Monday, August 30, 2010

BACON Cookie Dough Truffles

Previously, I posted Paula Deen's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles recipe. Wait, is it bad form to link to another post on your own site? Meh, whatever.

As I mentioned in that post, it's one of my man's favorite desserts that I make. Regardless of how good he already considers these truffles, we all know everything is better with bacon!


So Bacon Cookie Dough Truffles were born!



There wasn't a particular ratio of bacon to dough that I followed. I already had a batch of truffle dough in the fridge, so I just cooked up about 4 pieces of bacon until crisp, crumbled the pieces up and set them aside.


To form the truffles, I took a T of the dough and smashed some bacon into it (maybe an 1/8t?) until it was distributed evenly throughout and then rolled it in a ball. I did that until I ran out of bacon. I think I made around 12 to 14 truffles. Then, I melted some baking bark while the balls chilled in the fridge and then coated the truffles and let them chill some more.


They definitely went over well. It was funny: without telling people what the extra bits in the truffles were, they couldn't figure it out. But as soon as I said "BACON!" it was like a light bulb went on and it became obvious.


If you are already making the truffles, why not throw a few of these in the mix to try? It's an easy add-in. You could even cook up more bacon and mix it in to the entire batch when you add the chocolate chips.

Speaking of ridiculously decadent and bizarre food... the NC state fair is a month and a half away!! I am super pumped to find out what deep-fried fare they will have this year! I'm contemplating entering a bake-off or two as well. Excitement!

Lemon Bars: Attempt Two—FTW!!!

Hurray! And only on my second attempt. I should have just started with America's Test Kitchen. But let's not dwell on what might have been. Let's focus on the now and how awesome I am!

Time and time again America's Test Kitchen proves to be a good choice when trying new dessert recipes. I love how they include tips and information about not only what works but what doesn't work and why. Leeeeeeeeeeeeearning!


Lemon Bars

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/4c flour
  • 1/2c powdered sugar
  • 1/2t salt
  • 8T butter, room temp., cut up into T.

Filling

  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1c plus 2T sugar
  • 1/4c grated lemon zest (zest the lemons first, then juice them)
  • 2/3c fresh lemon juice (4-5 lemons total)
  • 4T butter, cut into T.
  • 3T heavy cream

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350. Line a 9" square baking pan with two pieces of aluminum foil at right angles (to form a sort of sling). Lightly coat foil with vegetable oil.
  2. Mix together flour, confectioners sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter (or food processor) incorporate 8T of the butter.
  3. Sprinkle the mixture in to the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake until the crust starts to brown slightly, about 20 minutes.
  4. While crust is baking, whisk together egg yolks and whole eggs in a medium non-reactive saucepan.
  5. Whisk in granulated sugar until combined, then whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.
  6. Add remaining 4T of butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees (F) on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. (It may take longer than this and one it starts to boil, BAM it thickens right up.)
  7. Strain the mixture immediately into a non-reactive bowl (yes, all the zest will be left in the strainer) and stir in cream.
  8. Pour the warm curd over the hot crust. Bake until the filing is shiny and opaque and the center jiggles slightly when shaken, 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours, before removing from the pan using foil and cutting into squares.
  10. Dust with confectioners sugar just before serving.
Note: It is important to pour the warm curd over the hot crust when making these intensely flavored bars. This ensures that the filling cooks through evenly.

These a much gooey and the crust is nice and thick. I think the heavy cream really made for a good addition. If I make lemon bars again, these are the ones I will make for sure. I did find one part of the process problematic, however. I couldn't get the powdered sugar that I sprinkled over the cooled bars to stick around. It just dissolved right into the lemon goop.


Once again, these were a success, so now I can move on to other baking adventures.


Want to know what Hui thought? Well he enjoyed the lemon bars enough to leave a comment on my Facebook page that went a little something like this:
best lemon squares period.

I'll take it!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lemon Squares—Attempt One FTL

So the conversation about lemon bars went something like this...

Kyle: Hui wants you to make lemon squares.
Becky: What kind?
Kyle: The Whole Foods kind.
Becky: I don't shop at Whole Foods.
Kyle: Well, the crust is kind of like pie crust but crumbly and the lemon part is not cakey, but not too gooey and not too lemony.
Becky: ...

Conversation 2:

Kyle: Well, at Whole Foods they call them lemon tarts.
Becky: A lemon bar is not a lemon tart. What do you want me to make a bar or a tart?
Kyle: A bar, but it's called a lemon tart. Go to Whole Foods and look at their lemon tart.
Becky: ...

I went to the Whole Foods by work, but they didn't have lemon tarts, they had lemon something something bars or squares, which I really don't think Hui was looking for. Unfortunately, the first batch of lemon squares came out pretty much like the wrong Whole Foods kind: more cakey and the crust was too thin. Although it was one of those that kind of separated the lemon parts making a self-made top crust.

Here's the recipe from Bachelor's Kitchen.



Lemon Bars
Ingredients

Crust

  • 2c cake flour
  • 3/4c shortening
  • 1/3c pwdrd sugar
  • 1T vanilla extract

Filling

  • 1 1/3c sugar
  • zest from 4 sm-med lemons
  • 4 eggs
  • 2T flour
  • salt, dash
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and line a 9" x 12" pan with parchment paper (This is what it is says, but who has a 12" pan? Just use 9" x 13").
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine crust ingredients until it clumps into about pea size granules. Press this into the pan.
  3. Chill the pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes, then bake in oven for about 20 minutes or so.
  4. Combine sugar and lemon zest in a food processor for a minute or so. Add the rest of the ingredients and give it the same treatment until its all smooth.
  5. Once the crust is nice and golden brown, poor lemon goop over the crust. Lower oven to 325 F and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until firm in the center
  6. Cool first on a rack, then in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.
  7. And, of course, dust with powdered sugar when it's cool.
As I said, this is not what Hui was looking for. He compared is more to a Little Debbie Snack. Although there was some bit of goo in the middle it was definitely cakey. Other people tried and enjoyed. Certainly they were tasty, they just weren't what the boys were looking for.

On to attempt #2!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Buttercream

I was commissioned to make a birthday cake for my boss, Van. He loves him some chocolate, so I looked through my Cake Mix Doctor book and found a cake that I thought would suit him. The Cake Mix Doctor refers to this cake as her "go to" chocolate cake. Couldn't pass that up. It was moist and easy to bake up and slice! I found the recipe posted on http://www.globalgourmet.com.


Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
  • Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pans
  • Flour for dusting the pans
  • 1pkg (18.25 ounces) devil's food cake mix WITH pudding
  • 1c sour cream
  • 3/4c water
  • 1/2c vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1t pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.
  2. Blend the cake mix, sour cream, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla in with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.
  3. Bake the cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 28 to 32 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more.
My cakes always take longer to cool. 30 minutes? Lies! I topped the cake off with a Hazelnut (read: Nutella) Buttercream that my friend Natosha makes. It is aaaaaaaaaaaawwwesoooooooooome!

Hazelnut Buttercream
Ingredients
  • 1lb. powdered sugar
  • 1/2c milk
  • 1/8t salt
  • 1/2t Vanilla
  • 2 sticks butter, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1/2c shortening
  • 3/4c Nutella
Directions
  1. Beat with electric mixer the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and milk at low speed until smooth.
  2. Add butter, one slice at a time, until incorporated
  3. Add shortening and whip at highest speed 10-12 minutes, until volume increases by at least 50%.
  4. Fold in Nutella by hand.
I made a four layer cake! I've always been nervous about cutting the cake in half, but I have a great long, serrated knife that made it easy. So I sliced those bad boys up put frosting between each of the layers. I kept the cake in the fridge. It sets the frosting nicely, and it's probably for the best since it's a buttercream.

I need to be more diligent in lining up the cakes. I sliced of the rounded tops so that they would be even, but it still ended up relatively lop-sided. I think I have to better keep track of how I uncorked the top of the cake from the bottom so that once it has been frosted I can put the top of the cake back on so that it lines up just how it was removed. You know what I mean?

Van and the clients thought the cake was Van-tastic (hehe). It turned out moist and tasty. If I were to make it again, I would do it in cupcake form and fill the cupcakes with frosting, 'cuz, man, it's good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goodness, Gracious, Great Coconut Cake Balls of Fire!

I haven't had the opportunity to make cake balls in a hot minute. It takes a bit of effort, so I usually only make them for specific events. Hosting a jewelry party seemed specific enough. I had been mulling around with the idea of a Mounds-type cake ball. And I think these did the trick.

I used a Coconut Cake mix this go round, which is more difficult to find than one might think. Thanks, Harris Teeter. I wanted to make sure the coconut really stood out, so I added some toasted shredded coconut as well. I know you know the drill, but I'll post the ingredients and recipe again just for you!


Coconut Cake Balls
Ingredients
  • 1 box coconut cake mix (plus ingredients to bake the cake)
  • 1 can (8oz) Whipped White Frosting
  • 1c toasted shredded coconut
  • Chocolate baking bark
Directions
  1. Bake cake as directed and let cool completely.
  2. Crumble cake in to a BIG bowl.
  3. Add entire can of frosting and combine.
  4. Scoop into balls (tablespoon of mix) and chill in fridge.
  5. Melt chocolate bark, coat cake balls and chill until set.
Everyone loved them. And they were taken home to a number of significant others to share. I think adding the toasted coconut was a great idea.

I know that sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don't. If it happens to be one of your more nutty times, you could roll the cake balls around in some crushed toasted almonds after you dip them in the chocolate.

Easy and Dangerous Peanut Bars

Easy and dangerous? I used to date a guy like that. Bah-dum ching! Moving on...

My mother has been making these peanut bars for years. They are always a hit. I had a super fun jewelry party earlier in the month, and I knew these bars would be perfect for this occasion.


Peanut Bars
Ingredients
  • 1pkg. Reese's Peanut Butter Chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free)
  • 1 jar lightly salted peanuts
  • 1 bag mini-marshmallows
Directions
  1. Grease 9x13 baking dish with shortening (bottom and sides).
  2. Evenly spread half of the peanuts in to the bottom on the dish.
  3. Melt the pb chips and the sc milk in the microwave and mix.
  4. Add bag of mallows to melted chips and mix.
  5. Spread mallow mixture over peanuts in the baking dish.
  6. Top with remaining peanuts (you'll probably have to push them down into the mallow mix).
  7. Chill in refrigerator and cut into small pieces; these things are decadent!
And it's as easy as that. As I said, these are daaaaaaaaaangerouuuuuuuuuuus. You won't be able to stop yourself from eating more and more, which is why it's a good idea to cut them small. They went over well and since my dad was visiting that weekend, even though it makes a lot, they were gone quick. These bars are not cheap to make, but if you need something that's like my current beau—fast and simple (Ha! Just kidding, baby. Loooooooooooove yooooooou.), it's a great option.

America's Test Kitchen's Light Blueberry Muffins

America's Test Kitchen is awesome. I have a regular cookbook of theirs as well as a baking book. I love how they teach along with the recipes. They tell you not only what worked but what didn't work and why. And they have recommendations of what kind of products to use based on their testing.

I went blueberry picking a few weeks ago and had a handful of blueberries left, but I had yet to be inspired to bake something with what remained. My big brother and his wife saved the day when they came to visit a few weekends ago, giving me a reason to put some effort into breakfast, so I made some blueberry muffins. These are some big, beautiful muffins, my friends. And they are low-fat.

I halved the recipe as there were only four of us (technically three as Kyle had already left to play golf that morning, but he would not have been pleased if there were no muffins left for him upon his return), and I still managed to fill 7 muffin cups to the brim.


Light Blueberry Muffins (makes 12)

Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 10oz. plus 1T flour
  • 4oz. cake flour
  • 7oz. sugar, plus 1T for sprinkling (I used sugar in the raw.)
  • 1T baking powder
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 4T butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2t fresh lemon Juice
  • 1t grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2c plain low-fat yogurt (use low-fat yogurt here; nonfat yogurt will make dry, tasteless muffins)
  • 2c fresh or frozen blueberries (ATK prefers frozen wild blueberries)
Directions
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Whisk 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, cake flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat 3/4 cup more sugar and butter together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Beat in one-third of the flour mixture and half of the yogurt. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining yogurt. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated. Do not over mix.
  5. Toss the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of all-purpose flour, then gently fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  6. Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup sprayed with vegetable oil spray, portion the batter into each muffin cup, then portion any remaining batter evenly among the cups using a small spoon (My cups were almost completely full). Sprinkle the tops with the remaining tablespoon sugar.
  7. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
  8. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
I actually used vanilla yogurt because I could not find a low-fat plain yogurt. It was all full fat or fat free. So I scaled back on the vanilla extract a bit. But man they were tasty. Big and light and fluffy. The lemon and vanilla in brightens up the muffins nicely. You'll also notice that I gave you weights instead of measurements for some dry ingredients. Your end product will turn out better if you go this route, so I'm trying to make the switch.

Tossing the blueberries in the flour helps them not to sink to the bottom of the muffin while baking. Everything seemed to work out, so I'll keep doing it. Man, when those things were warm and you slapped a pad of butter in the middle: yum-mo!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Car-Baked Cookies

I recently saw a t-shirt that said, "Baking is science for hungry people." I totally agree. It's important that the measurements are correct and the procedures are followed. When you add certain ingredients together they create something different. Change an element around the combined ingredients (i.e., the temperature) and you get something new entirely.

So when I saw this recipe on Baking Bites, one of my go-to baking blogs, I couldn't pass up the chance to experiment.

Let me tell you something, NC is hot...and not just because I live here, so waiting for a day that was hot enough was not a problem.

The recipe is not important; it would work just as well with a slice and bake roll from the grocery. However, I opted to use the recipe on the blog, which I've linked to directly above.

So I sliced up these cookies and laid them on some cookie sheets and dropped them off in my car to bake. It's necessary to lay down towels on your dashboard and make sure that no part of the pan is touching your car.


I put the oven thermometer in the car as well. The temp got up to around 125 degrees F. I hopped in the car a few times to check on the cookies and towards the end I decided to flip them over as they were a big gooey on the bottom. It took about 5 to 6 hours before I declared them done. Good thing I didn't have anywhere to go that day.

They turned out well and they were tasty. Because they were baked in the car, they did not brown. It was super fun to try out. I may do it again with a slice and bake OR with those pre-cut brownies. This would be a great experiment for a science teacher.