Monday, October 29, 2012

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

When I was growing up, my favorite type of cookie that my mom made was Peanut Butter Cup. I loved peanut butter, chocolate, and pretty much any combination of those two. While no longer my favorite cookie, in my opinion, it's definitely still the most fun to make.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes

Preheat oven to 375°F; Makes 7 Dozen.
Ingredients: 
1 C Peanut Butter
3 1/2 C Flour
1 C sugar
1/4 C Milk
1 C Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
80+ unwrapped Peanut Butter Cups


Before you start the fun stuff, unwrap however many peanut butter cups you'll think you need. I unwrapped 80 to start, as I didn't want to end up with a bunch of unwrapped candy (wouldn't that just have been awful? I would have had to eat it.. Oh well). Put the unwrapped candy into a dish and stick it in the freezer.

Then, start on the chemistry bit.

Cream together the butter, vanilla, eggs, milk and sugars.

Pre-mix your flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl. Then, gradually add flour mixture to the dough.

Make sure to scrap the sides of your bowl and the paddle to ensure all the ingredients get mixed in.



Place 1 inch balls into ungreased mini muffin tin. I used my cookie scoop to do my balls, but you can roll them by hand if you like.

Bake the cookies for 8 minutes - Don't worry about the color, just trust me! If your first pan is under cooked, you can adjust your bake time, but 8 minutes is perfect!

Once you pull the cookies out, let them cool for only about a minute before you start putting your peanut butter cups into them. You want them to still be soft and pliable when you put the frozen cups in. Press the cups gently and evenly into the warm dough, being careful not to burn yourself!

The chocolate will start to melt a little, but don't worry. After a few more minutes of cool time, but while the cookies are still warm, use a knife to gentle lift the cookies out of the tray.
Place them on a cooling rack and then, if you're impatient like me, stick the cooling rack in your fridge or freezer. It'll help keep the chocolate from melting completely.

Once the cookies are cooled (or just luke warm), take them out and enjoy the deliciousness.

Nom nom nom nom!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recipe: Real Pumpkin Pie Filling

Not to say that other versions aren't more or less real.. this is just really real. Made with fresh pumpkin, not from a can.

This recipe will cover how to turn a real pumpkin into what I've decided is the most delicious pumpkin pie I've ever had in my life. I highly recommend getting a "pie pumpkin" and getting your goop the old fashioned way. Then, use the recipe below to make your amazing filling.

Real Pumpkin Pie Filling

Recipe adapted from PickYourOwn.com

Preheat oven to 425°F; Makes two 9 inch pies.
Ingredients: 
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 C sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp ground all spice
2 1/4 C Eggnog
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and then pour into your already made pie crusts. I used the pre-made graham cracker crusts, baked for 5 minutes with brushed egg on them.

Bake at 425°F for the first 15 minutes.

Then, lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for another 45 minutes to an hour, until a butter knife returns clean from the center of the pie. You may have to bake shorter or longer, put don't worry too much about it. Just keep checking every 10 minutes until the knife comes back clean.

Let the pies cool until they're just warm, and then slice and serve!
 Whip up some whipped cream to add on top for some extra yumminess!

Tutorial: Cook a Pumpkin

There are several ways out there to cook and gut a squash, but below is my two favorite methods, for Pumpkins and Spaghetti Squash.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

For pumpkins, specific little sugar or pie pumpkins, I recommend a more drying method. First, carefully cut your pumpkin in half with a long, serrated knife.


Then, take your soon to be trustee ice cream scoop and scrap out the seeds and gunk inside. Save the seeds and roast them for a tasty snack!

Using a wide edged casserole dish or pan, place your pumpkin halves open side down.  Add about a half inch of water to the pan and then carefully put it into the oven. If you want to put the pan on the oven shelf before you pour the water, that's an option too.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the roof of the pumpkin either collapse, or are easy to push into collapse.

Flip the halves over carefully and transfer them to a plate. Then, using your trusty ice cream scoop, scoop out the goop! It should be relatively easy to get off the skin, just don't be too aggressively and get some of the skin.

You should be able to get most all of the pumpkin out of the skins this way.

If you're making something where you need pureed pumpkin, simply use a food processor or hand mixer to turn the goop into a puree.

Using a hand mixer on will take awhile, so be patient.

Pro Tip: Don't turn it up to high speed and cover yourself and kitchen in pumpkin.

There you go! You now have a decent amount of fresh pumpkin, to use in a soup or pie! Nom nom nom!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fondant Covered Cake: Covering the Cake

It's become an accidental tradition that on my good friend's birthdays, I bake them an awesome cake. As I was unable to find a simple guide to my liking for working with fondant, I've decided to write my own.

I dyed the fondant, baked the cake, and assembled & decorated it across three days, spending a total of about 12 hours. This is the third and final post of the series, where I show how I covered my assembled cake in fondant.

Covering the Cake

This is most likely the most time consuming of the steps (if you don't include waiting for the cake to cool on day 2). You'll likely want to pull out your apron, start up some music, and get ready for a few hours of crafty time.

Supplies:
- Your pre-dyed fondant
- Your assembled cake
- Parchment paper
- A rolling pin (fondant specific or otherwise)
- Powdered sugar
- A sharp knife
- Some water


For this cake, I wanted to make it look like the gray "underwrapper" of the Pez was actually under the rest of the wrapper. To accomplish this, I rolled out the gray and applied it first.

When rolling fondant, it's a good idea to do it on parchment paper or a baker's mat, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar underneath. You can kneed the fondant by hand first to warm it up a bit (but not too much!) and then roll it out with your pin. You may need to coat the rolling pin with powdered sugar first. For thinner fondant, roll until it's about 1/16th of an inch thick. For a more robust fondant, go for a thickness of 1/8th inch.

To make the end caps of the cake, I rolled out a large bit of gray fondant and then cut a straight edge onto it. Then I used the fondant pin's measuring rings to ensure the fondant was the thickness I wanted.

For the end caps, because part of them were meant to be layered and I wanted to make it look like it was under the rest of the fondant completely, I rolled the fondant to 1/16th of an inch thick.

Carefully pick up the fondant and lay it gentle across the cake, making sure not to stretch it accidentally as you do so. Line up a guiding edge and lay it on the cake according to that.
My guiding edge was the top of the cake, where I wanted the gray to end.

Let the rest of the fondant drap down and then stretch it nicely around the corner. This isn't like working with wrapping paper - you want the fondant to hug the cake's corner, like a fitted bed sheet. Once you've got the fondant pressed onto the cake where you want it, carefully cut off the excess.

Cutting fondant that is already on the cake can be tricky. Make sure your knife is sharp and trace a line where you want the cut to be. Then make a second pass with the knife, cutting just the fondant and pulling gently at the excess. It should pull away along the line you traced.
My knife wasn't very sharp for this edge, but I wasn't worried about it because it was going to be hidden under other layers.

Cover both ends of your cake to make the wrapper looked like it's on the full cake.

Next, figure out where you want your stripes to lie and then mark that on the board. Start with one color and roll out the fondant to the thickness you want. For this layer, I rolled my fondant to 1/8th of an inch.
Notice how much thicker this fondant looks from the gray?

Once you've rolled out the fondant cut the stripes to equal width.
You don't need to worry about the end of the stripes if you're confident you'll have long enough stripes to drape over the cake and then some.

Then, gentle pick up your stripes and drape them over the cake, similar to as you did with the gray fondant.

Continue this for the rest of the stripes as well.
I tried something with the orange stripes. I wouldn't recommend it.

Once you've got all your stripes on the cake, smooth and press the fondant gently smooth against the cake. You can shape the cake a bit through the fondant, just don't press too hard. If you have something flat and smooth that you can use, that helps a bit.

After you've pressed the fondant onto the cake, cut off the access.
I found that tucking the edges into the base of the cake with the knife made for a nicer edge, and make it look like the cake was actually wrapped.

To make the Pez writing on the top of the cake, I first traced out the logo in the size I wanted onto parchment paper. Being able to pull up the logo on my iPad and trace directly from the screen helped a lot.

Once you've traced out the shape, cut the letters out and double check the sizing is right for what you want.

After you verify the size of the lettering, finish cutting out the letters and roll out the fondant for the shading.

Cut out each letter's shaded area, as close as you can get to the paper.

Next, cut the shading from the paper stencil, roll out the white fondant, and cut out just the white areas.
I found that it was easier to cut out the main shape and then go back and cut out the details. Be careful when working with white fondant, it picks up color easily!

To attach the top layer and the base, use a small amount of water as adhesive. A little really does go a long way. If you have a food brush, it can help making sure you only get a little water on the fondant. It's hard to wipe off excess, but it will dry out eventually.
Another tip is watch out for color transfer. Wet fondant can easily dye your fingers or other fondant, as the color can bleed.

Check your placement first, and then attach the letters to the cake with a small amount of water as adhesive.

Bam! You've made a fondant covered cake, with rockin detail! Dye some spare frosting, toss it in a bag and pipe on your message.
Realize you're a bit crap at piping and you should have chilled the frosting after you dyed it.

Embellish the cake board with something more interesting than plain cardboard, and then step back and listen to the compliments. You just made and decorated an awesome cake.

For this cake, we decided that slicing it like a loaf of bread was best, and it really showed off those layers.

I hope if you've made it this far through the series, you've found at least parts of it helpful!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fondant Covered Cake: Baking Tricks and Assembling

It's become an accidental tradition that on my good friend's birthdays, I bake them an awesome cake. As I was unable to find a simple guide to my liking for working with fondant, I've decided to write my own.

I dyed the fondant, baked the cake, and assembled & decorated it across three days, spending a total of about 12 hours. This is the second post of the series, where I outline a few of my baking tricks and how to assemble a multi-layer cake.

Baking Tricks and Assembling the Cake

This is honestly the most straight forward post of the series, mainly because I just baked a box cake. I applied a few baking tricks along the way, though, and conveying those are the real goal of this post.

Supplies:
- 2 Box Cake Mixes (each makes one 9x13 sheet cake)
- 2 Tubs of Frosting
- The ingredients called for the box cake
- A 15x11 cake pan
- Parchment paper

Baking Trick #1 Line the bottom of your cake pan with parchment paper. 
You want the paper to fit as best as you can, so you might want to trace the bottom of the pan and cut it out exactly. Then, grease the sides of the pan with either butter or Crisco. When you flip the cake out of the pan, the bottom will come out perfectly.

For the cake itself, I really just whipped up the batter as the instructions on the box said, mixing the two boxes together. Preheated my oven and baked until the toothpick (read: chopstick) test came back clean. Pulled the cake out, flipped it out of the pan, then let cool completely.

Baking Trick #2 Let the cake cool completely! 

Before you cut it, decorate it, or eat it, let it cool completely! This could take up to an hour or more. You can cheat and stick it in the fridge, but in general, should just be patient and let it cool!
Letting it cool on racks will help speed up the process, and I always recommend letting it cool "face up."

Baking Trick #3 Get a cake leveler. 

If you're planning on making more than one multi-level cake in your lifetime, get a leveler. They're cheap, don't take up a lot of space, and they help you make gorgeous cakes.
Always make sure you level your cake after it's cooled completely to the touch. Once you cut off the top layer, you might find that the inside is still a bit warm. Guess what? Let it cool more after you find that out!

Assembling the Cake:
Once you've let the cake cooled completely and leveled it, you can start cutting and building the layers. I managed to get two complete layers from my 11x15 sheet cake, and then constructed a 3rd layer from the top of the cake that I originally trimmed off.

You wanna frost well between each layer of the cake, and I find that letting the cake chill between layers helps the stability a bit moving forward.

I splurged the 6 bucks and bought a 12 pack of cake boards. They're great for construction and presentation, as they're sturdy and easily wiped down.

Originally I was planning on just a double layer cake, but once I put the layer together, I decided we would need more cake for the party. So I went ahead and pieced together a third layer from the top piece that I had shaved off with the leveler.

I used frosting like glue and while it isn't pretty now.. no one ever suspected a thing once I frosted the whole cake. 

See? Can't tell a thing. Notice that I didn't worry about getting cake bits in the frosting. I knew that I was going to be covering the whole thing with fondant, so I knew that the frosting didn't need to be perfect.

Remember to be generous with the frosting and cover your cake entirely! Frosting air seals the cake and keeps it fresh! Fondant isn't an air tight seal and won't help keep your cake fresh.

The next and last post will outline how to put your fondant on the cake. Dun dun DUN!