependent on ingredient quality.  I was excited to make it with Ghiradelli cocoa, but honestly it didn't taste any different than when I've made it with generic.  But it does still taste delicious.  Everyone at work agreed.

Melting together butter, cocoa, water.

Soured milk. 

Dry ingredients.

Wet, dry, and chocolate mixtures, ready to be mixed.  You don't need a mixer.  Just a spoon will do.

Mmm, cake!

The icing begins much like the cake...

Except you just add the chocolate mixture to a big pile of powdered sugar.

No offset spatula needed, either.  Just dump the frosting on the cake and let it ooze.  And then the hard part.  Waiting for it to set.

But it is well, well worth the wait.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

OMG bread pudding

I recently made the. best. bread. pudding. EVER.  It's magical.  I based on this recipe and made a few additions.  I used an entire loaf of french bread, because I wasn't going to do anything with the rest of it, and the called for 6 cups of bread cubes did not really fill out the pan like I wanted them to.  I went with the called for amount of custard stuff and soaked the bread for about 4 hours.  After soaking, it didn't quite seem like enough liquid, so I threw in another egg, some sugar, and 3/4 cup of milk.  While baking, it started looking a smidge dry and I had some cream left over, so I just poured that on top.
And, wow.  So moist and yummy.

I wanted amaretto sauce to go with, so I made this and was thoroughly unimpressed. You win some, you lose some.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bourbon balls

So, I recently discovered whiskey.  I mean, I always knew that it was a thing, but I recently discovered that it is something I enjoy in mixed drinks, baked goods, and am working toward enjoying on its own.  So when a friend asked (demanded) that I make these and someone else contributed the bourbon, I was happy to oblige.
Really there's no need to go through the effort of cooling and forming into truffles, you could just eat this with a spoon.  Or a straw.  But people would judge you.

I used a bag and a half of Ghiradelli bittersweet chips instead of the dark chocolate because it was what I had on hand, and I think they turned out well.  I also stuck the ganache in the fridge to speed up the cooling time, and I think I'd recommend just leaving it at room temperature, because some of the chocolate cooled too much and was hard to get out of the pot.
They're great, and they taste like they'll get you drunk, but alas, they do not.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love me some Jacques Torres (the Wicked bar is my favorite).  If you go to the store in New York, they do some great stuff with ice cream sandwiches in which you pick two cookies and they shove the ice cream flavor of your choice in the middle.  Delishus.
I'd been dying to try recreating the cookies at home for awhile.  Alas, these did not come out tasting as I remember them.  This may have something to do with the fact that I just used all purpose flour in place of the suggested bread and cake, and that I didn't have the fancy chocolate disks they used.  They weren't bad cookies, but they weren't my favorite ever made (that would be between a Levain-like recipe and Emeril).  However, the ones I brought to the office disappeared quite quickly, and the techs I originally baked them for raved about them, so make of that what you will.

Bread pudding

My newest dessert addiction is bread pudding.  SO DELICIOUS.  And shockingly easy to make.  Mix some milk and eggs, dump it over some bread, bake, done.  I had half a baguette leftover from a wine and cheese party, so I decided to make the most of it with this recipe.  Due to the fact that half a baguette is definitely not three cups of bread, I made some alterations to the other quantities.  I made the whole thing in an 8x8 pan, used 2 eggs, a little more than 3/4 cup each of milk and sugar, and I also added a tsp. of almond extract along with the vanilla.  I cut the quantities for the pecan/butter/sugar topping in half, too, but if I made it again I'd actually make all of that part, as it wasn't quite enough to really cover the top of the pudding.  If doing it again, I'd also probably go with 3 eggs and more milk; everything was a bit on the dry side.
I want to promise that this was much more delicious and much less pathetic than it looks, but I'm in a weird emotional place and a chronic eater of feelings, so my opinions on food cannot be trusted.

Back in business

So, you may have noticed that Easter was a few weeks ago.  Which means I am no longer officially vegan (trying to do it recreationally for breakfast and dinner, but definitely NOT for baking).  So I needed a really incredible recipe to mark my re-entrance into the world of baked goods with butter.  These Cadbury Creme Egg brownies were totally it.  I had two boxes of orange flavored Cadbury eggs (my favorite!) leftover from an unfortunate (for my mom) incident in which she forgot that it was me, not my sister, who liked the orange ones.  Chocolate orange is one of my favorite flavor combinations anyway, so I threw about an orange's worth of zest into the brownie batter.  The result was deliciousness.

Cookie dough balls

So, as a person going through a breakup, I wanted chocolate, but I didn't really want to work for it.  As a vegan, my options were limited.  As a person who just moved, I couldn't remember where I'd left half my kitchen.  And thus, these came to the rescue.  Four ingredients.  No baking.  Moderately healthy.  Huge win.
I thought they were amazing.  Everyone else was kind of like "Why the hell are you still making this vegan shit?" So if they look good to you, make a batch and decide for yourself.

Double chocolate chip cookies

So I basically took the recipe from last post, and threw in some cocoa powder.  Unfortunately, I was out of regular flour and thus had to use whole wheat - always a mistake, in my book.  The cookies were being made for the generous souls helping me move, so I wasn't super inclined to go out and get normal flour, as it would have been one more thing to haul to the new place.  But, overall, decent.

Vegan chocolate chip cookies

So, the thing that originally drew me to vegan baking was the possibility of eating cookie dough sans fears of salmonella.  My first experience with this was in college with a vegan friend who invited me over to bake cookies, and I was shocked by their deliciousness.  I'm pretty sure she used the recipe from Silk, so so did I.  I did swap out almond milk for the soy milk, because soy scares me slightly.  These are full of margarine so they are not pretending to be healthy like my brownie attempts, but they were about a million percent  better received by my hungry coworkers.  There was some general disbelief as to their vegan-ness, which is probably a good thing when it comes to baking.

 Alas Trader Joes did not have the preferred Earth Balance "buttery stick" (saying "buttery stick" never gets old), so I had to settle for buttery spread.
Also apparently my brown sugar was super lumpy.

But it evened out once I added in the almond milk.

They look like regular cookies...

...and they taste like them too.  Vegan WIN.

Hideous blogging backlog

I'm sorry if you (my approximately 1.5 person readership) have missed me the past month.  I've moved apartments and gotten stuck with no internet for a month (thanks, AT&T), gone through a breakup and gone off veganism (those last two are not related).  However, none of this has stopped me from baking, so I'll be blogging all the stuff I've made over the past month, and then move on to bigger and better things (hello, bourbon balls!).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Banana chocolate chip muffins

I hate the word moist.  It just sounds gross.  Moist.  Moist.  Moist.  Yuck.  Unfortunately it's a word that describes all of the vegan baked goods I've made thus far.  I guess it's not that unfortunate, as moistness is usually considered a good thing.
Anyway.  Banana chocolate chip muffins.
Fork - 3 out of 5 for banana mashing effectiveness.

Raw sugar.

I used half whole wheat and half regular flour.

I only made half the recipe, and it came out to be more like 7 muffins rather than the 6 it should have been.

Overall, these turned out well.  I'd say eat them quicker as opposed to slower, as they get super gooey being stored in tupperware, to the point of seeming almost too mushy, like an overripe banana.  Still, tasty, and didn't taste 'vegan'.

Just can't get enough

I'm so lazy about this vegan baking it's ridiculous.  After two rounds of disappointing brownies, it was back to avocado mousse, this time with orange, because chocolate orange is one of my favorite flavor combinations.  I recognize that it is not for everyone - I once brought chocolate orange brownies to a dinner party, not realizing the hostess hated chocolate orange, and it did not go great.  But this mousse, it did.

I never have any idea what actual quantities I use.  It was roughly one avocado, the zest of one orange, 1/2 cup of agave, and probably close to 3/4 cup cocoa.  I started out with 1/2 cup on the cocoa but it definitely needed more.  It's also much better when it sits in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors can actually blend.