Baked Good: Thumbprint Cookies

At this point I’ve well surpassed my new years goal of baking one new thing every month, because this month alone I’ve done like 3 new things.  I’ve had a thumbprint cookie recipe for months and just got in the mood to make sme, because they’re a traditional Christmas/holiday cookie, so decided to pull out my recipe…only to find out how useless it was.  The person I got the recipe from is usually a really good baker, so I was stumped as to why the recipe just didn’t work for me.  Maybe it had to do with my environment and the moisture in the air or something, or maybe I just did it wrong because my Mom was able to salvage that batch by adding a bit of extra water, and when I used the second recipe I had I had to add extra water as well.  Every thumbprint cookie recipe I see just has butter as the liquid in it, and sometimes an egg – which, I’m guessing the egg is a matter of preference, because I did my second batch without one and it tasted exactly the same.

 

Sometimes when I pick a recipe to do, it’s because

I want to practice certain techniques.  When I picked the cream puffs, I wanted to learn how to make pastry cream.  For this, I really wanted to practice kneading dough, and creaming butter and sugar together because those two things were major things I’ve been struggling with.  I looked up a super in depth article on creaming butter and sugar together that helped tons, but kneading dough has been something I’ve majorly been struggling with.  I’ve watched tons of videos on it, and hearing how it was done really wasn’t helping me.  What I had to do, is have my Mom show me how it’s done, because honestly I think that’s the only way you can understand how kneading works.  Once the dough feels like it’s a rubber ball you can bounce away, you’re good to go and it was tons of fun to smoosh my dough for a while like it was play dough!  I really want to try making biscuits again after learning kneading, because I’m pretty sure I got gummy, doughy biscuits because I didn’t knead the dough at all.  I’m really glad I finally gave these cookies a go, because I forgot how delicious they were!

 

I also made the jam from scratch, I made an apple one because it’s what I prefer over raspberries.  First time doing that too, and it went pretty well!  But once again, needed to adjust and add water to the batch.  Luckily jam is easy to fix, just add water until you get the consistency you want.  Bright side:  I know how to make apple candies now too probably, with how hard it got at first lol.

Lots of learning curves in the stuff I’ve been baking lately, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.  I’ve learned so much about baking these past few months doing more advanced things, can’t wait to do more next year!
Remembered to take a picture this time, so I’ll finish the post up with that!

 

Thumbprint cookies

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Baked Good of the Month – Cream Puffs

I’m gonna be real here:  I feel like I wrote a post about making choux pastry/cream puffs and either didn’t post it, or posted it and forgot.  But I just tried making choux pastry again after about a month or os of botching my first attempt.  This time, I decided to just try making the puff pastry recipe without having any pastry cream ready because I wanted to see if I could get the recipe down, and I did!  After reading a lot of articles on how choux pastry should look – and was happy to find out that a lot of how you can tell if a choux pastry dough is good is by touch, feel, and texture.  So with all of that in mind, I went to work at the recipe…and it worked!  …Until I forgot to poke holes in  the finished puff and it collapsed ^^;

 

It wasn’t bad though, like there was still air inside some of the pastry, and all of them tasted nice and airy – with the cream in it, it tasted like a fluffy, airy donut.  Was really rich, but light, and both the cream and puff were delicious.  Like legit the only thing that went wrong was I didn’t poke holes in the finished pastry and that made the moisture in the puff make the thing deflate, because I cracked one open straight from the oven and they were nice and hollow on teh inside, just ready for something to be piped into it.  But that one mistake aside, I’m so happy I know how to make choux pastry in a decent fashion!  I have some fine tuning to do, like remembering all of the steps so I don’t wind up with deflated pastry, but really yummy and interested to see how they taste tomorrow.  I like mine rather big, so I woudn up with 12 in my recipe, but I realized that the bigger the puff, the easier it is for it to collapse in on itself so I’m going to work on making them smaller and all equal sizes.

 

I did pastry cream for the second time, as well.  Last time I did it was when I made my banana cream pie, and adding the banana made it a soupy mushy mess.  This time, I just made the cream, and like I thought last time I made it fine the first time but adding the fruit made the balance of the cream get the way it did.  This time it stayed nice, thick, and creamy, and it’s soooo good that I was eating spoonfuls as I piped into the puffs, just really good and I can’t wait to try different flavors with the technique!  I was going to try using a piping bag, but I didn’t find any in the house and the tips I have weren’t going to work with how you get the cream into a puff.  Instead, I just scooped a bit of the pastry out with a spoon and aded the cream in that way.  I need to work on getting enough cream in each pastry, but because of the size differences, and the density of each puff being slightly different it was a little hard to figure out how much cream I needed for each puff.  I think next time, for both measuring out the cream and the puff, I’m going to do teaspoon sized balls to make the consistancy work better.  Or 2 teaspoons, but I just want a simple measurement guide for making them next time, instead of the major eyeballing I did.  Next time, I also  want to add something on top as a ganache, but just plain with cream inside tasted great!

 

I’m so so so happy I got this technique down, and found more tips on how to make choux pastry perfectly.  The process is time consuming, and had some misteps on the way to my puffs being done, but I’m so happy I’m working on perfecting this recipe so I can have another French pastry under my belt!  So far I have choux pastry and French tart crust in my pastry crust artillery,  can’t wait to explor emore pastry making techniques!

Happy Thanksgiving! What I Contirbuted to my Dinner: Aka Another Baked Good

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I had a wonderful time going to the store with my Mom before we had a late dinner, full of half traditional Thanksgiving foods and half our own thing food-wise.  My family isn’t huge into a lot of Thanksgiving food:  None of us like turkey, so we get chicken, and we are a small group so don’t see the point in making huge batches of food to have around for weeks.  So instead, we make stuff we like, along with Thanksgiving stuff we like and just spend time together, eat later, and relax.
this year, I contributed a side dish!  I wanted to do it last year, but was nervous about it:  I had just started baking and cooking, so wasn’t 100 percent confident in doing something.  This year, with all of my experience under my belt, I decided to make biscuits and home made stuffing!  My Mom likes the box stuffing, but I really wanted to try making it by scratch (I love making things by scratch, if you couldn’t tell – the only way to make food imo).

 

We got a French bread loaf today at the store, because every recipe I read said to use a bread like that – if we weren’t going to get something artisan bread-like, I was going to use normal bread slices.  But since we went to the store anyway, I  just got a French Bread loaf.  Gotta say, really glad I did that, because the mix of butter and spices really infused itself into this bread a lot better than I thought it would have with the average bread slices.

 

My family loves Italian food, so I did a simple blend of garlic, salt, and Italian seasoning.  Melted a stick of butter, and for my liquid I used a cup of water, and a teaspoon of olive oil to add to the Italian style of stuffing.  I had looked at a few traditional recipes, but found this great article that just gave a guideline of what you should put in stuffing for it to work and did entirely  my own thing with it other than the ratios of liquid and bread for a four person serving of stuffing.  It was soooo delicious!  I love how it came out, and am so happy I can make stuffing from scratch now, because that and mac and cheese are my two favorite Thanksgiving side dishes.

 

We also had a great alfredo casarole, rice pudding, still had the cheesecake from Monday, cinamon rolls, a roasted chicken, and some biscuits I also made that I need to work on making better because they came out rahter doughy.  But, I’ve been looking up what went wrong with the biscuits, so am going to work on perfecting that, and maybe try again for Christmas. As of now, going to look up some fun holiday treats to make in the meantime, and bask in my stuffing victory:  my Mom said she loved the stuffing, and she really only likes the stovetop box brand, so I was like woo accomplishment haha.

 

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to make a left over sandwich tomorrow with stuffing and chicken.  What did you have on your menu for the holiday, if you celebrate it?  And what treats do you plan to make now that the holiday season is officially here?  I can’t wait to kick my baking into over drive the end of this year:  I feel like I’m finally coming into my own with it, and I’ve only been doing it for about a year!

Baked Good of the Month: New York Style Cheesecake

I made a cheesecake at the beginning of the yearish, and it didn’t turn out too well.  It was a recipe that made you bake the initial layer of cheesecake, then add a layer of sour cream and bake again for about ten minutes.  When I did that, it didn’t fully bake through and came out more like a custardy pudding than an actual cheesecake.  Wasn’t bad, but not what I wanted and turned me off from wanting to try making a home made cheesecake again.
BuT I just love cheesecake.  My favorite dessert, hands down and any time I can get something cheesecake flavored, or cheesecake themed, I do it.  Plus cheesecake is exspensive, and being able to make one for way cheaper is something I just can’t pass up!

 

I follow this YouTube Channel that I love and learn a lot form called Bigger Bolder Baking.  I’ve done a few of their recipes before – the birthday cake I made for my Mom was one of their recipes, as is the banana bread recipe I love – Jemma just comes up with amazing recipes and anytime she comes out with a new video, I watch it.  Recently, she came out with a New York Style Cheesecake recipe that she made in the microwave, that was way easier and sounded way more tastey than the recipe I did months ago!  I was wondering, can you make it in the oven as well?  And reading the comments in the recipe, you totally can!  So that’s what I did yesterday.

I was really craving cheesecake   lately, so when I went shopping with my Mom we were hunting all over for a gram cracker crust.  It probably was because it was the holidays, but we couldn’t find any anywhere and weren’t going to hunt down gram crackers so I could make one from scratch.  At first, I figured I’d just wait to make one:  we have cream cheese all the time in the house since me and my Mom both bake.  I’ve been really interested in French baking lately, and was watching a video on how to make a French apple tart.  The crust in that one was a sweeter crust, and the ingredient list sounded like it would be very close to a cookie crust that would be good for a cheesecake – since there are so many other cheesecakes that have cookie crusts, like oreos.  My favorite cheesecake, Jr’s, uses sponge cake as their base, so I figured why not be inventive with this and use the tart crust?

 

So I made the French tart crust, and it needed a little bit more sugar for my prefered cheesecake.  I added a bit more sugar:  the original recipe asked for 1/4 of a cup, so I did 2 of those instead of 1.  When I added the extra 1/4 cup it was perfect for me, so I went with that.  The French tart video described the crust to be like a cookie crust, and that’s why I decided to give it a go.  Happy to say, it worked!

 

It compliments the cheesecake perfectly!  It’s a bit of a shortbread tasting crust:  it’s kinda gram cracker tasting, but has more of a cookie texture.  I made the crust a little too thick, even for me, so next time I want to make it a smidge thinner.  I like thick crusts, but it’s kind of hard to cut through the bottom with how thick I made it lol.  It’s like having a whole cookie under a cheesecake though, so for me it’s really delicious!  My family likes thinner crust so I want to work on making thinner crusts however.

 

The cheesecake itself is amazing!  Definitely tastes like a New York style.  Nice and creamy, and tastes like a store bought cheesecake to me.  I love the recipe, and I’m going to add it to my baking arsenal!

 

This is also the first time I improvised a recipe by putting together two recipes.  Honestly, I love the French  pastry base, and I’ve been really interested in French baking.  That was the whole reason I started looking at French baking videos, and I’m glad my creative brain had the thought process to combine that crust with the cheesecake base.    I feel like it’s a major step in my baking skillset, because before I wouldn’t even have been confident enough to do something like that!  I want to try using the crust in this recipe for pie crusts as well, it’s just a really tasty crust and it makes me want to try French pastry making again after my first botched attempt.

 

Hope you’re having a great holiday season, and baking away!  Next I’m going to make gingerbread, what are you going to make this holiday season?

Baked Goods are Back! Banana Bread and Cherry Quick Bread

I’ve been having a hard time getting back into the blogging way – I’ve still been enjoying not being on the computer a ton!  I’m debating just blogging when I have something to say instead of feeling obligated to do so all the time on this blog, but at the same time, the schedule I had before was nice.  Maybe I’ll do one post a week on here or something, I dunno.  I’ve been slacking on doing things on the computer in general, so really have to get back on the ball with doing the things I actually need to do on the computer lol.

 

I decided to group these both in the same post, because in all honesty I don’t have much to say about the cherry bread.  I made these both a while ago, so no pictures, but if you’re interested in the banana bread recipe, I used this one – and it turned out delicious!  I didn’t have a big enough pan to do the entire batter in one go, so I split it between two cake pans.  It baked really well.  I was a tad skeptical about adding the oats into the recipe, but I know they absorb moisture.  Some of the oats didn’t absorb exactly, so there were a few oat flakes in the finished product, but it added to the texture for me.  I’d really been wanting to do banana bread for months (since I did the apple cinnamon bread earlier this year) so I was happy that I finally remembered to pick up an extra bunch of bannanas while shopping so I could make the recipe.  Next banana themed baked good I want to make is a banana cream pie, because every time I buy one form the store it has nuts in it which I don’t like.  That’s one thing I love about making my own baked goods – I can customize it however I want!  I don’t like whole nuts in things, and neither does the rest of my family, so I figure if I ever add nuts I’ll just pulverize the nuts into a powder for the flavor of the nuts instead of having chopping annoying nuts in my batter.
I’ve been watching Bigger Bolder Baking for a whiel now, and this was the first recipe I’ve tried from her.  I have so many others saved I want to try, but this one was a good one to start with – I was sold on her recipes before, but now I am even mooore sold because having tried one it’s soooo good!  Next recipe of hers I want to try is chocolate cream puffs, they seem really easy and really delicious!

 

 

 

The cherry bread I decided to do on a whim.  I had an entire bag of cherries (I love cherries and had wanted them for a while, so was happy to get some at the store) but my family wasn’t eating them fast enough.  So I decided to take them and make a cherry bread.  This recipe is known as a quick bread, so nice and simple.  I didn’t have the cherry juice to make a glaze with, because I wasn’t using canned cherries, so decided to make the brrread without said glaze (or any glaze) and boy, was that a mistake.  The bread was rather bland tasting, the closest thing I could relate it to was a scone.  I like scones a lot, but this was like…a bad tasting scone lol.  After I put some vanilla frosting on, wow the difference!  It brought out all of the flavor I was missing from it being plain, and the day after it tasted more like a good scone.  I usually improvise on a recipe if I want to try something different, but this was the first time I did so and the results weren’t favorable.  So, I learned that If I do a bread like this again, to definitely glaze it.  When I made this I didn’t have any powdered sugar either, so I didn’t try just a normal glaze.  But I guess these types of breads need to glaze to bring out the flavor, because the ingredients aren’t as bam as other sweets I’ve made.  Nice learning experience!  I don’t know if I’d make this bread again, though:  All in all, I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I may try it again some day and see if I change my mind on it’s taste.

 

And those are the two breads I’ve made lately that I hadn’t made BEFORe!  Now I need to make one more thing to catch up with my bake one thing a month new years resolution, and I’ll be set.  Like I sadi in my last post, I think the net thing will be pita bread, but we’ll see if my mood changes!

Hurray For Happy Accidents!

I guess I’m on a be flexible  and chill and not so perfectionist kick lately, because something happened with baking the other day that otherwise would have made me stress out and possibly start over.  It was a good lesson for me and something fun I figured I’d share, so here we go!

 

I was making the brownies I love yesterday, and my brain was just not functioning in the brownie frame of mind.  I’m so used to making cookie bars that even though I was reading the recipe for the brownies, which says you need half a cup of flour, I put a full cup of flour in which is the amount for cookie bars.  I had already put in every other dry ingredient on top of it, so it’s not like I could jus tpull out half a cup of flour.  Oh no!  My brownies were ruined.
Or were theeeey~

 

My fam was like “Don’t worry about it” but I was like “Well the recipe takes 2 eggs, so what should I do?  It may not be the same consistency” so in the end we decided to just throw one egg in there to make it a cookie bar doughy consistency.  Having a full cup of flour in there made the chocolate taste a little less prominent, but I was eating the dough from the bowl that was left over (because come on, who doesn’t) and it tasted really good!  Like a chocolate sugar cookie, basically so I was really curious to see how the texture of the brownies would be after baking.

 

After the normal bake time, pulled it out and it was done – which is normally what happened with the brownies.  But I noticed it was a bit more fudgey than the more cakey brownies I make with the 2 eggs, and half a cup of flour.  Turns out, they were more fudgey, it was so delicious!!  It’s less chocolatey, but you can taste all of the flavors added into the brownie instead of just chocolate.  It somehow came out richer, probably because of that fudge texture.  I used baking powder because that’s what the brownie recipe needs, instead of baking soda which is what’s used for the cookie bars and it just turned out to be soooo good, it’s hard to describe!  And to think, I wouldn’t have found this new way to make brownies if I hadn’t “messed up” the recipe.  Today I ran out of vanilla extract, so am trying it with nutmeg, and it also makes a completely different tasting brownie!  Well, haven’t tried the brownie yet but the dough tasted sort of like a coffee, red velvety fudge.  Ugh this recipe is just so good, looove it!  I like how I can add frosting and other toppings in this because of the diluted  chocolate also, because the recipe I normally use is really rich from the getgo so it’s hard to add things.

 

But yeah, I’m loving not stressing so much about things being perfect, and figuring out how to work through problems instead of just starting over from scratch when something doesn’t turn out quite right.  This is the first time I drastically diverted form a recipe as well, and it’s really fun being creative in the kitchen – can’t wait to do it more!  I’m really curious to see how 2 eggs will work with the 1 cup of flour, we’ll see if I try to do that next time I make brownies!

Baked Good of the Month: Smore Pie

This baked good is a new landmark, because it’s the first one that I made the recipe myself!  Well sort of.  It was a few recipes put together to make this one, and needs some tweaking but…I did it all with my noggin instead of just following a recipe verbatim, so woo!

 

A while ago I got the idea to make a smore pie.  Took me a while to figure out how to do it, but after brain storming I figured I’d do it this way:  Get a gram cracker crust, use my brownie recipe, bake it then melt marshmellow and put it on top after baking.  It tastes delicious, but a few things need to be fixed to be a bit easier.  The main thing is, when to use the marshmellows.  Like I melted them fine but trying to get them on the top of the brownie before it solidified back into being super sticky was a feat all it’s own.  Had to use a lot of marshmellows too, but it worked!  It also majorly got stuck to my hands while trying to get it on, a major pain XD I think next time I’m going to try using marshmellow fluff, or maybe making marshmellow flavored ganache or meringue.  I’m torn about using the crust, as well:  my brother likes it, my Mom and I are iffy on it.  I can’t really taste it to be perfectly honest, and my Mom came up with the idea to crumble the crackers on top of the brownie instead of using a crust, which I actually like.  I think that way, I could actually taste the gram crackers with the marshmellow, and the chocolate would be easier to taste too.  But overall this first go was a good success:  I like the texture of everything, just have to stream line the process a bit more.
Not sure when I want to try it again, because I’m not really a huge smore eater.  It was just an idea I really wanted to try before going to something else, so glad it worked!