Saturday, January 28, 2012

Banana Pudding

I am up at six in the morning, not because I am one of those horrible perky morning-people that everyone loves to hate, but because soon I am going to be on my way to an Open House at the Louisville campus of Sullivan University. In case you don't know, Sullivan has one of the best culinary programs in the country. Getting my degree in baking and pastry arts at Sullivan would be amazing, but it's so damn expensive. Oh well - here's hoping!

Today's endeavor is Banana Pudding, courtesy of It was my husband's birthday, and this is his favorite, so being the great wife that I am, I made this for him.

Beautiful, yes?

Instead of a small rectangular dish, like the one shown in the photo on the recipe's page, I chose to prepare mine in a punchbowl. Unfortunately, I was not aware that it would not fill the punchbowl to the top, so it appears slightly underwhelming. In the future, I will have to make a larger quantity, or use a different dish to serve it in.

The recipe calls for a can of sweetened condensed milk and three cups of cold milk. I did not follow these instructions. You see, on the side of the box of instant vanilla pudding mix that the recipe also calls for, I happened to find another recipe for banana pudding, similar, but not quite the same. Jello's recipe for banana pudding calls for two and a half cups of cold milk, but no sweetened condensed milk. So what I did was add two and a half cups of milk, but some of that was condensed and some was cold. I used a can of condensed and made up the difference with cold milk to total two and a half cups. Does that make sense? I tried to explain it clearly, did I only succeed in bogging it up?

Also, I did not reserve half of the Cool Whip to spread on top. I just mixed the whole container into the pudding. I put a layer of Nilla Wafers on the bottom of the punchbowl, then a layer of banana slices, then a layer of pudding. Then I did repeated. I sprinkled the top with crushed Nilla Wafers to give it that "elegant" look.


My husband loved it. He said the texture was more whipped than most banana puddings he'd had. He said usually they are sort of runny. But that would be because I put the whole damn container in there. He wasn't complaining though. Cool Whip makes everything better.

While simple to make, I consider this a definite Success to mark off my list. Oh yes, I have a List of 100 Things Every Baker Must Make Before They Die. I got this idea from Brown Eyed Baker. She's brilliant.

See? I give credit where credit's due. I don't want to get in trouble.

Anyway, I think I'm going to post My 100 List for everyone to see, though I must warn you it's only at 98 currently. Taking requests! ;)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cheesecake Brownies

In my quest to become the next Great Baker, I have seen many products that seem like just the thing to make it happen. One of these products is the wonderful Cake Pops pan, which I had seen on TV and begged everyone to get me for Christmas. Luckily, my mother-in-law actually listens to me. Lo and behold, as I ripped away the wrapping paper, there it was - my very own cake pops pan.

I was very anxious to use my pan for the first time, so instead of going out and buying cake mix, I used what I already had, which was brownie mix.
Brownie pops, to be precise.

I originally wanted them to be drizzled with melted Ghirardelli white chocolate chips, but alas....I am but a young baker. I cannot seem to figure out how to successfully melt chocolate in a double boiler. If anyone has any advice for me, please share. I ended up sprinkling my pops with confectioner's sugar, and they were a hit nonetheless. I hate failing, though. Damn you, white chocolate!! I don't mean that...

At any rate, my brownie pops are not the star of today's blog. Today, I am describing to you my endeavor to create the combination of two wonderful things into one super-wonderful thing. Cheesecake + brownies = Cheesecake Brownies! Recipe courtesy of the Food Network.

A little rough around the edges, but delicious all the same.

While the recipe calls for making your own brownies from scratch, I went ahead and took a shortcut and used a brownie mix. Lazy, yes, but I was in a hurry and I've made brownies from scratch before, so making them again just to prove to you that I can do it doesn't interest me. Sorry. :P I used their recipe for the cheesecake topping, though. I used Kroger brand brownie mix, and put a handful of mini chocolate chips in, too. Then I prepared the cheesecake topping. I followed the recipe from there on.

These cheesecake brownies are pretty good, though I think I might put just a little more sugar in the cheesecake topping next time. Some of the reviews say the cheesecake to brownie ratio isn't satisfactory; I disagree. I thought it was perfect. These are good warmed in the microwave for fifteen seconds or straight out of the fridge.

I need to practice my swirling. As you can see in the photo, my swirling skills are....lacking.
(Adapted from Food Network)
Yield:  16 bars
  • 8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about 1-inch. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Cheesecake topping: In a medium bowl and using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the sugar and the vanilla until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until well blended. Set aside.
  4. Brownie layer: Put the chocolate, butter, and oil in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat at 75 percent power for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave again until melted and smooth, about 30 seconds longer. (Alternatively, put the chocolate, butter, and oil in a small heatproof bowl. Bring a small saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, not touching, the water, and stir occasionally, until melted and smooth.)
  5. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl.
  6. Combine the brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk, egg whites, and vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk vigorously until fully incorporated and the batter is thick and glossy. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir just until it disappears.
  7. Reserve 1/2 cup brownie batter and set aside. Scrape the remaining brownie batter into the prepared pan. Pour the cheesecake mixture evenly over top. Drop the reserved brownie batter in large dollops over the topping. Draw the handle of a wooden spoon through the two batters to create a swirled effect.
  8. Bake until the top is just set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Lift brownies out of the pan by the foil and peel off the foil. Spray a knife with cooking spray and cut into 2-inch squares.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Truffle Cookies

I am finding that my family is very supportive of my decision to become a baker. They have all volunteered to be my guinea pigs. It is nice to have family that supports you, even if they are all a bunch of moochers who just like you for your baked goods.

Today's goodies came from another Pillsbury recipe - Salted Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Truffle Cookies. I get emails from Pillsbury, so oftentimes as I'm reading my emails I see something I like and, because I'm fat and indulgent, I run off to the kitchen to make my fantasy come true. So anyways I saw the recipe and I made it the next day.

The recipe claims that this recipe will make thirty cookies. That was not true, at least in my case. I did eat some of the batter, but there's no way I ate fourteen cookies worth of it. Sixteen cookies came out at the end, but out of those, only about ten really survived. These cookies are VERY crumbly, which is totally understandable seeing as they each contain a melted Rolo in their middle.

My advice to you would be to wait to eat them until the next day, when they aren't warm and melty and mmm.... But really, wait until tomorrow to eat them. They won't fall apart and are still so damn good.

I did not put any salt on top of them. I did put half a teaspoon in the mix, as the recipe called for, but I did not sprinkle any on the tops. Maybe I will next time. They didn't seem to need it.

If you read the reviews, many people complain that these are too messy. I wouldn't agree. They are a little messy, but not so messy that I would refuse to make them again. They are too good to complain about the mess. Trust me, it's worth it.

(Adapted from Pillsbury)
Yield:  20-25 cookies

  • 1 roll (16.5 oz)  refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa                        
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream                        
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips                        
  • 30 Rolos (from 12-oz bag), unwrapped

  • 20 Rolos, unwrapped
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream

  1. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In large bowl, mix cocoa, whipping cream and 1/2 teaspoon salt with wooden spoon until well blended. Crumble cookie dough into cocoa mixture; add chocolate chips, and stir until well blended. Place dough in freezer 15 minutes for easier handling.
  3. Using measuring tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, shape dough into 30 balls. Freeze 15 minutes. Place 1 caramel inside each dough ball, covering completely and reshaping ball around caramel. Dough will be sticky; wet hands slightly if helpful. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  4. Bake 9 to 13 minutes or until edges of cookies are set. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes; remove to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in small microwave bowl, microwave 20 caramels and 2 tablespoons whipping cream uncovered on High 45 seconds to 1 minute 15 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds or until caramel is melted and mixture is smooth.
  6. Spoon or drizzle caramel over cookies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Turkey Cookies

I want to begin by letting everyone know that I have never had a blog before, so if this is terribly boring, or if I ramble, which I tend to do, take it easy on me. I am a blog virgin. We all have to start somewhere, don't we?

The point of this blog is to document my journey through baking. Presently, I would consider myself a pretty good baker, though others might disagree. :( I hope not. Anyway, I would like to become an expert baker, and if all goes according to plan, I would love to do it for a job. The purpose of this blog is to record my successes, failures, and everything in between, so that maybe I will learn from it somewhere down the road. When I am a Great Baker.

So. The first stop on this journey to greatness is the super-basic Sugar Cookies Decorated to Look Like Something. In this case, I decorated them to look like turkeys. It was for Thanksgiving. I used Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, and this recipe - Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies.

They turned out cute as hell, of course. I mean, it's hard to mess up a recipe as simple as this one. My dear brothers helped me decorate, so some of the faces turned out looking...well, special. But I marked this one down as a Success.

Aren't they just presh?

Something I would do differently in the future is, I would not use so much chocolate frosting across the top to hold on the "feathers". It was too rich, I thought. A precaution to anyone who might make this recipe themselves:  The gel that goes on the eyes never hardens, so to keep them from getting stale, you pretty much have to put them in a Tupperware container or something similar. Maybe this is common knowledge, but there you go.

The finished product. :)

They were a hit at our family get-together. The kids loved them, and the adults thought they were cute. My mother asked why the eyes were crossed. I told her that one was decorated by my brother.