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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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.

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.

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.

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.