Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

The half recipe that ruined a whole recipe

So, the raspberry bars didn’t turn out as great as I expected… so, I was still searching for that festive fruit cookie. I did some searching and found a recipe from Emeril for lemon and raspberry thumbprint cookies. Fruity and festive. Jackpot.

Well, the thing is… they aren’t that great. I mean, they’re good. But they’re not like… wow, whats the recipe? (That’s my gauge on whether something is good or not.. if I know people will be asking for the recipe, then its good). Luckily, I only made a half batch. Now, immediately after making this half batch. I intended to make a full batch of Hidden Kisses cookies, little powdered sugar cookies with Hershey kisses inside. But, I ended up halving some of the ingredients (like the flour) and using the whole amount of other ingredients (like the butter). And I didn’t realize that this was the problem until the 3rd sheet was in the oven. Yuck they were so greasy and spread out.. such a waste. Such a disappointment… Maybe bad baking experiences come in 3s and I got them all out of my system in 2 days?

Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies

Monday, November 26, 2007

RazMaTazz Bars

Sometimes… things just don’t go the way you hoped they would.

This weekend, I tried to get a head start on baking for my parents big Christmas party.

80+ people = lots of preparation.

Preliminarily, my mom and I decided to make Wanda's Rich & Dark Brownies , Hidden Kisses (a paula deen cookie recipe that I’ve made before), and we wanted a fruit cookie, so we first decided to try Raspberry Bars (also called RazMaTazz Bars).

So, Friday afternoon, after helping my mom to put up the main Christmas tree in the house, I decided to give the RazMaTazz Bars a try.

They came together fairly easily… raspberry jam and white chocolate, how can you go wrong, right??

Well… you can overcook them.

And it’s not that I wasn’t watching them, because I was! I was checking them like every 5 minutes, but I didn’t really know how they were supposed to look on top. And so, they were way overcooked. Not burned. But dry and overcooked. Also, I felt like they weren’t sufficiently raspberry enough. I doubled the recipe and made them in a 13x 9 pan.

They were okay, but I’m not sure that they would wow me, even if they weren’t overcooked. But, I think I’ve decided to give them another try. Because, they would look really festive and a bar cookie is so much easier to make for a party.

More cooking failures from this weekend to come…

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chocolate Eclair

Holidays in my family revolve around traveling to my grandma's house about an hour and a half East of Nashville. It's a pot luck affair. My Aunt Loretta always brings the turkey, my Aunt Evelyn always brings the broccoli and cheese casserole (one of my favorites), we always have my grandma's delicious green beans and my mom always brings this dessert. It's a tradition. A tradition that has gone on for so long, that the dessert has become apart of the family and as such, it is affectionately called "Clair."

Clair is brought to both Thanksgiving and Christmas. And a few times in the past, we would load up the car and sometimes we would forget Clair, leaving her a lonely holiday sitting in the fridge (although, this was always a good thing for my immediate family... just means we got Clair all to ourselves when we got home from grandma's hungry and empty-handed). Which means, now, when people start filtering to the dessert, you'll always hear at least one person say... "is Clair here?" And out of the various brownies, cakes, and pies, Clair is the one dessert that is always completely empty at the end of dinner.

Now, I actually didn't eat Clair for a long time. You see, on my 4th birthday I got sick and threw up and for about 10 years after that, I wouldnt touch anything with frosting on it (for some reason, I equated the vomiting with the frosting), so all my birthday cakes from then on had to be plain, etc... so, since Clair has canned frosting poured all over her top, I wouldn't go near her.

Eventually, I realized what sugary goodness I was missing for so long and fell in love with frosting and as a result, fell in love with Clair.

I don't know where the name comes from, but it's actually more like a poor man's tiramisu. It's essentially a pudding dessert with graham cracker layers that soften and a chocolate frosting top. I made it for the first time this year, and while it wasn't quite as good as mom's, it was pretty good.

Easy and delicious and for my family, tradition.

Clair (Chocolate Eclair)

box of graham crackers
2 large boxes of vanilla instant pudding
5 cups of milk
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 large tub of cool whip
1 tub chocolate frosting

Layer the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan with graham crackers. Set aside.

For filling: In a large bowl, beat with an electric mixer the pudding packages and milk until thick (when my mom first received this recipe she was told to beat for 15 minutes, which I did, but she said she usually only beats till it starts to get thick, about 5 minutes, either way is fine).

Then add softened cream cheese and cool whip one at a time, blend well.

Pour half of pudding mixture into pan and spread over crackers. Then add another layer of graham crackers and then put the rest of the pudding on top of that layer.

Heat the can of frosting up slightly, to make it pourable and pour it over the top and spread it out. Refrigerate overnight.

Note about the frosting: If you get it too hot, it will separate on top of the pudding and look gross. Also, we only use about 2/3 of the tub of frosting, but you can use as much or as little as you like, it's rich and sweet, which is why we don't use all of it.

I also baked a cherry pie and there was a slice to bring home! Yay!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Paula Deen's Brown Sugar Chewies

If I was stranded on a deserted island but I could have a shipment of candy bars magically float onto the island every week, with the catch that it would have to be the same candy bar for eternity.. I would have no problems choosing my candy bar.


I often flirt with other candy bars… almond joys, reese cups, m&ms, skor…. But I always end up with my trust snickers bar. It’s the nougat, I think. Oh and the caramel, and don’t forget the peanuts!

When I was a kid, I had a particular way of eating every candy bar. I deconstructed them. Always. So, with a snickers bar, I’d eat all the chocolate off, then the nougat and lastly I’d eat the chewy peanuts with caramel. It wasn’t until I was about 19 when, for whatever reason, I ate the snickers regular and I thought to myself….. hmmm.. who knew the layers tasted better all together than they do separately (I guess everyone probably knew this)??? It was like I’d discovered a whole new candy bar.

So, my love for snickers means I bought about 13 pounds of snickers when I was buying up all the Halloween candy and then realized… umm.. there really isn’t much you can do with snickers besides eat them (which, I’ve done plenty of in past weeks).

After the success of the congo bars… I was still craving something rich and gooey and bar-like. So, I tried this recipe from Paula Deen.

And these hit the spot pretty well, although I think I prefer the congo bar recipe. (maybe I should have added 3 times the butter to this recipe, too). I chopped up a ton of snickers bars and added them to the batter before I poured it in the dish and I think that the caramel from the snickers got a little burned, because there was a strange dark molasses-y type of flavor to these. But they were good, but they weren’t congo bars. Which reminds me.. I need to try congo bars with the right measurements, don’t I? Hmmm..

Monday, November 19, 2007

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Some things just taste better with something else. For instance, peanut butter tastes better with chocolate and caramel tastes better with chocolate, where pecans taste better with caramel, and potatoes taste better with butter, bagels taste better with cream cheese...

Okay, you know where I'm going with this... some things work better in a package deal rather than solo. And it's not that you dont like those things singularly, it's just that you like them better with their complimentary other half.

This is what I think about when I see peanut butter cookies. What can I add to make them even better? In this case, I added chopped up hershey milk chocolate bars and reese pieces (finally done with those!).

These cookies are good. Very rich, but good. They are super peanutty (obviously), and so next time, if I don't reese's pieces to use up, I'll likely add a bunch of chocolate chips to cut the rich, saltiness of the peanut butter.

Great cookies though and so simple. Who knew that you could make peanut butter cookies with flour or butter (well, without butter, I can understand.. but without flour, too!) Amazing!

I found the recipe here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Congo Bars

I failed algebra 2 my junior year of high school. To be fair, out of the 32 people in that class… 17 of us failed. (Sad that I still remember that stat, huh? Obviously, It’s an important detail to remember… it wasn’t just me!). It wasn’t that I skipped class or didn’t do my homework, it’s that I just couldn’t grasp the material in the way that Ms. Merritt taught it (me and 17 other folks, remember?). It was a big deal. It’s the only class I’ve ever failed and it messed my schedule up for the next year… I would have to take algebra 2 again and not take Latin 4. This was not an option. So I opted to take algebra 2 in night school across town. And I aced it that time around. Me and the dropouts, druggies, and new mothers. That’s a whole OTHER story.

It’s not that I’m not good at math. It’s that I’m not good at math tests. At least, this is what I’ve always told myself (and my teachers). But, I ended up graduating high school and then college and have made it as an accountant for a few years now, so I guess my math isn’t all that bad. But last night, I found myself struggling, feeling as math retarded as I did back in high school.

I found this recipe for congo bars and they sounded delicious. I was in the mood for something really sweet and a bar cookie was the answer. Since I’m only cooking for me these days, I always halve my recipes. Well, I start to get the ingredients out and imagine my horror when I read the first three ingredients and their measurements:

2/3 cup of Butter
1 lb of Brown Sugar
3 eggs

I looked at the wrapper of my butter stick, expecting to see how many tablespoons make up 2/3 cup. But the only measurement on it was.. ½ cup= 8 tbsps. Ok, ok, I can do this… I started to think about the fractions involved… 1 cup of butter is 16 tbsps. So, 2/3 cup of butter would be… 12? No. 14? No. Wait… 2/3 cup is how many tbsps? It’s like my brain registered that I was doing math and then immediately clocked out for lunch and said… you’re on your own this time. So, I pulled out a pen and started doing the division. 16 divided by 3 is about 5.3…. so, I needed about 10.6 tbsps of butter for the whole recipe, so I need 5.3 tbsps for a half recipe. Sounds easy, right? Well, it took me about 15 minutes to figure this out. (seriously).

Okay, okay, confession time… Honestly… I didn’t pull the pen out and try to figure this out on paper. I actually tried to do this in my head (big mistake) and ended up somehow thinking that 12 tbsps was what I needed and threw that into my pot. Only now, as I type this, am I realizing that I added 7 tbsps too many. (No wonder it took it like 20 extra minutes to cook and it’s still very gooey!).

The brown sugar, luckily wasn’t as hard… I knew that 1 lb is 16 oz and half of that is 8 oz which is a cup. Woo hoo. (I was very proud of myself for figuring that out). And for the eggs.. I just went ahead and used 2.

So, aside from the fact that I had to cook these like 20 minutes longer than it said (duh), these cookies are awesome. They are really sweet and gooey (maybe adding 7 extra tbsps of butter is a good thing) and really easy for people that can do simple math.

I skipped the chocolate chips and the walnuts and opted to use my Halloween M&Ms and Reese Pieces.

Lesson learned… keep a calculator in your kitchen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rolo Cookies

So, are you sick of Halloween candy yet???

Jeez… I sure am. Uggh. Why did I buy 11 pounds worth of Halloween candy?? What was I possibly thinking I’d do with all of it??

Well… here’s a recipe that I found that used up my rolos. They’re pretty good. Although, to be fair, when I made them, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for another chocolate cookie, so that probably affected my opinion of them.. If you’ve got leftover rolos, I recommend these cookies, but honestly.. I wouldn’t rush right out to buy a package of them for these cookies.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I don't generally think to myself... mmmmm... I'd love to have an oatmeal raisin cookie right now. Usually, I'm thinking to myself... mmmm.... I'd love to have a cadbury egg right now (in the middle of november, of course), a slice of pecan pie, or a brownie. But, I do like oatmeal raisin cookies, even though I wouldn't be caught dead eating raisins by themselves. Yuck.

To me, in order to be the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie, the cookie must be soft and chewy. No crunchiness whatsoever. So... imagine my surprise when surfing through recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies, that most of the recipes call for all butter. Wouldn't a butter and shortening mix of fat make a softer, chewier cookie? I'll find out, trust me.

But, in the meantime, I found this recipe awhile back and had been meaning to try it out, but I didn't have any raisins on hand (see above note about hating raisins). So, yesterday at the grocery store I bought some raisins and tried it out.

The first batch out of the oven were too crunchy (or, is it was too crunchy?), so I decided that I must have cooked them too long. I also added cinnamon to the dough after that first batch and enjoyed the cookies with the cinnamon a lot more. The last couple of batches were softer and tasty, but I'm pretty indifferent about them. They aren't pretty at all. The flavor is good and the texture is okay (once I didn't overcook them), but they are so pale and sickly looking.

So, I'll definitely try some more oatmeal raisin cookie recipes... and will substitute some of the butter for shortening in the future.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reese Pieces & M&M Chocolate Cookies

I never really thought that I liked chocolate cookies that much. I've never really considered myself much of a chocolate fiend. But, ever since I started baking regularly... I find myself craving chocolate more and more. And I'm beginning to think that this isn't a good thing.

So, yesterday I knew that I wanted to make another recipe where I could use up my halloween candy that I bought on clearance and I found this recipe on Cookie Madness for Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies. It sounded like a perfect way to use up some of my Reese Pieces! I substituted Reese Pieces and M&Ms for the peanut butter chips and these cookies are excellent! They have a really interesting texture. It's like a grainy, thick, moist texture that is perfect for the chocolate flavor. Yum. I couldn't keep from eating them.

Now, I've just got to find some recipes to use up Almond Joys, Snickers, and Kit Kats... hmmmm.....

Oh, and I made these cookies while wearing my new apron that my mom made for me. Cute, huh? It only took her like 4 months, too. Amazing. She should apply for Project Runway.

These cookies are good. Make them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Brownies

Halloween. What a great holiday. You get to dress up and people give you candy. I mean, what genius thought that up??? Brilliant! But, when you become an adult and no one you know throws a costume party, the best part of halloween is... getting candy for 50% & 75% off. I stocked up this year, with the intention of using the candy in some recipes!
The first recipe I came up with is for something I printed awhile back. It's for Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Brownies. They are basically peanut butter cookies made in bar form with bits of reese peanut butter cups and chocolate chips (I used cut up hershey bars).
Let me take a moment to talk about peanut butter. I like peanut butter, but I'm not crazy over it, unless it has chocolate with it. The mixture of chocolate and peanut butter is awesome, but I'm not one to just eat peanut butter cookies. I mean I'll eat them, but I won't choose them over chocolate cookies. So, these brownies were an interesting pick for me. They are super rich and pretty gooey, but yummy! I think if I make them again, I might add more chocolate to the recipe, but overall. A delicious take on brownies and a great way to use up Reese Peanut Butter Cups and hersey bars!
Ugghh.... sometimes I hate blogger, like when it won't accept new paragraphs. Uggh..