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!).