Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A special birthday and a fun project all in one!

I play around with fondant and gum paste whenever possible. Which believe me isn't often enough. So when my nephew's 30th birthday came up I figured I would use this celebration, make it special in my way and give him something he and his 70 guests can enjoy as well. The weather was promising to stay sultry and and we needed to travel two states over (probably in traffic). So with all this in mind I knew buttercream and cake were out! Why not cookies? I knew his favorite is chocolate chip. So how do I make this special...hmmm. 

I thought I'd pick up a party bucket and fill it with cookies; that would be a variety of chocolate chip cookies. This meant: mint chocolate chip, white chocolate chip, toffee chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, milk chocolate chocolate chip, butterscotch & chocolate chip, and chocolate chocolate chip (phew). I filled the bucket with over 200 of these little darlings. Then to top the bucket and give me a good strong base I made a 14" diameter giant chocolate chip cookie. Then, here comes my favorite part........ I made a "30" out of rice krispie treats, covered it in fondant in the "steam punk" style. The reason I chose Steam Punk style due to its use of wood and metal. My nephew is a carpenter by trade so to me it was a good match.
Unfotunately I did not get the opportunity to take a picture of the assembled project. Hope you like it as much as he did!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Neapolitan Bars

Neapolitan Bars, sounds interesting, right? Sounds like it has some layers of flavor like Neapolitan ice cream, right? Yes and yes, it is and does. I was so honored when Hanaa of the ABC Bakers asked if I would like to choose one of the next baking projects. There was no delay in my choice. I had just made these bars and was very excited to share. This special treat and newest baking project can be found in Flo Braker's book, "Baking for All Occassions". 

One of the things that I like about Flo Brakers' books (I currently own 2) is that she has a wide assortment of recipes. Some cookbook authors are heavily into chocolate or some other ingredient. It becomes difficult to bake from such a book if you are not in love with that ingredient. But as I said, Flo is different and I never tire of perusing her books for a new baking project. And this recipe will not disappoint. Enough of all that lets get to the bar!  

 This bar actually has 4 layers of flavor. The first layer is a pastry like cookie layer rich in butter and delicate vanilla flavor. It is quick to assemble and and is baked to a slightly golden color.

The next layer is raspberry jam. This could probably be switched out for apricot, blackberry, strawberry or any flavor you desire. It is spread thinly on top of the cooled pastry. 

Next the filling is prepared.  It consists of almond paste (yum, right!), sugar, butter, eggs, and vanille. You can tint this green or not. The filling is spread over the raspberry layer. Bake this for 35-40 minutes until the top is just firm, not hard. Cool completely on a rack.

The last layer is a chocolate glaze. Butter, chocolate, whole milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla is melted together into a creamy, smooth, and rich glaze. Spread over the top of the filling using an offset spatula. Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting into small squares for serving.

These bars are extremely delicious. And are an impressive addition to any table for any occassion. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies

Sour cream cookies sound a little bland to you? Well that depends on what you look for in a cookie and what tips the scale and makes  it to your "favorites" list. Me? I usually go for crunch, a little color, and flavor I can taste. Sounds like these cookies shouldn't be on my list of favs but, they are! In fact they are one of my oldest and most favorite cookie. Here's why: they are soft as in cake-like, sweet but not over the top, the flavors are clean, simple, and delicate ( I just love vanilla and nutmeg too). These cookies are simple to prepare as long as you let the dough chill overnight in the frig. Don't forget to vary the size and shape too. What wrong with all that!? Nothing in my book so on with the full recipe....

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream
A little sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla thoroughly. Blend dry ingredients; add to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream. Blend until combined (don't over mix). Cover dough tightly and chill several hours or overnight.

Divide dough, sprinkle with flour, and roll out between parchment paper to 1/4" thick. Cut with a 2" cutter and shape you wish. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes until slightly brown.

See how easy that was? Sometimes easy is suprisingly best. What is also very nice is that they can sit on any dessert table, for any occassion. Let me know what you think. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Congo Brownies

The August baking project with the ABC Bakers was Congo Brownies, found in Flo Braker's Baking for All Occassions. Now just to set the story straight I am not a brownie person. In fact I couldn't tell you when the last time I made brownies. Now come on, stay with me here. This will end well, I promise. As I was saying......brownies to me are gooey, soft, over the top chocolatey. I don't mind chocolate if it is in the form of Lindt Truffles but over the top brownies not so much. But, being a good sport and having hungry neighbors I went with the program. As it turns out these were definitely different and....wait a minute you're just going to have to read through to find out how this story turns out.

This is not your usual brownie recipe, it is a combination of a brownie and a nut studded blondie, that's right! First the Congo layer (blondie incognito) made with all the usual participants including yummy brown sugar and studded with walnuts. This wonderful layer is partially backed then removed from the oven for the addition of the brownie layer.

The brownie layer again has all the usual participants but includes not only cocoa but melted unsweetened chocolate, over the top? Or maybe its just a nice balance of chocolate that helps to tone the chocolately sweetness down a bit. Back in the oven to finish baking.

After cooling there is a drizzle of melted chocolate and I added another drizzle of white chocolate for a continuation of the black and white theme. I must say this was not gooey and not mushy. The texture was closer to cakey, much more to my liking. The over all reaction from my tasters was very positive and I must admit that if I was to eat a brownie...this would be the one. I might even suggest some vanilla ice cream on top to finish it off! See it ended well! Enjoy!