Snowed In!

So this past weekend, Baltimore was hit with a whopping 29.5 inches of snow.

I am not a tall person. That’s half my height in snow. That is half a Leigh of snow.

My friends and I were snowed in together for 3 1/2 to 4 days, and thankfully nobody was murdered, but things did manage to get a little silly.

Mary, over at Uncustomaryart held a Bubble Wrap party on Sunday, and thankfully, I decided to get snowed in at the house it was being held at, so I could join in the festivities and also bake some cupcakes for the event.

So for the cupcakes, I grabbed a White Cake recipe from I am Baker and I wound up adding some food coloring to it, which just so happened to match the cupcakes to some of the Bubble Wrap.

I almost typed poppy paper. We used to call it poppy paper as kids.

So the recipe calls for Cake Flour, but we only had all-purpose, which turned out fine! The tops were slightly more done than I usually aim for, but that could have been from the added food coloring. I’d be interested to try the recipe again with the cake flour just to see the difference.

The frosting was as follows:

1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
3 Tbs plus a dribble more champagne

See? Bubble Wrap? Bubbly frosting! We can thank Maura for providing the idea and the champagne.

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It’s back to real life now. So, work, responsibility, all that.

But for one doofy weekend, we got to witness ridiculousness like this:

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Snow does weird things to people, kids. Don’t do snow, okay?

Malted Mugged Cookies

These cookies were made for two reasons:

The first: this past weekend, myself and two friends were held up at gunpoint and our wallets were stolen, and it sucked. So they were, in part, “Holy shit, we just got robbed and a gun was pointed at us and life is nuts and terrible this week” cookies.

The other reason was as a thank-you to another friend who was around afterwards, who took me out and helped me drown (drown) my sorrows. He was pretty great. He deserved some cookies.

It was a seriously scary experience. I’ve gone from sad to angry to fine and back again all week long since it happened. It’s something I have to process, deal with and move on from. I’m working on it, and it’ll take me some time. I’m getting there.

In the meantime, there’s life and work and baking and friends and apparently, there’s going to be snow soon here in Baltimore.

So these cookies.

When I was a little girl, as a treat, my dad used to make chocolate malted milkshakes, and as such, we kept a glass jar of Carnation Malt Powder in the fridge:

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I’ll be honest. I don’t…

I’ve never really thought about what malt powder is.

But according to Wikipedia, it’s evaporated gruel.

So…that sounds pretty nasty, but hell if it isn’t delicious with sweets.

I hadn’t thought about using it for anything other than milkshakes until a couple of years ago, when I found it in the store and thought “I wonder what cookies taste like when you add this.”

Answer: They taste awesome. That’s what they taste like.

My go-to recipe for this is from Cookies and Cups, but I don’t follow it quite to the letter. Because I use bread flour. Believe me, it makes all the difference. They are magically soft. You want bread flour for these cookies. You need bread flour for these cookies.

Trust me on this.

Vitex

Pete Tyler approved!

The last time I made these, I used all-purpose, and I was so disappointed in them, I nearly started over to see if I’d gotten the ratios wrong.

But no. It’s the bread flour.

The other thing I did with this particular batch was to use chocolate malt powder. I’ve made these with plain before, but I’ve had multiple people tell me these were better.

I actually don’t know how I feel about it. I love it both ways. Maybe one of these days I’ll do a taste-test comparison.

Since I was mugged, Mary suggested the cookies should be as well:

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Boom.

Mugged.

Gluten-Free Birthday Cookies!

This is Zoe:

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You can’t tell, but she’s wearing a sparkly headband with plastic dinosaurs glued to it. It’s pretty great

Zoe’s birthday was last week, and Zoe…

Is gluten free.

There’s nothing wrong with being gluten-free. Weather it’s a lifestyle choice or for health reasons, it is a thing that people do.

However, it can complicate baking sometimes.

You uh…you ever tried baking with tapioca flour?

You guys. Fuck tapioca flour.

Thankfully, King Arthur Flour has a gluten-free shortbread cookie recipe.

Confession: I was kind of tired when I was making these, so more cinnamon wound up in the batter than there should have been, but cinnamon is pretty good, so that was fine. I also threw dried cranberries into mine,20160116_142722

The dough isn’t pretty, and I was worried about the consistency, because gluten-free baking makes me worry about everything.

Oh god, gluten-free cookies…have…did I pay my cell phone bill this month? Is…did I leave the headlights in my car on last night? What was that noise? Where are my keys? Where are my shoes? WHERE ARE MY SHOES?

*ahem*

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So the cookies turned out good! But they didn’t really taste like shortbread. They tasted like oatmeal raisin cookies. Which, again, they were pretty good, but they weren’t what I was expecting.

Because nothing ever is with gluten-free baking.

A Little Bite of Summer in the Cold

It has finally, finally, finally started to get cold here in Maryland. Like really, truly bitingly, cold.

It took a while this year. There were days in the last few weeks that were gorgeous. You would walk outside, all bundled up, and then dash back inside, drop your winter gear and run around in a t-shirt and/or hoodie.

But now…Now we’re talking cold.

So, I’m all for winter flavors. Gingerbread, and deep chocolates and warm brown sugars. They are some of my favorites, but sometimes you just wanna bite into something and taste Summer.

Which is where House of Yumm’s Vanilla Cupcakes with strawberry jam buttercream come in.

I hadn’t used this recipe before, because honestly, I don’t make vanilla cake too much. It’s…well…vanilla. It’s good, it’s solid, but there’s nothing terribly special about it.

But sometimes you just want something simple.

Think Kaylee from the Firefly pilot, biting into that strawberry that Booke brought on board with him. Sometimes that’s the kind of simple you want.

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Now I have to tell you, I have a dirty secret. A terribly dirty baker secret.

I’m an overmixer.

If you just heard Derek Zoolander’s voice in your head, bemoaning his inability to turn left when you read that, then congrats! We share a brain.

Whenever a recipe says “do not overmix” I do anyways. Usually things turn out fine. Thankfully, this was one of those times.

So the cupcakes are from House of Yumm, but the buttercream is your basic buttercream (2 sticks butter,  2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar, splash of milk 1 tsp vanilla), and then you drop in 1/3 of a cup of strawberry jam.

Sadly, right now I don’t have whisk attachments for my hand mixer, so I used the beaters like always, and then whisked the crap out of it by hand, because this is a frosting that you want to be fluffy and light.

Now I’ve tried using strawberry compote before in my strawberry frosting, and the taste is a lot sharper. I really love the jam aspect. It adds something fun and tasty to it.

In terms of what kind of strawberry jam, I usually go for Smuckers Natural. It literally has five ingredients, so it’s sweet, but it’s not diabeetus-sweet. Which is good because the frosting is already loaded with powdered sugar.

I’d love to make more jam frostings, because there are so many flavors out there. I’ve been toying with the idea of grape, but the only thing I could think that would go with that are peanut-butter cupcakes. And that might be a little too obvious for me. I’ll think on it some more.

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My roommates happened to have fresh strawberries in the house, and they, it turns out, are all way better at slicing things than I am (I bake, they all do a lot more cooking), so they sliced ’em up and popped slivers on top.

When I woke up in the morning, these three were the last ones left:

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Larry, Curly, and Moe

So they turned out pretty good. 🙂

 

Swedish Coconut Cookies

So generally, I’m not really a coconut person. I’m usually pretty picky about that. Especially since artificial coconut flavor is pretty spotty.

Ever eaten a coconut jelly bean? Yuch.

But! Roommate Traci got this recipe from her friend Annie, and she wanted to try it. So we did!

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Our Recipe!

Do you know what the hardest part of baking is? It’s not the mixing. It’s not ratios, or figuring out whether something has been in the oven long enough.

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I swear to you. It is waiting for the freaking butter to soften. It’s like a half hour of your life where you are not doing anything except waiting. If you’re wondering why these sticks look so beaten up, it’s because I beat them up. It was me. Take me away, officer, I smack sticks of butter around on the counter.

Yes, this recipe needed two cups of butter, which is four sticks. It’s…it’s a lot of butter you guys.

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So you throw these in the fridge for two hours, and then slice. I may have sliced them a little big, which produced some pretty big cookies. Each batch of dough makes 2 logs. We threw one in the freezer for later cookie use. 🙂

We topped one sheet with walnuts, and one sheet without.

Now like I said. I’m not a coconut person in general, but these were really, really good.

Two thumbs. Would do again. Super tasty and soft.

In short: Om nom nom nom.

Chasing the Cookie

There is something simple and wonderful about chocolate chip cookies. They are the quintessential cookie.

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If you don’t like chocolate chip cookies, I’m not sure we can be friends. I’ll make exceptions. If you’re allergic to chocolate or some other heartbreaking circumstance. Maybe I’ll let it slide if your parents were killed by a chocolate chip cookie.

But in general, if you don’t like chocolate chip cookies…I’m just not sure about you. I mean I try not to judge people, but this is one just one of those things for me.

I am always chasing after the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and I don’t think I’ve quite nailed it yet.

I think I’ve come close a few times, But I will forever be in search of THE perfect one.

I dove into Sally’s Baking Addiction again for this one, entitled THE chocolate chip cookie, and it was good. It was very good. But I still don’t feel like it’s quite there for me.

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And maybe that’s me being a weird perfectionist…

Or maybe I’m the jackass who definitely didn’t add enough chocolate chips. That might be it too.

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*facepalm* definitely not enough chips…

I’m still a big fan of the malted chocolate chip cookie, because malted milk powder pretty much makes everything better.

I’ll make those another time.

PS: I signed up for the Wilton Cake decorating class at Michael’s which will be every Saturday in February. I’m super stoked to learn all about how to make frosting look pretty!

Lost Weekend (pt. 2)

So I made it home on Sunday morning at around 6:30, and proceeded to get a few hours of sleep, before wandering down to wish my roommates a very happy new year.

And also bake some Mandel Bread.

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Thanks to Roommate Jaki for snapping this one!

For those of you not in the know, Mandel Bread is a cookie that originated with Eastern European Jews. It’s a little like biscotti, except that it’s more crumbly than crunchy.

The great thing about it is that you can basically put whatever you want in it. Chocolate chips, cinnamon, walnuts, peanut chips, banana (caution: dough gets hella sticky!), raisins.

Seriously, it’s super versatile, and really, really good.

When my grandmother would visit us, she’d make some up and bring a box every time. Hers were amazing. I hope one day mine will be just as amazing.

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Here’s the deal.

You can’t have my grandmother’s Mandel Bread recipe. If it looks good to you, then by all means, go find a recipe for yourself, but I’m not putting it here.

2 tips:

  • If you think you’ve used enough chocolate chips, you probably haven’t.
  • Screw the spatula. Use your hands for this one. It’ll be messy, but it’ll be worth it.

The ones my grandmother brought were usually chocolate chips and raisins. I usually just do chocolate chips, but again, you can pretty much do anything with these.

I would stay away from anything acidic. I attempted to use lemon juice once and it dried out the dough so badly I had to start over.

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