Saturday, January 26, 2013

Homemade Milano Cookies

Have you ever tasted a Milano cookie? They are the most delicious cookie on the face of the earth, hands down, in my opinion. I can (and might have on many occasions) eat an entire bag in one sitting. Granted, they only come twelve or so in a bag, but when the serving size is two cookies, that's pretty bad. (But come on, who eats just two cookies? That's ridiculous.)

So when I found a recipe for homemade Milanos, I knew I had to try it. Since I prefer the double chocolate variety, I left out the orange zest and the lemon extract.

This recipe was pretty spot on with how many it yielded. In hindsight, I would have preferred more chocolate on each cookie, but that's just a gluttonous personal preference.

In my opinion, they didn't taste much like Milanos. Not that they weren't good - they are, quite good actually, and the chocolate filling is delicious - they just don't remind me of Milanos, other than the way they look. The texture is quite different, as well. They're slightly spongier than Milanos are, though I found when I put a few in the fridge that they became crispier and, thus, closer to the texture of a real Milano.

Not all of my cookies turned out nice and round. Some were bigger than others, some had pointy edges, some even turned out triangular. I wasn't worried about it.

I think this recipe called for too much sugar, so if I try to make these again I'll use less. It's probably not a bad thing that these didn't turn out tasting exactly like Milanos because I'm sure I already eat too many of them as it is - the last thing I need is batches and batches of them sitting around my house. My scale will thank me.

Rose Cake - Strawberry with Vanilla Buttercream

January 24 is my husband's birthday, and his favorite kind of cake is strawberry. So this year I made him a strawberry cake, per his request, and he graciously allowed me to adorn it with roses for practice.

The recipe I used was recommended to me from one of my mother's coworkers - it comes from Paula Deen. I can't decide whether I can truly call it homemade, since instead of adding flour or sugar it calls for a box mix, but the confusion ends there. It's an easy recipe and the addition of gelatin mix makes for an interesting, almost carbonated-tasting kick. The use of frozen strawberries in syrup makes the cake very moist.

The only variation I made in the recipe was the baking time. My cake didn't look done after only twenty minutes, so I left it in a bit longer. It ended up taking twenty-eight minutes total.

For the frosting, I used this recipe. It worked well for me last time so why fix what isn't broken? I ended up running out before my cake was done being decorated, though, so I had to make another half batch. I used butter instead of shortening for this because I had run out of shortening. The color was slightly yellower but my family couldn't tell until I pointed it out.

This is the first layer cake (or rose cake, for that matter) I've made that I actually got to taste, so here's my opinion of the frosting. While it holds its shape perfectly for a rose cake, the roses cause the frosting to be so thick that it's almost too sweet. With this particular cake recipe, the slight tang of the gelatin mix mingled nicely with the sweetness, but with other recipes the sweetness might have been overwhelming. I think next time I'll use less sugar. With a whole two-pound bag of sugar in it, I suppose it's a "DUH" that the frosting would be that sweet, but oh well.

The final verdict:  With this cake, this frosting would be perfect in lesser amounts. With other cakes, I can't say since I haven't tasted it myself, but I imagine that it would be too sweet if paired with a cake recipe that was also super-sweet. Altogether, my cake went over well and I am happy with it. Still a long way to go on my decorating, but I'm getting better!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chocolate-Dipped Decorated Strawberries

My mom needed me to make something for her work's January get-together and she requested chocolate-dipped strawberries. Simple enough. However, I had just seen a Shari's Berries flyer in the mail, and feeling inspired, I decided to do a little more than just dip them in chocolate.

As you can see, I used milk and white chocolate to dip my berries in. For decorations, I used silver sugar crystals and edible pearls. And on some of the milk chocolate berries, I drizzled them with white chocolate. I left a few of both plain, just for accent. 

My favorites turned out to be the drizzled berries. Maybe that's just because they look so damn fancy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

White Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Blondies

Last night my brothers had friends over, so I decided to make these white chocolate chip butterscotch blondies as a snack for everyone. I'm generally not a huge butterscotch fan, but it's my husband's favorite and the recipe did look tasty, so I decided to give it a try.

Since I used self-rising flour I left out the salt and baking powder. My blondies took much longer to bake than the recipe said they would, for some reason - according to the recipe it should have only taken twenty to twenty-five minutes, but mine took thirty-nine. I probably could have left them in even longer, too, but I like my brownies gooey and crumbly, and I didn't want them to burn.

They turned out DELICIOUS. My husband said these were his favorite thing that I've ever made. They were great with a glass of milk. We had to eat them with a fork because they were so crumbly but that may have been because we ate them straight out of the oven, without letting them cool. Who does that, anyway? I don't think I've ever let a baked good cool before eating it.

I highly recommend this recipe to everyone! It's absolutely delicious, and super easy. The guys were all standing around saying these were the best things they'd ever tasted. So, it's good for the ego, too. :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mini Apple Pies

My mom makes this awesome pastry braid thing for New Year's Day dinner. It's corned beef, cabbage, and Swiss cheese all wrapped up and it's DELICIOUS. This year, she decided to experiment with Pillsbury Crescent Roll Seamless Dough Sheets. She bought two and only used one, so we had one left over.

The point of telling you this is, this leftover pastry dough was the reason I made these mini pies. I was looking for something to make with it and these are what I decided on.

For my filling, I used Pillsbury's Perfect Apple Pie recipe. I changed it up a little bit to suit my tastes - I only used one tablespoon of flour, half a teaspoon of lemon juice, and about one sixteenth of nutmeg (I'm not a huge nutmeg fan). Also, my apples were a little smaller than medium-sized, and they were Granny Smith.

For my baking directions, I followed Dollhouse Bake Shoppe's cues. I baked them at 375 degrees and planned on following her advice to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, but they only took ten. Granted, I only made six mini pies. This is because after six I didn't feel like making anymore. I had loads of filling left over, as you might imagine. With it I plan to make applesauce. If it works out, maybe I'll post that on here too. Who knows.

I'd intended to drop a bit of butter on top of the filling in each pie before adding the lattice, but I forgot. I also forgot to add the egg wash which gives pies such a pretty sheen. At any rate, they turned out lovely enough.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie (and Minis)

For a coworker's birthday, my husband asked me to make a baked dessert. I asked what kind - cake, brownies, cookies, what does she like? Answer:  "Something sweet." Alrighty then.

Armed with this vague information that eliminated virtually nothing from the spectrum, I took to the pages bookmarked on my internet browser. Finally I saw something that I'd been eyeballing for a while but hadn't had an excuse to make - Cookie Pie.

She calls it a pie because she made it in her pie pan, so I'll call it that too, though it has much more of a cake-like consistency than pie, or cookies, for that matter.

Since I was using self-rising flour instead of all purpose, I omitted the baking soda completely. I had read in the comments that some people had found the pie to be too floury, so I also omitted the extra tablespoon of flour called for. I used dark brown sugar, though I'm not sure which kind she used - the recipe only says "brown sugar", but I figured it was worth making a note. Lastly, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips in lieu of M&Ms.

I baked my pie in a 9-inch pie pan, slightly smaller than what she used. Also, I took some of the batter and put it into four mini brioche tins. Since my pie was going away and I wouldn't be able to sample it, I wanted to have a mini-pie for myself to taste. The other three minis were for my husband and two brothers who also happened to be hanging around.

The batter tasted pretty salty, so I was a little worried putting it into the oven, wondering how it would turn out. Everything baked for twenty minutes and was done.

I ended up worrying for basically nothing. In addition to looking perfect, it tasted great, too. The cookie part was a little less sweet than I'd have preferred, but with so much chocolate, it hardly mattered. Next time I make this recipe I think I'll add more sugar. I didn't find it too floury or buttery, as some people commented on the recipe's page. Also, next time I think I'll just make a bunch of minis and forgo the big pie altogether. I love how cute the little scalloped edges are.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cake Pops - Birthday

Last time I made cake pops, it was such a fiasco that I pushed all thoughts of cake pops from my mind. Every time I saw pictures of them, no matter how adorable, I resisted the urge to make them myself. However, my brother's birthday is today, and a while ago he informed me that cake pops were what he wanted me to make. I started to refuse, but then figured it had been a while and I've learned a few things since then, so may as well give it another try.

As with last time, I used a boxed cake mix to make my pops. The cake mix called for a cup of water, but my cake pop pan instructions said that for best results, I should substitute milk for water and cut the amount in half. So instead of one cup of water, I used one half-cup of milk. This made my batter thicker and I suspect that's where my problem came from.

Despite coating the pan generously with cooking spray, most of my cake balls broke in half as I opened the pan. I managed to salvage the equivalent of fifteen cake pops.

In order to be able to use the halves, I put melted white chocolate in between them, like a sandwich. There were a few that hadn't broken so I just put them on the sticks, using the melted chocolate as a glue. Then I let them all sit in the refrigerator for a while to set before I decorated them.

That is a Wilton cake pop decorating stand - much better than what I used last time, which was a styrofoam block that tipped over because my pops were too heavy.

This photo is just a close-up so you can see how I glued my cake pop halves together with chocolate.

After they set in the fridge, I started to decorate. I used green and blue food coloring and sprinkles. The finished product, though simple, looked very nice.

Some of the pops that had been glued together with chocolate were too heavy, so they began to come off their sticks when dipped in chocolate. To remedy this, I enlisted the help of my step-daughter. I held the pop together between its stick and a toothpick while she added the sprinkles.

This batch of cake pops, while simpler in design than my last batch, I found to be much more visually appealing - and a lot more fun to make. I think this is because last time I made them I had no idea what I was getting into. The internet made cake pops look so easy and adorable - I didn't know much about what I was doing, what supplies were needed, etc. There are a hundred different problems you can run into making cake pops, and though I've barely scratched the surface of the art of cake-pop making, I feel a lot more prepared. I know now that cake pops aren't as easy as they look and, what's more, I've learned to not let myself lose track of the fun that baking is supposed to be by comparing what I make with the masterpieces produced by others. There will ALWAYS be someone better than me, and that's ok! As long as I love what I'm doing, I will keep doing it.