Brownie Pops

I’ve been doing so many recipes from that Golden Book of Chocolate recently I almost feel like I’m doing a challenge wherein I’m trying to do all of the recipes in there, a la Julie & Julia. But I was flipping through its pages, and came across these absolutely delicious-looking brownies, and knew I had to try them.

Everything was going pretty well, at first. I chopped up the chocolate, melted it with the butter, mixed all of the ingredients together… eagerly looking forward to having what the book termed “Rich Chocolate Brownies”.

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I poured the finished mixture in the pan, popped it in the oven, and then remembered, half-way through baking, that I had forgotten to spray the pan. AGAIN.

This exact same thing had happened a few months ago when I was making brownies from a mix for my mom, and instead of learning from my mistakes I promptly made the exact same mistake again.

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AAARGH.

I was really, really pissed off. All of that work, and for fucking nothing. Just a crumbly, albeit tasty, mess. I couldn’t bring this to work. I couldn’t give anyone this garbage. Who would eat it? No one. Why can’t I ever make anything that looks pretty? Why does everything I bake have to look like it was slapped together by a drooling two-year-old? I should just give up.

But my usual defeatist attitude wasn’t going to win that day. I tried to think of something I could make with scraps of brownies.

And then I thought of cake pops.

I’ve had a bad relationship with cake balls and pops in the past. Mine just… never come out looking good. The last time I attempted cake pops was Halloween a year ago, when the melted orange candy kept burning and the cake balls kept falling off the sticks and it was all just so annoying and frustrating that I vowed to never make the goddamn things ever again.

What else to do with the brownie scraps, though? I bought some chocolate frosting, mushed it all together, and threw it in the fridge, where it sat for several days because work and Skyrim have eaten up a lot of my time recently. But I finally got around to melting some chocolate, rolling the brownies into balls, poking a stick in them, dipping them, rolling them in festive sprinkles, aaaaand —

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Wow! Not too bad! They don’t look super amazing and pretty, but they don’t look like a falling-apart mess, either. Maybe I can do this cake pop stuff after all. Probably not like Bakerella does, but still, it’s nice to know I can do the basics if I stop whining. And also if I refrigerate everything for ages. That’s probably the trick.

People loved these when I brought them to work, including my boyfriend, who had three. I still have a lot of brownies left over so I will probably make more for everyone for the holidays (that is, if they haven’t gone bad by now). This wound up being more interesting than just plain old brownies, anyway, so I guess it’s good I forgot to spray the pan after all.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Ah, Nutella. My old friend. Nutella is the sensation that is sweeping the nation/world/Internet/universe, and while I do enjoy its chocolate-y hazelnut-ness, I’m not as big of a fan of it as everyone else seems to be. I can never have more than a spoonful of it at a time, and I don’t like it spread on my toast or on anything else.

Which brought me to a dilemma. I had purchased a can of Nutella a few months ago, and after eating small amounts for about a week, I lost interest, and it sat in the cupboard, alone, unwanted, and suffering ever since. I know. It’s practically a war crime, you say. So I had to come up with something to use it for.

As it happened, my friend Beth’s birthday was coming up, and I usually bake her something for such occasions. After asking her if she enjoys Nutella (she does), I decided to bake her a thing with Nutella in it, so I could hopefully use up the rest of the can and finally get rid of it.

Flipping through the chocolate recipes book Sophie got me, I came across a cupcake recipe that required no special frosting to be made — you would just frost it with Nutella. And I knew I’d found The One.

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And best of all, I wouldn’t need to buy any ingredients except sour cream.

For those of you not familiar with making cakes, you might be wondering what the hell sour cream is doing in a cupcake recipe. Believe me, I thought that myself the first time I came across a cake recipe that included sour cream. I mean, you wouldn’t smell and look at sour cream and immediately think, “Oh boy, I should put this in some pastry!” But the fact of the matter is, a little sour cream will make your cake nice and moist and delicious. It adds a special kind of flavor as well.

This recipe was simple enough, although it required bittersweet chocolate and all I had on hand was unsweetened. I could’ve just bought some bittersweet chocolate, but I’d been trying to get rid of this unsweetened chocolate for ages, just like the Nutella. So, when I melted the chocolate in the microwave, I added some powdered sugar to make it sweeter. Unfortunately, this made the chocolate thick like a frosting (yeah, I know, obvious), so I tried melting it a little more to make it thinner. It… worked a little.

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Doesn’t that look appetizing? But don’t worry, it’ll look less like an oil spill after it’s been mixed in.

I added my dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream, until —

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Ta-da!

I always seems to have problems with the lighting when taking these photos, though. I keep having to change it in order to make the photos look decent. But I guess that’s what happens when you don’t really know what you’re doing…

Anyway, the dough was very sticky, so it was difficult getting it into the cupcake liners, but it all turned out alright in the end.

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OMNOMNOMNOM. Don’t they look delicious? And they were. I think the unsweetened chocolate gave it more of a kick than the bittersweet chocolate would have, since it wasn’t a lot to begin with anyway.

I was torn between putting the Nutella in a pastry bag and making it all fancy, and just spreading it on with a knife. So I made a compromise and the cupcakes that were for Beth were frosted fancifully, and the leftover ones I just slapped it on. Except, um, I accidentally used a smaller star tip than I’d intended, but it gave it a more interesting look, I think.

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The Nutella doesn’t really overpower these, which is good for people like me who like Nutella but not in excess. And it works pretty perfectly as a frosting, although it’s a fucking pain in the ass to clean. But on the way to Manhattan for Beth’s party, I accidentally flipped the container over and the Nutella stuck to the top and ruined the prettiness of the cupcakes. But I’m sure it still tasted good.

Happy 22nd Birthday, Beth! I hope you liked the cupcakes and the playlist.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Hazelnut Topping (from The Golden Book of Chocolate)

The Cupcakes

3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup of butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

The Topping

1 cup of Nutella, or another hazelnut spread (but why would you use anything besides Nutella, what is wrong with you)

Toasted walnuts for decoration, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, then set aside. Melt the chocolate (whether in the microwave or in a double boiler) and let it cool while you beat the butter, sugar, and corn syrup in an electric mixer at high speed. Mix until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Beat in the chocolate and vanilla, and with the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Divide the batter into muffins tins with liner, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool, then frost with the Nutella.

 

Meringue Ghosts

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…What.

It is October 31st, Halloween, and there is snow outside.

WHAT IS GOING ON?

In case you hadn’t heard, us in the Northeast of the U.S. got hit with snow a few days ago. It has never, ever snowed in October during my lifetime. It ruined my Halloween plans and makes walking to work a pain in the ass.

At least I can still bake! Though, I almost didn’t because I woke up this morning with my fourth cold sore this month, and was hardly in the mood for making cookies (i.e. a ‘throwing myself around the bed and kicking my legs in rage’ kind of mood). But, around 11, I got bored and decided to just suck it up and do it.

I was originally going to make these pinwheel-esque Halloween cookies, but I didn’t have the time and, after thinking for a minute, decided to make Ghost Meringue cookies instead. I’ve made French Meringue cookies before, but I never got around to posting about it on here.

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Meringue cookies don’t require a lot of ingredients — just four egg whites, a cup of sugar, half a teaspoon of cream of tartar, and some vanilla extract.

And whipping. Lots and lots of whipping. (No, not that kind of whipping, you sick freaks. You should be ashamed of yourself. And your family.)

It was nice to forget about my problems for a while as I separated four eggs, whipped them into a nice foam, added cream of tartar and sugar a little bit at a time, and watched it form into nice, shiny, glossy, stiff peaks. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

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See? Ain’t it purdy?

They say stress can trigger cold sore outbreaks, and I’ve certainly been under a lot of stress lately. Baking can either help relieve my stress… or, sometimes, it can stress me out even more. Kind of a crap shoot, really. I got lucky this time, though, and nothing went too terribly wrong. …Except that I ran out of parchment paper. But I sprayed a bunch of Pam on my cookie sheet and hoped that would work.

And it did, mostly. About half of the cookies came off the tray without any problems, and the others… well. They broke. Even when I gently ran my knife under them to loosen, they still fell apart. These things are fragile, man. You gotta be careful with them.

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AWWWW, AIN’T THEY ADORABLE? They taste pretty good, too. This is a very unique type of cookie. Odds are you’ve never really eaten something like it. The texture is dry and thin and cracks in your mouth, but it’s also sugary and chewy and still tastes good, somehow.

But when I was taking photos of these little guys, my camera stopped and said “BLINK DETECTED”, then drew an outline around one of the ghosts in the back. W-what. Are… are these cookies haunted???? SPOOOOOOOKY!

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*insert Twilight Zone music here*

Have a Happy Halloween, everybody! Or, if you don’t celebrate, Happy Monday!

Meringue Ghosts

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup caster sugar (if you don’t have this, just use regular granulated sugar and it should be ok)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Pour your four egg whites into the bowl of your electric mixer that’s fitted with a whisk attachment (I didn’t use a whisk but you probably should, if you have one). Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until glossy, stiff peaks have formed. Put the meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip, and pipe 2-inch mounds on a cookie sheet. You can press two candy eyes or mini chocolate chips in each mound right now for eyes, or pipe on eyes later.

Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the cookies are dry and crisp to touch. Turn off the oven and let them cool in there for a while. Then serve and enjoy!

Pumpkin Bar Cookies

I’ve got some bad news, guys.

I’ve developed a flour allergy.

You see, in addition to baking things in my spare time, I also work in a bakery. Not a legits bakery, mind you — you know, where stuff is made from scratch and everything — but still a bakery, nevertheless. Part of my job is setting up the bread dough for the next day. The dough is already pre-shaped, and I lay it out on trays, put it on racks, and stick it in the walk-in refrigerator.  One of the kinds of breads we have – kaiser rolls — has a lot of loose flour particles sitting around in the boxes, and I’ve been breathing this shit in for almost a year. A few months ago I started having intense sneezing and coughing sessions whenever I was setting up this particular dough.

Which is, you know. What a flour allergy is.

Some days are okay, with just a few sneezes and then it’s over. Other days, though — holy shit. Snot’s dribbling out of my nose and I’m sneezing five times a minute and I spend 10 minutes at a time in the back of the bakery, blowing my nose over and over and feeling like a huge pile of mucus-y crap.

I understand that this kind of allergy is common among bakers and people in the food preparation business, but it still sucks. I’ve even been considering getting a dorky medical mask to wear whenever I’m setting this dough up and seeing if that helps. That’s how bad it gets.

Don’t think this means I’m gonna stop baking, though! Fuck that noise, man. But after the fucked-up profiteroles from last time, I thought I should make something simpler again. Something I’ve made before but didn’t really get a chance to post on here — pumpkin cookies.

Some of you might remember last year, when I had that battle with the can of pumpkin while making pumpkin rolls. Happily, the tears and the fruitless hammering didn’t occur this time, and I was able to open the can of pumpkin by myself without having a mental breakdown.

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Amazing! See, I can learn basic tasks like using a can opener. Take that, aluminum cans! Ha ha ha!

(For some reason, I could only find canned pumpkin at Trader Joe’s. None of the other supermarkets in my area had any canned pumpkin, which is just an outrage!)

The story behind these cookies is… well, I tried making them last year, as, y’know, regular cookies, using this recipe from Bakerella. But what I wound up with was a huge goddamn mess and something more like blobs of cookie rather than actual cookies. It tasted amazing and delicious, but I was upset that I couldn’t share it with others. Then, my mom got the idea to put the dough in an 8×8 pan, and it actually worked! And it was amazing and I would’ve eaten them all if I hadn’t brought them to work and everyone else ate them instead.

It seemed only fitting that I make these again, seeing as how it’s fall and EVERYTHING IS PUMPKIN AND NOTHING HURTS.

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However, I modified the recipe for this slightly. Because I don’t have any pumpkin spice, and I didn’t feel like buying any, what I made to substitute is a teaspoon of allspice and 50 metric tons of cinnamon.

Well, all right, not that much cinnamon. But still a lot. And, to be honest, I never even measure it. I just dump a lot in there. A. Lot. Everything tastes better with cinnamon. Bacon probably even tastes better with cinnamon. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But it probably does.

I usually mix cookie dough together with my hands, but this time I changed it up and used my stand mixer. Except, um, it still didn’t cream the butter and sugar together properly. So I still had to do that part with my hands, but not for very long. I dunno, man, no matter what I do my butter never seems to cream with a mixer and I have to do it manually. I’m either doing it wrong or my mixers just suck. Maybe both.

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I should’ve been able to make these a whole lot sooner. But life kept getting in the way. The major hindrance was that my camera appeared to have broken last week, but thankfully it turned out I had just pressed the viewfinder button. Which is great, because I would definitely not have been able to afford to get it repaired! Besides that, though, it was mostly work and my reluctance to get up ridiculously early in the morning to make cookies. I could never be an actual baker, I don’t think, flour allergy aside…

Anyway, it wasn’t that bad making these in a mixer. It doesn’t really provide for a variety of interesting photos, but there’s only so many angles you can get of food anyway. Of course, I’m not exactly a professional or naturally gifted photographer or anything, so.

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It was at this point that the kitchen was filled a completely intoxicating, mouth-watering, delicious smell of cinnamon and pumpkin and autumn. Man, baking in the fall is the greatest. The weather is perfect, the trees with their orange and red leaves swaying the gentle breeze outside. The warm and comforting sweaters that hug your body as you eat apple and pumpkin flavored treats and sip tea. Autumn has a special kind of feeling to it, unlike any other season.

Plus, the bugs starts going away. That’s definitely a plus.

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IT’S SO SHINY!!!!!!!!

I think because I actually attempted to do this recipe mostly correctly, unlike last time when I just used Presto instead of self-rising flour (granted, I had to make the self-rising flour myself using baking powder and salt, but still), the dough actually came out the way it was supposed to. Which is why it took quite some time to bake in the pan, since these cookies are not supposed to be bar cookies. But too bad! I don’t play by the rules, man! I’m not a part of your system!

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And oh God. These cookies are so freaking good. They’re soft, and cinnamon-y, and pumpkin-y, and they have chocolate chips and asdfghjkl JUST MAKE THEM. YOUR TASTEBUDS WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER.

I brought these to a showing of the infamous “film” The Room, which is the best worst movie of all time. Me, my hetero life mate Bonner, and her roommates all gathered around and cracked the fuck up at Tommy Wiseau’s undefinable accent and deplorable “acting” skills as we ate these awesome cookies. And everything was great, the end.

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Here is my modified recipe, if you’re interested.

Pumpkin Bar Cookies

2 1/4 cup of self-rising flour

1 tsp allspice

2 tablespoon cinnamon (add more or less to taste)

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cup of packed light brown sugar

1 cup  granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together the flour, the allspice, and the cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside. Cream the butter, then add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Pour in the vanilla extract, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Add the flour/spice in three additions, alternating with the pumpkin and ending with the flour. Dump in all the chocolate chips (yes, a whole goddamn bag, just do it and don’t question it) and stir. Spread the dough evenly in an 8×8 pan that’s either been sprayed with cooking spray or buttered, and store the rest in a covered container in the fridge for later use. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and flip the cookies onto a plate. Turn right side up and slice into squares. Serve and enjoy!

Profiteroles

Ugh.

Baking is a hit and a miss sometimes. My day had been nice and productive — got up in the morning, had coffee and cereal, went to the grocery store and bought heavy cream, got my bangs cut, took a shower, cleaned the bathroom… and then I made these things.

I don’t know. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I didn’t mix it correctly. Maybe the mixture sat on the stovetop for too long. Maybe I didn’t bake it long enough. Maybe the recipe was bad. Or maybe I just don’t like this kind of pastry. Who knows? All I can tell is that these tasted disgusting.

Some of you might be wondering what in pluperfect hell are profiteroles? (aw yeah Kiss Kiss Bang Bang reference) Well, ‘profiterole’ is pretty much just a fancy word for ‘cream puff’. Which sounds delicious, right? Yeah, not these suckers.

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This is another recipe from the chocolate book I got for my birthday. You take some water and butter, heat it to just a boil on the stovetop, throw in some flour, and stir until it looks like this. It kind of looks like scrambled eggs or something. Then the pan is removed from the heat and you add four eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition, until it looks like this.

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Now, I’m sure those lumps aren’t supposed to be there. That’s probably the result of me not bothering to cut my butter into pieces and instead just plopping a whole stick in there, so it didn’t melt properly. Probably.

Either way, after that’s done you put it in a pastry bag with a large round tip and pipe it onto a baking sheet.

Mine looked kind of… sad.

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They are, most likely, supposed to be bigger than this, but this was the largest round tip I had and I didn’t want them to be piled too high. Plus I’m not really an expert yet with my new pastry bag, so yeah.

And oh, I almost forgot to mention! My mom bought me this super boss Spider-Man apron at Williams-Sonoma last week, and I wore it today for the first time while making these. I’ve never had an apron, and I wish they would make aprons Short People Friendly, because I have to roll it up before I tie around my waist to avoid looking silly and dumpy. But this apron is so awesome that it makes up for it.

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Anyway, I baked them for a while at 400 degrees. The recipe said 20 minutes, but knowing my oven I figured it would take a little less time, so I turned it down to 300 a little early. They were supposed to bake at this temperature for 15 minutes, but I baked it for 10 instead. I took them out and let them cool and started making the whipped cream.

The recipe in the book for whipped cream was… well, idiotic. All I was supposed to do was whip two cups of heavy cream. Like, what, that’s it? No vanilla extract? No sugar? No anything? Just straight cream? That sounded gross. And it was. So I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and then it tasted much, much better. (Seriously, who eats whipped cream TOTALLY plain? IT HAS NO FLAVOR. IT JUST TASTES LIKE REALLY THICK MILK.)

And so then I filled the pastry bag again and attempted to fill the profiteroles.

Well,attempted being the operative word here.

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The insides didn’t really seem to fill with the cream and kept leaking out the tops and sides. Not only that, but I tasted two of them and YUCK. I had figured the outsides would be, like, crunchy and flaky or something, but no. It was thick and nasty-tasting. To me, at least. Maybe there are people who like it. But I didn’t. And I didn’t want to have anyone else eating them and think I was a terrible baker and that they should never eat anything I make ever again and then no one would like me anymore, so I threw them out.

So, that was an afternoon wasted. I would post the recipe here but what’s the point? Besides, that would involve getting up to get the book, and moving out of comfortable armchairs is for fools. Instead I will sit here in shame and hang my head in defeat. And I was going to make delicious Nutella sauce to go with them… at least I still have the whipped cream.

Maybe I should re-name this site to Jackie Ruins the Pastry.

ETA: I have since been informed that the reason it came out like this was because I did not temper the eggs beforehand. I didn’t even know that was a thing and I feel even worse and more like a failure. Maybe I should just stick to making cookies.

Site Design Change! (…again)

I was getting sick of the old layout and all, so I decided to change it to this one! This is a lot sleeker, don’t you think?

I’m in the middle of creating a Categories page, and that should be up by later today. For now, I’m off to a job interview soon! See you later!

ETA: Categories page added!

Rich Chocolate Cake

IT’S THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF JACKIE RUINS THE CAKE!

I’ve learned a lot about baking since opening this blog a year ago. I’m not ruining cakes as much as I used to! I still have slip-ups and screw-ups in the kitchen sometimes, but I’m at a much better place than I was September 2010. I understand so much more about so many things — like how to make meringues, the science of baking powder, the process of baking cakes and how to mix properly and cream butter and sugar — and, what I learned with this recipe, how stiff egg whites will lighten your batter and thus, your cake!

I knew I had to make something awesome for the one year anniversary of my baking blog. Something epic. Something cool-looking. Something delicious. And when my best friend Sophie of Clumsy Kitchen gave me this TOTALLY EXCELLENT AND FANCY AND BEAUTIFUL book full of amazingly decadent chocolate recipes, I knew I had to pick something from there.

Of course I had to go with a cake. This is Jackie Ruins The Cake, is it not?

Problem was, all of the layered cakes in the book wanted shit like apricot preserves as fillings and almond extracts in the batter and crap like that. I don’t like almonds, and I don’t like fruit anywhere in or near my cakes. Plus I’m on a budget. So I decided to go with the Rich Chocolate Cake.

Oh, and did I mention my sweet new camera that I got for my birthday from my dad? Yeah. This thing is awesome. Expect much more quality photos from now on.

This recipe called for me to separate two eggs, and to use the two egg yolks in the batter. What this particular cake seemed to be was a combination of a sponge cake, with the stiff egg whites folded into the batter, and a regular cake, with butter and sugar creamed together.

I didn’t figure this out until later, though, so when my dough came out looking like this, after having kneaded all of the ingredients together with my hands instead of a mixer because I didn’t want to have to clean up yet another thing, I was a little worried. It looked more like cookie dough than cake batter.

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(okay, I know this photo doesn’t look very good, but the rest will, I promise!)

But then I added this:

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(see, told you)

And voila!

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(man I love this new camera)

Now, the recipe told me to use an 8-inch springform pan, but I used a 9-inch one for the following reasons:

  • I couldn’t find any 8-inch springform pans at my store
  • When the fuck am I going to use an 8-inch springform pan again? Never, that’s when.
  • I’m cheap and on a budget and 9-inch springform pan is just fine probably.

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I should probably learn how to spread batter properly at some point.

I’m gonna say that it was proooobably because I used a 9-inch pan that the cake finished baking fifteen minutes after I put it in the oven rather than the 40-45 minutes stated in the book. I was not expecting it to be done anywhere even close to that early, so it was lucky I looked in the oven when I did, otherwise I would  have — ruined the cake! *ba-dum-tish*

Because it was in the oven slightly too long the cake turned out a little dryer than it should have been, but it was still good.

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Okay, so the cake looks ugly. Who cares? I’m just going to cover it in cocoa powder and frosting anyway!

Speaking of the frosting…

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Who knew a little sweetened condensed milk, a little butter, and a bunch of chocolate would make such a delicious frosting? Man! I was a tad concerned that I was melting all of the ingredients in a saucepan sitting on top of a smaller saucepan filled with simmering water, but all was well.

Sophie also got me a boss set of decorating tips and a re-usable pastry bag, so I decided to put it to use for this cake. First, though, I sifted the unsweetened cocoa powder on top. I’m not a fan of sifting. Shit gets caught in those things like you wouldn’t believe. I had to use almost my entire thing of cocoa powder to cover the whole thing and the spots I kept missing somehow.

After that, I started piping the edges. I started out trying to do this fancy piping job, but then I got bored with that and just started doing crazy squiggles. It still looked good. Then I frosted the tiny sides, since I only used a 9-inch pan and therefore the cake wasn’t tall. I slapped some shaved chocolate I stole procured from work on said sides, sprinkled extras in the middle to hide some weird wet spots from my dripping wet hands earlier, aaaaaand —

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YEAH, MAN! This cake looks fancy as hell, dudes! And it tasted okay, too! The unsweetened cocoa powder definitely was a minus, though. It added a lot of bitterness unless you brushed it off. But the frosting! Oh man, the frosting was great!

I shall leave the recipe here for your baking pleasure. Enjoy, my friends! Celebrate the art of baking and the deliciousness of chocolate with me! I feel so bad posting a cake on 9/11.

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Rich Chocolate Cake (adapted from The Golden Book of Chocolate)

Cake

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup of superfine sugar (I just used regular sugar and it turned out fine)

2 large eggs, separated

Pinch of salt

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup butter

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

The Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour (or spray with a copious amount of cooking spray) an 8-inch springform pan (or a 9-inch one). Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and baking salt in a large bowl, then beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg yolks from your separated eggs one at a time, beating until just blended after each addition. Gradually beat in dry ingredients with mixer at low speed, if you’re using one.

With a mixer at high speed (you do kind of need a mixer for this next bit), beat the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Fold them gently into the batter. Spoon and spread the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This will take 40-45 minutes if you use an 8-inch pan, and 10-15 minutes if you use a 9-inch one.

Cool the cake in the pan for five minutes, then loosen the cake by running around the edge with a knife. Remove the pan sides and invert the cake on a rack or a plate and let cool completely. Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder (a sifter will make it look nicer).

The Frosting

Melt the chocolate, condensed milk, and butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water, or a saucepan placed on top of a smaller saucepan with simmering water. Let cool, then spoon the frosting into a pastry bag and pipe a design around the edges of the cake. Decorate the sides of the cake with flaked chocolate if desired.

Dinner Parties: Espresso Delights

Things rarely turn out the way you plan, but when you adapt and go with the flow, it can all wind up working out anyway.

Sophie and I had another dinner party recently, because the last time we had one, our good friend Anna wasn’t able to attend, being in the Philippines and all. I had originally planned on making Lemon Garlic Shrimp as an appetizer, and pink lemonade cupcakes for dessert.

Yah, I didn’t get to make either.

Because funds have been tight for both me and Sophie, after e-mailing back and forth we decided to forgo the appetizer and leave it for some other time. I had tried to think of alternatives like Tomato Garlic Tuscan Bread, Dinner Rolls, etc, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it would be far easier to just make the dessert.

The pink lemonade cupcakes were also a no-go, again because of the money problem. And after flipping through various recipes, both in books and online, I came up with the idea of making espresso cookies, but as ice cream sandwiches instead of just cookies. I would only need to buy espresso powder and I’d be set!

I got to Sophie’s house around 3 (another thing that didn’t go as planned — the party was supposed to start at 4, but since half of our guests couldn’t make it until later we changed the time to 5). She had already made the main course already — chili — so I was able to start making the cookies pretty much right away.

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And get used to seeing better quality pictures, because for my birthday on the 24th my dad got me a very nice quality camera that was half off on Amazon (still need to get a memory card for it, though)!

Anyway, because creaming butter and sugar is too annoying to do with a hand mixer, I kneaded the dough by hand, which was an arm workout but rather fun, as it always is. Sophie observed that the dough looked like a dinosaur skull, so I did this.

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Yeah, we have fun.

This recipe isn’t really too complicated, and it tastes pretty much exactly like the mocha cookies I did a while ago. Same texture and everything, only these had bits of chocolate in them and weren’t dipped in chocolate. And I used espresso powder instead of the Starbucks Via instant coffee.

But this espresso powder just as a coffee? Kind of gross, to be honest. It did taste pretty good in the cookie, though. Or maybe I just don’t like really strong coffee. Totally a possibility.

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I shaped the dough into bigger balls (heh, balls) than the recipe suggested, since these were going to be sandwich cookies, and flattened them slightly with my hands, just like I did with the mocha cookies. Seriously, they’re pretty much the exact same thing, and I got them from the same magazine. Way to go, guys. Way to go.

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The cookies came out soft and wet at first, but you just let them set for about half an hour or so and they’ll harden up just fine (heh, hard).

It turned out, however, that the cookies were a little too crumbly around the edges for us to feel safe making ice cream sandwiches out of them. So, when the time came to serve dessert, we just inserted the cookies into bowls of vanilla ice cream, which I don’t have any pictures of because the ice cream was melting extremely quickly. Have this photo of the cookies on a wire rack instead.

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Sophie is fancy and has a wire rack while I just let the cookies cool on the table. Like I have room for a wire rack! Please.

The evening was very fun! Wine was drunk, board games were played, conversations were had. I had to leave before everyone else, unfortunately, since I had come by bus, but it was an awesome time. Hopefully we’ll throw another dinner party at some point in the future! Or maybe just a dessert party…

Espresso Delights

(adapted from Ultimate Cookies & Bars)

1 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (or instant coffee if you can’t find any)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 oz. finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate

Powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder (for decorating)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on high for ten minutes, then add the powdered sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. Or, alternately, throw all those ingredients in the bowl and mix with your hands.

Beat in the flour and stir in the chocolate. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls (or larger, if you want bigger cookies), and flatten slightly with your hands. Place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about twelve minutes, or until the cookies edges are set.

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cocoa powder if desired. 

5 Minute Chocolate Mousse

What if I told you that all you needed to make a delicious mousse was chocolate, ice, and water?

I bet you wouldn’t believe me.

Well, you better believe it, because I just fucking did it ten minutes ago.

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This technique was created by French chemist Hervé This, who also famously unboiled an egg. Clearly the man was a genius. He somehow managed to figure out how to thicken chocolate using just water. And chocolate and water are usually not a good combination so that makes this even more amazing.

All you do is melt some chocolate in water, put the melted chocolate on top of water and ice, whisk it vigorously for a few minutes, and voila! Chocolate mousse!

But I still managed to fuck it up a little bit, of course. You know me by now.

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The first thing I did wrong was to not add water to the chocolate as I was melting it. My eyes just kind of skimmed over the recipe and I missed the bit where I was supposed to add a cup of water. But it didn’t really seem to matter, though, because my mousse still came out great.

I poured the melted chocolate into a medium mixing bowl placed atop a slightly smaller bowl filled with ice and water, and whisked and whisked and whisked and… nothing was happening.

The problem was, I think, that I was whisking it in a circular motion, because when I started doing it up and down…

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Wow! It actually worked! Look at this shit! All just using water and ice and stirring!

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SCIENCE!

I used Ghirdaelli 72% cacao baking chips because it was all I had on hand, but you can use any kind of chocolate you want for this. You can even add extra stuff too, if you want, like a liqueur or what have you. Experiment! Have fun! I know I’ll probably be making this a lot, just because it’s so easy and quick.

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I just have to figure out how to get mousse in fancy cups so it doesn’t look like a sloppy mess. Oh, well. I might someday. Probably not, though.

Hervé This’s 5 Minute Chocolate Mousse (from Cafe Fernando)

9.35 ounces of your favorite dark chocolate (60% or more)

1 cup of water

4 tbsp of sugar (optional, if you feel your chocolate is too rich by itself)

Ice

Place a medium mixing bowl on top of a slightly smaller one that is filled with ice and water. The bottom of the medium mixing bowl should touch the ice. Melt the water and chocolate, plus any other ingredients you may want to add, then pour into the mixing bowl on top. Stir vigorously in an up-and-down motion with a whisk until thick. Watch the texture! If you whisk too much and it becomes grainy, reheat until half is melted, then pour it back into the mixing bowl and start over.

Divide into four cups and serve immediately.

Chocolate Chip Cookies That Aren’t Flat!

Do your cookies frequently come out looking like this?

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Mine do too. I have been trying to figure out for ages why they keep coming out like this. For the longest time I thought it was because of the butter, but I’ve gotten sick of using small amounts of margarine and having puffy cookies that don’t taste very good, so I decided to dedicate today to figuring out how to make my cookies puffy.

My first batch came out terribly. I realized, however, that the dough was far too soft, and so I stuck it in the fridge and watched an episode of Doctor Who before throwing another tray in the oven.

Those, somehow, came out even worse.

I remembered reading in my Baking Answer Book that baking powder causes baked goods to rise, and after reading a comment on the internet suggesting adding more flour to your cookie dough if it kept coming out flat, I put in half a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 cup of flour in the remaining mixture, and…

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Oh my God! Normal cookies! Actual, honest-to-god, normal human cookies! (Okay, they’re not human… OR ARE THEY?! Chocolate chip cookies are people!!!)

Whenever I bring these in to work, people always praise me over how delicious they are, and they didn’t disappoint today when I went to go visit my boyfriend. I’m just glad I was able serve cookies that both tasted and looked good for once!

So, if your cookies keep coming out flat like mine, try these tips:

  • Chill the dough for at least half an hour before baking.
  • Make sure the butter isn’t too soft.
  • Use baking powder in addition to or in substitution to the baking soda.
  • Check to see that your baking powder or baking soda isn’t old, and make sure they haven’t been exposed to air for long periods of time.
  • Add a little extra flour if necessary.

If you have any other tips, feel free to leave some in the comments!