Friday, December 28, 2012

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

For Christmas, I had been planning on making German chocolate cake again, but after making it three times I was a little burnt out on that recipe so I decided to go with something else chocolatey. After a little bit of browsing, I found the perfect thing:  chocolate sour cream Bundt cake, adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe.

As always I made a few changes. I used self-rising flour, which didn't seem to make a difference. Also I thought we had more sour cream than we did, so I only used one cup, which is half a cup short of what is called for in the recipe.

Other than that, I followed the recipe closely. I pulled my cake out a few minutes earlier than it suggested because it was done already. (I suspect my oven has a higher temperature than it indicates, but I have yet to test this.)

I actually made this cake on Christmas Eve Eve, and made the ganache on Christmas Eve. It still turned out perfect.

Beautiful, isn't it? And it was delicious. My mom said it "cut like a steak". It was very rich, so some people topped it with whipped cream, but it was great alone, too. A small slice was enough sweetness for the day, that's how rich it was, but don't take that as a  bad thing!

The ganache was great because it was firm enough to keep its lovely drippiness overnight, but it was soft when you bit through it.

I highly recommend this recipe to everyone. Don't let the "sour cream" part disturb you - I hate sour cream and was a little put off by its inclusion in this cake, but you can't taste it at all. In fact, I'm not sure what exactly it does for the recipe, but it was delicious, so I'm not complaining.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate Marshmallow Penguins

It's late Christmas Eve - actually, being 12:10 a.m., it's technically Christmas - but I wanted to go ahead and post this since my son is asleep and God only knows when the next free moment will occur. This recipe was inspired by something seen on Pinterest.

Obviously, if you read this post's title, you'll notice I used marshmallows instead of strawberries. I did this because not too long ago I made a recipe using strawberries for a family function, and I didn't want to make something that might seem too similar. So, I used marshmallows.

These were simply dipped in melted chocolate, and the faces were drawn on with Wilton edible markers.

These were really easy and turned out yummy - not to mention totally adorable. I only used half a bag of marshmallows, so my batch yielded 22 penguins. It took hardly any time at all. The longest part was waiting for the chocolate to set, and even that didn't take long. If you're looking for something that will catch everyone's eye but don't want to put much effort into it, this is the recipe for you!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Apocalypse Cookies

As we all know, the world was supposed to end on December 21 (according to the Mayans), but obviously that didn't happen. Just in case, I made these zombie sugar cookies to celebrate.

I used a different recipe this time, since I am wanting to find one that holds its shape well. This time I used Sweetopia's. I used the same icing recipe from my Christmas cookies, though.

I made a few changes to the recipe. We only had four sticks of unsalted butter so I had to sub one half cup of salted. I'm not sure whether that makes a difference, but oh well. Also, with all the baking that's been going on around here, we ran out of all-purpose flour when I still needed a cup and a half. So I had to borrow a neighbor's, and it turned out to be self-rising. Again, I'm not sure whether this made a difference or not, but I figured I'd make a note of it.

I cut my cookies pretty thick, considerably thicker than the recipe advises, and I know that affected their spreading. My dough yielded thirty three cookies which I split into three batches. My first batch had fifteen cookies on the pan, which I didn't realize was too many until they began to bake. They baked for 16 minutes and afterwards I used a knife to separate them. They still held their shape well, they were just very fat zombies.

My second batch only took 13 minutes, but they were more spread out. My third batch only had six and they took ten minutes. This last batch was the thinnest of them all and they held their shape great.

To create the "ripped off limb" look, I simply took a knife and severed a leg here and an arm there.

These were my favorites. The left one in the bottom row is supposed to have his brain showing. I used a black edible marker to draw the eyes, mouths, and brain squiggles.
Congratulations on surviving the apocalypse, everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Cookies

I tend to get ahead of myself when I think about baking. I have all these ideas and see all these awesome things on the internet that I want to try, so at any given time I have all the things I'm going to bake planned up to two months ahead. This isn't always true but most of the time, it is. I can't help it - I just get excited seeing all the cute recipes and decorating techniques and I want to try them myself.

This recipe is one of those planned months in advance. I've been wanting to decorate Christmas cookies, but every time I've made sugar cookies to decorate, instead of keeping their little ornament and Santa shapes they spread out in the oven and turn into horrible amorphous blobs. These are still tasty and frostable, but it's not what I wanted, and I KNOW it is possible to have a cookie keep its candy cane shape because it's all over the why can't I do it?

If you haven't noticed, I get on these kicks when it comes to my favorite bloggers. A while ago it was Brown Eyed Baker. Now, it seems that I've become infatuated by Amanda at i am baker. I just knew she'd have a perfect sugar cookie recipe, and I was right.

I followed both her recipe for the cookies and the icing - both can be found here. However, to ice them, I also used her decorating tutorial. (That's one of the reasons I love her so much - she offers so many awesome tutorials and makes it so easy!)

I only put one teaspoon of almond flavor into the cookie dough, and found it to be enough. Any more I think would have been overwhelming. After refrigerating the dough for one hour I had problems with it being too sticky, so I let it sit in the fridge until the following evening. It still stuck to my cutting board, so instead of using the cookie cutters I've been SO WANTING to use, I just molded my cookies into circles and decided I'd make do.

My dough yielded twenty-four cookies, plus a little extra dough that I may or may not have eaten. (You'll never know.) Each batch of twelve cooked for thirteen minutes. The cookies turned out great, not excruciatingly sweet but good enough to eat on their own without icing.

The icing part was what took the longest, as you might have suspected. I feel as though I complicate things, that there is always an easier way to do things than the way I do them, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I ended up making about five batches of Amanda's icing. I was up until three in the morning icing them - I made twelve designs, two of each.

My winter cookies were my favorite. I think it's partly because of the nice blue/white contrast. Surprisingly, these were the first ones I did. Usually the first ones I do are the worst because I haven't settled into a groove yet.

And these are my Christmas cookies. My mint turned out the worst, so I slyly set it to the side so it wouldn't be in the picture so much. My tree was supposed to have a yellow star at the top, and the green "Ho Ho" cookie was supposed to have a candy cane on it, but doing that would have required another batch of frosting, and at three in the morning I was ok with settling for less. I had a little trouble with my red frosting running; that means I added too much milk. Can you see the little edible pearls in the picture? I've had them for a while and couldn't wait for an opportunity to use them.

All in all, I'm very happy with my cookies. They didn't turn out as shapes, but I think I adapted well and at any rate, they taste good, and that's the most important thing!

Banana Nut Muffins

This will be a short post - I just want to share the simple recipe I found for banana nut muffins. I don't have a picture because A, this recipe is so simple and I didn't really feel a picture was required - don't all muffins look more or less the same? - and B, they were all eaten VERY quickly. So instead of a picture of my own, I'm using one from the recipe's website.

The only variation I made ingredients-wise was instead of only adding a fourth cup of mashed banana, I added two whole mashed bananas. They were sitting around and were about to go bad so my mom asked me to use them for something, so here we are. The other change I made to this recipe was I made mini muffins instead of regular sized ones. It yielded twenty-two minis.

Because of the pan change, I had to adjust the cooking time. I cooked them in two batches since I only have one mini muffin pan. Each batch took approximately 13 minutes.

As I said, the first twelve were gone before I even put the second batch in the oven. The second batch lasted a little longer, but not by much. This is a delicious recipe and VERY simple, and it tastes exactly like a box mix - but better, of course, because it's homemade.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Oreo Cookie Truffles

This is one of the easiest recipes in existence - but it fools everyone! They think it's fancy and complex, because they're that damn good.

When I saw the recipe for Oreo Cookie Truffles, I knew we already had a thing of cream cheese in the fridge that would go bad soon if I didn't use it. I really owed it to the household to make these, or that would have been money down the sink, right?

Seriously, all this recipe calls for is one container of cream cheese, one box of Oreos, and two boxes of semi-sweet baking chocolate. That's it. For something that looks and tastes so great, it's hard to believe it's really so simple.

I ended up only mixing 31 and a half Oreos with the cream cheese, because I set four aside to top the truffles with, and my son was bothering me while I was making them so I gave him half of an Oreo. It turned out perfectly. I actually could have set less than four aside for the topping because I ended up having quite a bit left over. Maybe only two would have done the job.

They turned out perfectly, though! I dipped each ball in the chocolate using a toothpick, and covered the hole with the leftover Oreo crumbs.

The recipe said it would make 48 truffles, and that's exactly how many it made. Except two fell into the chocolate and I couldn't pull them out without them tearing apart, so it only made 46.

Let me tell you how good they were. I made them Tuesday night, and by the same time the next night, there were only two left.

I have seen and heard of several variations on this recipe. One I'd like to try would be the same recipe, except dipped in white chocolate. For Christmas, they could be topped with candy cane crumbs. Or I could dip them in white chocolate and drizzle dark or milk chocolate over top. Or I could dip them in white chocolate and draw on snowman faces with edible markers. So many possibilities! All delicious.

Hershey's Special Dark Truffle Brownie Cheesecake (and Minis)

For Thanksgiving, I was really craving something chocolate (blame it on the fact that I'm pregnant) so when I saw this recipe for Hershey's Special Dark Truffle Brownie Cheesecake, I HAD to make it. Look at all those delicious words put together. How could it be bad?

As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, I don't have a springform pan, so I had to use an eight-inch round cake pan to make this instead. I knew beforehand that might cause problems, but I didn't realize that it would significantly disrupt my plans...but we'll get to that.

My brownie layer cooked quickly, and rose to where it took more than half of the pan, not leaving much room for the cheesecake part. This left me with over half of the cheesecake batter. I whipped up a quick graham cracker crust, omitting the cinnamon, and pressed it into my mini cheesecakes pan. I poured the remainder of the batter into the wells and popped it in the oven alongside my truffle brownie cheesecake, not knowing whether either would turn out.

My truffle brownie cheesecake ended up looking pretty crappy, to the point that I didn't even bother to take a picture of it. I still lack pretty drizzling skills so the chocolate drizzles looked pretty lame.

The tops of my mini cheesecakes turned out quite poofy, so to alleviate that I topped them with dollops of leftover ganache from my german chocolate cake that I had frozen. I reheated it in the microwave, stirring often, until it was smooth then I put it in a decorating bag and, using one of my decorating tips, made pretty little stars on each one.

They ended up being the "main attraction", so to speak. My truffle brownie cheesecake, sadly, in addition to being ugly, wasn't all that great. The brownie part was overcooked. I suspect this had much to do with the location of the rack in my oven, which I've since fixed and haven't had any problems with. If this had turned out correctly, I suspect this would have been a great recipe. The cheesecake part was delicious. Paired with the graham cracker crust and adorned with the dark chocolate ganache, as in my minis, it tasted wonderful.

My verdict:  I think I'll give this recipe another try in the future. Preferably, when I have a springform pan and when my oven is cooperating. I'm glad I was able to adapt to the situation though and saved the dessert table with my mini cheesecakes.