Baking

I’m In Love With My Muffin Top Pan

Along with my doughnut pan, I also recently got a muffin top pan. I’ve been seeing these two specialty pans everywhere online, and I really wanted to jump on the bandwagon. How can you not want to when you see so many delicious things that you can’t replicate without specific types of bakeware? I have to say that baked doughnuts and “muffin tops” are two trends that I am more than happy to follow.

I have to admit that I did not use my muffin top pan for muffin tops. . . . Instead I made DEEP DISH COOKIES! I have also been seeing these everywhere, and, while I know they can be semi-replicated with a regular baking pan, I wanted the full effect, and boy did I get it.

I used Picky Palate’s XXL M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I had made a conscious effort to save my Christmas candy for baking purposes, and I’m glad I did. The cookies had a bit of a late Christmas theme because my M&M’s were from the Christmas candy cane containers. I didn’t have quite as many as I wanted, but I made up the difference by adding some extra chocolate chips.

Overall the recipe was good, but definitely NOT like my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. I hate to say that, while these cookies certainly made a statement with their sheer size and appearance, they were lacking in the taste department. I think they could have used a little bit more sugar, and certainly some more salt.

I still thoroughly enjoyed them, though. This pan makes for the perfect size “giant cookies.” They are not so overwhelmingly large that they can’t be consumed by one person.

I think my next venture with the pan will be with my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. My mouth is watering already, and I’m just thinking about it.

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Baking

Mini Oreo and Peanut Butter Pies

A few days ago my roommate suggested we bake these delicious mini pies. She didn’t know where she found the original recipe, but my insane baking blog following skills helped me track the recipe down on Picky Palate. I had seen them a few weeks before she suggested making them, and I’m glad she reminded me about them.

These were certainly a team effort, as myself, my roommate, and one of our suitemates sat around the kitchen table in a little assembly line. I cut out the pie crust, my suitemate put together the peanut butter Oreos, and my roommate did the lattice-work.

These mini pies turned out so yummy. I think adding a bit more peanut butter couldn’t have hurt, though, but I don’t have any complaints about the pies we all literally inhaled. The 12 we made barely lasted 24 hours, but that’s to be expected with four college girls and late-night sweet cravings. I was lucky to have this one left to photograph this morning.

Baking

Butter Lane Cupcakes

One of the new year events in my dorm involved going up to Butter Lane Cupcakes for a baking class. For the low, low price of $10 plus subway fare, 15 of us got to bake five different kinds of cupcakes with six kinds of frosting. We made vanilla, chocolate, banana, vanilla/chocolate marble, and banana/chocolate marble cupcakes with vanilla, chocolate, cream cheese, chocolate peanut butter, raspberry, and cinnamon buttercream, plus assorted sprinkles and jimmies.

I got to use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the first time in my life, and boy if I didn’t want one badly before, I REALLY want one of those babies now. Normally I don’t have the patience to properly cream together butter and sugar, but with this it’s no problem! I was coveting the light pink one they had stashed under one of the baking stations.

My group was charged with making the vanilla cupcakes and vanilla buttercream. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about this at the start–mostly because I wanted the chocolate ones–but I ended up liking my group and our final products well enough.

We all took turns adding the different ingredients, and thankfully we didn’t mess anything up too badly, unlike the chocolate group behind us. One of the guys (of course it was a guy, haha) poured the entire cupful of water directly into the batter without measuring out the proper amount. Now, I’ve done that a few times in my life with buttermilk, but at least that was in the privacy of my own kitchen and not in front of 14 other people and a professional pastry chef! Needless to say, this poor boy’s actions did not escape unnoticed and he was promptly called out on them and received a good ribbing from the rest of us.

All the cupcakes went into the oven and baked up. While they were doing their thing, we sampled some of the bakery’s products. Wow did they look good. I didn’t taste anything at the time, but I didn’t mind. More room for me to eat my own creations!

Then came the delicious buttercream. We even got to use a real vanilla bean in it. Now not only do I want a Kichen Aid stand mixer, but I’m dying to use real vanilla beans!

Before we added the powdered sugar to the butter and cream cheese, one of my own group mates wanted to taste the powdered sugar, but the girl who passed him the tasting stick stuck it into the butter/cream cheese instead. He then decided he would taste the two together, and so he dunked another tasting stick into the sugar and attempted to sprinkle the sugar on top of the butter/cream cheese stick. You should have seen the look on the woman’s face who was instructing us. It was hilarious.

This resulted in the dreaded cinnamon challenge. Him, another group mate, and the water boy all came forward for a secret challenge the woman put forth, since they seemed so eager to eat weird things. She lined them up against the wall and gave them each a tablespoon of cinnamon. The person who ate it all first won. As soon as the cinnamon passed each of their lips, puffs of cinnamon immediately spurt forth from their mouths as they tried not to choke or die. It was absolutely HILARIOUS. I got video of it, and myself and my roommate relived those moments when we got home.

After we finished the cinnamon challenge and making the buttercream, we had a frosting competition. By this time the frosting was in sore shape because it was melting due to the room’s temperature and the amount of times we’d handled it. The butter just wasn’t holding up as well as I hoped it would.

Our instructor showed us how they frost them in the bakery and then let us try our hand at doing the same. Sadly, most peoples’ didn’t even come close, but we all had lots of fun trying. However, I wasn’t just in it for the fun. I was in it to win the prize, and I did! I had the best cupcake of the bunch, and for that I won a gift certificate for a free half-dozen cupcakes! I’m not sure when I’m going to go back and claim them–possibly for a special occasion for myself and my suitemates. It doesn’t expire for a year, so I have plenty of time to decide.

We made SO MANY cupcakes. Each batch yielded 36 cupcakes, and we made three batches. We ended up with 108 cupcakes to frost and split among the 15 of us. I think a lot of us got overwhelmed while we were frosting them, because the pace definitely slowed down about halfway through.

We frosted, decorated, and boxed up our creations to take home. Since I went with my roommate, we took home 18 cupcakes because each box held 9. I don’t know how the four of us are going to finish them all; we might have to go knock on some doors in the hallway to pass some out before they get stale. It would be a pity to waste them.

All in all, this was a great trip and I’m glad I went. Originally I wasn’t going to go because I didn’t think I could swing the co-pay, but I’m glad I went. It was a good bonding experience, I met some new people, and I brought home bunches of cupcakes.

The buttercream really didn’t hold up very well. It’s melty and all over the place. I wish we could have stuck it in the fridge for a few minutes. Oh well.

Most importantly, though, for once I didn’t have to clean up my own mess. That alone was worth the cost.

Baking

The Hurricane That Wasn’t . . . At Least in NYC

In preparation for what was supposed to be a natural disaster of epic proportions in New York, I froze many many ice cubes, poured many pitchers of water, bought a couple snack-y foods, and baked. With the limited amount of ingredients I had, I managed to make dough balls from Peas and Thank You and blueberry muffins from All Recipes. I figured these treats would last me the duration of the storm, and they certainly did.

The dough balls turned out more like cookies, and probably for a couple of reasons now that I’m looking back at it. While the recipe and  the blog are vegan, I used butter because I didn’t have any Earth Balance. That might have had an effect on the dough and the finished product. I also may or may not have over-baked them–not even close to the point of burning, but just enough that they didn’t retain their doughy consistency. However, I’m blaming this part on the new stove that I’m still getting used to. Gotta love changing dorm rooms and kitchens as often as I do.

Overall the dough balls were still a hit and I would love to try them again, this time with Earth Balance and a hawk-like eye on oven. If I take them out too soon, so be it. I didn’t mind eating the dough straight out of the bowl, so I doubt I’d mind an undercooked dough ball.

My blueberry muffins came together quickly and baked with no issue. Yay! They also came out of the pan without even one sticking. Amazing! I’ve been waiting forever for that to happen with anything coming out of a muffin man. There always seems to be one muffin/cupcake that doesn’t want to leave the safety of its little baking cup.

I know, I know. Why don’t I just use liners? I love the texture of the muffin/cake that it baked against the pan. The combination of the two textures is wonderful. Besides, why spend money on something that is taking away from how much you can eat? I only use them when absolutely necessary, and that’s usually only when I’m not making something for myself. Not everyone is as in love with muffin/cupcake outsides as I am. Just ask my brownie-loving friend who willingly gives me the brownie “crusts” from when she makes them because that’s the one part she doesn’t  like. The same principle applies here.

Anyway, I love these muffins. They definitely got me through those few days without real groceries. I’ll probably be making them for breakfasts during the week once classes start, but I might sub in some whole wheat flour to make them more filling. We’ll see how that goes.

Baking

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Whenever I run low on groceries (ie real food with actual nutrients), I always manage to have just enough supplies left to bake something that goes against everything healthy I *should* eat. It might take a bit of searching and tweaking of recipes, but I always come up with something.

However, I’m now starting to run low on baking supplies.  Unbelievable right? I’m down to my last bit of flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. And I have absolutely NO MILK or chocolate. The current state of my cabinets really puts a kink in any baking desires I might have. But you know what doesn’t require much flour or any chocolate? Brownies!

I can never go wrong with my alterations to Best Cocoa Brownies from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine. And who would say no to a cheesecake mixture swirled into them? Not me, that’s for sure. While the original recipe for the Cheesecake Brownies from Buns in my Oven was still amazing when I made them a couple months ago, this combination is truly a winner.

These brownies became infinitely fudgier overnight. When I first cut into them a couple hours after they came out of the oven, they seemed cakier than I wanted. However, after sitting for the night they transformed into brownie bliss. I wouldn’t say no to more of the cream cheese mixture (perhaps I’ll swirl less next time), but other wise I’m in love, and I think my friends will be too.

While I would love if I could survive on these, it might be a good idea to drag myself away from the pan long enough to go up to Trader Joe’s so I can get some real food.

Baking

Attack of the Chocolate Chip!

Recently I was absolutely craving a sweet but salty chocolate chip cookie. I couldn’t get this treat out of my mind, partially since it had been forever since I made a good batch of them. I tried to replicate the ones I made in April, hoping for that same “best batch EVER” thought as I devoured them. I don’t know what exactly made those cookies so much better than whenever I usually make them, and I still don’t know. It was probably how I combined the sugar and eggs and “whipped” them a bit more than usual, but I did the same thing with these and I just wasn’t feeling it after they were done.

I would love to take a baking science class to learn all about these different reactions and what causes what, but I suppose I could learn the very same things through trial and error and reading up on it online. I just think it would be a fun class to take, knowing me and my love for details.

Before I put anything in the oven I thought the dough itself was really good–just what I was looking for to appease my craving. However, once they came out of the oven they just tasted . . . off. In the moment it tasted like a brown sugar issue, but I wasn’t postitive. This whole not knowing thing did not mesh very well with my usual need to know every tiny detail, so needless to say I was slightly miffed.

You wouldn’t really know by looking at them that I wasn’t entirely thrilled with these cookies, but that’s the truth. They seemed promising in the dough phase, but the final product just did not meet expectations. This dud will also teach me to deviate from my usual Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips. My chocolate chip cookies will never have Trader Joe’s chips in them again. I don’t mind these chocolate chips for other things, but after years of a good thing, why change the combination? While I love Trader Joe’s from the bottom of my heart, I’m just not as huge a fan of their chocolate chips in my tried and true cookies.

However, this chip ban had not quite come into effect before I made the Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from Two Peas and Their Pod. I really enjoyed these bars, and I’m going to keep them in mind if I want chocolate chip cookies but just don’t want to do all the batches. Another win for me!

They may have taken forever in the oven, but it was well worth it. The edges and outsides were crispy and crunchy while the insides remained chewy and delicious.

The recipe yielded SO MANY BARS. The 24 bars were a bit of an overkill, which I should have thought about before I made the entire recipe. I was still trying to finish off strawberry lemon bars from the week before, and in fact I had to take the fruity bars out of the pan so I could use it for these cookie bars. That should have clued me into the fact that I really didn’t need another 9×13 pan of baked goods. Oh well. What’s done is done and everything eventually disappeared, whether it was by my eating it or pushing it on my friends whenever I could.

Aren’t I the greatest friend? 😛

Oh yeah, GAELIC FOOTBALL WAS GREAT last Sunday! Unfortunately we found out when we got to the field that we had to pay $10 to get in, a fact that was NO WHERE on the website. It’s still a good deal, though, because $10 gets you a hurling game and two football games, if you’re willing to stay there from 2:00 to 6:30ish. We were originally only going to go to the 5:00 game, but we got there so early that we went to the 3:30 game and stayed through the 5:00 game as well. The games weren’t nearly as brutal as I was hoping, but the second game made up for it, being better than the first one.

(Cavan, pronounced “Cah-vahn”)

On another note, one of the men near us (as well as a good chunk of the crowd) was rooting for Cork to win in the second game and even went so far as to say (in his wonderful Irish accent) that “There’ll be Kerry blood tonight!” I was certainly laughing by the end of the game when in fact Cork did NOT win. GO KERRY! It was such a close game at points, and it was absolutely a nail-biter at the end.

(Armagh, pronounced “Ar-mahh”)

Cavan won the first game and Kerry won the second game. The results were rather surprising because both of these teams had slow starts and it seemed like the other teams would win during most of the games.

I’m definitely going back another afternoon, but I’m just not sure when yet. If I don’t go back in August I’m DEFINITELY going back for the games the Sunday after classes start. That’ll be a fantastic afternoon with the teams that are playing. I just hope if I bring one of my friends that I can get her to leave, what with all the young Irish men and their accents surrounding us. I know I was quite pleased with the afternoon based on that fact alone.

Baking

Citrus!

Once again I have fallen desperately behind in updating here, but at least I have a tiny excuse. I’ve actually been out *gasp* HAVING FUN! I can hardly believe it myself, seeing as how I can be a right shut-in most of the time. It’s been an amazing few weeks, and thankfully all this fun hasn’t been breaking the bank too badly. It’s astonishing what you can do when you make the plans in advance and stick to them. I just wish I could say the same about posting, but I’m just glad I’ve even been able to get pictures because all of my baked goods have been disappearing rather quickly as of late.

Three weeks ago for a 4th of July “celebration” I made the Margarita Cupcakes I found on Beantown Baker’s blog. These cupcakes almost didn’t get made because I had no clue what I was doing when I was in the liquor store. It was an entirely new experience for me and not one I’d like to repeat any time in the near future, thank you very much.

They came together and baked up quickly and with little hassle. If anything the longest process was zesting and juicing the limes. I slightly overestimated how many I would need for these cupcakes and the accompanying watermelon “margaritas” (don’t ask . . . it was bad), and as a result I still have four limes sitting in my fridge.

I liked these cupcakes without the added tequila. It turned out to be a really good lime cupcake with a nice crumb; it was sturdy and spongey. I’m definitely going to keep the plain base in mind for future white cake baking endeavors.

Unfortunately for myself I couldn’t finish the remaining cupcakes so I sent them along with my suitemate so she could give them to some friends. While this was an enjoyable baking experience, I just don’t think alcoholic cupcakes will remain in my repertoire, not just because the alcohol is expensive (I’d MUCH rather spend that money on new pans or high-quality chocolate), but because after just one cupcake I had a raging headache. This happens every time I have the slightest bit of any sort of alcohol, and I think it’s stupid to put myself through hours of pain (even with Advil) to consume something I don’t even enjoy (even if it’s a part of something I enjoy).

In other citrus news, I also recently made Strawberry Lemonade Bars from The Baker Chick. I loved this bar base, so if ever I made lemon bars again, I will definitely stick with it. Unlike other recipes I’ve tried, this bar didn’t even come close to sticking to the bottom of the pan–well, except for one bar, but I’m blaming that on the friend trying to get it out.

I ended up adding way more than the 1/2 cup of pureed strawberry the recipe called for, and the strawberry flavor was still extremely faint, at least to me. The lemon still overpowered it, even though I added about a quarter cup less lemon juice than it called for. I’m not sure if the strawberry is meant to be overpowered and it’s just used for color, but I certainly expected some sort of strawberry flavor.

All in all it was a good bar, but the recipe made so many that I only just finished off the last of them, even with a considerable bit of help from friends.

Speaking of friends, two of us are seeing our first-ever GAELIC FOOTBALL GAME TOMORROW! We’re heading up to Gaelic Park in the Bronx to check out “Little Ireland”/Woodlawn and we’re going to catch a game while we’re up there. If only I had known about the league before this summer, I would have definitely gone to a game or two before this.