Monday, March 16, 2009

Malted Milk Cookies

I have been searching high and low for malted milk powder since I found a recipe in my Ultimate Cookie Book for mated milk cookies. They looked delicious and I love the flavor of malt (even when it's stolen from Favorite's beer making supplies!). Well I finally found my malted milk powder in Shaw's when I went to visit my mom on Friday. I was very excited to try out my malty cookies! The recipe was pretty straightforward as far as cookies go with the addition of malt powder and melted chocolate. The only minor issue was that I had no Whoppers to chop up and stick in the cookies. I didn't really care about this however, so I made about 16 cookies with no malt ball chunks. They were chewy, they were malty, they were... flat???

These were the flattest cookies I have ever baked save for the bocca di nonna. I was not too sad, but I could see from the picture that this was not how they were supposed to be. They were supposed to be fat like chocolate chip cookies! Well, I thought to myself, perhaps they really need the malt ball pieces to hold up in the oven better. I brought the 16 flat cookies to my mom's house where they were eaten to wash down the fantastic boiled dinner provided. The next day I picked up the malt balls. I chopped almost a whole box up, I mixed them in, I tried more, I tried less, I tried turning the heat down, all my cookies melted down to pancakes. I'm not sure what went wrong. I know that sometimes if your butter is too soft this will happen, but I left the remainder of the dough in the fridge overnight! Oh well. They were still scrumptious, but I am still left wondering how I erred.

Toffee Bars

This past Thursday night I was anxious to bake something. I had picked out Honey Nut Bars, a glorious looking combination of honey, walnuts, and coconut, but I wanted to bring these to my Mom's house and my Stepdad hates coconut. Add to that the fact that almost every goodie I've ever brought to their house has had coconut in it and I decided to make something else. Since toffee is one of his favorite treats I thought the Toffee Cookie Bars were a winning idea. They looked pretty simple and fast and tasty so I dove in.

I didn't get home until 9:30 because I have a class on Thursday nights, but I wasn't worried because it was just a matter of mixing and layering a couple ingredients, no big deal. So I threw together the cookie base which was mostly brown sugar and butter (YUM!) with flour and an egg yolk thrown in to make it a bit more substantial. This got pressed in the bottom of the pan that had been prepared with a greased parchment bottom and greased sides and baked for 20 minutes. Next was the sweet stuff. I was to mix a can of sweetened condensed milk with butter and cook until thick an bubbly. Now is where I hit a roadblock. I had NO sweetened condensed milk. My last minute change in dessert direction had me minus an ingredient! So I looked up some substitutions on the internet. One said use evaporated milk with added sugar. Ok, but I only had a tiny little 5 oz can of that. I ended up using th evaporated milk, plus about a cup or so of regular milk, plus a bunch of sugar. It took HOURS to concentrate the milk to a point I thought was thick enough. Then I added the butter, got it all bubbly, and poured it over the base. I baked this for another 12 minutes or so, covered it in chocolate chips, another couple minutes in the oven, spread the chips out into a smooth, consistent layer, and topped it all with toasted pecans.

I let the bars set overnight in the fridge after they had come to room temp. I then chopped them up with my trusty Wilton Cookie Shovel. I have to tell you, the recipe did not call to cover the bottom of the pan in greased parchment, but I am sure glad I did. I have never had much luck getting anything bar-like out of a rectangular pan in one piece, but the parchment allowed me to get the bars out much more easily, and without injuring the bottom of my pan.

These bars ended up delicious, but very, very sweet. I'm not even really sure the consistency was right due to winging the ingredients a little, but they are good with a strong cup of coffee. Oh! And Charlie (my Stepdad) thought they were great!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cinnamon Chocolate Macaroons

Okay, so I'm trying to make up for lost blogging time. This is my second post of the day because I did manage (despite completely forgetting about daylight savings time!) to carve a spot out of the day in which to bake.

I was back into my Ultimate Cookie Book today and it has produced another winner. I wanted to do something simple and already had my mind on meringue when I nearly opened the book right up to Cinnamon Chocolate Macaroons. Splendid!

I separated out my two whites and set them in the Kitchenaid bowl to come to room temperature while I prepared the rest of my ingredients. I chopped a half cup of pecans, got a cup of coconut, grated 1/2 an ounce of chocolate and even ground a teaspoon of cinnamon from the stick with the new hand powered spice grinder I bought (think the peppercorn grinders but with smashed cinnamon sticks in there instead).

After about a half an hour I started whipping up the whites with the vanilla until soft peaks. I then added the cinnamon and 2/3 cup of sugar gradually and beat until I got to stiff peaks. It already looked like I wanted to eat it at this point. I then folded in my nuts, coconut and chocolate.

The mixture then got plopped on parchment paper by the teaspoonful and sent into a 375 degree oven. The recipe said to bake them for 20 minutes, but I found that they were dry on the outside and set at about 17 minutes. Actually they probably could've come out at 15 or 16 minutes, as most came out a little hollow and with less chewy inside than I'd hoped, but they were still quite delicious.

When they came out they cooled for a bit on the pan and then the cooling rack. They didn't hold their heat for long and then Favorite and I were stuffing them in our faces. Sweet, nutty, chewy and fantastic! They could stand a little more chocolate, but the coconut, pecans, cinnamon, and chocolate are in amounts that compliment each other and adding more chocolate, though delicious, might detract from the other components.

All in all I would say these cookies were a success. They are great at satisfying a sweet craving but are so light you don't have to feel guilty about eating a couple. This, of course, is in complete contrast to the Bocca di Nonna of the last post which were overly rich and greasy with very little in the way of satisfaction.

That's all for today!! Hopefully I will be back soon to detail another foray into the adventures of tasty treats. I can't imagine these macaroons will last long...

Bocca Di Nonna - Back to Blogging

Oh boy have I been lax again! I took a week or so off from baking and it turned into a month! As it turns out after my small baking hiatus I got sick with some kind of flu-like wonder and it turned right into bronchitis which put me out of commission for a while. Then once I started baking again I seemed to be too busy catching up on stuff I neglected while I was sick that I didn't have any time to blog it. Well I am back. Sadly I only have one offering right now, unlike my sister's epic posts that tend to have 5-10 delicious treats at a go, and frankly it was quite disappointing.

I made a batch of cookies called Bocca Di Nonna. From the recipe the cookies appeared to be similar to florentine lace cookies with and earl grey chocolate ganache sandwiched in the middle. Although I made them from a recipe book you can also find the exact recipe posted online HERE (along with my less than stunning review of it). The recipe seemed simple enough. Like one of my sister's recipes for walnut cupcakes it uses a large amount of ground nuts, in this case almonds, for the bulk of the cookie. There is also a HUGE amount of butter. Herein lies my problem with these cookies. The cookies spread out a lot more than they were supposed to even though I used cold butter to begin with and chilled the dough after processing. I also made sure to allow the pans to cool between batches. There was nothing that could be done, they just contain too much butter. After removing each batch of cookies from the parchment paper they were baked on I could see rivulets of buttery grease that had been left behind. The cookies were also exceptionally brittle. After preparing and cooling the earl grey ganache (which was actually quite interesting and tasty) I endeavored to spread it on half the cookies so I could top them with the other half but the edges were so extremely fragile that I probably ended up with a few whole cookies worth of crumbs by the time I was finished. At this point I still had a feeble amount of hope that they might end up ok because they actually looked rather nice. This all being despite the fact that the ganache was oozing through some of the thinner parts of the cookies and that my hands were getting covered in grease from handling the buttery abominations. Well, I decided first to layer the cookies in paper towels. Maybe after absorbing some of the grease they would be salvageable. Then I decided to put the paper towel layered cookies in the fridge; maybe hardening up the grease would at least make them more palatable. Well nothing made me satisfied with these cookies. The flavor components are not substantial enough to hold up to the overwhelming flavor of greasiness. The only way Favorite and I have been able to dispose of them down our gullets is to break up the cookies and smother them with vanilla ice cream and cowboy sauces (chocolate and brown sugar dessert sauces made with beer). I may try these again someday, with a good amount of the butter removed from the recipe, but more likely than not, if I get the urge to make these again, I will just make florentines and add the earl grey ganache to those instead.

In defense of my lack of baking, you should know that I also made some allergy free brownie bites right before I got sick that were pretty darn tasty, but I have no pictures of them. I used the recipe posted HERE. Despite the lack of flour and eggs and dairy these little brownie nibbles were very chocolaty and satisfying. I'm sure they would be good with a dairy free ice cream if you wanted to go vegan all the way, but I know for a fact they were splendid with the good old cow ice cream that I ate them with.

So, for lack of stunning dessert pictures I will now pummel you with some adorableness. Prepare:

Peanut (the big headed guy) seems like he knows when I am taking pictures and endeavors to be supremely adorable. His charisma easily translates to pictures.

Marmalade (the mountain lion looking guy) doesn't appreciate the camera as much as he knows he ends up looking ferocious and fearsome. While I don't doubt his ability to take down a gazelle given the chance, this guy is the biggest mooshy love bug you will find.

Well that's it for this post. It is already the end of the weekend, but perhaps I could whip up something tasty as an offering to the gods of baking so that they may forget about the greasy cookies I made. I must atone for this baking catastrophe.