Monday, November 30, 2009

oatmeal raisin cookies - obvi not for my boyfriend

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie - 04My boyfriend claims he has eaten so many oatmeal raisin cookies in his lifetime that he will no longer eat any more. I find this extremely hard to believe; but I listen to his requests, and I have never even offered to make him oatmeal raisin cookies. Luckily for me, his sister who came home for Thanksgiving, decided to bake some to take home for her friends. Finally! Now I have an excuse to bake oatmeal raisin cookies! She asked me to help and oversee baking, which I gratefully accepted.

We used the recipe found on the back of the Quaker Oats box. I generally think that big companies have awesome recipes on their boxes, seeing as how they want their product to be the best. I'm sure they spend tons of money to get chefs or whoever to find the best recipe, but I haven't tried enough recipes to make that judgment yet.

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So since I wasn't the one baking this time, I took the opportunity to take photos of each step- something that I've always wanted to do. I'm a little disappointed at the lighting though, and I typically make it a rule to not bake at night where the lighting is too dim.

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We baked these Sunday morning right before she left. It wasn't such a smart idea baking it so close to the time she was supposed to leave, but we wanted to make sure they were fresh. The first batches we baked came out slightly burnt at the bottom, yet still gooey in the center. We adjusted the time and size for future batches, only to realize we didn't have enough dough to make enough good cookies.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie - 01
Being the perfectionist I am, I told her we could whip up another batch in mere minutes. So we ran around the kitchen grabbing all the ingredients and quickly mixed them together. These batches came out much better and luckily we pulled out the last batch as her friend pulled in the driveway to pick her up.

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What's even luckier (for me at least) is that she didn't have enough time to wait for the last batch to cool, so I took it upon myself to eat them for her. I know, I'm such a good friend. This last batch was the best, as it was crisp on the outside and extremely gooey in the center. I was just so happy to finally get the chance to bake these cookies.

Taken from the lid of a Quaker Oats Can (Not the same recipe they put on the Quaker Oats website).

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups of Quaker Oats (we toasted one batch of these for about 20 minutes)
1 cup raisins (or 1 cup chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat well.
3. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.
4. Slowly stir in oats and then raisins.
5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on sheet, remove to wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies. (We had to bake a second batch because there obvi wasn't 4 dozen cookies)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

thanksgiving - strawberry tart - not lactose-intolerant approved

strawberry tart - 07Knowing that my boyfriend's sister would be coming home for Thanksgiving, I wanted to bake her something special. I asked her what her favorite dessert was- and she chose a fruit tart. I was a little confused, because I knew she was lactose intolerant- but she assured me that everything would be fine (lol- let's not talk about that part). Anyways, I was a little scared yet a little excited about making my first custard tart. How does one even make a custard? That is when I looked to my handy-dandy Joy of Baking website. She never lets me down.

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His sister and I prepared the dough the same day we made the cheesecake. The dough appeared relatively easy to put together, although rolling it out and placing it in the tart pan was another story. Notice the crack? It was hard trying to arrange the dough correctly in the tart pan, and in the process cracks appeared. Not happy!

strawberry tart - 01
So after blind baking the crust, I moved onto the custard. My first time ever making custard- and I was extremely frightened. I don't know how to temper, I don't know how to bring everything to the same temperature, I don't know anything like that. After I made the custard, I set it in the fridge until I was ready to use it- BAD mistake. Although the recipe says that you could place the custard in the fridge for up to 3 days, my custard didn't want to cooperate and decided to completely firm up.

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Once the crust was ready, I attempted to "pour" the custard in. Unfortunately, it was too hard to pour! I tried reheating it, but I just ended up crumpling it up and placing it into the crust. Even though it worked, the custard part didn't even reach halfway up the sides- it looked way too small. I frantically decided to make another batch of custard- to not only fill the tart, but cover the gross glops of custard chunks. Luckily you could barely tell when you cut a slice.

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And then my favorite part- cutting all the strawberries (NOT). I cut an entire container of strawberries in slices and ordered them by size. Once in order, I could place them in concentric rings around the tart so that as you reach the center, the strawberry pieces got smaller. I'm such a perfectionist when it comes to aesthetics.

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Overall, I think I did a good job for my first try making a fruit tart. I definitely will do better next time though.

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P.S.- My lactose-intolerant friend ended up eating a slice of tart as well as a slice of cheesecake; and as predicted, ended up spending some quality time in the bathroom. lol.

Taken from Joy of Baking

sweet pastry crust:
1+1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside. Place the butter in your mixer and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Don't over mix or the butter will separate and lighten in color. Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Don't overwork or pastry will be hard when baked.
2. Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.
3. Have ready an 8-9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11-12 inch circle that is about 1/8 inch thick. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.
4. When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll onto top of tart pan. Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack before filling.
6. When ready to fill, spread a thin layer of glaze over the bottom and sides of tart to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry between 20-30 minutes.

pastry cream: (I doubled this entire part)
1+1/4 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (omitted)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine the milk and split vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture.
3. Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.
4. Remove from heat. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves (I used strawberry)

1. Heat the apricot jam or preserves and a few tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted).
2. Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps. Let cool until it is only slightly warm.
3. When ready to glaze, gently brush a light coat on the fruit.

2 - 3 cups mixed fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, kiwifruit, bananas, plums, pineapple, melon, etc. (obviously I used strawberry)

thanksgiving - appetizers (bacon pinwheels & mini sausage quiches)

My boyfriend's mother suggested I make the bacon pinwheels I made about a month ago as an appetizer for Thanksgiving. Those pinwheels that I made were haphazardly put together and not that great, so I decided to find a better recipe and spend more time putting them together to make them special for Thanksgiving. I also wanted to make something with my newly purchased mini-muffin pan, mostly because I just think mini things are so cute.

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I prepared all the fillings the night before so I could easily and freshly bake them the morning of Thanksgiving. I was a little scared these wouldn't turn out so good because I realized that morning that I didn't have crescent rolls, but crescent rounds instead.

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Apparently they turned out almost the same. They weren't as rolled as I wanted- because of the stupid crescent rounds- but it still gave the effect of being a pinwheel.

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I obviously chose bacon because my boyfriend won't eat anything with vegetables and is such a meat-lover.

mini sausage quiches - 09
The mini sausage quiches made me nervous. They were so tiny that I didn't know how they'd fit all the ingredients. Also, those stupid rounds ruined my calculations. I divided each round in half, pushed them up the mini-muffin tin, and filled them accordingly. First was the sausage mixture, and then the egg mixture.

mini sausage quiches - 10
Surprisingly these also turned out fine. Maybe it's just my bias- but I love anything mini! The smaller and cuter something looks, the more tasty I think they are. And of course- just like the pinwheels- these had to contain some meat substance. While I'd rather have spinach quiches, I knew he'd prefer sausage.

Adapted from many different websites

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
1/6 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp milk
1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Mix cream cheese, bacon, Parmesan cheese, onions, and milk until well blended; set aside.
-Separate can of dough into four rectangles; firmly press perforations together to seal. Spread each rectangle with 2 rounded tablespoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture. Cut each rectangle into 12 wedges. Roll up wedges, starting at short ends. Place, seam-sides down, on greased baking sheet.
-Cut the dough lengthwise into 4 equal pieces, approximately 1/2 to 3/4-inches wide. Roll the dough up into a pinwheel and place on baking sheet.
-Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Adapted from Taste of Home

1/4 lb Italian sausage
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tube (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent rolls
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I used mozzarella cheese)
1/2 cup cottage cheese (I used ricotta cheese)
1/6 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-In a large skillet, brown sausage and onion over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until meat is no longer pink; drain.
-On a lightly floured surface, unroll crescent dough into one long rectangle; seal seams and perforations. Cut into 48 pieces. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of greased miniature muffin cups.
-Fill each with about 2 teaspoons of sausage mixture.
-In a large bowl, combine the eggs and cheeses. Spoon 2 teaspoonfuls over sausage mixture.
-Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
-Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

thanksgiving - i am the cheesecake master

A few days before Thanksgiving, I asked my boyfriend's sister to help me prepare the cheesecake. After the great reviews from my last cheesecake, the Pecan Pie Cheesecake, I decided to replicate the same recipe, but tweak it a bit. By taking out the pecan-pie layer, I won't have to be scared that the crust would be too hard like last time.

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Overall, it turned out great. And yes, I know- it looks almost exactly the same as the Pecan Pie Cheesecake, but without the pecan decorations. I seriously didn't have any time to try something different, or to pipe on the frosting.

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Little differences from the previous cheesecake- We used well over 2 cups of graham cracker crust, when the recipe called for 1+1/2 cup- just because we love thick crusts! Also, the whipped cream has about 1 cup of brown sugar blended in- just to give it that extra brown sugar taste.

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And yes, I probably can make cheesecake in my sleep now.

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My version (original recipe derived from Taste of Home, recipe found here)

2 cups (about) graham crackers crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine crumbs and brown sugar. Stir in melted butter. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9" spring form pan.
2. Bake for around 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

cheesecake filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1+1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons AP flour
4 eggs
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
2. With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add brown sugar and flour and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Stir in cream and vanilla. Pour into pan.
3. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven with the door closed for 1 hour.
4. Remove from oven and run a knife along the outside edges to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan. Let cool. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

thanksgiving - cookies & blondies (of course with white chocolate chips)

So ever since I got the invite to my boyfriend's family's place for Thanksgiving, I've been thinking of yummy treats to bring. Of course- my boyfriend insisted I make cookies (the winning cookies from our Cookie Bake Off- Cooks Illustrated). As usual, these cookies had to contain white chocolate chips. (My boyfriend is so habitual right?). I figured I'd not only bake "his" cookies, but also attempt blondies (also his favorite). Can you tell how much I love him? Hehe.

01 - blondies02 - blondies
The blondies really scared me at first. I baked them the night before, and as I was grabbing a slice for myself, it basically leaked out this oozing goo. I was so scared that it'd be too gooey on the inside, so I left it overnight to set. As I cut it in the morning, it was still soft, but it appeared to have slightly hardened.

03 - blondies
I had a taste- of course- and they were delicious. It was almost the same taste as the cookies, but much more gooey and chewy.

04 - blondies
The recipe already called for coconut flakes, which is great because my boyfriend also loves coconut. And as he always requests- I added white chocolate chips in.

07 - blondies
Once I got to his house, I arranged half the cookies and half the blondies in a tupperware and placed them on the table.

08 - cookies
Here are the famous semi-sweet-and-white-chocolate-chip-cookies that my boyfriend loves so much. You know what is funny though? After tasting the blondies, he told me he prefers them to the cookies! So after all this time I've been baking him these specific baked goods- which he told me was the best- and now he admits that he likes something more. So now I'm on the quest to find even better things for him to try.

Taken from Baking Bites

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1+1/2 cups light brown sugar (I used 1 cup light brown, 1/2 dark brown)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet/semi sweet chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
1 cup butterscotch chips or toffee bits (I switched for white chocolate chips of course)
1 cup chopped pecans (omitted, only because I think some people going to be there were allergic to nuts)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (toasted for about 10 minutes first)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. (I only had a stupid glass pan, so the sides were curved and the center was undercooked)
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated to add the next, then beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mixture, stirring only until no streaks of flour remain.
4. Stir in the chips, nuts and coconut by hand.
5. Spread batter into prepared pan, using a lightly greased spatula to even it out.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.

Taken from Cooks Illustrated

2+1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 cup chocolate chips (I typically use 1 cup semi-sweet and 1 cup white chocolate)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
3. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla.
4. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined.
5. Stir in chips.
6. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes. (I usually bake for 13 minutes because I like softer cookies and I also make smaller cookies)

Makes 1+1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies (I can usually squeeze 2 dozen out)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

autumn / fall / thanksgiving sugar cookies - attempt at sugar cookies #2

So after my last failure at sugar cookies, I attempted yet another recipe. This one was from one of my favorite baking websites, so I deemed this a reliable recipe.

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I mainly wanted to bake these cookies for my roommate who I attempted to bake sugar cookies for the previous week. She was going home for Thanksgiving and I wanted her to take some home with her, seeing as how I've spent Thanksgiving at her house before.

autumn sugar cookies - 01
So the cookies themselves came out a lot better. Then I tried making royal icing for the first time- which also came out surprisingly well. I divided my icing into three batches - one orange, one green, and one remained white. I wanted to make "fall" colors, but mixing the icing was just too hard; and not to mention how hard washing my cheap piping bag was. It took me like 5 minutes to clean and wash the bag before preparing the next color icing, and I wasted a ton of icing in the process.

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At first I chose to outline the shape of the leaves, and then make horizontal lines to fill it. Not only did I almost get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I was wasting so much time trying to make these perfect. Needless to say, I opted for an easier topping by just spreading the icing all over and then dipping it in sprinkles.

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The cookies with the horizontal lines looked a lot prettier, but the cookies with the sprinkles tasted a lot better.

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I bought these cute little baggies and filled them with cookies to give to my roommate.

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The following day I had all these unfrosted sugar cookies, three ramekins full of frosting, and fall colored sprinkles I needed to get rid of. What to do? ... Obviously, frost them and get rid of them.

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Unfortunately for me, my boyfriend hates sugar cookies. The only people who actually like them are me and his sister. But we can't eat a couple dozen sugar cookies by ourselves!

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So basically there are still around this many sugar cookies left, because no one will eat them. Oh well, at least I improved from my sugar cookie mishap last week.

Taken from Joy of Baking

3+1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1+1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
2. In another bowl, use mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
3. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.
4. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Remove one half of the chilled dough and on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (1 cm). Keep turning dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to counter.
7. Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer to cookie sheets. Place sheets with unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.
8. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes (depending on their size) or until they are brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 36 - 4 inch cookies.

Taken from Joy of Baking

2 large egg whites
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1. Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites for a few minutes.
2. Add sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth.
3. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air.

Makes about 3 cups