35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 9 – A Sophisticated Strawberry Cake for A Sophisticated 7 Year old

I did not take many pics of this one so I will also attempt to spare you the long, drawn out, wordy blog, but don’t get too comfortable with this format.  For my 9th Pinteresting goodie, I chose to make a cake for my son’s actual birthday.  Again, I will be posting his party sometime this week.  He loves strawberry desserts so what better treat than to create a delicious Strawberry Cake with an even more irresistible Brown Buttered, Roasted Strawberry Buttercream Frosting.  Oh yes, you heard me right, roasted strawberry and, at this point, you are likely not surprised that the butter has been “browned”.

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For this cake, I actually combined two different recipes with the frosting being the sole inspiration for the cake.  My son liking strawberry desserts was a cover-up I must confess.  The roasting of the strawberries was exactly what you imagine….heavenly.  First you toss the fresh strawberries in brown sugar and I don’t know about you, but strawberries are probably the most beautiful fruit with that rich, red color and sugar always brings it out even more.

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Finally when they are pulled out of the oven, you get this rich and syrupy version of the strawberry that produces an aroma sweet enough to give you a cavity without a single bite.

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The cake recipe itself, was quite simple and definitely made sure it stood out alongside the superstar frosting.  The cake also contains fresh strawberries in the form of a puree and produced a really moist texture.  I did slightly overmix the batter so it did not turn out making the final product slightly more dense than it should have been.

This cake was so delicious and I love that, as emphasized in the recipe prep, the strawberry pieces were visible through the frosting.  I am telling you this had to be the best tasting cake I have made so far.  I ate more than I care to admit, but most importantly my son was so excited despite likely not appreciating the quality and sophistication of the frosting, but the smile on his face when he saw his cake was more than any praise I could ever get from even the most experienced of bakers.

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 8 – The Unbreakable Cinnamon Roll

Once again, I am late with my post, but I have decided as long as I bake in real time I have fulfilled my challenge.  Being a working, who relentlessly takes on more than I can handle pretty much sets me up to constantly have something fall by the wayside.  I must say, though, I have been baking away come hell or high water or just plain crying…I have been baking!

This particular week, I sneaked over to my “Breakfast Breakfast Brunch” board to find a delicious addition to my son’s birthday breakfast which I will post later.  I landed on this handy dandy recipe and let me tell you I did not regret it.  The funny thing about making cinnamon rolls is it is very intimidating.  Then, mid-way through preparation, you realize it is not that bad.  I think it is the yeast that gets you.  I mean some weird creature that you have to feed or keep a certain temperature or you baked good will not turn out right seems pretty creepy.

Well this time was no exception.  I was pretty much worn out from party preparations when it was time to prep.  I  almost almost decided not to bake so you can imagine that when I chose to push forward, I was dragging.

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In preparing the dough, as the recipe notes, it was really sticky and and took longer to rise than I am used to.  It also requires you to come back and forth to your dough mound and flip it and flop it in a 2 hour time period.  Fortunately it is a two day process so Thursday evening while on my last leg, I was pretty happy when I got to the point of putting it in the fridge for the overnight rise.

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Day 2, I was more energetic, but who would I be if I was having to rush due to the fact that people would be over shortly to taste whatever it is that was going to come out of the oven.  First thing is I must watch a master roll out the dough.  I never obtain this mythical, measured rectangle that recipes so often tell me to make in order to get a particular size and amount of cinnamon rolls and this time was no exception.  Actually it was an exception, an exceptionally far deviation from the measurements as I was really really rushing at this point.  It was so funny when I rolled my dough and found more of a cone rather than a perfectly symmetrical cylinder.  Needless to say, I got several rolls and tossed them in the oven.

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I almost overcooked them since I was chasing 7  year old boys around and also preparing many other dishes, but they made it out with what I would just call an elevated browning.

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The frosting took seconds to make and I just slapped it on and threw the dish on the table.  Once things settled down and I had finished my hosting duties, I snagged a bite and holy bleep, they were amazing.  You have absolutely got to try this recipe.  Even with my half-step, one eye open, delirious baking they turned out so good.  The rolls were moist and the cream cheese topping melted in my mouth.  I think the main difference with this roll that contributed to its amazing flavor was the honey.  Most cinnamon roll recipes do not have this and I often find them tasting quite yeasty.  Now that may be my fault and my strange husband says he likes that taste, but I am not a fan.  If you are looking for a recipe where you can go wrong, look no further, I have found it for you.  Enjoy!

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 7 – Franken Pie

For shame!  I am so behind on my posting that it should be a crime.  In all fairness, I baked two last week and then just could not post.  Why do I put so many challenges on myself, I could not tell you.

This week I attempted to make a dessert for Father’s day.  I planned on making apple pie since that is the favorite of my husband and my father in-law (if I add the vanilla ice cream.  On baking day, I ended up not having any apples so I opted for a pie with whatever a had remaining in the house.  In this case it turned out to be random berries, raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry to be exact.  I had a recipe for mixed berry hand pies so naturally I decided to use that recipe, but without the hand part.  I wanted it to be a full on pie because that just looks fancier.  Also I call it Franken pie because, for some reason, it took several links to get me to the actual recipe from the link I have on my Pinterest board and I am pretty sure in the end I just meshed together a few recipes that I viewed while trying to confirm my actual Pinteresting recipe was legit.  I also used the streusel from this recipe since I opted against a double crusted pie.

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I was unstoppable.  I made my fancy crust and utilized the techniques I learned (e.g. use the rolling pin to gather the dough and place over the pie plate).  I rinsed the fruit which, in itself, looked so gorgeous.

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I was on a roll!  I mean, I made two desserts in one day and had this gorgeous pie.  Oh yes, I was full of myself…..for a moment.    I even tried to use the stressel recipe instad of just adding a top crust.

While driving on the back roads on the way to Oma and Opa’s house, I noticed some liquid forming on the surface of the pie.  “That’s weird”, I thought to myself and like a bolt of lightning, it hit me…Holy sh*@, I forgot the flour.  I totally forgot to add flour to the filling.  I cursed myself all the way to the in-laws.  All that freakin’ work.  All of that self-gratification gone!  It was so liquid like, we totally ended up depending on it being an ice cream topping.

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There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  The flavor of the crust (to which I added an extra tablespoon of sugar) was superb and the berries tasted like heaven.  I want to make this one again with the, you know, correct ingredients.  It is definitely worth a try!

35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 6 – The Little Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches That Could

I mentally prepared myself to start this blog post off with yet another baking fail.  When I took the cookies out of the oven, they were super flat and appeared discolored.  I was even embarrassed as I knew I had to post and confess my defeat.  Not to mention the fact that I am a week overdue.  Scratch that, it is now two weeks overdue.  This challenge I have given myself has definitely proven to be a….well, a challenge, but I am not giving up!

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I chose this dessert because I kept seeing the beautiful image staring at me while perusing my board.  It was kind of nostalgic as it brought up memories of the white rectangular box that housed my favorite individually packed Oatmeal cookies sandwiches.  I am pretty sure we had an everlasting supply in my house.  I even had them on hand in my dorm room when I went to college.  Fast forward to several years later and a maturing palate and I now see a poison sign whenever I look at that box so you can imagine it brought me excitement to be able to get a childhood treat made with ingredients I can pronounce.

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This time I did cheat a bit and recruit my mini bakers to balance wild boys and attempting to pump out yet another baked treat.  They are becoming pros now as the oldest has been helping me bake for about 4 years and my youngest for almost 2.  We started off with the cookie portion which was quite easy.  I cannot tell you why they came out so flat and discolored, but I think I let the butter sit out too long and that may explain the flatness.  I opened a new box of baking soda so it wasn’t that.  Regardless, this was definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover moment.

I “tested” one of the cookies and had a moment.  The cookie was so soft and flavorful.  It really felt like it was melting in my mouth.  I would definitely attribute the texture to the molasses.  You don’t really taste it but it makes sure its presence is known by creating a cookie that seems to almost massage your teeth as you chew.

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I was pretty exhausted when it came to creating the filling so I just cut a hole in a ziploc bag and went to town.  I also need to note that I did not use bourbon or brown the butter.  I know I know, don’t fall out.  I missed that it was browned butter as that is usually  highlighted in the recipe description and I refuse to purchase alcohol at the ABC stores.  I just added 1 tablespoon of vanilla and used plain butter.

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They were so good, there was almost no final product to capture.  I had to leave the last few at my in-laws so I would devour every single one myself.  This is definitely going down in the books as a go to treat.

35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 5 – Brown Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies w/ Macadamia Nuts

Say that 5 times in a row without getting tongue time.  Last week I was so proud of myself as I did not wait until the end of the week to bake.  I had my cookies ready for co-workers by Thursday.  Of course, I managed to delay posting until Week 6 so you will hear from me twice this week.

For week 5 I used Pinterest as an inspiration to create a Franksteinesque recipe for my favorite cookie.  I honestly cannot tell you what I like more, the smell of browning butter or that smokey taste it lends to baked goods, but I am definitely a fan.  The original recipe on my Pinterest is for Brown Butter Cinnamon Cookies with White Chocolate Chips, but I wanted to add macadamia nuts and omit cinnamon chips.  Oh and I did not have sour cream or greek yogurt so I was pretty much destined to go off script.  I ended up combining the aforementioned recipe with a general White Chocolate Chip w/ Macadamia nut cookie and I ended up with a recipe that looks something like this:

2 1/4 C AP Flour

3/4 C Light Brown Sugar

1/2 C Granulated Sugar

1 Large egg + 1 egg yolk

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/8 tst Almond Extract

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 C Butter

1 C chopped macadamia nuts roasted

1 pkg Ghiardelli White Chocolate Chips

 

First I browned the butter.  I removed it from the heat, let it cool and then placed in the freezer for quick chilling.  Once the butter was ready, I creamed the butter and the sugar.  Ohhh it smelled so good!  While that mixed, I combined the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  I added the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture with the blender on low.  To add the nuts and chips, I used a wooden spoon.

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For the chips, I recommend Ghiardelli.  They are amazing and yes, yes there is a noticeable difference.  If those are not on sale, Nestle is the way to go.  I refuse to go generic on the chips, but funny thing is I will go generic on everything else.

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When I decided to prepare this recipe late in the evening, I threw my hands up when I found that the dough needs to chill for a couple of hours.    It was around 10:00 pm and I had to go to work the next morning so I opted for overnight.

When I took the mix out of the fridge in the morning, I was concerned the cookies would be dry and not soft because that dough was so challenging to handle.  I am sure I was supposed to bring it near room temperature first, but time was limited.

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The cookies turned out great.  My idea to roast the nuts didn’t quite back fire, but I will say, the nuts stole the show so be sure your audience likes the taste of nuts before you give this a try.

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 4 – Mini Bananas Foster Cheesecakes

O.k., I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this challenge.  Between my work schedule, my kids, and still needing to cook regular meals, throwing in a weekly baking session has proved to be…well a bit daunting.  Nevertheless I shall move forward, power through, and fight the good fight.

I had been eyeballing this particular treat for quite some time now.  It was a newer “pin” and it is at the top of my board.  Aside from the recipe’s image staring right at me every time I open my board, cheesecake just so happens to be my favorite dessert.  The banana part wasn’t as appealing, but seeing as how I end up having a constant need to Google “what to do with your over ripe bananas”, it fit the bill.

Cheesecake recipes are usually pretty standard. Crush Graham crackers and mix with melted butter to create your crust.  A food processor is absolutely best for this especially if you add nuts.  It should look like beautiful, delicious, sweet smelling sand when you are finished.

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Next you usually mix cream cheese and sugar (and you’ll usually find cheesecake recipes use a smaller amount of sugar than typical desserts) and then add eggs.  It’s pretty simple and basic, but for the first time I used brown sugar as the recipe requires and man oh man did it ever make a beautiful color.  I could have just used it  as a spread right then and there.  The next unique aspect of this recipe was adding mashed bananas at the end.

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For the entire recipe, I used generic store bought products.  I actually had some cream cheese in the fridge awaiting their transformation.  Since I do consider myself a cheesecake veteran, I did decide to do a tiny bit of freestyling.  Since I am a crustinista (oh yes, yes I did go there), I wanted to add a little more flavor to the Graham cracker crust by adding about a tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla.

It is so critical when baking cheesecake, that you have either a springform pan or this cute mini cheesecake pan (like the one seen below).  I used to make them in muffin pans and it added so much work, but it is manageable if you do not have the actual pan.  If you plan to make mini cheesecakes often, it is well worth the investment.

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One little poke of the finger and you have a super cutesy dessert.  It also shapes better than out of the muffin tin.

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To prepare the pan for it’s special task of creating this rich dessert, is the spray each well with cooking spray.  You then, scoop the sand-like crust into each well.  I must say, I had to add more than the 2 T of butter which the recipe required.  The crust should start sticking together when compressed otherwise you would not have a formed crust, but rather a Graham cracker crumble sloughing off when you take out your cheesecake.  To add the filling, I like to use a container with a spout for pouring.  This time around I chose a measure cup, worked like a charm.  I actually ended up making 16 mini cheesecakes instead of the 12 the recipe noted.

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Some of my cakes cooked a little bit long or my oven was too hot. Also, some of the cakes sunk in due to uneven baking.  The only way I have ever learned to have cheesecake cook evenly is to submerge part of the baking container in water while in the oven.  Yesterday was not the day for that so I just placed the pans directly on the oven rack.

For the sauce, well that begin very interestingly.  The butter melting went perfectly according to plan.  I mean, it’s melting butter in a pan.  I then added the brown sugar and started to wonder after a minute why it did not look smooth like the recipe had indicated.  At this point I am cursing silently in my head as my kids were nearby.

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It looked anything but smooth.  I started looking grainy and when I mixed it, well it was just strange so I decided adding the liquid now might help.

I did not have rum and I was going to give some to my kids so I added 1 T of vanilla instead.  Steam, hiss, splat….I had a boiling science experiment on my hands.

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At this point, there was no turning back, I was not about to start over so I just threw in the sliced bananas.  It didn’t seem very clear in the recipe but for this part you can use a regular banana as it will be cooked to perfection.

After a few whirls, my sauce finally looked thin and glassy like the picture from the original recipe blog.  The take home here is that it takes a while to get to that thin, smooth, glossy texture.  I always feel like recipes frequently fail to mention how long some foods take to transition to its new elevated state.

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Like caramelizing onions!  OMG it takes like hours or something crazy and recipe wording, to me, seems to indicate it happens just like that.  Anyway, by the end of what seemed to be an episode from Bill Nye the Science Guy, my “Foster” turned out beautiful…and so did the cheesecakes.

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Ooh, they looked so cute!  My favorite part was the light mocha-like coloring of the cheesecake.  I have only made white cheesecake in the past so that was a treat.  It was quite good and got rave reviews from my neighbor and her family, but as I mentioned before, I am not the biggest banana dessert fan.  I will say, if you are a fan of banana flavored desserts, this will knock your socks off!  You will want to herald in the streets about this wonderful treat you discovered.  It is rich and creamy and the brown sugary banana on top is icing on the….cheesecake.

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35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 3 – The Deceptively Not So Simple Soft Lofthouse Style Frosted Cookies

O.k., you can totally call me on it.  I made these ones earlier in the week for the sole purpose of making sure I get the post out on time and, well, life happened.  So  here I am in Week 4, writing about my Week 3 conquest.

On  Thursday I was in the store scrolling through my board on the phone.  I was extra exhausted from work  and not in the mood to tackle anything major.  A few swipes in and I found them, simple copy cat Lofthouse sugar cookies.  These are the guiltiest of guilty pleasures of my husband and I.  They are so soft and the frosting is so rich and the recipe (ingredients) seemed so easy….seemed is the operative word here.

I got home later in the evening and went over the steps of the recipe and wanted to cry.  There was dough rolling and chilling overnight and more dough rolling and cutting. Ugh, I was so mad.  But if anyone knows me, I am committed.  I followed that recipe in my zombie state, threw them in the fridge and fell out.

At around 4:50 am the next morning, I started phase 2, The Roll Out.  I got my favorite, handy dandy roller and got to work.  Now, I will be the first to confess I have yet to master the art of rolling out anything.  I think I need a ruler because not matter how much my eyes convince my brain I have reached the appropriate thickness, I end up with double the volume once baking is complete.  As far as cutting out my cookies,  I have every cookie cutter possible except for a simple circle so I used my go to back up….a  drinking glass.  It does the trick to perfection and you don’t have to spend any extra money.

I threw those puppies in the oven and got to work on the frosting.  Now, I know I said I would stay away from buttercream frosting (and that is where it is solely butter), but this time I figured it wouldn’t be so bad being on a cookie and I was correct.  I don’t know if it was the heavy cream or what, but I was soooooooo delicious.  Anyway, wham bam thank you ma’am, the cookies were packed up and ready to be hauled off with me to work.  They came out cute, but the flavor was o.k.  I think the frosting saved the cookie as it tasted more dough like than that who-knows-what’s-in-it Lofthouse cookie you get from the store.  It only matched up with the store bought version by appearance and texture to some extent.

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I’m now going to pull a screenwriter move and go back to the beginning.  Imagine a tape playing back at full speed.  The recipe called for low fat sour cream, I opted for full fat.  This is not because I am some fancy baker that wanted a different flavoring, that is just what I had in the fridge.

I also opted to use the extra amount of flour that is directed to use as needed to flour my rolling surface.  I thought I was so fancy and graduating to a real baker coming up with my own plan.  It really didn’t work.  It was so sticky.  I also just did a dab of orange food coloring because food coloring freaks me out and I think I am going to have to suck it up and pay for the natural mixes they offer online.

For some tips:

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  1.  The absolute best rolling pin, in my humble opinion, are the solid wood pieces.  The ones with the handles that are on a type of roller can break under pressure (I promise I’m not heavy handed) and the full wood ones look nicer.IMG_7901
  2. Whenever possible and o.k., use parchment paper.  It allows you to just keep it moving with several batches.  Just pull the paper (with cookie) off the pan and you’re ready to start your next batch.  IMG_7907IMG_7909IMG_7911
  3. A quick way to get a good frosted cookie with the smooth edge is, as always, using a pastry bag.  It made this so much faster for me. (Ugh I just realized this picture is not in focus)
  4. Use an external thermometer in the oven.  I never do this as I do not have one, but I am definitely planning on purchasing one.  The oven definitely become hotter as I continued to bake and cookies were being done way faster than was called for in the recipe.IMG_7882
  5. I know I have said this before, but I don’t think I can stress it enough.  Always crack your eggs in a separate dish.  I use my custard dish because it looks like the cooks/bakers on t.v.  I will not gross you out with the high school Home Ec. class, but let’s just say I was very glad I was in the group that listened and got to eat my chocolate cake.

I guess I can say if I do choose to make this cookie again, I will try another recipe.  I like the look of this cookie and I can imagine doing fun and creative things with it for the holidays, but try it and let me  know if you had better luck.

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