Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guest Post!


This past week was spring break, and given that my mind and spirit were free from the shackles of Times New Roman-formatted strings of text found in my textbooks and lecture materials, I decided to turn to baking. A mixing bowl and measuring cup are about as unfamiliar to me as rhinos to the North Pole. But given M's contagious enthusiasm for baking and her support for budding bakers like me, I decided to give it a try! It turns out that the term 'try' is probably an understatement. It was 5 days of baking. Every morning, at 8 AM just when the sister left for school, I blasted my radio (shout out to ALICE 97.3 FM) and began the dance of the plastic bowl and wooden spoons. 

Some lessons I learned that experienced bakers would label obvious but are what I consider 'why-didn't-anyone-tell-me?!' important.
1) She who wields a mixer doth wield great power (electrically and theoretically). She who is unlucky enough to not have one... will haveth great, sore, hulking hands. Two days into the baking festival, I was plagued by cramped hands and wrists. It didn't help that I did not have the wisdom contained in the next statement that you are about to read:

2) Always mix the dry ingredients first. If you don't, you'll find yourself in a situation that I found myself in. Which was, as I read 'fold in the dry ingredients,' I foolishly decided to fold them in...one by one. Let me do my best to insert a daydream reflection-esque camera shot into this blog. 

Cut to an empty kitchen. You see the silhouette of K against the kitchen counter.
She stands, throwing her arms around. 
In her hands are two wooden spatulas. She mixes the cake dough as well as she can; her motions resemble those of a Coldstone Creamery employee working in those Butterfinger and Oreo pieces for some greedy little kid.
The work is hard, but she imagines, this must be worth it! The cake--it is all for the cake. It must be completed. 
She folds in the dry ingredients. She reads them off the recipe, one at a time, and adds them into her buttery melty goop. 
Adding the flour is difficult, and with each additional cup, the work becomes harder. 
Finally though, she completes mixing in all the flour. 
Then she reads the next line of the recipe, and the truth is debilitating. 
"1 tsp of baking soda." 
She stops, her hands drop to her sides. 
She feels like she has just been condemned--her work akin to that of Sisyphus. 
It feels like some baking purgatory, some cruel joke. 
But the cake, what about the cake?? And with that, she returns her reluctant hands to the spatulas, ready for more. 

End scene.

Okay, okay, I exaggerate. But can you imagine my horror upon realizing I had mere tablespoons to *evenly* mix into my huge, honking pile of dough?! 

3) Always keep a lot of sugar and butter in the pantry. Especially if you decide to hold a five day baking carnival. This may not apply to everyone, but hey, the real message is make sure you have your ingredients before starting. 

4) It helps to have someone wash your dishes. Go trick someone into helping you. ;) 
Okay, I'm not sure why I numbered for only four things. Clearly, I didn't learn much. But I had a lot of fun!

So here's a recap of my week:

Saturday:
Recipe borrowed from this very blog--Swirly Bundt Cake
I loved this cake when M made it, so it was the very first on my to-do list. And it did not disappoint, my readers. It did. Not. Disappoint. People really loved this cake when I shared it with family and friends. It still tasted good later in the week, but it's probably best eaten within a day or two. And I'll say it again, mixing cake batter is a lot easier when you have a mixer. I did not. Learn from my carelessness, people. 

Swirl
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
A pinch of nutmeg (actually, I didn't have this, but it turned out fine!)

Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup white sugar
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat to 350 degrees.
Butter and dust Bundt pan with flour.
Mix ingredients for the swirl together.
Mix the dry cake ingredients together.
Add butter to white sugar and beat with mixer.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beat in the vanilla and mix in the sour cream slowly.
Slowly add in dry ingredients.
Scoop 1/3 of batter into pan.
Sprinkle 1/2 of swirl mix.
Pour most of the rest of the batter and make a ditch.
Fill the ditch with swirl mix and cover with the rest of the batter. If not all of the swirl is covered, it's ok!

Bake 60-65 minutes and let rest for 10 minutes before flipping.
Dust with confectioner's sugar!

(The picture has kind of a funny looking crust because I probably didn't butter the Bundt pan quite right...But it still tastes delicious!)

Tuesday: 
Sugar Cookies
Recipe borrowed from this blog...again! 
 
Cookie Recipe:  (makes 2 dozen)

Recipe makes 2 dozen cookies (unless you're like me and don't realize that a tbsp of dough makes a decent sized cookie. Which means a 2 tbsp pile of dough makes a mighty big cookie / a mini cake. And then you get fewer than 12 cookies). Also, I had extra frosting left over, so don't worry about not having enough.


Ingredients:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat to 350 degrees.
Combine sour cream, sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla in one bowl.
Add dry ingredients to wet.
Chill for 20 minutes.
Roll into balls and flatten with spoon or hand.
Bake 10 minutes.

Frosting  (1 1/2 cups)

2 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
Food coloring

Mix all ingredients together with mixer and add food coloring to get desired color (or in my case, colors!).

Wednesday:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe is loosely based from Joy the Baker

These cookies came out pretty well. Chocolate chip cookies aren't really something I'm that crazy for, but I wanted to make a baked goods staple. At this point, you might be wondering, what did you do with all these cookies?! Lucky for me, my sister gave them away at school. Thank goodness for high schoolers and their insatiable appetite for all things sweet.  

Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Mix all the dry ingredients together. 
Mix together the wet ingredients. (I melted the butter with a microwave. Not sure how good/bad this technique is, but hey, catch me a break, without a mixer, I wanted my mixing experience to be as easy as possible. I hope you're not too horrified.)
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Refrigerate the dough for 20-30 minutes. 
Scoop dough (in portions as you see fit) onto aluminum-covered baking pan. 
Bake for 14 minutes until golden brown. 
Let the cookies cool. 

Thursday:  
Sesame Cookies
This turned out to be a surprise hit among my family and friends! I borrowed the recipe from my hairdresser. She's very proud of it, and I hope I do her recipe justice. They are a light, crisp kind of cookie that melts in your mouth. They resemble in texture egg cookies (available at your local Asian supermarket!). It was a nice change of pace for me after making cake-like things earlier in the week.

This recipe makes a LOT of cookies. I'm talking maybe 35+ cookies. 

Ingredients: 
3 egg yolks
3 cups of flour (If you want, you can use 2 cups of white flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. I didn't try it, but my hairdresser says it works out just fine!)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of Canola oil
2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
As many black sesame seeds as you see fit. I probably used about 1/4 or 1/3 of those bottles you can buy from your supermarket. 

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. 
Mix together the dry ingredients (with the exception of the sesame seeds) in a large bow with a fork. 
Beat together the egg yolks in another large bowl.
Melt the 2 sticks of butter with a microwave. 
Add the butter to the bowl containing the egg yolks.
Add the 1/2 cups of canola oil. 
Use a fork to mix it as evenly as possible.
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
Add the extra tablespoon of canola oil (I found this is necessary to make the dough more user-friendly when it comes to rolling the dough into little balls. You don't want to add any more oil though because you want the cookies to hold their shape when they're in the oven.)
Shake in the sesame seeds. (I love these, so I poured in a lot. My hairdresser uses a recipe with white sesame seeds and crushed almonds. Matter of the fact is that you can add in whatever your heart desires!) 

No chilling of the dough is required. 
Make tiny little balls of dough (roughly about as big as the circle you can make by placing your thumb and index finger together), and place them on cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Make little indentations in the dough ball's center (I used my index finger). Place them about 1.5-2 inches apart. 
Bake for 25 minutes. (Any longer, and they burn on the bottom). Cookies should become slightly larger, have a nice slightly larger indentation in the center, and have a nice even light brown color. 

Friday: 
Lemon Whoopie Pies
I love lemon anything, and the pictures on Joy the Baker's website really caught my eye. Check out her website for a fun read and really nice pictures that will probably get you drooling. When I ate one of the cookies (plain, without filling), I was a little disappointed because I wanted to feel like a lemon gave me a hearty slap on the back, but it really felt like a lemon really had just tapped me on the shoulder. But that's not to say the texture isn't absolutely perfect--when I ate the cookie with the filling, I was much more satisfied. The frosting is very lemon-y, and the cookies are a perfectly complement to the creamy frosting peeking out of the edges. And, these cookies, I have to say, are the most aesthetically pleasing out of everything I made this week. 

Recipe makes approximately 10 whoopie pies. 

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) usalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. 

For the cookies:
Sift together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
In a separate large bowl, add the butter (at room temperature), sugar, and lemon zest using an electric mixer until smooth. 
Add the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla to the bowl. Use the mixer to make it smooth. 
Add about half of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl. Use the mixer on low until an even texture is achieved.
Add the final half of the dry ingredients. Use the mixer on low to make the batter smooth again. 

Dollop generous portions (I used around 1.5-2 tbsp portions) onto an aluminum-covered baking pan. Place them about 3 inches apart because the dough will flatten and spread out significantly. Try to make an even number of cookies if you don't want leftovers (I made an odd number, but it was really no problem. I was able to try the cookie without the frosting! Yum!) 
Bake for 12 minutes. You should see a thin brown outline around the cookie's edge, but the actual surface should not appear browned. If you stick a toothpick in it, it should come out clean. 
Let cookies cool for 10 minutes.

For the filling: 
In another large bowl (From this recipe, I learned that having a lot of bowls is helpful. Or at least having someone to help you wash the dishes so you can reuse bowls!), add the butter (at room temperature), cream cheese, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. (The recipe calls for 6 oz of cream cheese. I wasn't sure how to exactly measure this out, but I figured out a pretty decent system. If you buy an 8 oz cream cheese container, use a knife to cut the cream cheese into 4 quarter sections while it's still in the container. Scoop out 3 of those 4 quarters into the mixing bowl. Voila! Approximately 6 oz of cream cheese).  
Use the mixer on low to mix it until smooth. 
Add the powdered sugar. (I recommend adding this maybe a 1/2 cup at a time, using a spoon to fold it into the dough a little bit before using the mixer. Doing this helps you avoid looking like you just had a little fist fight with the Pillsbury Doughboy's sugary cousin). 
Use the mixer on low to make the frosting smooth and even. 
Refrigerate for about 15 minutes if you want the filling to be slightly more solid when you dollop it onto the cookies. 

Putting it all together:
After the cookies have completely cooled (this is important, otherwise the filling will melt once placed between the cookies, and things will get messy fast), spoon about 1.5-2 tbsp (actually, put however much you want! I had frosting left over, so you could actually probably put 2-3 tbsp if you wanted) into the center of the flat side of one cookie. Place another cookie (flat side facing the filling) onto the filling. Push down gently until the frosting approaches the cookie's edge. Refrigerate cookies until time of consumption. 

So after all the sugar, butter, and dishwashing, I found out that baking really isn't that difficult. I definitely plan on baking again when free time comes my way. 

And so ends my baking tale, folks. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and many thanks for M inspiring me to bake and giving me my internet debut!  

Seen on Sweet As Sugar Cookies!

1 comment:

  1. I just want to stuff my face with the chocolate chip cookies and the lemon whoopie pies look so perfect!!!

    ReplyDelete

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