Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chocolate Oatmeal Barley Cookies

Yes, barley. What a magnificent idea! Favorite and I were planning on tasting a very delicious sounding beer which seemed to need an equally delicious chocolate cookie to have with it. I of course turned to my trusty Ultimate Cookie Book, and found a recipe for chocolate oatmeal cookies. They looked dark, rich, and delicious, they used melted chocolate AND chocolate chips, and each was topped with a pecan halve. How could I lose? But, to make them even MORE special, Favorite had the brilliant idea of replacing some of the flour with crushed roasted barley, which he had of course in his brewing supply room. After I stopped beating myself up over why I hadn't thought of that before I got down to making the cookies. I only made a half batch since we also have cornbread, and marshmallows to eat. It was pretty much a typical chocolate cookies recipe, beat the butter and sugar, add the cooled melted chocolate, eggs, and vanilla, and then gradually add in the dry ingredients. I had taken 1/4 of a cup of roasted barely and used the grind feature on my mini prep to render it into dust with a few pieces of hull in there. I put this powder into the bottom of my measuring cup and added flour to make the amount I needed in total. I added this to the batter and then stirred in the oats (chopped a bit in the mini prep because they were old fashioned instead of quick cooking) and chocolate chips. I scooped the dough into heaps on my sheets, topped each with a pecan halve and put them in the oven. The smell was incredible.

The first batch, second batch and so on came out and all seemed to have on failing... they were all flat as pancakes!! Again I am having this problem. This time, however, I think I have REALLY found the solution. I had thought before that my dough was too warm, and tried chilling it; I thought that the butter was inferior, so I switched to brand name; I thought I was beating too much air into the mixture, so I became dainty with my beating of the butter. None of these "solutions" seemed to solve my problem, so I tried one more. I turned up the oven. My thought was, well if the oven is lower in temperature than it's saying it is, the heat would be enough to melt the dough without cooking it all the way. If I turn the heat up, the outside should cook faster giving it a better chance to set its shape.

So on my last batch I turned the oven from 375 to 385 and gave it ample time to heat up. I made sure to put the cookies on a sheet that was NOT still warm from the oven and I baked them for 9 minutes, right in the middle of the recommended 8-10. They came out... fatter!

I had used the same cookie scoop to make the cookies and you could clearly tell that the ones baked in the hotter oven were significantly smaller in diameter. They were chunkier, which meant they had more delicious interior to enjoy. I think I have finally found my cookie solution!

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows

Hello, hello! Today's edition of the Threadbare Bakery finds us in the uncertain world of CANDY MAKING.

If you follow my blog much you will know that I have tried making caramel and failed. I have tried making divinity and failed. If it involves heating sugar and water to a certain temperature, if precision is of the essence, I generally don't fare so well. Well... NOT ANYMORE. Thanks to Favorite's cousin and his lovely woman, we have acquired, as a wedding present, an infrared pyrometer! This is a fancy word for laser thermometer. It looks like a tiny version of a police speed detector and works similarly; point and shoot. However instead of reading back the speed of its target it shows you the temperature. Now it is exceedingly fun to take temperature readings of everything and everyone around you, but where it shines, as far as usefulness is concerned, is in the kitchen. Favorite has used it numerous times when making beer to ensure his mash or his wort are at the proper temperature. It takes temperature instantaneously, and accurately so when I decided to venture into candy making again, I had it ready to go.

I know it is not autumn, traditional pumpkin season, but I simply couldn't wait any longer to try the recipe I had found for Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows and here's why:Ha HA! Don't they simply look MARVELOUS? Yes, yes, they do, and they smell and taste lovely as well. I have to admit that I was certainly nervous, having the record with candy making that I do, but these were actually easy! You mix the pumpkin, cold water, and gelatin together in one bowl, then you begin heating your mixture of water, sugar, and corn syrup. Just for experiments' sake I put the standard candy thermometer I have in the sugary liquid to see how far off it was. The thermometer lagged FAR behind my laser gun, showing me a little over 225 when I finally took it off the heat with the laser telling me it was (in various spots) between 249 and 257, approximately hard ball. I then plopped the pumpkin mix gently into the syrup, hoping that the sugar wouldn't harden from the cold semi-solid, and once I had given it a few stirs to break up the chunks, poured the entire saucepan full into my kitchen aid, put my splashguard in position, and threw the switch to 11 (re. high). I wondered, had the temperature gradients in the liquid affected the sugary structure? Had I cooked it too long? Not long enough? Well my kitchen aid did its thing, for about 9 minutes and it had finally started looking lighter, fluffier, more opaque, and I was getting excited. I had premixed my spices and started sprinkling them in at the 9 minutes mark. The mix whipped for a minute more and then I removed the splashguard completely to reveal... MARSHMALLOW!!!

I poured the liquid mallow into lightly greased jelly roll pan praying I would later be able to get it out. Then it had to set for at least 4 hours with a recommended set time of overnight. I controlled myself and managed the overnight, but was thrilled when I went to clean my bowl and whisk attachment and found that the substance that had been so liquidy just moments before had already turned lightly elastic, foamy, and chewy.

Finally it came time to turn out the sweet mass. I threw together the powdered sugar and cornstarch lightly dusted the exposed surface, and flipped the pan over onto some parchment. I picked up the pan to disover the mallow had not com out, but, still overturned, I stuck a knife in the corner to begin prying the goo away and then it all seemed to com out at once. Victory! Once layed out I used a lightly oiled knife to cut the marshmallow into squares and tossed them in the cornstarch mix a few at a time giving them a light coating before storing them in some tupperware. Of course I tried one, so did Favorite, and they were delightful! They are not as chewy as store marshmallows. They are more tendy, foamy and chewy, but with a little less toothiness. And these of course were fragrant with spices and with a glorious orange color. There are only two things I would do differenly, were I to make marshmallows again (and oh, I will). One is I would try making them when the weather is a littles less humid because my cornstarch mixture seems to keep sucking up he moisure in the air causing the marshmallows to stick to each other more than is desireable. The other is that I would like to try making them in a lasagna pan so that I might get a thicker layer. I would like it very much to have the finished guys be a little more cuboid. Although, the thin sheet is probabl better for cutting more complicated shapes (I punched out a few little stars myself, hehe).

So go! Get accurate kitchen equipment and make candy! I know I will be venturing more into the candy realm know that I feel more secure in my ability to gauge sugar temperatures.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Boston Cream Trifle

My sister has already blogged on Boston Cream. It was supposedly a disaster. I didn't try it so I don't know. This spurred something in me though. Like my sister I thought "What could be so hard about cake, cream, and chocolate?" and then I too was bested.

So it started out as a cake but ended up a trifle. Why? Because the cake somehow shattered coming out of the pan. Ok, I say shattered, which sounds like it was crispy and brittle, it was not, but it did somehow still manage to fracture into a million pieces. Trifle it is!

I used a different recipe than my sister. One that used less than a million pots, pans, and bowls. The cake was a white cake. It had a rather thick crunchy shell for some reason though I know I just managed to cook the center through. The pastry cream came out rather well I think. It was smooth and thick and, well, creamy. The recipe called for what sounded like some kind o terrible chocolate frosting so I opted for a makeshift ganache. I heated up some cream, melted chocolate into it until I thought it looked chocolatey enough, then added some powdered sugar. The powdered ugar may sound strange, but I kind of like the quasi waxy texture it lends. It reminds me of the peel offable frosting on a Hostess Cupcake. Anyway, the cake was not difficult (other than getting it out), the pastry cream was not difficult, and the chocolate was not difficult. Even still, it wasn't QUITE right. I don't know what to change, but this tasty dessert remains, for now, a mystery.

As a mini side project I baked up a small batch of the Cinnamon Chocolate Meringuey Cookies that I have made here before. Turns out, you don't even really need a recipe for these. I just wanted to get rid of the egg whites I had left over from the yolks that were used in the pastry cream. So I beat up the whites, added some sugar, dumped in some chopped chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, and chopped pecans, and threw those babies in the oven.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oatmeal Cake

I have a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that I turn to from time to time when I can't think of a dinner to make or when I need to remember something like how long I should expect my stuffed peppers to cook in the oven. Last night, though, I pulled it out for something little different: cake. To be a little more specific: Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Nut Topping. Sound good? Check out my awful pictures of its splendor.I halved the cake recipe and it turned out 5 mini Bundts. This was not a spectacular idea considering these guys have holes in the middle, but I sacrificed one of the cakes that hadn't quite come out whole so that I could patch them and top them properly. Once the cakes get topped with the brown sugar, butter, coconut, pecan mixture they get popped back in the oven under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. This caramelizes the top just a bit so that the result is something not unlike pecan rolls except that it is on a sweet fluffy cake. Very sweet and yummy for dessert. If you could get over the guilt it would also be great with your morning coffee

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pumpkin Oat Muffins and a Scarf


I have not only BAKED Pumpkin Oat Muffins, but I have also remembered to take pictures of them!
They look quite glorious really, but I found them to be pretty dense. I used a vegan recipe for these, not because I am vegan but because I was without eggs! They are pretty good hot with some butter though. Ha, I would make poor vegan.

Also! I have finished a scarf that I started so long ago I can't remember (hyperbole: I think it was sometime last year). It was going to be the first quasi plain yet nice-looking-enough-to-be-a-real-scarf scarf and it was going to be mine! That was until I ran out of the yarn I was using...

So I had to make one half the opposite mirror image of the other half. Oh well... Favorite insists I keep it as it came out nice enough, but I am thinking the Salvation Army might need to keep some people warm.

The pattern is quite easy and the density of it is very nice; springy and elastic with some dimension without taking too much time or too much yarn. My friend Cheryl shared this pattern with me:

R1: K4, *P3, K3, repeat from *, end with K4
R2: P2, *K1, P1, repeat from *, end with P2

Easy peazy lemon squeezy! Now I'm working on some shrug-like thing. We will see how this turns out. Hopefully I have enough yarn this time. Probably not.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oh My Internet

I have not been on hiatus!

I have, in fact, been baking and baking. The problem lies in the fact that I have not had the internet. Well here ends that period of my life.

What you all have missed as a result of my lack of internet:

Blueberry Crumb Pie
Peach Blueberry Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Almond Sugar Cookies
Homemade Granola Bars
Cheerios Breakfast Bars
Giant Oatmeal M&Ms Cookies

Sadly, not only have I not been blogging but my lack of blogability also led to a lack of motivation to photograph my creations. This is especially sad when I think of the peach blueberry pie. The lattice came out perfect, the insides were a mixture of dark blue and peachy goo, and man was it ever good (although that part is a little more difficult to appreciate from a picture). Well, this depressing dark spot in my blog history is over now and I look forward to the next post which I promise will be full of tasty nibbles and pictures to boot.