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.