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Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Black Cherry Pie

Hello Baking Fiends,

I was recently up in the Traverse City area of Michigan visiting my grandparents, and they had gone cherry picking recently. Now, for those of you not familiar with that area, it is cherry country. So when they picked & bought the Cavalier cherries in a 3-pound bunch, they were ripe, fresh, plump, and oh-so-sweet. YUM.

Sweet As Cherry Pie!

To start, we took about 2.5 quarts of the black cherries and pitted and de-stemmed them. Now, there is a nifty thing called a cherry pitter

Cherry Pitter!

However I took a knife and just sliced (like an apple) around the cherry flesh to get the pit out. Ended up being like 2 slices for most cherries to get all the cherry flesh off the pit. This also ended up taking about 15-20 minutes when all was said and done. It also looked like a cherry bloodbath on the table, so be forewarned NOT to do this over white pants, or on a table that doesn’t clean up easily!

Now, take your cherries and add about 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tspn vanilla extract and 2 tspn honey (drizzled), and mix well. Let this sit for about 15 minutes to soak in the flavor best.

Meanwhile, I needed to make a crust. Normally I use the Jiffy Pie Crust, however since we didn’t have any handy, I just basically made one up. Dangerous, I know, but since I sample as I go, I figured I’d be okay…

Mix 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tspn baking powder, 1/4 tspn salt together. Add in 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter (softened & cut into pieces). Mix well until forms a nice dough. Place in a Pam-sprayed pie plate, with the crust going to the very edges of the dish in a thick layer. Take a knife and make a few indents in the bottom, to help avoid the crust trying to rise during baking, thus spilling the yummy parts onto the stove ‘floor’! Oh, and you should have enough crust leftover to do either a second smaller pie, or a thin top crust. 😉

Now that you have that created, pour in your cherry filling. At this point, you can either top with the thin top crust you had enough dough leftover for OR you can make a streusel-crumble topping. I did the topping, myself! 😉

Crumble Topping:
Mix together 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tspn ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup butter (softened and cut into pieces) until, well, crumbly! Top the pie with this evenly.

VoilĂ : Black Cherry Pie!

Now bake the pie (preheated oven) at 400 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 45 minutes. The pie will look bubbly and browned on top, and will be very juicy – just to warn you!

I wish I had taken a picture of this pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, however it didn’t last long enough for me to think of it! 😉 I think in about 15 minutes the whole thing was demolished! YUM!

So let me know what you think of this recipe, especially if you’re a pie lover like me, and how you like my sweet crust concoction! Until then…

Craft You Later,

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Little Snowballs

Hey again Baking Friends!

One of my favorite series of books to read is the Hannah Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. I like that it’s murder mystery style books, with a lot of the every day monotony thrown in that most books leave out, and then the best part is the recipes! I have tried lots of Joanne’s recipes, and have yet to find one that I don’t like. One of these days I will try her coffee trick, I swear, but I need a huge batch of coffee drinkers to do it.

Anyways, a few years ago my work did a Cookies for Civil Servants thing around Christmas where everyone brought in bags of scratch-made cookies, and volunteers distributed them to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police, Fire and Medic stations across the county. I had made some extras for my co-workers, small samples of the 4 cookies that I made, and one of my friends LOVED the Little Snowballs that I made. Think similar to a Wedding Cake Cookie.

Little Snowballs!

Since her birthday is at the end of June, I decided to make her a batch of cookies for a snack. Hee. Birthday cookies will get you every time! Muahahaha.

So anyways, here is the recipe, and hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted (3 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnut chips and sliced almonds are my go-to choices for these cookies!)

How To Make Them:
Preheat over to 350 F. Melt the butter in microwave for 2 minutes.
2. Add in 3/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt, and mix well. Add the flour and mix throughly. Stir in the nuts until evenly distributed.
3. Form the dough into one-inch balls (just pat them into shape with your fingers), and place them on an UNGREASED baking sheet.
4. Bake them for 10 minutes, until they are set but not brown. Remove from oven.
5. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes, then roll them in powdered sugar. (You must do this while they’re still warm.) Place them on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
6. When the cookies are completely cooled, roll them in powdered sugar again. Let them rest for several minutes on the rack, and then store them in a cookie jar or a covered bowl, or a large freezer ziploc bag! Enjoy them with friends!

Yield: 90-100 cookies (Nutrition Information: 47 calories per cookie, 2.9g fat, 4.2g carb, 0.6g protein, 8mg sodium, 7mg cholesterol)

So there they are, try it out, enjoy, and please let me know what you think! YUM!

I will say, I do intend to try a few variations on this cookie throughout this summer: substituting butter for Butter Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, adding lemon juice + lemon rind to make Lemon Snowballs, substituting butter for applesauce + canola oil, substituting nuts for dried fruit, substituting macadamia nuts + coconut for the nuts, and finally doing the original recipe around a jumbo chocolate chip. I will, of course, keep you all posted on how these all turn out!

Craft You Later,

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Strawberry-Lemon Icebox Pie

Hello Baking Fiends!

I had a special request from a friend to make a Lemon Icebox Pie for dessert. So I looked up a bunch of recipes and found these three that I really wanted to base my pie off of: AllRecipes’ Lemon Icebox Pie III, Emeril’s Lemon Icebox Pie, and Papa’s Lemon Icebox Pie.

So, typical me, I basically combined some elements from all of these recipes, added a Strawberry twist of my own, and came up with my own creation! Shocked? I figured you would be!

Strawberry-Lemon Icebox Pie!

What you’ll need:
1 box of Vanilla Wafers (you’ll use all but maybe 12 wafers)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 quart of fresh de-stemmed strawberries, divided
3 lemons
zest from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 8oz package 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 8×8 cake pan or 9×9 pie pan (preferably with a lid)

What you’ll do:
First, using a food processor, a blender or a rolling pin (and some repressed anger or frustration), make the wafers into a cookie powder-like mulch. You laugh or cringe now at that description, but just do it, I dare you. Dump the cookies into a bowl.

Next purÊe about 5 of the small strawberries (should be a small handful in total) until it looks like a smoothie. While that is going, melt your butter in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Dump the strawberries and butter in with the wafers.

Making the crust….

Once this is mixed together really well, and it will look more like cookie dough at this point, dump the crust mix into your sprayed-with-Pam pan (I used an 8×8 cake pan), and spread it out evenly along the bottom and up the sides.

Crust to bake….

Bake your crust at 350 for 15 minutes, remove from oven and pat the bottom down (spreading it back out evenly) if needed, then bump the oven up to 425 to bake for an additional 8 minutes. Turn the oven off and remove, letting it cool.

While that is baking, in a bowl (I just used the crust bowl again) dump in the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, condensed milk, juice of 3 lemons, zest of 1 lemon, and the pulsed (not fully purÊed) remnants of another 5 small strawberries. Mix really well with a whisk until fully incorporated.

Making the filling….

And now pour the filling into the crust and spread it evenly all up the sides. Slice the remaining 4-5 strawberries into quarters, and place on top of the filling. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy!

VoilĂ : Strawberry-Lemon Icebox Pie!

Verdict on this was “delicious” across the board. This was definitely very lemony, so if you don’t like as much lemon, I would maybe only juice 2 lemons instead of 3. However I was impressed with how well the crust turned out, and think it would be fun to try other fruit purĂŠes in them, maybe even in place of the butter! Hmmm. Mmmm. 🙂

Craft You Later,

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Healthy Fudgy Brownies

Hello Baking Friends!

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted about baking, however I have now twice baked these brownies that I really think you’ll enjoy.

Healthy Fudgy Brownie!

I found this recipe from Baker On The Rise for Fudgy Black Bean Brownies. I know, I know… “Black Bean” + “Brownie” = ?!?!?!?!? I thought so too. But I thought they looked good, sounded intriguing, so I decided to attempt them after finding a few people (including my brother) who said they would try them. Victims volunteering, I just love it!

So here is what I did. And I mostly followed the recipe, you’ll be proud to know!

Drain and rinse out a can of black beans. Twice, maybe three times even. I like making sure my black beans are completely free of anything other than the beans!

Next, I took about 1/3 of the beans at a time and put them through my Magic Bullet Blender with 1 egg, for about 40 seconds. They’ll come out a bit foamy. Dump into a mixing bowl, and start over with the next 1/3 of the beans and egg. Since you need 3 eggs, this makes it very simple to not blow out your blender and also mushify all of the beans to a smooth and even finish. Yes, I did just say mushify, and no, I’m not taking it back. So there.

Mushified Beans + Brownie Mix-ins

Once all the beans are in the mixing bowl, I added 3 capfuls of blended oil, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 quick dash of salt. I mixed this with a plastic spoon for about 2 minutes until smooth.

Brownies + Chocolate Chips

Now take about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and put those in the blender, pulsing, for about 20 seconds until chopped up pretty good. Add those to the batter and stir until it’s not lumpy. Pour into a prepared (sprayed with Pam if you’re like me!) 13×9 pan. Sprinkle with some more (non-chopped) chocolate chips. Bake at 350 Farenheit for 27 minutes, then turn oven off. Let cool in oven 2 minutes, then remove and cool on stovetop for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dry place, with the pan(s) covered.

Brownie Batter

Additional notes:
– You can do 2 thin-layer 13×9 pans instead of 1 thick one and end up with 2 pans of smaller brownies – with 2 pans cooking about 27 minutes. The thinner layers taste more like brownies, the thicker layer tastes more cakey. Depends on what you want for how you should bake them!
– Or you can add coconut, nuts or dried fruit to the brownies’ batter and topping in addition to the chocolate chips.

Nutrition Facts: 
Prepared in 1 pan (15 thick brownies):
128 calories, 5.2g Fat (1.2g saturated), 38mg Cholesterol, 136mg Sodium, 18.2g Carbohydrates (2.6g Dietary Fiber, 12g Sugars), 3.6g Protein, 2% DV Calcium, 8% DV Iron

Prepared in 2 pans (30 thin brownies):
64 calories, 2.6g Fat (0.6g saturated), 19mg Cholesterol, 68mg Sodium, 9.1g Carbohydrates (1.3g Dietary Fiber, 6g Sugars), 1.8g Protein, 1% DV Calcium, 4% DV Iron

So I know this seems like a super big leap in the brownie world, however everyone seemed to really like these that has tried them so far. I’ve made them twice. I didn’t tell my coworkers they had black beans in them, of course, when I made them for them, though! Figured that way they’d actually try them un-biasedly! 😉 Hey I never said I wasn’t sneaky! Anyways, they said they tasted more cakey than normal brownies. However when I did the initial (2 pans of thin brownies) recipe, they actually tasted more like normal brownies and less cakey. Depends what you want, clearly! 🙂

Craft You Later,

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Girl Scout Cheesecakelets

Hey all you bakers! All you experimenters! All you scientists in the kitchen! All you girl scout cookie lovers! All you cheesecake lovers! All you people who just love to eat desserts!

I have a treat for you, yes I do!

Girl Scout Cheesecakelets!

Last weekend, before Memorial Day itself, a friend of mine was having a community yard sale that would benefit her daughter’s girl scout troup in Harrisburg, NC. She had bought extra boxes of cookies back in January, just for this purpose – to help make some more money for her girls so they could go to their trip next Summer. I am all about helping out girl scouts, especially since one is my honorary niece!

So when my friend told me she needed my help to make some stuff that has girl scout cookies as  a base for the recipe, so people will realize they can do more than just eat the cookies ‘raw’ (so-to-speak), I of course told her I would do it!

I asked which cookies she had the most of, and found out it was Dulce de Leche, and Thank You Berry Munch. I personally LOVE both cookies, so I bought a box of each for myself. But I also then grabbed a box of each to bake something. Concoction ideas started pouring into my head, so fast that I had to start shaking my head to dislodge them! Some were prospectively great (cookies crumbled on top of frosting on cake) while some were not so great (cookie chunks in brownies). I finally decided on doing cheesecakelets (yes, I made that up, and no I will not take it back!) in cupcake liners so they’d be easy to sell, handle and transport!

So I ran to the store to get some cream cheese, vanilla Greek yogurt, eggs, milk and unsalted butter. I looked up a few cheesecake recipes to get a general feel for what I wanted to do, and then made sure I had my sugar, flour and brown sugar stocked up in the kitchen!

First off, I made the Thank You Berry Munch crust. For this, I took my Magic Bullet Blender and ground up about 8 cookies until they were purèed to the finest crumb possible. Then I combined the crumbs, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup melted butter in a bowl and mixed until evenly distributed, and kind of resembling a paste. 

Crust Ingredients…

The only difference I made for the Dulce de Leche cookie crust is that the cookies kinda had a thicker crumb – almost like peanut butter was mixed in with it. To counter this, I added 1/4 cup flour and 1/8 cup white sugar to the crumbs and brown sugar. I stirred that up good, then added the 1/4 cup melted butter, same as above.

Crust Mixed!

Next, pat the cookie crumbs into the bottom of some cupcake liners. I used about 1/2-2/3 of a teaspoon for each one, and made sure to pat the crumbs evenly to cover the entire bottom of the liner.

Crusts in Liners!

Now it’s time to make the cheesecake filling. In a mixing bowl that fits my stand mixer, I mixed 16 oz softened cream cheese, 6 oz vanilla Greek yogurt, 2 eggs, 1 tspn vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup sugar. Cream this really well until it is nice and smooth.

Cheesecake batter!

Now put about 1 heaping tablespoon of batter onto the crusts in the liners.

Raw Compiled Cheesecakelets!

Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes, until the cheesecake topping starts to split. Let cool for 10 minutes, then top with cookie pieces from the remaining cookies you have leftover. Store in the refrigerator at least an hour to cool them to enhance the flavor.

And voilà, now you have (roughly 40) Girl Scout Cheesecakelets to show off!

Baked Thank You Berry Munch Cheesecakelets!

Baked Dulce de Leche Cheesecakelets!

Craft You Later,

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Triple-Chocolate Cake

Hello again baking friends!

I have become a baking fiend again in recent weeks, as I’m sure you can tell, so hope you enjoy this latest adventure I made in the kitchen!

This past weekend, my Aunt was visiting from Michigan for her 60th birthday! She doesn’t look a day over 40, though, so of course my brother found this great card that said “Happy 40th Birthday!” on it from us – she loved it!

I had asked what her favorite type of cake is, after much debate with my parents about it — and her response was “chocolate – and more chocolate!”. So I set out trying to find a good recipe to make her birthday request extra yummy. I wanted to create a Triple-Chocolate Cake for her!

Triple Chocolate Cake!

So I decided upon a recipe based from the Food Network Kitchens’ Decadent Chocolate Cake, and further plotted on making a homemade Chocolate Ganache Frosting, with a drizzle on top of Tastefully Simple’s Amazing Amaretto Chocolate Sauce (truly is amazing).

So here goes for the way I made it.

I preheated the oven to 325, and greased an 8-inch round pan, 2 mini fluted pans, and 3 mini-round pans.

Next, in a large bowl, I whisked together 2 cups flour, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda (should’ve been 1/2 but it came flying out of the box!), 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon cinammon, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, until completely mixed.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I didn’t use espresso powder),  1/2 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 cup lowfat Greek yogurt (I used vanilla flavored), 1/2 cup lowfat milk, 1/3 cup corn oil, 1 large egg, 1 large egg white, and mix until well blended. Mix in the cocoa mixture until fully blended together.

Gradually add in the cocoa mix to the flour, mixing continuously until fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the pans, but not to the top, then place in the center of the oven (mini pans on a cookie sheet!), and bake for 42 minutes. Yes, that is a random time, but they came out perfectly! Yay!

While your cakes are baking, you can now make your ganache frosting!

First, get your chocolate melting in a double boiler (or an improvised one of 2 pans, like I use!). Put in 3 squares each bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, and 1/3 cup of unsalted butter. Let this sit over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely melted and stirred together well.

While that is working, take 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/8 cup cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whisk together until fully incorporated. Add 1 cup milk, 3 teaspoons Amaretto Disaronno and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and stir until fully combined. This will be more liquid then thick at this point. Which is what you want.

Once the chocolate is fully melted in the double boiler, add it to the powdered sugar mixture, and stir until fully mixed. Mix it about 3 minutes more. Trust me on this, it’s worth it. Let sit 10-15 minutes until starts to thicken.

Once your cakes are done, let them cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then put them on serving plates or wax paper to cool another 10 minutes. Once this is done, pour the ganache over top of them – or you can dip the tops if you have mini cakes, as they are small and easy to hold onto for this process! Set aside and let sit about 10 minutes until ‘frosting’ firms up. Then drizzle or drop dollops of the Amazing Amaretto Chocolate Sauce on top of the mini cakes, and across the big cake.

If you have extra Ganache, like I did, you can also dip in fruit, pretzels and other assorted goodies and let them cool on the wax paper as well!

If you’re feeling really frisky, you could add Crème Fraiche or Whipped Cream or Cool Whip on top of the cakes as well!

VoilĂ , ready to enjoy!

Mini cakes and ganache-dipped pretzels – mmm!

Once it’s cut open, it’s anyone’s treat!

Until next time, hope you enjoy this cake, or at least the look of it, and have a great week!

Craft you later,

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes

Hello Baking Lovers!

Today we are having Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes — à la Beth. I have a coworker who not only is allergic to chocolate (oh the HORROR of it!), but absolutely LOVES Strawberry Shortcakes of all kinds. His birthday is this weekend, so I decided to start our long weekend off right at work and make him (and the rest of my taste-tester victims) some sweet treats to make the day more enjoyable.

Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes!

I was looking at my favorite Strawberry Shortcake Recipe, which is courtesy of the book Strawberry Shortcake Murder, a Hannah Swensen novel, by Joanne Fluke. Unfortunately, I didn’t have 48 hours to let the Pound Plus Cake sit before serving, so I decided to shop around some more for quicker recipes.

In my search, I happened upon this nice blog site unsophisticook, and found some great stuff! I found what would be the basis for my Shortcakes, and a great Bisquick baking substitute for not having to buy the boxed product as well!

To start, I didn’t alter the Bisquick Substitute recipe. Contain your shock, I know it has your jaw agape, but please…miracles do happen! So to start the whole process off I knew I would only need 3.5 cups of the substitute, so I halved the recipe from the above link. I didn’t want extra since it is so easy to whip up!

Step 1: Whisk together 3 cups flour, 1.5 tbspn baking powder, and 1/2 tbspn salt until thoroughly blended. Add 1/4 cup cold sliced butter and, using a pastry cutter or two knives or a whisk, mix in the butter until fully incorporated and no lumps remain.

Step 2: To the flour, add 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and stir completely until dough is lumpy and dry.

Step 3: Add in 1/2 cup sour cream and mix dough well: this will moisten the dough and make it sticky.

Step 4: Drop spoonfulls of dough onto a cookie sheet, mine is lined with foil, and sprinkle with granulated sugar, Bake for 14 minutes at 425 F (preheat your oven first!). NOTE: You want the dough balls at least the size of a hacky sack, otherwise you won’t have enough cake for the full effect!

Step 5: Slice up 2 lbs of fresh de-stemmed strawberries and put in a bowl. Pour about 1/2 cup sugar over top (distribute evenly).

Step 6: Combine 2 tbspn lemon juice and 1/3 cup cold water. Pour mixture over strawberries & sugar. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight.

Step 7: To make the Crème Fraiche, put 2 cups heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer on high for 1 minute. Add in 1/2 cup sugar and let whip for around 10 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Then add in 1/2 cup sour cream, switching the speed down significantly (on mine went from 10 to 3).

Now, I made all the stuff, refrigerated the crème and strawberries, covered the shortcakes (left on top of the cooled stove), and went to bed. You could do this immediately after everything has cooled, but it worked out great overnight for me!

Assembling the Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes:

Step 8.1: Split the cooled cakes in half horizontally.

Step 8.2: Place the bottom half of the cake in a cupcake holder (easiest way to keep them together AND transport them, I promise!).

Step 8.3: Place a dollop of crème fraiche on top of the cake bottom.

Step 8.4: Place 3 slices of strawberries on top of the crème. NOTE: you probably want to drain the juices from the strawberries before starting this process. I drained into a glass & enjoyed a yummy strawberry juice, with a few slices slipped in!

Step 8.5: Place top of cake on top of strawberries, dab a small dollop of crème on top, and sprinkle with a tiny bit of brown sugar. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving, as this will enhance the flavors immensely!

Step 9: Serve and enjoy!

So that is the easy peasy lemon squeezy way to make these cute, individual sized Fraiche Strawberry Shortycakes! Let me know how you like them – so far everyone at work has absolutely loved them! Have a great rest of your Friday, a great weekend (for those in the US – HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY weekend!), and until next time…!

Craft You Later,

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello Baking Fiends!

I had to make some chocolate chip cookies for my dad a while ago. He loooves chocolate chip cookies. Since I make them bite sized, it’s easier for him to grab quite a few but still not eat a ton, so it works out. He likes to eat cookies, I like to bake cookies, it’s a great father-daughter relationship, I tell ya! 😉

In addition, I have quite a few friends that enjoy cookies, so I have 3 main versions of these that I make pretty regularly for them: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (PBCC), Double Chocolate Chip (DCC), and Chocolate Chip (CC) Cookies.

I do not use eggs. This recipe should NOT be subsituted with eggs, just as a warning. It won’t taste great, I promise. Try this way, it won’t hurt, I swear!

So first, I melt 1 cup margarine (or 2 sticks unsalted butter). This is one of the few times I prefer margarine. But shhhh! don’t tell anyone! 😉 Usually microwaving this on HIGH power for 45 seconds does the trick. You don’t want this boiling, you just want this melted. While this is melting, I preheat my oven to 375 F. I also put aluminum foil down on my cookie sheets, and spray the foil very lightly with cooking spray.

To the melted margarine/butter, dump in the following (but don’t stir until they’re all added in): 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 3-oz package sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix. Stir these really well, until fully incorporated and the ‘dough’ is looking like creamed butter (a little grainy but mostly wet).

Now add in one of the following, depending on type of cookie:
PBCC: 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
DCC: 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/3 cup white sugar
CC: 1/2 cup brown sugar

Next add in the flour, and I usually add 2 cups, then another cup by the 1/4 cup until it’s all-around doughy. You want your dough to be able to be scooped by hand and not stick to you, but still able to stick to itself and not crumble apart when you put it on the sheet. The PBCC cookies, because of the peanut butter, will need a little more flour, whereas the other 2 types (DCC & CC) will need a little less.

Finally, add in your chocolate chips and stir really well. I like doing this after the flour, because it causes less strain when mixing, and also allows your dough to get to the right consistency without the extra hard bits blocking any of the dough areas from being mixed right.

Once you have your dough ready, take teaspoon-sized amounts of dough and roll them into balls. Place about 2 inches apart in any direction from each other on the cookie sheet. On a square baking sheet, I can fit between 20-25 cookies typically. Once they are on the sheet, pat them down a little so they are flattened just a bit. On occasion, I will roll the dough in granulated sugar before placing on the sheet. That is optional though!

Now to bake. I have this part down to an exact science. Put your 2 cookie sheets in the oven and set your kitchen timer to 7 minutes 25 seconds, exactly. Once it beeps, pull the cookies out, and let stand on the sheets for 2 minutes. Then remove to the cooling rack (or another cookie sheet covered in foil if you don’t have a rack), and let stand for 5 minutes to fully cool. They should be super easy to pull of the sheets once that first 2 minutes is done. 🙂

Observe the wonderfulness as it cools!

Typically, this recipe yields about 100-120 cookies for me, albeit bite-sized ones. They are delicious, easy to carry, easy to transport & package, and super easy to eat! YUM!

Here they are all prettied up in a box for a gift!

Enjoy, and until next time, enjoy these cookies and let me know how you like them!

Craft You Later,

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Raspberry Layer Cake

Hello Again Baking Friends!

I had some family in from out of town, as I mentioned in my beer entry Monday, and so decided to bake a little bit in celebration. Try out some new recipes on some fresh mea—-I mean victi—-I mean taste-testers! Whew. Dang, that was almost really bad! Thanks for sticking with me for that!

I purchased two items from Hobby Lobby & Michael’s two weeks ago that had me SUPER excited. First, the candy & baking Raspberry Flavoring from Hobby Lobby. Second, the 3-pack Mini Round Cake Pan Set from Michael’s. I just wanted to make something, anything, with them, and so I decided to take them with me to bake for the family. Muahahaha. They didn’t know they would be guinea pigs, but they happily acquiesced. Having also looked at a recent Better Homes & Gardens recipe, I found a recipe I was inspired by for using food coloring to make layered cakes. So I couldn’t help but combine all of these ideas into one: mini layered cakes.

I concocted a Mini Raspberry Layer Cake, which actually turned out like I imagined it would — woohoo, score one for me! YAY! 🙂

Raspberry Layered Mini Cakes with Raspberry-Vanilla Buttecream Frosting!

I completely ignored the whole “follow the recipe exactly” concept, as usual…yeah, I know, you’re completely shocked and unable to contain your surprise. **yawn** I know, I know. It is not news. But hey, disclaimers are great for a reason!

So I decided to use a white cake recipe, but make a light yellow cake, and use that for my base of the entire cake thing. So in a nutshell, my plan was to make a batter, bake 3 mini cakes of that, then add some raspberry flavoring and red food coloring into the remaining batter, make 3 more cakes, make a frosting, and assemble so that they were layered ecru cake–>pink cake–>darker pink frosting when you cut into them! Now to see how that actually worked out!

Cake, based off (VERY loosely) the Food Network’s “Classic White Cake Recipe“… I took 3/4 stick of softened butter and mixed it with 1 cup sugar, basically beating it by hand into submission. This was a GREAT arm workout, let me tell you! Whew! Then I took 2 eggs (whole) and added them into the creamed butter. Mixed well until creamy. To this, I added 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, a dash of salt (literally a quick tilt like a snap of the wrist so you get a bare sprinkle of salt), 1/3 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and then I mixed that really well.

Wet batter getting dried ingredients!

Once that was all incorporated, I added in my 1 1/4 cups of flour.

Add in the flour power!

Basically you want to add flour until this is a cake batter looking substance – for newbies, you want it moist, but thick enough so it is a slow plop when you pick some up with a spatula.

Moist cake batter results!

Now pour the batter into your greased mini baking pans (3/4 full)!

75% Full Mini Bake Pans!

Bake for around 20 minutes at 350 F, with the pans on a cookie sheet, until cake is firm on top to the touch, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The toothpick test is key to this! Let cool completely once removed from the oven.

Cooked Cake!

 Now to make the pink cake. I just added 1/2 of the jar (tiny jar) of Raspberry Flavoring to the remaining cake batter, along with 3 drops of red food coloring. Then I stirred the heck out of the batter (see below).

White Cake Turns Pink!

I redid the batter-int0-pan and baking process with the pink batter mini cakes, again with the toothpick test determining if 20 minutes at 350 is indeed sufficient. Let cool completely once removed from the oven.

Baking Pink Mini Cakes!

 Now to make the icing. I found a great recipe for a basic Buttercream Frosting from MyBakingAddiction, which of course I just used as a basis for my frosting. So first off, I took 2 sticks of softened butter (not melted!!!), and creamed the heck out of them (another great workout here!) until they were airy and fluffy. NO SUGAR at this point! Add in another dash of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, the remaining 1/2 of the Raspberry Flavoring jar, and beat well. Now add in around 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar), and stif until it becomes really thick. You may need more sugar…

Base for Buttercream!

 While you are doing the frosting, take some frozen raspberries out of the freezer and let them thaw. Okay, now that you have your thick frosting, add in about 1/8 cup of milk and mix well. Do this a little at a time so you reach the desired consistency, and not over-liquid it! Once this is incorporated, add in 4-6 drops of red food coloring. Mix well, as per the below, to fully mix in the color to get a nice pink Raspberry-Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, like the below! Let sit about 20 minutes to thicken.

Mixed Pink Raspberry-Vanilla Frosting

 Now comes the fun and difficult part. Assembling the layer cakes. I took each cake and sliced them in half vertically (turned the cake on it’s side and used a bread knife to slowly saw the cakes in half). You want to have 3 tops and 3 bottoms for each of the pink and white/ecru cakes. Now that your frosting is thickened, take a small amount of it and spread across all 3 of the pink cake bottoms so it is a very light layer. Now gently place the white/ecru cake tops onto this frosting to make a whole cake. Cover the entire cake, sides all the way around included, with frosting. Top with a few pieces of your thawed frozen raspberries, and let sit. Repeat this process using the white/ecru bottoms with the pink tops.

Visual on the Layers of these Mini Cakes!

 Now you have 6 mini layered Raspberry and Vanilla cakes with Raspberry-Vanilla Buttercream Frosting! Observe:

Frosted Layer Cakes!

 Also, I ended up having enough pink cake batter left to make two more normal mini cakes. So I ended up taking a handful of frozen raspberries and adding them to the batter, baking the same as above, and frosting them much lighter. To distinguish, I didn’t place raspberries on top of the frosting for these.

Leftover Batter Makes More Yummies!

Raspberry Cakes with Frosting!

So that is my experimentation, part 1, with my mini cake pans and my new flavoring finds! Hope you enjoy these, and I will definitely be making these for work at some point in the near future, but hopefully with more flavor variety! I will say I wish that the color was more pronounced between layers, so think I need to play more with the food coloring amounts. But that is something that you can play with as you do this! If you try this, please let me know how you like them – I always love hearing feedback!

Craft You Later,

Baking is Science for Hungry People: Honey Almond Berry Crostatas

Hello Baking Buddies!

I had a request at work to make a specific recipe for my coworkers. They volunteered themselves as guinea pigs this time! Okay, fine, I should be honest. Three of them volunteered everyone up as guinea pigs. But that still counts!!! Right?!? Please?!? Yessssssss, success!

Honey-Almond-Berry Crostatas!

The Recipe: Betty Crocker Mini Honey Almond Cranberry Crostatas
The Task: Bake for us please.
The Date: I missed a good friend’s birthday (I thought it was 2 days later, dangit) so decided to bring this in for his birthday treat on the day I thought his birthday occurred.
The Challenge: Follow the recipe exactly.

WHOA! WHAT?! Follow the recipe exactly?!? What madness is this, you ask? I was challenged by a friend to actually follow a recipe without straying from it by even a smidgen. He didn’t think I could do it. Honestly, I didn’t think I could, either!

Ingredients Compiled!

So here are the ingredients: 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup honey, 1.25 cup fresh or frozen berries, 1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (thawed), 3 tablespoons almond paste (3.5 oz tube), 1.5 teaspoons sliced almonds, 8 teaspoons honey.

I decided that I wanted to make a double recipe of fruit, so I actually had 1.25 cup frozen cranberries AND 1.25 cup fresh blackberries (hey, a Harris Teeter sale for $1 per pint, heck yes I bought some!). I started off with the cranberry. Partly to prove that I CAN follow a recipe, and partly to make sure it worked right before wasting blackberries. 😉 See, I plot and plan when I bake!

So first step, preheat the oven to 425. Second step, place a sheet of wax paper down on the counter. Third step, put aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.

1) Heat 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup honey (okay, I probably had closer to 1/3 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon, but that is from not wanting to dirty more stuff than necessary) over medium heat until boiling. You will only need to stir a few times, promise. This should take about 4-5 minutes, tops. Once boiling, add in your berries, reducing heat to medium-low setting (halfway between the two is where I put it). Cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until berries are tender (blackberrie) or popping (cranberries). Once this happens, remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Cranberries Cooking!

2) While the berries are popping, unroll one of the crusts onto your wax paper. I used a lid for my Magic Bullet, but a normal drinking glass should work also. Take your ‘cutter’ and cut rounds out of the pie crust dough. Take scraps, re-roll out and cut again until all used up. Move them from the wax paper onto the aluminum foil on the cookie sheet. The recipe says make 4-inch rounds, however I think mine were more like 2.5/3-inch rounds, so I scaled the portions up accordingly. I love almond paste, so I was a bit generous here. Take a pinch of almond paste and center it in your pastry rounds. Make sure this is like a small dot in the center, though, and not taking up too much space!

Cranberries Cooking!

3) Once the berries have cooled, and the liquid is thicker, take a spoon and top the almond paste with 1 teaspoon of berries. For the cranberries it was about 4 berries per round, and for the blackberries it was about 3 berries per round. Once these are topped (and be sure you’re not putting in the juice here!), pinch the crusts together so they form balls. Don’t roll them into balls, and don’t worry if a few areas are thin, or a little holed on top. Just make sure the bottoms are solid! Top with some slivered almonds. Since mine were going to be smaller, I actually pounded the slivered almonds a bit so they were more like crushed pieces, and just sprinkled those on top.

Completed Crostatas!

4) Bake 14 minutes until golden brown, and remove from oven. Let cool 2 minutes then remove from pan. I actually moved mine into cupcake foils (cute ones) since I was taking them into work and that makes it easier to transport AND grab. Once they are moved, though, drizle the top of each crostata with a dollop of honey. Let cool the rest of the way.

Honey-Almond-Cranberry Crostatas

5) Repeat steps above with the other berry, using everything the same. The recipe says it will make 8 crostatas with 1 pack pillsbury pie crust (which is 2 8-inch crusts), however I was able to make 12 crostatas with EACH crust, only using 1 package for both berry varieties. So I made 24 crostatas using 2/3 cup water, 1 cup honey (total), 2.5 cups berries, 3.5 oz almond paste, 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, and 1 package Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust! WOOHOO! GO ME!

Honey-Almond-Blackberry Crostatas

My coworkers really enjoyed these, and a few people tried both. The consensus was that the Cranberry tasted better than the Blackberry for these, probably because the flavor profiles match up better for the overall effect. However if I were to do these again, without having to TRY (and fail) to prove that I can follow a recipe, I would probably add some vanilla extract with the Blackberries as they are cooking, and maybe use a walnut or pecan instead to sprinkle on top (while still using the almond paste inside). New idea for next time, woohoo!

Okay that is it for today, so I will catch you all next time, and hope you enjoyed this blog entry! Definitely think these are a GREAT baking idea if you are pressed for time, not wanting anything too complicated, and are needing a cheap item. I think I spent $15 for the actual items that were used (I bought extra paste, pie crust and fruit), counting having honey & water already… 🙂

Craft You Later,

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